Daniel's Vision and the New Testament

Phrases from Daniel’s vision of four “beasts ascending from the sea” are applied to Jesus and his saints in the New Testament

Sea Storm - Photo by César Couto on Unsplash
Language and images from Daniel’s vision of “
four beasts” occur in key passages in the New Testament, most often in contexts concerning the future return of Jesus, but also about the kingdom of God and the authority he received from God. For example, he foretold how “all the tribes of the earth” would see the “Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven” - [Photo by César Couto on Unsplash].

In the gospel accounts, the term “Son of Man” is the self-designation heard most often on the lips of Jesus - he is “THAT Son of Man” from Daniel’s vision.


In Daniel, the “Son of Man” was “coming” on the “clouds of heaven” to receive sovereignty over “all peoples, races, and tongues” from the “Ancient of Days.”

Likewise, after his resurrection, Jesus declared that he received “all authority in heaven and on the earth,” and therefore, his disciples were to proclaim the good news of his kingdom to “all the nations” – (Daniel 7:13-14, Matthew 28:18).

Similarly, in Revelation, the “slain Lamb” approached the “One Who was Sitting on the Throne” to receive the “sealed scroll,” which he immediately began to open.

In reaction, voices proclaimed him “worthy” to “open the scroll,” and to receive all “power and authority” since by his blood he had “purchased men from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and made them a kingdom of priests” – (Revelation 5:5-14).

In an unexpected twist, while in Daniel the “Son of Man” was seen “coming on the clouds” to the throne to receive the “dominion,” in the New Testament, he is “coming on the clouds” to the earth to gather his “elect.”

For example, at his trial, when the high priest demanded whether he was the Messiah, Jesus responded - “I am he, and you will see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul describes how both living and resurrected saints will “meet him in the air” as Jesus descends to the earth. His saints will be “gathered to him on the clouds,” and thereafter they will be with him “forevermore.” – (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).


In his second letter, Paul describes the future “man of lawlessness” and the “apostasy.” Already the “mystery lawlessness” is working in the world and will do so until the “Lawless One” comes “out of the midst” at the appointed time, at “his season” (Greek, kairos) when he will deceive many with “lying signs and wonders,” causing some to apostatize.

But “lawlessness” would only prevail until the “arrival” of Jesus. At that time, he will “consume with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the manifestation of his coming” the “man of lawlessness,” along with all who refused the “love of the truth.”

Likewise, in Daniel, the “little horn” rose up from “among the ten horns” and prevailed “against the saints” until the “Son of Man came on the clouds of heaven,” and the “season [Septuagint, kairos] arrived for the saints to possess the kingdom.” At that time, the dominion of the “little horn” was “removed to consume and to destroy it unto the end” - (Daniel 7:8, 21-26, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8).


In Revelation, Daniel’s vision of four beasts “ascending from the sea” is transformed into a single “beast ascending from the sea.” It possesses the animal characteristics of Daniel’s four “beasts” - it was an amalgamation of all four previous regimes. Thus, the one and final “beast” is related to Daniel’s four beasts, but it is also something greater (or worse) than the four originals - (Revelation 13:1-5).

Revelation adds and omits things to its single “beast” that Daniel attributed to his fourth beast. For example, in Daniel, there is no mention of the “seven heads” of the fourth beast. In Revelation, each of the “ten horns” wears a diadem, something not mentioned in Daniel, and there is no mention of three horns being removed to make way for another one.

Revelation is not concerned with simply reiterating what Daniel wrote. It uses material from Daniel to draw a fuller picture. Daniel saw four beasts, and John saw only one, but it combined all the worst elements of its four predecessors.

In Revelation, the “beast from the sea” appears again in chapter 17, where it is under the economic sway of “Babylon, the Great Harlot.” She rides the “beast.”  Its seven heads represent “seven kingdoms,” and already in John’s time, five had “fallen,” the sixth existed, and the seventh and final “kingdom” was yet to come - (Revelation 17:7-17).

In Revelation, the “beast” is trans-historical – a political reality that appears periodically, an entity that ascends repeatedly from the Abyss/Sea to wage “war against the saints.” Its ten horns represent kings allied with it.


A key passage used repeatedly in Revelation is the description of the assault against the “saints” by the “little horn.” It “made war with the saints and overcame them.

The phrase from Daniel is applied to the attacks by the “Dragon” and the “beast” against the “two witnesses,” the “seed of the woman,” the “saints,” and in an ironic fashion, to Satan’s war with the “Lamb” - (“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them” – Daniel 7:21, Revelation 5:6-127:9-14, 11:7, 12:17, 13:7, 17:14, 19:19).

The theme of malevolent creatures “ascending” from ominous depths to attack the saints appears repeatedly, though in each case, it is adapted to a specific context.

For example, the “two witnesses” are targeted by the “beast that ascends from the abyss.” The “saints” are victimized by the “beast that ascends from the sea.” And after his release from the “Abyss,” Satan gathers the nations to “ascend over the breadth of the earth” to attack the “camp of the saints” - (Revelation 11:7, 13:1, 13:11, 17:8, 20:9).

In Daniel, the “little horn” prevailed against the saints until “judgment was given for the saints of the Most-High. Likewise, in Revelation, Satan is bound for the thousand-years period, even while “judgment is being given” for the saints - (Daniel 7:21-22, Revelation 20:4).

Consistently, the authors of the New Testament interpret the vision of Daniel in new, unexpected, and even ironic ways. He is the “Son of Man” who received “dominion” from his Father on behalf of his people. At the end of the age, he will appear on the “clouds of heaven” to gather his faithful “saints” to himself, and to render “everlasting destruction” on Satan and all his forces.



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