In the first 14 verses of this chapter, Daniel has been given an extensive look at the world’s future as it will unfold in regards to Israel until the coming of One like the Son of Man.
The interpretation of Daniel’s vision is almost humorous in the brevity with which it casually dismisses the four beasts: “Those great beasts, are four kings which arise out of the earth.” That’s all, to describe centuries of conflict and upheaval. At the same time, it’s startling, because of the other statement the angel makes: “but the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and forever.” This statement means that those who are usually at the bottom of the food chain, so to speak, that is, the saints of the Most High, will one day be on top. In a nutshell, this is human history from the time of Daniel to its end as we know it.
This cursory explanation doesn’t satisfy Daniel, because he’s burning with curiosity about something in the vision itself. This brings us to Daniel’s question and it’s answer, both of which are in two parts.
The Question, vs. 19-22.
Repetition, vs. 19, 20.
In this section, Daniel merely repeats what has already been said about the fourth beast, about its dreadfulness and destruction, about the ten horns and “the little horn” and its destruction of three other horns. There is nothing new here.
Revelation, vs. 21, 22.
Three things, two of which are new, are mentioned here.
1. tribulation, the horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing…. Though the power and destructiveness of the fourth beast was well evident, now we discover that this violence extends to the saints. Perhaps Daniel was confused about the apparent contradiction in what he saw, that is, that the saints were being defeated, and the angel’s statement that the saints would possess the kingdom. Persecution of them hasn’t been mentioned until now.
2. limitation, until…the time came…. The violent career of the little horn won’t continue unabated; it has a set limit and a definite end, cf. v. 11. While things may look black on this earth, there is a God in heaven. Strange how the idea that God is in control of things upsets people. I know of people who have actually walked out of a church service when that idea has been broached. Evidently, it’s ok for Him to he there as long as He does what we want, but otherwise stays out of the way, gives us the things we “name and claim,” and in general acts as a sort of heavenly Concierge to attend to our wishes, but for Him to be God, well, that’s bothersome. But, thank God, it’s true.
3. transformation, …for the saints to possess the kingdom. What, exactly, does this mean? Daniel tells us.
The answer, vs. 23-27.
1. the circumstances of the fourth kingdom, vs. 23-26.
a. its conduct, v. 23. The destructive violence of this kingdom is readily apparent, but that’s not what’s important in this vision, but its final end, which is what the rest of the explanation is about.
b. its climax, vs. 24-27.
1. the appearance of ten kings, v. 24a.
These ten kings correspond to the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, 2:41-44. They embody the final form of the fourth kingdom. Remember, we saw that Nebuchadnezzar’s vision was from an earthly standpoint. There was no consideration of these kingdoms in reference to heaven. However, in this vision, the relationship is very clear. In the first vision, the various empires do their own thing with little, if any regard, to the God of heaven; in this vision, they still do their own thing, but a definite rebellion against and opposition to Him develops especially in the final king, the last representative of these kingdoms: the little horn.
2. the attributes of the final king, vs. 24-26.
a. his power, he shall subdue three kings, vs. 24.
Nothing more is told of this. Some have attempted to pinpoint where this has happened in history, but with little success.
b. his pride, he shall speak pompous words against the Most High, v. 25.
Surely, this is the individual written about by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4:
the man of sin…the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Even though this man, whom we call the Antichrist, isn’t here yet, Paul wrote that the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, 2 Thessalonians 2:7. John wrote that many antichrists have come, 1 John 2:18. There were “many” in John’s day, and there are certainly many in our day who speak pompous words against the Most High, denying His word, His providence, His creation, His justice, His salvation, even His very existence. These are but faint shadows of what is to come.
This man can’t reach God, who is as far above him as the heavens are above the earth, so he does what he can –
c. his program, he shall persecute (lit., “wear out”) the saints of the Most High, v. 25b.
I think there is a corresponding prophecy in Zechariah 14: 1, 2. Writing to and about Israel, Zechariah wrote,
Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, and your spoil shall be divided in your midst. For I will gather all nations to battle against Jerusalem: the city shall be taken, the house rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity….
There is much more detail we could add here, but we want to look at one final prophecy from Daniel about this time: …when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished, Daniel 12:7, emphasis added. There is coming a time when, to the joy of an unbelieving and hostile world, it will seem like Israel has finally been destroyed.
d. his presumption, he shall intend to change times and law, v. 25c.
We don’t know exactly what is involved here, except that it involves the Antichrist’s desire to supplant and replace the true God in the minds and hearts of men. This would require getting rid of His word and seeking to thwart His purpose.
From the Book of Revelation, it’s clear that when these events take place, it will be obvious that God is actively involved. Revelation 6:15 says that the inhabitants of the earth will cry out to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand!”
There will be no doubt about what is going on!
However, and there are many who disagree with me on this, the mystery of lawlessness is already at work,as we’ve seen, and there are many in our own time, as well as throughout Church history, who have changed, or would change, “times,” by denying what the Old Testament foretells. According to these people, and there are good men among them, everything has already been fulfilled, or there is only a “spiritual” fulfillment. The Old Testament is not to be taken “literally”. In the words on one of these scholars, writing about the Book of Revelation, but applicable to the prophetic portions of the Old Testament,
“In the figurative or symbolic language of the Apocalypse hardly anything is called by its ordinary and direct name, but things are indirectly alluded to under some other name, and words have to be understood as implying something else than their ordinary connotations;…” (Willian Ramsey, The Letters to the Seven Churches, p. 111).
Quite frankly, I can’t think of a more damaging or dangerous idea than the idea that any portion of Scripture has “to be understood as implying something else than [its] ordinary connotations….” This does not deny that there may be symbolic or figurative language involved, but even these convey literal truth, not just abstract “principles” or “processes”.
All this controversy about the Word will come to a head during the time of the Antichrist. The first recorded controversy at the beginning of human history was when Satan asked Eve, “Has God indeed said?” Genesis 3:1. The final challenge from him, through the Antichrist, will be, “Whose word will stand, mine or God’s?”
We’ll stop here, but the last question in the paragraph above is as valid now as it will be in the future. We live in times of increasing wickedness. Things hidden in secret just a few years ago are glorified and promoted on every hand. It seems the devil is winning the battle for our hearts and minds.
The thing is, he may be winning the current battle, but the war has already been won. This world will one day run into the end of God’s patience. The devil and those who follow him, even unwittingly, will find out to their everlasting loss that there is a God in heaven, and His will be the final word.
But that time hasn’t yet come.
Until it does, the Gospel message is one of hope and deliverance. It’s one of salvation and deliverance, not necessarily from the ills and cares of this world, but of redemption from that which brings God’s judgment, namely, sin.
When the angel told Joseph about what was happening with his fiancee, he said of her Son, “He shall save His people from their sin, Matthew 1:21. And so the Scripture says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.