Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.”Daniel 7:1-2
Having spent some considerable time unpacking the imagery in Daniel 2, I would now like to turn my attention to the greater portion of Daniel’s prophecies, which is found in chapters 7-12. The metallic image in Daniel 2 is the foundational passage that provides the comprehensive context for the rest of Daniel’s visions. Although Daniel prophesied in part about historical Babylon, Persia, and Greece, his focus remains to be the summation of pagan kingdoms that will converge into the final end-times empire of the Antichrist.
Daniel 7 is one of the most fascinating portions of his prophecy and will take some time to unpack. For this post, I would like to simply identify the four beast kingdoms in Daniel 7 and connect them to the same four kingdoms portrayed in the metal image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2. As I hope to demonstrate, these prophecies are describing the same four empires but simply using different imagery.
The Great Mediterranean Sea
The first clue to understanding Daniel 7 is to get a geographical framework on these kingdoms. When Daniel makes reference to the great sea [see Daniel 7:1-2], it is universally recognized to refer to the Mediterranean Sea. Again, we must always retain a Middle-Eastern, Israel-centric focus when studying Bible prophecy. When Biblical authors refer to the “sea,” or especially the “great sea,” they almost always are referring to the Mediterranean because it was the largest body of water in the context of the ancient Near East.
The reference to the great sea also alludes to Gentile nations in general, since Israel historically has been surrounded by pagan, Gentile nations. Once we put these two clues together, we get a clearer picture of the four beasts mentioned in Daniel’s vision. These beasts represent pagan, Gentile kingdoms from the Middle East or ancient Near East.
The Apostle John also draws from Daniel’s vision when describing the end-times kingdom of the Beast — aka Antichrist.
“And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.”Revelation 13:1-2
Like Daniel, John would have been using the sea to represent the region of the Mediterranean Sea and also to the pagan, Gentile nations surrounding the sea and Israel. Notice how John takes the very same beast imagery from Daniel 7 and combines them to describe the final “fourth” kingdom of the last days.
The Four Beast Kingdoms
Now just for reference, I would like to clarify how the four beast kingdoms described in Daniel 7 perfectly align with the four divisions described in the metallic image in Daniel 2. This will help ensure accurate interpretation of Daniel’s overall prophecy. Unfortunately, the majority of Biblical scholars and teachers today continue to perpetuate a Roman, or “European,” interpretation of the fourth kingdom, but I have provided my reasons for rejecting that view entirely.
I believe it is well established that the fourth and final beast kingdom will come from the Middle East — the same “ara” or territory — that includes ancient Babylon, Persia, and Macedonia (Greece).
As demonstrated by the illustration above, Daniel 7 can be interpreted as follows.
- Babylon — The Head of Gold = the Lion with Eagle’s Wings
- Medo-Persia — The Chest and Arms of Silver = The Bear Raised on One Side
- Greece [Macedonia] — The Belly and Thighs of Bronze = The Four-Headed Leopard
- End-Times Kingdom of the Antichrist — The Legs of Iron and Feet mixed with clay = The Dreadful Terrifying Beast with 10 Horns
As we dive deeper into Daniel 7 next time, I will take more time developing the four beast kingdoms and how they are relevant to what is happening today in the Middle East.
The stage is being set for such a terrifying empire to arise out of the great sea, and Israel dwells in the midst of it all.