The March of World Powers in Prophecy
What is the march of world powers? What does it mean for our day?
PROPHETS of today see the political powers on the march toward destruction! It is a terrifying spectacle! Paralyzing fear grips the hearts of the spectators as they stand helplessly by. Bertrand Russell, eminent philosopher, described the march as one that seemed predetermined, destined for our time. “Ever since 1914,” he said, everybody conscious of trends in the world has been deeply troubled by what has seemed like a fated and predetermined march toward ever greater disaster.”
Peace-loving peoples are saddened by the maddened march of the nations toward what appears to be certain destruction. The situation seems hopeless. However, thinking persons realize that the march of the political powers demands careful consideration and thought, because it directly affects each one’s future. Therefore it brings joy to the heart to learn that the “God who gives hope” has had recorded in his book of prophecy the march of certain world powers. Starting some 2,565 years ago, the Bible revealed in advance the course of these world powers right on down to our day, and yet into the future, where it reveals the grand climax of the march.—Rom. 15:13.
MARCH OF WORLD POWERS IN PROPHECY BEGINS
It was in the year 607 B.C. that Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian hordes swept through Jerusalem’s famine-stricken defenses to to bring to a bloody end the 510-year existence of the kingdom of God’s chosen nation of Israel. Zedekiah was the last king of Israel to “sit upon Jehovah’s throne” as a representative ruler of Almighty God. These prophetic words of Jehovah recorded at Ezekiel 21:26, 27 were addressed to Zedekiah, and they found the beginning of their fulfillment in 607 B.C.: “Remove the turban, and lift off the crown. This will not be the same. Put on high even what is low, and bring low even the high one. A ruin, a ruin, a ruin I shall make it. As for this also, it will certainly become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right, and I must give it to him.” Thus Jehovah’s throne was to remain vacated until the one came who had the legal right to become Jehovah’s everlasting King of his promised new world.—1 Chron. 29:23.
With the overthrow of Jehovah’s representative ruler in 607 B.C. began the period of time Jesus spoke of as “the appointed times of the nations,” that is, a time when the nations would have an uninterfered-with, uninterrupted rule of the earth. It also marked, not the beginning of world powers, but the start of a march of the world powers as recorded in prophecy in the Bible book of Daniel.—Luke 21:24.
NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S DREAM DESCRIBES MARCH
Under Nebuchadnezzar’s capable leadership Babylon rose to the position of an undisputed world power. He was also the first one to overthrow God’s chosen nation of Israel. Therefore it was appropriate that Almighty God would give to him the dream that foretells the march of world powers from his day down to the present time.
Upon awakening from sleep Nebuchadnezzar could not remember his most unusual dream and it disturbed him a great deal. Finally Daniel, a God-fearing Israelite captive, came forward and gave Nebuchadnezzar not only the dream but also its interpretation. Daniel said: “You, O king, happened to be beholding, and, look! a certain immense image.” According to Daniel’s description, the image’s “head was of good gold, its breasts and its arms were of silver, its belly and its thighs were of copper, its legs were of iron, its feet were partly of iron and partly of molded clay.”—Dan. 2:31-33.
What could be the meaning of such a strange dream? Daniel interpreted: “You, O king, the king of kings, . . . you yourself are the head of gold.” (Dan. 2:37, 38) So the gold head represented Nebuchadnezzar, or, more exactly, the dynasty of Babylonian rulers beginning with Nebuchadnezzar as Jerusalem’s conqueror and ending with Belshazzar’s death sixty-eight years later. Nebuchadnezzar being the first world ruler to conquer God’s own nation of Israel, it was proper that Babylon would have the place at the head of the image.
What of the breasts and arms of silver? Daniel under the guidance of God’s spirit revealed to Nebuchadnezzar, “And after you there will rise another kingdom inferior to you.” (Dan. 2:39) This makes clear that each metal represents a kingdom or dynasty and is in reality a prophecy concerning the march of these kingdoms or world powers. The breasts and arms of silver therefore represent the Medo-Persian world power, which toppled Babylon from its superior position in 539 B.C.
The prophetic march continues. Identifying the third world power in this prophecy, Daniel says: “And another kingdom, a third one, of copper, that will rule over the whole earth.” (Dan. 2:39) Counting Babylon as the first, the third world power was that of Greece. Thus the belly and thighs of copper represent the Macedonian or Grecian world power.
“And as for the fourth kingdom,” that is, the fourth from Babylon, it is symbolized by the ‘legs of iron.’ (Dan. 2:40) Iron is stronger than gold, silver and copper. Likewise Rome, the next world power to come upon the scene, was stronger and more ironlike in its ability to crush than any of its predecessors. However, more was symbolized by the legs of iron than just Rome. The greatest and most ironlike of all world powers was the one succeeding, namely, the British Empire, later joined by America, forming the Anglo-American world power.
What about the final part of the image, the feet and ten toes of iron and clay? In the Bible the number ten is used to indicate earthly completeness. Thus the ten toes picture all the coexisting political powers and governments during the time of the end of this symbolic image.
WORLD POWERS REPRESENTED BY BEASTS
More than fifty years after interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and during the rule of Belshazzar, Daniel received two visions from God within a period of three years that corroborated and served as an additional witness that the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was true. Daniel tells of his first vision: “I happened to be beholding in my visions during the night, and, see there! . . . four huge beasts were coming up out of the sea, each one being different from the others. As for these huge beasts, because they are four, there are four kings that will stand up from the earth.” Thus the four beasts represent four kingdoms or world powers and they correspond with the four metals of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.—Dan. 7:2, 3, 17.
Daniel said the first beast “was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle.” (Dan. 7:4) Babylon sped to the attack with the speed of a lion assisted along by the wings of an eagle. It devoured kingdoms, including God’s nation of Israel, to establish itself as a world power. However, it soon slowed to the pace of a man with two legs and was caught and crushed by “another beast, a second one, it being like a bear.” (Dan. 7:5) This, of course, was the succeeding world power, Medo-Persia.
Daniel’s vision foretold the rise of Greece to world prominence when it revealed a third “beast, one like a leopard, but it had four wings of a flying creature on its back.” Under Alexander the Great Greece moved with almost unbelievable speed in her conquest, ‘like a leopard with wings.’ After Alexander’s death Greece became divided into four separate minor empires, as the Bible indicated by saying, “And the beast had four heads.”—Dan. 7:6.
The “fourth beast, fearsome and terrible and unusually strong . . . was something different from all the other beasts that were prior to it, and it had ten horns.” (Dan. 7:7) This beast began with the Roman Empire, but as the prophecy indicated would happen, the Roman Empire was eventually dissolved, and the ten horns symbolized the pieces into which it was broken. From among these ten horns a small horn arose, which was described as being “different from the first ones.” (Dan. 7:8, 24) This small horn rose as the British Empire notably from the seventeenth century onward, and was later joined by America to form the Anglo-American world power.
Daniel’s second vision serves as additional confirmation and proves that Jehovah is the “One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done.” (Isa. 46:10) Daniel describes seeing a ram and a he-goat. The two-horned ram prevails for a time “and no wild beasts kept standing before it,” but then a he-goat arises from the west and rushes the ram, knocks it to the ground and tramples it into subjection. Jehovah’s sure word of prophecy leaves no doubt as to the meaning of these symbolisms: “The ram that you saw possessing the two horns stands for the kings of Media and Persia. And the hairy he-goat stands for the king of Greece; and as for the great horn that was between its eyes, it stands for the first king. And that one having been broken, so that there were four that finally stood up instead of it, there are four kingdoms from his nation that will stand up, but not with his power.”—Dan. 8:3-8, 20-22.
Medo-Persia did become a world power, as Daniel’s vision foretold, and, also as predicted, Greece under Alexander the Great trampled Medo-Persia into subjection. When Alexander, pictured by the great horn, was broken in death, his kingdom was divided between four of his generals, and four Hellenic empires resulted. How remarkable is God’s Word in foretelling the future! Certainly we can rely on its prophecies!
THE SCARLET-COLORED WILD BEAST
The Bible refers to Satan’s entire visible organization as “a wild beast ascending out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads.” (Rev. 13:1) It then describes “another wild beast ascending out of the earth, and it had two horns like a lamb, but it began speaking as a dragon.” (Rev. 13:11) This two-horned beast advocates that “those who dwell on the earth” should “make an image to the wild beast” that had seven heads and ten horns.—Rev. 13:14.
The two-horned wild beast that spoke like a dragon represents the Anglo-American dual world power of Britain and America. It appears as with lamblike horns, unaggressive in its nature; but, speaking like the dragon Satan the Devil, it advocates making an “image to the wild beast” to serve as a mouthpiece for satanic propaganda. The League of Nations and its successor the United Nations have proved to be the image of Satan’s entire visible organization. And as the Bible foretold, Britain and America have sponsored it and are responsible for its existence.
In Revelation chapter seventeen this “image of the wild beast” is called a “scarlet-colored wild beast,” and, identifying it, the angel said: “The wild beast that you saw was, but is not, and yet is destined to ascend out of the abyss, and it is to go off into destruction.” (Rev. 17:3, 8) The League of Nations “was,” it beginning to function on January 10, 1920; but in 1939 with the outbreak of World War II it went into the abyss of inactivity, only to come out again in 1945 as the United Nations organization.
This wild beast is further identified by its relationship to the preceding seven world powers, the account saying, “It is also itself an eighth king, but springs from the seven, and it goes off into destruction.” (Rev. 17:11, margin) Some recognize its destruction as near. British parliament member Anthony Fell said: “The United Nations has failed. It was our creature and it has failed us. Not because of lack of good intentions, but because it is an organization that is doomed to failure.”
GOD’S KINGDOM THE ONLY LASTING UNIVERSAL POWER
Jesus Christ while here on earth proved his legal right to be Jehovah’s everlasting King. After his resurrection from death, A.D. 33, the account says that he “sat down at the right hand of God, from then on awaiting until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet.” (Heb. 10:12, 13) This period of waiting concluded with the ending of the “appointed times of the nations” in the year 1914. That marked the time for God’s appointed king “who has the legal right” to begin ruling! Revelation chapter twelve describes Christ assuming his legal right to rule and then casting Satan and his demons out of heaven down to the earth, where he holds them in reservation for destruction along with Satan’s entire visible beastlike organization.
Therefore, take heart, all you peace-loving peoples of today. God has established a Universal Power, his kingdom in the hands of his Christ! Daniel, telling of the destruction of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image, spoke of our time when he said: “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. . . . It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” So place your hope and confidence in God’s kingdom and survive with it to times indefinite!—Dan. 2:44.
[Pictures on page 357]
ROMAN AND ANGLO-AMERICAN WORLD POWERS