In Daniel 7, the prophet sees a vision of four kingdoms. The fourth kingdom has ten horns, and among them is a single “little horn” makes itself prominent and “speaks blasphemously.” (Daniel 7:8) This little horn is given more details. It has eyes and a mouth, perhaps to indicate this is a person rather than a kingdom. Eyes are often associated with pride (Isaiah 2:11, 5:15). It speaks boastfully and uproots three of the other horns. In the judgment scene which follows the other horns are not specifically judged along with the little horn.
Who this arrogant “little horn”? There are at least three possibilities. First, the majority of scholarship accepts a Maccabean origin of the book of Daniel, so this arrogant horn is an obvious reference to Antiochus IV Epiphanes. In fact, this identification seems clear in Daniel 8:23-26. The vision in Daniel 7 is therefore not prophecy, but a retelling of Judea’s relationship with Babylon, Persia, Alexander’s Greece and the Seleucid king Antiochus IV.
Second, for the minority of scholars who argue the fourth and final beast is Rome, the little horn is a Roman emperor, usually Nero or Domitian, but the first century has plenty of candidates for blasphemous kings! Revelation 13 and 17 seems to take up the imagery of beasts and arrogant horns from Daniel 7 and apply it to the Roman Empire.
Third, it is also possible to argue this arrogant little horn is a future enemy since the final kingdom is destroyed by the kingdom of God (the rock not cut by human hands in Daniel 2 or the son of man in the next paragraph). If the prophecy extends to the time of the messiah then the little horn is plausibly explained as the antichrist, the leader of the rebellion against God in the last days. I would suggest that is how Revelation read Daniel 7.
While it might sound like dodging the question, perhaps the prophecy applies to Antiochus, Rome and the end times all at once. From the perspective of the Jewish people, there will be waves of anti-Jewish kings and governments throughout history. Prophecy often functions in this way in the Hebrew Bible. Isaiah 7:14 predicts a child being born to a young woman who will be called Emmanuel. A child was born at that time, and by the time that child can eat solid food, King Ahaz’s political rivals will be gone. Yet Matthew picks up that prediction and applies it to another virgin and another child, the ultimate “God with us,” Jesus.
One reason I am favor this combination view is the problem of failed prophecy. If Daniel was written in the mid-second century BC and the little horn refers only to Antiochus IV, then the spectacular defeat and apocalyptic judgment of Antiochus never really happened. Something like a son of man does not end the power of the arrogant king, nor does the Ancient of Days establish a kingdom that is sovereign over the whole world which will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:21-22 cannot refer to the fall of Antiochus since the Ancient of Days did not come and judge in favor of the holy people.
Unless Daniel 7:21-22 is over-the-top propaganda for the Hasmonean Dynasty (and many scholars think it is), then the prediction of a king and kingdom more glorious than Babylon never happened. Readers of Daniel living in the first century AD would have certainly not agreed that Daniel 7:21-22 was fulfilled in Judas Maccabees or the Hasmonean dynasty. Apocalyptic at the end of the first century (Revelation, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch) certainly did not think the arrogant little horn was Antiochus; by that time in history they had bigger and better arrogantly little horns, the Romans who had destroyed Jerusalem!
I know some readers will want a more precise identification of the arrogant little horn as some current political leader. But this game of “naming the antichrist” is not very productive, usually resulting in embarrassing predictions which have to be abandoned when history proves the prediction wrong. Trying to name the antichrist also misses the point of Daniel 7: God will defeat the kingdoms of man and replace it with the kingdom of God. Read from the perspective Jews enduring the oppressive policies of Antiochus IV, Rome, or Christian empires up to the present time, there is some comfort knowing God will ultimately be victorious and he will establish his rule in the future.