King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream around 600 years before the appearance of Jesus, which he struggled to interpret. He summoned the insights of magicians, sorcerers, astrologers, and enchanters, expecting them to interpret his dream without giving them any details about it. They protested, telling him that no one could ever interpret a dream of someone who wouldn’t share the dream’s details, so Nebuchadnezzar did what all good kings of the time had the option to do: he had them executed.
When Daniel heard about this event, he prayed to God for help in interpreting the dream, which God then revealed to him. Then he approached Nebuchadnezzar and said the following:
““You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it 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, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
“This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.” (Daniel 2:31-49)
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was later fulfilled. The first kingdom was Babylon, which began under Nebuchadnezzar; the second was the Medo-Persian kingdom, which began under Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian; the third was the Greek kingdom, which began under Alexander the Great; and the fourth was the Roman Empire. Jesus appeared during the Roman Empire around 2,000 years ago. In Daniel 7, Daniel recounted another similar dream with 4 kingdoms. In this one, Daniel described the third kingdom as a leopard with four wings and four heads. Alexander the Great was swift as a leopard. Upon his death, the Greek kingdom was divided up among his four generals.
As Nebuchadnezzar’s dream prophesied, the Roman Empire split into its East and West halves (between 285 and 395). Emperor Constantine founded Constantinople, which was the powerful capital of the East, while Rome was the much weaker capital of the West. The West eventually crumbled while the East thrived for another 1,000 years.
Despite the collapse of the government of the Roman Empire in the West, the Roman Catholic Church grew from within the Empire and established its legitimacy in the centuries to come throughout Europe. Christians have played a strong role ever since in building hospitals, universities, charities, and granting equality of opportunities to all. Christians have contributed to artwork, music, architecture, philosophy, and science. We’re sitting on the shoulders of some great Christian minds of the past, such as Francis Bacon, Galileo Galilei, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, Joseph Haydn, Michelangelo, and Mozart.
But then the age of the “enlightenment” arrived in the 17th – 19th centuries and deep atheistic thinking clouded the windows of our society. They ushered in materialist agendas, claiming physical science had an explanation for all we know in this world. The “rational” supplanted the “traditional” and the “natural” supplanted the supernatural.” People in the West began to reject claims of spiritual experiences and supernational causation, stabbing holes in the traditional and religious fabric that had shielded our societies against dark and intellectually shallow notions for centuries.
It was a time where challenging religion became somewhat fashionable in elite intellectual circles. Atheists, Marxists, and postmodernists came rallying with their bullhorns out of the cracks in our Christian foundations, lambasting God, rejecting order, and claiming our world is a lucky product of chaotic and undesigned processes. They denied that we have any objective moral values or duties, such as the values of life, liberty, justice, equity, truth, and the duties to pursue them. Yet their absolute statements of denial are self-refuting claims of absolute truth.
How Should We Then Live?
God gives those who reject Him over to reprobate, perverse minds, which we witness when they advocate for the slaughter of the innocent, inconvenient unborn while decrying capital punishment for those guilty of murder. They’ve waged a war against God and are out to destroy everything He has proclaimed to be true and sacred: our minds, our bodies, and our souls. We should never forget we’re made in the image of God and our bodies are sacred vessels of the Holy Spirit.
The warnings Isaiah (5:20) shared around 2,700 years ago are still relevant today: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness,” (Isaiah 5:20)
Thankfully, we know that darkness can never overcome light. Around 2,000 years ago, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us as our loving Savior and beacon of light. Jesus foreknew the challenges of the world, which He addressed in all throughout the pages of the Bible. For example, in Genesis 1:26-27, He distinguished human beings as having dominion over all other life forms and being made in His image. He clarified His position on marriage and let us know how special He considers us.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you;I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
He pre-emptively dealt with the scholars today who question the timing and validity of the books of Moses, Daniel, and Isaiah by referencing them as prophets and attributing their writings to them.
Jesus stands for peace, love, freedom, human dignity, and servant leadership. One would think that all would embrace Him, but sin powerfully binds. Jesus came to rescue us from our sins. How did those in Jesus’ time repay Him for His miracles, wisdom, and love? One of His twelve chosen apostles betrayed Him and the “strong bulls of Bashan” beat Him, spat at Him, stripped Him of His clothing, and crucified Him. Rather than claiming victimhood and scorning His earthly enemies, Jesus forgave them. In doing so, He set the example for us of how we’re to live, lead, and love in these modern tribulations.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. If you’re seeking hope, seek Him. If you’re seeking truth, seek Him. If you’re seeking forgiveness, seek Him. If you’re seeking love, seek Him. But these actions may only be actions and not enough. They only begin our walk with Jesus through the valley of the shadow of death. To get to the light, all fear must subside (see Psalm 23). To do that, we must fully give our lives to Him, following the examples of the prophets and seekers, and followers of Jesus who’ve gone before us.