13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Who is the GOAT? By “GOAT” I do not mean the barnyard animal or one of the “Three Billy Goats Gruff” of fairy tale fame. GOAT here refers to “Greatest Of All Time” or G.O.A.T. in modern vernacular. If you have any discussion with anyone about sports you will eventually encounter this word. It is usually an argument-stopper when it comes to a debate over the greatest team or the greatest player.
Recently the sports world was rocked by a pronouncement by one of pro football’s all-time greats. Joe Montana, famed quarterback of sixteen seasons in the NFL, declared Tom Brady as the greatest quarterback of all time.
Brady, who recently won the 2021 Super Bowl as quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and previously with the New England Patriots, has amassed an unheard-of football record of seven Super Bowl wins and two MVPs.
In a recent edition of Sports Illustrated, Joe Montana said “I think if you look at what Tom has been able to accomplish in his time that he’s played, I think it puts him definitely up there in the top of the list."
To many fans of American pro football, these words of Joe Montana—who himself won the Super Bowl for the San Francisco 49ers four times, claimed three Super Bowl MVPs and posted a 100-39 record over thirteen years—sounded like a shift in the tectonic plates of the sports world.
Who really IS the GOAT? Here in the seventh chapter of Daniel, God reveals to him and to us the identity of someone who will be the champion of all, the ultimate warrior and one who can truly claim the crown of the Greatest Of All Time.
For Daniel and for the king whom he serves, this revelation will be an argument-stopper as God reveals His final Word on the matter of who will rule the universe.
As we have seen, Chapter seven opens with the beginning of another dream sequence:
1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.
Like all of these recorded dreams, this is a direct line from God. Instead of troubling an earthly king such as Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar, God downloads his prophesy directly into His servant Daniel. For this is a message meant to be provided directly with His prophet serving as teacher, rather than interpreter, of His will.
Daniel takes to the king his message of four wild beasts and their role as images of future kingdoms of the earth. After revealing the destructive effects of each beast upon the world God, seated on His throne as the Ancient of Days, reveals One to rule over them all:
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.
This Son of Man is someone special. The name “Son of Man” in Aramaic reads בן–אדם (bar-adam) or “Son of Adam.” This is a name that can literally mean “human being.” The name is jarring in a way for you read these words spoken over 600 years later by Jesus—another “Son of Man.” Christ speaks to his disciples about days to come:
30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.
Jesus is talking about himself and as he describes his own role in the cosmos as the son of God he is carrying his disciples back through the ages in their own bible to the beloved prophet in Babylon. “Son of Man” is used many times in the Old Testament to denote men, people and the coming savior but in this chapter of Daniel God is specifically calling us to look upon His son and the glory to come:
14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
In other words, the “Son of Man” will be the G.O.A.T.
How this news must have rattled King Belshazzar and filled Daniel’s heart with soaring hope. Here he is in exile. Fifty years or more of his life have passed as he served the vain and often tyrannical kings of Mesopotamia—all the while remembering the sunny hills of Jerusalem:
By the waters
We lay down and wept
For thee Zion
These words from the folk song by Don McLean seem to capture what this sorrow and hope must have meant for Daniel—and his later audience of Jews restored to their kingdom Palestine.
This hope is embodied in the Son of Man. The hope of God’s people is Christ himself. Not just to be waited for at the end of days but now, in the present. Calvin explains that this ascension of the Greatest Of All Time kings is not some scene from Revelation but an image of Christ in the here and now:
Christ left the world and ascended to the Father; first, to subdue all powers to himself, and to render angels obedient; next, to restrain the devil, and to protect and preserve the Church by his help, as well as all the elect of God the Father. —Calvin, Commentary on Daniel
And now you are filled with this same hope. Jesus, the “Son of Man” is the G.O.A.T. Do you recognize his power in your life? In this image we see Jesus in his full. He is not just in his role of teacher, healer and good shepherd but as a warrior king from the days of old coming into his own to conquer and to keep.
More than “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild” your savior is fighting for your very soul. He intercedes for you to the Father and he is capable of defeating the evil one who “prowls around like a roaring lion” for your soul. (1. Peter 5:8)
Better to be a sheep in the flock that follows the G.O.A.T. than a goat who resists the power of the Lamb who was slain.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.