Description
Daniel describes his dream of four beasts that represent four empires, confirming and reinforcing Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter 2. He also prophesies Jesus' coronation upon the clouds, and the establishment of his eternal kingdom.
Commentary
This chapter describes Daniel's dream of four beasts that represent four empires. It confirms and adds to the revelation given through Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter 2. It also portrays Jesus' coronation upon the clouds, and the establishment of his eternal kingdom.


Daniel's dream of four beasts, and of Messiah's Coronation (v1-14)
Daniel dreams of four beast that arise out of the sea, followed by a heavenly coronation scene. The interpretation, as given by an angel, reveals that these beasts represent four kings who will arise from the earth (v17). If kings, in turn, are understood to represent the empires they rule over, then this dream is a confirmation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream and its interpretation as a timeline of four empires in chapter 2.

In Genesis 41, Pharaoh had two dreams, one about ears of corn, and another about cows. When Joseph interpreted he said, "Both dreams of Pharaoh have the same meaning….The dream was repeated to Pharaoh because the matter has been decreed by God, and God will make it happen soon". Similarly the two dreams of Daniel 2 and 7 are about the same four empires, and the repetition can be understood to imply the certainty of what God has decreed will take place.

The interpretation of the first three beasts is not given, but comparing them with the parts of the statue and their meanings in chapter 2, we can conclude:
1) The first beast represents the Babylonian Empire. It was like a lion with eagles' wings. This winged lion morphs into a human being with a human mind (v4), representing Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the empire. Winged lions or bulls with human heads, known as lamassu, were common in Mesopotamian artwork and sculpture.

2) The second beast was like a bear, raised up on one side, with three ribs in its mouth. It was told to get up and devour much flesh (v5). This represents the Medo-Persian Empire (also known as the Achaemenid Empire). The Median empire arose first in about 590 BC, and conquered the area to the north and east of the Babylonian empire. The Persian empire conquered and absorbed the Median empire in 550 BC, and this combined Medo-Persian empire then conquered Babylon in 539 BC. In the dream, the bear is raised up on one side because the Persians were dominant compared to the Medes. The three ribs in its mouth represent territories conquered, probably Babylon, Lydia (Turkey), and Egypt.

3) The third beast was like a winged leopard with four heads. This represents the Greek Empire, and the winged leopard represents the speed with which Alexander the Great conquered a vast empire stretching from Macedonia to India. After his death in 323 BC, his empire was divided between his four generals, known collectively as the Diadochi (successors), each represented by one of the heads of the leopard. The largest part of the empire was inherited by Seleucus, and became known as the Seleucid Empire.

4) Daniel's main concern was the more terrifying fourth beast (v19), with iron teeth, bronze claws, and ten horns. This one devoured, crushed and trampled its victims. It had ten horns, representing ten kings that arise within that empire (v24). Later on, an eleventh king (the Antichrist) arises who humiliates and replaces three of the former kings. This king is very arrogant (v8). He begins to wage war and defeat the 'holy ones' or 'saints' (true believers in God), and attempts to change the times and laws (v25). He persecutes the saints for 'time, times, and half a time' (three and a half years) (v25). But God, the Ancient of Days arrives and judges him (v22 & 26). The beast is killed and thrown into flaming fire (v11) - the beast is the Antichrist's empire, not just the Antichrist. While God sits in judgment, he is served (worshipped) by thousands and tens of thousands, and books are opened (v10). Then 'one like a son of man' (Jesus) descends upon the clouds, approaches the Ancient of Days, and is given ruling authority, honour and sovereignty. This is the coronation of Jesus at his second coming! All peoples, nations and language groups serve (worship) him. His authority is eternal and his kingdom will not be destroyed (v14).

The description 'one like a son of man' implies the humanity of this individual. 'Son of Man' was the name by which Jesus most liked to refer to himself. On its own, it only implied his humanity. But here in Daniel, the fact that all peoples and nations worship this 'son of man', in the very presence of the Ancient of Days, implies this 'son of man' must not only be human, but also divine. Otherwise, the nations' worship of him would arouse God's anger. So he must be both human and divine. At Jesus' trial, according to Matthew 26:63, the High Priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God". In effect, he was saying to Jesus, "You call yourself the Son of Man. Does that mean you are the Messiah, the Son of God?" Jesus replied, "You have said it yourself. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The High Priest then accused him of blasphemy, because Jesus had affirmed himself to be the divine 'Son of Man' of Daniel 7, and hence also the 'Son of God'. In addition, by stating that he would sit at God's right hand, he was also claiming to be the Messiah in accordance with Psalm 110.

At what point in time does the coronation of Psalm 110 and Daniel 7:13-14 take place? Was Jesus crowned king after his resurrection, or is it a future event that takes place at his second coming? From various other passages, it seems that the answer is 'both'. Ephesians 1:20-21 says, "This power he exercised in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come". So from a heavenly perspective, Jesus has already been crowned and seated at God's right hand. This agrees with Jesus' statement at his trial, "But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64). And according to Revelation 1:5, Jesus is already the ruler over the kings of the earth (i.e. the king of kings). However, it seems that Jesus' coronation will be visibly confirmed at the second coming in the midst of all peoples, nations and language groups who will worship him (Daniel 7:14). When he was seated at the right hand of God after his resurrection and ascension, his followers consisted only of a small group of Jewish believers. Psalm 110:2 says, "The LORD extends your dominion from Zion". Zion has both heavenly and earthly dimensions in scripture, and this statement implies that at the second coming Christ's kingdom will be extended from the heavenly realm into the earthly realm and over the entire world. I believe this confirmation occurs at the seventh and last trumpet, as described in Revelation 11:15-18. Until that day, Jesus is waiting for his enemies to become his footstool (Psalm 110:1). But from the time of the last trumpet, he will reign visibly on the earth, and his people will willingly and visibly follow him into the battle of Armageddon (Psalm 110:3, Revelation 19:14).

In verses 11 to 12, when the fourth beast is killed and thrown into the fire, the other three beasts are seen to have been stripped of their authority, but to still be present, for a season. These are the nations they once ruled over.

In Revelation 13, these four empires and three more, are portrayed as a single beast with seven heads and ten horns. The seven heads represent seven historic empires. According to Revelation 13:3, "One of the beast's heads appeared to have been killed, but the lethal wound had been healed". This represents the restoration of an historic empire. It is further confirmed by Revelation 17:8, "The beast you saw was, and is not, but is about to come up from the abyss and then go to destruction". The abyss is the realm of the dead, and it means that the fourth empire of Daniel 2 and 7 will be restored from the dead, so to speak, in the end times, only to be destroyed and replaced by the eternal kingdom of Jesus. As discussed in Daniel 2, this fourth empire is most commonly assumed to be the Roman Empire, though I understand it to be the Islamic Empire. When you analyse the many Old Testament prophecies about the Antichrist and his allies, they are all nations which today are muslim nations, and were formerly part of the Islamic Empire. The Islamic empire also ruled over both Israel and Babylon, whereas the Roman Empire only ruled over Israel. It is hard to explain how the Roman Empire was relevant to Nebuchadnezzar in his dream of chapter 2, but the Islamic Empire ruled over his former empire.

In Daniel 7:22, when God pronounces judgment, the saints take possession of the kingdom. In other words, believers will rule with Jesus over his eternal kingdom. Revelation 20:4-6 describes the resurrection of martyred Christians who then rule with Christ for a thousand years (the Millennium). 1 Thessalonians 4:17 describes the rapture of Christians who are still alive at the second coming, "Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord". I believe we are all caught up to meet Jesus in the air and attend his coronation as portrayed in Daniel 7. Some will then rule with him on the earth. Others may spend the Millennium in heaven.

Daniel 9:26-27 and 11:36-45 have more to say about the arrogant eleventh king of the end-time empire (the Antichrist).

I have watched a video on YouTube by 'Revelation Now', entitled 'Daniel's vision of Umar, the Islamic Caliph'. This argues that Umar, the second successor to Mohammed, who ruled as Caliph of the Islamic Empire from 634 to 644 AD, fulfilled Daniel's vision of the eleventh horn. Umar defeated the kings of the Byzantine and Sassanid Empires and of what is modern Afghanistan. This video claims that these are the three horns uprooted by the eleventh horn here in Daniel. Although I believe Revelation Now is correct in identifying the fourth empire with the Islamic Empire, it is not correct to identify the eleventh horn with an historic ruler. He must rule for three and half years at the end of the age (Daniel 7:25), immediately before the second coming of Jesus and the establishment of his eternal kingdom. Also, according to Daniel 7:24, the ten horns represent ten kings that arise from within the end-time empire. If the end-time empire is a restored Islamic Empire, the Antichrist, as the eleventh horn, must overthrow three Muslim rulers who precede him, not three non-muslim kings.

Daniel says that the fourth beast empire will devour the earth and trample and crush it (v23). Islam did this as it spread across the Middle East and beyond. In the end-times, the Antichrist, as ruler of a restored Islamic empire, will do the same. Daniel 11:40 says, "He will invade lands, passing through them like an overflowing river". It is likely that Muslim nations will identify him as the Caliph and Mahdi of Islam.

Please also view my Timeline of Four Empires for additional thoughts on Daniel 2 and 7.
Tags
Places: Babylonian Empire, Persian Empire, Greek Empire, Seleucid Empire, Roman Empire, Islamic Empire, Ottoman Empire
Symbols: Beasts as empires, Beast out of the sea, Heads as kings or kingdoms, Horns as kings, Antichrist as the eleventh horn, Lion, Bear, Leopard
Tags: Antichrist as the eleventh horn, End-time empire, Antichrist overthrows three kings, Antichrist extremely arrogant, Antichrist as a proud blasphemer, Antichrist makes war against the saints, Persecution of Christians, Great Tribulation, Three and a half years, Jesus comes on the clouds, Jesus as the Son of Man, Jesus as the Son of God, Coronation of Jesus, Rapture, Day of Judgment, Antichrist thrown into lake of fire, Jesus establishes his kingdom, Second coming appearance
Daniel has a Vision of Four Animals Coming up from the Sea
7 In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream filled with visions while he was lying on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream in summary fashion.
2 Daniel explained: “I was watching in my vision during the night as the four winds of the sky were stirring up the great sea.
3 Then four large beasts came up from the sea; they were different from one another.
4 “The first one was like a lion with eagles’ wings. As I watched, its wings were pulled off and it was lifted up from the ground. It was made to stand on two feet like a human being, and a human mind was given to it.
5 “Then a second beast appeared, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and there were three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and devour much flesh!’
6 “After these things, as I was watching, another beast like a leopard appeared, with four bird-like wings on its back. This beast had four heads, and ruling authority was given to it.
7 “After these things, as I was watching in the night visions a fourth beast appeared – one dreadful, terrible, and very strong. It had two large rows of iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and anything that was left it trampled with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that came before it, and it had ten horns.
8 “As I was contemplating the horns, another horn – a small one – came up between them, and three of the former horns were torn out by the roots to make room for it. This horn had eyes resembling human eyes and a mouth speaking arrogant things.
9 “While I was watching, thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His attire was white like snow; the hair of his head was like lamb’s wool. His throne was ablaze with fire and its wheels were all aflame.
10 A river of fire was streaming forth and proceeding from his presence. Many thousands were ministering to him; many tens of thousands stood ready to serve him. The court convened and the books were opened.
11 “Then I kept on watching because of the arrogant words of the horn that was speaking. I was watching until the beast was killed and its body destroyed and thrown into the flaming fire.
12 As for the rest of the beasts, their ruling authority had already been removed, though they were permitted to go on living for a time and a season.
13 I was watching in the night visions, “And with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man was approaching. He went up to the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him.
14 To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is eternal and will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed.

An Angel Interprets Daniel’s Vision

15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed, and the visions of my mind were alarming me.
16 I approached one of those standing nearby and asked him about the meaning of all this. So he spoke with me and revealed to me the interpretation of the vision:
17 ‘These large beasts, which are four in number, represent four kings who will arise from the earth.
18 The holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will take possession of the kingdom forever and ever.’
19 “Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others. It was very dreadful, with two rows of iron teeth and bronze claws, and it devoured, crushed, and trampled anything that was left with its feet.
20 I also wanted to know the meaning of the ten horns on its head, and of that other horn which came up and before which three others fell. This was the horn that had eyes and a mouth speaking arrogant things, whose appearance was more formidable than the others.
21 While I was watching, that horn began to wage war against the holy ones and was defeating them,
22 until the Ancient of Days arrived and judgment was rendered in favor of the holy ones of the Most High. Then the time came for the holy ones to take possession of the kingdom.
23 “This is what he told me: ‘The fourth beast means that there will be a fourth kingdom on earth that will differ from all the other kingdoms. It will devour all the earth and will trample and crush it.
24 The ten horns mean that ten kings will arise from that kingdom. Another king will arise after them, but he will be different from the earlier ones. He will humiliate three kings.
25 He will speak words against the Most High. He will harass the holy ones of the Most High continually. His intention will be to change times established by law. They will be delivered into his hand For a time, times, and half a time.
26 But the court will convene, and his ruling authority will be removed – destroyed and abolished forever!
27 Then the kingdom, authority, and greatness of the kingdoms under all of heaven will be delivered to the people of the holy ones of the Most High. His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; all authorities will serve him and obey him.’
28 “This is the conclusion of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts troubled me greatly, and the color drained from my face. But I kept the matter to myself.”
(NET)