Understanding the Lion, Bear, Leopard, and Beast of Daniel 7

Daniel 7:2-8 – Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night… four great beasts…The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings…a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I saw…a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet….I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.

Today, nations are represented by animals. The United States, for example, is identified with the bald eagle and our political parties are represented by a donkey and elephant.

In the ancient world, the same principle holds true which helps explain the four empires represented by four animals in Daniel 7. Furthermore, since the Bible often refers to demons in beastly terms of wild animals, the imagery also reveals to us the demonic powers at work behind each of the four empires that would rule over God’s people as discipline for their disobedience. As an interpretive clue, the horn is an ancient symbol for the rule of kings over kingdoms.

  1. Winged Lion – Babylon was the focus of Daniel 1-4 and is here revealed as the first kingdom.
  2. Bear – The imbalanced bear was a prophecy about the joint Medo-Persian Empire in which the Persian side was larger and more dominant. The overtaking of Babylon by this empire was the focus of Daniel 5.
  3. Winged Leopard – This was a prophecy about the future coming of the Greek empire which would conquer the Persian empire and expand beyond it. This prophecy came true when Alexander the Great, by his early thirties, had conquered the known world with lightning speed, metaphorically running by and flying over his enemies. Alexander died young without an heir, and so his empire was split between four generals as predicted in Daniel’s vision.
  4. Beast – The Roman empire is depicted as a demonic monstrosity of animals & weapons and it came to become the largest and longest standing empire in world history. Jesus Christ was born, tried, and murdered by the Roman empire.

For God, the centerpiece of human history is the first and Second Coming of His Son, Jesus Christ. For this reason, the prophecies jump from the time of Jesus’ first coming under the Roman Empire to the time of Jesus’ second coming under the revived Roman empire in the last days. The next major event in world history will be the renewal of the remnants of the Roman empire, which is today known as nations such as Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Holland, etc.

Everything that God creates, Satan tries to counterfeit. God has a King named Jesus who rules over a global Kingdom ruling over politics, economics, and spirituality. Satan has a counterfeit beast who in every age tries to establish a global counterfeit kingdom ruling over everyone and everything. The “little horn” is the antichrist who will start small and quiet but grow to be large and loud. This is how Satan works in our lives – he starts small and quiet, knowing his control of us will be great and loud. The antichrist is spoken of repeatedly by John in the New Testament (1 Jn 2:18,22, 4:3; 2 Jn 1:7). John says there are many antichrists, and one day there will be the demonic empowered Antichrist who comes as a brutal world dictator. To be antichrist means two things. One, it means to be against. Two, it means to replace. Anytime anyone or anything opposes and/or seeks to replace Jesus, the demonic spirit of antichrist is at work, including today in American culture.

Where do you see the spirit of antichrist at work in our culture most powerfully today?

In addition to this introduction to and overview of Daniel, you can find the corresponding sermons, daily devotions, men’s ministry resources, and hundreds of additional sermons and Bible teaching resources for free at markdriscoll.org or on the Mark Driscoll Ministries app.

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