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Daniel

Four Beasts

Daniel  7

On Daniel

Daniel - particularly the eighth chapter - is the foundation book for understanding Biblical prophecy. Many Christians therefore avoid the book entirely, feeling that prophecy is “too deep” for them to understand. This is a becoming modesty, of course -- but the option is not left to the Christian to ignore such a major section of God’s word. We need to understand why the Christian should study the prophetic works of the Scripture:

·        First, we need to be familiar in general with all portions of the Scripture so that we can make a “ready defense,” as the King James put it.

·        Next, certain other passages of the Bible are best understood in terms of their reference. Christ Himself has many explicit references to things to come (see, for example, Matthew 25) and these relate to incidents mentioned in the prophetic writings.

·        We definitely need to see the sovereign hand of God in history. Life does not depend upon the Republican party.

·        It is, in a unique way, an aid to humility. Many learned and scholarly men have read these works and come to different conclusions. This provides us an opportunity to exercise Christian liberty in love. By knowing the Scriptures we can avoid being hard bound to one particular interpretation.

·        Prophecy gives hope - Jesus is returning for His people.

Types of Prophecy (review from prior lesson)

Prophecy is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As John 3:8 tells us, the Spirit goes where it will. It is convenient at this point to explain the various types of prophecy.

Accidental

It sounds almost silly, but God can use the words of the ungodly as prophecy. One well known instance is from the High Pries, Caiaphas, who condemned Jesus to the cross:

{49} Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! {50} You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." {51} He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, {52} and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. -- John 11:49-52 (NIV)

Literal

Literal prophecy is just that: plain, unadorned by symbolism, a statement of a fact to occur. When a prophet makes such a statement, he does so with his life, for God makes it clear (Deuteronomy 18:18-22) that such a prophet either is 100% accurate, or is a false prophet.

Diagnostic

Diagnostic prophecy is based upon God’s sovereign control of the universe. It is the most common form of prophecy, and it usually is phrased in an “if-then” fashion. “If you don’t stop beating your wife, you’ll soon be in jail.” Most of the work of the prophet is in “forth-telling”, not foretelling.

Symbolic (also known as Apocalyptic)

The prophecy in this section is symbolic. There is such a mass of this type of prophesy in the Bible that it is worth our time to put forward the methods by which these are generally interpreted:

·        Prophecy centers around the people of God. There is no attempt to create a future history of the world.

·        Symbols used have meaning in their own context. As we will see, the bronze part of the figure in Chapter 2 becomes a goat in Chapter 8.

·        Prophecy often takes a long view; a single prophetic passage may be partially fulfilled, leaving the rest to be fulfilled at the return of Christ.

·        No prophecy stands alone; it must be compared with other prophetic passages to be sure that interpretation is reasonable.

·        Revelation naturally gets clearer as the time for fulfillment draws nearer.

With that, we are ready to review the prophecy in this chapter.

The Four Beasts

(Dan 7:1-14 NIV) In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream. {2} Daniel said: "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. {3} Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. {4} "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. {5} "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!' {6} "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. {7} "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. {8} "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. {9} "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. {10} 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. {11} "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. {12} (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) {13} "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. {14} He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men 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.

 

There are two primary views of this passage. The first assumes that the four beasts named here are corresponding to the four sections of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Chapter 2. The four beasts therefore are:

·        Babylon

·        Medo-Persia

·        Greece

·        Rome

This view (which seems reasonable to me) generally gives rise to those who feel that it is fulfilled only in the rise of the antichrist at the end times. (Thus, the “abomination of desolation” is yet to come, and is from a renewed Roman empire). The alternate view is that the four beasts are

·        Babylon

·        Media

·        Persia

·        Greece

It is instructive to look at the four beasts and why they can be viewed this way.

The First Beast

(Dan 7:4 NIV) "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.

(Dan 2:37-38 NIV) You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; {38} in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.

The artistic motif of a winged lion is a common one in Babylon. Like the eagle for America or the bear for Russia today, it was the symbol of Babylon. The tearing of the wings and giving of the heart are variously ascribed to Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation or a general increase in humanness of this kingdom. Virtually all commentators agree that this beast, like the head of gold, represents Babylon.

The Second Beast

(Dan 7:5 NIV) "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!'

 

Matters now get interesting. Is this the Median kingdom? Or does it designate Medo-Persia? The issue becomes clearer in verse 6, with the number “four.” Does that number designate the four kings of the Persian kingdom? Or the four generals to whom the empire of Alexander the Great was divided? To give you an example of how prophecy may be construed we have the problem of the phrase “raised up on one of its sides.” Those holding to one view say the bear is the Medes and Persians, rising first in the Medes. The three ribs are supposed as Babylon, Lydia and Egypt, the three main conquests of that empire.

I personally hold to the idea that this is Medo-Persia. This has the symmetry of making the visions of Daniel 2, 7 and 8 all conform to each other in the matter of the four kingdoms - as Daniel 8 clearly ascribes the second kingdom to Medo-Persia and the third kingdom to Greece.

The Third Beast

(Dan 7:6 NIV) "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.

 

Here we see the third beast and that number “four.” Are the four heads Alexander’s generals? This is reinforced by the view in Daniel 8, where the goat is explicitly declared to be Greece. In this view, the sacrilege of the altar by Antiochus Epiphanes is the one prophesied in Daniel 8.

The Fourth Beast

Here the trouble begins:

7 "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.

The difficulty of the “Greek” view of this beast is the ten horns -- there is nothing particularly specific to the ten horns. This view gained a lot of popularity when there were ten nations in the Common Market. Our ignorance of ancient history may have blinded us here. In the “Roman” view this is the division of the Western Roman Empire into ten kingdoms.

1. The Huns in Hungary, A.D. 356.

2. The Ostrogoths in Moesia, 377.

3. The Visigoths in Pannonia, 378.

4. The Sueves and Alans in Gascoigne and Spain, 407.

5. The Vandals in Africa, 407.

6. The Franks in France, 407.

7. The Burgundians in Burgundy, 407.

8. The Heruli and Turingi in Italy, 476.

9. The Saxons and Angles in Britain, 476.

10. The Lombards, first upon the Danube, 526, and afterwards in Italy.

Though the ten kingdoms differed from these in later periods, and were sometimes more or less, yet they were still known by that name.

The Ancient of Days

(Dan 7:8-14 NIV) "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. {9} "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. {10} 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. {11} "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. {12} (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) {13} "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. {14} He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men 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.

 

The key question at this point is one of chronology. If the vision is -- and it certainly appears to be -- that of Christ coming in glory, then the time of the fourth beast is the time of the end. On that view, the fourth kingdom is yet to come. This is (roughly) the modern view. On the classic view (Roman) this is a vision of the beginning of the end times, that is, the coming of Christ the first time. Thus, his first coming is in the time of the Romans. On this view, the three horns were the kingdom of Heruli, of the Ostrogoths, and of the Lombards. These were overthrown by the Papacy in physical conquest.

The key point for Christians today, as always, is the Lord Himself. Despite the things which happen, God is Sovereign!

The Interpretation of the Vision

(Dan 7:15-28 NIV) "I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. {16} 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: {17} 'The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. {18} But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever--yes, for ever and ever.' {19} "Then I wanted to know the true 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. {20} 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. {21} As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, {22} until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom. {23} "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. {24} 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. {25} 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. {26} "'But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. {27} Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.' {28} "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."

So who is the “little horn?” What is meant by “time, times and half a time?” There are three candidates:

·        In the view of those who hold these events in the future, this is the antichrist to come. The timing is the first half of the great seven years of tribulation.

·        In the classic view, this is the Papacy. The start is dated from the decree of Phocas (which proclaimed the Bishop of Rome as supreme head (temporal and spiritual) of the church) in 606 -- and ends neatly with the renunciation of the Pope’s temporal supremacy in 1866.

·        In the “Greek” view, this is Antiochus Epiphanes in his desecration of the temple in Jerusalem.

Other candidates have included the Emperor Nero, other Ceasars in Rome, and Adolf Hitler.

OK, so what’s the point? You can’t tell which answer is right? Let me ask the question: suppose you knew the right answer. Suppose you knew exactly which interpretation was correct. What difference would it make? Jesus is coming again, in power and glory, to judge the living and the dead. Are you ready for His return?

(1 Th 5:1-11 NIV) Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, {2} for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. {3} While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. {4} But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. {5} You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. {6} So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. {7} For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. {8} But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. {9} For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. {10} He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. {11} Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

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