New Hope for God’s People
“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire” (v. 9).- Daniel 7:1-12
Chapter 7 of Daniel marks a transition in the book’s style from narrative accounts of the lives of Daniel and his friends in exile to apocalyptic visions of the future. Because of the rich imagery of the second half of Daniel and its extensive use of numbers to reveal the time left until the end of history, there has been no end to speculation as to how Daniel foresees specific events that are occurring even in our own day. Books that purport to unveil Daniel’s mysteries are perennial bestsellers, and few take the time to consider whether it is even right to approach Daniel’s work as a book whose signs are coming true only in our day.
As we saw in our look at Ezekiel 40–48, we have to note that whatever else we say about Daniel, his work must have been understandable and applicable to his original audience. To identify the ten horns of the fourth beast (Dan. 7:7–8) as the modern European Union or another modern entity takes Daniel’s prophecy away from its first readers and makes it all but irrelevant to them. However, if we consider the text carefully with a view to the original audience, we can see how the text both applies to us and would have made sense for them.
Because the text mentions four beasts, we will not go far astray if we consider it in relation to the vision of the statue with four distinct components that precedes it (2:31–45). It seems best to view the four successive beasts in Daniel 7:1–12 as corresponding to the same successive four empires imaged in the vision of the statue—Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome. It should be noted that the four beasts do not have an exact correspondence in the animal kingdom; all of them except for the bear are perversions, mutated forms of what the Lord originally created. The sense we are to get is that they embody evil in all its chaotic fury. They inflict harm upon God’s people even if they are relatively kind slavemasters because they rule over the Jews, who are supposed to rule over the world. Beast number four is particularly fierce and proud, with a horn that speaks “great things” (vv. 8, 11–12).
As terrible as these beasts are, they are no match for the “Ancient of Days” who sits in judgment over them (vv. 9–10). The rise and fall of these empires indicate that no evil power will last forever but that each one rules for its appointed time before being cast down. The appearance of the Ancient of Days, however, shows that this succession of kingdoms cannot end until God has His final say in the matter. Though we are the Lord’s people, we ourselves cannot defeat evil. God and God alone can save us.
We will look at the specifics of Daniel 7 in more detail tomorrow. Today, we note that to know and understand Scripture according to the original meaning of its authors is the only way we can rightly apply the Bible in a way that pleases God. God grants us the right to private interpretation, but as Dr. R.C. Sproul has often said, He does not grant us the right to misinterpretation. Insofar as we are able, let us be careful to understand Scripture according to its original intent.
Passages for Further Study