Daniel Chapter 7: The Deciphering Of This Vision!
Remembering that chapter divisions are man made it soon becomes evident that the twelve chapters of Daniel divide very easily into two parts. With chapter seven we commence the second very powerful division of this amazing book. While it could be said the first six chapters deal, in the main, with the historical aspects of the book the final chapters most certainly open up for us prophecies that are enlightening to say the least. These chapters can be summarized in pairs says John Phillips and Jerry Vines in their book on “Exploring The Book Of Daniel.” Two coming dictators Ch’s 7-8, Two critical delays Ch’s 9-10, Two complete disclosures Ch’s 11-12. As we begin our study of such an amazing passage of Scripture dealing specifically with prophecy, in which there are many things not easily understood, it is important that we remember the word’s of Moses in Deuteronomy, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us” (Deuteronomy Ch.29v29). In other words, do not strain at the unknowable; on the other hand, take to heart readily that which through the Holy Spirit is clear and understandable. It is absolutely essential we pray for wisdom as we endeavour to unpack these precious passages in our search for the spiritual gems God has placed there for His own blood-bought children. Scripture is given to us that we might understand what is happening in our world and what God is doing in the course of history. There is nothing more helpful in this respect than to give attention to the great outlines of future events foretold in various prophetic passages of the Bible. There are certain introductory matters that are given to us in the beginning of this chapter that help us to understand the background of it. This, without doubt is a chapter of great things. In this first verse we sense we are hearing about of a great vision. In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, “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 Ch.7v1). This places the time of the vision as occurring toward the end of the Babylonian empire. It was in the first year of Belshazzar, who was the last king of Babylon, which in turn ties in closely with the account in the fifth chapter, where Belshazzar made a great feast and handwriting appeared on the wall and that night the kingdom was taken by the Medes and the Persians. This vision, therefore, then occurs perhaps thirty or thirty-five years after the great dream image that was recorded in Daniel Ch.2. This time it is Daniel that has a dream and with the dream come certain visions.
There are three separate visions recounted in Daniel Ch.7. One runs from verse 2 through verse 6, the vision of the three beasts that arise out of the sea. From verse 7 through verse 12 is a second vision, which involves a fourth beast and also the Ancient of Days. Verses 13-14 involve still a third vision. Daniel sees a most remarkable person who is presented to the Ancient of Days. This is one of the clear instances in the Old Testament where we have a pre-incarnate view of Jesus Christ. Then, beginning with Verse 15, there is a general interpretation of these visions. From Verse 19 through to the end of the chapter the angel concentrates upon the remarkable fourth beast, as of great significance to us. The structure of the chapter seems to follow the same general division of Daniel Ch.2, the great dream image which Nebuchadnezzar saw: which are four divisions of history, finally ending at the invasion of earth by God and establishment of his kingdom. In Chapter 2 there came a stone cut out of the mountain without hands that smote the image on its feet and destroyed all the kingdoms of men. In this chapter, it is the Ancient of Days who sends the Son of Man to establish his everlasting dominion upon earth. Because these two chapters seem to follow the same general pattern, most of the interpreters of Daniel Ch.7 view the four beasts that open the chapter as picturing the same nations as the four divisions of the dream in Daniel Ch.2, i.e., Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and a fourth empire beginning with Rome but extending all the way down to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is what is called the "historical" interpretation of Daniel Ch.7, which says that most of it lies in the past and only the fourth beast concerns us in the present. There are great Bible teachers who support that view, and though I am less than the least of the prophets, I, too, for many years held the same view. But let us turn to this vision of the beasts in Daniel Ch.7 and see why I rather think it pictures conditions among the nations, which exist just before the return of Jesus Christ. In doing so we shall not view this as a telescope, looking down the long course of history from Daniel's day till now (you get that in Daniel Ch. 2), but this is more like a zoom camera which comes right in upon the events of the last days. If we are drawing near to these last days, these events will intensely concern us.
Notice, first, that a certain locale is marked out for us in which these events are to occur: “Daniel spoke and said, I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven strove upon the great sea" (Daniel Ch.7v2). It does not take much reading to discover; this is surely the great sea and the great sea is always, in Scripture, the Mediterranean Sea. You will find many verses, which establish that clearly, from many parts of the Scripture it is the great sea that forms the western boundary of Israel. Daniel saw the four winds of heaven blowing upon and stirring up or creating a tumult, in this great sea. Thus, the locale of these visions centers upon the Mediterranean and involves an apparent struggle for the mastery of the Mediterranean area. Daniel goes on to say, "And four great beasts came up out of the sea, diverse from one another" (Daniel Ch.7v3). Once again the evidence is clear, here we have the great beasts. It is apparent from what Daniel has said that the four beasts stand for nations, which in some way relate to the great struggle, which most certainly shall occur in the Mediterranean area. The nations involved are seen as beasts, not as parts of a man, as was true in Daniel Ch. 2. This is because this dream presents God's view of the nations. In Daniel Ch. 2 it is Nebuchadnezzar's dream, and he saw the nations as man sees them, in their outward glory, pomp, and circumstance. But here we have God's view. Interestingly enough, wherever God views the nations they are almost always described as beasts. Surely it is an apt description. You can hear them growling, snarling and snapping at one another even today. Read the accounts in the newspapers, or listen to a session of the United Nations and you will hear them reacting to one another very much as beasts. The first beast is described. "The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings; I beheld till its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man; and a man’s heart was given to it” (Daniel Ch.7v4). What shall we make of this first beast? According to the historical view, this is Babylon, the very nation in which Daniel was living at the time of his dream. But there are several things that indicate that this is not a proper explanation of this first beast: First, the date of the vision is against this interpretation. It occurred in the first year of Belshazzar who was the last king of Babylon. Yet Daniel sees the beast as coming up out of the sea, indicating a future event. Historically, Babylon had already long since been established and it seems hardly likely that Daniel would see a vision of the future which would include that which had already taken place. Secondly, the language of the chapter suggests that this is not merely a repetition of Daniel Ch.2. One of the remarkable things about the book of Daniel is that the section from Daniel Ch. 2 through to Daniel Ch. 7 is written in a different language than the rest of the book. The remainder is in Hebrew, as is the rest of the Old Testament. But this section appears in Aramaic, which is a closely related language to Hebrew. It was the language Jesus spoke when he was here on earth. It is about as different from Hebrew as English is from Russian. Apparently the section is written in Aramaic because it pertains to the Gentile nations and not to the Jews. Daniel Ch.7 is the close of that Aramaic section, as Daniel Ch. 2 was its beginning, and it seems hardly likely that we would find in Daniel Ch. 7 a repetition of the meaning of the dream in Daniel Ch. 2, when the whole section is addressed to the same people and written in the same language. Thus the language rather confirms the idea that Daniel Ch. 7 is a different interpretation. Third, there is nothing in the history of Babylon that corresponds to what is said here about the first beast. The usual interpretation is that the reference to wings being plucked off and the beast made to stand on its two feet, with the mind of a man being given to it, is usually explained as a reference to Nebuchadnezzar's insanity. Previously in Daniel we are told that Nebuchadnezzar became mad and for seven years lived out in the field as an animal. His kingdom was taken away from him for that period of time because of the pride of his heart. But at the end of the seven-year period his sanity returned and he was restored to his throne. But the interesting thing is that all of that happened many years before this vision was given to Daniel. Again it seems most unlikely that this would refer to a past event. It rather seems to symbolize a strange decline of power on the part of a nation to be involved in a struggle for the mastery of the Mediterranean, at a time, as we learn from the rest of the vision, in the days immediately preceding the coming of Jesus Christ again to earth. The wings being plucked off the beast represent the decline of power and then a switch is made to intellectual or moral achievement rather than military might. When I read this, and thought of it as something that might be contemporary, I could not help but be struck by the remarkable parallelism to the course of our British Empire since World War II. I do not claim that this is the interpretation of this symbolism because prophecy is not given to us that we might prophesy, it is rather given to indicate major trends. But if we are living in the last days we may possibly expect to recognize the fulfilment of this. Certainly a lion has long symbolized the British Empire, and the wings, of course, indicate speed and power. But in the vision the wings are plucked off, and thus a change occurs in the course of the history of our nation. It turns from being a military power to an intellectual power. This is remarkably close to what we are seeing happening to our British Empire in our day. We have all witnessed one of the unusual events of history in that quite gradually, but before our eyes, British military prestige has declined all over the world. Britain is now changing to a nation that is stressing intellectual achievements. You can imagine my surprise and astonishment in reading the writings of Sir Robert Anderson, who was for many years’ head of Scotland Yard during the reign of Queen Victoria. He was also a lawyer and a noted prophetic student who brought all his marvellous investigating ability to bear upon the solving of prophetic problems. I discovered that in his book, The Coming Prince, written on the book of Daniel, there was a most amazing statement. Commenting on this first beast of Daniel Ch.7, he says: “May not the opening portion of this vision refer to the gigantic struggle, which must come some day for supremacy in the Mediterranean, which will doubtless carry with it the sovereignty of the world? The lion may possibly typify England, whose vast naval power may be symbolized by the eagles' wings. The plucking of the wings may represent the loss of her position as mistress of the seas”. That amazing statement was made in the days when England was at the zenith of her power as a maritime nation. In the days of Queen Victoria the British fleet was in control of the oceans of the world. Her present decline and change of character certainly suggests a possible explanation of the first beast. (Sir Robert Anderson: The Coming Prince. Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan).
Let us go on and see if any of the rest fits this theory. We have next brought before us the second beast, "And behold, another beast, a second, like a bear and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between its teeth; and they said thus unto it, arise, devour much flesh” (Daniel Ch.7v5). The historical view has generally taken this to mean the Medo-Persian Empire, which followed Babylon upon the scene of history. But there are several striking things that are against that: First, in the eighth chapter we find that the Medo-Persian Empire is specifically named and appears in the form of a beast, but the beast is not a bear, but a great ram. It seems to me unlikely that the Scripture would employ two symbolisms of animals for the same empire, one time a bear, and in the next chapter, a ram. Second, we are told here that the bear was raised up on one side. This has usually been taken to indicate the division between the Medes and the Persians, with the Persians being dominant. But several Hebrew scholars indicate that what is really said here is not, "raised up on one side," but what is really said about this bear is that "it made for itself one dominion." That is a closer, more literal translation of the Aramaic. If this power is recognizable today it is much more likely that this pictures for us the Soviet Union, which is made up of many republics joined together, The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and although much of that power base fell in the collapse of communism the U.S.S.R. has always had as its symbol from the earliest times, a bear, and is engaged as we see today in a struggle for Mediterranean supremacy. Just recently of course we have seen Prime-Minister Vladimir Putin sign an agreement with Iran, which will net Russia millions of dollars through the sale of weapons and other material, which through an agreement signed by Mikhail Gorbachev, and also at a later date by Boris Yeltsin those weapons were to be destroyed many years ago but that agreement never was honoured. Further, it has fulfilled what is reported here about it. The beast was told, "Arise, devour much flesh." Nothing is more striking than the way the Soviet Union has reached out around the world and encompassed many peoples by conquest and propaganda and thus has literally devoured much flesh and again I say, while there has been an amazing change in Russia’s mighty hold on other peoples, do not be fooled, Russia is becoming once again a power to be reckoned with and should be taken seriously.
Now if you ask about the three ribs, I confess to you that I cannot identify them. Perhaps a more careful study of the U.S.S.R. might divulge what this symbolism represents. Some have suggested it might refer to the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which, unlike other satellite nations, are still closely aligned with the Soviet Union. I do not at all suggest this in a dogmatic fashion, but I do think it is worth considering. The third beast appears in verse 6: "After this I looked, and lo, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back; and the beast had four heads; and dominion was given to it" (Daniel Ch.7v6). Historically this is taken to be the kingdom of Alexander the Great, the Grecian Empire but again, we have the Grecian Empire clearly named in Chapter 8 and depicted as a beast, but not as a leopard; it is there a he-goat with a notable horn between his eyes, as we will see when we come to Daniel Ch. 8. The historical view draws great significance from the four heads of the beast which, it is said, refer to the fact that when Alexander died his kingdom was divided among his four generals. This is historically true, but the interesting thing is that this beast is seen to have four heads from its very beginning. In Daniel Ch.8 it is clearly indicated that the four divisions of Alexander's kingdom occur after his death, but here the four heads appear on the beast from its very beginning in the struggle for Mediterranean mastery. I am tempted to view this as possibly depicting Israel, especially because of the four wings which speak of rapidity in striking, the ability to move quickly in military power. After the Six-day War who can deny that Israel has this kind of power? But at present I cannot explain the four heads. It does suggest a junta, or perhaps a coalition government. It might possibly be modern Greece, which did for a time at least, operate under a junta. Or it may be a nation yet to appear as a Mediterranean power which is not visible to us as yet: perhaps it is there now but not identifiable. At any rate we have clearly here three great nations, national powers, which struggle for Mediterranean mastery. They are not successive, although the prophet describes them successively; they seem to appear contemporaneously, and they struggle for the mastery of the great sea. In Daniel Ch.7vv 7-8 we have a second vision: The fourth beast is brought before us, and the rest of the chapter centers on this. "After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrible and dreadful and exceedingly strong; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the residue, with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots; and behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things" (Daniel Ch.7vv7-8). Without doubt we have here the great teeth, which is now the central theme of the chapter. The remainder of the chapter focuses upon this fourth beast. There are several noteworthy things about it immediately visible: The mention of iron ties it to the iron kingdom of Daniel Ch. 2, which is the fourth empire to occupy leadership in the affairs of the world. The Roman Empire was clearly marked by an iron like quality, probably the strongest of the four gentile World Empires. Also, it is described as breaking in pieces and crushing all opposition and stamping it underfoot. This is markedly similar to what was said about the iron kingdom in Daniel Ch. 2. Perhaps what is said about stamping the residue with its feet would indicate that this beast in some way subdues the other three beasts and takes over their power. That may well be what is meant when a little horn, the eleventh one that comes up, plucks up three of the other horns before it. We might possibly identify those as the first three beasts. Nevertheless it is clear that this fourth beast has one remarkable feature about it, it has ten horns, and these ten horns correspond to the ten toes of the image in Daniel Ch. 2. We are told there that in the days of those [ten] kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. Now we have a beast with its ten horns, and it is clearly a coalition of ten nations, which unite together to give their power to one. An eleventh one, joining them later, overpowers three of the original ten horns (and as I have suggested, these may possibly be the first three beasts) and becomes the dominant power of earth. It makes its appearance by joining the struggle for Mediterranean mastery. There are further details on this in the book of Revelation. One of the remarkable things about the Bible is the way it ties together. Though the book of Revelation was written some six hundred years after the book of Daniel, there are most remarkable parallels, which tie these two books together. We have seen this before but it may be helpful to note some further details. In Revelation, John the apostle says:
“And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems upon its horns, and a blasphemous name upon its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth” (Revelation Ch.13vv1-2a). Could this be the great mouth?
Do you see the similarity? He gathers up the characteristics of the first three beasts in Daniel Ch.7, the lion, the bear, and the leopard, and they appear as features of this great beast, which John sees in Revelation 13. This suggests again that in some way the fourth beast seems to amalgamate (conquer, perhaps) the other three beasts. Notice also, in Chapter 17 of Revelation, certain other interpretation given to us about the beast John sees: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, 'Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who is seated upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the dwellers on earth have become drunk.' And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, which was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns” (Revelation Ch.17vv1-3). This is surely a great kingdom. This is clearly the same beast we saw in Revelation but notice something else. The symbolism here is remarkable. This great harlot, standing for the false church (not of any one denomination but false religion, false Christianity as it exists among all denominations today) is seen to be seated first upon many waters, and then, when John gets a closer view he sees her seated upon a beast with seven heads and ten horns. The waters, therefore, represent the same thing that the beast does. In this same chapter we have the waters interpreted for us. In verse 15, we are told: “And he said to me, the waters that you saw, where the harlot is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues" (Revelation Ch.17v15). Many peoples, multitudes of them, nations joining together, and also various languages represented among them; all of which agrees with what we have seen before in Daniel, that this fourth kingdom, the fourth beast of Daniel Ch. 7, is made up of many nations, a Western Empire of nations, joining together in a great confederacy to move as a unit in its final form. It is made up of peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues and yet, in its final form, ten kings or kingdoms, which, as we are told in Revelation Ch.17vv12-14, unite together, head it up.
"And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind and give over their power and authority to the beast; they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of Lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation Ch.17vv12-14). This most certainly is the great king. That gives us a clear indication of the time in which this is to occur. It is immediately preceding the appearance again of Jesus Christ, who is the Lamb who conquers the nations of earth.
Now, lets take a look back to Daniel Ch.7, where we shall look very quickly and briefly at the second part of Daniel's vision, the vision of the Ancient of Days.
"As I looked, thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days took his seat; his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came forth from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. I looked then because of the sound of the great words which the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time" (Daniel Ch7vv9-12).
What a remarkable vision! It is very similar you will notice, to the vision recorded in Revelation 4 and 5, where John looked into heaven and saw a judgment scene with God seated upon a throne, and twenty-four elders on thrones around him. They, too, were passing judgment upon the affairs of earth, just as Daniel sees it here, with great-uncounted hosts of angels waiting upon God's word. God is in the midst of his council, and as the council debates the matter of earth; sentence is passed upon this blasphemous horn, the last ruler of the fourth kingdom, this horn that had "eyes like a man, and a mouth speaking great things." We will see more of him later. Then Daniel is shown the one who is chosen to execute the judgement. "I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like the son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed" (Daniel Ch.7vv13-14).
Who is this "Son of Man"? Who else could it be than the Lord Jesus, the One who is seen also in the opening chapters of Revelation as possessing all power in heaven and on earth and who takes the seven-sealed book from the hands of the One seated upon the throne? He is acknowledged there as the only one in the history of mankind who is worthy to open the book and to unfold the seals. Now here he comes with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days. Perhaps this is the passage the Lord Jesus had in mind when he addressed the chief priests at the time he was brought before them and was charged with blasphemy. He told them that the days would come when they would see "The Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew Ch.26v64, Mark Ch.14v62). He was referring to this passage in which Daniel had predicted that great event. What can we make of all this? Surely there is hardly any comment needed. It is obvious that God's intent is to allow sinful humanity to run its course until all that is hidden underneath, the evil pretensions of the human heart, are brought out and revealed in the conduct of men toward one another. When history reaches its lowest ebb, when the sin of man breaks forth in its most vulgar and most evil forms, then God intends to intervene once again. Now this is absolutely sure. We must settle on this. This is not a mere vagary of Scripture; it is the central teaching of the Word of God. We have as authority to teach this, not only the prophets who spoke of old, but also the apostles of the New Testaments and, even more importantly, the direct testimony of Jesus Christ himself. He quotes the book of Daniel and enlarges upon these things. He gives the same picture as Daniel concerning his return. He says, "The Son of Man shall come in his glory with all his angels with him," (Matthew Ch.25v31). Then his throne will be established and all nations shall gather before him. He gives us that same picture in Matthew 24 and 25. In other words, if this is not the outline which history will follow, the mould into which it is poured, Christianity is a fraud. If events are finally going to take another shape, then we have been following a delusion and we would be much better off if it were done away with. But the basis of our faith is the veracity of these passages. We believe God intends to fulfill them exactly as described.
What does that mean to you and me as individuals? Does it mean, that God is not going to permit man to work out his problems, ultimately, and find the solutions he desires? Instead he will demonstrate that man has no capacity to do so. Man cannot work these problems out himself. There is no way that it can be done. It is only as he relates to the God who made him, and who understands him, and welcomes again the intervention of God into his life, that any kind of human problem can be worked out.
Is that not the teaching of prophecy? What other conclusion can we draw from this, than that God Himself intends to demonstrate it throughout the course of history? In our day we are seeing a remarkable struggle for supremacy developing in the Mediterranean. Every knowledgeable eye is upon that struggle. It is admitted everywhere today that the Middle East crisis is the most serious crisis our world faces, far greater in its possible impact than any otherworld struggle. Is this crisis laying the groundwork for the appearance of these great nations Daniel saw? Who can say? I do not say it is the fulfillment of it, but I say that events are clearly heading in that direction and that the movements we see today are producing the final form pictured here. We can be confident that, as history unfolds, it will follow the pattern that Daniel, Isaiah, Hosea, Joel, and the prophets and apostles have outlined for us.
All of this should give us confidence in the Word of God. It should make us aware that God is in control of history. It should make us realize that we have to rethink the value of our lives in terms of these events, that we must ask ourselves continually the question, "Where is my influence being put, where is the impact of my life?" Is it all wrapped up with things that shall be blown away with the wind? Or is it involved in that which God intends to establish with men? Am I an instrument of his working, or am I in direct opposition to what God is doing in the world today? All these things are given to us in order that we might evaluate life ourselves, and the world around us.
We come now to what I simply call Daniel’s Retrospective Inquiry “I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things” (Daniel Ch.7v15-16). Daniel has been reporting what he saw and heard, the vision then comes to an end, but the revelation has a deep impact on his heart and mind. In fact, we are told he was grieved and troubled and so makes inquiry of one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth of all that he saw. You see, being a godly Jew and a man who knows the Scriptures at hand, he would be looking for the coming Messiah with His reign of peace and prosperity. But this vision has shown a long, dark future for the Jewish people and it deeply disturbs him. What a love and concern he had at all times for his own dear people, the Jews! This aged servant of God would of course remember from Nebuchaddnezzar’s dream that there were four great gentile world empires to come and pass into eternity and then after a prolonged period of time the Messiah’s kingdom would be set up but it all appeared a long way off. Before this God had made Daniel an interpreter of dreams and visions of others; now though, Daniel is seeking divine help to understand his own vision. Exactly who it was Daniel approaches with his inquiry we are not told, could it be Gabriel as mentioned in Daniel Ch.8v16 and Daniel Ch.9v21? Presumably heavenly creatures were around to minister to Daniel but certainly Daniel was not going to let the matter lie, he must know “the truth of all this.” There is within the heart and soul of Daniel the deepest of passions to know the whole truth revealed and to have at least some real understanding of it, which by the way draws for us a beautiful similarity here with those “Nobel Bereans” who searched the Scriptures daily in Acts Ch.17v11. Thus we come to what I simply call Daniel’s Real Interpretation Now, please bear in mind, we are considering together the remarkable predictions of the prophet Daniel dealing with the events on earth just before the return of Jesus Christ to establish His kingdom. I must emphasize that in these studies our part is not to prophesy but to interpret. We can make no certain timetable of events. Although there are many signs of our day which make us feel that the events of Daniel Ch.7 may occur within the lifetime of any of us here, nevertheless we must accept that not one of us can predict with exactness as to time but we must at all times be serious about imminence and be ready and stay ready for the coming of the Lord. As the title of our series suggests, The Battle Ground For Truth, indicating, that especially around the Book of Daniel there has been many a battle both to prove and discredit truth and because it is such a battleground for truth we must be transparently honest. That’s why I am saying this is an outline dealing, in the main, with future events, and all the prophets do is touch upon the highlights of history, but it is impossible to tell how much time elapses between the events that are predicted. This is clearly evident in the Scriptures. Although there are certain time schedules given, they concern themselves with very limited areas and begin only after certain precise events have occurred. We shall see one of these time schedules in this seventh chapter of Daniel, but in general there is no tight chronology on these matters.
So let us think now on the prediction of one of the great figures of all time, foretold in many places in the Scriptures, and even by Jesus himself. All that we have seen in Daniel so far, in some sense, has been leading to the revelation of this strange and sinister being, which is called in the Scriptures, the Antichrist. So lets look at Daniel’s Real Interpretation “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the most high shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever” (Daniel Ch.7vv17-18). For the first time in this chapter we learn the personal reaction of the prophet to this strange series of night visions. He is understandably alarmed and puzzled by them. He sees them as portending certain tremendous events to come though he does not know how soon, and he is puzzled as to what their meaning may be. As already indicated we learn here of the presence of an interpreting angel to whom Daniel comes to ask about these events which may well have been as revealed in Chapter 9 the angel Gabriel, the very same angel who was later sent by God to announce the birth of Jesus to both Joseph and Mary, as recorded in the opening chapters of Matthew and Luke. Gabriel seems to have some special responsibility as interpreter and announcer of events, and he appears here in that capacity to Daniel. There are two things that Gabriel highlights in this strange vision of the four beasts arising out of the sea. One is that the four beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. Now the phrase, "shall arise," makes clear that the historical interpretation of this passage, which links it to the rise of Babylon, followed by Medo-Persia, then by Greece, and then Rome -- is in error, for all four of these are yet to arise after Daniel saw the vision. We know from the first verse of this chapter that Daniel saw the vision almost at the close of the Babylonian empire. Rather than just arising, it had already been world ruler for a great many years. That helps to confirm what we saw last time, that this is a vision of four great nations, all contemporaneous, occupying the Mediterranean area just before the return of Jesus Christ. The vision concerns, therefore, the last days of Gentile rule. The second thing the angel highlighted is that the ultimate end is the establishment of the promised kingdom of God. History does not end in destruction; it goes on to reconstruction. This final kingdom was decreed by the Ancient of Days (another name for God himself), and, in this strange vision in Daniel Ch.7vv13-14, to whom world dominion is granted. Unquestionably, this is one of the places where we have in the Old Testament a clear presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Linked with him is a group of people called "the saints of the Most High." This is a new element. The angel adds in the interpretation that which was not mentioned in the vision itself. These saints of the Most High are to receive the kingdom. Notice they do not take it themselves. It is the Son of man who comes and takes the kingdom, but then he gives it to the saints of the Most High who join him in ruling over the earth.
With this as an introduction, we come to the fourth beast and to what I would call: Daniel’s Revelatory Interrogation “Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and its nails brass, which devoured, broke in pieces, and swamped the residue with his feet; and of the ten horns that were in its head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spoke very great things, whose look was more stout than its fellows. And I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them, until the ancient of days came, and judgement was given to the saints of the most high; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (Daniel Ch.7v19-22). Interest centers now on this strange ten-horned beast that is the fourth of the series, which Daniel saw arising out of the sea, and especially the eleventh horn which arises after the first ten. Daniel asks particularly concerning this beast: All of this we have seen before, except for one new element, which is added by Daniel. He says that the horn, which grew up "made war with the saints and prevailed against them." This had not been included in the vision. From it we learn that the time of these four nations arising together will be a time of great and intense religious persecution, a time when war will be made against the saints, and quite successfully. The beast will prevail against them. Doubtless this links closely with what Jesus himself says, as recorded in Matthew 24, speaking to his disciples on the Mount of Olives just before his crucifixion: "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come" (Matthew Ch.24vv9-14).
I tie these passages together in order that you may see that this is not merely an obscure prediction from an Old Testament prophet, but has been confirmed to us and re-emphasized by the Lord Jesus himself. Daniel himself makes the point in verse 21 “I beheld” or “I kept on looking” its as though he is conducing his own private interrogation that once again he might know the whole truth and it would be explained for those who would follow in the years ahead, he most certainly was not going to be vague about what he had seen and heard. You see, that “same horn,” about which Daniel was asking, showed his hatred for the saints, declared war on them, and indeed prevailed against them. Is it any wonder this thought grips Daniel’s attention? This is most certainly a new concept introduced into this vision and he must understand. What Daniel saw here is a brief period in the last part of the tribulation period. Commenting on that same time period, John wrote, “And it was given unto him (the little horn) to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindred’s, and tongues, and nations” (Revelation Ch.13v7). As to the time element associated with this persecution, the reader should look up Revelation Ch.11v3 12v6 and 13v5. Antichrist fulfils the prediction in all these passages. But notice, the little horn’s reign of terror is not long lasting, only “until the Ancient of days came.” Only the personal return of Christ to this earth can bring to pass the deliverance of God’s saints. Evidently, the little horn was gaining ground and being victorious until that is; the King of kings makes His appearance. The attack comes to an abrupt end rendering the divine verdict in the favour of the saints. So with the mighty and powerful appearance of God’s Son from heaven, the saints of the Most High were avenged of their wicked and ruthless persecutor and given their portion in Messiah’s kingdom. Was Daniel right to make such an interrogation? Sure he was for here we have the clear prophecy describing a blessed experience awaiting the saved remnant of earthly Israel. Moving on with the interpretation, in the closing section of this chapter, Daniel Ch.7vv 23-28, Daniel’s Receptive Interest we have the angel's answer to Daniel's inquiry about the fourth beast. It is a detailed explanation of what the strange symbolism means and especially as regards the little horn, which comes up last. Each verse of this section covers a stage of interpretation, so I shall take it verse by verse. "Then he said, As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces" (Daniel Ch.7v23). By the way, it is so evident, Daniel has a deep interest in all he is hearing and seeing and that because it is from God and about His earthly people the Jew, reminding us, we desperately need to take a similar interest because God is not, by a long way, finished with Israel. Now, this builds upon what we have already learned. We have summarized here the strange course of Roman sovereignty over the earth. The fourth kingdom began with the Roman Empire, but, as the angel said to Daniel, it would be different from all other kingdoms. It is different because it is not a single nation dominating a great section of earth but it is a collection of nations. That is what marks the fourth kingdom as distinct. Remember that in Revelation 17 we were told also that the beast, which appears there, is made up of a multitude of nations and tongues and kingdoms. It is a collection of nations and languages, dominating the world by the power of certain ideals and principles characteristic of it. Now it is time to ask ourselves some rather revealing questions: Why is it that in the course of history since our Lord's day, all of the world's trade languages have been Western? Beginning with Latin (the language of Rome itself), which superseded Greek as the trade language of the world, we then have the rise of the Spanish empire when Spanish was the trade language. It was replaced by French up to modern times, but now it is English, which is spoken all over the world as the language of commerce, trade, and diplomacy. Why is it that these universally spoken languages have always been Roman and Western? Why is it that Western dress has become the standard all over the world in our own day! Instead of the dress and cultures of the East, it has been the West, which has conquered in this area. Western dress is now standard even throughout the Orient. Why is it also that Western technology has spread everywhere throughout the world? And why has the spread of Western civilization always resulted in the breaking up of indigenous cultures and has produced internal struggles among nations by industrializing them with all its inevitable accompaniment of congestion, pollution, and the ravaging of natural resources? Is it not at least possible that this is what is meant by the phrase, "It shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces? Surely this is very remarkable in the light of this strange prophecy. It seems quite clear that this fourth kingdom is indeed different from all the others that preceded it and has a strange and impressive effect upon the whole world. In verse 24 we learn something further: "As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings" (Daniel 7v24). Here we have the final form of the fourth kingdom. The two great political changes which Scripture has long anticipated, must occur before the return of Jesus Christ in glory, have been: The restoration of the Jews to their own land which has been predicted for centuries and has now been fulfilled, and the ten-fold division of the Roman Empire. It is emphasized in several Scriptures that this is to occur before the return of Jesus Christ. There is a gradual development of this ten-fold division after it first appears. There are first ten kings who share power together in a confederation of sorts. Then an eleventh comes up, who is rather obscure and unpretentious at the first, but, by this eleventh, three of the first ten are overthrown or amalgamated, and finally all ten unite in giving their power and authority to the eleventh, the "little horn" mentioned here. Now you cannot read this account without seeing that this "little horn" is an individual. He has, as Daniel said, "the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things." He is the final Caesar of the fourth kingdom. The Roman Empire began with a series of Caesars who established a norm for dictatorship throughout all history. They symbolize supreme power vested in one individual. The "little horn" mentioned here would be the coming Caesar of the world. Let us read on. In verse 25 we learn more. "He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, two times, and half a time" (Daniel 7v25).
Here is new information that we have not had before. There are four distinct, recognizable, factors that are brought out by the angel about this strange being:
First, he blasphemes and opposes God; he "speaks words against the Most High." Other Scriptures elsewhere suggest that he does not begin his career that way but after he comes into world power he begins to blaspheme God.
Second, he persecutes the saints and makes war against them, as Daniel has already been told. He is said here to "wear out the saints of the Most High." The Hebrew word that is used for "wear out" is a most remarkable word. It means literally "to afflict," and always with a mental application. It means, therefore, to afflict mentally, and it very strongly suggests the brainwashing techniques, which are now being widely, developed, using serums and drugs by which the mind, the thinking, is actually changed. Attempts are thus made to alter the entire character of an individual, through mental exhaustion and the use of mind-changing drugs to literally "afflict mentally" and thus "wear out" the saints. Third, we read that he shall "think to change the times and the law." Now it is a little difficult to know exactly what it means, to change the times, because this is about the only reference to this activity that is given to us. But it at least suggests the possibility of a calendar revision, an attempt to change the dating of human events. Since this individual is clearly against God and opposed to the things of God, it is quite likely that what he will try to do is to eliminate the designation of human events by the present use of A.D., "in the year of our Lord," thus dating them from the time of Christ. It is apparently an attempt to change history and date it from some other event, thus eliminating the days of Christ as the hinge of history. We read that he also attempts to change the law. This is not, laws, plural; it is singular, the law, which either implies the constitutions by which nations are basically governed, or, much more likely, an attempt to disregard natural law, to ignore the fundamental law of life, e.g., laws of sex, laws of society, laws of economics, etc. All this highlights the brashness of a man who dares to think of himself as the incarnation of all that men believe about God, and is thus able to change fundamental and basic law. The last thing given to us here is that his time of power is limited. "They shall be given into his hand for a time, two times, and half a time." Elsewhere in Daniel we see what is meant by "a time." Nebuchadnezzar, in Daniel Ch.4, was afflicted with insanity for "seven times." By that is meant seven years, so a "time" is a year. If we take a time, two times, and half a time, and add them together we have three and a half years. This is in exact agreement with predictions elsewhere in Scripture, which limit the time of Antichrist's power to twelve hundred and sixty days, in one case, and in another, forty-two months, each of which is exactly the same period as three and a half years. These other passages were given at a widely differing period of time, thus confirming this limitation of power. It would be helpful at this point to see the parallelism, which exists between Daniel and Revelation. In Revelation 13 we can see that the strange beast that John saw rising up out of the sea is closely parallel to what Daniel describes. "And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems upon its horns and a blasphemous name upon its heads. And the beast that I saw as like a leopard, its feet like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth" (Revelation13vv1-2a). John's beast gathers together all the characteristics of the first three beasts of Daniel's vision. Now let us go on in Revelation 13: "And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies" (Revelation 13v5a). See how clearly that fits in with what Daniel says about the horn that had eyes like a man, and a mouth speaking great things. In Revelation we learn that those great things were "haughty and blasphemous words," "and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months” (which is three and a half years) (Revelation Ch13v5b). “And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God; blaspheming his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven" (Revelation Ch13v6). Also it was allowed "to make war on the saints and to conquer them. No question here as to identity, is there? And authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain" (Revelation 13vv5b-8). Clearly we have an exact identification here with the little horn of Daniel 7. Back in Daniel, we find in the last two verses of the chapter the doom of this beast recorded: "But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end. And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them" (Daniel 7vv26-27). Daniel is told precisely "the court shall sit in judgment," i.e., the heavenly council will pass sentence upon this blasphemous, God-defying man. It is encouraging to see that man's evil is everywhere limited; he can only go so far. Paul gives us further detail on this in Second Thessalonians “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2v7). The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, that is an important word to notice -- miraculous signs are no proof of God-given authentication; they can be satanic, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Thus we learn how the beast's dominion shall be taken away and eventually be given to the saints of the Most High. With one voice Scripture points to the collapse of civilization, as we know it before the return of Jesus Christ. The evil of man will be permitted to have such complete manifestation that it results in the rise of a single individual to whom all authority in the world is committed. As we look at our own day we are tempted to ask. Where are we in this scene? How close are we to these events? As I have already suggested, we can only be relative in our estimation of that nevertheless, it is not difficult to believe that these events are only around the corner. As you know today, even secular writers are predicting the rise of just such an individual. I was interested some time ago in a statement, which appears, in U.S. News and World Report: “The once optimistic hope of Americans for a well ordered and a stable world is fading. Expenditures close to a trillion dollars have failed to provide stability. Rather, conditions have worsened. This appraisal indicates that among officials the prevailing view is gaining acceptance that frictions and world problems are becoming too deep seated to be solved, except by a strong hand from someplace”. Sir Winston Churchill, while still Prime Minister of Great Britain, speaking in Copenhagen, said this: “The creation of an authoritative all-powerful world order is the ultimate aim toward which we must strive. Unless some effective world super-government can be brought quickly into action the proposals for peace and human progress are dark and doubtful.” Everywhere today there are increasing signs, in many dimensions, that we are facing (and soon) an unprecedented world crisis, a crisis that we cannot avoid no matter how hard we try. It will involve not only politics but also even the supply of food, the pollution of the atmosphere, and other ecological matters. Many of us have read the reports of one expert after another who is working on the problem of population explosion, or the greenhouse effect and many other related subjects, all of whom made similar statements, “we are now at the stage where, if we have any hope of saving mankind and the world, we have to take immediate and drastic action on all kinds of fronts. We have got to start doing all the right things at this moment, just to give ourselves a decent fighting chance. But even this won't insure salvation". Ray Stedman writing on this theme says, “with some misgivings, “I want to share with you a remarkable prediction by the famous prophetess of our day, Jeanne Dixon. I want to make it clear that I do not endorse Jean Dixon. I believe that the source of her knowledge is demonic and therefore cannot be trusted, although it has an amazing record of accuracy. That is part of what constitutes it so deceptive”. We must remember that the Scriptures make clear that the powers of darkness have a vested interest in the appearance and the ultimate acceptance of a world ruler; therefore they will be active to prepare the way for the coming and acceptance of such a one. One of Jeanne Dixon's most startling predictions is this: ‘A child born somewhere in the Middle East shortly after 7:00 A.M. on February 5, 1962, will revolutionize the world. Before the close of the century he will bring together all mankind in one all-embracing faith. This will be the foundation of a new Christianity, with every sect and creed united through this man, who will walk among the people to spread the wisdom of the almighty power. Mankind will begin to feel the great force of this man in the early 1980's, and during the subsequent years the world as we know it will be reshaped and revamped into one without wars or suffering. His power will grow greatly until 1999, at which time the peoples of this earth will probably discover the full meaning of the vision.” Obviously, as we would expect, Jeanne Dixon was way out in her predictions but there is a frightening scenario here, many in our world are already enthused to be ready to greet such a deceiver and look forward to his appearing with some sense of sadistic power, especially the leaders of our governments cry out for such a one to come and give such powerful leadership. Where did that all come from? From Satan of course who is already working hard in the world to prepare for such an evil day. Jeanne Dixon’s interpretation of this man all those years ago is to see him as the one great hope of the world and the answer to the prayers of men. The fact that she sees this individual as a blessing to mankind helps to confirm our suspicion that the source of her information is demonic. For in the light of Scripture, this coming world ruler is no blessing at all, although he will first appear in that light. But he is not really a blessing; he is the greatest deceiver the world has ever known though he will appear to offer a way out of world chaos. Distrust the dates that are given in Miss Dixon's predictions because we are no more authorized to set dates for the appearance of Antichrist than we are for the appearance of Jesus Christ. But one thing is clear, and I do not think this can be questioned. We do not today (and probably never shall) live in what we could call normal times. The world is fast approaching a crisis. All voices agree together, secular and sacred alike, that we are coming to an unprecedented time of trouble in the world, and we shall never again see anything that could be regarded as normal times. Again Ray Stedman quotes someone called Dr. Ehrlich. Dr Ehrlich tells us “in the 1970's the world will begin to experience great famines, which are absolutely inescapable. He sees no solution, no way to avoid the great famines that will decimate whole nations in the 1970's. This, along with the increasing pollution of atmosphere, the congestion of our cities, the rise and spread of violence, all points to the soon appearing of some remarkable individual who will seem to offer a way out.” My question to us is this: What should we Christians do in view of all this? Or better, perhaps, the question should be: What should we Christians be? You remember that is the very thing Peter asks after he describes the culmination of human events. He says, "What manner of persons ought you to be in the light of these things?" (2 Peter Ch.3v11) The Scripture tells us that we are not children of darkness. That is, these things are not to come upon us unexpectedly, nor are we to act like others with regard to them. We are children of light; therefore we ought to act in the light of what is revealed about these events. It seems to me this forces us to ask ourselves some questions. I would like to suggest a few which I think we ought to take very seriously in view of the trends of our day, and in the light of our turbulent times and the power of these prophetic Scriptures. Surely it is fair to ask ourselves, should we seek to continue constantly raising our standard of living in the light of these coming events? Is it really fair, in the face of a world, which now knows widespread famine and starvation, to continue to add to our standard of living? I am not trying to be negative. I am not one of those who believe that poverty is necessarily a mark of righteousness. But surely that is a fair question to ask in the face of the pressing needs of the world around us. Is it right for us to try to own a third car, a cabin in the mountains a cottage by the seaside an expensive boat, or other luxuries? I hasten to add that no one has any authority whatsoever to sit in judgment over another in these matters. These are issues, which must be settled for each individual only before God. But I do think we ought to settle them in the light of a conscience that, as the Apostle Paul said, seeks to be void of all offense before men. Is it right that we should spend the additional money that is available to most of us today solely on ourselves while the cause of God is languishing in so many ways for lack of funds? Should we not deliberately and voluntarily forego certain leisure and recreation, recognizing that it is perfectly proper to have normal recreation and leisure, but to use some of the time thus available for just being friends to each other, and showing love and concern for one another? Recently at a church board meeting one pastor and his committee were discussing the perennial problem that some of the visitors to their church, regarded the people as cold and disinterested in those who would come to visit with them in their service. This was they said, a church where you could come for years and learn a lot of truth, but you won't make many friends. Something is wrong if that is the case, said the good pastor. We are not properly demonstrating the warmth of Christian love, which must be pre-eminent above everything else if we belong to Jesus Christ. I know how easily it happens, we are all engulfed in our own programs and schedules. Well, then, let's forget some of the schedules! We need to take more time for friendship and not rush away to things. Let us get to know one another, and be more aggressive in breaking through the natural barriers that keep us from meeting people we haven't met before. Let us manifest the love; concern, and friendship that many of us desire to express toward one another but for one reason or another have not done so. To that statement I am sure, most pastors and church leaders would say a hearty amen! These are fair questions, are they not? "What manner of persons ought we to be," in the light of these events? We know where we are heading. We see beyond the darkness to the glory of the light that shall dawn. We do not need to be depressed; we do not need to be discouraged; we do not need to be downcast or pessimistic. Nor, on the other hand, should we give way to glowing but unfounded optimism, which so many try to display without reason. Let us rather be realistic. Let us obey the Lord and lift up our heads and rejoice, for God is working out his program. But surely it ought to lay some demand upon us to live, not for ourselves, but for the advance of God's cause in these days. Is that unreasonable? Is it not what these events should devolve upon us? Should we not re-evaluate our lives and our daily activities in the light of these portentous events, which are soon to come upon the earth? I leave it to you and your conscience before God which I believe to be an excellent exercise for every believer who have been born into the kingdom for such a time as this, we are not here beloved, accidentally nor are we here incidentally but we are here providentially. This is God’s plan and purpose for us and happy is the man or woman who knows which way God is going and gets going in the same way. Notice, Daniel did more than merely brood over his situation and circumstances; he put his heart and soul into alleviating the problem. He rises from his sick bed and went out to do what his hand could find to do just as the disciples did “Therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word” (Acts Ch.8v4). Obstacles must be expected in the service of the Lord, for there is a very powerful enemy ever beating at our door to bring to naught the work of God, Daniel knew this, but “he rose up and did the King’s business”. This also is the call of God today I believe to the church of Jesus Christ, we are not simply to give in to the lukewarm attitude of this age but in fact we are to confront this age head on in the anointing of the Holy Spirit and allow the power of God to flow through us in order that we may be the more effective for the kingdom of God and His Christ. There must be a revival of this call Daniel subscribed to, we should rise up and do the kings business for it requires our very best at all times and in all situations.
When an observatory is about to be built, the site selected is always on some high mountain. The aim is to find a place where there is a clear, unobstructed view of the heavens. Similarly, faith requires for its heavenly vision the highlands of holiness and separation, the pure sky of a consecrated life.
A. B. Simpson in A Larger Christian Life. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 8.