11 - The Image - The Kingdom of Man
R/Dean Daniel Lesson 11
The Image: The Kingdom of Man – Daniel 2:27-35
We continue our study of the book of Daniel. Daniel is one of those books that a lot of people like to study because it seems to be quite exciting to learn all about prophecy. And we live in an age when people always seem to want to know about the future; they want to know what's in store for the future. People ask all kinds of questions, they hear things about what's being taught in the Bible. Some people have read some of the popular books that are written, some of which are written from a positive and a correct dispensational premillennial framework, but people are always interested in the future. That's why people are attracted to horoscopes, astrology, fortune tellers, palm readers, tarot cards and all of that nonsense and demon inspired fortune telling.
But that's not the purpose for a book like Daniel. The purpose for Daniel was not to satisfy mankind's curiosity about the future; neither was it given in order to simply give man an overview or outline of human history, although it does that. Daniel was part of the third division in the Hebrew canon called the Kethubim. The Kethubim is called the Writings; there were three divisions in the Hebrew Old Testament, there was the Torah, the instruction, the first five books of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy. The second division was the Prophets, the Nabiim; there were the former prophets from Joshua through Esther. And then there were the latter prophets, these are the Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel and then a book they called The Twelve, which we call the Minor Prophets, the twelve Minor Prophets. But Daniel, with all of the prophecy that is in Daniel, was not included by the Jews as part of that division called the Nabiim or the Prophets. And the reason is because its primary purpose was not to disclose the future; it was to teach principles of wise living. Wise living is how to apply doctrine in the midst of a hostile environment.
Daniel is the story of specifically one young man, although by the end of Daniel, especially by the time of the episode everybody seems to know about, Daniel in the lion's den, Daniel by then was an old man, he was in his 70s by that time. But the beginning of the book, especially in chapter 2, he is not more than 17 years of age; he is very young, yet very wise. In fact, he is referred to as wise by Ezekiel. And so even Ezekiel, his contemporary, recognized that by the time Daniel was in his mid-twenties, that he had a reputation that had gone before him, all the way back to Israel, because the people had not yet gone out under the fifth cycle of discipline in 586 BC, at that time it was still around 590-591 BC and even then, as a young man in his mid-twenties he had a reputation for wisdom.
Now where did he get that wisdom? He got it from making the study of the Word of God the highest priority in his life. His parents had made it a priority and they had trained him as a child in the Word of God. They had a rigorous training program in the home, and we know that because of the way he handled the pressure that came to him and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, otherwise known as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. And when they were brought as hostages to Babylon they were put in a rigorous three-year training program to prepare them to serve in the Babylonian government, and that included courses that were designed to teach them to think like Babylonians. They were to think according to the religious system of the Babylonians; they were supposed to understand and operate on the basis of all of the mythology of the Babylonians; they were trained in all of the mystical and magical arts of the Babylonians, that doesn't mean they practiced them but that does mean that they were trained in all of the arts of astrology and necromancy and all of the various tools of divination that the magicians and astrologers and Chaldeans used in governing, guiding, directing and advising the king, because these men were supposed to serve in the upper level of the bureaucracy in Babylon.
And what we see in this whole situation is how a believer, a believer in a minority situation, in this case almost all of one of the greatest pagan empires of all of history against 3 or 4 individuals and they were standing alone. We have seen that they provide an example of how we are to think in the midst of a pagan environment, a pagan society, and how we are to present our case as believers in the midst of a society that is hostile to Christianity and to divine viewpoint.
So by chapter 2 we find, at the beginning of the chapter, that Nebuchadnezzar, one of the greatest kings of all of history, is beginning to think about his future. He's a young man still, probably late twenties or early thirties at this time and he has conquered much of the known world. He has conquered and defeated the great armies of Pharaoh-Neco of Egypt and the Assyrian armies and so Babylon at this time stands at the pinnacle of power and it is Nebuchadnezzar who is at the apex. He is a brilliant man; in terms of his own personal talents and abilities he lacks very little. He was a genius in many areas, he was a genius in architecture, a genius in military, a genius in administration, and so as an individual he lacks nothing. There are few of us that can ever imagine what it must be like to be someone like Nebuchadnezzar and have everything there is to have by way of the details of life. And yet what happens is once you reach that pinnacle of power and prestige, it doesn't take much to knock you off and to fall from the top. And as so often happens with people who get in that position they begin to wonder about the future. They begin to wonder, especially in his situation, what about the future of this empire that I've built? Who is going to defeat me just as I have defeated the Assyrians and the Egyptians?
Now it's at that time that God gave him a prophecy. We studied dreams and visions in the Old Testament, and that God spoke directly to many unbelievers in the Old Testament through dreams but there was never the two-sided conversation that occurred with believers. And Nebuchadnezzar is given a dream and it troubles him; he has the same dream night after night after night, and it bothers him so much because he understands that it has something to do with him, something to do with his own empire, his own future, and the end is such that it causes him to be extremely worried and concerned about his future destiny and the destiny of his empire. So he calls together all of his advisors, the magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans, this would be the equivalent of his cabinet. And these men are also the men that had taught him and tutored him and trained him in all of the ways of the Chaldeans when he was going through his years in the academy when he was young. And these are the same men that had been training Daniel and Azariah, Mishael and Hananiah.
So these men come and it's at this point, because his soul is in such turmoil, that Nebuchadnezzar says okay, it's time for me to put our whole system of beliefs to a test. He says I'm not even sure that you guys are going to be square with me so I'm going to put this to a test to make sure you give me the correct answer to this problem that I have; I not only want you to give me the interpretation of the dream, and I know, I've read all the dream books, I've read all your systems of dream interpretation, but to make sure that you've got it right and that you're not just trying to influence me and tell me what I would like to hear, I want you to prove your case. I want you to prove that your system, what we would say is your human viewpoint system of thinking works, that it has validity, that it is consistent, that it holds together and really functions in the real world. So what I want you to do is not only tell me the interpretation of the dream, tell me the dream itself. And they say well, nobody's ever done that before, it's impossible to do it, you can't do it unless God tells you, a little foreshadowing by the author to prepare us for Daniel coming on the scene.
The king responded in anger to them because he knew that they were just trying to delay the whole situation and so he told them that if they didn't give him the interpretation of the dream that the punishment would be that they would be cut in pieces, which was a standard method of torture and execution by the Chaldeans, but then their houses would be turned into a public head, that's latrine for those of you who aren't Navy types. So their house would be turned into a public latrine, just so that everybody in Babylon could demonstrate exactly what the king though of all of his advisors. And no one could give him the dream or its interpretation, and he sent the execution squad out to start arresting them, and they began to execute his advisors.
When they came to Daniel to arrest him and his friends and to execute them, Daniel said wait a minute, take me to the king and I'll tell him the dream and its interpretation. Daniel knows already that he has the gift of prophecy and he is operating on the faith rest drill, knowing what God had promised in Isaiah, that the descendants of Hezekiah would serve as advisors to the king of Babylon, and so he is exercising the faith rest drill, claiming that promise, knowing that they would not die. He goes to the king and then they had a prayer meeting that night, and about half way through the night God gave Daniel the prophecy, the insight into what the dream was and its interpretation.
So that brings up to speed; that brings us to Daniel 2:27, and here we have the situation. Daniel is coming into the throne room of the king. Can you picture Nebuchadnezzar up on his golden throneand surrounding him, all around him, are all of his advisors, all of the astrologers, all of the fortune tellers, all of the magicians, all of the Chaldeans, the priests, all of them are standing there and here comes this 17 year old kid, right down the middle of the great banquet hall. He comes into the throne room to do something tactically smart; he is going to make sure that the issue is clear to all of the advisors to the king and to the king himself. Before he describes the dream he is going to make sure that everyone understands what the real issues are. And the real issures are not what's going to happen in the future; the real issue is that it is the God of the Jews, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who is the true God of heaven, who is the God who controls history and not the gods of the Babylonians.
Remember in the ancient world when these nations had all their pantheon of idols, if they defeated another nation they interpreted that to mean that their gods were superior to the gods of another nation. Now one of the reasons that God is doing this through Daniel is to make it clear to the Jews, who have just been defeated and taken out under the fifth cycle of discipline and removed from their national home that God had promised to them under the Abrahamic Covenant, and under the real estate covenant, to demonstrate to them that He is still in control, that just because they have been defeated by the armies of the Chaldeans does not mean that God has been defeated or that their God is less powerful than the gods of the Babylonians. So Daniel is going to make the issue clear at the beginning.
Daniel 2:27 reads; "Daniel answered before the king and said, 'As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians, nor diviners are able to declare it to the king." You wise men, with all of your intelligence, with all of your academic degrees, with all of your skill, with all of the great scrolls and books that you have, and all of the advice and all of your experience are not able to tell the future with accuracy. Human viewpoint can never solve man's problems because human viewpoint is always built on the shifting sands of human finiteness, and that's what Daniel is making clear to everyone there, that their whole system is based on their own creatureness and there is no way that man on his own can foretell the future.
So he makes it clear that it's not them, it is God. Daniel is making it clear that you have your religion, all mankind has some religion of one form or another, and Daniel is saying there is only one God and there's only one religion. Daniel is saying there's only one way; he's an exclusivist, he believes that there is one God and that God has spoken to man and that that God is the source of absolute truth. Daniel would not be very popular in the 20th century because we want to believe there is some sort of neutrality, that there's some area of neutrality between man and God and that all roads ultimately lead to God. So Daniel takes a position that there is only one way and the Bible is the only way and everything else is wrong.
Now what usually happens in that kind of a situation is that unbelievers, those operating on human viewpoint relativism want to say well, you're just bigoted, you're arrogant, what gives you the right to say that you have the only way to God and that you know absolute truth and our response is, number one, not to portray that in an arrogant manner. Daniel is not portraying this in an arrogant manner, he's not walking in before the king swaggering and trying to show off everything that he knows. He understands that it's all based on who and what God is and not who he is; that God chose him to reveal this information and Daniel is grace oriented. He's going to draw a contrast between his dependence upon God, which is grace orientation and Nebuchadnezzar's independence, Nebuchadnezzar's attempt to establish his kingdom on his own, and Nebuchadnezzar's arrogance. In fact this is finally going to come to a head in Daniel 4 when God finally makes it clear to Daniel who the real Lord of the universe is. But Daniel is going to make that clear in this particular confrontation and he wants to make it clear that the information comes from God. It's not Daniel's talent, not Daniel's ability but it is God who is the One who reveals mysteries.
So in Daniel 28, Daniel says, "However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries," and this is such an important statement that Daniel is going to repeat it again in just a few verses, referring back to the God who reveals mysteries, in verse 29 he will say He is the God who reveals secrets and mysteries and has made known to you what His will will be. One thing we should learn from this, just by way of application, is that when God puts us in any kind of position of influence in the kingdom of man, and I have drawn a distinction here between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man, that the kingdom of man is what's going to be portrayed by this statute. All the different manifestations of man at his best and his highest; that's why it is made up of the kind of metals that make it up. It's looking at the kingdom of man in all his glory, as man looks at it.
When we come to Daniel 5 and Daniel 7 we'll see that the kingdom of man is portrayed as beasts and there it is portrayed as God looks at the kingdom of man, dominated by sin and depravity in all of its beastliness. So here the focus is on the kingdom of man as man looks at it and what we learn from this is when God puts us in a position as believers, any kind of authority position, any kind of position of influence, any kind of position of power, then we are to use that as a platform for glorifying Him. That can take many different ways, many different approaches and what we see with Daniel is Daniel is not one who is out there as some people want to interpret this today, always thumping the Bible, so to speak, he didn't have a Bible like we do, but he's not always jumping up and down using every opportunity to quote Scripture and to challenge them. But he thinks strategically and he picks and chooses his battles.
We saw that in the way they handled the opposition when they were going through school. They could have fought everything, they could have fought about being given names that glorified the gods and the idols of the Babylonians; he could have fought over the course material they were taught. He didn't fight over any of that; he fought over something that specifically challenged declared revelation, and that was the dietary law. So he's not fighting everything. We can't fight at every single point of opposition because the difference between divine viewpoint and human viewpoint is a conflict at each and every point. We have to learn to exercise wisdom; wisdom comes only from learning doctrine and assimilating it into our souls so that we can have real discernment and discretion and be able to choose the right battlefield. So Daniel is able to do that and we see how at this point he is using his position to glorify God; when he has the opportunity and is brought into the spotlight, he glorifies God. And so he says it is from the God who declares mysteries.
Then in Daniel 2:29 he says, "As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place," now the Aramaic word here is a piel perfect, which doesn't mean to turn, but it means to have something to come up, to arise, "while on your bed," arising from your soul, your thoughts focused on the future, "while one your bed your thoughts arose from you soul to what would take place in the future." You began to think about your own mortality, your own finiteness and the limitations of your own power. "…and He who reveals mysteries" once again he focuses on the fact that it is God who is the source of this knowledge, it is not himself, "He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place." So he's going to emphasize the fact that Nebuchadnezzar, you ought to be humbled by this because God has chosen to make you the instrument of knowledge. He's drawing a contrast between the arrogance of man and grace orientation from divine viewpoint. So he's going to tell him what will take place in the future.
Now this is something that has continuously been on Nebuchadnezzar's mind and what we see here is the dynamics of God-consciousness and how God is working on a Gentile unbeliever in the Old Testament to bring them to salvation. Now Nebuchadnezzar is not saved yet and he's not going to be saved until the end of chapter 4, but we see the preparation. What happens in Daniel 2:1 is he is given this revelation and it disturbs him; he begins to focus on his finiteness, on his limitations, on the fact that he as a finite creature cannot solve his own problems, he can't bring permanence into his life, he can't bring stability into his life, he's not sure that he can control tomorrow, much less the future of his kingdom that he has established. And so what God is beginning to do is to prepare Nebuchadnezzar for the realization that Nebuchadnezzar as a creature cannot make life work on his own.
You see, God has put a secret agent inside the soul of every single human being. From the instant that our soul is activated at birth, God begins to work. This is seen in the Old Testament in Ecclesiastes 3:11, there we read: "God has made everything appropriate in His time; He has also set eternity, holam in the Hebrew, "He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning, even to the end." See, man wants to know the plan, he wants to know everything, he wants to be in control. But God is not going to allow man to come to complete knowledge of everything from beginning to end, but God has placed eternity in their heart, in their thinking, literally, the Hebrew word here is leb, which doesn't refer… sometimes in English we use "heart" to refer to emotion but that's not the way it's used in the Hebrew, it refers to thinking, and in the depths of their soul, the innermost part of their soul there is, as Augustan said, there's a God-shaped vacuum in the soul of every single human being. In Romans 1 Paul says that it's clear from the heavens that God's essence is clear and that man is "suppressing the truth in unrighteousness," negative volition.
What this emphasizes is that every single human being comes to God-consciousness at some point in their life. With some people its earlier, as early as maybe two or three years of age, with others it may be later, some of it is determined by various factors such as culture, background, family life, whatever it may be, but we all have this eternity set in our thinking so that at some point we begin to realize that there's something greater than us. At that point we can either be positive or negative, we can either say God I want to know more about this, I know that there's something greater, I know that I'm a creature, I'm finite, I'm limited, I can't make life work on my own, I can't be the source of happiness, the details of life can't give me happiness. Here's Nebuchadnezzar, he has everything, more than any of us can ever imagine and he doesn't have happiness. The details of life, nothing in creation can give us happiness. So there must be something beyond creation, there must be a Creator out there and I want to know about Him. That's positive volition at God-consciousness.
So Nebuchadnezzar is positive but God still is working to prepare him and to emphasize to him that he is limited. Now this is the same kind of thing that you and I can do when we are witnessing to an unbeliever. Rather than letting the unbeliever set the agenda as to what the issues are in our conversations with him as we're trying to share the gospel, one of the things we should be doing as the stage is being set… you don't do this every time, it depends on the individual, how prepared they already are, is as they start to challenge us, let's say, how can you believe the Bible it's full of historical inaccuracies, it's illogical, etc., we can say hmm, well what are the so-called historical discrepancies and illogical things in Scripture that really bother you. And then they might begin to tell us what the problems are that they see, maybe one or two things. We can admit, yeah, there's some discrepancies between what archeology has discovered and what the Bible says, but archeology is based on finite science, it has changed many times and discovered other things, so we can't base ultimate hope on the truths derived from either empiricism, like archeology, or rationalism, like logic. We have to go to something that is far greater than that, and then we can begin to communicate to them that we base our thinking on something that goes beyond human rationalism and empiricism because those are ultimately limited. And we can perhaps even point out the weaknesses of their system. And that prepares them for the communication of the gospel
That's what is happening dynamically with Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2, Daniel 3 and then ultimately God is really going to lower the boom on him in Daniel 4 and finally he will become a believer.
Daniel 2:29 we read, "As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned," or "your thoughts came up from your soul focusing on the future; and He who reveals mysteries," back in verse 28 this focused on God, that He is the "God in heaven who reveals mysteries," this isn't the god Marduk, who was the primary god in the Babylonian pantheon that they turned to, this is the God, and he will explain it to Nebuchadnezzar later, who is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Now the thing that we want to note by way of application here is that Daniel makes certain that he is going to keep his distance, ideologically or philosophically, however you want to put it, from Nebuchadnezzar. He wants to make sure that Nebuchadnezzar and all these men surrounding him understand the issue, that the issue is God. He repeats it twice, "it is God who reveals mysteries," and that my position is completely different from your position, I am not buying into some sort of religious system like you promote with all of your gods in the Babylonian pantheon, I work for THE God in heaven and He is distinct from all of your gods. So he is making sure that he is not absorbed… see, that's one thing that happens in human viewpoint, is they always want to, like a big amoeba, they want to absorb Christians. How can you hold to a position of exclusivism; don't you believe that all roads end up leading to heaven, and that God honors our good intentions? We've all realized that when we're trying to witness to an unbeliever that they don't want their position to be any different from ours, so they try to make it and massage it into something that they can accept. But Daniel is not going to allow that, he wants to maintain a strong contrast between his position and his devotion to God and his God and what is being promoted by the human viewpoint system of the Babylonians.
Then in Daniel 2:30 he says, "But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me," he emphasizes that it's not due to who and what he is, it's not based on his academics, it's not based on his intelligence, it's not based on his talent, his good looks or anything else, or his morality, it's based on the grace of God. God has chosen him to be the one to reveal this information. So he has demonstrated the contrast, again, between his grace orientation and Nebuchadnezzar's arrogance.
Now we should ask another question at this point; why was this vision given to Daniel? Was this vision given to edify Daniel and to increase his spiritual growth and to give him a spiritual boost? Not at all. The reason we ask that question is because we live in an environment today where there are many Christians who have an excessive and inordinate emphasis on spiritual gifts. Now the Bible clearly teaches that God has given a number of spiritual gifts and distributed them to believers in the Church Age. In the early Church Age some of those spiritual gifts were much more impressive than others. There were spiritual gifts like miracles and healings and speaking in tongues, and yet those passed away by the end of the 1st century. But in the later 19th century, actually on the first day of the 20th century, January 1, 1901, there was a resurrection of the so-called gift of tongues, they call it the gift of tongues, the Bible calls it literally the gift of languages, and yet what is practiced today isn't legitimate languages; it's pretty much ecstatic utterance, there has never been any demonstration that anybody who had what they claimed to be the gift of tongues is speaking in anything like a language.
And this can be demonstrated negatively through linguistic analysis. A linguist, a good linguist doesn't need to know what somebody is saying to be able to tell whether or not it is a legitimate language or just gobbledygook or gibberish that somebody is making up based on their own language. There have been a number charismatic and Pentecostal scholars over the years who have tape recorded thousands and thousands of tongues speech and taken it to linguistic analysis, and not once has it ever been demonstrated to be a legitimate language. The early charismatics in the early part of the 20th century all believed that it would be a legitimate language when they spoke in tongues and it would enable them to carry the gospel to the four corners of the world and they would be able to have a tremendous missionary movement. Well, as soon as they realized that the so-called Chinese that Agnes Ozman spoke on January 1, 1901, wasn't Chinese and that nobody else was speaking a language that anybody else could understand, they began to say oh, well this is just a Holy Spirit language, and this is a prayer language that God gives us in order to be able to edify ourselves. And that, number one, flies in the face of the definition of a spiritual gift; a spiritual gift is given to a believer for the benefit of the body of Christ, never for personal benefit. Now in the practice of your spiritual gift, whether it's mercy, administration, teaching, helps, whatever it might be, you might, as a side effect, become edified. It might have some spiritual value for you; it certainly does for me, I spend hours each week with my nose in the Bible studying it and learning a lot of spiritual truth and that has an impact on my spiritual life, but that's not the function of my spiritual gift is to serve myself. It is to serve the body of Christ, and to minister to the body of Christ, and that's the purpose of the gift of pastor-teacher.
The same thing is true by analogy of what was going on here with Daniel. The vision was not given so that Daniel could be personally edified. The information was not given to Daniel so that he and his three friends would have special insight into God's plan for history and so that they could then impress everybody with their ability to tell the future. The vision that God gave Daniel was given specifically to serve Nebuchadnezzar; that's what this is all about, it's not about Daniel, it's about Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel says, "this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king," it's not for me, it's for him. See, spiritual gifts are not for us; spiritual gifts are to serve other members of the body of Christ and the same kind of thing was true here; this vision was given in order that Daniel could make known the interpretation to the king, "and that you," the king, "may understand the thoughts of your mind."
Now we come to the dream itself. There's an important principle that we have to understand, a couple of important principles, before we get into the dream itself, related to how to interpret these dreams and visions. We're going to see a series of these in Daniel, going all the way through to the end of the book so we have to understand a couple of principles in relationship to interpretation. The first is that when you read prophecy…when we read prophecy we need to learn to read it as the original person saw it, as the prophet understood it in the initial situation. Remember this always in interpreting Scripture; Scripture needs to be interpreted in the time in which it was written and the meaning of any Scripture, the interpretation of any Scripture is based on the original author's intent. That has to do with interpretation; application may go beyond that but interpretation has to do with what the original author intended. It's not what you think it means but what the original author intended to communicate. And the same is true, when you were 16 years old and you got a love letter from that guy or girl, what mattered was what they intended to communicate in that love letter, and not what you wanted them to say. Just as you would spend hours and hours pouring over those notes and cards trying to figure out, well, they signed it, "Love, Bill." Now what did he mean? Does that mean "I love you like a Christian brother?" Or does that mean something more intense? And then you would have to exegete every little nuance of every little word as you went through that, and what mattered was not what you wanted it to mean or thought it meant but what they intended to communicate. The same thing is true when you fill out your tax return every April 15th, it doesn't matter what you want those codes and rules to mean, what those instructions mean, what matters is what the IRS intends. Of course the problem there is that the meaning there differs from IRS agent to the next; just call their help line five or six times with the same question and you'll discover that there's relativism in the IRS, or maybe it's just ignorance.
So we need to read prophecy as the original person saw it and interpreted it. That means we have to look at the vision that Daniel gives us here in Daniel 2 as it's interpreted by Daniel in Daniel 2. Now it's real easy to, in light of what Daniel learns in Daniel 5, 7, 9, 10 and 11, to read that later information back into what is communicated in this vision, but we dare not do that. That's not what this vision was about. Daniel is going to interpret it for us and it's real easy to get all caught up in the details of the vision, but we have to remember a key principle that not every detail in the dream is interpreted or has an interpretation. Not every detail…we could look at the head and say hmm, there are two ears—I wonder what those two ears mean? Well Daniel never addresses that.
We could look at the torso and look at the two arms and many people have done this and you say well, that kingdom represents the Persian kingdom which was made up of the Medes and the Persians, but the Medes were just a minor part, they weren't a major part and we'll learn that when we get into Daniel 5 and Daniel 7, but the arms are equal. And many people say well arm is the Medes and one arm is the Persians but Daniel never tells us that. Daniel doesn't interpret that; he's just talking about the chest represents that next kingdom. And we'll see where you get into trouble next week when we get into the legs because the iron legs represent the Roman Empire and it is almost standard procedure, and there is an element of truth to it by way of application, that the Roman Empire divided into east and west so you'll hear people wax eloquent about the eastern empire and the western empire, but if you followed that truth through to its logical conclusion, when you come to the feet, where you have ten toes, five on one foot and five on the other foot, if the two legs represent the eastern kingdom and the western kingdom, then by logic you're driven to the conclusion that five of the ten nations have to be from the old eastern kingdom and five from the old western kingdom, and that falls apart. So don't push it beyond what the authorized interpreter of the Scripture says. Now it's true, the Roman Empire was divided into east and west, but that's not the point that's being made here, at least as far as Daniel's interpretation goes.
So we have to be very, very careful and there's much that we're going to learn. The other thing that we have to watch out for when we look at this is don't look at these prophecies like you're reading the morning newspaper. There's too much newspaper exegesis of prophecy today where people read about the antichrist and they look out there and they say well… you know, 100 years ago it was going to be Kaiser Wilhelm, and further back it was Bismarck, beyond that you go further back, Napoleon was the antichrist, during World War II Hitler was the antichrist, then it was… I've heard people mention John Kennedy because he had a head wound and Kissinger because he's Jewish and Bill Clinton and everybody else that you can image has been volunteered at one time or another to be the antichrist. But we don't get into speculation trying to figure out how this fits today. That violates, number one that violates another key principle of interpretation of prophecy and that is prophecy is futuristic and has to do with the future and not the present age; we live in the Church Age and there is no prophecy being fulfilled in the Church Age. There is no prophecy to be fulfilled in the Church Age. The next event in prophecy to be fulfilled is the end of the Church Age, which takes place at the rapture when Jesus Christ returns in the air, in the clouds, and every believer alive and dead, will be instantly transformed into their resurrection body and caught up to be with him in the air, and it will take place in the blink of an eye, in just a split second it will all take place. We won't even know it, one minute we're conscious of being on the earth and the next minute we're going to be somewhere in the upper atmosphere and a moment later we will be in heaven with the Lord, and the Tribulation will be at its beginning stages here on the earth. Don't get caught up in newspaper exegesis.
Let's look at the next verse as Daniel begins to describe the vision. We're going to go through it, and then what he does is starting verse 31 down through 35 Daniel describes what the king dreamed; and then starting in verse 36 he interprets the thing. So let's go through the whole thing right off.
Daniel 2:31, "You, O king, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome.  The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze.  Its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.  You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them." Now let's take a moment and just make some basic observations about what's going on here. Let's read verse 35, "Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth."
Now let's look at some of the details here. This is one of the most incredible visions in prophecies ever given to the human race. It is a foundation for understanding everything else in Daniel and it's the foundation for understanding much of what takes place in the book of Revelation. It was at one time so well-known that even standard…[tape turns]…were aware of these four kingdoms. Back two or three hundred years ago it was common to talk about people who were fifth kingdom people, there was a group in England during the time of the Puritan revolt against Charles I, and they were called fifth kingdom people because they were trying to destroy the monarchy at that time and bring in a better kingdom. It wasn't the Puritans; it was another group that wanted to overthrow the king. Later this whole flow of history of Daniel 2 influenced not only Hegel but also Marx in their interpretation of history. So even though it became some what of a distortion of the Bible it's interesting that Marx got his communist philosophy of history from a distorted view of the Scripture, which he hated.
Verse 31, "You, O king, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue;" "were looking" is from the piel perfect of the Aramaic word chazah, and that indicates a continuous gazing, looking, and intensity, he is night after night having this dream and he keeps looking and focusing on this statute, he's trying to memorize every detail, trying to figure out just exactly what each detail means, and he's focusing on this as a single great statue. And I want to make a point out of that because this word "single" emphasizes the unity of the statute. Too often we want to stop and we want to look at the different kingdoms and break them apart as the Babylonian kingdom, the Persian kingdom, the Roman kingdom and the Greeks and take them apart, but they are part of one single statue. There is a unity here, there is a flow through history and the unity represents the kingdom of man and the successive history kingdoms are just different manifestations of man's desire to rule himself. Ultimately it goes back, as we have seen, to Genesis 10 and the founding of the kingdom of Babel and the tower of Babel, back in Genesis 10.
Another thing I want you to note is that it doesn't say that this is a statute of a man; we infer that because he had legs and arms, but it doesn't particularly say that and doesn't overtly state that in the passage. Another observation, it says that it is "a great statue," it is enormous, and this is a portrayal of the kingdom of man as man looks at it; man is impressed with his own power and with his own ability. Man is impressed with the fact that he can do great things and it doesn't appear to him that God can do very great things. So it presents the kingdom of man as one single powerful overwhelming statute. When it says "that statue, which was large" it repeats the idea, "and of extraordinary splendor," the beauty of the metals, the way it glistened in the light was phenomenal, it drew and caught your attention. It was something that was glorious to behold and that's what man thinks of himself in all of his pride and all of his arrogance, that he is something, he has produced something glorious to behold, and then it states that "its appearance was awesome," this is from the piel passive of the Aramaic dechal which means that it's appearance was fearful, it produced terror, there was something in the facial expression. I don't know what it was, we could speculate, perhaps even Nebuchadnezzar, since he is going to be said to be the head, that Nebuchadnezzar looked at the head and saw his own face, saw something that reminded him of himself. So the appearance strikes terror and fear deep into his soul.
Now I want you to understand some things about this particular vision. This is the image, an artist's rendition of what it looked like, and it focuses on the power of man and all of his brilliance. Now I want you to look at the emphasis in verses 32 and following of the description. One of the rules of Bible study is to pay attention to proportion. Where is the Holy Spirit putting the emphasis in this description; how much space does He give to the different elements of the stature.
For example, in Daniel 2:32 we read: "The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze." Three kingdoms are covered in one verse. Verse 33, "Its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay." So one kingdom is covered in one verse and it's important to notice at this point, when you get to the feet it's a compound, the other kingdoms are homogenous, they are culturally homogenous, there's one metal. But when you get to the end there is a cultural heterogeneity here. There is a mix of clay and iron, and this isn't soft clay, the word that is used here is the Aramaic word chacaph, which refers to brittle pottery, it's the word for baked clay. It's brittle pottery, and so you have two things brought together that don't join, you can't join brittle baked pottery with iron. It shows the instability of the union.
So we look at the image and we see that it starts off with gold, silver brass, iron, then iron and clay, and we need to observe some things about the order. Six observations: first of all, the metals decline in value as they descend the statue. Daniel makes a point of that, the metals are going to decline in value as they descend the statue. The most valuable, the most powerful, begins with the Babylonian kingdom. Second, the metals increase in hardness and brittleness as they descend the statue. Third point, the metals go from heavy to light in terms of their specific gravity; this makes the statue top heavy. Fourth, each kingdom except the last is represented by homogenous metal, one metal. There is a cultural unity to each kingdom. Fifth, the last kingdom is a mix of metal with pottery and that is the base and provides an unstable foundation for the kingdom of man. The entire statue, the entire kingdom of man is established on a weak, unstable foundation. And sixth, the statue itself looks at the kingdom of man from man's perspective in terms of all of its glory, brilliance, power, splendor and impressiveness, yet it is unstable.
Now we see what happens next is the destruction of this kingdom. Now I want you to notice, while the stone that hits the statue lands at the base, it wipes out the whole statue, not just the final kingdom. Daniel 2:34, "You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them.  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time," so the entire kingdom of man and all of his glory is crushed and destroyed at the same time, "and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the while earth."
Now look at verse 34, it begins, "You continued looking," which indicates that Nebuchadnezzar is just transfixed by the image, he continues to stare at the image. At that point "a stone is cut without hands," now that should sound familiar to anyone who has read the Old Testament. A "stone cut without hands," in the ancient world all the various religious systems built grand and glorious temples to their gods, and inside that temple they would build an incredible altar, and they would go out to the stone quarries and they would cut the best of the rocks and they would polish them and they would decorate them and engrave them and in some cases paint them or gild them, and that's what they would use to build the altar to their god. But in the Old Testament the Jews were forbidden to do that. They were told to go out into the fields and to find stones that were cut without human hands and to use those stones, just the raw stones as they found them in the field to build their altar. Why? Because God was going to demonstrate that coming into His presence had nothing to do with human ability, it didn't matter how talented they were, how beautiful their works were, how great they were, what mattered is that God was the One who did all the work. So they were to take the rocks as they were found in creation, as they had come from the hand of God, and they would use those rocks, those stones to build the altar.
That reminds me of a joke: a bunch of scientists got together and decided that God really wasn't needed any more, after all, we've got DNA and we can clone now so we don't really need God. So one of them was selected to go tell God he wasn't needed any more. So he went and found God and said we don't need you any more God, it's been great, but we can do it all now. God said great; well let's just check this out. Let's see how well you can do, let's have a little contest. You ready for a little bet. Yeah. Okay, let's see who can create a man the fastest. The other guy said okay, great, I can do that. God said I'll let you go first. So the scientist bent over and he picked up some dust from the ground and God said no-no, you make your own dust. See, the rock comes from stones cut without hands. The emphasis is that anything that man touches is going to be soiled by sin. Man can nothing to gain favor with God, God does it all and that's the way it is with salvation. Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone; Christ does all the work, many simply accepts it by faith, by putting their faith alone in Christ alone. Next time we'll come back and look at the details of the dream as Daniel begins to explain its interpretation in verse 36.