Over the centuries there have been terrible disasters that to the people of the time would have seemed like signs of the apocalypse. There was the Black Death in the 14th century that killed 50 million people in Europe or some 60 percent of the population; the First World War followed by the influenza epidemic; and the destruction wrought by the Second World War.
A man thrown into a den of hungry lions; three youths cast into a massive furnace; dreams and visions; kings gone mad; angelic beings appearing and disappearing: the Book of Daniel is wild stuff. It certainly captivated Jesus, who identified himself as the visionary’s ‘Son of Man’ riding on the clouds as Lord and Judge of the world.
The kingdom of God is the heart and essence of Jesus’ teaching. References to the kingdom appear 114 times in the four gospels. According to our earliest gospel, Mark (1:15: cf. 3:24; 4:11, 26, 30), Jesus initiated his message with the proclamation, “The present era of history is at an end, the reign of God has come near; convert your mind and believe in the good news.”
We might think that, as a general rule, belonging to a group would be a good thing. However, today’s Scriptures teach us that belonging to a group might not be all positive. As members of a group, we might advance the group’s interests to the detriment of others outside the group. We might be so protective of the group’s achievements that we do not want anyone else to do the same things – simply because that person is “not one of us”.