Monday, April 30, 2012

the "son of man" and "the saints"

But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.
Daniel 7:18
If you want to take on the task of understanding biblical prophecy, you have to start with Daniel chapter seven. There is a lot of important detail to unravel in the visions described here. It is shrouded in symbolism and vibrant imagery. But there are a couple of concepts that I find very intriguing.
The first really breathtaking part I see is found in Daniel 7:13-14. The "son of man" who is given an indestructible, everlasting kingdom that extends globally is a unique figure. When the interpretation of the vision is asked for by Daniel, he is given an explanation of the four beasts described in Daniel 7:1-12 as four kingdoms. He is not given any explanation as to the "son of man" and the everlasting kingdom given by God. We are left to our own interpretive skills to sketch out the identity of this world-reigning king.
The second unique feature is the term translated "the saints" in this passage. it is a term the Daniel picks up here and uses extensively to talk about a unique people who belong to God. Why does he not call them "Jews" or "Israel"? Why are they just generically "the saints"? Is he only wanting to emphasize their holiness, or is there something else at work here? Again, the text reveals only clues and does not give a definitive answer.
The emphasis on the kingdom of the "son of man" (an everlasting dominion) and the identity of "the saints" who receive and possess that eternal kingdom make this chapter a crucial passage to decipher. The fact that this kingdom is eternal carries with it the reality that it is earth's final kingdom. It over rules all others. Once it starts it never ends. There has to be a way to understand these terms. I believe "son of man" (the common First Century AD Jewish title for messiah) is a messianic term. And Jesus claimed it. The citizens of that eternal kingdom appear to be much more than just Israel since they are broadly called "the saints". There is thus a plan being slowly unveiled for us in the book of Daniel, and we see it from this point forward.

No comments: