IN DANIEL CHAPTER 2 the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a great statue. Its head was gold, its chest and arms were silver, its belly and thighs were brass and its legs were iron. Its feet were a mixture of iron and clay. God explained via the prophet Daniel that this was a vision of world empires which ruled the area of Israel, starting with Babylon itself which was represented by the golden head.
The image was inherently unstable. It was top-heavy- gold is the heaviest of those four metals, then silver, then brass, then iron is the lightest. And its feet were iron mixed with clay. These two substances don’t mix. The image was precarious—that’s how God views human empires.
The Image Destroyed
In his dream the king watched until a stone ‘cut out by no human hand’ (v. 34) struck the image on its feet. The image disintegrated and blew away on the wind—no more human empires! And look what happened next. That little stone took the place of the image, by growing until it filled the whole earth.
How can we interpret these details? What is represented by the fragile mixture of iron and clay forming the feet of the image? When the Roman empire fell in the 5th Century ad, the land of Israel was conquered and occupied by a succession of mainly Arab nations. Interestingly, the name “Arab” means “mixed people”). First were the Ommayads, then the Abbassids, Egyptians, Fatimites, Seljuk Turks, western Crusaders, Ayubites, Tartars, Mameluks and Ottoman Turks. Finally, after the First World War, Britain had the mandate for governing the land. Since 1948 the State of Israel has been in existence, but there is complete disunity between the Jews and Arabs who both lay claim to the land of Israel and
its capital Jerusalem—an incompatible mixture of national interests.
Clearly, the prophecy is speaking of the days we are living in! There is no unified agreement on how to solve the Arab/Israeli problem. And it’s at this point God will intervene. ‘And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever’ (Daniel 2:44).
The stone cut out of the mountain without hands indicates a power which is not of human origin, but divine. This is none other than the return of Jesus Christ to take his throne and establish the Kingdom of God. As the angel Gabriel told Mary before Jesus was born: ‘He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end’ (Luke 1:32–33).
The Kingdom of God
In the dream, the stone was to grow and grow until it filled the whole earth. The Kingdom of God is to be a literal kingdom which will take over the whole earth. It will be established by God through the Lord Jesus, who will rule as God’s King, and His laws will prevail. In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream the stone grew into a mountain (v. 35). The prophet Isaiah foretold:
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:2–3).
How did Daniel know these details? All right, another question—so what? What does it have to do with us? Well, if we choose, it can have a lot to do with us! Come to Daniel 7, Daniel’s own dream which parallels and interprets this last phase of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. We looked at this in part 2—it’s the image of Daniel 2 repeated with different symbols. Nebuchadnezzar the king saw the empires from a human perspective, as a proud metal edifice; Daniel the prophet saw them as hideous beasts.
Reward of the Saints
After the account of the beasts the dream progresses; the beasts are defeated and the “Ancient of Days” takes His throne (Daniel 7:9) and thousands upon thousands stand before Him. Then, Behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed (vs. 13–14).
The ’one like a son of man’ is Jesus Christ (for example Matthew 8:20). He has been given dominion over the whole world, and when he returns to establish God’s Kingdom he will be the ‘stone cut out without hands’ which destroys the great statue of humanity’s empires and grows to fill the whole earth.
Daniel continues: ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever, for ever and ever’ (vs. 17–18). When Jesus Christ establishes the Kingdom of God, he will not be alone. He will be accompanied by his “saints”. That is what it has to do with us!
Jesus Christ said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 5:3). He urges us, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ (Matthew 6:33), and offers us the assurance: ‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’ (Luke 12:32).
Who told Daniel all these wonderful things? He could only have been told them by God, the Revealer of Secrets. We can only echo what Nebuchadnezzar said after Daniel revealed to him the interpretation of his dream: ‘Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery’ (Daniel 2:47).
We have no Daniel among us today, but we have God’s distilled and inspired word in the Bible, and He reveals many secrets in its pages about life and death, about our personal salvation, about the future of the world; and it is our privilege to find out all about it, and the part we can play, and the reward that can be ours if we seek it.
J Hamilton Wilson