The book of Daniel is God’s picture book: look at the pictures in Chapters 2 and 7 and you can see that Daniel is speaking about four Gentile world governments, their rise, character and fall. All four are seen as mighty powers, lacking conscience towards God, which would maintain their pre-eminence by cruel and cunning force and display their hostility towards God and those who worshipped Him.
The first of these was Babylon which consigned three godly and faithful Jews to the fiery furnace because they would not bow down in worship to the golden image in the plain of Dura, ch. 3. Its enmity to God continued until the hour when Belshazzar was slain and the first great imperial power fell in a night.
The Medo-Persian empire arose forcing its way to pre-eminence, and whilst it had Cyrus to restore the Jews to their land from captivity, 2 Chron. 36, it also had Darius who put Daniel, a man of highest political eminence in the capital, under the royal signet in the den of lions because in his pious habits he dared to pray daily to his God, ch. 6. This affront to God was the harbinger of the empire’s downfall.
The empire of Greece which followed produced a most bitter and determined enemy of the Jews, Antiochus Epiphanes, designated a ‘vile person’, Dan 11. 21 (the forerunner of one to come). He polluted Jehovah’s sanctuary, took away the daily sacrifice, compelling the Jews to give up their worship of God. All who dared to refuse were put to death and this evil man set up in the temple an abomination and, like its predecessors, Greece lost its empire.
The fourth empire Rome, described by Daniel as ‘dreadful and terrible’, was opposed to God. The most outstanding feature of this empire was that it came into contact with Christ Himself, the Messiah of Israel, the Prince of Peace, the appointed Governor of the nations of the world. The Roman government is seen in connection with His birth and His death. Christ was born when the emperor Augustus was on the throne, Luke 2. 1. A decree went forth from Caesar Augustus that a census should be made of all the habitable world. It was put into force some time later when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. This political measure brought about the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, not Nazareth. Luke also records that at that time Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea, Luke 3. 1. So Pilate was acting officially to maintain the laws of the empire through the time of our Lord’s ministry, yet it was he who ultimately sentenced Him to crucifixion. A Roman centurion, in Luke 7. 9, tasted the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ as indicated in the words of the Saviour, ‘I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel’. The heartless cruelty of the Romans was not unknown to the Lord Jesus for there came some and told Him that Pilate had mingled the blood of the Galileans with that of their sacrifices, Luke 13. 1. Whilst He was here Christ did not dispute the right of Roman government in the land of the Jews, Luke 20. 25, ‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s’.
In Luke 21. 20 He spoke of when Jerusalem would be surrounded by the Roman armies and the city would be made desolate which looked on to ad70. The apostle John in his gospel, chapters 18 and 19, describes the appearances of Christ before Pilate who pronounced the sentence of crucifixion. We know it was, ‘by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God’, Acts 2. 23, but the rulers, the High Priest, king Herod and Pilate were ignorant of this fact. Pilate stood alone and was governmentally responsible. Knowing the Lord was innocent, he gave sentence that He should die a criminal’s death. This act of judicial injustice in Jerusalem was never repudiated in Rome. In our Lord’s good confession before Pontius Pilate, 1 Tim. 6. 3, Pilate could find no grounds for any political offence against the Roman state, though the Lord admitted He was a King; but, his kingdom was not of this world else would His servants fight.
The cruelty of the secular power is exposed in the official scourging that followed the public declaration, ‘I find no fault in him’. The insults of the soldiers was with Pilate’s permission. They derided His claims to kingship, they crowned Him with a crown of thorns, a purple robe was thrown over His bleeding back and with mock homage they cried, ‘Hail King of the Jews’. These outrages took place in the hall of justice, under the eye of Pilate. Once more Pilate brought forward Jesus, declaring, ‘I find no fault in him’, yet sitting down on the judgment seat, he condemned the King of the Jews to death. Pilate’s part in the trial and crucifixion of Christ is irrefutable evidence of the shameful failure of Gentile government to administer civil justice. The Gentile rulers proved themselves enemies to God and to Christ, joining the yet guiltier Jews, they slew the Heir and cast Him out of His vineyard. Herod, Pilate, the nations and the people of Israel gathered themselves together to put Him to a shameful death.
In the closing book of the Bible, its opening statement shows that John is on the island of Patmos for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus, not because he was a criminal but because he was a faithful witness to Jesus, and the Roman state who crucified our Lord now imprisoned John on Patmos. During his confinement the Lord Jesus gave to His servant a revelation of things to come, and in a series of visions the destiny of Gentile world government is revealed. Daniel foresaw the appearing of a future kingdom under the figure of a fearsome beast, Dan. 7. John is shown the last form of Gentile government which will assume world-wide prominence and supremacy rising out of the sea in form as a beast, Rev. 13. The human rise of the beast is indicated in the first half of the seal judgments, Rev. 6. Its Satanic rise is predicted when Satan is cast down from heaven, Rev. 12. 9, who then gives to the beast his throne, power and great authority, Rev. 13. 2. This taking place in the middle of the seven year treaty which the beast made with the many of the Jews, Dan. 9. 27.
Upon the ‘head’ of this beastial kingdom Satan bestows earthly lordship with the purpose of extinguishing by political force all testimony to God and to Christ.
John is further shown in Revelation 17 the intimate and unhallowed association of the dominating religious system called the ‘great whore mystery Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth’, sitting upon the scarlet coloured beast. This religious prostitute sitting in gaudy splendour on the beast, at ease, is maintained in her ecclesiastical power by the political power of the beast. In her hand she flaunts a golden cup, full of the abominations of idolatry, but this repulsive alliance is short lived, lasting through the first three and a half years of Daniel’s seventieth week. With the Satanic rise of the beast in the middle of those seven years, ‘the ten horns (kings) … shall hate the whore, and make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire’, Rev. 17. 16.
The ten federated kings will with one mind and purpose turn upon her and utterly destroy her for, ‘God put in their hearts to fulfil his will’, Rev. 17. 17. This will leave the beast in absolute control politically and religiously. Imperial supremacy will be his and for three and a half years he will execute his own will and exercise his dreadful power in the earth. This period is called by the prophets, ‘the time of Jacob’s trouble’, and by our Lord, ‘the great tribulation’. The apostle is then shown in Revelation 19 how God will send Christ to be the executor of His wrath upon this final form of Gentile world power. The Lord Jesus will appear, to strike through kings in the day of His wrath, Psa. 110. 5, being at that time, ‘revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God’, 2 Thess. 1. 7-8. This public judgement by the Lord Jesus will be an outstanding example in the world’s history of the certainty that God’s righteous judgement will follow after and find out the evil doer.
With the heavens open John beholds the Divine Warrior sitting on a white horse, Rev. 19. 11. The once despised Jesus of Nazareth, not seen as when Pilate led Him forth to the Jews after scourging Him; His head no longer wears the crown of thorns, but many diadems. No longer is He clothed in mockery, but with a garment dipped in blood. The Faithful and True on a white horse of victory is coming in power to establish His rights which were denied Him when He came in lowliness and grace. He rides forth to conquer and subdue all nations. Overwhelming doom falls swiftly upon the assembled host of evil men and their leaders. The beast and the false prophet are taken, their appalling guilt patent to heaven and earth, and both are cast alive into the lake of fire, v. 20. Their armies, whose guilt is less flagrant than their leaders, are slain with the sword, v. 21. Such is the predestined and impressive end of the times of the Gentiles and the nations branded with the guilt of crucifying the Lord of glory and murdering His saints. The stone cut out of the mountain without hands, Dan. 2. 45, will strike the feet of representative Gentile government in the earth and no place will be found for them and the ‘God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed’.
Europe is moving with some speed to get together as a federation of nations. Jerusalem is under constant pressure from the superpowers and the focus of world interest is centred around the Mohammedan countries. In the midst of every form of upheaval with the rise and fall of dictators, the Christian’s responsibility is to submit to man’s ruling and to count on God’s overruling - for God Himself is our resource. ‘The most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will, and setteth up over it the basest of men’, Dan. 4. 17. ‘The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will’, Prov. 21. 1… to do whatsoever His hand and His counsel determined before to be done.
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