By Connie W. Adams
Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is often the subject of millennial or dispensational teachers. That the four parts of the image seen represent the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires is seldom disputed. It is also generally understood that God would “set up a kingdom” in the days of the Roman empire, and many of these teachers insist (while others admit it under pressure) that the Roman empire will be resurrected in order that the prophecy might find its fulfillment at the time of their imagined millennium. Their major contention hinges upon a misconception of the nature of God’s kingdom “consuming all these kingdoms” (v. 44) and the “smiting” of the image and “breaking” it to pieces (v. 34). The issue then, is whether the “smiting” and “consuming” are accomplished by martial force or spiritual compulsion; by physical impetus, or spiritual might.
The Kingdom: Material or Spiritual?
The resolving of the problem involves a discussion of the nature of Christ’s kingdom. Is his kingdom in nature to be compared with the earthly empires of the past or present? Is his kingdom to be inaugurated by the gathering of an army to be led by a Christ armed in a coat of mail, with a gleaming sword of steel in his hand, and plunging his troops into violent conflict with the citadels of human empires? This is the impression some millennial teachers have. Robert Roberts, the biographer of Dr. John Thomas (a heretic from the faith and founder of the Christadelphians), said:
His coming in the Spirit draws near: a people is in preparation, increasing in number, faith, zeal and service, to whom he be revealed with the thousands he shall bring forth from the dead by his power, and by means of whose recruited forces he will enter into conflict with the world, drive Gentile power from every throne, and establish his kingdom under the whole heaven. Christadelphian operations will then be transferred from the arena of debate to that of military coercion.
Once, in debate with A.D. Norris, a Christadelphian from England, we were told that preaching had thus far failed to consume the nations, and that they would be consumed by “might.” R.H. Boll, in his book The Kingdom of God taught that this “smiting” and “consuming” would be “a violent impact” and he spoke against the idea of its being done by spiritual infiltration. To the Millennialist, the kingdom is material and its subduing of the nations is to be accomplished by martial force.
In order to better appreciate the full import of this “consuming” let us consider (1) the consuming king, (2) the consuming sword, and (3) the consuming kingdom.
The Consuming King
That Christ is the consuming king is a point of general agreement. “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever” (Dan. 9:7). Daniel pictures him as he comes to “the Ancient of days” and is given a kingdom “which shall not be destroyed.” The wise men inquired about one “that is born King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2). The Angel announced that he would be given “the throne of his father, David,” and that “of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).
He made a battle declaration when he said, “I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). When questioned by Pilate regarding his kingship, he said, “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born” (John 18:37). In Acts 2 Peter announced his coronation and showed that it was the fulfilling of the prophecies concerning David’s throne. It was pointed out that he had been exalted to God’s right hand, and that as the first official act as reigning king he had “shed forth this which ye now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). Paul declared him to be “the King of kings, and Lord of lords” in 1 Timothy 6:15. “A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom” (Heb. 1:8). There can be no doubt but that Jesus Christ is the king who was to “consume these kingdoms.”
The Consuming Sword
Here the issue centers. Around this pivotal point the whole question turns. What kind of sword does the king use in “smiting” and “consuming” these kingdoms? We shall notice only a small part of the abundance of Scripture available on this matter. “And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked” (Isa. 11:4). “Out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword,” said John in Revelation 1:16. He is further described by John as “he that hath the sharp sword with two edges” (Rev. 2:12). He “sends a sword” into a family when one in it obeys the gospel and the other does not (Matt. 10:34-38). The “sword of the Spirit is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). It is “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). This is the sword that “brings into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
Peter wielded the “sword of the Spirit” on the day of Pentecost. Fifteen nations were represented by the Jews present that day. With the drawn sword Peter “smote” them and they were cut to the heart. About three thousand of them fell before its withering power and cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Later, at the house of Cornelius, Peter again joined battle with the same sword and “smote” the hearts of the Gentiles present with the result that they obeyed the gospel of Christ. They were “consumed” by the “sword of the Spirit.” On and on throughout Acts we observe the smiting and consuming of the nations. Men are consumed by Christ when they hear, learn, and come unto him (John 6:44-45). In the statement to Pilate, Jesus connected his kingly mission with instruction of his word. “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37).
Any remark to the effect that this sword is ineffective, that it has not and is not succeeding, is not only a denial of “the power of God unto salvation,” but is, as well, a reflection upon him who molded that sword in the eternal counsel of his own mind. If the kingdoms are not falling under its power quickly enough to suit us, then the fault is not with the sword. It is perfect (Jas. 1:25). It was “once delivered” and needs no improvement. If the consuming is too slow, then the fault is either with those who wield the sword, or the condition of hearts that are assaulted by it. But don’t blame the sword!
The Consuming Kingdom
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). It is certainly “in” the world, but not “of” it. It is not in nature as the kingdoms of men, inaugurated and perpetuated with carnal conflict and conquest. This kingdom “cometh not with observation” but is “within you” (Luke 17:20-21). Since the nature of this kingdom differs from earthly kingdoms, the manner of its growth must also differ. If the kingdom is spiritual, then so must be its conquest. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Matt. 13:33).
Christians are the soldiers of this kingdom and they fight by teaching. Paul charged Timothy to “commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” the things he had been taught. In the next two verses he called him a soldier and spoke of his warfare (2 Tim. 2:2-4). As these soldiers wield the sword in every nation and souls fall before its power in obedience, the “stone that smote the image” becomes “a great mountain and fills the whole earth.” The early Christians who were scattered abroad “went everywhere preaching the word” and were “consuming” in the sense of Daniel 2:44. As every Christian now recognizes the individuality of the Great Commission and goes into his own world to teach the gospel, he is even as leaven and thus is “consuming.” The responsibilities are therefore weighty which are imposed upon this kingdom. The consuming is to be done to the end of time for Jesus said, “Lo I am with you always even to the end of the world.” Let us analyze our own hearts and activities and determine whether or not we are working as leaven in the world. It is only through proper love for and devotion to the King we serve that we may be “more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
The fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy that the kingdom would be established in the days of the Roman empire has certainly occurred. Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:14-15). The prophecy concerned not only the establishment of the kingdom, but the spreading of it as well. It has been established; it is consuming the kingdoms and filling the earth. Its king has all authority and his sword is perfectly adapted to the task assigned to it. Any weakness within the kingdom is not in the King, or his sword, but results from the failures of citizens who stumble in the discharge of their duties as soldiers.
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