What is the Great Sea? The Mediterranean Sea is normally
called the Great Sea (Numbers 34:6). Geographically, prophecy
is centered around Palestine, which sits on the banks of the
Mediterranean Sea. Unlike the Greek and Roman empires, the
Babylonian and Medo-Persian empires were not situated on the
shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Therefore, another
explanation should be sought for this symbolism.
According to ancient mythology, the Great Sea is the
circumambient ocean. It goes all around and underneath the
earth and is the antitheses of heaven. This sea is “the
Nammu” of the Sumerians and “the Tiamat” of the
Babylonians. The waters and the deep of Genesis 1:2 and
Amos 7:4 are cosmically the opposite of the heaven above.
The Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish, tells of the
battle fought between Marduk and the dragon of chaos,
Tiamat. A few elements of Daniel’s vision parallel that
The mythological idea of the Great Sea would have been
readily understood in Daniel’s day, much as Americans
recognize donkeys and elephants to be symbols of democrats
and republicans today. Hence, the Great Sea is not the
Mediterranean, but rather the ancient sea that represented
the powers of disorder, powers that must be subdued. This
becomes clearer as the great conflict is unfolded in the
book of Daniel.
By obvious analogy, the churning of the sea came to
symbolize the raging of many nations upon the earth.
Throughout the Bible, the sea is usually a symbol of
Oh, the raging of many nations—they rage like the
raging sea! Oh, the uproar of the peoples—they roar like
the roaring of great waters! Although the peoples roar
like the roar of surging waters, when he rebukes them they
flee far away, driven before the wind like chaff on the
hills, like tumbleweed before a gale (Isaiah 17:12-13).
Out of the bubbling, swirling waters of chaos, there
arose three great beasts, followed by the fourth monstrous
beast. The book of Revelation sees the beast (the
Antichrist) coming out of the sea—that part of the world,
which surrounds the Mediterranean Sea.
And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw
a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven
heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a
Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where
the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and
languages. The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate
The sea and waters represent that part of the world
symbolized in the beasts and image of Nebuchadnezzar’s
dream. It will cease to exist with the coming of the
everlasting kingdom. However, after a thousand years, the
dragon (Satan, the Devil) will be released from the
bottomless pit in order to deceive the nations in the four
corners of the earth. Then God will
devour with fire
from heaven those who march across the earth to do battle
with the holy city. Finally, the Devil will be cast into
the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10). The apostle John
reveals what comes next.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first
heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was
no longer any sea (Revelation 21:1).
This verse literally reads, “and the sea is no
longer”—not many seas, just one! The sea—the world—that
the Devil ruled as prince (John 14:30; 16:11; Ephesians
2:2) is no more!
What are the Four Beasts? In succession, each pictures
the empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
Each of the four winds of heaven sequentially produces an
empire by churning up the sea. From the human perspective,
each empire will arise because of war and conquest. In
reality, each exists by the power and authority of heaven.