“The powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1). These are the words of the apostle Paul as he unfolded his burden on the authority of government in the earth. He designated government as “higher powers.” The Scriptures are definitively replete with the declaration of God’s divine appointment of governments that control people and nations. Men, families, cities, nations, kingdoms, and empires have always been found under some concept of government since the fall of man. God has ordained civil government both for restraining evil and for promoting righteousness for the benefit of the people. With this intent God requires that men obey those powers that are over them (Rom. 13:1–7; 1 Pet. 2:13, 14). When there is no government, anarchy rules because of the sin and selfishness of fallen man. Therefore, the true role of government is to maintain peace and order in this wicked world, to punish evil, and to reward righteousness.
Man’s Laws versus God’s Laws
While God desires His people to obey civil government, there is a limit to the extent government can control the people and declare laws. When the government through its powers requires disobedience to God, then another principle must step forward. This principle is expressed in Acts 4:19, 20 as well as 5:29:
But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
Also, in Daniel 6 when Darius’ government established a law against prayer to God, note the actions of its highest president, Daniel:
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime (6:10).
God does not require obedience to man’s laws if the Christian is forced to disobey the Scriptures, the law of God.
The Influences of God and the Devil
The continual influence of the spirit world has always accompanied the governmental powers of any age. History examples times when governmental powers promoted the good of its people; yet, at other times their powers were expressly evil, corrupt, and filled with godless leadership, terrorizing God’s people and their desire to live righteously. Nevertheless, whatever the character of a government, their authority to rule was ordained by God.
Does God and His providence influence governments and their leaders through history? Yea, does the Devil and his demonic forces similarly effect influence? The answer to both questions is an unequivocal “yes.” The Bible is replete with examples of kings and governmental leaders who were profoundly influenced by the powers of the spirit world.
Amidst the many narratives found in Scripture, one of the classic and insightful examples is the true story of Cyrus and his proclamation of the Jews’ returning to Jerusalem. God had prophesied in Jeremiah chapters 25 through 29 that the Jews would be captives in Babylon for seventy years. At the end of these seventy years when Daniel was praying concerning this promised return, there was a twenty-one-day delay of answer to his prayer (Dan. 10:13). It was revealed that the Prince of Persia (Satan) battled to thwart Gabriel from bringing the answer to Daniel. Thus, God sent Michael to take up the battle while Gabriel brought the answer.
Similarly, as Satan tried to keep Cyrus from giving the command for the return, Michael came to draw Cyrus to do so.
The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, the Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah (Ezra 1:1b, 2).
There are other times when governmental leaders are being directly influenced by the Devil and his angels. The presentation in Luke 4 of the wilderness temptation by Satan to Christ includes an important revelation. In one of the three temptations, the Devil took Christ to an exceeding high mountain and shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. Here the Devil states, “All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.” How did Satan gain the power and the glory of these kingdoms of the earth? How can he give such power and glory to an individual? It is simply that proud men throughout history have given to Satan their allegiance to gain greater power and glory. Yet, it still must be declared that ultimately it is God that brings the rise and fall of men in history, and His permissive will must be present even in the workings of Satan.
America in the End-time Prophecy
It has often been acknowledged that the United States of America is not found in biblical prophecy. Though this observation seems to be true, yet perhaps indirectly our nation is found within the Scriptures in several contexts. First, John 3:16 still declares, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” America is certainly found in the phrase, “For God so loved the world” or “mankind.” America is part of mankind; Christ died for the souls that would be identified with America. Second, in Genesis 12:3 the Lord tells Abraham, “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee, and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Our country has been part of them that bless the Jews, and we believe this is one of the reasons why God has blessed our nation. But if we curse the Jews, God will curse us. Third, in Matthew 28:18–20 we read of the Great Commission given to the Apostles that certainly has become an example to God’s people throughout history. As God sent His apostles into the world, we as a nation have sent more missionaries into the world than any other nation on earth. Fourth, Proverbs 14:34 declares, “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” America has been a nation that has promoted and uplifted righteousness in principle and living; God has exalted us for this. Although it is evident that Israel is warned by this verse, yet did God also have us in mind when these words were divinely inspired? Fifth, Psalm 33:12 reads, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” America identified itself with the Lord in its history and thus, we have known His blessings. Sixth, Psalm 9:17 declares, “The wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God.” Our nation has come to this prophecy. God is turning us into hell, hellish living, and we fear a hellish end. Seventh, the words of Revelation 13:7 declare, “And it was given unto him [Antichrist] to make war with the saints, and to overcome them, and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.” God has permitted the Antichrist spirit to prevail over our national leaders, and we as a nation have been taken by the power of the dragon. Eighth, our forefathers came from European nations, and such nations are in the Bible. And perhaps ninth, because there are saints in America, they receive the promises and prophecies given to all biblical saints.
The Prophecy in Daniel Two
Because we are living in an hour of revelatory prophecy, the Book of Daniel is a crucial key of insight for this hour of our nation and world history. This book is for the End Time to give us direction, guidance, and wisdom. We may ask, “Where are we as a nation in history, and more specifically as God’s remnant observing this time in history”; “how will this presidential election play a part in the coming days”; and, “what are we to expect in the future?”
America is part of the Gentile nations that have been granted (by providence) the global ruling of history since the days of the Babylonian Captivity. Because we truly believe we are living in the End Time of the last days of these Gentile powers, Daniel 2 is more and more an important insight for our times. Though Nebuchadnezzar, the greatest of world rulers, dreamed the dream given by God, the exacting of his dream and its critical interpretation were given only by God’s prophet.
Before Daniel stands in the presence of the king, we are told of his humbling response when receiving the interpretation of the dream from the Lord:
Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he given wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things; He knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him (2:20–22).
These words must accompany our hearts at this late hour in our own history, both in the understanding of God Himself and in the imminent details of history. Oh, how God would condescend to give this mortal, young prophet knowledge and understanding for his hour. We believe that God, through His Word, desires to do the same for us in our hour of history. Amidst our thanksgiving for many blessings from the Lord, we need to thank Him for granting the knowledge of understanding for our day, so that we would not be ignorant.
No doubt, the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had was prompted by his disturbing thoughts regarding the future of his kingdom beyond his own life. Having fallen to sleep that night, God graciously gave the dream in response to such thoughts.
As we carefully read through this chapter, it is important for us to see that though there is much prophecy revealed in this dream and in the interpretation, the critical verse is 2:28:
But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.
Note the last phrase “what shall be in the latter days.” In the light of this emphasis, this chapter and its interpretation of the dream reveal that the vast majority of this interpretation is primarily for the last days; these last days began with the first coming of Christ. Let us observe this important perspective:
2:37, 38 – given for Nebuchadnezzar.
2:39 – quickly speaks of two other kingdoms to come.
2:40–45 – deal with the last days.
Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is perhaps the most unique panorama of world history ever unveiled to the mind of man by the Omnipotent Creator. It is presented to us as Nebuchadnezzar perceived history, that is, through the mind of a man. Therefore, the unfolding of man’s history is as a great human colossus. Of course, many comprehensive outlines in prophecies concerning the nations are found in such books as Isaiah. We even read instructive prophetic details of the closing days of the End Time in the Book of Zechariah. Ezekiel foretells the religious and civil state of Israel during the millennium.
Nevertheless, the rise, growth, course, decay, and final judgment of the Gentile powers are minutely unfolded in the prophecies of Daniel. This colossal image of chapter 2 gives the outward imposing greatness and magnificence of the Gentile world powers.
In contrast to man’s perspective in Daniel 2 is heaven’s perspective found in Daniel 7. In this chapter man’s empires are presented not from man’s perspective of human glory and greatness. God views man and his imagery from the inward reality of what he is—a fallen creature who has descended to living as beasts.
Nebuchadnezzar’s image was a dream concerning the world powers of the Gentiles beginning with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian empire. This image is the declaration of the Day of Man. Briefly, the world powers of the Gentiles before the latter days are given in this description. In 2:37, Nebuchadnezzar is declared by God as “a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.” Then with great brevity Daniel mentions that two kingdoms would rise after Nebuchadnezzar, which were the Media-Persian and Greco-Macedonian empires. Carefully observe the deterioration of preciousness of the metals: gold, then silver, and then brass. As the preciousness declines, the strength and power of the metals increase.
As for the parts of this image of man, the times of the Gentiles commenced with Nebuchadnezzar, who is declared to be the head of gold. (Often Babylon is called the golden city: Isaiah 14:4; Jeremiah 51:7.) The next kingdom is pictured as breasts and arms of silver, followed by a belly and thighs of brass. Descending this image, the fourth empire of an eventually divided Rome is marked with two legs of iron. It was during the Roman empire that God sent His Son into the world.
The final section of this manly image is marked by two feet with ten toes, “part of potters’ clay, and part of iron.” Nebuchadnezzar’s image of man descends from gold to clay! The entire stately-looking colossus of a man stands on feet of weak clay. Man’s glory is supported only by mud that tries to mix with the strength of iron. This image reveals that the world powers in history contain in themselves the elements of deterioration, devolution, decay, destruction, and death. They all stand on a foundation of clay. It reveals that the mighty metallic image lessens in specific gravity as it goes downward from the head of gold to the feet which are part clay trying to mix with iron.
We must view this image carefully in the light of another transition of presidency in our country. We are part of the latter days of the Gentile powers. The question may be asked, “Where are we in this image of man?” We find ourselves near the end of the image, in the lowest part prior to the feet of clay. We are in the ankles, below the legs and just above the feet; we are in the joints of transition.
We must candidly acknowledge that the course of world history is a downward course, from gold to clay. The character of the world governments is bestial and senseless. We observe again that although Nebuchadnezzar saw the kingdoms as the image of a man (chapter 2), Daniel saw them as beasts (chapter 7). Beastliness is the true character of man’s empires, and one day the final kingdom leader of the feet and toes will rise as the beast out of the sea of humanity.
Ultimately, what is the coming judgment crisis upon this image? This dream carefully reveals the answer. A stone uncut by hands will come out of a mountain and smite the image at its feet. The magnitude and force of this smiting will pulverize the entire image, causing it to fall and become as chaff that the wind drives away. Then, this stone will increase in size becoming a great mountain filling the entire earth. This stone is Christ Jesus and the kingdom of Christ that without the aid of man will be set up to rule the earth. Of this kingdom “there shall be no end.”
This dream of Nebuchadnezzar became the medium through which God revealed the history of governmental world rulership unto the millennial rule of Christ in His kingdom. This crisis judgment of the stone did not happen when Christ came at His first advent, because the fourth kingdom (Rome) was in existence; the Day of Man had not come to its full iniquity.
The Image: Excellent and Terrible
Another revelation is given by God to us in 2:31: “Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible.” Here are two descriptive words that complete the manifestation of the kingdoms of the world, or the powers of the Gentiles, from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to the coming of Christ with His saints. The unique manifestation of these kingdoms is a sight that both attracts and repels. Side by side with the appearance of “excellent” is the description of “terrible.” History reveals this in the greatness of wealth, architecture, pomp, and glory of these illustrious kingdoms. Their existence of grandeur causes the heart to wonder at their excellence. But congruous with such excellence of appearance is the terrible, the wicked, the evil, the godless, the deception, and the satanic. Every kingdom has manifested both at the same time consistently in history. Although there may be the boast of what has been magnificently accomplished, evil is found in the living, the heart, and in much of the ruling over men.
Where are we in this Day of Man leading to the revelation of the Man of Sin? We are in an hour when truth and error, right and wrong, are so intelligently mixed, bringing our country into the greatest confusion we have ever experienced. Does the satanic warfare against holy angels described in Daniel 10 regularly occur even in our day? Do spiritual powers wrestle in their attempts to influence world leaders for or against righteousness? Are we witnessing this battle today between deep, occult corruption and endeavors to return to some form of sanity in government? Only God knows what the truth of the matter is.
Christians still need to remember that conditions must get worse. The next and final stage of the image of global government will be a mixture of iron and clay. We have not entered the fullness and the absoluteness of the prophetic image’s feet yet. We are somewhere in the ankle-period of history in which the secret rapture for God’s Elect will take place. We await the imminent return of Christ for His people. Had Christ taken the earth’s kingdoms at His first coming, He would have received them from Satan’s hands (Luke 4), because past and present kingdoms belong to Satan. When Satan and world rulers fill up man’s measure of iniquity, Christ will descend from heaven, and, by the force of His own omnipotent arm, shall destroy all the governments of fallen man, setting up His own universal and unending kingdom.
For His secret coming, may the Lord make ready a people (scattered throughout the institutional, apostate church) while we witness the coming together of iron and clay, of excellence and terribleness, representing a final global government that is ultimately destroyed by the open coming of the King of Kings!