A Picture of the Past And Future
The prophet Daniel was a teenager when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem for the first time in 605 B.C. Daniel and other Jews of royal blood were taken captive and brought to Babylon, where they were trained to become counselors of the king. “And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined [Daniel and his three friends, whom the king renamed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego], he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm” (Daniel 1:20).
Daniel chapter 2 recounts a prophetic dream and its interpretation, and in so doing gives a concise overview of the history and future of the world, from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar to the Second Coming of Jesus and beyond.
Nebuchadnezzar had a mysterious dream that left him troubled. When his magicians, astrologers, and others were not able to tell him both what he had dreamed and the interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar sentenced all of his counselors to death. But when the king’s guard came for Daniel and his companions, Daniel said that he could tell the king his dream and its meaning. Daniel and his friends prayed, and “the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision” (verses 1-19).
“There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets,” Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar, “and He has made known to you what will be in the latter days” (verse 28). Daniel then told Nebuchadnezzar what the king had dreamed and what it meant.
“The God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed!”
“You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces… And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (verses 31-35).
The head of gold: Babylon. “You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory. … You are this head of gold” (verses 37-38). Babylon was also known as the “golden city” of ancient times, and is referred to as such in another Bible passage, Isaiah 14:1-4.
The chest and arms of silver: Medo-Persia. “After you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours” (verse 39a). We know from history that Medo-Persia conquered Babylon in 538 B.C. It is appropriate that the kingdom of Persia is depicted here by two arms because the Medes were the first nation to be incorporated into the Persian Empire, and many Medes held important positions in the Persian Empire.
The belly of bronze: Greece. “A third kingdom of bronze … shall rule over all the earth” (verse 39b). Again, we know from history that in 333 B.C., over 200 years after this prophecy was given, Alexander the Great and the Greek army conquered the Persian Empire. It is interesting that Greece is symbolized here as the belly and thighs of the image, because the Greeks were known for being uninhibited about sex and nudity.
The legs of iron: Rome. “And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others” (verse 40). Rome conquered Greece and held iron rule over the entire known (western) world for nearly 500 years. It is appropriate that it was represented as two legs because it was often administered as two regions and in its decline was divided into the Western Roman Empire, with its capital in Rome, and the Eastern Roman Empire (later called the Byzantine Empire), with its capital at Constantinople. The Romans were also great on marching and were the first world empire to build an extensive network of highways–important for deploying armies to quell revolts.
The feet and toes of iron and clay: strong and weak governments of the Endtime. “Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. … They will mingle … but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay” (verses 41-43). Since the fall of the Roman Empire, no single empire has ruled the entire known world. Instead, there has been a mix of smaller nations and empires with both strong and weak governments. However, the soon-to-arise empire of the Devil-possessed dictator known as the Antichrist will, for a very brief period, unite all nations and rule the world in some kind of One World Order. The nations represented by the 10 toes will be united under the Antichrist.
The stone and the mountain: Jesus and the kingdom of God. The stone that was cut out of a mountain represents Jesus, and the great mountain that filled the whole earth is the soon-coming kingdom of God on earth. The rock striking the image on the feet, rather than on the head or elsewhere, signifies what time the kingdoms of man will be destroyed: the time in which we are now living, the “latter days” (verse 28), also known as the Endtime. “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (verse 44).