On the Clouds

Key phrases from Daniel’s vision of the four beasts “ascending from the Sea” occur in the New Testament, most often in contexts concerning the future return of Jesus, but also in passages about the kingdom of God and Christ’s sovereignty. And this is especially so in the Book of Revelation. It bases its picture of the single “Beast from the Sea” that persecutes the “saints” on the “four beasts” from Daniel’s vision.

For example, Jesus predicted that “all the tribes of the earth” will see the “Son of man COMING ON THE CLOUDS of heaven,” a day that will be characterized by celestial and terrestrial upheaval. This saying is derived from Daniel’s vision of the one like a “Son of Man” who was approaching the “Ancient of days” on the “clouds of heaven.”

Clouds over church - Photo by Jacob Mejicanos on Unsplash
[Photo by Jacob Mejicanos on Unsplash]

And in the three synoptic gospels, the term “
Son of Man” from the same passage in Daniel becomes the self-designation heard most often on the lips of Jesus - he is “THAT Son of Man.”


In the seventh chapter of Daniel, the “Son of Man” is seen “coming” on the “clouds of heaven” to receive sovereignty over “all peoples, races, and tongues,” and “judgment” on behalf of his people, from the “Ancient of Days.”

Likewise, after his resurrection, Jesus declared that he has received “All authority in heaven and on the earth,” and therefore, he now is sending his disciples to proclaim the good news of his kingdom to “all the nations” – (Daniel 7:13-14, Matthew 28:18).

Similarly, in the Book of Revelation, Jesus pictured as the “slain Lamb” approaches the “One Who is Sitting on the Throne” to receive the “Sealed Scroll.” Immediately, he begins to open the scroll and implement its contents.

And in reaction to his ARRIVAL BEFORE THE THRONE, loud voices throughout the created order begin to proclaim Jesus “Worthy” to “open the scroll” and receive all “power and authority” since “by his blood” he has “purchased men from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and made them a kingdom of priests” – (Revelation 5:5-14).

In Daniel, the “Son of Man” arrives on “the clouds” when he approaches the throne to receive his “dominion.” In contrast, according to the New Testament, Jesus will “come on the clouds” to the earth at the end of the present age and gather his “elect” to himself. Thus, he received his sovereignty following his death, resurrection, and ascension, and at the end of the age, he will return for all his saints.

At his trial before the High Priest, when the latter demanded whether he was the Messiah or not, Jesus responded - “I am he, and you will see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.”

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul describes how both living and resurrected saints will “meet him in the air” as Jesus descends to the earth on the “Day of the Lord.” His saints will be “gathered to him on the clouds.” Thereafter, they will be with him “forevermore” – (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 5:1-6).


In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul describes the future “Man of Lawlessness” and the “Apostasy” that will precede the “Day of the Lord” – (2 Thessalonians 2:1-9).

Already, the “Mystery of Lawlessness” is at work in the world, and it will continue to do so until the “Lawless One” comes “OUT OF THE MIDST” at the appointed time, in “HIS SEASON” (Greek, kairos). This malevolent figure will deceive many believers with “lying signs and wonders,” causing many of them to apostatize.

But “lawlessness” will only prevail until the “arrival” of Jesus. At that time, he will “CONSUME with the breath of his mouth and DESTROY by the manifestation of his coming” the “Man of Lawlessness,” along with all those who refuse the “love of the truth.”

Likewise, in the Book of Daniel, the “Little Horn” appears from “AMONG THE TEN HORNS” and prevails “against the saints” until the “Son of Man comes on the clouds of heaven,” and the “SEASON [Septuagint, kairos] arrives for the saints to possess the kingdom.”

At that time, the dominion of the “Little Horn” will be “removed TO CONSUME AND TO DESTROY it unto the end” - (Daniel 7:8, 21-26, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8).


In the Book of Revelation, Daniel’s vision of four beasts is transformed into a single “Beast that ascends from the Sea.” It possesses the animal characteristics of Daniel’s four “beasts.” It is a composite of all four of these previous regimes.

Thus, the one and final “Beast” in Revelation is related to Daniel’s four beasts, but it is also something greater than the four originals - (Revelation 13:1-5).

And Revelation adds and omits things to its single “Beast” that Daniel attributed to his fourth beast. For example, in Daniel, there is no mention of the “seven heads” of the fourth beast.

In Revelation, each of the “ten horns” wears a diadem, something not mentioned in Daniel, and there is no mention of three horns being removed to make way for another one. However, the “Mouth speaking great things” is found in both visions.

The Book of Revelation is not concerned with simply reiterating what Daniel wrote. It uses material from Daniel to draw a more complete picture. Daniel saw four beasts, and John saw only one, but in Revelation, this single beast combines all the worst elements of its four predecessors.

And in Revelation, the “Beast” appears again in Chapter 17 where it is under the economic sway of “Babylon, the Great Harlot” - she rides the “Beast.”  Its seven heads represent “seven kingdoms,” and already in John’s time, five of these regimes have “fallen,” the sixth exists, and the seventh is yet to come - (Revelation 17:7-17).

Thus, the “Beast” is a trans-historical reality – It is a political entity that appears periodically in human history, one that “ascends” repeatedly from the Abyss/Sea to wage “war against the saints.” And its ten horns represent kings who are allied with it.


A key passage used several times in Revelation is from Daniel’s description of the assault against the “saints” by the “little horn.” It “made war with the saints and overcame them.”

This phrase is applied to the attacks by the “Dragon” and the “Beast from the Sea” against the “Two Witnesses,” the “seed of the woman,” the “saints,” and in an ironic twist, to Satan’s war with the “Lamb” - (“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them” – Daniel 7:21, Revelation 5:6-12, 7:9-14, 11:7, 12:17, 13:7, 17:14, 19:19).

The theme of malevolent creatures “ascending” from ominous depths to attack the “saints” appears several times in Revelation, although, in each case, it is adapted to a specific context.

For example, the “Two Witnesses” are targeted by the “Beast that ASCENDS from the Abyss.” In Chapter 13, the “saints” are victimized by the “Beast that ASCENDS from the Sea.” And in Chapter 20, after his release from the “Abyss,” Satan gathers the nations to “ASCEND over the breadth of the earth” and attack the “camp of the saints” - (Revelation 11:7, 13:1, 13:11, 17:8, 20:9).

In Daniel, the “Little Horn” prevails against the saints until “JUDGMENT IS GIVEN FOR THE SAINTS.” Likewise, in Revelation, Satan is bound for a thousand years while “JUDGMENT IS GIVEN” for the saints - (Daniel 7:21-22, Revelation 20:4).

Thus, quite consistently, the authors of the New Testament interpret the vision of Daniel in new and unexpected ways. Jesus is the “Son of Man” who receives “dominion” from his Father on behalf of his people because of his death and resurrection.

And at the end of the age, this same Jesus will appear on the “clouds of heaven” as he arrives to gather his “elect” to himself, and to render “everlasting destruction” on Satan and all his forces. Jesus is “THAT Son of Man.”



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