After a weekend off due to sickness (thank you, Pastor Jim Caler, for covering for me last weekend!), I continued our series on the book of Daniel this past weekend at Eastbrook Church by turning to chapter 8, the second of Daniel’s apocalyptic visions.
Daniel 8 continues the apocalyptic visions of the second half of the book. As with my message on Daniel 7, “Faith in God Amidst the Beasts,” this message, “Faith Looking Forward,” engages our imagination through God’s inspired symbols and images of what is really going on in the midst of human history. Daniel has this vision during the third year of the reign of Belshazzar, the last of the Babylonian kings represented in Daniel, and thus it takes place chronologically before Daniel 5 and 6. We are introduced to figures that stand against God which both reflect the antichrist spirit and the future Antichrist figure that is to come.
This past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I continued our series on the book of Daniel by turning our attention to chapter 7, which begins the markedly different second half of the book. Chapters 1-6 are court narratives, while chapters 7-12 are apocalyptic visions. This first vision serves as a sort of parallel to Daniel 2 and overview of where the rest of the book is going.
As we continued our series on the book of Daniel this past weekend at Eastbrook Church, I turned our attention to chapter 4, where Daniel interprets another of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. This is an interesting passage, and has been debated in its historicity. In the Dead Sea Scrolls the “Prayer of Nabonidus” (4Q242) echoes this chapter, both confirming the authenticity of the tone of Daniel 4, yet also raising some questions about the historical framework presented there. Nabonidus came to the throne in Babylon after overthrowing Neriglissar, who succeeded Amel-Marduk (after his execution) as king. Nabonidus ruled the empire for some time from Teima, a site in present day Saudi Arabia, while his son, Belshazzar (see Daniel 5), ruled in the city of Babylon.
Beyond the historical issues, there is a clear theme in the book of Daniel of God being the One who rules over all kingdoms and all kings. In this instance, the king learns that lesson, while in Daniel 5 the king pushes back against it to his harm. Even in the kingdoms of our own lives, we have the opportunity to either submit to God as ruler of all or push back against His rule.
Today is Ascension Day, when celebrate the ascension of Jesus to the Father in heaven after His resurrection from death (Luke 24:49-51; Mark 16:19; Acts 1:3-10). I believe this is one of the most-neglected aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus with great significance for our lives as disciples of Jesus.
I want to encourage you to read my three posts from earlier in this week on the importance of the ascension for our faith because of Jesus’ reign as King, Jesus’ mediation eternally, and Jesus’ future return in glory.
Prayer is one of the most universal aspirations of the human heart, but what does it mean that Jesus, ascended with the Father, now eternally intercedes for us? In the second part of my three-part reflection on Ascension Day this week, I want to reflect on the significance that after His ascension Jesus intercedes for us.
Forty days after completion of His work in the Cross and the Resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven to rule as King at the Father’s right hand. His sacrifice was a once-for-all event (Hebrews 9:24-28) that secured His place as the unique mediator between God and humanity (1 Timothy 2:5).
The writer to the Hebrews builds upon these truths to help us understand Jesus’ role in the presence of God not only as King but as eternal intercessor: “he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Some see this as Jesus forever bowed in prayer for us, but the picture is different and richer than that. Jesus stands in the presence of the Living God simultaneously as our Advocate and High Priest and Sacrificial Lamb before the Father. His eternal sacrifice is eternally effective and eternally offered before God on our behalf (Hebrews 1:3; 7:25; 8:1). Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension, there is no one who and nothing that can condemn us before God (Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1).
Even more, since Jesus’ stands in the presence of God, His effective advocacy on our behalf transcends geography and time. Jesus is not limited by time and space as He was in the incarnation. Now, as He stands in the presence of God He hears and answers our prayers no matter when or where we lift them. In fact, we can always “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:15–16).
So let us be encouraged that the death and resurrection of Jesus’ are always effective on our behalf because Jesus has ascended as Eternal King and Mediator. And let us always know that the grace of God flows abundantly through Christ to us when we reach out to Him in prayer.