Daniel Chapter 7 in the New Testament

SYNOPSIS - Several phrases from Daniel Chapter 7 are employed by the New Testament to portray a coming "war" between the "Dragon" and the "saints." 


Stormy Beach - Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash
Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash
The vision of a “Son of Man” from the book of Daniel that received dominion occurs several times in the gospel accounts of the New Testament, often in descriptions of the "arrival" of Jesus at the end of the age. For example, in his ‘Olivet Discourse,’ Christ foretold how "all the tribes of the earth" would mourn when “they saw the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 10:23, 13:41, 16:27-28, 24:30, 25:31, Luke 21:27).

The “Son of Man” is the most common self-designation heard on the lips of Jesus in the four gospel accounts. The source of the term is the seventh chapter of Daniel, the same passage behind the post-resurrection declaration by Jesus to possess authority over all things:
  • (Daniel 7:13-14) – “I continued looking in the visions of the night, when lo! with the clouds of the heavens, one like a son of man was coming,—and unto the Ancient of days he approached, and before him they brought him near; and unto him were given dominion and dignity and kingship, that all peoples, races and tongues, unto him should do service,—his dominion was an age-abiding dominion, which should not pass away, and his kingdom, that which should not be destroyed” – (The Emphasized Bible).
  • (Matthew 28:18-20) – “And Jesus, coming near, spake unto them, saying—All authority in heaven and on earth hath been given unto meGo ye, therefore, and disciple all the nations, Immersing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,—Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I myself have commanded you, And lo! I am with you all the days, until the conclusion of the age” – (The Emphasized Bible).
When the high priest demanded whether he was the Messiah, Jesus responded - “I am he, and you will see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” In doing so, Jesus combined a phrase from Daniel 7:13 with Psalm 110:1 - “Yahweh declared to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I make your foes your footstool” - (Mark 14:62Matthew 26:64Luke 22:69).

In the vision of Daniel, the “Son of Man” approached God to receive authority to rule the nations. Similarly, in the second Psalm, the messiah is exalted to rule over the nations from Yahweh’s throne. In his trial before the priestly authorities, Jesus declared that this prophecy was about to be fulfilled - It was something his executioners would see, presumably, to their dismay - (Psalm 110:1, Daniel 7:13).

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul described a future “man of lawlessness” and the related “mystery of lawlessness” that was at work already in his day. The force of "lawlessness" would prevail until a specific event:
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8) - “Now, you know that which prevails to the end he may be revealed in his season…until he comes out of the midst. Then will be revealed the Lawless One whom the Lord Jesus will consume with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the appearance of his arrival.”
Paul drew on the language from the seventh chapter of Daniel to paint his picture of this figure. Note the following verbal parallels:
  • (Daniel 7:8, 21-26) - “I considered the horns and there came up among them another horn, a little one…this horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them until that the Ancient of Days arrived and justice was granted to the saints of the Highest, and the season arrived that the saints should possess the kingdom…and words against the Most High will he speak, and the saints of the Highest will he afflict and will presume to change seasons and law, and they will be given into his hand for a season and seasons and the dividing of a season; but Judgment will take its seat, and his dominion will they remove to consume and to destroy unto an end.”

In the Book of Revelation

The image of the “son of man” arriving "on the clouds" appears at the close of the prologue to the book of Revelation:
  • He is coming with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they that pierced him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over him…I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man” - (Revelation 1:7-16).
Later, John saw one like “a son of man” sitting on a white cloud and wearing a golden crown, and with a sharp sickle poised to reap a final harvest - (Revelation 14:14).

In Daniel’s vision, the “Son of Man” approached the Divine Throne to receive dominion over “all peoples, nations and tongues.” This image lies behind several passages in the book of Revelation and is used to emphasize the universal reign of the Lamb.

Thus, for example, the Lamb is declared worthy because “he purchased for God by his blood men out of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.” John later saw an innumerable multitude coming out of the "Tribulation" that was comprised of men and women “from every nation, tribe, people and tongue” - (Daniel 7:13-14, Revelation 5:9, 7:9-17).

Storm Sea - Photo by NIKOLAOS AXELIS on Unspla
Photo by NIKOLAOS AXELIS on Unsplash

The vision of four beasts ascending from the sea from the seventh chapter of Daniel is employed in Revelation, however, the "four beasts" become a single “beast” seen by John "ascending from the sea." This "beast" combines the characteristics of all four of Daniel’s beasts.

The book of Revelation does not attempt to identify the fourth beast from the vision of Daniel; instead, it presents a portrait of something related but greater than the original vision in Daniel - An amalgamation of all four animal images, the single “beast ascending from the sea” - (Revelation 13:1-5).

The book of Revelation lists the animal characteristics of the original four beasts but in reverse order from the sequence of their ascent from the sea in Daniel. Rather than a lion, bear, leopard, and beast with ten horns, John saw a single beast with ten horns, a leopard’s appearance, a bear’s feet, and the “mouth of a lion.” This beast also had a “mouth speaking great things and blasphemies.” This last item corresponds to the “little horn” in Daniel that, likewise, was "speaking great things" - (Daniel 7:8Revelation 13:5).
The book of Revelation adds and omits things that Daniel attributes to its fourth beast. For example, there is no mention of “seven heads” on the fourth beast in the book of Daniel.
In Revelation Chapter 13, each of the “ten horns” wears a diadem, something not mentioned in Daniel. Similarly, in Revelation, there is no mention of three of the ten horns being removed to make way for the "little horn." Revelation is not concerned with simply reiterating what Daniel wrote. It uses material from his vision to paint a fuller and, in many ways, a different picture. Whereas, Daniel saw four beasts - John saw only one, and it combined all the worst features of the original four from the vision of Daniel.

The "beast from the sea" appears again in Chapter 17 of Revelation where it is under the economic sway of “Babylon, the Great Whore” - She rides the “Beast.”  Its seven heads represent “seven kingdoms.” Already in John’s day, five have “fallen”; the sixth one existed in his day and the seventh and final “kingdom” is yet to come - (Revelation 17:7-17).

The portrait in the book of Revelation is of a "Beast" that is trans-historical – A political reality that appears periodically throughout human history, an entity that ascends repeatedly from the Abyss ("Sea") to wage “war against the saints.” Its "ten horns" represent kings allied with the "Beast," although, in the end, they become the unwitting agents of the Lamb that destroy Babylon.

A key passage found several times in Revelation is from Daniel Chapter 7 - “The horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them.” In Revelation, the group labeled the “saints” is comprised of men and women who have the “testimony of Jesus” and were “purchased from every nation” by his blood. This same phrase from Daniel is applied to the attacks by the “Dragon” and the “Beast” against the “Two Witnesses,” the “seed of the woman,” the “saints” and, in an ironic twist, the war of Satan against the Lamb - (“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them” - Revelation 5:6-127:9-14, 11:7, 12:17, 13:7, 17:14, 19:19).

The theme of malevolent creatures “ascending” from ominous depths to attack the followers of the Lamb appears repeatedly in the book of Revelation, though in each case, it is adapted to a specific context. For example, the “Two Witnesses” are targeted by the “beast that ascends from the abyss” - (Revelation 11:7, 13:1, 13:11, 17:8, 20:9).

In the book of Daniel, the “little horn” prevails against the saints until “judgment was given for the saints of the Most-High. Likewise, in Revelation, Satan is bound for a thousand years while “judgment is given” for the saints as they begin to “possess the kingdom” - (Daniel 7:21-22, Revelation 20:4).

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