Daniel Chapter 2:
The Prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar's Image

Daniel 2

    The prophecy of Daniel 2 is represented in the chart above as Nebuchadnezzar's image, laid upon it's side so as to correspond neatly with the related prophecies in the book of Daniel. For a viewer and printer friendly version of the above chart, click here. A general commentary including identification of the empires is readily available in many commentaries and websites, so our article is going to focus only upon dispensational particulars.

The Prophecy Given:

“You, O king, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, [CHURCH AGE INTERVENES HERE] its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth." - Daniel 2:31-35

The Prophecy Interpreted:

"This was the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king. You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold. After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth. Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces. [CHURCH AGE INTERVENES HERE] In that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay. As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle. And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery. In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy." - Daniel 2:36-45

    In the above passages, the dream and its interpretation have been illustrated in the following manner: First, the portions which have been fulfilled, as all agree, are highlighted with a tan background. Second, the point at which the prophecy pauses in flow of fulfillment is marked with blue text indicating the intervening age in which we live at the present time (as illustrated in our primary chart as "the Mystery," and clarified by example in this illustration). And third, the portions which remain to be fulfilled in the future are highlighted with a pink background.

Points to be considered:
  • The book of Daniel is central in understanding all of Bible prophecy. Why? It is because the book of Daniel prophetically outlines the course of Israel's Old Covenant dispensation leading up to, and terminating at, the establishing of the Messianic Kingdom. The book of Daniel reveals the nature and purpose of the Messiah's first advent ministry, the reason there are to be two advents of Messiah, and the events to occur during Messiah's second advent ministry. There are of course many prophecies throughout Scripture which provide much further detail upon the character and content of these events and epochs, especially Isaiah and John's Apocalypse among others. Yet, when it comes to a prophetically outlined course of events leading up to the Messianic Kingdom, the book of Daniel is foundational and central. Let me say that again just to make sure you grasp the importance of this: The book of Daniel is absolutely foundational and central as pertaining to the prophetically outlined course of events leading up to the establishing of the Messianic Kingdom.
  • That all agree, across the board, that the portions marked as fulfilled have indeed been fulfilled, is an established fact. From whatever walk one may come, whether Futurist, Historicist or Preterist, whether Christian or Jew, whether Conservative or Liberal, all agree that those portions have been fulfilled, literally, and with remarkable precision. So much so is this the case that liberals and non-believers, in formulating an attack upon the book of Daniel, such as Porpyry (to be discussed in an upcoming article), have attempted to explain the book as having been composed at the point in which the prophecies fulfilled were penned accurately due to the fact they were recorded history rather than prophecy from a man living during the Babylonian captivity. Now, they do alter the prophecy as to be indicative of the Babylonians, Medes, Persians, and Greeks only (over against Daniel 8:20), and pin the point of composition by a Jew of the Maccabean revolt who is relating things pertaining to Antiochus IV Epiphanes. But suffice to say they acknowledge the overall accuracy of the portion fulfilled, and actually utilize the unfulfilled final portion as a means of discrediting the book.
  • The manner in which the fulfilled portions were indeed fulfilled serves as a pattern for the manner in which we may expect the final portions to be fulfilled. There is no reason that the pattern should shift from solid, undeniable fulfillment and unity in consent among those from all walks, to an abrupt change in pattern of spiritualizing and inconsistency, or obscure fulfillment which nobody of the early days happened to notice. It is at that point where a great variety of interpretations have been proposed in seeking to somehow locate a fulfillment in the first century A.D., but no such proposals pan out, none fit, all are rejected by liberals and non-believers as fantasies unworthy of consideration. The three basic outlooks are presented in our article found here.
  • The Futurist view is the manner in which the prophecies were understood by the earliest Christians. They explained the above illustrated phenomenon as: Most all was fulfilled up to their time, a small and brief period yet to be fulfilled, and this due to the idea that it would be fulfilled as the six thousand years duration of man's wicknedness came to a close (a concept known as the Sexta-Septamillennial Tradition). Their view was almost correct. Very close, but with failure to completely understand the Church as an intervening dispensation, and with no fixed duration provided us in Scripture. Their basic idea, and the revisions which should be made to it, are illustrated in this chart and will be discussed in upcoming articles.
Proposed Historical Fulfillments:

List of Roman Emperors     Historicism, and its view that the ten toed feet of mixed iron and clay corresponds with a succession of hundreds of Roman Catholic Popes over many centuries, is so far outside the use of language and imagery in the book of Daniel, and so impossible to prove by means of any historical significance, reality or implication that the position in general is unworthy of treatment here.
    There is, however, an interesting position which deserves treatment. That position is Preterism. The Preterist view is at least more Scriptural, albeit loosely, in that it recognizes the fact that the iron legs and ten toed feet of mixed iron and clay corresponds with the Roman Empire, and that the particular period described by the feet of mixed iron and clay is rather brief and corresponds with the end times. Thus, with basic Scriptural facts somewhat recognized, the task is to determine whether or not that period was fulfilled, as they claim, in the first century A.D.
   At this point many Preterists will hesitate to draw the obvious connection between the ten toes of the image in chapter 2 and the ten horns of the fourth beast in chapter 7. The reason is because the transition from iron legs to feet of mixed iron and clay doesn't align with the Preterist attempt to make out the horns of chapter 7 to refer, not to coexisting kings, but to a succession of Roman Emporers one after the other. But the parallel between chapters 2 and 7 is unmistakable, so we demand that Preterists make the obvious connection and provide the explanation.


Toe Counting:

    To your left is a list of the Emporers of the Roman Empire. Now, although Julius Caesar is never reckoned among the Emporers, and a span of about 17 years elapsed between his death and the decision of the Senate to embrace an Emporer at the helm, the Preterist line of reasoning wishes to include Julius Ceasar in the enumeration of the toes (and the horns of Daniel 7) for reasons which will become apparent. So, we have included Julius Caesar in the list.
    As you can see, a counting of Emporers arrives at Titus as number ten. This serves no purpose to the Preterist view, and must therefore be altered, so as mentioned above we have added Julius Caesar. By adding Julius Caesar we arrive at Vespasian as number ten, but this still doesn't do any good. What is needed is to arrive at Vitellius at number ten because it was the rapid rise and fall of Galba, Otho and Vitellius which is made to be the meaning of the three plucked up horns in Daniel 7, and because it was under the rule of Vespasian that his son Titus destroyed the temple in 70 A.D. This will become more clear as we examine Daniel chapter 7. You see, Preterists want to make Vespasian horn number eleven, which would spring forth and pluck up three horns. (Of course, this whole "Caesar counting" concept is misguided to begin with, as will be discussed below.)
    How, then, do Preterists wish to manipulate the succession of Emporers so as to fit their target Emporer of Vespasian? What has been done by some is to insert, between Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus, what is known as the Second Triumvirate. The Second Triumvirate was a political alliance of Octavian (Augustus), Mark Antony and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, from which emerged Augustus as the first Emporer and founder of the Roman Empire. Why this alliance should be recognized and enumerated as one of the toes is a purely subjective move on the part of Preterists to force a fit to Daniel's prophecy. If the Second Triumvirate is to be included, then so should the First which was an alliance of Julius Caesar, Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Crassus, from which Julius Caesar emerged as the dictator of the Roman Kingdom.  While the Second Triumvirate was officially recognized as such, and the First a sort of informal alliance, it is doubtful Daniel's prophecy had any such details in mind to begin with. In fact, the First Triumvirate, Julius Caesar, and the Second Triumvirate should all be excluded from enumeration because they simply were not Emporers, and it wasn't until Augustus' constitutional framework known as the Principate that it can even be said that a "Roman Empire" truely existed. When Preterists start inserting false figures into the list of Roman Emporers, any method of using them becomes clouded and irrelevent because, in reality, the history of Rome prior to these men, the conquering of Greece, and other issues precede these men altogether and provides no true way of suggesting "Daniel's prophecy was fulfilled at 70 A.D."
    You can probably see by now that the Preterist approach becomes confused, watered down and subjective at every turn in order to force a fit. Couple this with the fact Vespasian himself was not responsible for plucking up all three "horns," that the Roman Empire did not collapse at Vespasian, nor any Messianic Kingdom set up at that time, than no wonder the ancient Church did not entertain such notions as fulfillment of the prophecy.


Additional Problems:

    The problems do not end with subjective enumeration of the toes. Even greater basic problems exist which call the preterist interpretation into question from the very start. What is to be made of the transition from iron to mixed iron and clay? A deterioration is certainly indicated by such a transition, and a new phase altogether, yet we are speaking of the very first line of leadership in a new Empire here.  The Roman Empire, as such, had been only in any true existence for a very short time prior to Christ's first advent ministry. There is nothing in history which could be made to refer to this transition from iron to mixed iron and clay. It would seem Daniel's prophecy itself would have immediately moved from the theighs of brass to legs and feet of mixed iron and clay if such were to be the course of succedding empires in the prophecy. That the feet of mixed iron and clay represents merely the final form of an Empire which would be predominately characterized by the legs of iron only makes good common sense. A kind of folding and immediate reform and reemergence could take place quickly, but it had not done so in any way during the period Preterists seek to place the fulfillment.
    Furthermore, Daniel's prophecies do not use a multiplicity of toes (or horns, etc.), to indicate succession of leaders - one at a time. This can be seen by comparing Daniel 8:5-8, in which one horn depicts Alexander the Great, and four horns the four generals between whom the Greek Empire was divided after Alexander's death.  The goat is represented as having four horns because those four men reigned alongside each other. They existed together at the same time. They did not come in succession one after the other.


Outstanding Problems for All Non-futurist and Non-premillennial Views:

    The strongest problem for all views which depart from the Futurist and Premillennial position of the ancient Church is the fact that this prophecy shows, firstly, that the Messianic Kingdom is to be a very real Kingdom which pertains to this earth, and secondly, that it is to be established at the close of the Great Tribulation period.
    The Messianic Kingdom is not described by this prophecy as a spiritual thing up in heaven. It is set in succession to true kingdoms of men which had real dominion over this earth: the Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire, the Greek Empire, and the Roman Empire. That the Messianic Kingdom is to be qualified as utterly unlike those empires which preceeded her causes an immediate disruption to the purpose and flow of the prophecy. Why would a succession of real kingdoms be used to outline the time and establishment of a so-called "kingdom" which isn't real, has no impact on reality, cannot even be proven to exist, and doesn't exist in our sphere of reality in the first place? That nonsensical assumption of the spiritualizing party is so utterly void of common sense it hardly deserves refutation.
    And that this Messianic Kingdom is to follow the Great Tribulation is an unavoidable implication of the prophecy. The start of the Messianic Kingdom can not be placed at 30 A.D. as all amillennialists do, because that violates this prophecy, as also Daniel 7, Daniel 9, Daniel 11-12, the Olivet Discourse, 2Thessalonians 2, the Apocalypse and any and all other prophecies which pertain to the course of events leading up to the establishing of the Messianic Kingdom.
    Finally, that the Roman Empire did not collapse in the first century A.D. is so obvious to all it hardly need mentioned, yet apparently it does because amillennialists are so adamant over their conviction that the Messianic Kingdom was established at Christ's first advent. The truth is, there is not one particle of this or any other aforementioned prophecies which can be made in any way to refer to Christ's first advent ministry. The Amillennial view simply doesn't align with Biblical prophecy in the slightest way whatsoever.
    Those who wish to spiritualize the prophecy have, after all, changed entirely the purpose of the prophecy. Rather than describing the course of human history leading up to the establishing of the Messianic Kingdom, it is changed to describing the course of events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The prophecy does not intend to set forth that course of events. Period. Those who spiritualize the prophecy immediately violate the very nature and purpose of the prophecy.


Conclusion:

    The Futurist position is the truest to the reality of the fulfillments.  If the final portion of the prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar's image, the feet of mixed iron and clay with ten toes, is to follow the pattern set by the fulfillment of the initial portions of the prophecy, then the fulfillment remains yet future.  The Messianic Kingdom is a real Kingdom, as were the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman.  The Messianic Kingdom does not precede the Great Tribulation period, but follows it.  The prophecy pertains to the establishing of the Messianic Kingdom, and not to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.


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