A Prophetic Giant—What Will Its Fall Mean?
WHAT did Nebuchadnezzar, the powerful Babylonian ruler, see in his sleep over 2,500 years ago? If he could remember after awakening, would he know that in a single image he had seen a summary of the world’s future?
When he woke up, King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonian Empire called for his astrologers and wise men. He wanted them to remind him of his dream and explain it.
But who can explain something that he does not know? The wise men were baffled. However, Jehovah enabled the Jewish exile Daniel to recall and to interpret the dream and thus tell the king of future events. Let us follow Daniel’s explanation of this dream, since it affects our own time.
A Mysterious Image
Daniel starts by describing a huge image with a head of gold, breasts and arms of silver, belly and thighs of copper, legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay. A stone strikes the feet of the image and then completely destroys it. Next, the stone grows until it becomes a mountain filling the whole earth. (Daniel 2:31-35) This was the king’s forgotten dream! What did it all mean?
Daniel tells the king that the parts of the image represent world powers that will follow one another. Many religious scholars agree with the point made in a Bible encyclopedia that says: “The central truth of (Daniel chapter 2) is that some day the kingdom of God will supersede all human empires.” When will that day come? Daniel’s prophecy gives important information that has a bearing on that question.
The Head and the Body
“You, O king, the king of kings, you to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the might, and the strength and the dignity, . . . you yourself are the head of gold.” Thus, the head represented King Nebuchadnezzar and the dynasty of kings that began with him.—Daniel 2:37, 38.
“After you there will rise another kingdom inferior to you; and another kingdom, a third one, of copper, that will rule over the whole earth.” (Daniel 2:39) Following Babylon, the Medo-Persian Empire took its turn as the dominant world power of Bible record. It was followed by the Grecian Empire, which, under Alexander the Great, extended its domination over a territory much greater than that of any previous world empire.
“The Fourth Kingdom”—Key to the Mystery
The first three kingdoms appeared and then disappeared from the scene as great world powers just as Daniel prophesied under divine inspiration. But for us, it is more important to identify “the fourth kingdom.” Why? Because it is during the time of this kingdom that the dream image must fall, and we need to know what its collapse involves. Listen as Daniel gives more information.
“As for the fourth kingdom, it will prove to be strong like iron. Forasmuch as iron is crushing and grinding everything else, so, like iron that shatters, it will crush and shatter even all these.” (Daniel 2:40) Does this fourth kingdom represent only the Roman Empire, which followed Greece as the dominant world power? No, for various reasons.
The book of Daniel itself gives us the time frame for this image, for it was said: “[God] has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what is to occur in the final part of the days.” (Daniel 2:28) These words indicate that the final fulfillment of the vision would be in the distant future, after the time of the Grecian and the Roman empires.
The apostle John, another Bible writer, also mentioned “kings,” or world powers. Concerning them he wrote: “There are seven kings: five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet arrived.” Before the intervention of God’s Kingdom, one more world power was due to come (following the Roman Empire, which ‘was’ in John’s day). That world power would also be included in “the fourth kingdom” of Daniel’s prophecy. (Revelation 17:10-14; Daniel 2:40) From history, what do we learn about this?
Established by military conquests, the Roman World Power did not end with the removal of its last emperor in Rome by German leader Odoacer, in 476 C.E. For many centuries, Rome continued to exercise political, and especially religious, domination over Europe because of the feudal system that made everyone subject first to his lord, then to the king, and finally to the pope. Actually, the pope judged important matters as the court of last resort and could bend kings to his will by excommunication and by interdict.a As The Columbia History of the World states: “The church was Europe’s greatest government.”
In 1534 King Henry VIII of England made himself head of the Church of England, independent of Rome. Thus he broke this embrace. But he also began to forge the principal military tool of the British power, as Eric Delderfield states in his book Kings and Queens of England: “Henry carried on his father’s work of creating an effective Navy. . . . At his death, Henry had added some eighty ships to Naval strength and so began the challenge to the maritime supremacy of Spain.”
Over the centuries the British power was transformed into a vast empire that Daniel Webster, a famous 19th-century American politician, described as “a power to which, for purposes of foreign conquest and subjugation, Rome in the height of her glory is not to be compared,—a power which has dotted over the surface of the whole globe with her possessions and military posts.” Soon the British Empire was closely linked in political and military affairs with its former colonies of North America. Thus the seventh king of Revelation 17:10 appeared, the Anglo-American Dual World Power.
According to what was said about the dream image, “the offspring of mankind,” or the common people, would play a greater role in government at the time of this last “king.” (Daniel 2:42, 43) Modern history confirms that this has indeed happened, with democracies or ‘people’s governments’ replacing many kings, queens, or other autocratic powers. Among the governments of today, represented by the ten toes of the image, some are ironlike, that is, authoritarian or tyrannical. But others, being socialistic or democratic rulerships, are more pliable, like clay.
As indicated in Daniel’s prophecy, when the governments represented by the feet were in power—and that means in our time—the end of the great image would be approaching. It will fall, not because of the weakness of the feet made of iron mixed with clay, but because of being struck and crushed by a symbolic stone. What does that “stone” represent? The Messianic Kingdom that was to “crush and put an end to all these kingdoms” and become ‘a large mountain that fills the whole earth.’—Daniel 2:34, 35, 44.b
“The dream is reliable, and the interpretation of it is trustworthy,” said Daniel. (Daniel 2:45) The initial fulfillments of these two prophecies—one about the destruction of Babylon and the other pertaining to the succession of world powers—assure us that what remains to be fulfilled will happen on time. This will include the destruction of the prophetic dream image by the interference of God’s Kingdom.
Other Bible books contain vital prophecies about God’s purposes. The Watchtower, issue by issue, discusses many of these and explains their meaning for our time. So if you are not already a regular reader of this journal, why not become one? You can thus learn more about Jehovah God, the “Revealer of secrets,” and the countless blessings that his Kingdom will soon bring to the earth.—Daniel 2:28.
a When an interdict was enforced, there were to be no Masses, no marriages, and even no ecclesiastical burials in the territory so affected.
b The three preceding issues of The Watchtower have examined other evidence that we are living in “the final part of the days” when the dream image is to be destroyed.
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