Daniel 2:31-43

If you could pick one spot in all the world to go and sit for a few minutes, where would you go? I would not have to give it a second thought. For me it would be the summit of the Mount of Olives. When one sits there atop the Mount of Olives and looks over the Kidron Valley, he sees one of the most beautiful panoramas in all the world. It was from that spot that the Psalmist said that Jerusalem was beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth. (Psalms 48:2) As you view the panorama from left to right, on a clear day you can see the mountains of Bethlehem. Next is the beauty of Mount Zion with the Tower of David. Straight ahead and across the valley is Mount Moriah. There one can view the pinnacle of the Temple and the Temple Mount itself where once stood the glory of Solomon’s Temple and where now resides what is commonly referred to as the Dome of the Rock. The old walled city of Jerusalem is before you and the eastern gate is in plain sight. Looking toward the north and up through the Kidron Valley one sees Mount Scopus and beyond that mountain on another more distant mountaintop is the tomb of Samuel the prophet. It is an incredible panorama.

When we come to the second chapter of Daniel we stand on a tall mountaintop of Scripture. We see the panorama of world history encompassing what Luke calls the times of the Gentiles. (Luke 21:24) This involves the time from 605 B.C. until the consummation of this age and the return of our Lord Jesus Christ himself as King of kings and Lord of lords. God himself stepped into the dream of an ancient Babylonian king in order to reveal your future. He reveals to us the scope of human history with a statue. Therefore, it behooves us to ask several questions as we deal with these verses of Scripture.

The first question is “what?” What did Nebuchadnezzar dream? What did Daniel see in the interruption? What is this statue that’s revealed to us in Daniel 2:31-33? Daniel says it was a great statue that was made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, and clay. Can you picture it? Twice we read the word “great” in describing it. It was an awesome image. The statue was that of the image of a man. The head was of gold. The chest and arms were of silver. The abdomen was of bronze. The legs were of iron. The feet and toes were a mixture of both iron and clay. The statue was to have a limited lifetime. Its destiny was destruction. This destruction came suddenly, surely, and swiftly. A great stone demolished it and then that particular stone filled the earth.

Next we come to the “who” question. We find this addressed in Daniel 2:36-43. Who is this statue? Who does it reveal? Anyone who has studied world history from 600 B.C. to the present day will tell you there have been four world empires. The Babylonian Empire began in 605 B.C. In 539 B.C. the Medes and the Persians of the great Medeo-Persian Empire diverted the Euphrates River, entered the great walled city of Babylon by night, and Babylonia fell after only 65 years of world dominance. Next, in 331 B.C. a young Greek, Alexander, swept across the world of his day and Greece ruled the world. Then, in 146 B.C. the Roman legions began their conquest of the world by crushing everything and everyone in their path. All these world empires were pictured in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and centuries before they came into being. The Bible is indeed a miracle book.

Daniel says that the head of this statue was made of gold (Daniel 2:37-38). Who is this head of gold? There is no question about this. The Bible is explicitly clear in Ezekiel 2:37-38. Babylon herself is this head of gold. Babylon was known for its gold. Herodotus, the historian, visited Babylon a century after Nebuchadnezzar and writes that he never saw such a proliferation of gold. There were golden temples and golden altars and golden walkways. Nebuchadnezzar built a golden city with a golden throne. How do we know this head of gold is the picture of the Babylonian Empire? It is not some way out speculation. It is not my own idea. The Bible explicitly says it. Daniel stood before Nebuchadnezzar and said, you are that head of gold. (Daniel 2:38). However, the world empire known as Babylon fell after just a few score years. But before it fell God revealed its demise.

Note the chest and arms of silver. (Daniel 2:32) Who is this chest of silver? Unquestionably it is the Medeo-Persian Empire. Daniel reveals to Nebuchadnezzar that after you shall arise another kingdom (Daniel 2:39). Any student of world history can tell you that it was, in fact, the Medes and the Persians who defeated the Babylonian’s supremacy and became the world empire and the world power under Cyrus. There’s no doubt about the identity of this kingdom represented by silver. When Daniel later interprets the writing on the wall at the feast of Belshazzar he says, Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. (Daniel 5:28) Thus the Babylonian Empire was no more and never will be again! It gave way to the Medeo-Persian Empire. This Empire is mentioned by name in Daniel 8:20-21. History verifies these empires and we need not go outside of Scripture to find out who they are. From the Book of Esther we learned that these Persian rulers would rule over all the earth. The two arms of the coalition are the Medes and the Persians who coalesced into one great world empire. This is not speculation. It is the Word of God that has been validated in world history. History has recorded that it happened just as Daniel had predicted.

Note next the abdomen of bronze. (Daniel 2:32) Who is this kingdom of bronze? It is Greece. How do we know? The Greeks defeated the Medes and the Persians in 334 B.C. Alexander the Great took the throne of Greece at the age of 20. He defeated the Persians and then began his conquest of the known world. He died at the age of 32 weeping because there were no more worlds to conquer! We also know that this third great world empire of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was Greece because God identified this kingdom by name also in Daniel 8:21 and Daniel 11:2. The Greeks were known for their bronze and their brass. Greek soldiers wore helmets of brass, breastplates of brass, and carried shields of brass. They carried swords of brass. Brass was the symbol of the Greek conquest during the days of the empire under Alexander the Great.

Greece ruled the world and a number of its citizens who lived during this period made contributions that we enjoy today. Herodotus stands without peer as the father of historians. Hippocrates is the father of modern medicine. The Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle helped formulate mindsets for centuries. We know that this third world empire is Greece not only because world history played out the fact but also because God said it. Just as Daniel had predicted in the interruption of the dream, the Medeo-Persian Empire that crushed Babylon was conquered by Greece. The amazing thing is that it was all laid out in the Book of Daniel scores of years before it happened. It is like watching a video of the Super Bowl before it is ever played!

Next note the legs of iron. (Daniel 2:33) Who are these legs of iron? There is little if any doubt about this. Here we see the great Roman Empire. Rome followed the Greeks in world dominion. Every history book tells us this. However, the Bible tells us this fact hundreds of years before it happened. This is real video. This is going “back to the future.” This is watching the game before it has ever been played.

The Roman Empire dominated the world for centuries because it ruled with such an iron hand. It was ruthless. It broke in pieces and crushed others (see Daniel 2:40). Iron was the symbol of strength. Every schoolchild has studied the iron legions of Rome. Even when our Lord Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem we remember that the Bible says that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. (Luke 2:1) Rome ruled the world upon the collapse of Greek dominance.

Daniel foresees the great Roman Empire being divided in Daniel 2:41. Students of world history know that in fact the Roman Empire was indeed divided. Rome is represented by the two legs of the statue. The divided Empire was centered in Rome in the West and in Constantinople, modern day Istanbul, in the East. This became the great Byzantine Empire, which colonized the world to the north and to the east, into Russia in the north and the Middle East to the east. From Rome the western part of the Empire colonized the West and spread through Europe. The monarchies of France, Germany, Spain, and Great Britain were the result of the western spread of the Roman Empire. Every single nation of the Western Hemisphere was begun by one of the nations of the Roman Empire. Our own western world is Roman at its roots. It is imprinted upon our own history. We have a senate. We got that from Rome. We have a representative form of government. Our courts, our laws, our military all reflect the Roman Empire. In the east the iron leg of the Roman Empire reached into Russia. They called their ruler the czar, which is the Russian spelling for Caesar. In the west the German rulers were called Kaisers, which is the German spelling of Caesar. The Roman Caesars influence our world to the very present day.

Rome did not collapse because another world power defeated her. She collapsed from within. Anyone who has read the history of the Roman Empire has seen the moral decay that brought about the collapse of Rome. Even though the Roman Empire as a political entity has long since died, many of its institutions and ideals still live on in our western world.

In Daniel 7:7 these four metals are seen again as beast of prey. The horn is the symbol of ruling power. This corresponds with the ten toes of Daniel 2. In Daniel 7:21-22 this fourth world kingdom is to continue “until” the Second Coming of Christ. This could only be Rome. But how? How could the Roman Empire continue until today?

The answer to this question is found in the feet and toes of iron and clay which are revealed in Daniel 2:42-43. History has verified the accuracy of all Daniel’s predictions. All four world empires are revealed in Daniel in the order of their conquest. And, this revelation came before most of them even existed! The greatest proof we have that the Bible is true is the way prophecy has been fulfilled throughout its pages. There has never been a world empire in the sense of Rome since she ruled the world. Now, there have been many men and many nations who set out to be. There were men like Napoleon and Stalin and Hitler and Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Men and nations for centuries have plotted and planned and boasted. Some have even slaughtered millions in attempts to set up a fifth world empire but all have failed.

But when we look carefully at the statue revealed through Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, we find that there is one more part of the statue, the feet and toes of iron and clay. Who are these toes? They represent the continuation of Rome. In the end times the Bible reveals that a federation of nations rising out of the ruins of the Roman Empire will emerge. They will seek to mix the iron and the clay, that is, the ideas of totalitarianism and imperialism and the principles of democracy, which are pliable and can be molded like clay. However, they simply do not blend together. Democracy may not be the best form of government. Theocracy may well be the best form. Democracy alone is not what made America great. The Bible reveals to us that it is righteousness which exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34).

It is of note that Daniel’s prophecy passes over a period of time from Rome and the first coming of Christ to the return of Jesus Christ. This is more commonly referred to as the Church Age. Why is it not addressed in Daniel? It is not surprising that there should be an interlude here. The Old Testament never saw the Church Age. Paul himself wrote in Greek that it was a musterion, that is, a sacred secret, a mystery. Daniel 7:15-25 throws considerable light on the identification of these nations. In the last days these nations will rise out of the ruins of the old Roman Empire. Revelation 17 talks about 10 kings. They talk about a one-world government. Out of these nations will one day arise an electrifying leader who will promise to free the world from war and economic problems. This electrifying world leader, more commonly referred to as the Antichrist, has gained a new sense of popularity from the Left Behind book series of Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

More and more people believe we are seeing this before our very eyes in the European Common Market. Could they be the coalition of iron and clay, the political and economic union? Until recently this coalition appeared impossible. Europe was divided from the east to the west, but almost overnight the Berlin Wall fell. The pieces of the prophetic puzzle began falling into place. Then the Soviet Union collapsed. Now Israel is back in the land. Europe has moved to a common currency. These are major steps in the European coalition. The stage seems to be being set and the props are being put in place for the return of our Lord. When I continue to hear talk of one world government my ears perk up. When I see Israel miraculously back in the land after centuries of dispersion I open my eyes a little wider. When I see the European community rising and coming together I take particular note. And then when I read Daniel I’m reminded that he has told us all of this two and a half millennia ago.

Thus, in this statue, God reveals to us the scope of human history. There have only been four world empires. World history has verified all that Daniel prophesied. And, that which is yet to happen will be fulfilled just as all the others have also. We have the video before the big game is even played out!

It is interesting to note that the statue diminished from the head to the foot. Look at it carefully. It is obviously top-heavy and weak in the feet. We see an amazing thing here. We see the downward digression of human existence. Note these are deteriorating qualities. That is, gold to silver to bronze to iron to mud and finally to clay. The image is top-heavy. It is weakest in its feet. This strongly suggested the degeneration of the human race through the ages. This truth is diametrically opposite to the evolutionist who seeks to interrupt human history. Instead of man beginning as dust from nothing and ascending to gold, God reveals to us in the Word that man in the time of the Gentiles begins as gold and degenerates in the end to nothing but mud. Every human man-made empire has gone this way.

This principle of deterioration of civilization is obvious. We are not getting better. We’re getting worse. Before our very eyes we’re witnessing the demise of the Christian culture and a Christian civilization in the West. This deterioration is seen all around us. We’re witnessing the demise of a culture. We’re not getting better. Darwinian thought says we’re progressing upward. His philosophy tells us we rise from mud and clay to gold. But God says just the opposite.

Even though we may be watching the deterioration of our society, it is not time for disappointment or despair. God has a plan. And this plan is about to take place. God reveals the scope of human history in this statue.

Next we come to another question. It is the “why” question. Why this statute? What Nebuchadnezzar dreamed and what Daniel revealed was, in the words of the Lord Jesus, the times of the Gentiles. (Luke 21:24) Our Lord himself tells here of the dispersion of Israel in the times of the Gentiles when Jerusalem will be trodden down. The times of the Gentiles is that time between Nebuchadnezzar and the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ when the kingdom of Israel is in abeyance.

God had commended the government of the world to Israel. It was to be administered by priests and prophets and godly kings. But unfortunately, Israel disobeyed. Thus God brought forth an intermission and for an interlude gave the governments of the world to the Gentiles. Remember that the Bible says, the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand. (Daniel 1:2) This “time of the Gentiles” has been going on since the days of Nebuchadnezzar. From 605 B.C. until the present day the chosen people of God have been scattered over the earth. This period corresponds with the days of human history when Israel was without a king. Hosea says, For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days. (Hosea 3:4-5). Our world is winding down. When all is hopelessly lost King Jesus will return! He will end the time of the Gentiles, establish anew from Israel His kingdom and rule for a millennium of perfect peace. Yes, this statue in Daniel 2 shows us the scope of human history.

The stage is being set today. Many of the major props have been put in place during my own lifetime. Israel is back in her land. This prop was put in place in 1948. Another important prop came in 1967 when for the first time since the days of Nebuchadnezzar Israel controlled the City of Jerusalem. Something dramatic is going on in Europe at the present time. The coalition of iron and clay is coming together in an economic and political manner. Until recently this seemed to be impossible. Who would have thought we would have seen the fall of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall seemingly overnight?

Even though Israel is back in her land she is still under the times of the Gentiles. Ask the Jews if they feel the burden of Gentile oppression. It is constantly poured out on them from the United Nations. And the holy city of Jerusalem herself has a constant reminder of this fact. I wish I could walk you through the Dung Gate into the Temple Mount today. Look at any picture of Jerusalem and what do you see? A golden dome on Mount Moriah. The Mosque of Omar is the third holiest Moslem site. On the holy Temple Mount is a Muslim mosque and today Islam controls the Temple Mount in the very heart of Jerusalem herself. The Jews may have successfully raided Entebbe and may have won the Six-Day War against insurmountable odds. But, they have never touched the Temple Mount. If they did we would see World War III. When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stepped upon the Temple Mount at the turn of the millennium it brought about a new intifadeh that resulted in the deaths of hundreds and hundreds of Jews and Palestinians alike. Yes, Israel is still under Gentile domination and will be until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Our world seems to be standing at the brink of something catastrophic. Rogue nations with possible nuclear weapons have the capacity to annihilate millions. At this writing we’re engaged in a new war on terrorism. Sophisticated terrorists are waging this new war and many believe it is just a matter of time before one of them unleashes a nuclear arsenal of some type. God is allowing man to run his course. Man is showing his true colors. He is set to destroy his world and civilization. This is true economically, materially, biologically, meteorologically, and virtually in every way. It is going to get worse before it gets better. And just when it looks as though there’s no hope left, our Lord Jesus Christ will return. The uncut stone will end the time of the Gentiles and fill the earth with His own glorious kingdom. We have the video before us and God reveals to us the scope of human history in this statue.

How will it all end? When will it all end? History seems to be reaching its climax. We are winding down. The Bible says, “When you see all these things coming to pass lift up your eyes for your redemption draws near.”

What does this have to do with us as we seek to engage the culture around us? It has for us the same effect it had on Daniel. He reminds us that God is in control. We can trust him. Everything thus far has unfolded just as Nebuchadnezzar dreamed and as Daniel revealed and that which is left to be fulfilled will follow suit. We have seen the video before the end of the game. As we confront our culture we do not have to give in nor give up nor give out. We can have the same confidence of Daniel. That is, that God is in control. He reveals the scope of human history to us with a statue. And, we win in the end!

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