Prof. Johan Malan, Mossel Bay, South Africa (January 2013)
Through a dream, the Lord revealed to Nebuchadnezzar the nature and succession of Gentile kingdoms, from the destruction of Israel’s kingdom by the Babylonian Empire until the end of the times of the Gentiles when the Antichrist’s global empire will be destroyed by Christ (Rev. 19:19-21). Directly afterwards, the throne of David will be restored in Jerusalem by the Messiah Himself (Acts 15:16-17). This prophetic scenario is uninterrupted and extends right through the church dispensation while Jerusalem will continue to be trodden down by Gentile rulers: “And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). The sudden termination and destruction of Gentile rule in the world will occur at the second coming of Christ (Rev. 11:15). He is the stone that will destroy the image (Dan. 2:34-35).
Nebuchadnezzar did not understand his prophetic dream, but Daniel had divine insight and was able to describe and interpret the dream to him:
“You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendour was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:31-35).
The following interpretation of the dream by Daniel was accurately fulfilled during the subsequent course of world history. We are now on the threshold of its final fulfilment:
“You, O king of kings ... are this head of gold. But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure” (Dan. 2:37-45).
Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream revealed a succession of pagan empires that would rule over the known world of ancient times, and therefore also over Israel. The Babylonian Empire was the head of gold. The Lord appointed Nebuchadnezzar in order to execute His plan for the nations. All the people were subjected to his authority, even the animals and birds. The Babylonian Empire ruled from 626 to 539 B.C.
The second part of the image was the chest and arms of silver. That represented the Medo-Persian Empire (the two arms of the image) which conquered and subjected the Babylonians in 539 B.C. Although the Medo-Persian Empire reigned for more than 200 years, from 539 to 330 B.C., which was much longer than the 87 years of the Babylonian Empire, it was inferior to the Babylonian Empire, like silver which is worth less than gold.
The belly and thighs of bronze represent the third kingdom, i.e. the Greek Empire. Alexander the Great conquered the Medo-Persian Empire in 330 B.C. and subsequently controlled their entire territory. He expanded the Greek Empire further east as far as India.
The legs of iron represent the Roman Empire. They conquered the Greek Empire in 63 B.C. Although the Roman Empire was divided into two parts in accordance with the two legs of the image, and finally ends into ten toes which will be a mixture of iron and clay, it was nevertheless one empire. This empire was exceedingly strong, as indicated by the fact that iron is stronger than bronze, silver and gold. The Roman Empire acted in a vicious and merciless way during their conquests and incorporated countries that belonged to the preceding three empires into their own empire. During the course of time the Roman Empire lost its solidarity and in 476 it disintegrated and ceased to exist as a centralised political unity. Subsequently, however, various countries of the former Roman Empire became very strong in their own right and exerted a marked influence on the political, economic and cultural landscape of the rest of the world. A European language, English, became the major language for communication throughout the world.
The Roman Empire was never conquered and replaced by another world empire, and in a concealed form it continued to exert its influence in all spheres of life over the entire world. In spite of its political fragmentation as a coherent world empire, its constituent countries continued to develop and produce new knowledge in the fields of literacy, science, technology, medicine, religion, philosophy and politics. Two important growing-points were established with a view to exploring and developing the outside world – the one in Western and the other one in Eastern Europe. In this way, the two legs of the image continued throughout the centuries to exert their influence on the rest of the world. The dynamics of European culture were the impetus for a new civilisation in the world.
The western part of the Roman Empire which was controlled from Rome was an important growing-point for the Western civilisation and its capitalistic free market system, which is characteristic of the first world. West European cultures, Roman law and the Christian faith (Catholicism and Protestantism) spread from here – also to other parts of the world which, through colonisation, came under the control of West European countries. The impact of West European culture was phenomenal, and at a certain stage the British Empire had colonies around the globe – from America in the west to India and beyond in the east. This fact gave rise to the expression: “The sun never sets over the British Empire.”
The eastern part of the Roman Empire, which was controlled from Constantinople, expanded further into Russia and other parts of Asia. This movement facilitated the expansion of the Greek Orthodox Church, which eventually resulted in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church. In this way, Eastern Europe became a growing-point for the second world, which later became under the control of communism. The revolutionary ideology of communism was also exported from Europe. Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a German philosopher who subsequently moved to Paris, Brussels and London. He and his friend Engels published the Communist Manifesto in 1847, and in its preamble they say: “A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism.” However, communism was not accepted and implemented in Europe. The subsequent acceptance of communism by Russia, China and various other countries resulted in about a third of the world population being subjected to communism at one stage or another.
The ideological, economic and religious division of the world between a first and second world, manifested particularly strong as an ideological divide between capitalist and communist states. After World War II, Europe was graphically cut in two by the iron curtain (another clear manifestation of the two legs of the image). For many years, reference was made to the rigid distinction between the west and the east, caused by the two worlds of capitalistic freedom on the one hand, and restrictive, atheistic communism on the other hand. Both of them, in their own right, tried to control the world but none of them could entirely succeed in doing so. The two legs of Daniel’s image continued to be seen in the world, while the influence of each of them continued to increase – capitalism to a much larger degree than communism.
During the course of time a so-called third world was added to the international community, originating from the discovery and colonisation of unknown territories far from Europe. However, the third world does not have a distinct ideological identity of its own as it mainly came under the control of the first world. Colonial powers such as Britain, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands strongly imposed their views, practices and institutions on these countries, even determining their boundaries and names, thereby rendering an even wider application to the two legs of the Roman Empire.
In due course communism, except in China, succumbed before economic realities and was abandoned in Russia, the great protagonist of this radical ideology. In consequence, communist regimes in the entire Union of Socialistic Soviet Republics (USSR) were rejected in order to embrace western-style capitalistic free markets, free, democratic elections, as well as allowing much greater liberties in general. Even in China, a transition was made to a capitalistic economy but without abandoning their authoritarian communist regime.
Capitalism, together with all its liberties in society, gradually became a dominant power in the world, giving rise to a situation in which economic power also determines the political and military power and strength of a state. The god of money, Mammon, gained a strong grip on all societies, thereby bringing about the end of the Roman Empire’s east-west-division in the world. A new development was set in motion in favour of the establishment of independent, geo-political power blocks in the world.
It is highly significant that the two legs of the image as seen by Nebuchadnezzar, finally subdivide into the toes. They are like iron and clay that cannot bond firmly to form a strong unit, which implies that there is a large measure of ideological, cultural and religious diversity among them. Neither are they equal in strength or level of development, as some of them are brittle as clay while others are strong as iron (Dan. 2:42).
Prophetically, the ten toes definitely refer to the end-time as the destruction of the image in the end-time is associated with the destruction of the ten toes. Daniel says: “...a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces” (Dan. 2:34). These ten toes therefore do not refer to the ten historical provinces of the ancient Roman Empire, but to ten end-time regions in the entire world which largely derived their economic and political character from Europe.
The emerging new world order is an effort towards unifying the first and second worlds which evolved from the two legs of the Roman Empire, including all the subdivisions which subsequently occurred. The purpose with these reforms is that the political structure of Gentile (pagan, humanistic) rule will again, as in ancient times, manifest as a single world government which has the power to enforce a uniform political, economic and religious policy on all its subjects.
In modern times, the world has become fragmented into a large number of independent countries. However, serious economic problems due to overspending by governments as well as individuals, has prompted countries, e.g. in Europe, to form larger economic units on a regional basis in order to promote development and maximise their chances on survival. There are also other considerations for the forming of such alliances e.g. to defend themselves against wars and terrorist attacks. In course of time, every regions develops a stronger political identity as can be observed in Europe, the Arab world in the Middle East, North America, etc.
It is interesting that the entire world is presently subdivided into ten economic power blocks or growing-points. Because of internal competition as well as ideological and religious differences among countries, the delimitation of some of these regions are still disputed; nevertheless, the process is irreversible. When conducting a Google search under “Ten economic regions of the world”, various sources are offered in which reference is made to these ten regions. Not all of them are in agreement on exactly how these regions should be demarcated, but they all agree to the fact that there are ten such regions. The following are the most likely delimitations:
1. The European Union; 2. North America (USA & Canada); 3. South America; 4. Australia and adjacent island states in the Southern Pacific; 5. Russia and various countries in its sphere of influence; 6. China and bordering countries; 7. India and states in its proximity; 8. a South-eastern Asiatic block with Japan as leading country; 9. the Middle East; and 10. Africa, as represented by the African Union.
It is for other reasons also obvious that the ten toes of the image do not refer to ten provinces in the ancient Roman Empire. The restored Roman Empire as represented by the European Union, already has 27 member states and it is very unlikely that they will be reduced to ten. Neither are there any indications that the end-time group of ten will be controlled from Rome.
The ten toes are economic and geo-political regions in the world which were either under direct European rule at on or other stage, or have to attribute their economic development to the Western civilisation in various other ways. The USA and Canada are former British colonies and are therefore effectively part of the West European leg of the ancient Roman Empire. The ten toes are indeed representative of the whole world; hence it is unnecessary to ask questions such as: “Why is the United States not mentioned in biblical prophecies?” America is an important part of the end-time world which was established as a result of European expansion, and will continue to play an important role.
In the emerging new world order, the ten economic regions in the world are each forging closer political ties with their allies in order to be better able to advance the interests of their own region within a future world government. In the same way in which the European Union has a leader, as have the Arab League in the Middle East and the African Union, other regions will also be united under an appropriate form of political leadership. In some cases, the head of state of the most prominent country in the region will take the lead, e.g. in the cases of Russia, China and India.
It is interesting that the question of leadership in the ten regions will only be finally determined when the Antichrist has appeared on the scene. That is an indication that he will appoint leaders of his own choice. In Revelation 13 and 17, the ten toes of the image are represented by ten horns on the head of the beast (the Antichrist). John says: “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast” (Rev. 17:12-13).
These ten kings (leaders of the ten regions) will join the rest of the world in following the beast in amazement. They will be so enchanted by him that they will even worship him as world messiah (Rev. 13:3-4). John says: “And he was given authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation” (Rev. 13:7). He will not only be a Middle Eastern or European leader – he will also be a fully-fledged word leader. In his rise to world supremacy he will significantly expand his own power-base, causing the 10 toes (or regions) to be reduced to eight.
In later chapters of the book of Daniel, further reference is made to these ten offshoots of the Roman Empire, but then as ten horns upon the head of a vicious animal (Dan. 7:7-8, 20-28). This is the same beast with the ten horns also referred to by John (Rev. 13:1; 17:3, 12, 16). In a historical application, the horns may refer to ten provinces of the ancient Roman Empire but in its end-time application, when the Antichrist appears, they definitely refer in a broader context to ten economic regions which will exist among the Gentiles. Three of the ten horns will be uprooted by the end-time leader (the Antichrist) and joined together under his personal control. According to Daniel 11:31-45, one of the Antichrist’s titles will be “the king of the North” (north as seen from Israel). During different times this kingdom referred to Syria, Assyria or Babylonia (cf. Isa. 10:12-14). This connotation implies that the Antichrist will arise from the Middle East. Syria was one of the provinces of the ancient Roman Empire, and is destined to play an important role in end-time events.
Within the larger scenario of the ten economic power blocks of the world, the Antichrist will emerge from the Middle East, and will then proceed to merge this region with two other power blocks within a reduced group of eight regions. The Bible does not indicate which three of the regions will be merged by him, but that will become evident when the time draws nigh. It may be that he will merge the Middle East, Russia and Europe, or, alternatively, the Middle East, Europe and North America. The USA is already involved with European and Middle Eastern affairs through NATO.
It is quite evident that a new world order will be instituted, and that will lead to the establishment of a world government with executive powers. The Antichrist will gain control over it, while the leaders of the ten regions will voluntarily transfer their powers to him. After the example of the Antichrist (Rev. 13:5-7), this empire will be fanatically opposed to the kingdom of God and the true Christ. “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev. 17:14).
The global government of the Antichrist will constitute the resumption and continuation of a long tradition of world governments that acted in association with false religions – but on a much bigger scale than in the past. This end-time government will use all its means to fight against Christ and His heavenly army when He comes again. Extensive use will even be made of demonic deception to mobilise military powers around the globe to participate in this war (Rev. 16:13-16).
Present developments in the Middle East are very significant with a view to the establishment of a future world government which will gain control over the political power and economic assets of all nations. Oil rich Arab states will play a key role in the emerging new world order, since the economic future of the world depends largely upon the uninterrupted supply of oil which is produced by them. The involvement of various world powers in the Syrian war is an indication that a solution to world peace must be found here. Russia, China and Iran are supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad, while virtually the entire rest of the world supports the opposition powers. This is an important focal point for conflict which even has the potential for giving rise to a world war. However, if proactive steps are taken, effective global structures may be put in place to promote unity and peace and avert a full-scale war.
However, the peace which the Antichrist will succeed in bringing about will be short-lived as he will be the special representative of the kingdom of darkness, who will only use peace and unity as a smokescreen to hide his evil objectives. John says: “And the dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority” (Rev. 13:2). The Antichrist will rule in association with an alliance of false world religions and do everything in his power to obliterate the worshipping of the true Christ on earth (Rev. 13:7; 17:3-6). Divine judgements will be poured out upon his empire, which will lead to its sudden end.
A clear description is given of the destruction of the image of Gentile rule on earth. A stone will be cut out without hands, which will strike the image on its feet of iron and clay and break them in pieces. When the kingdoms of the Gentiles are finally destroyed, it will be done without human involvement. The stone which will descend and strike them refers to the second coming of Jesus Christ, who is also Israel’s Messiah. He is often likened to a stone in the Bible (Ps. 118:22; Isa. 8:14; 1 Pet. 2:6-8). This stone will increase in size and fill the whole earth. The coming of Christ, and His destruction of the earthly powers that will be deployed in Israel under the leadership of the Antichrist, is described as follows:
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. ... And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Rev. 19:11-15, 19-20; cf. Zech. 14:12-13).
This is a concise and dramatic description of the battle of Armageddon, which forms part of the judgements of the day of the Lord. Isaiah says: “Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. ... I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. ... It shall be as the hunted gazelle, and as a sheep that no man takes up; every man will turn to his own people, and everyone will flee to his own land” (Isa. 13:9-14). The judgements of the Lord will not only terminate evil human governments, but also stop the chaos and loss of cultural identity caused by the large-scale intermingling of nations due to uncontrolled immigration.
After Christ has destroyed the earthly kingdoms He will establish His eternal kingdom in their place. That will be the fulfilment of Revelation 11:15: “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever!” It is evident from this scripture that at Christ’s second coming He will bring an end to all earthly kingdoms so as to rule in their place – this does not only refer to European governments in the region of the ancient Roman Empire. Daniel says: “And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:35). A Christian new world order will be instituted on earth, which will ensure continuous peace on earth:
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isa. 2:2-4).
Jeremiah also confirms this prophecy: “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts” (Jer. 3:17).
The throne of the Messiah will be in Jerusalem where He will restore the Davidic kingdom. That will be the fulfilment of a prophecy given two thousand years ago to Mary by the angel Gabriel: “He [Jesus] will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Luke 1:32). When Christ rules from this throne, the dispensation of power-hungry Gentile governments permeated by selfish motives and evil institutions that rendered them hostile towards Israel and the kingdom of God will be something of the past.
Each of us also has the responsibility of making a personal decision with regard to Jesus Christ. If He is the rock and foundation upon which our lives are built, we will not fall down during the storms of life (Matt. 7:24-27). But if we reject the Lord Jesus as Saviour, we are building our lives upon the sand of self-deception and will find ourselves among the enemies of Christ to whom He will be a stone of stumbling in the coming final judgement (1 Pet. 2:4-8).