A Breakthrough In Eschatology
Sample from: Chapter 7.
The Beasts Arise
First of all we have to understand that God who created all things, gives this vision. Time is one of the dimensions of this universe that God created. He is not subject to it. He exists outside of time. He can see the end from the beginning. From his position above world history, he can look down upon, or even enter into any moment in that history.
Because of this unique perspective, God does not have to describe the events of world history in linear order for them to be an accurate account. With God there is no past, present or future. There is only now.
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times, those things that have not yet happened. Declaring, ‘My word shall be done, and I will do all that I wish’ [Isaiah 46:10]
Beloved, don’t forget this one thing. That with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. [2 Peter 3:8]
When considering this vision, imagine you have a bird’s eye view. Look down on the events described as if you were looking at a map laid flat on the floor. This map of world history, past, present and future, begins with Daniel captive in Babylon and ends with Jesus Christ the Messiah taking over rule of the world.
Consider it possible for the vision to start at any point in time on that map of history. It may describe the past, present, or future in any order, or simultaneously.
1 During the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions in his mind, while he lay on his bed. So he wrote down the dream, summing up the main points.
Note that this was the first year of the last king of Babylon. Belshazzar was ruling in the absence of his father: Nabonidus, who was elsewhere on business. Babylon was not arising, neither was Nabonidus or his son. Both they, and the kingdom were already established. Babylon had reached its zenith many years ago under Nebuchadnezzar.
2 Daniel said, I saw in my vision by night, and beheld the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, different from each other. 4 The first was like a lion that had eagle’s wings. I watched until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on it’s feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.
Wrongly connecting this vision with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two, most commentators say this beast depicts Babylon.
A. Because Babylon is the first of the four kingdoms in chapter two.
Q. But why must it be the first in this vision?
A. Because its the first beast to rise.
And round in circles this mistaken thinking continues until we take time to look more carefully at what Daniel was told in verse seventeen.
5 And look! Another beast, a second, like a bear. It raised itself up on one side, and it had three ribs in its mouth between the teeth. And they said this to it: ‘Arise and devour much flesh’.
Now that the first mistake has been made the commentators ignore the beasts by which God depicts Medo-Persia and Greece in chapter eight, to force-fit the interpretation of chapter two’s great image onto this one. They tell us the bear depicts the Medo-Persian Empire.
A. Because that was the second empire after Babylon.
But in chapter eight God gives Daniel a vision of a ram to depict that empire.
6 After this I looked, and saw another, like a leopard, that had on its back four wings of a fowl. This beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.
The commentators tell us this is Greece. The kingdom of Alexander the Great.
A. Because it’s the third empire.
But in chapter eight God depicts that kingdom by a goat.
In chapter 8:26 the angel Gabriel links this vision with that of the ram and goat when he says: “And the vision of the evening and morning that was told is true.” This being the evening vision, and chapter eight, the morning vision. Why would God use two completely different beasts to depict the same empire, in visions that are linked together in the same book?
Some Bible translators have allowed their preconceived ideas to influence their translation of what the angel said in chapter 8:26. They have changed the words “evening and morning” to a plural “evenings and mornings” in order to limit his explanation to dealing with only Dan 8:13-14. But if we look to Strong’s Concordance, we see the words ‘e·reḇ and bō·qer are used, which in every other occurrence are translated ‘evening and morning’.
What the angel is explaining to Daniel from 8:16 onward is clearly the meaning of the whole vision that Daniel tells us in verse one; is the second given to him after that recorded in chapter seven.
Dan 8:13-14 isn’t a separate and distinct vision. It’s part of the whole vision that makes up most of chapter 8.
Those who hold the view that the lion with eagle’s wings represents Babylon, can’t point to any historical or archaeological proof, other than lion images were used for decoration in Babylon. But that was, and still is true of many cities. I have heard a number of commentators say that the lions depicted on the wall of Babylon’s processional street have wings. If the image below is not clear enough, you can view it at this website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishtar_Gate. What you will see is the artists rendering of the lion’s mane that these people are wrongly calling a wing.
Lion mural on the wall of Babylon’s processional street.
Professor Walter Veith posted a video lecture on this subject on his website. During that lecture he presents photographs of two winged lions that he claims are depictions of this ‘symbol of Babylon’ created either before or during Daniel’s time. I believe he is mistaken. I have searched many archaeology websites that deal with Babylonian artifacts. None of them include similar photographs. If what Professor Veith is presenting are not fakes, they are merely depictions of Daniel’s vision created at some later date.
The artifact pictured below is often presented as the winged lion of Babylon. It is not! It is a figure that was known to Assyrians as Lamassu. They were mythological guardians, often placed at gateways to ancient Mesopotamian palaces to protect them from demonic forces. They predated Daniel’s time by centuries, so they have nothing to do with the winged lion that he saw. In fact, although examples of these artifacts displayed at the British Museum are labeled as winged lions, I think it fair to say they bear greater resemblance to other artifacts that have been labeled as sphinx.
Some use descriptions from Jeremiah 4:7; 49:19; 50:17; Lamentations 4:19; Ezekiel 17:3; Habakkuk 1:8 as evidence of God depicting Babylon in this way. But these examples are only describing the swiftness, power and ferocity of the attacker. None of them speak of a lion with eagle’s wings.
7 After this I saw in the night vision. And look! A fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had enormous iron teeth. It devoured and broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet. It was different from the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 I was considering the horns, and look! There came up among them another little horn, before whom, three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And look! In this horn there were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.
Q. Well that has to be the Roman Empire, right?
A. Yes. But Daniel is describing it as if he was standing at the point on the map of time when the first beast (lion with eagle’s wings) rises. He looks forward in time and sees the fourth beast rise, but he can look over his shoulder and see it also rising in the ancient past during the time of the Seleucid kings, and Antiochus IV Epiphanes (the foreshadow of Antichrist). He may also have been aware of its existence before and throughout his own lifetime.
The purpose of Daniel’s vision seems to be mostly about describing the origins of the Antichrist man. It does this by the horns for his past, and the winged lion for his future. The book of Revelation will later describe the fourth beast in terms of its rise as an empire in more detail. But it too has a lot to say about the Antichrist man.
Rome’s existence both precedes and spans the timeframe of the book of Daniel. It was founded in 753BC. That’s around 147 years before Daniel was taken into captivity. It existed before, and thus far, throughout The Times Of The Gentiles, in the form of a city, then a republic, later an autocracy that morphed into The Holy Roman Empire, with the Roman Catholic Church at its spiritual heart.
The Times Of The Gentiles refers to the period of Gentile influence over Jerusalem and the Jews, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar conquering Jerusalem and deporting prisoners (including Daniel) in 606BC. It ends with Jesus Christ and his people ruling the whole Earth. It is highlighted in the original language version of Daniel’s book by a change in the language used. From chapter 2:4 to chapter 7:28, Syriac/Aramaic is used, (the language of his Gentile captors) instead of the Hebrew language the rest of the book is written in.
And they shall fall by the sword, and be taken away captive into all the nations. And Jerusalem will be under the feet of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. [Luke 21:24]
We must not make the mistake of confusing The Times Of The Gentiles with the apostle Paul’s use of the term, “fullness of the Gentiles”, found in Romans 11:25. The latter is referring to the completion of the age of the Gentile Christian Church and is a completely different matter.
So how can the text prior to verse seven speak of beasts that existed before it if the Roman beast predates them? The answer is that in its modern day revived form it came after these other beasts in terms of its influence over Daniel’s people (the Jews) and Jerusalem.
The European Union/Union for the Mediterranean is the recently revived Roman Empire; that has even more recently involved itself with matters concerning Israel. Of course ancient Rome had a massive impact on Daniel’s people, but God isn’t pointing to that place on the temporal map.
Yes there are four kingdoms including Babylon that finish with Rome depicted by Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two. But that shows the history of The Times Of The Gentiles from Babylonian captivity to the return of Jesus Christ, depicted by the rock that smashes the great image. This vision is not repeating that succession of kingdoms. What Daniel sees in this vision are three different, more modern day kingdoms, culminating in a revived modern day version of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Antichrist man.
Daniel is told in verse seventeen that the first of the four kingdoms shall arise after the Babylonian kingdom he is living in at the time of the vision. So he can’t be seeing a procession of kingdoms that begins with Babylon.
Daniel describes the fourth beast in a way that recounts its origins and history. (19 Then I wanted to know the truth about the fourth beast, that was different from all the others, being exceedingly dreadful, with teeth of iron and its nails of bronze that devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet.) The iron and brass (some translations say bronze) depict its Greek and Roman origin. (Recall Daniel’s interpretation of the great image in chapter two.)
The ten horns on the head of the beast represent the ten kings of the Seleucid dynasty that succeeded Alexander the Great. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, (The little horn that came up amongst those ten) uprooted three of those kings. [See chapter eight] He describes the way it has devoured and broken up smaller nations throughout its history, Israel being a prime example.
Rome often kept the existing rulers as titular heads of kingdoms it swallowed up. Antiochus III had already been badly defeated by Rome, and the Seleucid Empire was left paying a heavy fine imposed as a condition of peace. So the Seleucids were in effect already under Roman authority by the time Antiochus IV Epiphanes took the throne. Thus the Roman beast inherited the ten-horn history and spiritual legacy of the Seleucids and the Antichrist.
In 168BC Antiochus IV Epiphanes decided to attack Egypt for the second time. He also sent his navy to invade Cyprus. While marching to Alexandria, he found his path blocked by the Roman ambassador – Gaius Popillius Laenus. Laenus gave him a message ordering him to withdraw from Egypt and Cyprus or consider his kingdom to be at war with the Roman republic.
Antiochus tried to buy time by saying he would have to discuss the matter with his Council. Laenus drew a line in the sand around him saying, “Before you cross this line I want your reply for the Roman Senate.” For Antiochus the implication was clear. If he crossed the line without first submitting to Rome’s demand he would be in a war he could not win. Antiochus agreed to withdraw. [This is from where we get the saying: “draw a line in the sand.”]
But all that only partially explains the connection between the Greeks and Rome. In actual fact Greek aristocracy took over the Roman throne many years before the time of Antiochus. Demaratus the Corinthian was the father of Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, the fifth King of Rome and the grandfather (or great grandfather) of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the seventh and last of the traditional kings of Rome. Demaratus was a Corinthian nobleman of the House of Bacchis who fled charges of sedition in Corinth to Italy in 655BC.
9 I watched until thrones were set in place. And the Ancient of Days took his seat. His garment was as white as snow, and the hair on his head was like pure wool. His throne was like a fiery flame, and his wheels like burning fire. 10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him. A thousand thousands ministered to him. And ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.
11 I watched then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. I watched until the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
13 I was watching in the night visions, And look! One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And he was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, so all peoples, nations, and languages shall serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away. And his kingdom is the one that shall not be destroyed.
Daniel sees the destruction of the beast/Antichrist man, and Jesus Christ given dominion over this world. The other beasts have their dominion taken away, but they are not destroyed. Their lives are prolonged for a future season and time. That I believe is the final battle prophesied in Revelation 20:7-10.
Those who hold the view that Daniel’s vision of the fourth beast depicts only the early Roman Empire need to explain where the others that were not destroyed are nowadays, and why the scene suddenly jumps over two thousand years into the future without any mention of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, or the destruction of the second Jewish temple and the Diaspora. I think it would show those events if it was a forward-looking linear view of history starting from Daniel’s time.
15 I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the center of my body, and the visions of my mind troubled me. 16 I came close to one of those that stood by, and asked him what all this meant. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things. 17 Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings that shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.
That phrase “shall arise” is future tense. In this context it means we are not reading about kings that are already established at the time Daniel has this vision. It means these are future kings. So neither Nabonidus nor Belshazzar is among them.
An example of how mistaken ideas, coupled with a lack of historical knowledge can cause otherwise sound Bible scholars to think they are justified in breaking basic rules of grammar, is seen in the following explanation of why verse seventeen doesn’t mean what it says in plain English.
Taken from Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:
“Nor is it any material objection that the first of these kingdoms, the Babylonian, was risen already, and almost at an end; since the denomination is taken from the larger number; three of them were to arise, and the first was of the same original with them; thus it is said, Daniel 11:2, that three kings of Persia should stand up, and yet Cyrus, who was one of them, reigned already.”
Below is an account of the succession of Persian rulers beginning with Cyrus. We can clearly see the “three more kings in Persia, and the fourth” that are predicted in Daniel 11:2. Cyrus was not one of them!
Daniel chapter eleven begins in the court of Cyrus the Great. Under his leadership the Persian Empire expanded to include most of Southwest and Central Asia, from the Hellespont and Egypt in the west to the Indus River in the east, creating the largest world empire seen up to that time.
His son, Cambyses II, expanded the empire into Egypt, and was succeeded for a few months by his younger brother Bardiya.
Darius I later tried to expand the empire into Greece. His first attempt failed. He began planning a second expedition, but died before he could mount it, leaving the task to his son Xerxes I.
This Xerxes I was the fourth king after Cyrus. It is this Xerxes who is named in the book of Esther as Ahasuerus. The name Ahasuerus is equivalent to the Greek name Xerxes, both derived from the old Persian language Xšayārša.
There is some dispute over whether or not it was Bardiya who ascended the throne for those few months. One version of events has it that Bardiya died before becoming king, and an impostor by the name of Gaumata or Smirdis took his place. But even if it was an impostor on the throne of Persia, that still equates to a total of four kings after Cyrus the Great.
Xerxes was the king who chapter 11:2 predicted will “stir up all against Grecia”. According to Herodotus, in 480BC Xerxes attacked Greece with an army of more than two million, including 10,000 elite warriors named Persian Immortals. Although initially successful in his campaign. He had to send part of his army back to Babylon to put down a rebellion that had flared up during his absence. Those that remained were defeated in a battle at Plataea the following year. Many years later Alexander the Great would come looking for revenge.
Daniel’s visions concerns things that affect all peoples. But to tell their story they focus on issues that mostly effect his people and Jerusalem during The Times Of The Gentiles.
He had this vision whilst living in Babylon around ten years before that empire was overthrown by Medo-Persia, and his people released from their seventy years in captivity by decree of Cyrus, king of the greatest empire the world had seen up to that time.
Is it any surprise that his vision is of the final years of The Times Of The Gentiles? Or that it begins during the time of another greatest empire the world has ever seen? An empire that makes a similar decree to that made by Cyrus. A decree that would result in Israel’s national revival.
“His Majesty’s government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country”. [Balfour Declaration. November 2nd 1917]
FIND OUT WHAT THOSE BEASTS ACTUALLY SYMBOLIZE:
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