A Vision of World History

Daniel 7

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
August 2018

Today, we will be studying a very important chapter. It is one of the most important chapter, not just in Daniel but in the whole Bible.  It is a Messianic chapter.  It has a prophecy of the Messiah in it.  That is not just the view of some Christians.  Even the great Jewish commentator Rashi says the one coming like the Son of man in this chapter “is King Messiah”[2].  Jesus quoted this chapter when He was on trial.


Before we begin with the chapter, we need a little introduction.  If you have been studying Daniel from the beginning,  this chapter will seem very different.  That is because this chapter begins the second part of Daniel.  The second part of the book is very different form the first part of the book.  What is the difference?  There are several.

1) The first part of the book is narrative.  The second part of the book is not history but prophecy.

The first part of the book is stories.  It is a prophecy of world history.  John Walvoord calls that Daniel 7 “the most comprehensive and detailed prophecy of future events” in the OT.[1]

2) The first part of the book is easy to understand. the second part of the book is much more difficult to understand.

Everyone loves the first part of the book because of its incredible stories about story about the fiery furnace, the handwriting on the wall and Daniel in the lion’s den.  Everyone likes to read stories.  Kids especially like them.  Preachers love to preach from these chapters, because they have incredible application.

The second part of the book is NOT as easy to understand.  The first part of the book is like cotton candy.  The second part of the book is like a thick juicy steak that you have to chew.  It is a series of visions.  It is apocalyptic. It uses symbolic language.  It is written in code.  It is harder to understand.

Many people avoid these chapters. They avoid them for the same reason that many people today avoid the Book of Revelation.  it is just too hard to understand.  There are too many interpretations.  In fact, Daniel has been called “The Little Revelation.”

3) In the first part of the book, Daniel interprets other people’s dreams.  In the second part of the book, Daniel has his own dreams and needs someone else to interpret them.

In the first part of the book, God gave some people strange dreams.  These were supernatural dreams.  Some of the dreams were scary but all of them were completely mysterious.  No one knew what they meant.  Daniel came in and interpreted them.  That’s what happened to Nebuchadnezzar, not once but twice (once at the beginning of his reign and once closer to the end of his reign as king).

In the second part of the book, something different happens.  The roles have changed.  Now Daniel gets a dream, a supernatural dream, and it disturbed him.  It frightened him. He says, “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me” (Daniel 7:15 NIV).

Notice what he said at the end of the chapter.  I, Daniel, was DEEPLY TROUBLED by my thoughts, and my face turned PALE, but I kept the matter to myself (Daniel 7:28 NIV).  This time it was not Nebuchadnezzar who was frightened.  It was Daniel.  He became white as a ghost.

This dream was not only disturbing, but he did not know what it meant.  Daniel could not interpret it.  That is strange.  Daniel is the one who was gifted at dream interpretation, but he had no idea what this dream meant.  Then something more amazing happens.  This vision is explained by an angel.

An angel told him what the vision meant (Daniel 7:16). Daniel got to ask the angel some questions about this dream.  He asked him what the dream meant (Daniel 7:16).  He also asked him about the meaning of the fourth beast (Daniel 7:19).

Wouldn’t it be great if every time we didn’t understand a passage of Scripture, an angel appeared and explained it to us and we could actually ask him some questions about the passage?  That would be cool, but we have better than an angel.  We have the Holy Spirit inside us.

Daniel’s Dream

What happens in this chapter.  Daniel gets a dream.  Daniel is in his 80s and God is still speaking to him.  He is still giving him revelation.  He still has a ministry.  He is writing Scripture.

Most believe that John was in his nineties when he received the visions on the island of Patmos and wrote the Book of Revelation.  Apparently, God has a plan for us when we are young, and he has a plan for us when we are old.

Daniel is an old man.  It is night time.  Daniel is in his bed and is most likely sleeping and God gives him a dream.  Last week, our pastor talked about God giving people different dreams.  God gave Daniel a dream, but it was not a personal dream.  It was a prophetic dream.  It was a dream of the future.  This was not a dream for Daniel.  It was a dream for the world.

What was the dream about?  It is a vision of five kingdoms.  The first four kingdoms are animal kingdoms.  They are represented by strange beasts.  The last one is the Messianic Kingdom.  After the kingdom of the beasts is the kingdom of the Son of Man.  It is the Kingdom of God.

The first four are temporary kingdoms.  The fifth one is an eternal kingdom.  The fifth kingdom that destroys the fourth kingdom and lasts forever, just like earlier in the book when there was a vision of the great statute and a rock came out of nowhere and completely smashed it.

Daniel had a vision of earth and he had a vision of heaven.  On earth, he saw some of the worst people on the planet, people who massacre innocent people and blaspheme God.  In heaven, he had a vision of God the Father.  He sees God.  He had a vision of Jesus.

Daniel sees Jesus in this chapter.  He saw Jesus coming on the clouds of heaven.  That happens at the Second Coming.  He also had a vision of millions and millions of angels in heaven.  The chapter begins with a nightmare.

Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. (Daniel 7:2-3 NIV)

Daniel is sleeping peacefully and then he has a nightmare.  It starts with a terrifying ocean.  It is night.  It is dark, and Daniel sees a turbulent sea.  The wind is blowing from all directions.  It is wild.  It is loud.  Out of this raging sea, four monsters emerge.  They come out one by one.

They are huge, and they stand before Daniel.  They are ugly looking things.  Each monster looks different.  All of them are scary looking and each one looks more frightening than the one before.  These monsters are destructive and deadly.  Daniel is shaken to the core.

These four animals represent four world empires.  These animals that Daniel saw were all SYMBOLIC.  They represent nations or empires.  Many nations use animals as symbols.  They have national animals (Russian bear or American eagle).  They like animals that can fight and are the symbol of strength.

These empires are SEPARATE.  They are all different from each other.  They are SUCCESSIVE.  They come one right after the other.  Each one is worse than the one before.  They are SELECTIVE.  They do not describe every world empire in history.  Daniel is going to focus on the fourth one.  The fourth one lasts until the Second Coming.  Daniel asks questions about that one.  That was the one that really got his attention.

Two Different Perspectives

This prophecy is very similar to the one found in Daniel 2.  In Daniel 2, we were given a prophecy of four world empires (Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome) and this is a prophecy of the same four world empires (Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome) but there is an important difference.  In Daniel 2, these empires are portrayed as a great statute.  They are portrayed as a valuable statute of a metal man.

In Daniel 7, these empires are not portrayed as a statute of a metal man.  They are portrayed as beasts.  We would call them monsters.  They are not really animals.  These are grotesque looking creatures with multiple heads.

These empires are not pictured as a beautiful statute made of four parts but of four terrifying monsters.  Why were these empires described one way in one chapter and another way in another chapter?

One vision was given to Nebuchadnezzar and one vision was given to Daniel.  One vision gives the world empires from man’s perspective and one vision gives the empires from God’s perspective.  God does not see things the way man sees them.

People see world empires as powerful.  They see them as sophisticated.  They see them as glamorous.  They see the glory of world conquest.  They worship power and military might.  They worship wealth.  God looks at their behavior and their morals.  Man sees these empires as advanced.

God sees them as in decline and depraved.  He sees something hideous.  He sees a wild, destructive animal.  Some of these were great empires but they threw God’s people into fiery furnace and into a den of lions.

Daniel saw four animals that represented four empires, but these animals did not look like any animal he has seen on earth.

The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it. (Daniel 7:4 NIV).  It was LIKE a lion but it was not a lion.  This lion had wings.  It was part lion and part eagle.

“And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’ (Daniel 7:5 NIV)

The second monster looks LIKE a bear, a bear with three ribs in its mouth.  Why three ribs?  Medo-Persia became an empire by defeating three nations (Lydia, Babylon and Egypt).  It was known for its three great victories.

After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule. (Daniel 7:6 NIV).

It looked LIKE a leopard, but it was not a leopard.  This was a leopard with wings.  It had four wings. Leopards are fast.  Alexander the Great was a military genius.  He conquered the world in about ten years.

His armies were known for their speed.  This leopard had four heads.  Why four?  He had four generals.  he died young.  He died at the age of thirty-two (the same age that Bruce Lee was when he died).  After he died, his four generals divided up his empire.

“After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast–terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns. (Daniel 7:7 NIV)

“Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left (Daniel 7:19 NIV)

The fourth monster was the most frightening of them all.  It was so different, there was no animal to compare it to.  The first three beasts were LIKE a lion, LIKE a bear and LIKE a leopard but the fourth monster was NOT like any other animal on earth.

There was no comparison for this fourth beast.  It had iron teeth and bronze claws.  It is extremely strong.  It is almost like a machine.  It also had ten horns.  Horns symbolized power.  Animals use their horns for defense against predators.  They use them to attack.  The more horns it had, the more powerful it was.  This one had ten.  This fourth beast pulverized and completely destroyed everything in its path.  It will conquer the whole world.

The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. (Daniel 7:23 NIV)

This fourth beast had ten horns sticking out and, as Daniel was watching it, a little horn started to grow right before his eyes (an eleventh horn) and when it grew, three horns were pulled out leaving seven horns and this little one.  Daniel sees ten horns, a little horn and three uprooted horns but all of the focus is on the little horn.

Characteristics of the Little Horn

While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully. (Daniel 7:8 NIV).

It is a strange horn.  This horn has eyes and a mouth (Daniel 7:8, 20).  It is apocalyptic language.  This little horn is also a man.  Paul calls him “the man of sin” (II Thessalonians 2:3 KJV).  The little horn represents the Antichrist, the future coming world leader.

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God. (II Thessalonians 2:1-4 NIV)

What do we know about the little horn from Daniel 7?  He will have several characteristics.

1) He will be POLITICAL

He will be a politician.  He will be a political leader.  He is called a king (Daniel 7:24).

2) He will be POWERFUL

This little horn uproots three kings (Daniel 7:8).  This charismatic leader will conquer the world.

3) He will be POMPOUS

We are told that he has “a mouth that spoke boastfully” (Daniel 7:8, 20 NIV) but that describes most politiciansHe will not only be arrogant, he will have other characteristics.

4) He will be a PROFANE

He will be a blasphemer.  He will speak against the Most High (Daniel 7:25 NIV).

5) He will be a PERSECUTOR

He will oppress God’s people and will be successful against them for a time (Daniel 7:25).

6) He will be PROMINENT

We are told that the little horn “looks more imposing than others” (Daniel 7:20 NIV).  Literally, it reads “was larger in appearance” than the other horns.  He starts out small (called “a little horn”).  At first, he is small and insignificant but he becomes more dominant and prominent than the other ones.

7) He will be PUNISHED

In the end, the blasphemous little horn will be killed.  I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (Daniel 7:11 NIV).  According to Revelation, the Antichrist will be thrown ALIVE into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20).  Is this a contradiction?  It says he will be killed first and then thrown in the fire?  Daniel is talking about the fourth beast, not just the little horn.

Heavenly Vision

As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.

The court was seated, and the books were opened. “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 NIV)

After having a vision of earth, Daniel gets a vision of heaven.  He sees heaven.  He sees God.  It is God the Father.  God is called “the Ancient of Days” three times in this chapter (Daniel 7:9, 13, 22) and nowhere else in the Bible.  He is described as an old man with white hair.  He is old because He has been around a long time.  He is eternal. He is described as a judge.

Everything is WHITE.  His clothing is white as snow.  His hair is white as wool.  White represents perfect purity and holiness.  Everything is on FIRE.  He sees fire everywhere.  He sits on a throne and it is on fire (Daniel 7:9). Daniel sees a river and it is a river of fire (Daniel 7:10).  Fire represents God and it represent judgment.  This throne also had WHEELS, just like the throne Ezekiel saw.  It does not stay in one location.  It moves.  It goes places.

Daniel has a vision of a court room.  It is not an earthly count.  It is a heavenly court.  It is the Supreme Court of Heaven and a Judge enters the courtroom.  A trial takes place in heaven.  The Judge comes in and sits down.  The books were open (Daniel 7:10).  For those of us who like books, this is good news.  There will be some books in heaven.  What are these books?

The Book of Revelation gives us some more details about these books.  There will be a book of works and a book of life (Revelation 20:12).  Now when we are accused of a crime and go to trial, we get an attorney to defend our case.  The judge or jury hears both sides and makes a decision.  They issue a verdict.    Sinners will not have a defense attorney in heaven.

God does not need to hear both sides.  He already has all of the facts.  He is omniscient.  All of our deeds are already recorded in one book.  That is a scary thought.  Our only defense is to have our name in the book of life.  Our only hope is to be saved and make sure that Jesus pays for all of our sins. We need to make sure our name is in that book.  You can know if your name is in that book.

Lessons for Today

What does this chapter say to us today?   What are some lesson from this chapter?  This chapter has some good news and some bad news for believers.

1) God’s people will be persecuted on the earth

It starts with some bad news.  God’s people will be persecuted in the last days.  Many will be martyred.  As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them (Daniel 7:21 NIV).

Things have to get worse before they get better.  Each kingdom (each beast) is worse than the one before it, culminating in the Antichrist.  The world is getting worse, not better.  Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse (II Timothy 3:13 ESV)

If we are alive in the days of the little horn, we will be persecuted. God’s people are not protected against all suffering, hardship, and persecution. To be a Christian does not mean we are protected from bad things happening to us.  We will encounter pain and sorrow.  We will encounter hardship.  We will encounter sickness.  We will encounter persecution.

2) God is in control of everything that happens

God is sovereign.  He is in control, even when it does not look like it.  That is the chief message of the book.  That is something we need to remember every time something bad happens in the world.  We need to remember it every time there is a terrorist attack.  We need to remember it every Election Day when things do not turn out the way we expected.

Do we believe it when bad things happen in the world?  Do we believe in when bad things happen in our lives or when an illegal immigrant brutally kills a young college student?  This chapter shows us that God is in control when bad things happen.

He controls the four beasts.  We are told that a human mind also WAS GIVEN to the first beast (Daniel 7:4).  We are told that dominion WAS GIVEN to the third beast (Daniel 7:6)

He controls the Antichrist.  It looked like the little horn was winning but God was in control.  He was allowed to do evil for a short period of time.  He will wear down the saints of the Highest One…. and they will be GIVEN into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. (Daniel 7:25 NIV)

Why did things change on earth?  They changed because of what happened in heaven.  A judge sat on his throne and rendered a verdict.

As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 UNTIL the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom (Daniel 7:21-22 NIV).

Jesus said, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven” (John 3:27 ESV).  The saints get the kingdom in the end.  Why do they get it?  It is a gift from God.  Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven WILL BE GIVEN to the people of the saints of the Highest One (Daniel 7:27 NIV)

Even Jesus received things from heaven.  And to Him WAS GIVEN dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. (Daniel 7:14 NIV)

3) We will win in the end

We will win and we will win because Jesus wins.  Evil will one day be defeated.  The Antichrist will be destroyed.  God allows evil in the world.  He PERMITS evil but He also LIMITS evil and one day he will DESTROY evil.  Which is stronger: good or evil?  Ultimately good will win out over evil.  Evil will be defeated in the end.

The fifth kingdom will destroy the fourth kingdom and reign forever.  The heavenly Son of Man will rule instead of these beastly kingdoms.  Christ will rule, and we will rule with him.  We will take possession of the kingdom (Daniel 7:18, 22) and we will possess it forever (Daniel 7:18, 27).  One day, every knee will bow and confess that Jesus is Lord.

The Bible tells us not to be overcome by evil (Romans 12:21). That is a comfort when you look at all of the evil in the world to think that one day it will all be defeated.  Sin will be gone.  Crime will be gone. Disease will be gone.  Pain will be gone.  Death will be gone. Temptation will be gone.  Satan will be gone.

John Walvoord, Daniel, 145.

[2] https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16490#showrashi=true

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