Grace Theological Journal 6.2 (1985) 247-256.
[Copyright © 1985 Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission;
digitally prepared for use at
DANIEL 7: A VISION OF FUTURE
KENNETH O. GANGEL
The vision of Daniel 7, like the dream of Daniel 2, gives a picture
of history future to the time of the writing of the book of Daniel (ca.
6th century B.C.). Each of the four beasts represents a kingdom, the
last one being
and one future. Correlations can be traced between Daniel 7 and the
book of Revelation.
* * *
THE book of Daniel may be outlined as having two sections, the
first section consisting of chaps. 1-6 and the second of chaps.
7-12. The vision in Daniel 7 portrays the same chronological order of
events as is found in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Dan -45). It is
important, however, to grasp the chronology of the book itself. The
vision recorded in Daniel 7 occurred in approximately 553 B.C., four-
teen years before the events recorded in chap. 5. Indeed, chaps. 7 and
8 (set as they are in the first and third years of the reign of Belshazzar)
fit historically between chaps. 4 and 5.
Daniel 7 links with the first part of the book partly because it is
in Aramaic and therefore seems to continue the narrative of 2:4-6:28,
but also because it parallels the subject matter, particularly of chap. 2.
chapter [Daniel 7] constitutes the climax, and
it is the
relation to the whole book; subsequent chapters treat only part of the
picture and concentrate on some particular aspect of it."l
But Daniel 7 is as marked by disparity from the previous six
chapters as it is by similarity. For one thing, beginning in Daniel 7
and throughout the second half of the book, information is received
through angelic mediation rather than through dreams as it had been
in Daniel 1-6. The method of reporting also changes, switching from
the third to the first person.
1 Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel (TOTC; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1978) 137.
248 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
It is essential and unavoidable to compare chap. 2 with chap. 7.
Culver has summarized the comparisons succinctly.
The differences between the dream prophecy of chapter 2 and the
vision prophecy of chapter 7 are chiefly as follows: 1) The dream was
not seen originally by a man of God but by a heathen monarch, hence
it was something that would appeal to such a man and which might be
readily explicable to his intellect. The vision was seen by a holy man of
God, and hence in terms more readily explicable to his intellect. 2) The
first presented the history of nations in their outward aspect--majestic,
splendid; the second in their inward spiritual aspect--as ravening wild
beasts. This might be elaborated to say that the first is a view of the
history of nations as man sees them, the second as God sees them.
Since the same general subject is treated in this vision as in the
dream of chapter 2 it is natural that the same general principles present
in that prophecy should follow here--the same series of powers, the
same continuity of rule, degeneration and character of authority, divi-
sion of sovereignty, and increasing strength of the kingdoms.2
Some have suggested that chap. 2 is the cosmological view (perhaps
even the cosmetic view) of the nations whereas chap. 7 provides the
spiritual view, which demonstrates the onerous reality of the pagan
This study focuses attention on the vision of the four beasts and
the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7. This study does not discuss similar-
ities between Daniel 7 and other ancient works3 but seeks to elucidate
the text as it is found.
THE VISION OF THE FOUR BEASTS
Dan 7:1-7, 15-17 describes the vision of the four beasts. The
question of how to understand the metaphorical phrases such as "the
four winds" (7:2) is crucial. The image of "wind" in the book of
Daniel seems to be used of God's sovereign power and therefore
suggests a picture of heavenly forces (, 44). Some have suggested
that "four" symbolizes the completeness of the whole earth.
This image is used to describe the chaos from which the four
beasts arise. It occurs already in Isaiah and Jeremiah where the roar of
nations is compared to the roaring of the seas (Isa. 17:12-13; Jer. 6:23).
The four winds need not signify more than the totality of the earth, the
whole earth, the four corners.4
2 Robert D. Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days (Westwood: Revell, 1954) 126.
3 For an article that sees similarities between Daniel 7 and other ancient works see
Helge S. Kvanvig, An Akkadian Vision as Background for Daniel 7?" ST 35 (1981)
4 Ziony Zevit, "The Structure and Individual Elements of Daniel 7," ZNW, 80
GANGEL: DANIEL 7: A VISION OF FUTURE WORLD HISTORY 249
Daniel also sees a "great sea," quite possibly a picture of humanity
(cf. Luke ; Matt ; Rev 13:1), suggesting unrest and con-
fusion. The world rages like a sea when it is whipped by the heavenly
winds. Daniel relates that four different great beasts come up out of
this troubled sea (7:3).
The lion with the eagle's wings (7:4) parallels the gold head of
2:37, 38. The lion signifies strength and the eagle's wings, swiftness. The
reference to "heart of man" may point to the individual at the center
or it may refer back to the events of . Throughout the book of
Daniel, God shows Nebuchadnezzar the source of his authority and
how his and all other human monarchies fade into insignificance
when confronted with the absolute reign of God. Pusey notes, "The
intense nothingness and transitoriness of man's might in its highest
estate, and so of his, Nebuchadnezzar's own also, and the might of
God's kingdom, apart from all human strength, are the chief subjects
of this vision, as explained to Nebuchadnezzar.5
The second beast "looked like a bear" (7:5). Though bears appear
thirteen times in the Bible, the use of the simile here should be cor-
related with the silver breast of . It depicts the
The size of the animal may be intended to symbolize the size of the
Persian armies, which contained as many as two and a half million
men (notably in the battles of Xerxes against
("raised up on one side") is thought by some to indicate a predatory
stance--as if the great beast were about ready to pounce. Others
suggest that this symbolizes the dominance of
mouth is also debated. Gaebelein indicates, "The bear had three ribs
in its mouth, because
conquered by this power.6 Leupold generalizes the number.
"Three" appears to be a number that signifies rather substantial con-
quests and is not to be taken literally. For the Medo-Persian empire
conquered more than
of three definite powers are more or less arbitrary. Three does some-
times signify nothing more than a fairly large number and has no
reference to God or the holy Trinity. That is especially true in a case
like this. Someone has rightly remarked that "the three ribs constitute a
The third beast "looked like a leopard" (7:6). It had four wings,
four heads, and was given authority to rule.
5 E. B. Pusey, Daniel the Prophet (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1885) 118.
7 H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1941) 292.
250 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
in 539 B.C. Then in 336 B.C. Alexander came like a leopard from his
lair with his Greek army headed by four generals and known, not for
its size like
with the bronze belly and thighs of .
Most conservative scholars believe that Daniel was written in the
sixth century B.C. but other scholars assume that the book is a second
century B.C. diatribe against Antiochus Epiphanes. Such scholars
usually consider the four kingdoms of Daniel 7
tation of the beasts. Hanhart, however, believes that the third beast
the dream of Daniel and the vision of Daniel 7 as referring to four
contemporary kingdoms, not a succession of sequential kingdoms.
Part of his argument is based upon Rev 13:2:
A clue, hidden in Rev. 13:2, namely that the leopard in Dan. 7:6
must represent the Romans and not the Parthians, strengthens an earlier
observation that the four beasts in Dan. 7 represent four contempora-
neous kingdoms existing alongside each other. These two data upset
the age old axiom that in Dan. ff. and in 7:2 ff. the same empires
are intended, for in the order of succeeding kingdoms the Roman
empire cannot possibly appear ahead of that of the Hellenes. The
introductory phrase, "The four winds of heaven were stirring up the
great sea," leads me to conclude that the four kingdoms in Dan. 7
are situated around the
of the compass, to wit: South-Egypt, the lion; East-Persia, the
bear; West-Rome, the leopard; North-Syria, the anonymous beast,
probably an elephant! (exclamation point mine).8
Hanhart's approach is imaginative but has not been widely accepted.
It seems clear that the symbolism of Daniel 2, 7, and 8 portrays a
succession of four kingdoms.
The final beast is "terrifying and frightening and very powerful"
(7:7). It was different from the other beasts in several ways, not the
least of which was its ten horns. The iron teeth of 7:7 correspond with
the iron legs of and the ten horns with the ten toes. Most con-
servatives identify this beast as Rome.9 Rome ruled the world for
over 700 years from 336 B.C. to A.D. 407. Even after
the sack of
there were "Roman" rulers until the time of the Renaissance.
8 K. Hanhart, "The Four Beasts of Daniel's Vision in the Night in the Light of
Rev. 13:2," NTS 27 (1981) 580-81.
9 For a conservative but unconvincing attempt to identify the fourth beast as
GANGEL: DANIEL 7: A VISION OF FUTURE WORLD HISTORY 251
As the four empires which were destined successively to wield
sovereign power during "the times of the Gentiles" are represented in
Nebuchadnezzar's dream by the four divisions of the great image, they
are here typified by four wild beasts. The ten toes of the image in the
second chapter have their correlatives in the ten horns of the fourth
beast in the seventh chapter. The character and course of the fourth
empire are the prominent subject of the later vision, but both prophecies
are equally explicit yet the empire in its ultimate phase will be brought
to a signal and sudden end by a manifestation of Divine power on
This is certainly a lugubrious scene for the
had been in ruins for more than forty years and Daniel had been in
and go and then God had revealed to him how he would prepare the
world for the Messiah's kingdom. The beasts were important in the
back to their own land.
culture and a language by which the Gospel would be communicated
all over the Mediterranean world.
build roads and write laws so that Christ's messengers could carry his
Word wherever they were sent.
Before Daniel was able to inquire about any details regarding the
terrible beast and the little horn, he saw the Ancient of Days enter the
scene (Dan 7:9-10). But before looking at these verses, I will briefly
consider the vision of the little horn.
THE VISION OF THE LITTLE HORN
The vision of the little horn is recorded in Dan 7:11-12, 19-25.
After all of the beasts had been "stripped of their authority" (),
each was "allowed to live for a period of time." Some suggest that
this phrase means that each lived out its God-ordained time. Another
possibility is that each lived on into the next in the way that Greek
culture continued throughout the Roman era. The one exception is
the fourth beast which was completely slain, destroyed and thrown
into the blazing fire. Concerning the fourth beast, its ten horns and
particularly the little horn, three questions surface.
What About the Fourth Beast?
I noted above that the fourth beast corresponds to the legs and
feet of the image in Daniel 2, and that both are to be equated with the
10 Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1903)
252 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
in that it will be revived in some form at the end time. The connection
with the future kingdom of cannot be overlooked. Culver
reminds us, "Nearly all Postmillennialists, Amillennialists, and Pre-
millennialists unite in affirming that the Man of Sin of Paul and the
Antichrist and first Beast of John are the same as this 'little horn' of
Daniel seven."11 The intense cruelty demonstrated by the fourth beast
is its primary distinctive; it tramples down and crushes as its wanton
cruelty destroys the world.
What About the Ten Horns?
There will be dissension within the fourth beast's kingdom. The
eleventh king (the little horn) will subdue three
reminds us that the ascendance of the little horn has not been fulfilled
historically and suggests that "the Roman earth shall one day be
parceled out in ten separate kingdoms, and out of one there shall
arise that terrible enemy of God and His people, whose destruction is
to be one of the events of the second advent ofChrist."12
What About the Little Horn?
Dan 7:20b-25 unfolds the first thorough biblical description of
the Antichrist. Daniel 8 may refer to Antiochus Epiphanes, but only
the Antichrist can be in view in Daniel 7 (cf. -21). Daniel
was especially interested in this aspect of the fourth beast's kingdom
(). At the beginning the little horn will be just another human
king (7:8). But then he will become greater than the "horns" before
him () and will be uniquely different from the other horns (,
24), running an absolute dictatorship. Through his keen intelligence
(7:8, 20) he will conquer three kings and will boastfully represent
himself as the ultimate lawless one (2 Thess 2:9, 10). His ultimate
enemy is not any of his contemporary kings but the people of God
and, therefore, God himself. Even though the saints of God will be
given into his hand, his time is limited--"a time, times and half a
Four characteristics of his role are given: i) blasphemy, ii) long-
drawn-out persecution (wear out, as a garment, implies this), iii) a new
table of religious festivals
new morality; the outcome will be the subjugation of God 's people. Of
these the third and fourth indicate an intention which is not necessarily
allowed to be carried out, but the people are given into his hand. A
11 Culver, Daniel, 131.
12 Anderson, The Coming Prince, 40.
GANGEL: DANIEL 7: A VISION OF FUTURE WORLD HISTORY 253
greater than he is in control, and whereas this last king thought to
change the times, the greater than he has decreed the time, two times,
and half a time. The expected progression, one, two, three is cut off
arbitrarily but decisively.13
THE VISION OF THE ANCIENT OF DAYS: THE SON OF MAN AND
The picture of Jehovah as seen by Daniel reminds one of the
marvelous worship hymn, "Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise." The
imagery of the passage points to holiness, authority, power and wor-
ship. The phrase "Ancient of Days" is used only three times in
Scripture, all of them in this chapter (, 13, and 22).
It is the name given to the eternal God. Before ever time began,
He is the great I AM. He has always had one clear objective which is
described as His "eternal purpose" (Eph. ). He has never deviated
from this intention of His and when time is no more, He will still be
the I AM, though now with the full realisation of that heart purpose of
One cannot ignore the connection with . "Then I looked
and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thou-
sands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne
and the living creatures and the elders." The open books of
surely should be connected with the books of .
Daniel also provides a picture of the Son of Man. Jesus used this
phrase of himself twenty-seven times in Luke alone. The image of
clouds in v 13 is reminiscent of Sinai (Exod ) and is perhaps the
basis for Matt 24:30. Bock points out how the NT development of the
term "Son of Man" completes the picture begun by Daniel. He sum-
marizes this NT development in the following nine statements:
1. Jesus progressively revealed His messianic understanding of the term.
2. The messianic significance of the term for Jesus is eventually directly
revealed by Jesus to the disciples after Peter's confession
3. Jesus fuses the term with other Old Testament descriptions of His
mission, specifically the Servant, and thus is able to speak of the
Son of Man's necessity to suffer in the suffering sayings which domi-
nate the middle portions of the gospels.
4. As Jesus faces the cross, He begins to reveal to His disciples the
background and significance of the term Son of Man in terms of
Daniel seven with the apocalyptic sayings.
13 Baldwin, Daniel, 146.
14 Harry Foster, "The Secret of Daniel's Strength," Toward the Mark 10 (1981) 8.
254 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
5. This same background is revealed publicly at His trial before the
6. Thus the term is a convenient vehicle for revealing Himself to those
who believe, while avoiding the immediate political connotations of
the term, Messiah.
7. The usage in John's gospel parallels that of the Synoptics while
reflecting a development of themes implicit in both the Synoptics
and Daniel seven.
8. The term in its Danielic usage in the New Testament has in view His
ultimate victory and apocalyptic return, a significant fact in view of
His approaching Passion.
9. Therefore, the term is most appropriate for summarizing Christ's
Christology, for in it one like a man who is more than a man
exercises dominion and authority to such an extent that he can also
be considered divine. As such, He will be the center of a new king-
dom, king in a new age when all men will recognize His authority
and worship His person. God's sovereign plan of history will culmi-
nate in the completion of the Son of Man's mission in eternal
victory. His future return in vindication makes this certain, even as
He heads for the cross. In the promise of His victory, disciples can
walk in hope and expectation even though He went to the cross. His
rule will cause all men to pause at the marvelous grace of God as it
is observed that Jesus the Christ, the Son of Man, is truly the
greatest One whoever walked the earth.15
In Daniel's vision the Son of Man stood in the presence of the
Ancient of Days, and "was given authority, glory and sovereign power;
all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His
dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His
kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" (). The basis for NT
interpretation of the concept of "kingdom" begins here. The millen-
nium is just the beginning of the eternal kingdom, but in the OT the
concept merges into the eternal state. God will ultimately bring
together the saints of all the ages who will possess the everlasting
kingdom of the Son of Man ().
In the light of Daniel's language and its NT development one
wonders about the validity of Zevit's angelic interpretation:
It is the angel Gabriel, representing saints of the Most High, who
receives dominion, glory and kingship-basic elements of God's king-
dom. The interpretation of the vision makes it quite clear that it is the
saints who will receive the kingdom. The author did not dwell on the
angelic figure because he took him for granted. Gabriel and a number
of other heavenly beings continued to function throughout the book
15 Darrell L. Bock, "The Son of Man in Daniel and the Messiah" (unpublished
GANGEL: DANIEL 7: A VISION OF FUTURE WORLD HISTORY 255
because the major concern of the author was not with the celestial, but
with the terrestrial.16
One need not belittle the importance of angels in rejecting such an
inadequate approach, especially in view of Hebrews 1.
Those who study and teach prophecy are sometimes justly accused
of having no concern for the present. Yet this chapter of deep escha-
tological significance also contains a number of lessons for the present
This vision reminds believers that the control of the world belongs
to God (cf. Dan ; ). The world may deny him, curse him,
laugh at him, or ignore him as various kingdoms rise and fall. But
when the throne of the Ancient of Days is set in place, eyery knee
shall bow. The Son of Man and his saints will then prevail. The Son
of Man is not a mere collective personification for the saints. As
. . . "The saints" belong to the vision, and not merely to its inter-
pretation. They have already appeared in the vision as a persecuted
people. It is, therefore, most unlikely that in its further development
they should be represented in symbol by a single individual. But in as
much as the kingdom given to "One like unto a Son of Man" is seen to
be given also to "the saints," we are forced to conclude that the
mysterious person thus described is the God-appointed head of the
Daniel 7 also reminds believers that Satan is indeed the prince of
this world (cf. John ; ; Eph 2:2). Such an awareness, how-
ever, should not lead to monasticism. Daniel is a great historic
example of a godly leader in a pagan society. To be sure, believers are
pilgrims and strangers in the world but that status should not lead to
a total withdrawal from existing society.
The passage also suggests that believers' lives should reflect their
eschatology (, 28). Peter makes the point succinctly when he asks,
"Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people
ought you to be?" (1 Pet 3:11). Then he answers his own question by
saying, "You want to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to
the day of God and speed its coming" (3:11b-12a).
16 Zevit, "Daniel 7," 396.
17 Charles Boutflower,
In and Around
the Book of Daniel (reprint;
Kregel, 1977) 59.
256 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
It is imperative that with bowed hearts all of God's people
recognize that the ultimate glory belongs to him alone (,
Careless seems the great Avenger, history's pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and Thy Word.
Truth forever on the scaffold; wrong forever on the throne! Yet that
Scaffold sways the future, and beyond the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadows, keeping watch above His own.18
18 Quoted by Robert D. Culver (unpublished class notes; Trinity Evangelical
Divinity School, September, 1972).
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Grace Theological Seminary
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