In the first year of the reign of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream. What he saw as he slept in his bed terrified him - a real nightmare. Then he wrote out his dream:
"In my dream that night I saw the four winds of heaven whipping up a great storm on the sea.
Four huge animals, each different from the others, ascended out of the sea.
"The first animal looked like a lion, but it had the wings of an eagle. While I watched, its wings were pulled off. It was then pulled erect so that it was standing on two feet like a man. Then a human heart was placed in it.
"Then I saw a second animal that looked like a bear. It lurched from side to side, holding three ribs in its jaws. It was told, 'Attack! Devour! Fill your belly!'
"Next I saw another animal. This one looked like a panther. It had four birdlike wings on its back. This animal had four heads and was made to rule.
"After that, a fourth animal appeared in my dream. This one was a grisly horror - hideous. It had huge iron teeth. It crunched and swallowed its victims. Anything left over, it trampled into the ground. It was different from the other animals - this one was a real monster. It had ten horns.
"As I was staring at the horns and trying to figure out what they meant, another horn sprouted up, a little horn. Three of the original horns were pulled out to make room for it. There were human eyes in this little horn, and a big mouth speaking arrogantly.
"As I was watching all this, "Thrones were set in place and The Old One sat down. His robes were white as snow, his hair was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, its wheels blazing.
A river of fire poured out of the throne. Thousands upon thousands served him, tens of thousands attended him. The courtroom was called to order, and the books were opened.
"I kept watching. The little horn was speaking arrogantly. Then, as I watched, the monster was killed and its body cremated in a roaring fire.
The other animals lived on for a limited time, but they didn't really do anything, had no power to rule.
My dream continued. "I saw a human form, a son of man, arriving in a whirl of clouds. He came to The Old One and was presented to him.
He was given power to rule - all the glory of royalty. Everyone - race, color, and creed - had to serve him. His rule would be forever, never ending. His kingly rule would never be replaced.
"But as for me, Daniel, I was disturbed. All these dream-visions had me agitated.
So I went up to one of those standing by and asked him the meaning of all this. And he told me, interpreting the dream for me:
"'These four huge animals,' he said, 'mean that four kingdoms will appear on earth.
But eventually the holy people of the High God will be given the kingdom and have it ever after - yes, forever and ever.'
"But I wanted to know more. I was curious about the fourth animal, the one so different from the others, the hideous monster with the iron teeth and the bronze claws, gulping down what it ripped to pieces and trampling the leftovers into the dirt.
And I wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and the other horn that sprouted up while three of the original horns were removed. This new horn had eyes and a big mouth and spoke arrogantly, dominating the other horns.
I watched as this horn was making war on God's holy people and getting the best of them.
But then The Old One intervened and decided things in favor of the people of the High God. In the end, God's holy people took over the kingdom.
"The bystander continued, telling me this: 'The fourth animal is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from the first three kingdoms, a monster kingdom that will chew up everyone in sight and spit them out.
The ten horns are ten kings, one after another, that will come from this kingdom. But then another king will arrive. He will be different from the earlier kings. He will begin by toppling three kings.
Then he will blaspheme the High God, persecute the followers of the High God, and try to get rid of sacred worship and moral practice. God's holy people will be persecuted by him for a time, two times, half a time.
"'But when the court comes to order, the horn will be stripped of its power and totally destroyed.
Then the royal rule and the authority and the glory of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the people of the High God. Their royal rule will last forever. All other rulers will serve and obey them.'
"And there it ended. I, Daniel, was in shock. I was like a man who had seen a ghost. But I kept it all to myself.
"In King Belshazzar's third year as king, another vision came to me, Daniel. This was now the second vision.
"In the vision, I saw myself in Susa, the capital city of the province Elam, standing at the Ulai Canal.
Looking around, I was surprised to see a ram also standing at the gate. The ram had two huge horns, one bigger than the other, but the bigger horn was the last to appear.
I watched as the ram charged: first west, then north, then south. No beast could stand up to him. He did just as he pleased, strutting as if he were king of the beasts.
"While I was watching this, wondering what it all meant, I saw a billy goat with an immense horn in the middle of its forehead come up out of the west and fly across the whole country, not once touching the ground.
The billy goat approached the double-horned ram that I had earlier seen standing at the gate and, enraged, charged it viciously.
I watched as, mad with rage, it charged the ram and hit it so hard that it broke off its two horns. The ram didn't stand a chance against it. The billy goat knocked the ram to the ground and stomped all over it. Nothing could have saved the ram from the goat.
"Then the billy goat swelled to an enormous size. At the height of its power its immense horn broke off and four other big horns sprouted in its place, pointing to the four points of the compass.
And then from one of these big horns another horn sprouted. It started small, but then grew to an enormous size, facing south and east - toward lovely Palestine.
The horn grew tall, reaching to the stars, the heavenly army, and threw some of the stars to the earth and stomped on them.
It even dared to challenge the power of God, Prince of the Celestial Army! And then it threw out daily worship and desecrated the Sanctuary.
As judgment against their sin, the holy people of God got the same treatment as the daily worship. The horn cast God's Truth aside. High-handed, it took over everything and everyone.
"Then I overheard two holy angels talking. One asked, 'How long is what we see here going to last - the abolishing of daily worship, this devastating judgment against sin, the kicking around of God's holy people and the Sanctuary?'
"The other answered, 'Over the course of 2,300 sacrifices, evening and morning. Then the Sanctuary will be set right again.'
"While I, Daniel, was trying to make sense of what I was seeing, suddenly there was a humanlike figure standing before me.
"Then I heard a man's voice from over by the Ulai Canal calling out, 'Gabriel, tell this man what is going on. Explain the vision to him.'
He came up to me, but when he got close I became terrified and fell facedown on the ground.
As soon as he spoke, I fainted, my face in the dirt. But he picked me up and put me on my feet.
"And then he continued, 'I want to tell you what is going to happen as the judgment days of wrath wind down, for there is going to be an end to all this.
"'The double-horned ram you saw stands for the two kings of the Medes and Persians.
The billy goat stands for the kingdom of the Greeks. The huge horn on its forehead is the first Greek king.
The four horns that sprouted after it was broken off are the four kings that come after him, but without his power.
"'As their kingdoms cool down and rebellions heat up, A king will show up, hard-faced, a master trickster.
His power will swell enormously. He'll talk big, high-handedly, Doing whatever he pleases, knocking off heroes and holy ones left and right.
He'll plot and scheme to make crime flourish - and oh, how it will flourish! He'll think he's invincible and get rid of anyone who gets in his way. But when he takes on the Prince of all princes, he'll be smashed to bits - but not by human hands.
This vision of the 2,300 sacrifices, evening and morning, is accurate but confidential. Keep it to yourself. It refers to the far future.'
"I, Daniel, walked around in a daze, unwell for days. Then I got a grip on myself and went back to work taking care of the king's affairs. But I continued to be upset by the vision. I couldn't make sense of it.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)