The Disunited States Before the Kingdom

The Disunited States Before the Kingdom

Pastor Joe Fuiten, January 18, 2016

This conference is about the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.  Pastor Kent has asked me to teach on the book of Daniel.  In particular I want to teach on Kingdoms.  At first glance it might not seem like the Holy Spirit in the believer and the kingdoms of Daniel are related.  But in fact, Jesus explicitly connected the two.  When asked if the prophesied Kingdom was going to come to Israel in his day Jesus diverted that question into a discussion about the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.  Essentially, the timing of the kingdom became a discussion about the means of the believer.

Daniel’s prophecy about kingdoms is very important.  If you figure it out and apply it to the rest of the Scripture you have a framework for understanding history, prophecy, current events, and many of our Christian responsibilities and duties.

Daniel is a prophetic book.  It tells what will take place in the future as well as what has happened in the past.  It also tells us what God thinks about world events.  For example, God’s telling of the story is organized around kingdoms.  Starting around 600 BC God says there will be four main kingdoms with the fourth kingdom fragmenting into various states.  In those states the people would not remain united. They would become disunited states.

Nebuchadnezzar saw a statue with a head of gold, arms and best of silver, waist and hips of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of iron and clay.

Daniel said Nebuchadnezzar was the head of Gold.  Interestingly, Marduk, chief god of Babylon, was called the god of gold.  Babylon used gold extensively.  The ancient historian, Herodotus, 90 years after this, commented that even walls and buildings were overlaid with gold.  The stone that came from the mountain also would have meant a lot to Nebuchadnezzar.  Another name for Marduk was “The Great Mountain.”  They believed their gods came from the sacred mountain of the earth.  They called it “The mountain of the Lands.”  In this the modern Tibetan religion is very similar.  This much of the interpretation is certain because it is within the Scripture itself.  The latter three kingdoms belong to the realm of interpretation.

The second, inferior kingdom, symbolized by the arms and chest of silver, we believe represented the Medo-Persian Empire.  The two arms were good representations of this empire for they were really two distinct groups of people who united in 550 BC and conquered Babylon in 539 BC. Silver, might indicate money because they were masters of extracting money from their subjects.

The third kingdom we think was Greece, represented by the belly and thighs of bronze.  The Greeks replaced the Persians in 331 BC.  This was the kingdom of Alexander the Great. When Alexander died, his kingdom was divided among his four generals. Only two of these divisions were important, the Ptolemaic and Selecuid, or Syrian and Egyptian.  It might be significant that this Greek empire is first the trunk of the body, but continues into two thighs.  As one other interesting footnote, the Greeks highly developed the use of bronze and used it in their war implements. Even their armor was bronze.  Their soldiers were called “brazen coated

We believe the fourth empire or kingdom was that of Rome. It is represented by the two legs of iron and the feet of iron and clay. Rome conquered the Greeks in 146 BC.  It is interesting that two legs represent Rome because one of Rome’s chief characteristics was its division into two parts.  Their empire was divided administratively in 395 when the sons of Theodosius I each took half of the Empire.  Rome became the capital of the West while Constantinople, the home and capital of the Emperor Constantine and his successors, was the capital of the East.

In the early church there was a consensus that the fourth kingdom was that of the Romans.  Cyril of Jerusalem wrote in the last half of the fourth century when the Empire was officially Christian.  Indeed, he preached in a church built by the emperor Constantine himself and founded by the emperor’s mother, Helena.  For him, the gospel kingdom had conquered the fourth kingdom.  The following statement is from Cyril with footnotes on two other fathers who held the same opinion: . . . The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall surpass all kingdoms7.  And that this kingdom was that of the Romans, has been the tradition of the Church’s interpreters.  For as the first kingdom which became renowned was that of the Assyrians, and the second, that of the Medes and Persians together, and after these, that of the Macedonians was the third, so the fourth kingdom now is that of the Romans. [1]

What is apparent is that the rock cut without human hands was that of God’s kingdom in the person of Jesus Christ.  But was that his first coming or his second?

Irenaeus took the view that since the coming of Jesus was without the aid of Joseph, then this was the stone cut without hands.  He wanted to emphasize the supernatural birth of Jesus and he wanted to show the Old Testament predictions of it.  So for him, the emphasis on the birth of Jesus should feature what God has done rather than the human dimension.  So he drew upon the picture of Daniel’s stone cut without human hands.  Even though Irenaeus was well respected in the early church, his oblique reference did not lead others to think differently about the stone.

The other early writers understood that Irenaeus was employing Daniel’s description as a secondary description rather than a primary meaning.  So in 350 AD, they were still looking for the rock cut without hands, the kingdom of Jesus that was yet to come. Cyril of Jerusalem saw that a kingdom was to come.  It could not be the Roman kingdom, since that was a human institution, and the expected kingdom was to be without human hands.

I make this point because there are those who say that the first coming of Jesus was the fulfillment of that fifth kingdom.  But the first coming of Jesus did not obliterate the kingdoms of this world.  That is reserved for the Second Coming.  Revelation 11:15 set that moment after the seventh trumpet.  “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.

So the four kingdoms were the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman.  The Roman Empire, which lasted until 1453, would ultimately fragment right down to the present day.

Here is the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream as given by Daniel. 39 “After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron — for iron breaks and smashes everything — and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.  44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands — a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.”  

The first thing to note is that God will set up a kingdom.  What is a kingdom?  It is simply a country with a king.  It is not defined by its boundaries or its people but by its king.  The most important person in a kingdom is the king.  Without the king there is no kingdom.

The very nature of a kingdom with its king is that the king is sovereign.  The four kingdoms revealed to Nebuchadnezzar revolved around the authority of the monarch. Nebuchadnezzar had so much authority that even the wildlife was subject to him.  Obedience toward the king was the first and foremost feature.

In another message I want to highlight the Great Commission where Jesus told his disciples to teach the nations to obey everything he commanded.  In another message I will highlight the baptism of the Holy Spirit as the means Jesus gave for that Kingdom.

I would like to show a video from our recent trip to the Middle East.  It is all shot inside Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.  The ambient noise is high and it was not done in the quality that Terry Burge would have done but it will give you a little feeling of some of these ideas.

Years ago there was a singer named Bob Dylan.  As he was coming to terms with some of these ideas he wrote a song, “Gotta serve somebody.”  It captured the idea of a kingdom. You may be an ambassador to England or France; You may like to gamble, you might like to dance; You may be the heavyweight champion of the world; You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls; But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed; You’re gonna have to serve somebody; Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord; But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

As the authority of the king is gradually lost, the people “will not remain united.”  That is, they will not be united in their obedience to the king.  They will want to serve themselves rather than the king.

You could write the history of the world following the theme of checking the power of the monarch.  In the fourth kingdom, the power of the Emperor is checked by the rise of essentially nation-states with their own kings.  With the English Revolution, the power of those lessor kings was checked by the rise of legislatures or Parliament.  In the American system, the power of legislatures was checked by the power of the courts. By means of the courts, the individual can check all other powers under the guise of liberty or freedom.  As that system develops the people are no longer united under the king’s authority but the individual becomes a law unto himself.

When Daniel gave the description of the last throws of the fourth kingdom it was “so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.”  The last gasp of a dying system looks like the “disunited states.”  Would-be kings always try to get everybody to “come together.”  But in the end it only means they want you to do what they want to do.  Funny, John Lennon wrote “Come together” as a campaign theme song for Timothy Leary, the old LSD guy, when he wanted to run for Governor of California.  “We just got to be free…” (to do our LSD! Would be my tag line on his song.)   

As the spirit of the age infiltrates and gathers in the church, the church increasingly looks like the world.  The King gradually loses his authority.  Churches become “independent.”  That is, they are not accountable to anyone.  They just do what they please.  In time, the Bible itself gets redefined. Things the Bible called sins are given full inclusion.  They might claim that the Spirit is revealing new things, unlike those uncomfortable old things in the Bible.  But it is just the spirit of this world and this age.  It is really just another sign the King is coming soon and his Kingdom will come with him.  People not united under the king is the sign of the end.

When Jesus was talking about this kingdom he taught us to pray that the kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven.  That is, Jesus himself would be king over the earth and govern by his laws and rules.

Our moment of personal salvation is certainly related to asking Jesus to forgive us of our sins.  But that is really only the beginning.  We should pray that Jesus would be the Lord of all the kingdoms of our heart.  We voluntarily crown him King of our life.  He is the king, I am the subject.

If his kingdom has come to my life, then I read the Bible.  I read it on its own terms to learn what it has to tell me.  I don’t try to make the Bible agree with what I think because I am not the king.  I try to agree with what it says.

When I get up in the morning, I remember who I am.  I am a subject of the king reporting for duty.  So I say, “Jesus, what are you up to today?  I want to be a part of whatever you are doing.”  Throughout the day I listen for his voice and look for openings and opportunities he may be bringing across my path.  I want to do the good works that he is laying out before me to do.

Inevitably, there is going to be a conflict. “We just got to be free.”  We feel this great need to do what we want to do, to make ourselves happy by doing what pleases us.  But Jesus showed us the way there too.  In the Garden, when every fiber of his being would have preferred the easier way he prayed, “Not my will but thine be done.”

[1]Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., “Catechetical Lectures, Lecture XV,” Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers; vol. 7 (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995) 108.  With the text quoted there were also footnotes cited.  These are included here for reference:   7Dan. vii. 23: (R.V.) shall be diverse from all the kingdoms.  8Irenæus (V. 26) identifies the fourth kingdom with “the empire which now rules.”  Hippolytus, de Antichristo, § 25: “A fourth beast dreadful and terrible: it had iron teeth and claws of brass. And who are these but the Romans?”