The world at your feet and an empire to call your own. History's great [?] ones sought this prize. Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, and many religious leaders all lusted for an empire. Lust haunts all of us and some give in to it while others resist. As James warned, “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:14, 15) Lust for power, especially absolute power, is known not only as a consuming addiction, but an intoxicant too; invariably corrupting rational thought and moral judgment.
Hitler's Lust for Empire
Adolph Hitler was a prime example of power's corrupting influence. His military juggernaut seemed on an invincible path to world domination. The world watched with horror as his army conquered more and more territory with invincibility. His goal was to build an empire to bring the whole world under the power of the Third Reich. Nazi Germany seemed unstoppable, arousing dread in the hearts of a fear-filled world.
In that atmosphere of fear and doubt, some Bible Students were giving a hopeful and refreshing message—confidently declaring that Hitler's plans would fail. Were they naďve or brash? Neither. They trusted the prophetic word of God which had no place for Hitler's empire. What scriptures gave these Christians confidence to brush off Germany's threat of world domination in the dark days of WWII when the Nazi war machine seemed unstoppable?
The answer will follow, but first note a parallel in our time.
Radical Islam's Lust for Empire
Radical Islam is calling for a worldwide Caliphate—Muslim hegemony. Consistent with their goal terrorist attacks around the world, continuing armed conflict with western nations, televised demonstrations against the United States and persecution of non-Muslims (especially Christians) in Islamic countries cause people dread today. Europe has quietly become more and more Islamisized. Whole neighborhoods in England and France have virtually become “off limits” to non-Muslims.
At the forefront in the news is the especially unsettling quest by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for nuclear weapons. He has no shame, no secrecy in his bluntly stated goal. He wants those weapons to annihilate Israel in a nuclear holocaust and eventually destroy the United States and western civilization.
Benjamin Netanyahu, former Prime Minister of Israel, made a parallel between Nazi Germany and Iran as he addressed 5,000 delegates in Los Angeles on November 13, 2006. “It's 1938—and Iran is Germany,” he repeated again and again. “When someone tells you he is going to exterminate you, believe him and stop him.” Netanyahu further observed that “Hitler started a war and then tried to develop an atomic bomb, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is building nuclear weapons first and will then start a war.” Unfortunately, Ahmadinejad's plans find popular support among many Muslims.
Fear not. Be assured that God's plan for man, as outlined in the Bible, does not include Islamic totalitarianism any more than it did Hitler's Third Reich dominating the world.
The Scriptural Assurance
The Bible gives us great assurance regarding the threats posed to us today. In the book of Daniel God gave an outline of His plan for man. Human history was accurately foretold centuries before it unfolded.
God purposed that there would be four universal empires, ruled by men, that would exercise power over the known world—especially over the land of Israel. Both the length of time these earthly empires would rule, and the rulers themselves, were prophesied in the Bible.
More important is the coming of the fifth universal empire—the Kingdom of God on earth. It will be under the wise, loving and righteous rule of Christ. Napoleon tried to establish a fifth empire, Hitler likewise and now Islam. None of these would be permitted of God to succeed. The next empire to rule the entire earth is Christ's.
The Prophet Daniel provides Assurance
The Prophet Daniel's prominence in the Babylonian empire grew by virtue of his God-given ability to interpret king Nebuchadnezzar's dream. In his dream the king saw a vision of a stupendous image of a man. (See Daniel, Chapter 2)
Students of prophesy understand that its head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar's Empire—Babylon. Its breast and arms of silver represented the Medo-Persian Empire. Its belly and thighs of brass represented the Grecian Empire. Its strong legs of iron represented the Roman Empire, East and West. Its feet of iron and clay represented Christendom. (The iron represented civil governments; and the miry clay, making them appear like stone, represented ecclesiasticism as it was mixed up with the politics of the ten kingdoms of Europe.)
The whole period of time in which these various Gentile governments would dominate the world would last until Messiah's promised Kingdom. And this period is symbolically stated to have been “seven times;” that is, seven years. The “day for a year” concept is well known to most students of prophesy. (Ezekiel 4:6) These are evidently not seven literal years, but are symbolic of a 2,520 year period of Gentile empires. Daniel 2:28-45; Leviticus 26:18, 21, 24, 28
At the end of the Gentile Times (their lease of earthly power), earthly governments will enter the great Time of Trouble foretold by Daniel (12:1). But that trouble truly has a golden lining—the fulfilling of man's longing for the Golden Age of Prophesy. Messiah shall stand up (in the sense of assuming control of earth's affairs) and earthly governments will cease; for all nations will serve and obey Messiah.
Israel's Role in God's Kingdom
God has not regathered the nation of Israel to see it wiped out. Far from being destroyed by nuclear weapons, Israel, God's Chosen People, will come to the fore as leaders in earth's affairs. They will become the representatives and instruments among men of Messiah's Kingdom which will be irresistible. He shall rule the nations with a rod of iron. (See Revelation 19:15)
Messiah will bind or restrain Satan, the Prince of Darkness, during the thousand years of His Reign of Righteousness and destroy him at the conclusion when He delivers the Kingdom of earth over to the Father. (Revelation 20) Mankind will then be perfect, for all willful sinners (a minority we believe) will be destroyed in the Second Death. Meantime, not only will Messiah's Reign bless and uplift Israel, but through Israel the blessing will extend to every nation, people, kindred and tongue in full accord with the Divine promise and oath made to Abraham more than thirty centuries ago.
All this is briefly and beautifully represented in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, as explained by Daniel. He saw a stone taken from the mountain without human aid. He watched and saw the stone smite the image on its feet. He beheld, as the result, the complete demolition of the Gentile systems. This smiting of the image in the feet symbolically represents that it will be by Divine Power that present institutions would all come to an end. Thus the preparation of the establishment of the Kingdom of God in their place will be finished.
Messiah's Kingdom In The Vision
Then Messiah's Kingdom, symbolized by the stone in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, will not merely fill the place where the image stood—but will keep growing until it fills the whole earth! The knowledge of the LORD will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9) “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 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. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (See Isaiah 9:6, 7)
From this standpoint it is not difficult for us to believe the words of the Psalmist that there is a time and a purpose for God's gathering Zion (Israel), yea, a set time—fixed and unalterable.
“Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof. So the heathen shall fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth thy glory. When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.” (Psalm 102:13-16)
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