posted on Jul, 27 2018 @ 05:01 PM
The “four kingdoms” of Daniel ch7 are represented by four beasts which rise up out of the sea in a dream, “a vision of the night”.
In the symbolism of prophecy, the sea is the source of evil, which tells us that these beasts are not of God.
The first three beasts can be matched from history.
The iconic winged lion (v4) identifies Babylon.
The empire of the Medes and the Persians was politically lop-sided (most of the original power and territory had come from the Medes) and would be
well-represented by the “lop-sided bear” (v5).
Alexander’s kingdom came into existence with legendary speed, and then fell apart into four distinct kingdoms. This makes it a natural match for the
third beast, the winged and four-headed leopard (v6).
Many modern academic scholars prefer a revised interpretation, such as;
2 The Medes
3 The Persians
But that’s an artificial system. There is little reason in history to separate out the Medes and the Persians, and even less reason in the book of
Daniel, which always keeps the two peoples together.
This revision has a transparent purpose. The scholars recognise that the “little horn” of ch8 represents the infamous Antiochus Epiphanes, and
they want to identify the “little horn” of the fourth beast (vv7-8) as the same king. The fourth beast needs to be Alexander’s empire in order
to make that possible.
The ingenious juggling becomes unnecessary once we understand that this little horn represents a different king with a similar character, ruling in
the more distant future.
The fourth beast is described as being different from all previous beasts, “terrible and dreadful and exceedingly strong”. The further explanation
is given, in v23, that “it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down and break it to pieces”. This beast is destroyed in v11, when God
sits in judgement over it, but the lives of the other beasts are prolonged. It is replaced by the dominion of “one like a son of man”.
What, then, does this fourth beast represent?
If we understand the beasts as dominant empires, and follow through the course of ancient history, then the most obvious candidate is Rome, which
dominated the local world once the Greek realms had declined.
Even that solution carries an element of prophecy, because this chapter was written well before the Roman state had got anywhere near “trampling the
earth”. The most modern theories about the dating of Daniel don’t carry it down that far.
However, this theory works better as history than it does as prophecy- at least from a Christian viewpoint. If we wish to understand the arrival of
“one like a son of man” as the return of Christ at the end of the age, this interpretation requires that the Roman empire should last until that
time. On the face of it, this did not happen- the Roman empire came to an end. It is true that many people studying prophecy find ways to stretch the
Roman empire, in some sense, up to the present time. In my opinion, though, it stretches a little thin.
There is a case for arguing, on the other hand, that the vision had some degree of fulfilment in the first coming of Christ, the Son of Man.
That was when the kingdom of God began to fill the earth.
We might apply the “little horn” to Nero and the other emperors, “speaking great things” against the Christian God, and “making war on the
Then the pagan, persecuting Roman empire is the body which is “judged” by God and destroyed by the power of the gospel. (This was one of the
interpretations I offered previously for “the stone that breaks the statue” in the king’s dream of Daniel ch2.)
That would help to explain the statement that other realms continue to live on after the destruction of the fourth beast.
Thus the everlasting dominion of the saints under the Son of Man begins with the Resurrection of Christ. This is also Augustine’s understanding of
the “Millennial kingdom” of Revelation ch20.
Alternatively, or at the same time, we might abandon the assumption that the fourth and final beast immediately follows the third.
If we allow ourselves to suppose a gap between Alexander and the fourth beast, then even the beginning of the fourth beast may still be in our
In that case, there would be no need to associate this kingdom with the name of Rome, which would not come into the picture.
It would be a realm newly arisen in those later times.
And that would be the power that comes to grief in the Return of Christ and the final judgement.
In support of this view, the second half of the chapter offers a more detailed description of the fourth beast, a description which finds echoes in
Daniel’s distinction between the “fourth beast” and the “little horn” foreshadows (and therefore interprets) the distinction between the two
“beasts” of Revelation ch13.
The fourth beast represents a “kingdom”, a corporate political body. It has ten horns representing ten kings. Therefore it resembles the first
beast of Revelation, “the beast from the sea”.
But the little horn has human eyes and “a mouth speaking great things” against God. In other words, it represents a loud-mouthed human
We learn that the little horn makes war with the saints and prevails over them, and that they are given into his power “for a time, two times, and
half a time”.
In all these things he resembles the second beast of Revelation, “the beast from the land” (who is described later in the same book as “the
If we treat the two beasts of Revelation as belonging to the end-times, almost immediately before the Return of Christ, then we are obliged to treat
the two entities of Daniel ch7 in the same way.
Then the downfall of the fourth beast is also the downfall of all human kingdoms (given that the fourth beast has already demolished all the
The only kingdom that remains is the everlasting kingdom, which has been given to “the people of the saints of the Most High” (v27).