If we compare the Daniel 7 prophecy concerning the Fourth Kingdom with the language of Revelation 13, we will immediately see that the Apostle John self-consciously meant for his hearers to understand a first century application to Nero Caesar and the line of kings who persecuted God’s Church and finally destroyed Jerusalem.
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 all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns (Daniel 7:7).
And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority (Revelation 13:1,2).
The language is so remarkably similar that there is no doubt that the Book of Revelation alludes to Daniel’s prophecy. If Daniel is referring to the Roman Empire at the time of the coming of Christ and the kingdom of God, then I must conclude that Revelation has this meaning as well.
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 man, and a mouth speaking great things…. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even 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 (Daniel 7:8,11,12).
And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months (Revelation 13:3-5).
These passages refer to Rome at the time of the first century. The problem is that there are no clues that tell us if “three of the first horns” here are three individual rulers or three world empires. If the three horns are the same as three beasts in the previous passage, then they are empires. This seems to make sense at first glance. In the larger context of the world kingdoms – Babylon, Persia and Macedonia-Greece – the first three were plucked up by the roots before the stout horn, Rome.
However, I have always assumed that “three of the first horns,” which appeared before the “Little Horn” that “grew up in the midst of them,” must refer to individuals. Both the Little Horn of Daniel 7:8 and the Beast of Revelation 13:18 are described as being a “man.” So here the three horns ought to symbolize men.
Nero Caesar is the Little Horn of Daniel 7 and the Beast of Revelation 13. In AD 68, Nero committed suicide, catalyzing a civil war and a series of four emperors in one year. Galba, Otho and Vitellius were each overthrown to make way for Vespasian, who brought the empire back from the brink of collapse to restoration. Yet after Nero, the power of Rome weakened. Over the course of the next 250 years, the institutions of the Roman Empire were eventually co-opted by the Church.
A problem arises if we allow Daniel’s Fourth Kingdom to refer to first century Rome (an interpretation almost all commentators agree on) but interpret John’s symbolism in Revelation out of the context of Daniel. If we allow the Fourth Kingdom to be Rome at the time of Christ, but we interpret the Little Horn and the Beast of Revelation to be either the papacy or a future diabolical world dictator, we are not allowing Scripture to faithfully interpret Scripture. There is no continuity in such an approach.
The historicist and futurist views are inconsistent. The historicist view has the visions in the Book of Daniel fulfilled in chronological order prior to AD 70, in effect agreeing with the preterist view. Then when interpreting the “Little Horn” of Daniel 7, the historicist view takes a leap forward of 1500 years, only to return to a preterist approach for the most of the succeeding five chapters – or whenever convenient. The futurist view jumps ahead even further to the last days of human history, which the futurist assumes are always just around the corner.