It may appear that we are masters of our own destiny; that we determine our own future and shape our own world. It may appear that there is no God; that there is no Divine intervention in human affairs and that the Bible is merely a crutch for the faint hearted.
Daniel 2 – The Authority of Bible Prophecy
Remarkably, Bible prophecy has foretold our future for 2,500 years and it reveals that the destiny of this world is something we have no control over at all. In fact, Bible prophecy is simply the mould into which history is poured.
The purpose of God, as far as the earth is concerned, is clearly revealed in a remarkable prophecy contained in Daniel chapter 2, which speaks not only of the destiny of the world, but also vindicates the authority of the Bible.
Daniel 2 speaks of a dreadful nightmare experienced by the most powerful monarch of the earth in those days, Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, in the year 605 BC. Babylon was an immensely strong city which ruled over a great empire stretching from the Persian Gulf up through the Mesopotamian basin and down through Israel into Egypt.
Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, and had taken many Jews captive, including the a man named Daniel who was a member of the royal household of Judah in Israel. Daniel was also an exceptional prophet whom God used to convey many prophecies of future events to take place on the earth.
One night king Nebuchadnezzar dreamed a terrifying dream in which he saw a mighty colossus – a warrior standing and staring down at him. It is described as an
“image whose brightness was excellent… and the form thereof was terrible.”
The image of this man was made up of several segments. It had a head of fine gold, its chest and arms were made of silver, its belly and thighs were of brass, its two legs were of iron and its feet and toes were made of a mixture of iron and clay. As the king watched he saw a stone which had been cut out of a mountain without hands. This stone flew through the air and struck the image with tremendous force upon its feet, destroying the image. The stone then ground the remains of the image to powder which was blown away by the wind. The stone then grew until it became a tremendous mountain which filled the whole earth.
As we can imagine, the dream and its violence agitated the king, and he sought for someone to interpret the dream. The prophet Daniel was the only one who was able to give the interpretation, because God had specially revealed it to him.
This dream and its interpretation given by God over 2,500 years ago convey a precise overview of the future destiny of the world, running in sequence from the days of the Babylonian Empire to the ultimate establishment of God’s kingdom on the earth. The key to understanding it is given in the 28th verse:
“God in heaven… maketh known to the king what shall be in the latter days.”
This dream was given by God to explain future world events.
The Dream Explained
He showed that the head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom.
THE BREAST AND ARMS
After Nebuchadnezzar would come another kingdom represented by silver, and then a third kingdom of brass.
THE BELLY AND THIGHS
Babylon was overthrown by the Medo-Persian empire which in turn was overthrown at the hand of Alexander the Great, the founder of the Grecian world empire.
The Greeks were subsequently overthrown by the Roman armies, represented by the legs of iron. It is interesting to note that just as there were two legs, so the Roman empire developed into two separate entities, the Eastern and the Western Roman Empires. In the vision the iron legs were never overthrown – they just slowly merged with the clay of the feet. This development can be clearly identified within the Roman empire. It was never formally overthrown but disintegrated through its own decadence (see Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”). However, whilst the military power of Rome disintegrated, Roman religion did not. It was re-consolidated hundreds of years later in the form of the Holy Roman Empire, and this (iron) influence still remains today.
THE FEET AND TOES
The coalition between iron and clay in the feet and toes of the image represents an alliance between Roman Catholicism (iron) and world political powers (clay) which will arise in the “latter days”.
The second power mentioned in this vision, which destroyed the image of the empires of men, was a stone cut out without hands which became a mountain and filled the whole earth. This represents the Lord Jesus Christ who is described in scripture as a stone. Daniel explains that God’s kingdom would come, and after breaking all other kingdoms into pieces would be established forever. It is interesting to note that this kingdom is depicted as being an international kingdom on earth. The fact that the same language is used of this kingdom as of those preceding it indicated it will be a kingdom in the same manner the preceding empires were kingdoms, but with a difference:
Daniel chapter 2 is a remarkably accurate overview of 2,500 years of world history. Just as the predicted empires and events transpired with great accuracy as Daniel foretold, so we are confident that the last phase of the dream (the conquest and victory of the stone power) will also occur and that the Kingdom of God will be established upon the earth. This prophecy outlines the destiny of the world.
History itself has vindicated these words in the course of the last 2,500 years.
The rest will surely happen.
There must be many people who feel that there is something outstandingly significant about the person and the teaching of Jesus Christ. Yet when they survey “Christianity”, both in its history and its modern forms, they find a wide variety of churches and communities, all with their differing foundations, teachings and practices. Feeling bewildered by the existence of so many groups claiming the name “Christian”, they may well give up the quest for “the truth” as hopeless.
This short article is written to draw the attention of the interested enquirer to the existence of a community of believers in Christ, calling themselves “Christadelphians”, organized in groups found throughout the world. Wherever they exist they have a fellowship founded upon an agreed basis of beliefs. Fundamental to their faith is the principle that what Christ and his apostles taught in the first century was truth, and it is still the truth today. The Holy Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are their sole authority.
AN APOSTOLIC FELLOWSHIP:
The community has no paid ministry, no robes or elaborate ceremonies, nor has it any “head of the church” or legislative council. Their ecclesias (the New Testament word for ‘church’) organize their own affairs, though the pattern is similar everywhere. Like the “elders” of New Testament times, members are appointed to manage the affairs of the ecclesia and to preside at its meetings.
At the meeting for the “breaking of bread” on “the first day of the week” there are hymns, prayers, readings from the Scriptures and an exhortation. The bread and the wine circulate among all the “brothers and sisters” present. Voluntary collections are taken to meet all the expenses. If some of the early followers of the apostles in the first century could attend such meetings, it is believed that they would immediately recognise what was going on, for it is patterned on New Testament worship.
Like Jesus’ early disciples, they also proclaim his message of life to all willing to hear; they instruct their children and young people in Sunday Schools and Youth Groups, and promote the life of faith and prayer, and obedience to Christ’s commands, among their members.
THE NAME ‘CHRISTADELPHIAN’:
In the early days, members found that to preserve their identity they had to give themselves a name. “Christadelphians” was chosen because it means “brothers (and of course sisters) in Christ”. It has been used to distinguish our community for more than 120 years.
But why should the Christadelphians deserve any more attention than other groups of “believers”, many claiming to be based on the Bible?
The brief answer is this: their understanding of the teachings of the Bible is quite different from that of other denominations. The difference arose from the conviction of one, John Thomas, that the teachings he was encountering in “Christendom” 150 years ago did not truly represent the faith of Christ and his apostles. Persuaded that the truth must be sought only in the Bible, he embarked upon a conscientious study of the Scriptures. He made no claim to any vision or personal revelation.
He eventually came to an understanding of “the gospel of the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12) which was different in a number of important points from that of the churches and other religious sects. His labours attracted the support of others who were convinced of the validity of his conclusions. This understanding of Bible truths has been rigorously tested by free enquiry for 150 years. The distinctive views of the Christadelphians today are the result of this process.
THE WHOLE BIBLE:
What is this message of the Bible, and why is it different from popular “Christian” ideas?
It arises from the important principle that the Bible must be understood as a whole. It is easy to uphold certain teachings by accepting some parts of the Scriptures and neglecting others. For instance, it is popular today to dismiss much of the Old Testament. Yet these documents – the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets – were accepted by Jesus and his apostles as “the word of the Lord”. The Bible is a unity: the revelation of God for mankind begins in the pages of the Old Testament and is continued and expanded in the New. The “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) is to be derived from the whole book.
Christadelphians accept that all of the Bible is the wholly inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). They therefore read it carefully and regularly. A reading plan, called the Bible Companion, enables them to read the Old Testament once in a year, and the New Testament twice.
There is another point of great importance: if man is truly to understand the Bible, he must be prepared for the fact that it is absolutely frank about all issues, and primarily about ourselves. It is the most realistic book in the world, confronting the stark issues of life without wishful thinking. Human problems, both of the race and of individuals, are frankly assessed. The origin of the problems is explained and so is the solution to them. The Bible is the only source in the world to do this in harmony with the facts of history and of human life.
THE GOOD NEWS:
The Bible, as we have seen, exposes all the weaknesses of human nature and its perishing in the grave. But that need not be the end, for the Gospel is a message of hope. It is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16), deliverance from sin and its consequence, death. That is why the Biblical Gospel is “good news”.
Its message is an appeal to the individual man and woman for “repentance”, and then a promise of life. God does not desire that any should perish, says the Apostle Peter, “but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). What is meant by repentance is partly explained by the Apostle Paul’s statement: “that they should come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Having realised “the truth” about himself, and God’s redemption in Christ, the believer is called upon by God to “have another mind”. Repentance is not a sudden emotional upsurge, which may pass as quickly as it has arisen, but a sober assessment by the believer of his true position, his acknowledgement of this in confession of sin to God, a prayer for forgiveness and a resolve to re-direct his life in harmony with the commandments of Christ.