A Beastly Encounter: Prophecies in Daniel Chapter Seven, by John M. Oakes

?In the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions
passed through his mind? (Daniel 7:1). This dream most likely occurred in the
year 553 BC when Belshazzar became official regent to his father Nabonidus.
This chapter begins in earnest the apocalyptic parts of the book. The vision
will provide the reader with a considerable amount of detail about the three
kingdoms to follow Babylon, especially about the fourth beast: Rome. The amazing
details contained in this prophecy about the distant future provide overwhelming
evidence of the inspiration of Daniel. It also serves as an exclamation point
to the message of Daniel: God rules the nations. Do not fear.

After his dream, Daniel wrote down the details of what he had seen. ?In my vision
at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning
up the great sea? (v. 2). In apocalyptic writing, the great sea stands for the
nations of mankind.[1] The winds represent the working or the power of God.[2] Her
e we have in prophetic vision God stirring up the nations. He is working behind
the scenes to affect and influence the great powers of the world. God does not
stir up the nations for his entertainment. God has a plan. As the book of Daniel
will reveal, the plan, ultimately, is to bring in his kingdom and everlasting righteousness.

?Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the seas? (v.
3). What an dramatic picture! Here can be seen four great beasts which represent
four great nations. These beasts/nations come up out of the sea. In other words,
they distinguish themselves as much greater than all the other nations. As will be
shown from a study of the text of chapter seven, these four beasts represent Babylon,
?Persia/Media, Greeceand Rome. The four beasts in Daniel chapter seven, therefore,
represent the same four empires as did the four parts of the statue in Daniel
chapter two.

Why use a statue in chapter two and beasts in chapter seven? One possible explanation
is that a statue is used in chapter two because in that dream God was emphasizing
the fact that he had raised up these nations himself, only to ultimately have
the church rise up and overcome all these kingdoms. In chapter seven, God may use
beasts because he has in mind the ominous power of these empires. The subject
of the vision is largely how these nations will attack God?s people, especially
the fourth beast, so God is emphasizing the horrifying aspect of the beasts.

?The first was like a lion, and it had wings like an eagle? (v. 4). This is
the Neo-Babylonian Empire, whose greatest king was Nebuchadnezzar. The lion
represents the strength of Babylon. The lion is to Babylonas the eagle is to
the United States.  The cover of this book is a bas relief of a lion from the Ishtar
gate in Babylon.  In Jeremiah 48:40 one reads, ?Look! An eagle is swooping down,
spreading its wings over Moab.? The eagle in Jeremiah 48:40 is Babylon, which
?destroyed the nation of Moabonce and for all. While Daniel was watching this
lion, it lost its wings and turned from a terrifying beast into the form of
a human. This beast was even given a human heart. This transformation of the
great beast Babyloninto a human with a heart represents the transformation of
Nebuchadnezzar from the greatest enemy and destroyer of Judahinto a humbled
supporter of the people and religion of Israel. This passage is not ?prophetic?
in the sense of predicting the future.  Rather, it accurately describes events which
had already occurred when Daniel received the vision. The description of the
next three beasts, however, will be very much prophetic.

The second beast ?looked like a bear? (v. 5). This bear is the Medo/Persian
Empire. In a fearful vision, the beast is seen to have ?three ribs in its mouth,
between its teeth.? This surely put fear into the heart of Daniel. The three
ribs are what remain of three smaller ?beasts? which this empire feasted upon.
In fact, after being united into a single empire under Cyrus, the Persians and
Medes conquered three major powers. The first of these was Lydia, whose famous
king Croesus was considered by Greek writers to be the wealthiest monarch of
all history. Lydiawas the principle inheritor of Hittite power. Cyrus destroyed
this kingdom in 546 BC. The second rib in the mouth of the bear is Babylon.
?Cyrus completed the destruction of Babylonin 539 BC, as already discussed.
The third great world power destroyed by the Persians (and Medes) was Egypt. The
Assyrians had temporarily occupied Egypt. In addition, the enigmatic Hyskos
had briefly conquered Egypt. However, it was the work of Cyrus? son Cambysses
that brought the native dynasties of Egyptto an end once and for all. This feat
was completed in about 524 BC.

There you have it. That is why there were three ribs in the mouth of the bear:
not two, not four, but three. How did Daniel know this? One could argue for
luck or coincidence. By the time one has completed studying the predictive prophecies
in Daniel chapter seven (never mind all the other prophecies in Daniel), coincidence
will have been eliminated as a reasonable explanation.



Figure 22.  Alexander the Great.


The third beast is one ?like a leopard? (v. 6). This beast has four bird-like
wings and four heads. It is equivalent to the bronze belly and thighs in Daniel
chapter two. Why four wings and four heads? In apocalyptic language, heads represent
kings or kingdoms. It so happens that the Greek Empire, after the death of Alexander,
was divided into four sub-empires. More will be said about these successor-kingdoms
to Alexander in the context of Daniel chapter eight, which supplies more information
about these kingdoms. Should one be surprised that there were indeed four successors,
not five or three, to Alexander? Is this just coincidence? Given that God?s
prophet Daniel predicted this event well over two hundred years in advance,
it lends powerful credence to Jehovah?s claim that he was the one who gave Alexander
and the Greek kingdoms authority to rule (v. 6).

Next, a fourth beast appears to Daniel. This beast is much more terrible than
the other three. It is so ?terrifying, and frightening and very powerful? that
no beast known to man is used to describe it. A lion or a tiger or a bear would
not do it justice. Godzilla is a pussycat compared to this beast. The vision of Daniel
chapter seven focuses primarily on this fourth beast. Consider the description
of this terrifying animal! ?It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured
its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all
the former beasts, and it had ten horns? (v. 7). The similarity to the iron
part of the statue in Daniel chapter two is obvious. They refer to the same
nation: Rome. Will the reader be very surprised if it will be possible to identify
specifically the ten horns in the vision?

After this, Daniel sees in his vision a little horn which rises up among the
ten horns. Probably for the person reading this passage for the first time,
the scene with the little horn coming out of the ten big horns seems like a
strange prophecy. What can this small horn possibly refer to? For the person not
well versed in history, this prophecy and its interpretation will remain a mystery
(an apokalupsis), but as
will be shown, the meaning is clear in the light of
history. In verse 11, Daniel adds the detail that this ?small horn? spoke boastful
words. There is no doubt at all that an apocalyptic passage is under consideration
when one finds a horn speaking boastful words. Surely one should take this symbolically,
not literally!

The task, then, is to understand the interpretation of the ten horns and the
little horn which grew up among the ten. Fortunately, unlike other visions in
the book, Daniel is provided with at least a partial interpretation of the dream.
In Daniel 7:15-28, a being who is presumably an angel interprets Daniel?s dream for
him. Daniel is so troubled by the awesome and fearful vision of the fourth beast,
that he approaches ?one of those standing there? (v. 16) to ask the meaning.
He is told, ?The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth? (v.
17). We already knew that. The angel continues, ?But the saints of the Most
High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever?yes, for ever and
ever? (v. 18). This encouraging verse will be discussed shortly.

Next, Daniel asks the angel specifically about the fourth beast?the one which
was almost indescribably terrifying, and about the ten horns and the extra little
horn as well. It is interesting that in this description, Daniel adds bronze
claws to the list of attributes of this animal. He also adds about the little horn
that, despite its size, it was more imposing than the others, and that it ?had
eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully? (v. 20).[3] Next, Daniel gives a very revealing
detail. The unique horn ?was waging war against the saints and defeating them? (v.

The explanation given by the angel concerning the fourth beast and the horns
is that the fourth beast is a kingdom (Rome) which will devour the whole earth.
The ten horns are ten kings in this kingdom (Rome), while the ?little horn? is
another king which will come after these.  The latter king will depose three of the
other horns (kings).  He will speak against God, oppress the saints, ?attempt to change
the set times and laws? (v. 25), and, finally, have the saints handed over to
him ?for a time, times and half a time? (also v. 25). Whew! There is a lot there.
Daniel must have been mystified. Surely he had absolutely no idea what the angel
was talking about. Fortunately, he faithfully recorded his vision, because,
with historical hindsight, we can know exactly what God is talking about.

Before being given the interpretation, it would be very helpful to point out
that there is an obvious parallel between this vision, given to Daniel in 553
BC and the visions recorded in Revelation 13:1-10 as well as in Revelation 17:1-18.
These latter visions were recorded somewhere around AD 80?over six hundred years
after Daniel?s dream. It would be extremely helpful for the reader to scan the
parallel passages in Revelation at this time to get at least a feeling for the
ways that they are indeed parallel to Daniel chapter seven.

Who are these kings? In looking at the history of Rome(the fourth beast) the
task is surprisingly simple. The Roman Empirewas originally a republic. The form of
this government was a bit complicated, but to simplify, up until the first century
BC, Romewas governed by a senate which was directly elected by the citizens
of Rome.[4] In the first century BC, a series of very powerful generals began
a pattern of ruling by the force of their personal armies. The most famous of
these dictators was Julius Caesar. A great number of civil wars erupted in the
battle between the Roman senate and competing generals. Finally, Julius Caesar?s
adopted grandson Octavius, later called Augustus Caesar, seized power over
Romeand usurped the power of the Senate. He is universally considered to be
the first emperor of Rome. Although the senate continued in existence, after
this point the balance of power had permanently shifted almost entirely to the
emperors. Augustus is the first of the ten kings (horns) in Daniel chapter seven.
He was also the emperor at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Some commentators, of course, would argue with assigning Augustus as the first
of the kings, but further historical detail to be offered in this chapter will
confirm this identification to anyone who does not have a pre-conceived notion
to the contrary in the matter. The successor to Augustus was his son Tiberius,
who ruled at the time of Christ?s death. After him, in order, came Claudius,
Gaius (also known as Caligula), Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian and
Titus. These are the ten kings. The ?little horn? is the successor to Titus, Domitian!
Domitian ruled Romefrom AD 81-96 (see the table below).

The claim, then, is that Daniel chapter seven is primarily about Domitian, the
eleventh emperor of Rome, who ruled over six hundred years after Daniel received
the vision. If this claim is true, that would provide dramatic proof of the
inspiration of Daniel, to say the least. It would be difficult to overstate
how strong a support it would be. Probably more importantly, it would also provide
great encouragement to those going through the persecutions under Domitian as
well as the later Roman persecutors. If God can reveal to his people specific
details about this persecutor hundreds of years before he even exists?before Israel
even heard of the tiny city-state of Rome?that would certainly provide good
reason to believe that the judgment pronounced on Domitian in Daniel seven will
indeed come to pass.


The First Eleven Emperors of Rome


??????????????? Dates of Rule
??????????????????????????????? Significance to Biblical Events


??????????????? 27 BC-14 AD
??????????????????????????????? Birth of Christ


??????????????? 14 AD-37 AD
??????????????????????????????? Crucifixion of Christ

Gaius (Caligula)

??????????????? 37 AD-41 AD


??????????????? 41 AD-54 AD
??????????????????????????????? Jews exiled from Rome.


??????????????? 54 AD-68 AD
??????????????????????????????? First Roman persecutions. Execution of Paul and Peter.


??????????????? 68 AD-69 AD
??????????????????????????????? One of the three overcome by Vespasian.


??????????????? 69 AD-70 AD
??????????????????????????????? One of the three?


??????????????? 69 AD-70 AD
??????????????????????????????? One of the three?


??????????????? 69 AD-79 AD
??????????????????????????????? Attack on Jerusalem.


??????????????? 79 AD-81 AD
??????????????????????????????? The general who destroyed Jerusalem


??????????????? 81 AD-96 AD
??????????????????????????????? First systematic persecutor of t
he church.


Consider some details from the life of Domitian; the great persecutor of the
church. Domitian was not actually the first Roman emperor to attack the Christian
church. Nero (54-68 AD) deserves that distinction. Daniel does not focus on
Nero, perhaps because his attacks on the church were limited. The persecutions of
Nero, although violent, occurred almost exclusively in Romeand lasted for a
relatively short time. They were more of a temper tantrum than a systematic
policy of attacking the church. Actually, the parallel passage in Revelation
17:3-18 does deal specifically with Nero.[5] Domitian, on the other hand, was the
first to institute a definite empire-wide policy of destroying the Christ movement.
Compare this with the statements in Daniel concerning the little horn: ?this
horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them? (v. 21) and ?He will…oppress
his saints? (v. 25).



Figure 23.  Domitian, AD 81-96, Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome.


Domitian was well known for being a braggart. Emperor-worship was begun in the
eastern part of the empire under Augustus, but there is no record of him encouraging
the practice. Caligula was the first emperor to encourage the people to worship
him as a god, but Domitian was the first to actively demand that his subjects
worship him. The Roman historian Suetonius reported of Domitian,[6] ?From his youth he
was far from being of an affable disposition, but was on the contrary presumptuous
and unbridled in both act and word.? When his father?s former concubine was
returned to Domitian, Seutonius quotes him as saying that he had ?recalled her to his
divine couch.? Also, according to Seutonius, ?With no less arrogance he began
as follows in issuing a circular letter in the name of his procurators, ?Our
Master and our God bids that this be done.? And so the custom arose henceforth
of addressing him in no other way even in writing or in conversation.?


Figure 24. Emperor Tiberius, AD 14-37. Adopted son of Augustus, Carlsberg Glyptotek, C


Domitian was the first Roman emperor to demand that the people address him as
a god. This explains the statement concerning the little horn that he had ?a
mouth that spoke boastfully? (v. 8, v. 20), or the reference in verse eleven
to ?the boastful words the horn was speaking.? Also, the little horn will ?speak
against the Most High? (v. 25), a reference to the fact that Domitian specifically
demanded of Christ?s disciples that they offer sacrifice to him as a god.

The seventh chapter of Daniel supplies even more specific detail about Domitian.
In Daniel 7:8 it is stated concerning the little horn that ?three of the first
horns were uprooted before it.? This is also referred to in Daniel 7:20. This
is a reference to the three very short-lived emperors Galba, Otho and Vitellius.
These three emperors all ruled during the tumultuous years 68 and 69 AD. In
fact, all three were generals who were declared emperor by their troops. The
reign of the three overlapped, and none of them was ever able to rule the entire
empire. Ultimately, Vespasian completely uprooted all three of these general/emperors
by the year 70 AD.



Figure 25. Roman Emperor and Persecutor Nero, AD 54-68, NationalMuseum, Rom


Although Vespasian was the emperor responsible for ?uprooting? the three horns,
Domitian played a significant role in the wars of succession, fighting as a
general in the battles which led to the overthrow of Galba, Otho and Vitellius.  In that
?sense, Domitian did help uproot the three horns.  In any case, the uprooting of the
three led to Domitian eventually taking the throne of Rome. In that sense, ?three
of the first horns were uprooted before? him.

For another hint as to why God, through Daniel, describes Domitian (the little
horn) as if he were the one who uprooted the three, one can look to the parallel
passage in Revelation 17. Revelation 17:7,8 refers to a beast which ?once was,
now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to destruction? as having
?seven heads and ten horns.? The ten horns in Revelation chapter 17 are the
same ten kings referred to in Daniel chapter seven, while the seven heads are
the same ten, except excluding Galba, Otho and Vitellius, the three weak, relatively
unimportant kings. This allows the writer of Revelation to refer to Domitian
using the phrase, ?The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth kin
g. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.?



Figure 26. Vespasian, AD 69-79, Rome.


In Revelation, then, Domitian is referred to as the eleventh and as the eighth
king. The number eight had great significance to the Christian church, as they
worshiped on the eighth day. Christians traditionally called their special day
of worship the eighth day, rather than the first day of the week to emphasize
the fact that it falls immediately after the Jewish Sabbath (the seventh day).
In the Sybilline Oracles, Christ is referred to numerically as 888. Revelation
17 refers to Domitian as the eighth king who belongs to the seven. In other
words, he is a sub-king to the seven. This may be a reference to Domitian as the
successor to Nero. Although in the physical sense he succeeded his brother Titus,
as far as the church was concerned, he succeeded Nero as the next persecutor
of the church. This is admittedly somewhat of a difficult argument, but to summarize,
for symbolic reasons having to do with the numbers seven and ten, God chose
to number the kings both with and without the three. It is interesting that
the facts of history, with three simultaneous semi-emperors make it perfectly reasonable
to count either seven or ten Roman emperors as having preceded Domitian.  The question
one can ask is how did Daniel know about these eleven kings of Rome?




Figure 27. Roman Emperor Claudius I, AD 41-54, VaticanMuseum.


Daniel chapter seven supplies another historical detail concerning this eleventh
horn. The vision reveals that he will ?try to change the set times and the laws? (v.
25). Domitian, in his pride, changed the names of the ?set times? as well. He
had the names of the months of his accession and of his birth changed from September
and October to Germanicus (his surname) and Domitianus. This prideful ruler
?tried to change? the calendar, exactly as Daniel had described over six hundred
years beforehand. Daniel?s specific prediction of the future is right again.
By the way, because he was so unpopular, the people reverted the calendar back
to the old names immediately after Domitian?s death.


Figure 28.  Roman Emperor Trajan, AD 98-117, BritishMuseum.


   Domitian ?changed the laws? as well. Being the autocrat that he was, Domitian
changed many laws. The prophecy may refer to his having changed the law by which
Roman senators were chosen. He passed a law giving himself the right to choose
every senator. It is not surprising that the senate ended up with a lot of ?yes
men.? In his pride, he attempted to overthrow the entire Roman legal system,
which is considered to have been the greatest legal system in the world up to
that time. Domiti
an?s tyrannical and cruel reign was so resented that upon his assassination,
all his laws and decrees were declared void, and all images of him were destroyed.

How did Daniel know all these spectacular details about the onset of the persecution
of the Church under the Romans over six hundred years before it happened? There
is only one conceivable explanation. So far, God is presenting to his people
a lot of bad news. ?The saints will be handed over to him.? Isn?t Daniel supposed
to be the prophet of comfort? The good news is about to come.

Next, God reveals to Daniel the good news. Ultimately, Domitian as well as the
persecuting power he represents will be judged. God?s faithful people will be
vindicated and the Roman persecutor will be destroyed. The Lord God Almighty
enters the scene!


As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of
fire was flowing, coming out from before him; Thousands upon thousands attended
him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him (Daniel 7:9-10).


Here one sees the throne of God described in vivid apocalyptic language. There
is much in common here with Ezekiel chapter one. God is very upset with what
is happening to his people. God has allowed his people to suffer at the hands
of Domitian up to a point. The limit to which God will allow his people to be
persecuted has been reached. Now the books are open. By comparison with Revelation
20, we know it is judgment day.[7]

Those who are undergoing great persecution for the sake of the gospel may very
well be tempted to ask God why they are suffering at the hands of ungodly people.
It may not seem right to them that God would allow the unrighteous to prosper
at their expense. Daniel ?continued to watch? the boastful words of the little horn,
probably thinking to himself ?when is someone going to do something to stop
this?? He keeps looking ?until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and
thrown into the blazing fire? (v. 11). God is willing to let his people be persecuted,
but only up to a certain point. There comes a time when he cannot any longer
endure the suffering of his people and the arrogance of their enemies. It is
judgment time, and ?It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living
God? (Hebrews 10:31). God is pronouncing judgment both on Domitian (and his
fellow persecuting emperors) and on the beast (Rome). However, as John says after
seeing the parallel vision in Revelation: ?This calls for patient endurance
and faithfulness on the part of the saints? (Revelation 13:10).  Romedid not
fall in a day.

How long will the faithful disciples of Jesus have to endure this persecution
under Domitian before God steps in to deal with the persecutor? ?The saints
will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time? (v. 25). The suffering
of the saints is to last for three and one-half ?times?. This is not meant to
signify a literal three and one-half years. God uses the number three and one-half
to symbolically describe the duration of the persecution. Three and one-half
is exactly half of the number seven. Seven is the number of perfection or completeness.
Three and one-half, therefore, represents an indefinite but limited time. This
is a common figure in apocalyptic speech.[8] The implication of the three and one-half
?times?, then, is that the persecution will be intense, but it will only last
for a limited time.

Next, enter Jesus Christ. What a dramatic vision! Daniel says:


…and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of
heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days…. He was given authority, glory
and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped
him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his
kingdom is one that will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:13,14).


Some would claim that Jesus made his first appearance in the Bible in the New
Testament. Given the description in Daniel seven, very likely Daniel saw a vision
Jesus himself. Consider Matthew 28:18-20, where Jesus uses the almost identical
words about himself. ?All authority has been given to me.? Does that sound familiar?
What about ?go, make disciples of all nations?? Is there a parallel here? ?And
surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.? That sounds a
lot like, ?His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away.? Also,
consider Matthew 26:64, in which Jesus quotes Daniel, using the phrase ?coming
on the clouds of heaven? to refer specifically to himself. Daniel has a vision
of Jesus Christ in his glory!

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