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Why Daniel's Beasts in Revelation?

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  • Alan Fuller
    In Revelation seventeen we have prophetic symbols that appear to be drawn from Daniel. In Daniel the visions in the later chapters appear to be connected to
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 29, 2003
      In Revelation seventeen we have prophetic symbols that appear to be
      drawn from Daniel. In Daniel the visions in the later chapters
      appear to be connected to Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter two.
      Particularly the vision in chapter seven, where the symbols of beast,
      heads, and horns comes from.

      The vision in chapter two is traditionally interpreted as
      the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.

      According to history, about 550 B.C., encouraged by Babylon, Cyrus
      rebelled against the Medes. His rebellion led to the defeat of
      Astyages. The kingdom of the Medes was replaced by the kingdom of the
      Persians. Cyrus the Persian took Babylon in 539 B.C. So the Mede
      empire fell before the Babylonian empire.

      If the fourth empire is Rome, then it looks like the kingdom of God
      destroyed Rome. One idea is that Rome turned into the Roman Catholic
      church. I guess if we think about it long enough we can find a way
      to put the dream in a historical context.

      Another idea is that Daniel was written after the historical
      fullfilment of these empires. The sketchy history may be attributed
      to the reason that prior events weren't very well known in those days.

      In chapter eight we have Alexander the Great defeating the kingdoms
      of the Medes and the Persians. Alexander the Great wasn't born until
      316 BC. This was over 200 years after the Median empire ceased to

      In chapter seven we have four beasts that are supposed to be the same
      ones we saw in chapter two. Note that the fourth beast is destroyed
      first. That means Rome was destroyed before Babylon, Medo-Persia,
      and Greece. In chapter two all the empires are destroyed at the same
      time. That of course isn't historical.

      If the symbols in Daniel are supposed to represent earthly events we
      should hope for better accuracy. On the other hand, if it is an
      allegorical representation of spiritual concepts it would be more
      like an impressionists 2D painting of a 3D reality.

      My idea is that the NT writers believed the visions used the
      political situation of Daniel's day to describe something in the
      Torah, and ultimately are related to the Gospel.

      The biggest reason to put Daniel's vision in a historical context is
      the reference in 2:37 to Nebuchadnezzar. By the way Nebuchadnezzar
      died in 562 BC. That's 23 years before Cyrus conquered Babylon.

      The king of Babylon can also be associated with figurative language
      in the Bible. Both Isa 14:4 and Eze 26:7 read like parables. We
      also know that title "king of kings" is used in the bible in another

      What is the time frame given for the king's dream? We are told in
      the latter days (28), and in the time of the kings in the dream
      (44). It sounds as though all the kings pretty much existed at the
      same time. That isn't the case in history.

      My point in all of this is showing that Daniel is not mainly about
      political situations in history, but about spiritual lessons, or so
      the NT writers believed.

      But even ancient writers such as Josephus and the writer of I
      Maccabees saw at least part of Daniel fulfilled in history. They both
      identified Antiochus Epiphanes in the second centry BC with Daniel's
      abomination of desolation. (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 12, Chapter
      7, Section 6, I Maccabees 1:54)

      However, Jesus insisted Daniel's abomination of desolation hadn't
      occured yet (Mat 24:15, Mk 13:14). The gospel writers saw this as an
      event still in the future, and not as part of history, and perhaps
      not even represenative of literal events.

      In the previous post I try to make a case that Revelation is more
      theological in nature than political or historical, and that the NT
      writers took that attitude about the OT scriptures in general. It may
      be that John took that attitude in Revelation. He would have agreed
      that the abomination of desolation was something to occur after Jesus
      spoke, and perhaps theological rather than literal in nature. He may
      will have considered the view that Daniel was speaking of literal
      historical events false. That being the case it would make sense
      that the beasts, which are a composite of the ones Daniel saw, are
      used to represent false teaching in Revelation.

      Alan Fuller

      * Dates are from the Holman Bible Dictionary
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