By Dr. Michael J. Vlach
Daniel 7 parallels Daniel 2 in that Daniel had dreams and visions concerning four Gentile powers that will occur before the kingdom of God is established. Yet this chapter gives even more details for the student to ponder.
In the year 553 B.C. Daniel received "a dream and visions" while he was in his bed (7:1). He saw "the great sea" stirred by "the four winds of heaven" (7:2). Then he witnessed four great beasts coming up from the sea (7:3):
- The first beast was like a lion with wings like an eagle. Its wings were plucked and it was made to stand on two feet like a man and a human mind was given to it (7:4).
- The second beast was like a bear that was raised up on one side and had three ribs in its mouth. It was told to "devour much meat" (7:5).
- The third beast was like a leopard with four wings of a bird and it had four heads. Dominion was given to it (7:6).
- The fourth beast was "dreadful," "terrifying," and "extremely strong." It had large iron teeth and crushed everything in its path. This beast was different from the other beasts that preceded it and it had ten horns (7:7). From among the ten horns a "little horn" came up and uprooted three of the previous horns. This "little horn" had eyes like a man and spoke great boasts (7:8).
These four kingdoms parallel the four parts of the statue that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream showing the strong connection between the two sections:
- Head of gold (2) and beast like a lion (7) = Babylon
- Arms and breast of silver (2) and second beast like a bear (7) = Medo-Persia
- Belly and thighs of bronze (2) and third beast like a leopard (7) = Greece
- Legs of iron (2) and terrifying fourth beast (7) = Rome
Daniel then described a heavenly throne room scene with 7:9-10 in which the "Ancient of Days," a reference to God the Father, takes His seat upon His throne. This scene includes "burning fire" and many who are attending to God on His throne. Daniel observes that the horn keeps speaking "boastful words." He then saw the fourth beast killed and given to burning fire (7:11). Verses 7:13-14 then introduce the "Son of Man" figure:
"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. "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.
This describes an interface between two members of the Trinity. As Jesus himself and the New Testament writers make clear, Jesus is the "Son of Man" figure of Daniel. Thus, this section presents the Son of Man, who we now know as Jesus the Messiah, coming before God the Father to receive "dominion, glory and a kingdom." The result is that all peoples and nations will serve Him and His dominion will last forever. Echoes of this passage may be seen in Matt 28:18-19 and Acts 1. Just prior to His ascension, Jesus said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matt 28:18). On His day of ascension, Acts 1:9 states that "a cloud received Him out of their sight." There may be a connection, then, between Jesus' ascension into Heaven on the clouds and Dan 7:13. Daniel 7:14 indicates that the presentation of the Son of Man before the Ancient of Days is linked with "peoples, nations and men of every language" serving God. With Matthew 28:18-19 Jesus links the authority He has been given with His command to the disciples that they "Go...and make disciples of all the nations." Thus, the ascension may be linked with Jesus' universal authority.
Yet, the full and final fulfillment of Dan 7:13-14 is future and coincides with the events of Revelation 4-5 which describes a heavenly scene between Jesus and the Father just prior to the unleashing of the wrath of the Lamb upon the entire earth (Revelation 6-19).
Daniel is distressed by what he has seen and asks someone standing by what this all means. Most probably an angel answers him stating that Daniel will be told the interpretation of the dream (7:15–16). He is told that the four great beasts are four kings that will arise from the earth (7:17). Verse 18 then declares: "But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come." With this verse we see the connection between the kingdom of the Son of Man and what this means for the saints of God. In this immediate context the "saints of the Highest One" are referring to the people of Israel. While other Scriptures include Gentiles in the kingdom of Messiah (see Isa 2:2–4), it is the Jewish people who are in view here. Also when the kingdom of the Son of Man arrives, those who are His saints will participate in this reign. In other words, when the Son of Man begins His reign, His saints will be there to participate in that kingdom.
Daniel then inquired for more information about the fourth beast, the ten horns, and the little horn who was making great boasts (7:19–20). As Daniel kept looking he saw that the "horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them." But this ended when the Ancient of Days came and passed judgment in favor of the saints. At this time "the saints took possession of the kingdom" (7:21–22). Significant here is that the kingdom of the Son of Man and the possession of His kingdom by the saints of God occurs after the persecution of the little horn. Persecution occurs and then the kingdom comes, which results in a dramatic reversal of fortune for God's people. There is no indication that the saints of God are participating or reigning in God's kingdom before the career of the evil little horn runs its course. This appears consistent with the reign of the beast in the Book of Revelation who persecutes the saints but then is defeated by the returning Jesus Christ (see Revelation 19). Verses 25–27 give more information on these events:
He [little horn] 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. 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.
The picture here is that of withering persecution against the saints of God. The little horn both blasphemes God and takes his wrath out on the followers of God. He even tries to usurp God's authority by altering "times" and "law," areas that ultimately belong to God. This occurs for "a time, times, and half a time," which is three and one-half years. But there is a courtroom scene in which the little horn's dominion is "taken away" and the saints of God possess God's kingdom forever.
In sum, Daniel 7 teaches the following truths concerning the kingdom of God:
- There will be four successive Gentile kingdoms that will rule over the earth.
- During the reign of the fourth kingdom there will arise ten kings.
- From among these ten kings an individual will sprout who will subdue three of the previous ten kings; this individual will be an enemy of God who persecutes God's people Israel.
- The Son of man receives universal authority from the Ancient of Days which leads to the defeat of the individual waging war against God's people.
- When this happens God's kingdom will be established and His people will possess this kingdom forever.
- The Kingdom Program in Daniel 2 • BPB (Michael Vlach)
- What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of Man? • GotQuestions.org
- The Date and Authorship of the Book of Daniel • SpiritandTruth.org (Charles Ray)
- Daniel's Disturbing Dream (Daniel 7:1-28) • Bible.org (Bob Deffinbaugh)
- The Coming Kingdom (Series) • BPB (Andy Woods)