We are entering into the second half of Daniel today, a section that is full of prophetic visions of the future. Some of Daniel’s visions have come to pass already and can be verified in history, and some are yet to happen. Let me be clear about one thing as we enter into this section: Daniel is a clear revelation of the meaning of history. The book of Daniel is not a puzzle for us to figure out or try to unravel. Certainly there are places where conclusive explanations are lacking, and as we read these chapters together we will find that Daniel himself is puzzled about some things.
But Daniel makes clear to us the fact that it is God who is in control of history and his purposes are being accomplished; including the future establishment of God’s eternal Kingdom.
If you want a rough overview of these visions here it is (taken from Boice in his commentary on Daniel): “These visions vary in important details, but they are overlapping and make roughly the same point. They tell us that God is in control of history, that human kingdom will succeed human kingdoms until the coming of the Lord’s Anointed, the Messiah, but that in the end it is his kingdom that will fill the whole earth.”
There is so much to unpack in these verses that I can’t possibly accomplish it in a short blog post. In fact, I’ve been thinking that a sermon series through Daniel is on the docket for this coming year. I would encourage you to find a good commentary if you are interested in delving further into the meaning of the visions Daniel has from this point forward. Certainly J.M. Boice’s commentary is excellent. He writes clearly and simply for those who do not want a deep theological treatise of the book, but he writes in a very instructive and clarifying manner.
The nice thing about Daniel is that there are clarifying statements made throughout the book to help us understand what Daniel is seeing. Again, Daniel himself doesn’t understand fully everything that is going on, so he asks for clarification on a number of occasions and receives it.
Here’s some insight into chapter 7. Daniel’s vision of the animals corresponds with Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the statue in chapter 2. The Lion is the head of gold, which is Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Kingdom. The Bear is the chest of silver and represents the Medeo-Persian empire. The Leopard corresponds with the middle of bronze in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and relates to the Greek empire of Alexander the Great. Finally, the fourth beast, the terrible beast, relates to the legs, feet and toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and speaks of the kingdom of Rome. The 10 horns and the 10 toes on the statue presumably represent 10 confederate Kingdoms that make up this final Kingdom, three of which will be uprooted and replaced by one individual ruler. This would seem to be the first Biblical reference to the one that is later referred to as the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation.
Understand, what I have laid out for you is one interpretation of these beasts/Kingdoms. There are others, particularly among the moral liberal theologians who would disagree with this explanation. But I am not liberal and neither are my sources!
One thing that continually amazes me is how these visions given to Daniel are fulfilled through history and can be traced by their particular characteristics to different Kingdoms. Certainly I would love to get into those detailed characteristics, but there isn’t space enough. But it all goes back to the main thrust of all of these visions: God is in control of history and his purposes will and are being accomplished.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Daniel 10-12