The feet of the great statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream cannot be interpreted as a prediction of the states of modern Europe, but the lessons from their failure can certainly be applied.
The statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream spoke of God’s ordaining of four empires which would rule in succession throughout Israel’s “latter days,” the half millennium from the exile to the Messiah. Like the Tabernacle, the metals of its construction progressed from the finest to the strongest, from the gold of the Sanctuary (Exodus 25:17-21; Psalm 19:10) to the iron of the unconverted nations (1 Samuel 13:19; 1 Chronicles 22:3). ((For more discussion, see James B. Jordan, The Handwriting on the Wall: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, 174-175.))
The image was also humaniform like the Tabernacle, but being kingly rather than priestly it was not cruciform. The anatomical progression follows the threefold process of the foundation of mankind in Eden, where Adam was to image God physically (Genesis 1: being), socially (Genesis 2: knowing) and ethically (Genesis 3: doing). The Lord breathed into Adam’s nostrils (above) and cut into his flesh (beside). It was up to Adam to place his foot upon the neck of the serpent (below). As an effigy of glorified man, the description of this image also works from head to foot, from confession to dominion, from word (divine command) via sacrament (priestly obedience) to government (kingly authority).
Israel’s Latter Days
James B. Jordan’s assertion that this new order was not inherently satanic, but wisely ordained for Israel’s protection and refinement, is supported by the fact that the progression works through the fivefold pattern of legal covenant found throughout the Bible. This glorious imperator was not an idol but an extension of the authority of God, a mission against idolatry in heaven (above), on the “land” (beside) and in the “waters” under the land (below, Exodus 20:4). Like the now defunct kingdom of Israel, this greater territory, the oikoumene, was a distinct covenantal era, a multinational household which was accountable to God, one in which the Jews, purified of their idolatry, now served a more prophetic function. Consistent with God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:3), Jews and Gentiles remained distinct, and the future of each of the four empires depended upon its treatment of the people of God (Matthew 25:31-32).
For those unfamiliar with this fivefold “missional” process, a pattern which patently dictates the shape of the Bible’s first five chapters and its first five books, it is as follows:
1 – TRANSCENDENCE
God’s sovereignty: “Who is in charge?”
2 – HIERARCHY
Man’s delegated authority: “To whom do we report?”
3 – ETHICS
God’s law: “What is the mission?”
4 – OATH/SANCTIONS
God’s blessings and curses: “What will we get?”
5 – SUCCESSION
Inheritance in history: “What’s next?”
As we work through this pattern as it pertains to the interpretation of the statue, you will see that the consistency of biblical structure and its brilliant symbols is a great help in understanding the purposes of God.
Corresponding to the Ark of the Testimony, the throne of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was the golden head, a face like the sun in its brightness (Genesis 1:16; Matthew 17:2; Revelation 1:16), and this first king of kings claimed divine Transcendence until God humbled and converted him (Daniel 4:1-3).
Belshazzar’s idolatry led to the judgment of Babylon by God (Daniel 5:18-28) and the delegation of his authority to Persia, a lesser light like the moon and stars (Genesis 1:16; Daniel 2:39). The robe of government would rest upon new shoulders, the arms and chest of silver (Hierarchy). The bridal character of silver throughout the Bible (Genesis 20:16; 23:15-16), including its complementary role in sacred architecture (Exodus 26:15-25; 1 Chronicles 28:14-17), is thus reprised in Esther’s investiture and ascension to the office of co-regent over this empire (Esther 5:1-3).
The Greek empire which would “rule over all the earth” (Daniel 2:39) was divided among four generals after the death of Alexander. This corresponds to the cleansing powers of water and fire in the bronze laver and the four horns of the bronze altar, originally representing the “four corners” of the land of Israel, but now the expanded territory of the Jew-Gentile oikoumene. In legal terms, the statue had reached the Ethics of the covenant. It was at this point in the fivefold pattern that Adam was tempted by satan, and Israel was cut off in the wilderness. The revived Judaism of the second Temple would now be tested in earnest.
After the freedom of religion established under Persian rule, the worldly logic and individualism of Greek culture was both subtle and satanic. During this era, Antiochus Epiphanes attempted to Hellenize the Jews. The priesthood restored under Ezra was corrupted and subsequently the second Temple defiled. Moreover, many Jewish aristocrats repeated the sin of the Sethites and of Israel’s admiration for the high culture of the Philistines. Enamored with Greek culture and customs, they changed their names and even had operations performed to restore their foreskins.
The Hellenization of the Aaronic priesthood led to the rise of a movement of Jewish purists which eventually became the Pharisees. They maintained the primacy of circumcision and the Law, but by doing so they fashioned its purity into an idol, an “Aaronic beast” (Exodus 32:4-5; Romans 10:2; Revelation 13:14-16).
Iron, the strongest and thus the most “military” of metals, represented the gathered nations as an integrated force under Roman rule. Unlike the two pillars of “fiery bronze,” the “legs” of King Solomon’s Temple which were dismantled by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:13), these iron legs were bereft of any element of true priesthood, like the iron gates of the Temple. Their proximity to the Adamic clay of the earth implies the most overt and self-conscious commandeering of dominion over the creation.
This is the Oath/Sanctions section of the covenant, the Oath being Man’s voluntary submission to heaven (confession), and the Sanctions decreeing his subsequent dominion over the earth (blood and soil). Here, however, there was no priestly submission, only the voice of the Herodian “priest-kings” and their divine emperors. The voice of a man was the voice of a god (Genesis 4:23-24; Daniel 7:8, 24-25; Acts 12:22), so the blessings and the curses, a two edged sword, were administered by the divine state as both redeemer and avenger. It was in this sword of vengeance, rather than in the miraculous promises of God, in which Israel’s rulers, the “kings of the Land,” came to trust (Matthew 26:52; John 18:31).
This brings us to the feet and the toes, which were comprised of a strange mixture of iron and clay. The ten toes correspond to the ten horns of the fourth beast in Daniel 7, where they are interpreted not as ten kingdoms, but as a succession of ten kings over a single domain. These are the ten Roman emperors from Julius Caesar to Vespasian. ((Jordan, 382.))
In covenantal terms, these toes represent the final step in the process of qualification-by-covenant: Succession. The feet and toes correspond to Adam’s arrogation of the earth without prior meekness before God (Matthew 5:5). For Adam, the fruit of the land (soil) and the fruit of the womb (blood) were contingent on his trustworthiness before God (confession). The strength and peace of true kingdom is obtained only through true priesthood, which is why humanity divided into downtrodden priests and violent kings in only its first generation.
The Seed of the Serpent
Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that the mixture of iron and clay, partly strong and partly brittle, would not hold together. The iron was tempered to shatter the clay and break it into pieces, not mix with it (Daniel 7:23). In Aramaic, the intermarriage between the iron and clay in Daniel 2:43 is “by the seed of men,” which alludes once more to the usurping of priesthood by self-exalting kingdoms throughout biblical history. ((For more discussion, see Michael Bull, Big Love: A History of Stolen Fruit.)) When Jesus refers to the last days of the Old Covenant, it resembles the days of Noah in more than its “sudden destruction.” Men would be eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, before the flood of Roman troops would sweep them away (Matthew 24:37-39; Daniel 9:26). The iron was the strength of the Roman state, and the clay was the redness of the co-opted priesthood under the dynasty of the Edomite Herods, descendants of the bloodthirsty Esau. If successful, their union would bring about the end of the world. However, something irrevocable was keeping them apart.
What was it that prevented them from truly mixing together, from successful assimilation in a “Babelic” rebellion against God? It was the circumcision. In Abraham and Moses, David and Ezra, the “priestly” seed of the Woman had been set apart from and thus protected from the “kingly” seed of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). But with the coming of Christ, the first man who truly governed Himself, that which had restrained the merciless serpents who sat in the seat of Moses (Matthew 23:2-3) and the self-exalting “land beast” now occupying the throne of David (Revelation 13:11), was quickly passing away (Hebrews 8:13).
After Pentecost, a godless union of Jew and Gentile was finally possible, and was indeed “already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8). How so? A Herodian “Adam,” the man of sin, a satanic “priest-king,” had enthroned himself in the Temple of God. Compromise in the Sanctuary would again lead to bloodshed in the Land and a Babelic rebellion of all nations. This “mystery of lawlessness” was a direct response to the “mystery of the Gospel,” the reintegration of Jew and Gentile as a “holy mixture” by the Spirit (Ephesians 3:6).
Closing Up the Flesh
The statue was shattered like pottery and scattered like chaff by a stone “cut out” without hands, and the Aramaic word corresponds to the Hebrew for both “to divide” and “to divine,” since this division was a discernment of heart (Hebrews 4:12-13). This rock is an altar stone, a priestly heart which would grow into a great holy mountain, rising to heaven as a tower and filling the earth as a city. Via judgment, Israel’s heart of stone would once again be replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26; Romans 9:17-18). The Lord’s weapon against this international conspiracy was not another Abrahamic cutting (Sanctions) but Abrahamic faith (Oath). It was a circumcision of the heart, in both Jew and Gentile, by the hand of God (Ephesians 2:11; Colossians 2:11). The era of divisions was over. The Lord was “closing up the flesh” (Genesis 2:21) that the era of conquest might begin.
In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul speaks of the “restrainer” twice, firstly as a thing and secondly as a person. The forty years between the tearing of the veil (as Jesus’ flesh, Hebrews 10:20) and the destruction of the Temple by fire (on behalf of all creation, 2 Peter 3:10) was an overlap between the Old Covenant and the New, between circumcision of the foreskin (flesh) and circumcision of the heart (Spirit). During this unique period, both the Abrahamic division of flesh and the Christian unity of Spirit were striving against the union of all nations in opposition to God (Genesis 6:3), but one was decreasing and the other increasing.
This is the context of the book of Hebrews. The “one nation” Levitical priesthood was imperfect, as imperfect as the division of the waters on Day 2, the only act which the Lord did not declare to be “good.” What was good was a priesthood of all nations established in a better Adam, like the order of Melchizedek, a kingdom that comes after faithful priesthood, a spiritual union of the priesthood of Levi and the kingdom of Judah (Hebrews 7:1-28), united at last in a Jerusalem which is above (Galatians 4:26).
While blood and soil conspired against the Spirit, faithful Jews were exhorted not to apostatize by returning to Judaism. If they did, they would be judged just as their ancestors were, those whose bodies fell in the wilderness (Hebrews 3:7-4:11). Despite the stigma under which these Christian Jews suffered at the hands of their deluded and hardhearted countrymen, they were to continue meeting together with Christian Gentiles as a testimony of the koinonia of the Spirit, holding fast the confession of their hope as they saw the judgment of the old order and its doomed conspiracy drawing near (Hebrews 10:19-31).
Likewise, there were to be no divisions in the Gentile Churches. That imminent day would not only reveal who was cursed by God and who were blessed as the true children of Abraham, but also whose work was a gathering of wood, hay and straw, and whose was a gathering of gold, silver and precious stones (1 Corinthians 3:11-17).
With all of this background in mind, we can now consider both the purpose of the binding of Satan in Revelation 20 and the covenantal significance of the failure of the European Union.
Mike Bull is a graphic designer in the Blue Mountains of Australia, and author, most recently, of Inquiétude.
To download Theopolis Lectures, please enter your email.