Many years after the reigns of King David and King Solomon, Judah’s kings and the nation would stray from the worship of God, and become vulnerable to invasion by their enemies. Despite God’s and His prophets’ pleading, the people ignored these efforts and were eventually defeated and carried off into exile in Babylon. In the home of their captors, one young exile, the prophet Daniel, was given a dream and visions by God to confirm His plans for the Messiah’s coming and for His return at the end of time. When the Father so chooses, Messiah Jesus will come to fully install His eternal kingdom, living among us on a new earth, and reigning over His redeemed people from all throughout the world. Reading from the book of Daniel:
1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. 2 “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. 3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. Daniel 7:1-3 (NKJV)
4 The first was like a lion…5 “And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear… 6 “After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. Daniel 7:4,5,6 (NKJV)
These beasts are in the same succession and represent the same world empires that had been given to Daniel years earlier through Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, found in Daniel 2. The empire of Babylon was the lion, Medo-Persia is the bear, Greece the leopard, and the Roman Empire will be a fourth beast of iron.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon reigned over the earth like like a great lion, and was at the very top of the statue-like image with a head of gold in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Babylon was later overthrown by the empire of Medo-Persia, which used a slow but steady military force, and was strong like a bear in its conquests. Greece, under Alexander the Great, was smaller in size but swift like a leopard, and used brilliant military tactics to prevail over the lumbering Medo-Persian bear in around 333 BC. Alexander the Great was a military genius who conquered the known world, but then died very young of an undiagnosed illness. His command and his empire were then divided among four inferior generals, whose families ruled over a weakened and partitioned Greek empire until it was replaced by the rise of Rome.
The fourth empire of iron, the Roman Empire, would be in power when Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. But unlike the empires before it, it would not be conquered by an outsider – instead, it collapsed from within. This opened the door for a future restoration of the old Roman empire. This last earthly world power will be led by an evil, demonic autocrat, the Antichrist. He will rule in terror with demonic power until he is defeated and his empire overthrown when Jesus Christ returns.
This future reconstituted Roman empire need not be limited to the geographic boundaries of the original one, which stretched from England, across the Mediterranean to Babylon. Instead, this end times version might include derivatives of the original, perhaps encompassing later colonies or cultures, rather than strictly following ancient Rome’s political boundaries.
Daniel’s vision continued, describing this final earthly leader:
7 “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. Daniel 7:7-8 (NKJV)
The little horn that grows in power is likely the future Antichrist, emerging within the restored Roman Empire to rule the world. This is the Beast also referred to in the New Testament book of Revelation. The ten horns mentioned are likely ten global leaders in the final days, seven of whom will assist the Antichrist in achieving his global domination.
Many have tried to follow this template. Hitler and Mussolini attempted to re-create the Roman Empire with their fascist rule, but by the grace of God, were ultimately defeated. Many of the symbols and pageants they used were intentionally copied from Roman history. With his demonic influences and antisemitic atrocities, Hitler may have been a prototype and forerunner of the future Antichrist.
The prophet Daniel was then told that when all of this is taking place, Messiah Jesus will return to earth to overthrow the Antichrist and to set up His own eternal reign, at long last bringing a true peace and justice to the world.
9 “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated…11 I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame.” Daniel 7:9,11 (NKJV)
The final world empire, led by Antichrist, will come to a fiery end at the decree of God the Father, the Ancient of Days. This will be accomplished at the return of Christ, whom Daniel referred to as the Son of Man.
13 “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. 14 Then to Him was given 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 the one which shall not be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14 (NKJV)
At His first coming, Jesus often quoted the prophet Daniel, and referred to Himself as the Son of Man. When Jesus faced the council of the Sanhedrin before His crucifixion, these religious leaders fully understood this reference and, not believing Jesus was who He was, they considered it blasphemy for Him to refer to Himself this way, as God. This was one of the reasons why they condemned Jesus to death by crucifixion. All became new upon His resurrection from the dead, as will be made abundantly clear at Messiah Jesus’ joyful return.
Like the Sanhedrin who sought to put Him to death, many today do not recognize Jesus for who He truly is. Who do you believe that He is?
Father God, You have set out Your eternal plan in the prophecies of scripture. Help us to learn from them and to be ready in our hearts for when Jesus returns. Use Your ancient words to build up our faith today. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.