GETTING THE MESSAGE/Resist the devil and follow Jesus
In Daniel chapter seven, we are given vivid images of the kingdoms of men and the kingdom of God. There are great contrasts made to shape our understanding. The kingdoms of men are depicted as various beasts to convey the dark side of human government. The “little horn” in verse 8 points ahead to the anti-Christ, who will lead the last, most terrible kingdom on earth.
The last beast will be characterized by blasphemy and persecution of the saints of the Most High (verses 21 and 25). The visions teach us that the beast, though terrible, has a sudden, permanent end when God issues judgment from His throne (verses 10-11). Conversely, we are also taught that the saints, though having to endure suffering on earth, will inherit the kingdom of God forever (verse 18).
These truths emphasize the need we have for faith. It is helpful to have a summary of the contrasts between the anti-Christ and Christ our Lord. The vanity of the anti-Christ is emphasized: he had “a mouth speaking great things” (verse 8), and “he shall speak words against the Most High” (verse 25). Daniel’s attention in verse 11 is drawn to the “sound of great words.” Anti-Christ is full of boasts.
Christ, on the other hand, was a pattern of humility before God, though He was in very nature God. Jesus, though He was rich, became poor that we by His poverty may become rich. He took the form of a servant. He told His people to “learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.” As His sheep, we are to follow our Lord in this way.
The anti-Christ also has a spirit of deception. He will “think to change the times and the law” (verse 25). He is a liar, but a very effective one. The devil comes as an angel of light. He would change the word of God and the very nature of things God made.
The Lord Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He came to testify to the truth and fulfill the law of God. Believing in Christ sets us free from the bondage of sin, death, and the power of the devil. Those deceived by the devil seek their hopes in this world. Christians are deceived when they forget their hopes are built on a crucified Christ and hopes fulfilled by a glorified Christ.
These two considerations, crucified with Christ in this world and glorified with Christ in the next, keep a Christian pure in heart and lively in his service to Christ. We follow the pattern of the anti-Christ when we detract from Christ’s glory for our own. We have nothing we haven’t received from God. There is no grace we have merited or deserved. God has lavishly blessed us with all that we have in spirit and truth. Our boast is in God alone.
The greatness of Christ is contrasted with the evil of the anti-Christ. Daniel saw, “with the clouds of heaven there came one like the Son of Man” (verse 13). Clouds point to the majesty of God (Psalm 97). When He was on trial, Jesus testified that He would return to earth one day in the clouds (Matthew 26). Daniel 7 looks to Christ’s ascension into heaven in the clouds after He rose from the dead.
The anti-Christ would have dominion over all and he “devours the whole earth” (Daniel 7: 23) for a short time. His rule is an evil one. Then his dominion is taken away, and he is destroyed (verse 26). Christ’s Kingdom is forever and it shall be given to the saints of the Most High (verse 27).
The spirit of anti-Christ deceives men because the power of sin would persuade us it is good to be free from God’s reign over us. Men resist God’s sovereignty over them. But Christ came to make peace between God and man, and to teach us all good comes from God. Conversely, all evil comes from resisting God. So we must resist the devil and follow the Lord Jesus.
All those who are not in Christ have the same destiny as the anti-Christ. The images in Daniel 7 are a warning and an appeal from God. If you don’t know Christ you are running out of time. Now is the time to call upon Him. “The court sat in judgment” (verse 10) are awakening words.
If you know Christ, remember that you can’t live a fruitful life for Christ simply with the thought of avoiding judgment. We serve that which we love. The passage is a call to grasp ahold of Christ, see how great a Savior He is, and how blessed it is to follow Him. It is good to make this present world a pilgrimage to being welcomed by Christ into His kingdom.
The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.