7:1-3 It’s important to note that the events in Daniel are not always presented in chronological order. This particular vision is said to have occurred in the first year of King Belshazzar (7:1), who was dethroned at the end of chapter 5. Later, in chapter 9, we will return to the time period of Darius.
7:9-14 Two other persons appear in Daniel 7, putting everything else in eternal perspective. There is hope for God’s people in every age because the Ancient of Days (7:9) and the son of man (7:13), God the Father and God the Son, have everything under control. Until these two have acted, the story isn’t over. God is called “the Ancient of Days” here because he is the timeless one. As chaos occurs on earth, he is seated on his throne. Daniel was shown a scene from the great tribulation, particularly the final three-and-a-half years when the Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel and demand that the world worship him on pain of death. The tribulation chaos will end when Jesus Christ returns in glory with his saints, defeats the Antichrist and his armies, and consigns all of his enemies to the burning fire (7:11).
That Daniel saw one like a son of man . . . coming with the clouds of heaven is certainly a reference to God the Son because Jesus applied this passage to himself during his ministry (7:13; see Matt 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 21:27). Daniel saw him approach the Ancient of Days, who presented the Son with an everlasting dominion (7:13-14). This is a prophetic picture of God the Father handing over the kingdoms of this world for the Lord Jesus Christ to rule in fulfillment of the dominion mandate given to man (see Ps 8:3-8).
7:15-28 The visions were so overwhelming and troubling that Daniel was unable to interpret them. Therefore, he asked one of those who were standing by, probably an angel, to let him know the interpretation (7:15-16). The four beasts were in fact the four kings/kingdoms (7:17; see 2:39-40) that Nebuchadnezzar had seen in his dream. But, Daniel was especially distressed by the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and extremely terrifying (7:19). He was right to ask, because the Roman Empire did not fade away into history as did the other three kingdoms. The angel revealed to Daniel that a future form of the Roman Empire would emerge, characterized by ten horns (7:20): ten kings . . . will rise from this kingdom (7:24).
At that time, the other horn (7:20), the Antichrist, will arise, wage war, and subdue three kings in his march to power (7:24). Once he has seized world power, he will blaspheme the Most High and oppress the saints for his allotted three-and-one-half years—time, times, and half a time (7:25). Nevertheless, Christ will return in triumph, crush the Antichrist and his armies, and receive his everlasting kingdom (7:26-27). In spite of the trials to come, God reigns over his creation and will end rebellion once and for all. Daily we can rejoice because we know how the story ends.