Daniel's prophecy about world powers

 About 606 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar II, ruler of the Babylonian empire, captured Jerusalem. Daniel, a teenager, was among the Jewish captives taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. There he was educated, found favor with kings Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar and was promoted to various positions in the Babylonian government.

 Daniel had a number of prophetic dreams or visions. The vision recorded in Daniel chapter 7 provides an important basic outline of major world events. Its "beasts" and "horns" apparently symbolize world empires or powers and their leaders. Short explanations and comments have been included in brackets:

 1. In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. 2. Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven [the sky] strove upon the great sea [in Bible prophecy the sea is often used to symbolize the peoples and nations of the world]. 3. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4. The first [referring to Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian Empire] was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. 5. And behold another beast, a second, [the Medo-Persian Empire, 538 to 333 BC, which replaced the Babylonian Empire] like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6. After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, [the Grecian Empire was founded by Alexander the Great about 333 BC, and replaced the Medo-Persian Empire] which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads [upon Alexander the Great's death in 323 BC, four of his generals split the empire into four smaller empires]; and dominion was given to it. 7. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast [the Roman Empire, first and second century BC to 476 AD], dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. 8. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.

9. I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 11. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. 12. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time [they ceased to be great powers, but continued as peoples or nations]. 13. I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man [Jesus Christ] came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

15. I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 16. I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. 17. These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. 18. But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. 19. Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; 20. And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things [we'll see more about this later], whose look was more stout than his fellows. 21. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22. Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. 23. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. 24. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. 25. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time [generally understood to mean a period of three and a half years]. 26. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 27. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. 28. Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.

Daniel described a succession of world powers, rising and falling, from his time until the Kingdom of God arrived. In God's Kingdom "all people, nations, and languages . . . and all dominions shall serve and obey him." There is a similar prophetic outline of history in Daniel chapter 2, ending with this description of God's Kingdom:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (Daniel 2:44)

 Many Bible scholars agree that the four beasts refer to the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian and Roman Empires. But not many agree on what the "ten horns" and the "little horn" refer to. It is certainly clear that the Roman Empire has passed from power. And it is clear that the Kingdom of God has not arrived in physical power as described by Daniel. So, who or what are the ten horns and the little horn that appear between the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of God? Do the horns appear immediately after the Roman Empire? Or is there a gap in time between the Roman Empire and the appearance of the horns, making the horns difficult to trace in history?

To better understand Daniel's prophecy, it must first be understood that the prophecy is not an attempt to describe all the world's great powers. There have been many other great world powers (China, the Byzantine empire, the Ottoman empire, Spain, England, Soviet Russia, and the United States, for example) but they are not mentioned in this prophecy. But the Jews and the nation Israel, and the nations that affect them, are one of the central topics of Bible prophecy. Daniel's prophecy, as interpreted so far, focused only on the world powers that had a profound impact on Israel, specifically the Jews. Babylon conquered Israel. The Medo-Persian Empire, in 538 BC, freed the Jews from Babylonian rule and allowed them to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. The Grecian Empire subjugated Israel and in 168 BC desecrated the Jew's temple in Jerusalem. And the Roman Empire, 70 AD, vanquished and scattered the Jews and destroyed the temple.

There is speculation that with the scattering of the Jews by the Romans, the fulfillment of prophecy was suspended or delayed until "the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24) . . .  until 1948 when a geographic, national Israel was formed as a refuge for Jews scattered all over the world. Now with Israel a nation once again, fulfillment of prophecy will resume. If the speculation is correct then the "ten horns" have yet to appear: we should look for a union of ten nations to rise to power. They would somehow be involved with Israel. The "ten kings" would then be followed by the short-lived "little horn" power, which will be replaced by the Kingdom of God.

Given the speculation above, some are now watching Europe closely. They anticipate the "ten horns" power may appear as a political and military union of ten European nations. Those nations may become involved in a military action against or involving Israel. Other prophecies (Matthew 24:15, Daniel 9:24-27) also indicate a foreign force will occupy Israel shortly before the Kingdom of God arrives in physical power.

Daniel's prophecy shows that "the Son of man," Jesus Christ, will be given "dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him." With Jesus "the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever." There are many other prophecies about Jesus' return to establish the Kingdom in physical power. Isaiah 2:4 is an example:

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Next we'll look at a few prophecies in the last book of the Bible, the Revelation. Then we'll look at Jesus' prophecy about His return.