What is “The Fourth Kingdom”?

Today’s Reading is from Daniel, 7:15-27:

“I, Daniel, found my spirit anguished within its covering of flesh,
and I was terrified by the visions of my mind.
I approached one of those present
and asked him what all this meant in truth;
in answer, he made known to me the meaning of the things:
“These four great beasts stand for four kingdoms
which shall arise on the earth.
But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingship,
to possess it forever and ever.”

But I wished to make certain about the fourth beast,
so very terrible and different from the others,
devouring and crushing with its iron teeth and bronze claws,
and trampling with its feet what was left;
about the ten horns on its head, and the other one that sprang up,
before which three horns fell;
about the horn with the eyes and the mouth that spoke arrogantly,
which appeared greater than its fellows.
For, as I watched, that horn made war against the holy ones
and was victorious until the Ancient One arrived;
judgment was pronounced in favor of the holy ones of the Most High,
and the time came when the holy ones possessed the kingdom.
He answered me thus:

“The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth
different from all the others;
It shall devour the whole earth,
beat it down, and crush it.
The ten horns shall be ten kings
rising out of that kingdom;
another shall rise up after them,
Different from those before him,
who shall lay low three kings.
He shall speak against the Most High
and oppress the holy ones of the Most High,
thinking to change the feast days and the law.
They shall be handed over to him
for a year, two years, and a half-year.
But when the court is convened,
and his power is taken away
by final and absolute destruction,
Then the kingship and dominion and majesty
of all the kingdoms under the heavens
shall be given to the holy people of the Most High,
Whose Kingdom shall be everlasting:
all dominions shall serve and obey him.”

There are two basic approaches to interpreting the above passage. The first puts the four beasts in the past. They are Babylon, the Persian/Medes, Greeks (Alexander), and Romans. This approach is preferred by those who want to put the past in the past, separating God from our current concerns.

The second approach makes the four beasts current with our own times. The Lion among the four beasts is the British Empire. The Bear is the Communist Realm. The Leopard symbolizes the Germans. The fourth beast is usually thought to be The New World Order, often symbolized by the United Nations in which The New World Order is thought to be crystallized.

Both approaches are right because both encourage us to learn more about God, history, and our own place in it. At the same time, thinking that we fully understand more than we do can lead us to an exercise in our own vanity.

So, the Catholic Fundamentalism approach is different: “St. Anthony, please ask God to let me find the understanding about this, and everything else, that He wants me to have.”