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How do we understand Daniel 7:12?

In Daniel 7, four great world-ruling empires are described, which are seen by Daniel in a vision as four beasts. When Daniel saw the vision, only the first empire was in existence—the Babylonian Empire, which was symbolized as a lion (verse 4). It was to be followed by the Medo-Persian Empire, which was symbolized as a bear (verse 5). It, in turn, was to be replaced by the Greco-Macedonian Empire, which was symbolized by a leopard (verse 6). In his vision, Daniel also saw a fourth beast with ten horns (verse 7). Although not identified by name, it is unanimously accepted by biblical scholars and historians that the fourth empire, which subdued the third beast, represents the Roman Empire. It was to exist until the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God here on earth (verses 19-27).

We know from Revelation 13 that after its fall, the Roman Empire would be revived ten times.

Again, quoting from our free booklet, “The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation”:

“The beast with the seven heads and ten horns was like a leopard, with feet of a bear and a mouth of a lion (Revelation 13:2). In the book of Daniel, chapters 2, 5, 7 and 8, we are told that, beginning with the ancient Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, there would arise four world-ruling empires on this earth—the Babylonian Empire (Daniel 2:36), the Medo-Persian Empire under Cyrus, Xerxes and others (Daniel 5:28), the Greco-Macedonian Empire under Alexander the Great and his generals (Daniel 8:20–21), and finally, a fourth Empire (Daniel 2:33; 7:7). In Daniel 7:3–24, these four empires or kingdoms are compared with a lion, a bear, a leopard with four heads, and a terrible beast with ten horns (Daniel 7:7).

“Comparing these four beasts in the book of Daniel with the one beast in Revelation 13, we can see that the beast in Revelation is a conglomeration of those four beasts in Daniel. It has seven heads, because it combines the head of the lion, the head of the bear, the four heads of the leopard, and the head of the fourth beast with ten horns. Virtually all Bible scholars confirm the historical fact that this fourth beast was the Roman Empire…

“According to Daniel 7:24, ten kings were to arise out of the Roman Empire… the beast or the Roman Empire would have ten successive resurrections or revivals… The first three resurrections or revivals of the Roman Empire after its fall occurred under Geiseric of the Vandals; Odoacer of the Heruli; and Theodoric of the Ostrogoths… The actual ‘healing’ of the deadly wound [compare Revelation 13:3] signifies the fourth resurrection of the ancient Roman Empire, which occurred in 554 A.D., when Justinian, who was heavily influenced by his Roman Catholic wife, defeated the Ostrogoths and marched into Rome. He united the Eastern and Western parts of the ancient Roman Empire and restored the entire Empire… The fifth resurrection occurred under Charlemagne in 800 A.D.; the sixth under Otto the Great in 962 A.D.; the seventh under Charles V of Hapsburg in 1530 A.D.; and the eighth under Napoleon (which lasted from 1804 A.D. until 1814 A.D., when Napoleon abdicated at the battle of Leipzig).

“Following Napoleon, two more resurrections were to occur, as the fourth beast in Daniel 7 and the beast in Revelation 13 had TEN horns. The ninth resurrection happened under Mussolini and Hitler. We are observing right now the beginning of the tenth and final resurrection of the ancient Roman Empire in continental Europe…”

The last seven revivals of the ancient Roman empire would be a unification between church and state (compare Revelation 17). The last revival, under the beast and the false prophet, will only last for a very short time, and it and its leaders will be destroyed by the returning Jesus Christ “and given to the burning flame” (Daniel 7:11). For more information on these startling prophesies, please read also our free booklets, “Germany in Prophecy,” “Europe in Prophecy,” “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord,” and “The Book of Zechariah.”

Again, quoting form our free booklet “The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation”:

“In chapter 17 [of the book of Revelation], a woman is described, riding a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns (verse 3)… The seven heads of the beast, which are also identified as kings or kingdoms, are the seven LAST resurrections of the Roman Empire… Six of those seven last resurrections, under the influence of the woman, have already happened… They were:

“…The Imperial Restoration in 554 A.D. under Justinian. This occurred at the behest of the Roman pontiff or pope, especially Pope Pelagius and, to a lesser extent, previous Pope Vigilius;

“…The Carolingian Empire under Charlemagne. He was crowned in 800 A.D. by Pope Leo III. His empire was called the ‘Holy Roman Empire’;

“…The German Empire under Otto the Great. He was crowned in 962 A.D. by Pope John X. His empire was called the ‘Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation’;

“…The German-Austrian Empire under Charles V. of Hapsburg. He was crowned in 1530 by Pope Clemens VII;

“…The French Empire under Napoleon the Great. He was crowned in 1804 by Pope Pius VII; and

“…The comparatively insignificant Italian-German resurrection under Mussolini and Hitler (compare Revelation 17:10–11)… Neither Mussolini nor Hitler were crowned by a Pope (as Justinian had not been, either); nevertheless, a close partnership existed between the Catholic Church under Pope Pius XII and Italy and Germany. This partnership can be seen by Mussolini’s signing the Lateran Treaty with the papacy in 1929, establishing papal sovereignty of the Vatican City, affirming Roman Catholicism as the only religion of Italy and, in turn, having the papacy officially recognize Mussolini as the rightful Italian governor. Further, the Vatican signed a concordat with Hitler in 1933, protecting the rights of the Church under Nazi regime and giving Hitler’s government an outward semblance of legitimacy.

“…The last or tenth resurrection of the Roman Empire, or the seventh resurrection of the ‘Holy’ Roman Empire under religious control, is still ahead of us. It will consist of ten European nations—ten core nations of a United States of Europe. It will be short-lived…”

When Christ returns, the final revival of the Roman Empire (the fourth beast of Daniel 7) , which is also called “Babylon,” will be burned with fire (Revelation 17:16; 18:8-9)—as will be the human leaders (Revelation 19:20).

But how are we to understand, in this context, Daniel 7:12, referring to the three beasts in existence prior to the Roman Empire. Even though they had long disappeared by the time of the destruction of the final revival of the Roman Empire—which is even now still in the future—we read: “As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominions taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.”

While the modern Roman Empire—the coming United States of Europe under the leadership of ten core nations–will be suddenly and quickly burned with fire at the time of Christ’s return (Daniel 7:11), the prior three empires were swallowed up, gradually, by the Roman Empire. When John saw the beast in Revelation 13, it described the Roman Empire which was in existence at his time, which had absorbed the characteristics of the previous three beasts (the lion, the bear and the leopard, compare verse 2). The three beasts—the former kingdoms—“survived as nations, but without power” (“The One Volume Bible Commentary” by Dummelow). Or, as the Nelson Study Bible puts it, “Though these nations [Babylon, Persia and Greece] passed away, their ‘dominion’ was inherited by their respective successors.”

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains that the three beasts “…were not cut down, destroyed, and consumed as the fourth beast was… They were superseded, or they no longer exercised power. They no more appeared exerting a control over the nations. They still existed, but they were subdued and quiet. It was possible to discern them, but they no longer acted the conspicuous part which they had done in the days of their greatness and grandeur. Their power had passed away. This cannot be difficult of interpretation. We should naturally look for the fulfillment of this in the fact that the nations referred to by these first three beasts were still in being, and could be recognized as nations, in their boundaries, or customs, or languages; but that the power which they had wielded had passed into other hands.

“Yet their lives were prolonged [or] ‘a prolonging in life was given them.’ That is, they were not utterly destroyed and consumed as the power of the fourth beast [will be] after the solemn judgment. The meaning is, that in these kingdoms there would be energy for a time. They had life still; and the difference between them and the kingdom represented by the fourth beast was what would exist between wild animals subdued but still living, and a wild animal killed and burned…”

This is the correct understanding of Daniel 7:11-12, which is also shared by other commentators.

For instance, Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible adds:

“As concerning the rest of the beasts….. The other three which represent the Babylonian, Persian and Grecian monarchies: they had their dominion taken away; not at this time when the fourth beast, or Roman empire, is destroyed, but long ago; and not together, but successively; the dominion was taken away from the Babylonians, and given to the Persians; and then their dominion was taken away, and given to the Grecians; and after that the dominion of the Grecians was taken away from them, and given to the Romans: the prophet having observed what became of the fourth beast, he was most intent upon, just in a few words takes notice of the fate of the other three, before this:

“yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time: these monarchies did not at once become extinct, as the fourth beast or monarchy will, but by degrees… whereas, when the fourth monarchy is destroyed, all rule and authority will be put down, and the kingdom be given to Christ and his saints…”

Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament states:

“The ‘remaining [three] beasts’ are… the first three beasts which arose out of the sea before the fourth… the four world-kingdoms symbolized by those beasts follow each other in actual history, so that the earlier is always overthrown by that which comes after it, yet the dominion of the one is transferred to the other… the statement of Daniel 7:12 is that the first three beasts also had their dominion taken away one after another, each at its appointed time; for to each God gave its duration of life, extending to the season and time appointed by Him…”

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary agrees, but adds a few more striking comments to show that true Christians today are not to concentrate on ruling in this world today, but rather, on preparing to rule in the Kingdom of God, during the Millennium, after Christ’s return:

“… the rest of the beasts-that is, the [first[ three, had passed away not by direct destroying judgments, such as consumed… the fourth beast. They had continued to exist but their ‘dominion was taken away’; whereas the fourth beast shall cease utterly, superseded by Messiah’s kingdom… It is striking, the fourth monarchy, though Christianized for fifteen hundred years past, is not distinguished from the previous heathen monarchies, or from its own heathen portion. Nay, it is represented as the most God-opposed of all, and culminating at last in blasphemous Antichrist [better: the beast and the false prophet]. The reason is: Christ’s kingdom now is not of this world…

“Rome was worldly while heathen, and remains worldly, though Christianized. So the New Testament views the present æon or age of the world as essentially heathenish, which we cannot love without forsaking Christ… The object of Christianity is… to rule with Him in His millennium… This is to be our hope, not to reign in the present world course… There must be a ‘regeneration’ of the world, as of the individual, a death previous to a resurrection, a destruction of the world kingdoms…”

We also need to focus on the statement in Daniel 7:12 that the lives of the three beasts were “prolonged for a season and a time.” According to the Nelson Study Bible, this phrase is “an idiom for an indefinite period.” The Soncino Commentary explains in more detail that the words “a season and a time” are “synonymous terms signifying an unspecified period known only to God.”

In our free booklet, “Are You Predestined to Be Saved?”, we state:

“We are told in Acts 17:26-28, that God has decreed, in advance, the times of nations, prior to their existence: ‘And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being…’

“The Bible emphasizes God’s foreknowledge in regard to the life span of certain nations and their leaders. For instance, we read in Genesis 15:13, 16, that God told Abraham that the children of Israel (not yet in existence) would be afflicted in Egypt for ‘four hundred years,’ and that in the ‘fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites [which were possessing the land at the time] is not yet complete.’ God allotted a certain time to the Amorites to live in the land, but when that time had expired, Israel would drive them out and possess the land.

“We are also told, in Daniel 7:12, that certain world-ruling empires would exist for a certain, pre-determined time. In that prophecy, these Gentile empires are described as ‘beasts.’ We read: ‘As for the rest of the beasts…, their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.’ Other translations make the intended meaning clearer. The Menge Bible says: ‘Their duration of life was fixed for time and hour.’ Die Grosse Bibel states: ‘They kept their lives until a determined time.’ The Elberfelder Bible translates: ‘Duration of life was given to them until the time and hour’… The Bible tells us, in Revelation 13:5, that the revived Roman Empire would exist exactly for ‘forty-two months’ since the healing of its deadly wound (compare verse 3). History confirms that it did in fact reign for 1,260 years (42 prophetic months consist of 1,260 prophetic days or years), from the healing of the ‘deadly wound,’ under Justinian, in AD 554, until the fall of Napoleon I, in AD 1814. After Napoleon’s fall, two more resurrections of the ancient Roman Empire were to occur. One has already occurred—the last and final one is shaping up right now in Europe.”

And so, we see how accurately Bible prophecy was fulfilled—and we can be assured that the prophecies for the future will be fulfilled in God’s due time. We do not know the exact times or seasons and the day or the hour of Christ’s return and the end of this present evil age, but judging from the signs of the time, we know that it must be near.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link