Eschatology


The Study of Last Things

"In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever." Daniel 2:44




























Nebuchadnezzar's Statue Dream
Five Kingdoms
 
Daniel 2


Head of Gold Neo Babylon 626-539 BC
Chest and Arms
of Silver
Media-Persia 539-330 BC
Abdomen and Thighs
of Bronze
Greece 330-63 BC


 
(Lower) Legs of Iron
 



 
 



63 BC-AD 476;1453


Feet of Iron and Clay Rome Revived Yet Future

Smashing Stone
Becomes a Mountain
That Fills the Earth
Global Rule of Messiah Yet Future;
Eternal

First Kingdom

Head of Gold: Daniel stated that Nebuchadnezzar II was the "king of kings," the head of gold (Dan. 2:36-38). Gold is the metal of highest value in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Nebuchadnezzar had absolute authority. The authority of the subsequent kingdoms diminishes, though in fact their size increases. The Neo Babylonian Empire was the smallest of the four merely human kingdoms. Return to table.

Neo Babylon: Though Nebuchadnezzar himself came to power in 605 BC, the Neo Babylonian Empire began in 626, the date of his father Nabopolassar's revolt against Assyria.
We are confident in labeling the First Kingdom as Neo Babylon. Though technically this kingdom is Neo Babylon, historians often refer to the kingdom as simply, "Babylon." In this article, "Neo Babylon" and "Babylon" refer to the same entity. Babylonians are often called Chaldeans (Dan. 1:4; 2:2, 4-5, 10; 3:8; 4:7; 5:7, 11, 30; 9:1).  Return to table.

626-539 BC:
Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, died in 627, creating a power vacuum. Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar's father, rebelled against Assyria in 626, allying himself with the Medes. So 626 BC marks the beginning of the Neo Babylonian Empire. This is a decisive beginning. Some prefer to date the Neo Babylonian Empire from 605, which marks Nebuchadnezzar's accession to power when his father abdicated the throne to him. In truth, however, the Neo Babylonian Empire began in 626. The final end of the Assyrian Empire can be dated in 612 BC, the destruction of the capital city of Nineveh. Nineveh's destruction is graphically detailed in the writings of the prophet Nahum. Nebuchadnezzar dreamed his famous dream in the second year of his reign (604-603 BC) (Dan. 2:1).  Return to table.

Second Kingdom

Chest and Arms of Silver: The two arms perhaps represent the dual nature of the empire that would replace Neo Babylonia - it would have roots in both the kingdom of Media and the kingdom of Persia.  In the third year of the reign of the Babylonian king Belshazzar (Dan. 8:1), Daniel was given a vision. of a ram standing beside the Ulai Canal. The ram was butting westward, northward, and southward. The ram had two horns, one longer than the other (Dan. 8:2-4). The angel Gabriel interpreted the ram with the two horns as representing the kings of Media and Persia (Dan. 8:20), who successfully defeated the Babylonian Empire. 
The longer horn on the ram represented the Persians, who had recently conquered the Medes. This Medo-Persian kingdom would conquer and displace Neo Babylon.We are thereby correct in identifying the Second Kingdom as Media-Persia. Secular history identifies this empire as the Achaemenid Empire. The silver metal refers to a diminishing of authority. For example, once the Medes and the Persians had made a law, it could not be changed (Dan. 6:8, 12, 14-15; Esther 1:19; 8:8). These Biblical references also confirm historically the dual nature of the kingdom that overthrew Babylon - it had roots in both the Median and Persian Empires. Return to table. 

Media-Persia: By 600 BC there were four major kingdoms in the Middle East. These were the kingdoms of Lydia, Media, Chaldea (Babylonia), and Egypt. Though by 600 the kingdom that most affected Israel was the Babylonian Kingdom, the Median Empire was actually the most dominant empire of the Middle East, at least in terms of territory controlled. The Medes originated from the northwestern region of modern Iran. The Median Empire stretched from Cappadocia (Eastern Turkey) in the West almost to the Indus River in India in the East. This would have been true even when Daniel was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 605 BC. In 553 BC Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, rebelled against his own grandfather, the Median King Astyages. He won a decisive victory in 550. This date marks the beginning of the Persian Empire, known in secular history as
the Achaemenid Empire. The Achaemenid Persian Empire eventually surpassed the Median Empire in size (see map ca. 500 BC).  Return to table.

539-330 BC: Even though Cyrus the Great conquered the Medes in 550 BC, he did not, 
according to secular history, conquer Babylon until 539 BC. From the view point of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, 539 BC is the date when the Medo-Persian Empire replaced the Babylonian Empire. According to the account of Daniel, it was Darius the Mede who received the kingdom after the assassination of Belshazzar (Dan. 5:30-31; 5:30-6:1 MT). Critics of the Bible have discounted the historicity of the Biblical account inasmuch as secular history knows of no Darius the Mede who lived at this time.

    One solution to this perceived problem is to take the position that "Darius" is a title, much like "Caesar," which referred to Roman emperors, or like "Pharaoh," which referred to Egyptian rulers. (See Thomas Constable's discussion of the issue, pp. 64-65.) The difficulty with this view is that Daniel 6:28 (6:29 MT) appears to distinguish the rule of Darius from the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Constable (p. 73), however, translates Dan. 6:28 as follows: "So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius - even in the reign of Cyrus the Persian." This translation, therefore, identifies Darius with Cyrus.

    Another more likely solution, in my judgment, is that Darius the Mede is to be identified with Cyaxares II, the uncle of Cyrus, who, partnering with Cyrus, conquered Babylon, gave Cyrus his daughter as wife, and his kingdom as her dowry. Being 62 years of age, he reigned over newly-conquered Babylon for two brief years before he died, after which Cyrus inherited the kingdom. Subsequent history elevated the role of Cyrus and minimized that of Cyaxares II. This view comes from the report of Xenophon in his Cyropaedia. If Xenophon's report is true, Cyaxares and Darius are one in the same. Barnes' Notes on the Bible accepts this position as factual. Since, however, neither Herodotus nor Ctesias mention Cyaxares II, many scholars doubt his existence. On the other hand, however, many scholars completely discount the historicity of the Biblical text, and so their bias cannot be trusted. The argument that the names "Cyaxares" and "Darius" cannot refer to the same individual on an etymological basis is unpersuasive. In the book of Daniel itself, the four Jewish young men with the Hebrew names of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were given Babylonian names completely unrelated to their Jewish names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (Dan. 1:6-7).

    WordExplain repudiates the notion that Biblical history is to be rejected unless it can be confirmed by secular history. Time and again an anti-Biblical bias has proven to be in error as subsequent archeology has confirmed Biblical statements. Daniel was an eyewitness to the events, and he specified that Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two (Dan. 5:31). That language is subtle enough to allow for the fact that, while Cyrus, in secular history, subsequently received credit for having conquered Babylon, the co-conqueror and initial king of Babylon was the elder Darius the Mede. Daniel himself, as well as prior prophecy and subsequent Biblical history knows of both Darius the Mede (Dan. 5:31; 6:1, 6, 9, 25, 28; 9:1; 11:1) and Cyrus the Persian (
Isa. 44:28; 45:1; Dan. 1:21; 6:28; 10:1; 2 Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:2, 7-8; 3:7; 4:3, 5; 5:13-14, 17; 6:1, 3, 14). Daniel was an eyewitness, and he served under both Darius and Cyrus. His testimony cannot be ignored. If we knew all the facts, we would easily be able to reconcile the apparent contradiction between some secular historians and the Biblical historians. As matters stand, we are obliged to accept the Biblical record as accurate.  Return to table.

Third Kingdom

Abdomen and Thighs of Bronze: The metal of the third kingdom continued to decrease in value. We interpret this to refer to the decline in authority in Greek Empire.. Although Alexander the Great was an intrepid leader and a brilliant strategist, his sudden death plunged the empire he had created into chaos. Generals who had fought under Alexander at first cooperated with his successor, Perdiccas, in dividing up Alexander's Empire, but then assassinated him in 321 BC. There followed forty years of war between "The Successors"  (Diadochi). By circa 300, Alexander's former empire had stabilized primarily into the four kingdoms of Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus (see Kingdoms of the Diadochi, 281 BC).
Return to table.

Greece. Just as Babylon and Media-Persia are identified by name in the visions of Daniel, so is Greece. The angel Gabriel specifically identified the kingdom of Greece as the "shaggy goat" (Dan. 8:21), the "male goat" with a conspicuous horn that came from the west
(Dan. 8:5-6) and completely overpowered the two-horned ram (Dan. 8:7), identified as the kings of Media and Persia (Dan. 8:20). The large, conspicuous horn (Dan. 8:5, 8) refers to none other than Alexander the Great, who conquered the then-known world. The fact that this horn was broken (Dan. 8:8, 22) signifies Alexander's sudden, premature death in 323 B.C. The four horns that sprang up in place of the large horn (Dan. 8:22) represent the four kingdoms of Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus, whose corporate presence significantly reduced the power of Alexander in his empire. Greece is the third kingdom, the thighs of bronze, identified in Nebuchadnezzar's vision (Dan. 2:32, 39). The Greek Empire under Alexander was larger than either of the previous empires.  Return to table.

330-63 BC. Alexander the Great defeated the Persian armies at Granicus (in modern-day Turkey) in 334 BC, Issus in 333 BC, and Gaugamela (in modern Iraq) in 331 BC. Marching ever eastward, the Greek armies captured two important capital cities of the Achaemenid Empire, Susa and Persepolis.  Susa fell to Alexander in 331 BC, and Persepolis surrendered in early 330 BC. It is from this date that we mark the end of the Medo-Persian Empire and the beginning of the Greek Empire.
Return to table.

Fourth Kingdom

Initial Phase

(Lower) Legs of Iron: As Daniel described the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed about, he used the following words (Dan. 2:33): "its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay."

     In his interpretation of the monarch's dream, Daniel gave greater attention to the fourth kingdom, the lower extremities of the statue, than he had to any of the preceding three (Dan. 2:40-43). It appears, moreover, that Daniel gave even greater attention to the feet of iron and clay (Dan. 2:41-43) than he did to the "legs of iron" (Dan. 2:40). This fact, combined with similarities between the ten toes of the statue (Dan. 2:42, 44) and the ten horns of a fourth beast (Dan. 7:7, 20, 24), leads us to believe that there are two phases to the "legs and feet" kingdom - an initial phase and an eschatological (end-time) phase. The initial phase has been fulfilled already. The eschatological phase has yet to be fulfilled. More about that later.

     The iron stands for strength and power. At its greatest extent, even in A.D. 117, before the breakup of the Empire into East and West, the Roman Empire controlled more territory than any preceding empire. On the other hand, the declining value of the metal, from gold to silver to bronze to iron, means that the absolute authority that Nebuchadnezzar had was greatly devalued in the Roman Empire. Roman Emperors, though they had dictatorial power, still had to deal with the Roman Senate and, to a far lesser degree, with the democratically elected Roman Assemblies.
Return to table.

Rome: Daniel described the lower extremities of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream thus: "Its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay" (Dan. 2:33). He also designated this description as referring to "a fourth kingdom" (Dan. 2:40). This fourth kingdom is nowhere identified by name in the book of Daniel. Daniel stated, however, that "it" (the fourth kingdom) "will crush and break all these in pieces" (Dan. 2:40). "All these"  refers to the preceding third kingdom and any vestiges of the first and second kingdoms. Consequently, from a knowledge of history, we believe we are justified in identifying this fourth kingdom as the Roman Empire, for the Roman Empire certainly displaced the Greek Empire
(Dan. 8:21), as well as the Medo-Persian (Dan. 8:20) and Babylonian (Dan. 2:38) Empires, each of which is named in Daniel. It is significant that there were two legs dividing from the upper torso. The Roman Empire eventually divided into a Western (Roman) segment and an eastern (Byzantine) segment. Constantine the Great "is thought of as the founder of the Eastern Roman Empire." This event is symbolized by his building an imperial residence in Byzantium, which he renamed Constantinople. Constantinople later became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire.  Return to table.

63 BC-AD 476;1453: It is troublesome to identify the collapse of the Greek Empire and the beginning of the Roman Empire. I have seen conservative commentators on the book of Daniel date the start of the Roman Empire in 168 B.C., 63 B.C., and 31 B.C. Why the disparity? The problem is that the genesis of the Roman Empire began long before the complete collapse of the Greek Empire. Furthermore, since Italy is to the west of Greece, Rome conquered the western portion of the Greek Empire long before it conquered the eastern portion.

     For example, Aemilius Paullus, a Roman, defeated Macedonian King Perseus at Pydna in 168 B.C. In 146 B.C. the Roman Lucius Mummias sacked Corinth. In the same year Rome annexed the Greek peninsula and islands. So 146 B.C. is the conventional date of Roman rule in Greece.

     Israel, however, is situated in the Middle East. Consequently, I have dated the beginning of the Roman Empire in relation to its conquest of territory in the vicinity of Israel rather than in relation to its conquest of Greece in Europe. The Seleucid rule in the eastern portions of the Greek Empire continued long after Rome's conquest of the Greek peninsula. In some respects, though the Seleucid rule was being eroded, Rome was content to let the Seleucid Empire remain as a buffer state between Rome and territory eastward. But the Seleucid Empire became increasingly unstable with civil wars and assassinations. Finally Rome could tolerate the instability no longer. By 63 B. C. Rome had gained control of Jerusalem, and Syria had become a Roman province. That is why I date the beginning of the Roman Empire at 63 B.C., seen from an Israeli perspective.

     The decline of the Roman Empire is a little simpler to date, but it comes in two stages. The Western Roman Empire ended when the Germanic warlord Odoacer defeated Romulus Augustus in A.D. 476. The Eastern Roman Empire ended in A.D. 1453 with the death of Constantine XI and the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks, led by Mehmed II.
Return to table.

Eschatological Phase

Feet of Iron and Clay: Daniel devoted considerable space to describing the statue's "feet partly of iron and partly of clay" (Dan. 2:33); and "the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron" (Dan. 2:41-43). Daniel did not speak of a fifth kingdom relating to the statue itself. There is only one kingdom, represented by the lower legs and the feet and toes. That Empire, almost certainly, is the Roman Empire. But Daniel certainly does appear to differentiate between the lower legs, which were only of iron, and the feet, which were partly of iron and partly of clay. So we are justified in concluding that the final human empire appears on the human stage in a preliminary form, the Roman Empire that ended in A.D. 476 and 1453. But there is evidently a yet future, eschatological form of the Roman Empire, which we designate a Revived Roman Empire. To this point in history there has been a hiatus of over five and a half centuries between the final demise of the preliminary appearance and the yet future, eschatological appearance. Daniel made several statements about the feet of iron and clay - the "Revived Roman Empire." Each of these statements refer to the remarkable attribute of iron being mixed with potter's clay:
     (1) "It will be a divided kingdom" (Dan. 2:41).
     (2) "It will have in it the toughness of iron" (Dan. 2:41).
     (3) "Some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle" (Dan. 2:42). This comment is directed particularly at the toes of the statue.
     (4) "They (iron and clay) will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another" (Dan. 2:43).

     We will examine each of these statements in the next section.
Return to table.

Revived Roman Empire: Why are we justified in concluding that there must be a Revived Roman Empire? The concise, quick answer is that Jesus Christ has not yet returned and smashed any human kingdom. Let me defend that answer.

     The Empire that replaced the Greek Empire on the world scene was the Roman Empire. It is true that the Roman Empire is never mentioned by name in the book of Daniel. It is also true that the Revived Roman Empire is never mentioned by name. However, both are referenced. Historically, the Roman Empire is the Empire that replaced the Greek Empire. The Roman Empire is referenced by the legs of iron in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar's statue (Dan. 2:33, 40) and also by the fourth beast spoken of in the vision of Daniel (Dan. 7:7, 19, 23). The difficulty is that Nebuchadnezzar's dream placed a great emphasis on the feet, and in particular, the toes of the statue, that were made of iron mixed with clay. And in Daniel's vision of the four beasts, great emphasis was placed on the meaning of the ten horns of the fourth beast (Dan. 7:24a), along with subsequent developments arising out of the ten horns (Dan. 7:24b-26).

     In both dreams, God's eternal kingdom destroyed and replaced the fourth kingdom. This is signified, in the statue dream, by the stone that smashed the statue on its feet and destroyed the whole statue (Dan. 2:34-35; 44-45). The stone became a great mountain that filled the earth and endured forever (Dan. 2:44). And in the beast vision, the fourth beast was slain (Dan. 7:11), and a Son of Man was given global, eternal dominion (Dan. 7:13-14). Arguably, this has not yet happened. Though Amillennialists would have us believe that the first coming of Christ ushered in the eternal kingdom portrayed in Daniel  2 and 7, it manifestly did not. In fact, the Roman Empire continued on in the west until A.D. 476, and in the east, until A.D. 1453. That being the case, the crushing of the fourth kingdom awaits the Second Coming of Christ. That means there will, of necessity, be a revival of the Roman Empire in order for it to be destroyed at Christ's Second Coming.

The Seventy Sevens

     In another line of reasoning, the angel Gabriel revealed to Daniel that seventy seven's of years had been determined upon His people (Israel) (Dan. 9:24-27). After the first 69 seven's of years, Messiah would be cut off (crucified) and have nothing. That is past history. Then he predicted that "the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary" (Dan. 9:26).  We know from history that the Roman Empire destroyed the city of Jerusalem and Herod's Temple in A.D. 70. But there has been an ongoing hiatus between the 69th seven and the 70th seven of years. As of this time of writing (2012), that hiatus has lasted nearly 2000 years. What will mark the beginning of the still future 70th seven? Gabriel identified that event in Daniel 9:27: "And he (i.e., "the prince who is to come" - Dan. 9:26) will make a firm covenant with the many (Israel) for a week (i.e. seven years), but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate." This means that a future leader of a Revived Roman Empire will make a seven-year peace treaty with Israel. But he will break his treaty with Israel in the middle of that seven-year period. He will put a stop to sacrifice and offering in a presumably rebuilt Jewish temple. This abominable desolation will last until he, the leader of the Revived Roman Empire, comes to his predetermined end.

     The New Testament passage parallel to Daniel 9:27 is 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. There the Apostle Paul predicted that "the man of lawlessness" will one day be revealed. He will oppose and exalt "himself above every so-called god or object of worship," and he will take "his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God."

     None of these events of Daniel 9:27 or 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 have been fulfilled in history. Therefore we conclude that a Revived Roman Empire is yet future.

     To be sure, throughout history, potentates have endeavored to revive the Roman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire, beginning in A.D. 962 and ending in 1806 with the advent of the Napoleonic wars, was just such an attempt. Charlemagne, crowned Imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day, 800, is the most notable example of a Holy Roman Emperor. (Pope Leo III's action, incidentally, is an historical proof that even in the Roman Catholic Church, officials have recognized that the eternal empire from God, the fifth and final kingdom, is political and not merely spiritual in nature.) But the territory of the Holy Roman Empire was small, and did not come close to matching the territory of the original Roman Empire.

     It is not without significance that Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor on December 2, 1804 in the Notre Dame cathedral with the cooperation of Pope Pius VII. Furthermore, the Kaisers of Germany and Austria-Hungary derived their titles from the Greek spelling of Caesar (Kaisar). The same is true of the "Czars" in Russia.

     In recent decades those who hold to a literal interpretation of prophetic Scriptures have theorized that the Common Market, which eventuated in the European Union, was the beginning of the Revived Roman Empire. Non-literalists have taken great delight in deriding dispensationalists when the number of countries exceeded ten. In fact, there are presently (January , 2012) 27 countries in the European Union with 5 more candidate countries. But that argument is moot. Any look at a map of the original Roman Empire will demonstrate that the Revived Roman Empire will be far larger than the present European Union. It will circumnavigate the entire Mediterranean. In order for that to happen, there must be some kind of compromise between the Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa and the Post-Christian countries of Europe. I predict, based on Scripture, reinforced by current developments in that region, that a compromise will take place. And it will not be Islam who will compromise. Based on demographics of birth rate and immigration alone, Islam will conquer most of Europe within 30 years without firing a shot. The Revived Roman Empire is returning. And it will be a Holy Roman Empire, but under Muslim, not Christian dominance!
Return to table.

Yet Future: From the vantage point of 2012 (the year in which this essay was completed), it is manifestly clear that Jesus Christ has not returned. The fifth kingdom, the eternal kingdom has not yet smashed Nebuchadnezzar's statue on the feet and destroyed the entire human edifice of kingdoms. Is the Revived Roman Empire on earth now? I do not believe so. Is the stage being set for it to appear? Absolutely! Movement toward a Revived Roman Empire goes on apace. Let me demonstrate.

     When one goes back through two millennia of European history, the events that have taken place in the last 60 years have been nothing but stunning. Spain, Germany, France, England, Portugal, Greece, Italy, and Turkey were all major super powers in their own eras that wanted nothing but to conquer as much of the others' territory as they could. Some were more interested in expanding to the East, others to the South, and some, at various times, into Africa and the New World. But peaceful coexistence was out of the question. I am convinced, for example, that whatever friendship and aid the French offered to the growing American colonies in the 18th century, including its gift of the famed Statue of Liberty, was not so much that France loved America, but that she hated the British!

     One of the most significant developments in modern history was the EEC Treaty, the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community. It was signed in 1957 in, of all places, Rome! Is that significant? Without a doubt! In fact, there were two treaties, called, amazingly, "Treaties of Rome." One treaty established the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom), and the other established the European Economic Community (EEC). The latter brought together in one community France, Germany, Italy, and the Benelux countries. One of its objectives was to establish a Common Market, the term which was frequently used in the early stages. I can remember as a teenager wondering, along with my father, who was keenly interested in international current events as they related to Biblical prophecy, if the Common Market would become the Revived Roman Empire predicted in the Book of Daniel. We thought, back then, that ten nations would comprise the Common Market, and would equate to the ten toes of the statue of Nebuchadnezzar and the ten horns on the fourth beast. We were left scratching our heads in silent puzzlement as the number of nations reached, but then surpassed ten in number. But from my present vantage point, fifty years later, we were more right than wrong. Let me explain.

    I lived in Huron, South Dakota, as an adult with a family of four between 1986 and 1991. I taught Bible in a Christian school to the north of Huron. The elementary staff were in the process of getting rid of an outdated set of Worldbook Encyclopedias. I gladly volunteered to take it home, for we had nothing like this set in our possession. I can remember an "aha!" moment. I was puzzling about the future of a Revived Roman Empire. I just couldn't see clearly how the European Economic Community was going to become a Revived Roman Empire. I took the R volume and began to read what it said about the Roman Empire. I noticed a map of the Roman Empire, and suddenly the light bulb turned on over my head! (For the uninformed, this was a graphic way of describing a moment of insight and understanding in comic strips.) Not only did the light bulb turn on, it exploded! I saw on the map that the Roman Empire circumnavigated the entire Mediterranean Sea.

     From that point on I began to develop a working hypothesis, namely, that a Revived Roman Empire would not be confined merely to Europe. Rather, it would necessarily extend not only over all or most of Europe, but throughout the near Middle East, and over all of North Africa! I formulated this working hypothesis based on Scripture, and I continued to watch to see if the unfolding events of world history would move toward that end.

     We subsequently moved to Newell, Iowa, where I began pastoring a church in 1991. The plot began to thicken. The European Economic Community passed the "Maastricht Treaty" in 1992. In so doing the Europeans created, from a collection of nations that had been bitter enemies for thousands of years, the European Union! This stunning creation of the European Union was another building block solidifying my working hypothesis that one day, the Roman Empire would indeed be revived.

     But there was a problem. Any student of history knows that Europe has a Christian heritage and that, for over a millennium, North Africa and the Middle East, with the exception of Israel, have had a Muslim heritage. You can't mix oil and water. How would Europe, with its Christian heritage, and the Middle East and North Africa, with their Muslim heritage, ever merge together in a cohesive entity that could be called a Revived Roman Empire? I suspected it would happen, but I had no concrete evidence that it could happen. I had no smoking gun. Where was the evidence there could ever be an amalgamation of Europe and the Middle East and North Africa.

     Suddenly, one day, I found the smoking gun! I ordered the book by Bat Ye'or, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis. When it arrived, I began reading it. It was one of the most riveting books I have ever read. Led by the French, European officials were systematically inviting Arabs into cultural, educational, immigrational, commercial, and informational dialogue and interchange! I could not believe what I was reading. If anyone had ever wanted to devise a plan that would ensure the systematic Islamization of Europe, they could not have done better than these European politicians. And the plan had begun clear back in 1960's, promoted by Charles DeGaulle! It was absolutely unbelievable! Of course, the cultural and immigrational and educational exchanges were meant to be a two-way street. Did you think the Muslims were going to permit that? Not on your life. The exchange, for all practical purposes, has turned out to be largely a one-way street. Millions of Muslims have immigrated to Europe. Caucasians with  Ph.D.'s in Arabic studies are no longer allowed to teach Arabic studies in European universities. Only Arabs can teach Arabic studies! School children in Europe are being taught the value of Arabism and Islam. The newspapers in Europe are proclaiming the virtues of the "Palestinian" movement and the evils of Israeli settlements in Israel's capital city, Jerusalem. The effect has become highly visible. Several years ago I visited with a pastor who had recently traveled from Paris to the U.S. He informed me that there were as many Muslims in Orly Airport in Paris as there were non-Muslims. We can no longer speak accurately of Europe. The more accurate term is Eurabia. If you do not take the time to read Bat Ye'or's book, at least take the time to read the text of her speech, "From Europe to Eurabia," delivered at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

     When will the Revived Roman Empire be fully functioning? Of course, no one can know. But on demographic considerations alone, that moment may arrive sooner than anyone imagined. Mark Steyn wrote America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It. It takes a total fertility rate of 2.1 live births per woman merely to sustain a population at the same level year after year. That's where America stands. But Europe's live fertility rate is a dismal 1.38 (p. 2). Specifically, in 2005, the total fertility rate for the US was 2.11, barely maintaining sustainability. But Denmark's was 1.77, Netherlands, 1.72, UK, 1.6, France 1.89, Germany 1.35, and Italy 1.23 (p. 54). As Steyn puts it, with statistics like these, the countries are "going out of business" (p. 2). At the same time, the total fertility rate of Muslim women is 4.4! So what is the result of these demographics? The Muslim population of Rotterdam is 40%. The most popular baby boy's name in Belgium is Mohammed. In Amsterdam? Mohammed. In Malmo, Sweden? Mohammed (p. 6). The point is that, given the immigration policy and the multi-cultural policy of Europe, and given the total fertility rates of Muslims compared to non-Muslims in Europe, Islam will soon conquer Europe without having to fire a shot! When that happens, there will be nothing to stop a regional Roman Empire cooperative. But it will be dominated by Islamic values, not Christian. The Revived Roman Empire, spanning all of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, is almost here!
With that in mind, what is the meaning of the four statements listed above under "Feet of Iron and Clay"?

     (1) "It will be a divided kingdom" (Dan. 2:41). This may be a geographic division. As such this division acknowledges the geographical differences in the future Revived Roman Empire between Europe on the one hand and the Middle East and North Africa on the other. Alternatively, and perhaps more likely, this division acknowledges the cultural and religious differences in the Revived Roman Empire. Though post-Christian Europeans will be forced to assimilate into the Revived Roman Empire as nominal Musliims, the truce will be an uneasy one. In the Apostle John's vision, this uneasy alliance is symbolized by the Great Prostitute called "Babylon the Great" riding astride a seven-headed, ten-horned Beast (Rev. 17:1-6). In this vision the Prostitute represents the pervasive religion of Babylon, and the Beast represents the widespread political and civil authority of the Revived Roman Empire. Obviously the Prostitute is in control, for she rides astride the Beast.

     (2) "It will have in it the toughness of iron" (Dan. 2:41). The Revived Roman Empire will be ultimately repressive. This is represented by the fact that the Prostitute, the religion of Babylon, is "drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus" (Rev. 17:6; 18:24; 19:2). But the political/civil element of the Revived Roman Empire will also be totalitarian. Of this beastly regime, led by the Antichrist, it is said, "It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him" (Rev. 13:7). The Revived Roman Empire will brutally repress religious freedom (Rev. 13:15) and will strangle economic freedom (Rev. 13:16-18).

     (3) "Some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle" (Dan. 2:42). This comment is directed particularly at the toes of the statue. There are indicators that, at least for a brief period of time, the Revived Roman Empire will assert global dominance -- "And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast" (Rev. 13:3); "All who dwell on the earth will worship him" (that is, those whose names have not been written in the Lamb's Book of Life) (Rev. 13:8). But the global dominance of the Revived Roman Empire and its diabolical ruler will not last. He will be challenged from the South, the North, and from the East (Dan. 11:40, 44).

     (4) "They (iron and clay) will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another" (Dan. 2:43). It is difficult to know precisely, in advance, what this means. Thomas Constable (pp. 31-32) attempts to explain this non-adhering mixture in terms of a combined imperial rule with democracy or socialism. That is possible, but I believe Scripture points elsewhere. Revelation 17 and 18, I believe, point to a more likely explanation. Revelation 17 pictures the Revived Roman Empire, the final form of world government, to be an unholy alliance between a false religion (thus the symbol of a Prostitute) headquartered in Babylon and the Revived Roman Empire (symbolized by a beast with ten horns). The ten horns are identified as ten kings who reign contemporaneously with the World Ruler as his subordinates (Rev. 17:12-13). As chapter 17 opens up, John witnesses the Prostitute (the false religion) astride the Beast (the political entity). That means that in the Revived Roman Empire, the false religion will have significant enough political clout to force the political leaders to submit to the religion, at least nominally. If that religion is Islam, and that would be my guess, who can doubt that Islam as a religion will have enormous political clout in the Revived Roman Empire? (Islam already has enormous political clout.)

     But the rulers of the Revived Roman Empire will tolerate the religion of Babylon only for awhile. An angel told John, "And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire" (Rev. 17:16). It is not to difficult to read through Revelation 18 and surmise what seems to be going on. Why do non-Muslim nations want to cooperate with Islam today? It is because, collectively, Muslim nations are situated atop enormous oil reserves. It almost appears, from the repeated references to burning (Rev. 17:16; 18:8-9, 18; 19:3), that the political leaders of the Revived Roman Empire will finally tire of the restraints of the false religion (Islam?) and will destroy its power by destroying its oil infrastructure. That might be a pyrrhic victory, but it will leave the political masterminds to pursue their own agenda without outside religious interference.

     Evidently at that point the Antichrist will present himself as being God-come-in-the-flesh, the False Messiah (Dan. 11:36-38; 2 Thess. 2:3-4; Rev. 13:11-15). In any event, the symbiotic union between the False Religion (the Prostitute) and the Civil Government (the Beast) of the Revived Roman Empire will be short-lived. There will be insufficient adhesion to keep the two entities working together in harmony. Thus, the iron and the clay will not adhere to one another.
 Return to table.

Smashing Stone Becomes a Mountain That Fills the Earth: As Daniel related to King Nebuchadnezzar what had happened in the latter's dream, he spoke of a stone that had been cut out without the aid of human hands. It came flying seemingly out of nowhere, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. Then all the elements of the entire statue were demolished and became like chaff which the wind blew away until not a trace of them could be found. Then, the stone that had struck the statue became a gigantic mountain that filled the entire earth (Dan. 2:34-35). What could this mean?

     Here is Daniel's interpretation: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy" (Dan. 2:44-45).

     What does "in the days of those kings" mean? According to J. Dwight Pentecost, Daniel, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, OT volume, the phrase "may refer to the four empires or, more likely, it refers to the time of the 10 toes (v. 42) since the first four kingdoms were not in existence at the same time as apparently the toes will be ...."

     In support of Pentecost's interpretation, see Daniel 7:23-24, which interprets the ten horns of the fourth kingdom (beast) as being ten kings. See also Revelation 17:12-13, where an angel informed John that the ten horns on the beast he saw "are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour."  The most likely conclusion is that "in the days of those kings" means that, when ten rulers reign contemporaneously underneath the rule of the Antichrist, a fifth kingdom will appear and suddenly smash the final form of the fourth kingdom on the feet. In so doing it will destroy the Revived Roman Empire and all vestiges of the preceding three world empires.  Their destruction will be so complete that "not a trace of them" will be found (Dan. 2:35).

     Not only so, but this fifth empire will fill the entire earth (Dan. 2:35). It will be instituted by none other than "the God of heaven" (Dan. 2:44). This "stone / mountain kingdom," unlike the preceding four kingdoms, will never be replaced by another kingdom. "It will itself endure forever" (Dan. 2:44).

     In a subsequent vision additional revelation was given to Daniel concerning this eternal kingdom (Dan. 7:9-14, 18, 27; cf. 12:3). Daniel saw "one like a Son of Man" appearing before the "Ancient of Days." "And to Him was given dominioni, glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion; and his kingdom is one which will not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:13-14). Furthermore, "But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all the ages to come" (Dan. 7:18). After the destruction of the dominion of the Revived Roman Empire and its ruler (Dan. 7:23-26), "Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him" (Dan. 7:27).
Return to table.

Global Rule of Messiah: What is the stone that crushed Nebuchadnezzar's statue on its feet, destroyed the entire edifice, and then became a mountain that filled the whole earth? This can refer to nothing other than the reign of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, also identified as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16).

     It may not be immediately discernible to the non-Jewish reader of this text that the rule of the Messiah is in view here. But Daniel was nothing, if not Jewish. He knew that a Jewish king was to be given the nations as his inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as his possession (Psalm 2:6-9), even though he himself, as a Jewish citizen, had been exiled from Judah (Dan. 1:1-8). He knew a Jewish king was destined to rule from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates River even to the ends of the earth (Psa. 72:8; Zech. 9:9-10; 14:9). So he would naturally believe that when "the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed" (Dan. 2:44), this would be a Jewish kingdom. When he stated to Nebuchadnezzar, "and that kingdom will not be left for another people" (Dan. 2:44), he meant that the eternal kingdom that would crush all others would be a Jewish kingdom with a Jewish king, not one governed by Gentiles, such as the Babylonian kingdom in which he found himself captive.

     Furthermore, Daniel would have understood that the person who looked like a "Son of Man" who was granted global, eternal dominion (Dan. 7:13-14) would have been none other than the ultimate Jewish King, the Messiah. And when the angel told him, "But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come" (Dan. 7:18), Daniel would have understood those saints of the Highest One to be Jewish believers. And he would have been exactly right.
 Return to table.

Yet Future, Eternal: What is the timing of the reign of the Messiah?That is a question that has polarized Biblical scholars. Let me first give you a non-literal answer. Then I will give you a more literal, and thus more Biblical answer.

A Non-Literal Understanding of The Timing of the Reign of Messiah

Sam Storms, an amillennialist, addresses the question of the timing of the Messiah's overthrow of the Fourth World Empire as described in Daniel 2 and 7. He does so in an article entitled (Daniel) 7:1-28 Part II:

The fundamental question then becomes: when and in what form does the Messianic kingdom come and destroy the kingdom of the beast? When and in what form do the people of God receive dominion? The answer is found in the present fulfillment of the kingdom of God in the first coming of Jesus and the future consummation of the kingdom of God in the second coming of Jesus.

Later, Storms states:

The point is that the establishment of the Messianic kingdom and the destruction of the pagan empires is not an instantaneous event. In his vision Daniel is alone concerned with the fact that God and His Christ will ultimately emerge victorious over the beast. The time and manner in which this occurs is not addressed by Daniel. In other words, Daniel is concerned with the goal or end and not the means and manner whereby it is achieved. Consequently, like so many of the OT prophets, Daniel did not differentiate between the first and second comings of King Jesus, nor did he perceive the manner or phases in which the Messianic kingdom would emerge corresponding to the nature of the two comings of Christ.

In sum, the answer to our first question as it is raised by Daniel 2 and 7 is this: the Messianic kingdom has been established and the saints of God now rule, and, the Messianic kingdom will be established and the saints of God will rule. It is the relationship between fulfillment in the present and consummation in the future.

I disagree with Storms. I maintain that, in fact, the Messianic kingdom has not been established. If it has, why are the Jewish people, the people of the Messiah, completely oblivious of that fact? I maintain, further, that there is no sense in which the saints of God now rule in the terms of the prophecies of Daniel 2 and 7. Quite to the contrary, in many countries in this world, the saints are being marginalized and slaughtered. How can it be said that we are ruling? Over whom are we ruling? Over what territory are we ruling? There is presently no rule taking place either by the Messiah or by any of His people in the sense that Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Dan. 2) and Daniel's vision (Dan. 7) indicate.

As always, in a non-literal approach to Scripture, "the devil is in the details." Let me illustrate: In order to maintain his non-literal interpretation, Storms finds it necessary to posit multiple antichrists. He identifies, for example, Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.), Nero (A.D. 64-68), and the Roman general Titus (A.D. 70) as being historical antichrists, and also correctly cites the future existence of an "Eschatological Antichrist" (2 Thess. 2:1-10; 1 John 2:18-24; 4:1-6; Rev. 13; 17).

Again, I disagree with Storms. In particular, there is no Biblical or historical evidence that Nero or Titus were overthrown by Jesus Christ. Quite to the contrary, Nero burned Christians and Titus obliterated the Jewish people. Storms is driven to his interpretation by his amillennial theology, which dictates that we are already experiencing the Messianic reign of Christ.

     Furthermore, observe how Storms answers his own question, "Third, what is the meaning of the phrase, 'a time, times, and half a time (7:25), seemingly the duration of the little horn's dominion over the people of God?" He notes that the reference to time in Daniel 7:25 is to be identified with similar expressions found in the book of Revelation (11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5). Here is Storms' answer to his own question:

Suffice it to say that in my view (which is always subject to change!) these designations (42 months = 1260 days = time, times, and half a time = 3 years) all refer to the entire present age intervening between the two comings of Christ (italics his). In other words, they are but literary variations for the same period. I do not believe that either Daniel or John intended us to take these references as chronologically precise periods that may be specified on a calendar.

Once more, I disagree with Storms. The fact that "time, times, and half a time" can be statistically equated with 42 months and 1260 days argues just the opposite, that these chronological references are very specific and are to be taken literally. They are to be equated with half of Daniel's 70th week of seven years as outlined in Daniel 9:24-27.

The difficulty with a non-literal hermeneutic is this: Where does one stop? Are we to assign a metaphorical understanding to the seven days of the creation week (Gen. 1:1-2:4)? Is the serpent in Genesis 3 a myth? Did Noah's flood really cover the whole earth (Gen. 7-8)? Is there really no future for the nation of Israel (Rom. 9-11)? Is Jesus' return to earth going to be literal or merely metaphorical? Are the details of our future eternal city literal or metaphorical? At least Storms is consistent. He believes the future city is symbolic, not literal. Storms can live in his symbolic city for all eternity if he wishes. I prefer to live in a literal city. (I suspect he will eventually change his mind!).
 Return to table
 

A Literal Understanding of The Timing of the Reign of Messiah

It is, in my judgment, impossible to read Daniel 2:31-45 and conclude that Daniel had in mind a fifth kingdom that was not  political. The four kingdoms preceding it were political. A merely spiritual kingdom, such as non-literalists like Sam Storms posit during the present inter-advent age, would have been unthinkable to Daniel. Certainly Nebuchadnezzar did not view Daniel's interpretation as a spiritual kingdom. In Daniel 3 he deliberately built a huge statue entirely of gold to demonstrate his rebellion against the interpretation of Daniel's God. Nebuchadnezzar was asserting that his political kingdom would last forever!

Of course there would be a spiritual element to this fifth political kingdom - after all, it was to be established by the God of heaven (Dan. 2:44-45)! Furthermore, there is solid evidence that in the Gospel of Matthew and even in the book of Acts, early Christians anticipated a political kingdom that was spiritual, not a kingdom that was merely spiritual.

So what is the timing of the Reign of Messiah? It cannot be demonstrated that Messiah's reign began at His First Advent, either before or after His resurrection and ascension. The Messianic reign of Christ is necessarily associated with His rule from the physical city of Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. Today we anticipate the Messianic reign of Christ, but it has not yet begun.

Jesus is presently sitting upon the right hand of God, waiting for His enemies to be made a footstool for His feet (Psa. 110:1). Jesus' Messianic scepter will be stretched forth from Zion, not from heaven (Psa. 110:2). His Messianic rule will begin when He approaches the Ancient of Days and is granted an eternal kingdom that extends over the whole globe, not just over heaven (Dan. 7:13-14, 18, 22, 27). When Jesus returns to earth at His Second Advent, He will descend upon the Mount of Olives  (Zech. 14:4).  He will exterminate His and Israel's and the Gentile saints' enemies (Psa. 110:5-7; Isa. 63:1-6; Zech. 14:3-5, 12-15; 2 Thess. 2:6-10; Rev. 19:11-21). Then He will rule from Jerusalem with a rod of iron (Psa. 2:5-9). He will be king over all the earth (Zech. 14:9).

Jesus' reign will be uninterrupted (2 Sam. 7:16; Luke 1:30-33). Though Satan will attempt to overthrow Jesus (Rev. 20:7-10), he and his deceived human followers will be exterminated by fire. God will incinerate the earth and the universe, create a new one, and then Jesus and God together will reign over New Earth from New Jerusalem assisted by His slaves (Rev. 22:1-5).

Today, we are not in Jesus' kingdom. We are in the "Mystery Form of His Kingdom (Matt. 13:10-52)," the inter-advent Church Age. He is King in absentia. He is qualified to rule, having been anointed by God with the Holy Spirit at His Baptism (Matt. 3:13-17), having conquered death, and having ascended to the right hand of the Father. In his own words, He has gone to a far country, receive His kingdom, and then return to rule (Luke 19:11-27). Inasmuch as He has not returned, He has not yet received His kingdom. He is still waiting for His enemies to be made a footstool for His feet (Psa. 110:1). When He returns, He will destroy His enemies, and His reign will begin. Presently He is King without portfolio. Much like David, who was anointed to be King as a teenager, but did not begin His reign until after His chief opponent, Saul, was dead, so Jesus will not begin until His opponents on earth are dead. Much like David, Jesus will make sure that His rule has the consent of the governed. We call this consent "faith." The Jewish people will mourn over having killed their King, and they will consent to His reign (Zech. 12:10-13:1). His regime will take place where it was always meant to take place - on the earth, in Jerusalem, on Mount Zion!  Right now it is our duty to recruit as many subjects for His Kingdom as we possibly can (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Let us busy ourselves with our King's business!
 Return to table


(Scripture quotation taken from the NASB.)


Published January 26, 2012

Updated March 23, 2014

Background and Button Image Credit

Search WordExplain.com here.