Dan 7:13-18 "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this. So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 'The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever — yes, for ever and ever.'
No one has ever seen so much and so far into the future as Daniel has in his visions. His visions of the lion, bear, leopard and beast with ten horns cover the four world empires that reign from his days till the end of times when the Kingdom of God will be established: "The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever — yes, for ever and ever'" (Dan 7:17-18). Most scholars identify the four kingdoms as (1) the Babylonian Empire (lion); (2) the Medes-Persian Empire (bear); (3) the Greek Empire (leopard); and (4) the Roman Empire (beast with ten horns). The last Roman empire covers the period from Jesus' first coming (incarnation) to His second coming because its destruction will usher in the eternal Kingdom of God. Apparently, the end-time revived Roman Empire will have ten rulers who would ultimately be dominated by the Antichrist ruler with "eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully" and who would be "waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom."
This panoramic view of world history until the end of times gives us a sense of where we are today in God's redemptive time-line. While three of the four beasts have come and gone (Babylonian, Medes-Persian and Greek), the Roman Empire is not totally defunct. Revelation 13:2 describes the same beast with ten horns as a composite of the three previous ones (lion, bear and leopard): "The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion." And it's no coincidence that the Roman Empire is a conglomerate of Babylonian mystery religions, Greek political culture with Roman law. And this spiritual, cultural and legal legacy continues to the present days in the European states that make up the Roman Empire. In a sense, the Roman Empire is a strange beast that is able to adapt itself and has changed from a single autocracy in Rome to become a multi-state system (ten horns?) that is now trying to become a single political union again. We have yet to see how the European Union will evolve. But the recent financial crisis has put back a certain urgency to political union to restore states that are on the brink of bankruptcy.
Be that as it may, we know that one day, the Roman Empire will be revived as a single political union held together by ten of the more economically powerful state-rulers. When that re-alignment happens, we know the end is near.
So, we know that we are not too far from the end-point of God's salvation time-line. But do we have enough oil in our lamps to last through the spiritual, political and economic night that is soon coming on the earth? Are we getting ourselves ready like the 5 wise virgins, with our lamps full and extra oil on standby or are we more like the 5 foolish virgins who have forgotten to buy extra oil and have fallen asleep? Let's remember the Lord's warning to us in John 9:4, "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work."
Lord, help us to stay alert and be found doing kingdom work so that we may be ready when the night comes when no one can work. Amen.