Daniel’s vision of four beasts

The book of Daniel is mainly considered as a prophetic book which speaks about the last days.
Daniel’s interpretation of the king Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2 and Daniel’s visions in chapters 7 belong to a genre of prophecy termed "apocalyptic."
The word comes from the Greek apokalypsis, which means "revelation, making fully known, take the cover off,"

The Book of Daniel is one of the earliest apocalypses.
It was followed by many other Jewish apocalyptic literature written between 200 BC and 100 AD.
The Book of Revelation is another good example for apocalyptic writing.
Apocalyptic literature is full of symbols that are seen in dreams and visions.
The symbols are designed to communicate not just facts, but also emotional feelings.
Images in apocalyptic literature speak truly and accurately, but not precisely; we often do not know where the analogy stops.
Every detail of the vision or dream may not have significant meaning.
So it is important not to over-interpret these apocalyptic images and make everything “fit”.

Another characteristic of apocalyptic writings is a deterministic view - that history must run its course, but the end is predetermined by God.
The end of history will be a violent in-breaking by God to establish his kingdom.
Other examples of apocalyptic literature in the Old Testament include Zechariah and parts of Ezekiel.

Introduction to Chapter 7

From chapter 1 to 6 we have been reading primarily "court stories" about Daniel and his friends.
The stories describe their quest to be faithful to God while serving in the court of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors.
In Chapter 7 we shift to a series of visions that Daniel has seen.
In the first six chapters we have seen that God is in control of the evil forces of the day.
In the final chapters we see visions of the ultimate liberation of God's people by God who is in control of all history.
The accounts of God being with Daniel in the earlier chapters establish his credentials to prophecy the future.

Many believe that Daniel 7 is the most important chapter in the Book of Daniel.
The chapter provides the most comprehensive and detailed prophecy of future events.
It prophesies the direction of four major empires, and the establishment of the everlasting Kingdom of God.

The prophet records a night vision that God gave him concerning four world empires, symbolized as four beasts (Daniel 7:1–14).
He saw the vision of beasts in the first year of the reign of Belshazzar, probably in 553 bc.
Belshazzar was the eldest son of Nabonidus and Nitocris, who was perhaps a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon.
Belshazzar actually served as the regent for his father during the latter's prolonged absence from the city.
But he never assumed the titles or ritual functions of kingship.
He may have been killed when Babylon fell to the Persians in 539 BCE.

Daniel saw the vision during the regency of Belshazzar.
Daniel saw the "great sea" stirred up by the "four winds of heaven," and from the waters emerged four beasts.
The first a lion with the wings of an eagle, the second a bear, the third a winged leopard with four heads, and the fourth was a beast with ten horns.
And one more horn appeared on the head of the fourth beast which uprooted three of the ten.
As Daniel watches, the Ancient of Days took His seat on the throne of heaven and sat in judgment in the midst of the heavenly court.
Then the fourth and worst beast was judged and put to death.
And Daniel saw the Son of Man approaching the Ancient One in the clouds of heaven and He was given everlasting kingship.

The second chapter of the Book of Daniel tells about the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and how Daniel interpreted it.
God gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream about what kingdoms would arise after his Babylonian empire.
It was a dream of a great statue with a head of gold, arms and chest of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of mingled iron and clay.
A great stone, not cut by human hands, fell on the feet of the statue and destroyed it, and the rock became a mountain that filled the whole world.
This was the dream. After narrating it, Daniel goes on to interpret it for the King.
The dream is about four successive kingdoms, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar.
The fourth kingdom will be replaced by the everlasting kingdom of God.
God shows Daniel the identity of the first and last empires. The first is Babylon and the last is the Kingdom of God.
The traditional interpretation of the four kingdoms, shared among Jewish and Christian expositors identifies the kingdoms as the empires of BabylonMedo-PersiaGreece and Rome.

To know more about the dream and interpretation, please watch my video “Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream” in my video channel naphtalitribetv.com

Many scholars have contrasted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 with Daniel’s vision in chapter 7.
Both passages reveal the coming world kingdoms, but the symbolism is strikingly different in each.
The pagan king sees the kingdoms of this world as a towering work of art, impressive in size, value, and grandeur, except for the feet of clay.
God’s prophet sees the same kingdoms as bizarre, unnatural beasts, terrifying in aspect and behavior.
In Daniel 2, these kingdoms were revealed to an unbeliever, King Nebuchadnezzar.
The form of the image of Gold, silver, brass, iron and clay is a man’s perspective.
In Daniel 7, God revealed the same kingdoms to a believer, in form of beasts which is God’s perspective of these governments.
It’s a difference of perspective: where man sees a stately, glittering tribute to himself, God sees a menagerie of aberrations.
The two sets of dreams and visions were about 50 years apart; but as we will see, they both describe four world empires.
The vision of the four beasts and the little horn found in Daniel 7 reveals more about the same four empires that are first described in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great image.

The Great Sea (7: 2)

Daniel’s vision of the four beasts begins with a windy night and a troubled sea:

Daniel 7:2 Daniel spoke, saying, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea.”  (NKJV)

Daniel begins to tell his vision of beasts that arise from a turbulent sea.
For the Hebrews, the sea was a place of chaos, evil, and danger.
The image of beasts coming out of the sea may be perceived as kingdoms arising from dangerous evil.

The Four Beasts (7: 3- 8)

As Daniel watches, “four great beasts,” each different from the others, emerge from the dark waters.
A heavenly being explains the vision that the four beasts are four earthly kings or kingdoms.
The beasts are the succession of world power from one kingdom to another.
And some day God will destroy the last human government and establish His eternal kingdom.
The vision predicts major world empires and events from the time of Daniel to the second coming of Christ.

Daniel saw these kingdoms as wild beasts that came out of the sea and devour other nations.
His vision about the future of the worldly kingdoms centers on these four beasts: a winged lion, a bear, a winged leopard, and a dreadful and terrible beast.
They represented four kingdoms dominated the course of events in the Near East during their rule.
Although none of these kingdoms controlled every part of the world, their ideas have greatly influenced civilization ever since.
This is particularly true of Greece and Rome, whose cultures and ideas have shaped much of the governmental, educational, social and religious thinking and practices of the Western world.

The kingdoms of the world are referred to as beasts because those kingdoms are cruel as wild beasts. They are vicious and ruthless.
Daniel’s vision assures us that the world’s empires have a certain amount of authority for a certain length of time, but they will all pass away.
'But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.' (Daniel 7: 18 - NKJV)

The Lion with Wings of an Eagle - Babylon

Now let us concentrate our attention to the study of the beasts in the vision.
Daniel 7: 4 "The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man's heart was given to it.  (NKJV)

The first kingdom is represented by a lion that has the wings of an eagle.
A lion was a dangerous beast that lived throughout the ancient Near East.
The Old Testament prophets called Babylon a lion.
A lion with eagle’s wings was a prominent symbol on Babylonian coins and on Babylon’s walls.
Decorations with the image of yellow lions was popular in Babylon.
They were found on the blue glazed bricks on the famous Ishtar Gate and the Processional Street leading to it.
The Ishtar Gate was the eighth gate to the inner city of Babylon
It was constructed in about 575 BCE by order of King Nebuchadnezzar II on the north side of the city.
It was excavated in the early 20th century, and a reconstruction using original bricks, completed in 1930, is now shown in Berlin’s Pergamon Museum.
In Assyria and Babylon, archaeologists have found statues of winged lions and sometimes bulls, placed as protectors at the entrances of palaces and important public buildings.
The wings of an eagle add the idea of swiftness to the image.
The lion with wings aptly describes the powerful rule of Babylon from 605 to 539 B.C.

Thus the winged lion refers to the Babylonian empire, which was still strong when Daniel was given this vision about 550 BC.
Just as the head of gold in the figure in Nebuchadnezzar's dream represented Babylon, so this first beast probably represents Babylon as well.
The lion’s wings plucked off were symbolic of Nebuchadnezzar’s time of insanity when he was humbled by God to learn that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men” (Daniel 4:17 - NKJV).
He became a beast dwelling with beasts and eating grass like an ox for seven years. (Daniel 4:25).
His hair grew as long as eagles’ wings and his nails as birds’ claws. (Daniel 4:33)

After accomplishing his appointed times, Nebuchadnezzar represented by the lion with eagles’ wings, returned to God and he was lifted up from the earth and made to stand with two feet like a man and the heart of man given to him.
That is after being a beasts who stood with four legs, for seven years in insanity, Nebuchadnezzar was returned to sanity and his kingdom as a man standing with two legs. 
The lion receiving a human heart may refer to his humanitarian rule after his days of insanity.

Following his father’s death, Nebuchadnezzar reigned as king of Babylon for 43 years, from 604-561 B.C.
Nebuchadnezzar ruled from Babylon to Asia Minor and from the Caspian Sea to Egypt.
Biblically, his most notable conquest was that of the nation of Judah, with Daniel being the most famous captive from that nation.
After his death, Babylon continued as a strong empire until 539 B.C.
Then it was conquered by the second rising power in Daniel’s vision, the Medo-Persian Empire.

Bear with Three Ribs in Its Mouth - Medo-Persia

Daniel 7: 5 "And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: 'Arise, devour much flesh!'  (NKJV)

The second beast resembled a bear that was lying on its side, whose one side was raised up than the other and had three ribs in its teeth.
The bear was regarded as a ferocious predator in ancient times.
A voice tells the second beast to devour flesh until it is satisfied.
The bear probably represents the Medo-Persian Empire that replaced the Babylonian Empire.
The raising up of one side of the creature indicates that one of the kingdom’s parts (Persia) would be dominant.
In Daniel 8, this is made plain to Daniel in a vision two years later when he sees a ram with two horns, one being higher than the other.
Daniel is told by the angel Gabriel that the ram represents the kings of Media and Persia (Daniel 8:3, 20).

The three ribs that are devoured represent three empires conquered by Persia’s first great king, Cyrus the Great, and his son, Cambyses II.
Cyrus came to power in 558 B.C.  He conquered the Lydian Empire in Asia Minor in 546 and the Babylonian Empire in 539; and his son Cambyses, conquered Egypt in 525.
Under later kings, the empire expanded to Greece in the west and to India in the east.
At one point, the Persian Empire covered parts of three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe.

This bear is another illustration of the chest and arms of silver in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
This is the Empire of the Medes and Persians, where eventually the Persians took full control.
The Medo-Persian Empire lasted for 200 years until it fell to Alexander the Great in 330 BC.
A new beast was rising in the west, and its appointed time had come.

Leopard with Wings of a Bird - Greece

 Daniel 7: 6  "After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. (NKJV)

The third of the four beasts is “like a leopard,” except it has four bird-like wings on its back and four heads (Daniel 7:6).
The leopard is named among other the ferocious animals of the Bible, known for its speed.
The wings add additional swiftness to an already extremely fast animal.
In Daniel’s vision, the beast is given authority to rule.
If the Neo-Babylonian and Medo-Persian Empires are the first two beasts, then this would represent the next empire to rise, the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great.
As with the second beast, the third beast is clearly identified by the angel Gabriel. (8: 21)
It was Greece, and the “first king” was Alexander the Great.
After his untimely death in 323 B.C., his empire was divided into four smaller kingdoms (Daniel 8:22). The Greeks ruled from 331 to 168 B.C.

The four wings may refer to the four corners of the earth, signifying world domination.
It may also signify the swiftness of its conquests.
He had four generals synonymous to the four wings of a fowl which kept the troupes moving.
The four heads are predictive of the four divisions of the empire after the death of Alexander.

The leopard is equaled to the belly of brass in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
Alexander the Great of Greece moved fast, struck quickly and he was brilliant in his planning and execution like a leopard.
He conquered all of Asia Minor or Turkey in less than two years in between 334-333 B.C., with 48,100 soldiers, 6,100 cavalry soldiers and 120 ships.
He defeated Darius III at the Battle of Issus in November of 333 taking control of the Medo-Persian Empire.
But after his death, several years of struggle ensued that resulted in the division of his empire into four kingdoms.
The new kingdoms were (1) Greece and Macedon, (2) Thrace and Asia Minor, (3) Middle East-Asia and (4) Egypt-Palestine.
His four generals - Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy—divided up the empire.
According to some historians, Cassander, Ptolemy, Antigonus, and Seleucus were the successors.
The four heads probably refer to the four generals who succeeded Alexander the Great and divided up the empire.

The Beast with Iron Teeth, Bronze Claws, and Ten Horns – Rome

Daniel's vision gives special emphasis to the fourth beast, both in the description of the vision and its interpretation.

Daniel 7: 7, 8
7    "After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.
 8   "I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. (NKJV)

The basic type of the animal represented by the fourth beast isn't given.
However, its deadly weapons are described.
It is called, “terrible and powerful, and exceedingly strong” with “huge iron teeth” and “ten horns”.
It totally devoured, crushed and trampled down the former kingdoms.

The large iron teeth would crush and devour its victims.
Bronze claws would rip and tear at its victims until they were lacerated, bleeding, and ready to kill with its teeth.
The remaining carcasses were trampled under its feet.
The horns are a symbol of strength and military power throughout the ancient Near East.
It often represents pride and honor.
The "up-lifted horn" towards God, seen in the vision, represents overweening, rebellious pride.
These ten horns represent ten kings.

As we have seen above, the third beast represented the Greek empire
It was divided into four nations after the death of Alexander the Great, but all of them finally fell into the hands of their enemies.
Approximately two centuries later, the fourth beast conquered all four of these kingdoms and expanded far beyond the lands conquered by the previous beasts.

The fourth beast represents the Roman Empire that rose to power after the fall of the Greek empire.
The Roman Empire began when Augustus Caesar in 44 BC became the first emperor of Rome and ended, in the west, when the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed by the Germanic King Odoacer (476 CE).
It encompassed most of the territory from the Near East through the westernmost parts of Europe.
It was a mighty kingdom that indeed crushed all its foes.
Rome grew infamous for its intense persecution of Jews and Christians.

The fourth beast is synonymous with the two legs of iron in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
The Roman Empire devoured, broke in pieces and trampled the residue of its enemies with its feet.
The Roman Empire was brutal and it crushed every person and government to submission.

Ten Horns

The fourth beast is quite different from the previous beasts - it has 10 horns.
Because of Daniel's particular interest, the angel in the vision explained the meaning of the horns.

Daniel 7: 24   The ten horns are ten kings Who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, And shall subdue three kings. (NKJV)

Historically a revival of the Roman Empire with 10 kingdoms happened after the fall of the empire.
It has been said that the ten horns which Daniel describes are the member nations of the European Community.
Although their number isn’t ten any longer, their original intention was to form a union with ten nations.

Thus the ten horns are synonymous to the ten toes in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that speak of the resurrected Roman Empire or the present day European Union.
The ten horns are the same as the ten toes in chapter two.
The final world empire will be a union of individual kingdoms.
It will exist in this world mixed with other kinds of governments.

We are living in a world influenced in all areas by the Roman Empire.
Many of the institutions that stand in our world today came originally from Rome.
Many of the languages spoken in the Western world were derived from the Roman’s language – Latin.
The Roman Church still holds sway over vast portions of the world.
The Orthodox Church claims its root to the Eastern Roman Empire.
Even the United States is a product of Europe in many ways, it is a product of the Roman Empire.

The little horn

 Daniel 7:8 "I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.  (NKJV)

Daniel’s attention is drawn to the destructive fourth beast, and he ponders the meaning of its ten horns.
Then, a smaller horn begins to grow from the midst of the ten.
As the little horn emerges from the beast, three of the original horns are plucked out by the roots.
Daniel sees that the little horn has “eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully” (Daniel 7: 8).
The proud, boastful words of the little horn continues until the Ancient of Days sets up a day of judgment (9,10).
At that time, “the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame.” (7:11 -NKJV)
This is in contrast to the fate of the other three beasts, who lost their dominion but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. (7:12)

The little horn represents the Antichrist who will emerge within the Big Ten, take control of the European Union and knock out three countries out of the union. 
This little horn may also represent a powerful religious system that would align with the last seven of the 10 political horns that were to arise after the fall of Rome.
That may be the meaning of the feet and toes made with a mixture of iron and clay that we see in king Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
The Antichrist will take his position of leadership at the expense of three of those leaders, and he will eventually wield global authority.
A true tyrant, the Antichrist will demand worship and seek to control all aspects of life, as we see him in Revelation 13: 16 - 17.

Christians have been persecuted through the centuries, as hundreds and thousands of people in Europe lost their lives.
Even apostles gave warning about the presence of the spirit of antichrist during their days itself.
In 1 John 2:18 we read, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” (NKJV)
So antichrist is a spirit more than a person that may possesses people and drive them to persecute the church of Jesus Christ.
He will speak great and terrible words against the true and living God.
The Bible indicates religious persecutions from the “little horn” will come back and result in the death of many before the return of Christ.
Daniel also saw the end of the “little horn” along with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ returns, “But the court shall be seated, And they shall take away his dominion, To consume and destroy it forever.” (7: 26 - NKJV)
Daniel watches while the "little horn" continues to speak boastfully, the fourth beast is destroyed and its body thrown into the blazing fire.
This remind us of verses in Revelation concerning the Antichrist and the False Prophet:
"The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies...." (Revelation 13:5)
"But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet.... The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur." (Revelation 19:20)

Son of Man and the Kingdom of God

Now we come to one of the most important passages in the Book of Daniel for Christians.
Daniel 7: 13 is the source of Jesus' own self-title as "Son of Man".
It helps us to understand the main theme of Jesus’ ministry, the Kingdom of God.
The Son of Man who reigns over the Kingdom of God is also the climax of Daniel's vision of the destruction of the beast-nation.

Kingdom of God is the focus of the visions and interpretations of King Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel.
In Daniel 2, as we have discussed above, King Nebuchadnezzar saw a huge statue made with different metals and clay, starting with a head of gold and ending with toes made of iron and clay.
The dream ends with a vision of a stone that fall on the feet of the statue and destroying the whole thing.

And in Daniel’s vision of beasts, the fourth is an indescribable beast with no type to mention.
Daniel has seen the vicious beast rising from the evil sea and a "little horn" that uproots others.
Now he sees a vision of God in his heavenly courtroom.
The end of the beast is the end of the worldly kingdoms.
God is in control, and far above the beasts and powers of the earth and sea.
The Kingdom of God will be established only after the fourth beast is destroyed.

Daniel’s vision now leaps forward in time to the judgment which comes before the next kingdom.
Scripture flashes away from the beast and gives us a glimpse of heaven where God is on the throne.

Daniel 7: 9 - 11
9    "I watched till thrones were put in place, And the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, And the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire;
10 A fiery stream issued And came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, And the books were opened.
11 "I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. (NKJV)

The Ancient of Days is the Eternal God, Yahweh and the Most High God.
The expression "Ancient of Days" speaks of the eternal existence of God.
The Hebrew word for court actually means “judgment.”
When God comes and the fourth beast is killed and thrown into the burning flame.
After that Jesus Christ as the Son of Man, appears before the Most High God to receive His Kingdom.

Daniel 7: 13, 14
13   "I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him.
14   Then 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 the one Which shall not be destroyed. (NKJV)

The “son of man” came “with the clouds of heaven!”
“He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence”
The Son of Man was given “authority, glory and sovereign power” and all nations of earth worship him.
Only a deity is worthy of this kind of worship.
The implication is that this "one like a son of man" is divine.
The kingdom He rules is everlasting and indestructible.
This prophecy ends by revealing that Jesus will establish the Kingdom of God on earth and give it to the saints of the Most High.

The awesome Yahweh, Most High God, the holder of all authority, glory, and sovereign power gives these very prerogatives of divinity to this "one like a son of man."
Just before his ascension, Jesus told his disciples: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations...." (Matthew 28:18 -19)

Philippians 2:9 - 11
9    Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth,
11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (NKJV)

Let me cut short.
Daniel’s vision of the four beasts provided a prophetic look at future world events.
Looking back from our perspective, we see these events as world history and can easily see the correlation between each beast and a world empire.
However some of it is yet future, even for us.

Daniel’s vision warned Israel that there would be a procession of enemies and world rulers holding authority over them.
However, they should not lose heart. In the end, God is in control, and the Messiah to come will defeat the kingdoms of this world and establish His throne forever (Daniel 2:44; 7:13–14; Revelation 11:15).

The 4 beasts seen in Daniel dream is God revealing to a believer, the world time-line and governments to come in a Godly perspective.
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is God revealing to a non-believer, Nebuchadnezzar, the world time-line and governments to come in man’s perspective.
According to man, human governments are of gold silver brass iron and clay, thus they are beautiful proper and orderly, but in God eyes they are beasts.
This vision disturbed Daniel, and it has disturbed a great many others as well.
But the overall message is a positive one.
Despite all that the evil empires will accomplish, the Lord is still in control and at His pre-ordained time, he will return and make all things right.

Watch the video of this message in English and Malayalam @ naphtalitribetv.com
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