SUCCESSIVE EVIL EMPIRES DOMINATE THE WORLD SCENE UNTIL GOD REIGNS VICTORIOUS WITH HIS SAINTS IN HIS KINGDOM
Stephen Miller: For a variety of reasons, “modern commentators are generally agreed that chapter 7 is the single most important chapter of the Book of Daniel.” Porteous calls it “the heart of the Book of Daniel,” and Heaton declares, “It would be no exaggeration to say that this chapter is one of the most important passages of the OT.”
Why is this chapter so significant?
– First, Dan 7 marks the literary turning point of the book from historical accounts to visions. J. J. Collins correctly understands Dan 7 to be “a transitional chapter” bound to the preceding stories “by the use of the Aramaic language and by affinities with ch. 2, but tied to the following visions by its subject matter.” Thus this passage effectively joins the two parts of the book together.
– Second, the chapter is important because of its enormous impact on subsequent Jewish literature. As a matter of fact, the whole body of apocalyptic material that followed was influenced by this vision.
– Third, it is of extreme significance prophetically. Walvoord rightly maintains: “As interpreted by conservative expositors, the vision of Daniel provides the most comprehensive and detailed prophecy of future events to be found anywhere in the Old Testament.”
A question often posed concerning predictive prophecy is, If these visions relate to the future, what significance could they have had for the people of Daniel’s day? Were they relevant to those who first heard them? God’s messages through his prophet were of the utmost value to Daniel and his people, for through them God assured the Jews that the nation of Israel would endure. This issue was uppermost in the mind of every religious Israelite. After Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians, the Jews were taken into captivity, and the nation of Israel ceased to exist. Even when the small group under Zerubbabel returned to Judah, the future of the nation was uncertain. But God made clear to the Jewish people through the prophet Daniel that Israel would continue to have a place in history, that their promised Messiah would come and deliver them from spiritual and national bondage, and that the Messiah would set up his kingdom and reign over the nations with Israel raised to a place of prominence. Moreover, just as believers today are unaware of the exact time of the coming of the Lord, so Old Testament saints did not know when Daniel’s prophecies would be fulfilled. Eschatological promises of a better world have always encouraged believers in the here and now.
Paul Lederach: Without question, chapter seven is the high point in the book of Daniel. It is pivotal in that it completes the Aramaic tract to the nations (2:4b—7:28) and at the same time with its vision (or dream), sets the stage for the visions that follow. The stories in chapters 1-6 relate to Daniel and his friends. The visions beginning with chapter 7 are reported to have come to Daniel in his old age. . .
Chapter 7 is also a fitting introduction to the visions and themes found in chapters 8-12. In each of the visions, a heavenly messenger provides understanding. In chapter 7, this figure is an attendant standing in the heavenly court (7:16). In the two succeeding visions, the archangel Gabriel provides understanding (8:16; 9:22). In the final vision, a celestial being (Gabriel) comes to make Daniel understand (10:10-14).
Each of the visions tells of the coming of a dreadful king who will oppress the people of God (7:24-25; 8:23-24; 9:27; 11:29-45). This is the meaning or the truth concerning the fourth beast (7:19). The activity of this evil king is developed in each of the visions. Each vision indicates that God’s people will be severely oppressed for a limited time (7:25; 8:14; 9:27; 12:7). Each of the visions predicts the end of this arrogant king (7:11; 8:25; 9:27; 11:45). In the visions that follow chapter 7, God’s offer of grace to the world is rejected by the kings of the world. However, in the midst of tempestuous international affairs, there are the faithful, the people of God, the people of grace, who live lives of holiness and peace, led by the wise (11:33).
Norman Porteous: The meaning of the chapter is taken to be that the age of the oppressive empires is about to be terminated by the sovereign act of God and that, when his kingdom is brought in, delegated sovereignty will be given to the faithful among the Jews as the people of his choice.
Tremper Longman III: Many of the themes of chapter 7 will be repeated in chapters 8–12. Here are the major themes that reverberate in this section:
• the horror of human evil, particularly as it is concentrated in the state• the announcement of a specific time of deliverance
• repentance that leads to deliverance
• the revelation that a cosmic war stands behind human conflict
• judgment as certain for those who resist God and oppress his people
• the equally certain truth that God’s people, downtrodden in the present, will experience new life in the fullest sense.
To conclude by way of summary, Daniel 7 is a vision of two parts. The first part reveals that the world at present is under the sway of evil and cruel human power. The second part shows us that God is in control and will ultimately judge the rebels and establish his kingdom among us. At present there is conflict—indeed, a cosmic war, about which we will learn more particularly in chapter 10—between the evil forces of this world and God and his faithful creatures.
John Walvoord: From a literary standpoint, there is good support for the obvious division of the book into the stories (1-6) and the visions (7-12). . .
Another point of view argued strongly by Robert Culver is that the book of Daniel divides into three major divisions:
(1) introduction, Daniel 1;
(2) the times of the Gentiles, presented in Aramaic, he common language of the Gentiles at that time, Daniel 2-7; and
(3) Israel in relation to the Gentiles, written in Hebrew, Daniel 8-12.
Culver’s point of view, which he credits to Auberlen, has much to commend itself and is especially theologically discerning because it distinguishes the two major programs of God in the Old Testament, namely, the program
for the Gentiles and the program for Israel. In either point of view, however, chapter 7 is a highpoint in revelation in the book of Daniel; and, in some sense, the material before as well as the material which follows pivots upon the detailed revelation of this chapter.
(:1) PROLOGUE – DANIEL RECORDS HIS DREAM
“In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and related the following summary of it.”
Paul Lederach: The dream is so vivid, so disturbing, and with its God-given interpretation so far-reaching in scope and importance that Daniel wrote down the dream (7:1). This is said only for this vision in the book of Daniel. It is written so that every detail of the dream with its interpretation, which was also part of the dream, will not be lost.
John Walvoord: In the opening verses of chapter 7, Daniel introduces his remarkable experience of having “a dream and visions of his head upon his bed” which occurred in the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon. The year was probably 553 B.C., fourteen years before the fall of Babylon. Nabonidus, the actual king of Babylon beginning in 556 B.C., had appointed Belshazzar as his coregent in control of Babylonia itself while Nabonidus conducted military maneuvers in Arabia. As Nebuchadnezzar himself had died in 62 B.C, nine years before Belshazzar began to reign, it is clear that the event of chapter 7 occurred chronologically between chapters 4 and 5 of Daniel.
John Whitcomb: So this is a flashback – certain things God wanted his people to know about Gentile empires, the nation of Israel and the coming Anti-Christ. No more dreams from God in the church age. Daniel was distressed, overwhelmed by God’s revelation.
I. (:2-8) DREAM OF THE FOUR GREAT BEASTS AND THE LITTLE HORN
A. (:2-3) Overall Vision Summary of Four Great Beasts
“Daniel said, “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.”
Iain Duguid: In the Bible, as elsewhere in the ancient Near East, the sea was the symbol of chaos and rebellion against God (see Ps. 89:9; 93:3–4). [John Whitcomb: speaks of the human race – Luke 21:25]
John Walvoord: In Daniel, wind is uniformly used to represent the sovereign power of God. . . The history of the Gentiles is the record of God striving with the nations and ultimately bringing them into subjection when Christ returns to reign (Ps 2).
Stephen Miller: In this context, however, the figure seems rather to denote factors of all kinds that produce turmoil among the earth’s nations throughout history. This must be the case, for the winds continually stir up the sea during the rise and fall of all four empires. God’s judgments are involved, but the turmoil described primarily results from the activities of persons who do not know God and the operation of Satan’s forces upon humanity. Wood correctly states: “The winds stand for various forces which play upon the nations, serving to bring strife and trouble.”
Adherents of the traditional view of Daniel almost unanimously agree that the kingdoms are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome; whereas those who accept the Maccabean thesis usually consider the four empires to be Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece. For reasons stated in the discussion of chap. 2 and the Introduction, the traditional interpretation is followed here.
John Goldingay: The four creatures emerge from the ocean consecutively, not concurrently. . . Each animal is fierce and dangerous. Each is also ominous in a narrower sense. The first three, at least, are anomalous creatures, resembling one species but also having features belonging to another or being deformed in some other way.
Tremper Longman III: We will argue that, though the vision begins with the Babylonian empire, its multivalent imagery intends to prohibit definite historical identifications with the remaining three beasts. Rather, the fourfold pattern simply informs us that evil kingdoms will succeed one another (at least seemingly) until the end of time. The people of God must recognize that this is God’s plan and prepare for persecution.
B. (:4-7) Four Successive Fearsome Beasts
1. (:4) First Beast Like a Lion with Wings of an Eagle
“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.”
Stephen Miller: The lion’s wings being torn off speaks of the king’s insanity and loss of power; standing on two feet like a man and receiving a human heart (mind) denotes Nebuchadnezzar’s humanitarian rule after his insanity; and the lion being “lifted up from the ground” indicates that it was God who raised the king to his place of honor.
John Goldingay: The features of a lion to which the OT appeals are ferocity, strength, destructiveness, courage, rapacity, and fearsomeness; it can be used as a simile or metaphor for any nation or individual with such characteristics, and in particular to suggest kingship. The eagle’s key characteristics are speed and rapacity (Hab 1:8; Lam 4:19). The bird referred to is perhaps strictly the large and majestic, high-flying and swooping griffon vulture. Lion and eagle appear together to characterize Saul and Jonathan in 2 Sam 1:23, the unnamed northern foe in Jer 4:7, 13, and Nebuchadnezzar in particular in Jer 49:19, 22.
John Whitcomb: Conversion of Nebuchadnezzar pictured here. An animal that becomes like a human – given a new human mind.
2. (:5) Second Beast Like a Bear
“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!’”
Paul Lederach: The bear is raised up on one side; perhaps this means that, after the Medes were conquered by the Persians under Cyrus, they played a less-sig
nificant role than the Persians in the Medo-Persian empire. Eventually there is a tendency to drop the reference to the Medes and refer to the Persian empire.
John Walvoord: The meaning seems to be that the second empire will be powerful like a bear, ferocious (Is 13:17-18), but less majestic, less swift, and less glorious.
Stephen Miller: the view that the bear symbolized the composite Medo-Persian Empire is supported by the description of the empire in chap. 8. In 8:3 a ram appears and is identified as “the kings of Media and Persia” (8:20). It has two horns, one larger than the other, portraying the twofold division of the Medo-Persian kingdom. The bear symbolism concerning the two sides with one larger probably should be interpreted in light of the clear passage in Dan 8.
The bear “had three ribs in its mouth,” which may safely be understood to represent the conquests of the empire. Since the beasts represent nations or empires, devouring other beasts would symbolize triumph over them. These ribs may denote military triumphs generally or three specific peoples subdued by Medo-Persia. Although Young considers the three ribs to represent “the insatiable nature of the beast … since, not being content with one body, it devoured many,” others (probably correctly) have taken the ribs to represent Medo-Persia’s three major conquests—Babylon (539 B.C.), Lydia (546 B.C.), and Egypt (525 B.C.).
“It was told” apparently refers to a decree from heaven. “Get up and eat your fill of flesh” means that Medo-Persia would subdue many nations. Persian dominion stretched from Egypt and the Aegean on the west to the Indus River on the east. More territory was controlled by this empire than any other up until that time.
John Goldingay: Its size and strength make it a source of fear to human beings second only to the lion: see 1 Sam 17:34–37; Amos 5:19; Prov 28:15. Indeed, it comes before the lion in Lam 3:10; see also 2 Sam 17:8; Isa 11:7; Hos 13:8; Prov 17:2; and for a vivid instance of its dangerousness, 2 Kgs 2:24. The bear would be a fit simile for any king or empire; nothing specific associates it with any particular king or empire.
3. (:6) Third Beast Like a Leopard
“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.”
Iain Duguid: The third beast was another composite animal, part leopard, part bird, with four heads. Such a flying leopard would combine both ferocity and speed, so that no one could run from it, while its four heads would render it capable of seeing in all four directions at once, making it impossible to hide from. This beast was also given authority to rule.
Stephen Miller: Greece is aptly represented by this flying leopard, for its conquests were carried out with lightning speed, and it had an insatiable lust for territory. Alexander the Great invaded Asia Minor in 334 B.C. and within ten short years (by the age of thirty-two) had conquered the entire Medo-Persian Empire to the borders of India. According to legend, he then wept because there were no more lands to conquer. In addition to extraordinary velocity, the “four” wings may allude to the four quarters of the earth, thus signifying world domination.
In Scripture “heads” may represent rulers or governments (e.g., 2:38; Isa 7:8–9; Rev 13:3, 12), and that is the case with the leopard’s four heads. Daniel predicted that this one empire would ultimately evolve into four kingdoms, and this is exactly what occurred. Alexander died in 323 B.C., and after much internal struggle his generals carved the kingdom into four parts:
(1) Antipater, and later Cassander, gained control of Greece and Macedonia;
(2) Lysimachus ruled Thrace and a large part of Asia Minor;
(3) Seleucus I Nicator governed Syria, Babylon, and much of the Middle East (all of Asia except Asia Minor and Palestine); and
(4) Ptolemy I Soter controlled Egypt and Palestine.
A quadripartite character is definitely ascribed to the Greek Empire in the next chapter (cp. 8:8 with 8:21–22), and it is reasonable to interpret the leopard’s “four heads” in light of that clear teaching.
4. (:7) Fourth Beast Different from the Rest
“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, and it had ten horns.”
John Whitcomb: Repeat in different terms of the image in Chap. 2 – two legs and two feet and ten toes. Same arrangement of kings = four plus one; second one is a duality (Medo-Persian Empire). The teeth are the same = iron. The Roman Empire about 60 years before Christ was born completely conquered the Macedonian Empire. Rome officially lasted until about 1500 years after Christ; an enormously powerful system. The ten horns haven’t appeared yet. The final phase will be ten kingdoms in what is now Western Europe = a united system (cf. currency now of the euro).
Stephen Miller: The incredible might and cruelty of Rome are aptly depicted by Daniel’s fourth beast. Just as this monster was “different” from all the others, so the Roman Empire differed from those that had preceded it. Rome possessed a power and longevity unlike anything the world had ever known. Nations were crushed under the iron boot of the Roman legions, its power was virtually irresistible, and the extent of its influence surpassed the other three kingdoms.
Andrew Hill: Those identifying the fourth kingdom as the Roman Empire contend the parallels to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue dream (ch. 2) are more appropriate to this interpretation since the first advent of Jesus the Messiah during the Roman Empire marks the inbreaking of God’s kingdom in human history (e.g., Archer, 47–48, 87; cf. 2:44). In addition, the vision of the ram and the goat in ch. 8 seems further to explain the identity of the second and third creatures of Daniel’s vision in ch. 7 (e.g., Baldwin, 161–62; cf. summary of the Roman period interpretation in J. H. Walton, “The Four Kingdoms of Daniel,” JETS 29 : 28).
John Goldingay: In a double contrast with the first three ani
mals, the report does not describe the fourth animal’s form and appearance, which has the effect of giving it a touch of mystery and of suggesting that it is even less a mere earthly creature than its lion-like, bear-like, and leopard-like predecessors. And it characterizes the animal by means of active verbs, putting the emphasis on its own deeds; the report thus prepares the way for the action of God that directly confronts its self-initiated action.
John Walvoord: The description of the beast to this point more obviously corresponds to the Roman Empire than that of the empire of Alexander the Great. Alexander conquered by the rapidity of troop movements and seldom crushed the people whom he conquered. By contrast, the Roman Empire was ruthless in its destruction of civilizations and peoples, killing captives by the thousands and selling them into slavery by the hundreds of thousands. This hardly is descriptive of either Alexander or the four divisions of his empire which followed. As Leupold states, referring to the iron teeth, “That must surely signify a singularly voracious, cruel, and even vindictive world power. Rome could never get enough of conquest. Rivals like Carthage just had to be broken.”
C. (:8) Little Horn Emerges
“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.”
John Whitcomb: Is. 27:1 – Leviathan, the fleeing serpent = Satan; the dragon, the beast that comes out of the sea = the Antichrist.
Iain Duguid: These beasts represent kings, the authorities that are in control of the world in which we live (Dan. 7:17), and so the vision declares that our world is being run by a succession of fearsome monsters that will go from bad to worse, each one more frightening than the one before.
Stephen Miller: The fourth beast is symbolic of Rome; therefore the ten horns (kings, v. 24) coming out of the fourth beast represent a confederation of kings (kingdoms or nations) that emanate from the old Roman Empire. This federation’s dominion will immediately precede the return of Christ, for the empire will be destroyed by the coming of the kingdom of God (cf. 7:11, 13–14, 21–22, 26–27).
Daniel predicts that the ruler (little horn) of this coalition (ten horns) will be brilliant (eyes like a man) and arrogant (mouth speaking arrogant things). He will conquer three kingdoms (or nations) that will resist him and thereby gain firm control over the whole empire. The picture of this evil, future king in these verses concurs with descriptions of him found in other Scripture passages (cf. Dan 11:36–37; 2 Thess 2:3–12; Rev 13:5–6). He is none other than the most infamous person in all of human history—the “Antichrist” (so Archer, Young, Leupold, Keil, Walvoord). Centuries ago (ca. A.D. 400) Jerome identified this individual as the Antichrist and described him as “one of the human race, in whom Satan will wholly take up his residence in bodily form.”
Although “ten horns” may signify that Antichrist’s empire will consist of exactly ten kingdoms (or nations), it was shown in the discussion at 2:44 that the number ten might indicate completeness, that is, complete in power, sovereignty, and so forth. Thus Daniel predicted that in the last days a powerful empire made up of a confederation of kingdoms or nations will rise out of the ashes of the old Roman Empire. This final empire will have incredible power, for by its force Antichrist will rule the whole earth (cf. Rev 13:3, 7–8, 12).
II. (:9-14) DREAM OF THE ANCIENT OF DAYS AND HIS MILLENNIAL DOMINION DELEGATED TO THE SON OF MAN
Roy Beacham: The Coming Kingdom of God
– (:9-10) The Thrones of God’s Judgment
– (:11-12) The Demise of Man’s Empires
– (:13-14) The Establishment of God’s Kingdom
A. (:9-10) Vision of the Ancient of Days – Preparation for Judgment
1. (:9a) Positioned on the Throne of Judgment
“I kept looking until thrones were set up,
And the Ancient of Days took His seat;”
2. (:9b) Pictured as Wise and Honorable
“His vesture was like white snow,
And the hair of His head like pure wool.”
Andrew Hill: The white garments (v.9b) symbolize both God’s splendor and his purity (so Gowan, 107; cf. Ps 51:7; Isa 1:18). The white hair like “wool” (v.9b) also speaks to God’s majesty and splendor as well as to his experience and “old age” (so Lacocque, 143; cf. Rev 1:14). Towner, 98, comments that the color white emphasized here depicts God as “a wise and honorable judge.”
3. (:9c-10a) Prepared to Dispense Fiery Judgment
“His throne was ablaze with flames,
Its wheels were a burning fire.
A river of fire was flowing
And coming out from before Him;”
Andrew Hill: Fire not only “represents an awe-inspiring supernatural force” (Gowan, 107) but is also a symbol of God’s judgment, destroying everything in its path (Isa 66:15–16; Jer 21:12; Eze 21:31; cf. Lucas, 182, who comments on the “dangerous splendor” of fire and its association with divine judgment).
Stephen Miller: There is a startling contrast here. In vv. 7–8 the Antichrist is blaspheming the God of heaven, but in vv. 9–10 the sovereign Lord is shown sitting upon his throne, calmly preparing for the day of judgment. Whitcomb comments: “A greater contrast between two connecting verses can hardly be imagined.” Montgomery observes that “the scene of the Divine Session with the coming of the Son of Man is appropriately sublime, one which has no equal among the other apocalypses for simplicity and reserve.”
4. (:10b) Poised to Execute Judgment
a. Angel Attendants
“Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,
And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;”
b. Anticipatory Attention
“The court sat,
And the books were opened.”
Stephen Miller: The time of this judgment is clear from the context. Since the kingdom of God immediately follows, the judgment of this empire and its leader, the Antichrist, must occur at the time of the second coming of Christ. Many eschatological events are telescoped together in Scripture, however, and it is possible that this judgment may include both that of the Antichrist and his confederates at the beginning of the millennium (cf. Rev 19:20–21) and the judgment of Satan and the remainder of the lost at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ (cf. Rev 20:10–15).
John Goldingay: God’s books sometimes record God’s purposes regarding the final issues of history or regarding particular segments of history (cf. the sealed books of 8:26; 9:24; 10:21; 12:4, 9). They sometimes record God’s expectations of human conduct and his intentions regarding the judgment of humanity in light of how far they fulfill these expectations, or fail to do so (e.g., 1 En. 81; 93:1–3; 103:2; Jub. 5:12–19; 16:9; 23:32). Any of these significances might be relevant in the present context; the idea of books that contain a citizen list, a list of the people who belong to God (12:1), or that record people’s deeds and afflictions seems less relevant here. The people whose names would be in God’s book have not yet come into focus in the vision, while the deeds that are to be judged are the ones before our eyes in the vision, not ones recorded in books.
B. (:11-12) Vision of Victory over the Little Horn and the Beasts
1. (:11) Victory over the Little Horn at Armageddon
“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.”
2. (:12) Victory over the Beasts
“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.”
John Whitcomb: Previous 3 kingdoms were absorbed into the next one; but Rome, the final empire, will have no aftermath; when it ends, it is totally finished.
C. (:13-14) Vision of the Son of Man – Messianic Dominion
1. (:13) Son of Man Presented before the Ancient of Days
“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.”
John Whitcomb: A picture of the Father and the Son of God together; very unique passage.
Stephen Miller: John 12:34 states: “The crowd spoke up, ‘We have heard from the Law that the Christ [the Messiah] will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’?” In this passage the terms “the Christ” [the Messiah] and “the Son of Man” are used interchangeably. It may be inferred that the people of Jesus’ day already had come to identify the Danielic “Son of Man” as the Messiah.
However, the most compelling evidence for the messianic identification of the son of man is furnished by Christ himself. In Mark 14:61–62 he identified himself as that “Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” There is no other passage in the Old Testament to which Christ could have been referring. Furthermore, when Christ made the claim, the high priest said, “You have heard the blasphemy” (Mark 14:64), demonstrating that Jesus was understood to ascribe deity to himself. Young asserts, “The employment of this title by Jesus Christ is one of the strongest evidences that He attributed Deity to Himself.”
“Son of man” is especially common in the eschatological passages of the New Testament (cf. Matt 16:27–28; 19:28; 24:30; 25:31; and elsewhere), and the phrase “coming in clouds” is understood in Matt 24:30 as a reference to the return of Christ. Finally, other passages portray Christ with the same kind of glory, power, and authority as is set forth in Dan 7 (e.g., Isa 2:2–4; 9:6–7; 11:1–10; Ezek 34:23–24; Matt 28:18; Phil 2:9–11; Rev 19:1ff.; 20:4–6).
Besides being a divine title, “son of man” sets forth the humanity of the Lord. Christ would be God, but he would also partake of human nature. Also, whereas all the features of absolute rule are ascribed to the son of man, the authority bestowed upon Christ here does not refer to his inherent sovereignty or deity. Rather, a new phase of his work is described.
2. (:14) Son of Man Delegated Millennial Dominion Leading to Eternal Kingdom
“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.”
Paul Lederach: The sovereignty given this figure is
– universal: all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him;
– eternal: shall not pass away; and
– all powerful: shall never be destroyed (7:14).
Understandably, later Jewish and Christian interpreters of Daniel recognized messianic qualities in this figure coming with the clouds of heaven.
III. (:15-27) INTERPRETATION OF THE DREAMS OF DANIEL
A. (:15) Alarming Nature of the Visions
“As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me,
and the visions in my mind kept alarming me.”
B. (:16-18) Accurate Summary Interpretation = the Big Idea Statement
1. (:16) Inquiry into Meaning of God’s Revelation
“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 kn
own to me the interpretation of these things:”
2. (:17) Interpretation of the Four Beasts
“These great beasts, which are four in number,
are four kings who will arise from the earth.”
3. (:18) Inheritance for All Eternity
“But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom
and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.”
Stephen Miller: The eternality of this kingdom is expressed so emphatically that some argue the kingdom cannot be millennial. What it means, however, is that the kingdom cannot be confined to the millennium. As R. L. Saucy has written, especially in the Old Testament “the messianic kingdom is merged with the final eschatological picture of the new heaven and earth.”
C. (:19-22) Analysis of the End Times
John Whitcomb: Daniel wanted more details.
1. (:19) Meaning of the Fourth Beast
“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,”
2. (:20) Meaning of the Ten Horns and Other Little Horn that Became Large
“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.”
3. (:21-22) Millennial Kingdom Established after Victory and Judgment
“I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them 22 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.”
Stephen Miller: Now a detail of utmost seriousness for the people of God is disclosed—the horn “was waging war against the saints and defeating them.” The fact that the little horn would successfully persecute believers had not been expressed previously (cf. Rev 13:7), and Daniel certainly would have been concerned about this aspect of the vision.
John Whitcomb: Many believers will die during the Tribulation Period at the hand of the Antichrist; but some will survive and enter alive into the kingdom.
D. (:23-27) Analysis of the End Times Repeated and Expanded
1. (:23) Meaning of the Fourth Beast
“Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms, and it will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it.’”
2. (:24-25) Meaning of the Ten Horns and the Other Horn
“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. 25 And 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.”
Tremper Longman III: The image of a horn is well known from other biblical references. Pride and honor, whether godly (1 Sam. 2:1; Ps. 89:17, 24; 112:9) or ungodly (Ps. 75:5), is often described by the image of a lifted-up horn, stemming from the idea of a powerful animal lifting its head high. In our present passage, the connotation is that of uncalled-for pride. It is a rebellious refusal to submit to God.
Stephen Miller: Other Scripture passages also indicate that these three and one-half times are, in fact, three and one-half years.
(1) The seven times in 4:16 are generally interpreted as seven years.
(2) The Hebrew equivalent of this phrase occurs in 12:7 and is taken to approximate the 1,290 days of 12:11 and 1,335 days of 12:12, both of which are just over three and one-half years.
(3) Revelation 13:5 says that the beast (who represents the same individual described in this chapter) will have power for forty-two months, which is equal to three and one-half years.
(4) Revelation 11:2 relates that Jerusalem will be trampled for forty-two months, which is the time of the persecution of the Antichrist.
(5) The same phrase is found in Rev 12:14; and the duration of this period is explained in 12:6 to be 1,260 days, which again is three and one-half years.
(6) The period of three and one-half years is referred to in Dan 9:27, where a covenant is broken in the middle of the seventieth “seven” (or week).
Most scholars understand the “sevens” spoken of in chap. 9 to be sevens of years. Thus one “seven” is seven years. Religious activities are stopped at the midpoint of the final “seven” (seven years), which would make the time of trial three and one-half years (see chap. 9 for discussion).
Thus the persecution of the saints will continue for three and a half years, which is exactly half of Antichrist’s seven-year career. Commonly, this latter part of Antichrist’s rule is called the “great tribulation” (cf. Rev 7:14). During this period, the judgments described in Rev 14–19 will come upon the earth.
3. (:26-27) Millennial Kingdom Established after Victory and Judgment
“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.”
John Whitcomb: God has the final word of judgment. Phase 1 of the kingdom is 1,000 years and then Phase 2 goes on forever.
Iain Duguid: The point of this vision is that the time when the beasts will oppress the sa
ints is limited by God. Beyond it lies the scene of the heavenly court, where the beasts will finally be tamed and destroyed. Then the sovereignty, power, and greatness will be handed over to the saints, to the people of the Most High. And his kingdom will never end. . .
To “come on the clouds” is a clear symbol of divine authority. In the Old Testament God alone rides on the cloud chariot (see Ps. 68:4; Isa. 19:1). What is more, when this son of man comes into the presence of the Ancient of Days, he is given authority, glory, and sovereign power. These attributes are not simply the authority and sovereignty that God gives to human kings such as Nebuchadnezzar (see Dan. 5:18), for this son of man also receives the worship of all peoples, nations, and languages (see Dan. 7:14). Thus, he cannot merely be an angel or personified representative of Israel. This son of man is given an everlasting and indestructible dominion, a sovereignty that belongs to God himself. So what are we to make of this vision of a God-man—one who shares our humanity, yet at the same time endows it with the fullness of undiminished deity?
There will soon come a time when this present world would have run its course, to be replaced by a better one. The day is indeed hastening on when the sands of time will run out and the beasts will face their judgment, but for the saints, glory will dwell forever in Immanuel’s land!
(:28) EPILOGUE – END OF THE VISION
“At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”
Paul Lederach: In the postscript, Daniel includes four items:
1. Daniel marks the end of the vision.
2. He describes his inner spirit as terrified, disturbed, perplexed.
3. He notes his physical condition—the vision has left him weak and pale.
4. He mentions his thoughts. What he has seen and heard keeps turning over in his mind again and again. He examines each detail so that nothing will be lost while he hopes that he might come to a fuller understanding of the vision.