The Ancient of Days and the Son of Man
Open Your Bible
Daniel 7:1-14, Psalm 104:1-5, Hebrews 12:28-29
The first part of Daniel’s dream vision was the stuff of night terrors. The four apocalyptic beasts were fierce predators, each more terrifying than the previous one. The four parts of the statue in chapter two represented four kingdoms; now Daniel saw their true nature. These rapacious creatures embodied the four brutal super-powers under which God’s people would suffer—repeatedly. While the stationary image signified the idolatrous world views of the dark kingdoms, the violence of these beasts exposed the lawless end product of idolatry, no matter what form it takes. God’s people should rightfully quail at the prospect.
For that reason, the second part of the vision is of utmost importance—for Daniel’s audience and for us.
The Almighty God is on His throne. What words can possibly capture God’s radiant and holy presence? God is surrounded by fire and flaming wheels, with an accompanying river of fire. Fire purifies. Woe to us indeed, if we fail to bow our faces to the ground in appropriate fear and dread; “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28–29).
What can convey God’s absolute and everlasting rule of the universe? That’s the point of “Ancient of Days” and blindingly white hair and clothing (see Psalm 104:2). We must linger on these words and images that catapult us to the vaults of heaven. Far above all else that we may find tumultuous and terrifying, God reigns supreme, and God will judge. Daniel saw the books opened and those utterly fearsome beasts either subdued or destroyed.
Then, the Son of Man arrived with the clouds of heaven, was ushered into the presence of the Ancient of Days, and was given dominion, glory, and power (Daniel 7:13–14). Everyone would serve Him, and His kingdom would never end. In other words, the Son of Man is God.
Jesus intentionally chose this title for Himself (Matthew 8:20; 11:18–19). His audiences might first have thought of Ezekiel, whom God repeatedly summoned with the words, “son of man,” affirming the prophet’s human nature, entirely given over to serving God. But they would also be familiar with this passage. Daniel’s “Son of Man” was invested with all the accoutrements of deity. By consistently calling Himself “Son of Man,” Jesus was affirming and declaring that He is both fully God and fully human.
That culminated in the exchange between Caiaphas and Jesus (Matthew 26:57–67). When Caiaphas put Jesus under oath, Jesus declared they would “see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (v.64). This one bold statement drew together this passage from Daniel 7 and King David’s words from Psalm 110:1—two key passages Caiaphas would have been well acquainted with, both of which unquestionably point to God and no one less. No wonder those religious leaders at Jesus’s trial tore their robes!
Make no mistake, Jesus was declaring Himself God before those religious leaders who should have been anxiously awaiting His arrival. Their human judgment of Jesus is an ironic contrast with the image of God’s coming judgment in Daniel 7:9–10. Nevertheless, in God’s cosmic judicial proceedings, those events affected true justice—for eternity.