The Four Beasts: Successive Empires with Deteriorating Morality
Daniel 7 goes over “the habit of prophecy” four times, from the times of the gentiles until Christ is publicly glorified:
1st Vision: The Four Beasts with Details of the First Three (7:1-6)
1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream; he told the sum of the matters. 2 Daniel spoke and said, I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of the heavens broke forth upon the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, different one from another. 4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till its wings were plucked; and it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand upon two feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. 5 And behold, another beast, a second, like unto a bear, and it raised up itself on one side; and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and they said thus unto it: Arise, devour much flesh. 6 After this I saw, and behold, another, like a leopard, and it had four wings of a bird upon its back; and the beast had four heads; and dominion was given to it.
2nd Vision: A Detailed Account of the Fourth Beast (7:7-12)
7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and exceeding strong; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the rest with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. 8 I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another, a little horn, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots; and behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. 9 I beheld till thrones were set, and the Ancient of days did sit: his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was flames of fire, and its wheels burning fire. 10 A stream of fire issued and came forth from before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 11 I beheld therefore, because of the voice of the great words that the horn spoke; I beheld till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed, and it was given up to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away; but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
3rd Vision: of the Dominion of the Son of Man (7:13-14)
13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like a son of man, and he came up even to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
The Interpretation of the 1st Vision (7:15-18)
15 As for me Daniel, my spirit was grieved in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 16 I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the certainty of all this. And he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things: 17 These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, that shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the most high places shall receive the kingdom, and they shall possess the kingdom for ever, even to the ages of ages.
The Interpretation of the 2nd and 3rd Visions (7:19-28)
19 Then I desired to know the certainty concerning the fourth beast, which was different from them all, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and its nails of brass; which devoured, broke in pieces, and stamped the rest with its feet; 20 and concerning the ten horns that were in its head, and the other that came up, and before which three fell: even that horn that had eyes, and a mouth speaking great things, and whose look was more imposing than its fellows. 21 I beheld, and that horn made war with the saints, and prevailed over them; 22 until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most high places; and the appointed time arrived, and the saints possessed the kingdom. 23 He said thus: The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom upon the earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. 24 And as to the ten horns, out of this kingdom shall arise ten kings; and another shall arise after them; and he shall be different from the former, and he shall subdue three kings. 25 And he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most high places, and think to change seasons and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and a half time. 26 And the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 27 But the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heavens, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most high places. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. 28 So far is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my thoughts much troubled me, and my countenance was changed in me; but I kept the matter in my heart.