The Beasts of Daniel 7

The Beasts of Daniel 7

The Bible’s Old Testament book of Daniel contains detailed prophecies that have been specifically fulfilled, as well as ones about momentous events yet to come.

In 553 BC, during the rule of the Babylonian empire, a young Jewish captive named Daniel had a dream in which four great empires were represented, as well as the Antichrist world government yet to come. Daniel describes his dream as follows:

“I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.”

Daniel 7:2-3 NKJ

The four beasts represent four great empires. Throughout history, nations have adopted animals, birds, or other creatures as national emblems—the American eagle, the Russian bear, the Chinese dragon, the British lion, and so on.

“The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings” (Daniel 7:4). Babylon is symbolized in the Bible by both a lion (Jeremiah 4:7) and an eagle (Jeremiah 49:22). The winged lion was also a common motif in Babylonian art. As king of beasts and king of birds, such a creature was considered the ultimate in strength and swiftness.

“Its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.”

Daniel 7:4

The mighty beast is brought low and then redeemed. This represents Nebuchadnezzar, the mightiest ruler of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and his humbling seven-year period of insanity and the positive change that took place in him as a result, as recorded in Daniel chapter 4. Clearly, this first beast represented the empire that Daniel lived in. But next, Daniel starts to receive a vision of the future.

“And behold another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.”

Daniel 7:5 ESV

The bear is a large and powerful animal, and Persia became the largest empire in that area of the world up to that time, projecting its power from Egypt to India. It also fielded large armies. Modern historians estimate that the combined land and naval force of Xerxes, the fourth king of the Persian Empire, was between 200,000 and 300,000 warriors—a huge army for the sixth century BC.

“It was raised up on one side” signifies how the Persians, who were once dominated by the Medes, gained the upper hand in their union after Cyrus the Great ascended to the Persian throne in 550 BC. The “three ribs in its mouth” could symbolize three previous empires whose dominions became part of the Persian Empire: Egypt (c. 2100 BC to 1481 BC), Assyria (c. 1100 BC to 606 BC), and Babylon (606 BC to 538 BC).

“After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads.”

Daniel 7:6

The leopard, which represents the vast empire of Alexander the Great, is one of the most agile of wild beasts and extremely fierce. Its four wings denote the swiftness with which Alexander, king of Macedonia and the leader of the Greeks, conquered the Persian Empire. In eight years the army of Macedonians marched and conquered from Greece to India. Its four heads represent the division of Alexander’s empire after his sudden death from a fever in 323 BC (Daniel 8:1-8,20-22; 11:1-4).

“Behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.”

Daniel 7:7

Babylon, Persia, and Alexander had conquered and ruled by might, but the world had never seen anything like the Roman Empire, which this beast represents. We can tell from looking at history that Daniel correctly predicted the three empires that followed Babylon. So what did God reveal to Daniel about the final world empire to come?

“I was considering the [ten] horns [on the fourth beast], and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.”

Daniel 7:8

This “little horn” with “eyes like the eyes of a man” and “a mouth speaking pompous [boastful] words” is the world dictator yet to come known as the Antichrist.

“Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast … and the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, before which three fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows” (Daniel 7:19-20). Here the Bible reveals more characteristics of the Antichrist, so that the readers will recognize him when he comes on the world scene.

“The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth. … The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom” (Daniel 7:23-24). The ten horns represent ten kings who also appear in the book of Revelation in connection with the Antichrist (Revelation 17:12-13). A viable interpretation is that they are a group of nations or powers of the Antichrist’s world empire that are remnants of the ancient Roman Empire, since the ten-horned Antichrist kingdom grows out of the Roman beast that ruled much of Europe (Daniel 7:7). These countries could be the “ten horns” that play an important role in the last days of world history, known as the Endtime.

“And [the little horn] shall rise after them; … he shall speak pompous words against the Most High [God], shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand [for three and a half years].”

Daniel 7:24-25

Again, this is a picture of the Antichrist’s tyrannical rule. He will come to power “peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue” (Daniel 11:21)—posing as a world savior—but halfway through his seven-year rule he will manifest his true evil character (Daniel 9:27) and persecute all those who oppose him. This three-and-a-half-year period is known in the Bible as the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:15,21; Daniel 7:21; 11:31; Revelation 13:5-7).

But, as we discover in other visions of the final days of world history recorded by the prophets Daniel and John, the Antichrist and his regime will fail in the end because Jesus will return to earth and “the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom [after the Battle of Armageddon], and possess the kingdom forever” (Daniel 7:18). The happy ending!

The Bible has unerringly predicted many historical events and countless biblical prophecies have been fulfilled, thus we can be assured that these revelations of the future will also be fulfilled.

God’s greatest revelation was in the form of His Son Jesus Christ, who came to show us what God is like. Jesus came to pay the penalty for our sins by taking the place of the sinner on the cross. When you accept Jesus as your savior, God forgives your sins and guarantees you eternal life with Him in heaven forever. You can do this by simply praying the following prayer:

Jesus, I believe that You are the Son of God and that You died for me. I ask You to please come into my heart, forgive my sins, and give me Your free gift of eternal life! Help me to love You and be an instrument of love and peace to my fellow man. Amen.

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