1. WIND AS A SYMBOL
a. What does the wind usually represent in prophecy? Jeremiah 25:32, 33; 4:13.
“Winds are a symbol of strife.”—The Great Controversy, p. 439.
“[In the book of Revelation,] John sees the elements of nature—earthquake, tempest, and political strife—represented as being held by four angels. These winds are under control until God gives the word to let them go. There is the safety of God’s church. The angels of God do His bidding, holding back the winds of the earth, that the winds should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree, until the servants of God should be sealed in their foreheads. The mighty angel is seen ascending from the east (or sunrising). This mightiest of angels has in his hand the seal of the living God, or of Him who alone can give life, who can inscribe upon the foreheads the mark or inscription, to whom shall be granted immortality, eternal life. It is the voice of this highest angel that had authority to command the four angels to keep in check the four winds until this work was performed, and until he should give the summons to let them loose.”—Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 444, 445.
2. WATER, BEASTS, AND WINGS
a. We often find different prophetic illustrations around some sort of water or sea, especially in connection with the wind. What does that represent? Revelation 17:15.
“Winds are a symbol of strife. The four winds of heaven striving upon the great sea represent the terrible scenes of conquest and revolution by which kingdoms have attained to power.”—The Great Controversy, p. 440.
b. What does God use to illustrate earthly kingdoms or empires? Daniel 7:17, 23.
“To Daniel was given a vision of fierce beasts, representing the powers of the earth. But the ensign of the Messiah’s kingdom is a lamb. While earthly kingdoms rule by the ascendancy of physical power, Christ is to banish every carnal weapon, every instrument of coercion. His kingdom was to be established to uplift and ennoble fallen humanity.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 4, p. 1171.
c. Oftentimes a prophet saw a beast flying with wings—totally contrary to the natural existence of the animal. How do these wings symbolize speed and tenacity, as illustrated by the eagle? Habakkuk 1:6–10.
“In her endeavors to reach her home, the eagle is often beaten down by the tempest to the narrow defiles of the mountains. The clouds, in black, angry masses sweep between her and the sunny heights where she secures her nest. For a while she seems bewildered, and dashes this way and that, beating her strong wings as if to sweep back the dense clouds. . . . At last she dashes upward into the blackness, and gives a shrill scream of triumph as she emerges, a moment later, in the calm sunshine above. The darkness and tempest are all below her, and the light of heaven is shining about her. She reaches her loved home in the lofty crag, and is satisfied. It was through darkness that she reached the light.”—Messages to Young People, pp. 102, 103.
“There is great need of men who can use the press to the best advantage, that the truth may be given wings to speed it to every nation, and tongue, and people.”—Gospel Workers, p. 25.
3. THE LION
a. Since beasts represent kingdoms, what nation is symbolized by the lion of Daniel 7:4, and how did that nation fulfill its role in history? Jeremiah 4:6, 7; 50:17, 43, 44.
“[God] revealed His determination to bring chastisement upon the nation that had turned from Him to serve the gods of the heathen. Within the lifetime of some who were even then making inquiry regarding the future, He would miraculously shape the affairs of the ruling nations of earth and bring the Babylonians into the ascendancy. These Chaldeans, ‘terrible and dreadful,’ were to fall suddenly upon the land of Judah as a divinely appointed scourge. Verse 7. The princes of Judah and the fairest of the people were to be carried captive to Babylon; the Judean cities and villages and the cultivated fields were to be laid waste; nothing was to be spared.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 385, 386.
b. How does the Lord describe the mighty empire of Babylon at its peak under Nebuchadnezzar—and why? Jeremiah 27:4–8.
“Exalted to the pinnacle of worldly honor, and acknowledged even by Inspiration as ‘a king of kings’ (Ezekiel 26:7). Nebuchadnezzar nevertheless at times had ascribed to the favor of Jehovah the glory of his kingdom and the splendor of his reign. . . .
“An idolater by birth and training, and at the head of an idolatrous people, he had nevertheless an innate sense of justice and right, and God was able to use him as an instrument for the punishment of the rebellious and for the fulfillment of the divine purpose. ‘The terrible of the nations’ (Ezekiel 28:7), it was given Nebuchadnezzar, after years of patient and wearing labor, to conquer Tyre; Egypt also fell a prey to his victorious armies; and as he added nation after nation to the Babylonian realm, he added more and more to his fame as the greatest ruler of the age.
“It is not surprising that the successful monarch, so ambitious and so proud-spirited, should be tempted to turn aside from the path of humility, which alone leads to true greatness. In the intervals between his wars of conquest he gave much thought to the strengthening and beautifying of his capital, until at length the city of Babylon became the chief glory of his kingdom, ‘the golden city,’ ‘the praise of the whole earth.’ ”—Ibid., pp. 514, 515.
4. THE BEAR
a. As the bear followed the lion, what nation came on the scene after the first? Explain its role in the history of nations. Isaiah 14:3, 4; Daniel 7:5; 5:30, 31.
“Babylon, shattered and broken at last, passed away because in prosperity its rulers had regarded themselves as independent of God, and had ascribed the glory of their kingdom to human achievement.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 501, 502.
“In the unexpected entry of the army of the Persian conqueror into the heart of the Babylonian capital by way of the channel of the river whose waters had been turned aside, and through the inner gates that in careless security had been left open and unprotected, the Jews had abundant evidence of the literal fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the sudden overthrow of their oppressors. And this should have been to them an unmistakable sign that God was shaping the affairs of nations in their behalf.”—Ibid., p. 552.
b. Where was Medo-Persia’s overthrow of Babylon prophesied, and to what extent did it fulfill the vastness of its world-empire status? Jeremiah 25:12; Isaiah 44:26–28; 45:1–6, 13; Esther 1:1.
“Upon [Darius’] death, within about two years of the fall of Babylon, Cyrus succeeded to the throne, and the beginning of his reign marked the completion of the seventy years since the first company of Hebrews had been taken by Nebuchadnezzar from their Judean home to Babylon.
“The deliverance of Daniel from the den of lions had been used of God to create a favorable impression upon the mind of Cyrus the Great. The sterling qualities of the man of God as a statesman of farseeing ability led the Persian ruler to show him marked respect and to honor his judgment. And now, just at the time God had said He would cause His temple at Jerusalem to be rebuilt, He moved upon Cyrus as His agent to discern the prophecies concerning himself, with which Daniel was so familiar, and to grant the Jewish people their liberty.
“As the king saw the words foretelling, more than a hundred years before his birth, the manner in which Babylon should be taken; as he read the message addressed to him by the Ruler of the universe, . . . his heart was profoundly moved, and he determined to fulfill his divinely appointed mission.”—Ibid., pp. 556, 557.
5. THE LEOPARD
a. Since the leopard followed the bear, what nation followed Medo- Persia as the next great empire? Daniel 7:6; 8:5–7, 20, 21.
“The Medo-Persian realm was visited by the wrath of Heaven because in it God’s law had been trampled underfoot. The fear of the Lord had found no place in the hearts of the vast majority of the people. Wickedness, blasphemy, and corruption prevailed.”—Prophets and Kings, p. 502.
b. What do horns represent, and how are they similar to the four heads in this animal? Daniel 8:8, 22. How did their proud philosophy influence the world—and how does the gospel stand in contrast to such philosophy? 1 Corinthians 1:19–25; Colossians 2:8.
“Is it safe to trust our youth to the guidance of those blind leaders who study the sacred oracles with far less interest than they manifest in the classical authors of ancient Greece and Rome?”—The Review and Herald, October 30, 1900.
“The Greeks believed that there was need of elevating the human race, but they regarded the study of philosophy and science as the only means of attaining to true elevation and honor.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 244.
“Paul declared that neither Jewish learning nor Grecian eloquence could reach the mark of the high calling that is in Christ Jesus. The highest eloquence, the greatest physical strength, can not give man power to convict and convert souls. It is a heart-reception of the pure principles of the gospel that makes a man an honor to God.”—The Central Advance, April 8, 1903.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How can we discern God’s purposes in the workings of nations today?
2. How are the characteristics of earthly nations depicted in prophecy?
3. What caused the nation of Babylon to change the way it operated?
4. How does prophecy reveal God’s concern over the affairs of nations?
5. In what ways does the Greek system still influence society today?