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Lowell Brueckner

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Four Beasts


The Book of the Prophet Daniel

“But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end.”
Daniel 12:4

Chapter 7:1-28                                         Four Beasts

1.  In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. 
2.  Daniel declared, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 
3.  And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 
4.  The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. 
5.  And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, 'Arise, devour much flesh.' 
6.  After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 
7.  After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 
8.  I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. 

Daniel takes us back fourteen years to a dream that he had at the beginning of Belshazzar´s reign. Up to this point, he has related the historical testimony of himself and his three companions in Babylon. They were the instruments of the all-powerful God of Judah, and before the eyes of world rulers, they demonstrated His greatness and gave Him glory.

He was seen in supernatural support of their faithfulness, in not contaminating themselves with the delicacies and wine of Babylon, and in the supernatural revelation and interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. He was clearly manifested in the miraculous deliverance from the fiery furnace, revealed Himself in the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream and in the interpretation of the astounding handwriting on the wall of Belshazzar’s palace. Finally, His power was seen in locking the jaws of fierce lions.

From 2:4, the time that the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, Daniel also left off writing in Hebrew and began to write in Aramaic. He is still writing in Aramaic throughout this chapter. He left this record behind in the language of the people of the entire territory, in order that they might know of the mighty God of Israel. From chapter eight to the end of the book, he will record prophecies, which principally concern his own people, and therefore will write again in Hebrew.

It is true that the four-fold image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two is also prophecy. However, I think, that it is connected to the statue that Nebuchadnezzar made in chapter three and, therefore, left in its place. Besides, it is an account of history’s great world powers and their ultimate destruction upon the entrance of the Kingdom of God on earth. Because this is of tremendous world-wide importance, Daniel will now confirm, in the Aramaic language, its significance, by writing his own revelation. It is essential knowledge for the entire population of the world. They may ignore it, but it is placed here in the prophetic word for the benefit of all, who will pay attention.   

To a world emperor, the present and future world powers were depicted in the form of one immense image. It was impressive and strong as the metals that represent it, a united structure, towering over the world’s population. However, it also revealed a vulnerable weakness that will bring it to destruction in is final manifestation.

God showed them to Daniel, His servant, and we should see them as he saw them, so that they will not incite our trust and worship. We should see them as savage monsters, beastly in their rule over humanity. We should be especially attentive, whenever a biblical figure specifically tells of writing his experience. That takes it out of the personal realm, for the benefit of others, and because of the universal nature of the Bible, it becomes something for mankind of all ages. The dream begins with tempestuous winds upon a troubled sea.

In the biblical languages the word wind is associated with breath and spirit. Certainly in a dream, meant for interpretation, wind is symbolic of spirits and is consistently so throughout the Bible. The sea is symbolic of the world populations, the sea of mankind (Rev.17:15). The book of Revelation carries us into the end times and the final world power, when it speaks of a beast rising out of the sea in chapter 13. Daniel sees four beasts come out of the sea, telling us that from the world’s population will come four major empires, moved by spiritual forces.

We will leave the unusual characteristics of these beasts, until we consider the interpretations. We will simply notice here that the first is like a lion, the second like a bear, the third like a leopard, but the fourth could not be depicted by any single animal. In fact the record makes it clear that “it was different from all the beasts that were before it”. It is this beast that commands the most attention, especially because of its ten horns, one of them being particularly significant.

9.  "As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 
10.  A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. 
11.  "I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 
12.  As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 
13.  "I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 
14.  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. 

This is the scene, upon which all the people in the world should gaze and learn, as Nebuchadnezzar did, that the heavens rule. None of the libraries of the world can open the door of heaven and let us look inside (Rev.4:1-5). Now we can open the pages of Revelation and add and compare them to this earlier and more fundamental account. God has revealed Himself and His kingdom only through His heavenly book. Men lay it aside to their own ignorance and peril. Daniel writes in Aramaic, the principal language of the Middle East in his day, so that it can be read as far as the Babylonian Empire stretches, if there should be people, who desire to be truly wise. 

With a sense of privilege, we see thrones of unspeakable authority in their place and the Ancient of Days taking his supreme seat over them. Only in this chapter, do we have this particular revelation and name, “The Ancient of Days”. Here is the One, Who existed before time, having created it, and by Whom all things were created. Deny Him, if you will, but there He is and from there He reigns and will judge all people. “He that sits in the heavens laughs,” (Ps.2:4) at men’s opposition, from the smallest to the mightiest.

He wears the robes of judicial purity, uncontaminated and uncompromisingly righteous. The white hair reveals His personal, unfaltering age and wisdom. The flaming throne, fiery wheels that bear it, and the stream of fire that goes before Him… brightness, heat, speed… are beyond my capabilities of description, except to say that they consume all that approaches. In this portion, His judgment is aimed at the fourth beast.

The number of celestial beings, thousands and then ten thousands squared, is given only to impress us with the accompaniment of a huge host; “innumerable angels”, Hebrews 12:22 states. These attend the Ancient of Days. The court is in session and the documented evidence is duly presented, as is always the case in God’s judgment hall.

(please click to see this comparison with larger letters)
Daniel’s attention was drawn to the boastful and blasphemous words of a little horn. Words are easily capable of exceeding the size and worthiness of the person, who speaks them. That little, finite man should blaspheme the infinite God is the height of insane arrogance. The beast that bore the horn is destroyed, the entire scenario that it represents comes to an end and judgmental fire proceeds from the throne.

Each of the three former empires, in a sense, lived on in the form of the following empire, and finally were all incorporated in the final manifestation of world domination. Even as one empire dominated the previous one, their descendants lived on in the following empire. So “their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time,” until the final empire, in which they existed, was destroyed.      

This begins when the Son of Man appears before the Ancient of Days. This is the Person, the Son of Man, whom the Jews understood to be the Messiah (Jn.12:34) and is the term, with which Christ often described Himself. He officially receives, from the unchangeable administration of heaven, dominion, glory and a kingdom. The heavenly cloud surrounds Him and in that cloud, He returns to earth the second time to reign. 

He will rule over all people, nations, and languages for a thousand years upon earth, and on and on, forever and ever, in eternity. This is a reign that will know no challenger and is authorized and equipped to sovereignly govern without end. 

15.  "As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 
16.  I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. 
17.  'These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. 
18.  But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.' 
19.  "Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, 
20.  and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. 
21.  As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 
22.  until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom. 
23.  "Thus he said: 'As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms, and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces. 
24.  As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings. 
25.  He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. 
26,  But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end. 
27.  And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.' 
28.  "Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart." 

Daniel had a worthy reaction to the earth-shattering, heaven-revealing, events that he witnessed. He was alarmed and anxious and turned to question one that stood at his disposal. Zechariah had the same sense to question informed heavenly sources, concerning things that no earthly being can solve. Jesus’ disciples sought interpretation to His parables. We do well to kneel over an open Bible and inquire concerning its contents.

“He told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things.” Doesn’t this encourage and give you hope in a God, Who offers answers to those, who are interested enough to ask? Let us now consider some details concerning the first three beasts: Images of lions with wings very literally guarded Babylon’s palaces. The plucked wings and mental restoration is a picture of the fall and rise of Emperor Nebuchadnezzar.

Medio-Persia is the bear, raised on the more powerful Persian side. It devours kingdoms around it. Greece, as a leopard, takes its place, particularly depicting the conquests of Alexander the Great. He ruled from Europe over Africa and as far away as India. Four generals divided his conquests and ruled over Macedonia, Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt. We will learn more about these empires in later chapters.

However, it is the fourth beast, so different, who commands the unusual attention of Daniel and Bible students. Before getting into the interpretation, the informer assures us of the final and positive outcome, which we will look into a little later. The fourth beast is the Roman Empire, which we learned in chapter two was typified by iron; here the teeth of the beast are of iron. It continues to exist, in a divided state, as Europe, and will be revived and allied in the last days before Christ’s return to earth. It is terrifying, dreadful and exceedingly strong.

It had ten horns, which symbolize ten political powers, as horns always do in the Bible (Rev.17:3,7,12-14). An eleventh horn appears and this one is the most frightening and dangerous. He replaces three former horns, so that now we have eight. He is the little horn and he is the Antichrist. Daniel’s prophecy coincides with John’s and we need have no questions about the meaning of this prophecy.

Daniel states that he will make war with the saints (v.21) and a little later says that he will wear out the saints (v.25). I think of the disciples in the boat, “making headway painfully”, rowing against the wind and waves. Spirits and men unite to wear them out. John also tells us of this beast in Revelation 13 and his warfare against the saints of God (13:7).  The horn has eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth, showing its humanity.

The specific three and a half years (“time, times and a half”) time period originates in the book of Daniel and carries into Revelation.  The little horn will change times and the law. He will be a master of perversion, calling good evil and evil good and will seek to undermine all that God has established.  

Concerning this particular opposition, Revelation 13:10 says, “If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” Although worn down by the antichrist persecution, they wait upon God. God’s court session opens for judgment and the antichrist government will be destroyed and never rise again.

As the Lord reveals to Daniel the details concerning this horrible and final human domination over the earth, He inserts three references to the final outcome (v.18,22,27). The saints of God will ultimately receive the kingdom and will reign with Christ. This is the teaching of the apostles; Paul, for instance, taught: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world… Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” (1 Co.6:2,3). “If we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Ti.2:12). John adds in Revelation 5:10: “You have made them (those that He ransomed from every tribe, language, people and nation, v.9) a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 

Nonetheless, Daniel is greatly alarmed, to the point that the color of his skin was affected. Spiritual revelations may well affect the Christian physically. A. W. Tozer confessed, “I am not as happy a man, as I could be.” To be spiritually awake and to be able to see into the far reaches of reality, is not always a happy experience.


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