Sinclair Ferguson in his commentary on Daniel writes:
“What we seem to be given in the latter half of Daniel is divine insight into the ultimate significance and implications of the events of history. Here we learn that the events of history are not isolated from events beyond history.
The conflict with the people of God is an expression of an older, deeper, more sinister conflict between the powers of darkness, the spiritual hosts of wickedness (Ephesians 6:12), and the throne of God and His kingdom.”
A little bit later in his commentary Ferguson asked this question:
“If the Lord had simply wanted Daniel to know the facts of history ahead of time, why did He give him such a complex, curious, multi-colored, sense-appealing revelation?
To ask the question is to answer it. God not only revealed facts about history in advance; He revealed Himself to Daniel, impressing on him something of His own awesome and glorious purposes. Miss this and we miss almost everything.”
Let’s see how the visual dominates Daniel’s record:
• “I saw” (verses 2 and 7)
• “I watched” (verses 4, 9 and 11)
• “I looked” (verse 6)
• “I was considering” (verse 8)
• “I was watching” (verses 13 and 21)
• “I was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions troubled me….my thoughts greatly troubled me, and my countenance changed” (verses 15-18)
The dreams and visions found in the Bible are intended to give an overwhelming impression of the mysteries of God’s PURPOSES and the awful conflict that lies behind and beneath HISTORY.
John Lennox in his book “Against the Flow” writes:
“The beginning of the vision echoes the creation narrative of Genesis, where we read that the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2). The Hebrew word for Spirit can be used of breath or wind. But in Daniels vision the wind and the sea are prelude not to making the earth into a home fit for human beings, but to the rise of a sequence of animals representing world empires bent increasingly on destruction.
The animal imagery here is clearly designed to convey a message very different from that projected by the metallic sections of the colossal man…
Just as the variety of metals in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream indicates the differing values of the successive empires, the various animals in Daniel’s dream denote what is probably best described as the relative “animal ferocity” of those empires. The first animal, for instance, is given a human heart. The subsequent animals become increasingly brutal, the fourth being rapacious in the extreme. It has the eyes of human intelligence but shows no trace of human compassion.
The perspective is clear; from one point of view, empires resemble wild animals. But, unlike humans, animals are not inhibited by moral considerations, since animals are not moral beings. Empires tend to behave like that – as amoral power blocs.
The overall impression of the vision is of the dark underbelly of politics; the jockeying for power, with less and less moral qualm, until a sense of humanity and compassion disappears under the ruthless lust for domination.”
“The symbol of a horn is used in the Bible to denote power. The fourth beast’s horn has eyes, symbolizing human insight and intelligence, coupled with brutal animal strength. Notably, it lacks a human heart; it is dreadful, evil, ruthless genius. Many of the worst atrocities that the world has known were and are still committed by highly intelligent people in whose hands are the levers of political power – witness Nazi Germany. It should not escape our attention that one of their main targets was the nation that gave birth to Daniel. Nor should we ignore the fact that the 20th century was the bloodiest in history, with millions perishing to satisfy the animal lust for power in dictatorships of both right and left.
What shall we think, then, when we consider the many faithful believers who have been and are being subjected to every kind of hideous torture and method of killing that powerful, heartless human beasts can devise – and yet God appears to do nothing?” What is the answer to it?
Daniel 7:9-14 (open your own Bible and highlight this passage)
Three scenes followed in rapid succession:
• The first contrasts strongly with the confusion and noise of the opening scene (verse 2). Here, all is calm and orderly in the presence of God. Just like in Revelation 4:6, the sea is as calm as glass in God’s presence and the four creatures are devoted to worship. The heavenly court was assembled, and God sat in judgment of the earthly kingdom.
• The second contrasts strongly with the human kingdoms that are being established with raw beastly power and lawless behavior. God wears a garment white as snow. He never compromises His righteous dealings in establishing his kingdom. The prophet Isaiah said: You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for He brings down those who dwell on high. (Isaiah 26:3-4)
• The third contrasts strongly with the lawless and unrighteous justice system of earthly, beastly kingdoms.
In Daniel’s vision the judgment of the divine court will go IN FAVOR OF THE SAINTS OF GOD. Truth will eventually prevail. Righteous judgment will be executed by the righteous judge, God himself.
This final judgment is a cause of joy, and the reason is obvious.
God is the zookeeper and none of the beasts will ESCAPE.