The prophet Daniel served as under the Babylonian and Medo-Persian rulers. He was taken as a hostage from Jerusalem in 605 B.C. to the Babylonian court. Daniel was promoted to a position of high responsibility after interpreting Nebuchadnezzar dream which consisted of an image made up of different metals which Daniel interprets in Daniel 2:31-45.
The four metals in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream represented four great successive empires that would rule the known world during the reign of king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to the return of Christ at the end of the age. All the four empires have appeared in succession during the last centuries and in the exact order predicted by Daniel.
They were: (1) Babylon (2) Medo-Persia (3) Greece under Alexander (4) Rome. The Roman Empire was divided into two empires, and then after sometime, Daniel described the ten toes which is represents one view that has been more prevalent among Christian scholars—that is a confederacy made up of largely European nations.
And as for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise; and another shall arise after them, and he shall be different from the former ones, and he shall subdue and put down three kings. (Daniel 7:24)
After the death of king Nebuchadnezzar around 562 B.C., Daniel received a vision of four great beasts which correlated with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of four beasts which arise from the sea. (Daniel 7:1-28) The beasts represented the rise and fall of four great Gentile empires that would rule and dominate the known world for thousands of years.
The Babylonian Empire-The First Beast: A Lion with eagles wings
Daniel’s vision of the first beast symbolized the Babylonian Empire. The lion with eagles’ wings represents Babylon because of its swift and fast conquests and according to some scholars statues of winged ions have been recovered from the ruins of Babylon. This is how Daniel described it:
The first the Babylonian empire under Nebuchadnezzar was like a lion and had eagle’s wings. I looked till the wings of it were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand upon two feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. (Daniel 7:4 AMP)
Archeologists have noted that beasts were depicted on the walls of ancient Babylon and today many stone sculptures and symbols can be found with lions and eagle’s wings representing rapid action and military conquest.
In fact other powerful nations have of the world have usually chosen images of beasts as their national symbols: Great Britain, the lion; the United States, the eagle; Austria, the double-headed eagle; Greece, the leopard; Russia, the bear, and Italy the wolf.
The Medo-Persian Empire-The Second Beast: A Bear
Daniel’s vision of the second empire included was represented by a bear, which is swift and powerful. The Medo-Persian Empire conquered Babylon and every other kingdom. The empire according to Daniel’s vision was much stronger in one portion of Medo-Persian kingdom. According to historians this region of the empire was the most aggressive and dominant region. The three ribs in the bear’s mouth represent the conquests of three major enemies which were Libya, Babylon, and Egypt.
And behold another beast, a second one the Medo-Persian Empire, was like a bear, and it raised up itself on one side [or one dominion] and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, Arise, devour much flesh. (Daniel 7:5)
The Greek Empire-The Third Beast: A Leopard with Four wings and Four heads
The Greek Empire which symbolized the leopard with its wings show the swiftness of Alexander the Great’s ability to conquer much of the civilized world in just four years (334-330 B.C.) Historians tell us that when Alexander the Great, discovered there were no more lands to conquer, he sat down and wept.
So the four heads of the leopard represent the four divisions of the Greek Empire after Alexander’s death. These four kingdoms were ruled by the four generals because Alexander died without an heir to his throne. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was identified as the brass belly and hips of the great metallic image. (See Daniel 2)
After this I looked, and behold, another Grecian empire of Alexander the Great, like a leopard which had four wings of a bird on its back. The beast had also four heads (Alexander’s generals, his successors, and dominion was given to it.) (Daniel 7:6)
The Roman Empire-The Fourth Beast: Iron Teeth and Ten Horns
The fourth beast that Daniel saw points to the last Roman Empire that will come to power in the end times. It will be ruthless in its power and would devour every nation that resists it. Daniel’s vision of this fourth kingdom corresponds with the iron legs in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the metallic image as described in chapter 2 of Daniel.
After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast [the Roman Empire]–terrible, powerful and dreadful, and exceedingly strong. And it had great iron teeth; it devoured and crushed and trampled what was left with its feet. And it was different from all the beasts that came before it, and it had ten horns [symbolizing ten kings] I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots; and behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth speaking great things. (Daniel 7:7-8)
Many Bible scholars believe that the horns represent 10 kings who will reign shortly before God sets up his everlasting Kingdom. These 10 kings had still not come to power at the time of John’s vision recorded in the Book of Revelation:
Also the ten horns that you observed are ten rulers (kings) who have as yet received no royal dominion, but together they are to receive power and authority as rulers for a single hour, along with the beast. (Revelation 17:12)
Daniel describes another little horn that appeared among them who would most likely be the future antichrist. Because the Bible interprets itself, Paul himself writes,
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
Most likely these other ten kings will be the ten rulers who will rule under the anti-Christ. Daniel again describes them in verse 24: And as for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise; and another shall arise after them, and he shall be different from the former ones, and he shall subdue and put down three kings.
The vision of the four beasts is similar to the dream of the image that God gave to king Nebuchadnezzar. This vision of the four beasts reveals the same sequence except for some notable differences:
- Whereas Nebuchadnezzar’s dream focused mainly on the military and political power of these empires, Daniel’s vision depicted the moral, greedy, and violent character of these nations.
- Daniel is told that all four beasts shall arise in the future so the first cannot be Babylon, which has ceased to exist.
- The four beasts cannot be the Babylonians, the Greeks, Persians or Romans. Why? Because we are told the first three beasts will still be around when the fourth appears.
What would be the right interpretation of these beasts? Some speculate that the lion with wings is the USA and the UK, the bear is Russia and the leopard is the Arab world. Prophecy and Bible teacher Irvin Baxter tells us:
By examining this prophecy, we know this vision of the ten-horned beast hasn’t come to full fruition and that the other beasts represent nations that already exist.
- Daniel’s lion = England, whose coat of arms carries three lions. The eagle’s wings removed from the lion represent the United States, which we know separated from England during the American Revolution.
- Daniel’s bear = Russia, whose national symbol is a bear.
- Daniel’s leopard = Germany, whose Leopard tanks have been used predominantly in European armies since their introduction in the 1960s.
- We can understand the four heads of this leopard by remembering that Germany’s Third Reich historically attempted to gain world dominion during World War II, and that the Fourth Reich is emerging in our time.
- The leopard Daniel saw also had bird’s wings, which represent France and its national symbol of a rooster. France and Germany have not only collaborated on the design of Leopard tanks, but both countries are also founding members of the European Union.
But what is the fourth beast? It must be some form of world government, the last kingdom to be established upon the Earth. In Revelation 13:1-2, the Apostle John depicts Daniel’s four beasts again, now combined into one: a beast that is part leopard, part bear, and part lion, with ten horns.
Daniel’s conglomerate beast = a world-dominating kingdom that will include Germany, Russia, and England. Since Daniel sees that the leopard is given dominion, we may also surmise that Germany will be the dominant nation in this world government. The new horn that emerges and dominates three others tells us this government will be controlled by the Antichrist.
As Daniel’s vision continued he also saw a figure like a Son of man, Jesus Christ coming with the clouds of heaven to reign with the saints of the Most High. His Kingdom is above every other kingdom that will arrive and conquer all these kingdoms.
Ultimately the Son of Man will replace all the kingdoms of this world and establish the kingdom of heaven here on earth and we shall reign with Him forever and ever:
And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heavens shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions shall serve and obey Him. (Daniel 7:27)
All these prophecies are given to us not only so we can understand our times, but so we can know the future and be ready to be part of God’s plan by doing exploits, endure suffering and tribulation, resist evil and finally find rest in Jesus Christ.
Amplified Bible Footnotes: Notice that the four beasts of this seventh chapter of Daniel symbolize the same world kingdoms that were pictured by the images in Dan. 2, and the ten horns of the last beast correspond to the ten toes of the legs of iron (Dan. 2:41-42)…….The individual child of God is challenged as never before in the world’s history to let go of the trivial and the transient, and to yield himself unreservedly to Him Who is coming back to fulfill the longings of every true believer—forever and ever!