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Daniel: City of God, city of man

See also

Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Esther and Daniel


The book of Daniel must be read in the light of the entire canon (the Bible). It is apocalyptic literature that is highly symbolic which can easily stray into wild interpretation. It also must be read in light of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Some main points of Daniel is the false form of existence in empire, but the mission of Christ ushering us into the kingdom of God and an elect people called to God’s side when Christ comes in the clouds at the end of time. The reader of Daniel also learns from his cousin the Jewish people, about exile and expectation.

The book of Daniel reminds us of our resident alien status as the church, as the Christian. Our citizenship is heaven. Daniel is an exhortation to those in purely bourgeois residence.

With king Nebuchadnezzar losing his mind and becoming beast-like. Sumner warns us of becoming like beasts in our herd mentality—which then equates to the empire, another tower of Babel trying to unite all people through force of will or force of common thought. Solzhenitsyn saw this first hand in the Soviet Union. He lived through the horrors of a human-driven “utopia.”

Sumner reminds us of the danger of empire—that the declining empire is wrought with moral confusion and wars at their borders. The apocalyptic style of Daniel always merits more questions. Jesus used many allusions to Daniel. The apocalyptic language evokes the majesty and power of God. Who can stand before such goodness? The fiery imagery is that of purgation and judgment. This consuming fire could destroy us, but grants that we should live.

On another note concerning the concept of empire and those carrying out the will of themselves, we meet the human as the idea as machine. Science fiction writers have told the story for a long time, posing the question of “what does it mean to be human” if one is in the midst of automatons, androids, etc. When computers are no different from the human brain, then what is a human? With modern technology moving in the direction of science fiction without serious discussion of ethics or even considering Christian theology or ethics, the danger of this Danielic tower of Babel comes closer. “There will come a time when only the believers can remind the city of the world what the human is.”

The city of man versus the city of God are always in tension. “The regal desire for power wreaks havoc…eventually…destroy[ing] itself.” The empires imposition of its will must reach the whole world. This is empires goal. Yet the message of Daniel is that of hope. Yes, the righteous will suffer—the Christian will suffer in this world vying for power and God’s grace tearing through the darkness and confusion. “Death, ‘the veil spread over the nations,’ will be removed.” The promise of resurrection and rest is given. After the long era of strife with some reprieve here and there, there will be Sabbath rest for the one purified through the fire of trial. The book of Daniel reminds us of the wicked bent of empirical power, but also the hope of resurrection and rest for those who hope in Jesus Christ coming on the clouds ushering in the new day.