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Daniel’s Prophecy: Five Kingdoms

Introduction
I conclude that there is a God based on my examination of the natural world – its order, beauty and complexity. The Scriptures even indicate that the natural world proves the reality of a Creator (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20). 
 
However, my Christian faith is predicated, not on the natural world, but the Bible. If it weren’t for the Bible, I would be a deist in the very least, but because of the Bible, I am a Christian.
There are a lot of Christians out there who believe the Bible simply because they grew up in a Christian home, or in America, a so-called “Christian nation.” Others may have other motivations for seeing the Bible as God’s revelation to mankind. 
 
For me, there is an abundance of both internal and external evidence of the Bible’s divine authorship. In other words, my studies and research have led me to believe that the Bible could not possibly have been written by uninspired men.
 
While there is an abundance of evidence, in this article, I’d like to focus on the evidence of prophecy. To keep it simple, I’m going to discuss one particular prophecy in the Bible: Daniel’s prophecy of the kingdoms.
 
A Succession of Four Kingdoms
In Daniel 2, we learn that King Nebuchadnezzar (a historical figure) dreamed of a statue which consisted of four parts:
 
  1. A head of gold
  2. Chest and arms of silver
  3. Belly and thighs of bronze
  4. Feet of iron and clay

The prophet Daniel interpreted the king’s dream in Daniel 2:36-45. He prophesied that each of these four parts represented a kingdom. This is spelled out in the text.

“You, O king, are a king of kings…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. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron…(44)And in the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed…” 

 
So the “head of gold” is identified in this passage as being the kingdom of Babylon…a kingdom which we know existed. It was the Babylonians who had conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, and carried the Jewish people into captivity. Daniel was one of those captives.
 
The second kingdom that followed Babylon, though not named in the text, is named elsewhere in the book of Daniel. In Daniel 5:26-31, Daniel told the Babylonian king Belshazzar that “Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” So the second kingdom, the kingdom that followed Babylon, was the Medo-Persian kingdom. This is stated in the book, and this is a well-known historical fact.
 
What about the third kingdom? 
 
In Daniel 8, we find the vision of the ram and goat. To make a long story short, a male goat with one horn obliterated a ram with two horns. In verses 20-23, it says, “The ram which you saw, having the two horns – they are the kings of Media and Persia. And the male goat is the kingdom of GREECE. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king. As for the broken horn and the four that stood up in its place, four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation, but not with its power.”
 
Historically, the Grecian empire conquered the Persian empire. We also know that the Grecian empire was led by a famous king, Alexander the Great. However, Daniel prophesied that the first king would be broken and the Grecian kingdom would be divided four ways. We know, historically, that Alexander died at an early age, following which, his kingdom was split and given to his generals. The two strongest Grecian kingdoms were those of Ptolemy and Seleucid.
 
And finally, the FOURTH kingdom – the one following Greece – was the Roman empire. We know this is what happened historically, but even within the book of Daniel, there is evidence, I believe, of this. In Daniel 11, as Daniel explains in great detail the downfall of Persia, the emergence of Greece, and the political turmoil that Greece would experience, he eventually makes mention of “ships from Kittim” (vs. 29), which many translate as Rome.
 
In closing, the sequence of kingdoms prophesied in Daniel are:
 
  1. Babylon
  2. Medo-Persia
  3. Greece
  4. Rome

Biblically and historically, we know this to be true.

 
The Fifth Kingdom
You may recall from Daniel 2 that during the fourth kingdom, God would set up a kingdom.

“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.”

In Daniel 7, Daniel “had a dream and visions in his head,” the details of which correspond to what we’ve read in Daniel 2. Instead of a statue made up of four parts, Daniel sees a vision of four beasts (lion, bear, leopard, and a “dreadful and terrible” fourth beast) that represent the same four kingdoms that have already been mentioned.
 
But in the Daniel 7 prophecy, MUCH more attention is given to the kingdom that God would set up during the days of this fourth earthly kingdom (i.e. Rome). I could easily devote a lot of attention to this prophecy of God’s kingdom, but here are the highlights:
 
  • God, the “Ancient of Days” sits in His judgment seat (vs. 9-10).
  • “One like the Son of Man” goes to the Ancient of Days (vs. 13).
  • The Son of Man is given “dominion and glory and a kingdom” (vs. 14).
  • One of the Roman kings (vs.7-8, 11-12) makes “war with the saints” (vs. 21) until God is seen coming in judgment against it (vs. 21-22).
Regarding the fulfillment of these prophecies of God’s kingdom from Daniel 2 and Daniel 7, consider with me the following points from the New Testament:
  • Jesus was alive, not during the days of Persia or Greece, but of Rome (the fourth kingdom).
  • His ministry revolved around the teaching that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). When asked by Pilate if He (Jesus) was a king, He answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth” (John 18:38).
  • 40 days after Jesus was resurrected, He ascended “to the Ancient of Days.” His ascension is recorded in Acts 1:9-11.
  • Not long thereafter, while preaching the first gospel sermon to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter said that Christ was raised up “to sit on his throne” (Acts 2:30) at the right hand of God (vs. 34). In other words, when Jesus came to the Ancient of Days, He received “dominion and glory and a kingdom.”
While some might object on the basis that Christ never set up a kingdom that has filled the earth, the answer is in understanding the spiritual nature of the kingdom. Jesus Himself said the following…
 
“The kingdom of God does not come with observation…for indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
 
“My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36).
 
The kingdom of Christ was/is spiritual in nature. It wasn’t going to fill the earth and dominate these other kingdoms by means of war and violence, but by means of salvation and persuasion. In fact, the prophecy in Daniel 7 confirms the spiritual nature of the kingdom because it would be persecuted by the Roman empire (another detail of the prophecy); this wasn’t a kingdom that would conquer with a sword. 
 
From a Christian perspective, the kingdom of God has taken on the form of the church (Matthew 16:18-19; Colossians 1:13-14; Phil. 3:20-21; Revelation 1:9, et al).
 
What Makes This So Amazing
Daniel’s life and ministry in Babylon took place in the sixth century B.C. while many of the Jews were in captivity in Babylon. As historical references, Jerusalem was conquered in 586 B.C. and the temple was rebuilt by 516 B.C.
 
Regarding the rise and fall of the subsequent kingdoms:
 
  • King Cyrus of Persia conquered the city of Babylon in 539 B.C.
  • Alexander the Great was born in 356 B.C. in Pelia. He died in 324 B.C. It was in the second century B.C. that a weakened Grecian empire was overtaken by Rome, becoming part of the emerging Roman empire.
  • While Rome existed as a city-state as early as 753 B.C., it wasn’t until 338 B.C. that it really began to aggressively assert itself.
What’s clear from these dates is that Daniel prophesied in great detail of the rise and fall of these four kingdoms long before these events happened. Granted, Daniel was alive when Persia conquered Babylon in 539 B.C., and it’s not hard to believe that he could have seen this coming. 
 
But how could he have known of the eventual rise of Greece and Rome? Both of these nations were but city-states at the time. It would be comparable to a political analyst today predicting that Mexico will become a dominant world empire within the next 200 years, and that South Africa will conquer Mexico and dominate the world next.
 
And don’t forget that Daniel prophesied, not only that Greece would conquer Persia, but that Greece would be led by a powerful king whose kingdom would be divided four ways following his death. How could Daniel have known these details?
 
There’s no way that anyone can reasonably argue that Daniel just “got lucky.” Yes, political gurus today can make predictions about elections and world events based on current trends and statistics, but not only do they often get it wrong, they cannot accurately predict the details of world events that will transpire over the next four hundred years.
 
With regard to God’s kingdom, how could Daniel have known when Jesus would be born? How could he have known of the conflict between Rome and the church?
 
Objection: The Book of Daniel Was Written After the Fact
The only viable objection that a skeptic can make is that the book of Daniel was NOT written by Daniel or by anyone in the 6th century B.C., but that it was written after the fact. A common “late date” proposed by skeptics is 168-165 B.C. Of course, by this point, the main events of Daniel’s prophesied (with the exception of God’s kingdom) would have already transpired.
 
The main problem with this objection is that there is ample evidence for an early date.
 
First of all, the writings of Daniel were included in the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Septuagint was translated between 300-200 B.C.  For the writings of Daniel to have been included, they would had to have been widely known and accepted by the Jewish people.
 
Also, three scrolls containing excerpts of Daniel were found in the caves at Qumran among what have become known as “the Dead Sea Scrolls.” The earliest scroll has been dated to 168 B.C., but again, the ultra-conservative Jews who lived at Qumran would only have accepted the writings of Daniel if they were widely known, trusted and validated.
 
It has also been observed by scholars and linguists, of which I am neither, that the language of Daniel matches an early date.
 
Here are two additional articles that delve into the dating of Daniel:

 
 
Conclusion
Daniel’s prophecies of the five kingdoms are just a sampling of the many prophecies found in the pages of the Bible that were specific, detailed…and fulfilled in history. The question then becomes: how could Daniel and these others have foreknown such information? Any honest observer, after carefully weighing the evidence, will conclude that no human could so accurately predict the future. This is evidence, in my mind, that Daniel was inspired by someone who did know what would come to pass. Daniel is clear – and I think the implication is clear – that He was inspired by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
 
If the writings of Daniel were divinely inspired, and if he accurately described the sequence of kingdoms that would rise and fall, from Babylon to Rome…what does that say about Daniel’s prophecy of God’s kingdom and “the son of man?”
 
The potential impact of these prophecies cannot be understated. If Daniel wrote by divine inspiration:
 
  • There is a God.
  • He is the God of the Old Testament.
  • Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of God’s kingdom.
  • Jesus is King over an eternal, spiritual kingdom.
  • We are subject to the rule and reign of Christ.
Where does that leave you, dear reader?
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Debate at UNR

Debate at UNRSeptember 23rd, 2014
"Evolution or Creationism: which has more scientific evidence?" This is the proposition of a debate that I'll be participating in at the University of Nevada. I'll be defending creationism.

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