Scripture reading – Daniel 7

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It is said that “Hindsight is 20\20.” That is certainly true when we look at Bible prophecy “in the rearview mirror.” Continuing our chronological study of the Scriptures, we are amid The Book of Daniel and its engaging and illuminating prophecies. I do not have time or space for an in-depth analysis of the prophecy recorded in Daniel 7, yet I pray a simple study and interpretation of today’s Scripture will be a blessing.

Daniel 7

With the historical events of the rise and fall of Babylon behind us (Daniel 1-6), the remaining six chapters of our study in Daniel will be prophetical (Daniel 7-12). The year of our text is 553 BC, for the vision that came to Daniel was in “the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon” (7:1). Remembering the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams (Daniel 7), “Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters” (Daniel 7:1). As you will see, his dream paralleled Nebuchadnezzar’s great image and was a vision of future events.

I suggest three parts to Daniel’s dream (Daniel 7:2-14). The first was a vision of four beasts representing four kings and their kingdoms (Daniel 7:2-6). The second section was a dramatic and terrible transformation that occurs with the fourth beast (Daniel 7:7- 12). The third part was a heavenly vision of the LORD sitting on His throne (Daniel 7:13-14).


Four Beasts and Four World Empires (Daniel 7:2-8)

Awakened from his sleep, Daniel wrote, “I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea” (Daniel 7:2).  

The “great sea” (Daniel 7:2) was the “sea of humanity” and represented the Gentile nations of the world (Isaiah 57:20; Revelation 17:1, 15). “The four winds of the heaven [that] strove upon the great sea” (Daniel 7:2) portrayed the judgment of God that would come from all directions…the east, north, south, and west.

a lion with the wings of an eagle

The four beasts of Daniel’s dream paralleled the depiction of Nebuchadnezzar’s great image (Daniel 2) and foretold four great Gentile kingdoms. The first beast was depicted as a lion with the wings of an eagle (Daniel 7:4). The prophets often depicted Babylon as a lion and eagle (Jeremiah 4:7, 13; 48:40; 49:19, 22; 50:17; Habakkuk 1:6, 9). Like the head of gold in Nebuchadnezzar’s image, the lion symbolized Babylon’s strength, and the eagle’s wings the speed of its army (Jeremiah 4:13; 48:40). The “lion-hearted” man had its wings plucked and stood “upon the feet as a man” (perhaps reflecting how Nebuchadnezzar was humbled for seven years until he acknowledged God, and then his beastly heart was replaced with “a man’s heart,” Daniel 4:16; 7:4).

The second beast in Daniel’s dream resembled a bear with three ribs in its mouth (Daniel 7:5). Corresponding to the silver arms and chest of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (Daniel 2:32, 39), the bear represented the Medes and Persians who would overwhelm Babylon in a night. The bear was portrayed as rising on one side and must symbolize how the Persians became the greater of the Medo-Persian kingdoms. The three ribs in the bear’s mouth might represent three kingdoms conquered by Persia (mere speculation on my part).

The third kingdom was represented by a leopard with four wings and four heads (Daniel 7:6). We have the privilege of looking back on history and know that Greece supplanted Persia as the world empire and was portrayed in Nebuchadnezzar’s image as having a belly and thighs of brass (Daniel 2:32, 39). The swiftness of the leopard was a tribute to the speed with which Alexander the Great led Greece, conquering the world in three years (334-331 BC). When Alexander died as a young king at 32 years old, Greece was divided into four regions and ruled by four generals, hence, the four wings and heads of the leopard (Daniel 7:6). 

Rome was the fourth beast of Daniel’s dream and was portrayed as a “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly” beast with “great iron teeth” (Daniel 7:7). Equivalent to the legs of iron of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (Daniel 2:33, 40), Rome was portrayed as a brutal kingdom. The ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (Daniel 2:33-35) are represented in Daniel’s dream as the ten horns of the fourth beast (Daniel 7:7). The horn, representing the strength of a beast, is a symbol of kings in the Scriptures (1 Samuel 2:10; Psalm 132:17).

The Antichrist: The Rise of the “Little Horn”

The Antichrist: The Rise of the “Little Horn” (Daniel 7:19-25)

Daniel observed a “little horn” that arose amid ten horns (the ten horns representing a league of ten countries) and dislodged three horns (three kings of nations) in its rise to power (Daniel 7:8). The prophetic significance was that a king (“little horn”) would arise in the midst of what was the land mass of the Roman Empire, and rise above other kings to reign (Daniel 7:19-20).

Students of prophecy believe the “little horn” will be the antichrist of the last days, for he is depicted as having “eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things” (indicative of pride, boasting, and blasphemy, Daniel 7:8, 11, 20, 25; note Revelation 13:1-7). He will be the enemy of the saints and was described as making war with them and, for a season, “prevailed against them” (Daniel 7:21).

Daniel 7:22 revealed that the LORD Himself, the “Ancient of Days,” will intervene on behalf of His people. Yet, the “little horn” will speak against “the most High” and will reign for “a time, a time and times and the dividing of time” (a “time” being one year; “and times,” two years; “and the dividing of time,” a half year, or all together for 3.5 years; Daniel 7:25; Revelation 13:5).

The Judgment of the “Little Horn” and Christ’s Reign (Daniel 7: 9-14, 26-28)

The reign of the “little horn” (antichrist) will fail, and he will be destroyed (Daniel 7:11, 26) when the LORD, who is “the Ancient of days,” sits in judgment (Daniel 7:9-10).  When Jesus Christ, “the Son of man,” descends from “the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13), the “little horn” (antichrist) will be judged and “his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame” (Daniel 7:11; Revelation 19:20). Christ, the “Son of man,” will be sovereign of a perpetual kingdom (Daniel 7:14, 28; Mark 14:61-62) and He will rule the world for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-8).

Closing thoughts

We join Daniel in our “cogitations much troubled” (i.e., our thoughts stirred with wonder at what we have read; Daniel 7:28). Daniel 7 has given us a vision of history that is yet to be (Daniel 7:28). Nevertheless, what a blessed hope we have in the revelation of God’s Word and the rest we find in trusting in God’s sovereignty and His promises.

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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