Prophecy. Persecution. Tribulation. Antichrist. Hope. Perseverance. Victory. The book of Daniel features all these realities and more. In the second half of chapter 2, God shows the young prophet something only God himself can know—namely, another man’s dream. The dreamer was King Nebuchadnezzar, and the contents of his dream was the unfolding of history from Daniel’s day. God also gave Daniel the dream’s interpretation, and he passed it onto the king, who came to see that Daniel’s God “is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries” (Daniel 2:47).
A fascinating aspect of the Book of Daniel is that it’s written in two different languages. It starts and ends in Hebrew, which was the language of the Jews, and the middle section is in Aramaic, which was the language of the nations. When we look at the Aramaic section as a whole, we discover the stories are arranged chiastically. That is, they have thematic correspondences front to back. (See notes in the sermon PowerPoint file). Chapters 2 and 7, then, are intentionally matched.
What that means is chapters 2 and 7 speak of the same prophetic vision, albeit from two different perspectives. Chapter 2 gives us the kingdoms of this world from a human perspective—precious metals growing stronger over time. Chapter 7 gives us the kingdoms of this world from a divine perspective—freakish monsters growing more destructive over time. The dazzling statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream can be understood as follows:
- The head of gold = the Babylonian Empire (605–539 B.C.)
- The chest and arms of silver = the Medo-Persian Empire (539–331 B.C.)
- The belly and thighs of bronze = the Grecian Empire (331–63 B.C.)
- The legs of iron and feet of clay = the Roman Empire (63 B.C.–476 A.D.)
Surprisingly, Daniel says the colossal image is going to collapse because all nations of the world are built on a foundation of clay. In fact, the mere touch of a tiny stone is all it takes to shatter it. That stone—“a rock cut out of the mountains without hands”—will strike the statue on its feet of iron mixed with clay and smash the world’s empires, but the rock that struck the statue will become a huge mountain and fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:34-35).
This sermon shows that Daniel’s rock is none other than Jesus Christ, and the mountain filling the whole earth is the kingdom of God he brings. Moreover, the entire dream corresponds to the apocalyptic vision of Daniel 7, which Jesus quotes and applies to himself while standing before Caiaphas, the high priest, while on trial for his life. Jesus is the “son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13).
The message of Daniel 2 and 7 is clear: earthly kingdoms will come and go. Some of them may wield great power. They may even persecute the people of God for a time, but God’s people should remain loyal to him, come what may, because his “rock” is more powerful than all earthly kings. Indeed, earthly kingdoms are “bad dreams” that inevitably collapse and disappoint. God’s kingdom is a hope-filled reality that grows and blesses.
Daniel shows that vibrant faith can not only survive but thrive in a hostile, pagan world, provided one has great confidence in the final victory God. That victory is sure, for as it says in Revelation 11:15: “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” Amen.
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