Have you ever tried to put together a puzzle with hundreds of pieces?
By themselves, the various shapes and colors make it almost impossible to know how they fit together. You might be able to separate all of the straight edges and put together the frame, but you would have no idea what the puzzle is supposed to look like.
God is calling people to turn away from this evil world’s ways. You’ve been given an opportunity to respond to Him and be prepared for the coming of the King of Kings!
But if we have an image of what the puzzle is supposed to look like—or even a partial picture—we can begin to sort through the pieces and understand how they fit together.
Because biblical prophecy is revealed in pieces of different shapes and colors, it is the source of all kinds of speculation. However, the Bible contains some panoramic images showing how the prophetic pieces fit together.
One of the Bible’s most cryptic prophetic puzzles
One of these prophetic images appeared in a vision to a Babylonian king almost 2,500 years ago. This vision is recorded in the biblical book of Daniel.
This prophecy spans events that have already happened, but also foretells the headlines of our world today!
Daniel’s story begins with him as a young teenager living in Judah. His family was socially important. When the Babylonians, a powerful people from what is now Iraq, invaded Judah in 605 B.C., they took the best and brightest of Judah’s youth back to Babylon to be indoctrinated into their way of life. Daniel was among the young people deported to this land so strange and foreign.
Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, had a horrible nightmare. He called together all of his sorcerers and astrologers and demanded that they tell him the meaning of the dream. But he wanted them to first describe his dream. When they couldn’t, the king threatened to have them all killed.
Then some of Nebuchadnezzar’s advisors told him of a Jewish youth named Daniel who was blessed by his God. Daniel was summoned. He prayed to God, and He revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream—both in details and meaning.
Daniel’s revealing of the meaning of this vision is the foundation for understanding subsequent Mideast history and end-time prophecy. Subsequent chapters in Daniel and Revelation simply add more details to this vision. Daniel described the dramatic vision to the Babylonian king:
“You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor 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” (Daniel 2:31-35).
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was filled with vivid images of a giant statue. Let’s look at the five different elements of the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and start to understand what it all means.
God allowed Daniel to see in a vision a statue in the shape of a man with head, arms, torso and legs. First Daniel described the statue’s appearance. The head of the image was crafted of fine gold. The chest and arms were made of silver—a less valuable material than gold. The statue’s belly and thighs were of bronze. Finally, the legs and feet of the statue were made of a mixture of iron and clay.
Daniel then announced to the king that God had revealed to him this dream and that it was divinely inspired. He explained to the awestruck king that the image was a prophecy of four successive empires.
The dream explained
“This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you 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” (Daniel 2:36-39).
From our present historical vantage point, we know that the Babylonian Empire was indeed followed by three other empires.
Understanding the historical background of this imperial succession is critical to understanding what the book of Daniel is telling us today about Bible prophecy.
After describing the vision and the dream to Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel explained the individual symbols. He said that the statue’s head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar himself and the Babylonian Empire. This empire existed from 605-539 B.C.
In 539, it was suddenly taken over by the Persian Empire. That means that the chest and arms of silver from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream represented the Persian Empire.
The Persian Empire in turn fell to the Greek Empire, represented by the statue’s belly and thighs of bronze. The Greek Empire was a powerful force in the ancient world from 332 B.C. to 63 B.C.
Now these three kingdoms—Babylon, Persia and Greece—are all mentioned by name in the book of Daniel. The fourth is not. But following the pattern of the prophecy wherein each kingdom is immediately succeeded by the next one, we can actually discover the identity of the fourth empire. The Greek Empire was supplanted by Rome.
A prophecy for the future
We have Daniel’s prophetic description, then, of the fourth empire: “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” (Daniel 2:40-43).
This fourth kingdom is the Roman Empire—but it is very important to understand that this part of the prophecy has not been completely fulfilled. This fourth empire of Daniel 2 fills in an important piece of the prophetic puzzle by leading us to the fifth element. It tells of future events!
Now let’s look at the most important fifth element of this prophecy: “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” (Daniel 2:44-45, emphasis added throughout).
Who are the “kings”—the rulers—of this prophecy?
Notice—they are kings who exist at the last days of the Roman Empire. It says they are destroyed at the second coming of Jesus Christ!
Final Roman revival when Christ comes in power and glory
Let’s look again at what Daniel was inspired to say about the feet of the image. The 10 toes of these two feet represent 10 rulers. Daniel said that it is in the days of these 10 rulers that Christ returns to set up God’s Kingdom on earth.
This is a vitally important prophecy about the time before the second coming of Jesus Christ!
Biblical prophecy reveals that there is coming an attempt to restore the Roman Empire. This union will involve 10 rulers. It will have the strength and power of the Roman Empire but the weakness of not really being a complete union. There will be disharmony over national identities and cultures.
This piece of the prophetic puzzle warns us to keep a close watch on events happening in Europe.
Now let’s look at the book of Revelation, where the apostle John records prophecies of the events leading up to the return of Jesus Christ. These prophecies supply details of the time foretold in the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Here’s how John described Christ at His return:
“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 . . . And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:11-16).
The prophetic pieces of the image of Daniel 2 tell us of a stone that destroys the fourth empire. This stone is none other than Jesus Christ!
What this means for you
You and I live in an evil and corrupted society where all human attempts to govern with justice and goodness fail. We live in a world of violence, war, poverty, crimes, dysfunctional families and billions of people living without purpose and meaning.
If you want your life to be filled with God’s purpose, then you’re going to have to do something. You must be preparing for the return of His Son to establish His Kingdom here on earth.
So what is it you must do?
First, you must repent of your sins. You are going to have to do more than simply accept Jesus as your Savior. It is absolutely true that there is no salvation without the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that paid the death penalty all of us deserve before the righteous God.
But committing yourself to living by every word of God and obeying His commandments in every aspect of your life is a vital key often overlooked. We’ve read here in Revelation where Jesus Christ is returning as King of Kings and Lord of Lords! When He returns, He will be gathering together those who are already submitting to Him as King!
It is an empty Christianity that accepts Jesus as Savior but then continues rejecting Him as King by failing to obey His words. In fact, it is not authentic Christianity at all!
So the second way you must prepare for the fifth element of Daniel 2—the Kingdom of God—is to commit every day to the values and laws of God’s coming Kingdom. Begin each day by asking God to guide your steps. Search the Bible to discover His steps for your life. You may be surprised that many of your assumptions about the teachings of Jesus Christ are actually different from what He taught.
Authentic Christianity is a purpose-filled adventure. It involves daily commitment, obedience and living in a close relationship with our coming King. It includes anticipating His return and trusting in God’s goodness, even in times of stress.
Live for your King today
The ways of the coming King aren’t reflected in tepid, immoral, half-hearted religion. God will accept nothing less than absolute commitment to Him and His Kingdom!
Much of the prophecy of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream has already been fulfilled. This should give you a sense of confidence in the authenticity of biblical prophecy. It should furthermore inspire you to realize that the future prophecies of the Kingdom of God will also happen!
God is calling people to turn from this evil world’s ways. You have been given an opportunity to respond to Him and be prepared for the coming of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Don’t take this opportunity lightly. Ask God to open your mind and heart to His truth!
How will you respond to this glorious opportunity?
Will putting this puzzle together change your life by motivating you to surrender your life to God?
Are you willing to commit your time, effort and resources to be prepared for this future God has revealed?
Or are you willing to walk away from what God is offering to you? It’s up to you!