“While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.”(Daniel 8:15-16)
When reading Daniel 7-12 or Revelation, our first question should be “What did this mean to the original readers?”, not “When will these things happen?”
Apocalyptic literature, like Daniel 7-12 and Revelation, frequently uses images. In Daniel 7, God is an ‘Ancient of Days,’ sitting as a judge on a throne. To the original readers this would not be a literal description of God. God is not an old man sitting on a physical throne. The same would have been true of hybrid beasts or the Son of Man: the original readers would not have understood these literally, but as images pointing to greater realities.
If we try to interpret the images of Daniel 7-12 and Revelation literally, we are headed for confusion and misinterpretation. This does not mean we can’t understand Daniel’s or John the Revelator’s images at all, but understanding these images will require more work than your typical Bible study. We will get a glimpse of the future when we carefully study apocalyptic literature, but we will also see some ‘gray areas.’