Since the book of Daniel is not sequenced chronologically, we will cover the apocalyptic visions that Daniel dreamt during Belshazzar’s reign before covering his assassination in the fifth chapter.
After the death of Nebuchadnezzar, several small kings took over the land, before the father-son duo of Nabonidus and Belshazzar started ruling the Babylonian empire. It was during this time that Daniel began writing down his apocalyptic dreams.
“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
The image of a sea in the Bible is constantly used to describe the gentile nations and the four winds of heaven usually symbolise trouble coming from all directions. The imagery could mean that the turmoil and chaos across the earth would give rise to these four kings who would rebel against God.
Remember that Daniel is doing his best to understand what is happening in the dream and in the process, he will be relating these creatures with their nearest counterparts on the earth. The first beast looked like a lion to Daniel but with the wings of an eagle. Those wings were later ripped off so that the being stood up on its hind legs just like a man. This creature was also given the mind of a human.
The second beast resembled a bear and had three ribs in its mouth. The creature was told to rise and eat to its heart’s content. The third beast looked like a leopard and had four wings on its back. This beast had four heads and was given the authority to rule.
The fourth creature was so horrifying that Daniel could not compare it to any animal that walked on earth. It had large iron teeth, the same metal from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue, which was used to crush its victims. It was different from the other beasts and even 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 human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.Daniel 7:8
Then Daniel saw the great Ancient of Days clothed in white, taking His seat with thousands attending to Him, almost identical to John’s revelation about the day of judgement (Revelation 20:11-15) and the court was now in session as the books were opened.
However, there was no stopping the boastful little horn as it kept speaking, apparently still proud of its actions. Daniel witnessed the mighty beast being slain and its body was thrown into the blazing fire, a callback to the blazing furnace that could not harm his friends. The rest of the beasts were temporarily spared but not before they were stripped of their authority.
“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. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power… his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.Daniel 7:13-14
The Ancient of Days give Authority to the Son of Man
There are different interpretations as to who is this son of man to whom all authority will be given. While some believe that the man represents the nation of Israel, who will be given authority to rule over everything, many believe that Jesus referring to himself as the son of man more than any other title, is a callback to Daniel’s vision.
Moreover, if we read what John writes in Revelation 19:11–16 about the time when the heavenly Warrior will defeat the beast, he is clearly talking about the Messiah. The similarities in the visions of Daniel and John confirms that this indeed is one of the prophecies about Jesus, the Son of God. The Son of Man was to come centuries later and establish His Kingdom in all of us by dying on the cross.
If we are part of His kingdom, we will never have to anxiously wait for any election results or like Daniel be worried about who will be the next king as regardless of whether we are on this earth or living with our Father in Heaven, His Kingdom that is established in us will have no end.
The Dream Interpreted
Upon asking one of the members of the court, the meaning of the vision was made known to Daniel.
‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’Daniel 7:17-18
While in the next dream Gabriel clearly tells Daniel which kingdoms do the goat and the ram represent, we do not have the same luxury for the dream with the four beasts. However, the popular view seems to be the likening of this dream to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue, with the kingdoms that were represented by different metals now being represented by these four mysterious creatures.
But Daniel was curious about the fourth and the most terrifying beast, as its horns were waging war against God’s people, till the time God put an end to its reign.
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 holy people and try to change the set times and the laws…Daniel 7:24-25
The ten horns represent the nations rising from the fourth kingdom. If the popular belief of the fourth creature being the Roman empire holds true, then the ten horns are the ten nations that were formed after the division of the Roman Empire. Some believe that the fourth kingdom is Greece and the ten horns are the kingdoms that were conquered by the Grecian empire represented by the boisterous little horn in the middle.
However, we must accept that the interpretations of the dreams and visions in the Bible belong to God. He chooses to reveal some of them to us according to His will and it is not our place to ask for the timelines for their fulfilment.
“‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’Daniel 7:26-27
In Alignment with the Ancient of Days
Like Nebuchadnezzar, who understood the dream of the Great Tree, Daniel was also mortified when he was told about God’s plan. The fear in his heart stems from the fact of not knowing what the future holds, who will be the next king and will he give him the same privileges?
Even in our lives, any change in the circumstances around us makes us nervy. Whether it be us changing jobs or having a new boss come in or the people around us keep changing, any change around us is not welcomed by us because of the uncertainty it brings along with it.
Daniel’s distraught could also be because of him misunderstanding God’s plan and assuming that Israel will be restored to its former glory after these seventy years in exile. But according to this new vision, it would take a long time before the Son of Man will be given all authority by the Ancient of Days.
When our plans for the future are not aligned with that of God’s, we too will face disappointments, heartaches and even grief. If someone like Daniel can misinterpret God’s plan, what chance do we have? But remember that Daniel did not have the Spirit residing in him, guiding all his steps.
When we invite, the Son of Man, Jesus, into our hearts, He gives us His Spirit of discernment. We must realise that we are better positioned than all the prophets of the Bible when it comes to knowing the heart of God. The things that were not revealed to Abraham, Daniel or even the great man of God, Elisha have been revealed to us. But are we utilising our position to actively know God’s will or are we simply misusing our grace period and are in the beast’s corner?