Read Daniel 7:1-28
1In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.
2Daniel said: "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.
4"The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.
5"And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, 'Get up and eat your fill of flesh!'
6"After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.
7"After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast — terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.
8"While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.
9"As I looked, "thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 10A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.
11"Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12(The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)
13"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
15"I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this.
"So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17'The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. 18But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever — yes, for ever and ever.'
19"Then I wanted to know the true meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws — the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell — the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, 22until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.
23"He gave me this explanation: 'The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.
26"'But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.'
28"This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself." (NIV)
This was a long passage, but hard to break up. We have the whole week to contemplate on this vision of the future which is what this section of Daniel deals with.
What Daniel does in when he wakes from this dream is something we forget to do all to often. Daniel says he wrote down the substance of his dream. Our dreams are one of the ways God communicates with us. Our dreams tells us so much about what we are dealing with. But the are hard to remember unless we write them down.
We see, that just like in chapter 2, the vision of the statue made up of different materials, the ultimate outcome of this vision is that God’s people will prevail. But we also see that before the ultimate victory, there are trials and attacks on God’s people. Daniel speaks of seeing 4 beasts come up out of the sea. This is a wonderful image of what we deal with in our lives. There is always a threat lurking, ready to come forth to attack our way of life. The church has been under attack since the very beginning. There have been times of relative peace, but there have also been times of great persecution. And in some parts of the world today, persecution of Christians is still happening at a rate greater than the early church dealt with.
But these attacks aren’t always persecution. In America today, these attacks are different. The church is attacked on being out of touch, not relevant, and against science. The church has not always addressed these attacks well.
But what has addressed these attacks over the years is the steadfast and unwavering faith of the saints. We need to live lives that point to our trust in God. This is the common thread of Daniel, his faith and actions never waiver. He is consistent in his actions and his faith. I know I haven’t always been as consistent. I am getting better each year, but still have improvement to be made in this area.
The second part of the dream, the interpretation of the dream is also important for us to hang on to. God will not stop the persecution, but God will come to the defense of those persecuted. He allows the persecution to go on and this troubles many people. But what we fail to see in God delaying the defeat of those opposed to the church is that he delays out of his great mercy for those who do not believe. We see this in that each day God delays in bringing about that final victory is another day for those who don’t believe to come to believe. Once God comes in his final victory, there is no more time for the non-believer to believe. So this is our work, our calling, to share the love of Christ so that does who don’t believe might have a chance to say yes to Christ.
One final thought is that the image in verse 10 reminds us that we are not alone. Sometimes it can seem like there are very few who walk with God. But the image is that 10,000 times 10,000 stood before Christ. Daniel is given a number that almost too high to count. In the Book of Revelation, John records that he could not count the number. We are not alone in our walk and we need to remember that at times of discouragement.