Friday, February 15, 2008

Daniel 7 (The Four Beasts)

The theme of the book of Daniel is the kingdom of God. Despite the fact that Israel was in captivity, God promised to build his kingdom on earth. In chapter two of Daniel, God revealed that his everlasting kingdom would be established after the four earthly kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.

We find a similar message in chapter seven. Daniel has a vision of four animals: a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a beast (Daniel also sees a heavenly vision which we will examine more carefully in the next post).

Daniel is given details regarding each of these animals, but without getting bogged down, most commentators agree that each of these animals corresponds to the empires from the vision in Daniel chapter two.

· The Lion = Babylon
· The Bear = Persia
· The Leopard = Greece
· The Beast = Rome

Notice the interpretation given:

Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever (Daniel 7:17-18).

Just as in the vision of the statue in chapter two of Daniel, the kingdom of God follows the four earthly kingdoms. The kingdom of God is an everlasting kingdom.

Thus, a straight-forward reading of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 leads to the expectation of four empires (Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome) followed by the kingdom of God.

I maintain that this is precisely what happened. At the first coming of Christ, the first three kingdoms had already disappeared. Jesus established his kingdom, which eventually led to the demise of the Roman empire.

Certainly, there have been other kingdoms and other empires, but the kingdom of Christ was established during the latter days of the Roman empire. Jesus’ kingdom has been growing gradually ever since, much like yeast leavens a loaf of bread (Matthew 13:33). It started small, like a mustard seed, but it is growing, and one day, it will be the largest kingdom (Matthew 13:31-32). It began as a stone, but eventually becomes a mountain that fills the whole earth (Daniel 2:35).

In the next post, we will examine the heavenly vision from chapter seven of Daniel.

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