From the very time God planned to establish a Kingdom (Daniel’s prophecy) to the time that that Kingdom was established, we will review the fulfillment of a divine plan and a divine promise. This will help us see more clearly what was happening during the time that the Kingdom was in preparation or in the process of making (John the Baptist’s ministry) to the time it was established (Pentecost Day) and until now (the Kingdom exists today in perfection – just as the living Hebrews had “come” to the “heavenly Jerusalem”). (Heb. 12:22-24) If you think that verse refers only to the invisible Kingdom, think again. We will deal with that particular issue extensively in another article.
Daniel prophesied, through Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the flow of history toward the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Every Jew knew this prophecy, just as we all know that Christ is coming again.
Often, commentators see the figure in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream as that of a diminishing quality of reign or rule – as typified by the use of gold, silver, bronze, iron and mud in the story. The value of the metals used, I believe, does not exclusively refer to any quality of rule but to the strength of the material – hence, the degree or power of control applied. Gold, as we know is very precious; but it is soft and malleable – receptive to the moral ends of God. And so, we can see how many of the exiles in Babylon enjoyed a relatively safe and comfortable life than we often think exiles deserve to be given. The story of Daniel and his friends can attest to this. (Dan.1:3-5) Only envious sycophants created trouble for them. Likewise, rulers, such as Cyrus and Artaxerxes had a soft heart for the nation of Israel, as in the case of Ezra v.v. King Artaxerxes in Persia. (Ezra 7:1-12) God uses kings – and pharaohs – to make way for His eternal plan.
In contrast, Roman emperors persecuted and killed millions of believers, especially during the reigns of Nero, Domitian and Diocletian. In short, in terms of strong leadership – establishing a strict compliance to laws and rules on a wide scale – the latter rulers were more effective, more strict and more cruel. It was only during the time of Constantine that a change in the state policy and the forming of favorable relations came about. Ironically, that signaled the fall of the empire and the rise of a rigidly structured religion based on the teachings of Christ. Differentiating between mere human ends and purely divine ends is the primary goal in any serious study of history. For example, Pax Romana was obviously, first and foremost, for the benefit of Rome, not for any divine purpose, although it served that purpose indirectly and principally.
All along, we can say that God’s plan for the Kingdom proceeded as planned. It is in understanding what that plan was and how it came about and how it was preserved in its pristine and complete state that we will fully see the whole picture of the Kingdom in the eyes and mind of God – from the beginning to the end-times. The plan conceived and given from the beginning has never changed and remains as it was. To follow or come up with a form or pattern apart from that will only bring errors and dangers to us all. Religious history amply proves this.
Going back to Daniel’s story, the prophecy clearly set the establishment of the Kingdom during the reign of the Roman emperors. By that time, the art of warfare had already been perfected by the Roman Legions, helping the empire to extend over a vast area that covered the British Isles and a big part of Asia. Strength connotes size; and Rome proved its strength by its control of numerous nations and small kingdoms. Rome succeeded the previous vast kingdoms by its own might – iron being stronger than gold (Babylonians), silver (Medo-Persians) or bronze (Greeks). (Dan. 2:40)
The period from AD 98 to 105 is said to be the height of Rome’s supremacy and also the most prosperous and most peaceful time ever experienced under the empire, at least. It was the golden age of Pax Romana, a time when Rome’s might was unchallenged.
Note also that by this time, the temple in Jerusalem had already been destroyed, as double-prophesied by Christ in John 2:19 (the temple and His body) . Likewise, by this time, the Kingdom of Christ was already in existence. (Col. 3:1) Finally, it was also the period when the Kingdom that Christ came to establish was in the final stages of perfection, along with the death of the last apostle, John. (I Cor. 13:8-13, I John 4:12-20) The irony that many fail to see is that while God was perfecting His Kingdom based on His revealed way or pattern, the world was also adopting God’s teachings (but not the “true” way or pattern) in preserving its own hold on human allegiance. The irony of ironies in history is that human leaders, particularly the Romans, succeeded in merging their culture with that of God’s people and strengthening their political control while diminishing the influence of God on the lives of people. It is time we separate the chaff from the grain.
Think for a moment:
So, here is an empire, attaining its peak at a time when God chose to bring into completion the preparation of millions of would-be believers who will inherit the Kingdom up to the present. If we think that the form or pattern of faith — or faith-system – that will arise from secular history and even from biblical history (what we have now in its diversity or what we generally see or practice today) is all that the power of God could afford to offer humans or that such a condition is the perfection we seek, then we have not been listening well enough.
Daniel did prophecy that God will destroy the Roman Empire – and He will, eventually, for it exists still, if you can believe it. Hence, His Kingdom will “replace” the Roman Empire — which God, not believers – will destroy. How will He destroy the empire? Let us look at the long historical process:
- By using Constantine as an instrument to cease the persecution. But he was never converted and was “baptized” only at his death-bed.
- By dividing the Roman Empire into the eastern and western parts, causing divisions and conflicts for many centuries until now. (Dan. 2:41-43: “…they – i.e., iron and clay — will not adhere.”)
- Along with this, God delineated the cultural and spiritual (or religious) differences that served as a moral basis for the separation of the two rules and churches – Greek and Roman churches.
- God allowed this continuing division or schism as a symbol of the confusion that remains and is also exemplified by denominations all over the world.
- In the Book of Revelation, we see a picture of this continuing division of worldly kingdoms and the eventual victorious reign of Christ over all these rulers. The entrance of pagan and satanic teachings among believers endangered their salvation. (Rev. 2:14-17) Today, those who do not repent or reject such pagan-inspired teachings compromise their personal testimony through their life and worship.
The continuing historical, religious and cultural divergence of the Roman and Greek churches as well as of nations, in general, points to the result of a divine intervention in human affairs that aims to discipline and reform believers; however, the general result has caused many people to be diverted from the pure Gospel of Christ.
To fully comprehend the prophecy of Daniel in the light of secular history, we have to see the plan of God, as revealed or implemented by our Lord Jesus during His ministry.
The Last Prophet
To do this, we have to go back to John the Baptist. He proclaimed the coming of the King and the Kingdom. Yes, he saw and baptized the King Himself.
Under Augustus Caesar, Judea became a far-flung colony of Rome. Roman law, culture and military control kept the Jewish people in subservience, although they were allowed to practice their religion – part of Pax Romana strategy. Pilate should be seen as a wise and a just governor forced by law to sentence a man, in contrast to the self-righteous Jewish religious leaders who forced their law to sentence the Son of God.
But we know the plan. Jesus had to die by crucifixion – by the might of Rome and through the urging of the Jews as a nation.
In order to destroy a blood-soaked kingdom and to replace an ineffective and corrupt Jewish religion and to establish His own Kingdom, Jesus, the Son of God, had to die. All the history, laws, military strength, power and glory of those temporal rulers will be done away with through the death, resurrection and reign of Christ.
John was preaching good news and people came to him. He was giving hope and salvation to people in their crudest form – awaiting perfection at the right time. For he never entered the Kingdom, although knew the One he baptized was greater than him and his own role as a messenger or prophet.
The Gospel is Preached
We ask the question again: What is the Gospel? It encompasses everything that God intended to do in order to correct all the errors of history, religion, culture, governance, destiny – in short, life, in general. Christ’s birth, ministry, death, resurrection and reign are only the immediate answer or solution to the ongoing dilemma of life which we still wrestle with – sin, sickness, death, terrorism, corruption, poverty, war, etc.
The Gospel is merely the fulfillment of a promise by God. He reigned over all Creation from the very beginning – before and after the Fall. Nothing has changed in terms of His rule. But we pass from kingdom to kingdom, from king to king, from ruler to ruler. All the faithful people who had ever lived, including the prophets, looked beyond those rulers and worshiped God.
The Jews were no different from the Romans, then. Although they had the Law of Moses, they did not obey God. Like the Romans and their sophisticated legal system, the children of God had become just another worldly kingdom. It was time to replace that failed paradigm.
This is the Gospel of Jesus. Everything He taught was to replace the dead ordinances or requirements of the Law. Jesus came and died to do away with the artificial and external manifestations of faith or religion. Whether it was the Roman or the Jewish religious paradigm, Jesus came to destroy and replace that. Hence, He destroyed the temple, tore the veil and ushered in a New and Living Way. (Heb. 10:19-22) By sending His disciples all the way to Rome, in fact, He also conquered the empire and sought to bring it down by His teachings — rightly or wrongly through His human instruments.
Who worships Jupiter today? Who offers to Athena? Who looks toward Mt. Olympus? Are we sure that no one does?
How Constantinople and Rome Adapted to Christianity
Constantine should be credited for bringing about religious peace and reforms to the empire he ruled. By transferring the seat of the empire, he helped emphasize the fact that Christianity really began in the East. The first councils were conducted in Greek in his new capital city. The Roman and Greek sects of the church remained united as sister-churches. However, doctrinal, political and military issues raised the rivalry between the two. Rome eventually prevailed while the East dwindled.
Many fail to realize that the Roman sect gained power and prominence while the Greek sect dwindled, yet remained faithful to its roots as the inheritors of the Apostle’s teachings. Hence, while Rome remained sentimentally attached to its ancient myths (merging them with Christian ideas – Christmas, Easter, veneration of the saints and Marian/Athena adoration — the Greeks kept the simplicity of their religion as the living archeological heirs of apostolic teachings, although in ritual or external form and not necessarily in spiritual or essential form that God had prescribed.
So, all throughout all these developments, where was the Kingdom of Christ found? Or, in what form was it visibly found? How did the early believers worship God? How did they obey or practice the Gospel of Christ?
The Body is the Kingdom
The Kingdom of Christ began on Pentecost Day, as prophesied by Joel and as proclaimed by Christ before His death. (Acts 1-2) Although we said God has always reigned, His Son did not inherit the Kingdom until He became a faithful Son and ascended into His heavenly throne. The Gospel is not just the birth, death and resurrection of Christ – it is also the granting of the inheritance of God’s Creation (including all of history and the coming future — that is, all of Eternity) to Jesus Christ, the firstfruit from the dead. The final victory and destruction over His enemies is still to come.
Jesus delivered the one and only paradigm for worship – in spirit and in truth – that is, within human hearts, as Jeremiah foretold, not in Jerusalem, not in Rome or in lstanbul. (John 4:19-24) This is not a religion or a denomination. It does not involve artificial or external tools or structures – just the heart, the spirit, the mind and the whole body of each believer in a daily “living sacrifice”.
Just as the Roman and Greek churches remain in schism today, Christian denominations teach varying forms of teachings and practices, adding to the worldwide confusion and conflicts – and not fulfilling the prayer of Christ for the unity of believers. (John 17:6-24)
Yes, the body is so divided. Christian denominationalism is the primary proof. What do we do now?
The Real Meaning of the Dream
Moreover, commentators often miss the real significance of the image in the dream, particularly in the very nature of the Kingdom itself.
The rock hewn from the mountain is not like the various metals in the dream-figure. Yes, they were precious and strong; but they did not represent the people of God. They symbolized elitist and selfish power — the kind we continue to see around us. However, Christ’s Kingdom contains all the elements and minerals contained in Creation — not just the gold, silver, copper and iron but also the mud, meaning the fine clay, silica, mica, carbon, sodium and all the minerals that form the Earth and our bodies – fused into One Solid, Unified Rock harder than diamond and more durable than steel or any other material. (At that time, iron was the strongest material, prior to using carbon to produce steel.)
Precious metals are mined and separated or purified by human hands for various purposes; but the Kingdom of God is made by God’s power alone. Hence, His Kingdom is a consolidated Rock containing all the necessary elements that will fully satisfy human needs — like the densest metamorphic rock created by intense heat and great pressure underneath the Earth, much denser than sedimentary or igneous rocks formed by mere deposition or volcanic action near the surface of the Earth.
And so, this Rock formed by God’s hands will destroy gold, silver, copper, iron and mud in all their pretentious and divisive glory – divine rule finally triumphing over human rule when the time comes. If you think the Roman Empire is gone, consider the wealth of Rome, as well as its many tentacles reaching all over the globe until today. Mammon or gold still rules supreme today; and he still uses religion to perpetuate his power. Do we really think Jesus is happy with all the divisions in the world as seen from a serious study of Roman history, in particular? The Greek-Roman schism, the Reformation and the thriving denominationalism – do we need more proof of this real prophetic fulfillment of Daniel’s words and how the division continues to grow? Mention any Christian church or denomination and it will either be a branching out of the Greek or the Roman sect and, subsequently, the Roman sect or the Protestant sect. Without any exception, its teachings or practices will carry a remnant of the theological or doctrinal errors of the past. Hence, the perfected Kingdom which Christ established cannot exist under such a generally-divided worldly or world-compromised faith-system.
Do We Really Pray and Work for Christ’s Plea for Unity?
Christ never prayed for such a worldly paradigm: “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” (John 17:9) World history kidnapped the truth from God and turned it into a discounted teaching, a different Gospel. As a result, we have failed to understand and implement the essence of Christ’s teachings and have, therefore, also failed to reign with Him. In so doing, we do not represent His pure teachings and His genuine will for His people or His Kingdom. In short, we have merely followed the errors of worldly rulers or overseers in the past and came up with our own varied versions of the supposed Kingdom or Christ. The ultimate results? Unending division, confusion and conflicts.
And we are not merely talking about Christianity but religion, in general. Violence and wars are bred by the proud, rebellious reign of imperfect people, teachings and faith-systems. The Gospel of Christ still has to achieve its firm hold over humans and over human history and rule.
The judgment, as Paul said, must begin in the household of God. Unless we discern the Body or Kingdom of the Lord properly, the world will continue to flounder in the spiritual darkness. (I Cor. 11:27-32) The patent separation between the Roman and Greek sects based on unresolved doctrinal issues provides the primary exhibit and the very basis for God’s coming “condemnation of the world” (v. 32). Just as the ancient Corinthians could not literally eat in perfect love and unity, these two sects – among so many other sects – cannot likewise perfectly fellowship in spirit and in truth. For God judges those who teach errors or cause divisions, as we have shown in the warnings spoken against the unfaithful believers in Asia in Rev. 2 and 3.
Christ’s prayer for unity has a concomitant warning and a resultant judgment against those who create divisions. Daniel was prophesying about this condition that he said would surely come about and which we all see today and have even become part of in one way or another. Diversity or denominationalism is not another name for genuine unity; it is a product of the long history of human rejection of God’s pure, eternal teachings. And so, people are so inured bythis condition that any talk of perfection is unwelcome, if not absurd.
Not adhering to one another – as in the case of iron and ceramic clay – pictures the world’s dire spiritual condition. All the religion-induced violence, conflict or controversy in the past and in the present is an upshot of this ancient graphic message from the prophet Daniel.
The rule of both iron and clay remains strong today! Your beloved sect is but a small fragment of the shattered worldly kingdoms that Jesus Christ — The Rock — sought to replace by His perfect and glorious Kingdom. He reigns and is coming again to deliver that perfect Kingdom to the Father in Heaven. Then the Kingdom now on Earth and in Heaven will be ONE as Christ prayed.
Be aware! This is a serious matter, one worth looking into for our own and our children’s sake.
(Painting above: From this Google link)