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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Christ Shall Have Dominion
Text:Daniel 2:1-49 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Kingship

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Fairest Lord Jesus

In Doubt and Temptation

Wherefore Do the Nations Rage

Christ Shall Have Dominion

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

“Christ Shall Have Dominion”
Daniel 2:1-49
Of all the capabilities of the human psyche, dreams are among the most unusual. A totally sane person can have dreams that are absolutely outrageous.  I’m sure you’ve encountered that. All of us can remember dreams that made no sense. Or perhaps you have had dreams that you don’t remember until something happens during the course of the day, and then, immediately, you remember that you dreamt that very thing. 
The whole area of dreams is a unique area, one which we don’t fully understand. And sometimes our dreams bother us. Maybe we are bothered by their content. Or perhaps we are bothered because we can remember some but not all of the dream. Or at other times we are frustrated because we want to pick up a good dream where we left off, but it is gone.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had a dream that bothered him. We read (last week) how he summoned all his wise men – his “astrologers, enchanters, and sorcerers” – and asked them to tell him what he dreamt and then to interpret the dream to him. And he was deadly serious. He said, “If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.” (Dan 2:5, 6)
The astrologers answered the king, “There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.” (Dan. 2:10-11)
Consequently, Daniel and his three friends faced execution, along with all the so called “wise men” of Babylon – the "astrologers, enchanters, and sorcerers" – if they could not interpret the dream. But in answer to prayer, as Daniel exercised godly wisdom and tact, the content and meaning of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was revealed to him.
And that is where we pick up the Biblical account this morning: Daniel is escorted into the presence of King Nebuchadnezzar, and there, face to face, Daniel tells the king, not only what he dreamt, but also the meaning of the dream.  In verse 31 he says, “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue – an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance.”
The statue was in the shape of a person, and it was made out of many different materials. Verse 32 describes how The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay.”
As you might imagine, Nebuchadnezzar was troubled by what he saw. Especially by what he saw as Daniel described it to him in verse 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.” When the rock smashed into the statue the whole statue was crushed into small pieces of iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold. Then the wind blew them away without a trace, like chaff on a threshing floor. But the rock that knocked the statue down became a great mountain that covered the whole earth.” (v. 35)
Daniel went on to explain that the statue represented world powers, nations of prominence. But each nation would be destroyed while the rock that struck the statue would grow to be a gigantic mountain. What was being conveyed in that unique dream? What is the symbolism and how does it relate to us today?
The head of gold represented Babylon, specifically the kingship of Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar reigned through the “golden years” of Babylon. Babylon was a world power during his reign and many kingdoms were subject to him. It was not only the residents of Jerusalem and Judah who were conquered and brought into Babylonian captivity; the Babylonians were masters of their world, even to the point where Daniel says in vs 37-38, You, O king are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in 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.”
The chest and arms of silver represents the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. Silver, of course, is inferior to gold. It is valuable, a precious metal, but not as precious or valuable as gold. By the same token, the Medes and Persians made a large and powerful kingdom. God used them to depose Babylon and after the 70 years of exile, to be instrumental in sending the people of Judah back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city.
The belly and thighs of bronze represents the Greek empire. Bronze is not as valuable as gold and silver, but it is a much harder metal. If you or I had a nugget of gold or silver we could put a dent in it, or shape it, not so with bronze.
The bronze also covered a large area of this statue. It covered the belly right down through the thighs, and, as such, it is an accurate portrayal of the Greek empire. Alexander the Great is well known for his conquests, and perhaps even better known for the time he broke down and wept. He wept, because there were no more kingdoms to conquer. And the strength of Greece and her widespread domination for a period of world history is represented by the massive amount of bronze in the dream of the statue.
Although the Greeks had world domination for a lengthy period, their time of domination also came to an end. This time they fell at the hands of the Romans. The legs and toes of iron and clay represents the Roman empire which was the dominant nation – the world power of its day – when Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
However, in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, a fifth kingdom, represented by a Rock, smashed the earthly kingdoms to pieces. While the earthly kingdoms were destroyed, this fifth kingdom grew and grew and became a great mountain, filling the whole earth. This perhaps puzzled and bothered Nebuchadnezzar more than anything else. What could be the source – the power – behind this mighty Rock?
The Rock that crushed the statue (the earthly kingdoms) clearly represents Jesus Christ and his eternal Kingdom. Jesus is portrayed in the Bible, both Old Testament and New, as being that Mighty Rock. He is so mighty that all the kingdoms of this world, whether they acknowledge it or not, are subservient to his eternal kingdom. We sang about that when we sang the second Psalm:
Wherefore do the nations rage, And the people vainly dream,
That in triumph they can wage War against the LORD supreme?
...But the Lord will scorn them all, Calm He sits enthroned on high;
Soon His wrath will on them fall, Angered then He will reply:
Yet according to My will I have set My King to reign,
And on Zion’s holy hill Mine Anointed I maintain.  
                                          (Wherefore Do the Nations Rage; Dick Van Halsema, 1952)
While historically most Christian scholars have held to the interpretations of the four kingdoms which we have looked at this morning, dispensational writers do not take the view.  They identify the ten toes of the statue to represent a ten-nation alliance which will form at the end of history. This alliance of nations will be ruled by a dictator who opposes God and his people but is destroyed by Christ. This view, popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible, is a relatively new view; it was popularized toward the close of the 19th century, yet it has gained great popularity in American evangelical circles.
However, Reformed Christianity has (almost) always taken the view taught in Scripture that the kingdom of our God is active now and is concurrent with all earthly kingdoms. When verse 44 describes “those kings” and “those kingdoms” it is referring not just to the end times, as dispensationalists see it, but it is teaching that throughout history God has always exercised his sovereign rule over kings and kingdoms.
Thus, the smashing of earthly kingdoms (44b) is going on constantly.  God raises up one ruler and deposes another because he is working out all things for his purposes. That is why as Christians we see all of history, not as a series of circles, but as one straight line leading to the second coming of Jesus Christ.
That is also the main purpose for the prophecy of Daniel.  Daniel was inspired to write the prophecy not to give us a picture of the end times, though he does do that in later chapters.  Rather, the main purpose of the prophecy is recorded in chapter 4:17, 25, 32 and chapter 5:21. Each one of those verses echo each other in teaching that these prophecies were written “so that you may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.” Or, as verse 21 of this chapter puts it:
He changes times and seasons;
    he sets up kings and deposes them.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
The Eternal Kingdom of Christ
As we see this great Rock crushing the kingdoms of this earth – a picture of God’s kingdom at work – we recognize that this eternal kingdom is of God’s origin and design. Verse 44 says “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom.” What a blessing to know that in all the turbulence and uncertainty of earthly kingdoms, there is an eternal kingdom whose origin and design is from God!
You may recall that when Peter and the other Apostles continued to preach the gospel even when they had been commanded not to, they were brought before the Sanhedrin. Many wanted to put them to death. But Gamaliel, the high priest at that time, said to people: “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39). The same concept applies to God’s eternal kingdom. It is not of human design, but of God’s design, and thus, not even the gates of hell can prevail against it.
We also see that all the great kingdoms of this world have a starting point and an ending point. But the kingdom of Jesus Christ is eternal and indestructible.  Verse 44 describes it as “a kingdom that will never be destroyed.”
Every world power comes to the day when they are destroyed, stripped from their power, and another nation takes domination in the world. That was true for each one of the kingdoms represented by the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. And it is true for world powers today, including the United States. The official starting point for the United States was in 1776, but unless there is revival in our land, we too will lose our world dominance.  The Lord may well judge the United States by allowing another country to rule over us, just as he has done to other godless nations in the past.
The time may come in our land when the Lord does to us what he allowed for Judah. We too could be over powered. Yet those of us who believe in the Lord know by faith that whatever happens in the rising and falling of earthly kingdoms, we belong to the eternal kingdom of our Lord which is indestructible, for “our citizenship is in heaven. And” (as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians) “we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, this is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” (Phil 3:20-4:1)
The kingdom of our Lord will never end. The kingdom of our God is victorious over all, and it is eternal.  As the last part of verse 44 declares: “It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.”  A familiar hymn puts it well:
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.
                               (Onward Christian Soldiers, stanza 3, Sa­bine Bar­ing-Gould, 1865) 
The Apostle John, in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, saw a beautiful picture of that as well. In Revelation 11:15 he wrote: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
Glory to God and Eternal Comfort
How else does this unusual chapter and dream apply to us today? First, we see that Daniel set a great example for us in that he gave glory to God in all things, including the revelation of the dream. In verse 25 Arioch ushered him into the presence of King Nebuchadnezzar and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”
The king responded by asking, “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”
What an opportunity for the sinful nature to put its foot forward in explaining the dream without a reference to God! What an opportunity for Daniel to pat himself on the back, to bask in the glory of the king, at least for a few moments. But what does he say?  Verse 27 and 28: “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come.”
In this way he parallels Joseph who said similar words to Pharaoh when he interpreted dreams for him. Pharaoh had said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
Joseph replied, “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” (Gen. 41:15, 16)
Interestingly enough, Daniel and Joseph are among the few people in the Biblical record about whom no sin is directly mentioned, though we know that they too were sinners saved by grace through faith in Christ. Yet other godly people are exposed with great sin, doubt, and failure.
For instance, David is well known for his notorious affair with Bathsheba and the shameless killing of her husband. Peter’s bold testimonies were marred by his denial of Jesus, emphasized with curses three times before the rooster crowed. And Thomas, whose name means “twin”, represents you and me – twins with him – in our times of uncertainty, doubt, and weakness of faith. Yet, I am thankful for the blunt descriptions of their failures. If everyone in Scripture fit the description of Daniel and Joseph, I would have no hope of salvation for myself, and neither would you!
But I am also thankful that Daniel and Joseph set a wonderful example for you and me, that in all the circumstance and events of life – in both blessings and trials – we are to give glory to God. After all, that is our chief purpose in life, to live to the praise of God’s glorious grace. As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’”  Daniel lived up to that command long before it was written. He took no credit for the interpretation of the dream but gave all the glory to God.
Also, as we look at this dream and its interpretation, we cannot help but see the amazing accuracy of Scripture. Daniel interpreted this dream before the rise of the Medes and Persians. He predicted the power of the Greek and Roman empires long before they came into being. Because of that, liberal scholars deduce that someone else besides Daniel must have written the prophecy.  They believe it was written much later in time, because how else could these events be known long before they happened?
But we who believe in the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture have no problem believing that these events would be accurately predicted long before they came into being. We can say with David, in Psalm 18:30 This God – his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.”  Or, as Agur wrote in Proverbs 30:5, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”
And then, also, those who take refuge in him find great comfort in knowing that by God’s grace, through saving faith in his Son, we are citizens of God’s eternal kingdom. In the next chapter we will find Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace. Before they are thrown into the furnace, they make a classic statement of faith to the king: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  (Daniel 3:17-18)
How were they able to make such a statement in the face of death? They were able to make that statement because they knew that they belonged – by God’s grace through saving faith in the eternal Christ – to the eternal kingdom of God’s Son. They knew that just as that kingdom would never be destroyed, so too, her citizens will always be in the shelter of their God, in the fiery trials of life and when we face the last enemy to be destroyed, death.
Is that an assurance that you also have?  Have you truly put your faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation? If so, then even if you were to be thrown into a fiery furnace, you would have the same calm assurance as Daniel’s friends. God will give you his assurance, his comfort, and his strength at the exact time of your need.
The Heidelberg Catechism puts it so beautifully in answer to its first question: “What is your only comfort in life and in death?”
Answer: That I am not my own,
but belong—
    body and soul,
    in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.
Daniel had that comfort when he was in the lions’ den. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had that comfort as they faced the fiery furnace.  They realized they were citizens, not of Babylon, but of Jerusalem – the Jerusalem above, yet to be revealed in all its glory, majesty and splendor. By saving faith in Jesus Christ may that comfort also be yours, today and always! Amen.
Sermon outline:
   “...The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed.”
                                                                                                   Daniel 2:44b
                                   “Christ Shall Have Dominion”
                                                Daniel 2:1-49
I.   Nebuchadnezzar’s dream centered on a statue representing four
     earthly kingdoms:
      1) The head of gold represents Babylon (37-38)
      2) The chest and arms of silver represents the Medes and Persians (39a)
      3) The belly and thighs of bronze represents the Greek Empire (39b)
      4) The legs and toes of iron and clay represents the Roman Empire (40-43)
II.  In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream a fifth kingdom smashed the earthly kingdoms
      to pieces (34-35).  The Rock that crushed the statue (earthly kingdoms)
      represents Christ (Psalm 2; 1 Peter 2:6-8). His kingdom, concurrent with all
      earthly kingdoms (44a), is:
      1) Of God’s origin and design (44b)
      2) Indestructible, victorious overall and eternal (44; Rev. 11:15)
III. Applications:
      1) Daniel sets a worthy example for us as he gives glory to God
           in all things, including the revelation of the dream (25-28)
      2) Christians find great comfort in knowing that by God’s grace,
           through saving faith in His Son, we are citizens of the Eternal
           Kingdom (44, Ephesians 2:6-10; Philippians 3:20-4:1)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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