Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts – Daniel 7:1-28

 
“In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed.” With the end of Daniel 6 we come to the conclusion of the historical part of the Book of Daniel. The second half of this book, begins long before chapter 6 and then it skips around chronologically. This is the difficult section – the prophetical section – which is open to debate by all the experts. This chapter takes place during the first year of Belshazzar’s reign – about 17 years before the last chapter.

I have decided that our best approach is to look at this entire prophesy in one sitting. We’ll probably come back to some of the details and special applications later, but it’s important that we begin with a basic understanding of the chapter as a unit. And to this end, we have a simple exposition, skipping some details, so that we can grasp the whole.

Verse 2
“I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.” Perhaps the very language of this verse approves my approach for this evening. Daniel probably meant the Mediterranean when he referred to “the great sea,” but he doesn’t tell us. Apparently it really isn’t important what sea it was, if any sea at all. The language suggests that we move on to the general principles rather than getting bogged down in the details. There are some experts who really stress the point that “the sea” is a reference to mankind in general.

Well then what about the four winds? There are some who want to say that these four winds make up the ministry of the Holy Spirit. While I can’t quarrel with their intention, I’m not sure that raising that point doesn’t create more questions than answers. How can four winds speak of one Spirit, and why should they? Those experts have their explanations, but they seem a little far-fetched to me. Some people think that this is important, but I disagree. Even though this is a divinely sent dream, it was nevertheless, a dream, identifying the wind and the waves is not essential to the over-all meaning of the revelation.

What is important is that four great, diverse beasts came up in succession out of the sea. The first was like a lion with wings, but the wings were plucked off. It then stood up on it’s hind legs like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it – not to eat, but to possess. Something to keep in mind at this point is that God does not give Daniel much in the way of explanation. Two years later, as we see in the next chapter, another vision was given, and the interpretation is shared. But, apparently for twenty-four months, Daniel was left in confusion about who these beasts will be. That puts the Bible interpreter into a ticklish spot…. should he name the beasts or keep silent until the next chapter? I’m going to compromise by giving you my opinion, but not going to great lengths to prove that opinion. That lion, moving with the swiftness of an eagle, was Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian Empire. This was a new representation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the image with the head of gold. Eventually, the lion was given a man’s heart – he softened, became humble and submitted himself to God.

“And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.” 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. Various commentaries make the three ribs to represent a variety of kingdoms which the Medes and Persians conquered. Was this bear more destructive and devouring than its predecessor? Perhaps so.

“After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.” Later we are going to be told that the third kingdom would be the Greek Empire, and of course history verifies each of these interpretations. Alexander, the Macedonian, with the swiftness of a winged leopard swept across the Persian Empire. And when the short-lived Grecian Empire came to an end, it actually was divided into four sections; one segment of which involved Herod’s control over Syria, including the land of Israel.

These three kingdoms correspond perfectly with the first aspects of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream – Daniel 2:32 – “This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.”

The fourth beast in Daniel’s vision corresponds to the legs of iron, culminating in the feet of clay. But there is a new feature added to the context of these four empires.

The fourth beast and it’s horns.
“After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.”

I find it interesting that in the next chapter the first three beasts are named, but the fourth is not. Babylon, the Medes and Persians, followed by Greece are all clearly delineated, but the kingdom which shall be ruling over the gentile world when the stone cut out of the mountain arrives – isn’t named.

History helps us by showing that the Greeks fell to the Romans, and therefore the fourth beast is Rome. The problem is that the first three kingdoms fell in rapid succession – relatively speaking. But there has been over 2,000 years now, since the Romans came to power. Are we sure that Rome is the fourth beast? My answer is a qualified “yes.” We are still living in a “Romanesque” world, if I may use that word improperly. 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. And just as the United States is a product of Europe in many ways, it is a product of the Roman 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, that is a possibility because of the way that today’s countries have been united in the past.

But what about the last horn – the little horn? Verse 8 – “I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.” I won’t try to prove it to you tonight, but I have no doubt that this is the Antichrist who is more fully described in the Book of Revelation. Some might say that it’s my job to identify him and prove who he is, but I’m not sure that it is my job. The Lord hasn’t given Daniel a lot of information about him, as yet. We will come back to him in time, but perhaps we should stick to the context of this dream of Daniel.

Admittedly Daniel was disturbed and concerned about who and what this horn represented. It spake great and terrible words – verse 11. Verse 20 says that this horn destroyed three of the earlier ten horns. And it “had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.” By this time there was someone in his vision to whom Daniel could turn – and he did. “Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High.”

We are going to learn more about this horn later, but trying to maintain the context Daniel’s revelation, let’s leave it at this. I believe that the little horn is the Antichrist. He will speak great and terrible words against the Lord – the true and living God. He will attack the saints who are upon the earth after he has gained control of the Romanesque Empire. He will essentially say in his heart “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north.” But he will be brought down to hell – to the sides of the pit instead.

And this is the primary point of the Lord’s revelation to Daniel in this first year of Belshazzar.

The Lord’s kingdom and dominion supercedes all the kingdom’s of men and beasts.
Verse 9 – “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.”

There is no way to read these words without thinking of Jehovah. It doesn’t matter to me if you are picturing God the Father, or if you’d prefer God the Son. In this they are absolutely united. The image is one who is absolutely pure and holy, but whose holiness demands holiness. Therefore there is an unquenchable fire which emanates off His throne. When we read, “and the books were opened,” I am forced to think of Revelation 20 – “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” It is Jehovah who is described in both these scriptures, and it may in fact be the same future judgment.

The little horn, the Antichrist will wage war against the saints of God in an effort to defy God Himself. Verse 25 says that “he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. Hitherto is the end of the matter.”

Ever since the days of Cain and Nimrod, Satan has been using the wicked to attack the Lord. In the last days, and we are standing at the edge of those days…. In the last days, Satan will empower a dynamic world leader who will wow the world and woo Israel. That man will ultimately turn upon anyone and everyone who even remotely professes the name of the Lord. His power will reach its highest point during the Tribulation. But when the world will appear to be as dark and desolate as it has ever before, the Lord will return. He will put down the wicked and establish His millennial kingdom, sitting upon the throne of his father David. Under Him “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.”

I know that 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.