This is a further explanation of the world-ruling empires, showing national characteristics, but this time designed into animals of the same four kingdoms that appear in Daniel 2. Instead of being metals—gold, silver, brass, iron—now we have animals, indicating national characteristics of those four kingdoms, symbolized by the lion, the bear, the leopard, and the beast that was diverse from all the others.
The important thing to note here is that this illustration in Daniel 7 is a parallel of the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2. This illustration in Daniel 7 confirms that the legs of iron of the Daniel 2 image and the fourth beast of Daniel 7 both exist at Christ's return, fight against Him, and are defeated. So even as the feet and toes of the Daniel 2 image will be at the time of the end, so will this diverse beast. They are one and the same.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 1)
In this prophecy, which many believe parallels Nebuchadnezzar's vision in Daniel 2:31-35, the prophet saw four beasts, the first of which represents Babylon. The symbolism of the beasts matches that of the image. The lion is the king of the beasts, but it is a vicious and formidable beast. With wings, it is also very swift. This imagery describes the early years of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, marked by war, captivity of defeated nations, and destruction.
The lion imagery does not end with Babylon, however. When the apostle John "saw a beast rising up out of the sea," it possessed a "mouth like the mouth of a lion" (Revelation 13:1-2). Like the empires that followed, qualities of Babylon will be found in the end-time Beast power. All of the empires symbolized in this image spring from one common way of life that is thoroughly contrary to the way of God.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part One): 'Head of Gold'