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The Visions of Daniel: The Great Image and The Four Beasts
The Visions of Daniel:
The Great Image and
The Four Beasts
The Five World-wide Kingdoms; the Fourth Kingdom of Rome and the
Little Horn; and the Kingdom of Heaven
Daniel and the Empire of Babylon 3
The Dream of the Great Image 4
The Four Kingdoms of Men 6 The Fourth Kingdom and its Final Phase 7 What is the Iron and the Clay? 9 A New Greco-Roman Empire 10 The Fifth Kingdom and the Messiah 11 The Vision of the Four Beasts 13 The Four Kingdoms Again 15 The Ten Horns and Another Horn 16 The Mystical Time Period 18 The Composite Nature of the Beast: The Greco-Roman Kingdoms 20 The Little Horn Kingdom 21 A Brief Summary So Far 25 Three Levels of Truth in Rightly Dividing the Word 26 The European Colonies, Islam and the British Empire 29 The Visions of Daniel: The Great Image and The Four Beasts The Era of Explorers 30 Roman Empire versus USA and the West 31 A Modern Reflection of the Ten Horns? 33 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12: The Man of Lawlessness Unveiled 34 The Antichrist Revealed 36 The Apostasy 37 Constantine, and False Signs and Wonders 39 The Antichrist 41 The Restrainer 43 A Few Facts about the Messiah and His Mission 44 Joshua/Jesus of Nazareth 45 The Resurrection 47 Endnotes 49
Daniel and the Empire of Babylon In 607/606 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, conquered the Empire of Assyria, and became the ruler of the world. This is when the Babylonian Empire truly began its worldwide domination. Within two years, in 604 BC, Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem and began to take some of the princes of Judah captive to Babylon. Daniel, and three others who are named, were among these Jewish captives (Daniel was probably in his late teens or early twenties). This important event began the 70-year captivity of the kingdom of Judah, which we shall consider later in these studies.
Daniel was then trained for three years to become one of the wise men of Babylon serving in the king's court. He remained in this position throughout the 70 years of Babylon's rule, right on through to the reigns of Cyrus and Darius, the kings of Persia and Media. These details can be found in Daniel chapter 1.
Evidently during the time of Daniel's training, in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, the king had a dream. He was so disturbed by the dream that he threw out a challenge to all his astrologers, sacred scribes and magi to tell him not only the interpretation of the dream, but the dream itself! If they didn't succeed, then they were to be dismembered and their property confiscated. Of course, this was an impossible task for them to fulfill, unless they truly had divine help - which they didn't. So eventually, in his anger, Nebuchadnezzar calls for the execution of all the wise men of Babylon because he rightly saw them all as charlatans. But Daniel is able to bide them some time and then, after a time of prayer with his friends, God gives him the whole dream and its interpretation in a night vision.
In this, we see the truth unfolding that, "To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds"
Daniel was clearly called to be a prophet of God, a true seer and interpreter of dreams. His calling was quite unique, and in some respects, Daniel was similar to Joseph. They both were taken prisoner and led captive to a foreign land; they both faced death because of their faith, and were divinely rescued; they both were prophets who could interpret dreams; and God placed them in positions of great authority in the world empire of their day (cf. Genesis 37-50 for the story of Joseph).
We also have the testimony of Jesus himself to heed the words of 'Daniel the prophet' (Matthew 24:15). So no matter what criticism is thrown at the book of Daniel, it is most definitely a prophetic book, as well as an historical book, and it is an important, if not essential, part of the revelation of God's prophetic plan. Of course, one can only accept this by faith.
The Dream of the Great Image Let us begin to look at the account of this dream in Daniel chapter 2.
" The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), "Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?" Daniel replied, "No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come (literally 'in the latter days'). Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as
you lay on your bed are these:
"As you were lying there, O king, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries (literally 'secrets') showed you what is going to happen. As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, O king, may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.
"You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue (or great image)—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands ("...a stone severs itself, that is, not by hands" - CV). 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 wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth."
So there's the dream, but before we look at the interpretation, let me point out a few things. Note that there are 5 divisions of this great Image, and from head to toe
the metals deteriorate or become less in value, eventually becoming clay:
5) Feet and toes of Iron and Clay (mixed together) This is suggesting, in general terms, that the kingdoms of men are going downhill in the same way as the metals become less valuable, eventually becoming as clay, a fitting symbol of humanity at its end, just when the Son of Man will return from the heavens to take over the kingdoms of this world.
Then there is the Rock or Stone that literally severs itself without the help of human hands. This Living Stone then smashes into the feet of the image and then the whole
image crumbles and becomes like chaff in the wind. It is then replaced by the Rock becoming, as the CV puts it, "...a vast mountain range..." which fills the whole earth.
Also, Daniel had told the king that these things were about 'what shall be in the latter days.' It concerns the destiny of the kingdoms of men until the time when the Kingdom of God shall come, and the times of the Messiah shall arrive.
Some believe that Jesus later referred to this whole era of time symbolised in the Statue as 'the times of the nations' (often rendered the Times of the Gentiles cf.
Luke 21:24). This could very well be the case, which would mean that the Times of the Gentiles were fulfilled by 70 AD, as some Preterists suggest. Nevertheless, I would say that this phrase 'the Times of the Nations' is ultimately speaking of the domination of the worldly kingdoms of men over the people of God, who are the true spiritual Israel of God. This began firstly when His people were represented in the earthly Jerusalem and ancient Israel of the Old Covenant, and now secondly, as they are represented in the New Jerusalem and the 'Church' under the New Covenant.
Be that as it may, I believe that Jesus was clearly using this phrase in a more specific sense to describe the eras (or times) of the nations (or gentiles), which were to begin later in the 1st century AD after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. These 'Times' will continue until the Return of Christ at the end of this age.
During these eras, Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the various kingdoms and nations of men, (including an unbelieving Israel, who are no longer the true people of God outside of Jesus the Messiah), until this age ends.
"They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations.
Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."
'The times of the nations' are intimately linked to 'the Complement of the Nations' (usually rendered 'the fullness of the Gentiles') mentioned by Paul.
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.
That is to say, in the past, there were the 'Times of the Hebrews' (or the eras of Israel), when the remnant of grace were primarily (but not solely) from the nation of Israel. This period was characterised by the era of the Old Covenant. Yet now, since the ministries of Jesus and Peter and Paul, and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, there are the 'Times of the Nations' during which time God is calling out a people for Himself primarily from amongst all the nations to be the 'complement of the nations.' This is characterised by the New Covenant. It is evident, though, that there are at least two ways of interpreting these words.
The Four Kingdoms of Men Now we come to the interpretation of the dream.
"This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold."
(Daniel 2:36-38 NIV) God had given King Nebuchadnezzar, as the greatest ruler (and representative) of the kingdom of Babylon, worldwide authority. Now clearly Nebuchadnezzar didn't literally exercise that authority worldwide, as we would understand this today, because there were parts of the world, for example, China and the Far East, that were not literally under the sway of Babylon, but as far as the central parts of the then-known world were concerned, his kingdom ruled the majority of civilisation.
This is especially true as it relates to God's land, Israel, and its capital city, Jerusalem. This worldwide authority was also passed on to the three kingdoms that followed Babylon, particularly as they expanded their actual boundaries of rule beyond that of Babylon.
As the head of gold, God is showing us that Nebuchadnezzar's absolute authority as sole ruler and king is the divine model for ideal rule. The problem is that humans are corrupt and cannot therefore continue to rule righteously, even if they start out that way with all good intentions. Yet one day the Son of God, who is the Living Stone, will fulfill this role perfectly as the Son of Mankind, the ultimate King of Kings.
After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours (the silver - CV). Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth.
As can be verified from any good history book or encyclopaedia, and it is also made clearer later in Daniel, the second kingdom, represented by the silver, was Media/Persia, which took over from Babylon in 537/536 BC. This invasion of Babylon by the Medes and Persians, which occurred later during the reign of Belshazzar, is recorded in Daniel chapter 5.
After this power change, Daniel continued to hold a superior position in the new kingdom of Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian (see Daniel chapter 6). I think that one of the reasons why this kingdom is said to be inferior to Babylon is because there was more than one ruler (Darius and Cyrus) and they did not have absolute authority to do as they pleased, like Nebuchadnezzar had had before them (cf.
It is worth mentioning here that before the death of Nebuchadnezzar and the later fall of Babylon, this king had had to learn a hard lesson in humility. Sadly, he evidently misunderstood the dream of the great Image because some years later he erected a gold image (no doubt representing himself) and forced his subjects to worship it (cf. Daniel chapter 3). As a consequence of this, through another dream, it
The Visions of Daniel: The Great Image and The Four Beasts
was prophesied that he would go insane for a period of seven years, becoming like an animal in the wilds. This is called lycanthropy, a mental illness in which the sufferer believes him/herself to be a wild animal of some sort. Anyhow, after this humiliating experience, Nebuchadnezzar became a believer in Yahweh as the One True God and Creator of all. You can read his own account of these events in Daniel chapter 4.
Going back to the original dream, the third kingdom, represented by the bronze/copper, was Greece, which, under Alexander the Great, conquered the Persian Empire in 331 BC. This is also made evident later in Daniel.
Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others.
The fourth kingdom is not actually named in Daniel, but it is evident that the Roman Empire cannot be ignored in this regard. Rome is clearly the fourth kingdom of iron that totally swallowed up all the previous empires and had the greatest sway and influence over the world. This is the only kingdom where the metal, the iron, describes its character; that of violent, brute force that smashes and dominates everything. And take note that this fourth kingdom is viewed as being the last of these kingdoms before the establishing of the stone kingdom of heaven (the fifth kingdom, if you will).