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Bible Search
The Wild Kingdom(s) (chapter 7)
Thriving in Babylon
The Wild Kingdom(s)
Daniel 7
 
Tonight we come to Daniel chapter 7.  If you are like me, the first part of Daniel is much more familiar than the last.  Part of that is due to the fact that the book divides neatly into two parts.
 
The first six chapters are biography, telling the story of Daniel’s deportation to Babylon and his adventures in the courts of various pagan kings. Again and again we see him standing firm under pressure, facing danger and death, and in the end being promoted by God to ever-higher positions of power.
 
Then, beginning in chapter 7, the book changes from biography to prophecy. The last six chapters detail four visions given to Daniel in the last 20 years of his life. They center around the nations and empires of the world, especially as they relate to God’s plan for Israel.
 
There are some indicators of these prophecies in the first half of the book, such as the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar and the overview of world history given through them.  We'll talk more about that in a moment.
 
The first and perhaps, the greatest of these visions is the one before us tonight chapter 7. Theologian John Walvoord calls this vision the most comprehensive Old Testament prophecy of the future.
Many of the Jewish scribes considered it the greatest chapter of the Old Testament. And the gospel writers quoted from it on many occasions.
 
What I want to do, first of all, is summarize the vision, which is described in verses 1-14, then make a few general statements about it.  Then we'll come back and look at it in more detail.
 
One night as Daniel was on his bed, he had a dream and then visions came to him during his dream. You might be wondering, "What's the difference in a dream and a vision?"  Good question! 
 
In the Hebrew, the differentiate between the words seems to indicate that in the dream he had, there was an appearance.  The appearance was of four bests that emerged from the sea, one after the other as the four winds of heaven began whipping up the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
 
First came a lion with wings. Then a ferocious bear raised up on one side. Then a leopard with four wings and four heads. Then an unidentified beast more terrible than the first three. The fourth beast had iron claws and ten horns on its head.
 
As Daniel watched, an 11th horn came up from among the ten horns and conquered three of them. Then the “little horn” began to boast of its power and to blaspheme God.
 
At that moment, thrones appeared and the Ancient of Days, which is a term for God, came to judge the world. The little horn and the fourth beast were destroyed and cast into burning flames.
 
Then Daniel saw the Son of Man, which is a term understood by both Jews and Christians to reference the Messiah, as He comes in power and glory to set up his kingdom on the earth.
 
This is what Daniel saw, and as you can imagine, verse 15 tells us that Daniel was grieved in his spirit and body by this troubling vision. 
 
Then, beginning in verse 16, the vision is interpreted.  Before we look at that section, I want to go back to chapter 2 and lay alongside the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar this dream of Daniel and note the similarities. 
 
In the first dream, the king saw a vast statue made of four metals: head of gold, chest of silver, thighs of bronze, legs of iron, feet of mixed iron and clay. A stone cut out of a mountain hits the statue at its feet (the iron and clay part), smashing it to bits. Then the stone grew until it filled the whole earth.
 
Daniel explained to the king that the four metals represent four successive world empires—decreasing in value from top to bottom but increasing in strength. Nebuchadnezzar (and the Babylonian empire) was the head of gold. Three other empires would come later. We know from history those empires were Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
 
Daniel explained that the feet of iron and clay represented the breakup of the fourth kingdom into various countries, some strong and some weak. The stone that hit the feet represented the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to destroy all manmade kingdoms and to establish his kingdom on the earth.
 
So how do these two dreams relate to one another?  That's what we find out beginning in verse 16 of Daniel 7 when an angel comes to Daniel to interpret the dream. 
 
The angel informs him that, just like the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, this dream also presents four kingdoms that are symbolized by these four bests. 
 
verses 17-18
 
Just so we're clear, the "Great Sea" of verse 2 that is stirred up is the “sea” of humanity, the churning, roiling tumult of people and nations and politics and armies, as first one group and then another vies for power.
 
Out of that chaos four kingdoms emerge, one after another. And don't forget, as we saw in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, in the Last Days there will be a “fifth kingdom" which is the kingdom of God on the earth.  It will be established when the Lord Jesus Christ returns in power and great glory and subdues all the earthly kingdoms.
 
Let’s lay the images from those two dreams side by side and make a comparison.
 
Babylon—Gold—Lion
 
Medo-Persia—Silver—Bear
 
Greece—Bronze—Leopard
 
Rome—Iron—Unnamed ferocious beast
 
What about the feet and toes of iron and clay? They approximate the ten horns of Daniel 7. What about the “little horn” who becomes dominant? He is mentioned in Daniel 7 but not in Daniel 2.
 
So why are same four empires referred to as metals in one dream and beasts in another? Let me give you a suggestion about that.
 
I find it interesting that Daniel could interpret Nebuchadnezzar's dream, but he didn't understand this one.  It took an angel to tell him what it meant.  Is it possible that we are given a suggestion of perspective by the interpretations?  One viewpoint is earthly and human, while the other is heavenly.  
 
I would suggest the statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream shows us the empires of the world from man's perspective.  They are beautiful, precious, highly valued, and deserving of our praise.
 
But the beasts from Daniel's dream are the same kingdoms as God sees them. They are ferocious beasts, bent on conquest, plunder, destruction, and domination. God sees beyond the glitter of the world to the depraved nature inside the heart of every human ruler. He isn’t fooled by mighty armies, hanging gardens, vast palaces, and sumptuous feasts. He knows that the heart of man is the heart of a beast. It is “desperately wicked” and full of evil.
 
So what we see in Daniel 7 is the nature of every kingdom built by man as God sees it.  They are earthly, brutal, destructive, and ultimately temporary. Nothing made by the hands of man lasts forever. One kingdom falls, another rises only to fall and have its place taken by yet another kingdom.
The same is true in the business world, the corporate world, and in every field of human endeavor. The lion rises only to be defeated by the bear who falls to the leopard who is crushed by an unnamed beast. So it goes.
 
There is constant tension and conflict.  This is the history of humanity until the end when Jesus Christ finally comes back to earth. Then, and not until then, all earthly kingdoms are finally replaced by the kingdom of God. And that kingdom will last forever.
 
So Daniel sees these four beasts coming out of the sea of humanity.  The four animals in the dream represent four great World empires.  They are Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman.  This fourth kingdom will exist in exist in various forms until the return of Christ. 
 
In fact, what we see in the world today is simply an extension of the mindset of the Roman Empire.  Since the Roman Empire fell in 476 AD, no other worldwide empire has arisen to replace it. And even though it collapsed, the remnants continued in various forms for centuries, leading eventually to the Holy Roman Empire, to the nation-states of Europe, and ultimately to the modern nations of Europe and the Mediterranean basin.
 
Since no nation conquered Rome and since no empire replaced it, it is right to say that there have been only four great world empires from Daniel’s day until now. In that sense we are still in the general period of the fourth beast which means, to use the symbolism of Daniel 2, we are living in the period of the feet of iron and clay.
 
Now, Daniel's dream tells us that ten kings will arise from this fourth kingdom.  I take that to mean that these ten kings represent ten end-time rulers or nations that will in some way be related to the territory of the old Roman empire.
 
And eventually, one king will arise from among the ten kings and become dominant.  We don't know who he is or how he will rise to power or how he will subdue three of the ten kings. All of that will become clear in the days preceding the return of Christ to the earth because we identify that person in the New Testament as the Anti-Christ. 
 
And Daniel 7 gives us the first extended revelation in the Bible about the antichrist. There is further information in the New Testament, especially Matthew 24, 2 Thessalonians 2, and Revelation 13-19.
 
But just by reading Daniel 7, we already know this "little horn" the antichrist will be an arrogant man who will attack the saints and will blaspheme God.
He speaks “boastful words” in his rise to worldwide power. Along the way he persecutes the saints of God and openly blasphemes the Lord God. In the end he will set up himself as God on earth and command all people to worship him.
 
And notice, verse 25 tells us he will attempt "to change times and law.” No one really knows what this means. Will it involve somehow adjusting the time schedule so that we no longer have a 24-hour day? Will he invoke a five-day week? Or a 15-month year? Changing the laws indicates that he will attack the moral foundations of society.
When the antichrist comes to power, wrong will become right and right will become wrong. Moral values will be inverted as he makes his final mad bid for world domination.
 
Verse 25 also tells us he will be in power for 3½ years, and the saints of God will be handed over to him for that time.  That is a reference to the last half of the Tribulation, just before the Lord Jesus Christ returns to the earth to set up his kingdom.  And the saints referenced there are those that refuse the mark of the beast and refuse to submit to the authority of the anti-Christ.
 
And then the dream concludes by telling us about the King, Jesus Christ, who will defeat the antichrist and establish his kingdom on the earth.
 
Listen to how that defeat is described in
 
Revelation 19:19-20
 
So the “little horn” of Revelation 7 who is the “antichrist”, is also called “the beast” in Revelation.
 
 And even though he is known by many names, he comes to the same end every time. He will be cut off at the height of his power, suddenly destroyed, utterly defeated, and thrown alive into the lake of fire where he will be tortured forever and ever.
 
This will be the final destiny of the little horn with the big mouth. You might call it “Battle of the Big Little Horn.” We more commonly call it the Battle of Armageddon.
 
And notice, verse 27 ends with a reminder that the saints of God will inherit the kingdom and reign with Christ forever.
 
Now, I realize that is a lot of information and it can be hard to keep it all in order.  So if you have trouble processing all of that, don't feel bad because, as we've already seen and it is repeated in verse 28,  when Daniel heard the interpretation, he was troubled, so much so that is showed on his face. 
And it was so troubling, he decided not to tell anyone else, probably because the vision seemed beyond human comprehension.
 
But the end of the story is always the same. Once earthly kingdoms have been overthrown and the Lord’s kingdom established, God’s people will reign with the Lord on the earth forever. This is the best news of all from Daniel 7. Jesus Christ wins in the end and those who are joined with him by faith share in his triumph.
 
Now, it seems to me that Daniel 7 teaches us four important lessons about history from God’s point of view.
 
1. Though we glory in our accomplishments, God sees human history as a succession of empires built on immorality, greed, and violence.
 
We see the pomp and the glory, we revel in our prosperity, and we claim that the state of the union has never been better. But God sees through all the smoke and mirrors. He isn’t fooled. Not for a second. What we worship as beautiful, even what we honor and protect and pledge allegiance to, ultimately, He sees as ugly, decadent, and violent.
2. Human history will come to a terrible climax in the future reign of antichrist.
 
This is the logical end of humanism. When you leave God out, you get the antichrist. When you take down the Ten Commandments, you get school shootings.  When will we figure out that turning away from the moral foundations of Western Civilization does not produce a better environment!  The antichrist rises precisely because nature abhors a vacuum. When you dispense with God, you must fill the void with something else.
 
3. Human history will once again see the direct intervention of God.
 
This is wonderful news for believers and terrifying news for everyone else. Men say, “Where is the promise of his coming? All things continue as they have from the beginning of creation. Nothing ever changes. All those miracles that happened back in Bible times, and all those plagues, that could never happen again” (see 2 Peter 3:1-9).
 
Wrong! Jesus said “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:26-27). And what were they doing in Noah’s day? Eating, drinking, and getting married.
 
That is, it was life as usual. Then one day without warning, the rains came down and the floods came up. And just like that an entire civilization was destroyed. Something even more devastating will happen in the future when Jesus returns and overthrows the antichrist and his gathered forces.
 
4. When Christ sets up His Kingdom, His saints will rule with him.
 
This is our hope for the future. We who have joined ourselves with Christ by faith will rule and reign with him. He will win the victory and we will “receive” the kingdom from him.
 
I realize I'm loading you up with a lot of information tonight, but before we close, I want to step back from the close-up look at this prophecy for a moment and see it in its larger historical setting. 
 
Much of it has already been fulfilled. The first three kingdoms have come and gone and the fourth kingdom ended as an organized entity 1600 years ago. I mention that only as an encouragement.  I think there is every reason to believe that the rest of Daniel 7 will be fulfilled also. 
 
So if that is true, what should we look for in the future as we near the end of this age? Let me give you six trends to watch for as revealed in Scripture. 
 
1. Rise in spiritual counterfeits and false authorities.
 
Jesus warned us in Matthew 24 to beware of false Christs and those who claim to come in his name (Matthew 24:4-5, 10-11). In the last days spiritual counterfeits will appear who will lead many people astray.
 
2. Search for a leader who can bring the world together.
 
The “little horn” will arise precisely because he promises to unite the nations. Isn’t this what the world wants? And isn’t that what the pundits predict for the new millennium? A few years back, BBC did an interview with former CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite in which he said,
 
"I think we are realizing that we are going to have to have an international rule of law. We need, not only an executive to make international law, but we need the military forces to enforce that law and the judicial system to bring the criminals to justice before they have the opportunity to build military forces that use these horrid weapons that rogue nations and movements can get hold of—germs and atomic weapons. Our whole society is in danger—more than it’s ever been from limited numbers of people—terrorism, national war movements, civil war type movements. There’s going to be a realization of that now. Whereas before, there was a possibility of each nation being in its own way insular, particularly the USA, being protected by two great oceans. We are not protected by two great oceans any longer. American people are going to begin to realize that perhaps they are going to have to yield some sovereignty to an international body to enforce world law, and I think that’s going to come to other people as well. It’s a fair distance to get there, but we are not ever going to get there unless we keep trying to push ourselves onto the road."
 
That’s a long quote but I included it because it shows how quickly we are moving from national sovereignty to a call for some kind of executive to enforce international law.
 
Cronkite plainly says that America must prepare to “yield some sovereignty” to an international body. And we should do it, he says, in the name of peace and security against terrorism.  That was in January of 2000.  Since then, we've seen agendas like that of Barack Obama trying to accomplish that very thing. 
 
In fact, the election of Donald Trump was due in large part to a pushback from conservative Americans who long once again for us to reclaim our status as a world power marked by American exceptionalism.  And one of these days, it will happen.  America will cede here sovereignty to a world organization of some type and we'll all get along, oro so they claim. 
 
3. More bloodshed and violence among the nations.
 
This comes directly from Daniel 7. Each succeeding beast is more bloodthirsty than the previous one. That shouldn't surprise us since Jesus himself said there will be “wars and rumors of wars” until he returns (Matthew 24:6). My point is that these things won’t diminish as we near the end; they will increase in fury and in tempo.
 
4. Increasing hostility to Christians and to the gospel message.
 
You can't read Daniel’s story and not be struck by how much Daniel was hated by those around him, this in spite of the fact that he was a man of integrity who kept his word and displayed tremendous courage. And nothing much has changed since then. The people of the world still hate the people of God.
Jesus warned his followers to expect trouble in the world (John 14:18-25). “If they hated me, they will hate you also.”   And I'm afraid those of us who enjoy the privileges our freedoms and heritage have afforded us for too long have lived in a kind of “bubble” of personal peace and safety while our brothers and sisters in places like Sudan, Somalia, parts of India and China, and in many other countries have paid in blood for their faith.
 
I believe it highly likely the “easy days” are coming to an end as the world grows more and more antagonistic to the Christian faith.  Hard times are coming as the “bubble” begins to burst and we are just as well to get ready for it. 
 
5. Massive rejection of traditional morality.
 
This follows from everything else. The whole point of humanism is to produce a worldview that leaves God out. Thus we have evolution instead of creation, widespread sexual immorality, the glorification of homosexuality, and the redefinition of marriage and the family. The Bible warns us against those who call evil good and good evil. Brace yourself. The worst is yet to come.
 
6. Apparent victory of evil.
 
There will be times when the bad guys seem to have won it all.  During the final 3½ years of the tribulation, it will look to the untaught as if God has been dethroned and the world has fallen completely into the lap of the antichrist.
 
As those days come nearer, don’t be surprised at “preliminary victories” by the forces of darkness. After all, the whole world lies in the devil’s lap already. He keeps trying to claim “squatter's rights” over the world God created for his own glory. Until he is forcibly evicted, he will “rule the roost” and appear to be invincible.  But I want to remind you, God is still on the throne!  God is not worried about the “little horn” or any other horn for that matter. He knows how to “de-horn” the antichrist when the time comes. So take heart and trust in God.
 
And be patient! We know that sooner or later, it’s all going to happen just as God said it would. Just wait as the Lord brings it all to completion.  I want to remind you, we're on the winning side!  As the gospel song says, I’ve read the end of the book and we win. That’s certainly the final note of Daniel’s amazing vision. Bad days are coming for planet earth, but in the end those who know the Lord will reign with him.
 
A few days ago I ran across a sentence that stuck in my mind: “All the threads of history lead to the throne room of God.” How true that is. So many times the “threads” of life seem to dangle meaninglessly. Or they are entangled in a hopeless knot. If we could see the big picture, we would discover that every thread of life leads back to God.
Today we live in turmoil. In a sense, judgment has already begun as nations rise and fall, the killing continues around the world, and our leaders repeatedly disappoint us. All these things are but the beginning of sorrows.
 
Yet we should not lose heart. The best and worst is yet to come. History is leading to a awesome climax as the antichrist briefly rules the world in a desperate bid to dethrone God Almighty.
But I will remind you, God Almighty is God All-Mighty. History leads to the antichrist but it doesn’t stop there. It leads on to the return of Jesus Christ in power and great glory.
 
Today God lays his hand on us. He sees us in the midst of the swirling, fighting, bloodthirsty nations. He sees us in our confusion and in our frustration. He knows that we are easily baffled by circumstances and quickly led astray.
 
We are part of that great roiling sea of humanity Daniel saw. In the midst of all that happens around us, God bids us to look up to his throne. Look up to the One who holds history in his hands. “Look up,” Jesus said, “for your redemption draws near.”
 
I find great encouragement from the fact that a great stone hit the statue in Daniel 2 and smashed it to bits. That Stone is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Rock of Ages, the Stone of Stumbling, and the Rock of Our Salvation. He is the stone the builders rejected. That stone has become the cornerstone of salvation. And someday (may it be soon, Lord) that stone will smash the statue and the kingdoms of the earth will disappear.
 
Where will you be when the stone hits the statue? If you are on the stone, you will be safe. If you are under the stone, you will be smashed like everyone else. Build your life on the Stone of God’s Salvation, the Rock of Ages, the Lord Jesus Christ. Stand on the Stone and in the Last Day you will be still be standing when everything else has disappeared.
 
Let's pray.
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