The book of Daniel is fascinating in many ways. It helps us understand the broad sweep of prophecy, including events that will affect us in the near future!
Daniel wrote one of the most interesting books in the Bible, especially from a prophetic perspective. Two of the most important aspects of the book are that:
- The fulfillments of Daniel’s prophecies help prove that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
- The prophecies of Daniel provide keys to unlocking the mysteries of the book of Revelation and understanding the broad sweep of prophetic events.
Although Daniel contains many visions and prophecies, it is listed as part of the Writing section in the Hebrew Bible. The first half of the book records historical narratives and lessons of faith, so it fits well with the other historical books of the Writings: Ezra, Nehemiah and 1 and 2 Chronicles.
Who was Daniel?
Daniel was a brilliant young Jew living around 600 B.C. At that time the Chaldean Empire (with its capital at Babylon) was ruled by King Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar’s army invaded Judah and took some of the Jews to Babylon as prisoners. Among these captives were Daniel and three of his friends: Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.
Read more details of Daniel’s life in the article “Daniel the Prophet.”
Outline of Daniel
Here is one possible outline of the book of Daniel:
Chapter 1: Daniel’s captivity and training.
Chapter 2: Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image.
Chapter 3: Daniel’s friends protected from the fiery furnace.
Chapter 4: Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity and recovery.
Chapter 5: Belshazzar and the handwriting on the wall.
Chapter 6: Daniel protected in the lions’ den.
Chapter 7: The vision of four beasts.
Chapter 8: The vision of the ram and male goat.
Chapter 9: Daniel’s prayer and the 70-weeks prophecy.
Chapter 10: The last vision begins.
Chapter 11: The king of the North vs. the king of the South.
Chapter 12: The end times.
One night Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that frightened him, but his wise men were unable to tell him either the dream or its meaning.
Then Daniel was brought before the emperor. “There is a God in heaven who … has made known to [you] what will be in the latter days,” Daniel said (Daniel 2:28).
He proceeded to explain that Nebuchadnezzar had seen a giant statue of a man with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet and toes of part iron and part clay. Suddenly a massive boulder appeared, crashing down upon the feet of the statue, breaking the image into tiny pieces. Then the boulder filled the whole earth (verses 34-35).
“You are this head of gold,” Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:38). “But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours, then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron” (verses 39-40).
This last empire will sweep away all before it. Eventually this empire will become 10 concurrent kingdoms (the 10 toes of iron and clay), which will endure only for a short time.
At this time Christ will return to this earth, crush this great empire completely, and set up His Kingdom, which will endure forever (verse 44). This is the boulder that smashes the image into little pieces.
Here we see a prophecy of four great gentile kingdoms, from Nebuchadnezzar until Christ’s second coming.
The kingdom depicted by the 10 toes is still in our future: a union of 10 disparate kingdoms, which, we will see, will hand their power to the “beast” for a short time before crumbling, because iron does not bond well with clay. This empire is prophesied to be established in Europe.
The book of Daniel provides keys to understanding the book of Revelation, and together they help us understand events soon to come in our future.If we follow history closely, we see that much of Daniel’s prophecy has already come to pass in every detail. How could Daniel have known, around 600 B.C., how the four great kingdoms that dominated the “cradle of civilization” would develop into the future? How indeed, unless his prophecy was inspired by God? As indeed the entire Bible is!
Daniel, Revelation and the beast
The book of Daniel provides keys to understanding the book of Revelation, and together they help us understand events soon to come in our future.
Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 and 17 talk of strange, world-dominating, wild “beasts.” These prophecies of the end-time beast predict world-shattering events still to occur.
The book of Revelation is the book of the Bible that seems to puzzle people most. Revelation 13:1-2 tells of a strange and horrifying beast that came out of the sea, having seven heads and 10 horns, with 10 crowns upon his horns. The beast resembled a leopard, with feet like a bear’s feet and a mouth like the mouth of a lion. As we will see, this beast refers to the Roman Empire!
In Daniel 7, Daniel also describes strange beasts—four of them—he saw in a dream:
- The first was like a lion, with eagle’s wings.
- The second was like a bear, raised on one side. It had three ribs in its teeth, indicating it will “devour much flesh,” that is, kill many people.
- The third was like a leopard, with four wings of a bird and four heads, and “dominion was given to it.” The wings indicated the leopard was very fast—it took over nations and conquered them very quickly!
- The fourth was a beast so dreadful and terrible as to defy description. It was much worse than the other three! It was extra strong, had huge teeth and devoured everything! On its head were 10 horns.
Since the leopard had four heads, together these beasts had seven heads in all—just like the composite beast in Revelation 13.
In Daniel 7 the Bible interprets its own symbols: “Those great beasts … are four kings [kingdoms] which arise out of the earth. … The fourth beast … shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces” (Daniel 7:17, 23, emphasis added throughout).
This prophecy, like Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, predicted four great and powerful kingdoms, three of which were yet to come!
History reveals that the Chaldean Empire ruled from about 625-539 B.C. Exactly according to Daniel’s prediction, the Medo-Persian Empire took over in 538 B.C. This lasted until 330 B.C., when it was overwhelmed by the Greco-Macedonian Empire, led by Alexander the Great. This empire conquered the whole Persian Empire in a matter of three years (333-330 B.C.), with speed, cunning and stealth like a leopard.
Soon thereafter, Alexander died and his empire was split among his four generals (the four heads of the third beast).
Finally the fourth kingdom, the rising Roman Empire (31 B.C. to A.D. 476), absorbed these four divisions one after the other. The Roman Empire was the greatest war-making machine the world had ever seen! As predicted by Daniel, it was incredibly strong, cunning and cruel, and it swept away all before it.
Revelation 13:3 tells how one head of the beast would be struck as if mortally wounded—yet it would not die, for the wound would be healed! In history we see that the Roman Empire eventually fell in A.D. 476 (the fatal wound), then revived (the wound healed) eventually as the Holy Roman Empire.
Now notice Daniel 7:21-22: “I was watching; and the same horn [the little horn, representing a blasphemous and persecuting power; verses 24-25] was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High.”
This is an indication of the persecution and torture to be meted out on true Christians. But after that, Daniel foretold that God’s saints will be given rule over the earth in the Kingdom of God along with Christ (Daniel 7:27).
Thanks to the inspired words God recorded in the book of Daniel, the meaning of Revelation comes alive. Read more about the end-time beast power in the articles “Mark of the Beast” and “666: The Number of the Beast.”
There are many other intriguing prophecies in the book of Daniel. Here are a few of them:
“70 weeks” prophecy
In Daniel 9 we see a prediction that the Savior will appear after 483 years, and that the end of sin shall be after 490 years (using the biblical principle of a year for a day—70 weeks would be 490 days). This prophecy is explained in detail in the article “70 Weeks of Daniel: What Does the Prophecy Mean?”
The king of the South and the king of the North
God foretold the history of Europe and the Middle East, right up to the end time, in Daniel 11.
This detailed prophecy describes the conflicts between the “king of the North” and the “king of the South.” The king of the North first represented the division of Alexander the Great’s empire lying north of Palestine, the Seleucid Empire. The king of the South represented the division of his empire that lay to the south, the Ptolemaic Empire.
These two kings warred repeatedly with each other, and Daniel’s detailed predictions all came to pass as predicted. After the Seleucid Empire was swallowed by Rome, we believe Rome became the “king of the North” in the prophecy. Then there is a time gap in the prophecy, lasting all the way to the end time.
“At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him, and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind … and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown” (Daniel 11:40-41).
Verse 41 is a clear reference to the invasion of Israel by an end-time European power.
The abomination of desolation
Daniel also prophesied the abomination of desolation. Jesus Christ reinforced the importance of this prophecy in Matthew 24:15: “When you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, then … flee”!
Then “there will be great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21; compare Daniel 12:1), and the temple will be defiled, and the daily sacrifice taken away. This prophecy refers to the time of Christ’s second coming.
Read more in the article “Abomination of Desolation.”
Sealed until the end
The angel Gabriel said to Daniel: “Shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end [when] many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4).
This is a reference to today! Communication and travel have escalated dramatically.
And God has provided spiritual knowledge that can allow His people to understand many of these prophecies that were closed even to Daniel.
The book of Daniel predicts the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. This lies in our immediate future. How far in the future, no one but God knows. “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36).
What should you do?
These prophecies are real! The events they portray will happen! Though no one can predict exactly when, the indication from Daniel and the other prophecies of the Bible is that they are not far off. Therefore, we all need to prepare ourselves.
Jesus Christ tells us in Mark 1:15: “Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
In Acts 2:38 Peter told the multitude what to do: “Repent, and … be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
For a quick link to all the other books of the Bible, see “Books of the Bible” on the Learning Center.