A special thanks to Dr. Shelbi Cullen for hiring me to make this video for her.
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Part 2: The Implications
In Part 1 of this series, we walked through the evidence that shows how the vision of Daniel 7 is at the heart of the Great Commission in Matthew 28. We looked at eight characteristics that these passages share to build the case. For starters, the proclamation Jesus makes about His authority in Matthew 28:18 mirrors the language about the Son of Man’s authority in Daniel 7:14. Other connections exist, such as the charge to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19) compared to the promise that all nations will serve the Son of Man (Dan 7:14). Even Acts 1:8, the other well-known passage about the Great Commission, has ties with Daniel 7. Allusion after allusion to Daniel 7 proves that the Great Commission is all about the future triumph of Christ over all.
So, big deal. Daniel 7 is the heart of the Great Commission. Why does that matter and how does that change our understanding of the Great Commission and the role we play in it? I submit to you that it changes everything. And let me be clear: When I say everything, I mean everything. I’m not exaggerating. The vision of Daniel 7 shapes the very fabric of why we do what we do and how we do it. That’s how God designed it. Nothing in the Great Commission is off limits to the future victory and supremacy of Christ. Everything stems from it.
There are many implications we could discuss, but I want to highlight three of the most important ones to help us get going in the right direction.
1. DANIEL 7 DICTATES THE AUTHORITY OF THE GREAT COMMISSION
The only reason the church has any grounds to go and make disciples of all nations is because of Daniel 7. To put it another way, if “Christ over all” is not at the heart of the Great Commission, then the church has no right to participate in it in the first place. The mission would turn into a man-centered crusade that wins souls just for the sake of winning souls. Instead, the Great Commission is a Christ-centered campaign that proclaims the victory of Jesus to everyone, everywhere. Therefore, the vision of Daniel 7 is vital to the authority we have as Christians to participate in the Great Commission.
So how does the church manifest Christ’s authority through the Great Commission? It does so in two ways. First, it reflects His authority through its transforming message. The gospel has tremendous leverage over the world, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). This is what makes the Great Commission so effective. Making disciples of all nations would normally sound like an impossible feat, especially because a message of repentance and self-denial does not cater to a self-centered world. But history has proven that the gospel is immensely powerful, despite the perceived liabilities of its message, because the Great Commission is driven by the earth-shattering power of Christ. There is real authority embedded in the Great Commission, because it is an extension of the authority given to the Son of Man.
Second, it reflects Christ’s authority through its intimidating message. It’s true that through the Great Commission the church does not (and should not) exercise authority over the world politically, judicially, or economically, as Christ one day will. But it still brings the weight of Christ’s authoritative message to bear on every nation, tribe, and tongue. Therefore, it’s authority can not only be seen in the transformed lives of the saints, but also the intimidation it provokes with its formidable message. On paper, the church should not be a threat to anyone. It is committed to non-violence and spreading the hope of the gospel (1 Peter 2:13–25). But time and time again the church has been persecuted for its message, even though it was unprovoked. Not everyone welcomes the message, because it contains truth about God and themselves that they do not want to hear. If God and His Son are real, then sin is real; and if sin is real, then judgment is real. This is a hard sell and it incites person after person and nation after nation to rise up against the gospel. This demonstrates that the authority that Christ possesses now, and will exercise in the future, is felt by the world through the Great Commission. If the truth does not change hearts, it intimidates them, because its message is undeniably true and, therefore, authoritative.
It is the vision of Daniel 7 that justifies the church’s possession of this authority. Without the absolute sovereignty of Christ, the Great Commission breaks down. It would lose its power to change people and its ability to convict the world. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Daniel 7 affects far more than its authority.
2. DANIEL 7 DRIVES THE AGENDA OF THE GREAT COMMISSION
If Jesus only wanted to pass on His authority to the church in the Great Commission, He would not need to refer back to the Daniel 7 vision. He could simply claim to have authority based on His divinity and it would be enough. But the fact that He anchors the Great Commission in Daniel 7 suggests that there is more going on. What Matthew and the rest of the New Testament reveal is that Daniel 7 actually drives the agenda of the Great Commission. The motivating factor behind Great Commission work is the future moment when Christ establishes His reign over all.
Matthew makes this clear with one word, “Therefore.” Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:18–19a; emphasis mine). Certainly, this conjunction implies that Christ’s authority now becomes the church’s authority. But notice that the wording of verse 19 is not a statement, as if to say, “Therefore, all authority has been given to you, Church.” Rather, it’s a command, “Go therefore and make disciples.” The authority of Christ not only gets passed on to the church; it is the catalyst that moves Christians to do the work of the Great Commission.
Matthew 28 isn’t the only passage that shows this. Acts 9 does as well. After Saul faces the blinding light of Jesus on the road to Damascus, his traveling companions “stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one” (Acts 9:7). A similar situation occurs with Daniel in the extended vision of Daniel 10, “And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision” (Dan 10:7). Both visions from Jesus had several eyewitnesses present, but in each case only one individual was able to see it. This is just one of many allusions to Daniel 7 in Acts 9. The moment that changed Paul’s life and his ministry is punctuated by a vision of Jesus, the Son of Man, similar to Daniel 7. When Paul realizes this “Son of Man” is the person he is talking to, it changes him from a violent opponent of the Great Commission to a faithful proponent of it. It is Paul who spearheads the effort to get the gospel to all nations, which is the strategy behind the Great Commission itself in Matthew 28:19 (Acts 9:15; Rom 1:5; Rom 11:13; 15:16; Gal 1:16; 2:2, 7–9; Eph 3:8; 1 Tim 2:7; 2 Tim 4:17). A Daniel 7 type vision of Jesus changed the trajectory of his life and the direction of his ministry.
Paul’s mission becomes our mission as well through the Great Commission. Therefore, the principal driving force behind missions itself should be the future hope of Christ over all. All missionaries should know Daniel 7 by heart, both by its memorization and in its meaning. It is their mission statement, after all. But missionaries are not the only ones affected by this. The Great Commission unites every believer across every church to mold their efforts around the destiny of Christ over all. Evangelists should be driven to the lost by it. Pastors should be dragged into the pulpit by it. Counselors should be drawn to the weak by it. We all play a role in the Great Commission, because we all play a part in making disciples. Let us all strive, then, to make “Christ over all” the heart of our labor.
3. DANIEL 7 DEFINES THE STRATEGY BEHIND THE GREAT COMMISSION
Taking the gospel to the ends of the earth is not a new phenomenon. The strategy behind the Great Commission takes its cue from Daniel 7. All authority is given to the Son of Man so that “all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (Dan 7:14). The global concern of the Great Commission is rooted in the global authority of Christ.
You can trace this theme throughout Scripture with a simple phrase: “Fill the earth.” From the very beginning of time, God made it His mission to fill the earth with His glory. He would accomplish this with His prize creation, humanity. Man and woman were called to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over” it (Gen 1:28). Humanity had the special privilege of filling creation with God’s glory and exercising dominion over it, because they bear His image (Gen 1:26–27). Of course, we all know that humanity distorted the image of God with their sin. But God’s plan to fill the earth through humanity was still in the works. He promised to provide a human descendant to restore the Genesis 1 mandate to fill the earth (Gen 3:15). This person comes into focus in the book of Daniel and He is revealed to be more than a human. He is the stone that turns into a mountain and “fills the whole earth” (Dan 2:35). He fulfills humanity’s role as the premier image of God, because He is God. This is the Son of Man and in Him humanity fulfills their Genesis 1 mandate to fill the earth and exercise dominion (Dan 7:27).
The Great Commission, then, serves as a partial fulfillment of the Genesis 1 mandate. We take the gospel to the ends of the earth, because we want to fill it with people being conformed to the image of God’s Son (Rom 8:29; 2 Cor 3:18; Col 3:10). But let us not mistake this time of the Great Commission with the time of Daniel 7. This is not the era when the whole world will be conformed to the image of the Son. It is merely a prelude of what is to come. Therefore, the goal of the Great Commission is not numbers, but rather faithfulness in making disciples. This should take the pressure off of us as we seek to do the work of the Great Commission. Our job is not to convince people of the gospel, even though we will try to be as convincing as possible. Our job is to be faithful to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, because we are pointing to a day when conformity to Christ will be seen everywhere in everyone.
No matter how you slice it, you cannot understand the breadth or the depth of the Great Commission without the glorious triumph of Christ in Daniel 7. It dictates the authority, drives the agenda, and defines the strategy of the Great Commission. It got the church off the ground (Acts 1, 7, 9). It moved Paul to do what he did and write what he wrote (Eph 1:10). It has shaped the course of history from the time of Christ to the present. It must inform the mission of our churches, the motivation for our witness, and the ministry in our lives. It is the heart of the Great Commission.
I found the following books to be very helpful in putting together this video and article.
I Saw the Lord
pp. 114–146, 151–152
Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old
G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson
Matthew (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
David L. Turner
pp. 681, 688–692