In this episode, we begin to journey through the course of human history, from the Old Testament origins of our faith to our modern world and its complexities. Using the story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream as a backdrop and a sort of metaphor, we explore how our perception shapes not just individual human behavior but collective belief and understanding. Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, as presented in Daniel, reaches into the future, from Rome to the modern day.
Today we’re going to look at the end of the world as we know it. We looked at the new earth last week, and we saw that heaven is a weigh station, essentially, for us. We do go to heaven when we die, but the ultimate conclusion of the part of the story as it’s given to us in the scripture is when heaven comes to earth. There’s a new heaven and a new earth, and God dwells with men.
That’s kind of the key phrase in Revelation that says that it’s done, it’s completed. The world has been made new. The heavens are made new. We’ve got a new Jerusalem and a new earth, and there’s no more pain.
But there’s still excitement. There are kings and nations going in and out of the city. It’s not the eternal Alzheimer’s clinic that we inherited from the Greek idea. It’s this vibrant earth without all the bad stuff.
That’s a wonderful, hopeful, optimistic future that we can look forward to. There is this human history as we know it, and the age we’re in now will conclude. We’re going to look at the conclusion of this age today.
One of our combatants here said she would really like to hear a timeline. Of course, I started off with that when you understand prophecy, trying to understand timing is very difficult. I mentioned the verse where Jesus was reading in the temple, and he read the prophecy of Isaiah, and then he rolled the scroll up and said, “This is happening today.” He stopped in the middle of a sentence. The back half of the sentence was his second advent. So right in one sentence, you had the first advent and the second advent.
I certainly don’t want to try to parse out a system that says, “Well, here’s what’s going to happen,” because I just don’t know.
However, there are some things that we really know. At least, I believe that are highly knowable. We can go through that.
Let’s start with Daniel chapter 2. Daniel chapter 2 has in it all of human history prior to the new earth clearly laid out.
Background of Daniel 2
Let me give you some background here.
Daniel is in the deportation.
Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, came in and sieged Jerusalem, subjugated Jerusalem, subjugated Israel and deported most of the people that were left to Babylon. Some remained. And there were multiple waves of people to come out.
One of the waves, they took the princes and the nobility and all the great—it was a recruiting trip. They went, and they took all the best guys, put them in Babylonian University, and made them eunuchs. That’s who ran all the bureaucracy in the ancient Near East, were the eunuchs. Daniel was made a eunuch.
He and his three friends went through Babylonian U. They graduated at the top of their class. Though they were ten times better than the next guys, they didn’t buy it. They didn’t leave their Hebrew roots.
He’s now in this Magi class that is serving the king. The king has a dream, and he puts out to the Magi and says, “I had a dream, and I need to know what it is.”
So the Magi say, reasonably, “Well tell us the dream, and we’ll tell you the interpretation.”
He said, “I want you to tell me the dream.”
They said, “Nobody can do that.”
He said, “Then I’m going to kill y’all. I’m just tired of being manipulated. You’re all dead.”
Daniel goes and says, “Give me a little time, and I’ll ask God to give me the dream.” And he does.
Let’s start in verse 27.
Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, “The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king.
But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these:
As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be.
But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who made known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart.
Daniel and his friends and all the other magi were saved from execution because of Daniel’s interpretation here.
Here’s the dream:
“You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome.
This image’s head was of fine 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 clay.
You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.
Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
“This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king.
You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold.
But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.
And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.
Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay.
And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile.
As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.
And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”
When this happened
This is what’s going on. We’ve got all of human history set out with this statue. Daniel, here, is during the time of Babylon. Babylon deported Judah in 586 B.C. Does anybody remember how long they were there before they returned back to the land? 70 years. They’re there 70 years and returned back to the land.
Anybody remember why 70? That’s the number of sabbatical years that they didn’t take, and he said, “I’m taking them.”
They’re there 70 years. Daniel stays. He doesn’t go back. Ezra takes a group back, and Nehemiah goes back and rebuilds the wall. You’re familiar with those things. This is the era we’re in.
Two other prophets that are during this same time period that are prominent. Who are they? Jeremiah is one of them. Ezekiel is the other one. And you can kind of think of this as—Daniel’s a guy in the government. Jeremiah is the guy that’s kind of the persecutor of the kings in Judah; and Ezekiel’s kind of out in the countryside in Babylon. They’re all kind of contemporaries.
The Medo-Persian Empire
During this time period where Daniel is in Babylon, we actually go from the head of gold, which is Babylon to the next empire. Anybody remember the name of the next empire? Medo Persian.
The Medo-Persian Empire, and the event that we’re most familiar with that marked the advent of shifting from Babylonian to Medo-Persian Empire that involves Daniel, is what? The handwriting on the wall. Anybody here ever see the handwriting on the wall?
We go from Babylonian to Medo-Persian, and Daniel is still there for both of these. Daniel said that this Medo-Persian kingdom is inferior, which is interesting. How can an inferior kingdom defeat a superior kingdom? That’s been debated, what does that mean?
The best explanation I’ve heard is kind of embedded in the text. It said that, basically, Nebuchadnezzar owns everything. He’s in total and complete control of all. That’s called a greater kingdom.
In our world, if we have somebody that totally is in control of all, would we think that’s greater or worse? Worse. Why would we think it’s worse? We know absolute power corrupts absolutely, right?
If you look at it, the beginning of this is an absolute, total person in control. The end of it is an absolute person in total control, which is Christ Jesus. That’s a good thing because he’s a good king.
Before him, we’re going to see the man of sin, which is also a guy that gets total control, and it’s not pretty. That’s going to be one of the main things we talk about today. The beast, he’s called. But this is human history.
Alexander the Great
We’ve got the statue, and he’s got the head of gold. Then he’s got this silver chest. The next one, the Medo-Persians are defeated by Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great is what nationality? He’s a Greek. He’s actually Macedonian, but he adopts the Greek culture and becomes the head of the Greek state.
You can read additional prophecies in Daniel. He actually goes into some degree of detail here. Alexander is called this furious goat that goes out, and everything he sees, he just knocks it over because he’s just conquering the whole world.
When Alexander’s a very young man, he dies, and he divvies up the kingdom to his four generals. All this is set out in Daniel. Daniel’s back here in the 600 B.C. timeframe. Even though he lives in the Medo Persian, he’s actually telling this dream to who? Nebuchadnezzar, who’s Babylonian, right? “You, king, are the king of kings.”
Interestingly, one of the dooms that he pronounces on his grandson that the handwriting on the wall is, “You saw what happened to your grandfather, how God humbled him. He submitted his knee to God, and you didn’t pay attention. Now this doom’s coming upon you.”
He’s telling him this, and we’ve got thousands of years of history in front of us, and this is all being pronounced very specifically.
What does that tell us about human history? What does that tell us about human history? We can learn from it. Somebody’s not surprised by it. God’s kind of got this all under control, right? This is really cool. We can have a lot of confidence that it’s not left to chance what’s going to happen, which I find immense comfort in.
The four kingdoms
Alexander the Great divvies his kingdom to his four generals. The four generals then start four kingdoms. One is a Greek kingdom. One is a Macedonian kingdom. That’s the hometown kingdom, if you will. One is a Persian kingdom. One is an Egyptian kingdom. This is all kind of in the 300 B.C.ish timeframe, Alexander. And this is being told hundreds of years prior.
He divvies this up. The Persian kingdom ends up with a name. Anybody remember the name of the Persian kingdom? Seleucid. This is the Seleucids.
The Egyptian kingdom ends up with a name. Ptolemys. Ptolemaic kingdom.
These Greek and Macedonian, we never hear anything about because they get just absorbed by Rome almost right off the bat. They just kind of, “We’re with you. We don’t want to fight.”
You have Rome and these other two kingdoms coexisting, and somebody’s got to win out, right? One of the two has to win out.
There’s a huge battle that kind of determines which of the two wins out; and it’s mainly between the Egyptian kingdom and the Roman kingdom.
Anybody remember who the main players in that are? The Ptolemaic—and, again, these are Greeks. Mark Anthony. Yeah, Marc Antony, which side is he on? He’s a Roman. Which side is he on, the Egyptian or the Roman? He’s on the Egyptian side. Why? Because of Cleopatra. Cleopatra is the Ptolemaic successor to the throne. She’s the Egyptian queen. Because, again, these are Greeks, right? The Greeks took over, and they become the ruling class for all the other people that are not necessarily Greek.
Marc Antony sides with Cleopatra, and they have this big battle, and the Egyptians lose. And that’s what kind of flips everything to Rome.
The next kingdom is Rome. Then after that is this kingdom of God. The stone made without hands.
This Roman kingdom is described very interestingly. What are some of the things described about Rome? Do you remember? Iron and clay. First it was iron, and then it goes iron and clay.
And what part of the body is it? Legs and feet. Legs has how many? Two. Very good! Toes? Ten. We’ve got two legs and ten toes.
What keeps happening to these legs and toes? They keep getting broken, right? The comment is it won’t stick together very good, but, what? The iron is very hard. And it kind of goes around crushing things. It keeps falling apart and crushing things.
We are Roman
Which era are we in? Are we in the Babylonian era? We’re not.
Are we in the Medo Persian era? No.
Are we in the Alexander the Great Greek era? No. Not directly. Although all these eras have had immense influence on us. The Greek the most. Why does the Greek still have huge influence on us? The Romans embraced the Greek philosophical way of thought.
Are we in the kingdom of God era? No.
What are we? We’re Roman.
This really hit home to me when I got to go to Pompeii. Pompeii is a city in Italy. It was covered up by Mt. Vesuvius. Mt. Vesuvius erupted and covered up Pompeii. When they dug it up, it’s just kind of like it was the day it was buried.
I got to go to Pompeii, and we were visiting the neighborhoods. Basically, you just walk through this town just like it was in—When was Vesuvius? Does anybody remember? 79 A.D. OK.
I was walking through these houses. I go in, and there’d be a mosaic on the front porch. You walk in, and there’s like a foyer. You go in, and there’s a little patio in the middle. You maybe see the wall covering or the painting on the wall, wallpaper. You see the statues.
I said, “Nice house! I like it here!” I realized, I’m Roman! This is very comfortable for me. I could have lived in Pompeii in 79 A.D., and I would have bought one of those houses. I really like it. Water pipes piped in. Running water. I don’t think they had flushing toilets, but they had running sewage.
It was, for all practical purposes, an American city without internal combustion and electronics. Because that’s just kind of the way Romans do things.
You can study the way Romans went about stuff; and Americans are so Roman, it’s really amazing. You can go start looking at our coinage and stuff like that. Have you noticed that the eagle has this little bundle of rods under his feet? That’s a Roman symbol. The Statue of Liberty. We still incorporate Roman stuff. We go build our buildings in Washington D.C., and they all look like Greek and Roman temples. We just kind of do Roman things.
Rome broke into pieces
This iron and clay is interesting because Rome never got defeated. We think of the Roman Empire as this thing long ago and not something that’s still going on today. What I’m telling you is Daniel 2 would tell us, and I believe history supports, through observation, Rome’s still going on today.
The Roman Empire was never conquered. What did it do? It just fell apart. It just “clayed” apart, right? You had this immense empire that got super far flung. Basically what happened was the taxation got so heavy that the people on the outer borders said, “Hmm, you know, all the benefits we get from Rome are not worth the cost. We’ll just keep the money here.” It just broke into pieces. That’s all.
It broke into two parts. You have the western and eastern Roman empire that divide. Does anybody remember when the time the eastern and western Rome divide? 500 A.D. Something like that. 500 A.D., the east and west divide. Now we have two empires.
This actually started in Constantine’s era, which is in, like, 350 A.D. Constantine established a new capital in Byzantium, which we now know as Istanbul.
We were in Rome with a guide. This was always curious to me. Just think about it. If the president popped up and says, “We’re going to start a new capital in Omaha,” would you think that was odd? What do we need another capital for? Why would you do that?
We asked our guide in Rome, “Why did they need a new capital?” And she just turned, as straight as she could be, and said, “Because the Romans wouldn’t worship the emperor anymore. He needed to go somewhere where they’d worship the emperor.”
Christianity had become about ten percent of the population, and when they persecuted them, it made them happy because then they knew they were going straight into the approval and acceptance of God. Constantine said, “This isn’t going to work for me. I got to go somewhere where I can exert my influence properly.” He started this eastern empire.
Whether she’s right or not, I don’t know. I just found it very interesting that that was this tour guide’s opinion.
He did start one in 350 A.D., and somewhere around 500, the empires actually split and became two separate enterprises.
The western and eastern empires
The western one, then, just broke into pieces. It became Gaul and Germany. It was just these little pieces, little kings, petty tyrants. This is when the knight era starts. Why do we have knights and castles and stuff during this era? Protection. Protection from what? From each other and from the Vikings. The Vikings had this habit of coming down and raiding people. It was just kind of a lawless era.