Their Lives were Preserved – The Mystery of Daniel 7:12

11“I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. 12As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. (Daniel 7:11–12 NKJV)

Daniel 7:12 raises an interesting question: why is the beast (the antichrist) destroyed suddenly while the lives of the rest of the beasts are prolonged? Because most commentators interpret the other three beasts Daniel 7 as a list of historical kingdoms (Babylon, Persia, and Greece), this verse is particularly perplexing because the “lives” of those beasts have already ended and the final beast has not yet appeared For those who take the view that Daniel 7 describes 4 kingdoms at the end of the age, the verse is also perplexing because it does not seem to follow that the Lord would destroy the antichrist and his empire and yet preserve the lives of the other beast kingdoms. Thankfully, when we look at the verse more closely, we find that there is a very specific emphasis in this verse that can resolve the question.

One thing that is important to note is that verse 12 does not have to follow verse 11 chronologically. While the verses may appear, at first glance, to be describing chronological events, the verses do not require that we read it that way. Instead we can see that the verses are simply making a comparison. The antichrist is destroyed suddenly and cast alive into the burning flame (Daniel 7:11; Revelation 19:20), while the other beast empires were allowed to live on for a season after the end of their kingdoms. It is a contrast in the way the “beasts” are destroyed, not a timeline telling us when they were destroyed. For example, when we look at the fall of Babylon, Persia, or Greece we see that after each empire “fell” there was a period of time when the remnants of the empire lived on and in some cases had significant influence in subsequent empires. However, the destruction of the antichrist’s empire will not happen this way.

Daniel’s primary point is the sudden and complete destruction of the final beast. This beast is not judged like other empires. Something about the beast is so different that God’s answer to rise of this beast is to seat the heavenly court for judgment and put the Son of Man in place to judge the nations of the earth (Daniel 7:1-8).  This apocalyptic judgment highlights just how personal the judgment of this beast is to God. He does not send an invading army that gradually conquers and dismantles the final beast; instead He personally, suddenly, and completely judges the final beast.

This beast is completely unique in the way it challenges God, therefore it faces a unique judgement, and this is the emphasis of Daniel 7:11-12 and one of the main themes of the book of Daniel: there is a wicked ruler that is coming who is completely different (Daniel 7:3, 7, 19, 23, 24) from every other empire in history. He is so different that his reign of terror is not answered by another human empire, but by a direct judgment from God’s own Son and this is the emphasis of Daniel 7. All other empires in history will lose their power but then gradually fade away for a time as they are absorbed by another empire. Not so with this beast. God will judge him suddenly and decisively because he is different, both in his reign and his destruction, from all the rest. So different that God Himself will step on the stage of history and personally and suddenly destroy the final beast. He will not leave that task to the armies of men because this beast is something more than a man.

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