The Five Kingdoms in Daniel 2 and 7

*I will be adding some charts to this paper sometime in the future to help explain things a bit more clearly*


This paper presents a comparison between the two prophesies in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7. They are complementary accounts of God’s program for His people, presented in two separate visions. There are any number of ways to contrast these two prophesies; this paper exposits each vision separately on its own merit in preparation for a side by side comparison of key events, presented in a chart following the exposition.

The picture which emerges is one where God will triumph over the Antichrist, fulfill His covenant promises to Israel and establish a kingdom for His children which will endure forever. The manifold designs and wicked aims of Satan cannot stand against God, who is sovereign over His entire creation. This message is one of hope given to a people under penalty of sin; God was not through with them yet.

It is also the hope of the Gentiles who number themselves among God’s people, a circumstance not even revealed when Daniel recorded these prophesies. It is a reassuring message of God’s supremacy, trustworthiness and glory. As one scholar observed, “in this present world of injustice, wars, and crime, it is reassuring to know that Christ is coming; and when he comes, all of the evils of this age will end (Miller, 1994, 102).

Daniel 2

The Dream

This vision of God’s program from the fall of Jerusalem until the millennial reign of Christ is very brief and lacks the greater detail of Dan 7. Nevertheless, it presents a complete program. Leon Wood (1973) sees specific significance in this one united image, especially when viewed from God’s perspective. “Before God, history is a whole, made up of variations of the same basic aspirations and activities of mankind involved,” (68).

Archer (1985) remarked matter-of-factly that “this section represents the foreordained succession of world powers that are to dominate the Near East till the final victory of the Messiah in the last days,” (46). The image represents five different kingdoms, four from men and the final from God, which together comprise God’s program from the fall of Jerusalem onward.


A great, mighty and frightening image appeared in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (v. 31). The image was quite imposing and dwarfed Nebuchadnezzar himself; its very appearance was frightening. “Even Nebuchadnezzar, the ultimate ruler (Dan 2:38), recognized this as something greater than himself,” (Walvoord, 2012, 77). It was one single image with multiple composite parts; a head of fine gold (v.32), chest and arms of silver (v.32), a torso and thighs of bronze (v.32), legs of iron (v.33) and feet of both iron and clay (v.33).

There is symbolism in the metals which comprise the image. The preciousness and weight of the metals deteriorates from the head of gold to the feet of mixed clay and iron, while increasing in hardness (Walvoord, 78).


The stone strikes the statue at its weakest and most brittle point, the feet, breaking them into pieces (Dan 2:34). The entire image then disintegrates at once, the pieces are carried away like chaff before the wind (Dan 2:35). Not a trace is found, and the stone becomes a mountain which fills the entire earth.

The Interpretation

This is a prophesy for Israel specifically, and the focus is on the Mediterranean area, which comprises the Biblical concept of “world.” Pentecost (1985) observed that Daniel’s interpretation reveals “the course of Gentile kingdoms which in turn would rule over the land of Palestine and the people of Israel,” (1335).


Nebuchadnezzar is the head of gold (Dan 2:38), and all this power and glory is given to him by God Himself. Nebuchadnezzar, alone among the three kingdoms of men which are to come after, is identified specifically. He embodies Babylon. “After him, its power diminished rapidly. It was far more his kingdom, than he was its king. The same was not true of any ruler of the succeeding empires,” (Wood, 67). The phrase “king of kings” is even used of Nebuchadnezzar again in Eze 26:7; he truly was a supreme monarch who was above all the kings of his generation (Walvoord, 79). This power was given to Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 2:38), emphasizing God’s complete sovereignty over human affairs in His own creation.


Moving down the statue, two more kingdoms are in view. An inferior kingdom, comprising a chest and arms of silver, will come after Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 2:39a). This is Medo-Persia, which conquered Babylon in 539 B.C. Silver is less valuable than gold, symbolizing the inferiority of the second kingdom. The inferiority is not with respect to territory; Medo-Persia conquered far more area than Babylon did. Peter Steveson (2008) places the inferiority in the rulers; “it will be inferior in that the Medo-Persian ruler will have less power than Nebuchadnezzar,” (34). Likewise, Wood (68) agrees and remarks the inferiority “can have referred only to quality of government.”

The king was not supreme in this second kingdom in the same manner Nebuchadnezzar was in Babylon. “History certainly confirms that the Medo-Persian Empire, and the empire of Alexander that followed, lacked the central authority and fine organization of the Babylon Empire . . . the inferiority of the succeeding empires does not prevent them from wide geographic control, for he [Daniel] specifically stated that the third kingdom will ‘rule over all the earth,’” (Walvoord, 80-81). The arms signify a division in the kingdom – the inclusion of Media and Persia (Steveson, 35).

Yet another inferior kingdom will come after this, the torso and thighs of the statue fashioned of bronze, which will rule over all the earth (Dan 2:39b). This is Greece, which conquered Medo-Persia between 334 – 330 B.C. Greece did indeed extend its military reach farther than the other three kingdoms, all the way from Egypt, Europe and eastward to India. This kingdom was even more inferior from Nebuchadnezzar’s point of view, in that its political system was more republican than monarchy (Archer, 47).


A fourth kingdom will come after this, comprising the iron legs of the great image. It has two distinct properties; (1) it is strong as iron and (2) it will crush and shatter all opposition. Iron is less precious than gold, silver or bronze, but is stronger. This is precisely what characterized Roman conquest as it swallowed up and engulfed the Greeks; “Rome in its cruel conquest swallowed up the lands and peoples that had been parts of the three previous empires and assimilated those lands and peoples into itself,” (Pentecost, 1335).


Rome regressed into a weaker nation of clay and iron, a mark of progressive weakness and deterioration. The composite nature of the empire signifies a divided kingdom in its later years, hobbled with increasingly frailty. It is significant that the iron legs were not a composite mixed with clay, but the feet were. “It follows that this element of brittleness would be true of the Roman Empire only in its later period, rather than its former,” (Wood, 69). This refers to the moral decay and decline of the Roman Empire, not a future revival.

The two legs represent a political division, which occurred in the mid-fourth century as the Empire split into East and West. Daniel later identified the toes of the image as ten individual kingdoms (Dan 7:7, 20), therefore it is likely the legs also signify a political schism (Steveson, 38).


Daniel’s narrative telescopes at this point, segueing into prophetic future events at the time of the Antichrist.[1] The “days of those kings” when God sets up his millennial kingdom (Dan 2:44) cannot refer to the time of the four kingdoms already mentioned, because Dan 7:24 explicitly mentioned ten kings would reign at the time of the Antichrist. As noted previously, Dan 7 is a much fuller explanation of a different vision containing the same, expanded message. Nor does this refer to a future revival of the old Roman Empire. “This empire has continued to exist in various forms since it began. Daniel here speaks of this empire in its final form. This will be a union of ten strong and weak governments . . . all under the control of the Antichrist,” (Steveson, 41-42).

God will accomplish several things at this time, (1) He will establish His kingdom (Dan 2:44a) which will never pass away, (2) He will destroy the ten kingdoms.God destroys the whole image at once and the end of them all is sure and certain (v.45b). The stone is nothing less than Christ, smiting all vestiges of the preceding kingdoms. “The stone is part and parcel of the sovereignty of God . . . the symbolism clearly indicates an origination with God rather than human beings,” (Walvoord, 89). God will be faithful to His covenants with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the nation of Israel and David – He will establish His kingdom, which “shall never be destroyed” and “shall stand forever,” (Dan 2:44).

Though less comprehensive than the vision from Dan 7, there are a number of reasons to support that Christ will establish a future kingdom.

First, the conquest and destruction of the kingdoms is violent and abrupt, not peaceful and gradual, as amillennialists argue (Steveson, 43). The stone struck the image’s feet and broke the entire image into pieces, suddenly and abruptly (Dan 2:34-35). Those opposed to the premillennial interpretation of the text deny a literal, future destruction of these ten kingdoms. Generally, they see the fall of the old Roman Empire as fulfillment of Christ striking the image (Dan 2:34-35). However, Christ and Christianity did not destroy the Roman Empire. It continued on for centuries afterward. Furthermore, its destruction was gradual and drawn-out, not sudden as Dan 2:35 depicts. Christ did indeed come in the days of the Roman Empire, but He did not destroy it (Pentecost, 1336).

Second, Daniel’s prophesy clearly indicates Christ will return again “in the days of those kings,” before defeating them and establishing His kingdom (Dan 2:44).  Daniel’s subsequent vision in Dan 7:7-28 supports this point. However, during Christ’s time on earth the Roman Empiredid not have 10 kings at once. Therefore, the time of the ten kingdom (“ten toes”) is still future.

Third, the church today has not, and is not, conquering the world’s kingdoms. Indeed, as Walvoord notes, “for the past century or more the church has been an ebbing tide in the affairs of the world, and there has been no progress whatsoever in the church’s gaining control of the world politically. If the image represents Gentile political power, it is very much still standing,” (89).

Fourth, Christ will rule over a theocracy. “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people . . . it shall stand forever,” (Dan 2:44). Pentecost observed, “the church is not a kingdom with a political realm, but the future Millennium will be,” (1336).

Daniel 7

The First Three Beasts


Most commentators agree Daniel presented a summary of his dream; “the essential points of significance,” (Wood, 180). Steveson argues the significance of “wind” is that trouble and tribulation will come from all directions (117). Wood agrees, and notes “winds stand for various forces which play upon the nations, serving to bring strife and trouble,” (180).

Walvoord sees the winds here as God’s sovereign power in conflict with sinful humanity. He argues wind always represents God’s sovereign power, which Walvoord maintains is the whole focus of the Book of Daniel. He went on to observe, “Gentile history is the record of God striving with the nations and ultimately bringing them into subjection when Christ returns to reign,” (189).

The dream was given to Daniel to provide comfort to the exiles, lest they believe God was through with them. “God was not through with them, however, and He desired that they know He was not. An effective way to do this was to reveal the historical future which God had in mind for them,” (Wood, 178). God will defeat the Antichrist. He is sovereign and Israel will have a kingdom.

The “great sea” is typically used in Scripture to refer to the Mediterranean. This strongly implies the prophesy involves only the Mediterranean world (Pentecost, 1350). This is a point Steveson also emphasizes later (134).


The beasts each represent successive nations, different from one another. The sea in question, the Mediterranean, symbolically represents the nations of Biblical prophecy (Pentecost, 116). Daniel later confirms that the beasts were nations, or kings, of the earth (Dan 7:17).


The first empire is Babylon, under Nebuchadnezzar. This is not really a matter of serious dispute. Walvoord observed, “there is more unanimity on the identification of the first beast of chapter 7 than on any other point in this chapter,” (189). Images of lions have been found in the ruins of Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar is represented elsewhere in Scripture as a lion (Jer 4:7) and an eagle (Jer 49:22). The wings being plucked off the lion can symbolize either the empire’s rapid deterioration after Nebuchadnezzar’s death, or his insanity (Pentecost, 1350). The transformation from a lion to a more human-like figure represents Nebuchadnezzar’s changed disposition after his seven years of insanity. The fact that he “was lifted up” signifies that he did not change himself; God did it for Him (Miller, 197).


The second empire is Medo-Persia. Wood observed two points worth noting (183); (1) The lop-sided shape of the animal indicates the Persians had vastly more influence than the Medes in the alliance, and (2) The beast was lop-sided because the beast had one foot in the air, as if to lurch forward, symbolizing the rapid military advance of the Medo-Persian empire.

The ribs the beast was munching on symbolize Lydia, Egypt and Babylon (Walvoord, 193). Archer remarked it was “hopeless” to explain away the identification of Medo-Persia with the second beast (86).


The third empire is Greece, characterized by extraordinary swiftness of conquest. The wings suggest speed and swiftness. The four heads symbolize the four generals who ruled Alexander’s dominion after his death (Steveson, 123).[2]  “The lightening character of his conquests is without precedent in the ancient world, and this is fully in keeping with the image of speed embodied in the leopard and the four wings on its back,” (Walvoord, 194).

The Fourth Beast


The fourth beast is Rome, which follows Greece in the chronology of great Mediterranean empires. Wood remarked the most outstanding feature of this fourth beast was its strength, and the emphasis given to this last beast indicates it has far greater significance for Daniel’s vision (183). This beast is characterized by “extensive conquest involving enormous destruction of people and property,” (Wood, 186). It is no accident Daniel describes the beast in such stark terms, such as “terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong.” Rome differed from the previous three empires – it had staying power. Daniel noted the permanence of this beast’s conquests, “it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet.”

Conquest was made at wide range and with the greatest strength and ferocity. Her conquests were more permanent too; for whereas the other empires had been satisfied with only a loose confederation of countries seized, Rome consolidated and organized for lasting control (Wood, 186).

Daniel saw all ten horns at the same time on this fourth beast. This means the empire comprises ten different kingdoms.  Most commentators emphasize the contemporaneous nature of these kingdoms. This is extremely important – Daniel was not speaking of a different empire; he was clearly describing features of the fourth beast.

Is this a re-constituted Roman Empire or merely 10 kingdoms formed from the political ashes of the old? Commentators are divided on the issue. Wood alone sees a reconstituted Roman Empire. “The correct view can only be that there will be a time still future when the Roman Empire will be restored, so that these representations can be true in the manner depicted,” (187). He noted that symbolism shows the horns growing from the fourth beast’s head while it is still alive, demonstrating the Roman Empire must be reconstituted at some future date (200).

Archer is not dogmatic, merely labeling this as a “latter day ten-state federation,” (87).  Walvoord agrees, “ten actual kingdoms will exist simultaneously in the future tribulation period,” (200).

Pentacost disagrees, “when the hordes from the north conquered the Roman Empire in the fifth century a.d., they did not unite to form another empire. Instead individual nations emerged out of the old Roman Empire. Some of those nations and others stemming from them have continued till the present day. The present Age, then, is the 10-horned era of the fourth beast,” (1354). Steveson, as seen in the discussion on Dan 2:43, agrees with Pentecost (41-42, 126).

Many scholars, of varying theology, dispute the literal, premillennial interpretation given above. The crux of the matter was captured perfectly by Walvoord; it comes down to whether one’s hermeneutic is literal or not.

Interpreters who agree that the Roman Empire is in view differ in their explanations about how the ten horns relate to Rome. Amillennial scholars . . . tend to spiritualize both the number ten and the number three, and thus escape the necessity of finding any literal fulfillment. Both of them find literal fulfillment impossible because no ten kings reigned simultaneously in the Roman period . . . Premillenialists offer another view, providing literal fulfillment: ten actual kingdoms will exist simultaneously in the future tribulation period (200).


There are ten contemporaneous kingdoms. One kingdom, insignificant and unthreatening, rises dramatically and absorbs three others. This last kingdom emerges later, from among the ten others. Most conservative commentators identify this last ruler as the Antichrist. This last ruler was noted for his intelligence and his blasphemous claims.


God will judge the nations, and the court of judgment Daniel sees (Dan 7:10) is nothing less than the Great White Throne judgment (Steveson, 128). The phrase “ancient of days” (Daniel 7:9) suggests God’s eternal nature. His clothing and appearance illustrates His purity and holiness. The flames about the throne demonstrate His righteous judgment. “The fire not only represents the blindingly brilliant manifestation of God’s splendor but also the fierce heat of His judgment on sin and all those opposed to His supreme authority,” (Archer, 89). The wheels of the throne suggest God’s omnipresence and mobility (Steveson, 129);He sees all men’s works and will judge correctly. Reference to the books being opened (Daniel 7:10) is a further reference is Rev 20:12 and the Great White Throne judgment (Pentecost, 1351).


Daniel’s attention is diverted from this awesome vision of God’s final judgment because of the blasphemous words (Dan 7:8) the Antichrist was speaking (Dan 7:11a). The beast is slain and burned with fire (Dan 7:11b). The other three kingdoms pictured in this vision had been defeated by military might and their legacies lived on to some extent; “their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time,” (Dan 7:12). This last kingdom, which rose out of the political ashes of the Roman Empire, will be conquered only by divine judgment and the defeat will be final, total and absolute. The Antichrist is defeated (Rev 19:20) and Christ establishes the MillennialKingdom; “the end [of the fourth kingdom] here is complete as God brings the empire under the absolute authority of Jesus Christ in His reign over the earth,” (Steveson, 130).

There is a clear parallel here with Daniel 2:34-35, where the stone which represents Christ’s kingdom strikes Nebuchadnezzar’s image. The image was destroyed at the same time, “then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces,” (Dan 2:35a). Returning to Dan 7:11-12, “each of the three previous empires would be continued, by this reduplication of self in people and culture, in their respective successors; but the fourth would not be,” (Wood, 192). The last vestiges of the previous three empires are destroyed along with the fourth – once and for all.


After the destruction of the Antichrist, Jesus will rule and reign. The covenants promised to Israel will have their literal fulfillment. Compare Dan 7:14 to 2 Sam 7:16, where the prophet Nathan explained God’s covenant with David; “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.” What Daniel describes in Dan 7:13-14 is the millennial reign of Christ (Pentecost, 1351) and the ultimate victory over Satan. All believers, including all those who have trusted in Christ throughout history as well as believing Jews at the time of Christ’s return, will receive this kingdom (Dan 7:18). “The final outcome of human history will be a return of Adam’s race under the rule of the divine Son of Man to loving obedience and subjection to the sovereignty of God, never again to fall away from Him,” (Archer, 91).


This is a short summary statement from the angel Daniel asks the “truth” from. It is very straightforward; four kings will arise, but God will inevitably triumph in the end. There has been considerable debate among conservative scholars over what the “saints of the Most High” means. Pentecost adamantly states these are believing Jews, not the church. “The existence of the church in the present Age was nowhere revealed in the Old Testament,” (1352). Walvoord sees this as including the saved of all ages (212),as does Steveson (133), in light of later NT teachings that all saints will rule with the Lord (Matt 19:28; 1 Cor 6:2). Wood also sees both groups (196). In light of later NT clarification and the revealed mystery of the church age (Eph 3:2-7), this is the more likely interpretation.


As Gabriel provides the interpretation of this vision to Daniel, some additional facts come out. The Antichrist will persecute the saints, overcome the nation of Israel and eventually himself be judged by God. These “saints” are primarily Jews, “Since the Antichrist will oppose especially the Jews in Palestine during the latter half of the tribulation, the primary reference must be to them,” (198).

The Interpretation


The fourth beast will have absolute dominion over the Biblical world. Steveson, drawing from Dan 11:40-44, strongly emphasizes that Daniel has in mind the Biblical world only;

The focus of prophesy is on the Biblical world, the world ruled by the Romans. While this ‘little horn’ (7:8) rules only in the Mediterranean world, he will certainly have worldwide influence (Rev 13:7-8) . . . Nothing in this context gives Antichrist dominion over the whole world. He controls the nations that have come from the old Roman Empire (Steveson, 134-135).

Archer agrees, “the whole earth refers, not to all known parts of the inhabited earth, but rather to the entire territory of the Near and Middle East,” (93). It is the Biblical world, not the whole world that is in view in the prophesy.


Gabriel clearly identifies the horns with individual kingdoms which rise from the ashes of the old Roman Empire. Again, as Wood reminds us, this fourth kingdom is unique in that it has two periods of existence, one of old time and another of future time (199). Dan 7:24 is future prophesy; the ten kings reign simultaneously before the Antichrist rises and subdues three of them (Walvoord, 215). These conditions have not yet come about.


The Antichrist’s program is now brought into focus, and Gabriel expands on Daniel’s original vision from Dan 7:8. The Antichrist is blasphemous against God, will persecute the believers and institute his own system of laws during the first half of the tribulation (Pentecost, 1354). He simply must substitute God’s laws for his own, it is critical to his sinister designs. “Antichrist will not be able to accept worship of man without changing the worship of the true God. He does that by either by letting the festival times point to him as God or by substituting other festivities that honor him.” Steveson went on to suggest this will take the form of a new calendar devoid of any and all Christian reference (137). Miller has perhaps the best explanation as he suggests “Antichrist will go beyond what anyone has done before in his attempt to create a thoroughly secular world,” (214). The “time, times, and half a time” refers to the second half of the seven year tribulation (Walvoord, 216 and Wood, 201-202).


This is the explanation of Dan 7:9-12. The Antichrist will be overthrown once and for all; Antichrist will “be consumed and destroyed to the end.”

Summary and Comparison

As noted before, Daniel 7 contains much more material than Dan 2. The two visions are complementary accounts of the same program God has been bringing about from before the foundations of the world. This chart lays out God’s program from both prophesies, with the supporting verses from each chapter.


Chapter 2

Chapter 7

Rise of four successive earthly kingdoms



These kingdoms will be defeated. God’s people, of all ages, will rule and reign with Him forever



Rise of Babylon

2:32a, 36-38


God is sovereign over all human affairs


Rise of Medo-Persia

2:32b; 39a


Rise of Greece



Greece will rule over whole of Biblical world


Rise of Rome, more terrifying and stronger than all others.

2:33a, 40

7:7-8, 23

Rome will have a political division into East and West – significance of “legs”


Rome will deteriorate and weaken over time

2:33b; 41-43

Future rise of 10 contemporaneous kingdoms from political ashes of Roman Empire


7:7c; 24a

Rise of Antichrist during time of these 10 kingdoms

7:8, 24b

Antichrist subdues three of these 10 kingdoms

7:8b, 24b

Antichrist is a man, intelligent and blasphemous

7:8c; 20

Antichrist persecutes and harasses Israel, bringing worship to himself and secularizing the world in a manner never seen before


Antichrist will make war against Israel during second half of tribulation and prevail for a time, until God judges him and Christ establishes His kingdom

7:21-22; 25d

Great White Throne judgment

7:9-10; 26a

Antichrist destroyed, along with his kingdom and residual of previous three kingdoms

2:35a; 44b-45a

7:11-12; 26b

Millennial Reign established

2:35b; 44a

7:13-14; 27

The preceding exposition of both prophecies was done to justify the interpretations presented in the chart above. Comparing both Daniel 2 and Daniel 7, it is clear God provided a comprehensive picture of eschatology for the ever faithful Daniel and his fellow exiles in their time of need. It is also the promise that, after the four kingdoms of men, God will establish His kingdom, free from sin. It is a marvelous portrait of God’s sovereignty, a comfort in a time of storm for all of God’s people past, present and future, until He calls His children home.


Archer, Jr., Gleason L. Daniel. The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol. 7. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985.

Miller, Stephen R. Daniel. The New American Commentary, vol. 18. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994.

Pentecost, Dwight J. DanielThe Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, vol. 1. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck, eds. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985.

Steveson, Peter A. Daniel. Greenville: BJU, 2008.

Walvoord, John. Daniel. Charles Dyer and Philip Rawley, eds. Chicago: Moody, 2012.

Wood, Leon. Daniel. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1973.

[1]. There is disagreement among conservative scholars over where the narrative telescopes. Pentecost (1336), Steveson (41-42) and Walvoord (89) argue for the break at Dan 2:44. Wood breaks ranks with his conservative colleagues, and argues extensively for a break at Daniel 2:42 instead (70-71).

[2]. Steveson noted Alexander did indeed have more than four generals, but four in particular gained prominence and power after his death.