The Lion, The Bear & The Leopard
ver the years I've learned an interesting scriptural principle that applies to all Bible study, but
has particular application in the study of prophecy. If you've spent much time studying the scriptures, you've seen this principle in action. It may be described as follows.
As I've continued to study The Word Of God, certain passages have proved difficult to interpret, and all commentaries and explanations I've ever found continue to prove unsatisfactory. In these areas, there is always a hidden blessing if you will simply persevere and dig deeper as you seek to discern the meaning. This principle was recently reaffirmed as I'm convinced that I've finally 'broken through' to an understanding of a passage that has intrigued me for years. I'm referring to Daniel's famous dream of the four beasts that are documented in Daniel chapter seven.
In this chapter, Daniel sees four unusual beasts that are clearly symbolic of four kingdoms in world history. The first beast was a like a lion that had the wings of an eagle, while the second beast was a bear described as having "three ribs in the mouth of it."1. The third beast was a leopard with 4 heads, and the fourth beast was described as "...dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth...and it had ten horns." 2.
There is no doubt that the vision describes four world kingdoms as an angel specifically tells Daniel that "these great beasts which are four are four kings which shall rise out of the earth." 3. The problem I've had with this chapter is the identification of the four kingdoms.
Practically every scholar and prophecy commentator has routinely identified these 4 kingdoms of Daniel 7 as simply a reiteration of the four kingdoms described earlier in Daniel chapter two. In fact, several popular Bible editions actually interpret Daniel 7 right in their margin notes as the same four kingdoms mentioned in Daniel chapter two. 4. This gives the conventional interpretation an added credibility which it does not deserve.
You'll recall Daniel chapter two has the description of Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the great statue. In this classic prophecy the king sees a great statue with a head of Gold, arms of
Silver, thighs of Brass, and legs of Iron. The description of the legs is further described as including two feet with ten toes. There really isn't much doubt about the identities in this dream for Daniel specifically tells the king of Babylon that he, Nebuchadnezzar, is the head of gold. 5.
Daniel's interpretation continues as he describes three kingdoms that will succeed the Babylonian empire. These three kingdoms are represented by the silver arms, the brass thighs and the iron legs. Since secular history clearly establishes the fact that the Babylonian empire was followed by the
Persian Union (the arms of silver), the Grecian empire (the thighs of brass) and the Roman empire (the legs of iron), Nebuchadnezzar 's famous dream is a striking example of the accuracy of Bible prophecy.
But are the four world empires of the statue in Daniel chapter two necessarily synonymous with the four beast kingdoms of Daniel chapter seven? I'm convinced they are different kingdoms from different eras, and the fact that this interpretation of Daniel's four beast kingdoms has been distorted has masked the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in our time. In other words, there's a reason for the misinterpretive system being propagated. It is designed to mislead and deceive the believer in Jesus Christ into a deadly misunderstanding and false identification of the key components of last days prophetic fulfillment.
Before I offer an alternative interpretation of the four beasts, I need to outline the reasons why the conventional synchronized interpretation is usually followed. There are many similarities between the two vision/dreams and that may account for the broad acceptance of the synonymous/concurrent interpretation of the two vision/dreams. For example, in Daniel chapter two, the head of gold is described as superior to the kingdoms of silver, brass, and iron. The commentators commonly connect the regal aspect of the Babylonian kingdom (the head of gold) with the royal imagery associated with the lion of chapter seven's vision.
There is very little to identify the second beast (the bear) with the second "statue" empire of Daniel chapter 2 (the Medo-Persian) so interpreters usually focus on the third kingdom as it provides a more credible argument. The third kingdom of the statue dream (brass thighs) was Alexander The Great's Grecian empire, and it is routinely compared to the third kingdom of the beast vision, the leopard.
Because the leopard is noted for speed, it is commonly identified with Alexander's meteoric military acquisition of territory. Another apparent connection between the third kingdoms is found in yet another chapter of the book of Daniel. In that passage (found in Daniel chapter eight), Alexander is symbolized as a "rough goat" with a large horn. 6.
In that vision, the large horn is broken, and replaced by four horns; and once again, an angel is there to interpret the vision. The angel tells Daniel that "the great horn is...the first king. Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation...." 7.
This passage validates once again prophetic accuracy as history records that after Alexander's death, his kingdom was divided between four of his generals. The fact that the Grecian empire (the third "statue" empire) was divided four ways helped to identify the four heads of the Leopard (the third "beast" vision) with Alexander and his four generals.
Just to keep the confusion to a minimum with all these 'fours,' I need to point out that these four horns that succeed Alexander's Grecian kingdom in the "goat" vision of chapter eight are entirely separate from the four "statue" kingdoms of chapter two and the four "beast" kingdoms of chapter seven.
It's not hard to see why there's confusion on this, but bear with me, for we're closing in on the true identification of all of these kingdoms.
The final factor that is usually used to connect the four "statue" kingdoms with the four "beast" kingdoms is the fact that both fourth kingdoms incorporate the number ten. In the statue dream, the ten toes on the feet of the iron legs (the fourth and final kingdom of chapter two) are specifically highlighted. In the beast vision, the fourth and final beast has ten horns. Because the ten toes are associated with the Roman empire, it is commonly believed that the ten horns on the fourth beast somehow represent a 'revived' Roman empire.
It is these two chapters, and several other passages in the book of Revelation, that give rise to the notion that the Roman empire will somehow be "revived" by the prophetic figure we commonly call The Antichrist. Because the fourth beast kingdom is plainly seen to be the final world dominion run by The Antichrist, it is crucial that we accurately identify these four kingdoms. In other words, if we get this chapter wrong, we may not actually recognize key prophetic events because we'll looking in the wrong place. I contend that is precisely what is occurring today, and the Christian church is running out of time to recognize the truth.
There are two separate sets of four kingdoms. These two visions are millennia apart and the key to understanding each of them is the nation of Israel. The common denominator in every one of them is their relationship to the Jewish people. The four kingdoms of Nebuchadnezzar's statue are the four kingdoms that provide a historic countdown to the destruction of the Jewish state.
Beginning with Babylon, all four kingdoms dominated the people of Israel. The fourth kingdom (the legs of iron), the Roman empire, presided over the destruction of Israel in 70 AD. The fourth kingdom also provided the countdown to the first coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Conversely, the four beast kingdoms function in reverse as they provide the historic countdown to the resurrection of the state of Israel; and once again these empires also serve as a sequential countdown to the second coming of Christ.
The first great beast was "...like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld until 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." 8. This beast does not describe the Babylonian empire of the 5th century BC. but instead describes the British empire of the last two hundred years. It begins the historic chronology of nations that brought about the resurrection of the modern state of Israel.
Throughout most of its history, England has employed the crowned lion as the official heraldry symbol of the royal families. The lion appears on almost every coat of arms in the British royal line going back at least 700 years. It is instructive to note that the British lion is usually seen standing up on its two hind feet precisely the way the prophecy states The figure shown in figure I is an actual rendering of a genuine British heraldic coat of arms.
In addition to dozens of examples of British lions standing on two legs, I have at least one documented copy of a coat of arms of William I (1066-1087) that shows the British lion with eagles wings. 9. Because the United States is so widely associated with the eagle, it is difficult
not to associate the eagle's wings that are attached to the lion with America. The fact that the wings were removed would clearly seem to refer to the American independence and thereby strengthens the identification.
Historically speaking, it is not an understatement to say that the action of the British throne in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 was the single most important move towards the establishment of a Jewish state in modern history. If you remember your World War I history, you'll recall it was the British army, led by General George Allenby that liberated Jerusalem from the Moslems in 1917. The British then opened the door to Jewish immigration into the Holy Land. Daniel's prophecy stated that this lion empire will be humane as "...a man's heart was given to it." 10.
In an odd role reversal, one of the most famous British monarchs was Richard the Lionhearted -- instead of a lion with a man's heart, this king was styled as a man with a lion's heart. Ultimately, while the British lion's constructive interaction with the dispersed Jewish people began the countdown towards a resurrected state of Israel, the Russian Bear also affected Jewish immigration -- but in a more ominous way.
The Russian purges and persecutions of native Russian Jews were called pogroms, and they manifested some of the worst anti-Semitic hatred ever seen in modern history.
The beast prophecy describes "...a second beast, like to a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, Arise, devour much flesh." 11. This dark characterization of the devouring beast is in stark contrast to the humane lion before it, and again strengthens the identification of the beast kingdoms with the modem states that impacted the emergence of the state of Israel.
The bear was widely recognized as the universal symbol of Russia and her various satellite nations during the era of the Soviet Union. The imagery associated with the bleak Russian winters probably contributed to this symbol. The fact is, in political cartoons, historical essays, and native Russian symbology, the bear is broadly identified with the Russian state (see figure 2). Even Time Magazine once ran a major story that depicted Russia as a hungry bear on the cover.
It should be noted that the Bolshevik revolution that brought about the world's first communist regime actually occurred in the very same time period and year (November 1917) as the British liberation of Palestine (Israel). This helps to establish the chronological continuity between the first and second beasts.
A subtle prophetic detail is found in the fact that the world's first communist dictatorship that emerged in Russia actually brought about the political idiom that describes nations and political parties as 'leftist' or 'rightist.' To this very day, the communists are said to be to the left, the fascists are to the right, and democracies are centrist. How fascinating that the first leftist government in the history of the world was described in scripture 2,500 years ago as a beast that "...raised up on one of its sides." 12.
The three ribs "between its teeth" probably relates to the three Baltic states that were gobbled up by The Soviet Union; or they could describe the three Trans-Caucasian states (Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) assimilated by the earlier Russian empire -- take your pick. In any event, the corollary verse where the bear is told to "devour much flesh" was certainly fulfilled by the greatest single mass murderer in the history of planet Earth, Joseph Stalin. He brutally executed approximately 50 million people in the evil empire that was The Soviet Union.
While other prophecy observers have noticed the similarities between the British Lion and the Russian Bear, 13. it is the third beast that has caused all the trouble. The scripture describes it as "..like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast has also four heads; and dominion as given to it." 14. This prophecy baffled me for quite a while until I simply asked myself what world power coincided with the British and Russian empires. The Leopard can't refer to America for our symbol is obviously the eagle, so what nation's twentieth century history has played a role that is comparable with that of Russia, England, and The US? What modern nation has played a similarly crucial role in their relationship with the Jewish people? It could only be Germany.
The question of identifying the Leopard with Germany is advanced by consulting the Encyclopedia Americana where we abruptly realize that a leopard is actually another word for Panther. The leopard "...is more commonly called Panther in India...." 15. It is interesting to note the German language is from the Indo-European branch, where the Nazi party extracted their distorted concept of the term Aryan,
which is a Sanskrit word from India.
The German people seem to have a particular fondness for the Panther, and we find the term is utilized broadly in Germanic culture. In the German television industry, for example, a major vendor is Panther Electronics. In the military, two prominent naval vessels (a cruiser and a gunboat) were both named The Panther. Under Hitler's Third Reich, the primary tanks were named Panthers, while another tank was the Panther's relative the Tiger. The armored divisions of the Nazi's were known as Panzer divisions -- certainly evocative of panthers.