This reading is Daniel 7.
These events actually takes place before chapter 5. The first half of the book was history and the second half covers visions Daniel received from God. The typical pattern is that Daniel has an unusual vision, then it is explained to him. I am not strong on symbolism or prophecy, but I will rely heavy on my Life Application Study Bible notes and do my best to offer some thoughts on these passages. Please add your comments if you have additional insights (or corrections!).
The lion represents Babylon, which was in power at the beginning of the Book of Daniel. The bear represents the Medo-Persian empire, which overtook Babylon. Greece is represented by the leopard, which represents how quickly Alexander the Great conquered much of the world in only four years. The fourth beast appears to be a mix of the Roman empire and an empire yet to come. If you are a history buff you will really enjoy this section.
The “son of man” in v. 14 is Jesus. This was his favorite nickname for himself.
The phrase “time, times and half a time” in v. 25 appears multiples times in Daniel and Revelation. It is generally thought to represent 3.5 years (time = 1, times = 2, half a times = .5), though perhaps it just means that the time the saints (believers) will suffer will be limited.
While there is some mystery to the end times prophecy, we can rest assured that v. 27 will come to pass: “Then the sovereignty power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.”
I appreciate Daniel’s very human reaction in v. 28: “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”
The following section is from our Daniel overview, but I thought it was worth repeating:
The most amazing thing about Daniel is the accuracy of the prophecies. Even most liberal scholars agree that Daniel accurately describes the reigns and activities of several empires covering several hundred years – they just think Daniel was written after the fact and is pretending to be prophecy. I think the evidence is on the side of the early writing and that all the critics issues have been well addressed. You can read more about the dating of Daniel here (Warning: it is a little dry).
Jesus obviously viewed Daniel as the real author, as shown in Matthew 24:15-16 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel . . .” That is a pretty good trump card regarding the dating debate, assuming you are talking to a Christian. It is encouraging that God shows us through his Word that He knows everything that will happen. Psychics can’t predict what will happen next week, yet God predicted the specific course of many countries covering hundreds of years with 100% accuracy. This is one of the proofs showing the reliability of the Bible. No other Holy Book contains confirmed prophecies like this. There are also some very specific prophecies about Jesus.
The next reading is Daniel 8.