We have come to the end of the stories which have “end time” significance. Now, for a deeper look at the prophecies.
You might be asking why such strange ways of revealing the future. God has clothed prophecy in symbolic language for two basic reasons.
Firstly, down through the centuries, the prophecies of scripture have exposed the sins of tyrannical political powers and false religious systems. If the facts were so plainly written, then those in power would have tried change God’s word.
Secondly, the truths of God’s word, like the rising sun, must illuminate the mind gradually. As we diligently study the prophecies, clothed in symbolic language, God opens truth to our minds.
To correctly understand the prophecies, we must always allow the Bible to interpret itself. Isaiah 28:10 says, “Line upon line, here a little, there a little.” It must always be understood in its context.
In Daniel 7 we read of four great beasts coming up out of the sea. A lion with eagles’ wings. Another beast, a second one, like a bear; it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. Another, like a leopard with four heads and four wings. “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. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.”
What do these beasts mean? According to Daniel 7:17, they represent kingdoms that dominated the ancient world.
We still practice this. What country does a beaver represent? Canada. And the bald eagle? The U.S.A. A bear? The U.S.S.R., and so on.
In Daniel 2, these same empires are represented by metals in a great statue: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. The fourth one, representing Rome, is different — the Bible says so!
The lion with eagles’ wings represents Babylon and its speed of conquest.
The bear with three ribs in its teeth represents the kingdom of Medo-Persia, and the ribs are the kingdoms of Lydia, Babylon and Egypt.
The leopard with four heads and four wings represents the flying conquest by the Greek king, Alexander, and the four heads represent the four generals, Cassander, Lysicimus, Ptomoly and Seleucus, who took control of Alexander’s empire after he died.
The Roman Empire is represented by a “beast – terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured it victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the other beasts and it had ten horns.”
It was different inasmuch that it had not only a political aspect but a religious one, too.
You will remember that in Daniel 2 the empire of Rome was divided into ten toes. In Daniel 7, it is represented by a beast with 10 horns. These horns symbolize the 10 barbarian tribes that arose from a deteriorating Roman Empire. History backs up these conclusions.
More to come next time!
Ian Cotton is the retired pastor of the Creston Seventh-day Adventist Church.