The Bible is an amazing Book! Written by forty different authors, over fifteen hundred years, in three different languages, on three different continents and yet there are no errors and no contradictions. One of the greatest lines of evidence for the inspiration of Scripture is fulfilled prophecy. In Daniel chapter 7 God gave the prophet Daniel a vision of world history.
Daniel saw a vision that focused on four great beasts. These beasts represent four great empires. Verse 4 reads, “The first (beast) was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it.”
The first beast represents the Babylonian Empire. The Bible often describes King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians as a lion (Jeremiah 49:19, 22). The main street of Babylon was accessed through the famous Ishtar Gate. German archaeologists discovered this gate in 1899. The gate is covered with pictures of winged lions.
Daniel noticed, “…the wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and mind of a man was given to it.” Most scholars believe this refers to the insanity King Nebuchadnezzar experienced for seven years. The king suffered insanity for seven years but God graciously restored him. God humbled Nebuchadnezzar.
The second beast represents the Medo-Persian Empire. Verse 5 says, “And behold, anther beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’” Nations today are sometimes represented by an animal. America is represented by the eagle, Russia by the bear and China by the dragon. The great Medo-Persian Empire is compared to bear.
It was raised up on one side. The Persians were much stronger than the Medes. The three ribs represent the empire’s three greatest victory. The Medo-Persian Empire defeated Babylon, Lydia and Egypt. “…and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’” The Medo-Persian Empire was very large. It stretched from Egypt to the Aegean in the West all the way to India in the east.
The third beast represents the Greek Empire. Verse 6 says, “After this I saw looked, and behold, another like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads and dominion was given to it.” Alexander the Great conquered the known world in only ten years. He left Greece in the year 334 BC. Ten years later he wept because there were no more worlds to conquer.
Leopards are amazing animals. A leopard can run 36 miles per hour. A leopard can jump 20 feet from a standing start and pounce upon its prey. A leopard can even jump 10 feet vertically. This leopard had “four wings of a bird on its back.” Alexander was exceptionally fast. His well trained, small army used brilliant tactics to defeat much larger foes. Daniel predicted this empire over 200 years before it rose to power.
Alexander died in Babylon at the age of 32. His kingdom was divided among his four generals. The four heads represent the four generals.
The fourth beast is more difficult to interpret. Verse 7 says, “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from the beasts that went before it….”
I believe this beast was the Islamic Caliphate or the Ottoman Empire that ruled from 622 to 1923. This beast was dreadful, terrifying and very strong. It crushed with its teeth and its bronze claws (verse 19).
Islam means “submission.” The Ottoman Empire crushed all that was before it. The Roman Empire was benevolent. The Islamic Caliphate conquered and crushed. It crushed geographically, culturally and spiritually. Any area or people conquered by the Muslims will be radically changed.
There are two valuable lessons we learn from Daniel chapter 7. First, Bible prophecy provides great evidence to trust the Bible. The Bible is not an ordinary Book. Everything we know about the future is found in the Bible.
History is “His story.” It is focused upon the Lord Jesus. Jesus came to die for our sins. He offered a perfect sacrifice to give salvation. He is coming back again! The greatest Book is the Bible. We know God through the Bible. As we open and read the Bible we are hearing the very voice of God. Scripture is a perfect foundation for our lives.
Second, we don’t focus on politics but on God Himself. Daniel received this vision, “In the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon….” (verse 1). This revelation occurred during a time of great upheaval politically. Life is filled with change. It is tumultuous and even chaotic. God, however, is on His throne. He is orchestrating history. He has a perfect plan for history and a perfect plan for your life.
The chapter ends with a tremendous vision of God’s throne in heaven. The Ancient of Days (God the Father) gives the kingdom to the Ancient of Days (God the Son). As Christians, we focus on the big picture. We focus on the final result. This will produce great stability in our lives today.
Ethan Hansen is a pastor at Faith Bible Fellowship in Big Lake.