Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts – Daniel 7

Who remembers how many kings Daniel has now served under? Can you name them?

King Nebuchadnezzar, King Belshazzar, and King Darius. One of them had a dream in Daniel 2 about future kingdoms. Do you remember who? Right, King Nebuchadnezzar.

In that dream, the King saw a great statue that was made up of a head of gold, it’s chest and arms were silver, it’s middle and thighs were bronze, and it had legs of iron and feet of iron mixed with clay. A stone struck the statue at it’s feet and broke up the feet into pieces. Then the entire statue was broken into pieces. This stone then became a mountain over the entire earth.

The interpretation of that dream was this: Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom were the head of gold. There would be a less great kingdom after him, that was the silver and it represented the Medo-Persian empire ruled by Darius. Then a third and lesser kingdom would rise that was the bronze belly and thighs of the statue, which was the Greek empire. After that would come a kingdom of iron (the legs) because iron breaks up all things, and it would be founded on feet of iron mixed with clay as the feet. This fourth kingdom was the Roman Empire.

After the four kingdoms, the interpretation of the dream showed the stone (not made by humans) that breaks up all the kingdoms and setup a king that would rule forever. This is God’s eternal kingdom. Remember, all of this was from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2 of Daniel. Now let’s look at chapter 7 where Daniel has a completely different dream, but it has a very similar interpretation that reveals the same four kingdoms and then God’s eternal reign. In this dream, the kingdoms are represented by animals rather than a big statue.

Where else in the Bible have we seen God reveal the same future events in two very different dreams?

In Genesis 37, Joseph had two dreams. In one dream, his own sheaf of grain stood up in the field, and the sheaves of grain of his father and brothers each bowed down to him. Then in another dream, the sun, moon, and eleven stars were all bowing down to him. Each dream foretold the same future when his entire family would bow down to him as the ruler in Egypt.

Later in Genesis 41, Pharaoh has two dreams. In one vision, the seven skinny and ugly cows eat up the seven fat cows. In another vision, the seven thin and ugly ears of corn eat and swallow up the seven plump and juicy ears of corn. Both dreams showed Joseph and Pharaoh that they would have seven years of great and bountiful harvest followed by seven years of horrendous drought and starvation.

This seems to be the Lord’s way of reinforcing or restating to the interpreter (Joseph in the book of Genesis and Daniel here in the book of Daniel) that the interpretation is correct, true, and certain.

Daniel 7 takes us back in time to when Daniel served under King Belshazzar. If you remember, Belshazzar was the ruler back in chapter 5 when the hand wrote on the wall, and then his kingdom was taken over in the night by Darius of the Medes and Persians.

Daniel’s Dream

    1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts.

(It sounds like Daniel kept a notebook by his bedside like I do. When I think of important things in the middle of the night, I write them down so I can remember them later.)

    2 Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea.
    3 “And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.

The four winds of heaven stir up the sea, and four beasts rise up out of the ocean. We know that only God controls the weather. It is safe to say that God is in control here, and that God allows the entire world’s political circumstances to be such that each of these kingdoms rises up and takes control. But only because God allows them to do so.

    For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. ~ Psalm 22:28 (ESV)

You see, God is in control of every single political situation in the world. He always has been and He always will be. Every king, every president, every country, every election, every government – they are all subject to God, and exist by God’s divine appointment and allowance.

    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.

Similar to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue with a gold head, this first beast is the kingdom of Babylon again. It was a lion with eagles wings. He had the strength and royal glory of a lion, coupled with the speed and power of an eagle. Daniel may have recognized that the first beast/kingdom was that of Babylon/Belshazzar, and that he would soon lose his throne.

    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!’

This second beast was a bear and it was “raised up on one side”. So it had an unequal power to it, where one side was stronger than the other. Remember, this kingdom was the Medes and the Persians combined in the Medo-Persian Empire. One of those kingdoms was the stronger of the two. The three ribs in it’s mouth could signify the three kingdoms it conquered – Egypt, Babylon, and Lydia. On the statue, this was the silver chest and arms meaning this kingdom was not as strong or great as Babylon was.

    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.

Beast number three is a depiction of the kingdom of Alexander the Great of Greece. Leopards are incredibly quick, and this one would have been even more so with four wings. That fact lines up well with the fact that Alexander took over the world quickly and at a very young age. After Alexander died, his kingdom was divided among four of his generals which are shown by the four heads of the leopard. On the statue, this kingdom was the bronze belly and thighs. Again, it’s a lesser metal that portrays a lesser kingdom.

    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.

This kingdom was that of the Roman Empire. It is so dreadful and terrifying that it cannot be described by any animals we know of. The Roman Empire lasted much longer than any of the others and it was more ruthless and powerful than the others. The 10 horns may represent the 10 successive strong kings that ruled the Roman Empire.

    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.

This little horn starts out small but becomes the most powerful. It overtakes three of the other horns. This little horn may signify the anti-christ.

“The angel seems more concerned to drive home his earlier words about the judgment to come and the triumph of the saints than to identify the little horn. The central point of the vision is that the time when the beastly kingdoms of the earth will oppress the saints is limited by God, and beyond it lies the scene of the heavenly court, where the beasts will finally be tamed and destroyed.” ~ (The ESV Study Bible, Copyright 2008 by Crossway Bibles)

    Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
    He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.
    And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
    The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
    ~ Revelation 20:1-4, 10

Satan, the anti-christ, and these kingdoms are only allowed to do what they will do by the God of the universe. They have NO POWER outside of what God allows. My point: God is in control, He is on the throne, and He watches over his people.

    More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)

    And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
    ~ 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)

Christ is Coming!

    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.
    12 “As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

We can see from these verses (9-12) that Jesus Christ is in control and judgment is coming.

    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.
    15 “I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.
    16 “I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things:
    17 ‘Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth.
    18 ‘But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.
    19 “Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its nails of bronze, which devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet;
    20 “and the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, before which three fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows.
    21 “I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them,
    22 “until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.

As believers at the end of all things, we will live and rule with Christ over the whole of his kingdom!

    23 “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast shall be A fourth kingdom on earth, Which shall be different from all other kingdoms, And shall devour the whole earth, Trample it and break it in pieces.
    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.
    25 He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand For a time and times and half a time.
    26 ‘But the court shall be seated, And they shall take away his dominion, To consume and destroy it forever.
    27 Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’
    28 “This is the end of the account. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly troubled me, and my countenance changed; but I kept the matter in my heart.”

Jesus is called the “Ancient of Days” in this passage. That name for Jesus reminds me that He is on the throne and in control and He always has been! He is in control even when the rest of the world seems to be spinning out of control.

    I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:33 (ESV)

    That people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things. ~ Isaiah 45:6-7 (ESV)

    For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
    And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. ~ Colossians 1:16-17 (ESV)

He is on the throne, and He is in control. I am so encouraged by that!

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