We will review the intrpretation from Daniel as it relates to a premillinist view.
This image, then, is a picture of world history. You can see that the materials in it decrease in weight (from gold to clay) so that the statue is top-heavy and easily pushed over. Men and women think that human civilization is so strong and enduring; really it is resting on brittle feet of clay. Note too that the value decreases: from gold to silver to bronze to iron to clay. Is mankind getting “better and better” as time goes on? No! Human civilization is actually getting cheaper and weaker. There is also a decrease in beauty and glory (gold is certainly more beautiful than iron mixed with clay); and there is a decrease in strength (from gold to clay) as we approach the end of human history. Each of the successive kingdoms had its own strengths, of course, and Rome exercised a tremendous military power, but through history civilization will become weaker and weaker. This explains why the Antichrist will be able to organize a worldwide dictatorship: nations will be so weak they will demand a dictator just to be able to survive.
Each of these kingdoms had a different form of government. Babylon was ruled by an absolute monarch, a dictator (see 5:19). The Medo-Persian empire had a king, but he worked through princes and established laws (see 6:1–3—and remember the “law of the Medes and the Persians” in Esther 1:19). Greece operated through a king and an army, and Rome was supposed to be a republic, but it was actually a rule of the military through laws. When you come to the iron and clay, you have our present governments: the iron represents law and justice, the clay represents mankind, and together they make up democracy. What is the strength of democracy? Law. What is its weakness? Human nature. We are seeing today that lawlessness comes when human nature refuses to be bound by God’s order and laws.
This entire picture is not a very optimistic one. Nebuchadnezzar saw that his own kingdom would fall one day and be replaced by the Medes and Persians. This happened in 538 B.C. (Dan. 5:30–31). The Medes and Persians would be conquered by the Greeks about 330 B.C.; and Greece would give way to Rome. The Roman Empire outwardly would disappear, but its laws, philosophies, and institutions would continue until this very day, taking us down to the “feet of clay.” The only hope for this world is the return of Christ. When He comes to the earth, it will be to conquer the nations (Rev. 19:11ff) and to establish His own glorious kingdom.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1993). Wiersbe's expository outlines on the Old Testament. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Notes Dan 7:Also See Rev 13 & 17
raised … itself on one side—but the Hebrew, “It raised up one dominion.” The Medes, an ancient people, and the Persians, a modern tribe, formed one united sovereignty in contrast to the third and fourth kingdoms, each originally one, afterwards divided. English Version is the result of a slight change of a Hebrew letter. The idea then would be, “It lay on one of its fore feet, and stood on the other”; a figure still to be seen on one of the stones of Babylon [MUNTER, The Religion of Babylonia, 112]; denoting a kingdom that had been at rest, but is now rousing itself for conquest. Media is the lower side, passiveness; Persia, the upper, active element [AUBERLEN]. The three ribs in its mouth are Media, Lydia, and Babylon, brought under the Persian sway. Rather, Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt, not properly parts of its body, but seized by Medo-Persia [SIR ISAAC NEWTON]. Called “ribs” because they strengthened the Medo-Persian empire. “Between its teeth,” as being much grinded by it.
6. leopard—smaller than the lion; swift (Hab 1:8); cruel (Is 11:6), the opposite of tame; springing suddenly from its hiding place on its prey (Ho 13:7); spotted. So Alexander, a small king, of a small kingdom, Macedon, attacked Darius at the head of the vast empire reaching from the AEgean Sea to the Indies. In twelve years he subjugated part of Europe, and all Asia from Illyricum and the Adriatic to the Ganges, not so much fighting as conquering [JEROME]. Hence, whereas Babylon is represented with two wings, Macedon has four, so rapid were its conquests. The various spots denote the various nations incorporated into his empire [BOCHART]; Or Alexander’s own variation in character, at one time mild, at another cruel, now temperate, and now drunken and licentious.
four heads—explained in Da 8:8, 22; the four kingdoms of the Diadochi or “successors” into which the Macedonian empire was divided at the death of Alexander, namely, Macedon and Greece under Cassander, Thrace and Bithynia under Lysimachus, Egypt under PTOLEMY, and Syria under Seleucus.
dominion … given to it—by God; not by Alexander’s own might. For how unlikely it was that thirty thousand men should overthrow several hundreds of thousands! JOSEPHUS [Antiquities, 11.6] says that Alexander adored the high priest of Jerusalem, saying that he at Dium in Macedonia had seen a vision of God so habited, inviting him to go to Asia, and promising him success.
7. As Daniel lived under the kingdom of the first beast, and therefore needed not to describe it, and as the second and third are described fully in the second part of the book, the chief emphasis falls on the fourth. Also prophecy most dwells on the end, which is the consummation of the preceding series of events. It is in the fourth that the world power manifests fully its God-opposing nature. Whereas the three former kingdoms were designated respectively, as a lion, bear, and leopard, no particular beast is specified as the image of the fourth; for Rome is so terrible as to be not describable by any one, but combines in itself all that we can imagine inexpressibly fierce in all beasts. Hence thrice (Da 7:7, 19, 23) it is repeated, that the fourth was “diverse from all” the others. The formula of introduction, “I saw in the night visions,” occurs here, as at Da 7:2, and again at Da 7:13, thus dividing the whole vision into three parts—the first embracing the three kingdoms, the second the fourth and its overthrow, the third Messiah’s kingdom. The first three together take up a few centuries; the fourth, thousands of years. The whole lower half of the image in the second chapter is given to it. And whereas the other kingdoms consist of only one material, this consists of two, iron and clay (on which much stress is laid, Da 2:41–43); the “iron teeth” here allude to one material in the fourth kingdom of the image.
ten horns—It is with the crisis, rather than the course, of the fourth kingdom that this seventh chapter is mainly concerned. The ten kings (Da 7:24, the “horns” representing power), that is, kingdoms, into which Rome was divided on its incorporation with the Germanic and Slavonic tribes, and again at the Reformation, are thought by many to be here intended. But the variation of the list of the ten, and their ignoring the eastern half of the empire altogether, and the existence of the Papacy before the breaking up of even the Western empire, instead of being the “little horn” springing up after the other ten, are against this view. The Western Roman empire continued till A.D. 731, and the Eastern, till A.D. 1453. The ten kingdoms, therefore, prefigured by the ten “toes” (Da 2:41; compare Rev 13:1; 17:12), are the ten kingdoms into which Rome shall be found finally divided when Antichrist shall appear [TREGELLES]. These, probably, are prefigured by the number ten being the prevalent one at the chief turning points of Roman history.
8. little horn—little at first, but afterwards waxing greater than all others. He must be sought “among them,” namely, the ten horns. The Roman empire did not represent itself as a continuation of Alexander’s; but the Germanic empire calls itself “the holy Roman empire.” Napoleon’s attempted universal monarchy was avowedly Roman: his son was called king of Rome. The czar (Caesar) also professes to represent the eastern half of the Roman empire. The Roman civilization, church, language, and law are the chief elements in Germanic civilization. But the Romanic element seeks universal empire, while the Germanic seeks individualization. Hence the universal monarchies attempted by the Papacy, Charlemagne, Charles V, and Napoleon have failed, the iron not amalgamating with the clay. In the king symbolized by “the little horn,” the God-opposing,. haughty spirit of the world, represented by the fourth monarchy, finds its intensest development. “The man of sin,” “the son of perdition” (2Th 2:3). Antichrist (1Jn 2:18, 22; 4:3). It is the complete evolution of the evil principle introduced by the fall.
three of the first horns plucked up—the exarchate of Ravenna, the kingdom of the Lombards and the state of Rome, which constituted the Pope’s dominions at the first; obtained by Pope Zachary and Stephen II in return for acknowledging the usurper Pepin lawful king of France [NEWTON]. See TREGELLES’ objections, Da 7:7, “ten horns,”
Note. The “little horn,” in his view, is to be Antichrist rising three and a half years before Christ’s second advent, having first overthrown three of the ten contemporaneous kingdoms, into which the fourth monarchy, under which we live, shall be finally divided. Popery seems to be a fulfilment of the prophecy in many particulars, the Pope claiming to be God on earth and above all earthly dominions; but the spirit of Antichrist prefigured by Popery will probably culminate in ONE individual, to be destroyed by Christ’s coming; He will be the product of the political world powers, whereas Popery which prepares His way, is a Church become worldly.
eyes of man—Eyes express intelligence (Ez 1:18); so (Ge 3:5) the serpent’s promise was, man’s “eyes should be opened,” if he would but rebel against God. Antichrist shall consummate the self-apotheosis, begun at the fall, high intellectual culture, independent of God. The metals representing Babylon and Medo-Persia, gold and silver, are more precious than brass and iron, representing Greece and Rome; but the latter metals are more useful to civilization (Ge 4:22). The clay, representing the Germanic element, is the most plastic material. Thus there is a progress in culture; but this is not a progress necessarily in man’s truest dignity, namely, union and likeness to God. Nay, it has led him farther from God, to self-reliance and world-love. The beginnings of civilization were among the children of Cain (Ge 4:17–24; Lu 16:8). Antiochus Epiphanes, the first Antichrist, came from civilized Greece, and loved art. As Hellenic civilization produced the first, so modern civilization under the fourth monarchy will produce the last Antichrist. The “mouth” and “eyes” are those of a man, while the symbol is otherwise brutish that is it will assume man’s true dignity, namely, wear the guise of the kingdom of God (which comes as the “Son of man” from above), while it is really bestial, namely, severed from God. Antichrist promises the same things as Christ, but in an opposite way: a caricature of Christ, offering a regenerated world without the cross. Babylon and Persia in their religion had more reverence for things divine than Greece and Rome in the imperial stages of their history. Nebuchadnezzar’s human heart, given him (Da 4:16) on his repentance, contrasts with the human eyes of Antichrist, the pseudo son of man, namely, intellectual culture, while heart and mouth blaspheme God. The deterioration politically corresponds: the first kingdom, an organic unity; the second, divided into Median and Persian; the third branches off into four; the fourth, into ten. The two eastern kingdoms are marked by nobler metals; the two western, by baser; individualization and division appear in the latter, and it is they which produce the two Antichrists.