Explore The Bible Study: Future Seen

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When you think about the end of this world as we know it, how do you feel? Do current or recent world events make you wonder if the end is near? Whether the end times is something you dread or look forward to, the Explore The Bible Study: Future Seen, will remind you that you can live with confidence because of God's promised return of Christ.

This week's passage will take you to a time when Daniel is given a prophetic vision that points to the end times. While the times seemed dark and foreboding for the Israelites, Daniel received a vision revealing the victorious outcome of God over the powers that opposed them. As you examine these prophetic passages, consider how you can face what may seem to be difficult and uncertain times with hope because you know that God has been, is, and will be victorious over evil. 

Daniel 7 goes back and captures the prophetic visions Daniel had while serving the kings. Around 553 BC, during the reign of the Babylonian King Belshazzar, Daniel had a vision. This vision was the first of four visions recorded in Daniel 7–12. This study will focus on the four beasts Daniel saw. These four beasts correspond to Daniel’s earlier interpretation of a dream that the former Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had in Daniel 2:31-45.

You should consider how you can live with confidence knowing that God’s kingdom is eternal. We begin by examining the vision of the first three beasts in Daniel 7:1-6.

The First Three Beasts of the Vision - Daniel 7:1-6

The first beast was like a lion but had eagle’s wings. The wings of this beast were torn off, indicating that it was unable to fly. This beast represents the kingdom of Babylon.

The second beast looked like a bear. It was raised up on one side and was chewing on three ribs in its mouth. This image speaks to the stature and ferociousness of the bear. Daniel heard a voice that instructed it to get up! Gorge yourself on flesh. It already had three ribs in its mouth, but the voice told the bear to eat all it wanted. Most interpreters believe the bear represents the Persian kingdom, sometimes called Medo-Persia, and the three ribs allude to Babylon, Egypt, and Lydia, three major conquests of the Persians.

The third beast was like a leopard. It had four wings of a bird on its back as well as four heads. It was given dominion for a time, just as the other beasts had experienced. Most interpreters believe this is the Greek empire established by Alexander the Great. The four wings and four heads likely describe the four generals who divided Alexander’s empire when Alexander died.

What does this communicate regarding earthly kingdoms and leaders? 

How should knowing that God rules over all kingdoms of the world impact the way you live and view life? 

Kingdoms and leaders will come and go throughout history and we are reminded by these passages that it is God who places kings and kingdoms on this earth. While we should respect our leaders, as directed in Romans 13:1-7, we should not place our ultimate hope in the kingdoms or rulers of this earth.

The Fourth Beast with the horns – Daniel 7:7-8

The first three beasts were frightening but not as much as the fourth beast. Most interpreters identify the fourth beast as the Roman Empire. Rome became the dominant empire in the second century B.C. The 10 horns represented 10 kings or kingdoms in some way empowered by, or rising from, the Roman Empire.

Notice there is a break in the description between verses 7 and 8. This break represents something significant that most believe hasn’t yet taken place. It points to the rise of Antichrist in the end time, the little horn. The term used in this verse described the small start of power of this leader who would then grow and become dominant. When three of the first horns were uprooted before the little one, Daniel envisioned a hostile takeover. The added description of having eyes like a man’s and a mouth that spoke arrogantly, gave the little horn human qualities.

We know from history that the old Roman Empire eventually disintegrated and disappeared. It seems logical to conclude that Daniel saw prophetically a restoration and renewal of the old Roman Empire. However, in this future kingdom, an evil king will arise from among these 10 kings who fits Paul’s description of a powerful ruler identified as “the man of lawlessness” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4: 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in God’s temple, proclaiming that he himself is God. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, CSB)

He is also described as the antichrist in 1 John 2:18, Children, it is the last hour. And as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. By this we know that it is the last hour. And as the beast in Revelation 13:1, And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads. On its horns were ten crowns, and on its heads were blasphemous names.

Daniel saw and recorded this vision around 553 B.C., centuries before the Roman Empire even existed.  God revealed to Daniel that evil did exist on the earth and would persist well into the future. 

How does God giving Daniel a glimpse into the future help us deal with the current evil we observe?

Does the fact that God knows the future give you peace? (Why or why not?)

Coming Judgement – Daniel 7:9-14

Examine this passage on your own as you consider the following:

  • What does God’s description of Himself as the Ancient of Days communicate to you about God? 
  • What kind of authority or role does verses 9 & 10 describe God as having?
  • Based on verses 9 & 10, what kind of judge will God be?
  • How can knowing that “Thousands upon thousands served Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him” give you hope for the future? (We know we are not alone; there will be people who will continue to follow God; etc.)
  • How can verses 11-12 impact the way we live for God today? 
  • Who is the “One like a son of man?” (Christ)
  • How do these passages describe the coronation of a king?
  • What authority was the King (Jesus Christ) given?
Notice how the new kingdom would look. First, the kingdom was populated by people of every nation and language—it included anyone who would follow this King (Jesus). It would not be limited to a certain race of people, to a certain geo-political nation, or to a certain language group. This new kingdom would be for all who would receive Christ as their Savior. Second, the new kingdom would be led by a king who had an everlasting dominion. His kingdom would endure and would not pass away. Third, His kingdom would be one that would never be destroyed. 

Are You Living with Confidence?

This vision did initially cause Daniel to become deeply distressed and terrified. This might be our response as well, knowing that evil will continue to persist, and that the world will continue to experience turmoil until the return of the son of man (Jesus Christ). Daniel didn’t know what we know as believers, yet we too might become distressed and terrified when we consider all that is unfolding before us.  We should learn from Daniel’s next actions in Daniel 7:15-18 when he sought God’s wisdom and was given comfort: As for me, Daniel, my spirit was deeply distressed within me, and the visions in my mind terrified me. 16 I approached one of those who were standing by and asked him to clarify all this. So he let me know the interpretation of these things: 17 "These huge beasts, four in number, are four kings who will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever, yes, forever and ever."

Evil and evil kingdoms continue to come and go. There will continue to be leaders who think they are supreme, greater than God, or a god. Their arrogance will be judged as will the final, and most arrogant leader of them all – the antichrist. The language of Daniel 7 attests how God sweeps them aside on the day of judgment including the one who thinks he will be greater than any other king.

But the kingdom God inaugurated with the first coming of Christ continues to grow and to reach new believers. We don’t know when the end will come, but we do know that “the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever, yes, forever and ever!” (Verse 18) If you know Jesus Christ, you are one of the holy ones and you are and will be a part of a kingdom that will last forever, yes, forever and ever!

How certain are you that you know Christ as Savior? Is your certainty reflected in your confidence in God as we move toward the end times?

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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