God and the Kingdoms of Man
God and the Kingdoms of Man (Daniel 2:31-49)
Consideration about our national destiny dominates many discussions during this fall's political activities. Concerned Christians believe that the last word about national destiny is not in the hands of men of state but in the hands of God. Does the Bible give us evidence concerning the ultimate outcome of men's kingdoms? Daniel indicates that it does. Although Daniel's visions do not provide us with finely tuned detail, they do give us firm orientation as to God's intention. Daniel does give us an understanding of the future. He does give us stability in the present. He does give us certainty about ultimate destiny.
God's Description of Man's Political Kingdoms
Our passage relates the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of the first great, cohesive world empire. He has dreamed of a colossal statue, metallic, bright, and terrifying. It is left to God's man Daniel to tell the man of state what his dream was and what it meant.
There is an emphasis on the composition of the statue. The movement in the statue is one of degradation, disintegration, downwardness, deterioration. This is true anatomically—the image moves down from the nobility of the head to the humility of the feet. This is true metallically. The image moves from fine gold to iron mixed with brittle clay. The silver chest and arms represent the Medo-Persian Empire. The bronze anatomy represents the great Greek Empire reaching its height under Alexander the Great. Yet there is no progress. There is downwardness. There is no cohesion. The history of nations is not evolution; it is devolution.
Stress must be placed on the origination of the statue. The statue represents that which is artificial, man-made, handmade. As such it is a fitting representative of the kingdoms of men. They are human in their origination. Nebuchadnezzar or Cyrus or Alexander or Caesar carved their kingdoms out of human flesh and blood. But when God sets up His kingdom it is from "a stone cut . . . without hands" (v. 44, KJV).
As to their duration, the kingdoms of men devour and replace one another. The Babylonian Empire (605-539 B.C.) was swallowed by the Medo-Persian Empire (539-331 B.C.). That in turn was swallowed by the Greek Empire (331-146 B.C.). That in turn was swallowed by Roman rule for 500 years. In blood and gore human kingdoms swallowed one another. That never changes.
God's Destruction of Man's Political Kingdoms
Suddenly, it is all over. "A stone was cut out without hands" (v. 34, KJV). This mysterious, majestic, mobile stone smites the statue on its feet. God's mighty act will strike man's pretensions of political greatness. God's destruction will be total. The empires of man will be crushed to pieces, all of them together. God's destruction will be instant. When God smites, it will not just be process, it will be instant impact. God's destruction of man's pretension will be absolute. Every element of human civilization from the brittle clay to the finest gold will be gone with the wind, like the chaff from the threshing floor.
God's Declaration of an Eternal Kingdom
All of this is a prelude to the inauguration of God's kingdom "In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom" (v. 44, KJV). Unlike human kingdoms, the origination of this kingdom is superhuman and supernatural. It is the stone cut without hands (Matt. 21:44). In its duration it is eternal. Man's kingdoms conquer and swallow up one another. God's kingdom will never be vanquished. That kingdom was inaugurated in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It will be consummated when He comes to reign as Lord of all lords and King of all kings. What Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged (v. 47) all the world will one day acknowledge. God's people must not substitute any merely political message for the triumphant declaration of this ultimate kingdom.