The course of the future

Notes on Daniel 2:1-49

Pondering about what the future holds has long exercised the mind of man. Nebuchadnezzar had just become King and in the wake of an extraordinary/meteoric rise to super-power status, he wondered what the future would hold. Cp v29. In a most dramatic and unexpected fashion he got his desire to know what lay ahead.

God spoke directly and personally to this King revealing to him an outline of the course of events from his day right up to the return of Christ and beyond. God has the future under control! Cp v21—“And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings…”;and Isaiah 46:10—“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure”.


1. God revealed this information initially to a heathen King, v29. What God says about the future is of importance to the ungodly as it is to saints! It obviously impressed his heart, and perhaps with the intention of arriving at a genuine interpretation, v9, the king withholds the account of the dream from the Chaldeans. In this way he will know that if they can reveal to him the dream itself he can also have some confidence in what they will be able to tell him what it means. The statement in v5, 8 does not mean he had forgotten but that he had given his command and wasn’t retracting it.

2. The account of the vision is a Divine original, v19, 28. That Nebuchadnezzar withheld the vision and it was revealed by God directly to Daniel ensures that we have a reliable version of the vision and not a second-hand version as remembered by a heathen. This is not a vision of the future as it was remembered by Nebuchadnezzar!

3. The worldly wisdom of the Chaldeans is trumped, v9-11, 27-28. By working as He did the Lord showed up the emptiness of natural wisdom and knowledge when it comes to a knowledge of the future.

4. The scene is set for the rapid advance of Daniel and his friends to positions of influence and power, v46-49. Daniel and his companions are still in their probationary period. At one point the circumstances seemed to threaten his life, v13. Within the context of directing the entire course of Gentile power, the Lord directs the course of Daniel and his companions.

5. The role of prayer in understanding the mind of God, v17-23. The prayer here had two aims: to know the bare facts of what God had shown the King; and then to understand the significance of it. Cp 1:17. Those who would grasp the facts of what God has revealed and understand their significance must be ready to pray. Cp 9:20-23, Mark 4:10.


The details of the vision are given, v31-36; while the interpretation follows, v36-45. The vision relates to the course of Gentile power in the earth. Cp Luke 21:24—“And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” With the captivity of Israel that time had begun.

1. The identity of the four Gentile empires.

a) Babylon. Cp v37-38.

b) Medo-Persia. Cp v39, 5:28, II Chron 36:20.

c) Greece. Cp v39, 8:21, 11:2-3.

d) Rome. Cp v40-41, Luke 2:1, 3:1.

2. The symbolism used of each empire. There is a very definite decline to be observed in the materials used in the image. The significance seems to be in reference to the degree of autocratic power and control exercised by each successive empire.

a) The characteristics of Babylon’s kingdom that qualify it to be represented as gold are listed. Cp v37-38. Nebuchadnezzar was an autocrat, 5:19. Each successive kingdom declines from this standard of absolute power residing in the monarch.

b) The next kingdom had less of this absolute power in its ruler, 6:1-2. This bureaucracy had sufficient power devolved to it to stymie the King’s wishes, 6:14-15. Cp Ezra 7:14. The devolved powers wielded by local governors in Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s times under the Medo-Persian power made the work of God difficult.

c) The Grecian empire is further described, 7:6, 11:3-4. Speedy break-up and the dilution/division of absolute central power is the mark of this empire.

d) The Roman empire. While it demonstrated tremendous iron power in enforcing its will and regime over its dominions, Rome had even less of this autocratic power. Its emperors were largely the pawns of the army. It is further represented in the vision as eventually dividing into two distinct parts initially and then in its final phase, resolving into ten distinct kingdoms. Cp 7:24, Rev 17:12. This final phase of the Roman Empire demonstrates a drastic decline in material, v42-43. The downward devolution of power, the ‘democratic principle’, has advanced to the point of fatal instability.

3. An obvious progression toward a climax. The vision presents the history of Gentile power progressing towards a climactic point when it is destroyed. Two things are noteworthy about this climax:

a) The climax comes when the image of the man is complete. This great idol is in the form of a man. Human power is destined to resolve itself into the glorious but terrible form of a man as the object of worship, v31, II Thess 2:6-8. Each empire represented a stage of the development of the decline of human society into anti-Christianity. Many of those prominent characters in those empires were powerful foreshadowings of the man of sin—the man who is to be seen as the image is finally finished.

b) The climax comes when a new, eternal Kingdom is ushered in, v34-35, 43-44. The second coming of Christ is in view here—dated as occurring in the days when the Roman Empire is in its divided state and final ten kingdom phase, v34. Cp 7:13-14, 22—“I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom [that] which shall not be destroyed….Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom”; John 18:36—“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence”; Acts 1:6-7—“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” The reference in Daniel cannot be to the first advent of Christ as the Roman Empire had not at that time even divided into two parts, let alone ten. Nor is it the purpose of the gospel kingdom in its present phase to subvert and destroy governmental power—in fact it demands that its converts submit to whatever civil power Providence places over them! The Kingdom here is a kingdom in the same sense that the others were. This is the dominion of the earth by Christ at His return! He comes to destroy the man of sin and the conglomerate forces of the ten kingdoms that back him, II Thess 2:3-9. Cp Ps 2:9, Rev 2:27, 19:15-16.

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