Just as the four metals of chapter 2 represent four successive world kingdoms—Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome—the four beasts of chapter 7 represent the same four kingdoms.

Lesson 7 - Kingdoms in Collision

In Daniel 7, the prophet outlines the rise and fall of kingdoms. These kingdoms battle for world dominion. Armies fight for this earth’s throne. Potential leaders aspire to earthly greatness. Kings and emperors wage war. The stakes are high; the rulership of this world hangs in the balance. Finally, a religious-political superpower arises. This power demands the total allegiance of its subjects. God’s faithful people, who refuse to give this allegiance, are cruelly persecuted. The superpower changes God’s law, this power sets up its own standard of right. The destiny of the world trembles in the balance.

Then the scene switches from earth to heaven. The Almighty declares that He is the rightful ruler of all the world’s kingdoms. He pronounces judgment upon the would-be usurpers of the throne. The kingdoms of the world are His. He created our planet, and He redeemed it. “All peoples, nations, and languages” (Daniel 7:14, NKJV) serve and praise Him forever.

Understanding Bible Prophecy: Questions 1-4

Question 1

NOTE: Bible prophecy contains a variety of symbolic representations. Each of these symbols is explained clearly in Scripture.

  • A beast represents a kingdom (Daniel 7:17, 23).
  • Winds represent strife, war, or conflict (Jeremiah 49:36, 37).
  • Water represents multitudes, peoples, and nations (Revelation 17:15).

Question 2

A lion, the first beast, is a fitting symbol of Babylon. The Old Testament prophets called Babylon a lion. A lion with eagle’s wings was a prominent symbol on Babylonian coins and on Babylon’s walls. The lion—the king of beasts—and an eagle—the chief of birds—aptly describes the powerful rule of Babylon from 605 to 539 B.C.

The fierceness of the Medo-Persian soldiers is depicted in the bear of verse 5. When the Medes and Persians overthrew Babylon, they also conquered Lydia and Egypt. The three ribs in the bear’s mouth represent these three nations—Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt. Medo-Persia ruled the Middle East from 539 to 331 B.C.

The leopard is an appropriate symbol of Alexander the Great’s empire, Greece. The Greek king conquered with the swiftness of a leopard flying with eagle’s wings. Why does this leopard have four heads? When Alexander died in a drunken stupor at age thirty-three, his four generals—Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy—divided up the empire. Bible prophecy is incredibly accurate. The Greeks ruled from 331 to 168 B.C.

The Roman empire, “as strong as iron,” conquered the world in 168 B.C. by defeating the Greeks at the Battle of Pynda. Under the Caesars, the mighty Roman Empire ruled from 168 B.C. to 351 A.D.

NOTE: The image of Daniel 2 contains four metals—gold, silver, brass, and iron. There are four beasts in chapter 7—a lion, bear, leopard, and a dragon. Just as the four metals represent the four successive world kingdoms beginning with Babylon in Daniel’s day and passing to Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome, so the four beasts represent the same four kingdoms. You might wonder why God uses metals in chapter 2 and beasts in chapter 7. In the symbolism of the metals in chapter 2, God illustrates that no power on earth can endure. The metals are transitory, but His kingdom—the rock cut out without hands—is permanent.

In the fierceness of the four beasts in Daniel 7, God describes the vicious conflicts of political kingdoms as they vie for world control.