“King of kings and Lord of lords”

King of kings, and Lord of lords,
|:King of kings, and Lord of lords,:|
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
Kings of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!

This is an excerpt from Handel’s “Messiah”, arguably one of the most well-known works in the world, at least the western world.  Handel was familiar with the Scripture and put to music what it says in verses like the ones below.

1. 1 Timothy 6:15, where this title is connected with His appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He Who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords (emphasis added).  Cf. His own time with His statement in Luke 17:22 about the days of the Son of Man.  We believe the appearing of our Lord will end the attempt by the antiChrist to subvert this world and will usher in a time of peace and righteousness this world has never known.

2. Revelation 17:12, 14, where the title is connected with the appearance of ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast….  These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings….
In the words of Daniel 2, the stone will smite the image on its ten toes and destroy them and it.

3. Revelation 19:11-16, where the title is connected with heaven opened, followed by a description of Him and His activities, Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations.  And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron….  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:  KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

So, you see, this title is associated with His return to this earth to rule them (“the nations”) with a rod of iron (emphasis added).  As it too often happens now, “the nations” strike Him, through His people,”with a rod of iron.”  When He returns, this will not happen!

The word translated “rule” is very interesting.  It isn’t the usual word associated with the reigning, the “rule”, of a king.  The word John used means “to shepherd,” and is a form of the word translated “shepherd” in John 10, the “Good Shepherd” chapter.  What John actually wrote is, He will shepherd the nations with a rod of iron (emphasis added).  How this fits in with the Reformed idea that Jesus will return to this earth, there will be the final judgment, and then the eternal state begins, and all this on the very same day He returns, is unclear.  Perhaps that’s because the idea is unScriptural.  Why would “a rod of iron” be necessary is all that’s left for Christ to “rule” is saved people – in eternity?  And what does Scripture mean which says that Christ will rule in the midst of His enemies, Psalm 110:2?  What kind of a king would he be who “rules” in the midst of his enemies, and they don’t know it or ignore or reject him?   How is that to rule?  Especially if those enemies have been made his footstool?  And how does a “rod of iron” fit into the idea that Christ’s kingdom is only His spiritual rule in the hearts of His people?  Revelation 20:11 isn’t the only verse which talks about Christ’s reign on this earth.  Both Revelation 19 and 20 talk about it, to say nothing of the many Old Testament verses which foretell a worldwide time of peace and righteousness, something which can’t honestly be said to be fulfilled in “the church,” though many try, or to be simply pushed ahead into “the eternal state.”  There is a great deal more to Christ’s kingdom than many are willing to admit.

Where is there, right now, on this earth, a single kingdom or government which bows to the Lord Jesus as “King of kings and Lord of lords” and seeks to govern by His Word?

 

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“Your Kingdom Come” – Reflections on the Fifth Kingdom

There have indeed been many more than five kingdoms on this earth, however, Daniel is only concerned with those kingdoms which directly impact his own people, the nation of Israel, beginning with his own time.  The “fifth kingdom” is the kingdom that the God of heaven will set up.  We live in a time of much confusion about this subject.  Many people believe that “the church” is the kingdom.  Is that what the Scripture teaches?  Others throw up their hands in confusion and say that the subject is too complicated, confusing and divisive and there are just too many contradictory viewpoints.  However, we hope our comments on the subject will be helpful.  We’ll frame these comments as answers to questions or other comments on the subject.

It might be argued that this post has nothing to do with the exposition of Daniel.  Perhaps that is true, however, we believe it is essential to the understanding of Daniel.  We cannot isolate the book from the rest of Scripture or from our own understanding of what it teaches.  Books and movies sensationalize ideas about the future, many of which have little if anything to do with a Biblical view of the future.  What does the Scripture say?

Before we go any further, the main point of controversy about “the kingdom” centers around whether or not there will be an earthly kingdom, i.e., a “millennium,” during which the Lord Jesus will sit on an actual throne in the city of Jerusalem for 1000 years before the destruction of this present world and the introduction of new heavens and a new earth.  It’s this thought of the presence of an “earthly kingdom” that this post addresses, and not so much its length, which is clearly shown in Revelation 20.  The 1000 years is simply the introductory phase, if you will, of Christ’s eternal kingdom.

Because “the kingdom” is such an important subject in Scripture, we will have several posts on different aspects of it.

Didn’t the Lord say that His kingdom is not of this world, John 18:36?

I don’t know how many times I’ve read or heard this verse used at proof that Christ’s kingdom is not “earthly,” which seems to be the worst thing that can be said about it.  Now there was a time when the Jews tried to take Him by force and make Him king, but that was simply because He fed them, John 6:15. It does appear that they did have some understanding that He was the “Prophet which is to come into the world,” Deuteronomy 18:15, cf. Acts 3:22, but they didn’t understand the spiritual realities He taught later in John 6, at which time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more, v. 66.  His kingdom is indeed “not of this world” in that it won’t be established according to the selfish desires or mistaken ideas of fallen man.  It also ignores the fact that it wasn’t time for the setting up of the kingdom.  In Luke 17:25, Jesus himself taught that there was something that had to happen first: “But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”

This “rejection” isn’t simply the fact that they gave Him over to be crucified; they also rejected the message of His resurrection, which was the “sign” He Himself gave them to show that He was who He said He was, John 2:18-22.  Before the kingdom could be “set up,” He had to “suffer….”  Though many deny any such restoration or kingdom at all, referring it to a generic “people of God,” or to “the Church,” an entity unknown in the Old Testament, the kingdom is not going to be set up over a renegade Israel, as Israel was then and still is; it will be set up over a ransomed, redeemed and restored Israel, cf. Isaiah 1:24-27; 4:4, as well as many others.

Does John 18:36 really only mean, as many claim, that our Lord was teaching that His kingdom was “spiritual” and not “earthly”?  This is the entire verse:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

A simple reading of this verse shows that the Lord was not talking about the sphere or location of His kingdom, but of its source.  In the same verse, He said, “My kingdom is not from here, emphasis added.  It isn’t going to be established by the usual conquests and stratagems of earthly kingdoms, like Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece or Rome, just to name the ones Daniel knew.  It isn’t going to be set up, as one has suggested the disciples believed it would be, by the Lord sending out troops here and there to fight against and overthrow the Romans.  It isn’t going to have the same philosophy of rule or conduct as most earthly kingdoms, which pay no attention at all to, or at best give merely formal acknowledgement of, the things of God.

Furthermore, if the Lord meant what the Reformed people claim He did, then what do they make of His statements that He Himself is not of this world, John 17:4?  Unless you’re going to be like one of those who deny that Jesus ever really existed or that He had an actual physical body, you have to admit that He lived “in the world” for about 33 years.  He ate, slept, walked, talked, ministered, got tired, got hungry and finally died, in this world.  He did everything everyone else in the world did, except get married or sin.  He was even born into this world.  It was His conception – the source, the origin of His humanity – that was unlike any other conception, including that of His mother.  Though indeed “born of woman,” the Son of God came into the world through the agency of the Holy Spirit, who conceived for Him in the womb of a young Jewish virgin named Mary, Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:26-38.  After this conception, however, He developed in the womb, and was born, like any other human being in this world.  Furthermore, His physical body was identical to every other human body, except for the capacity to sin.  “Sin” is not a essential or necessary element of being “human”.  Adam and Eve were fully human before their tragic fall in the Garden of Eden.  Simply stated, though living “in the world” as to location, He was not of the world as regards the origin of His human existence.

In addition, He made the same statement about His disciples, John 17:14, where He said that they, too, “are not of this world, just as I am not of this world.”  Yet they were most certainly born into this world and lived for many years after Jesus left it.  Clearly, to be “not of this world” has nothing to do with function, but everything to do with origin.

Likewise, His kingdom will not originate from, nor according to, this world.  Indeed, when He returns, so far from rejoicing at His coming, Matthew 24:30 says, then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power.  This “mourning” will not be in repentance, as some have suggested, but in sorrow that their time is up, and they will no longer be able to live fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, Ephesians 2:3.  The inspired record tells us that all the tribes of the earth will see Him, not just what He does, as those who believe that the events listed in Matthew 24, 25 all happened at or before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD tell us.

The word translated “power” in Matthew 24:30 is the word we get the English words “dynamo,” “dynamite,” “dynamic.”  Loosely translated, it means power to get the job done.  Jesus will not come back as some nominal or ineffectual figurehead, a King in a realm nobody can see and to whom nobody pays any attention.  His “rule” will in no way be “invisible”!!  He will demonstrate the “exousia,” the jurisdiction, that He’s had all along, but which has generally been ignored or rejected.  However, there is coming a time when it will be impossible to deny that Jesus is indeed King of kings and Lord of lords.

There is a second question which goes along with this one:  Isn’t Jesus reigning right now at the right hand of the Father?  We’ll look at this question, Lord willing, in our next post.

Daniel 7:27, “The Greatness of the Kingdom”

Then the kingdom and dominion,
And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven,
Shall be given to the people, to the saints of the Most High.

His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’   (NKJV)

In chapter 2, Daniel foretold that the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, v. 44.  In 7:11, this kingdom is given to One like the Son of Man.  Now, in the interpretation of Daniel’s vision in chapter 7, we discover that the saints will also participate in the kingdom.  In verse 27, several things are said of this kingdom.

1. The splendor of the kingdom, then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven….

In other words, this kingdom is not going to be some little insignificant thing, some mystical something that nobody can really see or touch, and which has very little, if any, influence on the world around it.  There have been times when “the church” has been influential in its surroundings, though not now.  By “the church,” I don’t mean organizations like Romanism or the various state churches of Europe.  “The church” is not some denominational hierarchy, not some monolithic religious structure, not some political entity enforcing submission to a creed or catechism.  Indeed, it has often been these manmade structures, with their political posturing or social agendas, which have been at the forefront of opposition to the people of God.  “The church” is saved people, living out their lives in seeking to please God, and coming together from time to time to praise and worship the God who has saved them, often in the face of great persecution or ridicule.  When God sets up the kingdom the Bible talks about, such persecution or ridicule will not be possible.

We don’t really have any great kingdoms today, egalitarianism has taken care of that, but there have been such in history.  The splendor of ancient Egypt, the riches of the Ming dynasty in China, the far-flung reaches of the British Empire, all these and many others bear eloquent witness to the greatness that earthly kingdoms can achieve.  All this will be wrapped up in and overshadowed by the greatness of the fifth and final kingdom, which will encompass the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven….(emphasis added).  It seems to me that this cannot refer to anything other than an “earthly” kingdom, in agreement with what Daniel said in his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream:  the “stone” will grow into a great mountain which will fill the whole earth.

Furthermore, God tells us through Daniel that the rest of the beasts had their dominion taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.  The nations which made up the first four kingdoms still exist in one form or another, but they themselves will one day fall under the sway of the Son of Man and His saints.  As much as some decry the idea of “an earthly, carnal kingdom,” there is coming a kingdom of God which will fill the whole earth.  Peter describes this time as one in which righteousness dwells, or, literally, “is at home,” 2 Peter 3:13.  It certainly isn’t at home in this present evil world.

By the way, the word translated “fill” has the basic meaning, “to be abundant and overflowing”. This kingdom isn’t going to be some “hole in the wall” affair with people hiding in caves and forests, scared to death they’re going to be discovered worshiping God.  No, no.  It will be the answer to that petition in the Lord’s Prayer:  “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” Matthew 6:10, emphasis added.

How is God’s will done “in heaven”?

Joyfully, willingly, completely, openly, only.

There are some today who desire to serve God like that, but they are few and far between in comparison with the earth’s population.  Nevertheless, there is coming a time when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea, Habakkuk 2:14.  We don’t really think about this, “the waters cover the sea,” but it’s quite a picture.  If we could take the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, and drop it into the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific, there would still be well over a mile of water covering Everest!

And it isn’t just some academic knowledge of God Habakkuk is talking about, reserved for scholars in some dusty hall, it’s the knowledge of the glory of God.  God will be known in His fullness.  He won’t just be shunted off to one side to await our “decision”.  Zechariah 14 gives something of an account of this time.  Though you should read the whole chapter, v. 16 says, And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of the nations who came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.  The earth will be filled with worship and praise of Him, as well as obedience to Him, vs. 17-19.

There’s that word again:  “filled” – to be abundant and overflowing.  That certainly isn’t true today, all the varied means of communication we have today notwithstanding.

2. The saints and the fifth kingdom, this kingdom shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.

Who are these people, these saints of the Most High?  This subject is hotly debated.  We’ll postpone our own comments until the next post, where we’ll deal with objections to the idea of an “earthly” kingdom, which the Scriptures clearly teach.

3. The certainty of the fifth kingdom, His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom….

Earlier in this chapter, Daniel said, “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed, v. 14.  There will never be any “ruins” for future archaeologists to sift through and try to figure out.  There will never be a “sixth” kingdom.  This King is eternal.  His kingdom will be eternal.

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

 

Daniel 7:25-28, When The Time Is Right

25] ‘He shall speak pompous words against the Most High,
Shall persecute the saints of the Most High,
And shall intend to change times and law.
Then the saints shall be given into his hand
For a time and times and half a time.

26] ‘But the court shall be seated,
And they shall take away his dominion,
To consume and destroy it forever.
27] Then the kingdom and the dominion,
And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven,
Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High.
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’

28] “This is the end of the account.  As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly troubled me; and my countenance changed; but I kept the matter in my heart.” (NKJV)

In our last post, we looked at several characteristics Daniel gives us of a man called, “the beast.”  We believe this is the same individual called the Antichrist in the New Testament.  Here is the rest of what Daniel says about him.

e. his power, then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.

This is an astounding statement.  This is how the Antichrist will be able to “prevail” against the saints, but why would God give His people over into the hand of His, and their, enemies?

There are two reasons for this.  The Old Testament gives us abundant evidence of one of them:  Israel’s sin.  This will be part of the reason, as we’ll see shortly.  However, there is another reason.  In Daniel 12:10, the angel says, “Many will be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.”

In other words, trials and trouble are intended to have a purifying and steadying effect on God’s people.  Peter put it like this in 1 Peter 4:12,

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.

This also from Peter, in 1 Peter 1:6, 7:

…though now,… if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being more precious than gold, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

One purpose of trials is to prove the genuineness of faith and to increase it, as we see that God is able in any circumstance to take care of us.  In the US, we don’t know much about the bloodshed other generations, and believers in other parts of the world, have known.  If it comes to us, it will prove who are Christians, and who are just church members….

There is one other thing, of paramount importance.  The saints will be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time (emphasis added).  This statement has caused a lot of discussion.  Though the beast may seem to have unlimited power and might be able to prevail against the saints, yet there is a limit.  His despotism will come to an end.

But what does the phrase “time and times and half a time” mean?  Since Daniel says more about this, we wait til then for further comment.

6. his punishment, But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever, v. 26.  Once the terror of this earth, the beast will be stripped of all his power and, in the words of Daniel, his bodydestroyed and given to the burning flame, v. 11.  There is a corresponding reference to this in Revelation:  Then the beast was captured,,,. and [was] cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone, Revelation 19:20.

There’s a lot that could be said about the fact that the body isn’t all there is to a person.  He has (is) soul and spirit, as well.  The body may die, but the soul lives on.  We read of Adam that when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, he became a living soul.  He was more than just an animated body.  So are we.

The grave is not our final destination.

In the words of Hebrews 9:27, it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgement.  As far as this life is concerned, there is an “after”.

There is a time of judgment coming.

But that’s not all Hebrews 9 says.  Verse 28 says, Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.

We didn’t quote all of Hebrews 9:27, 28.  What these verses say is, As it is appointed for men once to die, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.  The underlined words complete the thought.

The death of Christ wasn’t just some happenstance, some measure dreamed up in a “hastily called meeting of the divine council,” as one Bible scholar” put it.  It bore a direct relation to man’s condition:  he is a sinner, and, as such, under a just condemnation.   

But God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him, 1 Corinthians 5:21.  In other words, Christ took to Himself something that wasn’t His – namely, our sins, in order that He might give to us something that wasn’t ours – namely, the righteousness of God.

This is why the Scripture says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

Daniel 7:9-18: Your Throne, O God, Is Forever And Ever

In the first 8 verses of this chapter, Daniel was given a preview of the four world empires which have impacted, or will yet impact, Israel.  This part of his vision reminds us of what he told Nebuchadnezzar in 2:28.  Kingdoms come and go; they may go on a rampage for a while and ravage the earth, but watching over all things on earth, there is a God in heaven.  This is a theme Scripture never tires of.  Further, there is a kingdom coming which shall not pass away, and…which shall not be destroyed, v. 14.  The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream introduced us to this kingdom, 2:44.  This vision expands on that vision.  In the first part of this vision, there are three scenes:

1. There is a scene of unimaginable solemnity, vs. 9, 10.

From the confused mayhem on earth, we are suddenly transported into the measured order of a courtroom:  “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated,” v. 9.

This isn’t a throne of fellowship, such as described in Exodus 24:9-11,

Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel.  And there was under His feet a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.  But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand.  So they saw God, and they did eat and drink. 

Israel had not yet rebelled against God and broken the Mosaic Covenant; once that happened, we read of no further such “fellowship.”  In fact, they were shut out from the presence of God and had to come before Him through an intermediary – the tabernacle and the sons of Aaron and the priesthood.

Nor is it the throne of grace, such as is now available to the children of God for them to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, Hebrews 4:16.    It isn’t the throne of God’s providence, which Ezekiel saw, Ezekiel 1:26-28, nor of His glory, which Isaiah saw, Isaiah 6:1-3.

It’s a throne of judgment:  the books were opened.

This description reminds us of a similar description in Revelation 20:12, where John records,

“I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things written in the books,” emphasis added.

In our apostate day, with its unScriptural and humanistic views of the “love” of God, we have forgotten the other side of Paul’s admonition in Romans 11:22, …consider the goodness and severity of God.  People give no thought at all to the fact that they will stand before God and give an account of everything they’ve ever said, done or thought in their lives.  Every bout of drunkenness, every act of immorality or perversion, every tiny lie or twisting of the truth “just a little bit,” every act of greed or injustice.  Every commission, where they’ve done something they shouldn’t; every omission, where they didn’t do something they should have.  Every secret thing.  Every single thing….

Even Christians will give an account to God, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.  Some seem to have the attitude that, since God has forgiven them because of what Christ did on the Cross, it doesn’t matter what they do.  They can live like the world and do what the world does, and it’s ok.  I was working next to such a group of people one day.  Their conversation was about the filthiest things imaginable.  In the midst of this verbal sewage, somehow the conversation got around to religion and the grace of God, and one of them said, “God loves us unconditionally.”  This is undeniably true, but I don’t think she meant it as the Scripture means it.  There is most certainly nothing in us that can cause God to love us, no “condition” we can meet.  The “reason” He loves us is always found in Him, never in us!  At the same time, when we are taught by the Spirit that we are objects of His love, that knowledge makes us want to please Him, not ourselves.  One of the other workers mentioned her enjoyment of a certain “gospel concert.”  It’s a terribly sad, terribly frightening commentary on the state of modern Christianity that professed Christians can wallow in moral filth in one breath and talk about “the love of God” in the next breath and see no inconsistency.

The froth and frivolity of much of what passes for “church” in our day – the “mega-churches,” the “mega-personalities” – would disappear in an instant if we could but get a vision of that One who sits on an eternal throne, high and lifted up, Isaiah 6:1.

On the other side of the ledger, there will be the revelation of and reward for the good things the saints have done, the sacrifices, the service to God which are often ignored, ridiculed or forbidden in this world.  Peter wrote to some people that believers have a living hope, not in this world, but in the fact that there is an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, reserved in heaven….ready to be revealed in the last time, I Peter 1:3-5.  Along this same line, Paul wrote that even the creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now, Romans 8:21, 22.

Not forever, and, we believe, not much longer, will this world thumb its nose at its Creator God and His Christ, even as Daniel shows us in the next verses.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

2. There is a scene of unimpeachable severity, vs. 11, 12.

This is a continuation of the scene of judgment.  The beast, certainly a man of great presence and power, has set himself against heaven, speaking pompous words, about which more will be said in a minute.  For now, all his braggadocio will come a halt, and he himself is slain, and [his] body destroyed and given to the burning flame.  He had been able to conquer some of his fellows, and had spoken great and proud things, but could not stand against the Ancient of Days.

3. There is a scene of indescribable majesty, v. 13, 14.

In my opinion, these verses form one of the most wonderful passages in the Old Testament.

a. The approach of One like the Son of Man, v. 13.

In contrast to the “beasts” of the earlier part of the vision, here we have One who bears the image of humanity.  We have the advantage over Daniel here, because we know that this One is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  “Son of Man” was one of His favorite titles, used by Himself of Himself many times during His earthy sojourn.  It’s a phrase which means so much more than just “human.”  It carries with it a hint of the Divine.  And of a truth, the Son of Man is also the Son of God.  He is the God-Man, God manifested in humanity.

b. The ascendancy of One like the Son of Man, v. 14.

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom.  What the “beasts” fought over and killed for will be freely given to the Lord Jesus in order that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.  Universal dominion is granted Him, something coveted by the “beasts,” but never really attained.  Not only will this kingdom be universal; it will be eternal.  It’ll never disappear nor be taken away, as were the preceding kingdoms described by Daniel.

Daniel 2: Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream: Laying the Foundation.

When one builds a building, the first thing he does is prepare some sort of foundation.  Even if it’s just a shed out in the garden, there must be some sort of anchor for the building.  If he’s building a skyscraper, the foundation must go down to bedrock, perhaps dozens of feet, to provide a secure basis for the building.

This vision of Nebuchadnezzar’s is the foundation upon which the rest are built.  And except for his vision of the tree, all the prophecies in the book come together to form a fairly comprehensive picture of the future of God’s people, that is, the nation of Israel, cf. Daniel 9:24.

The occasion of the dream, 2:1, 28, 29.

In 2:29, Daniel told the king, As for you, O King, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed about what will come to pass after this.  Evidently, Nebuchadnezzar had gone to bed one night and began to think about all he had done, the magnificence of his capitol, and the success he had had politically and militarily.  But he knew he wouldn’t live forever, and so perhaps he began to muse and wonder what would happen after he had died.  What would become of all his accomplishments?  In that frame of mind, he drifted off to sleep, and a dream so disturbing that he awoke with a start, and couldn’t go back to sleep.

The purpose of the dream, 2:28, 29, 45.

God wasn’t using this dream merely to satisfy Nebuchadnezzar’s curiosity.  It is true that Daniel told him that “the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this,” but then  he said, “The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”  This wasn’t simply to assure the king that the dream as given was correct, but rather to assure him, and us, that what is revealed will happen.

Furthermore, Daniel started his interpretation in v. 28 by saying, “There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days, emphasis added.  This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered this phrase, about which there is much discussion, and it won’t be the last.

The parts of the dream, 2:31-35.

In this dream, we see the development, deterioration, disintegration, displacement and final destruction of certain world powers, in a description of what our Lord would later call, “The times of the Gentiles,” Luke 21:24.

1. The description of a great image, or statue, vs. 31-33.

This is a straightforward description of a man’s form from head to toe.  It was a statue composed of several materials, from a gold head through silver, brass and iron down to a mixture of iron and clay in its feet.

2. The destruction of the great image, vs. 34, 35a.

There are three elements to this destruction.  A stone cut without hands, that is, of no human origin or effort, struck the image on its feet, with the result that the image collapsed into pieces.  Then the stone crushed the broken image into dust, which the wind carried away till there was no trace of them.

3. The displacement of the great image, v. 35b.

After the destruction and disappearance of the image, the stone…became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

The interpretation of the dream, 2:36-45.

Except for a couple of things, we’re going to leave out the perplexity of Nebuchadnezzar over his dream, and the resultant furor he caused among the court magicians.  There is some discussion over whether or not Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten the dream, but it doesn’t matter.  If he had forgotten it, he would recognize it when described by the magicians, and if he remembered it, he would know whether or not they were indeed able to describe it, and, therefore, as he thought, to interpret it.  We tend to believe that he remembered it, and this was simply a test.

Another thing of note is Daniel’s response to the decree to kill all the wise men.  He and his three friends prayed.  This is another example of his habitual prayer.

Finally, something the wise men said is interesting:  “There is [no one] who can tell the king’s matter,…except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh,”  vs. 10, 11.

It was this very point Daniel emphasized in his response to Nebuchadnezzar:  “but there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets,…and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be….  The great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this,” vs. 28, 29, 45.

God is never afraid to meet sinful men on their own ground.  In referring to God’s defeat of Egypt before Israel’s deliverance, Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, said, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods, for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them, Exodus 18:11, emphasis added.  In 1 Corinthians 3:19, 20, quoting Job 5:13 and Psalm 94:11, Paul wrote, The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.  For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness,” and again, “The LORD knows the thoughts of men, that they are futile,” emphasis added.

Here, then, is Daniel’s interpretation of the dream.

1. you are the head of gold, vs. 37, 38.

This dream was Nebuchadnezzar’s.  It had likely come while he was wondering what would become of his kingdom after he died.  It was fitting that the interpretation begin with him:  he is the head of gold, v. 38.

Daniel, however, emphasizes something generally ignored or overlooked by men.  He says, “the God of heaven has given you a kingdom….  He has given them [‘the children of men, birds and beasts’] into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all,” vs. 37, 38.  Certainly and truly, Nebuchadnezzar had conquered most of his world, but it was through that conquest, and not independently of it, that God had put him where he was.

Nebuchadnezzar was on the throne because God wanted him there, Daniel 2:21!  The present occupant of the White House, or the Kremlin, or 10 Downing Street, or leaders in the Middle East or Africa or South America – all are there because God has put them there, not independently of what they have done, but by means of what they have done.  It may seem chaotic to us, but everything moves in perfect accord with God’s purpose, Daniel 4:34; Ephesians 1:11.  It’s hard to understand sometimes, but Scripture says it is so.

2. after you shall arise another kingdom, inferior to yours, v. 39.

As silver is inferior to gold, this second kingdom would be inferior to Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar could do anything he wanted, but Darius, for example, was bound by the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter, 6:8, 12, 15.  The phrase, “does not alter” is, literally, “does not pass away,” which shows how foolish sinful men are.  There is only one King whose Word is settled forever, Psalm 119:89; Isaiah 40:8.  At this time, nothing more is said of this kingdom.

3. a third kingdom of  bronze, which shall rule over all the earth, vs. 39.

Again, nothing more is said of this kingdom.  Note, however, that the various kingdoms decrease in “value” even as they increase in strength:  gold, silver, bronze, iron.

4. the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron, (yet flimsy), vs. 40-43.

It will break in pieces all the other kingdoms.  The first three kingdoms are plainly identified in later visions of Daniel.  Though the identity of this fourth kingdom may be known from history as Rome, it is never mentioned by name, either here or in subsequent visions.  In the wisdom and providence of God, there is a reason for this omission, which perhaps we’ll see shortly.

God does say more about this fourth kingdom than He does the other three together.  Not mentioning the legs of the image, though their presence is implicit, Daniel calls attention to the toes, toes and feet which are a strange mixture of iron and clay.  He gives a two-fold interpretation of this conglomeration:

a. It will have great strength, v. 41, the strength of iron will be in it.  That kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others, v. 40.

b. It will have great weakness, v. 42, the kingdom will be partly strong and partly fragile [brittle].  They will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay, v. 43.

5. In the face of human effort and failing, God Himself 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, v. 44.  This is the stone that struck the image [and] became a great mountain and filled the whole earth that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream, v. 35.

But when will He do this?  Or has it already been done?  What does Daniel say?

a. When will God do this?  In the days of these kings, v. 44.

The question then becomes, “Which kings?”  The Reformation Study Bible (RSB) has this note on v. 44:  “The most natural interpretation is that the kings are the rulers of the four powers making up the image just described.  The other possibility is that they are a sequence of several rulers of the fourth kingdom,” (p. 1216).  Just in passing,  I  consider this version representative of current Reformed thought.  As such, I refer to it several times.

Let’s look at this note more closely.  Is there any evidence that God “set up a kingdom” during the Babylonian Empire?  The Persian Empire?  In Greece?  In Rome?  Especially a kingdom that destroys all the rest?  There is one possibility – in Rome, or, more accurately, during the preeminence of Rome.  It was during this time that the Lord Jesus came into the world and was crucified – by a representative of Rome.  In addition, on the same page, the RSB says, “This kingdom was inaugurated and preached at the First Coming of Christ (Mark 1:15; Matt. 12:28; 24:14).” According to this view, then, the kingdom was actually set up some time during the time represented by the middle of the image.  Since there is more said about Christ and His kingdom in Daniel, we’ll leave further remarks about this viewpoint until then.

Actually, we believe there is another possibility, from the text itself.  Here is where we have difficulty with Reformed interpretation of prophecy.  Because, according to them, prophecy doesn’t mean what it seems to say (that is, it’s not to be taken “literally”), close attention apparently doesn’t need to be paid to what it actually says.  The vision clearly shows that the image will be struck on its feet, v. 34.  It seems to me, then, that these kings refers to kings symbolized by the ten toes.  Then, what about them being “a sequence of several rulers of the fourth kingdom”?  I believe John has a reference to these kings in his Revelation: “the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast,” Revelation 17:12, 16.  See also Revelation 12:3.  These kings are not sequential; they rule simultaneously.  We grant that John isn’t commenting on Daniel, but he and Daniel saw much of the same future.  Granted, some of what Daniel saw as future was history for John.  Further, these kings are later referred to as “horns” by Daniel himself, Daniel 7:24.

“Feet” would be foundational to any statue; destroy them and you destroy the statue.  However, this isn’t Daniel’s thought.  These kings aren’t “foundational” to the statue or to the governments it represents.  They are the final form of those governments, and it’s during their tenure that the God of heaven will set up a kingdom.

b. Who will do this?  The God of heaven, v. 44.

We do agree with the Reformed view that this kingdom will not come through political maneuvering or military power, as have other kingdoms.  There will be no vote to “approve” it.  We are not going to “bring in the kingdom.”  In fact, if I understand Scripture correctly, this kingdom will be the last thing humanity wants.

The question becomes, what kind of kingdom will God set up?  Ad we’ve already seen, He’s already in absolute charge of all that goes on, as Nebuchadnezzar found out the hard way in chapter 4.  So what kind of a kingdom can God set up that He doesn’t already have?  Perhaps we can find the answer as we go along.  Furthermore, since there is no place where God isn’t already in control, another question might be, where will He set it up?  And when will He set it up?  There’s a great deal of discussion about these questions.

c. What will it be like?  It shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms.

Let’s think about this for a minute.  According to Daniel, God’s kingdom will destroy all these kingdoms.  Yet, as we look at history, Babylon wasn’t destroyed by God, at least not directly, but by the Medes and Persians.  The Persians were conquered by Greece, who in turn was defeated by Rome.  Rome as a political entity was finally destroyed by Germanic tribes invading from the North in 476 AD.  Pagan Rome was succeeded, if we can put it like that, by Papal Rome, “The Holy Roman Empire,” a political entity over which the Pope had control.  (It’s interesting that Papal Rome still uses the language – Latin – of Pagan Rome.)  Eventually, it split into east and west (hence, perhaps, the two legs of the image).  In 1870, the Pope’s power was limited to the Vatican, though the Roman church is still very powerful.  If we understand correctly, Papal Rome will continue until a confederation of ten kings under the rule of “the beast” destroys her, Revelation 17:16.

d. it’s endurance, v. 44.

1. It shall never be destroyed, as were all the kingdoms of the image.
2. It shall not be left to other people, that is, it won’t be given to or taken away by someone else, as kingdoms often are today.

e. It’s extent, It (as represented by the stone) became a great mountain and filled the whole earth, v. 35.

Not just some local kingdom, nor even an extensive empire, but a world-wide sovereignty over every part of this planet.  There is much discussion about this, which we’ll enter into shortly.  Not just a statue, but an awe-inspiring mountain, or perhaps a mountain range, which will make the Rockies or the Apennines look like foothills!  Everest will hang its head in shame at the splendor of this mountain!  Perhaps that seems a little too much, but God’s kingdom will certainly be far beyond anything this world has ever experienced.
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It’s common for expositors to go ahead and tell us that the second kingdom is Medo-Persia, the third is Greece and so forth.  We’ve identified them like that ourselves.  However, the Holy Spirit didn’t see fit to have Daniel tell us, or rather, for Daniel himself to learn the names of these kingdoms until chapter 10.  Perhaps the Spirit wants us to focus on this vision and what it says.  We’ve already noted that the rise and fall of kingdoms, though perhaps accompanied by much confusion at the time, are all in tune with what God has told us beforehand.  Nothing catches Him by surprise.  He never has to say, “Oops!”  He has no “Plan B”.  He doesn’t need one.  ( As I’ve written elsewhere, I don’t know about you, but if God had to revise His plan every time I mess something up, He’d be way beyond Plan B!)  We grant this is contrary to much preaching today.  Nevertheless, “there is a God in heaven,” and there are a couple of things to emphasize from this vision.  First, God’s kingdom will supersede and destroy all human kingdoms.  Second, it will fill the whole earth.  These thoughts will be expanded in later visions.

Though we’ve mentioned it before and will have more to say as we go along, it’s again noteworthy that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was not interpreted as “principles” or “ongoing processes,” but as events, that is, things which would actually happen and which could be and, in many cases have been, individually and historically verifiable.  In fact, as we’ve already noted, there is so much detail given with such accuracy that unbelieving scholars deny that it is prophecy at all, but was written well after the fact by someone using Daniel’s name

Framework For The Future

Studies in the Prophecies of Daniel
(with comments on prophecy in general)

Introduction

General introduction.

In the study of the Bible, I think that sometimes there is a dichotomy perceived between the Old and New Testaments.  On the one hand, there is the Reformed view that all the Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled.  For example, in its study notes of Matthew, the Reformed Study Bible says this about Matthew’s use of several OT prophecies:  “His citations are not presented as isolated predictions and fulfillments, but as proof of the fulfillment of all the expectations of the Old Testament,” emphasis added, p. 1360.  If this is true, and we don’t agree that it is, then it seems to me that there is really very little, if anything, to be gained by studying Daniel or other prophets.

On the other hand, there is the Dispensationalist view that the Old Testament belongs to an earlier time, and so has little to say to us today.  This is especially true of the differences between law and grace.  A study of these differences is outside the scope of these studies; let me simply say that while the Bible is crystal clear that we are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, it is also crystal clear that “grace” in no way lessens the authority of God’s Word or our responsibility to obey what it says to us.

Dispensationalism at it’s very simplest teaches that there is a difference in God’s redemptive purpose between the nation of Israel and the church.  The Reformed view is that the NT church is the continuation, spiritually speaking, of Israel.  They speak of “spiritual Israel,” and treat the the prophetic portions of the OT as if they speak to us.  According to this view, God is done with Israel and she as a nation has no further part in God’s purpose.

At least the dispensationalist studies the prophecies of the OT.  There is, however, at the same time an unfortunate tendency to set dates for the return of our Lord.  According to one such earlier writer, we should now be about 50 years into the Millennium.  At the same time, I suppose that’s balanced out by the Reformed teaching that we’ve been in the Millennium since the Book of Acts,  though I do wonder where it finds a single national government that acts like it’s being obedient to “King Jesus”.  That can’t even be said of a lot of churches.

After a lifetime of reading and studying the Scriptures, I simply cannot accept the idea that every prophecy in Daniel, or the rest of the Old Testament, has been fulfilled.  To say that they have been is a very broad statement, to say the least, and makes it very difficult to read the Old Testament prophecies with any clarity.  And it seems to me that it also makes understanding the prophetic portions of the NT, if not a good deal of the rest of it, almost impossible.

Background of the Book.

There are really only two areas of concern about the Book of Daniel:  who wrote it and when?  Whether or not it is truly prophetic is wrapped up in the answer to these questions.  We’re not going to deal at length with these answers, but simply state what we believe to be the truth about them.

1. Author.

The Lord Himself referred to “Daniel the prophet,” Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14.  The phrase He quoted, “the abomination of desolation,” is found in Daniel 11:31 and 12:11.

2. Date.

The incredible detail given in chapter 11 has caused unbelieving scholars to assert that it must have been written after the events described and not before, during the times of the Maccabees around 165 B.C.  These sinners against their own souls, to say nothing of those who follow them, simply cannot accept that there is anything supernatural in the writing of the book, a view they hold about all Scripture, not just Daniel.  Conservative scholars believe Daniel to have been written before the events, some time in the sixth century B.C.