The Beast-Kingdoms of Daniel 7--Strictly Future?
Most pre-millennial Bible expositors agree that the 4 beasts of Daniel chapter 7, which are said in the passage to represent 4 kingdoms, represent the successive kingdoms of Babylon, then Persia, then Greece, and finally Rome (the same kingdoms represented by the 4-part statue in Daniel 2). The Biblical evidence supports that these four kingdoms of Daniel 7 were in fact the historical kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome—and that they will arise again at the End Time. However, there are five major objections to this view. They are answered below.
1. “These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth.” (Daniel 7:17) An objections is raised that since the verb in this verse, “will arise,” is future tense, then Babylon cannot possibly be the first of these 4 kingdoms because the prophecy was given to Daniel near the end of Babylon’s rule as an empire (14 years before the end of the Babylonian kingdom, Daniel 7:1). The “will arise” would imply that the first kingdom had not yet risen!
The answer is that the prophecy of the 4 kingdoms is given as a unit. It is not predicted that any particular kingdom “will arise,” but that four kingdoms “will arise.” That is much the same as saying to a father who has a firstborn son and is destined to have 3 more, “You will give rise to 4 sons.” Even though one son is already present, the emphasis is on ‘four’ sons. Another example would be to say to a football coach who has won the first 3 games of a 12-game season that “you will win 12 games this season.” It is common in every-day speech to refer to a unit in the future tense like this, even though part of that unit is already past.
The Book of Daniel itself gives us an example of this. Look at chapter two’s version of the 4 kingdoms. Verse 29 says “As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place.” Notice the phrases “what would take place in the future,” and “what will take place.” Daniel was shown a 4-part statue representing 4 kingdoms, and told it represented “what will take place.” Even though the prophecy was given during the tenure of the Babylonian Empire, the prophecy goes on to identify Babylon as the first of those 4 kingdoms (v. 38). Again, the verb clause “what will take place” is correctly used because it refers to the 4-kingdoms, not in an individual sense, but as a unit of history. Daniel 7 does the same thing with the vision of the 4 beasts-kingdoms, when verse 17 says they “are four kings who will arise from the earth.”
2. Daniel 7:7 says of the fourth beast-kingdom that “it was different from all the beasts that were before it…”. On the basis of this verse the objection to the 4-successive kingdom understanding is that the word “before” does not refer to time (i.e., “before” and “after”) but rather means “in front of” (i.e., “stood before the judge”). In other words, using the correct sense of the term “before,” if the first 3 kingdoms were ‘before’ the 4th, then they were ‘in the presence’ of the 4th, and thus were contemporary with the 4th. This would supposedly rule out Babylon, Persia, and Greece since they existed before the time of the Roman Empire (the 4th).
It is true that in the original language “before” in Daniel 7:7 means “in the presence of” or ’in front of.’ But it is also true that the Bible records that the first 3 kingdoms, though “their dominion was taken away,” they were granted “an extension of life” (more on this in the #3 below). They existed ’without dominion’ right up to the time of the 4th kingdom. This is further pointed out in chapter 2. There it is said of the 4th kingdom that “it will crush and break all these in pieces [the first 3 kingdoms].” That is, the first 3 kingdoms lose their ruling-empires (dominion) as they are conquered and their territorial “dominion” is taken away one-by-another in succession, but they continue to exist as distinct peoples and cultures under the domain of their conquerors. They are not obliterated, but absorbed by the successive conquering kingdoms one after the other. The first, Babylon, was absorbed by the Persians. The Persians in turn were conquered, yes, but absorbed by the Greeks. In that sense, they all stood “before,” or “in the face of,” the Romans. This 4th kingdom, then, absorbs what remains of them and rules over them all. The proof of this is that the fourth kingdom, in its latter-day stage as the Revived Roman Empire, will include Babylon, Persia (Iran), and Greece. When the Kingdom of Christ (the great stone) strikes the end stage (feet/toes) of the Revived Roman Empire, then Babylon, Persia, and Greece will be “crushed all at the same time.” (Daniel 2:35) Babylon, Persia, and Greece will indeed be “before” (in the presence of) the fourth kingdom at the end time.
3. Daniel 7:12 says “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.” Some take this verse to show the fate of the first three kingdoms AFTER the fourth kingdom is destroyed, and thus implying that they held dominion at the same time as the fourth kingdom and were in that sense contemporary with it, rising together only in the Last Days. This verse, however, is a parenthetical verse. The fate of the main kingdom in focus, the fourth beast-kingdom, is described in verse 11. Then, as a Biblical “footnote” (parenthetical verse, what we might call in normal speech “an afterthought”), verse 12 completes the story with the description of the fate of the first three beasts-kingdoms. This is like preceding verse 12 with “And by the way…”. Their dominion had been taken away previously one-by-one, but their existence (“extension of life”) continued until the end. Again, this agrees with chapter two of Daniel: “Then [the four kingdoms] were crushed ALL AT THE SAME TIME.” (Daniel 2:35)
4. Some maintain that the language regarding these empires is contemporaneous. But it is actually clearly sequential and successive. The time-link phrases in Daniel 7 indicate consecutive, not simultaneous, beast-kingdoms. Verse 4 begins with “the first.” Verse 5 continues, “Behold, another…”. Verse 6 picks up with “After this [time lapse] I kept [continued] looking…another…”. “After this [time lapse] I kept [continued] looking…and behold, a fourth…”. Verse 8 gives a clear indication of a time lapse BETWEEN EVENTS when it says “While I was contemplating…behold, another [which impacted the FIRST THREE horns]”. Verse 9 extends the sense of time lapse with “I kept looking until [passage of time]”. Verses 11-13 keep the time clock rolling with, “Then I kept looking…I kept looking until…I kept looking…”. Verse 17 portrays the exact same pattern, or template, already laid out for the period of Gentile rule overtaken by the rule of Christ given in Daniel 2 when it says “These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.” This is precisely parallel to Daniel 2:38-44, which says “You [Babylon] are the head of gold…after you…another kingdom…then another third kingdom…Then…a fourth kingdom…[then] a kingdom which will never be destroyed…it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms…”. These are clearly CONSECUTIVE kingdoms, both in Daniel 2 and 7. The only thing SIMULTANEOUS about them is that they all continue in latent form until the Last Days when the first three rise within the parameters of the fourth to comprise the Kingdom of the Antichrist. It is at that time that they are “crushed all at the same time” (2:35) by the Kingdom of Christ.
In fact, in Daniel 7:6 the third kingdom cannot be contemporaneous with the fourth kingdom, for it is said of the third kingdom “and dominion was given to it.” Yet, how could it have dominion when Daniel 7:23 declares of the fourth kingdom that “it will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it.” Where would the one “have dominion” if the other simultaneously has dominion over “the whole earth”?
5. It is held by some that since the fourth kingdom is said to rule over the whole world (7:23), and since the Roman Empire ruled only Europe and the Mid East, then it cannot possibly be the fourth kingdom, and the fourth kingdom is yet to come. However, this objection does not hold, since it is said of Babylon that it ruled “all nations,” and “whomever it wished.” (Daniel 5:18-19; also 2:38)
PROOF THAT A KINGDOM RULED THE “WHOLE WORLD”
“O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory, and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father.
“And because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations, and men of every language feared and trembled before him; whomever he wished he killed, and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whomever he wished he elevated, and whomever he wished he humbled. (Daniel 5:18-19)
Babylon, in fact, had this God-given power, though it never literally exercised it. But in the perception of all the peoples, nations, and men of every language, the power was there! The same was true of the ancient Roman Empire. The same will be true of its latter day clone…the empire of the Antichrist!