Daniel 7 (Daniel’s vision of the Four Beasts)

The Coming of the Son of Man to the Ancient of Days to Receive the Kingdom

The focus of biblical prophecy is not general information about the world, but always about God’s redemptive purpose through Jesus Christ.  Everything in the Bible is about Jesus Christ.  This vision of Daniel in Daniel 7 parallels Daniel chapter 2 by depicting four kingdoms that would precede the establishment of God’s eternal Kingdom, bringing a spiritual Kingdom with this-world consequences.  One eternal Kingdom à consisting of both an unseen heavenly realm, and a seen earthly realm.

I. God’s Kingdom that was coming (from Daniel’s perspective) would be a Kingdom for all peoples (Dan. 7:14).

This vision of Daniel’s occurs in 555 BC during the Babylonian reign of Belshazzar’s, prior to the fall of Babylon to Persia (539 BC).  The Jews deemed themselves “God’s chosen people,” but they could not have envisioned God’s true spiritual purpose for the Kingdom being prophesied by Daniel.  Remember, the earthly physical kingdom of Israel had been conquered and they were now in exile in Babylon.  This vision Daniel was given was of the eternal Kingdom of God!  It is sad that so many look for another earthly physical kingdom to come again and miss the fact that Jesus Christ is King and enthroned now.

A. The “stirring up” of “the great sea” (Dan. 7:2) describes the Kingdom coming upon the nations.

1. Israel is “land” (Eretz) (Rev. 13:11); nations are “sea” (Rev. 13:1).

2. Jesus chooses fishermen as some of His apostles (Matt. 4:18).

3. Jesus calms the sea (Matt. 8:23–27).

4. “The Kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind” (Matt. 13:47).  The terms Kingdom of God, Kingdom of heaven and the eternal Kingdom are all synonyms.

5. After the resurrection, the first miracle of Jesus is the large catch of fish (see John 21:1-11).  The number of fish caught is 153, a triangulation of 17 (17+16+15+14 … +1 = 153).  Seventeen stands out very prominently as the God’s Kingdom number

  • Seventeen is seventh in the list of the prime numbers (1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17). 
  • Seventeen is the combination or sum of two perfect numbers: seven and ten; seven being the number of spiritual perfection, and ten of governmental perfection. 
  • The Day of Atonement (the shed blood of the Lamb) was on the seventh day of the tenth month. 
  • In Romans 8:35 there are seven things that seek to come between the believer and God’s love. 
  • In Romans 8:38-39 another ten things are listed that cannot come between us and God’s love. 
  • In Hebrews 12:18-24 the Old Covenant and the New Covenant are contrasted.  Verse 18 begins with “For you have not come” (seven things listed about the Old Covenant), then in verse 22 “But you have come” (then the writer of Hebrews lists ten things about the New Covenant).

6. In the Bible the number seventeen signifies “vanquishing the enemy” and “complete victory in Christ.” 

  • During the days of Noah, God vanquished rebellious mankind by the flood which He began on the 17th day of the second month. 
  • The ark came to rest on the 17th day of the seventh month. 
  • God raised Jesus from the dead on the 17th day of the first month of the Hebrews. 
  • The 17th time love is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13, it says, “[The] greatest of [all] is LOVE” (verse 13).  Hence, the love of God (John 3:16) is victorious in all things.

7. “None of the priests, prophets, and kings of the Old Testament were fishermen.  They were all farmers or animal husbandmen.  By way of contrast, none of Jesus’ disciples were either a farmer or a husbandman.  The most prominent of the disciples were fishermen.  Nobody is shown eating fish in the Old Testament, but Jesus feeds the 5000 with fish, not with lambs or goats.  After His resurrection He eats a fish, not a piece of lamb.  The disciples are almost never spoken of as shepherds; they are fishers of men.  This shift in imagery indicates that Jesus’ new Kingdom is going to go to the whole world.

B. This entire vision in Daniel 7 gives a uninterrupted summarized view of history from the time of the first beast (Babylonian Empire) through until the time during the fourth beast (Roman Empire) where the King (the Son of Man.  Christ) is seen at His “ascension” (Dan. 7:13-14; Acts 1:9) going to His Father to receive His Kingdom, where He reigns in His Millennial Kingdom putting all His enemies under His feet (Acts 2:33-35; 1 Cor. 15:25; Psa. 2, 110:1-2), until His “second coming” with His fully consummated Kingdom to judge those oppressing His saints and for them to take consummated possession of the Kingdom (Dan. 7:22-27; Luke 19:12-15, 27).

“I kept looking … and the Ancient of Days took His seat” (v. 9). “I kept looking … one like a Son of Man was coming” (v. 13). “And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages might serve Him” (v. 14) — an everlasting Kingdom!

II. In Daniel 7 the four great beasts represent four great earthly empires reigning until the Messiah.

A. Lion—with the wings of an eagle: Babylon (609 BC to 539 BC).

The Babylonian goddess Ishtar is always seen as protected by lions (the ancient gates of Babylon).  And of course we have Daniel in the Lion’s den (6:12).  Then, we have an account of the king of Babylon who “had grown hair like eagles’ feathers” (4:33).  Then, when Nebuchadnezzar was converted he was “lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man” (7:4).

B. Bear: The Medo-Persian Empire (539 BC to 331 BC).

The bear had three ribs in its mouth, and “they” (angels) say to it, “Stand up!  Devour much flesh.”  This is usually taken to mean that the Persians conquered much of the world.  Some believe this description of the bear portends Cyrus and the decree to allow the Jews to return to their land.  Those who favor the Jews will be on the “standing side,” while those who attack the Jews will be on the falling side like Daniel’s accusers (Dan. 6) and like Haman in Esther, who seemed to stand for a while but then fell and was hanged along with his ten sons (Esther 3:1; 7:7–10; 9:24–25).

C. Leopard: The Grecian Empire (331 BC to 168 BC)

It has four heads, which we shall see later on in chapter eight are four headwaters or beginnings.  Then, the four divisions of the Grecian kingdom combine into two: in Daniel 11 we see that Egypt is “the king of the South” and Syria is “the king of the North.”  Then, after the fall of the Greeks we have Rome.

Di. Beast: The Roman Empire – time in discussion is 168 BC to the Coming of the Son of Man (not the fall of Rome in AD 476).

During this time the then-known world is saturated with Greek culture.  The NT is written in Greek and the OT is translated into Greek, the Septuagint [LXX].  Rome is “Dreadful and terrifying” (7:7).

1. This fourth beast is undefined: All Daniel sees are feet, teeth, and horns.

2. The nations that are eaten and crushed are the former empires, all absorbed by this fourth beast. 

3. The trampling indicates just how total the rule of Rome was.  You resist, you die.

Dii. Mixture of Iron and “Clay:”

Recall from Daniel chapter 2 that the Feet and Ten Toes of the fourth kingdom/beast are a Mixture of Iron and Clay: This represents the combination of Roman rule and apostate Israel rule in Palestine – 36 BC to the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.  (Read Luke 23:6-15; John 19:14-15 to see the mixture of Roman and Hebrew rule.)

Clay –> the Bible makes constant reference to Old Covenant (OC) Israel being clay: Isa. 64:8-12; Jer. 18:4-6; Rom. 9:1-8, 21.

III. The Little Horn arises in the time of the Fourth Beast (Rome) and persecutes the saints.

During the time of the reign of this fourth beast with “10 horns” we see “a little horn” comes up among the other 10 horns in Daniel 7:8, “I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them…”

* Important to notice is that it says that this “little horn” (kingdom) was coming “up” “among” them –> indicating that it was:

  1. Not a part of one of the other 10 horns –> not part of the Roman Empire.
  2. The contextual structure indicates it was already existing “prior” to the other 10 horns.

Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March in 44 BC.  Julius Caesar’s nephew, Augustus (Octavian), came to power after the assassination in a joint alliance (a Triumvirate) with Mark Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and then Augustus officially became the Caesar of the Roman Empire in 27 BC.  Herod (the Great) was given powers by Rome and made king of Judea in 37 BC (Judea was already a kingdom in long existence before 37 BC (since under king Saul in 1052 BC), but now was granted joint-ruling powers under Rome). 

A. The Herods were Edomites and circumcised Jews – “kings of the Jews.”  They picked the High Priests.

B. The Herodians are linked with the Pharisees against Jesus (Matt. 22:15–16; Mark 3:6; 12:13).

C. The Herods are the face of Imperial Rome in the Holy Land.  Under Augustus, Herod the Great tries to kill Jesus (Matt. 2:1–16).  Under Tiberius, Herod Antipas (son of Herod the Great) has John the Baptist put to death (Matt. 14:1–12).  Herod Agrippa (grandson of Herod the Great) is involved in the sham trial of Jesus (Luke 23:11).  Pilate and Herod, once enemies, became friends (Luke 23:12; Acts 4:27).  During the time of Claudius Caesar, Herod Agrippa I killed James and persecuted the church (Acts 12:1–3), uttered “boastful things” (Acts 12:20–23), and was struck down by God.  Herod Agrippa II is described in Acts 25-26 as “King Agrippa” before whom Paul of Tarsus defended himself.

Daniel 7:21, speaking of the time after the “ascension of Jesus” in vs. 13-14, that the little “horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them,” and this persecution of the saints by the little horn (v. 25) would continue during the Millennial reign of the King (Christ) “until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the Kingdom” (Dan. 7:21-22, 27).

This was the time at the end of the Millennial Kingdom reign à the time of the Parousia of the returning King with His Kingdom in AD 66-70 when Jesus returned with His Kingdom, raised the righteous dead souls out of Hades/Sheol, and rescued/raptured His living saints, all to join Him in the aer (Greek.  Unseen spiritual realm.  See also Eph. 4:8) to forever be with Him and to enter into the eternal afterlife heavenly Kingdom with their new immortal bodies.

All throughout the Bible “adulterous Old Covenant Israel” was stated to be the enemy of God and His true faithful followers.  They were guilty of shedding the blood of the innocent, righteous and faithful.  See the following for a list of just some of the many passages:

  • Isaiah chpts 2-3, 4:4, 5:3-7; Jer. 1:15, chpts 2-3; Ezek. 23; Matt. 21; Acts 7:52-53, 17:1-14; Gal. 4:22-31; Phil. 3:1-3; 1 Thess. 2:14-16; 2 Thess. 1:4, 6; Rev. 2:9-10, 3:9.


For a more in-depth study see the related full “Study Series”:

Study Series 9 Lesson 1 The Book of Daniel Chpt 1-9