Revelation and Daniel talk about beasts. These, of course, can not be taken literal since they are symbolic. My question is what does a beast represent in prophecy?

  • 6
    Some would say that the beast would be literal, I believe. What tradition's answers, and what eschatalogical viewpoint are you looking for? Pre-Millenial, Post-Millenial, Amillenial? Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 11:28
  • 3
    Different point of views are covered in this wiki article: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 12:13
  • 2
    For what it's worth, I would suggest interpreting each passage in its own context, rather than assuming every "beast" that appears in prophecy is the same symbolically. (See here.) Also, are you looking for answers from church tradition, or strictly from Bible exposition? If you are looking for Bible exposition, this might be a good question to post on Hermeneutics.SE.
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 18:15
  • 3
    VTC: Truth question.
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 18:18
  • 2
    @fredsbend He didn't ask what a beast represents in Daniel 7, he asked what does a beast represent in prophecy, and cites Revelation and Daniel (not "Daniel 7") as example books. (Check out the link I posted in my comment to see why I think this is an important distinction.) Also, as David Morton noted, there is no indication of what tradition he is looking for answers from. So it is a truth question.
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 18:41

1 Answer 1



The beasts in prophecy represent kingdoms and empires as interpreted by Scripture itself in Daniel 7.

The prophecies concerning the beasts in Daniel are interpreted for us in the Scripture; even in the same chapter.

15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this.

“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’

19 “Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.

23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.

26 “‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’" Daniel 7

They are the great empires that have ruled over the world. They are traditionally said to be Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, respectively. There are a number of things that support these designations.

The Lion is Babylonia

In scripture the lion is often the symbol of great power and authority. Babylonia is said to have been the greatest Kingdom, even in Scripture (Daniel's dream involving the statue made of different metals is about the same thing). The Lion had wings, which was a symbol of Babylonia, which Daniel living in so he likely understood this well.

The Bear is Medo-Persia

The first thing to notice is that the Bear is raised up on one side. The Medes and the Persians made an alliance to defeat and overthrow Babylonia. The Persians were the stronger of the two by a great measure. It has also been said that the ribs in the Bear's mouth are the three major campaigns that took the Babylonian Empire. The Bear being told to take its fill of flesh is permission from God to loot and plunder the riches of the previous kingdom, Babylonia. The destruction of Babylonia is close to the sole reason the Medo-Persian Empire became as great as it did.

The Leopard is Greece

Under Alexander the Great, the taking of the known world by the Greeks was less than a ten year campaign. That is what the wings symbolize and also a leopard itself is considered a swift and cunning animal. It was a very quick take over. There are four heads and four wings because after Alexander's death the kingdom was divided into four sub-kingdoms, headed by Alexander's generals.

The fourth, terrifying beast is The Roman Empire

Without question, the Roman Empire was the most cruel, powerful, and warmongering than any other in history. It's power was rivaled by none, and it was only civil war that brought it to its knees. This beast had ten horn which represent kings or sub-kingdoms just as heads do. Rome was eventually divided into ten kingdoms which became much of Europe and Asia Minor. These ten kingdoms still ruled with the same authority.

Warning: Here's where it might get offensive to a few denominations and it is hotly debated. No offense is intended.

The little horn that pushes out three others is the papacy. The Pope is like a king but different. He is head of a state that really has no army, but is and was the most influential, and therefore the most powerful. The Pope need not rule with an iron fist as Rome, but his words alone have started and ended wars throughout history. This concept is better supported with the dream about the statue, which you remember is about the same things.

On the opposite spectrum is that the fourth beast represents two kingdoms, but they are closely related. The first is the Roman Empire that we know from history and the second is usually simply called the Second Roman Empire. This Second Roman Empire is still non-existent, and it will appear within close time frame to the second coming of Christ. It will be headed by a world leader who is also the anti-Christ. This empire will rule until it is destroyed by Christ Himself at the second coming.

Various view are everywhere in between the two views above, with one even stating that it is Rome and Rome only; there is no second empire coming from it. Perspectives on the fourth beast almost always agree on the following points.

  • It does represent Rome at least in part.
  • The little horn is the anti-christ, or a least a world leader with religious power too.
  • The empire and the little horn were or will be destroyed by the providence of God.

There is very little argument that the beasts in Daniel, especially the fourth beast, are related to the beasts in Revelation. To discuss that would be off topic for the site because that is the hotly debated parts. You would need to ask in a very specific way. Again, the views vary wildly from "it has almost all already happened" to "nearly none of it has happened."


The beasts in prophecy represent kingdoms and empires as interpreted by Scripture itself in Daniel 7.

  • Aaaahhhh... really? We're still making the Pope the antichrist?
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 18:20
  • 1
    @Jas3.1 Yes, it is still a common belief. I think I supported the other side as well. I also think I was clear that no offense is intended. I think I was also clear that there are many views and I only made an attempt to highlight three that are mutually exclusive.
    – user3961
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 18:25
  • Fair enough. Anyway, I didn't down-vote your answer, I was just surprised to hear this view again... it was like a blast from the past. I had sort of assumed it had gone obsolete, like the idea that Russia and America were going to meet for war in the valley of Meggido.
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 18:42
  • @Jas3.1 Yes, it is an old, old view. I believe Luther held it with many other Reformers. The difference between that and your example is that one makes sense with history and the other sensationalizes contemporary conflicts and has no Biblical support.
    – user3961
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 20:26
  • @Jas3.1 christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/15544/…
    – user3961
    Commented Apr 9, 2013 at 20:53

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .