In order to understand the significance of the symbols which John saw in the book of Revelation, we need to first become familiar with some of the things which Daniel was shown pertaining to Gentile dominion and the time of the end. Although the book of Daniel contains a tremendous amount of material which bears upon the book of Revelation and the activities of the Antichrist
, we will limit our examination to two main passages which deal with the sequence of kingdoms leading to the second return of Christ. (See our discussion of The 70th Week of Daniel
elsewhere.) The first of these is Nebuchadnezzars dream consisting of an image made up of differing metals which Daniel interprets (Dan. Dan. 2:31-45
). The second is Daniels night vision of four vicious beasts which arise from the sea (Dan. Dan. 7:1-28
). When these two passages are compared, it becomes evident that they represent two different perspectives on the same subject: four major world kingdoms which constitute the times of the Gentiles
during which Israel will be precluded from full control of her land and her promised blessing in the Messianic Kingdom
. Each of the passages begins with a description of the Babylonian kingdom of which Daniel was currently a captive (having been deported from Jerusalem, Dan. Dan. 1:1-6
) and closes with the final Gentile kingdom being destroyed by Gods kingdom on earth. Several aspects are seen from a comparison of the related passages:
- Perspective - Nebuchadnezzars dream describes the series of kingdoms from mans perspective. They appear as a beautiful image comprised of various metals, some precious. Daniels night vision describes the same kingdoms from Gods perspective. They appear as a series of vicious beasts.1
- Downward Trend - In both passages, the sequence shows a downward trend. In Nebuchadnezzars dream, the head of the image is gold, the chest and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of bronze, the legs of iron, and the feet of iron and partly clay. The value of each metal reduces as the kingdoms advance. At the same time, the strength of each metal grows stronger with each kingdom until the last kingdom which contains two extremes: the strength of iron and the weakness of clay. In Daniels night vision, the last beast is uniquely terrible compared with the preceding beasts and much additional information is given concerning this last beast.2
- Broken by God - Both the image and the last beast are destroyed directly by God. This tells us that the kingdoms represented by the series of precious metals and the ferocious beasts spans from Daniels time until Gods kingdom comes on earth. (See The Arrival of Gods Kingdom.)
Most conservative interpreters, who believe the book of Daniel to be inspired
(Mtt. Mat. 24:15
; Mark Mark 13:14
), interpret the four metals and four beasts as representing the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.3
|Babylon (Dan. Dan. 2:38).|| Head of gold (Dan. Dan. 2:32, Dan. 2:37).|| Like a lion with eagles wings (Dan. Dan. 7:4).5 |
| Medo-Persia (Dan. Dan. 2:39).|| Chest and arms of silver (Dan. Dan. 2:32).|| Like a bear with three ribs (Dan. Dan. 7:5).6 |
| Greece (Macedonian, Dan. Dan. 2:39).|| Belly and thighs of bronze (Dan. Dan. 2:32).|| Like a leopard with four wings and four heads (Dan. Dan. 7:6).7 |
| Rome (Dan. Dan. 2:40).|| Legs of iron (Dan. Dan. 2:33).|| A unique beast dreadful and terrible (Dan. Dan. 7:7, Dan. 7:19-20, Dan. 7:23-25).8 |
| Rome divided and dispersed (Dan. Dan. 2:41-43).|| Feet party of iron and partly of clay, [ten] toes (Dan. Dan. 2:33, Dan. 2:41).|| Ten horns, a little horn, slain (Dan. Dan. 7:8, Dan. 7:11; Rev. Rev. 19:20+).|
| Millennial Kingdom (Dan. Dan. 2:44-45).9 || Stone cut without hands, strikes image, fills entire earth (Dan. Dan. 2:32).|| Son of Man (Dan. Dan. 7:13-14, Dan. 7:18, Dan. 7:22, Dan. 7:26).|
1 How sobering a thought that God sees the nations of the earth as wild beasts.Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 236.
2 The preciousness of the metal deteriorates from the top of gold to the clay of the feet, and there is a corresponding lower specific gravity; that is, the gold is much heavier than the silver, the silver than the brass, the brass than the iron, and the clay in the feet is the lightest material of all. The approximate specific gravity of gold is 19, silver 11, brass 8.5, and iron 7.8. . . .While the materials decrease in weight, they increase in hardness with the notable exception of the clay in the feet. The image is obviously top heavy and weak in its feet.John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago, IL: Moody Bible Institute, 1971), 63.
3 The interpretation of the royal image of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. Dan. 2:31-43) and of the four corresponding beast figures of the night vision of Daniel (Daniel Dan. 7:1) as the Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman world empires is found as early as Irenaeus (died A.D. 202) and in Josephus and the Jewish Rabbis. Luther says: Upon this interpretation and the meaning all the world is harmonious, and fact and history strongly prove it. Erich Sauer, The Dawn of World Redemption (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1951, c1964), 172. Although no longer popular with Roman Catholic interpreters, this was the interpretation of Jerome: Formerly the four kingdoms of Dn were commonly understood as being the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Greco-Seleucid, and the Roman empires. Although this theory, defended by Jerome, was once regarded as the traditional Catholic interpretation (in connection with the attempt to explain the seventy weeks of years in 9:24-27 as culminating in the death of Jesus Christ), it would now find few modern Catholic exegetes to support it.R. E. Brown, J. A. Fitzmyer, and R. E. Murphy, The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1996, c1968), Dan. 2:33.
4 See [Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, Charting the End Times (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2001), 88].
5 See also Rev. Rev. 13:2+.
6 See also Dan. Dan. 8:20; Rev. Rev. 13:2+.
7 See also Dan. Dan. 8:21-22; Dan. 10:20; Dan. 11:2-4; Rev. Rev. 13:2+.
8 See also Dan. Dan. 9:26.
9 See also Rev. Rev. 20:4-6+.