This study begins to examine the visions Daniel has about future kingdoms and relates them to actual historical facts.
In the final part of his book, Daniel will describe dreams and visions that he had concerning events that were mentioned in the original dream of Nebuchadnezzar. In that dream, he saw the overview of history for the next 600 years and beyond. The visions he has now will give more details concerning the events he foresaw in Nebuchadnezzar’s original dream.
The balance of Daniel’s book contains four visions concerning world powers, but also other visions of future events and an appearance of God’s angel.
First I will give you an overview of the next 6 chapters then we will go into detail about the visions and their historical fulfillment. Here is what it looks like as a chart.
Chapter 2 – The original dream describing the future kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greek, Roman, kingdom of God. These were represented by the image of a statue.
Chapter 7 – In the first vision Daniel sees the same kingdoms, but this time he sees them as beasts. Remembering this avoids confusion.
- Lion – Babylon
- Bear – Medo-Persian
- Leopard – Greece
- Terrible Beast – Rome
- The Lord and saints – Kingdom of God
Chapter 8 – More information concerning the second and third kingdoms, especially their struggle for power. The Medo-Persian Empire represented as a two-horned ram and the Greek shown as a swift he-goat with one great horn. Daniel describes the victory by the he-goat and his subsequent demise and replacements.
Chapter 9 – Is a prophecy more than a vision. In this chapter, Daniel recognizes that the captivity of the Jews predicted to be for 70 years is now over and he prays and urges their return based on Jeremiah’s prophecy. He also makes a prophecy about the future duration of the Jewish nation in terms of 70 weeks. We will examine this from a historical perspective and look at Jewish numerology.
Chapter 10 – An angel appears to Daniel and prepares him for more visions to come. He also provides a certain insight into the struggle taking place and the spiritual discussion between God’s angels and Satan’s demons.
Chapter 11 – This chapter predicts events that will take place between the rise and fall of the Greek and Roman Empires.
When the Greek Empire was in decline after Alexander’s death, his empire was divided among his four generals. One of these generals received control of Egypt and Palestine. This region was in great turmoil during this time as regional powers (Syrians in the north) fought southern kings (Egypt) for control. These local wars took place before Rome took over and eventually seized control of all the regions putting an end to all conflict. Daniel, however, prophesies concerning the outcome of these regional struggles centuries before they took place.
Chapter 12 – The final chapter summarizes the conflict between the last great world power and the kingdom of God, the church. Daniel correctly sees the victory of the saints after much persecution by the 4th kingdom.
Our problem with these chapters is determining the exact time that Daniel is referring to. Some visions of prophecy can be taken literally or symbolically, they fit either way. Some prophecies have primary, secondary, and even final fulfillments.
- Primary fulfillment in Daniel’s day (King’s madness)
- Secondary fulfillment in history (Greek, Rome, etc.)
- Final fulfillment at the end of time (Second coming)
The visions and symbols can be flexible as to when they find their final interpretation.
For example, do they just point to the destruction of Rome and the beginning of the church? Do they refer to the destruction of Satan’s forces and the Antichrist and the second coming of Jesus?
Our goal is to explain the meanings and help readers understand the possible indications and interpretations of each.
Daniel 7 – The 4 beasts
Chapter 7 is a continuation of the vision and prophecy found in chapter 2, except now the statue is replaced with the imagery of four beasts.
The chapter is divided into two sections: verses 1-15 the vision itself and verses 16-28 the interpretation.
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and related the following summary of it. 2 Daniel said, “I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3 And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another. 4 The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. 5 And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’ 6 After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, 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. 7 After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts.
9 “I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire.10 “A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened.
11 Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.
13 “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 14 “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.
15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me.
– Daniel 7:1-15
The 1st year of Belshazzar suggests that Daniel is recording something which took place in the past, about 555 BC. He begins with a description of the four beasts.
- A lion with wings who loses them stands on hind legs and given the heart of a man.
- A bear standing upright favoring one side with three ribs in its mouth and a voice telling it to devour.
- A leopard with four wings, four heads. Dominion is given to it.
- A terrible beast, strong with iron teeth, destructive, with ten horns. Three horns are removed for a little horn which becomes more powerful than the others. This other horn has eyes, and a mouth speaking blasphemy.
- God’s throne on blazing wheels (God is everywhere, judges quickly). Books are opened and the beast is destroyed. The Son of Man appears and is given dominion forever.
16 “approached one of those who were standing by and began asking him the exact meaning of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. 18 But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.”
19 “Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze and which devoured, crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet, 20 and the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head and the other horn which came up, and before which three of them fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts and which was larger in appearance than its associates. 21 I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them 22 until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.
23 “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. 24 As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. 26 But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’
28 “At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”
– Daniel 7:16-28
These verses contain Daniel’s interpretation. Four beasts referred to as kings who embody the kingdom they represent. He does not give any information about the first three but he is curious about the fourth beast. The horns represent 10 kings and the little horn that uproots three of those ten kings. This little horn will blaspheme against God and wear out the saints for a TIME, TIMES, ½ TIME. The saints will eventually conquer and inherit an everlasting kingdom.
Now the historical setting for this vision is given by Daniel himself within his book. He tells us that the first kingdom is Babylon. We also know that God’s kingdom begins during the reign of the fourth kingdom. The middle kingdoms (Medo-Persian and Greek) are explained in chapter 8.
We have historical information about these kingdoms that help us understand Daniel’s vision:
1. Vision regarding Babylon
Nebuchadnezzar’s palace was adorned with lions with wings that fit with the vision. The plucking of the wings could refer to his madness and loss of rulership for a time. The giving of a human heart to an animal can refer to the point where he was healed after he repented and began to acknowledge and worship God.
2. Vision regarding Medo-Persian Empire
The image of a bear favoring one side refers to the Medo-Persian Empire where one side of a dual-natured kingdom was stronger than the other (Persians eventually were superior). The Medo-Persians were more aggressive and conquered more territory than the Babylonians.
3. Vision regarding the Greek
The leopard, swift and powerful represents well the quickness of the Alexandrian conquest of the world in 12 years. The four heads refer to the four generals that took over and divided among themselves Alexander’s empire after his death. Dominion given to it confirms that Alexander had complete control. Each kingdom gets progressively bigger.
4. Vision regarding Rome
Rome was the last world empire after Greece. It was the most vicious and powerful. What it did not conquer and loot, it merely destroyed.
The significance of the horns is the following. Before Christ, Rome was ruled as a republic. After Julius Caesar, Rome was ruled by single emperors beginning with Augustus through Domitian who was the eleventh ruler, the little horn. The three horns displaced to make room for him could refer to “house emperors,” co-conspirators with Domitian who were later killed. The eyes and voice of the little horn suggest that the empire was embodied by this one person.
Daniel says that this horn blasphemes God and historical records show that Domitian ordered his subjects to refer to him as Lord and God while he was alive.
5. Vision regarding the kingdom of God
The next scene shows the throne of God surrounded by angels who destroy the terrible beast.
Although Rome did not fall on Pentecost Sunday, when the church was established, this was the beginning of the end with the last gasp coming some three centuries later. Verse 25 “Time, times and ½ time” refers to an indefinite amount of time over which these things will happen. A period of time, followed by a period twice as long, followed by a period cut short.
Rome was the last world empire succeeded by the kingdom of God. Daniel prophesied that no other kingdom would dominate the world or the church. Many have tried and failed. Napoleon failed, Kaiser failed, Hitler failed, USSR failed. At the moment the USA is the strongest world power but it does not rule the world. It cannot, not because of the US or European unity or Sharia. It cannot because God’s Word through Daniel says that Rome was the last world empire and it was destroyed by the kingdom of God. We see the results today. Rome lays in the dust for 1700 years and the church continues to grow and covers the world.
Daniel does not give the details (Revelation does) but merely states that the terrible beast (same reference in Revelation) is judged and destroyed by God’s throne, His saints and the appearance of His Son.
Here are two important lessons from this chapter:
1. Fulfilled prophecy is the surest sign of the Bible’s inspiration.
The only way these things could be seen is if an Almighty and Eternal God revealed it to man and he recorded it. There is no other way to explain this phenomenon. It is beyond coincidence, beyond informed guess, impossible to manipulate. The only conclusion is inspired by an all-knowing and eternal being.
We believe that the Bible is God’s Word because it is filled with fulfilled prophecy only available through divine revelation.
2. God’s Word is sure
If God says that the 11th king of an empire that will only exist 600 years into the future will sin in a certain way, be destroyed and his empire replaced, and it all happens… Then if He says “trust Me, I will provide”, “believe in Jesus and you will be forgiven”, “be faithful and you will be saved”, then you can be sure it will happen.
God’s Word is sure because it is God’s word, not man’s. We need to study it, know it, obey it, and be assured that what it says will happen, good and bad.