Both Revelation and Daniel proclaim the absolute sovereignty of God over the course of history and the fate of nations.
Revelation states that the “beast” was “given” the authority to operate for a period of “forty-two months,” power over the nations, and the right to “wage war against the saints and to overcome them.” Satan’s creature could not wreak havoc upon the earth or against the church until authorized to do so, and only for the time allotted by the “Lamb.”
Likewise, those worshiping in the “sanctuary” suffered persecution, but not until the “holy city was given to the nations to be trampled,” and for the same “forty-two months” as the “war” against the “saints.” Similarly, each of the four “horsemen” was “given” the authority to inflict harm on the earth, but not until the “Lamb” opened each “seal,” and only to the extent allowed by him (“a fourth of the earth”) – (Revelation 6:1-8, 11:2, 13:3-10).
In the book, this pattern occurs frequently. Jesus is the “ruler of the kings of the earth,” the one who now possesses the “keys of death and Hades,” because he “overcame” the Devil through his sacrificial death and resurrection. Consequently, he now reigns over the Cosmos from his “father’s throne” with “all authority,” for his power is now absolute – (Revelation 1:4-6, 1:18-19 3:21, 5:11-14).
Revelation is not teaching any abstract doctrine about the “sovereignty of God” or suggesting that Jesus delights in the sufferings of his people. Instead, his exercise of authority over events on the earth assures his beleaguered churches that he remains in firm control. Persecution and suffering may be necessary to achieve his purposes, but the “Lamb” will not allow the enemies of the church to exceed certain limits. Try as hard as he might, the “Dragon” will not succeed in annihilating the “saints.”
Revelation is not unique in holding this perspective, and some of its language and ideas are derived from Daniel. For example, that book declared that the “Lord gave the king of Judah and the vessels of the Temple” into the hand of “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” the very king who later destroyed the Temple, Jerusalem, and the kingdom of Judah – (Daniel 1:1-2).
The Hebrew verb rendered “gave” is applied repeatedly in the first chapter of Daniel. God gave Daniel “favor and sympathy with the prince of the eunuchs.” He gave him and his Jewish companions “knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom.” And Daniel was “given” understanding in “all visions and dreams.”
When Yahweh granted Daniel the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great image, he blessed the “most-high God” who “changes times and seasons, He removes kings and sets up kings.” In the dream’s interpretation, Daniel presented the future rise and fall of great empires, beginning with Babylon and ending with the kingdom of God. In response, the king declared that Daniel’s God was “God of gods, Lord of kings and the revealer of mysteries,” and thus, he acknowledged Yahweh to be the sovereign over the earth – (Daniel 2:20-49).
In chapter 4 of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, the sole ruler of the World-Power, acknowledged the sovereignty of Yahweh over history. God removed him from power for “seven seasons,” then restored him to the throne. In the process, the king learned that “the Most-High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He will, and sets up over it the lowest of men.” After his restoration, he declared to one and all:
- “I praise and honor the One whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation. Before Him, all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and according to his own pleasure, He deals with the Host of Heaven and the inhabitants of the earth.”
History remembers Nebuchadnezzar as a great builder of magnificent buildings and a successful conqueror. Scripture remembers him as an instrument employed by Yahweh to achieve His purposes.
On the final evening before the fall of Babylon, its last ruler, Belshazzar, saw a frightful sight when a disembodied hand wrote strange letters on the wall. Summoned, Daniel interpreted the writing. God had found Belshazzar wanting and declared, “Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians,” and the very next day, “Darius the Mede took the kingdom” – (Daniel 5:22-31).
Once more, the sovereignty of Yahweh was on display as the World-Power was transferred from Babylon to the “Medes and Persians.”
Later, after God rescued Daniel from the lions’ den, this same “Darius” decreed that “all the peoples, nations, and tongues that dwell in all the earth” were to fear and revere the “God of Daniel… His kingdom shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.” Thus, the new ruler of Babylon acknowledged the absolute sovereignty of Yahweh, just as his predecessor had done – (Daniel 6:25-28).
Thus, the Book of Daniel demonstrates the reign of God over the course of history. The plans, intentions, and dictates of even the most powerful rulers cannot thwart His purposes. He uses their designs and even evil intentions to accomplish His redemptive purposes. And this very same view is reflected in the visions and language of the Book of Revelation, only now, sovereignty is in the hands of the lowly “slain Lamb,” the “Ruler of the kings of the earth,” and he employs his authority to “shepherd the nations.”