The Beast-Kingdoms of Daniel 7--Strictly Future?
Most pre-millennial Bible expositors agree that the 4 beasts of Daniel chapter 7, which are said in the passage to represent 4 kingdoms, represent the successive kingdoms of Babylon, then Persia, then Greece, and finally Rome (the same kingdoms represented by the 4-part statue in Daniel 2). The Biblical evidence supports that these four kingdoms of Daniel 7 were in fact the historical kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome that arose in succession, one after the other, and that the fourth kingdom will be revived at the End Time.1 However, there are five major objections to this view. They are answered below.
1. “These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth.” (Daniel 7:17) An objection is raised that since the verb in this verse, “will arise,” is future tense, then Babylon cannot possibly be the first of these 4 kingdoms because the prophecy was given to Daniel near the end of Babylon’s rule as an empire (14 years before the end of the Babylonian kingdom, Daniel 7:1). The “will arise” would imply that the first kingdom had not yet risen!
The answer is that the prophecy of the 4 kingdoms is given as a unit. It is not predicted that any particular kingdom “will arise,” but that four kingdoms “will arise.” That is much the same as saying to a father who has a firstborn son and is destined to have 3 more, “You will give rise to 4 sons.” Even though one son is already present, the emphasis is on a family of ‘four’ sons. Another example would be to say to a football coach who has won the first 3 games of a 12-game season that “you will win 12 games this season.” It is common in every-day speech to refer to a unit in the future tense like this, even though part of that unit is already past.
The Book of Daniel itself gives us an example of this. Look at chapter two’s version of the 4 kingdoms. Verse 29 says “As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place.” Notice the phrases “what would take place in the future,” and “what will take place.” Daniel was shown a 4-part statue representing 4 kingdoms, and told it represented “what will take place.” Even though the prophecy was given during the tenure of the Babylonian Empire, the prophecy goes on to identify Babylon as the first of those 4 kingdoms (v. 38). Again, the verb clause “what will take place” is correctly used because it refers to the 4-kingdoms, not in an individual sense, but as a unit of history. Daniel 7 does the same thing with the vision of the 4 beasts-kingdoms, when verse 17 says they “are four kings who will arise from the earth.”
2. Daniel 7:7 says of the fourth beast-kingdom that “it was different from all the beasts that were before it”. On the basis of this verse the objection to the 4-successive kingdom understanding is that the word “before” does not refer to time (i.e., “before” and “after”) but rather means “in front of” (i.e., “the defendant stood before the judge”). In other words, using the correct sense of the term “before,” if the first 3 kingdoms were ‘before’ the 4th, then they were ‘in the presence’ of the 4th, and thus were contemporary with the 4th. This would supposedly rule out Babylon, Persia, and Greece since they existed before the time of the Roman Empire (the 4th).
It is true that in the original language “before” in Daniel 7:7 means “in the presence of” or ’in front of.’ But it is also true that the Bible records that the first 3 kingdoms, though “their dominion was taken away,” they were granted “an extension of life” (more on this in the #3 below). They existed ’without dominion’ right up to the time of the 4th kingdom. This is further pointed out in chapter 2. There it is said of the 4th kingdom that “it will crush and break all these in pieces [the first 3 kingdoms].” That is, the first 3 kingdoms lose their ruling-empires ("dominion"; note that the "leopard" kingdom receives "dominion" in verse 6, but that dominion must be previous to the rule of the next, 4th kingdom, because "dominian" is transferred to the 4th kingdom when it "tramples" its predecessors down and rules the "whole earth", v 6-7, 23) as they are conquered and their territorial “dominion” is taken away one-by-another in succession. But they continue to exist as distinct peoples and cultures under the domain of their conquerors. They are not obliterated, but absorbed by the successive conquering kingdoms one after the other. The first, Babylon, was absorbed by the Persians. The Persians in turn were conquered, yes, but absorbed by the Greeks. In that sense, as still-existing peoples, they all stood “before,” or “in the face of,” the Romans. This 4th kingdom, then, absorbs what remains of them and rules over them all. Furthermore, the fourth kingdom, in its latter-day stage as the Revived Roman Empire, will actually include Babylon, Persia (Iran), and Greece. The proof of this is that when the Kingdom of Christ (the great stone) strikes the end stage (feet/toes) of the Revived Roman Empire, then Babylon, Persia, and Greece will also be crushed "at the same time (Daniel 2:35; 45).” That is, AT THAT SAME TIME as the fourth kingdom--the end-time Revived Roman Empire! Babylon, Persia, and Greece will indeed be “before” (in the presence of) the fourth kingdom at the end time.
3. Daniel 7:12 says “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.” Some take this verse to show the fate of the first three kingdoms AFTER the fourth kingdom is destroyed, and thus implying that they held dominion at the same time as the fourth kingdom and were in that sense contemporary with it, rising together only in the Last Days. This verse, however, is a parenthetical verse. The fate of the main kingdom in focus, the fourth beast-kingdom, is described in verse 11. Then, as a Biblical “footnote” (parenthetical verse, what we might call in normal speech “an afterthought”), verse 12 completes the story with the description of the fate of the first three beasts-kingdoms. This is like introducing verse 12 with “And by the way…”. Their dominion had been taken away previously one-by-one, but their existence (“extension of life”) continued until the end. Again, this agrees with chapter two of Daniel: “Then [the four kingdoms] were crushed ALL AT THE SAME TIME.” (Daniel 2:35; 45)
4. Some maintain that the language regarding these empires is contemporaneous. But it is actually clearly sequential and successive. The time-link phrases in Daniel 7 indicate consecutive, not simultaneous, beast-kingdoms. Verse 4 begins with “the first.” Verse 5 continues, “Behold, another…”. Verse 6 picks up with “After this [time lapse] I kept [continued] looking…another…”. “After this [time lapse] I kept [continued] looking…and behold, a fourth…”. Verse 8 gives a clear indication of a time lapse BETWEEN EVENTS when it says “While I was contemplating…behold, another [which impacted the FIRST THREE horns]”. Verse 9 extends the sense of time lapse with “I kept looking until [passage of time]”. Verses 11-13 keep the time clock rolling with, “Then I kept looking…I kept looking until…I kept looking…”. Verse 17-18 portrays the exact same pattern, or template, already laid out for the period of Gentile rule overtaken by the rule of Christ given in Daniel 2 when it says “These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.” This is precisely parallel to Daniel 2:38-44, which says “You [Babylon] are the head of gold…after you…another kingdom…then another third kingdom…Then…a fourth kingdom…[then] a kingdom which will never be destroyed…it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms…”. These are clearly CONSECUTIVE kingdoms, both in Daniel 2 and 7. The only thing SIMULTANEOUS about them is that they all continue in latent form until the Last Days when the first three rise within the parameters of the fourth to comprise the Kingdom of the Antichrist. It is at that time that they are “crushed all at the same time” (2:35; 45) by the Kingdom of Christ.
In fact, in Daniel 7:6 the third kingdom cannot be contemporaneous with the fourth kingdom, for it is said of the third kingdom “and dominion was given to it.” Yet, how could it have dominion and be a contemporary of the fourth kingdom when Daniel 7:23 declares of the fourth kingdom that “it will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it.” How could the one “have dominion” if the other simultaneously has dominion over “the whole earth”?
5. It is held by some that since the fourth kingdom is said to rule over the whole world (7:23), and since the Roman Empire ruled only Europe and the Mid East, then it cannot possibly be the fourth kingdom, and the fourth kingdom is yet to come. However, this objection does not hold, since it is said of Babylon that it ruled “all nations,” and “whomever it wished.” (Daniel 5:18-19; also 2:38)
RIGHT: Babylon's king Nebuchadnezzar saw these 4 Kingdoms, in sequential order, from the head down to the legs & feet, in his vision of the great statue...
He then saw all of the 4 Kingdoms destroyed AT THE SAME TIME by the Great Stone from Heaven (Christ) at the End of the Age to inaugurate the Eternal Age to come.
RIGHT: Daniel, in his prophecy of the 4 great beasts coming up out of a turbulant sea of nations, saw the same 4 Kingdoms, but with 7 Heads (Greece had 4 Heads, i.e. 3 kingdoms in addition to Greece), as follows...
Greece (Turkey, Syria, Egypt)
These Kingdoms Spread Sequentially Through History to the 2nd Coming of Christ, just as in Nebuchadnezzars Daniel 2 prophecy.
RIGHT: The correlation of the Daniel 2 & 7 prophecies.
RIGHT: John's prophecy (Revelation 13 & 17 ) is a 'MIRROR IMAGE' of Daniel 7's vision except for a fundamental and critical detail... below,
RIGHT: John's Revelation Beast shows Daniel's 4 beasts with the 7 heads (7 Kingdoms Spread Sequentially Through History) United At The End Of History... United as the 8th Kingdom of the Antichrist.
PROOF THAT A KINGDOM RULED THE “WHOLE WORLD”
“O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory, and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father.
“And because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations, and men of every language feared and trembled before him; whomever he wished he killed, and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whomever he wished he elevated, and whomever he wished he humbled. (Daniel 5:18-19)
Babylon, in fact, had this God-given power, though it never literally exercised it. But in the perception of all the peoples, nations, and men of every language, the power was there! The same was true of the ancient Roman Empire. The same will be true of its latter day clone…the empire of the Antichrist!
1. Daniel 7:2-3 speaks of the 4 beasts "coming up from the ('great') sea". This "great sea" is referred to multiple times in Scripture as the Mediterranean Sea (Num 34:6-7; Jos. 1:4; 9:1; 15:12, 47; 23:4; Eze 47:10, 15, 20; 48:28). This is in fact the area where the 4 Kingdoms of Daniel 2 spread the borders of their massive empires--Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Since Daniel 7:17-18 also designates 4 Kingdoms which "will arise from the earth"--specifically from the area of the Mediterranean ("Great") Sea (v 2-3), this points toward Daniel chapters 2 and 7 as both dealing with the same 4 Kingdoms, that is, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Other similarities below agree...
1. Daniel chapters 2 and 7 both list 4 Kingdoms.
2. Daniel chapters 2 and 7 both show these 4 Kingdoms to be sequential and successive (following one another).
3. Daniel chapters 2 and 7 both show that the 4th Kingdom "devours" the remnants of the other 3 Kingdoms.
4. Daniel chapters 2 and 7 both show that the 4th Kingdom is destroyed by and succeeded by a 5th Kingdom--the Eternal Kingdom of Christ.
5. Daniel chapters 2 and 7 both indicate the 4 Kingdoms will originate in the Mediterranean Sea area of the world--Daniel 2 by naming the first Kingdom as Babylon, with its succeeding Kingdoms identified by history, and Daniel 7 by stating that the 4 Kingdoms are "coming up out of" the "great sea", which is known by that name in the Old Testament as the Mediterranean Sea.
The 4th Kingdom shows a particularly clear succession of events--one after the other. Note the sequence.
Verse 23 of Daniel 7 shows that the 4th Kingdom "will devour the whole earth"
Verse 24 then shows that "out of this kingdom ten kings (ten horns) will arise". Since the ten horns come "out of" this 4th Kingdom, then the 4th Kingdom itself precedes the appearance of the ten horns which arise "out of" it. Verse 24 continues on to state that "another" (11th) horn/king "will arise "after them". "After them" is another clear sequence phrase. Then, same verse, "he (the 11th horn) will be "different from", who?... "the previouse ones". Again, a clear sequence phrase.
Verse 25 then describes a series of events--clearly a series, one after the other, lasting 3.5 years. The facts of those those same 3.5-year events are stated in verse 21. (Verse 25 gives the angelic interpretation of those facts), Notice the clear sequence word--"until", in verse 22. The 4th Kingdom last "until" the 5th and Eternal Kingdom overtakes it. Here is a clear succession. The 4th Kingdom is followed sequentially in time by the 5th Kingdom of Christ.
Thus, a careful reading of Daniel 7 events shows a time-flow. Note the many words and phrases indicating this, such as, "first" v 4; "second" v 5; "fourth" v 7; "kept looking (until)" v 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 21; "after"; "after this"; "after them" v 24; "after...previous" v 24; "until...time arrived" v 22; "then" v 27; etc., etc.
Also, as noted earlier, it is said of the 3rd Kingdom, "dominion was given to it" (v 6). Since the 4th Kingdom "will devour the whole earth" (v 23), then both kingdoms cannot exist at the same time. The 3rd Kingdom must precede the 4th Kingdom in order to lose its "dominion" to the 4th Kingdom. Again, a clear chronological succession of kingdoms.
This, then, is the same sequence of the same 4 Kingdoms of Daniel 2, one overtaking the other in historical succession.
The narrative-evidence establishes the fact that Daniel 7 depicts a series of successive Kingdoms, the first succeeded by the second, the second succeeded by the third, and so on. Therefore, we can start with the 5th Eternal Kingdom and work backwards to identify the other kingdoms.
Since Kingdom 4 is shown to exists in two phases, with the 10 horns arising "out of" a previous phase (v 23-24), and since the 10-horns phase is destroyed by the 5th Eternal Kingdom, then we must conclude that, based on Daniel 2, the end-time stage of the 10-division Roman Empire is destroyed by the Eternal "Stone"-Kingdom of Christ. This being the case, back to Daniel 7, the Roman Empire (v 23, as it exists BEFORE the 10-horns "come out" of that first stage), is the original Roman Empire. From there, continuing backward in what has been established as a clear sequence of successive kingdoms, we have,
4th Kingdom (first phase) Original Roman Empire, preceded by,
3rd Kingdom = Greek Empire, preceded by,
2nd Kingdom = Persian Empire, preceded by,
1st Kingdom = Babylonian Empire
This succession of Kingdoms is confirmed by both history and Daniel chapter 2, shown below (right column) in historical time-sequence, with their Daniel 7 symbolic-beasts descriptor (left column),
Lion = Babylonian Empire, succeeded by,
Bear = Persian Empire, succeeded by,
Leopard = Greek Empire, succeeded by,
Different Beast = Roman Empire (ancient, original, first phase)
Roman Empire (second phase, revived, 10 horns/kings)
"Apparently this confederation [Revived Roman Empire], in alliance with the Antichrist, will rule over the former territory of the Roman Empire (both East and West) during the Tribulation.
Randall Price, The Popular Bible Prophecy Commentary, Tim LaHaye & Ed Hindson, gen. ed's.
Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 2006, "Daniel" p. 228.
This analysis forecloses on theories of contemporary nations, other than a Revived Roman Empire (phase 2, the 10-horns/kings), mounting center stage at the End Time. The praise is that it all leads to the 5th and Eternal Kingdom of Christ the King.