Book of Daniel Prophecy: End of Days Bible Study of the Prophet Daniel
Many people think that biblical prophecies about the end of the world and the Battle of Armageddon are "a Christian thing." You know, for religious fanatics and other societal oddballs. But end-times prophecy is not just a Christian thing. It's a Jewish thing because many of the most well-known New Testament prophecies were foreshadowed by the Old Testament prophets centuries before the birth of Christ.
Many of today's best known prophecies, including the rise of the Antichrist and the Battle of Armageddon, were recorded by the prophet Daniel in the sixth century B.C. Daniel wrote his prophecies during the 70 years that the people of Israel were held captive in the land of Babylon.
Daniel served as part of the royal court of King Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned in Babylon from 605 - 562 B.C. The prophecies came in the form of dreams, both the king's dreams and Daniel's dreams. For most of the details, Daniel was given the interpretation, but not all. Fortunately, we can look back with the benefit of history, and the clarification of later scriptures, and can often see clearly what Daniel could not. Ironically, this, in itself, was one of the prophecies Daniel recorded (Daniel 12:4,9).
In this article, we will look at several of the key dreams and what their prophecies mean for Israel and the rest of the world in the years before Armageddon. Keep in mind that each of these prophecies is not meant to stand alone. It is only once we have looked at all of the prophecies that a clear picture of the Bible's account of the end of world history begins to form.
The Dream of King Nebuchadnezzar
The first prophecy, which is recounted in Daniel chapter two, sets the broad framework for the rest of the prophecies. In this chapter, Daniel is called to reveal the interpretation of a dream that has been troubling King Nebuchadnezzar. As the king slept, he saw a great statue (Daniel 2:31-35) with a head of fine gold, a chest and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet partly of iron and partly of clay.
But then, as King Nebuchadnezzar watched, a stone was cut out of a mountain "without hands" and struck the image on its feet, breaking the statue 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" (Daniel 2:35).
What to make of such a strange dream? Daniel is not left to wonder. He is given the following interpretation: The four parts of the statue - the gold head, the silver bust, the bronze belly and thighs, and the iron legs - are four kingdoms. Those kingdoms are as follows:
The first kingdom is King Nebuchadnezzar's own kingdom of Babylon for, Daniel is told, "the God of heaven has given [Nebuchadnezzar] a kingdom, power, strength, and glory" (v. 38).
The Babylonian kingdom reached its peak during Daniel's time.
After Babylon "shall arise another kingdom, inferior to yours..." (v. 39).
This was Medo-Persia, which conquered Babylon in the fifth century B.C. The story of the conquest is told in the fifth chapter of Daniel, in which King Nebuchadnezzar's successor, King Belshazzar, sees mysterious fingers writing on the wall. Daniel is called to read the writing, in which God rebukes King Belshazzar for his pride and commits the kingdom of Babylon into the hands of his enemies, the Medes (Daniel 5:1-26). It is from this story that we get the phrase "the handwriting is on the wall."
After the second kingdom, Daniel is told shall arise "...another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth" (v. 39).
This prophecy was fulfilled approximately three centuries after Daniel's death. At this time, Medo-Persia was conquered by Greece, which rose to worldwide power in the third century B.C. Just as Daniel foretold, this third kingdom was known for its extensive use of bronze.
The fourth kingdom is somewhat different from the previous three:
"And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others."
While not specifically identified, there is little question that this kingdom is Rome, which conquered Greece sometime between 250 ï¿½ 30 B.C. At its height, the Roman Empire comprised almost all of the Western world known at the time, including most of Europe, the Middle East, Egypt, and North Africa. In addition to its size, Rome was notorious for its cruelty.1
Portions of Nebuchadnezzar's Dream Yet to Come
Now we turn our attention to the portions of this prophecy that have not yet been fulfilled. It is important to keep in mind that, because the early parts of this prophecy were fulfilled so precisely, we can expect the latter portions to be fulfilled just as precisely.2
First, the stone. God tells Daniel that this represents a fifth kingdom, a kingdom that is God's alone. This kingdom will arise at the end of world history and, in one powerful stroke, smash all worldly power and bring the earth under God's sovereign control: "And in the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (v. 44).
Note that God's kingdom brings down the demise, not just of Rome, but of all the kingdoms before it. Considering Rome's size and scope, it is clear how this could happen. Working backwards, we recall that Rome swallowed Greece, which swallowed Medo-Persia, which swallowed Babylon. Thus, when the kingdom of God brings down Rome - which the book prophesies will be revived in the future as a confederation of modern nations - it will bring down the nations that once comprised ancient Greece, ancient Medo-Persia, and ancient Babylon, as well.
This will culminate at the battle of Armageddon.
But what of the feet that are partly iron and partly clay? Daniel's writes, "Where as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided, yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile" (v. 42).
Daniel is told that this refers to a version of the Roman Empire that is comprised of a federation of 10 kingdoms, some of which are strong and some of which are weak. More details about this confederation are given in subsequent dreams, where we see that, while the ancient form of the Roman Empire (the legs) has been fulfilled, this latter form made up of the 10-nation federation is yet to come.
God concludes His revelation by assuring Daniel, "The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure" (v. 45).
When seen in light of the 70 Weeks prophecy of Daniel 9 (below), combined with the fact that Daniel's second, third, and fourth visions all refer to the empire of Rome as being in power immediately before Armageddon, it becomes clear why Christians are looking to "a revived Roman Empire." This is also why many people point to the European Union as being so key to end-times prophecy, since, two thousand years after the demise of ancient Rome, the E.U. is now comprised of countries that largely recreate Rome's occupied lands. Indeed, the E.U. is based on the "Treaty of Rome."3
Daniel's First Dream
King Nebuchadnezzar's dream is an important framework for all end-times prophecy. This framework becomes more clear as we look beyond King Nebuchadnezzar's dream and investigate Daniel's series of end-times visions. These include two dreams and one visit by a heavenly being, who answers Daniel's question to God about what will be the end to his people Israel (Daniel 9:4-18).
In the first dream, Daniel saw four great beasts coming up from out of the "Great Sea," which many biblical scholars believe refers to the Mediterranean Sea:
The first beast was like a lion, and it had eagle's wings (Daniel 7:4).
The second beast was like a bear. It was raised up on one side and had three ribs in its mouth (Daniel 7:5).
The third beast was like a leopard, which had four heads and four sets of wings (Daniel 7:6).
The fourth beast was "dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong." It had huge iron teeth, and it devoured everything. It made war with God's people and broke them into pieces.
Almost immediately, the parallels to King Nebuchadnezzar's dream are obvious. As in King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Daniel is told that the four beasts refer to four kingdoms (v. 23-27), and there can be little doubt that they are the same four described earlier. Thusï¿½
The lion refers to Babylon, the regal and majestic kingdom.
The bear refers to Medo-Persia, which was stronger on one side than the other (the Medes were stronger than the Persians).
The third beast, the leopard, refers to Greece, which swept across the world with rapid ferocity under Alexander the Great, then divided into four kingdoms (the leopard's four heads) after Alexander's death.
The fourth kingdom is Rome, which is again pictured as a cruel and fierce iron monster.
In this vision, however, we are given the additional details about the fourth kingdom. We are told that it will severely persecute God's people to the point of death and, as a race, almost to the point of annihilation. This is exactly what we see in the annals of history. Rome's persecution and oppression of Israel during the first century was merciless, and its destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 resulted in the massacre of more than one million Jews. The Roman Empire also comprised what would eventually become World War II Germany, which under the rule of Adolph Hitler would slaughter six million Jews.
This dream also takes a closer look at the future manifestation of Rome, which is pictured here as being comprised of ten horns, or nations, corresponding with the ten toes of iron and clay from King Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Then, according to the prophecy, another horn, a little horn, comes up from among the ten. This little horn plucks three of the other horns out by the roots. "And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words" (Daniel 7:7-8).
This takes the 10-nation confederation of the revived Roman Empire and puts a human face on it. Of the 10 leaders of those 10 nations, there will be one who comes up from among them and stands out from the others. His ambition for power will cause the demise of three of them.
As in King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Daniel's first dream concludes with a vision of God on the fiery day of judgment. The heavenly court comes into session, the books are opened, and God's judgment falls. The little horn, or the arrogant leader from the Revived Roman Empire, is slain and his body is thrown into the fire of eternal judgment:
"And behold, One like the Son of Man [the biblical term for the Messiah], coming with the clouds of heaven.ï¿½ Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14).
Fulfillment of Daniel's First Dream Yet to Come
The persecution of the Jewish people was fulfilled, in part, in the first century during Rome's oppression of Israel. However, just as the prophecy of the 10 toes (kingdoms) from King Nebuchadnezzar's dream awaits fulfillment in the future, the worst of Rome's persecution of Israel is also future. The Bible calls this time of persecution "Jacob's Trouble," or "the Great Tribulation," and it will be of greater ferocity than ever seen in history. It will be greater than the Roman persecution in the first century and, tragically, even greater than the Holocaust.
Of this time, Jesus said, "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight [from this leader and his bloodbath] may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved" (Matthew 24:19-22).
We are given many more details about this terrible period throughout the Bible (Jeremiah 30:7, Daniel 12:1, Matthew 24:21, Revelation 6:9-11).
Daniel is also given many more details about the future 10-nation confederation. It will be exceedingly powerful and completely overcome the people of God. God tells Daniel that the little horn will be arrogant, pompous, and cruel. He will magnify himself against God and will persecute the people of God mercilessly until God Himself comes to save them (v. 22).
This ruler will not be allowed to have dominion indefinitely. As in King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Daniel's dream foretells that the fourth kingdom's dominion will be cut short by God's sovereign hand and that the kingdom of God will be established throughout the earth. At this time, God's judgment will be poured out, culminating in the battle of Armageddon. The kingdom will be wrenched from this wicked ruler's grasp and he will be sent into eternal damnation.
The little horn also plays a key role in New Testament prophecy, where he is called "the Antichrist" and "the beast" (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10, 1 John 2:18, Revelation 13:1-9). Although the Christian Church did not exist at the time of Daniel, the New Testament records that the Antichrist's persecution will extend beyond the Jewish people to include the Church (Matthew 15:21, 1 Peter 4:12-13, Revelation 3:10, Revelation 13:7), which has been grafted into Israel through faith in Israel's Messiah, Jesus Christ (Romans 11:25).4 The Antichrist also plays the central role in the book of Revelation.
Building Up to Armageddon
Sometime later, Daniel has a second dream, and this dream gives us even more detail about the reign of the Antichrist (Daniel 8:17). In this dream, Daniel sees a ram, representing Medo-Persia, which has two horns (two kings). A goat, representing Greece, attacks the ram with such ferocity that it breaks off both horns. The ram is subdued, and as the goat grows, its single horn (one king) is broken and replaced by four horns (four kings). However, one of these horns grows much faster and greater than the other three (Daniel 8:3-14).
By now, it becomes clear that this little horn is the same little horn from Greece, as in the earlier dream, which plucks the other three horns (kings) out by their roots. Indeed, this little horn grows ever more powerful and comes down against the people of God in the Holy Land. Here, we see overlap with Daniel's first dream of the four beasts, and as in the first dream, the little horn exalts himself against God and begins to persecute God's people. But in this dream, we see that he also takes away the sacrifices from the temple in Jerusalem and that the sanctuary of God will be "cast down." We also see this description in Daniel 11:31 and Matthew 24:15.
Yet, for a time, God allows the little horn to prosper because of Israel's long history of transgressing against God, forsaking the covenant He established with Moses and serving other gods: "Because of the transgression, an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices; and he cast truth down to the ground. He did all this and prospered" (Daniel 8:12).
A heavenly visitor, who provides the interpretation of the dream, then identifies the little horn as arising in "the latter days" and at "the time of the end." He also describes Israel's future period of tribulation as being "in the latter time of the indignation" (v. 19).
We are then given one of the most detailed and horrifying descriptions of the Antichrist in the Bible:
"And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes. His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power. He shall destroy fearfully. And shall prosper and thrive. He shall destroy the mighty and also the holy people. Through his cunning he shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; and he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes [the Messiah]. But he shall be broken without human means."
The fact that the little horn will be broken "without human means" closely parallels King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, in which the fourth kingdom (Rome) is destroyed by a stone "cut out of the mountain without hands" (thus, when the Apostle Paul referred to Jesus Christ as the "chief cornerstone" in Ephesians 2:20, the symbolism was very clear); and Daniel's first dream, in which the fourth beast (Rome), will be broken, "not by human hands," but by God Himself.
It is also worth noting that Daniel is told that this evil leader prospers, "not by his own power." In 2 Thessalonians 2:9 and Revelation 13:2, we are told that the Antichrist receives his power from Satan himself.5
But how can the fulfillment of this vision be in the future, as it tells us in v. 23, if the kingdom of Greece was overthrown by the Roman Empire? In antiquity, it was. But today, the four ancient "kingdoms" of Greece - Macedonia, Egypt, Syria, and Thrace - exist as the modern-day nations of Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Although no longer world empires, these four "heads," or in Daniel's second dream, "horns," are once again nations in their own right. Thus, as biblical prophecy implies, the Roman Empire will be "reborn" as a confederation of strong and weak nations at the time of the end, and the Antichrist will be both from one of kingdoms of Greece and, at the same time, be part of the revived Roman Empire.
The 70 Weeks Prophecy
When will all of this occur? And how does it relate to the end-time prophecies of the New Testament?
For this, one must understand the final end-times prophecy given in the book of Daniel, the 70 Weeks prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27). In this prophecy, Daniel is told that God has determined 70 Weeks, or periods of seven years, to bring the world to Armageddon: "70 Weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy" (Daniel 9:27).
This period of 70 Weeks, or 490 years, is broken into two parts: a period of 483 years, which concluded with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in A.D. 33; and one, final seven-year period that leads up to Armageddon. This is where Christians get the seven-year "tribulation period," which is more accurately called "the 70th Week of Daniel":
This final, seven-year period will begin when the Antichrist signs a seven-year treaty with Israel. In fact, the revealing of the Antichrist's identity, the final merciless persecution of the Jews and Christians during the Great Tribulation, and the return of the Messiah all occur during this last seven-year period. The entire book of Revelation is devoted to the details of this terrifying time.
This is why the Christian world is watching so closely what is going on in Israel right now. They are watching for a world leader who will sign a treaty with Israel for the precise period of seven years. When he signs this treaty, they will know that the Antichrist has arrived. At the end of this seven years, God Almighty will arrive in the sky and bring an end to the rule of man and usher in the long-awaited earthly kingdom of God.
The Arrival of the Messiah
Compare the descriptions of the arrival of the Messiah in Daniel 2, 7, and 8 with the description given in the New Testament:
"Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God" (Revelation 19:11-13).
Just as recorded in Daniel 7, this is followed by the Messiah's conquest of the Antichrist, who is thrown into the lake of fire. Compare the two descriptions:
"I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame" (Daniel 7:11).
"Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophetï¿½These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone" (Revelation 19:20).
At this time, the 70th Week will be concluded. For Israel, this will be a time of joy, for the scriptures tell us that the Israelites who are left after the judgment of God will return wholeheartedly to the worship of their king (Zech. 13:8ï¿½9, Ezekiel 36:20ï¿½28, Romans 11:26). Thus, the temple will be cleansed and Jesus will rule and reign over His kingdom, accompanied by Old Testament saints and New Testament believers who have been born again under the New Covenant by the blood of Christ.
This is also why the Christian world is closely watching for the rebuilding of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. According to Daniel's prophecies, the Antichrist will stand in this temple and declare himself to be God, or as God (Daniel 8:11, 2 Thessalonians 2:4), and bring an end to the sacrifices (Daniel 11:31, Matthew 24:15). For this to occur, the temple must be rebuilt. And indeed, efforts are already in progress.6
Final Pieces of the Puzzle
Where is the Christian Church during all of this? The book of Daniel was written before the mystery of the Church was revealed (Romans 11:25); thus, we should not expect to see the Church mentioned in these prophecies. However, we know from the plethora of references in the New Testament to the fiery trial that will come upon the Church immediately before the Second Coming of the Messiah, as well as the clear timing revealed in the New Testament scriptures, that the Church will also undergo the testing and refinement of the Great Tribulation (1 Peter 4:12-17, Revelation 3:10, Revelation 12:17).
There is a difference, however. Unlike unbelieving Israel, the Church - which is composed of both Jewish and Gentile believers in Israel's Messiah - will be delivered before the final outpouring of the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 5:9), since the Church is not part of the transgression or the indignation (Daniel 8:12, 19, Daniel 9:24-27). This deliverance will come at the bodily return of Jesus Christ just after the midpoint of the 70th Week.
Here is the exciting part for believers. At the height of the Antichrist's persecution, Jesus will come in the clouds, snatch up His children, and take them to safety in heaven (Matthew 24:30-31, John 14:2, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, 1 Corinthians. 15:52) while the rest of the world watches in wonder:
"For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain [after the Great Tribulation] until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
This is what is commonly called "the rapture of the Church," and has been the subject of many books and movies, including the popular Left Behind book series and movie by the same name.
Thus, Daniel, while written more than 2,600 years ago, is a very current book. Its prophecies span centuries, yet they are unnervingly accurate. And we can be assured that, as accurately as they were fulfilled in the past, those prophecies yet to come will be just as precisely fulfilled. This is why we must waste no precious time in getting to know our Messiah, the soon returning King, Jesus Christ, who at His first coming was the Suffering Servant, but in His Second Coming, will be the Lion of the Tribe of Judah -the King of kings, who will rule and reign forever.
About the Author
H. L. Nigro is author of the end times prophecy book, Before God's Wrath, published through Strong Tower Publishing. This book examines the rapture question from the scriptures (both Old and New Testament). It is very well documented and includes many charts that compare parallel passages in the scriptures. It is endorsed by Marvin Rosenthal, President of Zion's Hope. According to Mr. Rosenthal, "Each month I receive dozens of articles and manuscripts to evaluate or endorse for publication. I do not endorse what I am not genuinely enthusiastic about. I am enthusiastic about this book. Within its pages, the readers will not find speculation or sensationalism. However, they will find a powerful and convincing presentation for the chronological sequence of the Lord's second coming and its practical implication for the believer." A highly recommended book!
Ironically, it was the Romans who invented the punishment of crucifixion, a slow and excruciatingly painful death in which the condemned was first tortured with whips and scourges, then nailed to a cross of rough hewn wood with iron spikes through the wrists and feet. It was this form of torture that killed Jesus Christ in the first century.
The fact that those prophecies were fulfilled so precisely has caused some scholars to question whether they were really written in the sixth century B.C., as the book claims. However, we have the witness of the author himself (Daniel 12:4), which is considered to be strong evidence in ancient writings. Mainstream biblical scholars further attest that 1) the accuracy of the book's historical information, 2) the form and style of its Hebrew and Aramaic passages, and 3) the unanimous testimony of ancient tradition all confirm that the book was written, as it claims, by Daniel while living in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar (Nelson Study Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, c. 1997, p. 1416).
Not all prophecy scholars accept this interpretation. By tracing the lineage of Noah's sons Ham, Shem, and Japheth from Genesis 10, Robert Van Kampen has developed a theory that the eighth and final beast empire of Satan, the 10-nation confederacy of Revelation, will be entirely of Japhethic decent (from the line of Japheth). He argues strongly that this beast empire, which will be led by the Antichrist, must be determined by ancestry, not geographic location. According to this line of reasoning, the "people of the prince who is to come" are Germanic/Russian, since this is the ancestry of the peoples who formed the power base of ancient Rome (The Sign, Ibid., pp. 117ï¿½141).
Despite the common belief throughout the Jewish community that Jesus is "the Gentile's Messiah," Jesus, a Nazarite Jew, fulfilled every prophecy regarding the Messiah. He was from the tribe of Judah, of the lineage of David, born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, was preceded by the "voice crying in the wilderness" (John the Baptist), and in the time of His ministry healed the sick, lame, and blind as the Old Testament prophets declared. He then died the death described in Isaiah 53 and became the Passover Lamb, the perfect sacrifice for mankind's sins. Although Jesus, Himself, declared that His ministry was first to "the lost tribes of Israel," after Israel's rejection of Him, Jesus gave instructions to His disciples, all of whom were Jews, to take the gospel to the Gentiles, fulfilling Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 60:3.
Indeed, it is Satan who inspired all four kingdoms and gave them their power to persecute God's people. This is why Revelation 13:2 describes Satan as a beast rising up out of the sea (cf. Daniel 7:3), with the body of a leopard (Daniel 7:6). The feet of a bear (Daniel7:5), and the mouth of a lion (Daniel 7:4). Not only does Satan give the Antichrist his power, but he is also the power behind all four of the beast kingdoms, which have tried to stamp out God's people throughout history.
Many believe that, in order for this to occur, the Muslim Dome of the Rock must be destroyed. This is not necessarily the case, since the original temple site may exist about 150 yard south of the Dome of the Rock, allowing for ample space for the temple to be rebuilt without disturbing this Muslim site.