Daniel 7, Introduction to the End


Daniel 7 Introduction to the End of the World

Next 7 weeks.

  • Daniel 7: Introduction to the End
  • Daniel 7:  It Is Not the End of the World, Part 1
  • Daniel 8, It Is Not the End of the World, Part 2
  • Daniel 9:  It Is Not the End of the World, Part 3
  • Daniel 10-12, God’s Sovereignty Over History and the Resurrection 
  •  A Brief History of the End of the World
  • A Critique of the End of the World

This session we will look at a basic interpretation of the vision. Next week we will look at the more intricate issues.  So our outline will look like this.

  • Basic Interpretation Daniel 7
  • Intro to Systems of Interpretation (though both deny that they are “systems”)
  • Next Week we will Refute the Dispensational Claim that the Fourth beast is a revived Roman Empire.

It is not the end of the World!

My basic thesis is that Dan 7-12 are not the end of the world. That is, they do not predict the time of the end when Jesus returns in the Second Advent (e.g. Resurrection, Final Judgment, and New Heavens and New Earth), but the initial establishment of the Kingdom. They predict the First Advent, Jesus’ Inauguration of his Kingdom, even, especially, the very day of the crucifixion.

They are predictive. They are prophetic. But the events foretold have already come to pass. Daniel does not prophesy the last day, but the coming of the “Last days,” or the final phase of his Kingdom coming before the total consummation of all things.


He foretold the inauguration of the Kingdom. However there is a point of tension which needs to be resolved. That point of tension is the Delay of the final judgment. 

What is at Stake? Many have argued that since the Old Testament prophets did not foretell the coming of the kingdom during the tenure of Christ’s life, therefore they were wrong. They thus argue that the kingdom is alive and well in the moral capacity of the heart. This morality is the “live and let live” categorical imperative of Immanuel Kant, Ritschl, Adolf Von Harnack, etc. They believe that there is a kernel of moral truth in every story in the Bible, but that the husk can be dispensed with. Therefore, this is the sort of moral of the story preaching and teaching which lead to the liberal social Gospel of the early 20th century. These folk see the kingdom as fully realized in the moral life of humanity.

On another front, the futurist interpretation of the text lends to a view which sees the Kingdom as totally future. The result of this theology is that they either deny that the commandments of the Bible are necessary for Christians. Or, on the liberal side of this view, the commandments are war-time ethics meant to make the people of God separate and strangely unlike the world because they are living by the ethics of the afterlife. So these will argue that Jesus denied, marriage, private property, swearing allegiance to any form of Government, war, punishment of crimes, etc (Weiss, Schweitzer, Marx and Engells, Yoder and Hauerwas, and all other Anabaptists- though they would not all take it to the same extreme, they do hold this theology at least in part). 

To the liberals, and their vague feel-goodery, we must respond by saying that their moral values are good, but lack the depth of a right hermeneutic which sees the organic unity of the Law and the analogical connection to the character of God revealed in scripture. Anything they come up with from psychological a priori are just a new rendition of medieval allegorical interpretation.

To the futurist extremists, we can try to buy their houses. The next time someone tries to tell you when the end of the world is. Try to buy their houses from them the day before it is predicted. Let them put their money where their mouths are.

For the modern Anabaptists, we can try to make nice padded walls and these nifty jackets that keep them from hurting themselves or others.

Beyond those snarky responses, I believe the best defense of a position is a strong exposition of scripture. That is to where we now turn.

Consensus yet Difference

Dan 7:17 “These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth.”

There is a great deal of consensus on the meaning of the visions in Daniel 2 and 7. Jewish, Christian, and secular interpreters agree for the most part that the referents to these “kingdoms” are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. This is followed by the Kingdom of God. This interpretation is also quite ancient.

For example, early Christian theologian, Hyppolytus, c. 170 AD, argued:

“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.”[1]

The interpretation is clear in Daniel 2 because he interprets the kingdoms. Chapter seven picks up the same kingdoms and interprets them further.

Fourth Kingdom:

However, notice that in both Daniel 2 and 7 the fourth beast remains unnamed but rather is called “different.” (22-24) God obviously can give to prophets names of kings before they exist. This happened with Josiah, and Cyrus. Both of their names were predicted. Nevertheless Daniel did not name the Roman Republic with his other nations because it was still in its infancy. Rome existed, but was not yet a power. This shows the antiquity of the book. A later author would have likely committed the anachronistic fallacy by writing in Rome. 

The character of that kingdom is most important for our interpretation. Unfortunately, as helpful as the ambiguity is in the argument against a late date of Daniel, it has served to promote a view of the last kingdom to be both the original and a revived future Roman Empire. The ambiguity was seized upon by dispensational interpreters to mean that this kingdom would be different from all the other kingdoms, in the sense that it would be an eschatological, antichristic, revived roman empire of the last days.

Though there is a great deal of similarity between groups as the whom these visions refer, the differences are profound. The consequences of a right interpretation of chapters 2,7, and 9 of Daniel are of inestimable weight for the interpretation of the New Testament, especially Revelation.

Framing the Issue:

One of the great difficulties in the study of eschatology, and especially visions, is framing the issues. There are two general ways of doing this. First, “The two major camps method” (among evangelical interpreters) argues that there are Dispensational and Covenantal ways of looking at the prophecies. These technical words represent two schools of interpretation which have been developed in the 20th century  in antithesis to one another.  Both of these camps claim to use literal when possible interpretations in order to arrive at their respective systems.

A second, and better, way to frame the issue is kingdom historical versus literal when possible. Essentially the debate has been unfruitful because both claim to build their system from the text, yet they arrive at distinct systems. Therefore, they betray that the literal when possible method still requires interpretation. Therefore the kingdom historical approach rejects the deceptively so called neutral approach for a full fledged theology which then can be questioned in light of the text. The text is flawless and authoritative, but the interpreter is not, sola scriptura. Therefore the interpreter, and his entire system must be willing to submit to the text. Nevertheless, every interpreter brings a presupposed system to the text. It is disingenuous to deny this, as was shown above.

Therefore the approach brought to bear here on the interpretation of the text is both literal in the grammatical historical method, and based in the presupposition that the text is its own best interpreter, analogia fide. Therefore it is grammatical historical and redemptive historical. “Grammatical” refers to the goal of determining the original author’s referent when he wrote each word, sensus literalis. “Redemptive” refers to its meaning in the fuller context of the Bible’s further explication and interpretation of the text, sensus plenior.

Summary of the System Presupposed while Interpreting:

I take the traditional reformed view, amillennialism. For more explication of my view see Herman Bavink Reformed Dagmatics Vol 4, Colin Hemer, Letters to the Seven Churches, Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, and Bauckham, The Book of Revelation.

The basic view held by these men is that the Kingdom is already inaugurated in the incarnation of the Christ, but is not yet consummated. The church, in union with Christ, receives all the benefits of his resurrection and earned Covenant benefits. This is usually referred to by the shorthand, inaugurated eschatology, already and not yet, semieschatological and presence of the kingdom. These all refer to the same concept, namely that the church age is the already inaugurated, but not yet consummated kingdom predicted in the Old Testament.

Another point is that the types and shadows of the Old Testament both point to the ultimate anti-type, Jesus Christ. Also, the Saints, by virtue of their union with Jesus by the Holy Spirit, are pointed to in the types. For example, Israel is referred to sometimes as son (Ex 4:22, Ps 2:7), and other times as bride (Hos 2:16). The reason for this is that the nation was a type of both Jesus (Mat 3:17, Heb 1:5), and also his church (Eph 5:22ff). Jesus is the Son and the church is the Bride of the Son. The idea is mediation. As the Son is, so is his bride. He represents and earns salvation for us, and thus th blessings which he receives he also gives to his people. The idea simply is that the prophecies about Jesus also apply to the church. We will see this at work in the passage.   

A Warning:

Many embark on these waters in order to know the times and the epochs of the future. The point here is that this prophecy has indeed come to its fulfillment in the incarnation of Christ, destruction of the temple, and the end of the Jewish era. The Book of Revelation has more to say about Rome and Domitian, and the end of that empire and the progress of the church. Nevertheless, that too referred to events that are long past. Therefore it is illegitimate to seek future manifestations of the kingdoms which have already passed away.

Many want to see these demonic powers as continually cropping up, or idealogical equivalents which pop up throughout history. However, Richard Bauckham insightfully argued that, like any other text in the Bible, these prophecies were locked into their historical context. To pursue a allegorical application to the world systems today goes beyond the text, and in fact ignores it. It ignores that the text points to the triumph of the kingdom of God in this age and a filling of the whole earth, and the conversion of every tongue tribe and nation. It does not refer to future manifestations of bestial kingdoms.  Instead it shows that the church will continue to grow and mature into the unity and maturity of that which is waiting in the consummation.

Psa 110:1  A Psalm of David. The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

Dan 7:13-14  “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.  (14)  “And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

Dan 7:27  ‘Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’

This Class will thus look at the text from this light. Jesus is already ruling and reigning. But first, we must also define the dispensational view against which we will be arguing for the next several weeks. 

Dispensationalism Digested

“The New Testament reveals, that which was hidden from the Old Testament prophets; (Mat_13:11-17); (Eph_3:1-10) that during this period should be accomplished the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven (Mat_13:1-50) and the out-calling [rapture] of the Church; (Mat_16:18); (Rom_11:25). When the Church-age will end, and the seventieth week begin, is nowhere revealed.”[2]

Here, the imminent C.I. Scofield portrayed the basic views of Dispensationalism.

  • The New Testament Church was hidden from the Old Testament prophets.
  • The Church will be called-out [raptured] from the “seventieth week,” eg the Tribulation

This is based on an interpretation of the seventy weeks prophecy of Daniel 9:24ff.

There are truly gifted pastors and scholars who have held this view (Charles Ryrie, C.I. Scofield, Darrel Bock, Robert Saucy, Paul Feinberg, etc.)  So it is not only the crazy maniacs, but truly careful and honest thinkers.  I do not want to be accused of an argumentum ad hominem.

“Fits and Charts”:

 There are two different veins of Dispensationalism. There is the serious vein, as noted above. There is also the nutty vein. Futurist extremists are known for their fits and their charts. There are elaborate charts with arrows, resurrections, raptures, etc. Whenever I see charts of any sort, even if they have nothing to do with it, I will draw the rapture in the chart just for the fun of it.

Charts are one thing but fits are another. Benny Hinn, one of the caziest of dispensationals, is known for his physical fits. Harold Camping has fits of “date setting.” No one takes the cake more than Camping. Harold Camping has again predicted the end of the world on May 21, 2011. His first prediction was September 6th 1994. He is not a mainstream dispensational, nor would any of the heterodox scholars above have associate with him.

Nevertheless, Camping’s view is subject to our same critique here because his system of calculation is based on dispensational foundations. If we can strike at the foundation we can defeat his argument.  Therefore, let is now delve into the text itself.

Simply we will take on both of the above foundational beliefs which Scofield so clearly set forth. Namely we will strike at their interpretation of the Old Testament view of the coming Kingdom, and the rapture of the church from the seventieth week. In this session we will look at the coming of the kingdom. In the next we will look at the exegesis itself.

Old Testament  Prediction of the Kingdom

The Issue and Respective Interpretations:

The Old Testament prophets predicted the coming of the kingdom era. One of the difficulties in interpreting the Old Testament’s prediction of the kingdom is that they tend to run events right up next to each other which may be very far between one another. For example, in verse 9 the prediction of the ascension of Christ to the throne of God is predicted.

Dan 7:9-10  “I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire.” 

Jesus has already ascended to the Father and is seated at his right hand, ruling over the earth. Nevertheless, this is followed directly by the final judgment.

(10)  “A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened.”

 The “books opened” refers to the final day of judgment (cf Rev 20:12). It is true that these things come in succession, but not rapid succession. Jesus will return and judge the world and then the resurrection and judgment will come. Neither Dispensationalism nor the inaugurated eschatology view would argue otherwise. The difference is a mater of how they interpret the issue.  Either way, the Old Testament tends to see the coming of the kingdom and the resurrection and judgment as one massive event that happens in rapid succession. At least, that is the impression it gives to most readers.

 Dispensationalists interpret the issue by arguing that the “church age” was never supposed to happen (”supposed” may be an overstatement, but the general idea was that it was a prophetically unforeseen happening in God’s work of redemption). The Old Testament prophets did not foresee the coming in of the Gentiles into the Kingdom. The state of Israel would be resurrected and the final judgment would come with the coming of the Messiah. They did not foresee the Jewish rejection of Jesus, nor the crucifixion and the resurrection. This is what Scofield was pointing out when he said,

“The New Testament reveals, that which was hidden from the Old Testament prophets; (Mat_13:11-17); (Eph_3:1-10) that during this period should be accomplished the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven (Mat_13:1-50) and the out-calling of the Church”[3]

The verses he cross-references depict the “mysterious-ness” of the church age to the Old Testament prophets. The term mystery he takes to mean unforeseen. Rather, we would take mystery to mean that it was unclear/mysterious how it would happen but was indeed foretold (e.g.  Gen 12:1-3, Psalm 117, 110:2, 87, 47:1-4, Dan 7:27, Rev 5:9-10 to name a few) by the Old Testament prophets.

Semi-Eschatological Answer:

The way the inaugurated view reconciles this same issue is by realizing that there is a sense in which the Kingdom predicted was already inaugurated, but not yet consummated. Jesus began the work of the resurrection in his resurrection from the dead. The Saints will one day be like he already is. The Church is victorious in this world, but there is still trial and tribulation which befalls us. Therefore there remains a sense of the not yet consummated nature of the eschatological work of redemption.  

 The future interprets the present. Hindsight is 20/20. The New Testament interprets the Old Testament. The future interprets the present. Therefore, if you do not understand the future, you cannot understand the present! This is the conclusion: your life now matters forever, because Jesus’ Kingdom is already here.

Imagine a painting. Start with a blank canvas. Imagine rolling hills in the background. Now imagine a few details in front of your vantage point. There are farmers, wheelbarrows, shovels, and bags of seed for planting. This is how prophecy worked in the Bible. The Old Testament prophets saw background, rolling hills. They “sought to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ was indicating as he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow,” and new that, “they were not serving themselves, but you in the things which now have been pronounced.” (1 Pet 1:11, and 13). The New Testament Apostles saw the foreground. They had the up-close details of the “things to come,” which came in Jesus.

 “Strange as this movement of thought may seem to us, it must have been to the believers of the apostolic age quite natural and familiar”[4] One must understand this Biblical concept if one wants to understand the present and future nature of the church. In order to interpret the mission of the church one must learn to think about the future according to scripture.

The Future is the Key to the Present:

 The future interprets the present. How does one interpret sayings like, “He was raised for our justification” (Rom 4:25), or “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent” (Col 1:18)? Paul told his readers that the resurrection was the reason Christian could be justified, and that because Jesus rose from the dead, so will other dead people! Paul used the future to interpret the present. The point is that the reader will understand how the future interprets the present and therefore the future of the Church interprets the present task.

The point of this discussion is to show the reader how the Bible studies itself. The result is that the reader will have confidence in the conclusion that the Old Testament did predict the church age, and the New Testament is the extension of the Old Testament religion.

Paul never abandoned this way of looking at the world. Even after the resurrection of Jesus, he still looked at the end to understand the present. However, Paul saw the end in the resurrected Jesus. Jesus has been given to the church as Lord over all (Eph 1:22).

Because Jesus is already part of the new creation, and his work in the church is part of the new creation, then Paul considered the church as semi-eschatological along with Christ. This means that the church is already part of the new creation, but notyet perfected. This is what Paul meant when he said, “[we] were co-raised with Christ, and co-seated with Him in the heavens, in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:6).

Semi-eschatological people like us can be “glass half empty” or “glass half full” people. The glass-half-empty people tend to think that this world is going to hell in a handbag and there is little point to engagement with it. They overemphasize the notyet nature of the new creation. This world is not yet perfect, so we should not try to renew it and take dominion over it, as we will in the new creation. On the contrary, the glass-half-full people think that this world will, one day, end at the final judgment; but in the mean time, the church is to do the work of the new creation. This is because the Church is already part of the new creation because of her union with Christ (Eph 2:6).

The new creation is already and not yet. This means that you ought to live in this world as a renewed being, under Christ’s lordship. This is what makes up the mission of the church. The bride of Jesus Christ is semi-eschatological. She is already resurrected in newness of life (Col 3:4), knowledge (Eph 1:19, Col 2:2), love (Eph 4:15) in order to do the work of the Kingdom of Jesus (Eph 5:5) in this world.

Daniel 7- Two Visions, Five Kingdoms, one Ascension, One People of God

1-4 First Vision: The Time of the Beasts and the Ascension of Christ:

15- 28 Second Vision: The Persecution and Kingdom of Saints:

The Time of the Last Beast- Rome:

The dispensational argument is that this last ambiguous kingdom will be a revived Roman empire, followed by the earthly Israeli kingdom age which the Old Testament “predicted.” Between now and then there is a parenthetical age when the gentiles will be saved by faith in Christ. However, when Jesus raptures his church, the Kingdom will resume as had originally be planned before the Jews rejected him.

However, this is  highly speculative, and does not fit the literal interpretation of the text. This was Rome, the original Rome, followed by the setting up of the Kingdom of Christ, already inaugurated and not yet consummated. 

Ten Horns of the First Beast:

Many interpreters want to say that the Ten Horns on the last beast is the Roman provinces which will be represented by an end time revived Roman empire. Predictions have varied between the USSR, European Union, and United Nations. However the best and simplest way to interpret this passage is to take the original referent to be Rome, and the ten horns to be Roman Emperors, not provinces.

Frankly, there were not 10 roman provinces, but rather there were 17.

Roman Provinces Prior to Caesar Augustus’ Ascension to Emperor

  1. 241 BC – Sicilia, propraetorial province (senatorial from 27 BC)
  2. 231 BC – Corsica et Sardinia, propraetorial province (senatorial from 27 BC)
  3. 203 BC – Gallia Cisalpina, propraetorial province (merged with Italy ca. 42 BC)
  4. 197 BC – Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior, propraetorial provinces (imperial from 27 BC)
  5. 167 BC – Illyricum, propraetorial province (imperial from 27 BC)
  6. 146 BC – Macedonia, propraetorial province (senatorial from 27 BC)
  7. 146 BC – Africa proconsularis, proconsular province (senatorial from 27 BC)
  8. 129 BC – Asia, proconsular province (senatorial from 27 BC)
  9. 120 BC – Gallia Transalpina (later Gallia Narbonensis), propraetorial province (senatorial from 27 BC)
  10. 74 BC – Bithynia, propraetorial province (senatorial from 27 BC)
  11. 74 BC – Creta et Cyrenaica, propraetorial province (senatorial from 27 BC)
  12. 66 BC – Corduene (imperial from 27 BC)
  13. 64 BC – Cilicia et Cyprus, propraetorial province (senatorial from 27 BC)
  14. 64 BC – Syria, propraetorial province (imperial from 27 BC)
  15. 51 BC – Gallia Comata (divided in 22 BC)
  16. 30 BC – Aegyptus, personal domain of Augustus, getting a special governor styled Praefectus Aegypti
  17. 29 BC – Moesia, propraetorial province (imperial from 27 BC)

If this was not enough. The first Ten Roman Emperors fits the predictions of this passage perfectly. More will be said of this in the interpretation of  Revelation 13 and 17 in the next section. For now suffice it to conclude that the referent was not the provinces but the emperors. Therefore one could not argue for a revived Roman Empire based on literal interpretation, but would rather have to disagree with the literal original referent and occasion of the prediction. Further, if the ten horns are not provinces but kings, then there is no reason to see a coalition of European states in the UN, EU, or USSR as in any way pertinent to this prophecy.   

Daniel said that the fourth beast would be different. 

Dan 7:23  “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it.

The Nature of the difference is not explained in the text other than that it is a nondescript animal. This is vague as it is. However, the same word is repeated in verse 24

Dan 7:24  ‘As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings.

It seems that this term has more to do with a parental lineage than with any other characteristics. Simply this is a new kingdom which is not related to the other kingdoms. Similarly, the latter king in verse 24 would be “different” in lineage from the former ones in verse 23. The simplest reading of this is that the fourth beast refers to Rome.

The Roman Emperors:


There were 10 emperors between the first (Octavian/Caesar Augustus, 28 bc) and the End of the Jewish Wars.

  • Augustus
  • Tiberius
  • Caligula
  • Claudius
  • Nero (Began the War of the Jews, Vespasian was the general)
  • Galba (Usurper)
  • Otho (Usurper)
  • Vitellius (Usurper)
  • Vespasian (Continued Nero’s War, and Became Caesar)
  • Titus (Destroyed the Temple, Son of Vespasian)

This is important for two reasons. First, because this beast, the fourth, Rome, was predicted to Destroy the temple.

Dan 9:26  “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.

Second, Vespasian and Titus ruled the empire together as father and son.  In order to do so they overthrew 3 kings (Galba, Otho, and Vitellius) all in 69 ad.

Dan 7:24  ‘As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings.

Vespasian overthrew three kings and was indeed from another Dynasty, Flavian, than was Nero, Julio-Claudian.  The similarities are eerie. Further, Vespasian and Titus, his son, were responsible for 3 ½ year siege of Jerusalem which culminated in its destruction.

If the referent of the prophecy was indeed a event future to Daniel, yet past to us now, then a futurist interpretation is out of the question.

[1] Hyppolytus, 170-236 AD, Commentary on Daniel [translated], “The Ante-Nicene Fathers”, Volume 5, p. 178, 179

[2] Scofield Reference Bible, note on Daniel 9:24

[3] Ibid Daniel 9:24

[4] Vos, Geerhardus, “The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit” Collected Shorter Writings ed. Richard B. Gaffin, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1980) 91