November 2009 • Volume XII, Issue
Daniel’s Night Vision (1)
The night vision of Daniel 7 gives a grand sweep of
world history from the kingdom of Babylon to the final judgment, a
period of 2,500 years and counting. This remarkable vision includes four
terrible beasts (or world kingdoms), the ten horns that arise from the
fourth beast, the little horn (or Antichrist) which arises from among
the ten horns, the final judgment of the Ancient of Days, the eternal
dominion of the Son of Man and the everlasting kingdom of the saints.
Daniel 7 is used in the New Testament in especially
three ways. First, in the gospels, the title of "Son of Man" (Dan. 7:13)
is our Lord’s characteristic term of self-designation. Second, in II
Thessalonians 2 and elsewhere, the description of the little horn of
Daniel 7 (also spoken of in later chapters of Daniel) is used in the New
Testament presentation of Antichrist. Third, the book of Revelation,
perhaps, alludes more to Daniel’s night vision than to any other chapter
of his prophecy.
Let us summarize the contents of Daniel 7. The
chapter divides neatly into two equal parts: verses 1-14 contain the
vision and verses 15-28 provide the interpretation of the vision. The
first half of the chapter also falls into two parts. In verses 1-8 we
see the four beasts, the four horns and the little horn. Verses 9-14
speak of the Ancient of Days, the Son of Man and the final judgment. The
interpretation in verses 15-28 treats the four beasts and then, in more
detail, the fourth beast and then, in more detail, the little horn. The
second half of Daniel 7 repeatedly states that the saints of the Most
High shall receive the kingdom forever and ever (18, 22, 27).
The first beast is a lion—the Babylonian empire (4).
The lion was not only the symbol of Babylon in ancient near eastern art;
it is also an image of Babylon used by the Old Testament prophets (e.g.,
What is the significance of the symbolism of the
first beast? The lion is the king of animals. We are told that the lion
"had eagle’s wings;" the eagle is the king of the birds (Dan. 7:4). The
first kingdom is presented as gold in Daniel 2, the most precious metal.
All this bespeaks the great dignity, wealth and glory of Babylon. The
plucking off of its wings indicates the end of its powerful conquests.
Its being "made [to] stand upon the feet as a man" and having "a man’s
heart ... given to it" speaks of a humanising process (7:4). "By
Nebuchadnezzar’s receiving a ‘beast’s heart’ [4:16] the Babylonian
empire was given a human heart" (E. J. Young, Daniel, p. 144).
The second beast is a bear—the Medo-Persian empire
(7:5). The bear is strong and ferocious. Its being raised up on one side
fits with its being a dual empire, of both Medes and Persians, as well
as its going forward. The three ribs probably refer to especially three
kingdoms it conquered: Babylon to the south, Lydia to the north and
Egypt to the west. "Arise, devour much flesh" indicates its insatiable
appetite for conquest (5).
The third beast is a leopard or panther—the Greek
empire of Alexander the Great (6). As a leopard with "four wings," it is
very fast and so it is speedy in conquest. The "four heads" are a
prophecy that, after Alexander the Great’s death, the empire would be
divided into four (6).
The fourth beast is the Roman empire (7). It is so
awful that no beast or animal can be likened to it! Thus it is different
"from all the beasts that were before it." It is "dreadful and terrible,
and strong exceedingly," having two weapons of destruction. The first is
its mouth with "great iron teeth" which "devoured and brake in pieces"
(7). Second, with its feet and bronze nails, it "stamped the residue"
Let us consider the four beasts together and
collectively. According to Daniel 7:17, the beasts are "four kings" or
kingdoms, for a kingdom is ruled by and embodied in its king. Today, we
would speak of these kingdoms as empires.
The four metals in the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s
dream in Daniel 2 represent the same four kingdoms as the beasts in
Daniel 7. Daniel 2 clearly identifies the first empire as
Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon (37-38). Daniel 8 teaches that the second and
third kingdoms are Medo-Persia and Greece (20-22). Rome is the fourth
empire because it was in its day that Christ came as the stone "cut out
of the mountain without hands" (2:45).
The origin of the beasts is the sea (7:2-3). The sea
is restless, sinful humanity, the striving nations (Isa. 17:12-13). The
"four winds of the heaven" beating upon the sea bespeak all manner of
providences: migrations, wars, inventions, trade, etc. (Dan. 7:2). That
the four empires "arise out of the earth" (17) indicates that they are
earthy and human, the product of fallen, sinful humanity—kingdoms of
But why does Daniel 2 portray the four kingdoms as
metals and Daniel 7 present these same empires as beasts? The metals, so
to say, give us man’s perspective: these kingdoms are precious
and glorious. The beasts, as it were, give us God’s
perspective. He sees clearly the sin, idolatry, luxury and oppression of
these empires. These kingdoms are dehumanising, the realm of beasts more
than of men.
The particular animals chosen in Daniel 7 are
rapacious and terrifying beasts which slaughter all in their way. What
would you do if you saw one of these four creatures coming toward you?
Scream! And run! The wicked world united into a powerful empire, making
and enforcing ungodly laws and persecuting the saints, naturally strikes
fear into the hearts of God’s people. Power-hungry, sinful men, framing
mischief by a law, look to the ungodly like gold, silver, bronze and
iron—glory and power (Dan. 2). Yet to the saints, it is a terrifying
beast (Dan. 7). But "fear not them which kill the body, but are not able
to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul
and body in hell" (Matt. 10:28)! Rev. Stewart
The Place of Children in the
Question: "Are children in the covenant of grace upon
baptism or are only the elect members after conversion? With whom was
the covenant of works made? The visible or the invisible church? How
does all that work out?"
In the last News, I showed that the elect
children of believers are included in the covenant from earliest infancy
and, at least in some instances, even before birth, e.g., Jeremiah and
John the Baptist. Now the question is: If only the elect children of
believers are incorporated into God’s covenant, why are all the children
of believers baptized? This is important, for the Baptists make much of
the fact that baptism is applied to elect and reprobate alike. In their
judgment, this is a very serious mistake.
But the Baptists are very wrong. They do not
understand God’s dealings with men. To be frank, I cannot understand the
Baptist position in this respect. Surely Baptists generally, including
"Reformed" Baptists, believe that the preaching of the gospel is heard
by many more people than just the elect. And surely they believe that
baptism as a sacrament is connected to the preaching as a sign and seal
of the content of the gospel and the promise of the gospel that whoever
believes in Christ will be saved. Why, if the preaching is general in
the outward call of the gospel and if baptism is attached to the gospel
as a sign and seal, is it so hard to believe that also baptism is
administered to more than are chosen by God to salvation?
I am aware that many Baptists hold that baptism is
not a sacrament in the sense that it, along with the preaching of the
gospel, is God’s means to save His people. I am also aware that many (if
not most) Baptists hold to a gospel offer as expressing God’s love for
all who hear the gospel. But still, in Baptist thinking, the gospel is
proclaimed to far more people than are actually saved. It seems to me an
anomaly. If, as Calvinistic Baptists insist, salvation is by grace
alone, why cannot God save infants as well as adults?
There are two or three points that have to be
emphasized in this connection. Just as God wills that the gospel be
preached to many more than the elect who are saved through the
preaching, so also God wills that the sign and seal of the covenant be
given to more than the elect. The gospel is, positively, the public
proclamation of God’s great work of salvation in Christ. It is the
announcement of the promise of God that He, through Christ and faith in
Christ, will surely save all who believe. From a negative viewpoint, the
gospel call places all men before the solemn obligation to repent of
their sin and believe in Christ as the only hope of salvation. All who
hear are confronted with this solemn demand of God, including the threat
of eternal punishment for unbelief.
God adds the wonderful promise that He will save not
only believers but also their children. This is the way God works. He
does not save individuals only; he saves households, families,
generations. He does this whether the gospel is preached in the church
or on the mission field. Knowing the weakness of our faith, God adds to
this gospel preached the sacrament of baptism as a sign and seal of the
truth of the promise—a sign and seal administered in the church. It is a
sign and seal of God’s covenant, and of God’s covenant established in
the line of generations—with believers and their seed.
Some, as you know, make the preaching of the gospel
an offer of salvation that expresses God’s desire to save all men. Such
an offer is a bestowal of grace on all who hear the gospel so that those
hearing it can make a choice by their own will whether or not to accept
the gospel. This is extended to baptism. Some Reformed teach that the
promise of God’s covenant and "sufficient grace" come to all who are
baptized, and that whether or not the covenant is established with any
of them depends upon whether they accept and fulfil the conditions of
In this view, it is impossible to maintain infant
baptism. An infant cannot receive Christ when the gospel is preached,
and babies cannot fulfil the conditions of a general promise. And so
they remain, according to this view, unconverted until such a time as
they exercise their own will, enabled by a general and covenantal grace,
to accept God’s conditions. But this is sheer Arminianism and can be
The heirs of the promise of the gospel are the elect.
Because God is the sovereign Lord who alone can and does save, He
determines who shall be saved and who shall not. The gospel is the means
God uses to save His elect only; and baptism is a sign and seal that,
connected to the gospel, assures us that our children are saved as well
as we, but only according to sovereign election. And that salvation of
our elect children is (ordinarily) begun early in infancy.
The baptism form used in our churches begins the
second part with these striking words: "And although our young children
do not understand these things, we may not therefore exclude them from
baptism, for as they are without their knowledge partakers of the
condemnation in Adam, so are they again received unto grace in Christ."
Then the promise of God in Genesis 17:7 is quoted.
But now the other side of the picture. The gospel is
preached to many more than the elect because God uses the command of the
gospel that comes to all to repent of sin and believe in Christ as the
means to leave men without excuse. They have heard the gospel; they know
what is their solemn obligation. They are told that salvation is sure
for those who believe and that judgment comes on those who do not
believe. Yet, they refuse and so are justly condemned. On the last day,
they will be confronted with their own evil rebellion and will have no
criticism of God when they are sent to hell. Thus God reveals His own
holiness and hatred of sin in His just punishment of the sinner.
The same is true of baptism. All who are baptized
receive the sign and seal of the covenant and so are required to live in
faithful service of God. When they scorn their baptism, they scorn the
gospel and its promises. They show they care not for the promise
signified and sealed in baptism and reject their calling to walk in
holiness and obedience to God. I will return to this subject in the next
News. Prof. Hanko
If you would like to receive the Covenant Reformed News
free by e-mail each month (and/or by post, if you are in the UK), please
contact Rev. Stewart and we will
gladly send it to you.