What are the Fourth and Fifth Kingdoms?
The 4th and 5th Kingdoms Explained! Daniel 2:31-45 Commentary: Summary and Highlights
In the following commentary on Daniel 2:31-45, the historical fulfillment of Daniel 2:31-45 is explained and the fourth and fifth kingdoms are identified. The statue composed of four different metals represents the succession of empires that were to rule over Israel before the establishment of the fifth kingdom, the kingdom of God. Babylon is the head of gold; Medo-Persia, the chest and arms of silver; Greece, the belly and thighs of bronze; and Rome, the fourth kingdom, is the legs of iron. These four secular empires ruled over Israel before it grew to become a Christian nation during the thousand years between the Jewish War with Rome in A.D. 66 and the Crusades beginning in A.D. 1095. The fifth kingdom that supplants the fourth kingdom, Rome, is a spiritual kingdom; the kingdom of God, the Christian church. Regarding the arrival of this spiritual kingdom, Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of heaven is in your midst.” In other words, the kingdom of God, the rock that grew into a mountain, is the body of Christ representing Jesus and His people, the church. This is why while in the presence of his disciples, Jesus says that “the kingdom of heaven is in your midst.” The spiritual and therefore unobservable nature of the kingdom of God may also be implied in 1 Corinthians 15:50: “[F]lesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”
But doesn’t the shattering of the statue represent the fall of Rome? No! According to Daniel 2:44 all four parts of the statue signifying this succession of empires were all shattered simultaneously implying that they were all conquered at the same time. If one assumes that the shattering of the statue symbolizes the literal fall of the fourth kingdom, then one is compelled to concede that all the other kingdoms also fell at this time (Daniel 2:44). However, this is not what happened historically. Babylon fell in 539 BC. Medo-Persia fell in the fifth century B.C. The Greek Empire began its decline and eventual fall after the death of Alexander the Great in 323B.C. And Rome fell in A.D. 476. Thus the complete shattering of the statue symbolizing four different empires in Daniel 2:44 cannot signify the literal, earthly fall of any of these empires. Instead, the shattering of the statue represents the conquest of the territory once occupied by these empires, not their fall. (This conquest is by conversion in the case of Daniel 2:44.) This point is echoed in Daniel 2:40: “Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others.” Neither Rome nor Greece caused the Babylonian Empire to fall. Thus regardless of whether one interprets Greece or Rome as the fourth kingdom, the shattering of the statue in Daniel 2 cannot symbolize the fall of any empire in an earthly, military sense.
The following may seem unbelievable to those unfamiliar with Roman history. However, all information is taken from unbiased historical sources and is easily verifiable.
What are the Fourth and Fifth Kingdoms?
31“You looked, O King, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. 36“This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold. 39“After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay. 44“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.”
The 4th and 5th Kingdoms Explained! Daniel 2:31-45 Commentary: The Four Metals Represent Four Empires that were to Rule over Israel before the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Nebuchadnezzar saw a statue with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, a belly of bronze and legs of iron.1 The statue composed of four different metals represents the succession of empires that would rule over Israel before the establishment of the kingdom of God. Babylon is the head of gold; followed by Medo-Persia represented by the chest and arms of silver; then Greece, the belly and thighs of bronze; and the fourth kingdom is Rome, the legs of iron.
Many interpreters see the four kingdoms of Daniel 2 as Babylon, Media, Persia and ultimately Greece. I disagree. The Medo-Persian Empire should not be divided into two separate empires. The reason why Media and Persia should not be divided is stated best by Phillip Carrington; dean of divinity at the University of Bishops College in Lennoxville, Quebec: “There never was a Median world-empire.”2 The Medes and Persians were a cohesive unit that toppled the Babylonian Empire. The four kingdoms of Daniel 2 are the same four kingdoms represented as four beasts in Daniel 7. Interestingly, in Daniel 8 the prophet sees a vision of a two-horned ram defeated by a one-horned goat representing Greece. The angel Gabriel interprets this vision for Daniel. And in Daniel 8:20 says that the two horns of the ram represent “the kings of Media and Persia.” If the kings of Media and Persia are represented by the two horns of one animal in Daniel 8, why would Daniel represent the Medes and Persians as two different animals in Daniel 7?
Furthermore, Daniel 6 mentions the “laws of the Medes and Persians” as a single governing body.3 The fact that there is no separate Median Empire is also implicit in Daniel 5:28. Here Daniel tells Belshazzar, “Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”4 The unification of the Medes and Persians is also implied in Daniel 7:5. Here the second beast is depicted raised-up higher on one side which is suggestive to many conservatives that the higher side represents the Persian rise to dominance within the Medo-Persian Empire.5
Not only does the Bible lump the Medes and the Persians into one cohesive unit, historically at the time of the fall of Babylon the Medes and the Persians were not two separate empires. In 550 B.C. the Median throne passed to Cyrus, the head of the Persian royal family. Media’s existence as a separate, independent kingdom ended at this time. Thus Media ceased to be an independent nation approximately eleven years before the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C.6 Cyrus the Persian usurped the Median throne by overthrowing his own maternal grandfather. Thus Cyrus had both Persian and Median blood and even ruled his empire from Ecbatana, the capital of Media.7 Thus labeling the second empire as Media is historically and Biblically inaccurate.
The 4th and 5th Kingdoms Explained! Daniel 2:31-45 Commentary: Earth can also be translated Land.
In v. 39 each empire is said to “rule over the whole earth.” The word translated earth in this verse can also be translated land. This would have been a more accurate translation since each empire did not rule over the entire world. This fact would have been well known to Daniel. Having served in the Babylon court, Daniel would have been well aware of the boundaries of this empire. Since all four empires of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream ruled over Israel before Jesus’ inauguration of the kingdom of God in the first century A.D., Daniel’s use of earth or land in this verse appears to denote the land of Israel.
This is the same symbolism found in the Book of Revelation where earth also represents Israel and sea, the Gentile nations. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations. The similarities in symbolism between both books are not surprising in light of the fact the heavenly scroll sealed in Daniel 12:4 is later opened in Revelation 5 and 6. In other words, both books seem to have received their information from the same heavenly scroll.
The 4th and 5th Kingdoms Explained! Daniel 2:31-45 Commentary: The Fourth Kingdom is Rome.
The feet of the statue are partly iron and partly baked clay; in vs. 41-43, Daniel interprets the meaning of the iron and clay symbolism. The prophet indicates that the iron and clay signify the fact that the fourth empire will be a divided kingdom. Comprised of a mixture of people, this kingdom will not remain united in the same way that iron does not mix with clay.8 The kingdom described in these verses is Rome.
As stated above, earth represents Israel. Thus the clay or earth portion of the feet of this statue is Israel. The fact that the final kingdom is a mixture of clay or earth and iron points to a blending of clay (Israel) and iron (Rome) at the time of the end. As a consequence of the Maccabean Wars Israel fought and gained sovereignty from Greece for a few brief years prior to assimilating into the Roman Empire. This historical fact appears to be implied by this mixture of earth (Israel) and iron (Rome) at the time of the end. Furthermore, along similar lines the fact that the iron and the clay or earth do not mix seems to represent the fact that Israel, the earth or clay, revolted against Rome, the iron part, in A.D. 66 during the Jewish War. Then in the middle of this war (A.D. 68-69), during the year of the four Caesars, Rome fell into civil war.
In Daniel 2:40 the fourth kingdom, Rome, is said to crush and shatter the previous empires into pieces: “Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others.” To crush in this vision means to conquer. The fact that Rome is said to “crush” and “shatter” the previous empires was fulfilled in the fact that Rome broke-off and conquered large swaths of the previous three empire’s territory. However, in A.D. 68-69 Rome fell into disunity and civil war and also became a fractured and “shattered” kingdom. With revolts in Gaul and Israel and a three-way civil war within, Rome no longer in peace and unity became something of a shattered empire.
As explained in more detail later in this commentary, it was at this time that the beast suffered a fatal wound in Revelation 13:3, died and was cast into the Abyss. Daniel 7:11 reads, “I kept looking until the [fourth] beast [Rome] was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.” The blazing fire in which the fourth beast, Rome, was cast into is the fiery pit called the Abyss. However, Rome did not stay dead, it later rose from the Abyss according to Revelation 9:2; 9:11; 11:7; and 17:8. The fact that the fourth beast of Daniel 7 representing Rome rose out of the Abyss is resurrection imagery pointing to the fact that as also predicted in Revelation 13:3 the beast’s fatal wound had been healed. The rising of the beast out of the Abyss and the healing of the fatal wound is fulfilled in the rise of Vespasian and the Flavian Dynasty. Shortly after seizing the emperor’s throne, Vespasian ended the civil war within and crushed the revolt in Israel thereby restoring the peace and unity of Rome. Representing this great accomplishment, coins were minted during Vespasian’s reign depicting him reaching out his hand to help the Goddess Roma back to her feet. The implications of the imagery on this coin is that Rome had temporarily “fallen” in A.D. 68 to 69 between the death of Nero and the rise of the Flavians. Perhaps the shattering of the feet of the statue represents this seemingly fractured state or temporary collapse of the Roman Empire in A.D. 68-69.9 However, because the beast’s wound had been healed, the complete shattering of the statue is not fully accomplished until the full arrival of the fifth kingdom, the kingdom of God, in the following year—A.D. 70. Regardless of whether or not the above interpretation is true, the fact that the beast representing Rome does not stay dead in Revelation 13 seems to me to imply that the geopolitical fall of Rome is not predicted in Daniel 2 or the rest of the Bible.
The 4th and 5th Kingdoms Explained! Daniel 2:31-45 Commentary: The Fifth Kingdom is the Kingdom of God, the Church.
The last kingdom is very different from the previous four. The fact that according to v. 44 this kingdom “will never be destroyed” implies that it is a spiritual kingdom. Throughout His ministry, Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven had arrived. As the Jewish Messiah, Jesus identified Himself as a king but not a king of this world. He had come from heaven and His kingdom was a spiritual or heavenly one: “My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).” The kingdom that Jesus referred to in John 18:36 is the same kingdom He discussed over and over throughout His ministry—the kingdom of heaven also called the kingdom of God. This is the same kingdom foreseen in Daniel 2 as the rock that grew into a mountain. Confirming the spiritual and non-earthly nature of this kingdom, the kingdom of God, 1 Corinthians 15:50 reads, “I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” This spiritual or heavenly kingdom immediately infiltrated pagan Rome. And one by one Romans began converting to Christianity and the kingdom of God spread like yeast through dough just as Jesus predicted in Matthew 13:31-33. Then in the beginning of the fourth century, Rome crowned its first Christian emperor. Shortly thereafter Christianity became the official state religion of Rome, and this spiritual kingdom called the kingdom of God had grown into a giant mountain or kingdom.
In Matthew 21:43-45, Jesus is recorded to have said, ‘“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’ When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them.” This is a direct reference to Daniel 2. Here Jesus identifies himself as the rock cut, but not by human hands and the fifth kingdom as the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven in Daniel 2:44-45. The rock in Daniel 2:45 is said to have been cut out of a mountain. Presumably composed of the clay that mixed poorly with the feet of the statue, this mountain is a kingdom: the earthly kingdom of Israel. However, this mountain kingdom is also the kingdom of heaven which came from heaven to earth with Jesus. Jesus’ heavenly origin is made explicit in John 3:13. Here Jesus says, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.”
After Jesus’ death, Jesus needed someone to lead and teach His people. Jesus told Simon to do this. Adopting the symbolism of Daniel 2:34-35, Jesus gave Simon the name Peter, a name meaning rock, because it was Peter who would build the Christian church: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Matthew 16:17-18).” Jesus’ teachings spread. And the rock grew into a mountain that filled the land. As stated in Daniel 2:44-45, this mountain is a kingdom. Interestingly, throughout the Gospels Jesus referred to His church as the kingdom of God. The church is also called a kingdom or nation in 1 Peter 2:9 and Matthew 21:43. (Matthew 21:43 reads, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people [nation] who will produce its fruit.” People should actually be translated nation.) Therefore, the mountain in Daniel 2:44-45 is a metaphor for the church, the kingdom of God.
Luke 20:17-18 is similar to Matthew 21:43-44 and further solidifies the fact that the mountain of Daniel 2:34-35 is the church: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’[.] Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed (Luke 20:17-18).” As is the case in Matthew 21:43-44 quoted above, Luke 20:17-18 also directly points to Daniel 2. However, in Luke 20:17-18 the stone that breaks the statue in Daniel 2 is identified as a cornerstone. The cornerstone is the first stone to be set in place in the construction of a building’s foundation. The building in which Jesus identifies himself as the cornerstone in Luke 20:17-18 is the Christian church which is said to be a temple in 2 Corinthians 6:16: “For we [the church] are the temple of the living God.” When the stone which breaks the feet of the statue and then grows into a mountain in Daniel 2:34-35 is likened to a cornerstone, the first stone set in the construction of a building, in Luke 20:17-18 this fact echoes the idea that the mountain that replaces the statue in Daniel 2 is the Christian church also known as the Temple of God or the kingdom of God throughout the New Testament.
The 4th and 5th Kingdoms Explained! Daniel 2:31-45 Commentary: The Clay Portion of the Statue Represents Israel as Strongly Implied by Matthew 21:43-45.
The next major point implied in a side-by-side comparison of Daniel 2 and Matthew 21:43-45 is the idea that the clay portion of the statue appears almost certainly to represent earthly Israel. Let us look again at Matthew 21:43-45: ‘“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’ When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them.” Notice that in Matthew 21:43-45 Jesus was talking to the chief priests and the Pharisees when He said that the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to a people who would “produce its fruit.” This change appears to occur at the time in which the stone falls and crushes the kingdom of the chief priests and Pharisees in v. 24. This change in which the kingdom would transition between the old covenant Jews and the kingdom of God, the Christian church referred to in Matthew 21:43-45, is a direct allusion to the rock shattering the feet of the statute in Daniel 2:34: “While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them.” Notice that according to Daniel 2:34 the feet hit by the rock are composed of both iron and clay. According to Matthew 21:43-45 Jesus says that the rock would strike Israel since after saying that the rock would shatter anything it falls on the Pharisees “knew he was talking about them (Matthew 21:45).” The fact that the Pharisees knew that Jesus was saying that the rock would strike them, of course, implies that the rock would strike Israel or the Jews. Given the fact that all the metal of the statues represent the succession of four Gentile empires that ruled over Israel before the establishment of the kingdom of God, this implies that the clay portion of the feet must represent earthly Israel since the metal portion represents Gentile Rome.
Though it is never stated that this statue has ten toes–it likely did. In Daniel 2:42 these toes are said to be composed partly of iron and partly, clay or earth: “As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle (Daniel 2:42).” Iron like all the metals in the statue I believe represents Gentile empires that had conquered Israel, the earth or clay. Thus the fact that the toes are said to be a mixture of both iron and clay points to a Gentile (metal) and Israelite (earth) significance to these ten toes.
The clay portion of the ten toes may represent the lost ten tribes of Israel. In Matthew 15:24 Jesus says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Jesus clarifies who these lost sheep are in Matthew 10:5-6: “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.’” Notice that Jesus refers to the lost sheep of Israel as just the inhabitants of Israel, not those scattered throughout the nations by the Assyrians in the eighth century B.C. Furthermore, in Isaiah 64:8 and Jeremiah 18:6 the people of Israel are symbolized by clay like the clay mixed with iron in Daniel 2. Isaiah 64:8 reads, “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Jeremiah 18:6 echoes Isaiah 64:8: ‘“Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.”10
Daniel 2:43 says that the iron (Gentile Rome) would not mix with the clay (Israel) and thus the people would not remain united: “And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.” This prophecy in which the iron would not remain united with the clay was fulfilled in A.D. 66 when Israel revolted against Rome.11
But how was the clay representing Israel ever united with the iron representing Rome? I believe that this unification of Israel and Rome signified by the mixing of iron and clay is also symbolized in Revelation 17. The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of Daniel 2:43 reads, “As you saw the iron mixed with clay, so will they mix with one another in marriage,[by human seed] but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.” Daniel 2:43 seems to point to the adulterous affair between Jerusalem and Rome suggested in Revelation 17. Here the Whore of Babylon representing Jerusalem is depicted siting on the beast which is Rome. This sexually suggestive symbolism appears to portray Jerusalem in the act of adultery with Rome which is why she is called the Whore of Babylon. Babylon was the Jews’ nickname for Rome dating as far back as the first-century B.C. as stated plainly in 1QpHab of the Dead Sea Scrolls. 1 Corinthians 6:16 reads, “[T]he one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her[.] For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” This figurative, illicit sexual union between Jerusalem and Rome which caused the two cities to become one flesh as in a marriage between husband and wife appears to also be symbolized in Daniel 2:43 as iron and clay mixing together as in marriage: “As you saw the iron [Rome] mixed with clay [Israel/Jerusalem], so will they mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.” See the preterist commentary on Revelation 17.
The fact that the clay of the statue represents Israel is also implied by the fact that earth or clay is essentially what stones and mountains are made of like the stone and mountain that crushed the metal statue in v. 34. Earth or clay is essentially pulverized rock. And rocks are essentially hardened earth. As stated above, the rock that came from heaven is Jesus, a Jew. Thus if this interpretation is true, it is not surprising that a rock, hardened earth, which is Jesus Christ, a Jew, shattered the metal or Gentile statue.
What about the mountain? Does the mountain also represent the Jews and/or Israel? Yes. One of the central tenets of the New Testament is that the kingdom of God, the Christian Church, is the new Israel: “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God (Galatians 6:15-16).” Here one can see that according to Galatians 6:15-16, the Christian church is “the Israel of God.” Galatians 3:9 also indicates that the Church is the new Israel: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Romans 2:28-29 again conveys this idea: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.” The fact that the Church is the new Israel is similarly illustrated in Romans 11. Here Christians are grafted into an olive tree representing Israel while many of the old branches representing unbelieving Jews are removed from the tree. The above vs. are just a small sample of those that teach that the Christian church, the kingdom of God, is the New Israel. Here one can see that the mountain that shatters the metal statue is this new Israel, the Christian Church also known as the kingdom of God.
Just like the seven heads of the beast of Revelation 17:9-10 represent both seven kings as well as seven hills, I believe that the ten toes of the statue also have dual meaning. I believe the clay component of these ten toes representing the ten lost tribes of Israel are also the ten horns mentioned in Revelation 17:12 who had not yet received their kingdom at the time in which John composed his vision. I believe the clay portion of these ten toes who did not remain united with the iron in Daniel 2:43 also represents the ten Zealot leaders who revolted against Rome at the start of the Jewish revolt. These ten Zealot leaders are listed by Josephus in The Wars of the Jews:
But as to those who had pursued after Cestius, when they were returned back to Jerusalem, they overbore some of those that favored the Romans by violence, and some them persuaded [by en-treaties] to join with them, and got together in great numbers in the temple, and appointed a great many generals for the war. Joseph also, the son of Gorion, and Ananus the high priest, were chosen as governors of all affairs within the city[. . . .] They also chose other generals for Idumea; Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined Niger, the then governor of Idumea, who was of a family that belonged to Perea, beyond Jordan, and was thence called the Peraite, that he should be obedient to those fore-named commanders. Nor did they neglect the care of other parts of the country; but Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was Manasseh to Perea, and John, the Esscue, to the toparchy of Thamna; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus. But John, the son of Matthias, was made governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene; as was Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees. Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command [emphasis mine].12
The fact that the clay portion of the ten toes represents Israel and its Zealot leaders makes sense of the fact that the iron or Roman component of this statue does not mix with the clay or Israelite portion in Daniel 2:40-43 as Israel under the leadership of these ten men revolted against Rome in A.D. 66.
Above we addressed the symbolism of the mountain, rock, clay and earth and how these symbols all point to Israel and the new Israel of God. We also pointed out in alignment with this idea the fact that the clay portion of the ten toes of Daniel 2 represents the lost ten tribes of Israel as well as the ten Zealot leaders/governors. That having been said, let us now focus on the iron component of these ten toes. The iron or Gentile Roman portion of the ten toes also seems to signify the ten horns. In Daniel 7, the fourth beast, also representing Rome, has ten horns. Daniel 7:24 says that these ten horns are ten kings who will arise out of the fourth kingdom: “The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this [fourth] kingdom.” The fact that these ten toes appear to signify the ten horns of Daniel 7 seems to be implied in Daniel 2:44. In Daniel 2:40-43 Daniel mentions the fourth kingdom with its toes that were a mixture of iron and clay. Then in the following verse, Daniel says, “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people (Daniel 2:44).” When Daniel 2:44 mentions “the time of those kings” when referring to the time in which the rock strikes the statue on the ten toes, it seems to me that Daniel 2:44 is implying that the iron portion of these ten toes are also ten kings. This interpretation appears to be confirmed by Roman history.
As is explained in Daniel 7: A Preterist Commentary, I believe that iron component of these ten horns (or ten toes) are the first ten Caesars ending in the tenth, Caesar Vespasian. The fact that the statue has ten toes at the time in which it is completely shattered by the stone from heaven representing the kingdom of heaven suggests that the kingdom of God began to take firm hold during the reign of the tenth Caesar, Vespasian.13 It was during Vespasian’s reign (A.D. 69 to A.D. 79) that the Jewish War ended and the customs of the Law were fulfilled as is evidenced by the fact that much of the Law of Moses could no longer be performed after the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. This event vindicated Christian prophecy and the Christian faith as a whole. And as is suggested in this chapter, the kingdom of God began to grow like the rock from heaven that grew into a mountain in Daniel 2:34-35. Thus there appears to be both a Jewish and Roman component to the ten toes or ten horns as is implied by the fact that the ten toes are said to be a mixture of iron and clay in v. 41: “Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron [emphasis mine.]” The iron component of the ten toes or ten horns represents the ten Caesars mentioned in detail in Daniel 7 while the clay portion of these ten toes or ten horns also referred to in Revelation 17:12 refers to the ten Zealot leaders.
In Luke 17:20-21 Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of heaven is in your midst.” In other words, the kingdom of heaven, the rock that grew into a mountain, is the body of Christ representing Jesus and His people, the saints. This is why while in the presence of His disciples and followers, Jesus says that “the kingdom of heaven is in your midst.” The spiritual and therefore unobservable nature of the kingdom of God is also implicit in 1 Corinthians 15:50: “[F]lesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.”
The conquest and spread of this spiritual kingdom (Christianity, the kingdom of God, and the new covenant) after the end of the age is predicted in Daniel 7:26-27:
‘But the court will sit, and his power [the beast representing Rome] will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’
The conquest of Christianity predicted in Daniel 7:26-27 is also symbolized in Daniel 2:44-45:
In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.
“[T]he kingdom that will never be destroyed” in Daniel 2:44 is the kingdom of God, the Christian Church which is the new covenant. In the above verses, this kingdom is said to “crush” or conquer all the previous four empires. As Christianity spread throughout the previous four empires, the kingdom of the world had been gradually conquered by the saints as more and more people came to submit to the heavenly kingship of Christ thereby becoming part of the kingdom of heaven, the Christian Church.
But how is it that the church could be said to have dominion over secular Rome in A.D. 70 before its full conversion? 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 indicates that the Christian saints would judge the world and even angels: “Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels?” Echoing 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 Jesus says the following to the church at Thyatira in Revelation 2:26-27: “To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star.” How is it that the meek and lowly saints inherited dominion over the earth (Matthew 5:5)? I believe the answer is hinted at in Daniel 4:26: “The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules [emphasis mine].” Of course God rules the world (Daniel 4:17) from His throne in heaven (Psalm 11:4; 1 Kings 22:19; Isaiah 6:1; 63:15; Matthew 5:34; 23:22). Similarly Jesus also rules in heaven at the right hand of the Father (John 18:36, Acts 7:56, Hebrews 8:1, Revelation 3:21). Daniel 4:17 explicitly teaches that heaven rules over the earth. Thus just as God and His Son rule the world from heavenly thrones, the saints having received dominion and authority from Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:2-3, Revelation 2:26-27) are promised that they shall also rule when they enter heaven at the resurrection in A.D. 70 and thereafter (Revelation 14:3; 21:24-27). See 1 Corinthians 15:50-54 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: Preterism, the Rapture and the Resurrection. Thus the saints literally and spiritually conquer and exercise their dominion over the earth including secular Rome through the authority they receive while in heaven after the resurrection of the dead in A.D. 70.
Thus because the dominion of the saints is a spiritual or heavenly dominion and the Christian church on earth is a spiritual or heavenly kingdom, not a purely earthly or secular one like the previous four kingdoms, the shattering of the statue which signifies the conquest of these empires cannot represent the literal fall of any of these empires in the same way that Medo-Persia supplanted Babylon which was then later defeated by Greece and Greece, by Rome. If the shattering of this statue represents the literal fall of these four empires in an earthly sense, this interpretation would imply that the kingdom of God is a physical kingdom like Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece or Rome that could be observed in violation of Luke 17:20-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:50. Would one expect a secular empire to fall in a mundane or military sense upon the arrival of a spiritual one? The kingdom of God on earth and in heaven is not an earthly or fleshly kingdom. Therefore the conquest of these previous empires is not to be understood as a literal, physical military conquest. In other words, the shattering of the statue does not predict the actual fall of the Roman Empire. This interpretation is corroborated by the fact that the Roman Empire did not actually fall until A.D. 476.
Initially the rise and fall of empires was signified by the gradual transition of metals from the head of the statue to its feet. However, upon the arrival of the kingdom of God the entire statue is shattered. Not only is the entire statue shattered at the arrival of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of God is symbolized by rock or earth rather than metals. I believe the fact that Daniel 2 marks the establishment of the fifth kingdom, the kingdom of God, with unique imagery implies that the kingdom of God is somehow different from the previous four earthly empires. Perhaps the shattering imagery in addition to the fact that the fifth kingdom was composed of a nonmetallic material implies that the arrival of this kingdom is somehow different from the rise of the Babylonians, the Medo-Persians, the Greeks and the Romans?
As explained above, the fifth kingdom is certainly unlike any of the previous four empires because it was spiritual in nature, comprised of a nonmetallic substance and conquered the previous four empires simultaneously by shattering them all at once rather than just transitioning into a new part of the original statue. Perhaps these differences imply that the rise of this kingdom was different from the way in which the previous four empires conquered their predecessors? I believe that the shattering or conquest of the fourth kingdom, Rome, (as well as the three kingdoms before it) was fulfilled in the heavenly authority acquired by the saints at the resurrection in A.D. 70. Interestingly this heavenly authority also eventually permeated the earth as well by way of the gradual conversion of the people of the world to the kingdom of heaven by submitting to the heavenly authority of Christ. Thus the conquest of the four components of the statue was spiritual in nature as the kingdom of heaven is spiritual in nature.
In Matthew 13:33 Jesus likens the infiltration and conquest of these four kingdoms by Christianity, the kingdom of God, to yeast spreading through dough: “He spoke another parable to them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.’” The dough is the kingdoms of the world. The spread of the leaven represents the spread of Christianity throughout the world. Rome, Greece, Medo-Persia and Babylon were also ultimately conquered spiritually by the infiltration of Christianity, the kingdom of God, throughout these earthly empires. Because the kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom; not a physical, earthly kingdom; this conquest was a spiritual conquest, not a military one. Thus the shattering of the fourth kingdom together with all the previous three empires before it in Daniel 2:44 cannot be understood to signify their literal, geo-political fall.
According to Daniel 2:44 all four parts of the statue signifying this succession of empires were all shattered simultaneously: “While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer [emphasis mine].” (Daniel 2:34-35) The shattering of this entire statue represents conquest or dominion. It is important to emphasize that it does not represent the earthly fall of an empire or kingdom. There is a difference between conquest and the fall of an empire. For example, it is possible for a kingdom to conquer part of a neighboring empire’s territory and yet still not cause the fall of this empire. This is what is meant when the fourth kingdom is said to shatter the other empires in Daniel 2:40: “Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others [emphasis mine].” If crushing or shattering symbolizes the fall of an empire, than Daniel 2:40 suggests that Rome, the fourth kingdom, caused all three previous empires to fall. Of course Rome did not cause the head of gold, Babylon, to fall in 539 B.C. Rome also had no part in the fall of the Medo-Persian Empire in the fifth century B.C. Thus it is clear that this crushing or shattering symbolism cannot represent the fall of a kingdom. Rather it specifically denotes the conquest of territory once ruled by those empires. Of course, Rome conquered much of the territory once held by its three predecessors.
The fact that the shattering of the components of the statue does not denote the fall of any of these empires is again confirmed by Daniel 7:11-12: “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)” Daniel 7:11-12 explicitly states that at the arrival of the kingdom of God that the first three empires continued to exist at least in a geographical sense but that their political dominion had already been removed.14 The fact that these three empires had already lost their political dominion upon the institution of the kingdom of God is another way of saying that their empires had already fallen prior to the end of the age—a fact confirmed historically by the fact that Babylon fell in 539 BC.; Medo-Persia, in the fifth century B.C.; and Greece began its decline and eventual fall at the death of Alexander the Great in 323B.C. Thus when the fourth empire is said to shatter the previous three empires in Daniel 2:40, this cannot mean that the fourth kingdom caused the fall of all the first three empires.
Having explained how the shattering of the statue does not represent the earthly fall of an empire, this means that the shattering of the statue in Daniel 2:34-35 also does not and cannot symbolize the geo-political fall of the Roman Empire as is commonly supposed. As stated above, if one assumes that the shattering of the statue in vs. 34-35 symbolizes the earthly political or economic fall of the fourth kingdom, then one is compelled to concede that all the other kingdoms also fell in a political and economic sense at this time (Daniel 2:44). However, as stated above this is not what happened historically. Each empire represented by the different metal components of the statue fell at different times. Thus the complete shattering of the statue symbolizing four different empires in Daniel 2:44 cannot signify the literal, earthly fall of any of these empires. Instead, the shattering of the statue represents the spiritual conquest of these empires by the mountain of v. 35 which as stated above is a spiritual kingdom, the kingdom of God. If the fifth kingdom, the mountain of v. 35, is a spiritual kingdom, would not one expect it to conquer the previous empires in a spiritual sense? Would one expect a spiritual kingdom to conquer an earthly one in a physical way? Thus the political and economic fall of Rome in A.D. 476 is not foretold in Daniel 2, rather the total shattering of the statue symbolizes the spiritual conquest of the saints in heaven and on earth in A.D. 70 and thereafter.
In light of Daniel 2:40; 44; and 7:11-12 it is now clear that the shattering or crushing symbolism of Daniel 2 denotes the conquest of the land once occupied by these empires or at least significant portions of this territory, not the mundane, political fall of these empires. As stated above, the people of God where first given dominion over the whole world when they entering heaven in A.D. 70. And perhaps as a consequence or reflection of this heavenly dominion, Christianity spread like wild fire as it spiritually conquered the lands once occupied by Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome as this faith spread throughout the territories of these previous empires like yeast through dough. Therefore, as is made clear in Daniel 2:40; 44 and 7:1-12 because the shattering of the statue cannot symbolize the fall of any empire even in an earthly sense, the fact that the Roman Empire fell in A.D. 476 cannot be used as evidence against the fourth kingdom being Rome.
Thus when the rock shattered the statue in Daniel 2:34, this event signified the beginning of the spiritual conquest of the kingdom of God which is Christianity. Because the fifth kingdom, the kingdom of God, is a spiritual kingdom (Luke 17:20-21), the conquest of the kingdom of God (Christianity) throughout the four earthly empires was a spiritual conquest by way of heavenly dominion and gradual conversion. It does not appear to me to be a coincidence that the feet of the statue was hit by a rock when it presumably had ten toes. If these ten toes are the ten horns of Daniel 7, then the rock hit the statue during the reign of the tenth Caesar, Vespasian. It was during Vespasian’s reign that the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, an event that marked the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of the New Covenant, Christianity. The destruction of the Temple during the reign of Vespasian, the tenth toe and tenth horn, made possible a process that ultimately culminated in the Christianization of Israel and the Roman world. Though it is well-known that after the Jewish War the Roman Empire grew to become overwhelmingly Christian, it is often forgotten that during the thousand years between the Jewish War and the Crusades, Israel, and especially Jerusalem, did as well. Thus the shattering of the statue seems to have occurred during the reign of the tenth Caesar and tenth toe, Vespasian. This shattering of the four kingdoms of this statue represents the true start of the spiritual conquest of Christianity throughout Israel and the pagan world. It was the destruction of the Temple during the reign of the tenth Caesar that set in motion the ultimate conquest of Christianity throughout Israel and Rome. This spiritual conquest of Christianity by way of gradual conversion is symbolized by the rock from heaven that grew into a mountain in Daniel 2:34-35.
The next end time prophecy is found in Daniel 7. Here Daniel is given a glimpse of the beast of Revelation. In chapter 7, Daniel is shown a vision of the distant future; and like the dream described above, Daniel’s predictions again unfold with mysterious accuracy.
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
The 4th and 5th Kingdoms Explained! Daniel 2:31-45 Commentary: Conclusion
In the above commentary on Daniel 2:31-45, the historical fulfillment of Daniel 2:31-45 was explained and the fourth and fifth kingdoms were identified.
- The statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream may be the same statue mentioned in Daniel 3 with some changes made to the materials used in the statue.
- Phillip Carrington, The Meaning of Revelation, (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2007), 33.
- John S. Evans, The Four Kingdoms of Daniel: A Defense of the “Roman” Sequence with AD 70 Fulfillment, (USA: Xulon Press, 2004), 73.
- Ibid., 74.
- Ibid., 73.
- Ibid., 72.
- John S. Evans, The Prophecies of Daniel 2, (USA: Xulon Press, 2008), 38.
- Composed of the same basic material as the rock and mountain, the clay seems to represent the saints, the Israel of God.
- Christ is shown to ultimately be responsible for the temporary fall of Rome in Revelation 16:10-11 and Daniel 7:9-11. In Revelation 16:10-11 the beast’s kingdom is cast into darkness. This darkness is the outer darkness of the fiery Abyss mentioned in Daniel 7:9-11.
- John S. Evans, The Prophecies of Daniel 2, (USA: Xulon Press, 2008), 111.
- John S. Evans, The Prophecies of Daniel 2, (USA: Xulon Press, 2008), 110-111; 114-115.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 2.20.3-4.
- Duncan W. McKenzie, Ph.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination Volume 1: Daniel and 2 Thessalonians (USA: Xulon Press, 2009), 84.
- The fact that the three beasts lose their dominion yet continue to exist until the time of the fourth beast is another way of saying that the government and dominion of these empires ceased to exist but that their people remained. In other words, when Medo-Persia conquered Babylon, the people of Babylon were under the political dominion of the Medo-Persians and the territory of the Babylonian Empire converted into being identified as Medo-Persian. Then when Greece conquered the Medo-Persian Empire, this territory transferred to Greek rule and was identified as Greek. (Jessie E. Mills, Jr., Daniel Fulfilled Prophecy, (Bradford, PA: International Preterist Association, Inc., 2003), 91-92).