In two Divinely given prophetic visions, recorded in the Old Testament book of Daniel, chapters 2 and 7, God gave Daniel insight far into the future. The prophecy states that God was making known “what will be in the latter days” (Dan. 2:28).
Using symbolic pictures the prophecies span the centuries from the then dominant kingdom of Babylon all the way to the setting up of Christ’s worldwide Kingdom “in the latter days.” The prophecies tell of four world-dominating Kingdoms that would succeed one another, to be followed by a fifth—the kingdom of Jesus Christ—that would “stand forever” (Dan. 2:44). These visions contain remarkable, unmistakable details, showing beyond any possibility of doubt that the knowledge came from God, who alone knows the future.
The Vision of the Great Image—Daniel 2
The second chapter of Daniel tells about the dream of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The king had a dream that left him very troubled, so troubled that “his sleep left him” (Dan. 2:1). When the king woke up, he called in his magicians and wise men and demanded to know the meaning of his dream. Of course the magicians were helpless even to guess because the king could not tell them the content of the dream.
In his desperation, the king threatened to have all the wise men put to death.
At this crisis point, Daniel, a Hebrew captive who was living at the king’s court, stepped forward and asked the king for time to seek the answer from his God. That night God answered Daniel’s prayer and gave Daniel the dream and its interpretation. Then giving all credit to God, Daniel delivered the prophecy that is recorded in Daniel 2. “There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets,” he began, “and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days” (Dan. 2:28).
Daniel was not guessing. He was delivering God’s revealing of the future. God gave the information to Daniel, and Daniel relayed it to the king, also writing it down so that we have it today.
“You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image!” Daniel explained, and he continued to describe the “great image, whose splendor was excellent, and its form awesome” (Dan. 2:31). The image had a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet partly of iron and partly of clay.
What happened to the image? “You watched,” Daniel said to the king, while a supernatural stone “cut out without hands,…struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:32-35).
Daniel was not speculating. He knew because God had revealed it.
What Did It Mean?
In the verses that follow Daniel explains with all confidence the meaning of the dream as God revealed it to him. The explanation is precise and amazing in its parallel with recorded history. God was revealing to Nebuchadnezzar—and us—a succession of four major, world-dominating kingdoms, to be followed by a fifth power that would sweep away every remaining vestige of the former powers and fill the earth.
Four Beasts—Daniel 7
In Daniel 7, the same prophecies are symbolized by the four beasts of another vision. The Prophet Daniel sees these four beasts rising “out of the sea,” which is followed by the setting up of the kingdom of Jesus Himself. Are we guessing that these beasts represent four great empires? God gave Daniel this very interpretation of the dream: “Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings [kingdoms] which arise out of the earth” (Daniel 7:17).
What can we learn about each beasts? The description of the beasts is amazingly parallel to the kingdoms they represent. Daniel said, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea [the “sea” represents nations—see Rev. 17:15]. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other” (Dan. 7:2-3).