Among the Jewish captives taken from Judah and exiled to Babylon was a young man whose Hebrew name was Daniel. He was renamed Belteshazzar by the Babylonians (Daniel 1:1-7 Daniel 1:1-7 1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Jerusalem, and besieged it.
2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
3 And the king spoke to Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes;
4 Children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
7 To whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave to Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.
American King James Version×). Daniel lived in the remarkable times of the downfall of the kingdoms of both Judah and Babylon. He served as a slave who became a high official in both the Babylonian government as well as its successor, the Medo-Persian Empire.
At the end of Daniel’s book, God instructed him to “shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4 Daniel 12:4But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
American King James Version×). This indicates that certain major prophecies that previously wouldn’t have made sense will be understandable as the end approaches.
Daniel’s Prophecies of the Coming Superpower
One amazing prophecy recorded by Daniel is his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2. In the second year of his reign the Babylonian king had a troubling dream that none of his counselors could explain. Babylonian culture placed considerable emphasis on dreams, and Nebuchadnezzar was convinced that this one was of great importance (Daniel 2:1-3 Daniel 2:1-3 1 And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, with which his spirit was troubled, and his sleep broke from him.
2 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.
3 And the king said to them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.
American King James Version×). It turns out he was right: It was a vision of the future, and it was given to Nebuchadnezzar from God Himself.
His dream gives an overview of God’s plan beginning then and going through until the return of Jesus Christ. It lists and describes a succession of world superpowers that would dominate the lands surrounding Israel until Jesus establishes His Kingdom ( Expositor’s , pp. 39, 46). Looking at things in our time, much of the vision has already been fulfilled, which proves its validity for predicting what’s still left to happen before Jesus comes back.
By inspiration from God, Daniel explained the details of the dream to Nebuchadnezzar without having heard what the dream was about: “You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image [a large statue]! 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” (Daniel 2:31-33 Daniel 2:31-33 31 You, O king, saw, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before you; and the form thereof was terrible.
32 This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,
33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.
American King James Version×).
Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that his Babylonian Empire was represented by the head of gold (Daniel 2:37-38 Daniel 2:37-38 37 You, O king, are a king of kings: for the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
38 And wherever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven has he given into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all. You are this head of gold.
American King James Version×). The silver, bronze and iron components of the image, or statue, represented three powerful empires that were to follow mighty Babylon (Daniel 2:9-40 Daniel 2:9-40 9 But if you will not make known to me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for you have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me the interpretation thereof. 10 The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man on the earth that can show the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean. 11 And it is a rare thing that the king requires, and there is none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. 12 For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 13 And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain. 14 Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king’s guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon: 15 He answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel. 16 Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would show the king the interpretation. 17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: 18 That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then was the secret revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 21 And he changes the times and the seasons: he removes kings, and sets up kings: he gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: 22 He reveals the deep and secret things: he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23 I thank you, and praise you, O you God of my fathers, who have given me wisdom and might, and have made known to me now what we desired of you: for you have now made known to us the king’s matter. 24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus to him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will show to the king the interpretation. 25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus to him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known to the king the interpretation. 26 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof? 27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king has demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show to the king; 28 But there is a God in heaven that reveals secrets, and makes known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head on your bed, are these; 29 As for you, O king, your thoughts came into your mind on your bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that reveals secrets makes known to you what shall come to pass. 30 But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that you might know the thoughts of your heart. 31 You, O king, saw, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before you; and the form thereof was terrible. 32 This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. 34 You saw till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image on his feet that were of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces. 35 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. 36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. 37 You, O king, are a king of kings: for the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. 38 And wherever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven has he given into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all. You are this head of gold. 39 And after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to you, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. 40 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: for as much as iron breaks in pieces and subdues all things: and as iron that breaks all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.
American King James Version×).
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream occurred and was interpreted by Daniel about 600 B.C. The image represented, in symbolic form, the sequence of great empires that would dominate the region’s political scene for centuries.
“The silver empire was to be Medo-Persia, which began with Cyrus the Great, who conquered Babylon in 539…This silver empire was supreme in the Near and Middle East for about two centuries” ( Expositor’s , p. 47).
“The bronze empire was the Greco-Macedonian Empire established by Alexander the Great…The bronze kingdom lasted for about 260 or 300 years before it was supplanted by the fourth kingdom” (ibid.).
“Iron connotes toughness and ruthlessness and describes the Roman Empire that reached its widest extent under the reign of Trajan” (ibid.). Trajan reigned as emperor from A.D. 98-117, and the Roman Empire itself ruled for many centuries.
Daniel 2:44 Daniel 2:44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
American King James Version×reveals that the Roman Empire will be in power at the time God will set up His Kingdom: “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.”
The Roman Empire is not in power today, so how is it possible that it will be at the time of Christ’s return? After it fell in A.D. 476, there have been several phases or resurrections of the Roman Empire down through history, and the final phase will be the one in power when Jesus comes back. More on that later.
The iron legs were described as having feet and toes composed partly of iron and partly of clay, as Daniel 2:41 Daniel 2:41And whereas you saw 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, for as much as you saw the iron mixed with miry clay.
American King James Version×explains. Because it is a mixture of strong (iron) and weak (clay) we can surmise that the final phase of the Roman system will be partly strong and partly weak. But why 10 toes? What do they represent? They represent 10 kings—some of them strong, some of them weak—who make up the final phase of the Roman system. Another prophecy revealed to Daniel as well as a section from Revelation help explain this.
Another Dream Adds Important Details
Additional aspects of this succession of world-ruling empires were revealed to Daniel in a later dream. This time the four empires were represented by four beasts: a lion (Babylonian Empire), a bear (Medo-Persian Empire), a leopard (Greco-Macedonian Empire) and a fourth beast described as “terrible” and unlike the other three (Daniel 7:1-7 Daniel 7:1-7 1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head on his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.
2 Daniel spoke and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove on the great sea.
3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand on the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.
5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus to it, Arise, devour much flesh.
6 After this I beheld, and see another, like a leopard, which had on the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.
7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.
American King James Version×).
“After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth [paralleling the iron legs of Daniel 2]; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.” This beast represents Rome’s great power, which crushed all who opposed it.
Notice that it has 10 horns. In biblical literature, a horn can represent a king or leader. The 10 horns of Revelation 13 coincide with the 10 horns of this prophecy, and they represent revivals of the Roman Empire throughout time, leading up to the return of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 17 also helps us in understanding this end-time superpower. In this chapter it’s again depicted as a beast. In this description it outright states that it’s made up of 10 “kings”—which in modern times could mean presidents, prime ministers or premiers. These leaders collectively “receive authority for one hour” with the ruler of this end-time superpower, an individual the Bible refers to as “the beast” (Revelation 17:12-13 Revelation 17:12-13 12 And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength to the beast.
American King James Version×). This final revival of the Roman Empire makes war with Jesus Christ upon His return (Revelation 17:14 Revelation 17:14These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
American King James Version×).
All of this concurs with Daniel 2:44 Daniel 2:44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
American King James Version×, which obviously indicates that the second coming of Christ will occur in a time during which remnants of the fourth beast or kingdom (the Roman Empire) still exist: “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” (Daniel 2:44 Daniel 2:44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
American King James Version×).
The greater part of these prophetic events, as detailed by the two dreams, has already been fulfilled. Their detailed completion affirms the divine inspiration of the Bible. The odds of any person foreseeing this on his own defy credibility. “There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days” (Daniel 2:28 Daniel 2:28But there is a God in heaven that reveals secrets, and makes known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head on your bed, are these;
American King James Version×).