The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. (Daniel 7:4)
At first glance, this kingdom resembles Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom of the past. But to interpret it that way presents some difficulties because the dream took place after Nebuchadnezzar was already gone. We can look at Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom as a picture of what that future lion-like kingdom will be like, We have a picture from History of what to expect in the times ahead.
The picture is one of deterioration. The symbol of the lion represents dominance and strength. The wings of an eagle represent speed and majesty, all which characterized the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. We are further told that this lion like beast had its wings plucked up, was made to stand on two feet as a man and was given a man’s heart.
The interpretation given by God is that this lion-like beast and the other beasts are kings that shall arise out of the earth which means it is for a future time.
The prophecy speaks of a kingdom that had great beginnings but over time lost its power and influence and it became weak. We are not told how it happened. It could have started with pride and self exaltation and it became a bad example. There are various explanations one could surmise.
The main point to remember is this future lion-like beast will have these characteristics and we shall recognize who he is and his purposes in God’s overall plan for the future when that time comes.
THE BEAR-LIKE KINGDOM
And behold, another beast, a second beast, one resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth, and thus they said to it, ”Arise, devour much meat.” (Daniel 7:5)
This second kingdom presents some difficulty in trying to interpret because the information is not as clear as the other two. The best way, is to try and decide how bears operate. From that we can draw some characteristics of this kingdom.
So what can we learn from bears that will give us some understanding of this prophecy.? The first thing I remembered is that bears hibernate in the winter so they usually start later than the other animals but make up for it in what they accomplish when they are active. Some may think that the bear is slower, but if you ever were chased by one you would think differently. We may then conclude that the bear symbolizes strength and efficiency.
We also notice three ribs between his teeth. This could represent his success in devouring his prey. The ribs signify success, and evidence that the victory was complete. The command to devour much flesh was the admonition to continue on with his mission. Perhaps here is a prophecy that unlike the lion, its mission would continue with success.
Some have compared this kingdom to Medo-Persia because it follows Babylon and has some bear-like characteristics. Although this may be true, the prophecies we are examining will be yet future. We conclude by saying that this future kingdom may not start to become powerful until later, but it will not diminish in strength and purpose and this strength and steadiness will attract others to it.
THE LEOPARD- LIKE KINGDOM
After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.
In describing the third beast image, there is a great similarity to that of the kingdom under Alexander the Great. We must keep in mind that these beasts from the sea are not successive, coming after one another but arriving at the same time. These verses describe characteristics of these future kingdoms which will arrive in the last days. There is a picture here that strongly resembles Alexander’s kingdom. Such a picture in a historical frame makes it easier to visualize what those kingdoms will be like and maybe that is why they are presented this way.
First, the leopard; He is the smallest and also the swiftest of them all. Alexander was the youngest yet accomplishing more than each.
Second, there are the wings symbolizing swiftness. (Double wings equaling double swiftness.) The wings are true in the case of Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander.
Third, there is the four heads illustrating four kingdoms arising out of Alexander’s that also took place after his death.
Fourth, dominion was given to Him. Alexander had the greatest area of conquests and for a short time they were under his control. His successors did not lose that control for a long time after his death. The leopard would symbolize swiftness and dominion.
Although it appears to be more than coincidental, this third kingdom, though yet future, shall exhibit these characteristics. Our part is to be watchful and faithful as these signs emerge.
THE DESCRIPTION OF THE FOURTH BEAST
After this I kept looking in the night visions and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible and extremely strong, and it had large iron teeth. (Daniel 7:7a)
In these forthcoming studies we will give more time to this fourth beast because he occupies a greater prominence in prophecy and his identity is easier to recognize. First remember this beast is neither Rome nor Greece. His appearance is yet future, as we shall find out. We will begin by examining the characteristics that identify who he is.
1. Dreadful: This is a type of fear that keeps me motionless. It leaves me confused and unable to figure a way out. It is a fear that leaves me in a helpless state. That is how this dream about
this beast caused Daniel to feel.
2. Terrible: This speaks of that which causes terror; one from which there is no escape. It is a fear related to facing the future and it is what facing eternity is like when men reject Christ (How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation Hebrews 2;3)
3. Exceedingly Strong: Perhaps the word “irresistible,” would best describe this .It means that none can stand against him or prevent him from doing the evil he intends to do. There has never been a kingdom like this one. Even those in past history cannot compare to the evil of this fourth beast.
4. Great Iron Teeth: Devours much without showing signs of decay. It is like a great machine that is never satisfied, destroying and devouring everything in its path.
There is good news in light of this for the saints of God.