The book of Daniel contains vivid prophecies about events happening from Daniel’s time and far beyond it. God gave these prophecies to Daniel to record but not fully understand. The visions were meant for generations living in the “latter days” leading up to Jesus Christ’s second coming. So what do they mean for our world, and for you and me? Why were the prophecies given and why are they relevant to us today?
The reason is simple: to provide proof to future generations that God is not only aware of, but involved in world affairs. They provide motivation to do as God instructs in the Bible. They give assurance that even in tumultuous times, there is a greater work in progress that will be completed on God’s timetable. So let’s take a brief look at a prophecy in Daniel 7.
In this vision, God gave Daniel a look into the mighty powers that would come after the Babylonian Empire. The imagery adds characteristics to the players in these political roles. They are all portrayed as powerful beasts like a lion, a bear, and a leopard. The fourth is unlike the others portrayed only as a "dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong." It is completely different from the other three, and it had 10 horns (Daniel 7:4-7 Daniel 7:4-7  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 on 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 to it, Arise, devour much flesh.
 After this I beheld, and see another, like a leopard, which had on 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 broke 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.
American King James Version×). In biblical prophecy, horns represent kings, emperors, rulers of another kind or, sometimes more broadly, a nation or political entity.
The plot thickens even more. Among the 10 horns of this fourth beast, a little horn sprouted that kept expanding and growing in power. That little horn was the beginning of a power that mixed secular power with religious dominance. The world awaits a final appearance of this power. This last rise, like its predecessors, will be a powerful political system supported by a powerful religious system affecting the lives of many. This article goes more in-depth on this prophecy.
Daniel believed God and lived life accordingly; so should we
As we well know, the quality of our lives can depend on who governs, and how. Daniel was a captive taken from Jerusalem to Babylon to serve the Babylonian king and his successors. Amazingly, Daniel remained faithful to God, despite the pressure to incorporate paganism into his religion (Daniel 6). Sound familiar? It should! God blessed him greatly for this faithfulness and gave him understanding of dreams and visions (Daniel 1:8-9 Daniel 1:8-9  But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
 Now God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
American King James Version×, Daniel 1:17 Daniel 1:17As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
American King James Version×; Daniel 2:30 Daniel 2:30But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that you might know the thoughts of your heart.
American King James Version×).
If you haven’t lately, read the entire book of Daniel and look for those examples of what that kind of reliance on God actually looks like. God the Father has a plan to bring humanity into His divine family (1 John 3:1-2 1 John 3:1-2  Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.
 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
American King James Version×; Hebrews 2:1-18 Hebrews 2:1-18  Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.  For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward;  How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him;  God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?  For to the angels has he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.  But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that you are mindful of him? or the son of man that you visit him?  You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor, and did set him over the works of your hands:  You have put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.  But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.  For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  For both he that sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers,  Saying, I will declare your name to my brothers, in the middle of the church will I sing praise to you.  And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God has given me.  For as much then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;  And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.  For truly he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.  Why in all things it behooved him to be made like to his brothers, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.  For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.
American King James Version×). The process by which we grow the character required to enter His Family is not always what we would choose, but we can be comforted by keeping the bigger picture in mind. In order for us to ultimately receive eternal life, our Father in heaven must be assured of our hearts. Therefore, we are tested at many levels: in simple choices we make every day all the way to the most life-altering trials and decisions (Deuteronomy 8:2 Deuteronomy 8:2And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or no.
American King James Version×; Jeremiah 17:9-10 Jeremiah 17:9-10  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?  I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
American King James Version×; 1 Peter 1:6-7 1 Peter 1:6-7  Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations:  That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found to praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×).
This may seem overwhelming if we look at our journey and see only failed attempts to achieve perfection. Since we are actually humanly incapable of perfection, let us instead focus more helpfully on repentance and constant effort to be faithful in this physical training ground. True repentance means that God will not keep record of our sins (Acts 3:19 Acts 3:19Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.
American King James Version×). Remember that our God doesn’t leave us without help unless we turn away from Him. If we are willing to not only accept His Son as our Savior but to also put conscious effort into learning how to honor Him with our very existence—not by how we may imagine or invent, but by how He has instructed through Holy Scripture—He will open our understanding as we have need (1 Peter 1).
Daniel did not fully understand what the vision he was given meant, but he didn’t need to. God gave Daniel the knowledge that he needed to accomplish the work that He had given him in his lifetime. So many prophecies were for the benefit of future generations—our generation. If we are alert and watching as God tells us to be, and follow Daniel’s example of faithfulness to God rather than counterfeit religion, we will be spiritually ready to rely on God, whatever troubles may come.
With greater access than ever to recorded history, we can look back to see proof of how God has been working out His plan on a grand scale. He has been doing so through the lives of individuals all along the way (1 Peter 1:10-12 1 Peter 1:10-12  Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come to you:
 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
 To whom it was revealed, that not to themselves, but to us they did minister the things, which are now reported to you by them that have preached the gospel to you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
American King James Version×). This encourages us to be patient with those things we do not yet understand. It may be that we personally don’t need to understand every passage of Scripture in order to accomplish the work that God has given us in this life.
God understands our limitations, and Himself takes credit for giving understanding to certain individuals (Luke 24:45 Luke 24:45Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
American King James Version×). He also takes away understanding from those who allow their consciences to become dull (Ephesians 4:17-19 Ephesians 4:17-19  This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you from now on walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,  Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:  Who being past feeling have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
American King James Version×). We should ask for it, but like Daniel, we may have to “go [our] way until the end” to have a more complete understanding of why things happen as they do (Daniel 12:13 Daniel 12:13But go you your way till the end be: for you shall rest, and stand in your lot at the end of the days.
American King James Version×). That is exciting. I want to know the rest of the story, don’t you?
For further study on these and related topics, see also: