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The Four Beasts: The Interpretation
Scripture: Daniel 7:9-27; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8; Ps...
Track 8 of 12 in the Daniel: A Life Without Compromise series
Running time: 1 hour, 04 minutes, 42 seconds.
It is hard for Christians sometimes to comprehend the workings of God in dealing with the nations. But each nation as it rose and fell brought something to the world that eventually helped to promote the Gospel of Jesus when he came into the world. God has a plan and often the ungodly play a part.

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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.

The Four Beasts: The Interpretation

Last week as we studied the first part of Daniel 7, we saw 4 beasts coming out of the great sea. Just like the image in Chapter 2, the four beasts represent the four great nations that would arise after the fall and captivity of Israel by the Babylonians. Last week we ended with two very important truths found I our study:

1. Each beast is followed by another. The terror of each beast is eclipsed by its successor.
2. Each beast is controlled by a greater power – the power of God.

It is hard for Christians sometimes to comprehend the workings of God in dealing with the nations. But each nation as it rose and fell brought something to the world that eventually helped to promote the Gospel of Jesus when he came into the world. The language of Jesus was Aramaic, the royal language of the Babylonians. The Medes and Persians helped to finance the return of the Jews and helped to rebuild the temple. It was Magi from the east that first came to seek out the new born king. The Greeks gave the common language in which most of the New Testament is written and the Romans built the roads by which the missionaries of Christ could take the Gospel from city to city. God has a plan and often the ungodly play a part.

There is another reality that is hard for Christians to understand and realize; while the physical world is going on, there is also a spiritual reality happening at the same time. Often in vision literature, we see a mixture of physical and spiritual realities running parallel to one another. In Daniel 7, right after the description of the 4 four beasts, the vision jumps to a heavenly scene.

Right now, what do you think is going on in Heaven? Just as the physical world is real and alive, so is the spiritual world. What is going on while we live out each minute of our lives?

Daniel 7:9-10 “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. The court was seated, and the books were opened.

In light of what we already know about the four beasts, the four great nations of the world, what might the context of the heavenly scene be about? The judgment of the 4 nations.

As the courtroom was being prepared, thrones were set up. The Ancient of Days came in who is the judge. The judge is God. In these verses the consistent theme is fire. In the scriptures, fire represents the divine presence of judgment. Whenever fire is introduced, judgment is close at hand. Books are open. We see this same imagery in other places in scripture especially in Revelation. The books are recorded evidence of the actions of men. But here in this vision, the deeds recorded in these books are the deeds of the four nations found in this vision.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

The angels who execute the judgments of God are called “His ministers a flaming fire” (Psalm 104:4)

Daniel 7:11-14 Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 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 finds the image of the little horn fascinating. He continued to watch because of the boastful words of the horn. We find in the history of the Roman Empire some of the horrible actions of some of its leaders. Throughout the history of its emperors, one like the little horn would rise to power and do some unbelievable things. They would rebel against the very fiber of what was deemed decent and human. Men like Nero, Caligula and others rose to power by killing off those around them, uprooting other horns. The horn and its beast were quickly judged and destroyed for what they did. The other nations also were judged but not as quickly as the fourth beast.

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.

In this vision, describe for me the man who appears. Who is he and what ideas of him do we find in scripture. What are we seeing here? We see the introduction of the son of man to the Jews. God becoming a man, Jesus. Later when Jesus arrives, he calls himself the Son of Man.

“Riding the clouds” is an idea all over the Bible that God and Jesus have exclusive prerogative over. We see this in the Old Testament and the description of the 2nd coming also have Jesus coming back riding on the clouds.

Have you ever had a dream that seemed so real that it caused you to think about it for a long time. This dream was one that was vivid and was one you could remember. Do you think dreams like these have meaning or are warnings of things to come?

The dream Daniel was having not only was vivid and alarming, but he could engage in conversations and get answers to his questions. The fourth beast really bothered him. He was even more distressed about the little horn. His distress led him to ask one of the servants standing close what the meaning was to all he was seeing.

Daniel 7:15-18 I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this. So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: ‘The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’

Do you remember in the vision of Nebuchadnezzar what happened to the statue of the many metals? It was destroyed by a large mountain being slammed into the feet of the statue. In that dream, what followed the four nations that were destroyed?

What reality is Daniel being told?. What is he describing to Daniel? Is this future or past? It is future to Daniel but past to us. The Kingdom of God has arrived. The only kingdom that matters now is Gods and no other kingdom will overtake it or destroy it. The Kingdom is given to the one like the son of man but is received by the saints.

What is the message of hope to the Jews in this vision? What are they to look forward to and what are the signs for them to be watching for?

Daniel 7:19-22 “Then I wanted to know the true meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

The fourth beast captured Daniels thoughts and attention. It was so much different than the first three. Daniel had to know more about the beast especially the one horn that had a mouth and made great boasts. It made war against the saints and seemed to be winning until God intervened on their behalf. The intervention was judgment.

Describe for me the war that was being waged? How ere the saints being defeated? What does judgment have to do with war? What war can be defeated by acts of judgment?

Notice, the judgment was pronounced in favor of the saints. This judgment caused the saints to posses the kingdom. When did the saints posses the kingdom? What caused that action to take place?

Daniel 7:23-25 He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.

This passage is one that is highly studied, taught and disputed about. If a Christian is of the premillennial, postmillennial or amillennial thinking, this passage has a totally different meaning. Again, I am a simple person and I believe the intent of the scriptures is so even the simplest of people can come to know and accept Jesus. If we keep these passages in context to what the Jews were going through at the time Daniel received this vision, I have to believe the meanings are in line with the interpretation in Chapter 2. The four beasts relate to the 4 nations that will arise leading up to the first coming of the Christ. Why have visions of the second coming of Christ when the Jews didn’t really know or understand the son of man or his first appearance.

If these beasts are the four nations of Babylon, Medes and the Persians, the Greeks and Rome, then we should be able to look at the fourth beast and compare history to see if there are any clues that line up. I believe that what Daniel is seeing is future to his generation but is past to you and I today.

Most scholars see the 10 horns to represent 10 rulers coming out of the fourth kingdom. If you remember our lesson last week, when the number 10 pops into scripture, most of the time the number 10 represents many or plurality, not necessarily 10 units. We know that Rome was divided up into many provinces and was ruled by many kings under Caesar. Herod for example was King over Palestine but Caesar was emperor. The little horn could be the Caesars.

But Daniel’s vision was specific about the horns so when scripture does this, deeper meaning is involved and greater attention is needed. The 10 rulers symbolize a past and future rebellion against the holy will of God.

Look at the rule of the little horn. It is characterized by four traits, what are they?

”He will speak against the Most High, persecution, suppression of times and the introduction of a new morality

What is important to note that in Aramaic, the word “against” is literally translated “at the side of”? The horn is not trying to work against God; the horn is raising himself at the level of God. 10B: The word used “oppress” concerning the saints means “to wear out” like a garment. The persecution of the saints will be long and drawn out, unrelenting and continuous.

But let’s look to history and see if there is evidence of the Caesars being the little horn. In 60 BC, there was a coalition formed between Caesar, Pompey and Crassus. If you remember your world history in junior high, this was called the First Triumvirate”. In time Caesar became the dictator for life. The most famous triumvirate was the one formed in 43 BC between Mark Anthony, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Caesar Octavian. These men assumed a supreme authority, both at Rome and all over the known world. Lepidus was soon squeezed out and the empire was uneasily divided between Octavian and Anthony until 31 BC when Octavian defeated Anthony at Actium. Mark Anthony committed suicide leaving Octavian in complete control. Thus the emergence of the title and rule of one man over the entire Roman Empire, “the Caesar”. Maybe the three horned triumvirate was foreseen in Daniel’s dream. The little horn will show up again later in Chapter 8. More details then.

I want to focus on the last part of verse 25. When times are given, I usually try to pay attention because their use is intended to give meaning. Notice, there is no definite time given, just the mathematical multiplication of time. It is as if the tyranny of the horn would extend itself always the longer and longer: first a time, then the double time, then the fourfold – this would be the seven times. But notice it does not go on that long. Suddenly it comes to an end in the midst of the seven times so that instead of the fourfold time there is only half time. The destructive rule will in turn be completely destroyed.

Daniel 2:34-35, 44 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The windswept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.

The Roman Empire ended but the saints and the Kingdom continued. The Roman Empire ended because God said enough. The little horn didn’t get to do all it planned to do the saints because God cut short the time.

Daniel 7:26-27 “‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’