Summary: Message from Daniel 7 to interpret the Beasts in Revelation 13
The ABCs Must Precede The XYZs
Take a look at our Scripture. Now being honest, it sure sounds like something a bad dream, a real nightmare or maybe a bad drug trip! This passage of Scripture is obviously one that is symbolic in nature, and not literal. However, how in the world do we ever interpret this? It goes back to the old "hermeneutic principle", or "bible interpretation rule"--let Scripture interpret Scripture. To interpret this passage, we must go back to the Old Testament to the book of Daniel, specifically chapter seven or, as J. Vernon McGee said about Daniel "the ABC's of prophecy".
There are two key passages that deal with kingdoms that were prophetic future to Daniel. The first is found in chapter 2, with Nebuchadnezzars's frightening dream of the great statue. In a nutshell, this huge statue had a head of gold, arms and chest of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron and feet and toes of iron and clay. Each one represented kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome and a far future, revived Roman Empire of the Antichrist.
While there is another dream interpreted by Daniel in Daniel 4 (the dream of the great tree), the next one dealing with "far future" is found in Daniel chapter 7. This dream, and the interpretation of it, will help us to understand Revelation 13.
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts. Dan 7:1, NKJV
The book of Daniel is not written in chronological order. While the first six books all are in chronological order, the last six books of Daniel shoot back to an earlier time. The story of Daniel chapter seven, while it may have been written later, occurred in 553 BC. However, we do see the name Belshazzar occur in Daniel 5; it is when Belshazzar loses his kingdom to the Medo-Persians.
As we have studied before, prophecy comes in four forms: Near future, future, intermediate future and far future. In the book of Daniel we see three of the forms.
Daniel was a dreamer with special dreams. He dreamed dreams that came true, and were very significant. Although we can see how sometimes a dream can be a prediction of a future event (such as the dream Abraham Lincoln had the night before his assassination), we must be careful not to apply the same meaning to our dreams as they most often than not come true.
Four Winds and the Great Sea
Daniel spoke, saying, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. Dan 7:2,
The phrase "four winds of heaven" means the forces of heaven and can also indicate the completeness of the sovereignty of God, just as the directions of the compass (NESW) are complete also.
The Great Sea is the Mediterranean Sea, the term "seas" often refer to a people or peoples. Because of the sin of the world, the people of the earth are always in turmoil. Has there ever been a time of worldwide peace in the history of mankind? No. There will be no lasting, permanent peace until Jesus returns and sits on the throne of David in Jerusalem during the Millennial Kingdom.
The area around the Mediterranean has always been a hotbed of conflict, and remains so today. War after war, battle after battle, fight after fight, year after year. Both of our world wars had their beginnings in Europe, and the last great battle before Jesus comes will be in that general region. By contrast, however, while the sea of humanity is in constant conflict, the scene in heaven is one of peace and tranquillity. God is in charge, and all is well there.
Key points: Dreams may reveal the future, but for most of us that is not the case. While the "sea of humanity" here on earth is most generally in turmoil, God is in charge, heaven is at peace, and one day those who have trusted in Jesus will too.
"And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other."
Dan 7:3, NKJV
The Beasts from the Sea
Just as in Daniel 2, we see another prophecy unfold before our eyes. Let's take a look at that prophecy, by bouncing back and forth between this passage of scripture and a latter portion of scripture in Chapter 7. The four great beasts came up from the sea, that is from the Great Sea, showing us that these four beasts represent peoples from that region around the Mediterranean.
"Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth." Dan 7:17, NKJV