This timeline of world history was so important that God repeated it three times and in each of them God added a little more detail. In Daniel Chapter 7, while Daniel was still living under the Babylonian Empire, God gave him a dream.
“…the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’…and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it…and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns…behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts.” Daniel 7:2-8
Daniel saw the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea (for an explanation of prophetic symbols see Appendix 2). Out of this great sea there came four beasts corresponding to the four metals making up the statue Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream.
|Lion||Babylon||Wings of Eagle = speed|
|Wings Plucked = decadent and complacent|
|Bear||Persia||Raised on one side = Persia stronger than Media|
|Three Ribs = three areas of conquest:|
|Leopard||Greece||Four Wings = extreme speed|
|Four Heads = empire divided among the generals|
|Beast||Rome||Iron Teeth = consumes nations|
|Extremely Strong = crushes all opposition|
|Horns||Mixed Nations||Arising from Rome|
The first was a lion that had wings like an eagle (signifying the speed with which the beast could move). It had its wings plucked and it was given a human mind. Babylon stopped conquering other nations and felt secure in its power, becoming decadent and complacent, losing the attributes of a preying lion and instead became the prey.
The lion was replaced by a lop-sided bear (signifying that one side was stronger than the other) with three ribs in its mouth (signifying the three geographical areas it ‘devoured’; its own lands of Media and Persia, lands the Babylonian Empire once ruled, and new lands such as Anatolia).
The bear was replaced by a leopard with four wings (signifying even greater speed of movement) and four heads (Alexander’s empire divided among his generals).
And finally a fourth beast, Rome, which was terrifying and extremely strong; it had iron teeth and crushed the other beasts.
There are ten horns on the last beast, signifying many smaller kingdoms arising from the beast. In prophecy, a horn stands for a person, so the ten horns would represent ten kings. If it is a literal number, did ten kings and kingdoms arise after the Roman Empire fell? Yes. Rome had become too large for one central government to rule effectively so it was split into two halves by the emperor Diocletian in the third century CE. The Eastern half of the Roman Empire eventually became what we know as Byzantium with its capitol at Constantinople. The Western half of the divided Roman Empire kept Rome as its capitol and this is the part that fell and was eventually divided into ten parts. Differences exist regarding which nations comprised these ten parts; it seems to depend on the date chosen as the fall of the Roman Empire. One commonly accepted date chosen as the beginning of the fall of Rome falls in the middle of the fourth century CE. If that is our start time, then the group of nations that divided up the Roman Empire consists of the Anglo-Saxons, the Franks, the Suevi, the Visigoths, the Burgunians, the Alamanni (later replaced by the Huns), the Lombards, the Ostrogoths, the Heruli and the Vandals. And here we see the beginning of individual European nations such as France, Germany, Spain, etc.
Following all these beasts and horns Daniel saw Jesus returning to the earth and setting up his kingdom.
“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like the Son of Man was coming…
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away…” Daniel 7: 13, 14