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Visions of the Four Beasts


In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream: 2I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, 3and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then, as I watched, its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a human being; and a human mind was given to it. 5Another beast appeared, a second one, that looked like a bear. It was raised up on one side, had three tusks in its mouth among its teeth and was told, “Arise, devour many bodies!” 6After this, as I watched, another appeared, like a leopard. The beast had four wings of a bird on its back and four heads; and dominion was given to it. 7After this I saw in the visions by night a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth and was devouring, breaking in pieces, and stamping what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that preceded it, and it had ten horns. 8I was considering the horns, when another horn appeared, a little one coming up among them; to make room for it, three of the earlier horns were plucked up by the roots. There were eyes like human eyes in this horn, and a mouth speaking arrogantly.

Judgment before the Ancient One


As I watched,

thrones were set in place,

and an Ancient One took his throne,

his clothing was white as snow,

and the hair of his head like pure wool;

his throne was fiery flames,

and its wheels were burning fire.


A stream of fire issued

and flowed out from his presence.

A thousand thousands served him,

and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.

The court sat in judgment,

and the books were opened.

11 I watched then because of the noise of the arrogant words that the horn was speaking. And as I watched, the beast was put to death, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 13As I watched in the night visions,

I saw one like a human being

coming with the clouds of heaven.

And he came to the Ancient One

and was presented before him.


To him was given dominion

and glory and kingship,

that all peoples, nations, and languages

should serve him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

that shall not pass away,

and his kingship is one

that shall never be destroyed.

Daniel’s Visions Interpreted

15 As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. 16I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter: 17“As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. 18But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever—forever and ever.”

19 Then I desired to know the truth concerning the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped what was left with its feet; 20and concerning the ten horns that were on its head, and concerning the other horn, which came up and to make room for which three of them fell out—the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke arrogantly, and that seemed greater than the others. 21As I looked, this horn made war with the holy ones and was prevailing over them, 22until the Ancient One came; then judgment was given for the holy ones of the Most High, and the time arrived when the holy ones gained possession of the kingdom.

23 This is what he said: “As for the fourth beast,

there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth

that shall be different from all the other kingdoms;

it shall devour the whole earth,

and trample it down, and break it to pieces.


As for the ten horns,

out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,

and another shall arise after them.

This one shall be different from the former ones,

and shall put down three kings.


He shall speak words against the Most High,

shall wear out the holy ones of the Most High,

and shall attempt to change the sacred seasons and the law;

and they shall be given into his power

for a time, two times, and half a time.


Then the court shall sit in judgment,

and his dominion shall be taken away,

to be consumed and totally destroyed.


The kingship and dominion

and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven

shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High;

their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,

and all dominions shall serve and obey them.”

28 Here the account ends. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly terrified me, and my face turned pale; but I kept the matter in my mind.

After Daniel has narrated how he saw God on the throne of judgment, openly exercising his power and laying open to the world what was formerly hidden from it, namely, his supreme authority in its government, he now adds the second part of the vision, As it were the Son of man appeared in the clouds. Without doubt this is to be understood of Christ, and the Jews, perverse as they are, are ashamed to deny it, although they differ afterwards about Christ. But the object of the vision was to enable the faithful certainly to expect the promised Redeemer in his own time. He had been endued with heavenly power, and was seated at his Father’s right hand. Hence Daniel says, He was intent on these nightly visions. And this repetition is by no means superfluous, as it informs us of the Prophet’s alertness when God shews himself present. Daniel expresses this fully in his own words, for he roused himself when he perceived important, and rare, and singular matters set before him. This attentive disposition of the Prophet ought to stir us up to read his prophecy without listlessness, and with awakened minds earnestly to derive from heaven true and sincere intelligence. I was, then, says he, attentive in visions of the night, and beheld as it were the Son of man. I have already said this passage cannot be otherwise taken than concerning Christ. We must now see why he uses the word “like” the Son of man; that is, why he uses the letter כ, ke, the mark for likeness. This might be twisted in favor of the folly of the Manichees, who thought Christ’s body to be only imaginary. For, as they wrest the words of Paul, and pervert their sense, that Christ was in likeness as a man, (Philippians 2:7.) so also they may abuse the Prophet’s testimony, when Christ is not said to be a man but only like one. With respect to Paul’s words, he is not speaking of the essence of his human nature, but only of his state; for he is speaking of Christ being made man, of his condition being humble and abject, and even servile. But in the passage before us the reason is different. For the Prophet says, He appeared to him as the Son of man, as Christ had not yet taken upon him our flesh. And we must remark that saying of Paul’s: When the fullness of time was come, God sent his Son, made of a woman. (Galatians 4:4.) Christ then began to be a man when he appeared on earth as Mediator, for he had not assumed the seed of Abraham before he was joined with us in brotherly union. This is the reason why the Prophet does not pronounce Christ to have been man at this period, but only like man; for otherwise he had not been that Messiah formerly promised under the Law as the son of Abraham and David. For if from the beginning he had put on human flesh, he would not have been born of these progenitors. It follows, then, that Christ was not a man from the beginning, but only appeared so in a figure. As also Irenaeus 1818     The Latin translation of Irenaeus is “proeludium.” The French here has “une approche et entree.” and then adds, “He uses a word which we cannot translate into French.” It means a preface or introduction. — Ed. says: This was a “prelude,” he uses that word. Tertullian also says: “Then the Son of God put on a specimen of humanity.” 1919     Tertullian’s words are, “Tunc praeluxit Filius Dei humanitate sua.” — Ed. This was a symbol, therefore, of Christ’s future flesh, although that flesh did not yet exist. We now see how suitably this figure agrees with the thing signified, wherein Christ was set forth as the Son of man, although he was then the eternal Word of God.

It afterwards follows, He came to the Ancient of days This, in my judgment, ought to be explained of Christ’s ascension; for he then commenced his reign, as we see in numberless passages of Scripture. Nor is this passage contrary to what the Prophet had previously said — he saw the Son of man in the clouds. For by this expression he simply wishes to teach how Christ, although like a man, yet differed from the whole human race, and was not of the common order of men; but excelled the whole world in dignity. He expresses much more when he says, in the second clause, He came even unto the Ancient of days For although the Divine Majesty lay hid in Christ, yet he discharged the duty of a slave, and emptied himself, as Paul says, (Philippians 2:7.) So also we read in the first chapter of John, (John 1:14,) Glory appeared in him as of the only begotten Son of God; that is, which belongs to the only begotten Son of God. Christ, therefore, thus put off his glory for the time, and yet by His miracles and many other proofs afforded a clear and evident; specimen of his celestial glory. He really appeared to Daniel in the clouds, but when he ascended to heaven, he then put off this mortal body, and put on a new life. Thus Paul also, in the sixth chapter to the Romans, says, he lives the life of God, (Romans 6:10;) and other phrases often used by our Lord himself agree very well with this, especially in the Evangelist John, “I go to the Father.” “It is expedient for me to go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I,” (John 16:7; John 14:28;) that is, it is expedient for me to ascend to that royal tribunal which the Father has erected for me by his eternal counsel, and thus the whole world will feel the supreme power to have been entrusted to me. Now, therefore, we understand the full meaning of the Prophet’s words.

But as there are many fanatics who wrest what has been said of the person of the Mediator, as if Christ were not the true God, but had a beginning from the Father at some definite period of time, we must observe how the Prophet’s expression are neither the human nor the divine nature of Christ properly speaking, but a Mediator is here set before us who is God manifest in flesh. For if we hold this principle that Christ is described to us, not as either the word of God, or the seed of Abraham, but as Mediator, that is, eternal God who was willing to become man, to become subject to God the Father, to be made like us, and to be our advocate, then no difficulty will remain. Thus he appeared to Daniel like the Son of man, who became afterwards truly and really so. He was in the clouds, that is, separated from the common lot of mankind, as he always carried with him some marks of deity, even in his humility. He now arrives as the Ancient of days, that is, when he ascends to heaven, because his divine majesty was then revealed. And hence he says, It is expedient for you, for me to go to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. (John 14:28.) Christ here detracts nothing from his deity, but as his nature was not known in the world, while his divine majesty lay hid in the form of a servant, he calls the Father simply God; as if he had said, If I remain with you upon earth, what would the presence of my flesh profit you? But when I ascend to heaven, then that oneness which I have with the Father will become conspicuous. When, therefore, the world shall understand that I am one with the Father, and that the Deity is one, the hope of all the pious will become more firm and unconquered against all temptations; for they will know themselves to be equally under the protection of both God and man. If, therefore, Christ were always dwelling upon earth, and had borne witness a thousand times to his being given to us by his Father as the guardian of our salvation, yet there always would have been some hesitation and anxiety. But when we know him to be seated at his Father’s right hand, we then understand him to be truly God, because all knees would not be bent before him, unless he had been the eternal God. We must hold that passage of Isaiah, (Isaiah 42:8,) As I live, saith the Lord, my glory I will not give to another. As, therefore, God’s glory can never be transferred to either man or any other creature, the true unity and nature of God necessarily shines forth in the human nature of Christ, for every knee is bent before him. Now, therefore, we understand the sense in which the Prophet says, Christ came as the Son of man, that is, like a man, even to the Ancient of days For after Christ had passed through the period of his self-abasement, according’ to Paul, (Philippians 2:7,) he ascended into heaven, and a dominion was bestowed upon him, as the Prophet says in the next verse. This passage, then, without the slightest doubt, ought to be received of Christ’s ascension, after he had ceased being mortal man. He says, He was represented before God, namely, because he sits at his right hand. It follows, —

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