The prophecy of Daniel 7 was fulfilled through the rise of the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. This article shows how kingdoms still rise up against God’s church, but Christ conquers all.

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Daniel 7 - The Church in Prophecy

We hear much about the church in prophecy or future predictions concerning the church. Many ingenious and at times even ridiculous plans and interpretations arise. The book of Daniel is the source from which many of these interpretations arise. In so far that they take their information about the church in prophecy from the book of Daniel, they are correct. However, the way in which they interpret the words of Daniel are far from correct. We must let the Bible explain itself and not put our pet interpretation into it no matter how nice it may sound. In this chapter of Daniel we will be referencing the book of Revelation quite frequently, as much of the symbolism of Revelation is based upon this very prophecy of Daniel.

Daniel does set forth prophecy concerning the church and its future, and this 7th chapter of Daniel has very specific prophetic utterances which concern you and me as Christians, as well as the church. This prophecy comes to us by way of a vision — a vision of the four beasts that comes to Daniel and the symbolism which is attached to this vision.  Here let it be stated that there is a noticeable difference between Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two and Daniel’s dream in chapter seven. Nebuchadnezzar also saw successive world kingdoms, but in humanistic concepts, i.e., gold, silver, etc., the glory of man being exalted, even though their downfall was predicted. Daniel, on the other hand, sees these kingdoms from the biblical point of view. At bottom, the imperialistic accomplishments of sinful man are not noble or humane, but beastly, cruel, harsh, and oppressive.

I will cover rather quickly the first three beasts because they concern themselves with past history (not of course to Daniel at the time of writing) but they do not concern us and our future. It is the fourth beast that concerns us and our future as Christians. The vision that Daniel beholds is, of course, from God:

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

Daniel 7:2, 3; cf. Isa. 17:12; Revelation 17:15

Daniel sees four winds of heaven break forth upon the great sea. The winds represent the heavenly powers and forces by which God sets the great sea into motion. The great sea represents the nations of the world, and these winds stir up the nations into a tumultuous state. This interpretation is also supported by Daniel 7:17 where it is said that the four kings shall arise out of the earth as the four beasts arise out of the sea. These kings with their invading armies shall over run countries like mighty and crushing ocean waves. So does God stir up the great sea of nations which are in constant turmoil. With this metaphor the Bible would have us look at the world and form our understanding of the character of history as decreed by God. Out of this sea Daniel sees the emergence of four awful beasts or monsters. These are representatives of successive world empires. Nations or empires have often been represented by beasts or birds, for example: the Russian Bear, the British Lion, the American Eagle, etc.

The first beast to arise stands for Babylon, particularly as represented in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar had been compared to a lion and an eagle: “The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings” (Daniel 7:4a). The prophet Jeremiah refers to Nebuchadnezzar when he prophesies of the captivity of the Israelites: “The lion has come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of nations is on his way. He has gone forth from his place to make your land desolate. Your cities will be laid waste, without inhabitant” (Jeremiah 4:7); as does the prophet Ezekiel: “Thus says the Lord God: ‘A great eagle with large wings and long pinions, full of feathers of various colors, came to Lebanon and took from the cedar the highest branch. … Do you not know what these things mean? Tell them, indeed, the king of Babylon went to Jerusalem and took its king and princes, and led them with him to Babylon’” (Ezekiel 17:3, 12). The lion as king of the beasts and the eagle as king of the birds represents Babylon as the lordliest of all.

As Daniel beholds, a change comes over this beast:

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.Daniel 7:4b

This quite likely refers to Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation, i.e., Nebuchadnezzar receiving the heart of a man. This humbled him and made him realize that he was still, after all, a human no matter how great his power. This also happens then to Babylon as a nation.

The next beast to appear is a bear raised on its side devouring and going forth to devour: “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’” (Daniel 7:5). Next to the lion the bear is selected for its strength and fierceness. It refers to the next world empire that took over the Babylonian Empire — that of the Medo-Persians under King Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian. The two-sidedness of this kingdom (Medes and Persians) is symbolized by the beast lifting itself on one side and then the other. The three ribs that it devoured, according to history, could be Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt, or it could simply be a round number indicating that this beast is not content with merely one, but devours many.

The third beast represents the Macedonian or Greek Empire overcoming the Medo-Persian Empire. It is symbolized by a leopard or panther, an animal noted for its speed and intelligence:

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.Daniel 7:6

This beast has two sets of wings compared to the eagle’s one set which represents Nebuchadnezzar. Although the eagle is more royal and noble, this panther-like beast with two sets of wings is speedier. It is a historical fact that Alexander, as emperor of the Macedonian or Greek Empire, made much more rapid conquests than Nebuchadnezzar or the other world emperors; hence the leopard or panther image with two sets of wings. The four heads mentioned, may well represent the four corners of the earth showing the completeness of this empire under Alexander.

We now come to the fourth beast and the one which is of the most interest to us. This beast defies description — no animal can be found: “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” (Daniel 7:7). Its conquering ability is shown by it huge teeth, and what it could not destroy with its teeth, it stomped upon with its feet. This beast represents the Roman Empire, the world empire of the New Testament, during the time of Christ. It also includes human governments from that time on until the end of time as is symbolized by the ten horns preceding from this beast. The ten horns are a symbol for a large number of kings or powers, the horn itself being a symbol of power: “His glory is like a firstborn bull, and his horns like the horns of the wild ox; together with them he shall push the peoples to the ends of the earth; they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh” (Deuteronomy 33:17; cf. Psalm 18:2). The power of this fourth beast is symbolized by these ten horns. The number ten indicates completeness and so we must not try to pick out ten specific kings during the history between the Roman Empire and now, e.g., Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, Mao, Putin, etc. Rather, these ten horns simply mean all human governments that will arise between the Roman Empire and the end of the world.

Now Daniel sees another horn, a little one, coming up among the ten horns: “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” (Daniel 7:8). This little horn makes war with the saints and prevails against them: “I was watching, and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them” (Daniel 7:21). It is called little so that our attention focuses upon the eyes and mouth which are the main features of this horn. This little horn, therefore, represents a small kingdom whose power is concentrated in its king, here represented by the eyes and mouth. The nerve of this little horn is so great and his rule and government so terrible, that he might be mistaken for a supernatural being, when in fact he is but a man, but one of those men in whom the whole of Satan dwells bodily. From its mouth comes boasting and haughtiness, all spoken against God and His people. Thus in this fourth beast Daniel sees the unfolding of history, even to the end of the world.

There appear to be three periods to this fourth beast. First, the beast itself is represented. No one creature can express its terribleness. As such its first reference is to the Roman Empire under Caesar, Nero, etc. Rome truly subdued the world. Attention is called to its tremendous strength and crushing power and then the statement is made that it had ten horns. These ten horns represent a second and later period of this beast’s existence. The ten horns come out of this beast or kingdom and they all belong within this second period of the beast’s history. A third period is that of the little horn which arises out of the ten horns, a period when the kingdom of this little horn, particularly in the person of its king, will gain dominion over all the earth.

To reiterate, the second period following the historical Roman Empire of biblical times is the period represented by the ten horns. We are now in this period. All kingdoms in one sense or another arise historically from the ancient Roman Empire. All we can say about the period of the ten horns is that from the time when the fourth empire lost its beast form (destruction of the Roman Empire) to the appearance of the little horn, there will have been a complete number of kingdoms which truly partake of the character of the beast. To try and identify these kingdoms, when the Bible furnishes no clue as to their identity is dangerous and unwarranted, and yet many people have tried.

Toward the close then of this second period, there appears another kingdom symbolized by the little horn. This kingdom or government uproots some of the others and all importance is given to the head of this kingdom who takes to himself powers and qualities which belong to God alone. It is, I believe, that one of whom Paul speaks:

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4

This little horn, then, is the Anti-Christ. Thus in one remarkable picture, the entire course of history is given from the appearance of the Roman Empire until the end of human government.

Going on to the next verses in Daniel’s vision we are told of the divine judgment that comes upon the nations:

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; 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. 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. As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 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. 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… But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.

Daniel 7:9-14, 18

This scene of judgment is a majestic one. Upon this description as Daniel sees it is based John’s vision of God’s throne: “Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne. And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” (Revelation 4:2-5). The fiery streams flowed forth from before the throne; the lightenings and thunderings and voices proceed from the throne itself.

Daniel sees a thousand thousands, or a vast multitude, an innumerable host that stands ready to serve the majestic One that is seated upon the throne. The judgment which Daniel beheld does not end in the destruction of world powers. It is continued in the foundation of the kingdom of God by the Son of Man. The Son of Man who is none other than Christ the Lord comes with the clouds, is conducted to the throne of God, and a universal and eternal kingdom is given to Him. It is a kingdom with all people serving Him. The saints of God will receive from the Son of Man the eternal kingdom, and will hold it in possession forever. The saints are the true members of the chosen and holy nation, the kingdom of priests, the redeemed from among the nations of the earth, the elect of God.

In the vision Daniel inquires again especially about the meaning of the fourth beast. It is this one that perplexes and plagues him. It is also the one that should interest us the most. Daniel concentrates upon that little horn — little but great as to its haughtiness and swaggering appearance: “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; 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  mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was prevailing against them, 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” (Daniel 7:19-22). The character of the Antichrist is vividly and fearsomely described. He has no regard for the majesty and holiness of God; brazenly desecrates and blasphemes everything traditionally sacred. He seeks to “wear out the saints of the Most High,” which means that terror and torture will be used to get them to deny the Lord. The apostle Paul describes it this way: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4). And he will “think to change the times and the law.” This means that the Antichrist will put his own stamp upon his era and set up his own laws, contrary to the laws of God, and will actually succeed: “Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time” (Daniel 7:25b). Thus will be the appearance of the Antichrist. This little horn directs our attention to that great and terrible opposition to the people of God that will come toward the end of time. Now the Church has faced opposition and terrible persecution at various times in history, e.g., Caesar, Nero, the Reformation. Persecution for the church has never and will never cease, for it is stirred up by Satan himself. Wherever God’s people have sought to carry forth His work and extend His kingdom, Satan has tried to interfere. But in the days of the little horn, such persecution will break forth as never before, as the Satanically inspired little horn, swaggering in its own pride and haughtiness, will make war with the Church. And, with respect to that Church, he will prevail, for the Church, in herself, cannot match the devices and power of those who use Satan’s methods in battle. Yet against the Church the gates of hell shall not finally prevail, for the battle is the Lord’s. At the time of greatest persecution, God will step in and deliver His people. The little horn prevails only until the time that the Ancient of Days comes and pronounces a judgment in favor of the saints, and the saints are in eternal and secure possession of the kingdom.

This act of the little horn or Antichrist will affect all men, but specifically the people of God, and this tyranny will endure for a definite period, i.e., “a time, times, and the dividing of a time.” It is a period of time the length of which is measured by God; a period of testing and judgment which for the sake of God’s people, the elect, will be shortened (cf. Matthew 24:22).

Thus, toward the close of the present age the power of the little horn will be manifested: “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). The Antichrist will arise against the elect of God, becoming stronger and stronger. Against him God’s people will not be able to stand. Even now the stage is being set for the world-wide rule of this little horn, the Antichrist. Suddenly, however, his power will be cut off and the Lord Jesus Christ shall return from heaven and the nations will be judged. The saints who have belonged to the kingdom of the Son of Man, all who are truly elect, shall receive this kingdom and possess it eternally. Thus, as we read these words of prophecy concerning the Church, concerning believers, continue

to look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws near.Luke 21:28

Amen.

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