Jumat, 30 Januari 2009
The Rise & Fall Of World Empires
THE EMPIRES OF THE WORLD
In the records of human history, the shaping of events and the rise and fall of empires, appear to be determined on the will, power, ambition, and prowess of man. But in the Word of God, the curtain is drawn aside, and we behold through all the play and counterplay of human events, the agencies of the All-merciful One, patiently working out the counsels of His own will.
In no other portion of Scripture is this principle more clearly revealed than in the second chapter of Daniel. Here is brought to view the whole sweep of history from the time of Daniel until our present day.
At the time these events were taking place, king Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom of Babylon ruled the then-known world.
One night the king was wondering what the future held. As he looked at this great city he ruled over, it appeared as if it were invincible; and at that time there were no machines of war capable of breaching it's walls. Surrounding the wall was a moat formed by the Euphrates River. The river passed through the center of the city; but at the place it entered the city, there were large gates extending down into the water. Behind those gates were walls lining the river, with gateways that allowed access into the city from the river. These gateways could be secured by large brass gates, so even if one was able to pass beyond the gates at the wall there was no access into the city unless the brass gates were open.
AN IMPRESSIVE DREAM
While pondering these things and wondering if his kingdom would endure forever, Nebuchadnezzar fell asleep. That night he had an impressive dream, but when he awoke he was unable to recall any details. He felt however, that somehow this dream held answers to his question about the future.
Immediately Nebuchadnezzar called for all the wisemen of his realm to help him remember his dream--no matter how much of their spiritualistic, astrologic, occultic, or magic arts they needed to use. The wisemen were assembled, but were unable, through all of these arts, to reveal the dream to the king. Realizing these wisemen were deceivers and could not help him, the king became very angry and ordered their arrest and detention to await execution. Daniel and his companions, were also considered wisemen, but were not called or present before the king. Yet, they were now included in the general arrest.
Daniel appealed for a delay in the order of execution, promising that he would soon give the king the desired information. That night he and his companions presented their earnest request before God to know the king's dream and it's interpretation. They knew that God honors those who put their complete trust in Him, and so they went to sleep fully trusting that God's will would be done. That night God mercifully revealed the king's dream to Daniel, as well as what the dream meant, thus showing that God alone knows the future.
A SYMBOLIC IMAGE OF EMPIRES
This impressive dream was about an immense image whose head was of gold. It's chest and arms were of silver. It's belly and thighs of brass. It's legs were of iron, and it's feet and 10 toes were of iron and clay mixed together (see Daniel 2:28-33). The head of gold was plainly stated to represent Babylon (see Daniel 2:37-38). Under Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon had collected the gold of all the nations it captured, making it the richest nation of antiquity.
But it is not in supposed greatness of wealth, or in apparent invincibility that nations or individuals are to find their strength, but rather in knowing and fulfilling God's will. And their destiny is determined by their attitude toward God's purpose for them.
Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom of Babylon lasted only until the reign of his grandson Belshazzar, when the second nation, represented by the breast and arms of silver, came upon the stage of action. Generally, it is the superior kingdom that conquers the inferior, but prophecy indicated that this was not to be the case (see Daniel 2:39). In the image, the history of the nations progressed from the head to the feet, and each change was reflected by a metal inferior to the one that preceded it.
The combined forces of Media and Persia attacked and conquered the kingdom of Babylon, killed Belshazzar--the last king of Babylon, and then Darius the Mede reigned in his stead (see Daniel 5:28-31).
More than a century before, the Lord had revealed through Isaiah the method by which Babylon would be taken and under whose leadership this would take place (see Isaiah 44:27-28; 45:1-2). Under the leadership of Cyrus the Persian, the armies of the Medes and Persians, were able to divert the waters of the Euphrates for a short time. During this period they entered the city by way of the dry river bed. Even then their efforts would have been futile, had not the brazen gates been left open, unwatched by the defenders, while the king and his nobles feasted and drank (see Daniel 5).
Just as silver is inferior to gold in value, so Medo-Persia was inferior to Babylon in wealth and luxury. While the Persian Empire was stronger in terms of military strength and territory occupied, it was never able to rival Babylon in concentrated wealth or education. The Persian Empire lasted about two hundred years, from 539 to 331 B.C.
The next kingdom, that of brass, would then represent the kingdom that overthrew Persia. We know from history that it was the Greeks, under Alexander the Great, who in three decisive battles (Granicus, in 334 B.C.; Issus, in 333 B.C.; and Arbela, in 331 B.C.) defeated the Persian forces, making Greece the next world empire. This historical fact is also plainly shown in another vision received by Daniel, recorded in chapter 8, where it is stated the kingdom to defeat the Persians would be Greece (see Daniel 8:2-8,20-21). Brass was the metal widely used by the Greeks, and was also introduced by them in weaponry and armor.
Rome, which was represented by the legs of iron, defeated the armies of Greece at the battle of Pydna in 168 B.C. Rome then ruled the world from 168 B.C. to A.D. 476, when it finally succumbed to the invading barbarian tribes.
For more than 500 years, Rome seemed unconquerable. Her standards waved from the British Isles to the Euphrates, from the North Sea to the Sahara. Her Caesars were worshiped as gods, and by her might she made the world one vast prison house. In the words of the historian Edward Gibbon, "To resist was fatal, and it was impossible to fly." The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 1, p 190.
When Rome fell, it's territory was divided into ten sections that now form the nations of Europe. As iron and clay are partly strong and partly weak, so it was to be with these ten nations of Europe which the feet and ten toes of this image represented. As iron and clay will not mix or blend together, so these nations would never be fully united together as a world dominating power of themselves.
For the last fifteen centuries, strong men have sought to revive the glories of the old Roman Empire, welding together the various nations of Europe. Beginning with Charlemagne and continuing through Charles V, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Kaiser William II, and Adolph Hitler--all have signally failed, though at times the goal seemed almost within reach. Seven little words of prophecy stood in their way: "They shall not cleave one to another" Daniel 2:43. And the nations of Europe, by and of themselves, will never cleave together into a world ruling power again!
DREAM STILL NOT YET FULFILLED
But this was not the end of the dream. It was also revealed that in the day of these kingdoms, the God of Heaven would set up His everlasting kingdom. This kingdom of righteousness, represented by the rock that struck the image on it's feet, would continue to grow until the whole earth would be filled, and none of the powers of earth could stop it (see Daniel 2:34-35, 44).
Though many kings and powers have tried to destroy Christ--represented by the Rock (see 1 Corinthians 10:4), and have waged warfare against Christ's kingdom of righteous followers, yet none have fully succeeded and never will. Christ and His kingdom will reign supreme, His glory and truth will cover and fill this earth just like the waters cover the sea (see Habakkuk 2:14). And all the wicked nations of the earth will be ground to powder when Christ--the Rock comes again in the clouds of heaven.
STILL TIME TO FALL ON ROCK
Friend, will you come to Christ today, falling upon this mighty Rock and be broken in heart, repenting of all your sins to arise and live a new life with the chance of having eternal life if faithful to the end? Or will you remain proud and unrepentant, clinging to your sins until it is forever too late, and have this strong Rock fall upon you and grind you to powder--without a chance of eternal life? Dear reader, do you want to be struck by this mighty Rock and lost? Or do you want to find shelter in and be hid by this Rock and be saved? The choice is yours.
"Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou has been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy." Psalms 61:1-3.
"Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty." Isaiah 2:10.
"In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be put to confusion. Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape: incline thine ear unto me, and save me. Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress." Psalms 71:1-3.
"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." John 6:37.