In the human experience it is possible for dreams to become nightmares! We all know that nightmares are frightening pictures that make us desperate to escape. Fortunately most nightmares go away when we awaken. But Daniel’s terrifying dreams and visions were messages from God about a real future that will not go away. It will be lived out in living color. We are entering a most fascinating portion of Scripture. These last six chapters are among the richest prophetic Scriptures in the entire Bible. They include prophecies for both Jews and Gentiles and carry us through to the final victory of God’s people.
It is not always fun to be a prophet. The messages that God’s prophets were called to give were often bad news because of the reality of greedy, power-hungry rulers in the world. Chapter seven of Daniel begins a new section revealing a bleak world history that will unfold in coming years. That initial history will culminate in the promised appearance of the Messiah. But it doesn’t stop there. It also includes the appearance of the Antichrist and the second coming of the Messiah. Daniel will see both tribulation and triumph in his colorful visions.
The first six chapters of Daniel revealed events that took place in the life of Daniel as he and his friends served in the courts of different kings in the land of Babylon. They were stories of courage and faith and amazing dream interpretations. Chapter two was the first picture of future world empires. It was given in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream statue and was given from man’s perspective which would appear to be something magnificent and glorious. It depicted strong and valuable metals describing world empires – gold, silver, bronze and iron. Now the picture is given from God’s perspective as ravenous beasts cruelly devouring anything in their paths. Daniel’s visions contain important details that add much interest to the prophetic puzzle.
DAY ONE: DANIEL RECORDED VISIONS OF FOUR BEASTS.
Read: Daniel 7:1-8
A. DANIEL’S DREAMS DEPICT GREAT TURMOIL.
Daniel was lying quietly in his bed when God chose to speak to him. Often quiet moments are God’s best opportunity to reach us with important truths or comforting messages. The busyness of today’s lifestyles can be a wall between us and the still, small voice of God.
We have to pause and establish the context of this event. It was in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign, so we can see that chronologically this took place before the events of chapters five and six. Babylon was still in power. Belshazzar had replaced Nebuchadnezzar, and he did not have the same respect for Israel’s God as King Nebuchadnezzar had exhibited. Things were looking bleak for Daniel’s people. So, God stepped up to remind Daniel of the future of Babylon and the Gentile empires that will follow—empires that will rule over Israel. In our lives sometimes things get worse before they get better, but God always provides hope for His faithful ones.
Daniel saw a mighty wind that was stirring up the Great Sea (Mediterranean Sea). In Scripture, the sea is often used as a description of the Gentile world (Isaiah 17:12-13; Revelation 17:15). The chaotic sea represents nations in conflict. There was turmoil as four frightening Gentile empires (beasts) came up out of the sea, one after the other. As we have discovered earlier in the book of Daniel, this was a time of great political upheaval in the history of man.
B. THE FIRST BEAST APPEARED AS A LION.
The first beast was initially like a lion but with wings of an eagle. This represents the Babylonian Empire that swiftly conquered the lands around the great city of Babylon. Then the lion settled down from its lust of conquest and began developing its culture. It became more humane after Nebuchadnezzar’s encounters with God.
C. THE SECOND BEAST APPEARED AS A BEAR.
The second beast was like a bear that was raised up on one side with three bones in its mouth. It represented the Medo-Persian Empire. It appeared to be lopsided because the Persians became the dominant rulers. They conquered three kingdoms (Lydia, Babylonia and Egypt) to establish their supremacy. The bear was not as majestic as the lion. He was weighty because of the sheer numbers in this larger empire. He moved more slowly than his predecessor.
D. THE THIRD BEAST APPEARED AS A LEOPARD.
The third beast looked like a leopard with four heads and four wings. This creature represented the Greek or Hellenistic Empire. It came into being with leopard-like speed as Alexander the Great conquered kingdom after kingdom. However, he died suddenly and the empire was split into four parts with four generals taking control of the vast empire.
E. THE FOURTH BEAST APPEARED AS A TERRIBLE BEAST.
The fourth beast defied description. He was terrifying and dreadful and extremely strong. He had iron teeth that crushed and devoured its victims. This beast was different from the others and had ten horns (rulers). This vision represents the Roman Empire. It started with ten horns, then an eleventh “little horn” arose that uprooted three of the ten others. This empire will go through several stages. This “little horn” is a person as we will see later.
- Look up the word “perspective” in the dictionary. How does perspective “color” our interpretation of certain facts?
- What does Scripture say about a difference in man’s perspective and God’s perspective? (Proverbs 21:2)?
- What does Scripture say about the way God’s perspective affects His actions? (Isaiah 55:9)
- Can you think of a situation in your nation right now where there might be two ways of looking at the facts?
- How do we develop a Godly mindset so our perspective on life is in line with God’s?
DAY TWO: DANIEL RECEIVED A VISION OF A GLORIOUS KING.
Read: Daniel 7:9-14
A. DANIEL SAW INTO HEAVEN’S THRONE ROOM.
It must have been dizzying (yet a relief) for Daniel’s vision to move from earth to heaven. As he was still reeling from the terrifying beasts he had seen, he saw quite a different picture. He was looking into a courtroom scene. The person he saw sitting on a throne was God, preparing to judge the beast that Daniel had seen. This was a breathtaking picture of God. He is called the “ancient of days.” He has lived throughout all of history and is an eyewitness to all the deeds of human beings and nations.
His clothing was as white as snow and his hair was white like wool. His throne was flaming fire with flaming wheels. Even the river coming out of the throne was of flowing fire. We notice that He had untold thousands standing around Him and before Him—waiting to carry out His judgment. The beasts were waiting to be judged. The books were already open.
It is always an awesome thought to be reminded that one day all of God’s enemies will give an account for the choices that were made in this life. How awesome to think about standing before an absolutely pure and holy God who has an open book of your life. There will be no excuses, no hiding, and no place for rationalizing or covering up. The people and nations being judged will receive absolute justice.
From the fourth empire or beast, a little horn will arise “among” the ten horns. He will be a part of the final phase of the fourth beast. Later we are told that the little horn is the Antichrist. He will come to power while the ten kings are still present on earth.
- Other prophets have seen visions of the throne room in heaven. Compare Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 1:25-28) and John’s vision (Revelation 1:12-16) with Daniel’s vision. What impresses you about these pictures?
- What was the beast doing even while in the presence of God?
- What happened to the beast as Daniel watched the proceedings?
- What happened to the other beasts in the vision?
- Picture yourself as you appear before the judgment seat of Christ? Would you be tempted to boast about your life? Why or why not?
- How are you using the spiritual gifts and opportunities that God has granted to you?
DAY THREE: DANIEL REVEALED HIS VISION OF THE SON OF MAN.
Read: Daniel 7:13-14
A. DANIEL SAW THE ULTIMATE VICTORY.
What a glorious sight as Daniel saw the “Son of Man” (Jesus) presented to the “Ancient of Days” (God the Father). We have already learned in chapter two that the “stone cut out without hands” struck the feet of the Gentile empires and brought down the entire Gentile statue. Then the stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. This stone represents the king who will put an end to Gentile domination and will set up a kingdom that will reign forever. (Daniel 2:44-45)
B. DANIEL SAW THE ULTIMATE KING.
Now Daniel sees a vision of this person being given dominion, glory and a kingdom that will include all men of every nation on earth. This king will be worshipped forever and forever.
God’s story has a triumphant ending, but the playing out of this story will take a long time. Some will even take advantage of the seeming triumph of Gentile kingdoms. They will laugh at the idea that Jesus is coming again to set up an eternal kingdom. We live in just such a time. Prominent people in the political, economic and entertainment worlds are scoffing at Christianity and the Word of God. They are saying that religion is detrimental to the progress of civilization and that the Bible is outdated. Peter warned that just such a time would come (2 Peter 3:3-4).
It is easy to get discouraged when it looks like the enemy is winning. That is one of the reasons that God has given us this beautiful picture of the triumphant king and the triumphant ending of history. We can know that ultimately the earth and true believers will enjoy the life that God created us to live.
- What name does Daniel use to describe this person who is given all authority?
- How does Mark 14:60-62 identify this person very clearly?
- What is unique about the kingdom he was given?
- Scripture promises a blessing if we read the book of Revelation (Revelation 1:3). How does it bless you to know the ending of God’s story in the Bible?
- Why do you think it is taking so long for “the last days” to play out? (2 Peter 3:8-9)
DAY FOUR: DANIEL RECEIVED THE INTERPRETATION FROM AN ANGEL.
Read: Daniel 7:15-17
A. AN ANGEL GAVE A SUMMARY OF THE BEASTS.
Daniel was predictably troubled in his spirit by the vicious beasts that were shown to him. Many people have had nightmares about animals that threaten to harm them. As a child I often had nightmares of being chased by an angry bull in a pasture. It is hard to know why these anxiety dreams occur. But Daniel’s dreams were a direct message from God and had a definite purpose. Daniel’s visions were presented as reality that would actually happen in the future. He had the advantage of asking an angel for the true meaning. The angel gave a simple summary. The four beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth.
We notice that originally the beasts were from the sea; now they are from the earth. The sea emphasizes their Gentile identity, and the earth emphasizes their humanity. These are human kingdoms as opposed to the divine kingdom that will come from above to triumph forever. This kingdom will be received by the saints of God. Finally God’s people will reign, and the battle with evil governments will be over. There will be no more nightmares!
- Why do you think Daniel and the Jews in Babylon needed to know about these kingdoms that would be like beasts?
- Why do you think God allowed evil rulers and kingdoms to exist?
- What does scripture say about God’s control over nations? (Romans 13:1)
- How are God’s people supposed to behave when the reigning authorities are not acknowledging God and His principles? (Romans 13:2, 7)
- How would you describe the government under which you live?
- How can you respect your governing authorities in practical ways without compromising your Godly principles?
DAY FIVE: DANIEL REQUESTED AN INTERPRETATION OF THE FOURTH BEAST.
Read: Daniel 7:28
A. THE ANGEL PROVIDED A DETAILED EXPLANATION.
Daniel was confused about the description and progressive stages of the fourth beast – first ten horns, then one horn, then three horns in defeat, and the horn that spoke like a human and fought against the saints. He had reason to be troubled because this horn was winning the battle for a time. Who is this ruler and when will this battle be played out?
Often we ask “what” or “why” or “who” and don’t get an immediate answer. God reserves the right to answer in His time and in His way. If we don’t get an answer, God is asking us to trust Him without knowing everything we would like to know in the moment. We can’t always have every answer immediately, but he sends grace and comfort to help us in times of confusion and waiting.
We notice that Daniel got an immediate answer in the form of an angel who will explain what Daniel has seen. We shouldn’t be surprised that Daniel received an answer. After all, God sent the dream as a message to his faithful prophet. A prophet is a spokesman for God, and Daniel will record this message to give out at the proper time for all to see. The angel began by revealing that the fourth beast is different from the others in its overwhelming destructive power. It is also different in that it will go through three stages.
The first stage is the beast or the conquering stage. Rome would be a fierce war machine that conquered a much greater area than the first three kingdoms. This beast is the ancient Roman Empire that controlled most of the known world including the Holy Land.
The second stage is described as having ten horns or ten kings. Since these kings came out of the fourth kingdom, they are part of the fourth beast. Eventually the Roman Empire would have ten rulers or would consist of a ten nation confederation. Many believe that this is still future since the ancient Roman Empire never consisted of a nation with ten kings.
The third stage is described as a time when another king will arise out of the ten-nation confederation. This eleventh king will not be content to be an equal but will subdue three other kings in an attempt to be more powerful or to be the chief ruler. He is called the “little one” or little horn (7:8) initially but would soon exert his power to rule over others.
B. THE ELEVENTH KING WILL GO ON THE ATTACK.
Once his authority has been established, this king begins to assert his power in a specific way in three areas:
He will speak against THE MOST HIGH GOD. In other words, he will blaspheme against God. In chapter eleven we will see that he will try to exalt himself to the level of God.
He will wage war against the saints of God. He will persecute the believers of his time and will actually overcome many for about three and a half years.
He will try to alter the set times and the laws that God has instituted. God is the one who established moral laws and natural laws and human government to regulate societies in a fallen world. He is the one who set up the laws that govern Judaism. Somehow, this king will try to change what God has authorized.
C. THE ELEVENTH KING WILL BE JUDGED.
It is obvious that this king is the one whom John called Antichrist (1 John 2:18). In due time this person will lose his power and will be destroyed forever. Then all power will be handed over to the saints of the Most High God and their Messiah. God’s kingdom will last forever.
Daniel is blown away by this most troubling interpretation. The path to glory will be long and troubled, but Daniel has no doubt that God will accomplish what he has revealed, so he kept the matter to ponder quietly in days to come. He did not forget what God had revealed. There will be hard days ahead for Daniel’s people. When they return to their homeland after seventy years of captivity, they will face one vicious ruler after another. This age of Gentile rulers is not a peaceful picture.
- What will happen to this beast at the end of the vision?
- Who will rule in his place?
- How does this prophecy compare with the final prophecy given in Daniel 2:44-45?
- It is easy to dismiss prophecy and just live in the moment. Read 2 Peter 3:1-15. How does God’s revelation of the future impact you right now?
- How can you fulfill the admonition that Peter gives in 2 Peter 3:17-18?
Daniel must have been left with his head spinning after a night of both terrible and triumphant visions. He has been given a picture of the course of Gentile world domination from the time of the Babylonian Empire to the second coming of Christ. The people of God have quite a challenge set before them. However, the promise of the coming kingdom in all of its glory will be worth the birth pangs.
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK: God’s promises become the believer’s greatest treasure and comfort. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
CHALLENGE: Write Daniel 7:27 on a card and read it every day for a month.
When we keep the final victory in mind we can handle today’s challenges without fear.
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