Daniel Chapter 7:
The Prophecy of the Four Beasts
The prophecy of Daniel 7 is represented in the chart above as the succession of four beasts, just beneath the image of Daniel chapter 2. You will notice a striking resemblance between this article and our article on Daniel chapter 2, and it is because of the similarity between the two prophecies themselves. For a viewer and printer friendly version of the above chart, click here. A general commentary including identification of the empires is readily available in many commentaries and websites, so our article is going to focus only upon dispensational particulars.
The Prophecy Given:
“I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3 And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, 'Arise, devour much meat!' After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, [CHURCH AGE INTERVENES HERE] and it had ten horns. While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts. I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, its wheels were a burning fire. A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him; thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; the court sat, and the books were opened. Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time. I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed." - Daniel 7:2-14
The Prophecy Interpreted:
"As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. I approached one of those who were standing by and began asking him the exact meaning of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: 'These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.'
Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet, and the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head and the other horn which came up, and before which three of them fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts and which was larger in appearance than its associates. I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom. Thus he said: 'The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. [CHURCH AGE INTERVENES HERE] As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.'" - Daniel 7:15-27
In the above passages, the prophecy and its interpretation have been illustrated in the following manner: First, the portions which have been fulfilled, as all agree, are highlighted with a tan background. Second, the point at which the prophecy pauses in flow of fulfillment is marked with blue text indicating the intervening age in which we live at the present time (as illustrated in our primary chart as "the Mystery," and clarified by example in this illustration). And third, the portions which remain to be fulfilled in the future are highlighted with a pink background.
Points to be considered:
Historicism, and its view that the ten horns and "little horn" corresponds with a succession of hundreds of Roman Catholic Popes over many centuries, is so far outside the use of language and imagery in the book of Daniel, and so impossible to prove by means of any historical significance, reality or implication, that the position in general is unworthy of treatment here.
The Preterist view is at least more Scriptural, albeit loosely, in that it recognizes the fact that the fourth beast and its horns corresponds with the Roman Empire, and that a brief period represented in the actions of the "little horn" corresponds with the end times. Thus, with basic Scriptural facts somewhat recognized, the task is to determine whether or not that period was fulfilled, as they claim, in the first century A.D.
Unlike the image of Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 2, in which some Preterists hesitate to make the obvous connection to the ten toes, in Daniel chapter 7 we are dealing with a prophecy in which Preterists most certainly do entertain their "counting" scheme as the method of understanding the prophecy.
To your left is a list of the Emporers of the Roman Empire. Now, although Julius Caesar is never reckoned among the Emporers, and a span of about 17 years elapsed between his death and the decision of the Senate to embrace an Emporer at the helm, the Preterist line of reasoning wishes to include Julius Ceasar in the enumeration of the horns and "little horn" for reasons which will become apparent. So, we have included Julius Caesar in the list to help you understand what the Preterists are trying to do.
As you can see, a counting of Emporers arrives at Titus as number ten. This serves no purpose to the Preterist view, and must therefore be altered, so as mentioned above we have added Julius Caesar. By adding Julius Caesar we arrive at Vespasian as number ten, but this still doesn't do any good. What is needed is to arrive at Vitellius at number ten because it was the rapid rise and fall of Galba, Otho and Vitellius which is made to be the meaning of the three plucked up horns in Daniel 7, and because it was under the rule of Vespasian that his son Titus destroyed the temple in 70 A.D. So, the basic idea is that Preterists wish to make Vespasian the "little horn" which would spring forth and pluck up three horns. (Of course, this whole "Caesar counting" concept is misguided to begin with, as will be discussed below.)
How, then, do Preterists wish to manipulate the succession of Emporers so as to fit their target Emporer of Vespasian? What they do is to insert, between Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus, what is known as the Second Triumvirate. The Second Triumvirate was a political alliance of Octavian (Augustus), Mark Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, from which emerged Augustus as the first Emporer and founder of the Roman Empire. Why this alliance should be recognized and enumerated as one of the horns is a purely subjective move on the part of Preterists to force a fit to Daniel's prophecy. If the Second Triumvirate is to be included, then so should the First which was an alliance of Julius Caesar, Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Crassus, from which Julius Caesar emerged as the dictator of the Roman Kingdom. While the Second Triumvirate was officially recognized as such, and the First a sort of informal alliance, it is doubtful Daniel's prophecy had any such details in mind to begin with. In fact, the First Triumvirate, Julius Caesar, and the Second Triumvirate should all be excluded from enumeration because they simply were not Emporers, and it wasn't until Augustus' constitutional framework known as the Principate that it can even be said that a "Roman Empire" truely existed. When Preterists start inserting false figures into the list of Roman Emporers, any method of using them becomes clouded and irrelevent because, in reality, the history of Rome prior to these men, the conquering of Greece, and other issues precede these men altogether and provides no true way of suggesting "Daniel's prophecy was fulfilled at 70 A.D." In other words, if the course of events pertaining to the Roman Kingdom in general is to be followed, then it makes no sense to use an enumeration of rulers who pertain only to the "Empire" phase of Roman history.
You can probably see by now that the Preterist approach becomes confused, watered down and subjective at every turn in order to force a fit. Not only is the enermeration of the horns subjective and tampered with by Preterists, but their concept of "counting" is unscriptural anyway because Daniel's prophecies do not use a multiplicity of horns to indicate succession of leaders - one at a time. This can be seen by comparing Daniel 8:5-8, in which one horn depicts Alexander the Great, and four horns the four generals between whom the Greek Empire was divided after Alexander's death. The goat is represented as having four horns because those four men reigned alongside each other. They existed together at the same time. They did not come in succession one after the other.
To the above problems can be added the simple facts that Vespasian himself was not responsible for plucking up all three "horns," that the Roman Empire did not collapse at Vespasian, and that no Messianic Kingdom was established at that time. It is no wonder the ancient Church did not entertain such notions as fulfillment of the prophecy.
Outstanding Problems for All Non-futurist and Non-premillennial Views:
The strongest problem for all views which depart from the Futurist and Premillennial position of the ancient Church is the fact that this prophecy shows, firstly, that the Messianic Kingdom is to be a very real Kingdom which pertains to this earth, and secondly, that it is to be established at the close of the Great Tribulation period.
The Messianic Kingdom is not described by this prophecy as a spiritual thing up in heaven. It is set in succession to true kingdoms of men which had real dominion over this earth: the Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire, the Greek Empire, and the Roman Empire. That the Messianic Kingdom is to be qualified as utterly unlike those empires which preceeded her causes an immediate disruption to the purpose and flow of the prophecy. Why would a succession of real kingdoms be used to outline the time and establishment of a so-called "kingdom" which isn't real, has no impact on reality, cannot even be proven to exist, and doesn't exist in our sphere of reality in the first place? That nonsensical assumption of the spiritualizing party is so utterly void of common sense it hardly deserves refutation.
And that this Messianic Kingdom is to follow the Great Tribulation, the period described as "he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time," is an unavoidable implication of the prophecy. The start of the Messianic Kingdom can not be placed at 30 A.D. as all amillennialists do, because that violates this prophecy, as also Daniel 2, Daniel 9, Daniel 11-12, the Olivet Discourse, 2Thessalonians 2, the Apocalypse and any and all other prophecies which pertain to the course of events leading up to the establishing of the Messianic Kingdom.
Finally, that the Roman Empire did not collapse in the first century A.D. is so obvious to all it hardly need mentioned, yet apparently it does because amillennialists are so adamant over their conviction that the Messianic Kingdom was established at Christ's first advent. The truth is, there is not one particle of this or any other aforementioned prophecies which can be made in any way to refer to Christ's first advent ministry. The Amillennial view simply doesn't align with Biblical prophecy in the slightest way whatsoever.
Those who wish to spiritualize the prophecy have, after all, changed entirely the purpose of the prophecy. Rather than describing the course of human history leading up to the establishing of the Messianic Kingdom, it is changed to describing the course of events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The prophecy does not intend to set forth that course of events. Period. Those who spiritualize the prophecy in that manner immediately violate the very nature and purpose of the prophecy.
The Futurist position is the truest to the reality of the fulfillments. If the final portion of the prophecy of the four beasts, with the ten horns and "little horn," is to follow the pattern set by the fulfillment of the initial portions of the prophecy, then the fulfillment remains yet future. The Messianic Kingdom is a real Kingdom, as were the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman. The Messianic Kingdom does not precede the Great Tribulation period, but follows it. The prophecy pertains to the establishing of the Messianic Kingdom, and not to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
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