People often assume the death of the beast represents the geopolitical fall of a kingdom. Yet in Daniel 7:11-12 the first three beasts representing Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece are “allowed to LIVE” AFTER having been “stripped of their authority” (i.e. had fallen): “I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to LIVE for a period of time.)” Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece all fell long before Rome, the fourth beast of Daniel 7, rose to power. How could the death of the beast symbolize the geopolitical fall of a kingdom if the first three beasts are said to “live” after each had fallen?
The shattering of the statue of Daniel 2 also cannot represent the geopolitical fall of a kingdom since all four metals of the statue representing the succession of empires that conquered Israel from Babylon to Rome were “SHATTERED AT THE SAME TIME” when the rock struck the feet of the statue at the parousia in A.D. 70 though Babylon, Medo-Perisa, Greece and Rome each fell in a geopolitical manner at DIFFERENT times: “[A] stone . . . struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were SHATTERED AT THE SAME TIME[.]” Here we see that the shattering of the statue of Daniel 2 which corresponds with the death of the beast ALSO explicitly CANNOT represent the geopolitical fall of the fourth kingdom.
If the death of the beast cannot represent the fall of Rome, what is it? The death of the beast is literally the death of the beast. The beast is autocratic Rome under its first two ruling dynasties. Throughout my commentary on Revelation, I explain that the beast is cast into the Abyss and thus dies with Nero (Rev 13:3). The beast then returns to life (rises out of the Abyss) at the beginning of Vespasian’s reign. Nero was the last of the Caesar dynasty. And Vespasian was the first of the Flavian Dynasty. If the beast dies at the end of the Caesar Dynasty and returns to life at the start of the Flavian Dynasty, this implies that the beast must die yet again or return to the Abyss at the end of the Flavian Dynasty, at the death of Domitian. Daniel 7:11 says, “the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.” Though I believe this v. is ultimately fulfilled in the fate of the Caesars and Flavians in the fiery afterlife realm of death that is the Abyss (Rev 9; Luke 16:22-24), it should be noted that every member of the Caesar and Flavian Dynasties were cremated after death (Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 1.85; 2.100; 3.75; 4.59; 5.45; 6.50; 12.17; Christer Henriksen, A Commentary on Martial Epigrams, Book 9, p 13). In other words, the body of every head of the beast was LITERALLY “thrown into blazing fire” immediately after death EXACTLY as predicted in Daniel 7:11. The flames of the Caesar and Flavian funeral pyres are an omen and symbol of the casting of each head of the beast into the Abyss and of the death of the beast itself at the death of its last head.1
- A cursory reading of Daniel 7:11 and Rev 19:20 might suggest that these two verses predict the exact same event. However, if that is true, each verse appears to contradict the other. In Daniel 7:11 the beast appears to have been killed before its body is thrown into the fire which is the opposite of what is stated in Rev 19:20 where the beast is thrown into the lake of fire while still alive: “The two of them [the beast and false prophet] were thrown ALIVE into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” (Rev 19:20) Though Daniel 7:11 and Rev 19:20 appear to both ultimately symbolize the casting of the beast into the Abyss, the fiery realm of death, I believe these two prophecies do so by predicting two separate though related omens in light of the sequential contradiction between Daniel 7:11 and Rev 19:20. In other words because Daniel 7:11 predicts that the beast would be killed before being cast into the fire and Rev 19:20 says that the beast would be cast alive into the fire, this contradiction implies the fact that Daniel 7:11 and Rev 19:20 must be speaking of different, though related events. As stated previously, I believe Daniel 7:11 is initially and most directly fulfilled in the funeral pyres of the Caesars and Flavians when the dead body of the beast was quite literally thrown into the fire. I believe Rev 19:20 speaks of a different but related event. I believe Rev 19:20 was fulfilled in Rome’s scorched-earth policy when Vespasian and Titus saw to the burning of Israel and thus were “alive” in this literal lake of fire they created. I also believe Rev 19:20 was fulfilled in the departure of Vespasian and Titus to Rome after the Roman conquest of Palestine. The reason Titus’ and Vespasian’s departure to Rome could be said to fulfill Rev 19:20 is because of the poetic link that exists between the Abyss (the realm of the dead) and the Gentile nations that is repeatedly implied in the Bible (see The Poetic Biblical Link Between “Sea” and “Abyss”). These funeral pyres, Rome’s scorched-earth policy and the departure of Titus and Vespasian back to Rome, the symbolic Abyss, could all be said to be earthly omens or portents of the fate of the beast in the fiery afterlife realm of the literal Abyss. Thus Daniel 7:11 and Rev 19:20 are each fulfilled in different historical events which are themselves omens all symbolizing to the same thing–fate of the beast in death.
The idea that a prophecy is initially fulfilled in an event that is itself a prophecy or omen has repeated Biblical precedent. One clear example is Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” This verse was most directly fulfilled in Isaiah 8:3 almost immediately after Isaiah spoke these words. Yet Isaiah 7:14 is cited in Matthew 1:23 and applied to Jesus. This is because Isaiah 7:14 and its initial fulfillment in Isaiah 8:3 was an omen ultimately pointing prophetically to Jesus. The same is true of Daniel 7:11 and Rev 19:20 where both verses are most directly fulfilled in events that are themselves omens or prophecies fulfilled at a later time in the death of the beast.