Daniel 7 Bible Study The Times of the Gentiles, The Earthly Scene

Book of Daniel Bible Study Commentary Chapter 7

The Times of the Gentiles - The Earthly Scene

by I Gordon

Thank God for the visions and dreams given in the book of Daniel! Only God can declare the end from the beginning and that is what He has done in this wonderful book. You will probably know that the book of Daniel consists of both history and prophecy. You could say it has history past and history future! Chapters 1-6, which we have already looked at, were largely historical and chronological. Chapters 7-12 are prophetic. These later chapters consist of four prophetic dreams/visions given to Daniel but it is this first one, here in chapter 7, that provides the foundation and basis of the subsequent revelation. So this is an important chapter in understanding the rest of this book. So don't drift off... Don't think about lunch (well that's tempting but not yet!).

In chapter 7 we are presented with an amazing God given vision of all the kingdoms that would dominate planet earth from the time of the Babylonian exile onwards. Every major player is revealed right up until the time that the mystery of God is finally revealed and Jesus' kingdom is set up. Now, chapter 7 is split up into an earthly and a heavenly scene. We get to see what man is doing on earth and we get to see what God is doing in Heaven! This study will revolve around the earthly scene. I should also say that the recipe for this study is 9 parts Bible prophecy lightly mixed and stirred with 1 part conspiracy theory. Hope you're ok with that!

Mmmm... Four mighty fine looking beasts! Book of Daniel Bible Study Commentary Chapter 7

Dan 7:1-6 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream. 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  . '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 man, and the heart of a man was given to it. '  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!' '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.

So we see that Daniel was given a prophetic dream that consisted of four beasts  [1]  arising out of the sea. Now, if you know your prophecy and you know your types, then you will also know that the "sea" or "waters" are used prophetically in the Bible to speak of the gentile nations (see Isa 17:12-13, Rev 17:1,15). So this vision is of four kingdoms that would arise from out of, and dominate, the gentile nations. If we were to get more specific, it could also be said that the 'great sea' that the beasts arise from is a pointer to the Mediterranean Sea for all of these kingdoms will arise from that areas surrounding that sea. Now, if you're saying 'I think I've seen these nations before' then you would be correct. The same four kingdoms were presented to us in Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel Chapter 2. Chapter 7 presents the same nations but from a heavenly point of view and gives more details about their destructive nature.

The link between chapters 2 and 7 can be seen in the following table:

Chapter 2 Image Chapter 7 Image Kingdom Notes / Interpretation

Head of Gold

Lion with eagles wings

Babylonian Empire (606-538 BC)

Known for its use of gold and the swiftness of its conquests (emphasized by the depiction of eagles wings) until its wings were torn off and the heart of a man was given to it (this emphasizes Nebuchadnezzar's conversion from the proud ruler to humble servant of the living God).

Silver Chest and Arms

Bear raised up on one side

Medes and Persian Empire (538-331 BC)

The Medo-Persian empire was known for it's use of silver. In Daniel's vision it was lifted up on one side because the Persians were more powerful than the Medes. The three ribs in its mouth speak of the three great conquests this empire undertook in defeating Babylon, Lydia and Egypt.  [2] 

Thighs of Bronze

Leopard with four wings and four heads

Greek Empire (331-168 BC)

The next beast was the Greek empire. The vision emphasises the swiftness of it exploits. By the age of 28 Alexander the Great had conquered the civilized world! Commentators have pointed out that there is nothing in the history of the world that was equal to the swiftness of his conquests. But this beat had four heads. This eemphasizes the split between four generals after the death of Alexander.

Legs of Iron

Powerful beast with iron teeth

Roman Empire (168 BC - 476 AD)

The last beast, the Roman Empire, is pictured as a powerful beast with iron teeth. The Roman empire was known for their use of iron and the iron represented their immense strength. This empire, in its different stages, is focused on specifically as the rest of the chapter unfolds.

The fourth beast comes in two stages!

Dan 7:7-8 '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.  '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 man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

Now, Daniel focuses most of his attention on the fourth beast. It is said to be terrifying and very powerful.  [3]  You may remember from chapter 2 that the legs of iron represented the Roman Empire, but there was also a final stage - the ten toes! Well we see the exact same thing here in chapter 7. While the Roman Empire officially ended in 476 AD, the Bible clearly shows that there will be a revival of the Roman Empire in the last days.

Chapter 2 Image Chapter 7 Image Interpretation

10 toes of iron and clay

Beast with iron teeth and ten heads

Revived Roman Empire - Still to come!

This ten division stage of the Roman Empire is also pictured in the book of Revelation, again represented by ten horns  [4]  :

Rev 17:3, 12-13 'I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns...  The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. 

Now note how Revelation says that these ten kings (the revived Roman Empire) will give their authority to another. This corresponds exactly with the Daniel passage above that states that a 'little horn' will come up among the other ten and will take control. Also note a key characteristic of this man... he will be a big mouth! He will be one who rules with great boasting and blasphemy. Another point to note is that from the book of Daniel we find that this 'little horn' (the Antichrist) comes up among the 10 kings and takes three of them out. Three of the 10 horns are uprooted. Again, this is not something that is historical but it still to come. We'll see more about this man, the little horn, later in this chapter. Now verses 9-14 give a vision of the heavenly scene while this is going on down on Earth. That will be the subject of our next study. So for now, let's have a look at the interpretation of this vision that Daniel is given.

Daniel zeroes in on the fourth beast...

Dan 7:15-22 'I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this. 'So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 'The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever - yes, for ever and ever.'  Then I wanted to know the true 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.  I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up  , before which three of them fell -  the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom  .

We shouldn't take these things lightly for the vision that Daniel saw greatly alarmed him. It totally freaked him out and Daniel wasn't one to be scared easily... It is fair to say that what Daniel saw was pretty full on! But it is a good thing for us that what perplexed Daniel the most, and what he now zeroes in on, is the kingdom that is the most relevant to us. Daniel asks to know more about this fourth beast - and specifically he wants to know more about the 10 horns and the 11th horn that was even more imposing and frightening. This last 'horn' was one that waged war against the saints  [5]  ... and was winning... until a judicial decree came from the Ancient of Days (God the Father) that stops the events of earth in its tracks!

The interpretation revealed (plus a little conspiracy theory!) 

Daniel 7:23-28 'He gave me this explanation: '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. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws.  The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time. ''But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever  . Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.' 'This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.'

This passage is important for it gives us more clues concerning this fourth beast. We read above that this last kingdom will be different from the others and will devour the whole earth. Out of this kingdom will come 10 kings and finally a last king will arise that will overpower the saints of God.

So we can see that the fourth Kingdom comes in different phases. All of the different kingdoms, including the different phases of the fourth kingdom, can be seen in the following taken from Arnold Fructenbaum's book "The footsteps of the Messiah".

Kingdom Stages 
1. The Babylonian Empire  
2. The Medo-Persian Empire  
3. The Hellinistic (Greek) Empire a) The United Stage
b) The Four Division Stage
4. The Fourth Empire a) The United Stage (vs 23a)
b) The One World Government Stage (vs 23b)
c) The Ten Division Stage (vs 24b)
d) The Antichrist Stage (vs 24b - 26)
5. The Messianic Kingdom Hooray!

It is interesting that the Bible says that this fourth kingdom will devour the whole earth before the 10 king division stage. Fructembaum points out that this was never fulfilled in the Roman empire of 2000 years ago and its fulfilment will be seen in the last days before Jesus' return. Not that we should be surprised at this for the world leaders are already talking about a global or one world government  [6]  . All that is needed according to some is just the right 'crisis' to bring it in!  [7] 

Now after the 10 division stage  [8]  , we read above that 'another king' will arise. This king will hate God, hate God's people and will radically change the laws to bring about a global persecution of God's people. This ruler is the Antichrist and his rule will last for a "time, times, and half a time" - that is, a year, two years plus 1/2 a year (3 1/2 years). There are several other passages that confirm this length of time for his rule (see Daniel 9:27, 12:11, Rev 12:6).


So the passage above shows that the Antichrist will arise at the time of the fourth beast (the revised Roman Empire still to come in the last days.) But this terrifying last worldly kingdom ruled by the antichrist will come to an end. For while we have been looking at what mankind is plotting on earth, there is a whole different plan being hatched in heaven and the schemes of the antichrist are soon to be dramatically interrupted by the King of kings and the Lord of lords!

And that is what we shall look at in the next study!

[1] ↩  Why use an image of a beast you ask? Well, good question. It was, and still is, quite common to associate kingdoms and nations with animals. Even today we might speak of the Russian bear, the American eagle, the British lion or the Chinese dragon. Of course none of these would strike as much fear into an enemy's heart as the New Zealand kiwi! (Ok, so having a flightless bird that has no means of defense may not have been the wisest choice to illustrate our nation's strength! Or lack thereof.) But there is another reason why God gave a vision of beasts. You will remember that in Daniel chapter 2 Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and he saw these same coming kingdoms of the world as a great statue made up of precious metals (gold, silver bronze etc). Well, that is the interpretations from man's point of view. He sees these kingdoms as something glorious. Something precious. Something noble and powerful. Daniel chapter 7 presents these same kingdoms from God's point of view. Beasts! Ravenous beasts that kill and slaughter. And unfortunately, though man likes to pat himself on the back for what wonderful achievements he has made, God's view of these empires is the real truth!

[2] ↩  J. Vernon McGee comments on the strength (like a bear) and eventual downfall of the Medo-Persian empire writing:

 'There are no wings on this bear, but it was told, "Arise, devour much flesh." The army of the Medo-Persians moved like a great, lumbering, and rumbling bear - they even took their families along with them. It was Xerxes who led about 300,000 men and three hundred ships against Greece at Thermopylae and was defeated. His fleet was destroyed by a storm because God did not intend the East to control the West at that particular time.' 

[3] ↩  History obviously records the Roman Empire as ruthless and violent. A couple of years ago I got to go to Rome and visited (like everyone else in Rome, who is not from Rome) the coliseum. If you have seen the movie Gladiator then you've got an idea of what went on there! Our tour guide told us that in the afternoons they would fight African animals against the European animals. At night it was gladiators verses animals or slaves or, unfortunately, sometimes Christians verses animals. Even today it is fair to say that place has some atmosphere!

[5] ↩  My personal view is that these 'saints' are the believers during the Antichrist's reign in the second part of the tribulation. They are often called 'tribulation saints'. I don't believe that the church is on earth at this time. One thing to note about these saints is that they are 'given into his (the Antichrists) hand for a time, times, and half a time.' (vs 25) That is, the Antichrist persecutes, dominates and rules the saints during the last 3 â years of the tribulation leading up to the return of Jesus. This would argue against the 'pre-wrath rapture' position which has Jesus returning part way through this last 3 â years period, nullifying the Antichrist's power and rule. If that was to occur then the saints would not be given into the hands of the Antichrist for the last 3 â years. It would only be part of that time. Nor would the Antichrist have power for all that time as the return of Jesus would put an end to that. The only two rapture positions that would tie in with Daniel 7:25 are the Pre-tribulation and Post-tribulation raptures. The coming of the Lord for His bride before the tribulation, to rescue her from the wrath to come (1 Thes 1:10), is the most logical position when all evidence is examined I believe.

[6] ↩  Whether the current financial crisis is the springboard for it or not time will tell. But certainly it didn't take long before the political and religious leaders started calling for Global government! Here are just a few quotes - some old, some recent:

"By the end of this decade (2000 A.D.) we will live under the first One World Government that has ever existed in the society of nations.... a government with absolute authority to decide the basic issues of human survival, one world government is inevitable." - Pope John Paul II quoted by Malachi Martin in the book " The Keys of This Blood"

'There is an urgent need of a true world political authority' whose task would be 'to manage the global economy' - Pope Benedict (July 7 2009)

Henry Kissinger (Dec 08) cited the chaos being wrought across the globe by the financial crisis and the spread of terrorism as an opportunity to bolster a new global order.

Al Gore (July 2009) 'But it is the awareness itself (of global warming) that will drive the change and one of the ways it will drive the change is through global governance and global agreements.'

[7] ↩  David Rockefeller Sept. 23, 1994 stated "This present window of opportunity, during which a truly peaceful and interdependent world order might be built, will not be open for too long - We are on the verge of a global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis and the nations will accept the New World Order."

[8] ↩  There is an organisation called the Club of Rome who goal it is to oversee the regionalization and unification of the entire world. In 1973 they released a report called 'Regionalized and Adaptive Model of the Global World System.' In it they divided the world into 10 regions which they referred to as kingdoms. It is interesting that the Bible sees a 10 division stage and that is precisely what man is heading to. Ultimately of course, it is only a temporary measure until one man assumes full control.