************ Sermon on Daniel 7:23 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 5, 2006
"The Fourth Beast"
Daniel knows what those four monsters in a dream mean. The lion, the bear, the leopard, and that fourth beast without a name that came up out of the sea represent "four kingdoms that will rise from the earth" (vs 17).
We are being reminded that the sea of the nations breeds many monsters. Sometimes the surface is completely smooth and still and the nations appear to coexist in peace and harmony. Yet, the passions of selfishness, hatred, and self-interest can flare up in a moment. Then the world turns into an arena in which savage beasts of prey fight it out to the death. Consider the following report by the Associated Press (11-5-90):
In 1989, before a convention of Arab lawyers, the assembled were told, "An Arab country does not have the right to occupy another Arab country. And if, God forbid, Iraq should deviate from the right path, other Arab nations must send their armies to put things right. If Iraq should become intoxicated by its power and should move to overwhelm another Arab state, Arabs would be right to deploy their armies to stop it."
The speaker before that convention of Arab attorneys was none other than Iraq's former leader, Saddam Hussein -- just a few years before he invaded Kuwait.
-- Associated Press, 11-5-90
Humanism has long believed it can tame such passions. It believes that man has the capacity within himself to put civilization and culture on an upward curve of gradual improvement. It believes man is able to improve on life. It believes man is capable of making his own paradise. But every step forward seems to be followed by a step or two backwards. Each time one monster is put down, another two or three rise up to take its place. In the end the world is worse off than it was when the first monster was on the loose.
As long as SIN is not overcome, warfare will not cease and beasts of prey will continue to make the sea of nations unsafe, just as submarines lurking in the depths threaten shipping in wartime. Those who dream of a new world order, a sea without monsters and storms, a sea on which we can all take a pleasure cruise, should read Daniel 7. This chapter shows that such hopes are but idle dreams; it shows us that things will get worse instead of better. The fourth beast, which represents the fourth empire, will exceed all its predecessors in power and destructiveness.
Daniel was eager to know more about this fourth beast. Scripture reports Daniel as saying, "Then I wanted to know the true meaning of the fourth beast ..." (vs 19).
This evening, as we continue our study of Daniel 7, we will spend some time taking a closer look at that awful fourth beast.
I The Fourth Beast Was Different
A What can we say about that fourth beast? Four times Daniel emphasizes that it was different from the other three. We read, "It was different from all the former beasts" (vs 7; cf 19, 23, 24). What was different?
The first three beasts Daniel was able to name: lion, bear, and leopard. But to the fourth beast Daniel was not able to give a name. It looked so horrible and unreal that Daniel could not even decide if it was animal, man, or machine. It did have teeth, but they were made of iron. It did have claws, but they were made of bronze (vs 7, 19). Furthermore, it had horns, but one of the horns had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth full of boasts and proud talk (vs 8). So what was it that Daniel was seeing? He wasn't entirely sure. That was the first difference – Daniel was not entirely sure what he was seeing when he saw the fourth beast.
B All four beasts scared Daniel. But the fourth beast, says Daniel, was the most terrifying (vs 19); it scared him the most. That was the second difference – the fourth beast was far more terrifying than the other three beasts.
Sometimes we think "fear" displays a lack of faith. But if Daniel, the great man of God, fears the four beasts, we too should be so wise. Only fools ignore and do not fear sources of great danger.
Topic: FearWhat counts is not fear or the lack thereof, but reaction to fear. Fear can paralyze us, control us, stop us. Or, like Daniel, we can have a faith which allows us to keep on going in spite of fear.
Subtopic: Of Man
Few people know about a World War I incident involving French commander Marshal Ferdinand Foch. Learning that one of his colonels had disciplined a young officer for showing fear in battle, Foch reprimanded the colonel with these words: "None but a fool dares to boast that he has never known fear."
Yes, those four monsters – especially the fourth one – are something to fear. However, our God is stronger than any monster. And, like Daniel, we can have every confidence that He will bring us through even the worst nightmares.
C Another difference between the fourth beast and the other three: it will devour the whole earth (vs 23). In plain English this means the fourth empire will cover the whole earth. It will conquer all other kingdoms and states, whether they be great or small, pacifist or militaristic. All national boundaries will be erased. The dictator governing this world empire will hold more power than anyone before him. We sing,
Christ shall have dominion over land and sea;Followers of the fourth beast will sing the same song, maybe even to the same tune, but they will be singing about the fourth beast rather than about Christ.
earth's remotest regions shall his empire be.
They that wilds inhabit shall their worship bring;
kings shall bring their tribute, nations serve our King.
D The kingdom of the fourth beast will also be an empire without parallel in power and ruthlessness. Daniel sees that the fourth beast devours the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. In comparison to the empire represented by the fourth beast, even the worst tyrannies our world has known – whether it be Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, or Saddam Hussein's Iraq – will seem easygoing. The kingdom of the beast is a kingdom of sin, evil, and great wickedness. He is opposed to all that is good, true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, wholesome, excellent, and praiseworthy (cf Phil 4:8).
E There is one last difference between the kingdom of the fourth beast and that of the other three beasts. The fury of the fourth beast is directed not only toward the other nations. Our Scripture reading makes clear that this beast will declare war on God and His church. According to Daniel, "He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints ..." (vs 25). The beast is anti-Christ, anti-God, and anti-Christian.
When we read Daniel it appears that it is only a single horn – a horn that arises after the others, a horn that three fell before – that wages war against God and the saints. Yet those horns do not symbolize later, separate kingdoms. Rather, we must interpret the ten horns – and the later horn – as vassals or helpers or subordinate rulers who assist the dictator at the head of his empire. I say that because of what we read in Revelation 13 ... (TURN TO THAT PASSAGE)
(Rev 13:1-8) And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns (LIKE DANIEL'S BEAST) and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. (2) The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion (LIKE THE FIRST THREE BEASTS DANIEL SAW). The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. (3) One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. (4) Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?" (5) The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies (LIKE DANIEL'S BEAST) and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. (6) He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. (7) He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them (AGAIN, LIKE DANIEL'S BEAST). And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. (8) All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast--all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.
That fourth beast, it definitely was different from the other three. And, his kingdom – like him or it – is different from the kingdoms of the other beasts.
II The Antichrist
A Are you wondering who that fourth beast really is? Are you wondering what kingdom or empire this fourth beast represents? Like Daniel, do you want "to know the true meaning of the fourth beast"?
I want to ask you to turn to another passage – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 ... (TURN TO THAT PASSAGE)
(2 Th 2:1-12) Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, (2) not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. (3) Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. (4) He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God. (5) Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? (6) And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. (7) For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. (8) And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. (9) The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, (10) and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. (11) For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie (12) and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.Paul is writing here about the Antichrist, a man of flesh and blood, a tyrant and world dictator lording it over the whole earth and the church. I want you to notice that he conducts himself exactly like the revolting fourth monster of Daniel's dream. There is only one possible conclusion: the beast of Daniel's dream represents the Antichrist.
Who or what is the Antichrist? Theologically, the Antichrist claims to be God Himself. Politically, he will attempt to rule the world. Satanically, he will prosper on the Devil's power. In many ways the Antichrist will be to Satan what Jesus is to God:
* He is evil incarnate, sin in the flesh, just like Jesus is God incarnate, God in the flesh.
* He is sent from Satan just like Jesus is sent from God.
* He calls people to turn to Satan just like Jesus calls people to turn to God.
* He rules a kingdom in Satan's name just like Jesus rules a kingdom in God's name.
A close study of Daniel 7 leads us to conclude that the kingdom of the fourth beast represents, then, the kingdom of this Antichrist.
What else can we say about the fourth beast and his kingdom?
B This empire is the last one to appear on earth. After the fourth beast, Daniel sees no more monsters emerging from the sea. There is nothing more to await from below. There is, of course, still something to await from above, for the Son of Man will come on the clouds of heaven (vs 13) to put an end to this fourth empire once and for all (vs 26). That's also what Paul writes to Thessalonica – that Christ will not return until the "man of sin" or "man of lawlessness" is revealed (2 Thess 2:3-4).
C It is said of the fourth beast that it will "try to change the set times and the laws" (vs 25). What is meant by changing the "times"? The fourth beast will try to take over control of world events, seizing for himself what properly belongs only to God in His providence. According to Paul this is exactly what the Antichrist does:
(2 Thess 2:4) He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
As for changing the law, this refers to the efforts of the fourth beast to destroy all that is civilized and humane. The Christian foundations of law and morality must be destroyed. What was once condemned as wrong will then be praised as right. What was once regarded as shameful will then be seen as honorable. What was once shunned as lie will then be hailed as the truth. Every-thing will be turned upside down. We see some of that today already, don't we?!
* Abortion is no longer murder. It is simply a woman exercising her right of privacy to her own body.
* Homosexuality is merely a difference in sexual preference, an alternative lifestyle.
* Pornography is an expression of free speech.
* Adultery is "living together."
* Illegitimate babies are "love children."
* Drug abuse is experimentation.
However, when the fourth beast rules, things will be worse, much worse. At that time everything in our value system will be turned completely upside down. Paul indicates to us this is the work of the Antichrist when he calls him the "man of lawlessness" (2 Thess 2:3). The Antichrist is the "lawless one" (2 Thess 2:8,9); he is opposed to law and morality and in favor of sin and evil. Paul informs us that
(2 Thess 2:9-10) The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, (10) and in every sort of evil ...
D Finally, we are told that the rule of the fourth beast is limited. It will rule for "a time, times, and half a time." It is always tempting to start figuring out just what this means in numerical terms. Some of the church fathers – looking at the beast of Revelation 13 which will rule for 42 months, or 3.5 years (Rev 13:5) – concluded that the tyranny of the fourth beast would also last exactly 3.5 years. They forget that the Bible uses figurative language here. All that Daniel – and John – mean to tell us is that there will come a time when the rule of the beast will be ended.
According to Daniel when the Son of Man comes with the clouds of heaven the fourth beast will be stripped of its powers. Daniel says,
(Daniel 7:26) But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever.In the same vein, Paul tells us that the Antichrist, like the fourth beast, is "doomed to destruction" (2 Thess 2:3):
(2 Thess 2:8) the Lord Jesus will overthrow (him) with the breath of his mouth and destroy (him) by the splendor of his coming.
Last week we looked at the thrones that were set in place (vs 9). I told you then the story of the old black janitor studying the book of Revelation. Using his words to the student, I told you that "Jesus is gonna win." The story of the fourth beast ends on that same triumphant note. That beast, representing the Antichrist, is evil, frightening, Satanic, devouring. But he, thank God, doesn't have the final word; rather, Jesus does. And he, thank God, isn't the final power and authority; rather, Jesus is. So Daniel can end by saying,
(Daniel 7:27) Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.
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