MANY YEARS AGO there was a king who was told that his dynasty would be replaced by an inferior one. He was not prepared to accept that, and expressed his defiance very publicly. He was later made to realise the folly of his attitude.
Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon at the height of its power in the 6th Century BC. Daniel chapter 2 describes a dream he had, of an immense statue with a golden head, and other parts of its body made of different metals.
The dream was interpreted by the Hebrew prophet Daniel, who revealed that the statue represented four successive empires. “You are this head of gold,” Daniel explained (v. 38). That sounded promising. But Daniel continued: “But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth” (v. 39).
The four empires having dominion over Israel were represented by four metals in the image: the golden head represented Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian empire, the silver breast and arms represented the Medo-Persian empire which was to succeed him, the belly and thighs of bronze (probably copper) represented Greece and the iron legs represented Rome.
We read Nebuchadnezzar’s response in chapter 3. He made a huge statue, about 27 metres (90 feet) high, entirely of gold, as though to challenge the prophecy and make his own prediction, and he commanded all the people in his empire to worship it.
But as the book of Daniel unfolds Nebuchadnezzar was made to realise that there was a force greater than himself at work in the empires of the world.
In chapter 4 he had another dream, which was again interpreted by Daniel, and foretold in symbol a period of mental illness which would temporarily deprive him of rulership, but from which he would recover. The purpose of this illness would be “in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men” (v. 17). The dream came to pass. In a moment of pride Nebuchadnezzar declared “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honour of my majesty?” (v. 30), and immediately he was struck by his illness, he lost his mind and became like a beast.
At the end of it his attitude was changed:
And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honoured Him who lives forever: for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” (vs. 34–35).
In the New Testament the apostle Paul puts the situation very concisely. “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1).
God has a purpose with this earth, to fill it with His glory when His will is done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). Those who have served God faithfully will be part of the new government, serving with the Lord Jesus Christ at his return. In vision the apostle John was shown these people addressing the Saviour:
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9–10).
For disciples of Christ the politics of the world are irrelevant, except insofar as they can observe the unfolding of Bible prophecies in world events. All is under God’s control, moving towards the fulfilment of His purpose—when those disciples themselves, along with Jesus Christ their King, will become the new world government.