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A special thanks to Dr. Shelbi Cullen for hiring me to make this video for her.

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Part 1: The Evidence

 

If I asked you to tell me what the heart of the Great Commission is, what would you say? I imagine many Christians would point to the cross or the resurrection. I agree, Jesus’ death and resurrection are vital to the gospel. But that’s not the heart of the Great Commission, at least not according to Matthew 28:18–20, the most commonly cited verses about the Great Commission:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

The message of the Great Commission may be the cross and the resurrection, but the heart of the Great Commission is something else entirely. 

Simply put, the heart of the Great Commission is a prophetic vision about Jesus from Daniel 7. During the reign of Belshazzar, King of Babylon, the prophet Daniel receives a disturbing vision of four animals coming out of the sea. A lion, a bear, a leopard, and a mysterious beast appeared in succession, each one representing a powerful nation that would at some point in history rule over the world. But as daunting as each nation was, the Ancient of Days destroyed the final beast and stripped each animal of its dominion. Then at the climax of the vision in Daniel 7:1314, the kingdoms were handed over to one like a son of man:

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.

Matthew 28.18-20 (01).jpg

As strange as it may sound, this scene serves as the backdrop for the Great Commission. This is because Matthew 28 shares at least eight discernible characteristics with the vision of Daniel 7. I have compiled them into a table below, but we will also walk through each one in Part 1 of this 2-part series. What we will discover is that the future victory of Christ is, in fact, the heart of the Great Commission.

1.    CLOTHING

 

At the beginning of Matthew’s resurrection account, he describes the angel who rolled back the stone from the tomb with vivid language, “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow” (Matt 28:3). [1] In Daniel 7, the Ancient of Days is also wearing clothes that are “white as snow” (7:6), and in Daniel 10 (an extended vision of Daniel 7), the angel is described with “the appearance of lightning” (Dan 10:6). It is not a coincidence that one figure from Jesus’ resurrection bears two images from Daniel’s interconnected visions. Matthew presents the angel at the tomb as an opening cue to remind you of Daniel’s visions. The angel is meant to signal that what is about to take place in Matthew’s account is related somehow to the events outlined in Daniel 7–12. 

2.    TREMBLING

After the guards saw the angel with radiant clothing, they “trembled and became like dead men” (Matt 28:4). Likewise, the men accompanying Daniel in chapter 10 react the same way when they see the angel with appearance like lightning, “A great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves” (Dan 10:7). Not only does the look of Daniel 7 carry over to Matthew 28; the feel does as well. The resurrection and the Great Commission (forthcoming) are meant to convey the authority and intimidation of the Son of Man.

3.    MOUNTAIN

Just prior to Jesus entrusting the Great Commission to His disciples, He ordered them to go to an unnamed mountain (Matt 28:16). One reason He did this is because He was identifying Himself with the mountain motif in the book of Daniel. This mountain first appears in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about the statue: “But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Dan 2:35). But as Daniel reveals later in his visions, this stone is the Son of Man in the Daniel 7 vision and He will shatter the nations just like the stone shattered the statue (Dan 2:45; cf. 7:14, 27). Matthew shows Jesus in solidarity with this stone/mountain, in order to unveil the strategy behind the Great Commission. Just as the stone turned into a mountain and filled the whole earth, the Great Commission is designed to take the gospel to the ends of the earth and fill it with the glory of Christ (Dan 7:14; Hab 2:14; cf. Matt 28:19; Acts 1:8).

4.    WORSHIP

The disciples’ worship of Jesus is also drawn from Daniel 7: “And when they saw him they worshiped him” (Matt 28:17, cf. 28:9). Daniel 7:14 describes a similar reaction from the rest of humanity, “And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (Dan 7:14, cf. 7:27; emphasis mine). The word for “serve” in Daniel 7 denotes more than just physical labor or acts of helpfulness. It also indicates “veneration” and “respect.” [2] Jesus, the Son of Man, in Daniel 7 proves His right to be worshiped and Matthew 28 gives us a taste of it from the disciples’ perspective.

 

 

5.    HEAVEN AND EARTH

 

When Jesus first speaks to His disciples, He claims, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18; emphasis mine). King Darius also mentions “in heaven and on earth” in Daniel 6, “He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions” (6:27). While it is true that “in heaven and on earth” is not an uncommon colloquial expression throughout the Bible, its position in Daniel should not be overlooked. In the previous verse, 6:26, Darius describes God’s kingdom as one that “shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.” A similar statement is found in Daniel 7:14 about the Son of Man: “His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Jesus’ use of “in heaven and on earth” is not a coincidence in Matthew 28. It aligns the extent of Jesus’ authority with the extent of the Son of Man’s authority in Daniel 7. 

 

 

6.    AUTHORITY

 

With all that has been observed so far between these two texts, the clearest example of Daniel 7 in Matthew 28 comes in verse 18, “All authority . . . has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). This is nearly a direct quotation of the first line of Daniel 7:14 from the Septuagint, [3] “And authority was given to him.” [4] Here, Jesus makes clear what has been developing in the background: He is the Son of Man who has received all authority and will one day establish it over the earth. ​

7.    ALL NATIONS

Since Jesus’ authority is transferred to His disciples for the work of the Great Commission, it shouldn’t be any surprise that they are called to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19; emphasis mine). After all, the Son of Man in Daniel 7 exercises His authority over “all peoples, nations, and languages” (7:14). What the mountain allusion made implicit, Jesus’ commission makes explicit. The strategy behind the Great Commission is to fill the earth with the message of Christ’s victory, because it paves the way for the time when He will actually fill the earth with His victory.

8.    END OF DAYS

Matthew concludes both the Great Commission and His gospel with Christ’s beloved promise, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). A more literal translation of this sentence might be, “And behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age.” [5] My translation comes across a little awkward in English. As a result, translators have chosen to smooth it out the way it is in your Bible. However, the literal wording forms another significant connection with Daniel. Daniel’s book also concludes with a similar promise, “But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days” (Dan 12:13; emphasis mine). The phrase, “the end of the days,” in Daniel 12:13 is a shortened way of saying “all the days until the end of the age” from Matthew 28:20. Matthew measures the scope of human history using Daniel’s own measurement. The victory of the Son of Man will mark the end of history and it is this precise moment that all believers look forward to as they carry out the Great Commission.

 

 

BONUS: ACTS 1:8

 

Since we are discussing the Great Commission, it’s important that we address the other famous Great Commission verse, Acts 1:8. Perhaps you concede that Daniel 7 rests at the heart of the Great Commission in Matthew 28. But you may also think that it’s just Matthew’s take on the Great Commission and that it may not apply to other Great Commission passages. As a result, Daniel 7 may not seem as integral to the Great Commission as I am claiming. That’s a fair point. But you should know that Acts 1:8 is just as tethered to Daniel 7 as Matthew 28 is. Immediately following Jesus’ charge to be His “witnesses . . . to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8), “a cloud took [Jesus] out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). The Son of Man arrives on a cloud as well before the Ancient of Days, “And behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man” (Dan 7:13). We know this cloud is a reference to Daniel 7, because the two men, who appear beside the disciples, say it is: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). These two men encourage the disciples with the promise of a victorious Christ. The hope of Daniel 7, then, is meant to motivate them to begin the work of the Great Commission. There are several other parallels we could explore between Acts 1 and Daniel 7, but for the sake of space this will have to do. [6] Matthew 28 is not the only text that weaves Daniel 7 into the Great Commission; Acts 1 does as well. No matter where you go in Scripture to learn about the Great Commission, one theme always appears: The Son of Man will reign victorious. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Matthew 28.18-20 (02).jpg

In summary, Daniel 7 is woven into the fabric of the Great Commission. It shares the clothing of the angel, the trembling of the guards, the role of the mountain, the worship of the disciples, the mention of heaven and earth, the proclamation of authority, the scope of all nations, and the hope of the end of days. It even shares elements from Acts 1:8, the other prominent text about the Great Commission. The vision of Daniel 7, which depicts the future triumph of Christ over all, is the heart of the Great Commission. What that means and what difference that makes will be discussed in Part 2 of this series.

[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the English Standard Version, 2016, unless otherwise stated.*

[2פלח, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, p. 1957.*

 [3] The Greek translation of the Old Testament available in Jesus’ day, which was often quoted by the New Testament; it is also known as the LXX.*

[4] My translation.*

[5] My translation.*

[6] For example, the two men in white robes are linked to the angels in Daniel 9:21, 10:5, and 12:6, and they are standing in a unique way alongside of the disciples just like the hosts of heaven do before the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:10.*

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

*Click the number at the front of the endnote to return to where you left off reading.

FURTHER READING

I found the following books to be very helpful in putting together this video and article. 

Chou - I Saw the Lord.jpg

I Saw the Lord

Abner Chou

pp. 114–146, 151–152

Beale and Carson - Commentary on the New

Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old

G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson

p. 100

Turner - Matthew.jpg

Matthew (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)

David L. Turner

pp. 681, 688–692