Kings of the South and the North
Open Your Bible
Daniel 11:5-45, Ezekiel 20:4-9, Matthew 23:37-39
My daughters were in Narnia for the first time this summer. Every night, they’d beg for the next chapter of C.S. Lewis’s beloved fantasy series. The spell has taken them in, totally, as we talk of Aslan and Lucy, of Reepicheep and Mr. Tumnus, of glory and dust, of past and future. Prince Caspian is the second book in the series, and its opening chapters read like a stop-and-start, future-and-past prophecy. The Pevensie children return to Narnia, and find themselves retracing their Narnian steps 1300 years after they left, though it has only been a year at home in England. Caspian, the titular character, knew the legends but never expected to find Peter and Susan and Edmund and Lucy and Aslan to come to his aid, restoring his place as rightful king.
As they struggle to grasp the reality of waking up in the ancient ruins of their once-glorious Cair Paravel, time shifts forward and backward in their minds. Could this be my sword? Peter wonders. Our table? Our home? Is this where we danced and played and ruled a beautiful, peaceful kingdom?
Holding the tension of “the already and not yet,” the mix of grief with memory but also hope, is a benchmark of the Christian life, and I felt that familiar, yet somehow distant, feeling while reading Daniel’s third prophecy, in Daniel 11. Already living in exile, Daniel is given a prophecy of an even longer exile, while also clinging to the hope of the Davidic kingdom the Israelites had once known, longing for the time when they would finally leave exile and rebuild Jerusalem.
Daniel’s prophecies were very real to his audience and to the Jewish people. They predicted events that would be fulfilled over the next four hundred years of Israel’s history—redemption that would come for a season and a people. But the redemption Daniel foresaw comes to us as well. We cling to the hope of something that was here once (Eden), and we know will one day come again (God’s fully restored kingdom).
Daniel’s prophecies, especially here, are for us, too, as people of God’s already-and-not-yet kingdom. As believers with a future hope, we constantly experience the push and pull of kingdom living. Our hearts quicken to signs and wonders, reminding us of something that hasn’t happened yet, but we somehow miss and long for anyway. We are Prince Caspian, steeped in the ancient history of our beloved kingdom, but never expecting the good king himself to break into our present.
But when he does, it’s glorious. And that hope that Daniel prophesies and the rest of Scripture proclaims, is very real. God’s kingdom is everlasting, from generation to generation. Once, hundreds of years after Daniel’s exile, Jesus broke into the earthly realm and planted the seeds of God’s kingdom. And one day, He will come again, and bring with Him the full flourishing kingdom that our hearts were made to hope for.