Thoughts to Ponder: Chapter 19
Chapter 19: Daniel’s Vision Interpreted ~ Daniel 7:15-28
Q1 – What do you suppose is the significance of the most terrifying beast being the fourth? What other groups of four are mentioned in the Bible?
A1 – The fourth beast would be the last one in Daniel’s vision. If his vision parallels Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the great statue, as some Bible scholars suggest, the kingdoms represented by the four beasts would become progressively inferior. In their treatment of God’s people, they would become progressively worse, with the fourth kingdom crushing them.
Why were there four kingdoms? Maybe that’s all that could be endured before the total annihilation of God’s people. Or maybe four was simply random and of no significance. However, the number four is often considered a symbol for completeness in the Bible. Below are some of the interesting fours mentioned in the Bible. What others can you name?
- The river flowing from the Garden of Eden separated into four head headwaters (Genesis 2:10).
- John saw the four angels standing at the four corners of the earth holding back the four winds of the earth (Revelation 7:1). Numerous other scriptures also refer to the four corners and the four winds.
- John also saw four beasts (or creatures, depending on the version) around the throne in heaven continually offering praise (Revelation 4:6-11).
- The rectangle, with its four sides and four corners, has been used through the ages as the common basis for buildings and other structures. For example, consider the shape of the tabernacle and later the temple, the shape of the alters with horns on the four corners, and even Peter’s vision of a sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners (Acts 10:11).
Bible.org offers this interesting article concerning numbers in the Bible entitled, “What is the significance of numbers in Scripture?”
Q2 – How powerful is this fourth beast? Can the holy people defeat this beast on their own?
A2 – “‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it…’” (Daniel 7:23, NIV). This verse tells us just how powerful and ruthless in its rule the fourth kingdom will be. For a period of time, the “holy people” will be under the control of the king who displaces three of the ten kings who rule this empire. Various Bible versions say he will oppress, persecute, or wear out the holy ones.
The grip of this king and his empire will be so powerful that it does not appear God’s people will be able to overcome him on their own. In fact, the beast will be allowed to continue to persecute the holy people for a period of time (see Daniel 7:25). Divine intervention will be needed to take away and destroy his power. “‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever….’” (Daniel 7:26, NIV).
This fourth kingdom represented by this formidable beast is not identified in scriptures. However, various scholars have suggested that the four beasts correspond to the kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the giant statue (see Thoughts to Ponder in previous lesson). If that is true, then this vision could be showing Daniel what would transpire between his lifetime and the coming of Christ when He would establish God’s eternal kingdom by offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind. We know that following Christ’s death, the early Christians endured unimaginable persecution under the Romans. As a result, they scattered and preached the word wherever they went, thus spreading the good news of Christ (Acts 8:4).
Q3 – How do the holy people fare in the end?
A3 – Thankfully, good wins over evil. God’s everlasting kingdom will be established, and His holy people will be given dominion. But, as previously mentioned, it does take divine intervention, with the heavenly court having to pass judgment and take away the power of this evil king. Then, after he is completely destroyed, “The kingdom, dominion, and greatness of the kingdoms under all of heaven will be given to the people, the holy ones of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will serve and obey Him” (Daniel 7:27, HCSB).
So much is unknown concerning the details of this vision as to how and when all these events will occur. But it’s O.K. that we cannot know with certainty what all of this means, because when God wants to make things plain to us, he does. Rather than trying to identify the times of the occurrences or the kingdoms represented by the four beasts, we can take comfort in focusing on what is arguably the most important message of this vision—that God’s people will be delivered and exalted. After enduring the atrocities inflicted upon them, “… the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High” (Daniel 7:27, NIV).