Why Do We Call God the Ancient of Days in Christian Circles?
- Heather Riggleman Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2021 1 Mar
When I first became a Christian, I was fascinated to learn God had more than one name. The more I heard women call different names at our Bible Study group, the more notes I would write. Eventually, my little journal was filled with more than 20 names I knew to be true about God. I learned His names include, Elohim, El Shaddai, El Roi, and Adonai. Eventually, that little journal turned into my first devotional for motherhood in order to get to know God more intimately. One of my favorite names of God is Ancient of Days.
Doesn’t it add depth to God’s character? Doesn’t it reassure you that God has seen it all? It certainly reassures me that no matter what has happened or what will happen, He can handle it.
What Does the Name Ancient of Days Mean?
Daniel was describing God who sat on a flaming throne with hair and clothes that were as white as snow, and the throne had wheels of fire. The flaming throne was symbolic of judgment while the description of God’s white hair and beard were representational that God existed before time began. He is also describing God as our judge.
In Daniel 7:13, “ancient of days” refers to God as the Father, yet in this passage, Daniel is describing Jesus approaching God on the throne as the “Son of Man,” on clouds. It’s important to understand God is a triune God and Daniel is describing this as best as he can. It’s also important to understand Daniel is describing Jesus returning to pronounce judgment on the world (Daniel 7:22).
Where Is Ancient of Days Found in the Bible?
This name of God is only referenced three times in the entire Bible. All three references can be found in chapter seven of the book of Daniel. The first half of Daniel (Chapters 1-6) contains stories about Daniel’s experience and his friends under the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II, Belshazzar, Darius I, and Cyrus II. The second half of this book is then written about Daniel’s visions and a dream. These visions and dreams are accounts of the end times when the reign of God will be established.
Daniel 7:9: “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.”
Daniel 7:13: “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.”
Daniel 7:22: “until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.”
Why Do We Call God This?
The being on the throne who has all authority is God the Father. As Moses explained, “The LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other” (Deuteronomy 4:39). The words “Ancient Of Days” are a way of describing that God is a firsthand spectator to the past, present, and future. The climax of Daniel 7 as mentioned before is a transfer of power between God and Jesus. Read, Daniel 7:13-14:
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
Because God is also our Father, it helps us understand this is not a light issue to Him. He is heavy-hearted for those who choose not to believe in Him and obey Him. It adds weight to the events unfolding in Daniel because God is giving authority to the Son of Man. God is giving His Son the keys to the kingdom that never ends. All of Scripture leads up to the moment when this earth will pass away and the new heaven and earth will be established. During this time, every person will be judged. And Jesus is our rightful judge because He chose to be obedient to God and come to this earth to be our savior. It’s important to keep in mind, God isn’t retiring or stepping back, He is sharing His glory with His Son.
All the dead and all of the living, from the past, present, and future will stand before God’s throne. The Books will be opened including the book of life meaning the time of judgment is at hand (Daniel 7:10, Revelations 11:18).
We will be judged by what is written in the book, according to our works. The Bible tells us this repeatedly in: Psalm 62:12; Proverbs. 24:12; Jerimiah. 17:10; 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6; 14:12 and Revelation 2:23; 22:12.
Matthew 25:31-43 gives us a description of this moment:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all his angels are with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. The people of every nation will be gathered in front of him. He will separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right but the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, my Father has blessed you! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me into your home. I needed clothes, and you gave me something to wear. I was sick, and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ Then the people who have God’s approval will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you or see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and take you into our homes or see you in need of clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ The king will answer them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed you did for me.’ Then the king will say to those on his left, ‘Get away from me! God has cursed you! Go into everlasting fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels! I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me into your homes. I needed clothes, and you didn’t give me anything to wear. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t take care of me.’”
Why Is it Important that God Is Eternal?
God is eternal. His God's self-revealed name—Yahweh, I AM THAT I AM means that He has no beginning and no end. He exists before time ever began. He is the El Olam, the Ancient of Days, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the One Who Lives Forever. God reveals His names to Moses in Exodus 3:14, God (Elohim) said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
Charles Ryrie wrote in the book, Basic Theology, “The attribute of eternity means that God exists endlessly. His existence extends endlessly backward and forward (from our viewpoint of time) without any interruption or limitation caused by succession of events.”
Why Does it Matter that God Has Different Names?
Now that we know what the Ancient of Days means, we also know that God has several different names. And it’s not just because He’s God, it’s because He wants us to get to know Him on an intimate level in a way that we, as humans, can relate. He knows that time is running short for us to get to know Him and to choose Him as our God.
He uses different names to describe His character. He wants us to know him as:
Yahweh: I Am That I Am, The Lord Is God
El Elyon: The Most High God
Adonai: Lord, Master
El Roi: The God Who Sees Me
Jehovah Nissi: The Lord My Banner
Jehovah Raah: The Lord My Shepherd
Jehovah Rapha The Lord That Heals
Jehovah Shammah The Lord Is There
Jehovah Jireh: The Lord Will Provide
The more we get to know God, the more we can trust him. This leads to our enteral salvation. But God wants us to walk with him on a daily basis. He wants to be our provider when we are worried about our finances. He wants to be our comfort when things go wrong. He wants to be our Abba Father because He loves us fiercely. Perhaps, James Montgomery Boice said it best, “The names of God are windows through which His character is seen."
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/kevron 2001
Heather Riggleman is an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor for Crosswalk. She calls Nebraska home with her three kids and a husband of 22 years. She believes Jazzercise, Jesus, and tacos can fix anything and not necessarily in that order! She is author of I Call Him By Name Bible Study, the Bold Truths Prayer Journal, Mama Needs a Time Out, and a contributor to several books. You can find her at www.heatherriggleman.com or on Facebook.