Interpretation of the Vision
Open Your Bible
Daniel 7:15-28, Philippians 4:6-7, Colossians 1:15-20
BY Patti Sauls
Deadly beasts, a boasting horn, a heavenly courtroom… what is happening? Are you bewildered by the strange details like me? If so, we’re in good company. Even Daniel was overwhelmed by his own vision. Daniel, the faithful Israelite. Daniel, the brave exile in Babylon. Daniel, the interpreter of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. But even he couldn’t interpret this one. (Glad I’m not the only one confused.) Feeling terrified and exhausted, he asks an angel within the scene for an explanation.
Woven into this account of Daniel’s vision is God’s reminder that it’s okay not to have all the answers. He gives us freedom to wonder and be uncertain. God invites us to prayerfully ask for help (Philippians 4:6–7) and to search for clarity (Psalm 119:12–16). However, the humbling reality is that we just won’t understand it all. For example, most scholars interpret the four beasts in Daniel’s vision as the empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, yet there is debate about which kings the horns represent, how the little horn specifically attempts to dominate, the timing of it all, and so on.
There’s a lot we don’t know, but there’s a lot we do know, too. We see these mighty empires puffed up with pride and self-sufficiency. They devour, crush, and trample as they oppress and conquer their neighbors (Daniel 7:19). What a picture of how humans behave like beasts when we reject our Creator! Individuals and societies disintegrate when we refuse to believe that every human is made in the image of God and deserves dignity. Seeking “my will be done” instead of “God, your will be done” diminishes our humanity. The ruthless kingdoms rise, then, inevitably crumble.
The angelic interpreter also tells Daniel that the ten horns represent kings who will rule after the fall of the brutal fourth kingdom. Daniel is especially horrified by another little horn that rose up to overtake the others. It represents a tyrannical leader who arrogantly rejects God, wages war against God’s people, and positions himself as a tyrant over all creation.
Yet, all is not lost. Horror gives way to hope as Daniel watches the ultimate reckoning unfold. A heavenly court convenes and God Himself, called the “Ancient of Days,” takes the judgment seat. The Judge rules; the verdict is in. All who have set themselves up against the authority of God are sentenced to eternal death. Then, one who looks like the son of man joins the Judge to accept the rule and reign of God’s kingdom of eternal life.
While Daniel strained to see and understand this hope, we can look to Jesus, who called Himself “the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62). Even though we don’t have all the answers, we can rest assured “that the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever, yes, forever and ever” (Daniel 7:18). World without end, from horror to hope… Amen!