In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream. Daniel 7:1
Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar and Coregent of Babylon. Belshazzar governed the country after his father, King Nabonidus, went into exile in 550 BC. In the first year of his reign in Babylon, Daniel had a dream.
This chapter begins the second section of the book of Daniel. All before this has been narrative; visions are introduced into the narrative, but they were not given to Daniel himself, but to others; his role was the secondary one of interpreter. With this chapter begins a series of revelations to Daniel personally. This chapter is the last chapter of the Aramaic portion of Daniel.
Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. Daniel 7:2
There is both a natural and symbolic interpretation concerning the meaning of the churning of the great sea.
For those who dwelled in Israel, the natural understanding of the meaning of “the great sea” is a reference to the Mediterranean Sea.
But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. Isaiah 57:20
The spiritual meaning of the tossing or churning sea refers to the wicked peoples that comprised the pagan nations that bordered the Mediterranean Sea.
Note that the four winds of heaven churned up the great sea.
He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. Psalm 104:4
The four winds of heaven are angels sent by God that provoked the wicked nations to emerge from their lands around the Mediterranean Sea to prowl about and conquer. Beasts are ceremonially unclean animals, which are also symbols of pagan peoples. Beasts are fierce and deadly and represent the king and the armies of these pagan nations.
The prophet Jeremiah warned the people of Judah that God was going to bring the army of the fierce nation of Babylon to punish the people of the Southern Kingdom for their idolatry and other sins.
A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land. Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitant. Jeremiah 4:7
Babylon was described as a lion which would destroy the towns of Judah and take the people into captivity.
“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 human being, and the mind of a human was given to it. Daniel 7:4
Just as the head of gold of the enormous and dazzling statue that King Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream symbolized Babylon as the first of four empires, the first of the four beasts of Daniel’s dream also represents Babylon’s king and empire.
Look! He advances like the clouds, his chariots come like a whirlwind, his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us! We are ruined! Jeremiah 4:13
King Nebuchadnezzar and his army advanced swiftly against over several kingdoms and countries, and added them to his empire. The lion had wings of an eagle until its wings were torn off.
“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Exodus 19:4
God directly involved himself in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt because it was his power and action that brought them freedom from the Egyptians. The direct action of God created the nation of Israel.
The eagles’ wings symbolize the direct involvement of God in the affairs of Egypt so as to create the nation of Israel. In a like manner in Daniel 7, eagles’ wings can symbolize God’s direct involvement in bringing about the Babylonian Empire, which God gave to Nebuchadnezzar.
I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it. Daniel 7:4b
The removal of the wings implies that Babylon’s conquests would cease because God’s purpose for the king of Babylon was soon to be fulfilled and another king from another empire to take the place of Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar, in haughty pride, relied on his own strength, and therefore was denigrated to crawl on all four and ate grass like an ox. As he crawled on all four, as the beasts do, his eyes were fixed upon the earth looking out for his food. But at the end of his appointed time, he looked up to heaven, stood on two feet like a human being and his sanity was restored – the mind of a human being was given to the lion.
“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!’ Daniel 7:5
In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the head of gold representing the king of Babylon and his kingdom, was more valuable a metal than the chest and arms of silver which represented the Medes and Persians. In a similar way, a bear is less majestic than a lion. Bears are bulky and weighty and the Medo-Persian army conquered by sheer force of numbers. This empire started with the union of the Medes and the Persians. However, later the Persians became the much more dominant of the two nations. Hence, the bear was raised up on one of its sides. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. To solidify its empire, Medo-Persia had to conquer three other kingdoms, Lydia, Babylonia and Egypt. But even beyond those three kingdoms, God had given them the power to make even more conquests outside their borders. The bear 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. Daniel 7:6
The next ruler and empire prophesied to come was represented by a leopard whose powerful legs were assisted by four wings which symbolized great swiftness. We know from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and from history that the leader was Alexander III King of Macedonia. Alexander the Great succeeded his father, Philip II, to the throne at the age of twenty. He spent most of his ruling years on an unprecedented military campaign through Asia and northeast Africa, and by the age of thirty he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to Egypt into northwest India and modern-day Pakistan. In 11 years, from 335 B.C. to 324 B.C., Alexander and his army battled their way across 22,000 miles. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history’s most successful military commanders.
The Diadochi (from the Greek word Diadokhoi, meaning “Successors”) were the rival generals, administrators, and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for control over his empire after his death in 323 BC. The four heads of the leopard represented the four kings who succeeded Alexander. Geographically in relation to Judea there was: Cassander King of Macedonia (Greece) to the east, Lysimachus King of western Turkey to the west, Ptolemy King of Egypt to the south and Seleucus King in Babylonia to the north.
“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. Daniel 7:7
The fourth kingdom was symbolized by the two legs of the enormous statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The legs were comprised of iron and its ten toes of iron mixed with clay. This same empire is signified in Daniel’s dream as a terrifying beast with ten horns. The Roman Empire had its western capital in Rome and ruled over the Christians while the eastern capital was located in Constantinople and ruled over the Jews.
“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 human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully. Daniel 7:8
Daniel understood from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that the kingdom represented by iron or fourth empire to come was to give rise to ten kings or rulers which were represented by the ten toes of the statue as recorded in Daniel 2:44: “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.
While Daniel was thinking about the ten horns or kings another horn arose which had eyes like that of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.
“As I looked, “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. The court was seated, and the books were opened. Daniel 7:9-10
Thrones are symbols of power and authority.
The descriptive title, “the Ancient of Days” indicates God’s eternal existence. This title was probably chosen to contrast God and His kingdom with the temporary limited duration of the four successive kingdoms symbolized by the four wild beasts. In those days, age was venerated. People looked to elders for wisdom, and rulers were often older men. The term “Ancient of Days” therefore speaks of wisdom and power. His white raiment and white hair are expressions of His purity.
His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Daniel 7:9b – 10a
Fire was often used in Hebrew Scriptures to speak of God’s presence. God appeared to Abram as “a smoking furnace, and a flaming torch” (Genesis 15:17). Yehovah spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Exodus 3:2). The LORD descended upon Mount Sinai in fire (Exodus 19:18). Yehovah led the Israelites with a pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21).
The Ancient of Days took his seat to preside over the heavenly court to judge in righteousness before an innumerable audience. In Hebrew Scriptures, the term, “one thousand,” is used to represent a very large number (Deuteronomy 5:10; 32:30; Judges 15:15; Psalm 84:10). “thousands of thousands” (millions) would be an extremely large number. “Ten thousand times ten thousand” (one hundred million) would be a number beyond the ability of Daniel or John the Revelator to count. Millions of servants are attending to the Ancient One––giving tribute to the Ancient One’s grandeur and glory.
“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 7:11-12
The Book of Revelation also speaks of ten horns:
“The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast.” Revelation 17:12–13
The final world empire to come will be comprised of a ten nation confederacy or ten region alliance whose rulers (the ten kings) will lend their support to an eleventh leader—the Antichrist who is symbolized as a little horn who speaks boastfully.
The true Messiah did not speak on His own but only what God the Father commanded Him to say. The true Messiah humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.
While the little horn, the Antichrist, is empowered by Satan and speaks boastfully like “The Father of Lies”.
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. Isaiah 14:12-15
Satan’s sin was pride and rebellion against God. Satan wanted to put himself in the place of God as he said, “I will be like the most High”.
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14
The One, who was like a son of man, came with the clouds of heaven and approached God the Father. He was like a son of man in appearance but also radiated divine glory. The glory clouds denote the majesty, visibility, and swiftness, with which the Messiah came to take possession of his eternal kingdom. By virtue of His authority as Creator of the heavens and the earth, our Lord Jesus the Messiah deserves to receive the kingdom from the Father. In addition to His role as Creator, He paid the full price of our redemption upon the cross and defeated the enemy of our souls. By right of both creation and redemption Messiah alone is worthy to receive the eternal kingdom.
“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 meaning of all this. Daniel 7:15-16a
Daniel’s visions of four terrifying beasts emerging from the sea, a boastful horn with eyes likes a man, and the Ancient of Days sitting on a throne flowing with fire troubled his spirit and disturbed his mind.
“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’ Daniel 7:16b-18
Each of the four great beasts represented a king and their successive empires which would dominate Israel. The first king was Nebuchadnezzar who was the first ruler of the Babylonian Empire. The second king was Cyrus who ruled the Persian Empire. The third king was Alexander the Great who ruled over the Greek Empire. Roman Emperor Augustus founded the fourth kingdom in 27 BC.
Although these rulers and their kingdoms were the most powerful and influential for a time in history, the interpretation of the vision to Daniel confirms the covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:
On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: Genesis 15:18
“I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” Genesis 17:7-8
The holy people of the Most High will receive the eternal kingdom. Those Gentiles who place their trust in the finished work of Messiah on the cross are grafted into the covenants of Israel. They are the spiritual seed of Abraham and Israel by faith and will be among those receive the eternal kingdom.
A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. Romans 8:28-29
Not all of the natural descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will receive the eternal kingdom but only those who have a circumcised heart.
“Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. Daniel 7:19-21a
The fourth kingdom is still in power today through the continued influence (political, religious, cultural, etc.) of the Roman Empire. For the most part, Americans and Europeans do not use the Hebrew calendar nor observe the Festivals of the LORD. Instead, we follow a Roman calendar whose days and months are named after pagan gods and the Caesars. We observe non-biblical holidays such as Easter, Halloween and Christmas whose origins are rooted in pagan and occult practices.
The fourth kingdom has two divisions. In the west, the Vatican has great wealth and influence and is situated in Rome. While in the east, Turkey has claimed to be the caliphate with its capital in Istanbul. I believe that the ten horns’ stage is still yet to be fulfilled.
As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom. Daniel 7:21b-22
There is a parallel passage of Scripture in the Book of Revelation which clearly defines who this horn is:
It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. Revelation 13:7-8
The little horn is the beast or Antichrist who will persecute and martyr God’s holy people because they refuse to worship him or his image.
“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 holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time. Daniel 7:23-25
Emerging from the “Revived Roman Empire,” will be a ten nation confederacy or ten regional alliances which will give its financial, political and military support to the Antichrist. He will subdue three of the rulers or kings of this alliance. He will persecute and wage war against both Jews and Christians for a period of 3 ½ years during the second half of the Great Tribulation until the church is raptured and God pours out His bowls of wrath upon the earth.
“‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’ Daniel 7:26-27
Again, this portion of Daniel’s vision is delineated in passages of the Book of Revelation:
Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Revelation 19:19-20
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Revelation 20:4
After the rule of the Antichrist, the “King of kings” and “Lord of lords” will return to wage war, mete out punishment, and establish His kingdom on earth.
“This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.” Daniel 7:28
When Daniel thought of these powerful monarchies, and especially the final empire of the little horn or the Antichrist, their strength and cruelty, and what the people of God would suffer, he was deeply troubled.
But the people of God are to take heart.
For our light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18