The kingdom of God is not only described by ten distinctive titles; it is presented in three distinctive aspects as we shall see, and all three run on together today. The first embraces only those who are born of water and of the Spirit as seen in Jn. 3:3-6. The second embraces all who profess Christ as Lord as seen in Mt. 13:24-50, while the third embraces the whole universe, heaven and earth as seen in Dan. 2 and 4. Another place where these three circles are clearly seen is in Eph. 4:5-6, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;” here we have the first circle in line with Jn. 3. “One Lord, one faith, one baptism;” here we have the second circle in line with Mt. 13. “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all;” here we have the third circle as seen in Dan. 2 and 3. It has often been pointed out that only believers are in all three circles; lifeless professors in circle two and three while the rest, outside of professed Christianity, come under the rule of God as the sovereign ruler of the universe. We have in view a short word on each of these and will take them in the inverse way to which they are stated above, taking the widest one first, Dan. 2 and 4.
In this image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, we have the whole course of Gentile dominion from the kingdom of Babylon till the revival of the Roman Empire (which will be the last kingdom in the times of the Gentiles). The stone cut out without hands which brings this image to an end is the introduction of the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He is the stone cut out without hands - meaning without human aid - who, at His appearing and kingdom will bring to an end all these kingdoms and His kingdom will fill the whole earth, that is, where these other kingdoms have been seen.
The first thing to note in this image is the deterioration of the value of the metals used to describe the various kingdoms they represent; incidentally giving us the divine estimation of the decreasing glory in the kingdoms of men. First we have the gold as representing Babylon; the kingdom in its best estate as given to Nebuchadnezzar by God (v. 37). The silver represents the Media-Persian empire; the brass represents the Grecian; the iron represents Rome of the past; and the iron and clay of the toes, Rome of the future. Moreover, looking further into this prophecy of Daniel, we read in the subsequent vision given to him that one head controlled the Babylonian empire (2:37). Two horns controlled the Media-Persian (8:3). Four heads ultimately controlled the Grecian empire (7:6). Seven heads controlled the Roman Empire in its original form (Rev. 13), while ten horns or toes will control it in its future revival (Rev. 13:1, Dan. 2:42). Almost all known characters of government are seen here. First, absolute AUTOCRACY as seen in Nebuchadnezzar. Then MONARCHY in the Media-Persian but not now the absolute autocracy of Babylon. Then in the Grecian empire dividing into four head we have OLIGARCHY. Then in Rome past we have IMPERIALISM, while in the ten toes or horns in Rome future we have boasted DEMOCRACY. Adding to this the further details of these kingdoms as before noted, we see how it decreases in power and glory: first one, then two, then four, then seven, and then ten. So God foretold of this degeneration by clearly stamping it on this image. Man may boast of progress in his character of rule, but the Scriptures leave no doubt as to the divine estimation of the matter. The last phase of the image will be in the future when the ten kings receive power for one hour with the beast. It will be in this state when Christ appears, and as the stone smote the image on the feet, so He will destroy this power and bring to an end for all time Gentile dominion. He will set up His kingdom which will stand for ever and use it to bring to an end the time ways of God (v. 44). Note in this passage how God is called “the God of heaven” (v. 44). So He will abide in relation to the kingdoms of the Gentiles till the times of the Gentiles come to an end. Then He will once more assert His claim to the earth as seen in Rev. 11:4. He will not take possession of the earth through any Gentile power but will take it through Israel when they come into their rightful place in the kingdom of the Christ.
If in chapter 2 we have an outline of the history of the times of the Gentiles, in chapter 4 we have an outline of their moral state, described in God’s dealings with Nebuchadnezzar. This king stands out as an apt picture of the pride of the heart of man who, instead of giving thanks to and glorifying God, the source of all power, boasts of it as though it were his own doing, brought about by his own wisdom. Do we not still hear on every hand words pretty much like those coming from the lips of this king? “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?” (v. 30). “God is not in all his thoughts” (Ps. 10:4). Instead of ascribing glory to God, he accredits it to himself. The very power put into his hands by God was used to persecute the saints on the one hand and put to death the Son of God on the other. This is pictured in the three in the furnace and later by Daniel in the den. So it has ever been. Put power into the hands of any fallen son of Adam and he will use it to exalt himself and dare to use it against the saints of God and even God Himself. Hence this stroke of chastisement upon Nebuchadnezzar. It is a fitting picture of the turmoil amongst the nations today. What is God seeking to teach these men? “That the most high ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.” When will they learn this lesson? When, like this king, they lift up their eyes to heaven (v. 34). Their understanding will then return and instead of praising themselves they will bless, and praise, and honor the Most High. The very experience through which the king passed was to teach him that, “the heavens do rule” (v. 26). This goes beyond earth for God is in sovereign control of the universe, both heaven and earth. “And He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest though?” If then in v. 17 we read He “setteth up,” we read also in v. 37, “He is able to abase.” God sets up and God puts down-He is sovereign in the universe.