The Ancient of Days
January 23rd, 1972 @ 8:15 AM
THE ANCIENT OF DAYS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Daniel 7: 9-14
1-23-72 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Ancient of Days. In our preaching through the Book of Daniel, we are in the seventh chapter, and in the middle of the chapter, verse 9 through verse 14. In the middle of the chapter there are two visions:
I 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 pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire.
Ancient thrones sometimes were set on wheels, that they might be moved from place to place.
A 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.
Then the second vision:
And I 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.
And 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.
Those two visions: one, of the Ancient of Days [Daniel 7:9-10], and the other of the Son of Man, coming with clouds of glory [Daniel 7:13-14]—who are these? Who is the Ancient of Days? And who is the Son of Man, coming in clouds of glory?
The identification of the Son of Man is most evident. It is Christ the Lord, and here pictured when He takes to Himself the sovereignty of the earth, and is Lord of Creation above, and of life, and time, and earth, and humanity, all the kingdoms and dominions below [Daniel 7:14].
But who is this Ancient of Days? He is described [Daniel 7:9]—but God is never described. There is no picture or portrait of God in the Bible. Colossians 1:15 declares that God is invisible. First Timothy 6:16 says that God dwells in light, “that no man can approach unto; whom no man has seen, nor can see.”
God, to us, is invisible. It is expressly stated in the first chapter of John [John 1:18]; in the sixth chapter of John [John 6:46]; in 1 John, the fourth chapter [1 John 4:12]; that no man hath seen God at any time. There is no description, and there is no portrait of God in the Bible. He has never been seen. He is invisible.
When Moses stood before the Lord, in the [thirty-third] chapter of Exodus, and asks that he might see His glory [Exodus 33:18], God said, “No man can see Me, and live” [Exodus 33:20]. So the Lord God placed Moses in a cleft in the rock, and His glory passed by. And after the glory of the Lord passed by, God took His hand away from the cleft of the rock, and Moses saw the afterglow—the twilight of the glory of the Lord [Exodus 33:21-23]. But no man has ever seen God, nor is there any portrait, or picture, or delineation of Him in the Bible.
You cannot describe the Holy Spirit. In the third chapter of Luke—in symbolic form, in similitude—the Spirit descended as a dove [Luke 3:22]. But there is no description of the Holy Spirit, as there is no description of God.
Yet, the Ancient of Days here in the seventh chapter of Daniel is described [Daniel 7:9].
Another thing, this Ancient of Days is coming for judgment. His throne is set, and the judgment day came, and the books were opened [Daniel 7:10]. But in the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John, it is expressly and poignantly stated that the Father, God, judgeth no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son [John 5:22]. Yet, this Ancient of Days sits in judgment and before Him are gathered the families and tribes and nations of the earth [Daniel 7:10].
Who is then this Ancient of Days? He is none other than a manifestation of the pre-incarnate Christ. And this vision is an epiphany. It is a theophany. It is a manifestation of God in human form, the pre-existent Christ [Daniel 7:10], and that theophany is seen in the Old Testament repeatedly, again and again.
In the sixth chapter of Isaiah, the prophet said that in the year that King Uzziah died, he [Isaiah] saw the Lord, high and lifted up. His train filled the temple, and His glory filled the earth. And above Him, the seraphim cried, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of hosts” [Isaiah 6:1-3]. But in the twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John, the sainted apostle says that when Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, he saw the pre-incarnate Christ—Jehovah Jesus [John 12:41].
When Ezekiel, in the first chapter of his prophecy, describes his vision of God, he is describing the pre-incarnate Christ [Ezekiel 1:4-28]. In the third chapter of Daniel, when King Nebuchadnezzar looks into the fiery furnace, and there with the Hebrew children, there walked another, and as Nebuchadnezzar looked at it he said that the countenance of the fourth is like that of the Son of God [Daniel 3:23-25]—an appearance, a theophany of the pre-incarnate Christ. In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Exodus, it says that the elders of Israel saw God. They saw God and did eat and drink [Exodus 24:9-11]. They lived. They banqueted and feasted in His presence. But in the fourth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, the lawgiver says, “there was no similitude of God seen in Horeb, in the midst of the fire” [Deuteronomy 4:15]. Therefore—basing his conclusion on it—Moses is saying, You are not to make an image of God, of anything in heaven, or anything in earth, or anything like a man, or anything like a woman [Deuteronomy 4:16].
What the elders of Israel saw, in the twenty-fourth chapter of Exodus, was a manifestation of the pre-incarnate Christ [Exodus 24:9-11]. And that is what we see here in the Ancient of Days: this is a picture of the Lord Christ [Daniel 7:9-10].
He is described almost exactly, and in the same spirit as in the seventh chapter of Daniel [Daniel 7:9-10], so in the first chapter of the Revelation. John said he heard a great voice behind him [Revelation 1:10], and turning to see the voice that spake, he saw,
The Son of Man, clothed with a garment, girted about the paps with a golden girdle.
His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; His eyes were as a flame of fire;
His feet like brass, as it burned in a furnace; His voice, as the sound of many waters.
Out of His mouth, went a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
The vision in Daniel of the Ancient of Days [Daniel 7:9-10], and the vision of the glorified Christ in the first chapter of Revelation [Revelation 1:10-16], is a picture of the same One, the same Deity, Christ incarnate; an epiphany, a theophany, God manifest in human form [Colossians 2:9].
So in the seventh chapter, in the first vision of the Ancient of Days, we have a portrait, a delineation of the essence of the being of God, pre-incarnate [Daniel 7:9-10]. And in the second vision, the Son of Man coming with the clouds of glory, we have a description of the Lord Christ, incarnate, receiving the kingdoms of the world [Daniel 7:13-14].
Now, that immediately raises the question. Is Christ deity? And can we worship Him as such? Is Christ, Jehovah God? Is He incarnate God? And are we to worship Christ as the Lord Jehovah God? The answer to that question in the Bible is an unequivocal and an exclamatory, “yes!”—an affirmative underscored. Jesus the Christ is expressly called, God.
The Gospel of John—the Fourth Gospel—begins with a great doctrinal statement: En arche hen ho logos, kai ho logos hen pros ton theon kai theos hen ho logos [John 1:1]. Every syllable of that is an emphatic description and affirmation of Christ as God. En arche hen ho logos. “In the beginning was the Word,” kai ho logos hen pros ton theon––pros ton theon, “and the Word”—you have it translated, “was with God,” and the Word, pros ton theon, was face to face, equal with God. And the third phrase: kai theos hen ho logos, there’s no article to the theos. That means it is a predicate. Theos, first, for emphasis—God hen, was; ho logos, the Word: “and the Word was God” [John 1:1]. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory,” the glory of God [John 1:14].
Now as the Gospel of John begins with an affirmation, a doctrinal affirmation of the deity of Christ [John 1:1]—the manifestation of God in the flesh, God incarnate [John 1:14]—so the gospel ends with a marvelous declaration of the experience of that great doctrinal truth. It closes in the climatic story of the apostle Thomas, who, bowing before Jesus, resurrected and glorified, says, “My Lord and my God [John 20:28].” What John says doctrinally, in statement, as he begins the gospel [John 1:1, 14], now becomes the experience of the apostles as they bow in His presence before the great God and Savior Jesus Christ [John 20:28; Titus 2:13].
To show you the difference in that, in the fourteenth chapter in the Book of Acts, when Paul and Barnabas performed the miracle of the impotent man at Lystra [Acts 14:8-10], the priests come out—the priests from the temple of Jupiter, in Lystra—in order to do sacrifice. And they call Barnabas, “Jupiter”; and they call Paul, “Mercury” [Acts 14:11-12]. And they seek to worship them [Acts 14:13].
But Paul and Barnabus rent their clothes, and cry, saying, “We are men of like passions as you. For a man to worship another man, for a man to worship a creature, for a man to worship anything less than God is idolatry” [Acts 14:14-15]. But when the apostles worship Jesus, it is according to the experience of the Christian life, and according to the doctrinal statement of the Book [John 20:28].
Thereafter in the New Testament Christ is always presented as deity. Colossians 2:9, “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Titus 2:13, which is one of the most studied statements to found in the Book, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”; or the statement in Hebrews 1:3, “Christ is the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of His person.”
Christ is God personalized, humanized, in the flesh, manifest. “God was manifest in the flesh, seen of angels, justified in the Spirit, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory” [1 Timothy 3:16]. “He that hath seen Me,” said the Lord, “hath seen the Father” [John 14:9]. What God is, Christ is. He is the manifestation of God [1 Timothy 3:16].
Not only is that a fruitful doctrine, come to full development in the New Testament [Colossians 2:9], but it was shadowed, and foreshadowed constantly, again and again, in the Old Testament. For in the Old Testament, there is always the unseen presence of that Somebody Other who is also worshiped and who is called, “God.”
Look at these instances. In the twenty-second chapter of Genesis is this story. When Abraham lifts up his hand to plunge the knife into the heart of his son, Isaac—now listen to the Scripture: “And the Angel of Jehovah called out of heaven saying, Abraham, Abraham” [Genesis 22:11].
Then when he interdicted the slaying of the boy [Genesis 22:12]—now, listen to the stanza again:
And the Angel of Jehovah called out of heaven the second time,
And said, By Myself have I sworn, saith God . . .
That in blessing, I will bless thee . . . and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.
Who is this Angel of Jehovah, who calls Himself God—that other Person, always there? Look again, in the thirty-first chapter of Genesis: “And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto Jacob in a dream and said, ‘I am the God of Bethel. Go back to your kindred and to the Promised Land’” [Genesis 31:13].
Who is that Angel of the Lord, who calls Himself, “The God of Bethel?” Look again in the [twenty-third] chapter of the Book of Exodus: “The Lord God said to Moses, ‘My Angel shall precede you, and beware of Him, that you obey Him because My name is in Him’” [Exodus 23:20-21].
Who is this Angel of Jehovah, who constantly appears, always there, is worshiped, and is called “God”? Look again in the third chapter of Exodus, as Moses was on the back side of the desert [Exodus 3:1]. Now listen to the Scripture: “And the Angel of the Lord spake unto him out of a burning fire in the midst of a bush that burned unconsumed” [Exodus 3:2]. And that Angel of the Lord said unto Moses:
Take off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the land whereon—the ground whereon—you stand is holy ground.
And, thence, the Angel of the Lord continued as He spake out of the flaming fire. I am the God of thy father, Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob.
Who is this Angel of the Lord who is always there, who is worshiped as God, and who calls Himself, God? He is none other than the pre-existent Christ. The Angel of the Lord, the Angel of Jehovah is none other than that Being, that Person, that God, who later was incarnate [Matthew 1:20-23], and we finally knew Him by the name of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, worshiped, as in the New Testament: Jehovah Jesus, the Angel of God [Exodus 3:5-6], and Christ incarnate [Matthew 1:20-23].
And the Scriptures have led us to believe that we are to expect the coming of God in human flesh. Listen to the glorious verse in Isaiah 40:3:
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, in the desert, make ready a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, every mountain shall be brought low: the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
For the glory of the Lord God Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
In the third chapter of Matthew, in the third verse of that chapter, the inspired apostle writes, that the fulfillment of that glorious prophecy in Isaiah is found in the coming of Jesus Christ, the glory of the Lord, manifest in human form [Matthew 3:3]. Is it right, therefore, for us to worship Jesus? Is it doctrinally correct, therefore, for us to receive Him as God manifest in the flesh? The answer to that is that the heart of the Christian religion, from the beginning, has been the acceptance of the incarnate deity in Christ, and the worship of Jesus as Lord.
In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Luke and the fifty-first verse, it says:
And the Lord was parted from them as He was carried up into heaven. And the disciples worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And the disciples worshiped Him.
They bowed down before Him as Lord Jehovah God, manifest in the flesh [Matthew 1:20-23; 1 Timothy 3:16], deity itself [1 Timothy 3:16], who created the worlds [John 1:3; Colossians 1:16], who will be the Judge of all mankind [John 5:22], who is coming someday to be Lord pantokrator of all the great creation [1 Corinthians 15:27-28]; the worship of Jesus.
Pliny the Younger, writing to Trajan, just a little while after 100 AD—Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor—he wrote to Trajan, describing the Christians. And his description was that on Sunday morning they gathered together to sing hymns to Jesus as God. Scratched on the Palatine palace wall—a caricature that somebody did in sarcasm and ridicule of the Christians in the first Christian centuries—there is a caricature scratched on the Palatine wall in Rome. It is this: it is the figure of a man with a donkey’s head hanging on a cross. And there is another figure, bowed in worship before it. And in an ill-spelled inscription are these words: “Alexamenos adores his God.”
From the beginning, the Christian faith has been in the worship, in the adoration of Christ as God manifest in the flesh [1 Timothy 3:16]. It is in that persuasion that the Christian dies. He commits his soul and his spirit to God, and that God is Jesus Jehovah [1 Peter 4:19].
In the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts is the tragic story of the stoning and the martyrdom of Stephen [Acts 7:54-58]. “And they stoned Stephen as he knelt down and cried, saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” [Acts 7:59]—dying in the grace and in the goodness, and in the mercy of Christ, the Christian Savior, God—safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast, dying in the Lord.
In a lull in the awful massacre of the Armenian Christians at Sasuan, a Kurdish savage was heard to ask, “Who is this Jesus these Christians call upon?” The Christians in their death agonies were calling upon the name of the Savior God, Jehovah Jesus. And for us to live in the spirit of worship and adoration of God manifest in the flesh, Immanuel, “God with us” [Matthew 1:23], is the very heart and life of the worshipful response of the Christian to the love and grace he experiences in Christ Jesus [Ephesians 2:8].
Robert Browning wrote in a letter to a friend and described once again that famous incident in the literary history of England, when Charles Lamb, in London, had around him a group of intellectuals and geniuses of letter and literature. And Charles Lamb began to speak, saying, “How would it be, and what would we do, if the greats of the past were to rise from the dead and to appear in this room?” And somebody said, “If Shakespeare were to come, all of us would rise in respect.” Then somebody said, “But if Jesus Christ should appear, all of us would kneel in adoration and worship.” This is the Christian faith:
O worship the King, all glorious above,
And gratefully sing His wonderful love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.
[from “O Worship the King,” Robert Grant]
Come, Thou Almighty King!
Help us Thy Name to sing.
Help us to praise!
Father, all glorious, o’er all victorious,
Come and reign over us, ancient of Days!
[from “Come Thou Almighty King,” Charles Wesley]
Our hymns express our finest theology. And in those two hymns, as in others, you will find the Ancient of Days, the pre-incarnate Christ [Daniel 7:9-10], and the Son of Man, Christ, manifested in the flesh [1 Timothy 3:16]. And whether known as the Angel of Jehovah [Exodus 3:2], or whether known as Christ, born of a virgin to us [Matthew 1:23]; in the revelation of God, He is our hope, our life, our comfort, our strength, our heaven, our salvation, our forgiveness of sins, our all in all [1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:6]. Unto Him be the glory, and dominion, and power forever and ever. Amen [Revelation 1:6]. This is the Word of God.
We sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it—coming to the Christ in faith [Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8], accepting Him for all that He said He was, in the promise of all that He said He could do, in that faith and persuasion—would you come this morning? A family deciding; a couple you deciding; or just one somebody you deciding, while we sing the hymn of appeal, make it now. Respond now. There’s a stairway at the front, at the back, and on either side. If you’re in the balcony round, on the lower floor, into the aisle, and down here to the front: “Here I am and here I come. I make it today.” Do it now. Make the decision now in your heart, and in a moment when we sing, into that aisle, and down here to the front, “Here I am, pastor. Here I come.” Come now. Give God the answer now. Make the decision now, and on the first note of that first stanza, into that aisle, down here to the front: “Here I am, pastor. Here I come.” Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.