In our first reading the writer is privileged to look into heaven. He says, “As I watched, thrones were set up and the Ancient One took his throne.” As the vision went on he saw “One like the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.”
This passage in the Book of Daniel is like some passages in the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, and like many in the Book of Revelations. They are examples of apocalyptic literature.
To get a simple grasp on apocalyptic literature we should begin by taking the word apart. The core of the word is the syllable “cal.” Now, cal was originally the Indo-European word for a small tent, but primitive people, looking on the sky as a stiff tent over the world, called the sky a large cal. The first part of the word apocalyptic, the apo, means “away;” and the last syllable, the lypse means “to take.” Putting them together, the word apocalypse means taking the cover away. The cover of the sky is opened enough for the prophet to see into heaven.
We don’t take the Bible’s apocalyptic scenes of heaven to be true photographs. They are more like dreams. Dreams are not exact portrayals of reality, but they do carry meaning for those trained in interpretation.