Chapter seven begins the second half of the book, which is primarily prophetic. Each of the next four chapters begins with a date that allows us to place the dream/vision/prophecy into the timeline of the first half of the book. Daniel wrote that this first dream took place “in the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon.” This would have been around 556 B.C., between chapters four and five.
In his dream Daniel saw four great beasts (Daniel 7:2-7), which were explained to be four kings or kingdoms (Daniel 7:17). A comparison with Nebuchadnezzar’s vision in chapter two shows the parallels. The world empires that the human king saw as precious metals, God saw as ferocious and destructive beasts. Looking back on world history, we can see that the lion (head of gold, Daniel 2:32) was Babylon. The bear with one paw in the air (silver arms and chest, Daniel 2:32) was Medo-Persia, with Persia being the dominant empire. The leopard with wings and four heads (bronze torso and thighs, Daniel 2:32) represented Greece, which conquered quickly then divided into four sections. The last beast could not even be described with an animal (iron legs and feet, Daniel 2:33). It had iron teeth and “was different from all the beasts that came before it.” This was the Roman Empire.
The remainder of the chapter centers on three key persons: the Ancient of Days, the Son of Man, and the Little Horn. Daniel 7:9-14 contain one of the greatest pictures of the final judgments found anywhere outside of the Revelation. Jesus’ continued references to himself as “the Son of Man” 1 were blatant declarations of his deity and Messiahship as declared in Daniel 7:13-14. The most important of these were in the Olivet Discourse when Jesus, quoting Daniel, referred to himself as the Son of Man who would fulfill Daniel’s prophecy (see Matthew 24:15-44; 25:31-46). Stephen used the same term when he saw Jesus as Stephen was being killed as the Church’s first martyr (Acts 7:55-60). John also used this title in reference to Jesus in Revelation 1:13; 14:14.
Daniel asked for further clarification specifically about the fourth beast and the little horn (Daniel 7:19-22). This horn would be a future ruler of the fourth kingdom, worse than the others both in his activities and in his arrogant blasphemy (Daniel 7:23-27). A key part of this prophecy is the phrase “time, times, and half a time,” which is used again in Revelation 12:14, explained to mean 1,260 days or 42 months or 3 1/2 years. The fact that John still saw this as future in the Revelation gives us good reason to see Daniel’s little horn as the coming Antichrist of the Revelation. Although Daniel could not have known it then, his dream would not all be fulfilled at the same time. The little horn will come from the Roman Empire, but in a later version of it still to come. However, his rule will be temporary. Twice Daniel was shown that the Son of Man will overthrow that little horn, and “his kingdom will not be destroyed” because “His kingdom is an eternal kingdom” (Daniel 7:14, 27).
- Thirty times in Matthew, fourteen times in Mark, twenty-five times in Luke, and thirteen times in John. ↩