Daniel gives us not only a powerful personal example but also key prophecies concerning God’s plan for the ages. In chapters 7–8 we find a prophetic preview of history from Daniel’s time to the end time, reminding us of the sure hope we have in a faithful and sovereign God.
A Preview of World History
Have you ever considered that the only way God can predict the future is to be in control of it? This is why God can actually give us in the Bible a preview of history. He’s already seen it, and He’s currently guiding it according to His sovereign plan.
In Daniel’s later years in life, God gives him several visions that reveal the future kingdoms of the world—all the way from Daniel’s generation to the moment when Christ’s kingdom is established on earth.
The first vision came to Daniel during the reign of Babylon’s King Belshazzar. Here in Daniel chapter 7, at verse 3, Daniel says he saw “four great beasts” that “came up out of the sea.”
The first beast is like a lion that has the wings of an eagle. The second beast is like a powerful bear, and the third beast looks like a leopard with four heads and four wings on its back. The fourth beast is even more impressive. Daniel describes it here in verses 7-8:
“[It was] 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 … had ten horns. … and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.”
You might remember Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of that great image back in Daniel chapter 2, which pictured four successive world empires—Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Well, the vision here in chapter 7 parallels that earlier dream—it is about the same four kingdoms, only using different images.
Daniel writes in verse 9, “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat.” This is a reference to God the Father, who is taking His seat upon the throne of judgment. When that takes place, this final world kingdom, this fourth beast, is destroyed.
“There came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.” (verses 13-14)
Of course this is the Messiah—Jesus Christ—who receives from His Father an everlasting kingdom.
An angel then arrives and gives Daniel a simple and concise explanation:
“These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever.” (verses 17-18)
Beloved, this is your future and mine—living with Christ in his future, glorious kingdom on earth.
Many believe these ten kings represent an end-time revival of the old Roman Empire, which does not exist today. Frankly, we don’t know for sure. It could be ten kings representing ten new regions of the world. What we do know is what we are told here: another horn, or king, arises and puts down three of these ten kings, evidently in some kind of battle. This powerful king is the Beast of the book of Revelation, whom we call the Antichrist.
As he rises in power, his hatred for God and anybody who belongs to God will be violent. He will wage war, verse 25 says, “a time, times, and half a time.” This means three and a half years and refers to the last half of the seven-year period of tribulation on the earth.
He is going to turn on the afterburners during the final half of the tribulation and attempt to wipe out Israel in particular. His reign of terror will come to an end when Christ returns to defeat him and establish His glorious kingdom on earth.
Chapter 8 then unrolls the scroll of the future with Israel specifically in mind. That is why the language in the original text leaves off Aramaic and now switches back to the Hebrew language.
We have another vision given to Daniel here. He sees a ram with two tall horns charging westward, northward, and southward. Daniel notes in verse 4, “No beast could stand before him.” It isn’t a bull in the china shop; it’s a ram—just going about 100 miles an hour.
Now Daniel sees a male goat come from the west. It is described as having a prominent horn between its eyes; and it attacks the ram, breaks its horns, and tramples it. Then we read this in verses 8-9:
The goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven. Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land.
In other words, Daniel sees this “little horn” directing his attacks upon Israel, the “glorious land.” The result of the attack is given in verse 11: “The regular burnt offering was taken away,” and the “sanctuary was overthrown.”
The angel Gabriel now interprets the vision for Daniel. He explains that the ram with the two horns represents the dual kingdom of the Medes and Persians. That kingdom will expand until it is conquered by the male goat, which represents Greece.
The single horn of this male goat is the first king of the Grecian Empire—namely, Alexander the Great. When this “great horn” is broken—that is, when Alexander dies—he will be succeeded by four kings, who will divide his kingdom among them. One of those four kingdoms will produce this “little horn,” who will become Israel’s great persecutor.
We know from history that this little horn here in Daniel 8 is not the Antichrist of chapter 7. Rather, he is Antiochus IV Epiphanes. In 169 BC, he will enter the temple in Jerusalem, sacrifice a pig on the altar, and thus defile the temple. He will also forbid any worship of the Lord.
History also tells us the Jewish people rose up in opposition to Antiochus and eventually gained their independence.
This was all in the future for Daniel. His vision pointed to the rise of this great persecution in the second century BC. But there are some statements in this chapter that suggest something more might be in view. For example, Gabriel says in verse 17 that the vision pertains to “the time of the end.” This may indicate that Antiochus is a foreshadowing of the Antichrist of the end times.
But here is what we do know, beloved; in these two chapters of Daniel, the Lord gives us a preview of history and a vision of the future, and both periods feature an evil ruler who will persecute the chosen people of God.
Now why did God give this preview to Daniel—and to us? Does God not want us to sleep at night? Well, for Daniel and the nation of Israel, it was a reminder that He is in control. This was all part of His sovereign plan—and in the end, He will triumph on behalf of His people.
As for us, look at the precision of God’s Word. We can look back at the fulfilled prophecy concerning these ancient kingdoms and see that they rose and fell just as Daniel prophesied. And that means all these other prophecies are going to come to pass as well. The prophesied coming of Christ’s kingdom one day is a glorious certainty.