Relevant Biblical Passages: Daniel 7
Focusing on Judgment in Daniel 7. A majestic judgment scene is planted right in the heart of Daniel 7. The setting in 7:9-10, with the Ancient One presiding and the books being opened, is unusual, moving much closer to a western concept of “judgment” than is typical in most of the Old Testament. In general, the Old Testament presents the “judge” more in the role of what we would call the prosecuting attorney whose task it is to defend the vulnerable members of the society. Psalms 98 vividly illustrates that perspective as the psalmist rejoices over the prospect of Yahweh’s coming to judge the world and its inhabitants. With that background in mind, these are questions to ask about the judgment scene in Daniel 7:
1. The Judge: impartial or aggressive? If one simply “watches” this chapter on video, what are the dynamics which characterize the judge, the accused, and the delivered? Are the “good” in fear of the judge? Do they sense themselves at risk in his presence?
2. Son of Man. In the vision itself (as separate from the interpretation), the Son of Man seems to be an individual. He is the one who receives the kingdom (7:14). But in the interpretation of the vision which follows (7:27), this individual has turned into a corporate entity, for it is “the holy ones of the most high” who receive the kingdom. In the Gospels, “Son of Man” is Jesus’ favorite title for himself – what tantalizing truths lie hidden in this shift between the individual and the corporate? Is this a forerunner of the church as the body of Christ?
3. Bad Guys. The beast and the little horn are severely judged in the vision. What characteristics of “evil” do the beast and the little horn demonstrate that would make this chapter “universal” in application, rather than local, i.e. applying to particular “historical” entities or persons?
4. Reinterpreting the imagery. In Daniel 7, the movement of the Son of Man to the Ancient One is horizontal. He comes with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient One (7:13). But when the New Testament picks up this Son of Man imagery, it becomes a vertical movement from heaven to earth (e.g. Matt. 24:30-31). The interpretation of this chapter as a “pre-advent” or “investigative” judgment (as in Adventism), returns to the original imagery of the chapter, but tends to place the focus on the saints as the accused (but ultimately delivered) rather than on the beast who is ultimately condemned. To what extent are both shifts legitimate? Do they speak truths which transcend the context?
Further reading. For a reassuring view of “judgment,” see Ellen White’s chapter, “Joshua and the Angel” in Prophets and Kings (pp. 582-92). For an analysis of her movement toward assurance, see Alden Thompson, “Even the Investigative Judgment Can Be Good News,” Westwind (Walla Walla College Alumni Journal) 2 (Winter 1982): 4-7, 11 (addendum to Adventist Review series, “From Sinai to Golgotha”). On the Web at: http://dlearn.wwc.edu/classes/relh457/articles/Sinai/sinai.html.