The sensational O. J. Simpson murder trial in Los Angeles, California, was called “the trial of the century.” Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman. The trial began with a swearing in on November 2, 1994, and it ended eleven months later on October 3, 1995, with a stunning verdict of not guilty.
A key part of the evidence brought by the prosecution was a dark leather glove that had been found at the crime scene. The defense attorney, Johnnie Cochran, persuaded the prosecution to have Simpson put on the glove. Simpson tried to get it over his hand but couldn’t, which led Cochran to quip, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”—and that’s exactly what the jury did. And an estimated 100,000 people worldwide watched the reading of the verdict on their TVs or listened to it on their radios!
Sensational as Simpson’s trial was, however, it doesn’t come close to matching a trial in heaven that will take place prior to Christ’s second coming. Daniel described this trial in chapter 7, verses 9–14 of the biblical book by his name. Verses 9 and 10 state: “As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.”
The Ancient of Days who’s seated on the throne is clearly Jehovah, God the Father; and Revelation 5:11 identifies the “thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand” as angels. A thousand times a thousand is a million, and ten thousand times ten thousand is a hundred million, which makes for a huge number of angels as “jurors” in this court scene!
One of the key points for our purpose in this article is the words, “The court was seated, and the books were opened.” When Daniel wrote these words, he probably thought of these books as leather scrolls; we might think of them as computers; but the actual method of recording evidence in heaven’s record books must be far beyond our ability to imagine. The point is that evidence was brought forth that had been recorded prior to this court scene. These “books” contain the record of every human being’s life who has ever lived, both the righteous (Daniel 12:1; Malachi 3:16) and the wicked (Revelation 20:12).
Condemnation and Vindication
Two issues stand out in this judgment scene. The first is that the wicked are condemned and God’s people are vindicated.
The wicked. The wicked in Daniel’s prophecy are represented by a “little horn,” which is first mentioned in Daniel 7:8. Daniel’s angel interpreter told him that this horn was “waging war against the saints and defeating them” (verse 21). This is a reference to the persecution of God’s people that’s inspired by demonic forces and carried out by Satan’s human accomplices. It’s been going on ever since Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden, and it will continue until Christ’s second coming.
The righteous. In Daniel’s prophecy, the righteous are referred to as “the saints,” whom the wicked little horn is persecuting. The angel told Daniel that the little horn would wage war against God’s people and defeat them “until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints” (verse 22).
So we have the wicked on one side in this judgment scene and the righteous on the other. After a careful review of heaven’s “books” by the angels, God will pronounce His final judgment, including the eternal destiny of His people and Satan’s people.
The second issue in this dramatic court scene is dominion.
To understand this dominion we have to go back to a series of events in heaven that occurred thousands of years earlier. The Bible tells us that God had an angel who held a very high position in heaven as a guardian cherub (Ezekiel 28:14). This angel was highly adorned with all kinds of jewels and gold, and he became proud of his beauty (verse 17). Isaiah informs us that this angel was called Lucifer, and he aspired to be “like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:12–14, NKJV).* So Lucifer wanted to take over God’s authority and rule the universe himself! To put it in terms of the word we’re using here, Lucifer wanted God’s dominion.
Through deception, Lucifer managed to persuade one third of heaven’s angels to side with him (Revelation 12:3, 4), and their desire for dominion caused them to go to war against God and His angels. However, they lost the battle and were cast down to our earth (verses 7–9). And here they were more successful. You’ll recall that when God created Adam and Eve, He gave them dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28, NKJV). But Satan, disguised as a serpent, successfully tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God, and as a result their dominion over the world passed to him. You need only watch the nightly news to know that Satan still holds dominion over our world!
Now we can return to the judgment scene in Daniel 7. Verse 13 says that “one like a son of man . . . approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.” This Son of Man is none other than Jesus Christ, and Daniel said that “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power. . . . His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed” (verse 14).
So this judgment in heaven will remove the dominion that Satan had held over the world and give it to Jesus. Jesus has yet to take over dominion of our world. That will happen at His second coming. But the legal authority to take dominion over the world was given to Him at the conclusion of heaven’s judgment, and God’s angels participated in that decision!
When Will This Judgment Take Place?
I said earlier in this article that Daniel’s judgment scene in heaven is scheduled to take place shortly before Christ’s second coming. There are two ways we can know this.
World history. The first eight verses of Daniel 7 describe four great beasts that represent “four kingdoms that will rise from the earth” (verse 17). Most conservative Bible interpreters identify these kingdoms as Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The fourth, a dragon-like beast, has ten horns on its heads, which represent the nations that arose from a group of barbarian tribes in northern Europe that invaded southern Europe between about A.D. 250 and 500. The little horn that we’ve been talking about represents medieval Christianity, which severely persecuted dissenters in trials such as the Inquisition. Babylon, the first kingdom, was established about 600 B.C., and the persecution of dissenters during the Middle Ages ended in the late 1700s. And heaven’s judgment scene comes after that in Daniel’s prophecy. That’s the first clue that heaven’s judgment will take place in heaven prior to Christ’s second coming.
When is dominion given to Christ? We get the second clue from a careful reading of the account of dominion that’s given to Christ in Daniel 7:13, 14. Some Christians have probably interpreted the giving of this dominion to happen at Christ’s second coming because of the statement in verse 13 that “a son of man” came “with the clouds of heaven.” Jesus Himself said that He will return to earth “on the clouds of the sky” (Matthew 24:30). But Daniel’s statement in verse 13 says that the son of man “approached the Ancient of Days” on clouds, so this can’t be His second coming. Furthermore, everything in Daniel 7—both the description of the judgment and its interpretation—occurs in heaven, whereas Christ’s second coming will happen on our earth. So the Second Coming has not yet occurred in Daniel’s judgment scene.
During Christ’s life on earth He met Satan in a wilderness following 40 days that He had fasted and prayed. At the end of the 40 days Satan came to Him and tempted Him three times (Matthew 4:1–11). In the third temptation Satan “took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me’ ” (verse 8). Satan had a very clever strategy. He had gained dominion over the world when Adam and Eve sinned, and now he was offering to give it to Jesus, but there was a condition. Jesus would have had to submit to Satan’s authority by worshiping him.
One of Jesus’ reasons for coming to this earth 2,000 years ago was to regain dominion over the world by His death and resurrection. But Satan was offering Him an easy way out. He was saying, in effect, that “I can spare you all the pain of Your trial and crucifixion by giving You the dominion You came to this world to obtain. There’s just one condition: You will have to fall down and worship me.” Satan knew that in order for Christ to bow down and worship him, He would have to submit to Satan’s authority—and Satan would still hold his dominion over the world! Clever, wasn’t it?
But Jesus didn’t fall into the trap. He responded by saying, “Away from me Satan! For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only’ ” (verse 10).
How grateful we can be that Jesus resisted Satan’s temptation, for it means that one of these days you and I will have the opportunity to escape Satan’s horrible dominion over the world and live in a glorious world of peace and safety throughout the eternal ages with Jesus, who regained dominion over the world the hard way—through His trial, crucifixion, and resurrection!
Praise God that Jesus resisted Satan and regained dominion over the world the right way!