The book of Daniel has various visions and prophecies that often get overlooked by people when in fact, they need to be understood as God communicates future events to us.
In chapter two, you have the first such dream, through the king at the time rather than Daniel himself afterwards. This then sets the scene for future ones, with ten overview points about this:
1. The King Doesn’t Understand the Dream
Nebuchadnezzar is the king of Babylon where Daniel and his three friends have been taken as trainees at the start of Israel’s captivity.
The king has a strange dream one night and asks his experts to help explain it; he’s not messing around and threatens consequences if they fail or blessings if they do.
“The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill. But if ye shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof.” – Daniel 2:5-6
However, he can’t remember what the dream was about, never mind beginning to interpret this.
But here comes Daniel, with the ability to do this. God clearly gifts him in such prophetic interpretations from the previous chapter, yet he still humbly seeks God with his friends for help.
Therefore, this chapter unravels what this dream means into the future and our time now, not just the king then.
The book's other dreams and visions are through Daniel himself; this is one via the king that Daniel then helps interpret.
2. Get the Basis of Interpretation Right
So, this dream helps identify what future happenings and kings over time will change, with both the king and Daniel recognising this right at the end.
“Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:” – Daniel 2:20-21
Later on, Daniel’s own dreams and visions are along the same lines of different kingdoms, with details about which ones turn against God and His true kingdom. This is therefore important to Christians to discern what is wrong and to be wary of.
This is developed further in Revelation with things like beasts (and a mark of), a dragon, Babylon, and false prophets to watch out for. Paul also refers to the popular phrase ‘anti-Christ’ in his writings.
Therefore, the way these all unravel is critical to then appreciate what they are, with four main ways to do this.
The Idealist way says these are general spiritual principles to be aware of, but nothing and none to be aware of in the real world. The Preterist does link these to real happenings but all in the past, often in the days of the very early church after Christ.
The third one is the Futurist and the most popular nowadays in mainstream Christianity. This assumes everything is still to happen way into the future and probably around the literal country of Israel and the Jewish people (although still with a hint of Preterism with one old testament king being involved).
The final one is the Historicist which links everything to actual world events progressively over time, right from the Old Testament to the present and then still into the future.
This is the one I believe is correct for three reasons.
Firstly, it simply makes sense that God would logically cover all of time, not just a snippet in the past, future, or nothing at all.
Secondly, it actually works; you can see actual changes in kingdoms and world events over history matching these prophecies.
And thirdly, all the great Reformers of old like Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Charles Spurgeon all took this position.
3. The First Three Stages of the Statue are Easy
Getting into the detail of the vision, it’s basically a statue with four sections of different metals going downwards from the head to the toes.
“Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.” – Daniel 2:31-33
Each of these four metals represents a different kingdom over time.
Taking the Historicist way of looking at these, the first three metals can be seen to match consecutive ones:
1. Gold – the Babylon system, which Nebuchadnezzar was king of at the time.
2. Silver – the Medo-Persian one which took over Babylon afterwards
3. Bronze – the Greece kingdom led by the famous Alexander the Great.
The majority of Christian theologians agree with these.
4. The Fourth Stage is More Complicated
We then come to the fourth one, which actually has two elements: the legs, and then feet and toes.
“His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.” – Daniel 2:33
Although God is highlighting two aspects to this, they are still the same essential iron kingdom.
In terms of what this is, then many theologians agree that this was the Roman kingdom that took over from Greece as a world-changing force (and was in control when Jesus was on the earth).
However, differences begin to emerge on whether this is the full story or not and how things develop later on.
If you keep things simple, though, it makes more sense. This metal goes right to the bottom of the statue and end of the vision when the whole thing is destroyed.
Taking a historicist stance, this logically infers that this Roman kingdom will be centre-stage in such God happenings right until the end of time and the Second Coming of Christ.
5. The Final-Stage Mixture is Not Mixing
There is then a specific problem of this latter phase of the fourth stage – the clay is not mixing with the iron:
“And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.” – Daniel 2:41
What’s also interesting is identifying what these two materials represent and then seeing why they’re still divided.
As mentioned in the earlier section, the iron is the Roman kingdom in the secular state sense.
On the other hand, clay represents more religious things as the church or God’s people elsewhere in Scripture (with the classic analogy that people like clay in the potter’s hand).
More specifically, this is ‘miry’ or rather dirty clay. Therefore, a form of impure or even false religion.
Put these two together; you have a questionable religious flavour now trying to connect with the secular Roman state. You can then practically begin to see how things play out with the Roman influence across Europe and ten countries like the ten toes of the feet in the vision.
6. There are Links Between Each Kingdom
Before moving onto the final part of the vision, it’s worth noting how the choice of metals is important in this vision:
“And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.” – Daniel 2:39
Not only do they have characteristics towards that particular kingdom that it represents, but also between each other, in particular:
* The metals reduce in value and brilliance the further along and down you go.
* In the opposite way, the metals actually get stronger as you go along
* Each metal's purpose also changes, with gold more economical and valuable, silver and bronze more military, and iron and claymore domestic and general purposes.
* The weight of the metal decreases, with gold being the heaviest.
* The forms of governments in these different kingdoms arguably reduce overtime as well.
* Only certain ones are mentioned here that have a significant meaning from God’s perspective of how history pans out.
There could be many other variations and other ones at any one time to refer to, but only these four are here.
7. A Stone Then Brings Things to and End
Most scholars understand the basic idea at the end that good wins over evil, and in particular, God and His kingdom over Satan and the earthly kingdoms.
“Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.” – Daniel 2:34
The idea of God and Christ being compared to a stone and rocks etc. in scripture is apparent; however, some have asked if this represents Christ’s first visit to earth 2,000 years ago as opposed to the majority view of Christ’s Second (and final) coming at the end of time as outlined in Revelation.
The fact that the whole statue completely comes to an end answers this – the Second Coming, as we are still obviously still here after His first coming.
8. The Bigger Mountain’s Meaning
Drilling down into more detail, this stone not only breaks everything else away to be blown away in the wind, but we then have an even bigger mountain taking over the whole earth.
“Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” – Daniel 2:35
In short, this is a picture of God’s wider kingdom and new heaven and earth at the end of time, finally taking over everything, period. The smaller stones and individual’s representing his kingdom here on earth is the smaller yet powerful vessel used to bring in this wider one.
Also, in contrast, there is the dirty or wrong religious system of people represented in the former clay.
9. A Blessed Ending
We then have a happy ending with both Daniel and the king himself clearly seeing God’s hand in this and giving Him the glory.
“The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealed of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.” – Daniel 2:47
And what’s also important to realise is that this has come true just as predicted – the basic acid-test for any claimed prophecy or prediction. You can map these kingdom changes out over time and the detail in them.
10. A Simple Start Towards Future Prophecies
The final point is to note how this prophecy is actually the key to help unlock future ones later in the book of Daniel and indeed elsewhere in Scripture.
“Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governours over all the wise men of Babylon. Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.” – Daniel 2:48-49
This simple four-phase sequence is what others can then build upon with more detail, particularly the final fourth one and how this will be a specific religious force against God’s true one.
If you come up with other possible scenarios of this later on, then if they don’t follow this four -part process in this order, they can’t be correct. In particular, that the fourth Roman influenced kingdom lasts right to the end of time.
The Start of Things to Come
This first prophecy in the book of Daniel is actually the simplest to understand and yet is the most important in terms of how future ones are then appreciated.
These pick up pace in the second half of the book from chapter seven through Daniel himself at that point.
However, the ordering of these four key kingdoms and the details in the final fourth one, in particular, is essential.