What does it say?
The final 6 chapters of Daniel are futuristic visions, a pictorial representation of history focusing on the history of Gentile nations from Daniel’s time to the coming of Messiah in glory (7:13-14). Chapter 7 gives a series of four beasts representing Gentile empires to come and parallels the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2, terminating with a glimpse of the Messianic kingdom.
Daniel 8 records Daniel’s vision of a ram and a male goat, said to represent Media/Persia and Greece respectively. This vision also culminates with a vision of the Messianic kingdom.
Seeing that the 70 years of predicted captivity are concluding (Dan 9), Daniel seeks God in humble, repentant prayer to know what would happen. Through an angelic being named Gabriel God reveals that the 70 years of captivity are a picture of a longer 490-year dispersion (70 weeks or 70 units of seven) of Gentile world dominion until Messiah comes to reign.
What does it mean?
This is a complex passage of scripture and serious, conservative Bible students disagree about some of the particulars of how to understand the prophetic elements of this passage. The series of beasts in Daniel 7 are commonly understood to be Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome respectively. The ram and male goat of chapter 8 are clearly said to represent Media/Persia and Greece.
A common interpretation of the 470 period prophesied in Daniel 9 marks the command to rebuild Jerusalem (Dan 9:25) as Artaxerxes’ decree of March 14, 445 B.C. (Neh 2:1-8) and the 7 weeks (49 years) that follow, the time it took Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild the city and its walls. The following 62 weeks (434 years) lead to Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem when the Messiah is cut off (crucified) (Dan 9:26). The remaining 7 years of the 490 are thought to be the seven years of tribulation foreseen in the Book of Revelation.
For now, simply read the text and don’t worry about figuring it all out. In the missional context, God’s mission marches forward even though for this extended period of time Israel has no full control of the land and Gentile kingdoms control the world. The end is the return of Messiah to establish his kingdom on earth.
How will I respond?
In light of the time of Messiah’s return, Peter asks the question as to how we should then live (2Pet 3:11-12). How do I answer this question? In light of the amazing predictions God reveals to Daniel, what should be the effect upon my life?