Explain the four beasts in the book of Daniel.
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We need to begin in Daniel 2.
Daniel 2:31-45 gives the outline of God’s plan for the kingdoms of men from the Babylonian Empire in Daniel’s day to a point future to us when Christ will establish on earth the kingdom of God.
The Babylonian Empire ruled in the Days of Daniel:
Daniel 2:38... Thou (Nebuchadnezzar) art this head of gold.
The Medo–Persian Empire followed the Babylonian Empire:
Daniel 2:39 And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee...
The Greek Empire followed the Medo–Persian Empire.
Daniel 2:39... and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.
The Roman Empire (not named in Daniel) followed the Greek Empire.
Daniel 2:40 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.
God will set up his Kingdom at some time after the Roman Empire has broken up. The Empires are given inasmuch as they affected the Jews in their homeland. The Romans dispersed the Jews and there was no nation of Israel again until 1948, so the Ottoman, British and other Empires are not accounted for.
Daniel 2:41 And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. 43 And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. 44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
Daniel 7 deals with the same framework, this time using wild animals to give more detailed information.
The Babylonian Empire:
Daniel 7:4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.
The Medo–Persian Empire:
Daniel 7:5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.
The Greek Empire begun by Alexander the Great but split into 4 at his death:
Daniel 7:6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.
The Roman Empire which would eventually split into separate kingdoms (10 horns):
Daniel 7:7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns...
The kingdom of God:
Daniel 7:9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit,
Daniel 8, given in the days of Belshazzar, ignores the Babylonian Empire which was about to end and uses domestic animals to give additional information. Here the Medo–Persian and Greek Empires are named.
The Medo–Persian Empire:
Daniel 8:20 The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.
The Greek Empire begun by Alexander:
Daniel 8:21 And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.
The Greek Empire split into 4 at his death:
Daniel 8:22 Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.
Daniel 9:24-27 gives the 70 weeks (of years) prophecy which takes us to Christ’s sacrifice and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
Daniel 11:1-33 gives a very detailed prophecy of events to come up to ‘the abomination that maketh desolate’ which Christ says refers to the Romans in AD 70.
Matthew 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
Luke 21:20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
Daniel 11:34 – 12:3 takes us through the time of the end to the return of Christ (represented by Michael), the resurrection of the dead and the kingdom of God.
In the New Testament the book of Revelation picks up from Daniel. Revelation 6 onwards deals with the time from John’s day through to Christ’s return and his 1000 year reign over the kingdom of God, followed by the final judgement, and the abolition of sin and death.
In chapter 12 we meet a beast similar to Daniel’s 4th beast so we can fairly judge it to represent in John’s day the Roman Empire. With the desolation and scattering of the Jews in AD 70 the ‘times of the gentiles’ are ushered in, so it is not unreasonable to suppose that the focus of prophecy in Revelation is on the Christian church, the Roman empire, and the succeeding independent kingdoms (10 horns) up to the return of Christ. The ‘10 horns’ coming together to ‘give their power to the ‘beast’ is believed (certainly by me) to be the ongoing unification of the EU as a nation state to be as it were the re-incarnation of the ‘Roman Empire’ in the last days; although not ruled from Rome and made up as Daniel 2:48 says ‘partly strong, and partly broken’ meaning, I think, both strong and weak nations which will experience some difficulty in agreeing together.
I hope found this helpful.
May God bless you,