An Ancient Dream Tells of the End
From the Message Vault, July August 2002
#TBT #ThrowbackThursday #Whatsnext
YOUNG, GIFTED, AND POWERFUL, KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR PONDERED: Will Babylon, my glorious empire, crumble into dust, or retain its glory forever? What could make life more complete than my gilded throne? He had it all — pomp, power, and every pleasure money could buy. Still, he felt that something must lie beyond the glittering pageant of human greatness.
He sensed that the vast human race, with all its restless strife, must someday confront a destiny bigger than itself. Meanwhile, what was the source of true grandeur and enduring might?
With these concerns revolving in his mind, Nebuchadnezzar, who lived six centuries before the birth of Christ, fell asleep in his royal bedchamber. During the night he had a dream that gripped and electrified his soul. Charged with cosmic significance, this dream seemed to unveil the answers to the king’s haunting questions. He awoke with a start, every nerve tingling, but the dream had utterly vanished from his mind, leaving only a powerful impression of its importance. Then he remembered his psychics and magicians. Didn’t they have supernatural insight, a channel to the upper world?
Anxiously Nebuchadnezzar summoned all his counselors, psychics, magicians, and astrologers to appear in his
court. He demanded that they tell him his dream and its interpretation. Great rewards awaited them if they could
disclose the secret, and death if they couldn’t.
Terrified, the so-called wise men protested that the task was impossible. They were forced to reluctantly admit
their lack of real knowledge in revelations of divine origin. So Nebuchadnezzar ordered their execution.
Four young Hebrew captives, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, worshipers of the true God, held lowly rank among the wise men. When Daniel learned of the king’s death decree, which included him and his three friends, he asked
the king for time, promising to show him the dream and its interpretation. Nebuchadnezzar consented.
A Prayer Answered
Daniel and his friends prayed to the Most High God, trusting in Him to reveal the answer. That night God gave Daniel the same dream He had given to Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel went before the king and, taking no credit to himself, declared, “There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days” (Daniel 2:28).
Briefly, this was the dream. Nebuchadnezzar had seen an imposing statue of a man, terrifying in its brightness and immensity. Its head was of gold, its chest and arms of silver, its abdomen and thighs of brass, its legs of iron, its
feet of iron and clay mixed. Suddenly a great stone appeared, hurtling toward the colossus, and struck its feet,
reducing it to a mass of rubble. A great wind sprang up, blowing the shattered pieces away like chaff. Then the
rock grew into a mountain and filled the whole earth.
Spellbound, the king listened intently, recalling every particular of his dream as Daniel recounted it. But what
did it mean? God had also revealed the interpretation to Daniel, who proceeded to unfold it.
“You, O king,” Daniel declared, “are this head of gold.”
Without any thoughts of political expediency Daniel continued, “After you, another kingdom
will arise, inferior to yours.”
Then a third kingdom of brass shall rule the world; followed by a kingdom of iron, bruising and militant, that will crush all opposing powers.
It happened as foretold. Babylon was conquered by the silver kingdom of Medo-Persia, which two centuries later was overthrown by Grecia’s Alexander the Great and his brass-helmeted soldiers. After conquering the world from the Danube to the Indus, Alexander died at 32 of a fever, leaving his kingdom in four divisions, which were eventually dominated and then absorbed by the emerging Roman Empire.
To be followed by what? Mere guesswork would suggest a fifth kingdom, but the sure word of prophecy decreed that after Rome, God would never again permit any empire to reign incontestably supreme.
Thus, after the fall of Rome in A.D. 476, history entered the period of iron and clay—the feet of the great image—signifying nations partly strong and partly weak, with Europe holding the center stage of action and influence for centuries to come.
One European tribe prevailed for a while, then another, betokening the instability that followed the collapse of imperial Rome. Papal Rome then took shape as the most powerful institution of the age. Her intrigues and ambitions for control were boundless. But Islam, with like-minded drive for supremacy, held Rome in check, as did the spiritual influence of truly faithful Christians who sought no political power but refused allegiance to false authority.
Nevertheless, forceful European rulers continually arose, attempting to unite the Continent under their scepter
and uproot all opposition. None ever succeeded in this venture. Charlemagne, the Frank, tried to revive the glory of ancient Rome and give stability to papal Rome, his great religious ally. He called his new monarchy the Holy Roman Empire. But the experiment was shaky at best, and when he died, his amalgam of diverse principalities lost political cohesiveness.
Next came the Crusades, a brutal, bungling attempt to propagate the religion of Rome and
gain control of the Middle East. The outcome of this was the cultural enrichment of Europe, which the church had
plunged into the Dark Ages through superstition and the suppression of learning. Crusaders came back with ancient
manuscripts, including the Bible in Hebrew and Greek, that contained the wisdom of more enlightened ages.
Behind the Seen
God did not bless the bloody Crusades with military success, but through the superior culture of the Middle East and northern Africa, He did expose the would-be conquerors to a wealth of learning that spawned the Renaissance and Reformation in Europe, thus paving the way for the development of the modern world. The Renaissance fostered a revival of the arts and sciences, and the Reformation restored true Bible religion, freeing Europeans in large part from paganized Christianity and priestly dominance.
True to the imagery of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the affairs of nations continued to be an ever-shifting pattern of contending powers—of nations, alliances, and empires, now strong, now weak, but none ever standing unchallenged.
Interspersed with military campaigns were ceaseless efforts to weld Europe together under one dynasty through
intermarriage, court intrigues, commercial alliances, treaties, and coalitions. Every strategy failed, however.
God’s prophetic decree, like an unscalable mountain, blocked the way to the fulfillment of these vainglorious
dreams. “They shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron
is not mixed with clay” (Daniel 2.:43).
Again and again, power-hungry maniacs tried to dominate Europe and the Mediterranean world. In the 1500s
Charles V of Spain strove to unite Europe under his crushing rule, which included war against religious liberty. He failed, and ended his days in a monastery, tired, disillusioned, and broken. In the next century Louis XIV of France also tried to eradicate Bible-believing Christians and control Europe. He made considerable headway, but
his wastefulness, venereal disease, and the strong opposition from enlightened rulers aborted his plans.
Several generations later Napoleon came as close as any man to dominating Europe. Through statecraft and conquest his power extended from Sweden to Egypt. But the tide of events went against him at Waterloo, and he too went down in defeat. Exiled and dying in his early 50s, Napoleon ruefully exclaimed, “God has been too much for me.”
One century later his fate was shared by another would-be absolute ruler, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. His scheme of world conquest ended in the flaming, twisted wreckage of total defeat in World War I. Hitler, a corporal in that war, attempted to achieve what his emperor failed to do. Responsible for the death of millions and the desolation of Europe, he died by his own hand in his palatial mountain retreat a decade after rising
to power. In short order Nazism’s boasted thousand year reich became smoking rubble.
What blocked the path to success for all of these power-crazed conquerors? Certainly not lack of drive, determination, or skill. But, like a military guard, standing in the way of their resolve to forge the nations into one vast empire, were the seven unconquerable words of God:
“They shall not cleave one to another.”
Repeatedly the wicked confederacies of men have been broken to pieces, giving extended opportunity for the gospel of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed worldwide (see Matthew 24:14).
What’s next in the flow of events? The war on terrorism and the ceaseless conflict among nations and within their own borders is pushing us to the brink. Everything is in flux. World financial markets are shaky. World leaders have spotty records and erratic plans. Genocidal rage flashes its ugly fangs. Crowded cities are seething cauldrons of vice, crime, and corruption. Advanced education is an extension of big business. Organized religion is infested with money-mad, sex-crazed, power-hungry leaders, leaving the impression that true morality is all but extinct.
Our civilization of iron and clay is crumbling. Our steel-reinforced concrete towers of pride, wealth, and boundless ambition have begun to crash into ruins. Today’s experts, trapped in faulty assumptions, are as baffled in their attempt to discern the future and constructively shape it as were Nebuchadnezzar’s wise men.
Few will admit the truth of God’s Word, which reveals that the human problem is beyond human solution (see Isaiah 47:10-15; Romans 3:10-22; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31). So what lies ahead? The sure word of prophecy
answers: “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed:
and the kingdom shall not be left to other people” (Daniel 2:44).
The scepter of rulership shall not be passed to the hands of men who shed blood, take bribes, or lift the inebriating cup.
Rather, all power will pass into the hands of Christ: hands that do not smite, but restore;
hands that do not grab for wealth, but dispense bounty to the poorest of the poor; hands that heal the sickest of
the sick; hands that wipe away tears from the most sorrowful eyes; hands that love and uphold and bless. Hands that were willingly spiked to Calvary’s cross by the vicious hands of those He came to save from sin.
Christ’s coming kingdom will not exist side by side with regimes that give His righteousness short shrift. His kingdom will not be a confined oasis of decency in a desert of injustice and misrule.
Do not join the ranks of mighty men, weak men, unprepared men, who will beg in that day, “Mountains
and rocks, fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne” (see Revelation 6:14-17).
Instead, heed the prophecy of Daniel 2, and accept its accompanying invitation to prepare for citizenship in
Christ’s eternal kingdom of righteousness.
Soon He will appear in triumphant glory. Get ready. Be waiting for that greatest of events.
“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).[Editor’s Note: When this article was published 20 years ago, BRIAN D. JONES, PH.D., had been a pastor for many years, currently and was the director of Bibleinfo.com.]
Check It Out
- God reveals His important plans for the human race
through His prophets (Amos 3:7).
- Fulfilled prophecy proves the truth and reliability of
God’s Word (Isaiah 46:9, 10).
- God gave prophecy by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to holy men (2 Peter 1:21).
- No prophecies or prophetic symbols are subject to private interpretation but are all explained in Scripture (2 Peter 1:20).
- All the Bible prophets, inspired by the same Spirit, are in agreement with each other (1 Corinthians 14:32, 33).
- Jesus’ first and second comings are the central themes of prophecy (Luke 24:25-32, 44, 45; Acts 3:20-26; 26:22, 23).
- God gave prophecy primarily to help us have a firmly anchored faith in Jesus as the Savior and to fully accept His rule in our lives (John 13:19; 14:29; 2 Peter 1:19).
- Those who reject the prophecies of Scripture or tamper with their content are rejecting their own salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 3:1-5; Revelation 22:16-19).
- The best way to benefit from Bible prophecy is to study it “believing-ly” and obey the instruction connected with it. Only those who are willing to live godly lives shall truly understand and be blessed by prophecy (Daniel 12:8-10; John 7:17; Revelation 1:3; 22:7).