The book of Daniel seems to have a great prophetic power, it seems to tell the future. And sometimes, the principalities and powers can be frightened of the future being told. It can seem nightmarish to them. But what is nightmarish to the empire is very often the dreams of the prophets. The dreams of the prophets and the nightmares of empire are one and the same. What the people of God dream about, the empire fears – that the kingdom of God will break into the world bringing justice to all people.
In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. The king is having bad dreams. He’s had a dream that terrifies him. It’s scared him so bad he can’t sleep. Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So he calls in all of his advisors, and tells them he wants to know the meaning of his dream. Except Nebuchadnezzar makes as a requirement that his advisors not only tell him the meaning of his dream, but they have to figure out for themselves exactly WHAT he dreamed – he will not tell them.
The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.” They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm— if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.” So, the advisors must give the king the dream and its interpretation, or its curtains for them all!! Of course, none of his advisors can possibly know what the king has dreamed, so the order goes out to kill all the Kings advisors. Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. “So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Daniel, who was one of these advisors, says “Hey, wait a minute, what’s going on here??!!” What’s the big rush? Lucky for all, Daniel requests an emergency meeting with the king.
Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. So Daniel and his friends prayed to God, and Daniel dreamed the Kings dream that night. Except Daniel was not frightened by the dream.
But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind. “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it 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, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. The dream rightly pronounced, now the interpretation.
“This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”
So Nebuchadnezzar, you are the head of gold, the great and powerful empire. But after you, there will come another empire. After that, another. Then, another. Bible and historical scholars will tell you about Babylon, the Medes, the Persians, the Greek empire, the Salucid empire, then the Roman Empire. And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure. Nebuchadnezzar’s nightmare is what the prophets had long been dreaming about, the Kingdom of God breaking into the world. It’s terrifying to the king because he’s the empire. But someday empire will not rule the world, God will rule the world. Isaiah describes a mountain that will fill the whole earth – “Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain, for as the waters fill the sea, so the earth will be filled with people who know the LORD.” Isaiah 11:9 NLT. Isaiah also tells us – “The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isaiah 40:7-8 ESV. Later in the same chapter – “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust. Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.” Isaiah 40:15-17 ESV. The nations of the world are all temporary, they will all fade away as dust. But God will bring a kingdom which will last forever. The Kingdom of God will break up the early kingdoms and carry them away like dust in the wind.
And we know, what kingdom broke into the world which Daniel was talking about? After Babylon, the Medes, the Persians, right in the middle of the Greek and Roman empires, the kingdom of Christ broke into the world. All those other kingdoms, along with most of those which came afterward, are on the scrap heap of history. But the kingdom of God broke into the world with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. All other empires have come to an end. All other empires will come to an end. But the Kingdom of Christ will stand forever, the dreams of the prophets and the nightmare of empire.