Welcome to Becomning Closer! 

Daniel (2010)

Beasts From The Sea

Daniel  7

Lesson audio

Why study prophecy?

The average Christian must think that prophecy is something well beyond his capability. There are so many books, and so many videos, which proclaim so many different visions of the prophetic future that it becomes quite confusing. However, we are indeed required to study prophecy. Why?

First, because our Lord Jesus Christ commanded it. His words often include prophecy, and his words are our first consideration. If he said it, we should pay attention to it.

Next, we must remember that all Scripture is profitable and instructive. All Scripture is inspired. Therefore Scriptures concerning prophecy may be studied. Here are some reasons for this:

  • First, we are always required to give be ready defense of the faith. The rest of the world is quite well aware of the Bible includes a great deal of prophecy. We therefore must be able to explain what that prophecy means and doesn't mean. If we don't know, who would?
  • Next, we are commanded to watch. We are to know the signs of the end times and look out for them. God intends us to live in hope, and he knows that hope of is greatly strengthened in times of trouble when we can see the signs of the end coming. When it's dark, we look for the dawn.
  • Finally, we are to be ready for the judgment. Over and again our Lord explicitly and implicitly warns us that the judgment is coming at a time which we do not know. He strongly cautions us to be ready. Prophecy is an aid to that readiness.

There are certain principles which are common to all systems of interpreting prophecy. Among these are the following:

  • Prophecy centers around the people of God. There is no sense trying to fit the Aztec empire into prophecy. Therefore, our view of prophecy must be centered on Jerusalem and the history of the church. Sadly, we don't know the history of the church. For example, in Western thought prophecy almost always ignores the Eastern Orthodox Church. From the Reformation onward, prophetic interpretation usually focuses upon an anti-Catholic point of view.
  • Symbols have meaning-in context. For example, if we believe the prophecy we are reading applies to the current day then we would expect that an Eagle would represent the United States. However, if the prophecy applied to the time before Christ the Eagle would represent some other nation. Certain symbols have meaning in any time frame. As we shall see, a beast usually represents a conquering nation or kingdom.
  • Prophecy always has the possibility of being either a long or short view. Sometimes the prophecy may include both. A long view includes the time of the return of Christ, or the period immediately preceding it. A short view would be one which is fairly close to the time of the prophecy, and would not include the return of Christ. So if something happens in the short view we might have to ask if it will also happen in the long view.
  • No prophecy stands alone. If you read a prophetic passage remember that there are other passages which apply to the same events. If you cannot reconcile them, it is likely your view of the meaning of the passage is incorrect.
  • Finally, we hope that as the time of our Lord's return approaches, that we will indeed see things more clearly. (This is one of the major arguments for the futurist point of view of Revelation.)

Please remember that intelligent, learned men disagree greatly on the meaning of many of these passages. At the very least, then, we must maintain our disagreements in a civil manner. We may avail ourselves of HL Mencken's report: "you could be right."

Bearing in mind that we may be wrong, we must not therefore ignore the warnings given-especially as they are very plain. Just because your prophetic scheme is incorrect does not mean you can ignore the warnings of the Gospels.

The Vision

We may now examine the Scriptures:

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and related the following summary of it. Daniel said, "I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. "And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another. "The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. "And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, 'Arise, devour much meat!' "After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. "After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. "While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts. "I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. "A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened. "Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. "As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time. "I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. "And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

(Daniel 7:1-14 NASB)

About the Vision

Liberal scholars to the contrary notwithstanding, this prophecy was given in approximately 555 BC. You will please note that what Daniel has delivered is a summary of what he saw. Therefore we do not have all the details.

One thing may be observed. This vision is very much parallel to the statue given earlier, and will be explained further in Daniel later on. This is very much God’s style; if you will recall, when Joseph interpreted Pharaoh's dreams he told him that God had repeated the dream to him because he wanted to make him understand that it was sure.


Certain of the symbols are easy to understand:

  • The wind in this passage can be taken to represent either the Holy Spirit, or the judgment of God. The two interpretations are not contradictory and it is convenient to take the interpretation as meaning both.
  • The sea represents the general population of the world. This is seen in Revelation 17:15. The implication is that these beasts arise from the general population, that is to say they are not noticed before they arise. As we shall see, these beasts were not noticeable before they became great empires.
  • The interpretation of the beasts is given specifically later in Daniel. To spoil the surprise the first beast is Babylon. The lion represents its ferocity; the wings represent the speed with which the empire arose. Once Nebuchadnezzar died, however, the empire spread no more -- as represented by the plucking of the wings.
  • The bear represents the Medo-Persian Empire. The three ribs in its mouth are generally interpreted as Lydia, Babylon and Egypt.
  • The leopard represents Greece. The four heads represent the four generals who took over the empire of Alexander the Great dividing amongst themselves. The wings again represent the speed with which the empire was developed; this of course represents the speed with which Alexander the Great conquered the known world.
  • The last beast is Rome. As we shall see in the second section there is more to learn about this beast.

The various theories of prophecy disagree on what the word Rome means. Most of the ancient writers naturally assumed that the Rome in question was the original Roman empire. Later writers, especially those of the Reformation, viewed Rome as being the Roman Catholic Church, or perhaps the papacy. Futurists, like Hal Lindsey, view this as a Roman empire to come. For example, Talbot, writing in the 1930s, saw this as Benito Mussolini and the revived Roman Empire.


One of the primary difficulties in interpreting prophecy is the question of framework. Futurists see this Rome as coming in the future because that is what fits with their particular scheme of prophecy. Other interpreters see it in the progression of their times; ancient writers see the Roman empire, and the writers of the Reformation see the Catholic church. Much depends upon the overall framework that you assume to be underlying prophecy.

Daniel gets an explanation

"As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. "I approached one of those who were standing by and began asking him the exact meaning of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: 'These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. 'But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.' "Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet, and the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head and the other horn which came up, and before which three of them fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts and which was larger in appearance than its associates. "I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom. "Thus he said: 'The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. 'As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. 'He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. 'But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. 'Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.' "At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself."

(Daniel 7:15-28 NASB)

The little horn

Daniel now gets an explanation which does not actually explain anything. You can see the overall scheme of things; in the time of the fourth beast the kingdom of God is given to Christ. Does this refer to his first advent, or his second advent? Depending on your answer to that question, you might conclude the following people to be the little horn of Daniel:

  • Ancient writers generally assumed that the little horn was one of the rulers of the Roman empire. Diocletian is a common candidate.
  • Later writers concluded that this was the papacy, or perhaps an individual pope. The papacy is the usual target of the Reformation writers, where is the Futurists see an individual pope as being more likely.
  • Some writers see Antiochus Epiphanes . This interpretation usually holds that the third beast is actually the Greek empire, and that the fourth beast is the Roman empire to come. This is also a futurist interpretation, regarding Rome to come.

Those who see the little horn as yet to come identify him with the Antichrist. Interpretations vary at this point.

Time, times and half the time

Virtually all commentators agree that the phrase, "time", means 360 days. This is the length of the Babylonian year. Futurists generally interpret this literally; meaning that days are individual days. This. Then represents approximately 3 1/2 years which is identified with the great tribulation in Revelation.

All other views hold that the day is the same as a year; therefore this is a period of 1260 years. So the question becomes, "how do we fit these 1260 years into our scheme of interpretation?"[1] the interpretation is influenced by the parallel passage in the book of Revelation which describes the woman in the wilderness. There are two major schemes of interpretation with regard to the papacy:

  • Some hold that the 1260 years start with the assumption of sovereignty by Pope Phocus in 606 A.D. This time would end in 1866 A.D., which coincides with the pope abandoning his sovereignty at the Council known as Vatican One.
  • Others hold that the period begins when King Pepin of France granted sovereignty to Pope Steffen II in either 752 A.D. or 755 A.D. This would bring us to the year 2012 A.D. or 2015 A.D. as this lesson is being written in A.D. 2010, I leave the rest of the interpretation to the reader.
No shortage of interpretation

We have no shortage of interpretation. This time could be the great tribulation; it could be any time of official oppression-but at the end we have the same result: the judgment of God. Prophecy is not given so that you will know how to invest in the stock market. Is given so that you will note the end of all things, and therefore be able to make the right moral decisions. You get one chance at this; I suggest you use it wisely.

[1] the phrase "times" in the original means two times; a word ending not available in the English.

Previous     Home     Next