Four Great Beasts

Daniel’s vision in chapter seven adds a new layer of detail to the prophecies of The King’s Dream in chapter two. The prophet described seeing four great beasts emerge from the sea, different from one another. This vision is exceedingly dense with symbolism which serves as a key to understanding the prophecies in the Book of Revelation. For this reason let’s not speculate as to what any of these symbols might mean, but rely on the text itself to explain them. For example, in verses 17, 18 and 23, the prophet is told the beasts are kingdoms, therefore we can safely ignore any notion that a beast (in a prophetic sense) is anything other than a kingdom. I want to make this point because this prophecy is intimately linked with the vision recorded in Revelation 13 which describes two beasts, an image of the beast, and a mark of the beast.

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. Daniel declared, I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, “Arise, devour much flesh.” After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.

These four great beasts represent the same four kingdoms from The King’s Dream in chapter two: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. This is logical as both prophecies concern kingdoms, dominion, the span of time from the prophet’s time to the end of this time, and they both conclude with divine intervention. That being said, these prophecies are a remarkably detailed testimony of what is now history.

BC 605

Lion: Babylon (605 BC)

BC 539

Bear: Medo-Persia (539 BC)

BC 331

Leopard: Greece (331 BC)

BC 168

Terror: Rome (168 BC to 476 AD)

After this, then, what remains, beloved, but the toes of the feet of the image, in which “part shall be of iron and part of clay mixed together?” By the toes of the feet he meant, mystically, the ten kings that rise out of that kingdom. As Daniel says, “I considered the beast; and, lo, (there were) ten horns behind, among which shall come up another little horn springing from them;” by which none other is meant than the antichrist that is to rise…

As these things, then, are destined to come to pass, and as the toes of the image turn out to be democracies, and the ten horns of the beast are distributed among ten kings, let us look at what is before us more carefully, and scan it, as it were, with open eye. The “golden head of the image” is identical with the “lioness,” by which the Babylonians were represented. “The golden shoulders and the arms of silver” are the same with the “bear,” by which the Persians and Medes are meant. “The belly and thighs of brass” are the “leopard,” by which the Greeks who ruled from Alexander onwards are intended. The “legs of iron” are the “dreadful and terrible beast,” by which the Romans who hold the empire now are meant. The “toes of clay and iron” are the “ten horns” which are to be. The “one other little horn springing up in their midst” is the “antichrist.” The stone that “smites the image and breaks it in pieces,” and that filled the whole earth, is Christ, who comes from heaven and brings judgment on the world. –Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5

Hippolytus knew the Roman beast would be divided into ten. He also identified the little horn, which shall come up among the ten, with antichrist.

Continue to: The Little Horn