The night on which Daniel received the knowledge of king Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was one of great anxiety. Daniel and his three friends were counted among the wise men of Babylon and the king had sentenced them to death because there was no-one among them that had come forward with the dream and its interpretation. During the night Daniel and his three companions took the matter to the God of Israel in prayer. Their lives depended on this prayer; so it was with memorable words of thanksgiving that Daniel expressed his joy in that God had heard their cry and provided both the dream and its interpretation.

The matter of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in volved a sequential list of great kingdoms that would supersede each other, beginning with the then present kingdom of Babylon and concluding with the establishment of the kingdom of God upon the earth, consuming and destroying all the previous kingdoms and prevailing forever. Since we were children we have known the simple wonder of this wonderful chapter 2 of Daniel. “Thou art this head of gold”, said young Daniel to great Nebuchadnezzar but “after thee shall arise another kingdom” and so it was with Cyrus and the Medo-Persians eclipsing Babylonian might in BC 536. Then it was the Greeks’ turn, when led by the brilliant Alexander, only 20 years of age! They routed the Persian dominion from 334 BC until the brutal Roman legions crushed the Greeks and subdued all things, not leaving anything to threaten their absolute power (v40). So the customs and culture of Rome implanted itself on all the civilised world and beyond through 500 years, a time of amazing unity described by the historians as the “Pax Romanis”, the peace of Rome.

Who among us have not thrilled to the simple but wondrous power of this prophecy? Daniel chapter 2 is a great pillar in our faith and must remain so!

But why was this dream given to Nebuchadnezzar at this particular time? Because the people of God had gone into captivity into a strange land and knew not what lay ahead. The Gentile world may also think they had ascendancy over the true and living God of Israel for had not Babylon captured Judea, ransacked its capital Jerusalem and scattered its people. Hardly had Nebuchadnezzar been able to taste the spoils of triumph when a young captive Jewish boy told him accurately, step by step, the very things he had dreamed the night before. In utter amazement the king heard the account of the consecutive metals and the consecutive kingdoms and the final triumph of the God of Daniel. So Nebuchadnezzar knew that he was a puppet on the stage of time and history and that the God of Daniel was a Lord of Kings and revealer of secrets! (2:47).

Daniel 7 and Daniel 2

Now in the seventh chapter of Daniel the metals are replaced with various beasts but the number, four, is the same. So also the period is the same, beginning with the Babylonian winged lion and concluding with the Son of man receiving “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom” (v14). Though given many years later than chapter 2 the message is essentially the same with, however, more details and the various characteristics of the four beasts allowed. So the sequence is the same, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. And this is a crucially important part of the message. If the order was inverted or subject to various interpretations, then the whole power of the vision would be lost. Daniel’s later request was especially to know “the truth of the fourth beast” (v19). It was the fourth one. The order was important, critically so. It could not be switched around or given some different interpretation or a second interpretation. It was the fourth beast, the one after the second and the third!

We must never let this simplicity be lost. Nor was it difficult to determine who the second and third kingdoms would be, for in chapter 8 Daniel is explicitly told of the Medo-Persian power being overturned by the king of Grecia (8:20–21). Daniel was then living under the Persian rule so the picture was three parts interpreted already. Hence his great curiosity regarding the fourth beast and its little horn in chapter 7 verse 19.

Why wasn’t he told more about the fourth beast? Because the time was not right. He knew of a fourth power and he knew of a great and historic apostasy that would develop out of it, with unsurpassed arrogance and blasphemy and making war against the saints of God (7:25–26). He knew that the Son of Man would consume this evil system with the brightness of his coming and the saints would have the final ascendancy (7:26–27). This is the basis of Paul’s confident teaching of a coming apostasy in 2 Thessalonians. He, like Daniel, could see that the system would be Roman for it developed in the time of the fourth beast and Paul had come to see that Rome had eclipsed Greece and therefore Rome was the fourth beast power.

All this is so simple yet so wonderful! We thank the Revealer of Secrets for this great pillar of faith! “Surely the Lord God doeth nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

Daniel and Revelation

Being such a man of God, Daniel again pressed God for greater information concerning the fourth beast and its religious manifestation. But it was refused him, right up to his dying day. “Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (12:9). Knowledge of these things was going to be increased but not to Daniel and not in his time. For the time then present the word was “closed up and sealed”.

Where is the counterpart to these things? Surely in the book of Revelation. Here we are presented with a “book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals” (Rev 5:1). The vision portrays some initial grief that none was found worthy to open this book of special information, until grief is assuaged in that the Lion of the tribe of Judah had prevailed “to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof” (v 4–5). The revelation remained secret from Daniel to John but now it was to be revealed. Since the apostle John was already living in the time of the Roman fourth beast period and since there were only four powers designated in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7, then these seals and the seven trumpets (chapters 8–9) and seven vials (chapters 16–17) must be signifying various phases of the great Roman power that would persist right up to the coming of Christ. This is the only rational explanation for the book of Revelation. All these specific and fascinating signs remained a secret before John on Patmos received this book of Revelation but now the matters were revealed to those who wanted to know (cp Deut 29:29). That is why it is called “The Book of Revelation”. Secret things were now out in the open! God wanted to “shew unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass” (Rev 1:1).

So the book of Revelation takes on where Daniel’s prophecy left off. They are companion volumes. There had to be information of these last 2 000 years in the Word of Prophecy for “surely the Lord God doeth nothing, but that He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets”. The Book of Revelation therefore provides the Divine programme for the long time of Gentile Roman ascendancy.

And indeed it is a programme. Just as we noted the consecutive nature of Daniel’s visions so we note the orderly arrangement of the Roman era, as God views it. Men write up history and fill the accounts with facts and figures and features but it is difficult to see the structure of the centuries of time that they cover. In the Divine Word of Divine prophecy the vast epochs are presented with structure, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials. The book begins with the Apostle receiving the prophecy and closes with the Kingdom of God. So it covers from AD96 to the time of the kingdom. We shall have to work on it to fit the happenings of the history with the details of the prophecy but we can be sure there will be answers as the logic of a consecutive, sequential history has been presented.

In this, too, there will be a sense of growing confidence. As the great events of history are placed alongside the scale of Divine signs as in Revelation, so will the confidence of the interpreter rise. He will wonder and thank his God for every further piece of enlightenment. He will know that he has the right answers to the book. From whatever stand point he is at in the book, he can look back and look forward and note all the Divine milestones of interpretation all beautifully and powerfully confirming his understanding.

That’s how Brother John Thomas felt when he wrote “Eureka” and called it “I have found it”! He knew he had the basic comprehension of the Book correct.

And that’s how we can feel today.

No generation ever had the opportunity for comprehension better than we have. We are at the end of times when all the events are behind us. There would seem to be no excuse for present ignorance.

So let us all, old and young, seek the blessing that was especially granted to those who “read and hear the words of this prophecy and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand”!