Click here to join the effort!
THE DESTRUCTION OF POPERY
Daniel 7:9-10. I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued, and came forth from, before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
WHILE God exercises his sovereignty, he displays also his wisdom, in revealing his mind to man. As we may trace on many occasions a peculiar propriety in the time and manner of making known his will, so we may observe a kind of suitableness in the revelations themselves to those to whom they were made. The succession of four great empires had been made known to Nebuchadnezzar under the figure of a colossal image composed of various metals [Note: Daniel 2:31-45.]; and the same is revealed to Daniel by a vision of four dreadful beasts: the propriety of these different representations is evident; for the mind of that haughty monarch was engrossed with the love of earthly grandeur; whereas the humbler mind of Daniel would view great conquerors rather in the light of ferocious beasts, eager to gratify their own appetites, though it be by the desolation of the human race. In Daniel’s vision also many things were added relative to the church of God, which, though of infinite importance in his eyes, would have been of small moment to the king of Babylon—
If we notice the terms themselves, nothing can be conceived more majestic than this description of God’s coming to judgment. First, “the thrones are set down [Note: So the words “cast down” should rather be rendered.], and “the Ancient of days,” the eternal incomprehensible Jehovah, with Christ as his assessor, takes his seat. The august appearance of the Judge, “clothed in a garment white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool,” denotes his unsearchable wisdom that penetrates the deepest secrets, and his unsullied integrity as discoverable in all his decisions. His throne is compared to a triumphal chariot, whose seat and wheels are of fire, and from which issues a stream of fire, to destroy those whom his justice shall condemn. “Myriads of angels minister to him” as the willing executioners of his decrees, and “innumerable multitudes stand before him” to receive their sentence from his mouth. “The judgment being thus set, the books are opened;” as well the book of his remembrance, wherein the actions of all were written, as the book of his law, whereby they are to be judged.
This is a prophecy; in considering which we shall shew,
To what it refers—
[The destruction of Antichrist is the first event to which this description refers. The prophet directs our attention, not to the general judgment, but to a particular judgment which shall be instituted for the punishment of a blasphemous, persecuting, and presumptuous power. Who that power is we cannot reasonably doubt. The little horn spoken of in the context will appear evidently to be the Papal Hierarchy, if we consider how exactly the characters of that antichristian power are described by the prophet. It arose after that the Roman empire had been divided into ten smaller kingdoms: it reduced under its dominion three of those kingdoms [Note: The Exarchate of Ravenna, the kingdom of the Lombards, and the state of Rome.]: and from the time that it had gained this ascendency, has never ceased to persecute the saints, and to assume to itself the unalienable prerogatives of the most high God [Note: Who is ignorant of their claims to infallibility, and of power to dispense both pardons and indulgences? Who knows not how they have set up their authority above that of God himself, changed the institutions of his sacramental supper, prohibited to their clergy the very first ordinance of God and nature, and dispensed with every obligation human and divine?]. St. Paul’s account also of the man of sin corresponds exactly with this, and confirms this application of the prophecy in the strongest manner [Note: 2Th 2:3-4; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9.].
The enlargement of Christ’s kingdom is another event, to which the judgment before us has respect. The connexion between this and the destruction of popery is very strongly marked by the prophet. Repeatedly in this chapter does he unite two events [Note: Daniel 7:11-14; Daniel 7:26-27.]; teaching us thereby to expect assuredly, that, as they are united in God’s purpose, so shall they be also in their accomplishment.
As to the time when these things shall come to pass, we know that it shall be one thousand two hundred and sixty years from the time of Antichrist; but we must wait for the event, before we can positively say from what precise period the numeration of those years must commence. Partial checks has popery already received, as at the Reformation. So was there then a correspondent increase of zeal to spread the knowledge of Christ. But when the time shall arrive, and that idolatrous power shall be destroyed, then shall “the kingdoms of the world speedily become the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ.”]
That we may make a just improvement of this prophecy, let us consider,
What should be the state of our minds in reference to it,
We should look forward to its accomplishment with holy confidence—
[There is a state of mind peculiarly proper for the investigation of unfulfilled prophecy. To treat any part of divine revelation with indifference, as though it were an unprofitable task to search into it, would argue a very criminal disregard of Him from whom that revelation proceeds. On the other hand, to be stirring up ourselves to a state of feverish excitement, as though we could already discern every minute particular which shall take place when the period that has been predicted shall have arrived, is to dive into futurity with an unhallowed boldness, and to pervert the true end of prophecy. Prophecy is not intended to make us prophets, but to shew us, after that the predictions shall have been fulfilled, that the events so predicted were both foreseen and fore-ordained by the Most High God. The true medium is that which the prophets themselves. observed: “They searched diligently what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow [Note: 1 Peter 1:11.].” The Prophet Daniel, when he understood from books that the time for the delivery of his people from the Babylonish captivity was drawing near, “set himself by prayer and supplication and fasting,” to attain a more perfect knowledge of God’s purpose respecting it. And the saints who lived near the time of our Lord’s advent in the flesh, engaged in constant prayer, “looking for him as the consolation of Israel,” and waiting for his promised redemption. Now, if we would attend upon God in such a spirit as this, we should never sustain any injury to our souls from such holy exercises. But, when we so engage in searching into future events as almost to overlook what is past; and so please ourselves with our own fancied discoveries, as to place almost on the back ground all the wonders of redeeming love; we betray a very depraved appetite, and foster both in ourselves and others a spirit the very reverse of humility and love. In relation to future events, we stand in the same predicament with the saints who lived before the coining of our Lord. If we presume to pry into them with unhallowed curiosity, and to dogmatize respecting them as if they were already open to our view, we shall both suffer loss ourselves and inflict an injury on others: but, if we explore them with the modesty that becomes us, we shall find the contemplation of them profitable to our own minds, and the developement of them, so far as they are revealed to us, truly beneficial to the Church of God. Take, for instance, what is spoken in Scripture respecting the destruction of Popery, and the establishment of Christ’s kingdom throughout the world, we should be content with asserting only what the Scriptures have asserted, and with stating as conjecture whatever has not Divine authority for its support. If we go beyond this, we render the record itself questionable, by adding to it our own conceits, and loading it with circumstances not clearly revealed. It is sufficient for us to know, that both the one event and the other shall assuredly take place, and that when the Lamb has vanquished that idolatrous and bloody power, he will reign over the whole world [Note: Revelation 17:14.], “there being throughout the whole earth but one Lord, and his name One [Note: Zechariah 14:9.].”]
We should look forward to great events to which God’s present dispensations are only a prelude—
[The time is surely coming, when the whole world shall be judged, all the wicked being cast down, and all the righteous exalted, in strict accordance with the prophecy before us. For so has St. John informed us: “I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away: and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.…And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire [Note: Revelation 20:11-15.].” On that occasion will all the pomp described in our text be fully realized: “for the Son of Man will come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him; and he shall sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.…And of these, some shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal [Note: Matthew 25:31-32; Matthew 25:46.].” To the same effect St. Paul also says, “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power, when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10.].” About this event no diversity of sentiment can arise. It is fast approaching to us all: for though the day of the general judgment is distant, the time for our being individually summoned into the Divine presence is near to every one of us. Disease or accident may at any moment carry us to the judgment-seat of Christ, and fix our eternal destinies either in heaven or hell, according as we are prepared or unprepared to meet our God. Let us then ask ourselves, What is recorded concerning us in the book of God’s remembrance, and what evidence we possess that our names are written in the book of life? When that hour shall arrive, it will be of small moment to us, what judgments have been executed on the Church of Rome, or what blessings have been vouchsafed to God’s elect. We are all of us chiefly interested about our own eternal state: and therefore, though I would by no means discourage an inquiry into the general designs of Providence, I would most earnestly entreat every one to look to his own ways, and to judge himself now, that he may not hereafter be judged of the Lord.]
THE REIGN OF THE SAINTS
Daniel 7:18. The saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.
THE vision of Daniel contained in this chapter accords with that which had before been vouchsafed to Nebuchadnezzar, and interpreted by Daniel himself [Note: Daniel 2:31-45.]. To Nebuchadnezzar it had appeared as a great image, the various materials of which denoted four successive kingdoms, which would yield at last to one universal empire established on their ruins. To Daniel it appeared as four wild beasts, which would successively prevail; till at last the kingdom of the Messiah should be erected, and reduce every adverse power to a state of complete subjection. To Nebuchadnezzar, who saw nothing but glory in the rise and fall of empires, the idea of a glorious image was most suited: but to Daniel, who viewed the malignant dispositions which produced such revolutions, and the miseries that were occasioned by them, they were more fitly represented under the notion of wild beasts, tearing and devouring one another. But in the vision of Daniel there were revealed many additional circumstances, which very greatly interested him, and which he earnestly desired to have explained. The last of the four kingdoms was to be broken into ten smaller kingdoms, represented by ten horns; amongst which “a little horn, that had eyes, and a mouth speaking very great things,” grew up. This little horn (which seems evidently to denote the Papal power) was to make war with the saints; and, after grievously afflicting them for one thousand two hundred and sixty years, to be itself destroyed, and the kingdom to be given to the saints.
On that part of the subject that relates to the little horn, we shall be silent; because the stating of different opinions respecting it would be unprofitable to those who are hungering for the bread of life: but that part which is contained in our text will be edifying to us all: we shall proceed therefore to consider,
The event predicted—
The establishment of the Redeemer’s empire upon earth is that which is foretold in the preceding verses [Note: ver. 13, 14.], and which in reality is meant in the passage now before us. But the kingdom is called the kingdom of the saints, because it will be entirely composed of saints, and altogether under their government [Note: ver. 22, 27.]. That they shall possess it we can have no doubt; and when the time shall arrive, so universal will the reign of piety be, that it will appear as if all the saints who have ever lived upon the earth had risen again, and as if Christ himself had come down again from heaven to reign over them [Note: Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:4. Some contend for a literal accomplishment of these predictions: but the view here given of them is greatly to be preferred.]. But respecting the saints there are two things which it will be proper to shew,
How they will take possession of the kingdom—
[They will not do this by force, unless indeed by the holy violence of faith and prayer: in that respect “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force:” but in respect of any exertion on their part to usurp dominion, it will not so much as enter into their minds. Divine grace will have taught them to “be subject to the powers that be; and that not only for wrath, but for conscience sake.” If they lived even under a Nero, they would, notwithstanding all his cruelty, regard him as God’s minister, whom, by any other means than those which the law itself admits, they are bound not to resist [Note: Romans 13:1-5.]. No man can act as becometh a saint, if he be not found amongst those that are “quiet in the land.”
It is through the intervention only of God’s power that they are exalted to posts of honour, and invested with authority over their fellow-creatures. In the days of old, the enemies of God were overruled to execute his will, in the elevation of a Joseph and a Daniel to the command of mighty empires, and of the Hebrew youths to the government of extensive provinces: but at the time to which our text refers, the subjects, as well as the governors, shall all be converted to the faith of Christ; and kings, no less than others, shall submit to the authority of Christ; yea, “all kings shall fall down before him, all nations shall serve him.” There will not need any human efforts to subvert the government of the ungodly: God himself will change, not the persons, but the principles, of those who are in the seat of judgment; and will press into his own service all their faculties and all their powers. Thus without any public commotions will the work be effected: “The stone that will break in pieces all adverse powers will be cut out without hands;” and the kingdom will be erected, “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.”]
How they will administer it—
In this they will differ widely from the monarchs of this world: they will consult, not their own will, but the will of their heavenly Father; and seek, not their own glory, but his. Every nation will have a theocracy, such as obtained in the days of Moses, and of the Judges. Men will be invested with authority indeed; but the Lord Jesus Christ will be the one Head over all: his laws will be the ground-work of every law that shall be enacted, and his glory the end of every ordinance that shall be administered. “Kings will be the nursing-fathers of the Church, and queens her nursing-mothers.” Judges and magistrates will distribute justice with the utmost possible fidelity, all in their several places “fearing God and working righteousness.” All the minor offices in the State shall be executed in like manner with the strictest integrity: “officers of every description will be peace, and exactors righteousness:” “no violence of any kind will be heard [Note: Isaiah 60:17-18.]” in any of the departments of civil government; nor will any interest be consulted but that of the whole community.]
Such is the event which in God’s own time we assuredly expect: and from the description already given it is easy to anticipate,
The advantages that will accrue from it—
Let us notice,
Those of a temporal nature—
[The first that occurs to our minds is this, that there will be no more foreign wars. The history of the world for four thousand years has been little else than a recital of murderous and desolating wars: but in that day, we are told, that “swords shall be beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not rise against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” What a blessing this will be, can scarcely be estimated by us, who have for so long a period been exempt from the horrors of war; but in those countries where its desolating progress has been felt, this will appear a blessing of no small moment. As “wars will cease among the nations of the earth,” so in the different nations there will be no domestic feuds. “Judah will no more vex Ephraim, nor Ephraim envy Judah.” “The wolf and the lamb shall dwell together” in perfect harmony: the noxious qualities of the human heart shall be universally restrained: love alone will reign in every circle: “they shall not hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain, because the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea [Note: Isaiah 11:6-9.].” We may further add, that in that day there will he no personal wants. Now a great portion of the human race are oppressed with want, so as scarcely to know how they shall provide bread for the morrow: but in that day it will be as on the day of Pentecost, not literally indeed, but in effect, all delighting to supply the necessities of their fellow-saints. As in the wilderness “he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack,” so in that day will “the abundance of some be a supply for the want of others, that, as far as will conduce to the welfare of the whole, there may be equality [Note: 2 Corinthians 8:13-15.].”]
Those of a spiritual nature—
[Vast will be the increase of light in that day: “the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven-fold, as the light of seven days.” Hitherto the greatest part of the world have sat in darkness and the shadow of death: but then “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased;” and such shall be the fruit of their exertions, that “all men shall be made to know the Lord, from the least to the greatest.” The diffusion of Divine knowledge will then be a national object: men shall not then be “put into the ministry to supply them with a piece of bread,” but “to feed the flock of God, over which the Holy Ghost has made them overseers:” and patrons will exercise their power for God, to provide the people with “pastors after God’s heart.” The people also, whilst flocking to the church “as doves to their windows,” will so receive the word, that it will universally “have free course and be glorified among them.”
Together with light, there will be among all classes a great augmentation of peace and joy. “The sun shall be no more their light by day, neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto them; but the Lord shall be unto them an everlasting light, and their God their glory.” Nor shall their joy be so variable as at present: “their sun shall no more go down, neither shall their moon withdraw itself; for the Lord shall be unto them an everlasting light; and the days of their mourning shall be ended [Note: Isaiah 60:19-20.].” To this happy state of the Church shall the reign of the saints essentially contribute: for the zeal of the pastors, the spirituality of the people, and the more abundant effusion of the Holy Spirit upon the souls of men, will all conspire to “turn the wilderness into a garden, and to make the desert rejoice and blossom as the rose: yea, it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing [Note: Isaiah 35:1-6; Isaiah 35:10.].”
There will also be a far larger measure of holiness pervading the world. The Canaanite will then “be no more in the land.” “The people will be all righteous [Note: Isa 60:21 and Zechariah 14:20-21.]:” and surprising will be the beauty and fertility of every plant which the Lord hath planted [Note: Hosea 14:5-7.]. To this also will the reign of the saints greatly contribute. Sin of every kind will be discountenanced, and iniquity, if any still exist, will be constrained to hide its head — — —]
Let none be ashamed of being accounted saints—
[This name, which God so highly honours, is with many a term of reproach. But happy are they who are “counted worthy of this shame.” The day will ere long arrive, when they shall have far higher honours than man can bestow. We who are now alive may not live to see the day predicted in our text; but, if not, we shall see a happier day, when, “having suffered with Christ, we shall reign, and be glorified together with him.” Verily for all the saints there is a kingdom provided; and they who look forward to it shall not be disappointed of their hope [Note: 2 Timothy 4:8. Revelation 3:21.] — — —]
Let all endeavour to help forward the expected day—
[God will make use of instruments, just as he did in the apostolic age: and we apprehend he is evidently preparing the way for the fuller diffusion of his Gospel by the various efforts which his people are now making in every quarter of the globe. He is causing his word to be translated into the different languages of the world, that all may be able to “read in their own tongue the wonderful works of God.” He is sending forth missionaries into different and distant parts; and is uniting myriads of people in the blessed work of instructing the benighted heathens. Let all these works then be dear to you; and help them forward to the utmost of your power: so may we hope that ere long “the crooked places may be made straight, and the rough places plain, and that all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”]
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Daniel 7". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany