The Four Beasts and the Little Horn
Fulfilled Bible prophecy proves that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. It also gives us faith that prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled will also happen, and exactly as the Bible says they will. That’s why the book of Daniel is so important: It contains prophecies that have very clearly and specifically been fulfilled, as well as ones about momentous events that many Bible scholars and other Christians believe will come to pass in our lifetime.
As recorded in Daniel chapter 2, in 602 BC King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream of a great image, which the prophet Daniel interpreted to represent succeeding world empires, from his day right through to when Jesus returns to establish His kingdom on earth.
Nearly 50 years later, in 553 BC, Daniel himself had a dream in which four of the same empires were represented, as well as the soon-coming Antichrist world government.
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.
Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.
And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.
And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.
After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.
After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.
I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things. (Daniel 7:1-8 KJV)
The four beasts in Daniel’s dream represent the first four empires that were represented by the image King Nebuchadnezzar had seen in a dream years earlier, as recorded in Daniel chapter 2.
“Behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea” (v.2). The four winds represent spiritual forces through which God has the final say as to who rules over the kingdoms of men (Daniel 4:25). In the Bible, the sea often symbolizes the sea of humanity (Luke 21:25; Revelation 17:15).
“And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another” (v.3). Throughout history, nations have adopted animals, birds, or other creatures as national emblems–the American eagle, the Russian bear, the Chinese dragon, the British lion, and so on. Remarkable, isn’t it, how accurately those emblems often personify the nations associated with them!
“The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings” (v.4). Babylon is symbolized in the Bible by both a lion (Jeremiah 4:7) and an eagle (Jeremiah 49:22). The winged lion was also a common motif in Babylonian art. The king of beasts and king of birds–a picture of strength and swiftness.
“The wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it” (v.4). The mighty beast is brought low and then redeemed. This represents Nebuchadnezzar’s seven-year period of insanity, his humbling through that, and the positive change that took place in him as a result, as recorded in Daniel chapter 4.
“And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear” (v.5). A bear is slow, awkward, and lumbering, and depends on brute force, and that is how Persia became a dominant empire–by brute force and strength of numbers. Modern historians estimate that the combined land and naval force of Xerxes, the fourth king of the Persian Empire, was between 200,000 and 300,000 warriors–huge for the sixth century BC.
“It raised up itself on one side” (v.5). This signifies how the Persians, who were once dominated by the Medes, gained the upper hand in their union after Cyrus the Great ascended to the Persian throne in 550 BC.
“It had three ribs in the mouth” (v.5). The three ribs symbolize the three previous world empires: Egypt (c. 2100 BC to 1481 BC), Assyria (c. 1100 BC to 606 BC), and Babylon (606 BC to 538 BC).
This “little horn” with “eyes like a man” and “mouth speaking great things” is the soon-coming world dictator known as the Antichrist, the Devil incarnate!
“Lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads” (v.6). The leopard, which represents the Greek Empire here, is the most agile of wild beasts and extremely fierce. Its four wings denote the swiftness with which Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia and the leader of the Greeks, conquered the Persian Empire. In eight years the Greeks marched and conquered from Greece to India. Its four heads represent the division of Alexander’s empire after his sudden death from a fever in 323 BC, at age 32 and the height of his power (Daniel 8:1-8,20-22; 11:1-4).
“Behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly, and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns” (v.7). Babylon, Persia, Greece, and other empires had conquered and ruled by might, but the world had never seen anything like the Roman Empire!
We can tell from looking at history that Daniel correctly predicted the next three empires that would follow Babylon, the empire in power at the time of this dream. So what did God reveal to Daniel about our future?
“I considered the [ten] horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things” (v.8). This “little horn” with “eyes like a man” and “mouth speaking great things” is the soon-coming world dictator known as the Antichrist, the Devil incarnate (also called “the Beast” in Revelation chapter 13).
Verse 17 begins the interpretation: “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings [representing kingdoms], which shall arise out of the earth.”
“Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast … and of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows” (v.19-20). Here we are told more characteristics of the Antichrist, so we will recognize him when he comes on the world scene.
“The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth. … And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise” (v.23-24). The 10 horns representing 10 kings also appear in the book of Revelation, in connection with the Antichrist (Revelation 17:12-13). One possible interpretation is that they are nations or powers of the Antichrist’s Endtime empire that will come from the remains of the ancient Roman Empire, since the 10-horned Antichrist kingdom grows out of the Roman beast (Daniel 7:7) that ruled much of modern-day Europe. If this interpretation is correct, the European Union (EU) could fulfill the prophecy of the “ten horns” and play an important role in the Endtime.
“And another shall rise after them … and he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws … and they shall be given into his hand [for three and a half years]“ (v.24-25). Again, this is a picture of the Antichrist’s tyrannical rule. He will come to power “peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries” (Daniel 11:21 KJV), but halfway through his seven-year rule he will manifest his true evil character (Daniel 9:27) and persecute all those who oppose him. This three-and-a-half-year period is known as the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:15,21; Daniel 7:21; 11:31; Revelation 13:5-7).
But the Antichrist will fail in the end because Jesus will return and “the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom [after the Battle of Armageddon], and possess the kingdom for ever” (v.18). The happy ending!
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Are you in tune with the times? Will you recognize the signs of the rise of the Antichrist and his tyrannical one-world government? Will you be prepared? If not, receive Jesus now and study His Word!