Mid Week • Daniel 7
The book of Daniel is 12 chapters, and it divides nicely into two parts:
The first half, chapters 1-6 tell us stories out of the life of Daniel and his friends who as Jewish exiles in Babylon were given positions of prominence in the administration of the kingdom.
Their integrity ensured that when the Persians conquered Babylon, they kept their positions in the new government.
The second half, chapters 7-12 give us visions Daniel had of the future.
It’s in these chapters that we see Daniel as prophet.
What makes the Book of Daniel so important to students of prophecy is that the visions and dreams Daniel had are highly detailed and lay out the whole scope of human history right up to and in to the reign of Christ.
John uses many of the images and symbols Daniel describes here in His prophecy n the Book of Revelation.
This is why the great conservative commentator John Walvoord calls the book of Daniel the Key to Prophetic Revelation – it’s the key for unlocking an understanding of the rest of prophecy.
In this chapter, we’re going to get a heavenly perspective on something we’ve already encountered in chapter 2.
There we read about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a large image of a man made of different metals.
Daniel first of all told the king of Babylon what he had seen in his dream, then went on to give its meaning.
The image represented the entire scope of human history from that time to the end when the Messiah would set up the kingdom of God which would have no end.
In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he saw an image of a metal man, the different metals and body parts representing the sequential flow of one empire leading in to another.
From this earthly or human perspective, these worldly empires looked impressive and strong.
Here in ch. 7, Daniel also has his own vision of human history form that time to the climax in the Return of Christ, but he sees things from their heavenly perspective.
So he doesn’t see a human form made of different metals.
He sees vicious, brute beasts who are bent on consuming what lies before them.
1In 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.
As we saw in chapter 5, Belshazzar was the last king of Babylon.
He ruled as co-regent with his father Nabonidus and was on the throne the night the Persians conquered the city.
In the first year of his reign, when Daniel would have been about 70 years old, Daniel had a dream.
In this dream he saw things he knew were more than a dream; they were visions granted him by God.
So as soon as he was awake, he penned what he had seen.
Then, later, he shared his vision with others . . .
2Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. 3And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.
The wind is used often in scripture to speak of the activity of God as it moves in the affairs of earth.
Here we see the power of God applied to the surface of the Great Sea, meaning the Mediterranean.
As the winds blow on the water, they whip it into a stormy, wave-tossed sea.
While the wind is emblematic if scripture of the activity of God, the sea always carries a negative connotation.
In Rev. 17:15 and Isa. 17:12, the sea speaks of the Gentile kingdoms of the world that are in opposition to God.
As a nation, Israel has always feared and avoided the sea, except for one brief attempt to build a commercial navy under Solomon.
The seas was seen as the origin of so much of the Gentile power that came to trouble and oppress Israel.
The Sea Peoples, like the Phoenicians and the Philistines, came from the west, across the Mediterranean and landed on the coast to give nothing but trouble to Israel.
The sea was seen as the final resting place of corruption and death.
In the Book of Revelation, one of the blessings of the New Heavens and Earth is that there is no more sea.
In v. 2, the sea is the fount from which 4 vicious beasts rise.
The power of God stirs the surface of this sea, and in reaction these creatures come forth.
These beasts are all different from each other, and as we look at the next verses we realize they did not all come up at the same time, they arose in sequence . . .
4The 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.
The first beast Daniel sees was lion-like.
What marked it as unusual were the wings that protruded from it’s back.
These wings resembled an eagle’s.
Turn to v. 17.
An angel comes to interpret Daniel’s dream, and says this . . .
‘Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth.
These four beasts Daniel sees represent 4 kings and kingdoms, just like the four metals of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream represented 4 world-dominating empires.
It’s not hard to see that this first beast is the same of the Head of Gold in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
Winged lions were one of the most common decorative images in Babylon.
The lion spoke of regal power and invincible strength.
It’s the king of the beasts and had no natural enemy which can challenge it’s dominance of the animal kingdom.
The eagle is a creature that soars high in the sky and rules the air like the lion rules the earth.
This first beast clearly represents Babylon and specifically, Nebuchadnezzar, whom Daniel said God had given to be in dominion over all men and creatures.
Listen to Daniel’s words to Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 2 . . .
37You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; 38and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold.
This power went to Nebuchadnezzar’s head as we know, and he began to think of himself as a god.
So the Lord humbled him, as is represented by the eagle’s wings being plucked from off the Lion’s back.
But then, the lion’s form was changed and instead of going about like a brute least on all fours, it morphed into a creature like a man, walking on two legs, and a man’s heart or nature was given to it.
This undoubtedly refers to Nebuchadnezzar’s period of insanity which came as God’s judgment.
But once Nebuchadnezzar was humbled and realized his dependence on God, his sanity and kingdom were restored to him and instead of being a mere beast, he became a man!
This is a beautiful picture of his conversion to faith in God.
But Daniel’s vision isn’t done, there are 3 beasts yet to encounter . . .
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!’
As we follow the parallel to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in ch. 2, we realize this relates to the chest and arms of silver, which represented the Medo-Persian empire which replaced Babylon during the reign of Belshazzar, some 14 years after Daniel had this vision.
Persia is well represented by a bear.
The Persians were not at all known for the swiftness of their armies.
Their military formations were slow and cumbersome, but brutal in their force, like a bear.
This bear lies on it’s side, with one side higher than the other.
This pictures the Persian dominance over the Medes in the Persian-Median alliance.
In the bear’s mouth are three ribs.
It seems the bear is gnawing on them and sucking the sweetness from them.
These ribs represent the three main territories the Persians conquered: Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt; the previous three dominating empires.
These ribs then provoke the bear to go on conquering – “Take more territory and consume more people,” they say.
That is precisely what Persia did.
After conquering the regions of Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt, they extended their borders, north, south, east and west.
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.
This correlates to Nebuchadnezzar’s belly and thighs of bronze – the Greek Empire under Alexander and his generals.
And probably no animal is a better choice to depict Alexander and the armies under his leadership than the leopard – and one with 4 wings at that.
The leopard is an animal known for it’s agility, speed, and subtlety.
The wings speak of an unnatural swiftness, which aptly describes the seemingly impossible feat Alexander accomplished.
In a mere 12 years he conquered a good part of Europe, all of Asia from the Adriatic Sea to the Ganges River in India, the entire Middle East and Egypt.
The mighty Persian empire fell before him and then opened to him the doors of her vast wealth.
But note what Daniel says about this 3rd beast; it’s dominion was given to it.
By whom? By God!
You see, all these beasts rise out of the sea due to what action – the winds blowing on the sea and stirring it up.
The Greeks rose to power because it was part of God’s sovereign plan.
God used Alexander to prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah.
Alexander had a vision of not just conquering the world for Greece, but to bring to the world the benefits of Greek culture and life.
His vision was largely achieved for Greek philosophy, government and language spread throughout the regions he conquered.
These cultural elements helped lay an important foundation for spread of the gospel just a couple hundred years later.
There is another feature about the leopard that makes it strange – it has 4 heads.
Most conservative scholars believe this represents the fact that after Alexander’s untimely death, the Greek Empire split up among his 4 generals.
The first three beasts are past, only one is left to see, and like Nebuchadnezzar’s legs of iron and feet of iron and clay that trample everything before them, this last beast stands out as different from the previous three.
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.
The language Daniel uses indicates that this beast gave him the eebbies!
He doesn’t even give it a name – it’s unlike the other beasts – it’s a monster.
It has iron teeth, a ravenous hunger, and seems bent on destruction.
To add to the frightful image, it possesses 10 horns.
We can adduce that these horns protrude from the beast’s head and give it a formidable appearance.
Horns spoke of power, typically, earthly power.
The horn was the business end of an animal and people in the ancient world were used to seeing horned beasts battling one another, and using their horns as a weapon.
Over and over in the Bible, both in architecture and in prophetic visions, horns represent power, rule, dominion.
This creature has how many horns? TEN!!!!!!!!!
What does this convey? – Great power!
This is a massive spiked head!
But more than that, it looks back to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the 10 toes at the end of the feet and legs which represent the last world empire that exists when the Messiah comes to set up his kingdom.
Daniel’s dream is going to give us much greater detail about this last kingdom.
It’s clear we’re meant to draw a link between Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of iron and clay feet with 10 toes and Daniel’s fourth beast by reference to the iron teeth.
The 10 toes are analogous to the 10 horns.
We’ll get in to the meaning of all this a bit later when we read the angels interpretation of these things.
8I 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.
Now we get something new that finds no parallel to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
Daniel was pondering the meaning of the 10 horns, gazing at them carefully, when all of a sudden he saw another horn, a nub, rise up from the midst of the 10 horns.
As it rose, it uprooted three of the original 10, and they fell away.
Then as Daniel looked closer, he saw that this new horn, this little horn, had human eyes in it.
It also had a mouth, and it spoke arrogant and boastful words.
Again, we’ll see what all this means in a few minutes.
Okay, let’s recap and make sure we’re all on the same page as to what Daniel is seeing . . .
1) He see the winds stirring the waters of the Mediterranean.
2) Out of the tempestuous waves comes a winged lion, then it disappears.
3) After that, a bear, lying on it’s side with three ribs in it’s mouth. Then that vanishes.
4) A winged, 4 headed leopard springs into view, then slinks off .
5) Finally a horned monster appears, a Godzilla like creature that seems to delight in devouring and destroying.
6) A growth emerges from the head of this fourth beast – it’s a little horn that rises in the midst of the other 10, uprooting 3 of them.
7) This 4th beast is still there when John sees a new kingdom brought in that is totally unlike what has gone before.
Now beasts this time, but throne and a glorious figure wrapped in light . . .
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.
The Ancient of Days is none other than God.
The phrase “Ancient of Days” means Aged or Ancient One.
Far from this person being an old and decrepit individual who is long past the prime of life and so weak and feeble – the age mentioned here has resulted in increasing strength and wisdom so that He possesses ALL wisdom and strength.
From infancy to our early 20’s we grow physically and emotionally.
But then, we sort of peak out and after about 30 we start the slow downhill battle with gravity and age that sees us weaken ever so slightly from 30 to 40, then the pace quickens a bit from 40 to 50, then even faster from 50 to 60 and so on.
One would hope that as the years pass, while we weaken physically, we make up for it by gaining greater wisdom and experience.
What if the Fall had never taken place and the curse of sin and death did not dog our every step and mark our advancing years?
Every year we just got stronger and wiser!
Daniel sees someone and uses that idea to describe Him – He is Ancient, but there is no hint of feebleness in Him.
He is the picture of strength and wisdom, from His shining white hair to His brilliant white robe.
He takes His seat on a white throne that is literally pulsating with light and fire.
And attending Him is a multitude too vast to number.
The scene is obviously a courtroom, and the Ancient of Days is the Judge.
As soon as He is seated, the record books are opened and the Judge turns His attention to them.
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. 12As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
All the time Daniel sees the heavenly court being assembled, the little horn kept up it’s incessant, arrogant babbling.
But once the court was adjourned, judgment was rendered.
The fourth beast was swiftly executed and assigned to the fire.
John relates this same thing in Revelation 19 when the beast and false prophet are thrown into the Lake of Fire.
Daniel wants us to understand that the judgment of the 4th beast is totally unlike the demise of the previous three beasts.
Though the kingdoms they represented were conquered militarily and so they lost their dominion, their people and cultures lived on inside the new empire that came to assert itself.
When the 4th kingdom is judged, it is utterly replaced.
Nothing of the old system will be taken up into the new.
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.
Vs. 13 & 14 dovetail with the 5th kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream – the stone that was cut without hands, that smashed the metal image in it’s toes and then grew into a mountain that filled the whole earth.
Here Daniel sees someone he calls the “Son of Man.”
This is both a title and a description.
As the Messiah, Christ is both the Son of God and the Son of Man, which is one of Jesus’ favorite titles for himself in the Gospels – He regularly called Himself the Son of Man.
By doing so He was making a direct reference to this passage in Daniel.
But “Son of Man” also is a description.
Just as the “Ancient of Days” refers to God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience, Son of Man refers to the Messiah’s perfect humanity.
When Daniel saw Him in this vision. He knew he was looking at a real man – what man was originally meant to be.
And Daniel realized that up to that moment, he had never seen a real man, only shades and shadows of the real thing.
These visions were too much for Daniel’s frail human frame.
The boastful words of the little horn had sickened Daniel.
15“I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 16I 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:
Daniel approached one of the multiplied thousands that were attending the Ancient of Day’s throne and asked for clarification on what was happening in all this . . .
17‘Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth. 18But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.’
There you have it!
The 4 beasts are 4 earthly kingdoms that arise out of the earth, meaning the Gentile nations.
But ultimately, it is the Kingdom of God and God’s people that will rule earth, and that kingdom shall know no end.
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; 20and 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.
Daniel was able to grasp the meaning of the first three beasts, but the 4th beast proved too difficult for him to grasp.
So he asked for further insight.
What was most troubling was this little horn that came up after the first 10.
21“I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, 22until 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.
Before Daniel had seen the heavenly court adjourned, his visions had shown him how the 11th horn had entered into battle with the people of God and had overcome them.
This went on till the Heavenly Judge found in favor of the saints and pout an end to their suffering at the hands of the little horn.
Daniel wanted to know what all this meant – as do we!
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.
In keeping with the pattern of interpretation we’ve already seen between ch. 2 and ch. 7, the 4th kingdom represents what world empire?
Rome – truly Rome was an empire unlike others.
It was virtually unstoppable in it’s conquests and dominated every region it occupied.
It’s iron grip assimilated not just dozens, but hundreds of groups as it spread out to take dominion of a territory more far-reaching than any Empire in history before or since.
Rome never fell to another power, like all previous empires had.
Rome disintegrated from within and fell apart by it’s own decay and corruption.
No nation or kingdom has since risen to accomplish what Rome did.
Spain tried, Britain tried, France tried, Hitler tried – but they all failed.
In many ways, both culturally and politically, modern Europe is nothing more than the Old Roman Empire in a coma.
According to Daniel 2 and 7, it seems the day will come when the 4th beast will rise once more in the form of 10 horns, 10 kings . . .
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.
There it is – the 4th beast is called a kingdom.
And the 10 horns are ten kings who shall come out of this kingdom.
But apparently these 10 kings all rule concurrently because when the 11th horn rises, it uproots 3 of the 10 kings.
This 11th king is different from the first 10.
We see that represented by the eyes and mouth.
But the difference is likely in the manner of his how he attains his position and authority.
The 10 kings are kings by the way kings usually become kings – they are the de facto leaders of nations; whether they are classic monarchs, or presidents or prime ministers, they are heads of state.
But the 11th finds his way to power through other means – and his ascension to power allows him to attain a position that dominates the other 10.
Who do you suppose this 11th ruler is referring to?
Let’s see what else we learn about him . . .
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.
“Time and times and half a time,” is a poetic way of saying 3½ years.
A time is one year, times, 2 years, and half-time is the 20 minutes between the first and second half of a football game.
For 3½ years, the 11th horn, the 11th king is given power persecute the saints.
The word persecute means to “wear out.”
It pictures the process of wearing a hole in a garment because of repeated friction.
This pictures a steady campaign of harassment that just wears people down and eventually out.
It’s clear that this 11th king is none other than the Antichrist referred to by Paul in 2 Thess 2.
There too he makes great boasts against God.
Here we read that this man becomes so powerful he will attempt to change both the calendar and the basic laws that govern society.
There will be no area of life that he will not seek to inject his control over.
For he will claim that he is God and will seek to reshape the world into his own image.
The 3½ years referred to here are the last half of the Tribulation period which will end with the return of Christ and the defeat of the antichrist.
Now – some are thrown by the mention of the antichrist’s seeming ability to persecute and harm the saints during this time.
How is this possible? Just who are these saints? Is this a reference to the church?
The answer is a categorical, “NO!”
The word “saint” is used often in the OT as well as the New.
It simply means God’s covenant people, whatever group that is at that moment in history.
In the OT the saints were believing Israel.
In the NT, saints refer to all genuine believers.
The Church will be raptured prior to the Tribulation, and God will return His redemptive attention to the people and nation of Israel.
The Tribulation saints will be any and all who come to faith in Christ during that hellish period of history – both Jews and Gentiles.
Don’t forget that though the Church will have been lifted from earth prior to the onset of the Tribulation, God will raise up a mighty army of Jewish missionaries – 144,000 strong, to circle the world with the message of Christ and hundreds of thousands, possibly millions will come to faith in Christ through their ministry.
These constitute the saints that will suffer at the hands of the diabolical plots of the antichrist and his godless system.
What I find provocative is the mention here to how the Antichrist will attempt to change times and laws.
Not content to bring reform – he is for a kind of anarchy that upends the entire normal order of things and reinstitutes a whole new system fashioned after his own image.
The more I have studied prophecy and meditated on current events, the more convinced I am that we are living in the very end of the last days.
I don’t think that the changes the world is in store for during the Tribulation will come as all that big of a shack to people – the buying and selling with numbers, the receiving of the mark on the back of the hand or forehead.
The fundamental reordering of law and even the calendar.
The reason I say that is because we already see the seeds of these things in our world today.
People are already being conditioned to accept such things as commonplace.
We already buy and sell with numbers – even checks are becoming rare.
Tattoos and body piercing, specially accepted as they are by the youth, are preparing people to accept the mark and possibly even a chip as a piece of jewelry.
The constant reference to the New World Order and the way so many of our schools are teaching young people that there’s a need for a radical re-ordering of society to protect the environment and ensure that all the world’s needy are provided for.
In most colleges and universities, the use of BC and AD has been traded in for BCE and CE.
Traditional holidays like Easter and Christmas are being quietly diminished while pagan celebrations like Halloween get bigger every year.
I’d say we’re well on the way to the kind of changes the antichrist will want to bring in.
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.’
How long will the antichrist be allowed to promote his hellish agenda without restraint?
3½ years – but then it all comes to a screeching halt when Christ comes, and the antichrist and his followers are judged and cast out.
Then Christ rules and the earth is given a true New World Order – one of bliss and blessing in which all God’s people enjoy their rest.
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.”
Daniel was profoundly shaken by what he’d seen.
In fact, so moved was he that others could see it just by looking at him.
But when they asked him what was up, he declined to respond.
These things were not for his unbelieving peers – they were precious revelations of the future for God’s people to be reminded yet again that God is sovereign.
That the whole course of human history is a book that has already been written.
And that the end turns out all right!
History is moving to a grand climax.
But just like the night, it’s always darkest just before the dawn.
Daniel was so moved by what he’d seen, so troubled, that it went beyond words.
It actually effected him physically.
No doubt what so troubled him was the apparent ability of the little horn, the mouth, to make war with the saints and prevail against them.
Daniel was given a glimpse of some of the horrors of the last half of the Tribulation, of that period of the future that John describes in Revelation in such horrific images.
It was too much for Daniel.
I think it would lay us low too if we could see what the Tribulation will be like.
And when we read about the turmoil the earth will endure, we wonder how a God of love and power could allow such things to occur.
Then we realize what is really going on during the Tribulation – God will let mankind experience the full weight of its rejection of Him and His grace.
For millennia, God has been pouring out His gracious blessing on rebel earth.
His Spirit has restrained the full brunt of evil.
Yet all along, man has shaken his fist in God’s face and defiantly demanded to have his own way.
In the Tribulation, God will progressively allow the human race to experience more and more of the result f their rebellion.
God will give them what they have been asking for.
He will let them enjoy the fruit of wanting to rule themselves by giving them a man who is the ultimate rebel and who exalts himself to the place of God.
The world will flock to his banner and embrace him as their sovereign.
As God lets go of the whole realm of authority in the issue of human governments, anarchy and terror will rule the streets as all laws break down.
Then God will begin to let go of the rules that govern morality and conscience and people will turn to vile practices that result in wholesale moral ruin.
Finally God will begin to let go of the restraints that have held back the effect of sin on the physical creation and it will all begin to fall apart, tumbling down around man’s head like a house of straw.
The Tribulation is nothing more nor less than God saying Okay to rebel man and letting him experience the real result of his rejection of God.
And once mankind has tasted fully of that cup, then Jesus will come in His glory, at history’s darkest hour, and rescue the planet and the human race from extinction.
He will come to rescue His people from the clutches of the evil villain.
With the closing of one book – God will then commence a sequel in which for all eternity we will rule and reign with Him in Glory.