[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]
7 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.
The book of Daniel is divided into two sections- one historical, and one prophetic. The first six chapters constitute the historical section. This verse begins the prophetic section. While there are prophesies in chapters 2 and 4, they are told in a historical setting and more concern the lives of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar.
We are told “he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters”. Daniel did not wait until the end of his life to write these things down. They were written at various times and compiled later.
The “four winds of heaven” seem to indicate that the following events will be orchestrated, or at least allowed, by God (Revelation 7:1; Jeremiah 49:36; Zechariah 2:6). There is much debate as to whether the great sea refers literally to the Mediterranean Sea (Numbers 34:6; Joshua 15:12), or symbolically to the mass of earth-dwellers (Revelation 17:15; 13:1).
We will see that the four great beasts are four kingdoms or governments. They are “great” because of their size, and the extent and depth of control. Also, make note that they are diverse, one from another.
This vision of Daniel has generally been accepted to correspond to the vision of Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 2, which would make these four beasts be- Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Yet, verse 12 says that the first three beasts would still exist after the fourth was destroyed. And we can see through history that the first three kingdoms ceased to exist when they were conquered. Specifically, these four kingdoms will exist during the time of the ten toes in the vision of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:31-42).
Another point to make note of, is that Daniel says these four beasts came up out of the sea. Commentators generally say that Jews are represented as the sea, and Gentiles (non-Jews) are represented by the earth. Yet, we are told, in verse 17, that these beasts come up out of the earth.
4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof 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.
If we equate these four kingdoms with those in the vision of chapter 2, then this kingdom would be Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar. We are told that the Bible even calls Babylon (or Nebuchadnezzar) a lion (Jeremiah 4:7). But the truth is that the Bible refers to many (men, tribes, nations, and even Jesus) as lions. Also, verse 17 says that all four beasts are in the future at the time of this vision, but, at this point, Babylon was near the end of its existence, and Nebuchadnezzar is long since dead. So, the first beast cannot possibly represent Babylon.
5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.
The traditional view is that this beast represents the Medo-Persian empire, which it would have to be if the first was Babylon. An attempt to justify this view says that the bear being raised on one side indicates that the Persian empire was stronger than the empire of the Medes. There is no reasonable interpretation given for the three ribs, but views are usually a diverse list of three kingdoms or even all the kingdoms of Asia Minor. Those who hold to the traditional view, and argue that a bear clearly symbolizes Medo-Persia, seem to have no problem with a two-horned ram being the clear symbol in chapter 8,
Following the traditional view, this beast would have to be Greece. We are told that the four wings and/or four heads are the four empires that came from the empire of Alexander the Great. All five kingdoms are considered to be viewed as one since the four did not overthrow the first, but grew from it. Those who hold to the traditional view, and argue that a four-headed leopard clearly symbolizes the kingdom of Alexander, have no problem with a one-horned goat being the clear symbol in chapter 8,
In verses 8-12, however, we will see that this kingdom, along with the first two, will be overthrown, but still exist, at the coming of Jesus.
7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.
The traditional view now requires this beast to be the Roman Empire. But, the following verses will show that this verse refers to the kingdom of the Antichrist. The traditional view must, therefore, be committed to defending the view that the kingdom of the Antichrist comes from a revived Roman Empire. The existence of ten horns must also be applied to both the Roman Empire and the kingdom of the Antichrist. It must also make the former Roman Empire so much more evil than other empires, that there is no animal vicious enough for Daniel to compare it to.
Only with great difficulty and much contradiction can we continue, through the following verses, to adhere to the traditional view. In reality, these four beasts directly parallel the composite beast that comes from the sea in Revelation 13:1-8. These four beasts represent the super-power governments which combine to form the global beast-kingdom of the Antichrist. These four beasts do not refer to the four world kingdoms of Daniel 2, but to a global government which will exist during the time of the ten toes of that vision (Daniel 2:41-45).
Some argue that the phrase “the beasts that were before it” proves that the four beasts came in subsequent order. But, the word “before” literally translates “in the presence of”.
8 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
This is a direct reference to the Antichrist. We are told, in Revelation 17:12-14, that these ten horns will not exist until the end-times. The little horn which comes up among them, speaking great things (Revelation 13:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:4’ Daniel 11:36), is the Antichrist (Daniel 8:8-25).
9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
The traditional view, with the four beasts being historic kingdoms and the Antichrist’s kingdom tacked on the end, interprets this verse to simply refer to God’s judgment against mankind’s system of government. This view must then make the thrones to be heavenly thrones set up for judgment rather than human thrones cast down in judgment.
As we shall see in the following verses, however, this verse directly refers to the second coming of Jesus (Revelation 1:10-16; 4:2-6; 1 Corinthians 15:24-25), and His wrath against the Antichrist. Also, Daniel will explain this in verse 22, and an angel will confirm it in verses 26-27.
There is much debate as to exactly what this verse refers. The fiery stream appears to refer to God’s judgment (Isaiah 66:15-16; Psalm 50:3; Nahum 1:5-6). The thousand thousands ministering appears to refer to angels (Revelation 5:11). The ten thousand times ten thousand standing before God could also refer to angels (verse 16), or it could refer to the tribulation saints (Revelation 20:4; 7:9), or to those being judged by God at the white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-12). As to the judgment set, views range from that it simply refers to the judgment against the beast-kingdom, that it refers to the millennial reign of Jesus, that it refers to the white throne judgment, or that it refers to all three. The books opened appears to be a reference to the white throne judgment, yet, the word here refers to written records while the word concerning the white throne judgment in Revelation 20:12 signifies an official document.
This verse is clearly a reference to the coming of Jesus and His wrath against the Antichrist and the beast-kingdom. This verse corresponds with the account given in Revelation 19:11-21.
Remember that the Antichrist is symbolized as a horn on this fourth beast. It is this beast-kingdom which Daniel says is destroyed at the coming of Jesus. The Antichrist, however, will be destroyed along with his kingdom (verses 19-26; Revelation 19:11-20; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-9).
There is some debate as to whether Daniel intends the burning flame to be literal or symbolic. Revelation 18:1-19 describes a literal burning of the capital city of the beast-kingdom, while Revelation 19:20; 20:10 describe an apparently symbolic eternal burning.
Commentators who hold to the traditional view of these four beasts being the four historic kingdoms of Daniel 2, must now somehow make the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece still exist at the coming of Jesus, while the Roman Empire ceases to exist. As we have seen, however, these four beasts are actually four kingdoms which will co-exist during the time of the ten toes of the Daniel chapter 2 vision.
It is worth noting that, while the first three beasts cannot be those historic kingdoms (Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece), there is nothing to prevent the fourth beast from somehow growing out of what was once the Roman Empire.
At first glance, this appears to refer to the second coming of Jesus (Matthew 24:30; 26:64). But notice that it does not say He came to earth, but says He came to the Ancient of days. Some commentators believe this refers to the ascension of Jesus after His crucifixion and resurrection (Ephesians 1:20-21), but the angel will explain in verses 26-27 that this refers (whether literal or symbolic) to Jesus receiving His earthly kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:23-28; Matthew 16:27).
14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
This cannot be referring to the first coming of Jesus as some suppose, because it clearly says his dominion is an everlasting dominion (absolute authority). Yet, the Bible clearly tells us that the Antichrist will be given authority for 42 months (verse 25, Revelation 13:5; 11:2-3) before the second coming of Jesus. The everlasting dominion, spoken of here, will begin at the second coming of Jesus, when God pours out His wrath on the wicked (Revelation 11:15-19), and Jesus destroys the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8; Revelation 19:11-21), binds Satan (Revelation 20:1-3), and sets up His earthly kingdom (verse 27; Revelation 20:4-6).
The one that stood by is apparently one of the angels ministering to God in verse 10.
In Daniel 2:31-45, we saw Daniel referring to King Nebuchadnezzar and the kingdom of Babylon as one and the same. In the same way, Daniel may here be referring to both kingdoms (governments) and their leaders. As we have seen, these are not the four kingdoms of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, but are four kingdoms which shall arise during the time of the ten toes in that vision (Daniel 2:41-43).
Here it says the four beasts came up out of the earth, but in verse 3, Daniel specifically said that these four beasts came up out of the sea. It would, therefore, be incorrect to always try to force-fit the sea to represent Jews, and the earth to represent Gentiles, as commentators tend to do.
In the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, this is the time when Jesus will destroy the beast-kingdom and begin to reign with the saints (Daniel 2:44-45). (See also- Revelation 2:26-27; 5:10; 20:4)
19 Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet;
While Daniel was satisfied with his understanding of the first three beasts, he sought more information on the fourth which was diverse from the others. Here, Daniel adds the detail of the beast’s brass nails.
20 And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.
Daniel’s attention is drawn to the little horn which overpowered three of the ten horns (verse 8), and is now greater than any of the ten horns of the beast. It is worth noting that neither in this verse, nor in verses 8 or 24, does it say the horn destroyed or killed the three horns. It simply says they fell before it, or were uprooted or subdued. Also, Revelation 17:7-18 clearly says all ten horns still exist at the coming of Jesus.
Some make Antiochus the little horn and make the Jewish people the saints, some make the horn to be the Roman Caesars that persecuted Christians, and somebelieve it is the popes which persecuted the Protestant Church. But these are only foreshadows of the end-times Antichrist in which this verse is speaking. Notice that the next verse says, “Until the Ancient of days came…”. None of the historic figures overpowered the saints until the coming of Jesus (Revelation 17:17-21).
This verse clearly shows that Daniel is speaking of the second coming of Jesus when He will destroy the Antichrist (Revelation 19:11-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:8) and reign with the saints on earth (Revelation 20:4; ). The title applied to God the father in verse 13, is here applied to God the son (see- Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:23).
This is the fourth time that Daniel says the fourth beast is diverse from the others. Those who hold to the traditional view of the four beasts being historic kingdoms, would have a hard time pointing out any such great difference in Rome.
Commentators generally try to make the ten horns to be ten nations, but Revelation 17:12-13 clearly says they are ten kings WITHOUT nations.
As mentioned in verse 20, many commentators state that the Antichrist will destroy three kings, but Revelation 17:7-18 clearly says all ten horns will still exist at the coming of Jesus. The word “subdue” used here literally means to humble.
25 And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.
The Antichrist will attack God verbally (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Daniel 11:36-38), and the saints physically (Daniel 8:24-25). The phrase “wear out” literally means to continually harass.
There is some debate as to whether the “time and times and the dividing of time” is three and a half years (1,260 days) (see- Revelation 13:5-8; 12:6, 14; Daniel 12:11-12), or 1,260 years (see- Daniel 12:7).
This is not referring to the final judgment of unbelievers. From the previous verse, we see that this is distinctly speaking of the Antichrist. The judgment, therefore, is referring to the judgment of the Antichrist, which includes the destruction of his beast-kingdom (2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 19:20-21). (See discussion on verse 11)
27 And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
The right to reign over the earth shall be taken away from the Antichrist, and given to the saints (Revelation 3:21). The phrase “everlasting kingdom” shows that the millennial reign of Jesus will continue into eternity after the final battle against evil, and the great white throne judgment (Revelation 20:7-15; Daniel 2:44).
In verse 15, Daniel states that he was alarmed by the vision. The interpretation, by the angel, did not lessen his concern.