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The iron kingdom of Rome was the last empire that was truly united. After this, all attempts to unite various nations into one empire failed to re-establish the strength and unity of the Roman Empire. For this reason, Daniel said, the feet of iron and clay “will be a divided kingdom” (Daniel 2:41) and “will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery” (Dan. 2:43).
Rome itself began to splinter as early as 364 A.D. before finally collapsing in 476. The empire was actually divided by Diocletian into four parts in 285, but was reunited by Constantine in 325. When Constantine died in 337, the empire was split again, this time between the two sons of Constantine and their cousins, but by 340 the empire was reunited under one head once again.
In 364 two brothers named Valentinian and Valens divided the empire after the death of the emperor, Jovian. Then a huge earthquake in the Mediterranean Sea in 365 caused a tsunami that wiped out all of the Roman colonies in North Africa, killing untold millions of people. This was followed by the disastrous Battle of Adrianople in 378.
The next year Theodosius became the last sole emperor of Rome (379-395), and when he died, the empire was divided between his two sons. This division between the Eastern and Western Roman Empire turned out to be permanent, and when Rome fell in 476, it is understood that it was only the Western Roman Empire that fell. The Eastern Empire was where the seat of government had resided ever since Constantine had built “New Rome” (Constantinople) and had moved his capital to the bridge between Europe and Asia. That city lasted until 1453, when it fell to the Ottoman Turks.
In the division between East and West, we see the two “legs” of the iron kingdom emerge, even though Daniel’s prophecy does not focus on any such distinction.
The “feet” of the image emerged in 527 when Justinian the Great took the throne in Constantinople. He changed the Roman calendar to start with the birth of Christ, rather than the birth of Rome, and he changed the entire legal system to reflect a combination of Roman and Christian law by the end of 534 A.D. His new legal system became the basis of European law that exists to this day. That legal system established the Feudal System, which enslaved and impoverished the common people for centuries.
When the Christian emperor Justinian put his empire under Church Law, he did not realize that he had set up a power-sharing arrangement with the Roman Bishop (or Pope). Church law was, after all, the venue of the religious authorities, and the Pope was the highest authority in issuing decrees and interpreting their meaning. Hence, as it turned out, Justinian became a mere enforcer of Church law as decreed by the Pope, and therefore he unwittingly became the servant of the Pope.
In 536 Justinian sent for Pope Agapetus, who obeyed the order but who then forced the emperor to submit to his own order deposing Anthimus, Patriarch of Constantinople on charges of supporting heretics. Justinian’s wife, Theodora, had supported Anthimus’ appointment as Patriarch a year earlier, and Justinian himself tried to defend Anthimus against Pope Agapetus’ charges.
This incident, which occurred in the year after the new laws had gone into effect, put the emperor into the position as executioner of Church law as defined by the Roman Pope. It proved that spiritual power was greater than temporal power, as long as the emperors were “Christians.” Any Christian—including an emperor—had to submit to the beliefs and decrees of the Roman bishop in order to maintain his position as “orthodox” and thus escape excommunication.
A new phase of history thus arose with the Law Code of Justinian (529-534 A.D.). Not only did it change the laws of the empire to reflect Church law, but it also placed the Roman popes above that of kings and emperors. It also asserted Rome’s primacy over the patriarch of New Rome. This fulfilled the “feet” portion of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Even so, the new kingdom was always wracked by divisions in Church doctrine as well as in the political situation throughout the centuries.
Dan. 2:41 speaks of “the feet and toes” as being made of the iron-and-clay mixture, but verse 42 singles out the “toes” themselves as being distinct from the feet. Whereas Nebuchadnezzar’s dream speaks of “ten toes,” the fourth “beast” empire in Daniel 7 is pictured having ten horns (Dan. 7:7, 20). This is the equivalent of the ten toes in Dan. 2:42. Just as toes are an extension of one’s feet, so also are horns an extension of one’s head.
We will say more about this when we study Daniel 7, but for now we may point out that Dan. 7:24 is the divine interpretation of the ten horns: “As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings [or kingdoms] will arise.” Kings and kingdoms are interchangeable in the text, since they come from the same word both in Aramaic and later in Greek.
The Western Roman Empire consisted of ten main people or tribes: Heruli, Franks, Burgundians, Alamanni, Lombards, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Bavarians, Suevi, and Vandals.
In recent years the rise of the Futurist view of prophecy has caused many to declare that the European Union would be the fulfillment of the ten toes prophecy. This view, however, was largely abandoned after the EU included more than ten nations. They now number 28 nations. Nonetheless, the EU is the latest attempt to unify the feet of iron mixed with clay. Current events show that the EU is fracturing and will not succeed in its goal, for it is still divided by the mixture of iron and clay.
Dan. 2:44 speaks of the final stage of world history, saying,
44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.
The feet and toes of the image are the end of man’s kingdoms, because it is obvious that there are no more appendages on this image. The “stone” is not part of the image itself but comes as a separate kingdom to crush the kingdoms of men and end their dominion. Whereas the kingdoms of men come to an end, the stone “will itself endure forever.”
The Kingdom of God is not based upon fleshly dominion, but upon the rule of Christ. Dan. 2:44 says obscurely, “that kingdom will not be left for another people.” Later we read that the Kingdom will be given to “the saints of the Most High.” (Dan. 7:27). While some have attempted to limit these “saints” to genealogical Israelites or Judahites, the New Testament shows us that the saints include all believers—or more specifically, all overcomers.
Paul uses the legal definition of a Jew (Judahite) in Rom. 2:28, 29, saying,
28 For he is NOT a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. 29 But he IS a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise [i.e., his Judah identity; Judah means “praise”] is not from men, but from God.
Likewise, Paul also applies the term “Israel” in its original legal definition, saying in Rom. 9:6-8,
6 … For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “Through Isaac your descendants will be named.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.
In other words, just because someone can claim physical descent from Abraham or Israel, it does not necessarily mean that they are truly Israelites. Those born after the flesh are not the children of God, but those who are “the children of the promise.” The children of promise, Paul says, are represented by Isaac, who was indeed the promised child (Gal. 4:28).
The children of the flesh are those who adhere to the Old Covenant, which was established by man’s vow (promise) in Exodus 19:8. The New Covenant, however, was established by the promises of God, given to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and even to Moses in the second covenant in Deut. 29:1, 10-15. In verses 12 and 13, we read,
12 that you may enter into the covenant with the Lord your God, and into His oath which the Lord your God is making with you today, 13 in order that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your God, just as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Here we see that it required a second covenant—on the order of the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to establish them “as His people.” Without that second covenant, the Israelites were not truly His people, because they had all violated the first covenant. The first covenant predicated their status as “His people” upon their own vow of obedience.
It was for this reason that God could call Israel Lo-ammi, “Not My People,” in Hosea 1:9 after the nation had continually violated their covenant with God. Israel’s status under the Old Covenant was based upon their obedience, and without obedience, they were not His people. Their reinstatement as God’s people is only through the New Covenant, which is His promise and oath to change their hearts from the inside.
And with them have come many other believers (Isaiah 56:8), even as the foreigners in Israel were included in God’s oath (Deut. 29:11). Further, Moses included the whole world in Deut. 29:14, 15, for he told them plainly,
14 Now not with you alone am I making this covenant and this oath, 15 but with those who stand here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here today.
He then went on to speak of idolaters in Egypt who had not come out with the Israelites, implying that these were the ones not present which God had included in His oath. This second covenant included alien nations such as Egypt as well as Israel.
Hence, the power of the flesh, whether Israelite or Egyptian flesh, cannot make men God’s people. Neither can genealogy or outward circumcision give a person the status as a Judahite or an Israelite in the eyes of God. For purposes of national identification, men have used these terms to describe whole nations or tribes, and even Scripture of necessity uses these definitions. But in the end, there is a higher definition and application of these terms, and Paul recognizes these in his writings. So he writes in Gal. 3:28, 29,
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek… for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Hence, the interpretation of the statement in Dan. 2:44, “that kingdom will not be left for another people,” means the Kingdom will be given to the followers of Christ. Daniel’s further definition of these as “saints of the Most High” is clearer, but one must go to the New Testament to obtain the clearest view of Daniel’s statements.
Dan. 2:45 concludes,
45 Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true, and its interpretation is trustworthy.
Daniel’s prophecies of future kingdoms are the bane of atheism and skepticism. Many have claimed that Daniel’s prophecies were written after the facts by men who lived long after the time of Daniel himself. But the prophecies describe kingdoms all the way to the present time, as we will see. Since the book of Daniel was already part of the canon of Scripture well before the birth of Christ and before the rise of Rome itself, the skeptics have no firm ground for trying to refute the prophecies.
After Daniel revealed the dream and its interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar, we read of the king’s reaction in Dan. 2:46-48,
46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense, 47 The king answered Daniel and said, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.” 48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.
The Babylonian king was overwhelmed by the revelation and “did homage to Daniel.” In other words, he recognized that Daniel was a better man than he. Daniel immediately became wealthy and was promoted to the position of prefect, or governor, of the province where the city of Babylon was located.
Daniel was also appointed as the “chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.” This means he became the head of the Magi, a position which he held until his death many years later. His teaching and influence over that Order was seen six centuries later when the Magi came to Bethlehem. Apparently, they had been shown the biblical prophecies and knew what astronomical events would herald the birth of the King.
Daniel had taught the Magi whatever he knew about the coming Messiah in the context of the four world empires. When the Magi saw the King’s Planet (Jupiter) “crown” the King’s Star (Regulus) between the feet of the Lion (Leo), they knew that it was time to go to Jerusalem to pay homage to the newborn King. Gen. 49:10 references Regulus, “the Regulator/Lawgiver,” saying,
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff [lawgiver] from between his feet until Shiloh comes…
It is a picture of the Regulus, which is situated between the feet of the Constellation Leo, and it is associated with the coming of “Shiloh,” a messianic title. The Hebrew name for Jupiter is Sedeq (or Zadok), and the planet represented capital cities of many nations, including Rome and Jerusalem. Isaiah 1:26 refers to Jerusalem as “the city of Sedeq,” or “the City of Righteousness.”
Jupiter and Regulus had three conjunctions in the constellation of Leo in the year leading up to the birth of Jesus:
1. September 14, 3 B.C.
2. February 17, 2 B.C.
(At this time the Roman Senate issued their “decree” declaring Augustus to be Pater Patriae, “Father of the Country,” and then required the entire Roman world to ratify the decree in a kind of census. The Judeans were enrolled in September of 2 B.C., bringing Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, their home town.)
3. May 8, 2 B.C.
Immediately after these conjunctions, Jupiter began to move westward across the sky until it stood directly over Bethlehem (as viewed from Jerusalem) on Dec. 25, 2 B.C. The Magi followed Jupiter, traveling west from Babylon to Jerusalem. Upon learning that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, and seeing Jupiter that evening situated over Bethlehem, they came with their gifts to Bethlehem.
Jesus, of course, was already three months old, having been born on the feast of Trumpets, Sept. 29, 2 B.C. The Bethlehem shepherds had witnessed his birth that same night that he was born. But the Magi had a longer road to travel. After seeing Jesus, they returned to their country, while Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Egypt. Thus Jesus arrived in Egypt for His protection at the age of three months—the same age that Moses, the type of Christ, was taken into the house of Pharaoh (Exodus 2:2).
Three centuries later, Saint Nicolas of Ephesus decided to imitate the Magi and began placing small gifts on the doorsteps of the poor on December 25.
Daniel’s knowledge of the prophetic writings, coupled with his personal revelation, still influence us today every year at Christmas, although the holiday has been secularized and has inaccurately portrayed this day as the celebration of Christ’s birth. Yet regardless of the accumulation of inaccurate traditions, the day is still remembered as the day that the Magi arrived to give their gifts to the Messiah, thanks to Saint Nicolas.
Daniel 2:49 concludes,
49 And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administra-tion of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king’s court.
Daniel needed people that he could trust to help him govern the province honestly. We can only speculate how this may have put an end to the bribery and corruption that normally runs rampant in non-Kingdom governments. Unfortunately, such corruption has continued throughout the rule of Christian Nations in the time of the “feet” of iron mixed with clay. The iron and clay, in one sense, can represent the combination and mixture of Christian and secular, or a mixture of that which is godly with that which is human.
In the end, though, the feet and toes of iron and clay were still attached to the image of the kingdoms of men. There was no way that the Christian nations could rise very far above other human governments on earth. Something entirely new (and detached from the image) is needed for the Age to come. That is the Stone Kingdom, brought forth first in the Person of Jesus Christ, the King, followed by the manifestation of the Sons of God.
Daniel’s promotion, followed by the promotion of his three friends, suggests a prophetic pattern of Christ first, followed by the manifested Sons of God, who will reign with Him. The training of the overcomers is thus depicted in the next chapter of Daniel.