Daniel 2:13-45 So the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill them. Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king's bodyguard, who had gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon; he said to Arioch, the king's commander, "For what reason is the decree from the king so urgent?" Then Arioch informed Daniel about the matter. So Daniel went in and requested of the king that he would give him time, in order that he might declare the interpretation to the king. Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven; Daniel said, "Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. "It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. "It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him. "To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For You have given me wisdom and power; Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, For You have made known to us the king's matter." Therefore, Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and spoke to him as follows: "Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon! Take me into the king's presence, and I will declare the interpretation to the king." Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king's presence and spoke to him as follows: "I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!" The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, "Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation?" Daniel answered before the king and said, "As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed. As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place. But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind. You, O king, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. This was the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king. You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold. After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth. Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces. In that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay. As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle. And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery. In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy."

This nation [U.S.A.] is not eternal. No nation, no empire, no form of human political control has been eternal. The person who places his or her hope on making any political situation permanent places his or her hope on that which is certain to cease to exist.

I love this nation. I love the freedoms it gives us. I love the lifestyle it makes possible. We are richly blessed because this nation exists.

Yet, as much as I love this nation, I know it is not permanent. There was a time when we were protected by the oceans on our east and west coast. That time no longer exists. There was a time when we were protected by our enormous wealth. That time no longer exists. There was a time when we were protected by our superior technology. That time no longer exists. There was a time when there were many more people in the world who loved us rather than hated us. That time may no longer exist.

As good as things are in this nation, it is not eternal. While this is certainly no prophecy, the time will come [if time continues] when this nation no longer exists as a nation in a form that we recognize and appreciate. I have no idea when that will be, but it will be.

  1. If we look back, we can see the truth of the future in realities of the past.
    1. I have no doubt that it came as quite a shock to King Nebuchadnezzar that there would be a future in which the Babylonian Empire not only did not exist, but was an unknown except for historical reference.
      1. After all, he was the king of kings, and there was no one who could rival or challenge his empire!
      2. He controlled the known civilized world of his time!
        1. He had his ups and downs.
        2. Yet, in the end he triumphed.
      3. With all his considerable accomplishments, the time came when his empire ceased to exist.
    2. His capital of his empire was in the region we now call Iraq.
      1. Ask the men who now rotate out of that area about the poverty of the people.
      2. The area that was once magnificent beyond our imagination is magnificent no longer.
      3. I can surely understand how Nebuchadnezzar in the height of his power could look over his incredible city and think to himself, "We will be great and powerful forever!"
      4. That city which was once an invincible double walled wonder is now a pile of sand.

  2. When people of the ancient world including the New Testament world thought of kingdoms, they thought in terms of a great empire that exercised unquestionable control over a large region through the leadership of an incredible king.
    1. People thought of:
      1. Magnificent capital cities.
      2. Large regions of geography.
      3. Rule by control that was enforced by power.
      4. Invincible, well-equipped armies.
    2. Yet, people's thoughts of "kingdom" were not God's thoughts of kingdom.
      1. God would establish a kingdom.
      2. However, God's kingdom:
        1. Would have no magnificent capital.
        2. Would not be measured in geographical terms.
        3. Would not be ruled by the power of control.
        4. Would have no army.
        5. Would be eternal.
    3. I want you to listen to some scriptures that most of you know well.
      1. The first was given by Jesus when he taught his Jewish audience how to pray correctly.
        Matthew 6:8-10 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 'Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
      2. The second declared the core of John the Baptist's message.
        Matthew 3:2 Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
      3. The third declared the core of Jesus' message when he began his ministry.
        Matthew 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
    4. Question:
      1. Obviously, the first century Jewish audiences heard God's kingdom is close often in John the Baptist's messages and in Jesus' messages.
        Matthew 4:23 Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.
        Matthew 10:7 [the limited commission] And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
        Luke 10:8,9 [the sending out of the 70] Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'
        Mark 1:14,15 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
        Luke 11:19,20 And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? So they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
        Luke 21:31 So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.
      2. The question: When a Jewish audience heard the words the kingdom of God, what did they think?
        1. Did they think, "God is going to run these awful Roman troops out of our country and put us in control again."
        2. Or, did they think what God thought [the unthinkable to the majority of Jews] "God is going to rule all people again, including those gentiles."
        3. With the events that happened, it is pretty obvious that they did not think what God thought.

  3. When you hear the word "church," what do you hear?
    1. Do you think:
      1. Human theology?
      2. Human tradition?
      3. Human behavior?
      4. God through inspired writers sent messages to many first century congregations.
      5. Was God's primary emphasis on theology, on the way things are done, or on the way Christians behave?
      6. Stated in another way, is the primary focus of the kingdom of God on Christian theology, on Christian procedures, or on Christian conduct?
    2. When you hear the word "church," do you hear "the kingdom of God"?
      1. When you hear "the kingdom of God" do you hear control by exerting power?
      2. Or, when you hear "the kingdom of God" do you hear God governing by the compassion of forgiveness?

In forgiveness there is peace and hope. In control there is suffocation and defeat.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 14 May 2006

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