And you thought your nightmare where a clown with a knife chases you through the house was bad! Later in Daniel 7, we are told that these beasts represent kingdoms and the horns represent kings. More books than I can count have been written by authors who speculate which real world nations and kings are represented here. Alexander the Great, Xerxes, Stalin, Hitler, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have all been thrown into the pile of wild guesses people have made over the years. I'm not writing today to pretend I know the identity of these nations or kings.
What I do know is that these kinds of nations and leaders rise up over and over throughout the course of history. These are nations that stand for their own power and glory. These are empires that try to extend their reach to all nations, peoples, and tongues. These are leaders who strive to be the greatest and mightiest. These are men who brag of their accomplishments and consider themselves the king of all kings and the greatest to ever live. They claim to deserve the respect and praise of all people. They live for their own glory and seek for their own name and legacy to go down throughout the ages. The Persian Empire, Roman Empire, British Empire, Chinese Dynasties, and even America. Xerxes, Alexander the Great, Hitler, Caesar, Nero, Louis XVI, and . . . you and I.
I don't need to know the exact identity of these prophetic nations and kings because I see myself in them. I spend so much of my time seeking my own glory, fishing for compliments from others, and bragging about myself. I'm smart though (bragging again!), I do it in subtle ways. I don't just say, "Hey, look how great I am!" Instead, I say, "What did you think of my sermon on Sunday? Do you have any constructive feedback?" Then I wait for the praise. I spend much of my time under the delusion that I am in charge and everyone around me should do things my way. I get irritated and upset, albeit secretly and inwardly, when other people's schedules cause my plans to be hindered. After all, you should plan your life around me. Don't you see my crown? Don't you see me sitting here on my throne as the king of kings?
Can you relate? Do you sometimes live for your own glory? Do you sometimes seek or just long for praise for yourself? Do you brag over your work and achievements? Do you brag about your children and how well you raised them? Do you sometimes act like the crown and throne are yours? Whoever these kings and leaders are in Daniel's nightmare, they're in for a rude awakening. And so are we.
"As I looked, "thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. "Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) -- Daniel 7:9-12
For each of these kingdoms and kings, a day came when they stood before the God of the universe whose throne is above all thrones. They saw all too late that His throne shone brighter than theirs and the fire of His glory poured out all around Him. They stood before this great King on trial and the boastful king was slain and they were all stripped of their authority and laid down to nothing. They saw just how insignificant their glory and kingdoms were on that day. They saw how silly their bragging was when standing before God. It's a vision that you and I need to see and learn from now and every day of our lives. There's more.
"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. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped 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
Daniel saw the Son of Man, Jesus Himself. The clouds parted and there He was coming down to approach God the Father. Daniel watched as God handed over the whole universe to Jesus and made Him the one true King of Kings and all peoples, nations, and languages worshiped Him.
Let's learn this lesson now. There is only one King of Kings. There is only one who deserves all praise, worship, and glory. There is only one who can boast. It's not us. It's not me. It's Jesus. Look at how foolish these great kings of the earth were standing before God bragging. These were great rulers of history and they paled as nothing in God's presence. Imagine how foolish you and I will feel when we stand before Jesus bragging about our little kingdoms that we've made. Imagine how silly we seem to Him as He sits on His throne and sees us acting like we wear the crown and we get to call the shots. We build our castles of sand and smile proudly but they are nothing compared to Jesus' kingdom.