The Ancient of Days (The Worship of Christ)
January 23rd, 1972 @ 10:50 AM
THE ANCIENT OF DAYS
Dr. W.A. Criswell
1-23-72 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are worshiping with us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Ancient of Days, or The Worship of Christ. In our preaching through the Book of Daniel, we have come to the middle part of the seventh chapter. And in the chapter, there are two visions in the middle part:
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: the throne that was beneath Him was like a sapphire, a burning, fiery flame, and the wheels were as burning fire – in the ancient day, a throne oft times was on wheels so it could be moved from place to place, and the wheels themselves were like furious flames – A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: and thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
And then the second vision:
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and He came and was brought before the Ancient of Days, and there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, and nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and the kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
Those are the two visions that Daniel sees toward the consummation of the age. We shall speak of that in the sermon next Sunday. But today we shall think upon and ask God to bless us as we seek the truth in those two personalities that are presented here: the first vision, the Ancient of Days; and the second vision, the Son of Man. The identification of the Person in the second vision is most clear. He is the incarnate Christ. "I saw . . . One like the Son of Man come with the clouds of heaven." And in the apocalyptic chapter in Matthew 24 and in the text of the Apocalypse in Revelation 1:7, the Son of Man is identified in the glorious coming at the end of the age. He comes in the shekinah glory of God. He comes with clouds descending. So the second vision is clear: the Son of Man is the incarnate God, it is Christ – Jehovah Jesus.
But who is this Ancient of Days? "I beheld till the Ancient of Days did sit"; then He is described. And a second thing – He comes for judgment. "The judgment was set, and the books were opened" [Daniel 7:10]. As you read the passage, your first natural response is that the Ancient of Days is none other but God Himself – God the Father. But in the vision He is described – personally described, what He looked like. And in the vision, He is come for judgment. "And the books were opened."
Both of those things are statedly and categorically denied in the Bible. There is no description of God in the Bible. First Timothy 6, verse 16 says that God dwells in light that no man can approach unto: "… whom no man hath seen, or can see…." Colossians 1:15 says that God is invisible. He is named there "the invisible God." In the first chapter of John, verse 18, in the sixth chapter of John [John 6:46], and in 1 John chapter 4 [1 John 4:12], these words are thrice repeated. "No man hath seen God at any time." It is not possible for the human eye to look upon the essence of deity. Therefore, there is no picture, there is no portrait, there is no description of God in the Bible – just as there is no description of the Holy Spirit. How would you describe in language the Holy Spirit? The subject, the Person, the essence is indescribable. It cannot be placed in speech. There is no man who has seen God – never, ever.
In the [thirty-third] chapter of the Book of Exodus, Moses said to God, "Let me see Thy glory." And the Lord replied, "No man can see Me, and live. But I will place you in a cleft in the rock, and cover you there with My hand, and I will let all My glory pass by." And God placed Moses in the cleft of the rock and covered him there with His hand. And when the glory of the Lord passed by, the Lord took away His hand, and Moses saw the afterglow, the twilight of the presence of God. But no man can see the face of God and live [Exodus 33:18-23].
A second thing that is interdicted by the Word in the Scripture; this Ancient of Days is not only described personally – what He looked like – but it says that He has come for judgment and the books are opened [Daniel 7:9-10]. In the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John, it is again statedly said that "the Father judgeth no man, but has committed judgment to the Son" [John 5:22]. Who is this Ancient of Days? He is described, and God is never described. He comes for judgment, but judgment belongs to Christ alone. As the fifth chapter of 2 Corinthians states, "We shall all stand before the bema of Christ" [2 Corinthians 5:10]. And some of you who have been in Corinth have stood in that place where Paul said, "I stood before the bema" [Acts 18:12]. We shall all stand before the bema, the judgment seat of Christ.
Who is this Ancient of Days then, who is described here and who has come for judgment? The answer according to the Word of the Lord is very plain. This vision of the Ancient of Days is a theophany. It is an Epiphany. It is a manifestation of the preincarnate Christ.
This is a revelation that is repeated in the Old Testament many times. In the sixth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, the prophet says that in the year that King Uzziah died, he also saw the Lord Jehovah, high and lifted up. His train filled the temple, and His glory filled the earth. And above Him stood the seraphim crying, "Holy, holy, holy" [Isaiah 6:1-3]. The twelfth chapter of the Gospel of John [John 12:41] says that Isaiah saw Jehovah Jesus when he saw the Lord high and lifted up. By express language, he identifies that Jehovah as being a preincarnate vision of Jesus the Christ.
In the first chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel describes God. There again, he is describing a pre-manifestation, a theophany of Christ. In the third chapter of this Book of Daniel, while Nebuchadnezzar the king looks into the burning, fiery furnace where the three Hebrew children have been cast, he sees a fourth One. And he says the countenance, the form of the fourth is like the Son of God [Daniel 3:25] – a theophany, a pre-manifestation of the incarnate Christ.
In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Exodus, it says that the elders saw God. He is seated on a pavement like a sapphire stone – and describes Him – and expressly says, "And the elders saw God, and did eat and drink" [Exodus 24:10-11]. They banqueted in His presence, they feasted in the glory of that vision. But the fourth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses said that there was no similitude of God seen in the fiery mount of Horeb [Deuteronomy 4:12]. "Therefore," he said, "you cannot make any likeness of God in heaven above or in earth beneath" [Deuteronomy 4:15-18]. Well, what is that then, that the elders saw when they say they say they saw God? They saw an Epiphany, a theophany. They looked upon the pre-manifestation of the preincarnate, preexistent Christ!
And this is a description that we find in the seventh chapter of Daniel [Daniel 7:9-10] and repeated more precisely in the first chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 1:12-15]. The vision is of Him who is "God manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, believed on in the world, preached unto the Gentiles, and received up into glory" [1 Timothy 3:16]. The Ancient of Days, whose garment was white as snow, the hair of His head like wool, and from His presence – the streaming of the fiery burning furious flame [Daniel 7:9-10]; it is a like description in the first chapter of Revelation. Hearing a great voice back of him, John turns to see who speaks. And he sees in the midst of the seven lampstands, in the midst of the churches, one like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breast with a golden girdle. His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow; His eyes were as a flame of fire, His feet [unto fine brass], as if they burned in the furnace; His voice is 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 [Revelation 1:12-16]. This is the incarnate, glorified Christ in the first chapter of the Revelation, out of which I’ve just read; and this is the pre-theophanic incarnate Christ in the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel [Daniel 7:9-10]. It is the Lord Himself, the Ancient of Days, the Lord Christ in His essential preincarnate deity.
And in the second vision, the Lord Christ, as the Son of Man, incarnate, glorified, coming in the clouds of heaven [Daniel 7:13]. Is Christ then Deity, and are we to worship Him as such? Is Christ God manifest in the flesh? To that the Scriptures add a categorical affirmative. Yes – Christ is presented in the Word of God as Deity Himself, clothed in human flesh and in human life.
The Gospel of John begins with a tremendous doctrinal statement. En archē ēn ho Logos, kai ho Logos ēn pros ton theon, kai theos ēn ho Logos. Each one of those three clauses is fraught with eternal meaning. En archē ēn ho Logos – "In the beginning was the Word. All things were created by Him: and without Him was not anything made that was made." That identifies the Word as the great Creator in the beginning. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" [Genesis 1:1]. En archē ēn ho Logos, "In the beginning was the Word." All things were made by Him.
The second great theological stanza, kai ho Logos ēn pros ton theon, in your King James version translated, "And the Word was with God" [John 1:1]. Pros ton theon, actually face to face with God – the identical thing that is presented here in the seventh chapter of the prophet Daniel. And there sat the Ancient of Days, and there was brought near unto Him the Son of Man coming in clouds of glory [Daniel 7:13]. The two are face to face, pros ton theon; they are God; one, the Ancient of Days, God preincarnate, the great Jehovah of the Old Covenant, and the other the preincarnate manifestation of God pros ton theon, face-to-face; equal, the same.
And the last stanza kai theos ēn ho Logos – there is no article there to the theos. Therefore, it is predicate; ēn ho Logos, "and the Word was God" [John 1:1], a categorical statement: "And the Word was God." This is the beginning of the Gospel of John, and it continues on in expression and in delineation of the deity of the Prophet of Nazareth until it finds its great consummation in the declaration and confession of the apostle Thomas, "My Lord and my God!" [John 20:28] What began as a theological doctrine and expression in the first verse of the first chapter, end in the great concluding exclamation in the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of John, the great affirmation of Christian experience – no longer just doctrine, no longer just words, but now in human heart, in human experience, and in human life, "My Lord and my God!"
Thereafter, following the gospel story of the manifestation of God in the flesh – thereafter, there is repeated the stated, decisively, lucid and clear doctrine of the deity of Christ. For example, in Colossians 2:9, "For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Titus 2:13, a studied statement: "Looking for that blessed hope, and the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." And again, the first chapter of Hebrews and the third verse, "For He," the Lord Christ, "is the brightness of God’s glory, and the express image of His person." As the Lord said to Philip, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" [John 14:9]. What is God like? What is the person of God like? What is the manifestation of God like? He is the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person. He is God manifest in the flesh [1 Timothy 3:16].
Now, this has been foreshadowed throughout all of the Old Testament story. So many times do you find in the Old Covenant, the Old Testament, a person – shadowy, undelineated, many times just names, but always One who receives worship as God and who speaks as God. Sometimes, He appears in angelic form, sometimes in human form, but He is always present, foreshadowing the final manifestation of God in the flesh, in Christ incarnate.
Look for just a moment. In the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Genesis, in obedience to a command of God, Abraham is on Mt. Moriah, where Solomon built the temple. He is looking down into the face of his son Isaac. And in obedience to the word of the Lord, he has raised his hand to plunge the sacrificial knife into the heart of the boy. Now listen to the Word of God: "And the Angel of the Lord spake out of heaven unto Abraham saying, Abraham, Abraham" [Genesis 22:11] – and then the story that stopped the sacrifice. Then follow it on down, and I quote again: "And the Angel of the Lord spake from heaven a second time, and said, By Myself have I sworn, saith God, that in blessing I will bless thee; and in thy seed shall all of the families of the earth be blessed" [Genesis 22:15-18].
Who is that Angel of Jehovah who swears by Himself because He can swear by none greater, and who calls Himself God? Who is that other person, always there, always in the shadowy background? Again, in the thirty-first chapter of Genesis, and I quote: "And the Angel of Jehovah appeared unto Jacob and said, I am the God of Bethel" [Genesis 31:13] – and then sent him back to his kindred and to the Promised Land. Who is that Angel that appeared unto Jacob and called Himself the God of Bethel?
Or again, in the third chapter of the Book of Exodus – while Moses is attending Jethro’s flock on the back side of the desert, as he spent those years, forty of them, in solitude – there appeared unto him, and I am quoting, "And the Angel of the Lord" – the Angel of Jehovah – "appeared unto him in a flaming fire, in a bush that burned unconsumed, and said to him, Take off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the ground whereon thou standest is holy ground" [Exodus 3:1-5]. And the Angel of the Lord said unto him, "I am the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob" [Exodus 3:6]. Who is this Angel of Jehovah who calls Himself God?
Take again, in the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Exodus, the Lord God said unto Moses, "I send before you Mine Angel, capital "A," Mine Angel. Be careful to obey Him, for My name is in Him" [Exodus 23:20-21]. That is, the essence of God, the reality of God, the power of God is in that Angel. Who is that Angel? It is none other than the preincarnate Christ, and to Abraham, to Moses, to Isaiah, to Ezekiel, to Nebuchadnezzar, to Daniel, He exhibits Himself, He manifests Himself preincarnate; sometimes in the form of an angel, sometimes in the form of a man, but always He is there! He is worshiped as God, and He calls Himself God. And in the final manifestation, He is God in the flesh, Jehovah-Jesus. We are taught to expect that in the Old Testament Scriptures themselves.
Again, a passage in Isaiah – Isaiah [40:3], sung so gloriously in The Messiah. Listen to it:
The voice of One crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, prepare ye the way of the Lord. In the desert, make 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 shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
And in the third chapter of Matthew, and in the third verse of Matthew, the apostle says that this was a great prophecy of the coming of Immanuel, the Prince of glory [Matthew 3:3]. The prophecy of the coming of Jehovah in flesh, in human form and life, was fulfilled in the appearance of Jesus the Christ. Is it right then for us to worship Him as the true and only God, the manifestation of God in the flesh? This is the essence of Deity seen in human form and in human life, living in the Old Testament as the Angel of Jehovah, living in the New Testament as Jesus the Christ, and coming again as the Son of Man in clouds of glory to receive for Himself dominion and glory and power forever and ever [Jude 25].
Is it right for us to worship Him as Deity and as God? This has been the heart of the Christian faith and the heart of the Christian worship since its beginning. In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, in the fifty-second verse, after the Lord was received up into heaven, the Scriptures say, and I quote, "And the disciples worshiped Him, and returned in joy to Jerusalem." And they worshiped him as God and Savior, as God Immanuel, "God with us," as God manifest in the flesh. They worshiped Him.
And the story has never failed in the development through the Christian centuries since. Pliny wrote a letter – Pliny the Younger, who was the governor, Roman governor of Bithynia. Right after 100 AD, he wrote a letter to Trajan, the Roman Caesar. And in the letter to Trajan, he described this new sect called Christians. And in their worship, he said – Pliny said – they gathered together Sunday mornings and sang praises of worship to Jesus. Scratched on the wall of the Palatine Palace in Rome is a caricature dating back to the first Christian century. There, crudely etched on the wall, is the figure of a man with an ass’s head, hanging on a cross. In front of him is another man bowed in adoration and worship. And in ill-spelled letters underneath is this caption, "Alexamenos worships his God." From the beginning, the heart of the Christian faith has been the worship of Jesus.
And it is into His hands as God that we commend and commit our spirits when we die. In the seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, telling the story of the martyrdom of Stephen; quoting: "And they stoned Stephen as he called upon the name of the Lord Jesus, saying: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" [Acts 7:59]. The Christian dies in the arms of Jesus – safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast. We die in the grace, in the hope, in the blessedness, in the forgiveness, in the preciousness, in the promise of God Jehovah Jesus.
And this is to be the constant attitude and spirit of the Christian disciples; one of bowing, one of adoration, one of worship in His presence. As Hebrews 1:6 says, "And let all the angels of God worship Him." And as the second chapter of Philippians, the tenth verse says, "Before Him every knee shall bow, of things in heaven," the angelic hosts, "of things in earth," every soul that has ever lived, "and of things under the earth," in the nether world; "And every tongue shall confess that He is Lord Jehovah, to the glory of God" [Philippians 2:10-11]. This is the attitude of worship and adoration of the disciples of Christ. He is our great God and Savior, our coming King.
Robert Browning, in one of his letters, describes a famous literary incident in the life of Charles Lamb in London. They were together, the intellectuals, the men of letters and genius of literature. And Charles Lamb began to speak about what they would do if the great of the past should rise and suddenly appear in the door. And somebody remarked that if Shakespeare were to come, they would all stand in respect and wonder at the Shakespearean genius, unrivaled in the literary world. Then someone said, "But if Jesus Christ should come and appear, all of us would kneel in humble worship and adoration; God, manifest in the flesh – the Angel of Jehovah, Christ incarnate, God walking among men.
Our hymns are our greatest theological expression; the Ancient of Days, the Son of Man worshiping, pros ton theon, the Jehovah Jesus of the Bible. Listen to those hymns:
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.
["O Worship the King"; Robert Gant]
The Ancient of Days, the coming King, God manifest in the flesh:
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!
["Come Thou Almighty King"; Anonymous]
The hymn writers have sensed, from the Holy Scriptures themselves, the great eternal revelation of God in Christ Jesus. Pre-incarnate – the very essence of Jesus, the Angel of Jehovah, the Ancient of Days; in Bethlehem – Prince Immanuel, "God with us" [Matthew 1:23], God manifest in the flesh, God walking and talking among men. And he that hath seen Jesus hath seen God [John 14:9]. To love Jesus is to love God; to receive Jesus is to receive God; to worship Jesus is to worship God; to accept Jesus is to accept God; to love the appearing of Jesus is to love the appearing of the great God and our Savior. The only God we’ll ever see is God manifested in the flesh; Jesus our Lord.
When, therefore, as Christians, we pray in His name, we ask help in His name, we die in His name, we commend our souls to Him in His name, and we look forward to the great triumphant, glorious appearing in His name, you are just being what God has led us to believe in every syllable of every page of the old covenant and the new. "All hail the power of Jesus name, let angels prostrate fall. Let all the angels of God worship Him. Unto Him be glory, and dominion, and power, and honor forever and ever. Amen." This is the Bible, the Word of God.
We sing our hymn now, and as we sing it, a family to come, a couple to respond, or just somebody you, make the decision now in your heart. And in a moment when we stand up to sing, down one of these stairways, into the aisle, here to the front, "Here I come, pastor. Here I am." Maybe, "This is my wife and these are our children, all of us are coming today," or just you, as the Lord shall press the word to your heart, as the Holy Spirit shall make the appeal to your soul, answer with your life. Do it now. Come now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE ANCIENT OF DAYS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Daniel 7: 9-14
I. Who is the Ancient of Days?
A. No man has or can see God the Father
B. God the Father is not the judge of mankind, Jesus is
C. A pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus is a Christophany
D. The God we know and see is Jesus
II. Christ is deity and we can worship Him as such
A. He is expressly called God
B. The foreshadowing of that manifestation of God in Christ in the OT
C. Our worship of Jesus is the worship of the true and only God
III. Could such a thing be?