Many years after his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's vision, Daniel himself was given a prophetic vision from the Creator God concerning the same religious and political system of government.
Daniel 7:1-28 Paraphrased
"In the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions . . . And behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea" (vs.1-2).
The four winds who stir up the great sea are very likely the four angels mentioned in Revelation 7:1 who are responsible for causing great destruction in the earth and sea.
The Four Beasts From the Sea
"And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from another" (v3).
Here, we see four beasts rising out of the sea, and each has distinctly different characteristics, but all come out of the sea during the same time period. Because various bodies of water are sometimes symbolic of people (waters, floods, seas) in biblical prophecy, it is likely that these beasts represent existing nations or alliances of nations. See Isa.57:20.
Because of what the prophetic scriptures say concerning the power and control that evil spirits will exert over the nations of earth, it is more than likely that these four beasts who come out of the sea are also symbolic of the evil spirits who guide and control these physical, national leaders and the national entities that they represent.
The First Three Beasts
"The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I watched until its wings were torn off, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand on two feet like a man, and a man's heart was given to it" (v4).
"And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear. and it raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth,: and they said this to it, Rise up and eat much flesh" (v5).
"After this I watched, and behold another, like a leopard, which had four wings like a bird on its back. For also the beast had four heads; and rulership was given to it" (v6).
Here, we see three beasts described as resembling animals; the first has its wings torn off and the third has four wings.
Who Are The Three Beasts?
It is easily proven that these three beasts are symbolic of specific nations or alliances of nations, but who are they?
The lion is a regal animal that is pictured as the king of beasts. Having its wings torn off would seem to indicate that it has had its movement restricted from wherever the wings had once allowed it to go. The British Empire is a nation that has a standing lion as one of its national symbols and it is prophetically a nation of kings. It has attained great strength and control over the majority of all that it sought to conquer and has also lost much of its vast empire through the dismantling of its great war machine (navy and army). It has, in essence, had its wings torn off. Among all the nations of the world, the British empire most closely fits the description of the regal lion.
The bear is an animal that roams over and controls a vast amount of territory. It is extremely powerful and kills and devours most anything that it desires. The nation that best fits the description of the bear is the nation of Russia, which has methodically and powerfully controlled vast territories by killing and taking what it has desired.
The leopard is a very powerful and lethal animal that strikes with lightning speed. The wings of this prophetic beast give it great mobility and speed, allowing it to quickly kill and devour its prey. These wings are likely symbolic of its air, army, naval, and marine forces. The only combination of nation-states that fits this description is the United States of America.
Although these three beasts are symbolic of three great empires on earth, it is likely that each animal is also symbolic of the nature of the evil spirit controlling each of these empires. See Dan.10:12-20; Rev.19:1-21.
The Fourth Beast
"After this I saw in the night visions, and behold the fourth beast, fearful and terrifying, and very strong! And it had great iron teeth: it devoured and crushed, and stamped what was left with its feet: and it was different from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns" (v7).
Here, we see a beast unlike any of the other three. It is only described as being terrifying, very strong, having iron teeth with which to destroy and feet that trample anything that escapes its iron teeth. From this description, we can easily see that this empire is indeed powerful, destructive, and ruthless, and it shows no mercy to those it attacks.
Notice that this beast has ten horns. In biblical prophecy, horns are often symbolic of rulership, nations, and/or their national leaders (Dan.7:17, 23-24). It is important to keep this in mind, because understanding the symbolism of these horns is a key to understanding the Beast's alliance of nations and its physical/spirit leaders who are spoken of in the Book of Revelation.
The Little Horn
"And I was thinking about the horns, and, behold, another little horn came up among them, before whom three of the first horns were pulled up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things" (v8).
As Daniel is thinking about the ten horns (ten rulers of nations) upon the head of the fourth beast, three of these national rulers are torn out from among the ten. These three are removed from their positions of power and authority and replaced by the little horn (a national ruler) that does not appear as strong and powerful as the three that were removed. Although this individual appears to be weaker than the three he replaced, he is not, because he has eyes with which to see and a mouth with which to speak. The implication is that the other rulers are blind to the true purpose of the beast (the alliance of nations), but this individual is not; he sees and speaks, which means that he speaks for this beast and is, therefore, the one in authority over the beast. It seems that it is the little horn that controls and leads this alliance of nations. See Dan. 8:8-9.
The Ancient of Days
"I looked until the thrones were set up and the Ancient of Days sat, whose robe was as white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool: his throne was like flames of fire; its wheels like burning fire [see Ezk.10:2-19]. A stream of fire went out and came out before him, a thousand thousands served him, and a myriad myriads stood before him: the court was set, and the books were opened" (vs.9-10).
Although verses 9 and 10 seem to have nothing to do with the subject at hand, they are very much a part of what is being described. Daniel just doesn't give the details of what he saw leading up to the things he recorded about the Ancient of Days. These two verses pertain to the time after Christ's return (Dan.2:44-45), the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, and what transpires during this time period concerning people's opportunity for salvation. See Rev.20:1-12.
The Fourth Beast is Killed
During the vision of the Ancient of Days and the events surrounding the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, Daniel sees the little horn that replaces the three horns (vs.7-8). He also sees the killing of the fourth beast at Christ's coming:
"Then I was looking because of the voice of the great words which the horn spoke: I was looking until the beast was killed, and his body was destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time" (vs.11-12).
Verses 11 and 12 mention three distinct and different coming events concerning the fourth beast, the little horn, and the other three beasts.
In the first prophetic event, the fourth beast, which is the powerful alliance of ten nations, is destroyed by Christ when he comes to conquer the earth.
During the second prophesied event, the evil spirit (the son of perdition) who is the leader of the Beast alliance of nations is cast into the Lake of Fire to be tormented. The phrase, 'and his body was destroyed, and given to the burning flame' (vs.11-12) is speaking of the little horn who is the leader of the Beast and whose body is possessed of an evil spirit. See 2.Thes.2:3; Rev.17:8,11, 19:19-20.
In the third prophesied event, the other three evil spirits have their power and authority to rule taken away from them, but are allowed to continue to live for a time and a season (15 months) after which their existence will be terminated. The inference is that these other spirit beings have their lives spared because God has some other task for them to perform at some future date.
"I was looking in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heavens: and he came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him. And dominion was given to him, and glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, that shall not pass away, and his kingdom is that which shall not be destroyed" (vs.13-14).
Here, we see the same event spoken of in Daniel 2:35,44, which refers to the entire image being destroyed with the stone (Christ) and the subsequent establishment of the Kingdom of God the Father over all the earth.
What Do These Things Mean?
"And I came near one who stood by and asked him the truth of all this. And he told me and made me to know the meaning of the things" (v16).
The Beasts and the Kings
"These great beasts are four, they are four kings; they shall rise up out of the earth" (v17).
The angel reveals the key that unlocks the mystery of these four beasts and the overall theme that occurs over and over again in prophecies concerning the end of the age, especially in the Books of Daniel and Revelation. These beasts are symbolic of four kings and one cannot be a king unless one has a kingdom; therefore, it follows that the kings must also represent nations or groups of nations just as the head, chest, belly, legs, and feet of Nebuchadnezzar's image represent four distinct empires. In these four beasts, there are also pictured at least four distinct and individual spirit-beings who control the four empires, which Christ will destroy at his coming. See Dan.10:11-20.
The great difference between Nebuchadnezzar's vision of the image and Daniel's vision of the four beasts is that the image has both a symbolic historical fulfillment as well as an end of the age fulfillment; whereas, the four beasts only represent evil spirits, people, and events that surround the time of Christ's return as conquering King.
The Saints of God
"But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever" (v18).
Although these four kings and their empires are extremely powerful, they are no match for Jesus Christ who will destroy them and their empires at his coming. He will give the rule of the earth to the elect of God who are included in the first resurrection.
The Fourth Beast
"Then I wanted to know the truth of the fourth beast, which was different from all of them, very frightening, whose teeth were of iron, and its nails bronze; who devoured, and crushed, and trampled what was left with its feet. And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even that horn that had eyes, and a mouth speaking great things, and its look was greater than its fellow" (vs.19-20).
This fierce and powerful fourth Beast is an alliance of ten nations led by an evil spirit who is called the Beast and whose purpose is to bring all humanity under a one-world government for the purpose of worshiping and serving Satan the Devil.
War With the Saints
"I watched, and the same horn made war with the saints, and overcame them; until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom" (vs.21-22).
One of the primary goals of the little horn (the leader of the beast) is to kill all of the saints (God's elect). In order to accomplish this goal, he uses his position of authority over the alliance of nations (the fourth beast) to persecute and kill them. Although he is allowed to murder many of God's chosen, he will not be completely successful in totally removing the elect of God as a threat to himself and the alliance of nations he rules. This is because the elect must proclaim God the Father's good news message before Christ comes to destroy the Beast's powerful alliance of nations, kill the beast leader's body, and cast him into the Lake of Fire.
The Devouring of the Earth
"This he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces" (v23).
The angel says that the fourth beast is the fourth kingdom and is different from anything that has ever come before it, and that it is an extremely powerful and fierce alliance of nations, which devours the whole earth.
The following questions about the Beast can only be answered after certain events surrounding this Beast occur:
We can only speculate that whatever this unique thing is, it has something to do with the spirit world and/or things of God that he has held secret concerning his vast creation and how it interacts with humanity. However, what we do know for certain is that whatever makes this kingdom unique, it will only be thoroughly understood by the elect of God. See Dan.12:9-10; Rev.1:1-8; 17:8.
There are many prophecies that show the primary focus of the fourth beast is on the Israelitish nations and those allied with it. There are also prophecies concerning Asia that clearly show that the beast does not conquer them. Therefore, it is logical to assume that this reference to devouring the whole earth has to do with some type of control of the world's leaders through demonic possession and/or influence and/or control of the world's economy and natural resources, rather than military conquest and control. Although the Beast may not totally militarily conquer the whole earth, the prophecies clearly show that this alliance of nations is so powerful that no other nation on earth has the military strength to challenge its authority. See Rev.13:7.
The Different Horn
"And the ten horns [rulers of nations] of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be different from the first, and he shall subdue three kings" (v24 KJV).
Out of this unholy alliance of nations will arise ten leaders who will assume authority over the beast for a short time before three of them are eliminated by one that is somehow uniquely different from the others and somehow manages to elevate himself to a position of authority over all the rest and becomes the supreme ruler of the ten-nation alliance.
The Horn Hates God and His People
"And he [the different horn] shall speak words against the Most High [see verse 11] and wears out [persecutes] the saints of the Most High:, and he intends to change times and the law: and they [the saints] shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time [3½ years]" (v25).
Once again, we are shown that the leader of the Beast alliance of nations hates the things of the true God and speaks out against him and his son, persecutes God's followers, and attempts to change God's holy observances and laws. This scripture also reveals that the persecution against the elect of God by the leader of the Beast will last three and a half years before Christ's return. See Rev.13:5-7.
The Saints Will be Victorious
"But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his rulership, to cut off, to destroy until the end. And the kingdom and rulership, and greatness of the kingdom under all the heavens, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. And all kingdoms shall serve and obey him" (vs.26-27).
Although the alliance of nations called the Beast and its leader conquer and control much of the earth and its inhabitants, they will not be allowed to conquer all of humanity and kill all of God's elect. This is because the final outcome of all this war and carnage was decided ages ago by God the Father and Jesus Christ. In the end, the people of God will be victorious and gain control of the earth.
By B. L. Cocherell and Charles E. Barrett b2w14c