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Prophecies of Daniel-Ist. The Great Image.-
2nd. The Four Wild Beasts.
The Church of Christ under the gospel dispensation, was ordained to follow its ever blessed Master, through sorrows, persecutions, and sufferings, for a long series of years; and the fourth great monarchy of the earth, and an idolatrous church, supported by, and exercising the temporal power of that monarchy, are pointed to, throughout the books of prophecy, as the chief instruments by which the Church was thus to be exercised. The circumstances of this calamitous period are more or less detailed in many parts of Scripture, and the final destruction of these adversaries, is declared to be reserved for Messiah's second coming. The inspired writers of the Old Testament treat largely of the judgments, which shall be poured out upon this power; but the most connected history of its rise and progress which they afford, is to be found in the book of the prophet Daniel, in chapters ü. vii. xi. and xii.
The second chapter of Daniel gives a general outline of this subject in the explanation of Nebuchad
nezzar's dream, to whom the four great monarchies of the earth were shewn in his sleep, under the symbol of a great image, having its head of fine gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of brass, its legs of iron, and its feet part of iron and part of clay. The prophet, in explaining the vision, says to Nebuchadnezzar, “ Thou art this head of gold, and after thee shall arise another kingdom, inferior to thee, (the Medo-Persian;) and another third kingdom of brass, (the Macedonian, founded by Alexander the Great,) which shall bear rule over all the earth ; and the fourth kingdom (the Roman) shall be strong as iron.” Some general particulars which regard this fourth kingdom, are then related, and the end of it is thus described: And in the days of these kings (i. e. of the kingdoms into which the Roman empire shall be divided) shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom (Messiah's kingdom) which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom, or rule shall not be left to other people, (viz. to them that obey not Messiah's voice,) but it (Messiah's kingdom) shall break in pieces, and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever, for as much (or in the same manner) as thou sawest, that the stone (was) cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it) brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold."
The seventh chapter of Daniel affords a more particular account of the fourth kingdom of the earth, the outline only of which, is given in the second chapter. The four great empires are here described under the likeness of four wild and ravenous beasts : the first, the empire of Babylon, or of the Chaldeans, is represented as a lion with eagles' wings: the second, the Medo-Persian empire, is described as a bear, and it was said thus unto it, “ Arise, devour much flesh ;” thus signifying, as well by the nature of the beast itself, as by the command delivered to it, the savage barbarity and unrelenting cruelty, which was the distinguishing character of the Medo-Persian monarchs : the third kingdom had the likeness of a leopard, with four wings of a fowl upon its back, typifying the impetuosity and rapidity which attended the career of Alexander, by whom the Macedonian empire was founded; and the four wings also referring to the four kingdoms, into which the Macedonian empire was divided after Alexander's death : the fourth wild beast, signifying the fourth empire of the earth,“ was dreadful, terrible, and strong exceedingly;"—his teeth were of iron, and his nails brass : “it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: it was diverse from the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns !". which signify ten kingdoms, as explained in verse 24.'
This fourth empire is the great destroyer of the saints of God; and the power which especially persecutes the Church in the latter part of the Gospel day, is thus described as a horn or kingdom arising out of this fourth empire ;-“Apd behold there came up among the ten horns, or kingdoms, another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horus plucked up by the roots; and behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.". The prophet beheld the vision till the thrones of these ten kingdoms " were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow"_“his throne the fiery flame, and his wheels burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth before him ; thousand thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the judgment was set, and the books were opened.” The prophet, troubled at the vision, inquired of one of the heavenly host that stood by, the interpretation of the things he had seen. The answer was, “ These great beasts, wbich are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth, but the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and shall possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.” He then inquired further regarding the fourth beast, and his ten horns, and the other born, before which three of the horns fell, and which horn
“made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints, and the time came that the saints. possessed the kingdom.” The reply made to him, in explanation, reveals to us the following particulars : The fourth kingdom “ shall be diverse from all kingdoms, it shall devour the whole earth, and tread. it down, and break it to pieces.” Out of this kingdom, ten kings or governments shall arise, and another shall arise after them, which shall be diverse from the first, and shall subdue three” of them. This power “shall speak great words against the Most High, shall wear out his saints, and shall think to change times and laws;" and the saints shall be "given into his hand for a time, and times, and the dividing of time,” (or half a time ;) that is for three times (or years,) and a half; making, according to the Jewish calculation, twelve hundred and sixiy days, each day in the language of prophecy signifying a year, thus making a period of twelve hundred and sixty years.
" But the judgment shall sit," and his dominion shall be taken away, and consumed, and destroyed unto the end, when the kingdom and dominion under the whole heavens, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve, and shall obey him.”