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7. Daniel's Dream of Four Beasts

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. 2Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. 3And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. 5And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. 7After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. 8I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.

9I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 11I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. 12As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. 13I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

15I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 16I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. 17These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. 18But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. 19Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; 20And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. 21I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. 23Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. 24And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. 25And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. 26But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 27And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. 28Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.

Daniel now relates how he saw another figure, namely, God sitting on his throne to exercise judgment. We shall see it afterwards concerning Christ, but Daniel now teaches only the appearance of God in his character of a judge. This was the reason why many persons extend this prophecy to the second Advent of Christ — an interpretation by no means correct, as I shall show more copiously in the proper place. But first it is worth while to consider here, why he says — the Ancient of days, meaning the eternal Deity himself, ascended the throne judgment. This scene seems unnecessary, because it is the peculiar office of God to govern the world; and as we know this cannot be done without upright judgment, it follows that God has been a perpetual judge from the creation of the world. Now, even a moderate acquaintance with the Scriptures shows how well this passage suits us by appealing to our senses; for unless God’s power is made conspicuous, we think it either abolished or interrupted. Hence those forms of expression which occur elsewhere; as, “How long art thou silent, O Lord; and how long wilt thou cease from us?” (Psalm 13:1; Psalm 9:7, and elsewhere,) and — God ascends his throne — for we should not acknowledge him as a judge, unless he really and experimentally proved himself such. This then is the reason why Daniel says God himself was seated in judgment.

But before we proceed further, we must observe the sense in which he says — thrones were either erected or east down — for the word רום, rum can be taken in either sense. Those who translate it, “Thrones were removed,” interpret it of the Four monarchies already mentioned. But; for my part, I rather incline to a different opinion. If any one prefers explaining’ it of these Monarchies, I do not contend with him, for that; sense is probable; and as far as the pith of the matter is concerned, there is not much difference. But I think the thrones or seats are here proceed to exhibit; the divine judgment, because the Prophet will immediately’ represent myriads of angels standing before God. We know’ how often angels are adorned with this title as if they were, assessors of Deity; and the form of speech which Daniel uses when he says, “The judgment was set,” will also agree with this. He speaks here of assessors with the judge, as if God did not sit alone, but had councilors joined with him. In my opinion the most suitable explanation is, — thrones were created for the Almighty to sit on with his councilors; not implying his need of any council, but of his own goodwill and mere favor he dignifies angels with this honor, as we shall see immediately. Daniel therefore describes, after our human fashion, the preparations for judgment; just as if any king should go publicly forth for the purpose of transacting any business of moment, and should ascend his tribunal. Councilors and nobles would sit around him on both sides, not partaking of his power, but rather increasing the splendor of his appearance. For if the king alone should occupy the whole place, the dignity would not be so magnificent as when his nobles, who depend upon him, are present on all sides, because they far surpass the ordinary multitude. Daniel, therefore, relates the vision presented to him in this form; first, ‘because he was a man dwelling in the flesh; and next, he did not see it for himself personally, but for the common benefit of the whole Church. Thus God wished to exhibit a representation which might infuse into the Prophet’s mind and into those of all the pious, a feeling of admiration, and yet might have something in common with human proceedings. Thrones, therefore, he says, were erected; afterwards, the Ancient of days was seated. I have already expounded how God then began to seat himself, as he had previously appeared to be passive, and not to exercise justice in the world. For when things are disturbed and mingled with much darkness, who can say, “God reigns?” God seems to be shut up in heaven, when things are discomposed and turbulent upon earth. On the other hand, he is said to ascend his tribunal when he assumes to himself the office of a judge, and openly demonstrates that he is neither asleep nor absent, although he lies hid from human perception.

This form of speech was very appropriate for denoting the coming of Christ. For God then chiefly displayed his supreme power, as Paul quotes a passage from the Psalms, (Psalm 68:8, in Ephesians 4:8,) “Thou hast ascended on high.” When the subject treated is the first coming of Christ, it ought not to be restricted to the thirty-three years of his sojourn in the world, but it embraces his ascension, and that preaching of the gospel which ushered in his kingdom;-this will be said again more clearly and copiously. Daniel appropriately relates how God was seated when the first advent of Christ is depicted, since the majesty of God shone in the person of Christ; for which reason he is called

“The invisible image of God and the character of his glory,” (Hebrews 1:3;)

that is, of the substance or person of the Father. God therefore, who had seemed for so many ages not to notice the world nor to care for his elect people, ascended his tribunal at the advent of Christ. To this subject the Psalms, from the 95th to the 100th, all relate — “God reigns, let the earth rejoice;” “God reigns, let the islands be afraid.” In truth, God had not dwelt in complete privacy before Christ’s advent; but. the empire which he had erected was hidden and unseen, until he showed forth his glory in the person of his only begotten Son. The Ancient of days, therefore, was seated

He now says, His raiment was white like snow the hair of his head was like pure wool. God here shows himself to his Prophet in the form of man. We know how impossible it is for us to behold God as he really exists, till we ourselves become like Him, as John says in his canonical epistle. (1 John 3:2.) As our capacity cannot endure the fullness of that surpassing glory which essentially belongs to God, whenever he appears to us, he must necessarily put on a form adapted to our comprehension. God, therefore, was never seen by the fathers in his own natural perfection; but as far as their capacities allowed, he afforded them a taste of his presence for the sure acknowledgment of his Deity; and yet they comprehended him as far as it was useful for them and they were able to bear it. This is the reason why God appeared with a white garment, which is characteristic of heaven; and with snowy hair, like white and clean wool. To the same purpose is the following: His throne was like sparks of fire, that is, like glowing fire; his wheels were like burning fire. God in reality neither occupies any throne, nor is carried on wheels; but, as I already said, we ought not to imagine God in his essence to be like any appearance, to his own Prophet and other holy fathers, but he put on various appearances, according to man’s comprehension, to whom he wished to give some signs of his presence. I need not dwell longer on these forms of speech, though subtle allegories are pleasing to many. I am satisfied with holding what is solid and sure. It now follows: —

Daniel proceeds with what he commenced in the former verse. He says a splendor or stream of fire; for נהר, neher, may be used in both senses, since נהר, neher, signifies both “to flow” and “to shine.” Yet, since he previously spoke of splendor, the word “stream” will suit the passage very well; for a fiery stream issued from the presence of God, which both inundated and burnt up the land. Without doubt God wished to inspire his Prophet with fear for the purpose of arousing him the better, as we never sufficiently comprehend his majesty unless when humbled; and we cannot experience this humility without fear. This is the reason why God always shows something terrible when he appears to his servants, not merely to create astonishment, but to excite their fear and reverence. Hence God seems to have considered this point in this vision, when the stream took its rise from his appearance, even a river of flame. Afterwards he adds, numberless attendants stood before him. Without the slightest doubt, the Prophet here speaks of angels. He says there were thousands of thousands, or ten times a hundred thousand; and again, ten thousand times ten thousand, that is, ten thousand myriads. Here the numbers are not reckoned, but God signifies his having at hand the greatest forces obedient to his will, and far surpassing any armies which the greatest; and most powerful princes collect. This passage teaches us that angels were created for the purpose of receiving and executing the commands of God, and of being the ministers of God, as it were his hands in heaven and in earth. As regards numbers, no wonder many myriads are enumerated by the Prophet. Christ said,

“Can I not ask the Father and he will send a legion?”
(Matthew 26:53.)

So, in this passage, Daniel says there were numberless angels under God’s hand, and there was no need of collecting armies after the manner of princes, since they are always present and intent on obedience. Thus they immediately fulfill all his commands, as angels run swiftly throughout heaven and earth. We also perceive the supreme power of the Almighty denoted here, as if the Prophet had said — God is not like a king or a judge merely by title, but he possesses the greatest and most unlimited power; he has myriads of satellites ever at hand for the purpose of fulfilling and executing his supreme will. And in this sense he says, they stood before him. He uses the word for ministry or service, and afterwards, adds, to stand. For ministers cannot always render their service as quickly as their rulers desire. But the angelic method is different. Not only were they prepared to obey, but in a moment they understand what God wishes and commands without needing time for compliance. We see even the greatest princes cannot immediately carry out their decrees, because their ministers are not always at hand. But there is no necessity for dwelling longer upon angels. Daniel adds, The judgment was fixed, and the books were opened. Although God alone is eminent and conspicuous above the angels, and the height of their glory and dignity does not obscure the supreme empire of the Almighty, yet, as we have formerly said, he deems them worthy of the honor of being placed as councilors on each side of him, and that for the sake of illustrating his own majesty. For we have stated that nobles do not sit at the side of monarchs to diminish his majesty or to attract it to themselves, but rather to reflect the magnitude and power of the monarch more fully. This is the reason why the Prophet joins angels with God, not as allies, but simply as his councilors.

I refer the phrase, the books were opened, to the preaching of the gospel. Although God was recognized in Judea, as it is said in the 76th Psalm, (Psalm 76:2,) yet this acknowledgment was but slight and involved in many figures. God was revealed through enigmas until Christ’s coming; but then he manifested himself truly, just like opening books previously shut. There is therefore a contrast to be observed here between that obscure season which preceded the coming of Christ, and the clearness which now shines under the gospel. Because, therefore, God was plainly made known after the Sun of righteousness arose, according to the Prophet Malachi, (Malachi 4:2,) this is the reason why the books are now said to have been opened at that season. Meanwhile, we confess that God was not altogether hidden, nor did he speak from astonishment, but this is said comparatively by the Prophet, as the books were opened whenever God openly appeared as the Judge, Father, and Preserver of the world, in the person of his only begotten Son. It afterwards follows: —

Since the presumptuous speaking of the little horn terrified the Prophet, he now says he was attentive in considering this portion. He next says, The beast was slain, and his body was consumed by the burning of fire. This ought clearly to be referred to the end of the Roman empire. For, from the time when foreigners obtained the mastery, the fourth beast ceased to flourish. The name was always retained, yet with great mockery of that ancient monarchy. I now omit all mention of Caligula, Nero, Domitian, and similar monsters. But when Spaniards and Africans acquired the absolute sway, can we call Rome any longer the mistress of the world? Surely this would be foolish indeed! To this very day the Germans also say they possess the Roman empire; but while the title of empire has passed to the Germans, clearly enough Rome is at this very day in slavery. For as to the Pope having erected his own throne there, this empire is unworthy of the name of monarchy; but whatever be our view of this point, for about 1500 years the Romans have been in bondage as slaves to foreign princes. For, after the death of Nero:, Trajan was his successor, and from that time scarcely a single Roman obtained the empire; and God branded it with the, most disgraceful marks of ignominy, when a swine-herd was created emperor, and that too by the lust of the soldiery! The senate retained its name till then; But if it pleased the soldiers to create any one a Caesar, the senate was immediately compelled to submit to their dictation. Thus, the Prophet with great propriety says, The beast was slain shortly after the promulgation of the gospel. Then the presumptuous speaking of the little horn was at an end, and the fourth beast was extinct about the same time. For then no Roman became an Emperor who claimed for himself any share of power; but Rome itself fell into disgraceful slavery, and not only foreigners reigned there most shamefully, but even barbarians, swine-herds, and cow-herds! All this occurred in fulfillment of what God had shown to his Prophet, namely, after the coming of Christ and the opening of the books, that is — after the knowledge which shone upon the world through the preaching of the gospel — the destruction of that fourth beast and of the Roman empire was close at hand.

Without doubt the Prophet refers to what ought to come first in order, as the empires of which he is speaking were extinct before the Roman. Hence these verbs ought to be taken in the pluperfect tense, because the power had been already removed from the other three beasts. For the Hebrews were, accustomed to repeat afterwards anything which had been omitted, and they do not always observe the order of time in their narratives. Thus, after he had said the fourth beast was slain and consumed by burning, he now adds what he had omitted concerning the remaining three, namely, their dominion had been take, from them. He adds also what is worthy of notice, Length, or continuance, in life was granted to them even for a time and a time. There are two different words used here, but they signify one and the same thing, namely, a convenient time. Here the Prophet understands how nothing happens accidentally, but all things are carried on in the world in their own time, as God has decreed them in heaven. Perhaps when the subject-matter of the discourse is length of life, it signifies the protracted period of these afflictions, as they should not pass away suddenly like clouds. Not only severe but lengthened trials are said to await the faithful, which must afflict their minds with weariness, unless the hope of a better issue propped them up. Thus, the Holy Spirit predicts how God would at length deliver his Church when he had exercised its patience for a length of time. From the rest of the beasts power was taken away. The copula in the word ארכה, ve-arkeh, “and length,” may be resolved in this way — “because length in life;” as if he had said, The trials by which the sons of God were to be oppressed should not be perpetual, because God had prescribed and defined a fixed period. A continuance, therefore, in life was granted to them, namely, for a time and a time. The copula may be treated as “an adversative particle” as if he had said, “although a continuance,” that is, although the people should not immediately escape from those sorrowful cares which oppressed them, yet God’s opportunity would at length arrive, that is, the time at which it pleased God to redeem his own Church. But the former exposition seems more genuine and more consistent, because length of time has its own limits and boundaries. There is also a contrast between, the words ארכה, arkeh, “length,” and זמן, zemen, “time,” and עדן, gneden, “time,” because length or “prolonging” has reference to our perceptions; for when we are suffering pain, the greatest speed seems delay. Thus, any one in anxiety for an improved state of things counts every moment, and is so flagrant in his desires as to call the Almighty in question for any delay. As, then, the impatience of men is so great, when they are expecting with anxiety this freedom from adversity, the Prophet says, in the ordinary acceptation of the phrase, length of time was granted to the beasts; but he opposes a fit time; as if he had said — They act preposterously who thus indulge their own passions. Since God has fixed his own time, they require patience, and need not reckon the years; but this one thing must be concluded, when the Lord pleases he will not delay his help. This, therefore, is the full sense of the verse. It follows: —

After Daniel has narrated how he saw God on the throne of judgment, openly exercising his power and laying open to the world what was formerly hidden from it, namely, his supreme authority in its government, he now adds the second part of the vision, As it were the Son of man appeared in the clouds. Without doubt this is to be understood of Christ, and the Jews, perverse as they are, are ashamed to deny it, although they differ afterwards about Christ. But the object of the vision was to enable the faithful certainly to expect the promised Redeemer in his own time. He had been endued with heavenly power, and was seated at his Father’s right hand. Hence Daniel says, He was intent on these nightly visions. And this repetition is by no means superfluous, as it informs us of the Prophet’s alertness when God shews himself present. Daniel expresses this fully in his own words, for he roused himself when he perceived important, and rare, and singular matters set before him. This attentive disposition of the Prophet ought to stir us up to read his prophecy without listlessness, and with awakened minds earnestly to derive from heaven true and sincere intelligence. I was, then, says he, attentive in visions of the night, and beheld as it were the Son of man. I have already said this passage cannot be otherwise taken than concerning Christ. We must now see why he uses the word “like” the Son of man; that is, why he uses the letter כ, ke, the mark for likeness. This might be twisted in favor of the folly of the Manichees, who thought Christ’s body to be only imaginary. For, as they wrest the words of Paul, and pervert their sense, that Christ was in likeness as a man, (Philippians 2:7.) so also they may abuse the Prophet’s testimony, when Christ is not said to be a man but only like one. With respect to Paul’s words, he is not speaking of the essence of his human nature, but only of his state; for he is speaking of Christ being made man, of his condition being humble and abject, and even servile. But in the passage before us the reason is different. For the Prophet says, He appeared to him as the Son of man, as Christ had not yet taken upon him our flesh. And we must remark that saying of Paul’s: When the fullness of time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman. (Galatians 4:4.) Christ then began to be a man when he appeared on earth as Mediator, for he had not assumed the seed of Abraham before he was joined with us in brotherly union. This is the reason why the Prophet does not pronounce Christ to have been man at this period, but only like man; for otherwise he had not been that Messiah formerly promised under the Law as the son of Abraham and David. For if from the beginning he had put on human flesh, he would not have been born of these progenitors. It follows, then, that Christ was not a man from the beginning, but only appeared so in a figure. As also Irenaeus 1818     The Latin translation of Irenaeus is “proeludium.” The French here has “une approche et entree.” and then adds, “He uses a word which we cannot translate into French.” It means a preface or introduction. — Ed. says: This was a “prelude,” he uses that word. Tertullian also says: “Then the Son of God put on a specimen of humanity.” 1919     Tertullian’s words are, “Tunc praeluxit Filius Dei humanitate sua.” — Ed. This was a symbol, therefore, of Christ’s future flesh, although that flesh did not yet exist. We now see how suitably this figure agrees with the thing signified, wherein Christ was set forth as the Son of man, although he was then the eternal Word of God.

It afterwards follows, He came to the Ancient of days This, in my judgment, ought to be explained of Christ’s ascension; for he then commenced his reign, as we see in numberless passages of Scripture. Nor is this passage contrary to what the Prophet had previously said — he saw the Son of man in the clouds. For by this expression he simply wishes to teach how Christ, although like a man, yet differed from the whole human race, and was not of the common order of men; but excelled the whole world in dignity. He expresses much more when he says, in the second clause, He came even unto the Ancient of days For although the Divine Majesty lay hid in Christ, yet he discharged the duty of a slave, and emptied himself, as Paul says, (Philippians 2:7.) So also we read in the first chapter of John, (John 1:14,) Glory appeared in him as of the only begotten Son of God; that is, which belongs to the only begotten Son of God. Christ, therefore, thus put off his glory for the time, and yet by His miracles and many other proofs afforded a clear and evident; specimen of his celestial glory. He really appeared to Daniel in the clouds, but when he ascended to heaven, he then put off this mortal body, and put on a new life. Thus Paul also, in the sixth chapter to the Romans, says, he lives the life of God, (Romans 6:10;) and other phrases often used by our Lord himself agree very well with this, especially in the Evangelist John, “I go to the Father.” “It is expedient for me to go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I,” (John 16:7; John 14:28;) that is, it is expedient for me to ascend to that royal tribunal which the Father has erected for me by his eternal counsel, and thus the whole world will feel the supreme power to have been entrusted to me. Now, therefore, we understand the full meaning of the Prophet’s words.

But as there are many fanatics who wrest what has been said of the person of the Mediator, as if Christ were not the true God, but had a beginning from the Father at some definite period of time, we must observe how the Prophet’s expression are neither the human nor the divine nature of Christ properly speaking, but a Mediator is here set before us who is God manifest in flesh. For if we hold this principle that Christ is described to us, not as either the word of God, or the seed of Abraham, but as Mediator, that is, eternal God who was willing to become man, to become subject to God the Father, to be made like us, and to be our advocate, then no difficulty will remain. Thus he appeared to Daniel like the Son of man, who became afterwards truly and really so. He was in the clouds, that is, separated from the common lot of mankind, as he always carried with him some marks of deity, even in his humility. He now arrives as the Ancient of days, that is, when he ascends to heaven, because his divine majesty was then revealed. And hence he says, It is expedient for you, for me to go to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. (John 14:28.) Christ here detracts nothing from his deity, but as his nature was not known in the world, while his divine majesty lay hid in the form of a servant, he calls the Father simply God; as if he had said, If I remain with you upon earth, what would the presence of my flesh profit you? But when I ascend to heaven, then that oneness which I have with the Father will become conspicuous. When, therefore, the world shall understand that I am one with the Father, and that the Deity is one, the hope of all the pious will become more firm and unconquered against all temptations; for they will know themselves to be equally under the protection of both God and man. If, therefore, Christ were always dwelling upon earth, and had borne witness a thousand times to his being given to us by his Father as the guardian of our salvation, yet there always would have been some hesitation and anxiety. But when we know him to be seated at his Father’s right hand, we then understand him to be truly God, because all knees would not be bent before him, unless he had been the eternal God. We must hold that passage of Isaiah, (Isaiah 42:8,) As I live, saith the Lord, my glory I will not give to another. As, therefore, God’s glory can never be transferred to either man or any other creature, the true unity and nature of God necessarily shines forth in the human nature of Christ, for every knee is bent before him. Now, therefore, we understand the sense in which the Prophet says, Christ came as the Son of man, that is, like a man, even to the Ancient of days For after Christ had passed through the period of his self-abasement, according’ to Paul, (Philippians 2:7,) he ascended into heaven, and a dominion was bestowed upon him, as the Prophet says in the next verse. This passage, then, without the slightest doubt, ought to be received of Christ’s ascension, after he had ceased being mortal man. He says, He was represented before God, namely, because he sits at his right hand. It follows, —

The Prophet; confirms and explains more clearly in this verse what he had said in the former one. For we may collect from it how the personage previously mentioned arrived at the Ancient of days, who is God, namely, because power was given to him. For although Christ truly ascended into heaven, (Matthew 28:18,) yet we ought clearly to weigh the purpose of his doing so. It was to acquire the supreme power in heaven and in earth, as he himself says. And Paul also mentions this purpose in the first and second chapters of the Ephesians. (Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 2:7.) Christ left the world and ascended to the Father; first, to subdue all powers to himself, and to render angels obedient; next, to restrain the devil, and to protect and preserve the Church by his help, as well as all the elect of God the Father. So, therefore, Daniel now proceeds with what he formerly said concerning the approach of Christ to God. Thus the madness of those who argue against Christ; being true and eternal God, because he is said to have come to the Ancient of days, is refuted. First of all, as we have said, this is understood of the person of the Mediator; next, all doubt is taken away when the Prophet adds, Power was given unto him. Behold, therefore, a certain explanation. We will not say it was bestowed with relation to his being, and being called God. It was given to him as Mediator, as God manifest in flesh, and with respect to his human nature. We observe how well all these things agree, when the Prophet here says, The chief power was given to Christ We must hold therefore its reference to that manifestation, because Christ was from the beginning the life of men, the world was created by him, and his energy always sustained it, (John 1:4;) but power was given to him to inform us how God reigned by means of his hand. If we were required to seek God without a Mediator, his distance would be far too great, but when a Mediator meets us, and offers himself to us in our human nature, such is the nearness between God and us, that our faith easily passes beyond the world and penetrates the very heavens. For this reason therefore, All power, honor, and kingdom was given to Christ. He adds also, All nations shall serve him, that is, they may serve him; for the copula ought to be translated thus, — That all nations, people, and tongues should serve him. We have shewn how this ought properly to be understood of the commencement of the reign of Christ, and ought not to be connected with its final close, as many interpreters force and strain the passage. Meanwhile we must add, that the events which the Prophet here narrates are not yet complete; but this ought to be familiar to all the pious, for whenever the kingdom of Christ is treated of, his glory magnificently extolled, as if it were now absolutely complete in all its parts. It is not surprising, if according to the frequent and perpetual usage of Scripture, the Prophet should say power was given to Christ, to subdue all people, nations, and languages to himself, as it is said in Psalm 110:1, — Jehovah said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, until I make thy enemies the footstool of thy feet. We see, then, how Christ was raised to his own empire to govern his Church in the name and with the power of his Father, while at the same time many enemies rise up against him. Still the obstinacy of the devil and of all impious men continues, although Christ governs heaven and earth, and is the supreme king before whom every knee is bent. We also know how marked the difference is between the beginning of his kingdom and its final completion. Whatever the meaning, this vision suits very well with many assertions of Christ, where he bears witness to the power given him by the Father. (Matthew 28:18, and elsewhere) He does not here speak of the last judgment, but is only teaching us, the object of his ascension to heaven.

This view the Prophet confirms by saying, his dominion is the dominion of an age, which is mot taken away, and his kingdom can never be corrupted or abolished. For by these words he teaches familiarly and openly, why Christ is the Supreme King, namely, for the perpetual government of his Church in this world. We ought to look up to heaven in very deed whenever the state of the Church is under consideration, since its happiness is neither earthly, nor perishable, nor temporary, though nothing sublunary is either firm or perpetual. But when the Prophet says Christ’s dominion is eternal, he doubtless signifies the constant endurance of his monarchy, even to the end of the world, when he shall gather his people together to a happy life and an eternal inheritance. Although, therefore, celestial immortality is comprehended under these words, yet in a former passage the Prophet pointed out the perpetual existence of the Church in this world, because Christ will defend it, although daily subject to numberless causes of destruction. And who would not assert the almost daily perishing of the Church, if God did not wonderfully preserve it by the hand of his only begotten Son? Hence it is correct to understand the phrase, His kingdom shall be the kingdom of an age. And thus we receive no common consolation, when we see the Church tossed about amidst various fluctuations, and almost buried and devoured by continual shipwrecks, yet Christ is ever stretching forth his hand to preserve it, and to save it from every sorrowful and horrible species of destruction. It now follows, —


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