First, Dan. 7:1-3
Dan 7:1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. Dan 7:2 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. Dan 7:3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
We are told in vs. 1 that Daniel gets this vision while he is still in Babylonian captivity. This vision took place In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon. The Holy Spirit doesn’t simply say Belshazzar. He makes sure you understand that Belshazzar was king of Babylon. They are still in Babylonian captivity.
Then we learn that Daniel saw the vision at night while in bed. When we get to the vision of the fourth beast, Daniel reminds us again he got these visions at night, which implies a time of darkness for mankind, a time of global wickedness, a period of spiritual bankruptcy for mankind.
Then he tells us in vs. 2, “behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.” Daniel says to behold because we are to take note of this first vision. He saw the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. We covered the four winds before. The four winds come from the four corners of the earth, the four points of origin on the Earth from which God has His four winds blow across the Earth. There are three references in Daniel that talk about the four winds of heaven. Jer. 49:36 mentioned the four winds from the four quarters of heaven. Sometimes God uses that expression, the four winds of heaven, to mean everything from all directions: north, south, east, and west, which I think implied that these beasts could rise up from anywhere. Also, the four winds in this vision lends itself as well to the idea that he’s about to witness terrifying God-ordained, cataclysmic events in the history of man.
This is why Daniel doesn’t just see four winds blowing over an ocean, but he sees these four winds striving upon the sea – terrifying, violent winds tumultuously rushing over this great sea. Why? Because it sets the stage for cataclysmic events that are going to happen.
And out of that sea, out of the mass of humanity, Gentile leaders will rise up bringing with them fearful empires that will dominate the world.
All my life, I have read and heard sermons telling me that the four beasts that we’re going to read about are the four great Gentile world empires: Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome. I daresay that’s the traditional view amongst most of Christendom, too. The problem with that view is that Babylon had already risen. We just established that Daniel was given this vision during the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon.
Babylon had already risen.
Look at Dan 7:17 These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. These are the kingdoms that will come after Babylon, because Babylon had already risen!
Not only had Babylon already risen, but by the time you get to Belshazzar, Babylon is on its last legs. It’s already in decline. It’s falling apart. And they are only a couple years away from being conquered by Cyrus the Great. Babylon cannot be the first beast. Not only has it already risen, but it’s about to fall.
Fred, Hal, Jordan has many times pointed all this out, and Bullinger makes the same case, too. When we read about the first beast in Dan. 7:4, Bullinger’s note in the Companion Bible is that this beast “Cannot be Babylon, for this had already arisen, and was within two years of its [demise]…” I couldn’t agree more! That makes perfect sense!
So the first beast is NOT about Babylon. This list about the four beasts that shall arise after Babylon, which can only be Media-Persia, Greece, the Roman empire, and then, finally, the antichrist kingdom. You have five world empires in total. We have Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, the Roman empire, and the antichrist kingdom. If you scratch Babylon off the list, because that kingdom had already risen, then what are you left with? You’re left with four future kingdoms, four future beasts, which have to be Media-Persia, Greece, the Roman empire, and then the antichrist kingdom.
A lot of people think the fourth beast is both the Roman Empire and also the antichrist kingdom. As a result, they conclude that the antichrist kingdom is a revitalized Roman empire. Nothing could be further from the truth! There’s nothing about the character of the fourth beast that could possibly be attributed to Rome. Plus, God tells us repeatedly in Revelation that the antichrist kingdom is Babylonian by nature, not Roman.
And when you look at this list with this new filter of the future kingdoms of Media-Persia, Greece, the Roman empire, and the antichrist kingdom, all the little details, all the little characteristics we’re given about those beasts, it all now fits so perfectly, it’ll positively give you goose bumps.
The word “beast.”
In the sense it’s used here in Daniel and Revelation, “beast” is an irrationally ferocious animal, a brutal man acting without reason, which tells us that from God’s view, the act of conquering nations just so one man can have global dominion is an irrational undertaking. Plus, one cannot undertake that kind of endeavor without being murderous and brutal. So all these beasts are all irrationally murderous and brutal animals.
Let’s look at the first beast. Dan 7:4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.
This has to be about the next great empire that shall arise, Media-Persia, and in particular, Cyrus the Great. First, we’re given a description of a lion with eagles’ wings but then the wings were plucked.
The lion, of course, described in the Bible as the king of the beasts, known for its fierceness and strength. Job 28:8 talks about the “fierce lion” and Solomon would write in Prov. 30:30 that a lion is “strongest among beasts.”
The eagle is known in the Bible for its great energy (Psa. 103:5) extended flights (Deut. 28:49) bearing her young upon her wings (Deut. 32:11).
But the eagles’ wings implies more than this. Bullinger would make the point that by specifically identifying the wings as being from eagles, it implies divine assistance or divine approval. He would write that “in Deut. 32:11-12, in the song of Moses, he mentions the same form of Divine help. The eagles’ wings are ‘a sign’ which signifies the miraculous swiftness, by which the Divinely given help will come to them.” Let’s not forget also how Rev. 12 uses eagles’ wings to describe divine assistance to the Jews who are fleeing into the wilderness during the Abomination of Desolation. Rev 12:14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. All of this is to say that the rise of this new kingdom was divinely helped.
But what happened to this lion with eagles’ wings? The wings were plucked. They were pulled off. But notice that nothing happened to the lion. Only his wings were plucked. So the king of the beasts is still alive. He’s still the king of the beasts but now only his wings are gone.
How can this apply to Babylon? Some say, “Well, this meant that Nebuchadnezzar stopped expanding his kingdom and focused upon peace.” Yes, that’s true, but Nebuchadnezzar chose to stop. Nobody plucked his wings, and no animal is going to pluck its own wings. He still had all the military power he ever needed had he chosen to expand his kingdom even more. No one stopped him. He stopped himself.
The only scenario that fits this narrative is Media-Persia. The Medes were the lions with eagles’ wings expanding its dominion, but its wings were plucked by Cyrus the Great when he conquered them. He stopped the Medes from expanding when he took them over. It’s now a new Media-Persian kingdom. The king of the beasts is still alive but now that beast has been made to stand on its feet as a man. The Medes were all about the kingdom as a whole, but the Persians were all about the man who ruled the kingdom. That man was Cyrus the Great.
Daniel would write, “and a man’s heart was given to it.” No longer was the lion with eagles’ wings conquering the world. Now that beast had been made to stand on its feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to the beast. A man now became the beast, his heart now the heart of the beast, the same beast but new, different. This is why this kingdom is called Media-Persian. It’s the same beast but with a new ruler, and that new ruler was Cyrus the Great after he conquered the Medes. It is now a Media-Persian empire embodied by Cyrus, which was the previous beast now made to stand as a man, and it was said of Cyrus the Great that he “brought into subjection every nation without exception.”
Back to those eagles’ wings. Why was the rise of the Medes divinely appointed if they were going to be overtaken by Cyrus the Great? God knew the rise of the Medes would inspire Cyrus to overtake them, which led to him conquering Babylon and the known world, and all of that would lead to Cyrus the Great releasing the Jews from their captivity. That kingdom was divinely approved because it served God’s purposes related to Israel.
Dan 7:5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.
There’s no question that this is talking about Greece and Alexander the Great.
First, he’s described as a bear. In the Bible, the bear is known primarily for its ferocity. Often Scripture uses as a metaphor rage that’s like the ferocity of a bear robbed of its whelps (2 Sam. 17:8). You can’t reason with a bear. It only wants to fight, to devour, and the same can be said of Alexander. Unlike his father, he preferred war over diplomacy.
You might remember, in Daniel 8, we’re given the vision of the he-goat and the ram with two horns. The he-goat is Alexander the Great. The ram is Media-Persia. When the goat attacks the ram, he breaks his two horns, knocks him down, and in a fury, he stomps the ram to death. Nothing could save the ram. The goat was furious, because Alexander was furious. Alexander had an axe to grind against the Persians for conquering his beloved Greece. You could say that little goat had the fury of a bear.
Daniel writes that this bear “raised up itself on one side”. This expression has the idea of man who’s taken a knee and then raises himself up by the other foot, which is a perfect illustration of the beginning of his career. While he was on one knee, while he was under the subjugation of the Persians, he raised himself up. He spent a number of years trying to conquer the Persians. Once he defeated them, he had fully risen. He had become the bear that would ferociously devour the rest of the world.
Then we’re given this interesting description. This bear “had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.” Not one dispensationalist or anyone else for that matter can explain how the three ribs in the mouth of this bear could possibly relate to Media Persia!
Paul Sadler (whom I love) took a stab at it in his second commentary on Revelation. He holds the traditional view. He wrote that the “three ribs in [its] mouth,” meant that Media-Persia was “increasing its territory over that of their predecessor.”
Three ribs? Increased territory? What are you talking about?
Three is a pretty small number considering Cyrus “brought into subjection every nation without exception.” If the ribs were “increased territory,” then he should have had at least 100 ribs in his mouth, shouldn’t he? Not to mention the fact that the ribs were talking to the bear. The bear “had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.” The ribs in the mouth were telling the bear to go and eat more flesh!
If the ribs were “increased territory,” nations he had just conquered, tell me, what conquered nation says to the new conqueror, “Oh, thank you so much for conquering us and killing so many of our men and armies. We’re just so happy about that. Bless you! Go conquer everyone else!” Who does that? No one ever!
On top of that, I challenge anyone to show me another Bible verse in which the word “ribs” is used to describe territory!
But the Bible interprets the ribs for us. There are only two verses in the Bible that uses the word “ribs.” Here in Dan. 7 and Gen. 2. How was Eve created? God took one of Adam’s “ribs” and made a woman. Thus, the three ribs have to be three women. Wouldn’t you know it? Alexander the Great had three wives all at the same time. He was married three times. He married a woman named Roxana, then a Persian princess named Stateira, the daughter of Darius III, and then he married a daughter of Artaxerxes III for political reasons. He had three wives. He had those women in his teeth. He had a firm grip on those marriages, and his wives were the ones who pushed Alexander to go and conquer the rest of the world!
(Personally, I think the women were just saying that because they were happier when Alexander was out of the house. He was probably a bear to live with, too.)
Dan 7:6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.
There’s no question to me that this can only be talking about the Roman Empire. All my life, I’ve heard that this verse is talking about Alexander the Great, and the speed with which he conquered the known world – like a leopard, which makes no sense.
The thing is -Alexander conquered the world in roughly 13 years. The Romans got it done in half that time, roughly 6-7 years. This was during the First Triumvirate, which was the informal political alliance of three generals, which included Julius Caesar. Alexander was one man. Rome had three generals going out in all directions conquering all the known world all at the same time, and they defeated almost everyone in half the time it took Alexander the Great.
You can’t ascribe “leopard” to Alexander when Rome conquered twice as fast!
Romans were the true leopards, and not only were they leopards, but they were leopards with four wings of a fowl. You can’t help but think of the Medes who were like a lion with eagles’ wings. With the Medes as the lion, we know the type of wings, but we don’t know the number. With the Roman Empire as the leopard, we know the number of wings, but we don’t know the type. What does that mean?
With the Medes, the eagles’ wings indicated a longer, more extended flight over its prey, whereas with the Roman empire, the four wings of a fowl indicated a speedier and shorter flight of attack on all its prey. In other words, they conquered way faster than the Medes could ever hope to conquer.
Yet, since both beasts had wings, that could also mean that those empires were divinely assisted because they would be used to serve a purpose of God related to His people. Alexander the Great as the bear had no wings because there was nothing about his kingdom that served any specific purpose of God about Israel. It was just a kingdom that came and went. But Cyrus the Great would be used to release the Jews from captivity. The Roman Empire would be the ideal period for God’s Son to come into the world.
What about this other part? “The beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.”
We know what the commentaries say. After Alexander the Great died, his kingdom was divided into four regions run by his four generals. But there’s no way this leopard could be Alexander, and I would suggest that this beast is the first emperor of Rome, Caesar Augustus.
Under Augustus, the empire expanded to its limits and the wars were stopped. Under Augustus, the empire enjoyed Pax Romana, 200 years of Roman peace, and Augustus is the reason Christ was born in Bethlehem. That is why he was given dominion. He served God’s purposes to fulfill prophecy to bring in the Messiah.
Plus, Augustus had four heads. He died when Jesus was a teenager. After him, which covers the beginning of the Lord’s earthly ministry all the way to the death of Paul, the entire period of the so-called NT, there were four emperors all related to Augustus: Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. These four emperors complete the entire Augustinian Dynasty, during which the entire NT took place. He had four heads. He left a dynasty of four more emperors all related to him. This is why dominion was given to Augustus, because his dynasty brought about the ideal period in history for God the Father to bring His Son into the world.
And all of this brings us to the fourth beast, which can only be the antichrist and his kingdom during the Tribulation and nothing else. Look at Dan 7:7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. Dan 7:8 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
Let’s point out that there’s nothing about the characteristics of the fourth beast that could in any way be attributed to the Roman Empire. This fourth kingdom will rise up on the strength and fear of a single man. That was never the case with the Roman Empire. Their empire was established by three generals in an alliance called a Triumvirate. There is not one emperor who fully fits the description of the fourth beast.
Plus, we have this reference to ten horns. If you compare this to all the other verses about ten horns, which we’ll do next week, we will learn that that the power structure of this fourth kingdom was built upon an alliance with ten other kings. That could never be said of Rome. They didn’t negotiate with anyone. They didn’t make alliances with anyone. They only conquered.
There is only one logical conclusion to make here. The fourth beast is the antichrist, and this is all about the antichrist’s kingdom and nothing else.
Let’s get into the details of these verses.
First, Daniel writes, After this I saw in the night visions… Daniel reminds us again he got these visions at night, which implies a time of darkness for mankind, and this will be the darkest of all dark times in man’s history.
Then he describes the fourth beast. He’s dreadful and terrible. What’s the difference between dreadful and terrible? Dreadful means to impress great fear upon you or upon people generally. Terrible in this sense is worse than dreadful. He’s terrible in the sense that he makes you feel absolute terror in a severe way. He is the most terrifying of all the beasts who rose out of that great sea. So out in the world, all people will have a range of feelings about the antichrist – somewhere between dread and absolute terror. The big point is that every person in the world will on some level feel fear about the antichrist.
Next, we learn that he is strong exceedingly. In what sense is he strong? Strong has many definitions to it, and I’d suggest he’s strong in every sense of the word. He has great physical and spiritual power. He has a strong constitution, a great determination to endure all things. He’s well-fortified in the sense that the source of his power comes from Satan himself. He’s strong in the sense that he will have control over great military forces evidenced by the armies who will slaughter the Jews at the Abomination of Desolation. He’s also strong in the sense of wealth, which we covered last week. The antichrist will amass great riches, but all of it will come to nought. He’s strong in the sense of ability to make a lasting impression, evidenced by Daniel saying that he has a mouth speaking great things. He’s strong in the sense of violence, vehemence, with the skill to win. And he’s also strong in the sense of a rigorous mind, a mind that’s both persuasive and also intensely fanatical about achieving his goals. And in all these aspects of the word “strong,” he is strong exceedingly, to a degree well beyond any of the beasts who came before him.
Then Daniel tells us he has great iron teeth. Iron, in the Bible, is known for its obvious strength. They had in the OT iron furnaces (Deut. 4:20) because iron can endure fire. It was used for weapons and armor and also – rods for scourging. So why is the antichrist described as having iron teeth? Because it’s with his mouth that he’ll devour and break in pieces other kingdoms. He need only say the word and that kingdom will be gone. He’s that powerful.
Not only that, he will stamp the residue with the feet of it. Remember how we earlier spoke of Dan. 8 and the vision of the he-goat and the ram? Remember how the he-goat was Alexander the Great and the ram was Media-Persia? And when the goat attacked the ram, he broke his two horns, knocked him down, and in a fury, he stomped him to death.
The antichrist will take that illustration of stomping to a whole other level. Whereas Alexander the Great, as the he-goat, stopped stomping on the ram after it was dead, the antichrist will stomp the residue with the feet of it. He will keep on stomping that animal long after it’s dead until it has been utterly annihilated. He will keep on stomping to the point where you wouldn’t even know that animal ever existed. That’s how ferociously evil he is.
We know from vs. 8 and others that the antichrist will subdue three kingdoms, but I think this illustration of the antichrist stamping the residue with the feet of it is primarily about his assault on Israel and all believers. He will seek their annihilation to such a degree the world wouldn’t know they ever existed. All his fury and all his might will be directed at God’s people.
Then Daniel tells us that this fourth beast will be diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. We’ll cover the ten horns next week when we explore the Rise of the Antichrist. But we learn that the antichrist will be diverse from all the beasts that were before it. In what way is he diverse? Daniel already gives us a sense in how he’s diverse in that he’ll be more terrifying, more ferocious, more deadly, and more powerful than all the beasts before him. But he’s also diverse in another way, which we learn in
Rev 13:1 And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. Rev 13:2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. Rev 13:3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. Rev 13:4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? Rev 13:5 And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. Rev 13:6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. Rev 13:7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. Rev 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Rev 13:9 If any man have an ear, let him hear. Rev 13:10 He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
We’re going to cover all of this in great detail next week. Just notice for now how the antichrist is diverse from all the beasts who came before him. He is diverse in the sense that he is an exceedingly more powerful amalgamation of all the previous beasts.
Look at Rev 13:2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. He is a more exceedingly powerful amalgamation of all the previous beasts.
He is like the leopard in Dan. 7 in that he will conquer even faster than Rome. In fact, he will conquer the world in 3 ½ years.
His feet are as the feet of a bear. His feet are swift to shed blood even more so than Alexander the Great who preferred war over diplomacy.
His mouth is as the mouth of a lion. He roars like the king of beasts, because his kingdom is centered around one man, just as it was for Cyrus the Great.
And finally, we learn the source of his great power and strength. The dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. All his power, all his abilities, all his strength, all his dominion and authority is personally given to him from Satan himself, just as the Father has given all authority to His Son.
This is another example, as we pointed out two weeks ago, the antichrist is part of Satan’s fake trinity. In the Tribulation, we have the Satanic trinity of deceit: the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. The dragon, Satan himself, who is anti-God. He’s the unseen executive branch of the Satanic trinity just as the Father is the unseen executive branch of the Heavenly trinity. Then there’s the beast, who is the antichrist, the express image of Satan just as Christ is the express image of God. And the false prophet, who is the anti-Holy-Spirit, the spiritual component of the false trinity, the one who through miracles, signs, and wonders points the way to the Beast just as the Holy Spirit, the spiritual component of the Heavenly trinity, will through miracles, signs, and wonders point the way to Christ.
Let’s recap. These men were called beasts because they’re irrationally murderous and brutal animals. The traditional view of the four beasts in Daniel 7 is that they’re the four great Gentile world empires: Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome. But at the time of Daniel’s vision Babylon had already risen. Plus, Daniel told us in Dan 7:17 These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. The four beasts shall arise after Babylon, which means that the four beasts in that vision can only be the kingdoms after Babylon: Media-Persia, Greece, the Roman empire, and then, the antichrist kingdom.
And when you look at this list through the new filter of the future kingdoms of Media-Persia, Greece, the Roman empire, and the antichrist kingdom, all the little details, all the little characteristics we’re given in those verses about those beasts now fit perfectly. Then, when we get to Rev. 13, we learn that the antichrist is diverse from all the beasts who came before him in the sense that he is an exceedingly more powerful amalgamation of all the previous beasts. And again, we have to look at all of this and ask, “How can any of this be a revitalized Roman Empire when the antichrist is a more exceedingly powerful amalgamation of ALL the beasts that came before him, which included the Roman Empire?” Again and again, Revelation speaks of the antichrist kingdom as Babylonian by nature, not Roman, and Babylon was never one of the four beasts. We’ll pick up here again next week with the Rise of the Antichrist.