At the time of Jesus a remnant of Jews was anticipating the arrival of God’s kingdom. The prophecy of Daniel was one source that sparked hope in the hearts of God’s people. As a youth Daniel had been captured during Babylon’s invasion of Judah in 605 BC and in time he rose to prominence because of his ability to interpret dreams. Claiming inspiration, Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about a giant statue with a head of gold, body and arms of silver, a torso and thighs of bronze, and two legs and feet of iron mixed with clay. He said the mammoth shrine represented four powerful kingdoms of the world that would be pulverized by a rock cut without human hands. The rock would grow into a mountain and cover the whole earth, representing the unending kingdom of God (Daniel 2:20-45).
The first three symbols are clearly identified in the Book of Daniel as Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece (8:20-21). The identity of the fourth is debatable. Most first-century Jews like historian Josephus believed it to be Rome. I personally believe that the fourth symbolic kingdom was left unnamed because it represents not only Rome, but all the other ungodly kingdoms that rise and fall “in the latter days” (v. 28). Regardless, each succeeding empire was more powerful than the one before (vv. 32-33) and defeated its predecessor. But more important, in the end, the rock destroys them all.
When the final kingdom is crushed, the kingdom of God alone—presumably a Jewish kingdom—remains standing. Although instituted by God, it is not other-worldly, but a real, earthly and political kingdom.
Daniel 2 ought to engender hope in us for deliverance. Like first-century Jews, we twenty-first century believers, eagerly await for the God-sent rock to destroy the kingdoms of the world and set up the everlasting kingdom.
[For a fuller treatment of Daniel’s kingdom-centered dream interpretations, see chapter 4 of “Heaven on Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now.” Available on Amazon in pb and Kindle].