Sean opened one eye to see what had awakened him from fitful sleep.  The airport chair he was sprawled in was digging into his ribs and his neck ached from being kinked in a contorted position for too many hours. It had been four days, and still no sign of the airspace opening and flights resuming.  Not that everyone waiting would get on a flight right away anyway—things were a mess!

It was a baby protesting that had called him back into the world of the conscious.  The few minutes of nap had been a Godsend, he couldn’t imagine how it must be for the parents trying to take care of the needs of the small one who was protesting so loudly at the moment.

Sean and Aine were on their way home after a month of volunteering as relief workers in Haiti following the big earthquake.  Sean had lost his business in the wake of the global financial meltdown and Aine had been made redundant from her position in mid level management when the Halifax bank announced it’s withdrawal from Ireland.  Instead of sitting around watching the shops in town close down one by one, they decided to do something to help where there was need.  Even with the training they received before they were deployed to Haiti, they were not prepared for the devastation and misery they encountered while there.  Hurting people--their lives as smashed as the crumbled buildings surrounding them.

Since they were flying through Orlando on their return home, they decided to spend a few days and visit the attractions.  The fantasy of Disney world seemed hollow after a month in Haiti working with orphans and devastated families.  They tried to have fun and forget, but one could never quite get the images out of the mind.  After a few pints things almost seemed normal, but the illusion was short lived.  Morning always came—and with it the glaring presence of the real world.  Now another devastating earthquake in China, and the volcano in Iceland that spewed out enough ash to stop the air traffic to Europe for a week.  What would happen next? And what would they do when they did get home?

Stress is one of the big destroyers of health and happiness.  Being in a constant state of fear, worry and agitation creates a blood chemistry that promotes disease and over the long haul will not only diminish our quality of life, but cut it short. Peace, contentment and happiness promote an internal atmosphere and blood chemistry that bring health and healing.

Living in a world that is increasingly bizarre and dangerous makes survival no small challenge, and for many the thought of peace and contentment is an illusion that haunts the edges of a few more pints or another line of cocaine.  But we wake up and the world is still here.  Financial meltdown, new global disease pandemics, earthquakes, volcanic activity that can reach into our already stressed lives in ways we never imagined, global warming, military powers rattling their nuclear sabres at each other, ecological disaster as millions of gallons of oil pour daily into the sea from a seemingly unstoppable man-made catastrophe: So what does happen next?  Is there a way to understand our time in the context of the bigger picture we find ourselves thrust in the middle of?  How should we respond?  Or can we?  Is there a way to find the peace and security we need for our health and well being? Or does this only come when dementia robs the elderly of their reasoning faculties and memory?

The Story

What I’m going to share is documented fact.  Bear with me until I can paint the whole picture, for I think you’ll find it fascinating.  The story was recorded for us by one of the leading figures in the ancient Babylonian government under the command of the great king Nebuchadnezzar and happened over twenty-five hundred years ago.

Nebuchadnezzar had conquered an extensive part of the Middle Eastern region.  His army was unbeatable and his kingdom was wealthy beyond imagination.  The city of his design and the capital of his kingdom, Babylon, was called the golden city. Gold was freely used to embellish its temples and architecture and the splendour and majesty have not been equalled since that time.  The ruins of this ancient city can be found today in the country of Iraq.  Laid out in a perfect square, it is reported to have been sixty miles (ninety-six kilometres) in circumference, fifteen miles (twenty-four kilometres) to a side. Its walls are estimated to have been two to three hundred feet (sixty to ninety metres) high and eighty-seven feet (twenty-seven metres) thick, with a mote surrounding of equal cubic capacity.

One nineteenth century author described the city in these terms:

[The city was] divided into squares by its many streets, each one hundred and fifty feet [46 metres] in  width, crossing at right angles, every one of them straight and level; its two hundred and twenty-five square miles [360 kilometres] of enclosed surface laid out in luxuriant pleasure grounds and gardens, interspersed with magnificent dwellings—this city, with its sixty miles [96 kilometres] of  moat, its sixty miles [96 kilometres] of outer wall, its thirty miles [48 kilometres] of river wall through its centre, its gates of solid brass, its hanging gardens raising terrace above terrace till they equalled in height the walls themselves, its temple of Belus three miles [4.8 kilometres] in circumference, its two royal palaces, one three and a half [5.6] and the other eight miles [12.8 kilometres] in circumference, with its subterranean tunnel under the River Euphrates connecting these two palaces, it’s perfect arrangement for convenience, ornament, and defense, and its unlimited resources—this city, containing in itself many things which were themselves wonders of the world, was itself another and still mightier wonder.  Uriah Smith, Daniel and the Revelation p 33-34
Thus was the genius, wealth and might of the great king Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of the world of his day.

The Dream

One night he had a dream.  This is recorded in detail in the ancient scriptures handed down with great care and accuracy for us today through the many successive generations from that day until ours.  One Daniel, who was taken captive as a young man from the conquered city of Jerusalem, was made an official in the court of the king.  Nebuchadnezzar, being far reaching in his administrative ability, had the habit of taking the best and brightest of the kingdoms he subjugated and training them for the service of his administration.  We are told that Daniel was a youth of extraordinary ability and quickly distinguished himself in his schooling and subsequently in administrative matters.

Nebuchadnezzar had a very disturbing dream one night.  He was sure the dream was of importance, but he could not remember any of it.  Calling in all his wise men he demanded they tell him what his dream was.  They claimed to be in contact with supernatural powers, so now he wanted them to prove their worth and ability.  Put on the spot, they tried to appease the king’s wrath by reasoning with him about the unprecedented quality of his requirement.  How could they know what he was dreaming?  Nebuchadnezzar, not being in the mood for putting up with their fraud any longer simply demanded they all be put to death, they were no good to him if they couldn’t reach beyond the seen and make contact with the supernatural, as they claimed to be able to do.

When Daniel became aware of what was going on he went to the king and simply asked for a little time.  He, and his three friends who also came from Jerusalem and had also been taught to pray to the One God, had not been with the group who had first attended the king.  That the king give Daniel and his friends time speaks to the quality of character these four young men had and their reputation with the king.

I will here give the story in the words of the ancient author himself:

So Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation. Then Daniel went to his house, and made the decision known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, that they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

Daniel answered and said:
"Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
For wisdom and might are His.
And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.  
He reveals deep and secret things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And light dwells with Him.  
"I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers;
You have given me wisdom and might,
And have now made known to me what we asked of You,
 For You have made known to us the king's demand."

Therefore Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: "Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; take me before the king, and I will tell the king the interpretation."

Then Arioch quickly brought Daniel before the king, and said thus to him, "I have found a man of the captives of Judah, who will make known to the king the interpretation."  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 its interpretation?"  Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, "The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these:  As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be. But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart.

 "You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendour 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. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which 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 were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

The Interpretation

 "This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king.  You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory;  and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all — 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 as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay.  And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile.  As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.  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.  Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold — the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure."

Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering and incense to him. The king answered Daniel, and said, "Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret."  Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.  Daniel 2:16-49 NKJV 

The symbols explained

An interesting story, but what does it have to do with us today?  Is it merely a quaint myth from antiquity?  Let’s take a minute and put this capsulated view of world history for the last twenty-five hundred years under the microscope, for it’s claims are either true or false.  The author attributes the dream to the intervention of One he calls God, who Daniel believed to be the Creator of the heavens and the earth, the only One worthy of worship and obedience.

We have already established that Babylon, as depicted by the head of gold, does sit at the head of world kingdoms in grandeur.  Though many kingdoms have been rich and powerful, none equalled Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar.  That another kingdom was coming was surely hard for Nebuchadnezzar to stomach (as was evidenced in his reaction to the prophecy as seen in the next events that are represented in the next chapters of the ancient record), but none the less the unchanging record of past events tell us that in the days of his grandson Babylon ceased to exist as a kingdom, being taken over by the joint rule of the Medes and Persians.  Cyrus the Meden general took the kingdom on October 13, 539 BC.  A river gate was left open and while the rulers of Babylon were involved in drunken frivolity, the Medes and Persians diverted the river Euphrates and marched right into the city unchallenged!

While inferior in splendour, this coalition government ruled the Middle East for two centuries (539-331 BC).  But there was a young general with ambition that soon changed the course of world events.  Alexander the Great swept across the empire and soon the Persian empire was just another record in the annals of time.  At the age of 25 Alexander became ruler over the most extensive empire the world had known to date!

But the dream told of another kingdom, one of iron that was to arise.  After the death of Alexander in his thirty-second year, the kingdom was divided up between his four generals (331-168 BC).  Not long after this another power, such as the world has never seen before, or since, rose to dominance.  Iron is a fitting symbol for Rome, for nothing could stand as her legions with their weapons of precision destruction marched methodically across the land (168 BC-476 AD).

But the dream talked of a further division of power in the feet of this great image of world kingdoms.  Again, history tells us that though the Roman Emperors required worship due only to God, the kingdom was far from divine and finally, after many centuries, disintegrated.  The wonder of this is that it did basically dissolve into ten divisions (click here to see more detail>>), as the ten toes represent, out of which the nations of modern Europe arose.  Though both religious and secular powers have been trying to put the great world kingdom back together again since that time, it has never been accomplished. Charlemagne, Charles V, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm, Hitler—all failed in their attempt to secure the one world kingdom the Roman empire embodied.

But another very interesting aspect of this is represented in the world we live in today:  While there was never another single kingdom established, the principles of this world kingdom building have been spread all over the world through the nations that the Roman empire broke up into.  It was the nations of Europe that vied with each other to see who could acquire the most territory in the expansion of their respective empires of commerce. England, France, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium.  All the nations raced to claim lands and their resources to compete in the world economy.  The interesting thing is that these empires were built originally on slave labour.  While there was not a united political power in control, there was a united principle of action that drove the course of history and our global economy and power structure of today are the child of this series of world kingdoms and the subsequent historical events that flowed out of the breakup of the Roman empire.

The prophecy does not stop on this dismal note.  We find at the end of this experiment with world domination for the sake of the enrichment of the ‘overlords’ another kingdom is introduced.  The rock that is here brought to view was cut out ‘without hands’, in other words not of human creation—and this kingdom, while bringing the complete destruction of the kingdoms of men, introduces another kingdom that fills the whole world.

There was a man named Jesus who both prophetic writings and historical circumstances proclaim to be other than an ordinary human.  This Jesus claimed to be the Messiah—the One who would bear the sin of mankind and provide a way of healing for any willing to accept His offer to be their King and Saviour.  He claimed to be God come to humanity to become our link back to the lost kingdom of perfection, harmony and life.  He claimed that His kingdom was not of this world, but when it finally comes to stay would bring an end to the suffering, oppression and brokenness that are the lot of this world today.  Listen to His own words to His followers:

"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.   And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. John 14:1-3 NKJV

  The big issue in the cosmic controversy between these two kingdoms has to do with free will choice—for God’s kingdom of life can only exist in an atmosphere of free will, this is the basis of love.  It was the abuse of this precious right that has led this earth to where it is today, and this state of affairs will not be allowed to continue forever—there is a judgment coming.  We each decide in this life which kingdom we want to be part of; one is eternal, one will parish never to rise again.

So has history proven this ancient roadmap to coming world events so far?  I’ll let you be the judge.  The next thing that the prophecy says will happen is that Jesus will return to take His people from this mess to a new, eternal home, and ultimately this broken earth will be restored to its default, the way it was designed by the Creator in the beginning.  There is much, much more recorded in the ancient Book of Daniel regarding the course of history.  Very specific things about what would come to pass in the cosmic controversy between the two kingdoms represented and the principles that undergird each—one of man built on oppression and greed, the other the creation of a loving God Who wants the best for His children.  The question for us is are we ready for what’s ahead?  Is God our friend? Which side of the judgment will we be found on?  Are we living under the umbrella of His peace and eternal government?  Or are we living in rebellion to Him and His kingdom of love?  The eternal life He offers to those who wish to accept is certainly the optimum state of health available to humanity!  I’ll leave you with one of the final passages in the book of Daniel, written about two thousand five hundred years ago especially for us today :

"At that time Michael shall stand up,
The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people;
And there shall be a time of trouble,
Such as never was since there was a nation,
Even to that time.
And at that time your people shall be delivered,
Every one who is found written in the book.
 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
Some to everlasting life,
Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Those who are wise shall shine
Like the brightness of the firmament,
And those who turn many to righteousness
Like the stars forever and ever.
"But you, Daniel, 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 12:1-4 NKJV

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