A Kingdom Made Without Hands
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream of an image made of various metals, representing different periods of Gentile world rule (Dan. 2:34–35, 44–45). In the dream, a stone cut without the help of human hands crushes the image’s feet and toes, breaking them to pieces. They become like chaff on a summer threshing floor, and a wind carries the material away without a trace. Then the stone that struck the image becomes a great mountain and fills the whole earth (2:34–35).
This dream encapsulates all of world history from the Babylonian kingdom on, culminating with the establishment of the great Kingdom of God. Scholars agree the stone represents the Messiah, identified in the New Testament as Jesus Christ; and the great mountain is God’s Kingdom.
However, two questions arise concerning God’s Kingdom filling the whole earth. What is the nature of the Kingdom, and when will it fill the whole earth?
There are three main interpretations of this prophecy. Some teach that God’s Kingdom filling the earth is to be interpreted symbolically and refers to the establishment of His spiritual Kingdom through the church at Christ’s First Coming. Others teach that the church’s proclamation of Christ’s gospel will result in God’s Kingdom eventually filling the earth, producing a period of universal peace and prosperity prior to Christ’s Second Coming. Still others teach that this prophecy is to be interpreted literally and will take place in the future at Christ’s Second Coming when He will reign over all the earth.
Only the third position, held by premillennialists, can be sustained by Scripture. Here is why:
Daniel’s prophecy is to be interpreted literally, not symbolically.
Daniel’s prophecy has no relationship to the church. God’s literal Kingdom was not established on Earth through the church at Christ’s First Coming, but it will be physically established at His Second Coming.
At His First Coming, Christ did not crush the revived Roman Empire represented by the feet and toes of the image. He will do so at His Second Coming, after which He will rule the world with a rod of iron (Rev. 19:15). Once this final Gentile empire is destroyed, “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:44). This statement presupposes that God’s everlasting Kingdom will be a literal, physical kingdom on Earth.
The image in Daniel is completely crushed at Christ’s Second Coming with a single, sudden, violent, catastrophic blow—not gradually by the church, as some teach.
The fulfillment of this prophecy fits the time of Christ’s Second Coming, when God’s Kingdom will fill the whole earth, beginning with Christ’s Millennial reign and extending into the New Heaven and New Earth (Rev. 19—20).