Section B: Prophets Speak Out
Nebuchadnezzar, proud, majestic ruler of ancient Babylon, was one of the greatest kings who ever lived. During his illustrious reign, the first world empire expanded to include the areas we now know as the Middle East and Egypt. In the course of his conquests, he brought many prisoners of war to Babylon to be trained for important positions in the empire. Four of these were Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, princes from Palestine, the land of the Hebrews.
It was approximately B.C. 600 when King Nebuchadnezzar had a remarkable dream of a great image and its destruction by a mammoth stone. This dream was not just for the king, however; God intended for its important message to be given to all men who would listen. Let’s turn to Daniel 2 for the details of the dream and its interpretation by Daniel, who was given wisdom and understanding by God.
Daniel 2:1-11 relates that King Nebuchadnezzar, impressed by a strange dream, nevertheless forgot it and sought advice and revelation from his magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldean scientific diviners. These counselors, however, were unable to tell the king the dream; they were forced to admit that the gods who could reveal the dream did not dwell with men. Verses 12 and 13 reveal that the king was so furious at these wise men who claimed to be specialists in dreams and their interpretation that he pronounced the death sentence on every wise man in the realm. This included Daniel and his friends, who were true, faithful servants of the living God.
After Daniel pleaded with the king for time, he and his friends earnestly prayed to God for help. God rewarded their petitions by revealing the dream to Daniel. They were quick to acknowledge God’s mercy and goodness to them. Verses 17-23.
God alone knows the secrets of the future, and He reveals them for the benefit of His faithful people. “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” Isaiah 46:9,10.
God intended to reveal to Nebuchadnezzar, through Daniel, a prophetic view of world history from Nebuchadnezzar’s time (B.C. 600) to the second coming of Christ. Read Daniel 2:31-35 carefully, and become familiar with the details of the dream.
1. The head of gold (Daniel 2:37, 38) represented the first world empire, Babylon, which ruled from B.C. 606 to 538. One hundred years before this dream of Nebuchadnezzar, God had spoken of Babylon as a golden city. Isaiah 14:4. Jeremiah, a contemporary prophet of Daniel, spoke of the nation as a golden cup. Jeremiah 51:7. Historians refer to Babylon as “the golden city of a golden age.”
2. The breast and arms of silver (Verse 39) represented the second world empire, Medo-Persia, which conquered Babylon and ruled from B.C. 538 to 331. Because silver was used as a medium of exchange by the Persians, as well as in decorations even more noticeably than gold was used by the Babylonians, silver was a fitting prophetic symbol for Medo-Persia.
3. The belly and thighs of brass (Verse 39) were the third world empire, Greece, (B.C. 331-168). The brass thighs of the image reflected the brass armor and breastplates worn by the Greek soldiers. Thus Greece was very appropriately symbolized by brass.
4. The legs of iron (Verse 40) represented the fourth world empire, Rome, which ruled the longest of the four empires, – from B.C. 168 to A.D. 476. Iron is known chiefly for its strength. Historians called Rome the Iron Monarchy, a very fitting title for monarchy that broke in pieces, bruised, and subdued kingdom for nearly 600 years. During Rome’s supremacy, Jesus was born in Bethlehem and was crucified under its authority.
5. The feet and toes of mixed iron and clay (Verses 41, 42) denote the nations of Western Europe. It is generally agreed among historians that Rome was divided into ten parts by the invasion of barbarian tribes between A.D. 351 and 476. According to the prophecy, some parts would be weak and some strong, as signified by the mixture of iron and clay.
These ten divisions of Western Rome (originally the Lombards, Franks, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Burgundians, Suevi, Heruli, Vandals, Allemanni, and Saxons) became the European powers of Italy, France, England, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and Switzerland. As the prophecy predicted (verse 43) , over the years these kingdoms tried to unite through intermarriage of their royal lines, but all such attempts failed. Similarly, powerful men, such as Charlemagne, Charles V, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Kaiser Willhelm, and Adolf Hitler, all sought to achieve the same goal and failed. God’s word never fails! “…They shall not cleave one to another…”!
No fifth world empire would ever rise. Verse 44 says, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.”
The dream is certain and its interpretation flawless. Verse 45.
God rules all human affairs
In the records of human history, we read of the rise and fall of nations and generally conclude that man has determined his own success or failure. But behind the scenes, according to God’s word, the patient, unseen purposes of the Almighty One are being worked out according to His plan. Heaven imparts the power exercised by every ruler on earth. The success or failure not only of the ruler but also the nation he rules depends on how closely he adheres to God’s plan. Daniel 2:20, 21. To each world leader the Lord has declared, “…I girded thee, though thou hast not known Me.” Isaiah 45:5. To Nebuchadnezzar at a later time the Lord declared through Daniel that God does all things so “that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will, …” Daniel 4:17.
What is the dream’s significance for us today?
The four great world empires, symbolized by the various metallic parts of the image in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, have passed from the scene of action. Today we live in the time period symbolized by the feet and toes of the image. The next event will be the coming of the Lord and the setting up of His eternal kingdom (Daniel 2:44), symbolized by the stone cut out without hands which strikes the image at its feet, causing it to crumble. Consideration of this prophecy brings us face to face with the serious time in which we live. Friend, are you prepared to meet Jesus?
“Down in the feet of iron and of clay,
Weak and divided, soon to pass away;
What will the next great glorious drama be?
Christ and His coming, and eternity.”
Daniel 7 relates the vision Daniel was given when he was past the age of 80. Daniel lived to see part of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 fulfilled; namely, the conquering of Babylon by the Medo-Persians. Now in Daniel 7, God showed His aged prophet the same four kingdoms depicted in Daniel 2. “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants, the prophets.” Amos 3:7. To Daniel, however, the kingdoms were shown not in their outward appearance, as was done for King Nebuchadnezzar, but in their characteristics as wild beasts.
At the outset, let us determine the meaning of the symbols in this vision.
1. Winds. In symbolic language, winds denote nations at war. Daniel 7:2; Jeremiah 25:31-33.
2. Waters, or seas, are a symbol of people, multitudes, and nations. Daniel 7:2,3; Revelation 17:15. In this vision, the prophet saw the sea stirred by the winds. Out of this stormy sea rose up, in succession, four beasts – a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a monstrous beast. Isaiah 17:12. Just as in nature large bodies of water are disturbed by the wind, so people are shaken by warfare.
3. Beasts. Daniel thus saw four beasts arise form the stormy sea of nations and people. “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.” Daniel 7:17. There is no doubt as to what we should understand these four beasts to be – four kings, or kingdoms. From the description we can match them with the kingdoms represented in the image of Daniel 2.
Four beasts – four world empires
1.The lion symbolized Babylon (B.C. 606-538) . “The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.” Daniel 7:4. That which gold represents among the metals (in Daniel 2), the lion represents among the beasts; it is the king of beasts. The lion was a favourite symbol of the Babylonians. See Jeremiah 4:7; 50:17, 43, 44. The wings being plucked and a man’s heart was given to it indicates the weakness which overcame Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar’s successors, leading to its defeat at the hands of the Medo-Persians.
2.The bear symbolized Medo-Persia (B.C. 538-331). “And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.” Daniel 7:5. Medo-Persia conquered Babylon, becoming the second world empire. “And it raised up itself on one side” shows that it was a kingdom composed of two nationalities, one stronger than the other. The Persians were more prominent than were the Medes. The three ribs in his mouth represented the three countries that were overthrown by this kingdom – Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt.
3.The leopard represented Greece (B.C. 331-168). “After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.” Daniel 7:6. This beast was symbolic of the kingdom of Alexander the great, who subdued Persia. The four heads represented the four generals who divided and ruled Greece after Alexander’s death. These four generals were Ptolemy, Cassander, Lysimachus, and Seleucus. The four wings showed the swiftness characterizing this power, for Alexander conquered the world in twelve years, and his troops covered 5,000 miles in 8 years’ time.
4.The monstrous beast symbolized Rome (B.C. 168-A.D. 476). “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.” “…The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth, …”“ Daniel 7:7-9, 23. The iron teeth and other strong characteristics of this beast corresponded with the iron legs of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Rome was the most powerful and long lasting of the four empires.
5.The ten horns of the beast represented the European countries which occupied the territory of Western Rome. Daniel 7:7. These ten horns correspond with the ten toes of Daniel 2.
The little horn
“I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.” Daniel 7:8. This little horn which arose among the ten horns of the fourth beast played an important role in the history of that kingdom.
Verse 25 describes this power in greater detail: “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” Daniel 7:8,24. This power came up among the European divisions of Rome. It subdued three horns or kings (the Heruli, Ostrogoths, and Vandals). The list of characteristics show that it was very different from the other horns – a religio-political power, a mixture of Christianity and paganism. Daniel 7:20 indicates that it was the leading power over the other horns. Verses 8 and 20 reveal its shrewd intelligence, as depicted by the “eyes of man.”
It would speak great words against God. The pope of Rome claims that all the titles which the Scriptures attribute to Christ are lawfully his to use: “God on earth,” “the Supreme Judge,”” “Vicegerent of Christ,” “King of kings and Lord of lords.” All of the 265 popes who have reigned thus far were called “Holy Father.” Jesus used this name only once to address His heavenly Father (John 17:11) and furthermore admonished, “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” Matthew 23:9.
Verses 21 and 25 declare that the little horn power would make war on God’s people. Over 50,000,000 Christians were put to death by this power during the Dark Ages. The delineation of its years of power pinpoint this little horn as the Roman Catholic Church. The time period of its tyranny over the saints is given in 7 places in the Bible, the first being Daniel 7:25. “A time and times and the dividing of time,” “a time, times, and an half,” “forty two months,”and “a thousand two hundred and three scored says” all refer to the same time period. See Daniel 12:7; Revelation 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5. And it always describes the papal power. Since in prophecy 1 prophetic day equals 1 literal year (see Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6), all of these phrases figure out to 1,260 prophetic days, 42 months, or 3 1/2 years. The literal timespan is 1,260 years. This period corresponds exactly with the time during which the papal power reigned supreme – A.D. 538-1798 – beginning with the establishment of the bishop of Rome as the head over the entire church and ending with the capture of the reigning pope exactly 1,260 years later under Napoleon.
Still another characteristic of this power was that it would “think to change times and laws.” In the Catholic catechism, the second commandment of God’s law is eliminated, and the tenth is divided into two commandments. The fourth commandments (the seventh-day Sabbath) is changed from the seventh day (Saturday) to the first day (Sunday).
A church historian, Dr. Doellinger, wrote: “The church has created her own weekly feast day. It cannot be maintained that the Sabbath was exchanged for Sunday by the Apostles and that the commandment to keep the seventh day has been transferred to the first day. Not a trace of such a transfer can be found; and, therefore, the Sunday of the Christian church has always been quite different from the Sabbath of the law.”
In A.D. 325, Pope Sylvester decreed that the first day of the week should be called “the Lord’s day.” At the council of Laodicea in A.D. 364, it was decreed that Christians should not rest on Saturday but on Sunday.
In A Doctrinal Catechism, by Stephen Keenan, p. 174, we read:
“Question: Have you any other way of proving that the Church has power to institute festivals of precept?
“Answer: Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her; she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the seventh day, a changes for which there is no Scriptural authority.”
From this and other statements, it is evident that the papacy, through means of the church, has tried to change the holy day commanded by God. But God’s law is as unchangeable as God Himself, so such attempts are only means that lead men away from God.
All characteristics which the Bible attributes to the little horn, or the antichristian power, can be traced clearly in the history of the papacy. The evidence is therefore indisputable that the spiritual and political power which has existed for so many centuries and which has not changed – the papacy of Rome – is the antichrist.