Dreams and Vision (Daniel 8) - September 8th 2013

    Daniel had a troubling dream (vv. 15, 28) in about 553 B.C. This would have been ten years before Daniel 5 was written. The dream would be classified as Apocalyptic Literature because it uses an indirect mode of communication. This unfolding of things not previously known often comes through dreams or visions with the aid of an angel or messenger. Apocalyptic literature addresses the issue of the righteousness of God and the suffering of His people.

    Daniel’s dream (Daniel 7:2-14) presents the chaos around the world as turbulent winds and seas. Daniel had lived through changing empires and seen the clash of good and evil. The winged lion, bear, winged leopard with four heads and the unidentified beast with iron claws and ten horns had to be frightening. The movement in the dream revealed a smaller eleventh horn overcoming three horns and boasting of its power in blasphemous tones. Suddenly, a throne appeared with the Ancient of Days sending judgment on the beasts. Evil was cast into burning flames. One like a Son of Man was seen coming in power and glory to set up a kingdom on earth.

    We may first ask how the dream would have been understood in Daniel’s day. The Jewish people in exile misunderstood the preaching of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. These followers of God wanted to experience “heaven on earth,” “the good life” now, not later. They flattered themselves with the hope of returning to their land and enjoying tranquility. Even in Jesus’ day, the Jewish people were looking for a Messiah to deliver them from Rome and let them live the way they wanted to live. Through much of their history, they had been threatened by economic, political, military, social and religious forces. In the face of their desire for the good life, Jesus said in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

    Throughout history, people have labeled the beasts as different countries. Most classic interpretations equate the four beasts to the four divisions of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2). In so doing, they see Babylonia, the Medes and the Persians, Greece and Rome as the beasts. However, as time has continued, many powerful countries have been identified with these beasts. The horn with the eyes and the mouth (v. 8) has been awarded the title of “the Antichrist” (v. 25; 1 John 2:18). History is littered with the names of many despots who have inherited this label. The vision Daniel had stretched beyond his years and his ability to relate each creature to a proper country or person.

    Some interpreters relate Daniel 7:9-14 to Revelation 4—20.

    The key to interpretation turns on verses 13 and 14.  
    13 In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all the people, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

    The Ancient of Days (vv. 9, 13) is the living God. In holiness and wisdom, He will bring judgment through His power. The one like a son of Man (v. 13) is best defined as pointing to Jesus. Son of Man was Jesus’ favorite self-designation. With the coming of the Son of Man, the kingdom of God is introduced to humanity (v. 18). The Son of Man comes with the clouds of heaven (v. 13). Cloud imagery is often connected with the divine (Exodus 13:21; 19:16; Leviticus 16:2). Later, Jesus referred to this same concept (Matthew 24:30). Revelation also expects the Son of Man to come with the clouds (Revelation 1:7).

    The vision for Daniel was designed to teach him God will win the cosmic battle in the end by defeating evil. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him. 

    We see our way through chaos because The Ancient of Days will judge evil, and the Son of Man will set up His kingdom by destroying evil, suffering and sorrow. Through our faith in Jesus Christ, we all move toward that day when evil and pain cease, suffering and death are no more, and when we will dwell at peace with God and with one another.

    The New International Version is the Bible translation used in this study.