Daniel was an Israelite prince from the tribe of Judah, working as an administrator for King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, when he had his first vision of the future in Daniel Chapter 2. In the vision, he saw a statue with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs and feet of iron mixed with clay. The statue was then crushed by a stone that became a mighty mountain and filled the earth. That stone is Jesus – see the study from last week for more on Daniel’s first vision.
Daniel’s second vision is our focus today, and it is told in Daniel Chapter 7. He received the vision many years after the first one, during the reign of King Belshazzar, grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. History shows that Nabonidus, took over the throne from his father Nebuchadnezzar and then handed it to his son Belshazzar. Babylon was passing through hard times, Daniel was worried about the future, and this second vision provided answers about God’s plans for the future.
Daniel 7:1-8 (Living Bible) (shortened) states: “One night during the first year of Belshazzar’s reign… Daniel had a dream… In my dream I saw… four huge animals came up out of the water… The first was like a lion, but it had eagle’s wings… The second animal looked like a bear… It held three ribs between its teeth… The third… looked like a leopard… it had wings like those of birds, and it had four heads… a fourth animal rose up out of the ocean… It was far more brutal and vicious than any of the other animals, and it had ten horns… suddenly another small horn appeared among them, and three of the first ones were yanked out, roots and all, to give it room; this little horn had a man’s eyes and a bragging mouth.”
These four animals represent the four empires Daniel saw in Chapter 2. The first, the lion with eagle’s wings was Babylon because that was their national symbol – this is the head of gold in the vision in Chapter 2. The second, the bear with three ribs in its teeth, was the Persian empire, which conquered Egypt, Babylon, and Lydia (Turkey); the third, a leopard with wings and four heads was Greece led by Alexander the Great, it moved swiftly, and at the death of Alexander split into four kingdoms.
The fourth is the vicious Roman empire of iron; Western Rome later broke into ten kingdoms (click on the map to see them). In Daniel’s vision, a new king, the little horn, rose up later and was more powerful than any other king. This extremely proud little horn is similar to the antichrist beast described in Revelation 13:5 as speaking ‘proud words and blasphemies’ against God. While the Roman empire is gone, we are still living in a world governed by the Western powers that came out of Rome.
Daniel 7:26-27 (Living Bible) says: “But then the Ancient of Days [Jesus] will come and open his court of justice and take all power from this vicious king, to consume and destroy it until the end. Then all nations under heaven and their power shall be given to the people of God; they shall rule all things forever…”
At the end of the vision, God assures Daniel that the Messiah will come during the period of the Roman empire, and bring to an end this iron king, replacing it with not with another human empire, but with God’s kingdom – a kingdom that is not about meat and drink, but about righteousness [justice and fairness] and peace and joy coordinated through the leading of the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).
The hardtimes today will pass, God’s kingdom of fairness, peace and joy will come – come quickly we pray in Jesus name, Amen!