Daniel 7 in the New Testament

Several key terms and phrases from the seventh chapter of Daniel are applied multiple times in the New Testament

Alone at Sunrise - Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash
The figure of the “
Son of Man” in Daniel is used several times in the four gospel accounts, most often when describing the return of Jesus “on the clouds.” For example, in his Olivet Discourse, Jesus declared that all the tribes of the earth will mourn when “they see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” - [Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash].

In fact, Daniel’s vision of the “Son of Man” lies behind the self-designation heard most often on the lips of Jesus in the four gospels. It is the literary source used by Christ to paint his picture of his return in glory at the end of the age, and the same passage lies behind his post-resurrection claim that he now possesses authority over all things:
  • (Daniel 7:13-14) – “I continued looking in the visions of the night when behold, with the clouds of the heavens one like a son of man was coming, and to the Ancient of days he approached, and before him they brought him near, and to him were given dominion and dignity and kingship, that all peoples, races and tongues, unto him should do service. His dominion was an everlasting dominion that should not pass away, and his kingdom that which should not be destroyed.
  • (Matthew 28:18-20) – “And Jesus, coming near, spoke to them, saying, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and disciple all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I myself have commanded you, And behold, I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the age.

When the high priest demanded to know whether he was the Messiah, Jesus responded, “I am he, and you will see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

In doing this, Jesus combined the phrase from Daniel 7:13 with Psalm 110:1 - “Yahweh declared to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I make your foes your footstool” - (Mark 14:62Matthew 26:64Luke 22:69).

In Daniel’s vision, the “Son of Man” approaches God to receive authority to rule the nations. Similarly, in the second Psalm, the messiah is exalted to rule over the nations from Yahweh’s throne. In his trial before the high priest, Jesus declared that this prophecy was about to be fulfilled; it was something that his executioners would see to their dismay - (Psalm 110:1, Daniel 7:13).

Thus, references to the “Son of Man” by Jesus are based in part, at least, on passages from the seventh chapter of Daniel, especially Daniel 7:13-14.

IN THE EPISTLES

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul describes a future “man of lawlessness,” and the “mystery of lawlessness” that is preparing even now for his unveiling that is at work in the world. This “mystery” or force of "lawlessness" will prevail until a specific event occurs:
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8) - “Now, you know that which prevails to the end he may be revealed in his season…until he comes out of the midst. Then will be revealed the Lawless One whom the Lord Jesus will consume with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the appearance of his arrival.”

In describing this dark figure, Paul employs language from the seventh chapter of Daniel that originally referred to a malevolent ruler labeled the “little horn,” a pagan king who prosecuted a “war” against the “saints.” Note the following verbal parallels:
  • (Daniel 7:8, 21-26) - “I considered the horns and there came up among them another horn, a little one…this horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them until that the Ancient of Days arrived and justice was granted to the saints of the Highest, and the season arrived that the saints should possess the kingdom…and words against the Most-High will he speak, and the saints of the Highest will he afflict and will presume to change seasons and law, and they will be given into his hand for a season and seasons and the dividing of a season, but Judgment will take its seat, and his dominion will they remove to consume and to destroy unto an end.”

IN REVELATION

The image of the “son of man” arriving on clouds appears at the close of the prologue in the book of Revelation, and he also is the central figure in the book’s opening vision where he represents Jesus:
  • He is coming with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they that pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over him…I saw seven golden lampstands and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man” - (Revelation 1:7-16).

Later, John saw this one like a son of man” sitting on a white cloud while wearing a golden crown, and with a sharp sickle poised to reap the earth’s final grain harvest - (Revelation 14:14).

In Daniel’s vision, the “Son of Man” approached the Throne to receive dominion over “all peoples, nations and tongues.” That image lies behind several passages in Revelation where it is used to emphasize the universal reign of the Lamb.

Thus, the Lamb is declared “worthy” because “he purchased for God by his blood men out of every tribe, tongue, people and nation.” Later, John will see an “innumerable multitude” coming out of the “great tribulation” comprised of men “from every nation, tribe, people and tongue” - (Daniel 7:13-14, Revelation 5:9, 7:9-17).

FOUR BEASTS

The vision of four beasts ascending from the sea in the seventh chapter of Daniel is employed in Revelation but changed into a single “beast.” This one beast combines the characteristics of all four of Daniel’s beasts.

John does not attempt to identify the fourth beast from Daniel’s vision; instead, he presents a portrait of something related but greater than the original vision, an amalgamation of all four animal images, the single “beast ascending from the sea” - (Revelation 13:1-5).

Revelation lists the animal characteristics of the original four beasts but in the opposite order from their original rise from the sea in Daniel. Rather than a lion, bear, leopard, and “beast with ten horns,” John sees a single “beast with ten horns,” a leopard’s appearance, a bear’s feet, and the “mouth of a lion.”

This beast also had a “mouth speaking great things and blasphemies.” This last item corresponds to the “little horn” in Daniel - (Daniel 7:8Revelation 13:5).

Revelation adds and omits things that Daniel attributed to his fourth beast. For example, there is no mention of “seven heads” on Daniel’s fourth beast.

In chapter 13, each of the “ten horns” wears a diadem, something not mentioned in Daniel, and in Revelation, there is no mention of three of the beast’s ten horns being removed to make way for another one.

The book of Revelation is not concerned with reiterating what Daniel wrote. It uses material from Daniel to draw a fuller picture. Daniel saw four beasts - John saw only one, but it combined all the worst features of the original four.

Stormy Sea Photo by Barth Bailey on Unsplash
[Photo by Barth Bailey on Unsplash]

The “
beast from the sea” is seen again in Chapter 17 of Revelation. It is under the economic sway of “Babylon, the Great Whore.” She rides the “beast.”  Its seven heads represent “seven kingdoms.” Already by John’s time, five had “fallen,” the sixth one existed, and the seventh and final “kingdom” was yet to come - (Revelation 17:7-17).

THE FINAL BEAST

The portrait in Revelation is of a beastly system that is trans-historical – A political reality that appears periodically in history, an entity that ascends repeatedly from the Abyss/Sea to wage “war against the saints.” Its ten horns represent kings allied with the beast, though, in the end, they become God’s unwitting agents used to destroy Babylon.

Another key passage found several times is also from Daniel chapter 7, “the horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them.” In Revelation, the “saints” are men who have the “testimony of Jesus,” and who have been “purchased from every nation” by the blood of the Lamb.

The same phrase from Daniel is applied to the attacks by the “beast” against the “two witnesses,” the “seed of the woman,” the “saints” and ironically, Satan’s war with the Lamb - (“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them” - Revelation 5:6-127:9-14, 11:7, 12:17, 13:7, 17:14, 19:19).

The theme of malevolent creatures “ascending” from ominous depths to attack the Lamb’s followers appears repeatedly, though in each case, it is adapted to a specific context. For example, the “two witnesses” are targeted by the “beast that ascends from the abyss” - (Revelation 11:7, 13:1, 13:11, 17:8, 20:9).

In Daniel, the “little horn” prevails against the saints until “judgment was given for the saints of the Most-High." Likewise, in Revelation, Satan is bound for a thousand years while “judgment is given” for the saints as they begin to “possess the kingdom” - (Daniel 7:21-22, Revelation 20:4).

Thus, the vision recorded in the seventh chapter of Daniel is used multiple times in the New Testament to identify Jesus as the “Son of Man” who is destined to reign over peoples and nations and to portray his return at the end of the age in great power and glory. And its post-resurrection application by Jesus demonstrates that his reign over the earth has been a present reality since his death, resurrection, and exaltation.



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