“Thy Kingdom Come”
When we see around the world the various places and names mentioned that tell us of significant times and events in history, we can find out how the world has been shaped and influenced in its development. Reading the Bible and searching through its content we also find events and prophecies that have declared how the divine power of God intervenes in all stages of human history. There is one episode in the Bible—in the book of Daniel chapter 2—in which we are shown the past, the present and the future of the empires that have ruled the earth in connection with God’s people as a nation and as a church.
King Nebuchadnezzar is the greatest king in the history of the ancient city of Babylon. For centuries, Babylon had been a minor regional power and had exerted its limited influence in Mesopotamia. As a young man and heir to his father’s throne, Nebuchadnezzar had led the Babylonian army in lightning-fast campaigns in which the Assyrian empire was humiliated; its once powerful armies that brought so many other neighboring kingdoms under submission were no match for the Babylonian forces. The Egyptian empire: the most ancient of empires that had for so long been the only challenge to Assyrian rule in the Middle East was crushed and humbled by this young and fearless prince. It is easy to see that once he was crowned king, Nebuchadnezzar should have felt invincible, being assured that his dynasty would rule forever. The great Nebuchadnezzar had no challenger and even his contemporaries could look back in the history of Babylon and find no other equal to him. Why should he not be sure of his kingdom lasting forever? Even the Assyrians and Egyptians had proven unable to bring all neighboring kingdoms under one rule in such speed and efficiency. The kingdom of Judah that had for so long resisted its bigger, more powerful neighbors as if aided by a divine force, finally fell to his control and the Hebrews began their 70 years of prophesied captivity on Babylonian soil for their disobedience to Jehovah. Nebuchadnezzar’s destiny could not be denied. All fell before him, and his subjects were happy under his rule of stability and peace. And yet no one was more uncertain about the future than the king himself; he went to bed thinking of his rule and wishing that unlike all the other powerful empires that had come before him. Babylon would last forever and his dynasty would never collapse. Little did the pagan ruler know that the true King of the universe had put his kingdom as the starting point to one of the most beautiful prophecies to ever be given to humanity.
The Scriptures tell us that the king went to sleep, but he was deeply troubled about the future, and Daniel chapter 2 records his dream vividly. God gave Nebuchadnezzar a supernatural dream—a vision of the near and far future of the world and who would be ruling it.
The king awoke more troubled than when he had laid to rest. He could not remember the dream. Nebuchadnezzar knew that the dream had a divine origin; it had come from the gods, and he would do anything to not only remember it but know what it meant.
Inwe read: “Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.”
As mentioned in the previous article, since the king had forgotten the dream, and his servants could not reveal it to him, they were sentenced to death for their incompetence. But God had His faithful prophet among His captive people and gave through Daniel the revelation and interpretation of the dream to the King. Now the king had to accept the revelation and the interpretation the prophet of God had given him as divine.
This dream gives us a picture of history from the time Nebuchadnezzar had the dream until the end of the world. One of the most important lessons we can take from this story shows that God is the One who reveals secrets and makes them known to anyone whom He chooses. In this story the person chosen was a pagan king of Babylon. As we study this chapter we can figure out where we are in the scheme of time, while the fulfillment of the prophecy assures us that God is in control. The prophet was ready to tell the dream to the king and to make an impression in his mind. Daniel reminded the king about the great image—a statue—that he saw in the dream but he also mentioned a stone. These are the main objects of the dream. The stone represented the kingdom of God and the statue or image represented the kingdoms of man.
When we see the stone, we may think of the altars that the Israelites built in the wilderness where only God was worshiped or even the Ten Commandments written on two tables of stone representing the government of God. In the revelation and interpretation of the dream, the Jews did not see anything but that rock representing the kingdom of God Almighty, while the great image represents idolatry, human arrogance, human ambitions, and temporary strength. Now the king remembered the dream, and he was sure that this man was a true prophet. Nebuchadnezzar remembered his dream and was now ready to understand its meaning.
In the explanation of the dream, it was revealed to the king that his Babylon was the head of gold—much to his satisfaction, no doubt. The next kingdom was represented by silver, the third represented by brass and the fourth represented by iron. This last kingdom would be divided into ten kingdoms that are composed of a mixture of clay and iron. We can observe that the quality and value of the metal is indeed decreasing as the image is described and this is explained. As the elements decreased in value, on the other hand, they were increasing in hardness. This is significant. Every kingdom was decreasing in majesty and getting farther and farther away from God. Also, the people of God were impacted negatively as they interacted and ended up making unwise concessions with these idolatrous nations.
By the time the Medes and the Persians conquered Babylon, many of the Jews were comfortably established and had no desire to return to Judea. Many had built homes in their new lands assigned to them. But even through their perceived comfort they waited for the promise from God to end their captivity and rebuild Jerusalem.
As time passed, the Greeks also exerted much influence on the Jewish people in the system of government. Many were half Jewish and half Greek that were not faithful to the requirements of God. Notice the change from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to the time of Alexander the Great—already there was a deterioration in moral, religious and social principles. And as we get to the times of the Roman occupation and control, the rulers of Judah were not loyal to the principles of God and their government was more secular in its enforcement. It remained merely coated in a thin layer of ritual and practice. Therefore, the decreasing of the metals in value aptly represents the deterioration of the kingdoms in reference to principles and virtues that are approved by God.
“That alliance with Rome proved in the end to be the Jews’ undoing. This is the case when the people of God line up with the world. Had the Jewish leaders heeded the counsel of Isaiah and Jeremiah, history would have been written differently.”1
The following paragraphs summarize the impact that the worldly government had in the development of humanity:
“Babylon was an example of Satan’s power to establish a religion which counterfeited the heavenly worship. The result was the basest form of idolatry, a fornication which makes her the personification, among Bible writers, of all vileness. Medo-Persia was a type of Oriental despotism. ‘The law of the Medes and Persians changeth not;’ this was a proverb among the nations. But it was with the kings of this nation that Gabriel and Michael wrought; it was the heads of this despotism who were kept in check by the power of the King of kings.
“Greece was altogether different from the preceding two, and instead of gaining recognition because of the form of religion or government, she gained control of the world by the power of her intellect. With her education and philosophy she gained a foothold which no other nation ever held. When Babylon was overthrown and Medo-Persia was no more, Greece lived on in the minds of men.
“But the fourth kingdom was ‘diverse from all the others.’ As represented to John, Rome, the beast of Rev. 13:2, combined the characteristics of the leopard, the bear, and the lion. There was united the false system of the religion of ancient Babylon, the governmental tyranny of Medo-Persia, and the mixture of good and evil in the intellectual culture of Greece. When the religion and educational system, or intellectual statutes, and the governmental history of a nation is given, there remains little else worth relating. So in the one nation, Rome, is embodied the strength of all previous nations.”2
It was during the iron-handed rule of Rome that Jesus was born and iron nails pierced His hands and feet. Rome was this iron empire and just as the Persians lasted longer than the Babylonians and the Greeks lasted longer than the Persians, the Romans lasted longer than the Greeks. The Roman empire was exceedingly powerful as iron was stronger than the other metals, but it had less value.
“During the reign of Tiberius our Lord was crucified. Pilate owed his governorship of Judea only to the favor of Tiberius, the uncle of his wife. So, when someone in the crowd called out, ‘If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend’ (3), he gave in to the demands of the Jewish leaders. This settled the verdict. Pilate, the vacillating princeling who knew that Jesus was innocent, gave the order for Him to be scourged and crucified.”
“Rome was the universal kingdom during the life of Christ. To Babylon God sent His people, the Jews, to scatter the truths of His kingdom and lead men to repentance. The Medes and the Persians received the gospel from this same people, and representatives from Greece came to Jerusalem, into the very temple, in touch with the priests, in order that there might be no excuse for their refusing Christ. But to the Roman kingdom, heaven itself was poured out in the person of the Saviour, and it was Rome that nailed him to the cross. It was a Roman seal on His tomb, and a Roman guard at His grave.”4
What happened after the fall of the Roman Empire? In, 42 we read as follows: “And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.”
The Roman empire expanded and tried to cover more territory that gradually was more challenging to keep under control. As a result, immorality, corruption and depravity began to set in, the kingdom began to collapse, and self-destruction came as a consequence. The empire was divided into ten kingdoms and the combination of clay and iron shows that there was weakness in these realms, they would try to unite but they would not.
In The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon, it is explained that some of the components that contributed to the fall of the Roman empire—and when we read and compare these with today’s society there is a lot of similarity regarding the way everything is decaying around us:
1. The undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home, which is the basis of human society.
2. Higher and higher taxes and the spending of public money on free bread and circuses for the populace.
3. The mad craze for pleasure; sports are becoming more and more exciting and brutal every year.
4. The building of gigantic armaments when the real enemy was within, the decadence of the people.
5. The decay of religion—faith fading into mere formality, losing touch with life, and becoming impotent to warn and guide the people.5
Why did Rome fall? “It is written that Babylon, the mother of harlots, fell because of imputing her power unto the gods of the heathen. Pagan Rome fell because she presumed to hold authority over the person of Christ and His followers.”6
When we trace the history of Rome, we find that its original territory (western Europe) was conquered in a.d. 476 by exactly ten kings. Rome started to gradually disintegrate and what was once a united, mighty, and vast empire, broke into ten kingdoms (as foretold in, , , ). The following are the ancient names of the kingdoms with the modern territory:
1. Anglo-Saxons = England
2. Franks = France
3. Lombards = Italy
4. Alemannis = Germany
5. Suevis = Portugal
6. Burgundians = Switzerland/France
7. Visigoths = Spain
8. Ostrogoths were destroyed
9. Herulis were destroyed
10. Vandals were destroyed
The Roman empire was broken, and it has remained broken in numerous fragments ever since.
This takes us to the end of the image. There have been attempts to unite the empire again through human unions, and intermarriages, but as divine inspiration had said, they would not succeed.
It was revealed by the prophet that in the dream there is a setting of the final and eternal kingdom, the stone that was cut not by hands and that came down to destroy the image in such a way that all the metals turned to dust. That stone represents the second coming of Jesus and the establishment of the eternal kingdom that He has promised to His faithful followers throughout the ages. This is the kingdom that the patriarchs, prophets, and disciples envisioned in their hopes and faith.
“Exalted to the pinnacle of worldly honor and acknowledged even by Inspiration as ‘a king of kings’ (7). Nebuchadnezzar nevertheless at times had ascribed to the favor of Jehovah the glory of his kingdom and the splendor of his reign. Such had been the case after his dream of the great image. His mind had been profoundly influenced by this vision and by the thought that the Babylonian Empire, universal though it was, was finally to fall, and other kingdoms were to bear sway, until at last all earthly powers were to be superseded by a kingdom set up by the God of heaven, which kingdom was never to be destroyed.”
As the image represents a false system of worship and government, the kingdom of God comes to destroy once and for all the system that has been destroying souls and taking them to perdition. This part of the prophecy has not been fulfilled because it is referring to the second coming of Jesus.
When Nebuchadnezzar heard the revelation and interpretation of the dream, he bowed and worshiped the true and only God. The king was convinced that all the words spoken by the prophet Daniel were true, since this prophet had been able to do what his servants were not capable of doing..
God has given us a map of events—that is why the book of Daniel is so popular. Here we can look back in history and see that Daniel wrote these things way before they took place. To comprehend these events is a wonderful experience. But having the experience of Nebuchadnezzar, accepting the One who gave the dream and its interpretation is the most fulfilling experience that we can have when we study these amazing events of history!