Daniel’s vision of the court of the Ancient of Days is full of imagery and glory. The scene is set with His clothing white as snow, hair white as wool, and His blazing throne. The place is filled with people from every nation, speaking every language. Into this divine setting, far removed from anything in our own experience, is led ‘one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven’. In Mark’s gospel Jesus quoted these words in reply to the Sanhedrin, in another court room following his capture in the Garden of Gethsemane. This earthly court and the heavenly one described by Daniel could not have been more different. The sneering and jeering of the scribes and elders, with their lies and spitting, portrayed a sordid mockery of justice, showing how far from their ideals the Jewish establishment had strayed. In the Sanhedrin there was no one to stand up for Jesus, he himself would not reply in answer to the trumped up charges levelled against him. It was a court of accusation, not a court of truth. In the court of the Ancient of Days it is a completely different story. Jesus is not questioned, not accused, because in the light of the Ancient of Days the truth is instantly seen. The Son of Man is recognised and accepted to the highest position, above the people from every nation that we hope to join when we make that journey.
The meeting on the mountain when Peter, James and John witness the transfiguration of Jesus provided them with a bridge between earth and heaven, between the reality of human existence and the ideals and glory of the Kingdom of God. Up until that point the image of God was one that was unapproachable, a righteous power, surrounded by clouds and thick darkness, burning up its enemies and melting the mountains, as presented in Psalm 97. It was not for mortal men to see the glory of God. Yet here the three disciples were shown something of that heavenly Glory, in a strange meeting with Elijah and Moses where earth and heaven met and time itself was transcended.
Peter grasped the enormity of the situation and impulsively suggests the building of three shelters, to establish this new meeting place with God. Through faith Peter had already recognised the identity of Jesus as Lord without the bright light, fire and other supernatural signs associated with an Old Testament God. Now, with James and John his belief is confirmed. Reflecting on the experience shortly before his death in a letter to first century Christians, Peter remembers the presence of Moses the giver of the law and Elijah the prophet, both from the Old Testament. He is adamant that the relevance of ancient scripture, far from being rendered obsolete by the new order is confirmed and given new weight. He warns of the danger from those who would try to corrupt the new faith to meet their own ends. Peter urges Christians everywhere to avoid being distracted by ‘cleverly invented stories’ and strengthen their faith by reference not only to eyewitness accounts, but also to the words of the ancient prophets. Without anchorage in the scriptures the new faith would be blown about in the winds of change. The new faith relies still on the justice of the law of Moses, the righteousness urged by the prophets, as it does upon the revelation of God’s love in the person of his son.
The changes facing these first century Christians, even as the new faith emerged, pale into insignificance compared with the changes of the past 50 years. Governments have changed, becoming more and more secular, in danger of losing touch with the wisdom of justice, righteousness and love on which they were founded. People have changed, replacing religion with the diluted humanism promoted by the media. Greed and envy are actively encouraged in the service of the idols of commerce, the economy, and the forces of advertising; modern idols that have become as effective as the Baal of the old testament in crowding out the truth, rooting morality firmly in the present, and so subjecting it to the whims and fashions of the current age. As Christian stewards in our time we must live in the present, interacting with the world, but we must also keep in touch with the truth of the scriptures, the law, the prophets and the gospels, as we witness for Christ in our own lives. In this way the light of the knowledge of the glory of God will help us to discern the truth in the world around us, enabling us to serve His purpose without being swamped in its greed and idolatry until we arrive ourselves at the heavenly court.