“Read More” to pursue answers from the Prophet Daniel.
Draw me into your Presence, and fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I might know you as my Father, and manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.
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.
We appear to have shifted from the narrative section of Daniel to a record of non-plot-forwarding visions. This starting verse has the flavor of an editorial comment, introducing a pre-existent text written by Daniel himself:
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.
And who are these four emergent beasts?
* The first [was] like a
, 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
, 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
, 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
, 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.
But wait, there’s more!
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.
I don’t care who you are, that’s creepy. Fortunately, the creeps don’t have the last word:
I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment [was] white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne [was like] the fiery flame, [and] his wheels [as] burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
Which harkens the end of the mouthy horn and his host:
I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld [even] till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.
and — eventually — the other beasts as well. Sorta.
As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.
Yet this dream doesn’t end with a whimper, but a bang:
I saw in the night visions, and, behold, [one] like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom [that] which shall not be destroyed.
Yowza! It’s pretty impressive to read, even knowing how the story turns out. Imagine how it felt to see it in full living technicolor:
I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of [my] body, and the visions of my head troubled me.
Fortunately — even though he’s still in the dream! — Daniel isn’t too confused (or too proud 🙂 to stop and ask for directions:
I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.
I presume this bystander was one of the 100 million who ‘stood before him’. Even if he’s only a bit player, he’s clearly been hanging around enough to know what’s going on:
These great beasts, which are four, [are] four kings, [which] shall arise out of the earth.
I leave it to the historians and theologians to debate which kingdoms he’s referring to, though my understanding is that they are the empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, respectively. The more important statement, to my mind, is:
But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.
This is a pretty mind-boggling statement — even more so for those who claim that these prophetic passages were written much later. In Daniel’s time, the dream of David’s independent kingdom was difficult enough to recover. With passing generations, as the might of foreign empires increased and the subjugation of the Jews intensified, who could’ve imagined that someday over half the world would (at least nominally) bow the knee to the God of Abraham?
Perhaps that is why he is so curious about the last beast:
Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth [were of] iron, and his nails [of] brass; [which] devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; 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.
because of its conflict with those very saints who are supposed to possess the kingdom:
I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom
You’ve got questions, he’s got answers:
Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom [are] ten kings [that] shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.
But more importantly:
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 until a time and times and the dividing of time.
Ouch. At this point, it all sounds pretty depressing. But that’s because we haven’t heard the rest of the story:
But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy [it] unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom [is] an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
Huh. Actually this seems a fairly simple rehash of what was said a few verses earlier; then again, maybe Daniel wasn’t really able to understand what he had seen until it had been explained to him.
At any rate, this seems to be the heart of the message Daniel was to receive: there’s going to be waves of earth kings washing over the set-apart-ones, each nastier than the last, culminating in one who is totally set against God’s chosen. And though God has allowed them to rule over you, don’t lose heart: in the end, the Lord Himself will take charge, and you were slaves will become rulers.
To a young man who saw the fall of Jerusalem, and then became an old man who saw the fall of Babylon, this must’ve been quite poignant:
Hitherto [is] the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart
Understandably, on both counts. I mean, if you had a vision like that — and nobody had ever had such a vision before! — whom would you tell?
God, I feel your spirit moving in these last days, trying to open the eyes of your church to the unseen reality that guides history — the way magnetic fields guide iron filings. Lord, let us not lose heart in the fact of great evil, but remember that your kingdom will transcend all. Teach us to be open, humble, and faithful, that we may see your glory revealed. In us, through us, and to us. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
About the Title:
Today’s title is a weak play on ‘four-legged animals’.