Worldly Empires Rise and Fall, Christ's Empire is Eternal, Part 1 (Daniel Sermon 4 of 17)
December 31, 2000 | Andrew Davis
Sovereignty of God, The Kingdom of Christ
I. The Rise and Fall of the World
Please open your Bibles to Daniel 2, and we'll begin our study in that chapter right now. Now, in Daniel 2, we see traced out for us in an amazing way, the history of the world. In the 1770s, just as our country was beginning to think about independence before the Declaration of Independence was signed, there was a professor named Alexander Tyler, who looked at America and looked at governments, and made some comments about government and said some amazingly insightful things. He is speaking of democracy and he said,
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by dictatorship."
That was in the 1770s.
He then went on to look at human history and at the governments that had come, and he noted that the average age of the world's greatest civilizations was about 200 years. We're past that, we're about 225. And it could be that we are seeing fulfilled in our midst, the crumbling of our society and our civilization, we can pray against it, and we should be salt and light so that it doesn't happen. But Tyler noticed that all great civilizations follow the same track. They move from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from great courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency and from dependency back into bondage again.
So there's a course that it follows like a bell curve like that. Now, I'll leave it to you to decide where you think we are in that but I think it's been amazingly insightful. But the point that Tyler is making is the same thing to the point that Daniel 2 makes that all human governments, all human empires will come to an end, they rise, they reach their peak and then they fall and then another empire, another era, comes and takes over and it rises, reaches its peak, it fades and it dies as well. This is the course of human history. And yet within that every government has had a thirst for eternity, hasn't it? They've all felt like we could be the one that lasts forever.
On September 4th, 1934, the Nazi party concluded its annual Congress at Nuremberg Germany and Adolf Hitler had the following proclamation read. This is what it said, "The German form of life is definitely determined for the next thousand years. There will be no other revolution in Germany for the next 1000 years." The crowd went berserk with joy and started shouting, "Heil Hitler." Twelve years, four months, and eight days later, the Third Reich lay in rubble. It was finished, just 12 years later. And what I'm saying is that there is a hunger and a thirst inside even pagan governments for eternity, and there's only one eternal government and it's set up in prophecy in Daniel 2, the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Now, today's message is of kingdoms, human kingdoms that rise and fall and of an eternal kingdom that will rise and never fall, the kingdom of Jesus Christ. The deeper issue I believe of Daniel 2, is evangelism, it's evangelistic. I believe, right there that day, that moment, God was reaching out to king Nebuchadnezzar and from that point on through Daniel's record reaching out to us who would come later and read that record. He was reaching out to an arrogant king, a tyrant, in order that he might humble himself before God and come to salvation. And so He reaches out to us in our pride in order that we might be humbled and we might also come to salvation.
Now, the context of Daniel 2, is Daniel 1 and Daniel 2 we're going to be reading today from verses 24-49, and looking at the rest of this chapter. In Daniel 1 we were introduced to the historical context of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar, mighty emperor king of Babylon, had conquered Jerusalem, he deported some of the vessels from the Temple of Jerusalem, along with some of the high-born youth and they were to be brought into Babylon. Daniel was included among these, and they were to be more or less trained or you could even say brainwashed into the service of the Babylonian empire. And so, Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were brought into that circumstance and we looked at Daniel 1 and saw that Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah also resolved that they would not defile themselves. And God rewarded them and blessed them with physical vigor and health far greater than any of those who were eating the food sacrificed to idols.
And then in the first half of... The last half of Daniel 1 it promised there that Daniel would have a gift of visions, interpreting visions and dreams and he puts that gift to use in the chapter we're looking at today. Then in Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream. And he's so troubled by his dream that he cannot sleep, sleep flees from him, he's terrified by the dream and he is determined that he's going to have an interpretation to that dream. Now, I told you at the time that the Babylonians had a vast system of dream interpretation, they could handle any dream, any vision, any symbol they knew how to do it. Well, the king didn't believe in any of that, he wanted a sure and certain interpretation and so he called all the wise men before him and he set before them an incredible test, two-fold test. Number one, that his wise men tell him what his dream was. And number two, that they then go on interpret the dream, they had to earn the right to interpret that dream.
They wriggled, and they squirmed, and they could not get out of it, because the king was determined that they do both, not just one. And so he threatened them that they would be pulled literally limb from limb, their houses reduced to a pile of rubble, and that their memory be execrated in Babylon. And in that context, Daniel steps forward and goes to the king, and asks for time that he might interpret the dream. Then he goes back, and he fasts, and prays with his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. And God graciously gives him the revelation. He tells him what the dream is and He tells him what it means. Now, all of you have been in suspense for two weeks, I know, wondering, "What is the dream?" And today, we're going to see it. Let's begin reading at Daniel 2:24 and continue on.
"Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, 'Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king and I will interpret his dream for him.' Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, 'I have found a man among the exiles from Judah, who can tell the king what his dream means.' The king asked Daniel, also called Belteshazzar, 'Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?' Daniel replied, 'No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown king Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you lay on your bed, are these: As you were lying there, O king, your mind turned to things to come. And the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, O king, may know the interpretation, and that you may understand what went through your mind. You looked, O king, and there before you, stood a large statue. An enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue is made of pure gold. Its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, and its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay, and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The winds swept them away without leaving a trace, but the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of Heaven has given you dominion, and power, and might, and glory. In your hands, He has placed mankind, and the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, He has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold. After you, another kingdom will rise inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. And finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, for as iron breaks and smashes everything, and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom. Yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw, iron mixed with clay. And as the toes were partly iron and partly clay so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united any more than iron mixes with clay. In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands. A rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold to pieces. The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.' Then king Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering in incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, 'Surely your God is the God of gods, and the Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries for you were able to reveal this mystery.' Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon, and placed him in charge of all its wise men. Moreover at Daniel's request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the Royal Court."
II. The Revealer Introduced (vs. 24-30)
Now in the first section verses 24-30, we have the revealer introduced. And I don't mean Daniel, the true revealer of this dream is God Himself. God is introduced to us in verses 24-30. First, in verse 24, Daniel intercedes and what he does here is he shows incredible compassion. You'll remember that the order had gone out that all of the wise men be executed. Once the dream is revealed to Daniel, one of the first things he does is go and makes sure that the other wise men will not be executed. He shows compassion for them. And he's going to show the very same compassion, I believe later for King Nebuchadnezzar. He's going to show concern for his soul in chapter four, we'll see that. But Daniel's a compassionate man, and he moves out for others. He also has a tremendous amount of confidence. In this verse, in verse 24, he shows confidence. He says, "I will interpret his dream for him." Get me an audience with the king and I'll interpret it. He's confident. Now on what is his confidence based? It's based on the fact that he believes that God has spoken to him. It's based on his faith. God has revealed this dream to him and he knows it well. And so he's confident enough to stand before a tyrant, like Nebuchadnezzar and say, "I've got it, king. I've got the dream and I'm going to interpret it." So, he's confident.
And we also see Daniel's courage. And the source of his courage is the same as the source of his confidence. He knows that God's hand is with him. He's not going to die that day, but rather God is going to exalt Himself, and He's going to lift Himself up. And so we see Daniel's compassion, his confidence, and his courage in verse 24. And in verse 25, Daniel is introduced, and this brings us to a very important principle. Daniel did not have the authority to simply walk into the presence of King Nebuchadnezzar, Arioch had to bring him, and Arioch did bring him, and Arioch's somewhat of an opportunist here. He says, "I have found a man among the exiles from Judah, who can tell the king what his dream means," it's something like he did. Give me some extra points, king because I found Daniel. Now he's about to do something amazing, but don't forget me here. That's the way it works in courts. You're always jockeying for position, trying to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, that's Arioch. But I think it's still established as a principle. Daniel could not have simply walked into the king's presence without an introduction.
Arioch was the head executioner, the chief executioner for the king. And so it was not an accident that it was Arioch that went to Daniel in particular. There's a link therefore between Arioch and Daniel, and Arioch has the authority to bring Daniel right into the king's presence. What is the principle here? Well, if you need an introduction into the presence of an earthly king, how much more do you need an introduction to the presence of the King of heaven Himself? We can't simply walk in there on our own. We have no right to do so. Do we have such an introduction into God's presence? Oh yes, we do. His name is Jesus Christ. It says in Romans 5:1-2, "Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained introduction," is the Greek word, "into this grace in which we now stand." Introduction, we are able now to walk in to God's very presence and speak to him. Without Jesus Christ you would not be welcome. But with Jesus Christ you are welcome any time. And so there is an introduction that Arioch works for Daniel.
Thirdly, in verse 26, we see Daniel interrogated. The king says, "Are you able to do what no one else could do? Can you tell me my dream and give me the interpretation?" So, he interrogates him. By the way, how would you have felt at that moment? Just put yourself in Daniel's position standing there before this king. Do you think that Nebuchadnezzar had a humble throne or a mighty lofty throne? Well, you can imagine it was as big as he could make it. He was an intimidating man. And so there you are, just a humble Judean refugee standing before the king of all the Earth, the king of kings, he's called. And you're about to answer this question, what an interrogation, "Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?" He is interrogated. And now Daniel does the introducing. Daniel's been introduced, but now he's going to do some introducing. O king, meet your maker. I want to introduce you to the God of Heaven. And he does that in verses 27-30. And he does it in four ways.
First, with evangelistic leveling. Now what I mean by this is that you must remove human pride, all human conceit in order to see God. If you're filled up with yourself, filled up with your ego, and what you can do, you will never see God. And so a true Evangelist, you want to be a witness, you must remove human pride. The Gospel removes human pride. It's a leveler. Every valley shall be raised up, but every mountain and hill shall be what? Made low. There needs to be a leveling. And so, Daniel does that in verse 27. He says, "No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he's asked about." The answer is not in human capability. There's no one who can do what you have asked to be done. Now, Nebuchadnezzar, I think he knows that in reference to his dream interpreting wise men. He doesn't trust them. That's why he wants this additional step, of you tell me the dream and give me the interpretation. So he doesn't trust them, but he still does trust in human pride and human ability, doesn't he? Whose pride and whose ability does he trust in? His own. And he's not thoroughly humbled even at the end of this chapter. We're going to see in chapter 3, when he builds a statue probably to himself and then on in chapter 4, how his pride has a way to go, but God is beginning to chop that tree down, even in this chapter. Evangelistic leveling.
Secondly, evangelistic worship. I really believe that those of us who feel that we are called, and we are all called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. We might feel afraid to go witness, but I have found that fear in witnessing is removed, if I simply go and worship God in front of unbelievers. If I just speak about a God who created heaven and earth, a God who is gracious and merciful, who is holy and righteous, but who has provided salvation through Jesus Christ. I'm just worshipping God in front of these people, and whether they come along and worship or not, I have honored God in their presence. It takes fear away. And so that's in effect what Daniel does. He just stands and worships God in front of Nebuchadnezzar. "There is a God in heaven," he says in verse 28, "who reveals mysteries." No man can do this, what you have asked, but there is a God who can. He reveals mysteries and He has shown king Nebuchadnezzar what will come in days to come.
Now, it's beautiful when God's power is lifted up and human power made low, people get saved. People get saved. And I think that's what's going to happen in Nebuchadnezzar. God is a revealer of mysteries so deep that no human wisdom could ever see to their bottom. This is the way God is. And it's beautiful how Daniel, just like Joseph before him, gives honor to God for the interpretation of the dream. Remember how Joseph did the same thing before Pharaoh. No, Pharaoh, I can't interpret your dream but there is a God who can and He has revealed the answer to me. He does the same thing, the same humble spirit is in both of them.
And then the third step is an evangelistic miracle. Back in the early days of the church, the apostles did mighty miracles to gain a hearing for the Gospel and it seems that this era as well, the time of Daniel was a time of mighty miracles. Now, God still does amazing things. God can break the laws of nature any time He chooses. He made them but He's not bound by them. He can break them any time He chooses. And so He does, but at this point He does a miracle and the miracle is not similar to walking on water or any of the other, the healings that Jesus did. It's a miracle of knowledge. Supernatural knowledge, but that can be enough. You remember Jesus before the woman at the well. What was it that broke through that woman? Wasn't it Jesus' supernatural knowledge of her life? He just knew things about her, that she'd been married all those times and the one... The man that she was living with at that point was not her husband. He knew these things and He'd never met her.
Supernatural knowledge kicks in here, in verse 28 and 29, "Your dream and the visions that pass through your mind, as you lay in your bed are these. As you were lying there, O king your mind turned to things to come." The future is secret to us, but God knows it completely. Our thoughts are secret to us, but God knows them completely and that's the miracle that Daniel does right here. Psalm 139 says, "Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise," listen to this, "You perceive my thoughts from afar. Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord." God knows my thoughts and the future, even my own future, the words I'm about to speak. This is a miracle, amazing. Daniel told the king what he was thinking about as he laid on his bed.
Now, I made this point two weeks ago. What do you think about as you lay on your bed? What do you think about while you're driving? What do you think about while you're watching television? What do you think about while you're reading? What do you think about? God sees it all, and who may ascend the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a what? Pure heart. God sees it all, there's nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. This is God, He's very invasive this way. He created your brain and your ability to think and He knows your thoughts, He knows mine as well. Is that a motivation for holy thinking? I hope so. The king is searched, his mind is searched by God, and Daniel's about to reveal it.
And then fourthly, we see evangelistic humility. Verse 30, "As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, O king, may know the interpretation, and that you may understand what went through your mind." This is the second time that he's made it clear that he does not know the interpretation. Very humble. And I think it's interesting that he says that the whole purpose here is for you, king. This whole thing is for you, so that you may know what went through your mind. Now, we know that there are others that were standing there that heard it too, and they were amazed, and we who come later, who read the account of Daniel, we can be amazed, and God had all of this in mind, but at this particular moment, the focus is on the king. "He has shown king Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come." Now let's stop and take stock of what's happened up to this point. God has removed all the charlatans and the fools, remember? The Babylonian wise men, the magicians, the enchanters, all the charlatans, they've been removed. They couldn't do it. The stage was cleared, and then God's man came forward and stood right in that center stage, but he didn't stand for his own honor and glory, but for God and for God alone. And then he revealed that introducer. That revealer of mysteries. He introduced Him to king Nebuchadnezzar.
III. The Revelation Declared (vs. 31-36)
Now, in the next section, verses 31-36, Daniel reveals the dream, and it really comes in three sections. First, the statue is described, then the statue is destroyed, and then the stone is exalted. Those are the three phases of this dream.
The Statue Described
First, the statue described. Now, on the cover of your bulletin, you have a beautiful picture. I have no idea if that's what the statue looked like, I was just looking for something, and Jason found it and we put it on there. It's black and white, so you can't see the different colors. Did it look like that? Who among us can say? I don't really know. But it's an immense statue. "You looked, O king, and there before you, stood a large statue." And descriptive words are given to this statue. It's a large statue, enormous actually. The language is effusive in the size of the statue, it's almost like a skyscraper, 50-story building in the middle of a plain, flat plain. And so perhaps Nebuchadnezzar, in his dream, saw himself walking up and just looking at this immense thing. It took his breath away, it was so huge. And not only was it huge, but it was dazzling, it was bright, it shined in his eyes with light, brilliant light. Maybe the sun was glistening off of these precious metals. It was a dazzling, breathtakingly radiant structure.
And it was awesome, it says. It was terror-inducing, it made you feel afraid as you looked at it. He was terrified by it. It's an immense statue, so he describes the statue, and as you look at the statue, it's interesting, there's a descent of metals. The head is gold, and the chest and arms are of silver, and the belly and the thighs are made of bronze, and then the legs are iron, and then the feet partly iron and partly baked clay. And as you notice, there's a descent in value. Start with gold, the most precious of the metals, priced today at $270 per ounce, and then, down below at the next level, is silver, only $4.70 an ounce, today's market price. I couldn't find a market price for bronze, and iron be even less. So as they go from head to toe, they go from more valuable to less valuable, and also from more dense to less dense, so the thing really is top-heavy. You've got a head of gold and all the way down to these little feet of clay. It just seems like it's ready to topple. And yet, as the metals go on, they get tougher and stronger, don't they?
You'd never want a sword of gold in a battle. I mean, it would look spectacular, but in the first strike, it would just bend. Gold is soft, it's dense, but soft, it's not good for a sword. So also with silver, you'd never have a silver sword, but a bronze sword, now, that's different. Bronze is tough and strong, and so the Greeks actually did have bronze swords, but how much more powerful is an iron sword? Eventually steel would come in, the hardest metal that you can find developed. So... And that's made out of iron, so as it goes from top-down, you go from more valuable to less valuable, but from weaker to tougher and stronger. So that's a description of the statue.
The Statue Destroyed
And the statue is destroyed. The destroyer appears, it's a stone cut out, but not by human hands, and it says that it's cut out while you watched. See, while you watched, O king, there was this stone cut out, but not by human hands. I get this image like a mountain, and kind of like these laser things, going...And then there it is, and there's no hand, so I can't do it with hands, and it just flies through the air like a guided missile or something like that. That's the stone cut out, but not by human hands. It has supernatural origin. All the other stuff for the statue has been quarried from the earth, alright. Where does gold come from? Out of a mine, same thing with all the others. Coming up out of the earth, it's rising up out of the earth. But here's this stone, cut out, but not by human hands, it's just supernatural, it doesn't come from the earth. And it comes like a guided missile like one of those... What are they? Cruise missiles. It's just turning and it's heading right for the weak part, right for the feet and down it goes and it strikes the feet of the statue. And the whole thing just collapses. It just collapses like it's made of crystal. And it's just pile of rubble after the stone hits it. And then along comes a wind and it just blows it all away until there's not a piece left, not a shard, not a fragment, not a piece of powder left. It's all gone, but the rock remains. And then as he watched the rock gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and fills the whole earth. The stone replaces the statue. The stone enlarges. The stone fills the whole earth. The stone is exalted.
IV. The Revelation Explained (vs. 37-45)
Well, that's the dream. What does it mean? What does it mean? Well, I figure if you can tell the king what the dream was, you're ready to tell him what it means. And that's what Daniel's about to do. But let's summarize what we've seen. Daniel recounts the dream with incredible detail by the way, even involving Nebuchadnezzar. "As you looked O king you saw this and that." So, Daniel has met the first test. Tell me my dream. Now, John MacArthur in preaching through this said, you noticed that Nebuchadnezzar isn't saying anything here, it's because his mouth is hanging open. He is right on, the detail, the meticulous... How does he know? It's because God knows. He already told him how he knows. God has revealed this to Daniel. He's stunned, he's in amazement.
And verse 36, transition, "This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king." Just like it's nothing. I can tell you the dream and I can tell you... But he doesn't say 'I', what does he say? 'We'. Who's he thinking about? There is a God in heaven, he's not alone. I know actually God's doing the revealing and I'm just a pipeline, the mouth piece and it flows through me to you. Alright, verses 37-45, we have the revelation explained. Now overall interpretation is that this is human history on a grand scale. This is God stepping back and just looking over centuries and centuries of human history right on to the end of the Roman Empire. It's a chronological account from top to bottom, from head to toe. There's no time information given by the way. He doesn't say how long the head of gold will be or how long the silver phase will last. There's no time information. Does God not know that? Doesn't He know the time? Of course He knows the times. He's just not telling us. And He steadfastly doesn't tell us the times and dates that He's set by His own authority. But instead He gives a sense of order.
And we notice a kind of a devolution rather than evolution, right? From the head of gold down to the feet of clay. Where has man come from? According to Genesis 2, weren't we taken up out of the earth, clay in God's hands, we are clay in the hands of the potter and He fashioned and made us. And then... He breathed His life into Adam. But do you remember what it says in Genesis 3:19, after they sinned, what entered the world with sin? Death, remember. Death entered the world. Romans 5, "Death entered the world through sin". Mortality. And it says in Genesis 3:19, "By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food." God speaking to Adam, "until you... " What? "Return to the ground since from it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you shall return."
Don't you see that with the statue? It came up out of the earth and it rose to a height and then it what? Came back down to the earth, down to the very clay. Do you remember the great achievement of human technology in Genesis 11? The Tower of what? Babel, same place, the plain of Shinar, Babylon. And they built a tower, and what was the tower made out of? What were the bricks made out of? Baked clay, thoroughly baked. Do you remember? And it rose up out of the earth and then went back down to the earth. "All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flower the field that rises up and then it withers and dies when the breath of the Lord blows on them." And so it is with human kingdoms.
The Head of Gold: Nebuchadnezzar
Now, the details are pretty precise here. The head of gold is not the Babylonian Empire. No, the head of gold is King Nebuchadnezzar. "You are that head of gold." Now, why do I make a distinction between king Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire? Well, really apart from Nebuchadnezzar there was no Babylonian Empire. He died and within 19 years it was over. No one took his place who was suitable to rule. And so, the Medes and the Persians conquered and... You read the account in Daniel 5, Belshazzar what a fool. Having a feast and a celebration when the Medes and the Persians are outside the walls of Babylon. He should have been mobilizing his forces to fight, instead he's having a drunken feast. Not a worthy man. And what was it that Nebuchadnezzar was thinking about as he laid on his bed? Things to come. Is there going to be somebody to take my place after I die? Will there be a son who will come and rule in my place and do a good job and continue on? Answer, no. You are that head of gold, O king. And after you're done, it's over. And pretty much it was, within two generations. And that was all prophesied as Jason said in Jeremiah 27. You can read it, his grandson and that's it. They will submit to you, your son and your grandson and then it's over. God had it all figured out, "You are that head of gold."
The Chest and Arms of Silver: Medo-Persian Empire
And then the chest and arms of silver were the Medes and the Persians, the Medo-Persian Empire. Now, some have made much of the fact that it's two-sided, we've got two arms, but you run into problems with the Roman Empire. And the thighs of bronze, the same thing. It could be that each of these were divided in two, but I really don't see it. You really have to start to twist history to find it. So we won't even talk about the two-sided aspect. The fact of the matter is, the human body is symmetrical through the nose, alright, it's just the way it is, there's two sides of us. But we're not saying much about the Medes and Persians at this point, although later on in Daniel it says that this beast that represented the Medo-Persian Empire was raised up on one side, so that could refer to one side, the Persians in particular, becoming ascendant over the Medes. The Medo-Persian Empire. Now, Daniel says almost nothing about this. What does he say? He just says, "After you, another kingdom will rise inferior to yours." That's all he says. And actually, the Aramaic, could be translated just lower down on the statue.
He almost gives them no information. And why is that? Well, suppose he knew that within one generation after he was dead, that the Medes and the Persians were going to take over. Would that change the way he had interacted with the Medes and Persians? Oh, you better believe it. He might try some genocide or something. And so God gives him no information, so that history cannot be changed. He knows nothing about the Empire of Silver, but we know it's the Medes and the Persians.
Belly and Thighs of Bronze: the Greek Empire Under Alexander
Now, the next, the belly and thighs of bronze, we're going to find out much more about in Daniel 8. This is the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great. Now, why bronze? Because they did use bronze on the battlefield, bronze helmets, bronze shields, bronze swords and it gleamed and glistened. And we're going to find also out in Daniel 8, the incredible speed of the conquest, how Alexander the Great moved like a leopard with wings across the land, and conquered pretty much the whole earth; everything there was to conquer out to Pakistan to the Indus River, he went, as far as there was to go until his men said, "We want to go home". And he sat down and wept because there was no other place to conquer, that was Alexander the Great. Died at age 32, able to conquer lands but couldn't conquer himself, we'll talk more about him. But this is the Greek Empire.
The Iron: Rome
And after the Greeks come, the Iron Empire, and what was this? It was Rome. And it's interesting that Daniel says the most about this one, "Strong as iron." Incredible strength, and there was never an empire as powerful and as strong as the Roman Empire. Dominant and they crushed, they crushed politically, what God crushed later through the rock of Jesus Christ, and will crush at the second coming of Christ. They crushed all the other kingdoms, they destroyed, totally. There's an account of the Romans and their fight against Carthage, their early rivals; The Punic Wars, they were called. And when they conquered Carthage, they sowed their fields with salt. Why did they sow their fields with salt? So that nothing would ever grow there again, and it hasn't. They leveled countries, they dominated and crushed them, they were strong, and they lasted longer than any other empire in the Western World, this was Rome.
The Feet and Toes of Iron and Clay: See Next Sermon!
Now, what of the feet and toes, partly iron, partly clay. We do not have time for that today, I can assure you, we're going to talk about that next time. Some people believe that there's going to be a final form of the Roman Empire and that the 10 toes represent 10 member nations, 10 kings that will be around at the second coming of Christ. I'm going to get into all that next time, so you should come. See this is like one of these serial things, you remember Batman and Robin and all that next time, we're going to find out more. Alright, the same thing here. I can't get into it, there isn't enough time, but we'll find out more.
The Eternal Kingdom
And then the third aspect is this eternal kingdom in verse 44, he says, "In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever." This is the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Heaven, it is in direct contrast to the kingdom of earth, it lasts forever and ever, it can never be destroyed. It will crush and destroy all opposition and it will take over the whole world. This is the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which was set up in the time of that fourth Empire, the Roman Empire. In the days of Caesar Augustus, when he issued a decree that a census be taken of the entire Roman world, Jesus was born. And so the kingdom came and it's been coming for 2,000 years and it's going to come in a final way. I'm getting ahead of myself, this is what I'm talking about next time. The second coming of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
V. The Rewards Bestowed (vs. 46-49)
Now, in verses 46-49 the rewards are bestowed. First on, Daniel, and he gets the big three. What are the big three? What three things does the world have to offer? Honor, material benefits and power, those three, and Daniel gets all three. Now, if you think Daniel was tested in Daniel 1, with the king's food, this is the real test. Would he maintain his faithfulness to God and his integrity when lavished gifts from a powerful man like Nebuchadnezzar? Says in Proverbs 27:21, "The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives." Daniel's going to have his greatest test after he receives the power and the wealth and the honor, that king Nebuchadnezzar bestows on him. And it's also bestowed on his friends, verse 49, "At Daniel's request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court." Now it's interesting that Daniel has the foresight to lift his friends up as helpers, and he's going to need them. You don't want to stand alone in that pagan court. And so he doesn't, he's got friends to help him.
Furthermore, and even better for Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel has constant access to the king from then on, he remains at the king's Court. And do you think there's a chance that he might have talked to him about the God of Heaven over the next number of years? I think so. God established a witness for King Nebuchadnezzar, but Nebuchadnezzar bestows his highest honors on God. And look what he says in verse 47, "The king said to Daniel, Surely your God is the God of gods and... " the what? "Lord of kings." Is he saying He's my Lord? Not quite. He's beginning to think about it, but he's not there yet, he's not converted yet. Not ready to bend the knee entirely. Now, he does fall prostrate, and this is an incredible thing, that a potentate like him should lay down on his face before a Judean refugee like Daniel, he's being humbled. It's just not hitting the heart yet, and we'll see that in chapter three and chapter four.
Now, what applications can we take out of this chapter? First of all, what does this teach us about God? Well, we can learn about God's foreknowledge. God knows all things before they come to pass, He knows every aspect of human history before a single detail of it comes to pass. Do you realize that the time when this prophecy was given, Rome was barely able to control the seven hills that surrounded it? It was an Etruscan city, nothing was going on there, it was nothing. And if you had said, "I'm going to tell you the most powerful empire in the history of the world. It's going to be Rome." And you'd gone there and said, "Nothing's going on here." "Yes, but it will, it will." God sees it all, details before anything comes to pass. Therefore, fear not, no matter what you read in the newspaper, God is sovereign over all events of human politics, governments and history. He is a King over kings.
Also, understand God's intimate personal knowledge of you. You cannot think a thought unless God reads it entirely and clearly, therefore be pure in heart, be pure in heart. Can I tell you that purity of heart eludes you, apart from Christ? Without Jesus Christ, you will never be pure in heart, but through Jesus Christ, Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God." He alone is able to purify your heart, and we see God's sovereign power. Not only does God know human history, He's not just a human history scientist, He's a human history ruler. He rules, He doesn't just know, He rules, He acts, He moves, He affects, He brings up these kingdoms to their height and then lowers them at His right time, orchestrating history like a conductor. Therefore, is God your Lord? Is He ruling your life? Have you brought every aspect of your life under His sovereign control? Are you asking Him, "God, what should I do with my life?"
Right now, we have students, college students, seniors who are at the InterVarsity Urbana Conference, and they're praying about whether they're going to be missionaries or not. They're saying, "God, what should I do with my life?" They are bringing their lives under the sovereign lordship of Jesus Christ. And then finally, God's mercy. All of this is for salvation. God could just crush Babylon, instead, he uses Babylon. He could just crush all of us in our sin, instead He saves us through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God, exalts His name, and when He exalts His name, people get saved, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, and so we need clear proclamation of a God like this. Go out in the name of a sovereign, powerful God, and proclaim that He is Lord and He is Savior, and do it this week.
We learn also about human frailty and limitation. None of the wise men could do what Daniel did, neither could you. Your own wisdom, and your own power, and your own knowledge will never get you anywhere. You will build with your hands that which rises up from the earth, and in the end, it will sink back down into the dust, it's just the way it is. But, if you build the kingdom of God through the preaching and through spiritual ministry, it will last forever and ever. Human things are limited and frail, but God's things last forever.
And what of history? What I want to say to you is that history has a reason, it has a purpose. It is not emptiness, it is not a story full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, it means something. God is unfolding something here, and it is His kingdom, and He's building it, and it's happening right before us, therefore don't despair, no matter what you see, but understand that God is building His kingdom.
And finally, what does it tell us about Jesus Christ? Well, that He comes to set up a kingdom and you can enter that kingdom. You have, some of you, many of you, entered it already by faith. Realize that Jesus Christ is the King, He is that rock cut out, but not by human hands, and His kingdom will endure forever and ever. Please enter that kingdom, and walk in it by faith. Won't you close with me in prayer?