<< DANIEL'S VISION OF THE FOUR BEASTS, ETC. >>
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. The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings. I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet, as a man : and a man's heart was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second, like to a bear; and it raised up itself, on one side; and it had three ribs in the mouth of it, between the teeth of it. And they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. After this, I beheld, and lo, another, like a leopard, which had upon the. back of it, four wings of a fowl. The beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. After this, I saw, in the night, visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured, and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from art the beasts that were before it: and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and behold, in this horn, were eyes, like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. And I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fieryflame, and His wheels as burning fire.
A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. I beheld then, because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake : I beheld till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. I saw, in the night, visions, and behold, one like a Son of man, came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days; and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit, in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.... The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom, are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first: and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the Most High; and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and think to change times and laws : and they shall be given into his hand, until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit; and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to' destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the. whole heaven, 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 obey Him.-DANIEL vii. 2-18,23-7.
THIS chapter contains a revelation concerning the successive changes in the spiritual conditions of the church among men on earth. This church, finally represented by Babylon, had, in its first state, some understanding of truth; but, in its second state, it studied the letter, only, of the Scriptures: and, in its third state, it falsified the truths of the Divine Word, and made falsities appear as truths; and, in its fourth state, it formed and taught the doctrine of "Salvation by Faith, alone," which was apparently confirmed in the letter of the Scriptures, but which deadly heresy gradually destroyed the spiritual life of the church; so that the First Christian Church was brought to an end, as a dispensation, and a New Christian Church was raised up, to understand, love and practise spiritual Christianity.
In vision, Daniel saw four beasts, which came up out of the sea, and which were very peculiar, and very different. These four beasts representatively picture the conditions and activities of the four general churches, or general states of the church, among men, on earth. Literalists always seek to apply these representative revelations to material things, and to historical personages and countries on this earth. But, in its profoundest and most important meaning, the Word of the Lord always relates to men as spiritual beings, and to the principles and the activities of their spiritual nature; and hence, the application must be to the operations of the spiritual world, in which all of man's spiritual activities occur.
When Daniel asked the meaning of these things, the angel whom he asked, interpreted them as referring to four kings, which should arise out of the earth. But we must remember that this conversation was in the spiritual world, into which Daniel then saw, and in which he acted, because his spiritual senses were then opened, as a seer. And the angel was not speaking in a literal way, but representatively, so that his language was as much representative and symbolic as were the things of the vision, of which he was speaking. To the angel, the earth did not mean the physical earth, but that which, spiritually, is called the earth, that is, the earthly side of man's mind, his natural mind, as distinguished from the heavenly side of his mind, his spiritual mind. And, to him, a king did not mean merely a ruler on the physical earth, but a ruling principle, on the earth of the mind, that is, in man's natural mind. Always, in the important sense of all prophecy, and of all revelation, the whole scene is laid in the human mind,
The four beasts represent four successive general conditions of the human mind, during which different mental kings, ruling principles, swayed men's minds. And, in the representative account of these beasts, we may see the spiritual history of every man who degenerates, gradually, into fixed conditions of evil, falsity and sin; and in whose mind and life, the church of the Lord is finally destroyed.
THE FOUR WINDS.
Daniel's vision was at night, thus representing a dark state of the church, and also the external and representative phases of truth, dealing with symbols, and not clearly proclaiming interior spiritual truth. "The four winds of heaven strove upon the great sea." The blowing of the wind represents the operation of Divine influences upon the human mind. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit." (John iii. 8.)
But when the Divine influences operate upon men, each man meets them, and uses or abuses them, according to the quality of his own character. Good men receive the Divine influx, and open their hearts to its love, and their intellects to its wisdom, But evil men, in receiving, pervert the quality of the Lord's goodness and truth, and turn them into evil and falsity. The great sea, spiritually, is the natural mind of man, in the waters of whose memory all things are collected. The four winds of heaven, operating upon the great sea, thus present a representative picture of the Divine influence bearing upon the natural mind of man.
There were four winds, to indicate the four quarters, or points of the compass, from which the wind may blow. The North represents the darkest spiritual quarter, whence come the Divine principles in their most external, and least spiritual form, as natural truths, practical rules. The South represents the lightest quarter, whence come the spiritual truths which most enlighten the human mind. The East, the quarter in which the sun appears to rise, represents the Lord, especially as to His Divine Love, rising upon a cold and dark world. Thus the East is the quarter of spiritual good. And the West is the quarter of natural good. As a result of the operation of the winds upon the sea, four great beasts came up, out of the sea, in. succession.
THE FIRST BEAST.
The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings. A lion, known as the king of beasts, and a beast of very great strength, represents power, and the Truth in its power. In this good sense, the Lord was called "The Lion of the tribe of Judah," the spiritual King, the Divine Truth, embodying the Divine Power. And the lion, or Truth in its power, had eagle's wings. The eagle, being very powerful in flight, and flying very high; and being very far-sighted, represents man's rational thought, by means of which he thinks, elevates his mind, and perceives truth in its high aspects. Wings, being the arms of birds, represent the power of thought. A lion, with eagle's wings, represents, in a good sense, the Divine Truth, in the minds of the men of the church, accompanied by rational thought, which enables the man to perceive spiritual truths.
This was the state of mind, in the early conditions of the church. But these wings were plucked, to represent the fact that the rationality of the mind was diminished, by the failure of men to live according to the light of spiritual truth. But still, the lion stood up, like a man, to represent that men strove to elevate their minds, on the standard of a right life, as they then understood the laws of life. And, in this way, they became real men, to a certain degree, as is represented by the heart of a man being given to the lion.
THE SECOND BEAST.
But a new state came upon men, represented by a bear, a long-haired beast. The hair is the most external part of the body; and thus a long-haired beast, in which the hair is a prominent feature, represents literal truth, external truth, as in the letter of the Scriptures. Personally, bears here represent those human minds in which there is a knowledge of the literal sense of the Scriptures, but only an external understanding of the Bible; i.e., who see the truth in its literal aspects, but do not understand it in its spiritual phases. The three ribs in the bear's mouth represent the fulness of knowledge of the letter of the Word, held by such minds, but held in the teeth, only, and not digested; i.e., held in the outward thought of the senses, and not taken into the inward thought.
This represents an age of literalism in the church, when there was a large amount of external learning about the literal sense of the Scriptures, but no openness of mind to the inward and spiritual meaning, And the natural result of this mental condition was to eat up the spiritual life of the church; or, representatively, to "devour much flesh." For, in the sensuous; unspiritual mind, a knowledge of the merely literal sense of the Scriptures gradually sinks into mere fallacies of the senses.
THE THIRD BEAST.
And so the state of the church changed again, and fell into a worse condition, represented by a leopard, a cunning, treacherous, fierce, blood-thirsty beast, the symbol of the love of falsity, a passion which loves to pervert and falsify good and true principles. And, in doing this, it uses four wings; i.e., the power of thought in double portion, which means both in. the will and in the understanding. In this way, the false ideas seen in the intellect, are confirmed in the heart, and embodied in the conduct, And this leopard had four heads, to represent that, in that state of the church, the interior principles of men's minds were conjoined with the literal fallacies and falsities of their natural minds, And, in this state, dominion was given. to the leopard, in men's minds.
THE FOURTH BEAST.
And this condition led to a further spiritual decline, in which men's mental states were represented by the fourth beast, described as dreadful and terrible, and very strong, and very destructive. This was the condition of mind in which men, misled by a sensuous misunderstanding of the literal sense of the Scriptures, reasoned away the necessity of a good life, a life according to the Divine commandments ; and imagined that human salvation comes by "faith, alone," and by a "Vicarious Atonement," in the shedding of the physical blood of Christ. This idea, of "Salvation by Faith, alone," without regard to spiritual character, being confirmed in the minds of men, from a mistaken view of the literal sense of the Bible, destroyed the spirituality of mind, in the men of the church. The great iron teeth of this terrible fourth beast, represent the hard, sensuous literal thought by which the letter of the Scripture was mentally masticated, and prepared for the mind's use.
The fourth beast delighted in devouring and destroying everything else; thus representing the spirit of ruling over others, as that evil spirit, represented by Babylon, took possession of the church; and made even the holy things of the church, and of the Divine Word, mere means of exalting the dominion of the leaders in the church. These were the last states of a declining and dying church, when, in human hearts, the will of men was usurping the place of the will of God. At this time, this terrible beast had ten horns, representing much power, in pushing the falsities and fallacies into notice, and in defending these things.
THE LITTLE HORN.
And then there came up another horn, a little one, which had eyes resembling human eyes, and a mouth speaking great things. And this little horn plucked up three of the other horns, to represent the abuse of the power of literal knowledge, in opposing many things even in the literal Scriptures. And this was done with the help of the horn's eyes, which were like men's eyes, representing the abuse of knowledge, in applying the letter of the Scriptures to excuse' evils in men, and this with an appearance of spiritual intelligence. And the mouth of the little horn represents the doctrine spoken and taught by the perverted church, and apparently founded on the letter of the Bible.
THE ANCIENT OF DAYS.
All these things, having corrupted the church, were followed by the judgment upon the First Christian Church, nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, when the "last. judgment" occurred, in the spiritual world, and upon the spiritual conditions of men. The" Ancient of days" is the Divine Father, the Divine Love, or Divine Goodness, as distinguished from the Son of Man, which is the Divine Truth, the Divine Humanity, in and by whom the Divine Love established the New Christian Church, as a spiritual church, having the Divine Word, and understanding it in both its letter and its spirit. The fire and brightness about the Ancient of days, and the whiteness of His raiment and His hair, represent the love, wisdom and purity which characterize the Divine Father. The hosts who minister to Him represent the universal acknowledgment of Him, in the heavens, and in the spiritual church.
At the coming of the Lord, a judgment was executed, and all the power of the terrible beast, and of such of the other beasts as then remained, was then destroyed, and men were redeemed from such evil power. The books opened for the judgment, were the mental books of men, the states of mind which they had written in their own character.
The Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, that is, in the letter of the Scriptures, which were the means of judgment against those who perverted and abused the letter of the Scriptures, to excuse their own evil life. And, in the measure and degree in which men received the Lord, in His second and spiritual coming, an inward coming to the minds of men; dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, came to the Lord, again, in a restored church, an everlasting kingdom, with all the good affections and the true thoughts which are the inward nations and peoples of the mind.
THE BEASTS AND KINGS.
The apparent interpretation of the text, by supposing the beast to represent certain kings in the literal history of the earth, was given for the uses of natural-minded men, who could thus find apparent confirmation of the Scriptures, in such things as they could understand, during the ages of the church before men could perceive truth in its interior and spiritual phases. For the Divine Providence often operates by indirect methods, to lead men, finally, to such things as they would not receive at first. And so, in the First Christian Church, it was the general belief that, in our text, the first beast, the lion, represented the king of Chaldea; and the second beast, the bear, represented the king of Media; and the third beast, the leopard, represented the king of Persia; and the fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, represented the king of Macedonia, or Greece; and the little horn represented the great king of Syria, Antiochus Epiphanes. And, while it is true that those kings and nations may have well represented such conditions, still, these earthly kings were merely representative; and the things represented were the ruling principles of men's minds, in the changing conditions of the inward and spiritual church.
These representative beasts very closely resemble other beasts, named in the Apocalypse, which are also symbolic and representative of human conditions of character.
The declining states of the general church afford each of us a constant warning. When the gentle winds of heaven. blow upon the restless sea of our natural mind; when we feel a Divine influence, and perceive a Divine truth; if we hold fast to the truth, and keep it clear and elevated, and never allow it to be obscured, or perverted, by the fallacies of our senses, then we shall live in spiritual love and wisdom, and in natural righteousness also. And then, in us, our Lord shall build His "everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him."
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903