SHAPE OF THE FUTURE (3D)

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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-D.“Clay” Power in Ancient Times

Having looked at the “iron” metal in the “image” vision and its meaning, let us now consider this other substance in the “feet” - this peculiar, non-metallic “clay” stuff, something we would likely regard as baser than anything else in the “image”. It symbolizes a new type of government that differs greatly from the political-military regimes of history and has only come to the fore in modern times.

The previous empires in the vision of the “image” were metallic, and we can take this to mean they all had something in common. And yes, they were characterized by strong authoritarian regimes who conquered the world by means of their powerful armies. But now, what about this clay substance – this stuff that is so different to the rest of the metallic image?

Revelation 13 provides a good clue: following the description of the war-mongering sea-Beast (13:1-10), we see a new beast, “coming up out of the earth”. (13:11) This one, as we’ve learned, conquers the world through wealth… or control of wealth distribution might be a more accurate way of putting it. And just as the “clay” material differs from the rest of the metallic image, so the “beast from the earth also happens to differ from all the previous superpowers, or “beasts from the sea”. (Daniel 7:3)

It must be more than coincidence, not only that the “clay” symbolism in Daniel 2 resembles the “earth” symbolism in Revelation 13, but also, they both differ from previous empires which were symbolized: “clay” different from the various metal empires (of Daniel 2); earth-Beast different from the sea-Beast empires (of Daniel 7 and Revelation 13:1-10).

And that leads us to the following interesting conclusion: The “clay” symbolism in the Daniel 2 image can be equated with the “earth” symbolism given for the second Beast in Revelation 13 (who, as we’ve learned, represents the business-commercial type of regime that has become so powerful in today’s world).

Since the “beast from the earth” is also called the “false prophet” elsewhere in the Revelation Book (19:20, 20:10), then from here on, the terms “clay kingdom”, “earth-beast”, and “false prophet” will be considered as related terms, standing for the same thing more or less, but viewed from different angles. The same can also be said for the terms “iron kingdom”, “sea-beast”, and “antichrist”.

One unusual feature about this “clay-earth” kingdom is the fact that it works closely with with the other “iron-sea” kingdom. They are not totally separate empires, but on some level they do cooperate: “you saw iron mixed with the miry clay.” (Daniel 2:41,43 – RSV) To understand what it is about the separate kingdoms that enables them – paradoxically – to also “mix”, it might help to trace the development of the “clay-earth” power through history:

Starting back in ancient Egypt, we find the patriarch Joseph who had become the wise man and prophet for the Pharaoh. Besides playing the role of prophet, Joseph also became chief administrator with full command over ancient Egypt’s economy: during the seven years of plenty, Joseph collected a great stockpile of wealth (Egypt’s grain). Then, during the seven years of famine, he was able to control and monitor the distribution of it. And this brought him (and Pharaoh) enormous power – of a benevolent sort – in the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41)

Joseph, of course, was a true prophet, but in some ways the role he played in ancient Egypt  – as both wise man and economic administrator – resembled the role that the False Prophet (or earth-Beast) will play on behalf of the Antichrist in the End Time.

The predecessors to the modern clay-earth Beast empire have been hard at work for centuries, collecting the world’s wealth (natural resources, industry, money). These “merchants… the great men of the earth” (as Revelation 18:23 calls them) are more than just scattered individuals but are organized, cooperating to some extent in their quest for power and control in the world. As a result this has led to the formation of an actual empire – the “beast coming up out of the earth” in Revelation 13 – an empire that operates in a behind-the-scenes fashion, more hidden than the ostentatious military-political empires of history.

Like Joseph in ancient Egypt, the False Prophet, as head of this new empire, will control and monitor the distribution of wealth during the upcoming “lean years” (perhaps following a worldwide financial crash that he will engineer). Through their wealth distribution system of the “mark” and “number”, the False Prophet and Antichrist will accrue to themselves enormous power. But unlike Joseph and Pharaoh, they do it for the wrong cause.

(By the way, when the term “merchants” is mentioned here, it is not referring to those businessmen who make an honest living, working hard to provide needed goods and services to their communities. There is a world of difference between them and the ultra-rich “merchants” spoken of in the Revelation Book, those who are deceiving and corrupting the world for the sake of their own greed and lust for power.)

Like Joseph, the False Prophet cannot carry out his plan without the patronage and authority of his “Pharaoh”, the Antichrist. The mark-number buying and selling system manifests this: even though the whole thing is engineered by the False Prophet, he is still obliged to promote his new system under the name of the other Beast, the Antichrist. (Revelation 13:16-17) In turn, the Antichrist will find himself in dire need of the False Prophet; he provides brains, money, administration, and spiritual expertise – vital mechanisms needed in order for his political rise in the world to succeed.

Getting back to our history of commercialism (of the “clay-earth” power), in the ancient Mediterranean and Mid East world, empires were held together by strong military-political administrations (metal-type empires). Merchants did carry out much trade with other Mediterranean nations, and even with Britain, the Far East, and India. Nevertheless, the merchant class, and their power in government, was limited and scattered compared to the power of the emperors and their military juggernauts.

The economic system in those days was a version of mercantilism: ◊ Trading ventures were carried on under the watchful eye of the government. Nowadays, the tables have turned. Big business does what it wants, while government policies and programs are carried on under its watchful eye.

◊ Mercantilism versus Laissez-faire Economics:
        Mercantilist economics dominated the European world of the 1500′s to the late 1700′s. In this system a nation’s government strictly regulated economic affairs to enrich its treasury, especially by ensuring that exports exceeded imports. The system was based very much on the gold standard.
        In the 1770’s a man named Adam Smith started promoting his laissez-faire economic theory. This philosophy brought forward the idea of an open competitive market free of government interference. If workers could pursue their private economic interest in relative freedom, they would be more productive, and the overall economy would function more efficiently. Basically, it was a “hands off” policy toward business. The principles promoted in this philosophy were a useful step of progress in an expanding world where more flexibility and free enterprise were needed to stimulate growth.
        However, as often happens, the new policy eventually became misused and played into the hands of the unscrupulous and greedy. Laissez-faire economics, without enough government intervention, eventually became the ploy of the capitalist money-makers who, without any restraint on their activities, began to monopolize what had once come under government control; they grew fabulously rich while poverty and misery continued, even becoming worse than before in some societies.

Although most ancient empires (the “metal” ones in the “image” vision) reached supremacy under the leadership of a strong king and his armies, at least one empire was based more on its power of wealth. That was Phoenecia, which could be likened to a “clay” regime, the one who dominated commercial trading in the ancient Mediterranean world. Although powerful, Phoenecia was not able to hold out against the attacks of the stronger metal-type powers of her day, Babylon and Greece; and she never conquered the land of Israel. And this historical reality is reflected in the “image” vision by the absence of any clay-type material in those parts of it that represent ancient times.

For most of their history, the Phoenecians were actually held under tribute and dominated by the Mediterranean empires that came and went. (Perhaps we could compare this to the situation in modern times with the eastern commercial hub of Hong Kong and its subservient relationship with Britain and China.) When Phoenecia finally did reach supremacy in the Mediterranean world, Israel was a fully independent and powerful nation under her kings, Solomon and David. Although the Phoenecian empire grew quite strong, it never entered into the category of a “beast” empire – those who not only dominated the Mideast area but also conquered the nation of Israel. Not until we get to the final historical era of the “feet” does the “clay” kingdom finally enter as a component of the “image”.

◊ “[The Phoenecians] were not a military, but essentially a seafaring and commercial people, and were successively conquered by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, to whom, because of their great wealth, they fulfilled all their obligations by the payment of tribute.” (from The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XII. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company)

Although the Phoenecian empire never achieved supremacy in the ancient world, one feature that does stand out is the fact that it lasted much longer than the other ancient empires. This seems to reveal something about the enduring and powerful nature of materialism. It truly is a force (or “religion”) that has persisted and outlasted all the temporary versions of emperor worship that came and went throughout history.

So how will the “clay” power achieve supremacy in the world? As this modern kingdom grows in strength through its acquisition of wealth, becoming a “beast” in its own right, it will team up with the other “beast” from the sea – not as under tribute, as ancient Phoenecia was, but as a full-fledged partner in cooperation with it.

From the Book of Ezekiel, chs. 38-39, we learn that Russia will conquer Israel and the Mideast, and thus it would appear that she will be the fulfillment of the prophetic description of the sea-Beast (in Revelation 13) whose conquests will echo what the other metal kingdoms in the image vision in Daniel 2 had done in ancient times.

That means that the other earth-Beast, as a close ally, becomes a co-ruler over that same area of the world. And thus “clay” finally enters into the “image” vision of empires that have conquered Israel – but only in the End Time section of it, in the feet of iron and clay.

Although they have had great influence in the military-political governments of the past, not until the Modern Age have the “merchants”, or commercial powers, ever enjoyed such extensive dominance in the world. Revelation 17 symbolizes these commercial powers as “the great harlot”, or “great whore” (KJV), whom the seven-headed “beast” has had to carry throughout history.

This “great harlot” is pictured as having a corrupting influence in the world: “with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” (Revelation 17:2) In the empires of man this corrupting influence of the “great harlot” always seemed to show up in their declining years before they were eventually defeated by a new up-and-coming “beast” empire.

But in this modern age the “beast from the earth” will not operate in the same way as the “great harlot”, sitting on and oppressing the “first beast”. Instead, the new commercial regime of the False Prophet will, from the beginning, accompany and support the Antichrist’s rise to power. The earth-Beast will use his wealth and other resources to catapult the “first beast” into authority and will help him rule the world of the future.

The “great harlot”, on the other hand, will oppose the rise of the new world order under the two new up-and-coming “beasts”. As a result of this, she will suffer catastrophic destruction and defeat, as outlined in Revelation 17-18. (But that is another subject, beyond the scope of the present study.)

Continue to 3E: Rise of “Clay” Power in the Modern Age

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