READ: Daniel 7-8
THINK: Daniel just shifted from a nice set of stories about some good Hebrew boys to a wild apocalypse. These chapters are filled with thick, powerful, and frightening prophetic imagery. Just for fun today, we’re gonna take a brief look at what each of these different beasts and creatures symbolizes.
All of the beasts in chapter 7 actually correspond to the vision of the statue in chapter 2.
2: 7: Meaning:
Gold Head Winged Lion Babylon
Silver Torso Bear Raised Medo-Persia
Brass Thighs 4-Head Leopard Greece*
Iron Legs Iron Teeth Beast Rome
Iron/Clay Feet 10 Horns Final Stage of 4th Kingdom
– Little Horn Antichrist
Cut Stone Son of Man Christ, Kingdom of God
* Alexander the Great’s vast kingdom was divided into 4 parts – one for each of his major generals, after his death.
The imagery of Chapter 8 is very similar. The ram with two differently-sized horns represents Medo-Persia, the goat represents Alexander who vanquished the Medo-Persians, the goat’s 4 horns that spring up to replace the one are Alexander’s 4 generals who divide up the kingdom after him, and the little mouthy horn that came later represents Antiochus IV (as a prototype of the anti-Christ). Antiochus IV, the Greek king of the Seleucid Empire outlawed Jewish worship, slaughtered a bunch of male Jews, set up and idol in the Temple, and sacrificed a pig on the altar. Eventually a group of Jews called the Maccabees revolted against him – and their story is the basis for the celebration of Hanukah.
Fun stuff, eh? But what’s the point? The big idea that often gets lost in the details and the worries over the symbolism is this: God is sovereign and he is going to establish a Kingdom through Christ that is eternally marked by power, glory, and peace. There are kings and kingdoms and they will fall. No earthly kingdom marked by violence will ever be sufficient. But God is sovereign and in control (He gave Daniel this vision about 300 years before Alexander the Great was even born). And God is at work. There will be kingdoms of men, and the evil forces of spiritual darkness will have their kingdom under the antichrist, but none will last. God is making all things new and setting all things right, and he will rescue his people and draw them to himself. He will establish an everlasting Kingdom.
When we read Daniel and Revelation and other apocalypses it’s easy to worry. It’s easy even to be afraid. And it’s certainly easy to get worn out (Daniel did). But the key thing to remember is that the big idea of these writings isn’t to give us extra special clues as to what’s gonna happen and when. It is to constantly remind us – in the midst of a violent and broken world full of suffering – that we live on the edge of hope. God is in control and his Kingdom is coming!
PRAY: Worship God for his sovereignty today and thank him for the hope we have – amidst all the hopelessness that surrounds us – because of his promises!