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God's Plan for Human History - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 2


As you look at the book of Daniel, it's important to understand the big picture. Every book in the Bible has a central theme. While it may develop a number of sub-themes, every book, without exception, has one big point that it is making. In the case of the book of Daniel, it is this: Yahweh, the God of Israel, is sovereign. He is sovereign over the lives of individuals, over the affairs of nations, over the span of empires, over all of human history. That's the big picture of this book.

We met Daniel and his friends in chapter 1, and even there we saw God's amazing providence to bring them to that place. We're studying Daniel chapter 2, and this story, this particular record of one incident, one of six incidences that Daniel records of his own personal history in Babylon, this second one here in chapter 2 has this as its theme (as it develops that overarching theme it makes this point): God has a sovereign plan for human history. God has mapped out human history, and God revealed this both to Daniel and to Nebuchadnezzar in a way that neither of them would ever forget. And once you understand it, you won't forget it either.

Now, so far, as we look at this chapter unfold, we have seen God's plan disclosed in a king's dream. In the first thirteen verses all we learn is that Nebuchadnezzar had a dream—a dream that deeply troubled him, a dream that he did not understand—and that he tried desperately to get someone, one of his wise men or them collectively, to explain to him. But we learned secondly, the last time we looked at Daniel together in verses 14-30, that that was impossible for Nebuchadnezzar, because God's plan is known only through divine revelation. That's the message we learned in the second section of this chapter. As God revealed that plan to Daniel His prophet, and now through him, the prophet of God, we learn what that plan is, just as Nebuchadnezzar did.

Now tonight, we come to the next section of this amazing narrative. And in this section of chapter 2, thirdly we find God's plan explained for our benefit. God's plan, this sovereign, sweeping plan for human history, is explained to us as God's people for our great benefit. This is unfolded for us in verses 31-45. Now to this point in the story, all Daniel has told us is that Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, and that he demanded that his wise men, his counselors and advisors, tell him both the content of the dream, which he himself remembered—this was a test to make sure they weren't messing with him, they weren't just sort of spinning their recollection of what that might mean—but rather, if they could tell him what the dream was, then he could be fairly certain that they were in communication with the gods, and they could accurately tell him what it meant. So, this is what he has demanded. And Daniel prayed—Daniel and his three friends—and in answer to his prayer and the prayer of his three friends, God has revealed to him both the content of the dream and its meaning. And so here in this section, for the very first time in this chapter, we learn the content of Nebuchadnezzar's dream.

Look at verse 31: "You, O king, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue..." In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw this huge colossus of a statue. Now in the ancient world, and in Babylon specifically, this would not have been completely uncommon. In fact, within the city of Babylon itself was a notorious, dominating statue of the pagan God Marduk. In fact, the ziggurat at Marduk's temple was two hundred feet high. We don't know exactly how high the statue of Marduk itself was, but this would have not been uncommon. But this one was unique, and it bothered Nebuchadnezzar. So, Daniel goes on then to describe the image, the specific image, that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream. Verse 31: "...that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome." It was large, that is, it was enormous. Now, Daniel doesn't tell us here how tall this statue was in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, but, if the image that Nebuchadnezzar built in chapter 3 and demanded that he be worshipped through it, if that was a replica of this one (and it's likely that it was), that one was ninety feet tall, the equivalent of a nine story building. It was enormous. And verse 31 says it had an "extraordinary splendor." The Aramaic word has the idea of something that is brilliant, something that is dazzling. Likely, this was the natural effect of seeing the sun reflecting off all of those precious metals that make up this image in his dream. Daniel adds at the end of verse 31 that "its appearance was awesome." "Awesome" is from an Aramaic word that means "fear." This massive, gleaming, dazzling statue produced awe and fear in the heart of Nebuchadnezzar as he saw it in the context of his dream.

Now, that's the big picture, but Daniel goes on to describe this image in more detail. Verse 32: "The head of that statue was made of fine gold..." Now clearly, immediately we learn that this image is the image of a man. The head of the statue was made of "fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze"—bronze is, by the way, just an alloy of copper and tin—"its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay," or even baked clay may be the idea here. Now obviously, as you descend down this statue, the metals are less valuable: gold, silver, bronze, iron, and then you have clay, not a metal at all. You also have with each of these a lower specific gravity—and I won't give you the exact measurements, you'll just take my word for it; I have it in my notes, but I think that's probably pointless for me to share that with you—but you also have them as increasingly strong, except, obviously, for the clay, which isn't a metal. But each of the metals are increasingly strong.

Verse 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." Now again, put on your sanctified imagination for a moment: imagine you'd had a dream of an image like this towering ninety feet over you, potentially, made of these precious metals, awesome in appearance, dazzling in the sunlight. As you're standing there as Nebuchadnezzar was, mesmerized by this colossus, suddenly a stone is cut out of the mountain without any human hands or any human implements, and that great stone is then somehow hurled at the statue, strikes its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them. Verse 35 says, "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." Not only were the feet of this great statue destroyed by the stone, but the entire statue, with all of its metals, was crushed at the same time. In fact, the entire colossal statue was crushed to powder like chaff from a threshing floor, that fine dust that rises when the grain is thrown into the air. And as that dust—you got the picture? Here's this huge, ninety feet image, it's crushed to powder, and as that powder lies there on the surface of the ground, the wind blows and carries that dust away, so that Daniel says not even a trace of that statue remains. It's gone. Entirely gone. Verse 35: "But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth." That stone that had been cut out of the mountain, that had destroyed the statue, not only was it not shattered in that process, by hitting metals, but instead, it grew into a great mountain and filled the entire planet. Now, that is the content of the dream. A remarkable dream—and you can see why it troubled Nebuchadnezzar. The immediate connection in his own mind in that era would have been—what? What was the most common way for a king in the ancient world to lose his kingdom? A coup. It still is today. So, he's thinking, "Okay, who is going to be after me?" You can see why he so desperately wanted to know what was going on. That's his thinking.

But now that Daniel has recounted the content of this dream, Nebuchadnezzar can be sure that Daniel has, in fact, been in touch with the "gods," in his polytheistic way of thinking, and that Daniel's interpretation will be accurate as well. So, he's, I promise you, all ears at this point. He knows this man standing in front of him knows what he dreamed. And now, he's going to hear what it means. And so, Daniel goes on to explain the meaning of the dream. Verse 36: "This was the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king." Now, "we" there is probably not a royal "we," and he's probably not talking about his tapeworm, he and his tapeworm. By "we" Daniel probably means himself and his God. This is yet another way for Daniel to do what he's already done relentlessly, and that is to exalt the glory of God. It's God Who has made this known. And he wants to continue to drive that home to this pagan king. Let me just say, as you interact with lost people in your family or in your work or in other contexts, don't be afraid to speak about God as you would to a Christian brother or sister. Don't pretend you're not a Christian, don't hide it, don't hide what you believe. Speak to them, not always in a confrontive way—just talk to them normally. Bring the reality of God and His existence, and of what you have come to know and believe, before them. This is what Daniel does, given this opportunity. He says "we," God and I, are going to tell you what this means. Because he has already told him how he learned it: he learned it from God.

Now, as Daniel explains the dream, we're going to learn that the nature of the dream, the meaning of the dream at its heart, is this: it is a historical panorama of four great Gentile empires, or kingdoms, that are ultimately replaced by a divine kingdom. This isn't the only glimpse we're going to get of this eternal plan; in fact, almost all scholars universally agree that the prophecy that's made to Nebuchadnezzar here in chapter 2 and the prophecy that's made to Daniel in chapter 7 are both identical. They both describe the same four Gentile kingdoms. They both describe the coming kingdom of God. They just describe them from different vantage points. Here you have it from man's perspective, and it's this glowing, beautiful image of precious metals. When Daniel the prophet looks at the same empires in Daniel 7, what he sees are angry, ravaging beasts. That's God's perspective on the kingdoms of this world. Now, just to give you an overall context, an overview of this image, let me just remind you that here are the different parts of the body, moving from the head, to the chest and arms, to the belly and thighs, to the legs and feet, to the toes. The metals then move from gold, to silver, to bronze, to iron, to iron and clay. And here is an overview of the kingdoms that are represented—we're going to go through these in a little more detail—but the head is the Neo-Babylonian Empire; the chest and arms the Medo-Persian Empire; the belly and thighs the Greek Empire; the leg and feet the Roman Empire; and the toes, as we'll talk about, a revived Roman Empire at some point in the future (and I've given you the verse references there; this will be posted online, if you want, at some point, to look back at it).

But now let's walk through this text and look at each of these kingdoms individually. As we look at the meaning of the dream, the first kingdom that we're introduced to is the kingdom of Babylon, the empire of Babylon. Verse 37: "You, O king, are the king of kings..." In Hebrew and in Aramaic, this expression—and it occurs in both—is a superlative. It underscores that Nebuchadnezzar was the greatest king of his time. He was the king above all other kings. He was the greatest. He was the "G.O.A.T.," the "Greatest of all Time" in his time. But his exalted position was not one that he had earned or achieved; instead, it was a stewardship that had been given to him. Look at verse 37. It goes on to say, " whom"—you are the king of kings—"to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory..." Daniel emphasized the sovereignty of God over all the kings of the earth, including the greatest king of his time, Nebuchadnezzar. Folks, this is such a crucial lesson for us to remember in our day. Who are the most powerful politicians on our planet? Who are the most powerful politicians in our country? Daniel 2:37 still applies. The "God of heaven has given [them] the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory." It was the God of heaven, Daniel says, who had given the Babylonian kingdom the power, the strength, and the honor, and that position to Nebuchadnezzar. Verse 38: "...and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all." Two things stand out here. In the Mediterranean world, God had given Nebuchadnezzar authority to rule over all of the people in his realm and all of the animals in his vast empire. But secondly, notice how often in these verses Daniel says you have been "given." You have been given. God has caused this. He ends verse 38 with saying, "You are the head of gold." In that statue you saw, Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon is the head of gold. By the way, the reason he says, "You are the head of gold," even though the rest of these are all kingdoms—he's talking about kingdoms here—is because Nebuchadnezzar essentially was the Neo-Babylonian Empire. In fact, after his reign of 43 years, the empire only lasted another 23. Since Nebuchadnezzar embodied the kingdom, he was the kingdom, if you study secular history and you study this kingdom, you will find that he was "the man." Daniel describes him as the head of gold, but only since he represents the kingdom of Babylon. For 66 years, from 605-539 BC, the Neo-Babylonian Empire ruled the Near East. And God says, "That's My plan. That's who I put in charge."

Then in verse 39, we meet a second kingdom, the kingdom of Medo-Persia. Notice verse 39: "After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you..." Now, don't miss the irony of those two words, "After you..." No great politician, no great king wants to think about "after me." Daniel, here, was reminding Nebuchadnezzar that he was a mere mortal who would die like all other men. He was reminding him that his kingdom was not an everlasting one. "After you, and after your kingdom comes another one, so buddy, don't think for a moment you're going to last forever. This is your 15 minutes. It'll soon be done." Now, from history we know that the next great power to appear on the Mediterranean world scene was the Medo-Persian Empire led by Cyrus the Great. In Nebuchadnezzar's dream, this empire was represented by the silver chest and arms. The two arms likely represent the two parts, or the two divisions, of the empire: the Medes and the Persians came together to form this Medo-Persian Empire. And the Medo-Persian Empire dominated that part of the world for over 200 years, from 539 BC to 331 BC. Now, Daniel, here, says very little about this second kingdom in chapter 2, but he's not done with it; in fact, he's going to come back and describe it in much greater detail in chapters 7 and 8. And there it's described as a bear in 7:5, and as a two-horned ram in 8:20, and there it is specifically referred to as the Medo-Persian Empire. Daniel describes it as "another kingdom"—notice how he says it—"inferior to you." The Aramaic word "inferior" is actually the word "earthward." One "earthward" from you. In other words, it's descending, it's down. There's been a lot of debate regarding exactly how the Medo-Persian Empire was inferior or downward from Babylon—obviously there's an inferiority pictured in the decreasing values of the metals—but it can't be a decrease in size, because actually, Medo-Persian controlled a larger territory than Babylon did, than Nebuchadnezzar did. The descending metal weight and the descending value, descending on the body, I think picture a couple things. Now, I think they picture the descending authority. You go from the head of gold, which is the absolute, unrestrained despotism of Babylon to the democracy-republic system of Rome with its checks and balances. So, I think in the one sense, there is a decline in that way, in the authority, but I also think—and I'm in good company here—I think the picture of descent is one of morality. Descending morality. John Calvin writes, "[Cyrus's] kingdom"—now talking about the Medo-Persians—"is not called 'inferior' through having less splendor or opulence in human estimation, but because the general condition of the world was worse under the second monarchy, as men's vices and corruptions increase more and more." In other words, the world's sinfulness increased. This is what the scripture teaches us, isn't it. This is what's happening in our day. The world's sinfulness will continue to increase as we march toward the culmination of human history. You see, the governments of our world are not moving closer to utopia, but in the opposite direction, toward dystopia. Inferior. Each one inferior to the other.

Third. The third kingdom described in this dream is the kingdom of Greece. Verse 39 says, "...then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth." This third kingdom, represented by the belly and thighs of the image, was Greece, the empire that followed Medo-Persia. It's referred to, as we'll see in 7:6, in 8:5, in 11:3-4, as Greece. Greece was a dominant player in Mediterranean world history. In fact, in the year 332 BC, the armies of Alexander the Great defeated the Medo-Persian Empire in a series of lightning fast and decisive battles. The vast empire that resulted from those victories dominated the Mediterranean world for nearly 185 years, from 331 BC to 146 BC As Daniel predicted almost 300 years before it actually happened, Greece—notice what he says in verse 39—was to "rule over all the earth." In other words, the entire civilized Mediterranean world of his day. And that's exactly what happened with Alexander's incredible, lightning fast expansion and domination of that part of the world. So, the kingdoms represented in this image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream don't merely represent individual nations, then, but world empires. There's the third kingdom.

The fourth one comes in verses 40-43, and it's Rome. First of all, you have what is clearly, in verse 40, the ancient Roman Empire. Verse 40 says, "Then there will be a fourth kingdom..." The iron legs that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream represented this fourth empire that would dominate the world after Greece. It was ancient Rome. And this fourth empire would be known primarily for its military strength. Look at verse 40: "Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron..." Iron is the strongest of all the metals in this image, and it is a perfect description of Rome. In fact, notice the five verbs that are used in verse 40 to describe exactly how Rome was like iron. It was "as strong as iron; inasmuch"—here's what I mean by that, Daniel says—"as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces." There is, if you've read any Roman history, if you understand anything about the Roman Empire, there you have a classic and perfect description of what made Rome distinct from all the other empires. It was its military might. The armies of Rome were like a great, iron club in the hand of the emperor and the senate, and they crushed every army, every nation, every ruler that they ever encountered, anyone who ever resisted them. They shattered them. They crushed them. The Roman Empire dominated the Mediterranean world for nearly 500 years, from the defeat of Carthage in 146 BC to the division of the eastern and western empires in 395 AD The last Roman emperor in the west ruled after that split, ruled until 476 AD And the eastern division of the empire lasted until 1453 AD Now notice verse 40 says Rome would crush and break, notice this expression, "all these," meaning the other three empires that came before. This probably means that each empire that came along—and this is true from history—each of these empires absorbed the peoples and the land from the previous one. And so, the Roman Empire did what the others had done: they simply absorbed the other three entirely. When Rome conquered Greece, Rome conquered the two previous empires that Greece itself had conquered. And so, Rome in that sense crushes and breaks all of these, although they didn't exist at the same time as Rome.

Now, let me just stop here and say this: the interpretation that I have shared with you so far regarding the identity of these kingdoms is almost universally the testimony of the church. You can go back to Jerome: in the fourth and fifth centuries, he taught everything I just taught you. You can fast forward to the Reformation. You find John Calvin teaching exactly what I just taught you in the sixteenth century. In fact, almost all scholars who believe that Daniel was written by Daniel and was written 500 years before Christ in the time of Daniel, as it claims—everyone, almost all of them who believe that, believe these are the kingdoms represented here. The only ones who reject what I just shared with you, in terms of the nature and identity of those kingdoms, are those who believe Daniel did not write this book, but it was written during the Maccabean era just a couple hundred years before Christ. You say, "Well why would they believe that?" The only reason they believe that is because of their anti-supernatural bias. Because of the accurate prophecies in Daniel, they reject the supernatural, and they say, "Oh, Daniel couldn't have written that, because that's way too accurate. It had to have been written after those things happened." But everyone else who embraces what is clear, that Daniel wrote this prophecy 500 years before Christ, embrace everything I just shared with you.

But beginning in verse 41, there is disagreement as to the interpretation. There are two basic views about the meaning of the feet and toes of iron mixed with clay. Here are the two views: one view is that it is a further description of ancient Rome, of the Roman Empire as it existed in the time of Christ and thereafter. A second view is that it describes a future empire in the last days, and that's what I believe this teaches, and I'll show you why. So, verse 40 talks about the ancient Roman Empire; verses 41-43 a future revived Roman Empire. Now, how do we land there? Well, verse 44 helps us decide, so I'm going to look back in a moment at verses 41-43, but skip forward to verse 44, because in verse 44, we read this: "And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed..." Now, some argue that the kingdom established in that verse is the spiritual kingdom that Jesus established when he came with his first coming that you and I are now a part of. We entered the spiritual kingdom of Christ when we were redeemed. Some argue that. I have a problem with that, because all of these earthly kingdoms and empires were not, as is described here, destroyed with Jesus' first coming. In fact, if you read even the New Testament, and certainly then if you read history beyond that, Rome, this fourth kingdom, became stronger after Jesus' first advent. So, the kingdom of God described in verse 44 cannot be a spiritual kingdom, because it didn't destroy all of these kingdoms. The spiritual kingdom of Christ didn't destroy all these geopolitical kingdoms, certainly didn't destroy Rome, so rather, what we must have in verse 44 is a geopolitical kingdom just like the ones it destroys. We're talking about earthly kingdoms, earthly empires. That means what we're talking about in verse 44 must be the kingdom that Jesus establishes at his second coming, his millennial kingdom. Now, notice how verse 44 begins: " the days of those kings..." Who are these kings? Although verse 41 does not tell us that the ten toes represent ten kings, if we skip ahead to 7:24, we learn that, in fact, they are ten kings, remember? That's a parallel passage, just from a different vantage point. This means that although verse 40 here describes ancient Rome, verses 41-43 must describe something yet future that's related to Rome. It must describe a confederation of kings who will rule over a world empire that exists in the period of time just before Christ's coming. Why? Because verse 44 says, "in the days of those kings" the God of heaven will establish a kingdom. Now, this future world empire, notice, the feet and toes of mixed iron and clay, are clearly connected to the iron legs, which represent the ancient Roman Empire. It's logical to argue that they must somehow be connected. There's some connection between the ancient Roman Empire and these ten, future kings, or kingdoms. This future world empire, then, will apparently be connected to ancient Rome by either the people groups involved or the nations that were included in the old Roman Empire. The peoples who made up ancient Rome—think about this—the people who made up ancient Rome have continued to survive throughout the centuries, particularly in Europe, in North Africa, in Asia, in America, and in many other places around the globe. In chapter 7, the parallel passage, there is clearly some kind of future manifestation of the Roman Empire—we'll see it when we get there—because it's in the days of one of those kings that the Messiah receives His eternal kingdom from the Ancient of Days (7:13-14 and verse 27). So, here's the point: when you look at verses 41-43, you're looking at a future world empire that will have a relationship to the old Roman Empire.

Daniel describes this future, revived Roman Empire by several characteristics that will mark it. Notice, first of all, it will be a divided kingdom. Verse 41: "In that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom..." Rather than truly united, like the Babylonian Empire was, this will be a divided kingdom in the same way that potter's clay doesn't mix with iron. The implication here is that this future kingdom will be a federation of nations rather than a single realm ruled by one powerful leader. Secondly, it will be a powerful kingdom. Verse 41 says, "...but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay." Just like the Romans, when these federated nations in the future decide to act, they will come with great military power. This kingdom will have the strength of iron just like Rome, and they, too, will be able to crush and shatter everyone who stands in their way. It will be, in addition, an uneven kingdom. Verse 42: "As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle." In the same way that some of the toes were iron and others were clay, some divisions of this kingdom will be strong like iron, and other divisions of this kingdom will be weak like baked clay, so it'll be uneven in terms of its power and might. It will, fourthly, be a mixed kingdom. Verse 43: "And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men..." In other words, the peoples and/or the nations who constitute this kingdom will truly become a single empire, and they will blend their lives and relationships together. Verse 43 says: "...but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery." One commentator, Stephen Miller, writes this: "...they 'will not remain united'...[I]n spite of the fact that these groups will compose one empire, they will never truly become one people, for they will maintain separate cultures and their own national identities." So, both the ten toes of chapter 2 and the ten kings of chapter 7 identify a final world empire that will consist of multiple kingdoms, or nations, that will arise from the ruins of the old Roman Empire. Ironically, the book of Revelation describes the same ten-kingdom confederacy in the last days: in Revelation 13:1, in Revelation 17:12. Now, Daniel is going to have more to say about this later, so we'll wait until we get there to discuss this future kingdom more.

So, there they are. There are the four Gentile Empires across the sweep of human history. But next, we discover a fifth kingdom, and it is a divine one (verses 44 and 45). Here is the climax of God's revelation of the flow of human history to Nebuchadnezzar: God Himself will establish His kingdom on this planet. Now, Daniel tells us several things about this kingdom. Let's look at these verses together. First of all, it will be established at the Second Coming. Verse 44 says, "In the days of those kings"—as we've seen, that refers to a ten-nation or multi-nation confederacy dominating the world at the time of the Second Coming—"In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed..." Apparently, the stone hurled at the kingdoms of this world pictures the devastating impact on human history of the return of Jesus Christ. That's when His kingdom, this kingdom, will be established. He is the stone who comes hurling out of heaven and smashes the kingdoms of this world to powder.

Secondly, this kingdom will be established by God Himself through His Son. Verse 44 says, "In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed..."

Thirdly, this fifth kingdom, this divine kingdom will be an eternal one. Verse 44 says, "...and that kingdom will not be left for another people..." Think about it: the other world empires that are described here, they were all destroyed, and they were all absorbed by the kingdom that followed it. They were left to another. But the kingdom of God, the kingdom that God will establish through His Son will never be left for another people. It will never be conquered by some future kingdom out there in the future. There's never a sequel to this story. This is not like Star Wars. There's only one kingdom, and it lasts forever, and it's never challenged. It's indestructible. Hebrews 12:28 says, "...we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken..." It is eternal. You remember what Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6-7? "For a child will be born to us"—talking about our Lord—"For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; / And the government will rest on His shoulders; / And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace." And then he says this: "There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, / On the throne of David and over his kingdom, / To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness / From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this." It will be an eternal kingdom. It includes the millennial reign of our Lord on this planet, but it sweeps us into eternity.

Number four: it will be totally victorious. Verse 44 says: " will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms..." Verse 45: Just as the "stone [that] was cut out of the mountain" crushed that image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream to powder, Christ and His kingdom will completely crush and shatter and destroy and reduce to powder every other human kingdom. Verse 44 says, "...but it will itself endure forever." Another point that Daniel makes here about this divine kingdom is it will certainly happen. Notice verse 45: "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." Daniel's final statement to Nebuchadnezzar drives home the absolute certainty of the fulfillment of this prophecy. Let this sink into your mind, folks. You know those empires you studied in History 101? They really happened, just like God told Daniel they would, because this was God's plan for history. It had to happen that way. And as surely as there was a Babylonian Empire, as surely as there was a Medo-Persian Empire, as surely as there was a Greek Empire, as surely as there was a Roman Empire, Christ will return and establish His eternal kingdom. It will happen just as surely.

One final thing he tells us about this divine kingdom is it will be ruled by Jesus Christ. Go over to chapter 7. I'm stealing a little thunder from there, but you have to see this. Daniel 7: after that revived Roman Empire, there's a scene in heaven (verse 9) where the Ancient of Days, God Himself, took His seat, and He's described. And then verse 13:

"I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

"And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations and men of every language

Might serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion..."

So, it is a universal dominion over the entire planet, and it is an eternal kingdom. "'His is an everlasting dominion / Which will not pass away; / And His kingdom is one / Which will not be destroyed.'" Who is this? I won't take you there, but note in your notes and in your mind Mark 14—well, I will take you there; you've got to see this. I wasn't going to do this, but you have to see it. Mark 14—this is at the trial of Jesus. This is when the second Jewish trial during the middle of the night is taking place in the home of Caiaphas. And Caiaphas, the high priest, is frustrated, because no charges are sticking; even the ones they've paid to give their false testimony, those charges aren't making sense; they're contradictory; this money was wasted. And so verse 60 of Mark 14:

The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, "Do you not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?" But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, "Are You the [Christos; are You the Messiah], "the Son of the Blessed One?"

"Are you Messiah, the Son of God?" It Couldn't be more direct than that. And Jesus' answer couldn't be more direct. Verse 62: He said, "'I am; and you shall see'"—and notice the next words are in all caps; they come from the passage we just read in Daniel 7—"'[you will see] THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.'" Jesus said, "You know that passage in Daniel 7? That's me." This kingdom will be ruled by Jesus Christ.

Stephen Miller writes this: "What a comforting passage this is. In this present world of injustice, wars, and crime, it is reassuring to know that Christ is coming; and when he comes, all of the evils of this age will end. There is indeed coming a day when 'the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea,'...for Messiah's reign of righteousness will extend to the ends of the earth." Folks, are you tired of this world? Are you tired of its empires and kingdoms and politicians? Well hang on, because Jesus is coming, and His kingdom is coming. He will rule on this planet, and righteousness will reign, and justice will roll down like a river. That's the meaning of the dream.

There are a few verses left for us to consider. We've seen the content of the dream and the meaning of the dream as that plan is explained—God's plan for history—is explained to us. Fourthly, I want you to see God's plan exalts His glory. In what amounts to a kind of epilogue here, Daniel describes the aftermath of this amazing dream and his giving Nebuchadnezzar its interpretation. Look at verse 46: "Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense." Now, the king was obviously overwhelmed by what he'd just heard. He knew that was the dream he had, and now he knows what it means. God, the God of heaven, has communicated with him. Since Daniel could tell him the dream, he's confident in its interpretation. But look at what he does in verse 46: the expressions that are used there are normally used of the worship of a deity. But Nebuchadnezzar knows that Daniel is not God; he knows instead that he is the representative of the true God of heaven, and so he offers these things to Daniel as the representative of Yahweh, the God of heaven. In fact, it's clear from what Nebuchadnezzar does next that the focus of his worship was God, and not Daniel.

Verse 47: "The king answered Daniel and said, 'Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.'" Notice what Nebuchadnezzar now thinks about Daniel's God, the true God. First of all, he says He's a "God of gods." Nebuchadnezzar is not yet a monotheist, but he is, at least for now—this is going to change a little—but for now, he is convinced that Yahweh is the greatest of gods, not Marduk. He's a God of gods. Then he says He's a "Lord of kings." As is clear from the interpretation of the dream itself, it's very clear that Yahweh is the Ruler over the kings of the earth, and even its empires. He's mapped it all out; He's got a plan. And then he says He is a "revealer of mysteries." I mean, that was clear, right? Since Daniel was able to reveal the mystery of the dream and its interpretation. Now, Nebuchadnezzar does not exclusively believe in Yahweh. In fact, we're going to shortly find him worshipping other gods. But polytheists can always add one more deity to the shelf in their pantheon, and they usually have one chief god. Nebuchadnezzar now believes, at least for this moment, that this new deity he has just encountered may very well be the greatest of them all. Clearly, he's been profoundly impressed by the God of Daniel, the God of heaven. Can I just stop here and say I'm glad we have the rest of the story of Nebuchadnezzar? But at this point, sadly, there are a lot of people like Nebuchadnezzar at this stage in God's working in his life. They're impressed by God, they're impressed by the miracles God does, maybe they're impressed by Jesus' coming, but they still don't know Him. They still are perfectly content to worship their idols.

Verse 48: "Then the king promoted Daniel..." Literally, "the king made Daniel great." And he made him great in two ways. First of all: financially. Notice verse 48 says he "gave him many great gifts." Here's the CliffsNotes: he made him wealthy. The king also made Daniel great in his power and position. Verse 48 says, "...he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon." Specifically, Daniel tells us that Nebuchadnezzar gave him two crucial roles in the Babylonian empire. First of all, he "made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon." You see, Babylon was composed of provinces that were overseen by satraps. Daniel was assigned to oversee the chief province in the entire empire, the one that included the capital city of Babylon. And, in addition, we're told he was made the "chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon." Daniel becomes Nebuchadnezzar's chief counselor and is given authority over all of the king's other counselors. Notice his first action—verse 49: "And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king's court. Daniel didn't forget his friends. But this wasn't just about loyalty to his friends. Daniel is in a new position of authority, and he wanted people around him that he could trust, so he asks the king and was granted permission to appoint Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego as his assistants in administrating the province of Babylon. And Daniel himself—think about this; this is real, folks—the greatest king of his time was Nebuchadnezzar, and God has so worked the circumstances before He brings His people captive en masse to Babylon to exalt Daniel, one who is loyal and faithful, a true believer in Him, to one of the highest positions in the empire. God is at work. Daniel remained in the royal court.

What an amazing chapter. What are the truths that we learn from this chapter? Very quickly, let me just give them to you. Daniel 2 underscores five great truths, which Christians cannot afford to forget, and which you and I, brothers and sisters, must wholeheartedly embrace. Here they are. Number one: God is sovereign over all the affairs of this world. There is not a stray molecule in God's universe; there is not a stray politician on this planet. However evil they may be, they are under the thumb of God Himself.

Number two: God has a plan for the world. God has a plan. God always has a plan. God created His plans in eternity past. Things are not out of control. God has a plan. You may look at your paper, or your news site, or wherever it is you get your news; you may look at it and go, "I don't see how anything is working together here." I promise you, based on the authority of God's Word, that our sovereign God has a plan.

Thirdly, God is ordering history according to His plan. The sovereign God of history has a plan, but He doesn't just have a plan: He is working out that plan day after day, nation by nation, empire by empire, irresistibly, relentlessly, and certainly. You don't have to worry. There is a God, He is on His throne, He's in charge, He has a plan, and everything happening in our world is fitting into His eternal plan of the ages.

Number four: the kingdoms of this world are human and temporary; only God's kingdom is eternal. Don't put too much weight in your politics; it's going away. Remember the powder? [The pastor mimics the action and sound of blowing away dust] It's gone.

And number five: all human history is building toward one great climax. The kingdom of God will certainly come. You want to know what consumes—let me put it differently—you want to know what the focus of the mind of God is today? I've shared this with you before: it's not what's happening in Washington. It's not what's happening in Moscow. Listen: God's got all of that perfectly under control. He's got a plan, it's working, it's going to happen exactly as He planned it. But you know what consumes the heart of God? It's what happens in churches like this one on the Lord's Day all around this country, and all around this world. Because what matters to Him isn't the empires of this world; they're going to [mimics the action of blowing away dust once more] be gone in a moment when the stone comes and crushes them to powder. What matters to Him is the kingdom that He will build for His own Son, and it's coming.

Do you know the King? If not, you can know Him tonight. And if you know Him, are you living as one of His subjects today before He comes to establish that eternal kingdom? Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for telling us; Lord, thank You for letting us know that You not only know what's going to happen before it happens, as all of this unfolded five hundred years before Christ in this prophecy, and then perfectly unfolded in human history, but Father thank You that that shows us You not only know, but You're in control, that You have a plan, and that You are ordering all of this. And the crux of that plan comes back to Your Son and to us, His bride. Thank You that You are moving us all toward a kingdom in which He reigns and He rules. Thank You that we can be part of that spiritual kingdom today through the work of the Spirit, through the salvation that is ours in Christ. Help us to live in anticipation of that coming kingdom on this planet, an eternal kingdom: for a thousand years here on this planet, and in eternity forever on a new earth in which righteousness reigns. Lord, prepare our hearts for that day. Help us to see our lives and all of the struggles and difficulties in the light of Your sovereign plan for all of history, including ours. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.


God's Plan for Human History - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 2

God's Plan for Human History - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 2

Through the Fire - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 3

More from this Series



An Introduction to Daniel

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures

First Lessons in Sovereignty

Tom Pennington Daniel 1

God's Plan for Human History - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 2

God's Plan for Human History - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 2

God's Plan for Human History - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 2

Through the Fire - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 3

Through the Fire - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 3

Through the Fire - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 3

Heaven Rules - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 4

Heaven Rules - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 4

When Empires Fall - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 5

When Empires Fall - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 5

In the Lions' Den - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 6

In the Lions' Den - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 6

The King of Beasts - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 7

The King of Beasts - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 7

The King of Beasts - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 7:1-28

The Ram, the Goat, and the Little Horn - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 8

The Ram, the Goat, and the Little Horn - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 8

The Ram, the Goat, and the Little Horn - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 8

Seventy Years & Seventy Weeks - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 9

Seventy Years & Seventy Weeks - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 9

Seventy Years & Seventy Weeks - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 9

Seventy Years & Seventy Weeks - Part 4

Tom Pennington Daniel 9

The Spiritual War Behind World History - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 10

The Spiritual War Behind World History - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 10

Wars, Rumors of Wars & the Last War - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 11

Wars, Rumors of Wars & the Last War - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 11

Wars, Rumors of Wars & the Last War - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 11

The End of Time - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 12:1-13

The End of Time - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 12:1-13

The Book of Daniel

Tom Pennington Daniel 1-12