Daniel's dream of four beasts. 7:1-28
Our passage for study is found in the second section of the Book of Daniel. The first section is mainly narrative, it records events that occurred in Daniel's life while living in Babylon during the time of the exile of the Jews, both under the rule of the Babylonians and later the Persians. The second section of the book records Daniel's visions, and it is Daniel's vision of the four beasts that is the subject of our study.
Daniel sees a vision of four beasts rising up out of the sea. The fourth beast has ten horns, out of which grows a little horn. The little horn destroys three others and acts with great evil, even against "the saints of the Most High." This little horn operates for a limited period of "a time, two times, and half a time." The "Ancient of days" then sits in judgement and the little horn's dominion is taken away and the horn itself destroyed. Dominion and an everlasting kingdom are then given to "one like a son of man" and "the saints of the Most High."
v1. Daniel claims that he did not make this image up. It is a genuine vision.
v2-3. The four winds, representing the heavenly powers, stir up the seas, representing humanity, out of which emerge beasts, representing secular powers, kings, governments or empires.
v4. The first beast is a lion with eagle's wings.
v5. The second beast is double-sided in form.
v6. The third beast is a panther, or leopard, with four heads representing the universal character of the kingdom.
v7-8. The fourth beast is overly destructive and out of it emerges ten horns and a little horn.
v9-10. Daniel's vision now moves to the throne room of God - "the Ancient of days." It is a vision of glory, majesty and power.
v11-12. The beasts are judged. The little horn, speaking presumptuous things, perishes when the fourth beast is utterly destroyed.
v13-14. Daniel now contrasts the beasts, which emerge from the abyss of the sea, with one like a son of man who comes from the clouds. This heavenly figure is a human-like person who is given an eternal and universal kingdom.
v15-16. As is typical of this literary form (apocalyptic), Daniel asks a personage (often an angel) what is the meaning of the vision. He does this within the dream.
v17-18. The interpretation is that the four beasts represent four kingdoms, and that when these kingdoms are no more, the "saints of the Most High" (God's children) will receive an eternal kingdom to rule (obviously through the "son of man").
v19-22. Daniel asks about the fourth beast, a beast that is "different" and "terrifying". He describes the little horn as "imposing", speaking "boastfully" and "waging war against the saints".
v23-25. The interpretation defines the fourth beast as a kingdom which devours the earth. The ten horns are ten kingdoms emerging from the one. The little horn, another kingdom emerging from the ten, opposes God and his children on earth.
v26-27. The little horn is inevitably judged and power and authority handed over to "the people of the Most High", to possess and rule an "everlasting kingdom."
Unseen but not inactive
How lucky we are in the West to experience religious freedom. Still, it is not wise to be complacent, for we have all witnessed the secularization of Western culture. Western societies have rapidly moved from a nominal Christian belief to a multiplicity of pagan beliefs. As the secular ethos begins to pervade, so we will find ourselves increasingly at odds with the secular authorities.
Take an issue such as sexuality. Biblical ethics are often quite opposed to the ethos of our age and increasingly opposed to the legislative program of Western governments now guided by today's politically correct shibboleths. The institutional church is already under pressure to renounce its "sexist" and "discriminatory" employment practices, or its view on gay marriage. Will the time come when secular authorities demand that we renounce Biblical morality? Will we be asked to "fit in" with the views of the wider society? When we resist this demand, the church may find itself against the authority of the State and facing persecution.
All this may seem somewhat speculative, yet it has happened in countries during our own lifetime. The "beasts" come and go. The "horns" emerge from the chaos, and there is always a "little horn" with a big mouth strutting the stage of history. In the face of the tyrant, God's children often find themselves set upon and caught up in persecution. Yet, for those believers who come under the tyranny of secular governments, there is the knowledge that Christ is king and at this very moment he is bringing all things into subjection to his authority, an authority and rule which one day we will all share in.
So, how should we respond to the tryanny of political correctness? Although secular society demands that we fit in, and although we easily find good reasons to comply, Divine truth should never be compromised. Let us hold to the truth and fear not, for all that is about us is fading away; glory is at hand.
1. Consider Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter 2 and note the parallels with Daniel's dream.
2. What, or who, is the "little horn", what does it do, how is it dealt with, where is it today and in what form will it be revealed in the last day?
3. What will the "saints" be doing in the "kingdom"?
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