People never cease to amaze me! Most have never read the Bible, or if they have gone near it at all, it has only been to read the Book of Revelation. Talk about jumping into the "deep end" of the swimming pool!
It seems as though everyone wants to know about the secret things of the "end times". The great irony is that there is NOTHING secret about the "end times"! In Daniel chapters seven and eight, we find one of the major keys to understanding the Book of Revelation and the events surrounding the end of this present chapter of human history.
So what about the "four beasts" of Daniel's vision? The answer to their identity is contained right within the text:
Daniel 7:15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this.
“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’
Simple- they represent "kings" and "kingdoms". Or to put it another way, human leaders and their respective dominions. Or to restate it once again, these are powerful people and the worldviews they possess.
Later on, we are given even more specificity as to their identity:
Daniel 8:19 He said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end.[e] 20 The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia.21 The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. 22 The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.
Historically, this one is not too hard to understand. The rise of Philip of Macedon, his son Alexander The Great, and the resulting deconstruction of his worldwide conquest all fit the description perfectly.
But there are gaps- information that Daniel is not given. It is within these "gaps" that we find ourselves confused and frustrated. It's almost as though we've read through an entire action-adventure novel only to discover that the last page has been torn out! AAARRRGH!
But that is not really the case at all! We have been given the end to the story (just, maybe not to the detail level we would like). Listen to what the Scripture tells us:
Daniel 7:13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
As I read those lines, I am immediately drawn back to a lyric line penned by Bill and Gloria Gaither in a song they entitled: "Something About That Name":
"Jesus Jesus Jesus Let Heaven and Earth proclaim Kings and kingdoms will all pass away There is something about that name"
And again, God's own word says:
Philippians 2:9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Now, you know the "secret"!