(From Kairos Journal)

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 peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13-14 (NIV)

From the legends of King Arthur to J. R. R. Tolkien’s celebrated Lord of the Rings trilogy, the return of a rescuing king is a great theme in literature. It is also a central message of the Bible. All may seem lost, but the King is returning. Neither terrorism, the AIDS epidemic, political corruption, a runaway judiciary, nor poisonous media can prevent it; indeed, they invite it.

In Daniel 7, the prophet receives a vision—“one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.” Because of its Messianic overtones, “Son of Man” is Jesus’ favorite self-designation, and the Daniel passage is a key Old Testament background passage for this title. Indeed, in Mark 13:26, Jesus quotes this passage when speaking of His own future return.

Daniel 7 is a powerful affirmation of Christ’s deity and lordship over all creation. The language of “authority,” “glory,” “sovereign power,” of being worshipped, of possessing an “everlasting dominion,” and of ruling over an everlasting “kingdom” indicate that the “son of man”—whom the New Testament reveals as Jesus—is the divine King of the universe. In the words of Colossians 1:16b-17, “All things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

The best of Christian thought has always challenged a temporal ruler’s claim to absolute authority. Because Christians affirm a sovereign God, no temporal ruler can ever be truly sovereign. Because Christians know there will only be ultimate and absolute justice in the future, they are skeptical of utopian fantasies. There is one king—Jesus—and the reality of His eternal kingdom and rule is a check on fantasies of governmental grandeur—whether at the local, state, national, or international levels (Rev. 1:5).

To preach and teach the reality of the kingdom of Jesus is to engage in a radical and profound public act, whether one knows it or not. When first-century Christians simply sought to worship the biblical God, and Him alone, they were engaged in a daring public act. For in refusing to worship the Roman emperor, they were questioning the social structure of the day. Church leaders of today should be willing to follow suit. Of course, it can be costly, as it was to the early Christians. But whatever intimidation they may feel at the prospect of cultural conflict, it pales beside the intimidation the world should feel at the promise of the Lord’s return. This is no context for pastoral anxiety; rather, it is strong warrant for pastoral confidence, that ultimately, the State is answerable to the glorified Church.

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