In the previous two weeks we have discussed the dating of the book of Revelation based on the internal evidence. As we noted last week, the angelic narrator provides textual cues as to the dating of the book, and three of those cues are found in Revelation 17: the placement of the “scarlet coloured beast” of Revelation 17 chronologically between the red dragon of Revelation 12 and the sea beast of Revelation 13; the description of the beast which “was, and is not; and shall ascend,” and the placement of the vision between the fifth and seventh king of the empire (Revelation 17:10). John’s narrator was clearly providing cues to the dating of the book, and was using Danielic imagery to do it. When understanding Revelation 17 through the lens of Daniel 2, there are only three possible periods during which Revelation could have been written—during the Legs, during the Feet, or during the Toes of the Statue. Last week we ruled out the period of the Toes because the vision takes place when the ten Toes or ten Kings are yet future, and “have received no kingdom as yet” (Revelation 17:12). This week, we will rule out the period of the Feet altogether.
One of the most perplexing problems in eschatology is the placement of the arrival of the Stone in the timeline of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue. Many an author could be cited who takes the Stone to signify Jesus’ birth during the Roman Empire. Many others could be cited who take the Stone to signify Jesus’ return in glory. Both interpretations carry with them some logical inconsistencies.
Does the First Strike of the Stone Refer to Jesus’ First Advent?
The Stone, as Daniel informs us, was to strike the Feet of the Statue:
“Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.” (Daniel 2:34).
But Jesus did not smite the Roman empire at His incarnation. The Roman empire actually smote Him, and then smote His apostles and disciples after Him. By all accounts, Jesus was entirely passive toward the Roman Empire, and His apostles were, too. Jesus had very little to say of the Roman power except that we ought to render to Cæsar his due (Luke 20:25). After the Roman power struck Jesus, Paul was then judged and imprisoned by it (Acts 25:10, 28:19-31). James was killed by it (Acts 12:2) and John was imprisoned by it (Revelation 1:9). Neither Jesus’ incarnation, nor His earthly ministry, nor the ministry of His apostles can be construed as a judgment against the Fourth Empire. Jesus’ entire earthly ministry, and most of the ministry of His apostles, by all outward appearances, took place during the period of the Iron Legs. Jesus’ earthly ministry and the first decades of the Church can therefore hardly be construed as the impact of the Stone.
Nevertheless, Jesus is truly a Stone (Mark 12:10), and He really was born under Roman rule, and therefore we can understand why—although we do not agree with them—some visual representations of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream have the Stone striking and breaking both the Feet and the Legs simultaneously, as shown below:
But that is not what Nebuchadnezzar saw.
Does the First Strike of the Stone Refer to Jesus’ Second Advent?
On the other hand, if Daniel 2:34 is to signify Jesus’ return in glory when He is to “smite the nations” (Revelation 19:15), then the Stone of Daniel 2 ought to have struck the statue in the Toes, for by the time of His return, the Toes and Horns have already manifested, and the Beast has already arisen among them: “the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse” (Revelation 19:19). If Jesus’ future return in glory is represented by the strike of the Stone, we can thus also understand—although we do not agree with them—why some visual interpretations of the statue have only the Toes made of Iron & Clay, as shown below:
But that is not what Nebuchadnezzar saw.
Daniel 2:34 does not have the Stone striking the image in the Legs and breaking the Legs, and therefore it does not refer to Jesus’ arrival. Daniel 2:34 does not have the Stone striking the Image in the Toes and breaking the Toes, and therefore it does not refer to Jesus’ return. Rather, Daniel 2:34 has the Stone striking the image in the Feet of Iron & Clay, and breaking them.
The particular chronology of the three phases of the Fourth Empire in Daniel 2—Legs, Feet and Toes—is important to us because of how Daniel, Jesus and John together refer to it. The way they refer to it helps us establish the dating of the vision of Revelation. The vision was provided to John because “the time is at hand” (Revelation 1:3), and thus, an eschatologically significant transition was about to occur. What was that eschatologically significant transition?
As we shall demonstrate, John received his vision because the period of the Iron & Clay Feet was about to begin, and thus he must have been writing in the period of the Iron Legs. The “time” that was “at hand” was the transition from Legs to Feet, and with the Feet would come one of the most eagerly anticipated events in all of Danielic eschatology: the transfer of the kingdom.
Daniel’s Testimony of the Transfer of the Kingdom
As Daniel testifies, the transition from Legs to Feet occurs when “they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men” (Daniel 2:43). Significantly, when explaining the strike of the Stone on the Feet, Daniel relates the period of the Feet to the time when God will “set up a kingdom” that “shall not be left to other people.” That event would occur “in the days of these kings”:
“And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” (Daniel 2:43-44)
The kingdom would be set up in the period of the Iron & Clay Feet. When taken together with Daniel 7, the Stone striking the Feet signifies that the God of Heaven would set up a kingdom “in the days of those kings” (Daniel 2:44). In those days, “the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom” (Daniel 7:18), and “the kingdom shall not be left to other people” (Daniel 2:44). The kingdom was to be transferred from one people to the saints “in the days of those kings” and “those kings” were of the Iron & Clay period, and the kingdom would never be transferred again. The language is that of a kingdom transfer, and a kingdom transfer is exactly what Jesus said was right around the corner. But in Jesus’ day, the transfer had not yet occurred.
Jesus’ Testimony of the Transfer of the Kingdom
John the Baptist had come to deliver the message that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, and Jesus took up the message after him. As we noted in The Fifth Empire, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” literally means “The kingdom of heaven draweth nigh” or “The kingdom of heaven approacheth.”
On one occasion, Jesus spoke of that kingdom in terms of a husbandman’s vineyard. In the parable, the current tenants of the vineyard caught the husbandman’s son, “cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him” (Matthew 21:33-39). Jesus asked the Jews what the lord of the vineyard would therefore do to them when he “cometh,” and they answered,
“He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.” (Matthew 21:41).
Jesus affirmed their interpretation and responded,
“Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matthew 21:42-43)
The Pharisees correctly perceived that He had spoken of them (Matthew 21:45).
On another occasion, and using a similar parable, Jesus spoke of a king preparing a wedding banquet for his son. Instead of planning for the wedding, those who were invited “made light of it,” abused his servants, “entreated them spitefully, and slew them” (Matthew 22:2-6). How was the king to respond to such disrespect?
“[W]hen the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” (Matthew 22:7)
As the parable concludes, the invitation is extended to others and the original guests are rejected (Matthew 22:8-14).
In yet another parable about the Kingdom, Jesus speaks of taking a possession away from an unfruitful servant and giving it to the fruitful one, for the unfruitful servants had said, “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). What was the nobleman to do with such an insolent citizenry?
“But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” (Luke 19:27)
At another time, Jesus addressed the scribes and pharisees, commanding them to “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers” (Matthew 23:32), which is a term describing the accrual of sins for a day of judgment (Genesis 15:16, Romans 2:5). He told them they would persecute, scourge and crucify the prophets who He Himself would send them (Matthew 23:34), so that the prophecy would be fulfilled, and the end result would be that their house would be desolated in accordance with Leviticus 26:31:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” (Matthew 23:37-38).
Natural questions that might arise from these parables are:
“When did the Lord of the Vineyard miserably destroy those wicked men?”
“When did the King destroy those murderers and burn up their city?”
“When did the Nobleman slay those who would not receive Him as king?”
“When was their house desolated?”
“When was the Kingdom taken away from the Jews and given to another nation?”
Surely none of these things had happened in Jesus’ earthly lifetime, and none of them happened in the three decades immediately following His death and ascension. The answer to all the questions is 70 A.D.. Jesus would wait until 70 A.D. for them to “fill up the measure of their fathers,” then He would burn their city and destroy “those wicked men” who “would not that I should reign over them,” and it is then that He would “desolate their house.” It was in the destruction of Jerusalem that the kingdom was taken away, the house was left to them desolate, the vineyard was taken away from the Jews and given to another nation. As Jesus had warned: “when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh” (Luke 21:20). Within one generation, the time would come when the kingdom would be taken away, and that time would be visibly apparent to anyone who was paying attention. The time of the kingdom transfer was fast approaching, a transfer that Daniel had long ago foreseen.
Consistent with Daniel, Jesus places these events in the period of the Iron & Clay of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue. Note that in the context of these parables, Jesus identifies Himself as the Stone, and then uses the imagery of Daniel 2:34-35 to explain when these things would occur. They would occur during the period of the Iron & Clay Feet, and that period was not far off:
“Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” (Matthew 21:42-44)
That last sentence is nothing other than a reference to Daniel 2:34-35, the impact of “the stone that smote the image” (Daniel 2:35). Nowhere else but in Daniel 2 is such imagery found of a stone breaking something upon upon impact, and then grinding it to dust. It is in the first strike of the Stone that the Feet of Iron & Clay are broken (Daniel 2:34), and in the second strike that the entire statue—Iron, Clay, Brass, Silver and Gold—is “broken to pieces together,” and ground into powder, “and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors” (Daniel 2:35).
Jesus’ use of such plainly Danielic imagery in the context of a statement that the Kingdom would be taken away from the Jews and given to another nation is simply a restatement of Daniel’s prophecy that “in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people” (Daniel 2:44). What was to be taken away from the Jews and given to the saints of God would never be taken away again (Daniel 7:18), and would never be given to another people (Daniel 2:44).
The stone of Daniel’s prophecy is a Stone of judgment, and Jesus had not come at his first advent to judge the world. He had not come to judge the Roman empire but to be judged by it, and He had not come at His first advent to demolish the preceding empires, either. As He Himself testified, His first advent was not an occasion for judgment (John 3:17, 12:47), and it is a matter of record that His interaction with the Roman empire was entirely passive (Matthew 26:53-54, Luke 20:25, John 18:36). In other words, though Jesus is the Stone, His first advent was not the first strike of the Stone against the statue. That would not happen until the Iron period was over, and Jesus had come during the period of the Iron Legs. The period of the Iron & Clay was still in the future, but His disciples would recognize its soon arrival by the fact that Jerusalem had been surrounded by armies.
Jesus said, “when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh” (Luke 21:20). Jerusalem’s desolation was the event that would signal the fulfillment of the Pharisees’ own prophecy that “He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen” (Matthew 21:41), and when Jesus spoke of it, He used language that was resonant of the impact of the Stone upon the Feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue.
The time that was approaching, but had not yet come in Jesus’ day, was the transition from Legs to Feet, and when the period of the Feet arrived, the kingdom would be taken away from the Jews and given to another nation. Clearly Jesus had made the prophecy during the Iron Leg period, and clearly the fulfillment would take place only after the Iron period was over, just as Daniel had prophesied.
When the angel explained to John the urgency of his message, he said “for the time is at hand” (Revelation 1:3). What “time” would that be? The “time” that was nigh and on the eve of fulfillment was the time of the transfer of the Kingdom that Daniel said was to occur in the period of the Iron & Clay Feet. As Jesus had said, that transfer would occur shortly after the time “when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies” (Luke 21:20). That was the time, according to the parables, when the Lord of the Vineyard would miserably destroy those wicked men, when the King would destroy those murderers and burn up their city, when the Nobleman would slay those who would not receive Him as King, when the Jews’ house would be desolated and when the Kingdom would be taken away from the Jews and given to another nation.
The “time” that was “at hand” was pregnant with Danielic eschatological significance, and in accordance with Jesus’ description in Matthew 21:43-33, it was the time of the Iron & Clay Feet. That time had not come in Jesus’ earthly life, nor in the few decades immediately following His resurrection. The time was near and only one king of that period remained, “and when he cometh, he must continue a short space” (Revelation 17:10). Then the Iron period would be over. The period of the Iron & Clay would begin.
As we noted in Part 1, when John’s angelic narrator explains the “scarlet coloured beast” of Revelation 17, there is an immediate and chronological significance to the seven kings, five of which had fallen, one of which was currently ruling and one of which would follow (Revelation 17:10). We believe that immediate and chronological significance is found in Daniel’s segmentation of the Fourth Empire into the three periods of Iron Legs, Iron & Clay Feet, and Iron & Clay Toes. Once the internal data is analyzed, it is clear that John had been writing during the period of the Iron Legs, and the period of the Feet was right around the corner.
Various other explanations have been given for the significance of those seven kings, and we will address at least one of them next week. For now, we will conclude this week by highlighting the Roman Catholic error in the timing of the kingdom transfer. In the realm of eschatology, there are two significant kingdom transfers that occur. The first is the transfer of the Kingdom of Heaven from the Jews “to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matthew 21:43), a transfer that Daniel and Jesus place in the period of the Iron & Clay Feet (Daniel 2:44, Matthew 21:44). The second is a transfer of an earthly kingdom to the dominion of Antichrist, a transfer that takes place after the period of the Toes, for it is from the Toes that Antichrist must arise (Daniel 7:8, 20, 24; Revelation 13:2, 17:12-13).
As we pointed out in What the Fathers Feared Most and One Kingdom Too Late, Roman Catholics mistake one for the other, and so believe that that the transfer of an earthly kingdom from the Roman Empire to Roman Catholicism must be the transfer that Daniel had in mind in 2:44 and 7:18, 27. By way of example, former Protestant turned Roman Catholic apologist, Taylor Marshall wrote,
“The culmination of Daniel’s Four Kingdoms—the Roman Empire—is handed over to people of Jesus Christ. The Church is not the Roman Empire, but it receives the Roman Empire. Daniel spoke of this before the coming of Christ, and the recorded history after Christ bears witness to this truth.” (Taylor Marshall, Eternal City, Kindle edition)
As noted, Marshall’s transfer is one kingdom too late. The transfer of a heavenly kingdom occurs under the period of Iron & Clay Feet. The transfer of an earthly kingdom occurs under the period of the Toes. The former is the transfer of a kingdom to the saints from the Jews. The latter is the transfer of the kingdom to the Roman Catholic Antichrist from pagan Rome.
As we pointed out in The Fifth Empire, the cause of Marshall’s confusion is that he has collapsed the two judicial movements of Daniel 2:34-35 into a single swift judgment. Collapsing those two movements into one, Marshall has equated the possession of a heavenly kingdom with dominion over an earthly one. They are not the same thing. Unfortunately, some Reformed eschatologists make the same mistake. But dominion over an earthly kingdom is not what the saints received during the Iron & Clay Feet, and possession of a Heavenly kingdom is not what Roman Catholicism received during the period of the Toes. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Conflating those two kingdom transfers has caused even Christians to think that the Christian Church took over the Roman empire, and has caused Roman Catholics to think their religion is the Christian Church. That confusion is corrected if we keep those kingdom transfers separate, and we are greatly aided by the language of Daniel and Jesus in maintaining the separation of the two. That language of Jesus also helps us identify the looming eschatological transition that was about to occur at the time of John’s vision, and thus helps us to place Revelation in the period of the Iron Legs.
We will continue on this theme next week.