When I was in Ephesus, Turkey, our tour group saw the remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the famous Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The site had one tall pillar and another shorter one. The pillars were not unearthed in this shape – they had been stacked with sections from pieces of sculpted stone that had been scattered around the site. Nothing besides these two reconstructed pillars were left from what was once one of the marvels of the ancient world. This was a stark visual reminder that even the most impressive structures do not stand the test of time. Only God’s kingdom will endure.
Daniel 7:9-14 describes this vision of an eternal kingdom. In this passage, which comes in the form of a heavenly vision, the prophet Daniel sees a judgment scene taking place, with the Ancient of Days (God) taking his seat as the judge. God judges a number of beasts, which are symbolic for powerful earthly kingdoms that have raised themselves up against God’s kingdom. One by one, these kingdoms, which seemed so permanent and dominant at the time, have their power removed from them by the One who has final and complete authority.
The scene shifts in verse 13. The Ancient of Days still presides over the proceedings, but instead of beasts, “one like a son of man” approaches God’s throne. In other words, Daniel sees someone who looks like one of us. When the son of man comes before the Ancient of Days, he is given “dominion and glory and a kingdom.” The passage says that all people and nations will recognize his authority, and his reign will be permanent. This is the one kingdom that will stand the test of time!
We learn several things about God’s kingdom from this passage. First, God’s kingdom has been opposed throughout the history of the world. But no kingdom ever prevails against God’s kingdom. Additionally, although God in some sense has always and will always rule over this world, he has designated a special representative, the son of man, to implement this kingdom directly on the earth.
In Mark 1:14-15 Jesus describes this kingdom as “good news” or “gospel” (these are the same word in the Greek language). This emphasizes again the idea that God’s good and perfect reign is cause for hope and celebration. When Jesus says that “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand (or near),” he means that according to God’s timetable the promised kingdom of God is ready to be unveiled. The kingdom was drawing near with the arrival of the King – the Son of Man – Jesus. In fact, in all four Gospels, “Son of Man” is Jesus’ preferred title for himself. Jesus understood that his ultimate calling was to rule over the world as God’s Anointed One.
Jesus makes it clear that the arrival of the kingdom rests in God’s hands alone. Jesus doesn’t tell his listeners to build the kingdom. Instead, he simply announces the coming of the kingdom. What did Jesus tell the people to do in response? He told them to “repent and believe in the gospel” (the good news he had just spoken about). God is bringing his kingdom to the world, but people cannot enter in their current state of resistance to God. They must humbly repent and believe.
The proclamation of the arrival of God’s long-awaited kingdom was and is good news for a world that needs God’s leadership and authority. In response, we must get on board with God’s kingdom agenda by repenting from our sin and our own agendas. We must humbly believe in God, his kingdom, and his king – Jesus.