People often ask, Who is the Lion with Eagle’s Wings?
Here is the Bible’s quick answer: The first of Four Symbolic Beasts in Daniel 7, the Lion with Eagle’s Wings, who stands on the feet of a man and is given a man’s heart, is a symbolic representation of a real earthly kingdom that spanned the time frame between Cyrus of Persia to the coming of Christ, ending with the rise of the Roman Empire. The Six Beasts of both Daniel 7 and 8 establish a succession of significant world powers that trace real events in Earth’s experience, transitioning from history into the present day and, going even beyond that, into our future.
The Bible says, “Judah is a lion’s whelp….” (Genesis 49:8-12) The Lion represents the Tribe of Judah finding its autonomy after the Babylonian Captivity. The Eagle’s Wings represent God’s deliverance from captivity as He said when He brought the Israelites out of Egypt, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on eagle’s wings and brought you unto Myself.” (Lev. 19:4) Judah then reached its ultimate destiny when it transformed into a Man, rose to its feet and became Christ Jesus, Israel’s Messiah, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David, the Branch of Jesse, the Desire of Nations, the Bright and Morning Star, the King of Glory, Immanuel—GOD WITH US!
This symbolic Lion is found in Daniel 7:4, which says:
“The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.” Daniel 7:4
This one simple verse describes a kingdom, its timing, its purpose, a history of its experience and its final outcome. This symbolic Beast intertwines such a large part of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation that it is insufficient to give a quick summary. A study of Scripture, Bible prophecy and world history shows volumes of evidence describing this Beast.
You may find two other schools of thought on the symbolism of this Lion. The predominant theory is that the Lion Beast of Daniel represents the ancient kingdom of Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar. This theory is derived from the Commentary on Daniel written by Hippolytus of Rome in 211 AD. Supported by a mere 3 verses in Scripture, this view repeats the pattern of kingdoms found in King Nebuchadnezzar’s vision (Daniel chapter 2) which consider the Lion, the Bear, the Leopard and the 10-Horned Beast of Daniel 7 to be Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece and Rome. This view places the Lion as Babylon. Surprisingly, finding nothing better over the centuries, Hippolytus’ theory has endured and is held by many Protestant denominations as the explanation for Daniel’s Lion.
The other popular theory that is being presented today brings the Lion with Eagle’s Wings into the modern political arena and is seen to represent a union between Great Britain, seen as the Lion, and the United States of America, as represented by the Eagle. This is man’s attempt to bring the prophecies of Daniel into a modern context in order to explain the shifting of nations that we see about us today. But the book of Daniel needs no such wresting of the Scriptures to bring it into the modern age, for it was written, and held safe by God, so that it could be a book that is fresh and alive today. When Daniel is interpreted rightly, all these political alliances are accounted for and Daniel comes right into today’s events as he stands in his lot as a prophet speaking to the end-time generation. (Daniel 12:13)
It must be strongly emphasized that neither of these theories have a shred of Bible evidence to back them up. They merely put forth a theoretical meaning that appears on the surface to have some merit. And the Lord has allowed this type of speculation because He had commanded Daniel to remain a sealed book, both closed to our understanding and sealed up while waiting for seven consecutive phases to be accomplished by Christ as He opens each of the 7 Seals of Revelation. And it was to remain closed and sealed until the time of the end. “But go your way Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end.” Daniel 12:4, 9.
But we have come to the time of the end. And today we need the full truth of Daniel’s prophecy to guide us. And so God has opened Daniel to our understanding and has seen fit to show us an amazing picture of this Lion through the words of Scripture. Seekers of truth will want to know how the Bible itself explains the symbols within the Lion with Eagle’s Wings who stands on a man’s feet and is given the heart of a man. The weight of evidence is staggering as the Bible, and the Bible alone, explains the true meaning of this magnificent prophecy.
Here is a simplified account of the Bible meanings behind the symbolism of this prophetic Lion.
- The Lion — From ancient times the lion has always represented the Tribe of Judah. Genesis 49:8-12: “Judah is a lion’s whelp….” Ezekiel 19:2: “Who is your Mother? A lioness …”
Daniel’s vision of the Lion Beast follows Judah forward in time into Ancient Babylon where Judah was then captive. Daniel desired to know the outcome of this captivity and God gave him a vision showing the future of Judah, from its release from that captivity, all the way down until Jesus would arise from this tribe and ultimately be given all the kingdoms of this world. (Dan. 7:14; Rev. 11:15)
Daniel was from the tribe of Judah, most likely from the king’s seed, and he would have recognized immediately that the Lion symbolized his tribe. Daniel was knowledgeable of other prophets, including that prophecy in Genesis 49. He was a contemporary of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, so he would have been familiar with their writings about the Lion, the eagle and the future deliverance of God’s people from captivity. Filled with the spirit of the living God and endued with understanding in all visions and dreams, Daniel would have known this Lion beast represented Judah and he never questioned this part of his vision. (Daniel 1:3, 6, 17; Daniel 5:11: Daniel 9:2, 17, 20; Jeremiah 29:10-14. See also Ezekiel 19.)
- The Wings of a Great Eagle — The Eagle’s Wings represent God’s deliverance from captivity and His tender watch-care over the nation. Daniel also would have been familiar with the following important verse from Exodus. After He miraculously carried the Children of Israel out of Egypt, God said, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you unto Myself.” Exodus 19:4. This verse tells us that the Lord views Himself as the Great Eagle and that it was by His wings that He carried off and delivered the children of Israel out of their captivity.
In Daniel’s day, Judah was again captive like they had been in Egypt, this time in Babylon, and the people were facing similar circumstances as the new and wicked King Belshazzar arose to power. About 30 years before the end of the seventy years allotted for their captivity, the Lord showed Daniel that He Himself, in a repeat performance, would again deliver them, carrying Judah high on the wings of the Great Eagle. (See Deuteronomy 32:11-12.) [Also see Ezekiel 17:19 where the Lord refers to Himself again as the Great Eagle when He says that both the eagle and the king are parables that point to Him. “Surely My oath that he despised and My covenant which he broke.”]
We see this same symbolism all the way down in Revelation 12:14 where again God’s people were rescued from the religious persecution of Europe on Eagle’s Wings. And, in an even more future prophecy, the Lord will once again carry His elect on the Wings of the Eagle. “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
- “I watched until…” — tells of time passing for this delivered Lion as Daniel looked down into its future.
- Its wings were plucked off — If the wings are God’s deliverance and nurture, plucking the wings must mean that God will let them go on their own for a time. Knowing this, we can now see the time between the Testaments, Malachi to Matthew, when God no longer attended to Israel by His prophets. And this same time matches the probationary time of the 70 Weeks of Daniel 9:24 when God would look to see if Judah would prepare for their Messiah and evangelize the world by their witness. This time period also overlaps with Judah’s release from captivity until the coming of Christ.
- Lifted up — speaks of Christ who is lifted up, as was the serpent in the wilderness, for the salvation of all mankind. He is lifted up on the Cross, passed through the heavens, taken up in the clouds to God’s throne and exalted in glory! “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15) “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32) “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, [now] crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.” (Hebrews 2:9)
We all know the story of Jesus being lifted up in the cloud as He went to heaven. “Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9) Even right there in the same chapter where we find the Lion, Daniel describes this very same event!
“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him.” Daniel 7:13.
The friends of Jesus may have watched Him rise from the earth in the cloud, but we are transported into heaven in Daniel 7:13, even before He arrives, so that we can see His glorious entry! In Psalm 24:7-10, as the Angels joyfully banter over His arrival, we are amidst those Angels in heaven who are seeing His approach to the heavenly gates!
In Revelation 5 we pick up this same scene, but this time we find ourselves in the Throne Room before He arrives so that we may witness His inauguration to His throne. We linger in the Throne Room, with Jesus and the heavenly host, long enough to witness the Lion of the Tribe of Judah arrive and begin to open the seals on the scroll of Daniel. (Rev. 5:7, 6:1) From then on we continue watching until the Lion completely unseals the book and receives His kingdom. (Rev. 10:1-3; Rev. 11:15; Dan. 7:14) Not for one instant does Jesus ever leave our sight! (Lifted up, see also Acts 1:11; Acts 7:56; Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 7:27; Revelation 12:5.)
“I have come down to deliver….” Exodus 3:7-8
“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” John 3:13
These verses show us that Jehovah who “came down” from heaven to deliver is the same Jesus who was lifted up into heaven.
- Standing on his feet as a man — represents the Lion’s transformation into the promised Messiah through the lineage of David as long foretold. “Therefore, [David] being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne.” Acts 2:30
This was a crucial transformation as it revealed to Daniel:
- the coming of God in the form of humanity,
- the scepter of Judah/David being passed on to an eternal King,
- the fulfillment of the promise of God to send a Prophet in human form,
- the end of Israel as a nation-state, and
- the plan of salvation reaching out to the Gentile nations.
- When combined with the prophecy of Daniel 9:27, (“He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.”), it also tells of the end of an earthly temple and the end of priesthood and sacrifice as those roles are transferred to Jesus just as they were always meant to reveal. (Further study can be found in Hebrews 7 – 9.)
These are prophetic events, each one well-developed throughout the Bible and brought to their fulfillment with the Lion becoming Christ.
The transformation of the Nation of Judah into the single person of the Son of God, also tells that the time-frame for the end of this Lion Kingdom comes at the time of Christ—just in time for the rise of the next kingdom—the Bear. (See Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 10:5; Philippians 2:6-7; Isaiah 52:14; Deuteronomy 18:15, 18)
- A man’s heart — reveals to us the sympathetic bond that Christ has with mankind through His humbled form of humanity. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 4:14-15; 2:17 (See also Isaiah 53:3-5; Philippians 2:8)
- The Lion — From ancient times the lion has always represented the Tribe of Judah. Genesis 49:8-12: “Judah is a lion’s whelp….” Ezekiel 19:2: “Who is your Mother? A lioness …”
This is the picture of the Lion as Daniel saw it in vision: At the end of 70 years, Judah would be rescued from Babylon by God. They would be left one more chance to solve their problems as a nation and stand righteously before Him. When the fullness of time came, Judah would produce the long-promised Messiah in human form. He would be lifted up for our salvation.
Now, looking back on that ancient prophecy in Genesis 49, we can see that Judah’s transformation from ruling tribe to Messiah was always foretold as we see it come to pass here in Daniel’s vision of the Lion with the Wings of deliverance.
“Judah is a lion’s whelp. From the prey my son you have gone up … and as an old lion, who shall rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and unto HIM shall the gathering of the people be.” Genesis 49:9-10 (KJV)
“And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples unto Myself.” John 12:32
As He was lifted up to His throne in heaven, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Root of David prevailed to unseal the Scroll of Daniel and has opened to our understanding——from Moses, from the Psalms and from the prophets——all things concerning Himself. (Rev. 12:5; Rev. 5:5; Luke 24:44-45)
Daniel knew that the Lion Beast represented the tribe of Judah as it rose up from captivity and brought forth the Messiah. The problem came for Daniel when he looked beyond the Lion and saw the time of tribulation that would come through the Fourth Beast and the Little Horn. His countenance turned as he witnessed the great blasphemy of the Little Horn who would “sit in the seat of God, showing himself to be God” and casting the place of God’s sanctuary to the earth. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:11-19; Daniel 8:9-12)
But Daniel was given a little hope a few years later when he was shown the answer to his prayer of Daniel 9. Within that answer was the possibility that God would “seal up vision and prophecy.” (Daniel 9:24) If Judah had done their work, the visions of Daniel would have never come to pass. But alas, Judah remained stony-hearted and ultimately rejected and murdered their own Messiah. In order to have a Kingdom to call His own, God had to resort to rebuilding a kingdom through individuals that had the same faith as Abraham——a faith that works by love and obedience. God could at last fill the hearts of those believers with His glory and dwell together with man. (Genesis 15:6; Genesis 26:5; Galatians 3:7, 26-29; Galatians 5:6)
To build that kingdom, Christ has labored through this succession of earthly kingdoms while seeking a people to call His own. And He will find them in the form of the 144,000 Firstfruits and the Great Multitude of the harvest that will follow. Will you be among them? (Revelation 14:1-5; Revelation 7:9-17)
The Lion is one of 6 Beasts that represent notable kingdoms that appear in the forward progression of Earth’s history. And as such, placing the Lion into its proper time-frame will act as the Chief Cornerstone for understanding the alignment of all 6 Beasts, as it is fitting that Christ remains at the center of the entire prophecy of Daniel. Understanding the Bible’s definition of this Lion is an important discovery for students of Bible prophecy. It is especially crucial in helping to reveal the Antichrist when the time comes for him to appear.
Within Daniel 7 we find Four Notable Beasts that represent kingdoms. These are not necessarily the biggest world empires, nor are they strictly speaking “kingdoms” with a monarch, but these are the world powers that play critical roles in the development of God’s final kingdom. Each new kingdom opens up a new phase of Christ’s conquest towards salvation.
LION – (Daniel 7:4) The Lion represented the nation of Judah once it was restored by the Great Eagle from its captivity in Babylon. (Ezra 1:1-3; Daniel 5:30-31) This Lion isn’t the first kingdom in the series, but it is the crucial one because the Bible is filled with so much information about who this kingdom is and the time in Earth’s history that it occupied. Because its timing is so clear, it becomes the cornerstone to understanding the timing of all the other kingdoms that came before it or after it. The Lion Kingdom develops from the night King Belshazzar is killed in 538 BC until the end of the Jewish nation-state when the temple was destroyed by Rome in AD 70.
The Lion Kingdom is also the key to unlocking the purpose and reason behind why so much of Bible prophecy focuses on the succession of kingdoms. From man’s perspective, we think about the overthrow and takeover of kingdoms as part of the natural struggle for supremacy by man versus man. So, this prophecy shows us that there is an ongoing battle for supremacy going on in the earth. But in this case, the battle is not between men, but it is a battle between Christ and Satan. This is why we see evil nudge ahead for awhile, then succumb again to God’s power. Eventually the battle ends this way:
“And when the Seventh [Trumpet] sounded, there were loud voices in heaven saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ and they shall reign forever and ever!'” Revelation 11:15
Since Jesus ultimately wins the battle over Earth, it should make sense to us why the Lion Kingdom is the most important of all the kingdoms. It reveals to us the coming of Jesus to the earth in humanity to take on His role in the fight. This Lion Kingdom shines with dazzling brightness as we see the Hero of our story enter the scene. Without Him, there would be no battle, no victory, no end of sin, no coming world peace, no salvation of the human race and no restoration of all Creation.
Daniel continued watching in his vision until he saw Judah bring forth its Messiah, The Lion of the Tribe of Judah, at Christ’s First Coming. The great nation transformed into a single Man. From then on, we see Christ represented as a Lion in both Old Testament and New. “The LORD also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; the heavens and earth will shake; but the LORD will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel.” Joel 3:16 (See Revelation 5:5; Revelation 10:2-3; Amos 3:8)
BEAR – (Daniel 7:5) The Lion Kingdom of Judah ends with the coming of Christ and a new kingdom takes over as the new world power. The glory of the Lord departed from Judah at Christ’s Ascension and the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. Rome was the kingdom that followed, making it the Bear. It has “three ribs in its mouth” showing it had been chewing up other nations as we see in history. “Lifted up higher on one side” shows the rise to supremacy of Papal Rome above Civil Rome. Being commanded to “devour flesh” tells of the martyrs of the Church of Rome through the Dark Ages and into the religious persecutions of Europe. The Bear is a victory for Satan’s side but it begins to lose its dominion as God does a new thing by starting the Reformation.
LEOPARD – (Daniel 7:6) Rome is followed by the rise of the New World, placing the Leopard as the United States of America as it stands today. This nation, with “dominion given to it,” has stood as a haven for refugees who have been carried on Wings and delivered from multiple persecutions throughout the world. The spotted, sifted, sieved condition of this Leopard tells of the great melting pot and United, yet divided, States of America, just as did the iron mixed with clay in the feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s image. (See Dan. 2:41, “Divided, yet the strength of iron is in it.”) Its four heads, like the river branching out from Eden, cover the 4 corners of the globe with its influence in world commerce, politics, ideology, language and religion. The Bible’s description of the Four Heads is similar to the Four Winds of Heaven covering the four directions of the compass. (Gen. 2:10; Jer. 49:36; Matt. 24:31) The Leopard tells us of a balance of power, of justice, of commerce and a time of prosperity and plenty.
10-HORNED BEAST – (Daniel 7:7) This leaves the mysterious 10-Horned Beast as an international world confederacy that is soon to lift its head above the world horizon and ultimately be under the control of a blasphemous Little Horn power. In this case, we are told that this assembly of nations “do not cleave to one another,” but remain as separate entities working together for their own fearful purposes. Here is where we can see the United States working together with Great Britain as they form two of these 10 kingdoms within that international confederacy. Now that we know what we are looking for, we can find this end-time world union in many places in Scripture. (Also seen in Daniel 2:42-44; Isaiah 8:11-16; Revelation 13:1-2; Revelation 17:12-17.)
If we properly place the Lion into the stream of world affairs, the sequence of kingdoms brings the prophecy of Daniel right into our day. This shows us that God’s Word is alive today and places the Book of Daniel in its place as a light for our feet. As God said to Daniel,
“Go your way until the time of the end…. You will rest now but you shall come into your inheritance and stand in your lot as a prophet in the end of days.” Daniel 12:13, paraphrased
These Four Beasts of Daniel 7 also reveal the meaning of the kingdoms that historically arose prior to the Lion. The Ram was Ancient Persia, followed by the Goat which represented Ancient Greece under Alexander the Great. We are told explicitly by the angel, “The ram which you saw, having the two horns—they are the kings of Media and Persia. And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first [chief/primary] king.” (Daniel 8:20-21) After Alexander’s demise, the succession of the Four Notable Kingdoms of Daniel 7 arose from the Four Winds of Heaven, beginning with the Lion as we saw in Daniel 7:1-4. (Daniel 8:8, 20-22; Daniel 11:1-4)
This shows one cohesive path of kingdoms from Babylon to the Second Coming of Christ when the final kingdom is given to the Saints!
BABYLON (Head of Gold, Dan. 2:38)
RAM — Media-Persia (Arms and Chest of Silver, Dan. 2:39; Dan. 8:20)
GOAT — Greece (Belly and Thighs of Bronze, Dan. 2:39; Dan. 8:21-22)
LION — “Judah is a lion’s whelp.” This period marks the rise of Israel/Judah to their autonomy from the end of Babylon to Christ. [Judah was in captivity in Babylon and so it did not appear at the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, but it is promised release in Daniel’s vision.]
BEAR — Rome (Legs of Iron, Dan. 2:40; Dan. 7:5)
LEOPARD — U.S.A. (Feet, “Divided, yet the strength of iron is in it.” Dan. 2:41; Dan. 7:6)
10-HORNED CONGLOMERATE KINGDOM — In our near future, a united confederacy of nations will arise as the final dominant world power. (10 Horns, 10 Toes, 10 Kings, Dan. 7:7; Dan. 2:42-44; Rev. 17:12; Isa. 8:9-13)
LITTLE HORN — Antichrist exalts himself higher than Christ, sets up a temple on earth and persecutes the Saints. (Dan. 7:8, 20-21, 24-25; Dan. 8:9-12; 23-25; Rev. 13:5-8, 11-17) “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them …”
JUDGMENT BY THE ANCIENT OF DAYS — “… until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High …” (Dan. 7:9-11, 23; Dan. 8:14; Stone, Christ, Dan. 2:34, 44-45)
KINGDOM OF THE SAINTS — “… and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” Dan. 7:21-22 This is seen in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision as a Great Mountain that fills the whole earth. (Dan. 2:35, 44) “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, Whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.” (Dan. 7:14, 18, 22, 27)
Earth’s history cannot tell more than one story, so look carefully! Where are we today? The Four Winds are about to blow again and bring in the final kingdom of this world. (Daniel 7:2-3; Rev. 7:1-4) From that point on, “the final movements will be rapid ones.” (E.G. White, Last Day Events, p. 11; 9T 11) Jesus says, this generation that begins to see this “will not pass away until all these things are fulfilled.” Matthew 24:34
For further study, see
Daniel’s Vision and The Lion of the Tribe of Judah