v.1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. For a bit of an outline, chapters 7 through 12 are visions which Daniel had; in chronology, the events of chapters 7 and 8 belong between chapters 4 and 5; what happens in chapter 9 happens about at the same time as chapter 6, and the visions of 10-12 take place after the events of chapter 6. The first of the four visions of chapters 7-12 are the most comprehensive; the other three visions deal with aspects of this first vision.
The Sum of the Matters: In other words, Daniel could have given us more detail; but the Holy Spirit only wanted him to write the main facts - though we might have wanted to know more detail!
The Four Beasts
vv.2-3 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. (3) And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. The four winds of the heaven: Some view these as representing satanic forces (Rev 7:1) or simply a reference to God's strength and power (Psa 35:5; Psa 48:7; Psa 107:25; Isa 27:8; Isa 41:16).
The great sea: This is referring to the Mediterranean that each of these empires borders. From this great sea come four great beasts each distinct from the other.
The First Beast
v.4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it. The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: This beast is majestic in that it is represented by a lion and an eagle. While the lion is the king on land, the eagle is the king in the air.
Jeremiah used both of these to describe Babylon (Jer 49:19-22). However, this kingdom is humbled by having its wings plucked and given the heart of a man. Babylon was famous for its winged lions.
The Second Beast
v.5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. A second, like to a bear: It's been said that the bear is much less majestic as that it is slow, ponderous, and crushing. This one is imbalanced in some way in that it is on its side, however, it does have a voracious appetite. It represents tot Medo-Persian Empire. Many believe that the three ribs represent the empires that they conquered: Babylon, Egypt, and Lydia.
The Third Beast
v.6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. Like a leopard: The beast represents Greece. A normal leopard can run 36 mph and is known for its sudden, unexpected attacks; this one is especially swift with four wings. It is also clever with four heads. Alexander the Great conquered the entire civilized world by the age of 28. Some would say that the four heads also represent his four generals: Casander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy who inherited the empire after his death.
The Fourth Beast
v.7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. Notice that this fourth beast was very different from the rest before it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it. This is no doubt the Roman Empire. Rome ruled the world from around 150 BC until around 450 AD. It was unquestionably the largest, strongest, unified, and enduring of them all. Rome was unique in that it not only ruled the world physically but came to rule it spiritually as well.
Still With Us Today
In many respects, Rome never lost spiritual control of the world. This is seen in the fact that the iron does not seize to exist from the legs down through the toes in Neb's first vision of the statue. It's unbelievable that God gave this revelation to Daniel around 600 BC. That was almost 400 years before Rome even became a world empire!
It had ten horns: The ten toes of chapter 2 and the ten horns here in chapter 7 are one and the same (Rev 13:1, Rev 17:3). They represent the Revived Roman Empire of the last days.
v.8 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things. Notice that while Daniel is considering the horns and what they could mean, he sees another little horn rise up from among them. This is the antichrist.
Notice that he plucks up three of the ten by the roots. Apparently, the antichrist is going to have to fight three of the 10 kingdoms to gain control of the remaining kingdoms. This sheds some light on Rev 17:10-13. Looks like v.13 is through a little bit of coercion.
Notice that he has a mouth speaking great things (Rev 13:1-6). Also, Paul makes reference to the Antichrist in 2Th 2:3-4. He believes that he is greater than God.
Lord of Glory
vv.9-10 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. (10) A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. The words cast down could be better translated as established or set up.
The book of Revelation tells us who is sitting on these thrones (Rev 4:4). While we are not sure who is sitting on these thrones, we do know that the number means signifies government in the Bible. Here are a couple of views on whom these twenty-four elders are. Some say they are literally the twelve sons of Jacob and the twelve apostles of the New Testament combined. Not sure about the sons, but I do know that Jesus said that the Twelve would do so in Mat 19:28 and Luk 22:29-30.
Others say that these represent all of the redeemed from both the Old and the New Testament. Either way, in this view, the twelve patriarchs represent those from the Old Testament and the twelve apostles represent those from the New Testament saints.
This all could also be related to 1Ch 24:3-4. In these verses, we see that David had appointed 24 elders to represent the entire Levitical priesthood which numbered around 38,000 at that time. Each of these elders was to represent a group of Levites who were to serve throughout the year for two weeks at a time in the Temple. This division also made it easier to meet with the Levites as they were representative of the entire group. This is probably why the number 24 represents governmental authority in the Bible.
Now those who want to place the Body of Christ in this number, as I used to, will point to 1Co 6:2-3 as a proof text. To be honest, where I am right now, I am having a hard time seeing the Body of Christ anywhere in the Old Testament, and I am also struggling with the term saint because it appears to be referring to Jewish Believers and not the Body of Christ (Eph 1:1; Php 1:1; Col 1:1-2). Make what you will of it, but they appear to be different groups of people.
Final thought, whoever these are, they are judging during the Kingdom, which I have become convinced has nothing to do with the Body of Christ. Also, cf. Jud 1:14-15 and Rev 2:26. Both are speaking of Jews and not Gentiles. We will see another clue in this same chapter in v.18. Again, referring to the House of Israel.
The Ancient of Days
Notice the Ancient of days: This is a reference to God the Father. We see the deity of Christ in this because here it is a reference to God the Father, but in Revelation, it is a reference to God the Son. Compare the description with Rev 1:12-15. Appear to be one and the same.
Daniel has the Second Coming of Christ and the final judgment in view here (Rev 19:11-16; Rev 20:11-15; Isa 66:15-16).
Notice that the books were opened: There are three books mentioned in the Bible: 1. The Book of the Living (Psa 69:28); 2. The Book of Remembrance (Mal 3:16); 3. The Book of Life (Php 4:3; Rev 3:5; Rev 13:8; Rev 17:8; Rev 20:12; Rev 20:15; Rev 21:27, and Rev 22:19).