Let's pray together. Father, we want to pause, we need to pause because probably all of us have come here with some agenda, or some concern, or some issue, or problem, or even joyful anticipation of something going on in our lives. But, Lord, we need to pause and just set everything aside for a moment and make the choice that we're going to let you speak through your Word into our lives.
Because we know if we don't do that, we're just going to go on and it's going to be business as usual, and that's not what we want, we really want transformation. We want to be confronted with your truth and be different because of it. Every one of us, we need that, and so we pray that you'd speak, and I pray that every one of us would give you permission to do so, in Jesus' name, amen.
When you travel on the road you see certain signs that tell you what's coming up, like Road Work Ahead is probably the most famous one that we see every Sunday, right? You're going to see it for like, I don't know, twenty years you'll see that work out there. It's like at a national, or at least the state motto, right? Road Work Ahead. Or you see Curve Ahead, or Danger Ahead, or Stop Ahead. And those are signs so that you and I can navigate what's coming down the pike when we drive.
Then there are forecasters, prognosticators, visionaries, who want to tell us what is going to happen in our world in the coming year, twenty years, hundred years. I found an interesting book; I just pulled it off the shelf this week. I picked it up a few years back called Predictions for the Next Millennium, and it's Thoughts on the Thousand Years Ahead—get this—from Today's Celebrities. Now there's a well of wisdom right there. Right? Celebrities telling you what to expect in the next one thousand years.
It's pretty interesting in some parts. I mean, it's people saying there's going to be a one-world government, or a one-world currency, or you're going to cure aging, which would be a problem in and of itself if all of us on earth just kept living. It would be a population problem.
But sometimes people make predictions and they are so far off base, true predictions, and they're humorous when we look back at them. For example, Western Union put out a memo in 1876 that said: "The telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. This device is inherently of no value to us." Poor Western Telegram, they lost out.
Lord Kelvin, the president of the Royal Society, 1895, said "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." If he would have only waited eight more years and moved to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, right? Here's one of my favorites: 1943 Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM stated, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." What's interesting about that statement is I got it off the Internet [laughter] on my computer at home. This is my favorite: record company executive for Decca Records in 1962 said, "We don't like their sound. We don't think the Beatles will ever do anything, and guitars are on their way out," close quote. [laughter]
Now, the Bible is a unique book in that it deals with both history, as well as prophecy; what has already happened, and what is going to happen in the future. And we always find ourselves, do we not? whenever we read it, dealing with an historical context. This is what was going on in that time of history, and it's looking back, piecing that back together, as well as so often looking forward to the future.
Daniel, chapter 7, does that. When Daniel saw and wrote what he saw in this chapter, it was all future to him. It was a vision of what's coming down the pike. But for us reading it today, it's both history, some of it has been fulfilled, and prophecy, a lot of it has not been fulfilled. So it's very unique in that.
But when we're dealing with God, we have to understand that God is different. God doesn't have the same kind of time constraints that we have. He doesn't live in the space--time continuum. He's outside the realm of time; he's in eternity. Remember in school in history class when they would teach you history and they draw a timeline. Remember the timelines?
And so it would be punctuated with events like a dot on the timeline: this is when Christopher Columbus discovered America. Further on down the timeline, dot: this is when George Washington was president. Further on down the timeline, further, further, further, further, way, way, way, way, way, way—you were born. Or some of you it's kind of further back this way. [laughter]
And so that's how we've conceived of as time. Time just sort of goes on linearly continually. And so when we think of eternity, we just think that line just keeps going. It's best to think of eternity as the removal of the line altogether. There is no time; there is no constraint that we know. God is in the eternal now. That's why in the Bible when you read prophecy, sometimes it's written in past tense verbs as if it's already happened. Or sometimes a future event will be cast by a previous event so that the previous event becomes a template for a future event.
Here's what it's like: Let's say we're at a parade, and we go to the parade, and we sit down at the parade, and by the time we get there, the clowns on bicycles have already passed. But the mayor's float is still to come. And somebody finds us, and they sit down, and they go, "Boy, I really want to see the clowns on bicycles." And you go, "Well, you missed that, but if you go up ahead you can see what's passed [past]."
Somebody else comes and says, "Well, I want to see the mayor's float." "Well, it hasn't come yet, but if you go to the beginning, you can see what's future." Now imagine if we can get in a helicopter and hover above the parade. Now, we're able to see everything in one single moment, the mayor's float where you use to sit and the clowns on bicycles—all at one time.
God lives in the eternal now. He sees it all from that perspective, and Daniel, chapter 7, is like a helicopter ride where you see past, present, and future in twenty-eight verses all condensed into one. I want to begin today in Daniel, chapter 7, and look at a few verses, just a few, beginning in verse 9, at what is the central focus of this chapter—and that is, the coming of Jesus Christ in particular.
But there's four things that are coming. Four things that you can count on that are coming. And when I say "count on," I mean they're coming, whether you like it or not, they're coming. And I know they're coming because the things that have already been predicted would come, have come. And so the things that the Bible says are going to come—guess what? They're going to come too. So fulfilled prophecy is our guarantee of future prophecy.
And what are those four things? Here they are: judgment is coming, number one; number two, justice is coming; number three, Jesus is coming; and finally, joy is coming.
Let's look at verse 9, "I watched," writes Daniel, "till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated." So we have God seated on the throne. "His garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head was like pure wool. And his throne was a fiery flame, its wheels of burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before him. A thousand thousands ministered to him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened."
So we have thrones, and we have a court, and we have fire, and we have books being opened. What are we dealing with? Simply a judgment scene, a courtroom scene. God is assuming his rightful seat as divine Judge, and will make the final reckoning and final verdict. Now, Daniel has seen the future, from his perspective he's seeing the future. There's going to be four kingdoms that come, there's going to be Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome; we've spoken about those.
And there's leaders that will come, and from Daniel's perspective they haven't come all yet. From our perspective it's done, they've come. So there was Nebuchadnezzar, and Belshazzar, and Cyrus, and Darius, and Alexander the Great, and all the Caesars of Rome have come and gone. And while they were here, they ruled nations and they presided over courts and made judgments, but now in this scene they're on the other end of the judgment process. They're being judged, they're not rendering judgment.
And so Daniel saw nations come and nations go, and all the rulers of those nations eventually being judged as the court was seated and the books were opened. Ever since the beginning of time, Satan has tried to deceive people about this event, saying that there is no judgment because there is no God. So there's people who buy into that: there's no God, there's no judgment, there's no final reckoning, do whatever you want, live however you like, and when you die you will just pass into oblivion—that's a lie.
Or he's tried to convince people that there may be a God, but he's sort of like the benign grandfather God. You know, he just smiles at everything and everybody, "It's okay." You know, it's the Oprah Winfrey God: "Everybody's just good." That is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible will eventually bring judgment.
John sees the same scene in Revelation, chapter 20. I'll read it to you: "I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. And I saw a great white throne and him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and the books were opened. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."
Can you imagine those nail-scarred hands combing through the books to see whose name is written there and whose name is not written there? There's a judgment for everyone that is coming, for everyone. Now, if you are a believer in Christ, yes, Jesus took your judgment, your punishment on the cross, but you and I will face a judgment for our service to the Lord called the "bema seat of Christ."
If you are an unbeliever, if you have pushed Jesus Christ aside and have not listened to his call upon your life, you'll have your day in court, but it will be unlike any earthly court; that is, there will, first of all, be no debate about guilt. "Well, I don't know if I'm guilty or not guilty." It doesn't matter what you say, God will make that verdict.
There will be a prosecution, and no defense. There will be a Judge, and no jury. There will be a sentence, and no appeal. There will be punishment, and no parole. There's a judgment that is coming. No wonder the writer of Hebrews in chapter 10 said, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Question: Is it possible to escape that kind of judgment? Is it? Oh, yes, it is possible. In fact, it's not only possible, it's preferable. Here's the deal: somebody's got to take the rap for sin. Either you're going to take the rap for your own sin, or you're going to let Jesus take it for you on the cross and place your faith in him.
If you place your faith in him, you trust him, you will never be judged like we just read. That's what Jesus promised, John, chapter 5, "He who hears my words and believes in him who sent me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life"
Did you get that? Everlasting life is as simple as you leaning, trusting in, relying on Jesus Christ. "Well, I don't know if I want to do that." Okay, then you will take it on your own, but there is a judgment that is coming. And either he's going to take it for you, and you've let him do that, or you're going to take it for yourself.
It's quite simple really—know Jesus, K-N-O-W, know Jesus; know life, K-N-O-W. If you know Jesus, you'll know life. But no Jesus, N-O Jesus; N-O life, no life. Know Jesus, you'll know life; no Jesus, no life—that's what he promised. No, not everybody believes this. I know that. I'm not naive to that. I would say that most people don't believe that.
Every now and then these magazines will put out articles about heaven and hell, and Time magazine put one out a while back that says, "Does Heaven Exist?" That was the name of the article, "Does Heaven Exist?" As if Time magazine is going to give you the final verdict on that.
They asked two questions to people. Question number one: Do you believe in the existence of heaven where people live forever after they die? Eighty-one percent said yes, 13 percent said no. Second question: Do you believe in a hell where people will be punished forever after they die? Only 63 percent said yes. Fewer people want to believe in hell, more people want to believe in heaven, well, of course. Well, I gotta tell you something: the judgment bar of Christ doesn't move based on popular vote. You can't escape it. But it says again in the book of Hebrews, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" So, you can count on that—judgment is coming.
Number two, justice is coming. Verse 11 says, "I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flames. As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time."
Go down to verse 26, "But the court shall be seated, and they," those in the court, "shall take away his dominion." "his" being the horn, the Antichrist, the Beast, "to consume and destroy it forever." Now this is only right, this is fair, this is justice. This Beast, this Antichrist will lie to the world, try to force people into submission, and kill people who will not submit. So, it's only fair to see this coming on him.
Do you know what it's like when you watch the news and you see some miscarriage of justice—do you ever get angry when, like, there's that criminal and you know he's guilty, and all the evidence says he's guilty, but there is this technicality and he goes free? Do you like that? No, you hate that. There's something within us that says there must be justice, at some point in history there must be justice.
I noticed just the other day when they caught that second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing, the terror bombing. When they caught him alive and brought him to the hospital, and they're keeping him now for questioning, that the crowd outside—did you see what they did? They like had a party. They were so elated that justice has been done. He's been caught. He's been brought under the law.
When my son, Nate, was growing up, I always noticed—what I called it was that he had an overdeveloped sense of justice; that is, everything in life needed to be fair. He used to say, "That's not fair!" And where I really would notice this is he'd watch a movie, and if the movie didn't turn out just right, happily ever after, white-picket fence, he didn't like the movie; he hated the movie. "I hate this movie."
If a good guy got killed, he hated the movie. If a bad guy got away, he hated the movie. He wanted life to be fair. We all want life to be fair, but guess what? Life isn't fair. But one day justice will come. One day the bad guys will be rounded up by God's posse. One day evil will be eradicated. There is justice that is coming.
So if you go back to verse 7, and you notice that this Beast, this Antichrist has dominion. He's described as a beast having huge iron teeth, devouring, breaking in pieces, trampling with his feet the text says. He's like this killing machine. Finally he gets caught; finally he gets killed, that's fair; and finally he gets tossed into the trash can of hell, that is fair.
It is described by John in Revelation 19, "The beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who did mighty miracles on behalf of the beast—miracles that deceived all who had accepted his mark and who worshiped his statue. And both the beast and the false prophet were thrown alive into the lake of fire."
You ever wonder what the purpose of this coming tribulation is all about? Now, we know it's going to be a seven-year period, and the last three and a half years are the worst. We know what the Bible says—that is coming. But you ever wonder why? Why a tribulation? What's that all about? Well, there are a few reasons for this coming tribulation.
Reason number one, is to pour out wrath upon this world. That is to so destabilize this world so that everything people have counted on up to this point they can't depend on any longer, and in hopes that they will turn to God. That often happens whenever there's a catastrophe; people get very spiritual and they turn to God. That's number one, to pour out wrath.
Number two, to prepare Israel for her Messiah, to look on him whom they have pierced. The tribulation is called by Jeremiah "a time of Jacob's trouble," Israel's trouble. Israel will be so troubled and shaken up during that time; they will be ready and prepared for their Messiah to come. So, to pour out wrath, to prepare Israel for the Messiah.
Here's a third reason for the tribulation: to pummel the Antichrist. I mean to beat that guy up so bad, and it will be so fair, and it will be so just, because of what he has done. He seems so invincible during that period of time, until Revelation tells us the fifth angel pours out the fifth bowl, we are told in Revelation 16, "on the throne of the beast," and on his kingdom, "and his kingdom became full of darkness."
So judgment is coming; justice is coming; number three, Jesus is coming. Verse 13, "I was watching in the night visions, and behold," now, I've always liked the word behold. I know it's a Bible word, you don't say that in line at the grocery store, "Behold, cereal." [laughter] So it get it, it's a Bible word. But it's a Bible word that means, "huh, look, check that out," like, "notice this." So that's how I like to read it.
"I was watching in the night visions, and [hey, check it out], One like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the ancient of Days," we know that to be God the Father, "and they brought him near before him." Now, this verse, this event is the central focus of chapter 7. This is the whole central focus of this chapter. The central focus is not the parade of these weird looking beasts that come out of the sea that made John go, "Wow, that's weird." The central focus is not the little horn with the big mouth and the big ideas, the Antichrist who is coming. Those aren't the central themes. The central theme is the coming of the kingdom of Jesus Christ to the world.
Judgment is coming, justice is coming, Jesus is coming. Now, Daniel sees "One like the Son of Man." I'm going to frame that for you in context. I think it simply means he saw One with a human form. Remember, so far he has seen these weird beastlike creatures come up out of the sea, now in contrast to those he sees One with a human form, "One like the Son of Man coming."
But what's interesting is that eighty-one times in the four gospels of the New Testament the term "Son of Man" appears, and it was the term that Jesus used to refer to himself, to describe himself. He called himself the Son of Man referring back, no doubt, to this first mention of it in Daniel, chapter 7. It's what the Jews believe to be the coming Messiah; the Son of Man is going to come. Jesus called himself the Son of Man.
Verse 13 is second coming of Christ, and you should know that the second coming dominates the Bible. There is no subject more discussed in the Bible, next to the subject of faith, than the second coming.
Here's a few statistics: the second coming is dealt with 1,845 times in the Bible. That means one out of every thirty verses either mentions the second coming or the last days. One-fourth to one-fifth of all Scripture refers to it. Seven out of ten chapters in the New Testament refer to the second coming. For every one mention of the first coming, the second coming is mentioned eight times. For every one time the atonement is mentioned, the second coming is mentioned twice.
Jesus personally referred to his second coming twenty-one times, and no less than fifty times in the Bible we are told to be ready for his coming. Be ready for it, Jesus is coming. Now, somebody might say, "Well, why is Jesus coming? I mean, he already came once, why didn't he just hang around? Why did he have to come and then go? Okay we've been, like, waiting two thousand years for this, still he hasn't come back. Why did he come and go, and then come back again?"
Now, you know the answer to that question. The first time he came, he came to deal with what? Sin—he came to deal with sin. He came to die on a cross, take the world's sin, then go and give as many people a chance to get to heaven who would believe in that act as possible. That's why he's waited two thousand years.
Aren't you glad he has waited this long? Because it includes us in his company. And now all of those relatives, all of those people that you love, that you've been praying for have a chance to get there as well by trusting in him.
But when he comes back the second time, it's going to be different than when he came the first time. He came the first time to deal with sin. You know what he's going to do the second time? He's going to take over. He's going to say to all the politicians, all the prime ministers, all the rulers, "Move over guys and gals; let me show you how it's done." He's going to rule the earth.
That's why the writer of the book of Revelation, John, seeing the coming of Christ wrote those famous words, "Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus," come quickly. Daniel sees that, "One like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven." I think the clouds of heaven refers to the masses of people that he will come back with. A lot of people say, "Well, Jesus isn't coming today. Look, it's a clear sky." Yeah, it could have clouds twenty miles away, what does that mean? So I think it's best to see it rather than a puff of smoke or a cloud in the sky, rather, the masses of people that he will come back with.
Listen, listen to this, Revelation 19 is the classic passage on the second coming of Jesus Christ. It say this, "Now I saw heaven opened, and behold [check it out], a white horse. And he who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns. And he had a name written that no one knew except himself." So don't ask me what his name is then, cuz no one knows except him.
"And he was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed him on white horses." This is what Jesus meant when he said to Pontius Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world." This is Jesus coming back.
Question: Why does he have many crowns? Answer: It's simply a way of saying there's no rivals anymore, there's no other rulers. Jesus wears all the crowns, because he's the King of kings, he is the Lord of lords. Boy, what a long way from wearing the crown of thorns. That's what he did the first time, he came to take sin, and he wore a crown of thorns, but the second time all of the diadems of all of the world, he will be in charge.
As Ian McPherson—I love that name. Ian McPherson the Scotsman said, "Where Christ once bore the world's frown, he will one day wear the world's crowns." That's Revelation 19.
Judgment is coming, justice is coming, Jesus is coming; fourth and finally, joy is coming. Verse 14, "Then to him," the Son, "was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his kingdom the one which will not be destroyed."
Look at verse 18, "But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever." You say, "Well, why is that joyful? I don't see the word "joy" mentioned once in that text." Folks, it's joyful because this is the event that stops all of the wars, all of the violence, all of the terrorism, all of the anxieties, only this event will bring an end to all of that.
So when judgment comes, and justice comes, and Jesus comes, joy will come. People have marched for peace. People have visualized world peace. People have given the peace sign, and wrote peace songs, and put peace bumper stickers. Last time I checked, it hasn't worked. It hasn't helped. As far as I know, only when the Prince of Peace comes back will that work.
In New York City there's a building called the United Nations Building. I won't tell you what I think a lot about the United Nations, but let me just tell you about the building. As you enter the building there is written over the door, over the portals a Scripture, Isaiah, chapter 2, "And they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn to make war anymore." It's Isaiah, chapter 2, and it's a prediction of what will happen when Jesus Christ returns.
That's what will happen, that's why there will be joy. When judgment comes, and justice comes, and Jesus comes, then joy will come. That's predicted, Jesus said in the parable about the rewards in Matthew 25, "Well done, good and faithful servant . . . enter into the joy of your lord."
That little book in the New Testament, the book of Jude, the twenty-fourth verse says that God will "present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy." Revelation, chapter 21, describes heaven as saying, "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying . . . nor pain." Interesting that heaven has to be described in negatives to tell people this is what it's not like, because that's what we're familiar with: crying, and pain, and sorrow, and death. And so John is saying, "Not gonna happen, not gonna be there." You go, "Okay, I get it, I get it. That's my experience, that's not going to happen."
There's a great hymn, "How Great Thou Art." Remember that song, "How Great Thou Art"? Hey, I hope you do. Four of you do, it seems like I saw a head nod: "I think I do." It's a great hymn of the church, and I was reminded again of it this week. A friend of mine died this week, went to heaven. Well, he was one hundred four years old, George Beverly Shea. He always opened up for the Billy Graham crusades. One hundred and four! I think people were saying, "What's taking you so long?"
He's in heaven now, and he's been a friend for many years, and he used to sing that song a lot. And somebody posted a great little clip of him singing "How Great Thou Art" on my Facebook page this week. So I listened to him and watched it again, that deep baritone voice. And I was listening in particular for that one little phrase of the song that says, "When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation, and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and then proclaim: "My God, how great—how great thou art!" I can't do it like he did it. So beautiful.
But did you get verse 18? Did you notice it says, "But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever"? Who would the saints be? Well, you can debate Old Testament—New Testament saints, but I think it's safe to say it includes us who believe in him.
And that's interesting to me. We're going to possess the kingdom. The kingdom gets, like, given to us. This tells me that not only do we have front-row seats in this coming event, we have a job. We are given positions of authority in the kingdom. In Matthew 19, Jesus said to his twelve apostles, "You will sit on twelve thrones and you will judge the twelve tribes of Israel."
Now, okay, well that's them, what about us? First Corinthians, chapter 6, Paul writes, "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" The saints will judge the world? Same chapter he says, "Don't you know that you will judge angels?" Can I just say the angels are probably not too happy about that, because they know what we're like. But we're going to have a position of authority.
Second Timothy chapter 2 verse 12, "If we endure with him, we shall also reign with him." Revelation, chapter 5, the church sings this song, "You have made us kings and priests to our God; and we will reign on the earth." It couldn't be more clear. Part of eternity will be you and I having a position of authority and management and administration in his kingdom.
Look at verse 27, "Then the kingdom and dominion, and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to"—what?—"the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him." How cool is that? Jesus is reigning and he says to you, "Come here, help me." "Help you what?" "Come on, I'll give you a job. I'll let you help administer this thing." Wow!
So I'm daring you to look ahead and that means—I know—it means that you have to look ahead into the future tribulation and a very painful thing that's coming to this world. We might be seeing, perhaps, entering in toward that end time. But go beyond that and look toward the other end of that at the coming of Jesus Christ where his coming means that pain is ending.
And I think the secret is to live our temporal life with our eyes on eternal life. As one missionary said, "God, stamp eternity on my eyes." C. S. Lewis the scholar said, "If I find within myself a desire that no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." Ever wonder why you have that anxiety, and you're wrestling, and you're not quite satisfied, you're not quite settled? You'll never be completely settled till you get into his presence. You were made for another place.
Judgment is coming, justice is coming, Jesus is coming, and joy is coming. And knowing all that, we can lift up our eyes and march ahead in this life with our eyes fixed on that.
So Father, you've told us in so many ways, and so many places, by so many prophets and apostles, you've filled in the blanks, you've answered the questions. We know more than a bunch of celebrities who would guess at what's going to happen in the future. You've told us what is going to happen.
And much of what has been predicted has already been fulfilled with certain empires being name, and then they came; certain people being named before they were born, and then they were born and came. So you have a perfect track record, and with that comes the sense of peace for us knowing that we serve a God who knows all things, and has enacted a plan, and we're a part of that plan.
I pray, Lord, that you'd help us to live in the temporal with our eyes on the eternal. That as we're dealing with the here and now, we would be thinking of the then and there, which would motivate us, which would alter choices that come into our purview. Lord, I'm looking for you to change us. I pray that just some nuggets of truth from today's message would help affect that.
And I pray for anyone who doesn't have a relationship with the living God, that this morning they would say yes to Jesus. There's a lot of people who have come at this service, they're in this auditorium, there's more that are seated outside, there's more who are watching by Internet or radio. But you know every heart, and I pray that you would in your unique way just deal so wonderfully with each heart, in Jesus' name, amen.