The Four Kingdom Amongst Men
John Heading, Aberystwyth
In this paper we consider the four kingdoms described under various symbols in Daniel chapters 2, 7 and 8. The period of time involved stretches from the Babylonian kingdom to the state on earth just prior to the coming of the Lord Jesus in glory.
The First Kingdom. The head of the image was of "fine gold", Dan. 2. 32; its interpretation is given in verse 38, "Thou art this head of gold". It was the God of heaven who gave king Nebuchadnezzar a kingdom, power and glory, making him ruler over all men, beasts and fowls. This kingdom is that of Babylon, and it lasted for 66 years. It corresponded to despotic government, with absolute control in the hands of the king. Usually, such a man is a power-hungry dictator. As far as Nebuchadnezzar was concerned, all peoples trembled before him; he slew those whom he would; others he set up and others he put down, 5. 19. Yet his heart was lifted up with political and religious pride, so he set up a huge image of gold, 3. 1, demanding worship thereat. In the judgments of God, he became insane in the deserts, behaving like an animal, 5. 21, until he realized "that the most high God ruled in the kingdoms of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will". However, he was converted to "praise and extol and honour the King of heaven", 4. 37.
His kingdom was also that of the lion, 7. 4, being the first beast of Daniel's dream. As already remarked, the king's dream of the head of gold declared his own point of view, but the beasts demonstrate God's point of view. This lion had "eagle's wings", a symbol of the kingdom's ability to expand and invade. His status had been granted by God, so he had more responsibility before God, and hence suffered more severe judgment. His wings "were plucked", and a man's heart was given to the lion. This describes the king's humiliation, and his conversion from the worship of his idols to the worship of the God of heaven.
The Second Kingdom. "After thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee", 2. 39. This downward process is one of devolution, and is a law of nature in human society. An evolution to the best is an aspiration of the non-Christian politician and religionist; such a hope is nonexistent to the serious student of God's Word. The nations exhibit the same depravity as the individual heart. Better times and better institutions give rise to insidious activity on the part of opponents to overthrow the governments concerned. Such processes will take place on a regular basis until the Son of man comes to take His throne and dominion.
In Daniel 2. 32, the head of gold was followed by the breasts and arms of silver, namely an inferior kingdom followed that of Babylon. This happened in Daniel 5, where Belshazzar was praising the gods of gold and of silver. The writing on the wall spelt out that he was weighed in the balances and found wanting, so his kingdom was delivered into the hands of the Medes and Persians. Thus Darius the Mede took the kingdom a few hours after the explanation given by Daniel. The silver therefore represented the Medo-Persian empire that lasted for 207 years. This empire is the second kingdom of Daniel 7, namely the bear kingdom, v. 5. It may be described as bureaucratic government, namely by departments. This can be seen when Darius was helpless to save Daniel from the lions, 6.14-15; a despot would not have been in any such predicament. The bear kingdom is described as being "on one side", or "one dominion", r.v. marg., suggesting the unity between the Medes and Persians. The silver breast and arms would suggest the same feature. The ram with two horns, 8. 3, also demonstrates this fact. The bear would arise and devour much flesh, 7. 5; in other words, an empire that was ferocious, bloodthirsty, massive, cruel and insatiable. In 7. 5, the bear had three ribs in its mouth, implying the conquests of Lybia, Egypt and Babylon. This kingdom is also seen in the vision described in chapter 8; the ram in verse 3 onwards is defined in verse 20 to be the second kingdom, the two horns being the kings of Media and Persia—a vision granted in the reign of king Belshazzar before the first kingdom had been thrown down, so it is clearly prophetical. In verses 3-4 this ram pushed to the west, north and south; none could stand before him, and he did entirely according to his will.
The Third Kingdom. In Daniel 2. 32, the image has its belly and thighs of brass (copper), a devolution downwards from the gold and silver. Again, this kingdom would "bear rule over all the earth", v. 39, namely the world that was then subject to God's prophetic programme. The historical part of the Old Testament does not record this kingdom; the vision and interpretation were then purely prophetic. The kingdom arose in the time between the Old and New Testaments; yet the details are exact. It corresponds to the military government of Greece, since Alexander the Great defeated the kingdom of Medo-Persia with a small army balanced against over two million men. This kingdom lasted for 210 years. In 7. 6, this third kingdom is seen as a beast, namely a leopard, demonstrating art, culture and civilization. Its "four wings" speak of the empire's rapid conquest in all directions. Its "four heads" demonstrate the four subdivisions of the kingdom after Alexander's death. This kingdom is the "he goat" of Daniel's third vision, 8. 5, arising from the west with a "notable horn", namely the first Greek conqueror Alexander. Verse 21 defines this without any doubt, "the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn ... is the first king". Prophetic details of the actual following historical events are now clearly given. For example, "the great horn was broken ; and for it came up four notable ones", 8. 8; "four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation", 8. 22; "his kingdom . . . shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven", 11.4. These are consistent with later history, when four generals took four parts of the kingdom. The story then develops as a type of the future, the later history of the third kingdom reflecting on the future prophetical history of the fourth kingdom in its future manifestation. Thus in chapter 11 we have details of the kings of the north and the south—really two of the four parts just mentioned of the kingdom of Greece, but typical of future days when the nations shall surround Israel, and perhaps referring to Egypt and Russia. Thus 11. 5-20 provide full details that historians can interpret as past events (of course future when Daniel was writing). From one of the subdivided four parts of Greece "a little horn" arises, 8. 9, referring historically to Antiochus Epiphanes in 175 B.C., when the daily sacrifice was polluted and the sanctuary cast down, 8.11 -12. He is described in 8. 23-25 as a "king of fierce countenance", and as a "vile person" in 11. 21 -32. This now merges with the future, since the anti-Christ is being predicted typically.
The Fourth Kingdom. In the
image-vision, the legs were of iron, Dan. 2. 33, referring to strength, v. 40. In the vision of the four beasts, the fourth beast in verse 7 is not named; it is called "dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces . . . and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it". No animal pictorially could represent it. Since Greece as a kingdom collapsed sometime before the Lord's birth evidently the fourth kingdom takes us to the New Testament, and so must refer to imperial Rome, gradually leading to democratic government, ruling for the people according to the people's choice. Daniel 7 lists no other kingdom prior to the end of world-empires as such. The visions therefore take us to the end times. In 2. 44, "the God of heaven (shall) set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed"; in 7. 9 the beast was slain, the kingdom being given to the Son of man, vv. 13-14. The Roman kingdom therefore stretches from the Lord's first advent to His second advent in glory; the intervening gap of the Church age, so prominent in the New Testament, is silently passed over in the Old Testament prophets, as previously described in our series of papers.
In its early stages, this beast had been responsible legally for the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus; this beast had destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70 having slaughtered millions of Jews; this beast had persecuted the early Christians throughout the empire—Paul had died at the hands of Nero. Later when the church had been tolerated, it was then polluted, leading to the dominion of papal Rome.
But prophetically, the feet of the image were part of iron and part of clay, Dan. 2. 33, 42, 43. The ten toes were of this mixture, implying that the kingdom will be partly strong and partly broken. In any democracy of the last days, the authorities may be unable to govern because of rebellion by those governed; this would show the impossibility of stable government unless drastic steps are taken to constrain the hearts of men to submit. For example, the masses will be kept in submission by the anti-Christ ensuring that men worship an image of the beast, and that none can buy or sell without possessing the mark of the beast Rev. 13. 14-17. According to Daniel 7. 20, the beast has ten horns. This represents the final development, an amalgamation of many nations for an object that we shall explain later. But one little horn shall be in control, "a mouth that spake very great things". The other kings will allow this one horn to have control, so that "the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord", Psa. 2. 2.
Daniel 7 shows the general activity of this world emperor who controls this kingdom of the future after the rapture. He "shall speak great words against the most High", v. 25; he will prevail against the saints who will be given into his hand for three and a half years, the great tribulation. But after that, the beast will be slain, vv. 11, 26. Further details are provided in Daniel 9. 23-27, after Daniel's great confession on behalf of his people's sin. This is an example where local prophecy is projected to refer to matters that were then very far in the future. Seventy years captivity in Babylon is projected to an overall seventy weeks, subdivided into sixty-nine weeks and one week. The sixty nine weeks stretched from the command of Cyrus to rebuild the temple, Isa. 44. 28; Ezra 1. 2, to the time when their Messiah was crucified. After that in Daniel 9. 26, the description passes over the last days, when the "prince . .. shall destroy the city and the sanctuary" in the seventieth week. In Matthew 24. 2 onwards, the Lord uses a local event (the destruction of the temple under Titus in A.D. 70) to project attention to the distant future. In fact, the future will be worse than the past, and Daniel 9. 26-27 shows this. Only imagination can insist that this prophecy has been fulfilled already to "thy people", the Jews, v. 24. For example, does "everlasting righteousness" exist in Jerusalem today? It would, if the verse were already fulfilled.