In this video, we will be looking at the visions of the book of Daniel, which are among the most important keys to understanding the Book of Revelation. You will get more out of this video if you first read Daniel chapters 2 and 7-12.
Daniel was a member of the royal family of Judah and had been taken captive by the Babylonians. He was put in a school to learn to be a royal adviser. One night the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar had a terrifying dream that he couldn’t understand. In the dream the king saw a huge image of a man-made out of various metals; the head was gold, the chest was silver, the belly was brass, the thighs were of iron and the lower legs and feet were a mixture of iron and clay. As the king watched, a great stone fell from heaven, struck the image on its feet, and destroyed it.
God gave Daniel a vision in which he saw the dream and understood its interpretation. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that he himself, as the head of the Babylonian empire, was the head of gold. Babylon was only one of a long series of middle-eastern empires, but it was very relevant to Daniel and the Jewish people because Babylon had conquered the promised land that God had given to the children of Israel and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.
“After you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours” (Daniel 2:39). History tells us that the Persian Empire, represented by the chest of silver, defeated Babylon and also ruled over the homeland of the Jewish people that God had chosen to represent Him.
“Then another, a third kingdom of bronze, shall rule over all the earth” (Daniel 2:39). Persia was defeated by the Greek empire under Alexander the Great, represented by the belly of brass. Greece also ruled over the Jewish homeland.
“The fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron… that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others” (Daniel 2:40). The Roman empire, symbolized by the thighs of iron, defeated the Greeks and ruled at the time of Jesus. The Jewish people rejected Jesus, and God allowed Rome to destroy Jerusalem in AD 70. Now Christians were the chosen representatives, and they were scattered throughout the territory ruled by Rome.
Notice that the vision did not focus on any of the other great empires such as Egypt, India, and China that ruled other parts of the world, only those that oppressed His chosen representatives.
Daniel skims quickly over these empires and focuses most of his attention on the lower legs and feet. They were different from the other kingdoms; “Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it” (Daniel 2:41) Rather than a new metal, this kingdom was symbolized by iron mixed with clay. We already saw that iron represented Rome. In several passages of scripture clay is used to represent God’s chosen people, and in Jeremiah 18:4-6 clay represents religious apostasy.
Thus the feet and toes represent the continuation of the Roman Empire but as a mixture of political iron and religious clay. Daniel’s interpretation emphasizes that the various ethnicities of this kingdom would not really be united as the previous empires were; “As you saw iron mixed with clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay” (Daniel 2:43).
Notice that although there is a distinct division between the other empires, the Roman iron blends into the iron mixed with clay of the lower legs. History tells us that during the dark ages the Roman empire evolved into the nations of Europe. They fiercely competed with one another with constantly changing borders, but were bound together by a common Christian culture, at first Roman Catholic and later including Protestant. This hybrid empire ruled during the medieval dark ages, one of the most oppressive periods of human history.
The thumbnail sketch of history provided by the vision shows that in some sense this empire continues to rule until God intervenes to bring an end to human history: “A stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces…and the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:35). “In the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed… and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).
Let’s summarize what we have learned from this vision. First of all, the timeline of the vision started at the time the prophet saw it and extended to the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom. It included a review of history, but not just any history; it focused on empires and powers that had an effect on what God is doing on earth through His chosen representatives.
But the major focus was not on the review of history, but on the final crisis and resolution. Daniel introduced his interpretation of the vision by saying “God in heaven reveals secrets, and He has made known what will be in the latter days” (Daniel 2:28). In the description and interpretation, Daniel used 90 words to talk about the four metal kingdoms, 105 words to talk about the hybrid iron and clay kingdom, and 174 words to talk about the stone and the eternal kingdom. Just from this word count, we can see that God gave the vision to communicate to us in advance that He knows our plight, and He will deliver us from the political and religious powers that oppress us.
Daniel’s second vision took place “in the first year of Belshazzar, [the last] king of Babylon” Daniel 7:1. Daniel saw “four great beasts coming up from the sea, each different from the other” Daniel 7:3. Daniel saw a winged lion, a bear with three ribs in its mouth, a leopard with four heads and four wings, and a “dreadful and terrible” beast with huge iron teeth. Ten horns emerge out of the fourth beast, and then a little horn emerges, uprooting 3 of the ten horns and growing until it “was greater than his fellows” (Daniel 7:20).
At first, the meaning of these beasts is not obvious, but as we study the links and compare the symbols we will see that this and each of the four apocalyptic visions of Daniel cover the same span of history and the same oppressive kingdoms that we saw in the multi-metal image.
“The first [beast] was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings…its wings were plucked off, and it was made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it” (Daniel 7:4). By the time of King Belshazzar the power and glory of Babylon had faded badly, and this is reflected by the lion, the king of the beasts, who has lost his wings, has to stand on two legs, and has a human heart.
The second beast was “like a bear” which was told, “arise, devour much flesh!” Daniel 7:5. This emphasizes the vast extent of the Persian Empire, with the three ribs in its mouth symbolizing the kingdoms that it devoured. The third beast was “like a leopard, which had…four heads” Daniel 7:6. The leopard symbolizes the Greek empire that began when Alexander the Great conquered Persia, and the four heads emphasize the division into Hellenistic kingdoms that took place after Alexander’s death.
The “fourth beast [was] dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet” (Daniel 7:7). The raw power of this beast is an apt representation of the brutal Roman empire. But like the iron legs of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that began to mix with clay, this beast also evolves into something different.
“The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones… and there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth boasting arrogantly” (Daniel 7:24,8). “[The horn power] will speak against the Most High and oppress His holy people and try to change times and law. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time” Dan. 7:25.
Suddenly the scene changes and we see a view of the heavenly courtroom. “Thrones were put in place and the Ancient of days was seated…the judgment was set, and the books were opened…and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom” Daniel 7:9,10,22.
There are a lot of details that we will analyze in later videos, but there are several things that we can learn that apply to the Book of Revelation. First of all, we see again that the chronological timeline of the vision begins at the time it was given. The narrative proceeds briefly in a linear fashion through the history of world powers that oppressed God’s covenant people.
But the main point of the vision is the persecution of God’s followers by the horn power and God’s resolution of the oppression. We can get a rough estimate of this by counting words as we did in the metal image vision. The lion that symbolizes Babylon has 52 words describing it. The bear that symbolizes the Persian empire gets 42 words, the four-headed leopard that symbolizes the Greek empires gets 36 words, and the dreadful beast with the iron teeth that symbolizes Rome gets 103 words.
As in the first vision, Rome morphs into a hybrid kingdom that is a mixture of nations, symbolized by 10 horns, and an apostate religious power that “speaks against the Most High and oppresses His holy people” symbolized by the “horn with eyes, and a mouth” (Revelation 7:8). This oppressive hybrid kingdom gets 217 words. But the heavenly scene where the “judgment is set and the books are opened” and the holy people are delivered into the eternal kingdom gets 258 words.
We can expect Revelation to also start with a brief overview of the world history that most affects God’s representative people, who in New Testament times are the Christian Church. I believe that the Seven Churches of chapters 2 and 3 present this history. We can expect major attention to be focused on oppression and persecution carried out by a worldwide power that is a union of political and apostate religious entities. And we can expect extensive scenes in the heavenly realm that show what God is doing to bring sin and oppression to an end.
There are some very important keywords and symbols in this vision. One is the beasts themselves. In Revelation 13 we see these same beasts: “[John] saw a beast rising up out of the sea” Remember that “The four great beasts [that Daniel saw also] came up from the sea” (Daniel 7:3). The sea beast that John saw “had seven heads and ten horns…the beast was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion” (Revelation 13:2). These are the same beasts and the same number of heads and horns that Daniel’s beasts had, but they are all combined into one beast instead of four. By studying the empires that Daniel’s beasts symbolized we will learn the characteristics of the end-time oppressive power of Revelation 13 and 17.
We see in the angel’s explanation of Daniel’s vision that the horn power “shall persecute the saints of the Most High… The saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time” (Daniel 7:25). In Revelation 12 we see that Satan himself is the instigator of this persecution, and the saints are symbolized by a pure woman who is forced to flee to the wilderness for the same “time and times and half a time” (Revelation 12:14). By comparing this link between Daniel 7 and Revelation 12 we will be able to identify the historical perpetrators of this persecution as well as the future form that it will take during the Great Tribulation.
Another key text is the courtroom scene in verses 9-11. “Thrones were put in place and the Ancient of Days (God) was seated…A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Revelation 7:9-11). In Revelation chapters 4 and 5 we see these same elements. Thrones are mentioned 16 times, the same number of angels are there, and the opening of books is the central drama. This will support other evidence that the Seven Seals that begin in chapters 4 and 5 are a courtroom scene that reveal the first stage of the final judgment.
The third vision in Daniel chapter 8 takes place “in the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar” when the Babylonian empire was essentially over. It starts with a view of “a ram with two horns… one [horn] was higher than the other” Daniel 8;3. An angel clearly identifies some of the major players: “The ram which you saw, having the two horns—they are the kings of Media and Persia” Daniel 8:20. As Daniel watched, “suddenly a male goat came from the west… The male goat is the kingdom of Greece…Then he came to the ram…and ran at him with furious power…and broke his two horns…and trampled him” Daniel 8:5-7, 21.
As in the previous visions, the majority of the vision focuses on the final events and what is happening in heaven. A horn arises, symbolizing Rome, and keeps growing until its influence reaches the heavenly realm. “It grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars (that is, angels) to the ground. He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host [Jesus]; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down” Daniel 8:11.
These verses show that the apostasy and compromises that came into the Christian church during the dark ages were a part of Satan’s war against Christ in the heavenly realm. We see similar language in Revelation 12 where Satan drags down a third of the angels and instigates a war in heaven.
Even the angels who were watching the scenes presented in the vision were shocked at the extent of the destruction being wrought by this antichrist power and wondered if the desolation of the sanctuary would be permanent (v. 13). But an angel reassured Daniel with one of the most cryptic prophecies in the Bible, “For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings, then the sanctuary shall be cleansed” (Daniel 8:14). In case there was any question about the time frame of the symbolic 2,300 evenings and mornings, the angel Gabriel himself explained: “The vision refers to the time of the end… it refers to many days in the future” (Daniel 8:17,27).
There is a lot to analyze in this vision but the basic structure is clearly like Daniel’s other visions and supports a framework for interpreting Revelation. Starting at the time Daniel saw the vision, the narrative progresses on a linear timeline, giving enough accurate history to inspire confidence in its main focus on the distant future. There is quite a bit of attention given to the great apostasy that began during the middle ages and the drama that takes place in the heavenly realm. But we are assured that at the end of a predicted period of time God will intervene to establish His kingdom. In future videos, we will be able to nail down the details of this vision and show where they fit on the Revelation timeline.
The final vision of Daniel in chapters 10-12 follows the same pattern, but instead of using symbolic language it presents a cryptic but literal narrative. Beginning in the first year of the Persian empire it outlines the first few kings and the defeat of Persia by Alexander the great. This remarkably accurate account continues with a long and detailed narrative of the wars between the king of the north and the king of the south, competing powers who both oppressed God’s faithful followers from the fourth century BC until the end of history.
There are markers in the narrative that enable us to identify the historical events that are mentioned, and again there is a major focus on the oppression of the dark ages that serves as a model for the final crisis described in Revelation. Specific language in this vision will help us unravel the mysteries of the Seven Trumpets and the Seven Thunders. But the most important focus is on God’s final resolution when “[God’s] people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1).
Considering the visions of Daniel as a model for the Book of Revelation, what can we expect?
- Much of Revelation will be symbolic, but we can expect some parts to be literal.
- Revelation will portray the experience of God’s people from the time it was written until the Second Coming of Christ and eternity.
- The focus on history will be relatively brief, and most of the book will deal with the final crisis.
- The timeline will be basically linear rather than bouncing from one time period to another.
- Besides events on earth, we can expect a shift of scenes to portray events in the courts of heaven.
- We can expect to see major successes by God’s enemies. But the judgment will ensure that the oppressive enemies will be defeated and God’s faithful followers will be delivered.
A detailed analysis of the visions of Daniel can be found in the book “A Revelation of Jesus” by David Lackey.
To see all the videos in this series check out the Revelation of Jesus playlist. These videos are based on the book “A Revelation of Jesus” by David Lackey; you can order a copy of the book on Amazon or other online bookstores, or read it online at RevelationofJesus.net
Order the book “A Revelation of Jesus”