Daniel 7:1-3 – The scene of these events is “the great sea” (Daniel 7:2), which possibly meant the Mediterranean. But in scripture the sea is a picture of the Gentile world (Revelation 13:1;21:1, which predicts that in the new earth there will be no more “sea”). From the sea (Gentile nations) are described as the four beasts (Daniel 7:3), which go on shore to perform their roles.
Daniel 7:4 The first of the beasts is a winged lion, whose wings are removed, so that instead of flying it stands on the ground. A human heart is given to it. In the light of Nebuchadnezzar, it speaks of diminishing of his pride and power at the time of his insanity (Daniel 4). The lion was the symbol of Babylon, especially in Nebuchadnezzar’s time, when the Ishtar Gate featured a long procession of yellow lions on blue-glazed brick. The reference to it having “the heart of a man” may refer to the restoration of Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity after his seven-year period of madness.
Daniel 7:5 The second beast appears as a terrifying bear, who replaces the lion, though there is no mention of any conflict between them. The bear is described in a way that very clearly suggests that it involves an alliance of two powers, of which one will dominate the other and indeed, the Medo-Persian Empire was dominated by the Persians.
One side of the bear was higher than the other, and Daniel saw it devouring three ribs from some other animal it had killed and it was encouraged to feast on the ribs. This corresponds to the three major conquests of the Medes and Persians, made under the leadership of King Cyrus and his son Cambyses.
Daniel 7:6 The next beast is a four-winged leopard with four heads. This beast speaks of the division of Alexander’s empire into four separate parts within a few years after his death in 323 b.c.
The division was made up of his four generals who served under Alexander: Greece and Macedon under Cassander, Thrace and Asia Minor under Lysimachus, all of greater Syria under Seleucus, and Egypt under Ptolemy. The four part rule of the Greek Empire was maintained, despite the efforts of the Seleucids and Ptolemids to annex each other into a single rule.
Daniel 7:7 The fourth beast is unlike any known. Daniel described it as “terrifying, frightening and powerful” implying that it would be even fiercer and stronger than any of the preceding empires. Its teeth were as iron; and it would be more crushing in its power and tyranny than the other three: “It … trampled underfoot whatever was left”. In one other way it differed from the first three: it had ten horns which correspond to the ten toes of the dream image of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2), and the iron in the teeth suggests the legs and toes of iron in that image. This power towers over the empires of Greece, Persia, and Babylon. Its form as a confederation of ten states is suggested by the horns, as it had been by the toes in Daniel 2.
Daniel 7:8 There is something new about this 10 state federation and that is the emergence of one of the smaller horns as the largest of them all. This “little horn” becomes dominant by uprooting and destroying three of the other horns and ruling over the remaining six. Just as the ten toes of the Nebuchadnezzar’s dream ruled at the same time, so too do the ten horns of this fourth beast. The ruling little horn is further described as possessing “eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.”
This implies that this little horn pictures an arrogant and boastful ruler, rather than an entire kingdom. At end of v.8 we are introduced for the first time to the ruthless world-dictator of the last days who is referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2:3,8, as “the man of lawlessness who “exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, and even sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). We have a foreshadow of this in the events of Chanukkah with Antiochus V as a type of the antichrist.
Daniel 7:9-10 – The 5th kingdom described here is the world power, which overthrows and destroys all the preceding worldly and violent empires. While initial many “thrones” are described the focus is on the great throne, on which, God is pictured as seated. He is described as “the Ancient of Days”, with pure white hair and wearing shining a white robe. The throne is ablaze in fire, and there are wheels also burning in flames. It brings to mind Ezekiel 1:13 where he there describes the glory of the Lord. Fire speaks of his glory and his judgment on sin and on those opposed to his authority. The scene depicts a court of judgment in which the books are opened containing the sins of the little horn and his followers (Revelation 20:12-13).
Daniel 7:11 the beast continue to spew out his boastings against both man and God until he is dragged before the Lord for judgment. Then he is suddenly silenced and sentenced to the flames of judgment.
Daniel 7:15-28 Daniel requested that the angel explain the meaning of the fourth beast and its little horn (Daniel 7:19-22). He wanted to know why the fourth beast was unlike any other animal on earth and was so vicious and terrifying (Daniel 7:19). He also wanted to know about the ten horns, and especially about the little horn (Daniel 7:20-21).
He wondered why the three horns fell before it, and why the little horn seemed so much greater than the others and why was it so arrogant and boastful? And why did it wage war against the saints (Daniel 7:21)? He also asked about the Ancient of Days and his judgment of the little horn (Daniel 7:22).
The angel answered Daniel’s questions, explaining events that both he and future generations needed to know. Despite all the war, conflict, lawlessness, and violence on earth, a wonderful hope is given for the future. And all mankind needs to know about this hope. They need to be encouraged to place their hope in the Lord and in His coming kingdom. In answering the prophet’s questions, the angel stressed five major points.
1) The fourth beast represented a fourth kingdom that was to appear on earth (Daniel 7:23). As pointed out in Daniel 7:7, this kingdom was the Roman Empire that would control most of the known world of that day. This empire was to be different from all others that had preceded it, different in its power and terror.
Rome would influence many nations down through history—so much so that the last kingdom to rule on earth will arise from a restoration of the old Roman Empire. The following explanation of the angel clearly shows this fact. Specific features of the Roman state will endure in certain nations down through history until God Himself establishes the final government on earth, the Kingdom of God itself.
2) The ten horns of Daniel’s vision represented a coalition of ten rulers (Daniel 7:24a). These ten rulers rise from the Roman Empire and their governments are in existence during the end time of history. These ten kingdoms or nations will be in existence right before Jesus returns to set up God’s kingdom on earth. When the times of the Gentiles end, these ten nations will be numbered among all the nations who will face the judgment of God.
3) The little horn is identified as another ruler who arises from one of the nations of the historic Roman Empire. As pointed out earlier, this is the Antichrist (Daniel 7:8;1 John 2:18) who is also known as the man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3) and the beast (Revelation 13:1-10). Note that the coalition of ten nations will already be in existence when the Antichrist arises and appears on the scene. He will take power after them.
Note also that he will be different from the other ten rulers in that he will be more powerful and terrorizing, more knowledgeable and intelligent, more arrogant, hostile and cruel in his treatment of others. He will not tolerate any opposition to his wishes. He will forcibly subjugate three of the ten rulers (Daniel 7:24b) who will for some reason attempt to stand in his way, and he will force them under his rule. After this, the other seven rulers will willingly subject themselves and follow his leadership.
The Antichrist will defy and oppose the Lord. Other Scriptures tell us that he will establish a state religion in an attempt to secure the loyalty and unity of the people (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:4-8a). The Antichrist will then turn his hatred of God against the saints (true believers). He will launch a vicious persecution of believers. His brutal reign has been given a title, the known as The Tribulation or the time of Jacobs trouble as Jeremiah describes it Jeremiah 30:7;Matthew 24:1-14;Mark 13:1-13;Revelation 6:1-19:21).
Freedom of religion will no longer be allowed during the antichrist’s rule. Instead, he will use a false religion to hold the people together. This religious system will be syncretized with the government. He will lead a coalition of nations under his rule that will bring peace and economic prosperity to the world. They will offer solutions to many of the problems people face. As a result, the vast majority of people will willingly offer their first loyalty to the state. But not true believers who are committed to the Lord.
They will oppose the Antichrist his persecution of the saints. The Antichrist will change the calendar and some of the laws of the nations (Daniel 7:25). He will persecute the saints for three and a half years (Daniel 7:25c). The last 3 1/2 years of Antichrists rule, Jerusalem will come under great persecution which will cause many Jews to flee for their lives. But God promises to meet the needs of those who truly follow Him during the entire tribulation.
This final assault will begin when the Antichrist breaks a covenant he has made with Israel (Daniel 9:27). When he does, he will force them to declare their first allegiance to the state, an act that is known as the abomination of desolation (Daniel 11:31; Matthew 24:15). It is during this time that the judgments of God will be launched on the earth that are described in Revelation these are the end time equivalent of plagues of Egypt.
4) The angel explained the Ancient of Days and His judgment is next (v.26). God will strike the Antichrist and completely destroy this little horn of prophecy (v.26). His final day on earth will come and his persecution of believers will end. His coalition of nations will be broken up and each will be wiped off the face of the earth when they face the judgment of God.
5) After the Antichrist has been removed from, the fifth and final kingdom, God’s kingdom will be established on earth (Daniel 7:27). Jesus will return to bring peace and righteousness to the earth. And the kingdom will be handed over to the saints, the true believers who have followed the Son of Man, who is the Lord Jesus Christ (Daniel 7:13-14).
Those who have truly followed the Lord will receive their inheritance, an everlasting kingdom that will never end. And they will rule with Jesus, looking after and taking care of the world as we were first called to at creation before our father Adam rebelled. But note that this kingdom of Christ will be inhabited only by rulers and people who worship and obey Him. In that day, every knee will bow before the only living and true God (Philippians 2:9-11). In this Scripture we see the Son of Man placed in an equal position with the Most High God.
This was the end of the vision. Daniel was emotionally exhausted, and still deeply troubled, his face turned pale, which probably indicated some kind of emotional shock. The Antichrist is coming someday in the future. When he comes, the first part of his rule will bring peace, security, and economic prosperity to the world. But in the last 3 1/2 years of his leadership, the most horrible holocaust ever known to man will be launched against those who truly follow the Lord Jesus. However, the Lord will sustain His people. He will strengthen and encourage them and offer them the most wonderful reward if they remain true to Him.