Series on Daniel, II Conflict, A Visions of the Ages, 1 The Stone, c Immovability, Text: 2:31-49, Title: The Last Kingdom

Introduction


We come at last to that for which i am sure a number of you have been waiting, a genuine prophecy of something which was beyond Daniel's time. In our study of chapter 2 we have prepared the way by looking at Nebudchadnezzar' s anxiety and Daniel's prayer, and now in answer to the prayer God gives Daniel the content and interpretation of the king's dream. We need to remember something I said in the very first message on this book. The dreams and visions of the Old Testament are a sweeping panorama of the divine plan and are best understood by those who look for the main point and do not get lost in speculation about obscure details, not that there aren't any details. If we can identify the details we do, but if we cannot, we do not tickle our fancies with conjecture and supposition. The main message here is plain and it is not uncommon in the Bible. When our forefather Adam sinned the world, its peoples and kingdoms, its nations and politics came under the dominion of the devil, the god of this world. The triumph of the true God and his people is written large on the pages of scripture and summed up in Revelation 11:15 which reminds us that when the seventh and last angel sounds his trumpet he will say that the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and He will reign forever and ever. This is the message of Nebudchadnezzar's dream. So we look at the development of this idea in our text. We see the desire, the destiny, the destruction of earthly kingdoms and the key to deliverance.


I Desire

The king of Babylon is not a man who thought much about death or defeat. He is quoted in 4:30 as saying, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” This is the man who was addressed by his advisors with the words, O king live forever! Today we would call him an egomaniac. His desire is to be immortal. For Nebudchadnezzar this dream described in verses 31-35 is a nightmare, “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, 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 wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. I am sure. that deep within Nebudchadnezzar knew there has a God who was the sovereign creator because Scripture tells us so in Romans 1, but he suppressed that instinct. The first words out of Daniel's mouth are an omen. He agrees no wise men can tell the king the content and meaning of his dream but he says there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. It stands to reason this dream is from God; after all, Nebudchadnezzar is not going to dream about the dissolution and destruction of his great kingdom which he has built. That is the furtherest thing from his mind. We need to understand that it is also the furtherest thing from the minds of men that all the great works they have done will be destroyed and only what God considers worthy will remain, but it is true. Their desire is frustrated by their destiny as seen by God.


II Destiny


God reveals the destiny of earthly kingdoms in a dream  of an  image that represents these kingdoms in verses 36-45, “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. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for 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. 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.” There is an irony in the picture because the reason these kingdoms are destroyed is that they are idolatrous. Thus the image. The kingdoms are all inferior to Nebudchadnezzar's. His is the greatest, but they all have the same fate. In the end all earthly kingdoms fall; they are destroyed by the great stone. This is obviously of God because it is cut out without hands, and it not only crushes the image but grows to fill the whole earth. The kingdoms in view here are Babylon, succeeded by the Medo-persian empire, then the Greek domain under Alexander the Great, and finally the Roman empire which is described in greatest detail because it is in the time of this fourth kingdom that the great stone strikes the image. The Roman empire lasted longer than any of the others, but as the image suggests, the seeds of its decline and fall were in its lack of unity. The only point I want you to see here is that these are the great empires of antiquity which held sway over the land that God had given to his people-Palestine. Today they are ground to dust. Today their power and glory is found only in museums and between the covers of history books. Like the Tower of Babel they are gone. But God and his people are still here. The nations of eastern Europe may attain a greater measure of freedom, but in the end as we have seen, there will be another form of creeping totalitarianism. What is really important is that we see emerging the fact that beneath the crushing burden of oppression the kingdom of God has been marching on.


III Destruction

Yes they will come to destruction because, as verse 44 tells us, the great stone consumes all these kingdoms. Now we must ask the question, To  what time is this referring? The answer is simply to the first coming of Christ which occurred in the days of the last empire Rome. Daniel, like all the Old Testament prophets, makes no distinction between the first and second coming of Messiah. For Daniel there is one great future event. We need to see that frequently in the Old Testament prophetic perspective both the first coming of Jesus in humilation and His second coming in glory are viewed as a single great event. The New Testament supports this view because it says since the first coming of Christ we have been in the last days. The kingdoms symbolized here are representative of all earthly kingdoms and their destruction was sealed in the days of the fourth kingdom when Jesus came into Galilee preaching that the kingdom of God had drawn near. It is the great stone. In fact Jesus characterized that kingdom in Matthew 13 as filling the whole earth in the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven.

IV Deliverance

And so there is revealed to the king both the content and meaning of his dream, and he is happy. Daniel is honored and promoted. His three friends are given responsible positions and Daniel sits in the gate of the king, meaning he is the king's advisor. We read this in verses 46-49, Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and 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. Nebuchadnezzar however impressed is only awed, but not converted. We are amazed to turn to chapter three and discover that after this dream, he makes a great image of gold in the plain of Dura and requires everyone to bow down and worship it. Clearly the lesson is lost on him. Let it not be lost on us. The point is and it cannot be over-stressed, that the stone which smashes the kingdoms of this world with all their might and power represents a spiritual kingdom. We receive it as did Elijah fleeing from Ahab and Jezebel and hiding in a cave while saying, “There's no one left but me.” Then God sent a wind, and an earthquake and a fire, and He was not in any of those, and then he spoke in a still small voice, and said, “Not by might nor by power but by my spirit says the Lord.” The defeat of the kingdoms of this world is anchored in the life death and resurrection of Jesus. The gospel is the rock hewed out without human hands. the stone which the builders rejected has become the headstone. When Martin Luther is opposed by the might and power of the corrupt church what does he do? Preach and pray. When John Knox is opposed by the civil authority, what does he do? Preach and pray. And we will never get the point of this prophecy until we understand that our strength is in the weakness of the cross, the still small voice that says repent, trust in Jesus and you will triumph.