Robert Duncan Culver


Return to Syllabus

Dr. Robert Duncan Culver

VII.            CHAPTER SEVEN:Four Beasts, the Ancient of Days, and the Son of Man

A.     Introduction

There are two important changes in the Book of Daniel beginning with this chapter. Heretofore the material has been mainly narrative of events in Babylon wherein on two occasions Daniel himself only receives dreams, vision, etc. and a great angel, Gabriel by name, appears to him, and who provides the interpretation of his dreams and visions,[366] occasionally adding direct information in addition. This is the first major change—a change of revelatory method. The second change is a change in Daniel's standpoint in reporting. Heretofore the author's reports have been in the third person, but after a transition at verse one the author takes the standpoint of first person reporter. The third person reporting ends with Daniel 7:1, viz.; "Then he [Daniel] wrote the dream." But the next verse begins: "Daniel spake and said, 'I saw in my vision" etc. "I saw" is the beginning of the first person reporting, carried on to the close of the book. Thus the latter part of the book is more intimate, taking the readers into the very heart of the prophet. The careful study of this section, therefore, cannot but deeply influence the good and tender-hearted reader.

The student must prepare himself for greater exercise of his mental powers and for deeper consideration of doctrinal matters in this second half. The entertaining stories are now at an end. Some of the most difficult ques­tions to occupy the attention of devout interpreters of the Bible, relating mainly to God’s dealing with the human race, lie in these six chapters. The keys to very important matters in the study of prophecies elsewhere in the Bible, especially the book of Revelation are also here. So, the student must be willing to spend time elsewhere in Holy Scripture, as the passages are suggested, if he is to appreciate and understand what lies before him here.

Devout interpreters agree that the climax of the chapter, like that of chapter two, is in a prediction of the coming of Christ, and of his kingdom. The same difference of opinion as with chapter two regrettably prevails as to whether the "coming" is the first advent, and the kingdom an invisible spiritual affair, the church, or the "coming" is mainly the second advent of Christ, and his kingdom not the church merely but a visible outward kingdom in a Millennium after his second coming as well. The stand­point adopted here is that while the first advent of Christ may not be ex­cluded from the prophecy, the emphasis is on the second, and that while the church is part of Christ's kingdom, the term is used in a much more comprehensive way herein, focusing mainly on the rule of Christ over all of man­kind after he comes in power and glory to rule for a thousand years. This structure of end-time events is provided by Revelation, chapters 19 and 20, and is supported by many other passages. This outlook is known as "Premil­lennialism." Happily, this controversy does not require Christians to dis­agree on most of the main teachings of the passage.

Inasmuch as most of the rest of the book is predictive prophecy, and since chapters two and seven are basic to the rest of the prophecy, it is necessary to give some attention to a comparison of the second chapter (which we have studied) with chapter seven (which we have not studied). Beginning with Babylon, the nation in chief control of the civilized world at the time Daniel lived, both chapters related how Gentile world rule would be passed on through four successive national custodies up to the coming of the “Son of Man.” Then with His coming the everlasting kingdom of god is introduced. Some features of both chapters related to events at the second coming of Christ. The New Testament clarifies some of these prophecies, but some are not treated further in the New Testa­ment, and for that reason much of the material awaits the return of the Savior for full exposition.

Having observed that chapters two and seven relate to the same general subject, and that both present the succession of four Gentile king­doms succeeded immediately by the kingdom of Messiah, it remains to emphasize that there are important differences between the two treatments. Chapter two relates to the course of world dominion as revealed to and understood by a heathen king, the great Nebuchadnezzar. Thus bare outlines only are given. Spiritual truths, especially the relation of God to his covenant people Israel, are omitted. The outward political aspect of world dominion is emphasized. The kingdoms of this world are seen as the figure of a rational man, with the beauty, dignity, and civilization that go with man's culture. The kingdoms of this world and their culture are to be admired and appreciated. The excellencies of the great national art galleries, universities, libraries, monuments, edifices, cities, etc. are brought to mind. The majesty of the pyramids of Egypt, the beauty of the hanging gardens of Babylon, the dignity and wealth of the Achaemenid kings of Persia, the learning and culture of Alexander's Greek successors, the power and peace of Rome and the nobility of European culture are all suggested by the grand shining image of Nebuchad­nezzar's dream. But Daniel, the Hebrew saint and prophet whose initial independent vision is reported in this seventh chapter, was given to see things in their inward spiritual aspect. With startling change of character the nations appear as ferocious wild beasts—snarling and devouring one another. What realism! What likeness to the facts of past and contemporary world history! How frightening to him whose hope is “in this life”.[367]

The story ends with the final form of national dominion under Antichrist slain like a wild beast and "committed to the burning flame." We are reminded that the "world passeth away, and the lust [desire] thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever." We are taught to recognize the world today as bearing the very "mark of the beast".[368] Washington, New York, and Chicago—like Berlin and Shanghai—are yet to be "given to the burning flame." In our preaching we contemplate an imminent situation wherein "cities" shall "be waste with­out inhabitant, and houses without man, and the land become utterly waste, and the Lord have removed men far away, and the forsaken places be many in the midst of the land".[369]   "Only one life 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last."

B.      The Historical Setting (7:1)

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 7:1)

"The first year of Belshazzar" was likely a period of international turmoil. Likely the Persians had already begun to close in on the Babylonians by conquest and absorption of portions of the empire. According to best authorities this would have been 553/552 B.C., 14 years before the events of the fifth chapter of Daniel.

The distinction between “dreams" and "visions" (both words are used here) is not always clear in the Bible. Probably the dream is the condition of having the mind active during sleep. "Vision" is intended to represent the successive scenes (or "acts," to borrow a word from the theater) of the dream. "Dream" is singular; "visions" is plural. Hence we are to understand that Daniel had one dream in which there were several scenes or visions. In Daniel 4:9 Nebuchadnezzar refers to “visions of my dream” which supports this view of the matter.

That Daniel "then…wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters” is a very important bit of information on an obscure matter—the manner in which these Old Testament prophets received and reported the revelations God gave to them. Evidently an immediate record ("then") in written form ("he wrote") was made. This record was an abbreviated ("sum of the matters" i.e., a summary) truthful report by the same man who received the revelation. The act of seeing, i.e. of receiving in­formation by dream and vision from God was "revelation." The matter received was "revelation." The record he wrote was an "inspired" one.[370]

C.      The Details of Daniel's Visions (7:2-14, 21, 22)

The prophet received an additional vision after the interpreter appeared. Thus analysis of the material must not follow a strict literary order.

Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. (Daniel 7:2, 3)

"Upon the great sea": G. H. Lang [371] has demonstrated, with admirable scholarship, that this is not an indefinite reference but to the Mediterranean, thus indicating that until the consummation the center of biblical prophetic interest will remain the Mediterranean area.

Four different wild animals come before the prophet's attention. In a preliminary action “Four winds of heaven brake fourth”.[372] Usage here and elsewhere [373] indicates that the winds represent the heavenly powers by which God sets the nations of the world in motion (or commotion), and by which he controls them. "Upon Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and will scatter them towards all those winds".[374] "Thus saith the Lord: Be­hold I will raise up against Babylon…a destroying wind. And I will send unto Babylon strangers, that shall winnow her; and they shall empty her land".[375] The word far wind (rûach) may be translated either wind or spirit, as the context requires. It appears to be purposefully ambiguous here, indicating that behind the symbolical winds are divinely sent spirits (Jerome thought angels). Daniel 4:17 directly teaches that behind the rise and fall of nations is the ruling providence of God. Ex­cept as He holds the forces ("winds") in they would always be in commotion. This is why we should pray for peace.[376]

It is to be observed that the first three of the beasts—a lion, a bear, and a leopard—were all beasts with which residents of the Near East were familiar. Many references in the Old Testament let us know that all three of them (as well as the hippopotamus) were prevalent in the Jordan Valley and environs in ancient times. The fourth beast is abnormal, a destructive phenomenon like nothing ever seen in nature. This suggests the unnatural strength and ferocity of the final form of the Gentile power.

Tie origin or the four great beasts, "up from the sea," is inter­preted as the earth in verse 17. The sea also indicates unrest,[377] boisterous talk,[378] and warfare.[379] Jesus used the same figures in much the same way when he spoke of how at the time of his return there would be “upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring.[380]

Again we should remind ourselves that the nations of earth and their governments, though ordained of God,[381] are never spoken of in complimentary terms in Scripture. They are regarded as being in Satan's con­trol. In fact, Satan so claimed at the time of his tempting Jesus, and Jesus did not dispute his word—in fact Jesus' response appears to admit the Devil's claim to be true.[382] This is the world of First John, which the believer is not to love.[383] It is the world that crucified the Savior [384] and upon which the fury of God's judgments will someday be directed.[385] This does not mean that we can get out of serving our nation nor that we should refuse to vote or hold public office. Daniel held very high offices in two kingdoms. It does mean that we should not be too hopeful, even as we pray for peace, that the world will ever know true peace until Jesus comes again. The student should direct his attention to the 24th chapter of Matthew for full development of this theme.

1.      The first beast

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 to upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it. (Daniel 7:4)

The lion is a symbol of Babylon here, as also in Jeremiah 4:6-7. The "eagle's wings" speak of swiftness of movement, just as the lion pictures strength. The two symbols are brought together at II Samuel 1:23 where David laments of Saul and Jonathan: "They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions".[386] Nebuchadnezzar’s powerful conquests came mainly in the early years of his reign and were indeed accomplished swiftly. Plucking of the wings apparently speaks of an early end to expansion. The last part of the verse appears to be a direct reference to the experiences of Nebuchadnezzar, the greatest of the Babylonian kings, recorded in chapter four of our book.

2.      The second beast

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. (Daniel 7:5)

The bear has always been regarded high on the scale of strength among animals. Its strength and ferocity are prominent in almost every one of the 13 references to bears in the Bible.[387] Its ponderous bulk (some bears weigh over half a ton) fits well the massive ancient Persian armies. Some of them are reported to have contained, counting supporting crews, as many as two-and-a half million men. It is said that Xerxes invaded Greece with that many behind him. Duality of the Medo-Persian kingdom appears to be indicated by the fact that the two sides of the bear are indicated. [388]

3.      The third boast

After this I beheld, and lo, another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; and the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. (Daniel 7:6)

The leopard stands, like the belly and thighs of Nebuchadnezzar's dream-image, for the so-called Grecian kingdom of Alexander the Great and his successors.

The sinewy, lithe, swift leopard aptly stands both for the first great king of the empire, Alexander, and his kingdom. If Nebuchadnezzar moved with two wings, then Alexander moved with four. Alexander's king­dom unlike either the Persian or the Babylonian, soon become subdivided, as is indicated by the four heads. This is elaborated in chapters eight and eleven of Daniel.

Rulership passed to Babylon from Nineveh (Assyria) in 612 B.C.; from Babylon to Medo-Persia in about 539 B.C. (as described in chapter 5), from the Medo-Persians to Alexander late in the fourth century B.C. in a series of engagements in Asia Minor, Syria, and Mesopotamia.

Alexander's father, Philip, by warfare united Greece in 338 B.C. Upon his death two years later, his son succeeded him. During the 13 years of his reign (336 - 323 B.C.), Alexander performed some of the greatest feats of military valor known to man before or since. Tutored as a child by the great philosopher, Aristotle, and trained in feats of physical strength and skill by a stout father as well as in pagan Greek sexual immorality by an unchaste, half-crazy mother, he was quite a dynamic person. Blessed with great natural physical and mental powers he was a born leader of men. Crossing the Hellespont with an army of 35,000 (334 B.C.) he began his successful challenge of the Persians. With that small army, which followed him for another 12 years—the remainder of his entire natural life—he carved up several armies of the Persians, some of them close to a million strong. By that short career of conquest Alexander became master of Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, and vast areas east, north and southeast of the lands of his Babylonian and Persian predecessors.

The four heads of the leopard appear to stand for the four-fold division of his empire shortly after his death among four of his generals. One part (Thrace and Bithynia) went to Lysimachus; Syria and the eastern portions to Seleucus; Egypt to Ptolemy. Macedonia, his original kingdom, went Cassander. “Dominion” is said to have been “given unto” this monstrous leopard, and nothing could be closer to the exact truth. Nothing less than a special divine providence can account for such astounding conquests as were accomplished by this little man (he was short). Alexander could conquer about anything except himself—he died of dissipation (at least many historians think so) at Babylon, in the 32nd year of his age, 323 B.C.

4.      The fourth beast

After this I saw in the night visions, and be­hold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, 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. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. (Daniel 7:7, 3)

The revealing angel picks out this beast, its ten horns and the little horn among them for special explanatory treatment later in chapter seven, thus cursory attention only is necessary here. Just as in the dream-image of chapter four, the fourth stage of world dominion is the Roman. In­asmuch as this stage of dominion is presented as prevailing until the destruction of Antichrist and the establishment of the eternal kingdom of Christ, it must be regarded as continuing in some sense today, and as operating in a very lively way at the very consummation of the present age. Observe that a ten-fold division of this kingdom, as was suggested by Daniel chapter two, and as verified by Revelation 17:3 ff., is indicated here by ten horns. The little horn is identified with the Antichrist of the last days later in the chapter.

5.      The Ancient of Days and the Son of Man

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. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, ten thousands times ten thousand stood before him: the judg­ment was set and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:9, 10)

"Till the thrones were cast down" should be rendered "till thrones were set in position." With this small explanation a truly magnificent scene flashes up before us. This is the awful Majesty, the Godhead, sitting to judge and bring to an end the course of human government in the hands of wicked men. This is the great vista to which all of the book of Revela­tion from chapter four onward to the twentieth chapter is devoted. The several thrones are for the Almighty and for his four and twenty elders.[389] "Ancient of days"—the very aged one—is none other than "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy".[390] The whiteness of his hair suggests holiness. The fire of his throne and the "river of fire" coming from his throne suggest judgment. The wheels remind the Bible-versed reader of the magnificent vision of the Godhead in Ezekiel's earliest chapters. The thousand thousands and the ten thousands times ten thousand standing at reverent attention show with what respect God is had in heaven, and yet to be had on earth.

I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. (Daniel 7:11, 12)

When the majesty of the Godhead appeared, Daniel thought again of the blasphemous words of the "pipsqueak" horn and of its big mouth,[391] in other words, of the blasphemies of antichrist. What is to become of him and his supporters? He and the final form of gentile world domination of which he is head are to be destroyed forever. A full description, with lurid details, is provided the reader in the nineteenth chapter of Revel­ation. "The beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat upon the horse, and against his army (the returning Christ with his saints). And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought signs in his sight, wherewith he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast and them that wor­shipped his image: they two were cast alive into the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone: and the rest were killed with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, even with the sword which came forth out of his mouth: and all the birds were filled with their flesh".[392]

“The rest of the beasts" are the first three of the series: the winged lion, the bear, and the four-winged, four-headed leopard. That "their lives were prolonged" etc. means only that each lived out its time in world dominion in accordance with the plan of God. It does not mean that they survive the fourth kingdom in any sense. So agree most commentators.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
   And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour:
   The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 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. (Daniel 7:13, 14)

These two verses constitute one of the most important links in the Bible between the Old Testament and the New. Practically everything in this verse the New Testament claims for the one know therein as Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus' favorite name for himself was "the Son of man." He is reported as referring to himself by this name no less than 27 times in the book of Luke alone. The Aramaic of Daniel 7:13, to be sure, may be read simply "one like a son of man"—i.e., a human being. But, the fact remains that Jesus applied it to himself sometimes apparently in the special sense of the one representative man. Paul calls him "the last Adam" and pointedly connects the phrase with heavenly origin.[393] In this context the phrase implies, if not deity, then close connection with deity. His coming "with the clouds of heaven" has similar connections. Jesus describes his second advent as "the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory".[394] He could hardly have more specifically interpreted Daniel 7:13 if he had quoted the verse. Those clouds were seen at his ascension[395] and will be seen again when he returns.[396] The references here to his "kingdom"[397] are unmistakably the basis for our Lord's frequent references to his kingdom—"of heaven" as in these verses. Again he could scarcely have more directly interpreted the Old Testament and related his own mission to its fulfillment if he had specifically cited Daniel. When Jesus came announcing the "kingdom of heaven",[398] the Jews understood that he was speaking of the same kingdom Daniel was talking about. Granting that there is great difficulty in interpreting the precise meaning of "the kingdom of heaven" or the "kingdom of God" in the New Testament, it ought to be recognized by all that interpretation of "the kingdom of heaven" or "the kingdom of God" in the New Testament must begin right here at Daniel 7:14.

It should be clear to men today that the final manifestation of the kingdom has not yet arrived. The details of this passage cannot be applied to conditions or events of the present age. The arrogant beasts are still running things and the loud-mouthed, blaspheming "little horn" has not even yet appeared, even though he has had many similar predecessors.

The kingdom predicted here is the theme of dozens of chapters in the Old Testament prophets. It is of major interest in the prayer our Lord taught his disciples: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." Its establishment is the goal of history when "The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign forever and ever".[399] Now would be a good time to stop and sing the great "Messiah," but we must hasten on.

The student should now read the concluding portion of the visions, before considering other natters.

6.      The War of the "little horn" with the "saints"

I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against 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. (Daniel 7:21, 22)

A practical natter and a doctrinal matter are each suggested.

                                 i.            The right kind of people are at last to come into their kingdom.

Those are known as “saints”, which really means, “holy People” are they whom God has chosen to be in charge at last.

                               ii.            The victory is only temporary. God is still on his throne.

Careless came our great Avenger, history's pages but record
   One dost grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and Thy word.
Truth forever on the scaffold; wrong forever on the throne!
   Yet that scaffold sways the future, and beyond the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadows, keeping watch above his own.

Specifically and doctrinally considered, however, this passage is affirming that God’s ancient holy people, the Hebrews, scattered and oppressed at the time of the prophecy, are yet to receive their kingdom on earth as promised to a whole succession of prophets from Abraham to the Apostle Paul. Daniel 8:24 is clear that the "holy people" are the Jews. C. A. Auberlen, though writing over 100 years ago expressed the matter precisely as follows.

By the 'people of the saints of the Most High,' to whom dominion is then to be given (Daniel 7:18-27), Daniel evidently could only under­stand the people of Israel, as distinguished from the heathen nations and kingdoms which were to rule up till then (2:44); nor have we, according to strict exegesis, a right to apply the expression to any other nations; hence we cannot apply it immediately to the church…The prophet’s words refer to the re-establishment of the kingdom to Israel, concerning which the disciples asked our Savior immediately before His ascension; and our Lord, though refusing to reveal to them the date or chronology did in no way negative the subject matter of their question, and thereby confirmed it (Acts 2:6, 7).[400]

It is true, of course, that the New Testament many times affirms that Christian believers of this age already share in a present kingdom of God[401] and shall yet reign with Christ in a future kingdom.[402] We do affirm, however, that such does not appear to be what Daniel is talking about.

D.      The Method of interpreting Daniel's Visions (7:15, 16)

I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. I cane 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 7:15, 16)

This is one of the really strange occurrences of the Bible. A man has a dream. He sees strange wild beasts. He sees one "ancient of days" (i.e., very old). He sees a Son of man (i.e., a human being). He sees myriads upon myriads of angels. Troubled to know what was going on in his head he, in his vision state, approached one of the visionary angels to ask him the meaning of it all. Whereupon this visionary angel turns out to be not a vision at all, but a real angel, Gabriel the archangel.[403] Throughout the rest of the book, whenever Daniel receives prophetic visions, Gabriel is at hand to explain their meanings, that is, insofar as they are explained.

This is briefly presented by Daniel, and I give it only passing attention here, but it is an important feature of our book.

E.       Details of Interpretation of Daniel's Visions (7:17-20, 23-27)

1.      The lesser emphasis: the four beasts in relation to God's kingdom

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 7:17, 13)

The lines of interpretation of the passage, as paralleling the four stages of Gentile dominion, succeeded by Christ's kingdom as predicted in chapter two I have already. There is, however, another respectable evangelical view of the four beasts. Taking their cue from the angel's statement that these beasts are "four kings, which shall arise," and observing the Babylonian kingdom was already in the position of world dominion, a minority of interpreters insist that all four kingdoms are “eschatological,” i.e., related to the final form of dominion just before the return of the Lord. Holding that the visions do not go again over the ground of the dream-image prophecy of chapter two they assert that this chapter relates to how in the future the kingdom at the time of the “feet and toes” of the image will develop. The arguments furnished by supporters[404] are very convincing. Since in any view the last beast of the four is that final form of Gentile dominion and the chapter devotes major space to it, these gentlemen agree with most of the expositions pre­sented here.[405] Lang says:

Thus the vision of the beasts shows the political movements by which the feet and toes of the image will develop. It is not a repetition of the whole image, but an expansion in detail of that final stage of world-empire which is to be the culmination of “man's day” and is a chief subject of prophecy.

2.      The greater emphasis: the final form of the fourth beast in relation to the kingdom of God.

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, and stamped the residue with his feet. (Daniel 7:19)

Thus he said, the fourth beast shall be the fourth king­dom upon the earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. (Daniel 7:23)

This corresponds with the statements in chapter two concerning this fourth kingdom that as iron it would break in pieces and subdue, shattering in pieces and bruising.[406] It is evidently that system of world government which was introduced by Rome in the last two centuries before the Christian era, and became supreme at the conquest of Egypt by Caesar in the middle of the middle of the first century B.C. The system prevails today in what is called western civilization, and continuing to expand daily, may be expected to be in vigorous condition at the very end of our age.

Without attempting to predict precisely what political or geographical shape it will assume, there are many reasons for believing some “Romish” form of empire will prevail till Jesus comes again. (1) Chapter two teaches that the fourth of these kingdoms will be in existence until violently destroyed by Christ at his coming. This has not yet occurred. (2) The ten-fold form of the kingdom is the form of the kingdom at its destruction.[407] Such a form of world dominion does not seem yet to have occurred in history. (3) The similarity of this fourth beast to the beast of Revelation 13:1, 2 and of 17:3-8 suggests identity. John's prophecy is of a kingdom to be destroyed by Christ at his second advent. John's beast, like Daniel's, comes out of the sea,[408] both have ten horns,[409] both are blasphemous,[410] and both are in connection with a leopard, a bear, and a lion.[411] John looking backward on the three saw them in reverse order from Daniel's.

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 7:20)

And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. (Daniel 7:24)

The verses are saying that ten horns are ten kings who shall rise in the final stage of the fourth kingdom, corresponding to the ten-toed stage of the image, and who shall reign contemporaneously in the end-time as is prophesied likewise in Revelation 17:12 ff.

The little horn is the coming Antichrist. This is the common view. All interpreters, Jewish, evangelicals, radical critics, and men of about every kind of persuasion concerning "last things" agree that he is some kind of consummate antichrist. The radical critics think Daniel seven was written at the time of Antiochus Epiphanies (about 165 B.C.) and that the author supposed that Antiochus the sacrilegious anti-Semitic tyrant of Syria who desecrated the Jewish temple would be the final wicked oppressor before the coming of Messiah's victorious kingdom, with the Jews as its elite. They also think the author of Daniel to be mistaken!

Let us read the rest of the material about him here and then summarize the information given about this one called by Paul the "man of sin," "the son of perdition"[412] and "that wicked [one]".[413]

And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall arise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. 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. (Daniel 7:24, 25)

a.      The Antichrist will arise

The Antichrist shall arise after the ten-fold form of the final world dominion has developed. The "little horn" was observed by Daniel after he had "considered" the ten horns awhile [414] and he is said to come "after them".[415] He will evidently not create a confederacy of ten kings but will absorb such a confederacy.

b.      He is just another king

He is only "another…horn"—just another king. For all that Satan may energize him he is mortal and will die. These matters are made clear in the New Testament, viz.:

"And the dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and his great authority";[416] "And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to naught by the manifestation of his coming; even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan".[417]

c.       He starts as a little horn

He begins as a "little horn." We may expect him to be obscure at first, not bursting upon the world with a glare of Satanic splendor, but winning his way gradually.

d.      His march to world dominion

He will begin his march to world dominion by first subduing three other kings of the ten-fold alliance, for "there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots".[418] In verse 24 Gabriel adds that "he shall subdue three kings." This is to be the beginning of world conquest. What Hitler only dreamed about; what Napoleon unsuccessfully impoverished the whole of Europe to accomplish, this man will really do. "And the ten horns that thou sawest are ten kings, who have received no kingdom as yet; but they receive authority as kings, with the beast, for one hour. These have one mind, and they shall give their power and authority unto the beast.... For God did put in their hearts to do his mind, and to come to one mind, and to give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God should be accomplished.[419]

e.      He is unique

Though he is only "another" horn yet there will be something unique about him, for "he shall be diverse from the first"—i.e., the ten kings. He will indeed have a different form of government. His will be the most absolute dictatorship the world has known. He shall enforce worship of himself [420] and shall impose sanctions successfully that have only been tried before. He shall cause "all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a lark in their right hand, or in their forehead: and that no man might buy or sell, save he bad the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name".[421] This appears to be a requirement of some tattooed mark or "brand" for all who wish to stay alive. This is secular state authority gone wild.[422] He will also be "diverse" personally. Some of the strangest sounding statements in the Bible are about him, almost all of them cryptic remarks, still not fully understood. His “coming is after the working of Satan with all power, and signs and lying wonders, and with deceivableness".[423] He will have ability to do "great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth".[424] Perhaps, certain have theorized, he may appear to be a man risen from the dead.[425] Some of these specialties appear to be the property of another evil person associated with him.[426]

If something different by way of a king is what the "earth dwellers" of that day want, this man, indeed, will provide it! Perhaps this is what the "now generation" is unconsciously waiting for.

f.        He is intelligent

Antichrist is to be unusually intelligent, or perhaps the meaning is commanding personality. This is suggested not only by the many statements about his amazing career, but by the information that the horn will have "eyes like the eyes of a man",[427] for human eyes can tell a lot about the intelligence of their human possessors.

g.      He is an orator

He will also be an orator of ability—he had "a mouth speaking great things".[428] He will doubtless be a self-exalted braggart—sug­gested by translating “a mouth speaking big things"—but probably the vision intends to suggest persuasive ability. The invention of radio and television have enlarged greatly the value of persuasive oratory for political aspirants. Many successful politicians, good and bad, ancient and modern have employed strong oratory with success. One thinks of the power exerted by Churchill and F. D. Roosevelt through their broadcast speeches. Both Hitler and Mussolini rode to power on waves of oratory, as those of us old enough to have witnessed their careers will never forget.

h.      He will look the part

His personal appearance will correspond with his position—he will “look the part” as the say in the theater, for Daniel observed that "his look was more stout than his fellows".[429] We might better trans­late,  “his appearance more impressive than that of his contemporaries." In this he will be in great contrast to the true Christ who "hath no [kingly] form no [regal] splendor that we would desire him".[430] Jesus was a man who did "not strive nor cause his voice to be heard in the street"—no noisy demagogue.[431] Likewise the Apostle Paul, though acknow­ledged to be mighty in his words, was regarded as being mean in appearance. This man, we may be sure, will be dressed for his part and will have a well coached and staged entrance upon the platform of world affairs. Modern professionally managed sales and political campaigns suggest what a great show this man may really stage on the platform of world-wide radio and television.

i.         He will be a blasphemer

He will be a blasphemer, speaking "great words against the Most High" (v. 25), as John writes, "speaking great things and blasphemies…against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven" (Rev. 13:5, 6). Neither John nor Daniel were given to foresee the general victory of anti-supernatural attitudes in the world today, but it seems that these blasphemies will be some consummate form of the secularistic,    naturalistic philosophy steadily gaining ground in our day. Our western culture has become accustomed to it. We even crowd God out of daily speech. How much “naturally” we say, "It rained" than to say "God gave rain." The school teacher of our day finds it most difficult to teach anything about God in classes at the public school. Perhaps there is coming a day when the teacher will be forbidden to go to a Bible-believing church on Sunday too. Already suggestions not very far from that are appearing in the educational philosophical journals that perhaps “theistic faith" is incompatible with either science or education.

j.        He establishes his kingdom

Antichrist will seek to establish his kingdom and himself as the beginning of a new epoch: he shall "think to change times and laws".[432] One can safely imagine that even dating a letter as such and such a year A.D., the Year of our Lord, will be personally offensive to this "man of sin." Like the French revolutionists he may seek to abolish the traditional week and the year of 12 months. Marriage and other common civil laws will likely come in for attack. He will, however, only "seek" to make these changes. Some of these institutions, like the week, are so deeply written into the very structure of God's creation that they cannot be eradicated. He will have no more success than the "Encyclopedists" and the "Bolsheviks" have had in this regard.

In verse 25 comes a most important transitional statement—the statement that changes the subject matter of Daniel as well as the language of his book. This beast, we read "shall wear out the saints [the holy people] of the most High. God's people, the holy people of Israel, become now the subject of the book onward to the end, and accordingly at the end of this vision the language shifts from Aramaic back to Hebrew, left off at Daniel 2:4.

k.       He will seek to destroy God’s people

Antichrist will seek to destroy God's people, especially the Jews, bringing on their Great Tribulation. This writer feels that when Jesus speaks of the "elect" as coming into a great trial immediately before his coming, the sufferers of the trials are not Jews, as such. He quite obviously is referring to his disciples, to Christian believers, who will be living on earth when at last the sad events just before the end of the age shall come.[433] But that is not Daniel’s revelation. These words should be read in connection with the opening verses of Jeremiah 30 where "the time of Jacob's trouble" [434] is described in an eschatological context and Daniel12:1 where a similar unique "time of trouble" for Daniel's people comes under prophetic exposition.

l.         His power is unrestricted for a time

The period during which Antichrist shall have unrestricted power is limited to a brief period. What appears to be best understood as three and one-half years [435] is elaborated by John to be 42 months.[436] Daniel later refers to the same as a period of one-half a "seven".[437] This lim­ited period of time is a matter of great interest and of elaborate treat­ment in the Bible. Later chapters of Daniel will provide opportunity to study it further.

m.     He shall come to his end

But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 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. (Daniel 7:26, 27)

Two words herein call for some explanation: "kingdom and dominion." "Kingdom" is derived from the word for king, and is pronounced malkûth. It may refer either to rulership, the act of ruling; to the right of rulership or sovereignty; or to the realms, that is the sphere, in which rule is exer­cised. Sometimes one, sometimes another of these ideas is paramount. "Do­minion" is sholtag, related to the Arabic word, sultan, used of rulers in Mohammedan countries. It is a synonym with almost exactly the same range of meanings.

Antichrist shall come to his end. He whose name is “The Word of God” shall destroy this loathsome beast with the “breath of his lips.” His armies shall likewise be destroyed.[438] There shall follow a Millennium during which these poor persecuted people of God, the Hebrews, shall inherit their promise of peace in possession of their ancient land of Canaan.[439] In their resur­rection bodies the saints of the church age shall join with them to "reign with him [our Lord Jesus] a thousand years".[440] This thousand-year period is only an initial stage of this coming kingdom, for his kingdom is "that which shall not be destroyed" and shall be possessed by his saints "forever, even forever and ever".[441]

3.      The end of the vision

Two expressions of the prophet help us to respond properly to his writings: the visions of my head troubled me [442] and "my cogitations much troubled me".[443] Daniel began to be "upset" when he first saw the visions. He was still unsettled and disturbed when the angel had finished his explanations. The readers of the chapter, for all the light that is shed on the course of the present age, are upset too. Those who wish to teach this chapter to others will be especially upset when they try their best to get some of it across and discover that the callous, the shallow, the impudent, and the lazy simply do not care for such a heavy diet. The temptation just to skip it for lesser fare must be resisted. There will be some whose interest will be a spell-bound kind of fascination. Let us all be like Daniel [444] who "kept the matter in my heart" and like Mary, our Lord's mother, who in a similar quandary "kept all these things, and pondered them in here heart".[445]

F.       Conclusion

Since a particular view, heretofore referred to as Premillennialism, has been assumed in this exposition, I feel that I have a duty to mention competing views and to present some of the main reasons why I adopt the view I do. Most postmillennialists, who expect the Savior to return after a period when Christianity shall have prevailed over all the earth for a thousand years (i.e., for the Millennium), feel that the "little horn" or Antichrist, is either the Pope or the Roman Church. The victory of Christ's kingdom is thought to be accomplished gradually during the present age. Most contemporary Amillennialists feel that the Millennium of Revelation 20 is the present reign of the deceased saints in heaven with Christ, and that at the end of this age they will come with Christ to destroy the beast, whom they, with us, feel to be a real gentile king. Their view of the course of the present age, when good and evil grow together, is similar to our own. There are at least five reasons, all drawn from the context of this chapter, why I (as most premillennarians) feel these competing views should be rejected in favor of the one adopted herein.[446]

                                 i.            The kingdom of Messiah is clearly to follow the appearance of Antichrist, and his destruction, events still future. These events are in near connection with Christ's return. This is the strongest reason, and appears to make both Amillennialism and Postmillennialism impossible.

                               ii.            The prophecy requires that the visible kingdom of Christ, as considered in Daniel seven, follow the kingdoms of the Gentiles—they are not to be at any period contemporary. This would eliminate the amillennial scheme.

                              iii.            The visible kingdom of "the most High" succeeds a final form of the fourth Gentile dominion (a ten-fold one) which has not yet appeared. John, apparently, predicted it as still future in his own day, and the visible kingdom of Christ is then yet future today.

                              iv.            The visible kingdom of Messiah to be established, as pre­dicted in the chapter, appears to take over the realms of the earlier kingdoms, and to be, as many other predictions specify, one of outward power and glory. The present reign of Christ in the hearts of believers or in heaven hardly meets these specifications. Christ's realm on earth, at the present time, appears to be one where his spiritual subjects con­tinue to suffer and to bear crosses.

                               v.            In some special sense the kingdom of Messiah is going to be Jewish, as the language of this chapter requires. This is not true of any present kingdom of Christ on earth, except that the Savior Himself, and the original founders of the church (apostles) were Jewish.

See Table of Contents Page for PDF Download


Return to Syllabus


AncientPath Network
Dallas, TX 77523, USA

Copyright © 20010 by AncientPath Network and the authors. All rights reserved.

From our web sites at AncientPath.net and AncientLight.org, you may download the information and print it for yourself and others as long as you give it away and do not charge for it. In this case, free means free. It cannot be bundled with anything sold, nor can you charge for shipping, handling, or anything. It is provided for personal study or for use in preparation of sermons, Sunday school classes, or other non-commercial study.