The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.
And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, 'Get up and eat your fill of flesh!'
After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.
After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast―terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns. While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.'
We come now to the prophetic section of the book of Daniel. It will take up all the rest of the book, chapters 7 through 12. Time-wise, this dream occurred during the early days of Belshazzar. In his dream, Daniel saw four great beasts rising up out of a choppy and windy sea being blown by winds from four different directions. The sea here is symbolic of the combined populations of the Gentiles nations of the world with all their confused politics, religions, clashing cultures, wickedness and sin. A very similar symbolism is found in the book of Revelation.
Then the angel said to me, 'The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. Revelation 17:15
What complete chaos we earthlings are living in, down here, aye?
Now, keep in mind that our world's history has been pre-written by the finger of God and it has been unfolding in the minutest detail from the days of Daniel right on down to our day ... a period of over 2600 years. In Daniel's ancient vision, once again God revealed the rise and fall of the four great world dominating empires that we encountered back in chapter 2. Back there, Nebuchadnezzar's dream revealed the outward glories of these future kingdoms. Daniel's vision, here in chapter 7, will demonstrate the inward character of those kingdoms. They are set before us here as wild beasts ... heartless ... destructive killers ... every one of them. The first arose on the scene in Daniel's day. And, of the four empires, the fourth has the greatest prophetic significance in the Bible. It is one of the main keys to understanding end-time prophecy in the Scripture because it will again reappear in the last days.
Now, it is the nature of the nations of our world to be perpetually coming and going. Throughout history, nations and empires have risen and fallen in endless, monotonous cycles. Each one has arisen, peaked, then declined and fell. The pattern has always been the same. It was so in Noah's day ... it was so in Daniel's day ... it was so in Jesus day ... and it is so in our day. Significantly, it has always been because of spiritual issues that nations have declined into oblivion. Take Israel, for example. God's own chosen people, the Jews, experienced this. They ascended to power under the leadership of great spiritual men whose lives were guided by the hand of the true and living God. It peaked under King David and King Solomon and then declined because of idolatry and immorality. During that decline, it broke up into two kingdoms, Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom). After that, each one's spiritual decline became steeper and steeper until the northern kingdom, Israel, collapsed altogether and was carried away by the Assyrians. Ultimately, the surviving southern kingdom of Judah collapsed as well being carried away into Babylon during Daniel's day.
May I say a word about our own nation in this regard? Our country was founded by men, the vast majority of which who possessed a faith that was placed squarely in the one true and living God ... the God of the Bible. And, for the most part, throughout our history the God of the Bible has been acknowledged, praised, thanked and followed in these United States of America. We've observed national days of prayer. Our Congress has opened every session with prayer. Our school system was founded by Christian churches. Our leaders even saw to it that our money was inscribed with, In God We Trust. Is it any wonder that the true and living God has blessed our nation so abundantly and caused it to become the most gracious, generous and powerful nation on the earth today? However, in my lifetime and yours, the evidence of decline is beginning to appear all around us. And, true to form, its roots are spiritual. Ungodly men have risen to prominence in our country who know not God and who relentlessly attack our historic belief and trust in the God of the Bible ... even denying his very existence. Furthermore, their followers are increasing in number, more and more, day after day. The results are very visible and very predictable. There is a rapid rise of false religions in America, rampant immorality is on every side, corruption and violence is skyrocketing ... babies are being slaughtered by the millions under the guise of the so called right to choose. It is a sad and frightening thing to watch. And, the end result will be as sure as it has been for all other nations who have gone before who have forgotten God. As you have it in Psalm 9:17,
The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.
Now, let's get back to our text. The four beasts that Daniel saw arising out of a roiling wind swept sea were as follows:
The first was like a lion ... with wings.
The second was like a bear.
The third was leopard-like ... having four heads and four wings.
The fourth was a ferocious beast ... with iron teeth and 10 horns.
Then, as Daniel watched the fourth beast, another little horn sprang up amongst the ten horns and uprooted 3 of them. The little horn had eyes like a man and Daniel was struck by the way that it spoke so boastfully.
Now, let's examine the first beast.
THE WINGED LION
The winged lion is a well know symbol for the Babylonian Empire. They are depicted everywhere in its architecture. So, the first beast represented the Babylonian Empire. It is equivalent to the head of gold on Nebuchadnezzar's statue back in chapter 2. Its wings speak of the swiftness of Nebuchadnezzar's armies. Jeremiah 14:13 says,
His horses are swifter than eagles.
Daniel observed this beast until its wings were torn off. Then, it was made to stand on its two feet like a man and was given the heart of a man. I believe that this wing plucking is a reference to Nebuchadnezzar's humbling that we read about back in chapter 3 ... where he was made to live as a wild beast for seven years. The statement that it was made to stand on its two feet as a man ... and the heart of a man was given to it ... would refer to the fact that Nebuchadnezzar's rule was restored again by God. However, I believe that this prophecy goes even further than that. I believe it also embodies a double ... but yet future ... fulfillment. The book of Revelation predicts that, one day, Babylon will rise again under the leadership of the Antichrist. Then, its wings too will be plucked, "but good," by Jesus Christ at his Second Coming (see Revelation 18 and 19). After that, its godly remnants will be present during the Millennial Reign of Christ on Earth. Then, for the first time in its history, the Babylonians will truly stand on their feet as men and have the hearts of men who are truly in sync with the true and living God as they live out their lives under the amazing reign of Christ on Earth.
The second beast was bear-like. It represents the Medo-Persian Empire, which followed the Babylonians. It was represented by the breast and arms of silver in Nebuchadnezzar's image. It stepped out upon the world's stage the night of Belshazzar's feast, back in chapter 5. Aristotle called this bear greedy, silly and foolhardy. As Daniel watched, it rose up on one side. That is because it was a two-sided kingdom. The Medes were one side and the Persians were the other side. However, the Persians were more dominant and advanced. This two-sided kingdom came to power with a left, right combination. With its left, the Medes took out the Babylonians and with its right, the Persians took out Egypt and the rest of the world. The three ribs in the bear's mouth represent the three main provinces over which it ruled ... Babylon, Lydia and Egypt. Daniel says that this beast was told to devour much flesh. And, that it did. In his invasion of Greece, Xerxes led 300,000 men and 300 ships into Thermopylae!
THE WINGED LEOPARD
The third beast that Daniel saw, was leopard-like. It represented the Macedonian Empire (Greece). This is equivalent to the belly and thighs of brass, in Nebuchadnezzar's statue. The fact that it possessed four wings speaks of the incredible speed with which it came to power. History records that no more rapid conquest of the world was ever made than that of Alexander the Great. It is said that he wept when his generals informed him that there was no one left to conquer! Alexander died young. His empire was then divided among four of his generals, as pictured by the four heads of this leopard-like beast. Alexander's generals divided up his empire as follows:
Thrace and Bithynia went to Lysimachus
Syria and the East went to Seleucus
Egypt and North Africa went to Ptolemy Soter
Macedonia went to Cassandra
THE BEAST WITH IRON TEETH AND TEN HORNS
The fourth beast that Daniel saw was terrifying and frightful. It represented the Roman Empire. It is equivalent to the legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay, in Nebuchadnezzar's statue. As Daniel observed, he says it had iron teeth and stomped all that was before it into oblivion. The iron heel of Rome was on the neck of the world for over a thousand years. It was never conquered. It simply broke apart. Still today, we see its restless and ruthless nature in many of the peoples of Europe, Africa and Asia. The final stage of this empire is still yet to come. The ten horns and the little horn aspects of Daniel's vision ... are yet unfulfilled. I believe that we are living today at the very door of the final manifestation of the beast with the iron teeth and the ten horns. All around us are signs of its approach. It will be a day when "darkness" takes on new meaning. As you have it in II Timothy 3:1-5,
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God―having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
Be of good cheer, however. In the midst of all the storms of secular history, God's people have always had peace and, for we believers today, Jesus has given us the peace of God. As he put it in John 16:33,
These things have I spoken unto you that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (KJV)The bad news is that this world is a dangerous place, and it's going to become much more so. The good news is that God's hand is firmly on the wheel and, regardless of what comes, we believers will always have the peace of God in Christ Jesus.
thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. (literally, in the Hebrew, ribbo ribwan ... hundreds of millions)
The court was seated,
and the books were opened.
Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)
Daniel's vision of the four beasts displayed the 4 individual kingdoms as well as their future remnants ... all the way down to the yet future Judgment of the Nations that Jesus prophesied in Matthew 25:31-46. Daniel's account of that same event, here in Daniel 7, is awesome. Here is Jesus' description of it ... as we find it in the book of Matthew.
Here in verses 9-11, Daniel saw a thumbnail sketch of the judgment Jesus detailed in Matthew 25, above. It is a greatly misunderstood judgment by many today. The Judgment of the Nations will take place immediately after Christ's Second Coming to Earth ... when he comes to literally rule and reign here for a thousand years (the Millennium; see Rev. 20:4-7). It will take place at the end of the Tribulation and at the beginning of Christ's thousand year reign on Earth.
The subjects of this judgment will be every human being that is still living on the earth at the end of the Tribulation.
The issue at this judgment will be how each individual treated Christ's chosen people who were believing saints during the dark days of the Tribulation (whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me).
The result of this judgment will be either Hell or entrance into the kingdom reign of Christ on Earth. Our Lord's words, where he refers to the entrance into his Kingdom as eternal life, is because each one who is allowed to enter his Kingdom at that time will already be possessors of eternal life through faith in him. As you have it in John 10:27-28,
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.
Eternal life, you see, is not something the people of God will be given someday. It is something they already possess.
You will notice that Daniel says that the other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time. This simply means that the other three kingdoms will be represented in Christ's Kingdom on Earth, as well. Each one will be present and accounted for. That will be due to the fact that saved individuals from those nations and territories will have entered Christ's Kingdom after the Judgment of the Nations. According to Daniel, this will not be the case, however, with Antichrist's revived Roman empire ... as represented by the fourth beast in Daniel's vision. All who were a part of that ungodly system will perish. So, the Millennium will be marked by the final existence of the other three empires (beasts). After that, they will no longer exist because the entire known universe will have been dissolved and replaced by a new heavens and a new earth (II Peter 3:7, 10; Rev. 20:11; 21:1).
One more thing, before we continue. This statement that the Ancient of Days took his seat is exciting to me. Which member of the Trinity do you think that was? I believe the one who Daniel saw sitting down was none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. Why. Because he alone has been given authority to judge the whole earth. As he put it in John 5:22-23,
For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
In Matthew 25, Jesus said of himself that he will sit on the throne in heavenly glory. The fact that Jesus Christ himself is called the Ancient of Days is well supported in the Bible. For example, in Micah 5:2, we read,
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (KJV)
Does that thrill your heart? It does mine. Our Lord Jesus Christ is God of very God, the Ancient of Days himself, in the flesh.
Having identified our Lord Jesus Christ as the Ancient of Days in verse 9, I can understand that there may be some confusion as to just who the Ancient of Days is here in verse 13, as Daniel's vision is expanded further. Obviously, it is Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, who approaches the Ancient of Days here in verse 13. So, how can Jesus himself ... be the Ancient of Days? Does he approach himself? If you think about it for a minute, the answer is simple. Jesus said in John 10:30,
I and my Father are one.
What he was referring to there, points us to the mysterious nature of the Trinity. God exists in three Persons. Each member of the Godhead is the same in essence ... but maintain an individual Personhood ... either as the Father, Son or Holy Spirit. Yet, they are so one that there truly is only one true and living God. This is something that we humans simply cannot get our minds around ... no matter how hard we try. It is foreign to all that we know and see around us. So, the question of the ages has always been, How can this be? The answer simply is ... Never mind, brother and sister. It is what it is. That being the case, it is not uncommon in Scripture for different members of the Godhead to assume the same names. For example, we read in Isaiah 44:6,
Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: 'I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.
Did you notice that this Scripture says ... both the Lord and his Redeemer are speaking? And what did they say? ... there is no God besides Me. Did you notice the title that they both assumed? Both call themselves the first and the last. Another example of this is found in the book of Revelation. There, both Jesus and the Father assume the name Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 21:6 cp 22:13). This is what we have here in Daniel chapter 7. In verse 9, the Ancient of Days is clearly the Lord Jesus Christ, referring to that future day when he will judge the nations. In verse 13, the Ancient of Days is clearly the Father, referring to that yet future day of the coronation of the Son of God ... when he will receive his kingdom from the hand of his Father. Daniel was given a birds-eye view of that yet future event and it was stupendous!
Coming back to our text, this is the only place in the Old Testament where this title, the Son of Man, occurs. Jewish writers almost unanimously agree that it is a title that designates their Messiah. In Jesus' day on Earth, to the chagrin and great consternation of the Jews, Jesus used it as his favorite title for himself. The Chaldean word, used in this phrase, emphasizes that this is one with a frail, vulnerable, physical body. Isn't that interesting? Hebrews 2:16-18, comes to mind, does it not?
As the Son of Man, Jesus, became one of us. He was a man among men. Right this very moment, there is a man seated at the right hand of the majesty on High (Hebrews 1:1-3). As a result, mercy, reconciliation, grace and help flows down from him to those who want it like the cool waters of a mighty river. Praise God for the Son of Man, who came and dwelt among us and purged us from our sins in his own human blood.
Also, notice that Daniel saw him come before the Ancient of Days in a cloud. Undoubtedly, this refers to the Shekinah glory cloud of God. Jesus is Heaven's cloud rider. He left Earth in a cloud and he will return to Earth in a cloud (Acts 1:9-11). This speaks of his deity. As you have it in Psalm 97:2 and 104:3b,
Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. (KJV)
Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind...(KJV)
And again, in Revelation 1:7,
Behold, he cometh with clouds and every eye shall see him, and all the kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. (KJV)
The great event that Daniel saw here in thumb sketch ... is greatly expanded for us in Revelation 4 and 5. There, we find it fleshed out in all of its minute and glorious detail. What a day that will be ... the day when the Son of Man receives his Kingdom from the hand of his Father! And, you and I will be personally present to witness it, by the way. If you would like to read about it in detail, you can find it in my commentary on the book of Revelation at: http://www.biblebookofrevelation.com/ch4-5.htm.
I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this. So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 'The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever―yes, for ever and ever.'
It is easy to see how Daniel's vision would have been utterly foreign and disturbing to him. You and I have the benefit of being able to look back and see much of it that has already been fulfilled. We can read about each one of the kingdoms in Daniel's vision as they actually played out in history. In addition, we also have the completed Word of God which also sheds an enormous amount of additional light on many of the aspects of Daniel's vision. Daniel, however, had none of these things. How perplexing these visions must have been to his mind and eyes! He asked someone standing by, What's the true meaning of all this? The answer he received was precise and succinct. The bystander simply replied, You have seen a vision of four kingdoms that will rise on the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever―yes, for ever and ever. Amen, brother! Preach it! I'll turn the pages!
He gave me this explanation: 'The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.
As we have already seen, the fourth beast in Daniel's vision, represented the Roman Empire. In its heyday, Rome dominated the civilized world. However, notice that the interpreter of Daniel's vision told him that the fourth kingdom would, in fact, devour the whole earth. I submit that that day has not yet come. But, it will come ... in the last days. The interpreter went on to say that the ten horns of the fourth beast represented ten kings who will come from this kingdom. They too have not yet risen, but they too will do so in the last days. Finally, after these 10 kings are established on the scene, Daniel's vision predicted that another king will arise among them who will unseat three of them. The little horn, here, who will uproot 3 of the 10 kings in the last days, is a reference to Antichrist. He will be Satan's man who will rule the world with and through a 10 king confederation during the last days and, more specifically, during the last 3 1/2 years of the Great Tribulation. He will be a blasphemer and a persecutor of God's people. Our text says that he will speak against the Most High and oppress the saints and they will be given over into his hand for a period of time. This king will also try to change the set times and laws. This may well refer to making changes to the climate of the Earth itself and, under Satan's tutelage, Antichrist may well pull it off. Is our current "global warming" craze setting the stage for this? It may well be. All this, however, will last for only three and a half years (time , times  and half a time [1/2] = 3 1/2 years).
The Bible refers to the coming Antichrist in many places. Here are a few of them. He is called:
the little horn in Daniel 7:8
the king of fierce countenance in Daniel 8:23
the prince that shall come in Daniel 9:26
the king in Daniel 11:35-38
the abomination of desolation in Matthew 24:15
the son of perdition, the man of sin and that Wicked in II Thessalonians 2:3-10
the Antichrist in I John 2:22
the beast in Revelation 13
For a more complete discussion of the Antichrist, please go to: http://www.biblebookofrevelation.com/ch13.htm.
Bottom line? Jesus is coming back to Earth, one day, with a rod of iron (Psalm 2), and with total power and authority (Matthew 24-25; Revelation 19-20). At that time, he will utterly crush Antichrist and his dark kingdom and He will establish his long anticipated, and much prophesied, Kingdom of God on Earth. Then, he will give it to us, his saints!
You and I live in a great prophetic day, brother and sister. Soon, Europe, Asia and North Africa will come together in a 10 king confederacy and ... out of that ... the world's final evil dictator will arise.
I would like to leave this chapter with a couple of quotes from some great men of faith.
Irenaeus (Bishop from the 2nd century) said,
"But when the Antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from Heaven in the clouds, in the glory of the Father, sending this man and those who follow him into the Lake of Fire; but bringing in for the righteous the times of the Kingdom, that is, the rest, the hallowed 7th Day, and restoring to Abraham the promised inheritance..."
Phillip Schaff (historian who wrote History of the Christian Church) said,
"...the most striking point in the eschatology of the anti-Nicene age (referring to the Christian church or period before the Nicene Council of AD 325) was belief in a visible reign of Jesus Christ here on earth with the risen saints for one thousand years."
Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,
"You are in good company if you believe in the Millennial reign of Christ on earth."
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.