Introduction: This morning we awoke to news about a so-called interim nuclear agreement with Iran regarding sanctions against that country, and the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu wasted no time calling it a “historic mistake.” He’s not the only one. Dr. K. T. McFarland, who is an experienced diplomat and an expert on foreign policy, wrote an analysis of this so-called deal, and it’s worth reading a few paragraphs to you: “President Obama has just reached an historic agreement with Iran. The question is whether it’s historic like the deal Chamberlain got at Munich or the one Nixon got in China.”
She wrote, “For the last generation, America has been broadly aligned with Israel and the Sunni Arab states. President Obama has had a different approach. Even before this agreement, he has seen those relationships fray, badly, especially with Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. They see this agreement as further evidence President Obama has now switched sides. They fear the interim agreement will become the permanent agreement, because once the economic pressure is relieved, Iran will have little incentive to dismantle their nuclear program. So the first goal of the U.S.-Iranian agreement, to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, will fail. Then Iran, with a resurgent economy, and a de facto nuclear power, will become the dominant hegemonic nation in the Persian Gulf and the entire Middle East. The U.S. will be unable or unwilling to stop it.
“While the Israelis and Sunni Arabs won’t like the agreement, what are they likely to do about it? Only time will tell. The interim agreement doesn’t require Iran to dismantle any of its nuclear weapons-making programs. If there is a permanent agreement, Iran has made it clear it will not give up all of these programs, although it might stop just short of having completed nuclear weapons.
“For Iran’s neighbors… a de facto nuclear Iran is just as dangerous to them as a nuclear Iran, and they will take steps to acquire nuclear arsenals of their own. So the second goal of the U.S.-Iran agreement, to prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, will fail….
“It would seem inevitable then, that in the years ahead Iran will become a de facto nuclear state, and a nuclear arms race in the Middle East will ensue.”
Well, there are extraordinarily dangerous days, and there are undoubtedly demonic powers at work behind the scenes lining everything up for the coming antichrist. The Bible talks about world rulers being deceived by demons unawares. I can tell you exactly what’s going to happen in the Middle East and in the world in the future. How far in the future, I don’t know. But we have the outline of biblical prophecy laid out for pretty clear in the book of Daniel
Review: Since we’ve had a break in our Daniel studies, let me remind you of our roadmap of the book. Daniel has twelve chapters. Chapter one is introduction. Chapters two through six are a series of five different stories that all end in the same way and make the same point—God is in charge of history; Heaven rules. Chapter two is especially interesting because in it, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a giant statute. He dreamt of a giant statute, with a head of gold, with a chest of silver, with a bronze midsection, and with legs, feet, and toes of iron and clay. These four sections of the statute represent the four kingdoms that will dominant the story of history—Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Then there is a pause in the action, after which the Roman Empire will somehow be resurrected and reconstituted; and afterward Christ will come and set up His kingdom.
Now today we’re coming to Chapter 7, and this time it’s Daniel who has a powerful dream, but the interpretation is almost the same—four great kingdoms will arise, and the fourth will be resurrected and reconstituted in the Last Days and set the stage of the coming of the antichrist and then for the coming of Christ Himself.
Verse 1: In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.
This would have been in the year 553 B.C. In round terms it was still about half a millennium before Christ came. Daniel would have been in his upper 60s, perhaps around 68 or 69 years old.
Verse 2: Daniel said, “In my mission at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea.”
In the Bible, in visions like this, the sea often represented the churning mass of humanity.
Verse 3: Four great beasts, each different form the others, came up out of the sea.
These four beasts are going to be like the four parts of the statute in Daniel 2. We’re going to go over the same material, but with more details added.
Verse 4: The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it.
This is Babylon. The lion and the eagle were both symbols of Babylon. The description of what happens here probably represents the time King Nebuchadnezzar went insane and when his sanity was restored as he acknowledged the Most High rules in the affairs of men.
Verse 5: And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teach. It was told, “Get up and eat your fill of flesh!”
This represents Persia. It had two sides, and it was raised up on one of its sides. This was the Medo-Persian Empire, made up of the Medes and the Persians, but the Persians were stronger. The three ribs in its mouth probably represent Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon. It devoured other nations.
Verse 6: After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.
This is a remarkably accurate prediction in history. It represents the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great. Alexander swept over the earth so quickly he was likened to a leopard or a bird in swift flight. Under Alexander, his four generals controlled the four different quadrants of his empire, and when Alexander died his kingdom divided into four parts, which ultimately set the stage for the next empire—Rome. Look at verse 7.
Verse 7: After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts…
And now, notice, with the next phrase we leap into the future.
…and it had ten horns.
Look at this verse again and notice the words “beasts” and “and.” Here it is: It was different from all the former beasts…….and it had ten horns. There is a historic gap of at least 2000 years between the words “beasts” and “and.” This is the great interval in which we are now living. We are located in the tiny space between these two words in Daniel 7:7.
Do you remember the ten toes on the statute in Daniel 2? Here is what the Bible teaches, as far as I can ascertain it. Everywhere I turn in both the Old Testament and New Testament, this seems remarkably clear and consistent to me.
Four empires dominate world history—Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. In days of Rome, the Messiah came. He died at Romans hands, then rose again, ascended to heaven, and the Holy Spirit descended and energized the church for the age of grace. This was something the Old Testament prophets were not told. There would be an intermission, a hiatus, an interruption, a gap, an interim in human history to give time for the church of Jesus Christ to take the Gospel to the nations. This is what Clarence Larkin called “The Great Interval.” This is referring to the age of grace. This is the age of the church. This is the age of missions. This is the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. But suddenly the church will be raptured, removed from this world, and the course of history will resume with the resurrection and reconstitution of the Roman Empire, led by the antichrist and consisting of a ten-fold confederation of some kind, setting the stage for Christ to come again. So when we have the ten toes in Daniel 2 or the ten horns in Daniel 7, we are in the Last Days, in the resurrected and reconstituted Roman Empire, hurtling toward the end of time.
Verse 8: While I was thinking about the hors, therefore before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.
This is the antichrist. When the Roman Empire is reassembled with its ten rulers, one of them will rise to ascendency, defeat three of the others, and become the most powerful. He will be a man, and he will be a very boastful man. And then, after the rise of the antichrist and the ensuring events, the Lord Jesus Christ will come again. Look at verse 9:
Verse 9: As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days [referring to God the Father] took His seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before Him. Thousands upon thousands attended Him; then thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I keep looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time).
Verse 13: In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshipped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
In other words, the course of human history, the Great Tribulation, the reign of the antichrist—all this will come to a swift and tragic conclusion when Jesus comes again, and, as we read in the book of Revelation, the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.
Now, I’ve interpreted the dream of Daniel as we’ve gone along, but maybe you’re wondering if I interpreted it correctly. Perhaps I was merely speculating as to its meaning. Well, not to worry. The rest of the chapter explains it all. Look at the next verse:
Verse 15: I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. I approached one of those standing there [perhaps an angel] and asked him the meaning of all this. So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things. The four great beasts are four kings [or kingdoms] that will rise from the earth. But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.
That was a one-sentence synopsis. But Daniel wanted more information.
Verse 19: Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot what was left. I also wanted to know about the ten hors on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeated them [that would be the Jews, back in their land of Israel], until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.
Verse 20: He gave me this explanation: 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. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. [This is the antichrist]. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws.
In other words, the antichrist will try to abolish the festivals and sacrifices and laws of Judaism. And notice the last half of verse 25: The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times, and half a time.
The holy people represent the nation of Israel. And they will be under siege in great tribulation for three-and-a-half years—time (one year), times (two years), and half a time (half a year). That equals the last half of the seven-year Tribulation, and we call this last half of the Tribulation, the Great Tribulation. Jesus said that unless those days had been shortened no one would have been saved. Every Jew would be massacred, but for the sake of the elect those days are shortened. Look at verse 26:
But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey Him.
The chapter ends with verse 28: This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.
Conclusion: To recap, Daniel had a dream that corresponded to the same sequence we saw in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2: Babylon — Persia — Greece — Rome — (Dispensation of Grace, beginning with Pentecost and ending with the Rapture) — Rome Reconstituted — The Little Horn, the Antichrist — The Great Tribulation of 3 1/2 years — the Return of Christ. I can’t think of a better thing for us to study today. We woke up this morning with breaking news about this so-called deal with Iran, which will pave the way for a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. But we go to bed tonight with a study of Daniel 7 and with the prophecies of God about how it will all end. The information in Daniel has been demonstrated exactly true in the past; the prophecies of God are undeniably true for the future, and the future is coming to us swiftly.