SHAPE OF THE FUTURE (3C)

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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-C. How “Iron”Continues in Today’s World: Domain of the Antichrist

A good question to ask now might be, what features did ancient Rome possess that we can see operating in the modern world? Although the “legs” of the Rome section of the “image” change into something else (the “feet” – the last empire), the “iron” from the legs doesn’t change into another metal but just continues on into the feet. So, even though far apart in time, the ancient and modern empires must possess some kind of basic similarity. The feet are even labeled along with the legs as part of the “fourth kingdom”. (Daniel 2:40-43) In some way then the Roman empire and the modern Antichrist empire must be identical.

Geographically, we have learned that the modern empire could be like an extension of the old Roman empire – a dual one, legs and feet split along lines similar to the ancient one. However, they’re not identical, just as the foot is not the leg, although it can be considered part of it.

But since the same “iron” metal continues into the feet, it is here in this “spiritual geography” dimension where we would expect to find that the fashion of ancient Rome has continued unchanged into modern times. Of course, there is one important difference: The “iron” exists in diluted form. The old Roman form of government persisted but then had to mix in with something that tended to weaken it. This is symbolized by the “clay” substance found only in the feet of the image. Nevertheless, the “iron” feature – the original “strength” of the old empire has remained intact. “yet the strength of the iron shall be in it.”  (Daniel 2:41)

So in what way does that intangible feature of “iron”, seen by Daniel in both legs and feet of the image, manifest itself in today’s world? Well, one intangible, yet obvious feature common to ancient Rome, and to virtually every modern nation in the world today, is the system of republicanism: governments not under the rule of hereditary monarchs or family dynasties. That is pretty much how things stand in today’s world where republicanism has become the standard form of government in almost every nation. And that could explain why the “image” shows “iron” continuing from the Roman “legs” into the modern day “feet”.

The rise of republican government meant that the army became a more detached and separate branch of the ruling body – a continuing, self-perpetuating army of professional soldiers not involved in civilian occupations. Republicanism opened the way for the military to gain more autonomy in government. For as soon as dynastic kingship and rule were abolished, the army’s loyalty was no longer tied to a family dynasty, but rather to the national system or state apparatus. This led to the army having much more influence in the formation and operation of governments.

With no family dynasties and a rather frequent turnover of Caesars, government couldn’t depend for stability on its head of state or his family. The army, along with the government administration, had to assume responsibility for providing leadership and stability in ancient Rome, and this proved to be more effective than the family-dynasty form of stability. In fact, this is just what had happened in Greece not long before: with no heir to succeed Alexander the Great, the army generals had to step in and bring some order out of the confusion that came following his death.

Likewise in Rome, the army became the real seat of power that held the empire together instead of a hereditary line of kings. Not surprisingly, many of the Caesars were former generals with strong connections to the army – which effectively meant that army policies and plans dominated Roman political life. A similar kind of thing happened in Nazi Germany; an “army man” – Hitler – took over with the result that the nation became quite militarized and dominated by army policies.

In ancient Rome it was the army which spread Roman culture throughout the Mediterranean world; this large body of professional soldiers served, not only in wartime, but in times of peace, building roads, bridges, walls, etc.; and their camps served as centers that spread Roman culture to far-flung districts of the empire.

Besides the army, the other feature of Republicanism that made Rome “strong” was her efficient administration. Rome’s unique form of government – representative rule without a hereditary monarch, along with the use of an extensive system of law – removed many of the hindrances and bottlenecks that were common in the kingdoms and empires prior to Rome.

This reminds us of what Moses learned in the wilderness: to rule effectively, he had to be willing to delegate authority to others. (Exodus 18) Similarly, the Roman government, with better representation, laws, and counsel in its decision-making bodies, had greater capacity to rule wisely over a large territory.

Interestingly, Rome’s judicial system and representative form of government are still carrying on in today’s world. And this seems like another feature in Rome’s “iron” nature that has persisted, more or less unchanged, into modern times. From ancient Rome we have inherited the political system of Republicanism.

Without a hereditary monarch, power had to be outsourced to the judiciary, the legislature, and the military. With better delegation of power in government, better counsel in decision-making and forming of laws, and greater efficiency in administration, Rome and modern nations have acquired the capacity to administer huge populations and empires.

When too much power gets concentrated under one man, the result can be a rather weak government. Such was the situation in Alexander’s time. Although his military exploits were evidence of Greece’s strength, the administration aspect was weak, and as soon as Alexander died, the Greek empire quickly broke up into warring factions. But ancient Rome was truly “strong”, combining as it did the resources of military conquest with an administration capable of ruling the vast territory it had conquered. Heads of state might come and go, but the administration was like an abiding force that could continue to function and hold the empire together.

This concentration of power in the hands of the army rather than a hereditary king, along with her efficient manner of representative government and system of laws, made Rome “different from all the beasts that were before it” – the strongest of the empires depicted in the vision of the “image”. (Daniel 7:7)

In the monarchical forms of government, the military branch of government, being subservient to the king, has less autonomy. But in the Roman government it played a more dominating role in the affairs of state. The advent of Rome thus marked the beginning of efficient, republican rule subservient to the watchful guidance of its powerful military branch of government. Originally, the Caesars (or Consuls) were elected by an assembly, and their powers were limited, and this was designed to prevent the rise of monarchical government.

Eventually however, the Caesars began to assume dictatorial powers, especially those who had a strong army background. And since mankind has that spiritual need to worship a higher power (and a weakness to worship only what he can see), the Roman Caesars, besides being heads of state, were usually willing to play the role of divine being as well.

Now here is an area where politics and religion converge: If Rome did not have a strong administration and army, the Caesars could not have had a big enough platform or pedestal from which to proclaim themselves as gods. But once Rome had achieved supremacy in the world of her day, then it wasn’t so improbable in the eyes of the world for the Caesars to claim divine status for themselves.

Thus, the “iron”, symbolizing the intangible quality of strength, becomes a twofold thing: firstly, it says something about Rome’s powerful administrative regime, and secondly, it points to the accompanying religion of emperor worship – a sort of natural by-product of Rome’s “strength of the iron”.

In fact, all the regimes represented in Daniel’s “image” vision were strong military regimes combined with some form or another of emperor worship. And this is consistent with the image’s symbolism of strong metals formed into the shape of a human figure.

So, how is this “religious” aspect of the “iron” symbolism being manifested now, we may wonder? Well, that is yet to come when the Antichrist ascends onto the world stage. However, we have seen a taste of this demagoguery in the recent past. Nazi Germany and the communist nations of the 20th century were republican, militarized societies and had leaders who were worshiped (in secular fashion) by their countrymen.

With the rise of Rome the practice of demagoguery took on a new dimension. Since Jesus the Messiah had come into the world (into the Roman world), after that any form of emperor worship clashed head-on with Christianity and its proclamation of the Savior-King, Jesus Christ. Persecution arose against Christians because of their faith, and not because of their territory (as was the case, usually, during the days of ancient Israel). And such persecution has continued into modern times during the reigns of Hitler and the communist demagogues.

After the fall of Rome, monarchies became the main form of government again, and for a few hundred years Europe had no large standing armies. Landowners organized personal armies on a part-time basis from their subjects. And powerful kings had to depend on their lords and nobility to raise armies for their war campaigns, or hired mercenaries. But the Roman concept of a standing, professional army of fully-trained soldiers had almost ceased. And the seat of power rested then with the king, not the army.

During this Middle Age period of man’s history, there is a sort of gap in the vision of the Daniel 2 image. The reason for that can be explained thus: the image symbolizes only those empires that had conquered, or would conquer, the nation of Israel.

But there has been no nation of Israel since it was dismantled by the Romans in 70 A.D. and the Jews scattered throughout the world. As a result there is a sort of break, a span of time that is skipped over, not recorded in the image vision. However, now that Israel has re-appeared on the stage of history, then it is time for the last empire – the “iron and clay” in the feet of the image – to manifest itself .

Strictly speaking, this historical era won’t start until the Antichrist and his forces have conquered the modern nation of Israel. However, we can observe plenty of groundwork being laid now in preparation for the rise to power of this final regime.

That preparation began all the way back in the days when the Feudal Age was drawing to a close. As smaller kingdoms united to form large and powerful nations, their armies also grew and became, as in the days of Rome, abiding powers in themselves. As time went on, republicanism revived in the halls of government. Monarchies were deposed or relegated into obscurity. (The French Revolution was a great catalyst to help bring this about in Europe.)

The fall of the monarchies further increased the need for the army to emerge as a force that could maintain stability in the absence of powerful dynasties. Thus, the “iron” style of regime – complete with republican government and army – had made its comeback. What had begun in ancient Rome has reappeared now in the Modern Age.

About the role of the army in Rome, and its renewal in Europe at the dawn of the Modern Age, here is an interesting quote:

◊ “By Caesar’s time, in the 40’s B.C., most soldiers were professionals in a standing army. This training and discipline made the Roman army one of the greatest forces of all time… During the 1300’s, the Ottoman Turks became the first people since the Romans to build an army of fulltime professional troops… (who) served in peacetime as well as war. In 1445 King Charles VII of France hired companies of mercenaries on a permanent basis, and set up the first regular army in Europe since Roman times.” (from World Book, 1982 edition – subj: “Army”)

This “iron” feature of government has persisted and grown until now almost every nation in the world uses the republican form of government; and most of the remaining monarchies play only a supporting role. In addition, the practice of government delegation of power that Rome established – legislative assembly and strong judiciary guided by the executive branch of government – has re-emerged in every nation of the modern world. Not surprisingly, modern government has borrowed several terms used in ancient Rome: “senate, veto, republic”, for example.

◊ “Rome’s republican form of limited, representative government and her reverence for the rule of law became two of her greatest contributions to Western civilization and the foundations for Western political theory and practice.” (World History and Cultures by A Beka, 1988, pg 103)

Every nation now has a military stronghold, or standing army of professional soldiers; and whenever the law and order situation breaks down, it will step in and take over the reins of government if need be. So, in a sense, each nation in today’s world is a replica of ancient Rome’s “iron” style of military-dominated government. 

Often, when social conditions in a nation become chaotic, this gives the military their opportunity to take over the reins of government. Some notable examples to consider happened recently in Thailand and Egypt, where the military stepped in to establish order out of the chaotic conditions that had developed. As Daniel observed long ago, “There shall remain in it of the strength of the iron.” (Daniel 2:41)

Some nations in recent times have adopted a more militarized version of republican government under a demagogue. Significantly, this always happened when those nations strayed from their Christian roots and slipped into worship of a demagogue. The most striking example would be Hitler Germany – a republican military dictatorship headed by a man who was worshiped by the German people. Likewise, the Communist nations had similar forms of government during the last century; and the final demagogue is soon to come. This “worship” feature, appearing sometimes in modern society, merely echoes the ancient practice of emperor worship – of the Caesars (from about 50 B.C. to A.D. 300) and of emperors from the previous “metal” empires.

So, all that to say, this “iron kingdom” – the “iron” features of ancient Rome – spoken of in Daniel 2 still exists in almost every country of the modern world. In the hidden dynamics of government, Rome’s modus operandi – her practice of republican government – is operating. Rome’s law codes, and the practice of using law extensively, have also carried on into today’s world. And most nations also harbor a semi-autonomous army of professional soldiers that could in a time of crisis take over their governments if need be. Spiritually, this has led some modern nations into man-worship, as it led Rome into emperor worship in ancient times.

But then we might wonder, if ancient Rome’s style of government was dictatorship, and if this “iron” feature has continued and is found in almost every country of today’s world, then why is every country not a dictatorship ruled by a demagogue? Answer: Ancient Rome was an iron”-only style of government, whereas modern regimes are “iron and clay” style, so they are going to look different in some ways.

Basically, what’s happened is this: the “clay” power of the “merchants” (ultra-rich industrialists) have much greater control than in times past, enough to keep the military and civilian government under their thumb to a large extent. 

And this brings us now to consider this other substance in the “feet” – this peculiar, non-metallic “clay” stuff. But that will be the subject of the next post.

Continue to 3D: “Clay”  Power in Ancient Times

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