The Beast Nations
January 16th, 1972 @ 8:15 AM
THE BEAST NATIONS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Daniel 7: 1-28
1-16-72 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Beast Nations , or The Raging Sea Of Humanity. As you know, these immediate Sundays will see us preaching through the prophetic section of the Book of Daniel. It begins at chapter 7. The first six chapters are narrative. The last six chapters are prophetic, and in the prophetic portion of the book, beginning at chapter 7:
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had dreams and visions, and he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.
Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.
And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
Then he describes the vision of the four diverse and terrible beasts arising out of the tumultuous and raging sea [Daniel 7:4-8]. He dates the vision in the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon [Daniel 7:1]. He was slain, as you know, the night that God wrote the judgment on the plaster on the wall [Daniel 5:30]. That happened in 530 BC. He doubtless reigned about three years. Daniel therefore saw this vision about 541BC. He saw the vision about sixty years after the vision of the great image with the head of gold, the breast of silver, the brass of thighs, the legs of iron, in the second chapter of the narrative portion of the book [Daniel 2:1-45]. Daniel is now well into his eighties, and God has given him, sixty years later, a review of the same message that He delivered through Nebuchadnezzar in the second chapter of the book, in the great golden image [Daniel 2:1-45].
This that Daniel writes, the book that I hold in my hand, this is one of the most unique departures in human story and in human literature. The Book of Daniel that I hold in my hand is the first apocalypse. It was the first time that a message was ever delivered in symbol, in hieroglyph. Hereafter there is a vast, spurious apocalyptic literature, a strain that is almost endless. Two of those authentic pieces of apocalyptic literature are in the Bible. One is the prophet Zechariah. That is apocalyptic. The other is the Book of the Revelation. That is apocalyptic. But the first of the apocalypse is this, written by Daniel. The Lord God took Daniel into this apocalyptic ministry and revealed to him by symbol the whole sweep of human history. Daniel has no peer in that apocalyptic revelation except John, the sainted apostle who closed the books of the Bible [Revelation 1:1-22:21].
It is very interesting to see how they are related. Daniel speaks of the flow and the course of world history until the coming of Christ into His terrestrial kingdom, when the Lord God shall reign in Christ over this globe, over this earth and all the peoples that are in it [Daniel 2, 7-12]. Daniel is pre-eminently the apostle of the times of the Gentiles, outlining the course of history until the intervention of Christ in human history [Luke 21:24-27].
John, on the other hand, outlines the course of events until the coming of Christ into His celestial ministry, His celestial sovereignty as King over all the hosts of heaven and over of all of God’s creation [Revelation 20:4-6]. They complement one another. Both of them are presenting the sovereign purposes of God through time and through tide, until Jesus comes to be King over all the earth, over all the creation, over all the hosts in heaven, and upon all, and over all of the multitudes of the nations and languages and peoples who live on the globe [Revelation 12:5, 19:15].
Now this first vision, written here in Daniel 7, is actually three visions: the first one is from verse 3 through verse 8, and it is the vision of the four beasts, rising out of the raging sea [Daniel 7:3-8]. The second vision is verse 9 through verse 12. That is the vision of the coming judgment [Daniel 7:9-12]. And the third vision is verses 13 through 14, and that is the vision of the coming, conquering Christ [Daniel 9:13-14].
Now he begins the first vision: “I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea” [Daniel 7:2]. And out of that raging hurricane and those tumultuous waves, there arose these four great beasts [Daniel 7:3]. Now, he saw those winds striving upon the Great Sea [Daniel 7:2]. There are four seas in the Bible: the Galilean Sea, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea, and the Great Sea. The ancients called the Mediterranean the Great Sea, and in his vision, Daniel is standing on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea [Daniel 7:2]. Many of you have stood there. I think Daniel must have stood there many times as a youth. It is the heart of the civilized world. It always has been. It is today. And it is the heart of the great denouement of civilization in history at the consummation of the age.
And as Daniel stands there on the shore of that great heart sea—the great central sea—suddenly, as far as his eye could see, that great, vast, expanse of water is torn by four terrible winds [Daniel 7:2]. They strike it from the four points of the compass. Now, that word, four—the number four—represents the world number. There are four winds from the heavens. There are four points to the compass. There are four seasons in the year. It is a picture of the tumultuous, convulsive torment of agonized humanity through the centuries and through the ages. On the bosom of that vast sea, he suddenly beholds this raging wind [Daniel 7:2].
Now we don’t have to ask what that sea represents, for the Scriptures plainly interpret it for us. In Revelation 17:15, “The waters which thou sawest are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” What Daniel is seeing is the great concourse of humanity [Daniel 7:2], as the peoples of the world are swept by convulsive revolutions, stormed over by armies and generals, and convulsed by a thousand contrary and antagonistic passions. So that’s first. He sees a picture of humanity in a raging symbol convulsed by revolutionary impulses [Daniel 7:2].
Then out of that raging sea, he beholds four fierce animals [Daniel 7:2]: the first is like a lion with wings on its back. And it stood up and man’s heart was given it [Daniel 7:4]. The second was like a bear, raised up on one side and three ribs in its mouth [Daniel 7:5]. The third was like a leopard, wings on its back—four of them—and four heads [Daniel 7:6]. And the last—the fourth one—was a terrible-looking animal that defied description, with iron teeth that brake in pieces and devoured, and it had ten horns [Daniel 7:7].
Now in the interpretation of these fierce and ferocious animals that arose out of the sea—they’re not actual animal. They’re symbols, they’re hieroglyphs—no animal is exactly like that, but God is presenting a revelation of the future. And He takes the characteristics of the empire, and He clothes it in that symbolic nomenclature.
Now there are those who look upon that—and I will give an interpretation that a very godly man gave to me one time, and that I have since read in several books. Some of them say that that lion is Great Britain. It stood up and a man’s heart was given it. A lion is a symbol of the British Empire, and the British Empire is the mother of parliaments and has been the great civilizer of the world. They say that’s Great Britain. Then they say the bear is Russia. A bear has been a symbol of Russia through the centuries. Then they say the leopard that is so swift is the United States. And these four wings are the four parts of the armed forces of the nation, and so on. And, then, the fourth beast, so terrible, is the final kingdom of Antichrist, which will be in existence here when Jesus comes to interdict in human history.
Now those things are intriguing, and they’re interesting to listen to, but it seems to me that in this vision here in Daniel in chapter 7 [Daniel 7:3-7], we have an identical presentation of the truth expressed in the vision of the great man that Nebuchadnezzar saw in chapter 2 [Daniel 2:1, 31-35]. They are the same. And the reason that I think they are the same is a very obvious reason. In the second chapter in the Book of Daniel, when Nebuchadnezzar saw the vision of the great man, he started up here with a golden head, the king of Babylon; the arms and breasts of silver, Medo-Persia, the two arms of the Medo-Persian Empire; then the thighs of brass—and the Greeks were the first to use brass weapons, brass shields, brass armor; then the legs of iron, the east and the western part of the Roman Empire, then the ten toes. And when the revelation was revealed concerning the meaning, the ten toes were struck by the stone cut without hands—and that was the coming of Christ and the establishment of His millennial kingdom [Daniel 2:38-44]. So in the second chapter of the Book of Daniel, that image of the great man, we have followed the course of history to the coming of Christ.
Now the reason I think this is the same image, it is the same teaching, is because it follows the same course of history to the coming of Christ. There are those four kingdoms; then, instead of the ten toes, there are the ten horns [Daniel 7:2-7]. And then, in the days of the ten horns, is the coming of the conquering Christ [Daniel 7:13-14]; so both of them are exactly alike. It shows, to begin with, how important God thinks this message is, that it be revealed to us. Twice He presents it, sixty years apart, before the mind of Daniel [Daniel 2:1-45, 7:1-28].
I have one other reason why I think the two visions are alike. There will never be a fifth world empire; never, never. Charlemagne tried it and failed. Genghis Kahn and Tamerlane, whom the Persians called Timūr, tried it and failed. Napoleon tried it and failed. Hitler tried it and failed. For the Word of God is stronger than the sword of Charlemagne, stronger than the iron crown of Napoleon, and stronger than the panzer divisions of Hitler.
God says there will never be a fifth world empire, but that the kingdoms will be broken—ten toes [Daniel 2:34-35, 41-45], ten horns [Daniel 7:8-14]—until the great intervention of Christ coming, in the passage you read in the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 19:11-21]. So to me, the image here is the same sweep of world history to the coming of Christ that we see in chapter 2 [Daniel 2:1-45], repeated here in chapter 7 [Daniel 7:1-28].
Will you notice one tremendous and remarkable difference? In chapter 2, you see the empires of the world and the sweep of world history as a man looks at it [Daniel 2:31-45]. In chapter 7, you see that same sweep and those same empires in divine judgment and interpretation, as God looks at it [Daniel 7:2-12].
In chapter 2, when the man looks at it, what he sees is a gigantic and impressive Goliath! What a giant, what a figure, with a golden head, an impressive and awesome creature! [Daniel 2:31-33]. That’s the way the man looks at world empire and world history. He is impressed by the great conquerors, and the mighty generals, and the sweeping of the tides of political and military success. He looks upon it as a gigantic man [Daniel 2:31-33].
But when God looks upon the same sweep of history and the same empires, God looks upon it in the figure and the symbol of ravenous beasts [Daniel 7:2-12]. Isn’t that a remarkable thing? When God looks and when God describes the same sweep of history and the same empires, He does it under the symbol of ferocious and terrible animality. There is a reason for that. One, the behavior of the nations toward one another is bestial. It always has been. They rise to preeminence and supremacy by force of arms, by war, by blood, by fire, by fury, and by force. The great tides of history, and their political boundaries, and the building of kingdoms and empires have been always by the sword!
In these empires—I’m not talking about the murderous and bloodthirsty tribes that Livingstone looked upon in the heart of Africa. No. For those tribes raided one another and sold each other into slavery, and burned up each others villages, and stained their rivers with flowing blood. I’m not talking about barbarous tribes. I’m talking about the greatest intellectual kingdoms the world has ever known.
For example, the leopard, here, is Greece [Daniel 7:6]. When Alexander the Great conquered the world, he took Aristotle, the greatest philosopher who has ever lived. He took Aristotle with him. There is no more dramatic story in history than Josephus’ story of Alexander the Great as he came up to destroy Jerusalem. Alexander the Great, as you know, took and burned Tyre, the invincible city. Nebuchadnezzar tried it for eighteen years and failed. Tyre had never been conquered. Alexander the Great conquered it. He had sent to Jerusalem for food, for provisions, and Jerusalem had refused to comply. So when Alexander the Great took Tyre, he then turned his army, burned Gaza to the ground, and then marched up to destroy Jerusalem. But in the nighttime—now, this is Josephus’ story in his Antiquities—in the nighttime, Jehoiada, the high priest, saw a vision, and God said to him what to do.
So the next day, when Alexander the Great marched his armies up to Jerusalem to sack and to burn and to destroy the city, Jehoiada the high priest came out in his priestly garments, with his miter and with his breastplate with twelve precious stones, and with his linen ephod and the bells and the pomegranates. And he was followed by all of the priests dressed in white and by all of the people dressed in white. And they came out singing the songs of Zion. And they met Alexander the Great and welcomed him and opened the doors of their city and of their temple. And one of the men showed Alexander the Great the Book of Daniel, where it was prophesied in the passage that I am preaching out of this morning, that he should conquer the world [Daniel 7:6].
And Alexander the Great received the Jewish delegation with great reverence, called upon the name of Jehovah God and sacrificed at the altar in the temple. When Parmenion, his great counselor and friend, looked upon the great general bowing before the altar of Jehovah, he expressed amazement and surprise. But Alexander the Great said, “Before I left Macedonia to cross the Hellespont to conquer Asia, I saw in a vision the God of Jehoiada the high priest; and I saw this high priest in that vision, and he told me that I should have success with my armies when I crossed over into Asia.”
But Alexander the Great had gone up to Jerusalem to destroy it with a sword, with a fagot, with a fire. All of these empires have been built by blood, and by sword, and by the coercive power of the army. They are bestial toward one another; they devour one another.
Now, it is no different today. In the scales, in the balance of justice, always the nation faces the heavy sword. There is no exception to that. The United States of America is forced to lay upon those scales of justice—in the United Nations, in every diplomatic encounter, in every peace table—the United States is forced to lay down that sword, to have it ready in hand. “We cannot deal,” they say, “from weakness, but from strength.”
And the story of modern political life and modern national life is the story of bestiality of nations one toward another. It is Russia who destroys Lithuania and Latvia. There is no more Lithuania. There is no more Latvia. It is Russia who crushes the freedom of Hungary. It is Russia who keeps the entire eastern part of Europe under heavy surveillance and servitude, imposing their will, by the sword upon another.
It is North Vietnam that seeks to crush the freedom of the people in the South. It is North Korea who seeks to crush the democratic processes of the South. It is Sadat in Egypt who says, “Had it not been for the war in East Pakistan and the creation of the Bangladesh state—had it not been for that war—already, in 1971, we would have joined armed forces to crush Israel.” This is the pattern of modern national and political life. It is bestial. It is by blood. It is by fire. It is by sword. It is by force of arms. When God looks upon the nations of the world, He sees it as being a story and a symbol of wild beasts [Daniel 7:3-7].
You know, it’s a strange thing, while the theologians are disputing about whether hell is a lake of fire or not, at the very same time the superpowers of the earth are stockpiling hell-bombs in order that they might be rained down upon agonizing human flesh. This is God’s picture of the political empires and kingdoms and nations of the earth. To God, they are bestial [Daniel 7:3-7].
Now to us—and I must bring this to a conclusion—to us, what does this mean today? Several things, and how deeply pertinent! First, what is the ultimate meaning of the raging sea [Daniel 7:2-3], of national and international, and military and political life as we see it develop in the world today? The communist nations rising stronger and stronger; and our democratic nations, the free world, seemingly being constantly overshadowed by the rising power of the totalitarian states—there has been a loss of prestige and a loss of military defensive ability on the part of the United States in the last few years that is unbelievable!
Our choice of Pakistan, instead of India, opened for Russia the entire subcontinent of Asia and the Indian Ocean. And the championship of Russia for the Arab world has opened up to the Russian navy bases in the Mediterranean Sea, and they are about apparently to realize their dream of centuries and of millenniums that the Mediterranean should become a Russian lake. More and more we see the outreaching power of the communist world.
And when we turn to the East, it seems to be no different, as China rises and rises and rises in power. What are these great, raging, convulsive movements that tear up the world? What do they portend? What is their future? What is the future of our nation? What is the future of the nations of the world? Are these raging torments that we see convulsing humanity in South America, where Chile has gone socialist and has a communist president? In Cuba, right at our doors, a bitter and implacable enemy; what is the future of these social convulsions? Are they birth pangs—birth pangs—or, or are they death throes? What is the ultimate?
Now it is very easy for us, like all others who just read history from the vantage point of a man, it is very easy for us to see nothing but the raging sea, and the four beasts [Daniel 7:2-7], and the convulsions of nature, and the awful conflicts in fire, in fury, in blood. But Daniel sees something else as he looks on the raging sea, and as he beholds those stark and terrible creatures, and as he sees the great iron teeth breaking in pieces [Daniel 7:2-7]. He sees something else:
I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and His hair like pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame.
And a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: and thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.
And I beheld and One like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, came to the Ancient of Days.
And there was given unto Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, languages, should serve Him, and His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, nor ever be destroyed.
[Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14]
It is so easy for us, from the human level, to look just at the beasts, and the raging sea, and the great convulsions of nature that frighten us and make us full of foreboding for the destiny of our children. But Daniel sees, over and beyond that tumultuous, raging torrent, he sees the throne of God and the Son of Man coming to assume the sovereignty of the whole earth [Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14].
He also sees, second, that these kingdoms—these beasts, these empires— just live, not according to what they wish, or not as they like, but they live according to the sovereign purpose of God.
I beheld then and heard these beasts speak great words: I beheld even until it was slain.
And as concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: even though their lives were prolonged for a season.
The destiny of any nation, and of any kingdom, and of any empire, the destiny does not lie in that nation, or in that kingdom, or in that empire, but it lies in the sovereign purpose of Almighty God. Therein is a mystery called in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the mystery of iniquity, which is never explained to us. There is a purpose of God into which we mortal, finite men—people—cannot enter, but God has a reason and a purpose, and the choice of the ultimate destiny of a nation will not lie in that nation. And its ultimate consummation, its end will not be according to what that nation chooses, but it shall be according to what God shall do, and according to what God shall say. Let me quote here—read here—a sonnet by Shelley, the incomparable sweet poet of England. It’s called “Ozymandias”:
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on those lifeless things . . .
And on the pedestal there these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”
Nothing else remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch away.
[“Ozymandias,” Percy Bysshe Shelley]
The destiny of the kingdoms of the world lies in the sovereign purposes of God. No kingdom will exist beyond what God says. No ruler shall do beyond what God permits. And in that raging sea, as the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the waters, in Genesis 1:2, so the Spirit of God broods over the nations of the world. And out of its chaos and convulsions, and out of its fury and torment, God is preparing for ultimate intervention of His Son from heaven, the coming of His conquering Christ [Revelation 19:11-21], and the establishment of the millennial kingdom that shall never pass away [Daniel 2:44]
Now bear me just one other moment. What does this symbol [Daniel 7:2] mean for us, personally and individually? We’re not speaking of a raging sea for other nations, and other peoples, and other hearts, and other souls. We are caught up in that vast struggling mass of humanity. You’re riding this planet. You’re in this earth. You live this life. And the winds of torment and agony that sweep over that sea of humanity sweep over you. What is your destiny? And what is the future for you?
It is easy—as the agnostic, and the infidel, and the unbeliever, it is easy for people to assume that there is nothing ahead for us individually, “Nothing ahead, except to agonize, to die, to grow old, to be senile, to fall into the arms of corruption and decay; that’s all that awaits me. Give me tomorrow or the next day. Give me this coming year or the next year. But the time inevitably comes when that cruel and final enemy of corruption, and mortality, and waste, and death will take away my life, and the raging enemy shall destroy me, along with all of the rest of humanity. That is my destiny also.”
The purpose of the revelation of God and the Word of God is that we might see beyond the raging sea, beyond the mortality, and beyond the death, and beyond the corruption; that we might see the great throne of God, wrapped in fiery, emerald, rainbow hues, full of promise [Revelation 4:6], and that we might see the conquering Christ and the coming kingdom [Revelation 19:11-21]. And that is the purpose of the Revelation. God wrote it in the Book that we might not live in despair, but in hope, in victory, in glory, and in triumph [Titus 2:12-13].
Now look at it. Daniel closes; “But go thy way,” Daniel, “till the end, for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days” [Daniel 12:13]. What does that mean? “And stand in thy lot at the end of the days.” That means, when Palestine is divided, according to the tribes of Israel [Ezekiel 48:1-35], Daniel will stand in that consummation in his place, in his inheritance, in his portion, in the Holy Land. “Thou shalt stand in thy lot,” at the end of thy days” [Daniel 12:13]. “Rest, Daniel. Rest, Daniel. My sovereign purposes are being worked out, but at the end of the consummation, you will be standing in your place, in your allotment, in your inheritance, according to the tribe of Judah [Daniel 1:6], in the Holy Land.”
That same thing you find in Joseph. When Joseph died, he made his brethren promise him, “You will take my bones and carry them up hence” [Genesis 50:25], because Joseph believed that God would visit his people, and he wanted to be buried in the inheritance of Joseph. And when the great resurrection comes, he will be there in that place, in his lot, in his inheritance [Joshua 24:32].
That’s where Westminster Abbey came from. There was a godly king named, William the Conqueror. And he—William the Conqueror—and he died and was buried in a little chapel. And those devout Christian noblemen of those Anglo-Saxon people so believed in the Christian resurrection that when William the Conqueror was buried in that little chapel, the next nobleman that died said, “I want to be buried as close to him as I can so that in the great resurrection day, when he stands, I’ll be there by his side.” And another one of his noblemen said, “When I die, bury me as close to William the Conqueror as you can, for in the resurrection, I want to be close to my king.” And the next nobleman, and as they died, they wanted to be buried close to William the Conqueror so that in the great resurrection they might be standing close to meet the Lord when He comes.
That is the purpose of God, for us not to live in fear of the raging sea and the terrible beasts [Daniel 7:2-7], but that we might live in triumph, and in hope, and in optimism. For beyond the raging death, and corruption, and mortality, and then the grave—beyond these enemies that agonize the whole human race, there is the coming King [Revelation 19:16], and here is the coming kingdom [Matthew 25:31], and we shall stand in our lot and in our inheritance in that glorious and triumphant day! [Acts 20:32].
That’s what it’s about. That’s why the vision. O Lord! that God could make it live for us and be real for us, as we face all of the providences of life, both what we read in the paper and what we see in ourselves; that we see above it all the throne of the living God, and the reign of our glorious Christ [Revelation 19:15].
Now our time is for spent. We must sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family, a couple, or just you, into that aisle and down to the front, in the balcony, down a stairway, and here, while we sing the appeal, come and stand by me. “Here’s my hand, pastor. I’ve given my heart to the Lord. This is my wife, and these are our children. We’re all coming today.” Or just you, make the decision in your heart now, and in a moment when we stand up, stand up and into that aisle and down to the front: “Here I am, pastor. I make it today.” Do it now. Do it now. This is all of the ultimate meaning of life. There is nothing else. Take God out of it, take the Lord out of it, take hope out of it, and you take life itself out of it. This is life everlasting: to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hath sent [John 17:3]. Make the decision in your heart. And coming to be with us in the church, or coming to be with us in the kingdom of Jesus, would you come and stand by me? Do it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE BEAST NATIONS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The raging sea
A. Daniel by the shore of the great sea
B. Daniel witnesses a violent storm
II. The four beasts
A. Same as chapter 2
B. The difference between chapters 2 and 7 is imagery and symbolism
III. Message for us
A. What of the future?
B. The world sees only the beasts
C. The beasts terrify us
D. God allows us to continue