In our study of Daniel chapter seven, we look at Daniel's dream of four beasts and their taming at the hands of God. We will see how this prophetic dream has been mostly fulfilled but the completion will come at the return of Yeshua Messiah.
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In the first year of Belshatzar king of Bavel, Dani'el had a dream and visions in his head, as he was lying on his bed. He wrote the dream down, and this is his account:
In chapter 6, we saw that Darius the Mede had defeated Babylon but, here, Daniel takes us back to a dream that he had prior to the fall of Babylon. We are told that this dream happened during the first year of the reign of Belshazzar the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar.
"I had a vision at night; I saw there before me the four winds of the sky breaking out over the great sea, and four huge animals came up out of the sea, each different from the others.
We are introduced to what is the first of three separate visions that he has in this dream. We notice that the vision happened at night while he was sleeping and that speaks to the fact that God is revealing something to him that he was not even seeking. The "great sea" is the Mediterranean Sea and, throughout the Bible, seas are used as a symbol of Gentile nations. The word wind, here, is ruach in the Hebrew and the "four winds of heaven" speaks of the Spirit of God. When you get the four winds acting at the same time, a whirlwind is created and it is a demonstration of the power of God. We see, here, that the power of God is working on the Gentile nations and four beasts are called out of them. Throughout the Bible, beasts are symbols of men that are controlled by the natural (flesh) and have no understanding of the spiritual things of God. The beasts are also associated with kingdoms as there were no democracies and so a kingdom took on the character of its leader.
The first was like a lion, but it had eagle's wings. As I watched, its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted off the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a human heart was given to it.
The first beast is a winged lion and a lion was the symbol of the Babylonian kingdom. The wings speak of speed and the Babylonians had the ability to quickly move their army. The wings were torn off speaks of the fall of Babylon which we saw happened in chapter 5 when Darius conquered the city. The final part of the verse speaks of the restoration of King Nebuchadnezzar from his insanity where he went out into the wilderness and lived like an animal (see chapter 4). This first beast corresponds to the head of gold on the statue of Nebuchadnezzar's dream (see chapter 2).
Then there was another animal, a second one, like a bear. It raised itself up on one side, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, 'Get up, and gorge yourself with flesh!'
This second beast corresponds to the chest and arms of silver of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. This is the Media-Persian empire led by Xerxes which conquered the Babylonians. The three ribs in the bear's mouth speaks of their conquest of Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt. We notice that it was told to eat its fill which reminds us that it was God who had used them as an instrument of judgment on the Babylonians.
After this, I looked; and there was another one, like a leopard with four bird's wings on its sides. The animal also had four heads, and it was given power to rule.
This third beast corresponds to the belly and thighs of bronze in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Once again, this is the Greco-Macedonian empire led by Alexander the Great. The speed of his army and their conquest was unmatched and so we see that they had four wings (more than the wings of the first beast). The four heads speaks of the fact that when Alexander died (at the early age of just 33), his four generals divided up his vast empire.
After this, I looked in the night visions; and there before me was a fourth animal, dreadful, horrible, extremely strong, and with great iron teeth. It devoured, crushed and stamped its feet on what was left. It was different from all the animals that had gone before it, and it had ten horns.
Daniel's second vision of the night is of a beast like none he had ever seen before. The iron teeth refer to its strength and also reminds us of the legs in the statue of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. The ten horns are the ten toes of the feet of Nebuchadnezzar's statue and the fact that they are mixed with clay brings to mind weakness. This beast is the Roman empire.
"While I was considering the horns, another horn sprang up among them, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. In this horn were eyes like human eyes and a mouth speaking arrogantly.
Unlike the other three beasts (empires) the Roman empire was never conquered but instead just faded away into history. As we see here, three parts of what was the Roman Empire will be reunited under the leadership of this other part and there will be seven parts left. We are reminded that the number seven speaks of holiness and this empire will project a false sense of holiness. This horn is the beast that John spoke of coming out of the sea (nations) in Revelation 13. We see that this horn had eyes and, throughout the Bible, eyes speak of knowledge showing us that this man or kingdom will have much knowledge and will use that to enslave people.
"As I watched, thrones were set in place; and the Ancient One took his seat. His clothing was white as snow, the hair on his head was like pure wool. His throne was fiery flames, with wheels of burning fire. A stream of fire flowed from his presence; thousands and thousands ministered to him, millions and millions stood before him. Then the court was convened, and the books were opened.
Here, Daniel speaks of the coming judgment upon this beast as we see a description of the throne of God. This description is much like that given by the prophet Ezekiel as he attempted to describe the glory of God. The scene around the throne of God was also described by John and he told us the verdict of this court in Revelation 20.
"I kept watching. Then, because of the arrogant words which the horn was speaking, I watched as the animal was killed; its body was destroyed; and it was given over to be burned up completely. As for the other animals, their rulership was taken away; but their lives were prolonged for a time and a season.
Daniel continues to describe the judgment of the beast as we see the result of the trial.
"I kept watching the night visions, when I saw, coming with the clouds of heaven, someone like a son of man. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. To him was given rulership, glory and a kingdom, so that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. His rulership is an eternal rulership that will not pass away; and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Daniel sees Yeshua being given the authority to judge from the Father. This is the same type of thing that John spoke of with the Lamb and the scroll. (see Revelation 5) Much of this book was written in Aramaic and not Hebrew and there are differences. Here, the Aramaic word plach which is translated as serve is better translated as worship which speaks of the divinity of Yeshua Messiah.
"As for me, Dani'el, my spirit deep within me was troubled; the visions in my head frightened me. I approached one of those standing by and asked him what all this really meant. He said that he would make me understand how to interpret these things. 'These four huge animals are four kingdoms that will arise on earth. But the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, yes, forever and ever.'
Daniel did not understand what all of this meant so he asked the angel. The angel assured him of the victory of the people of God. This is much the same as what John experienced and why he could say that blessed are those that read and understand the book of Revelation. Like Daniel, we can be troubled about the things that are to come or we can rest in the knowledge that God is in control and his people will reign victorious.
"Then I wanted to know what the fourth beast meant, the one that was different from all the others, so very terrifying, with iron teeth and bronze nails, which devoured, crushed and stamped its feet on what was left; and what the ten horns on its head meant; and the other horn which sprang up and before which three fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth speaking arrogantly and seemed greater than the others. I watched, and that horn made war with the holy ones and was winning, until the Ancient One came, judgment was given in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, and the time came for the holy ones to take over the kingdom.
Now, we are told the reasons that this dream troubled Daniel so much. First of all, this beast was unlike any that he had seen before while the others had at least resembled animals that he knew about. The second thing is that he saw the beast defeating the people of God which was also his people. If his dream was true, then, that would include him being devoured by the beast.
This is what he said: 'The fourth animal will be a fourth kingdom on earth. It will be different from the other kingdoms; it will devour the whole earth, trample it down and crush it. As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and yet another will arise after them. Now he will be different from the earlier ones, and he will put down three kings. He will speak words against the Most High and try to exhaust the holy ones of the Most High. He will attempt to alter the seasons and the law; and [the holy ones] will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.
We must remember that the number four is associated with the world and struggles in the world. Here, it tells us that this kingdom will be global in scale and we see that it will also be satanic in nature. The Roman Empire was not defeated but was split in two with the western half based in Rome and the eastern half in Constantinople. The city would become the capitol of the Ottoman Empire which would dominate what we call the Middle East. At the end of World War 1, the empire was broken up into ten pieces: Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Transjordan, Kingdom of Hejer, Sultanate of Nejd, Yemen, and the Arab States of the Persian Gulf (United Arab Emirates). The Kingdom of Hejer & the Sultanate of Nejd became a part of Saudi Arabia. We see that the saints will be handed over to the antichrist for a period of time that is generally called the first half of the Great Tribulation.
But when the court goes into session, he will be stripped of his rulership, which will be consumed and completely destroyed. Then the kingdom, the rulership and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High. Their kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will serve and obey them.'"
At the end of this tribulation, Satan and his followers are put on trial and stripped of their power. They are cast into hell and the saints will possess all of the earth.
This is the end of the account. As for me, Dani'el, my thoughts frightened me so much that I turned pale; but I kept the matter to myself.
Daniel knew the future but it was scary to him and he kept it all to himself for a time.