SHAPE OF THE FUTURE (3A)

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3 – THE FINAL EMPIRE: ITS SPIRITUAL GEOGRAPHY

3-A. Physical and Spiritual Geography in Daniel 2
3-B. Modern Day Cultures of Darkness
3-C. How “Iron” Continues in Today’s World: Domain of the Antichrist
3-D. “Clay” Power in Ancient Times
3-E. Rise of “Clay” Power in the Modern Age
3-F. “Clay” in the 20th Century 

3-A. Physical and Spiritual Geography in Daniel 2

Getting back to the symbolism of the “image” in Daniel 2: This passage  has always fascinated Bible students. It gives a simple, panoramic view of an enormous subject – the whole of history from Daniel’s time to the present and beyond. The different body parts and metals of the image all symbolize different empires that came along and ruled Israel and much of the world during their time. And it’s a simple picture – that is, until we get down to the empire of the “feet”.

At this point, it becomes complicated: there are two “feet”; there are also two materials (“iron and clay”) that “mingle with the seed of men”; they “mix” with each other, yet “will not adhere to one another”. (2:41-43) Well, we live in a complicated age, so it’s not surprising that this final part of Daniel’s vision seems to reflect the complex nature of modern times.

Thus far, we have considered, based on the outline given in Revelation 13, how the European Union could become the headquarters for the “earth-beast” who joins forces with  the “first beast” (identified as Russia). Together they could form a very large empire that would dominate the world in its final days. That sums up, as far as we can tell, how the physical geography of the End Time empire may end up. And this geographical aspect was symbolized, it would seem, as the two feet in the Daniel 2 vision of the image.

Now, let us turn our attention to another side of this picture, the more hidden side, what we might call the “spiritual geography”. Following is an intriguing prophetic message along this line, one that was trying to pinpoint the relationship between the political and religious boundaries of nations:

(Jesus:) “Open your eyes, and look with spiritual eyes upon the world. You will see a different geography – a spiritual geography. You will see the world differently than those who look with physical eyes at the maps and governments. But you who are spiritual must learn to look with spiritual eyes and discern spiritual boundaries… A country’s boundary is a physical manifestation of the spiritual boundary, of spiritual regimes which correspond to the kingdoms of this Earth…” (published by The Family International, Sept/1996)

“Spiritual geography” refers then to the spiritual nature of a nation and the influence that nation’s culture has on its citizens or on citizens of other nations. Normally, the spiritual geography lies within the political boundaries of a nation, its “physical geography”. For example, the nation of ancient Greece possessed a very strong culture; it definitely had a strong “spiritual geography” – its pantheon of gods, its interest in philosophy, literature and the arts. Until Alexander the Great came along, Greek culture was confined to the borders of Greece. But as the Greek armies swept through the Middle East, Greek religion and culture also swept through, expanding to the limits of her newly extended borders.

This division between physical and spiritual geography that we can observe in the world is similar to what the vision of the “image” portrays: that is, there’s a difference between what the body parts symbolize (the more obvious, physical attributes of geography and chronology) and what the materials of the image symbolize (the more hidden features of the different regimes, the nature of their rule and influence, what we might call the inner dynamics of how they operate – their brand of political and religious systems).

For example, in speaking about the “iron” part of the image, Daniel was told, “The fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron.” (Dan 2:40) Its impact or influence upon the world is described thus: “Inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything: and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.” So, the material of iron relates to more intangible features – the character, nature, and influence of the fourth empire, not its more obvious features of geography and chronology. This “fourth kingdom”, Rome, did indeed possess the characteristics of “iron”: a strong, well-organized, military regime that subdued the ancient world in a very thorough manner.

Besides this “administrational” aspect, the materials of the “image” also seem to reflect the nature of religious influence of the succeeding regimes. As noted earlier, the empires were symbolized by different types of metals, which seems to reflect, not only their strong, authoritarian influence in the world, but also the fact that they all practiced emperor worship of one kind or another. The fact that the vision was that of an image suggests this religious aspect, and the fact that it was the image of a man suggests, in particular, that the vision was illustrating the religion of emperor worship that has persisted throughout history. (Daniel 3 offers an example of how this use of an image for emperor worship was carried out in ancient times.)

In addition, the metals were graded according to value. This probably had something to do with how much influence the emperors in those kingdoms allowed God’s prophets to have, how receptive they were to God’s people and message in their kingdom or in their personal lives: for example, gold and silver symbolized Babylon and Persia; and indeed, some of the kings in those empires (Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Cyrus, Ahaseurus) were yielded to God’s prophet Daniel and queen Esther. In fact, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar was one of the rare examples from Old Testament times of someone having a personal salvation experience.

Although these empires harbored some very strong religions of darkness, nevertheless, because of these kings’ influence, they became valuable by proclaiming throughout their empires that their subjects should honor the God of Israel; they also afforded protection to the Jews, God’s people of that time, and in the case of Babylon, needed chastisement.

The next kingdom of brass was made of a less fine material, but still valuable; Greece paved the way for Jesus’ coming through her language and philosophically-minded culture. She, in a less direct manner, pointed the way to the Lord. Her founding king, Alexander, was sympathetic to the people of Israel and left them alone for the most part during his military campaigns. Only later, under one of the Greek kings of the Seleucid empire did persecution arise against the Jewish people.

So, gold, silver, and brass are of finer caliber, and then comes the iron, the least valuable of the metals in the image. But unlike the other metals, iron does possess the virtue of strength, which is valuable in a different way. Rome’s political unity and extensive road system made it easier to travel and spread the Gospel in those early days of Christianity. When the Roman empire became officially Christian, that, of course, did much to strengthen the Church. Until that time most of the Caesars had little connection with or sympathy for God’s people in those days and became great persecutors of the Christian Church. As was the case in most “metal” empires, emperor worship was practiced, and Christianity was perceived as a major threat to their religious system.

Conclusion: We have seen how the body parts of the image symbolize such obvious characteristics as physical geography and chronological sequence. The metal materials, on the other hand, appear to symbolize the more hidden features of the succeeding empires – their inner structure and working dynamics, and ultimately, their religious character.

Continue to 3B: Modern Day Cultures of Darkness

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