“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:9–14, ESV)
The end times is a fascination of many Christians, but not only for Christians, but of other faiths also. Daniel, an Old Testament Prophet, here is giving a vision of the end that also is seen as a foretelling of the Christ. Not a foretelling that points to his birth and resurrection, but to the end when that final battle over Satan is won and the dominion in the earthly realm is put to that final end. The books, particularly the Book of Life, is a listing of those who are citizens of the kingdom. In ancient times from time to time a census would be held with a purpose to register the citizens of a kingdom. When your name was written in the book it affirmed that you belonged to the kingdom and were under the protection of the king. If your name was not in the book you were not guaranteed such protection and could even be seen as a spy, enemy, or invader of the realm. The Book of Life refers to those who belong to God.
As Christians we understand this as a reference to all who God has claimed through the power of the Holy Spirit and belonging to Christ – believers. A Jew reading this would understand it as identifying those who fall under the Covenant of Abraham and as being the children of Abraham. Muslims would argue that they are the children of Abraham through Ishmael and therefore are the chosen children who have the fullest revelation under Mohammed. This tree becomes convoluted when put into the context of history and the promise. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, an Enlightenment writer and thinker, wrote a play called Nathan the Wise in an attempt to approach the subject of religion and the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in which he writes of an encounter between his character Nathan and the sultan Saladin. He tells a parable that is commonly referred to as the Ring Parable. This parable is an attempt to settle the disagreement and appease those who desire to debate the issue of which faith is the true faith by in the end answering that all are equal because the love of the Father is within all of them and the adherents of each faith.
As we look at our world today we continue to see this debate rage on. Historically, as Christians, we have tried to force the answer to this question at the edge of a sword (often in response to challenges given by those that attempted to challenge the faith). This is our human nature, Peter and the followers wanted to defend Jesus when he was betrayed to the Sanhedrin and the Temple guard by Judas Iscariot. Jesus told Peter and the disciples to put away their swords. The difficulty of our faith is the meekness that we are called to live out. Meekness and weakness are not the same as some may think, in fact, it takes greater strength to be meek because it is a holding back from doing what could truly be done. Jesus could have done much more to protect himself, but he restrained himself and in that restraint called his followers to do the same. I know that I struggle with this.
This week we saw terror in Paris, France as terrorists entered into a busy entertainment district and killed many people enjoying a Friday night out at a concert or eating a meal, enjoying refreshment, and conversation. These cowardly men came to an area that they knew would be filled with unarmed people and opened fire and detonated explosives that would be placed upon themselves to inflict heavy casualties. We know that at last count 129 had been killed and over 300 injured with 99 seriously wounded so the toll of those lives lost could be increased. My nature is not meek, but a part of me desires retribution.
As I reflect on this in prayer Christ puts upon me something different though. It is a restraint that is not in my nature. A desire to pray for those that are filled with hatred and celebrate the wickedness that was done. I pray that they change. The desire of retribution is not in my heart as fully, but my heart and my anger are softened. When defending this to others I struggle sometimes to find the words to explain because these are not things that are of my normal vocabulary, I am not a pacifist, so my heart is torn. I can’t fully disagree with some of the prayers for retaliation, but my heart aches in asking myself, “Are these words a good representation of Christ?”
As ambassadors for Christ, those of us who call ourselves Christian, are called to temper our words and actions to reflect our King and Savior, Jesus the Christ, who showed anger as we see in Scripture once in his clearing of the Temple and that was because the House of Prayer was being desecrated with worldliness, the money changers and merchants were using others faithfulness to increase their wealth. Unfortunately, we often, as Christians, may not give the greatest witness of our faith in our words or even our calls to prayer. A satirist and cartoonist from the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was the center of attacks earlier in the year, when Joann Sfar put out this tweet,
As a Christian, I find it odd that one would ask for us to stop praying for them, but for one that only sees religious belief as a bringer of intolerance and violence one may find some understanding.
So, here I stand with the Word of God before me and I reflect on what the Kingship of Christ means for me and for the world. I see the struggles that we face as being a sign of our own broken and fallen nature. I sit down and rest at that foot of the cross and I cry out. I cry out for the pain and suffering that I see of many that have their lives taken in the name of a god and cry out to the God of the Bible who did not come to condemn but to redeem. I don’t call out for the destruction of anyone, but also do not condemn those who do the work of maintaining order and protect us from those that wish to bring death, chaos, and destruction. I pray for the soldiers, who I know are being called upon to put their own lives at risk in order to protect mine and my family as they leave their own families behind. I pray for those within the areas that are now occupied by those that desire to perpetrate these horrendous acts and do so to the people that are caught up in the disputed lands that they possess. I pray for the hearts of those that are stirring up hatred and desire to bring destruction that they be changed from the path that they are currently on. I pray to my Lord and my King for protection for my family and that my children would not be caught up in all of this. I also pray that my heart not become cynical and hardened against anyone. These are the most difficult of prayers for me especially as I pray for those that are filled with a diabolical nature and spirit. Lord protect our Soldiers, protect our Police, and guide our leaders in all decisions that they make, let your name be glorified. That is the prayer that I give and I humble myself before that cross and ask the Lord to help me to be meek. May that be a prayer that we all may hold as we struggle, but most of all let us find comfort in Christ our Lord and King, because we know that he has dominion over all of this and his Will will be done. Christ our Lord and King, have mercy on me a sinner. Amen.