From Ancient Babylon to the Twentieth Century in Bible Prophecy
BIBLICAL predictions have had remarkable fulfillments in ancient times. Did you know that the Scriptures also foretell matters concerning the twentieth century?
The Bible book of Daniel contains prophetic visions that span the rise and fall of major world powers from ancient Babylon down to the present generation. For example, during the sixth century B.C.E., Daniel had a dream of four symbolic beasts. According to Daniel’s description of these symbolic animals, they were:
(1) a lion, first having eagle’s wings, then losing them and taking on human qualities; (2) a bear devouring much flesh; (3) a leopard with four wings (adding to its great speed) and four heads; and (4) a “fearsome and terrible and unusually strong” wild beast not corresponding to any actual animal. This fourth beast had large iron teeth, ten horns and another, a “small” horn, developing with eyes and a “mouth speaking grandiose things.”—Dan. 7:3-8.
FROM BABYLON TO RULERSHIP BY A “SON OF MAN”
What do these four beasts represent? The Scriptural account states that they symbolize “kings,” or kingdoms. (Dan. 7:17) The lion represents Babylon, which was the dominant power in the Middle East when the vision was received. (Jer. 4:5-7) The bear pictures the kingdom that followed Babylon as a world power, which proved to be Medo-Persia. The four-headed leopard with wings depicts the Grecian Empire. As for the leopard’s four heads, after Alexander the Great’s death, his generals struggled for control of the empire, four of them eventually gaining the rulership of different sections. The fourth symbolic beast of this vision refers to the world power that swallowed up the Grecian Empire, namely, Rome.
What about this fourth beast’s ten horns and the other horn with eyes and a “mouth speaking grandiose things”? (Dan. 7:8) At times the Scriptures use horns to symbolize rulers and ruling dynasties. (Dan. 8:2-10, 20-22; Zech. 1:18-21; Luke 1:69-71) The number ten denotes fullness, entirety, the sum of all that exists of something. (Matt. 25:1; Luke 15:8; 19:13, 16, 17) History shows that the Roman Empire eventually broke up into various nations. The ten horns of this fourth beast evidently represent all the kingdoms that resulted after Rome’s dissolution.
As for the “small” horn that appeared among the ten, during the eighteenth century C.E., Britain, a onetime minor imperial subject of Rome, rose to prominence as the foremost commercial and political power in the world. Because of close ties and general unity of action, Britain and the United States today are often referred to as the Anglo-American World Power. This power well fits the Biblical description of the “small” horn.
Since the Anglo-American World Power is still in existence, Daniel’s vision of the four beasts foretells developments of human history from the time of ancient Babylon down to our own day. But what follows as this series of human political kingdoms ends? Daniel adds:
“I kept on beholding in the visions of the night, and, see there! with the clouds of the heavens someone like a son of man happened to be coming; and to the Ancient of Days he gained access, and they brought him up close even before that One. And to him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.”—Dan. 7:13, 14.
How thrilling to think that the “son of man,” Jesus Christ, takes over rulership of ‘all peoples, national groups and languages,’ and that in our day! Persons living in this period of time have marvelous blessings to which they may look forward.
NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S DREAM IMAGE
Similar in meaning is a prophetic dream had by Nebuchadnezzar. This Babylonian king envisioned a colossal metallic image in human form. Daniel explains that 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.
Daniel explained that the head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar, or, by extension, the dynasty of Babylonian rulers that began with Nebuchadnezzar. (Dan. 2:37, 38) The silver breasts and arms pictured the succeeding world power of Medo-Persia. The copper belly and thighs depicted “another kingdom, a third one [counting from Babylon].” (Dan. 2:39) This was the Grecian World Power. The next part of the image, the iron legs, initially represented Rome. Yet Rome cannot fulfill all the requirements of the iron part of the image. Why not?
Because iron extended into the feet of the image, it being mixed there with molded clay. And concerning the feet of this image, the Bible goes on to state: “A stone was cut out not by hands, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and of molded clay and crushed them. At that time the iron, the molded clay, the copper, the silver and the gold were, all together, crushed.”—Dan. 2:34, 35.
What did this part of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream mean? Daniel explains: “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms [represented by the entire image], and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Dan. 2:44.
That crushing out of existence and replacing of all earthly kingdoms by divine rulership did not occur during the days of the Roman Empire. The ironlike feature of this image, therefore, extends on to the world power succeeding Rome, the Anglo-American. Thus, this vision parallels that of the four beasts in foretelling major developments in human history from ancient Babylon down to the take-over of earthly rulership by God’s kingdom in the hands of the “son of man,” Christ Jesus.
Can we expect that to happen soon?
THE “SIGN” OF CHRIST’S PRESENCE
Shortly before Jesus was put to death, his disciples asked him for a “sign” of his “presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 24:3) By “presence” they meant his ruling in Kingdom power. How did Jesus answer their question? You will profit from reading the full reply as recorded in Matthew chapters 24, 25, and the parallel accounts at Mark 13 and Luke 21. Here we will give just a few highlights.
According to Luke’s Gospel account, Jesus included the following as part of the sign of his presence: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another pestilences and food shortages.” (Luke 21:10, 11) The book of Revelation sets forth the same evidences of Jesus’ presence as king, but in symbolic language. In a description of what happens on earth after Jesus Christ, as the rider on a symbolic “white horse,” receives the “crown” of active kingship over the world of mankind, we read:
“And another [horse and rider] came forth, a fiery-colored horse; and to the one seated upon it there was granted to take peace away from the earth so that they should slaughter one another; and a great sword was given him. (Compare Luke 21:10 regarding ‘nation rising against nation.’] . . .
“And I saw, and, look! a black horse; and the one seated upon it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice as if in the midst of the four living creatures say: ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius [a full day’s wage at that time], and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the olive oil and the wine.’ [Compare Luke 21:11 concerning famine.] . . .
“And I saw, and, look! a pale horse; and the one seated upon it had the name Death. And Hades [mankind’s common grave] was closely following him. And authority was given them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with a long sword and with food shortage and with deadly plague and by the wild beasts of the earth. [Note that Luke 21:11 includes pestilences.]”—Rev. 6:1-8.
Have not you personally experienced these things? Has not the generation of people alive today suffered from unprecedented wars, food shortages and epidemic diseases, starting from World War I in 1914 C.E.? And these things are not all there is to the sign of Jesus’ presence in Kingdom power.
Jesus added as another feature of that sign: “And because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off.” (Matt. 24:12) Do not you agree that skyrocketing crime rates in many parts of the earth during this generation have led to a general cooling off in the love people have both for God and for their fellowman?—Compare 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
However dismal these world conditions are, they constitute strong reason for Bible believers to rejoice, for Jesus further stated: “Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.” That means that persons who saw the beginning of these distressing times will still be alive when God’s heavenly kingdom brings to its end the present system of things.—Matt. 24:8, 34.
What will replace it? A new system of things under divine rule. Describing conditions on earth at that time, the Bible book of Revelation states: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”—Rev. 21:3, 4.
Would you enjoy living in that new system of things? If so, fulfillment of the “sign” that Jesus gave can have special significance for you. Jesus pointed this out, saying: “As these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.”—Luke 21:28.
What a grand hope! Yet God has requirements, which are not hard to meet, for all who will survive into that new system of things. (1 John 5:3, 4) Are you willing to study the Bible so as to learn God’s requirements? You should find real joy in doing so. Jehovah’s Witnesses will be happy to conduct a free home Bible study with you. Also, meetings at their Kingdom Halls are free and open to the public. Contact Jehovah’s Witnesses soon, and gain further insight into fulfillment of Bible prophecy in this twentieth century.
THE GREAT PANDEMIC
AS NOTED above, part of the “sign” of Christ’s presence and “the conclusion of the system of things” is “in one place after another pestilences.” (Matt. 24:3; Luke 21:11) Among these pestilences was the “Spanish flu” pandemic (global epidemic) of 1918 and 1919. Concerning it, Timothy Larkin writes: “When an American troop transport, the U.S.S. Otranto collided with another ship, 431 lives were lost, many of them because the Otranto’s crew was so weakened from the flu that it was unable to abandon ship; and while there were 50,000 American soldiers killed in battle in World War I, an additional 24,000 died from influenza or complications from it.” (FDA Consumer, May 1976) All together, some 20 million people died world wide during the “Spanish flu” of 1918 and 1919.