The Kingdom of the Son of Man: Exploring the Foundations of a Biblical Philosophy of History

Nishanth Arulappan


Developing a biblical philosophy of history begins with the nature of God, and His attributes with regards to His omnipotent control over all dimensions of time, and His omniscience that guarantees future outcomes. While a biblical philosophy of history might have areas of overlap with the philosophy of time, they are not synonymous; and a nuanced treatment of the former mandates exegeting several passages that touch on eschatological topics. Such a broad scope is beyond the purpose of this present article. Therefore, this essay will be focused on understanding God’s purpose in history – to what end is God directing history? How does the Kingdom of God interact with the various events and elements in world history? Based on a limited exegesis of relevant passages (primarily focused on Daniel), we will build our understanding to see how the Kingdom of the Son of Man – the Second Adam – differs from the rest of the kingdoms of earthly origin, and how the exaltation of Christ is the purpose towards which all events in history are ordained. We will conclude with practical observations on how, as Christians – with our citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20) – we are to relate to the world around us and to shine God’s light in the midst of the world.

  1. Omnipotence, Omniscience, and History

“The character of God eternally obligates the creature,” said Wilhelmus Brakel, the Dutch theologian. The force of that statement, while focusing on creaturely obligation, presupposes something foundational to reality: the nature and the character of God. In systematic theology, some doctrines are central and axial, and the other doctrines radiate from it in a coherent and deductive fashion, each linked with several others in an interconnected web – this forms the matrix of Christian theology. For example, soteriology presupposes theology proper, anthropology and hamartiology, and logically leads to eschatological implications – at both the individual and cosmological levels. This has immense implications for practical theology and it’s applications in the everyday life of a believer.

Thus, the character/nature of God is our starting point in developing a biblical philosophy of history. While there are several angles from which this can be approached, I limit myself to a very modest purpose: I would like to contrast the Kingdom of God with the kingdoms of men, and to show a foundational difference between Christ’s Kingdom and earthly kingdoms.[i] I will primarily draw on selected texts in the books of Daniel and Revelation to highlight the core theme of this article, while restraining myself from fine-grained exegesis.

Two aspects of God’s nature need to be defined and understood before we progress any further in understanding how God relates to history: God’s omniscience and His sovereignty. God’s omniscience refers to His exhaustive and intimate knowledge of all events in the cosmos across all dimensions of time – past, present, and future. For humans, events occur in historical succession, and we perceive them one after the other. But for God, all the events – past, present, and future – are present before Him as an eternal “now.” God revealed His name to Moses as “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). Jesus used the phrase – “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” – to refute the Sadducees who didn’t believe in the resurrection (Mathew 22:29-33), contradicting their theology of time and sense of history. Time is an “eternal now” to God – which is why He describes Himself as “I am that I am.” He always exists in all dimensions of time.

However to accommodate human perceptions of time in three dimensions, God also condescends to describe Himself as the one “who is, who was, and the one who is to come” (Revelation 1:4, 8). When the book of Revelation was written,[ii] believers were facing severe persecution from apostate Judaism (Revelation 2:9, 3:9) and the state machinery of the Roman Empire (Revelation 17:12-14). Regardless of the debate surrounding the Domitian (A.D. 95) or Neronian (A.D. 60s) dating of the persecution, what is relevant for our present discussion is that Christians were about to undergo severe suffering for their witness,[iii] and they needed to know during this time that God is control of all events in history; and Christ – the faithful witness and the firstborn from the dead – is, in fact, the Ruler of the kings of the earth (Revelation 1:5). God’s sovereign and precise control over the political situations and the lives of His people across all dimensions of time was the greatest encouragement for believers in the first century. This message is relevant for the church in any historical context, whether hostile or homely – whether the church is facing a persecution of Diocletian proportions, or couched in the imperial comfort of Constantinian patronage. Neither persecution nor patronage are permanent; thus, developing a biblical philosophy of history is not an exercise in arcane abstraction, but one that carries tremendous implications for the church’s witness in every age, and for guiding the decision-making of individual believers.

That God controls and knows the future is a defining feature of deity. In Isaiah, God’s polemic against rebellious Israel and the idols they worshipped was predicated on the declaration of God’s control and knowledge of the future – none of which these idols could claim or do.

“Remember this, keep it in mind,
take it to heart, you rebels.
Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.’
From the east I summon a bird of prey;
from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose.
What I have said, that I will bring about;
what I have planned, that I will do.

Isaiah 46:8-11

Set forth your case, says the Lord;
bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.
Let them bring them, and tell us
what is to happen.
Tell us the former things, what they are,
    that we may consider them,
that we may know their outcome;
    or declare to us the things to come.
Tell us what is to come hereafter,
    that we may know that you are gods;
do good, or do harm,
    that we may be dismayed and terrified.

Behold, you are nothing,
and your work is less than nothing;
an abomination is he who chooses you.

Isaiah 41:21-24

God’s omniscience and sovereignty are synonymous with God’s foreknowledge and foreordination. God knows the future not because he “looks” into the future – as though the “future” is happening apart from Him. God Himself has ordained what is to happen in the future and this is why He “knows” what will happen tomorrow. Thus, God’s foreknowledge is possible because of God’s foreordination. God’s omnipotence is what makes omniscience possible. Regardless of where one stands on the Calvinist-Arminian spectrum, this relationship between divine sovereignty and omniscience cannot be denied, and attempts to compromise on this issue can dangerously slide into false doctrine with potentially blasphemous implications.[iv] Thus, foreknowledge and foreordination are defining features of Jehovah’s deity, and serve to distinguish the Him from idols. This foundation is necessary before we delve into the other Scriptural passages for examination.

  1. The Visions in Daniel and Revelation

The primary texts for our analysis are found in Daniel 2 and 7, and Revelation 13. The books of Daniel and Revelation are considered as counterparts in the Old and New Testaments respectively and it is impossible to understand Revelation without Daniel (along with several other Old Testament passages).

Though the Israelites were promised the possession of Canaan, it was not a ‘no-matter-what’ guarantee – it was conditioned on their obedience to God. In Deuteronomy 28 the promises for obedience and curses for disobedience are mentioned side-by-side, and God doesn’t make any special exception to their disobedience with regards to possession of the land. God warned the Israelites that the land would “vomit” them out (Leviticus 20:22-23) if they committed the sins of the nations which they were dispossessing. No sooner than they entered Canaan, the cycle of victory, idolatry, judgment, and deliverance repeats itself over and over again. The reason for this is explained in Judges 3:7 – they “forgot” the Lord and served idols. This national historical amnesia was also the reason for their disobedience during their 40-year journey in the desert (Psalm 78:10-12 & Psalm 106:12-14). Thus, the antidote to this problem was a conscious remembrance of God’s acts in the history of Israel (Psalm 78:1-8).

The cycle of ‘progress-sin-judgment-deliverance’ continued from the days of the judges till the period of the divided monarchy. It was no surprise that God made good on what He had warned about and he sent the Assyrian kingdom to deport the northern kingdom of Israel into captivity (2 Kings 17), and sent the Babylonian kingdom to uproot the kingdom of Judah and carry them into exile (2 Kings 25). Daniel was a young man from the Judean nobility that was deported to Babylon. Jeremiah 52 records the details about the damage and looting done to Solomon’s Temple, and Daniel 1:2 makes no concessions about who was behind this: “And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God.” God sovereignly caused His people to be carried into exile by a pagan nation – this happened because of their idolatry and sins which polluted the land. Even the Gentile army commander of the Babylonian army – Nebuzaradan – recognized the sovereign hand of God in the disaster that was brought by the Babylonians on Judah (Jeremiah 40:1-4).

It is in this situation that Daniel the exile is called upon to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2). In a time when one group of exiles were lamenting that they couldn’t sing the Lord’s songs in a strange land (Psalm 137:1-5), God had strategically positioned Daniel in the Babylonian court to get the message directly across to Nebuchadnezzar, that God was in control of history, including even Nebuchadnezzar himself. After his pride caused him to be driven into a period of insanity, he acknowledged God’s sovereignty. Then his glory was restored to him. This is what he said:

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him, who lives forever,

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
    or say to him, “What have you done?

At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

Daniel 4:34-37.

God elicited praise from the very same king, whom He had sent to sack Jerusalem and destroy the temple (Daniel 1:2). Though the Israelites was lamenting their loss of land, the destruction of the temple, and their collective national and spiritual humiliation – it is at this point that God demonstrates that He is control of all of all the nations and empires of the earth and not just Israel and Judah. God is not a local, tribal deity, like the idols of the nations, but He is the sovereign Creator of the cosmos, and the one who controls every event in history with precision to accomplish His purposes and will. It is with this understanding of God’s exhaustive sovereignty that we move forward to study the visions in Daniel 2 and 7. Revelation 13 expands on these revelations, and thus it is prerequisite to understand the two dreams in Daniel before we discuss the relevant symbolism in Revelation.

III. The Characteristics of Worldly Kingdoms

The visions in Daniel 2 and 7 are point to the same chronological progression of empires, with the latter offering more detail than the former. There is also one significant difference: the dream in Daniel 2 was originally revealed to Nebuchadnezzar, but dream in Daniel 7 was revealed exclusively to Daniel. In other words, Nebuchadnezzar was given just the headlines, but Daniel was given the full report. The details of the symbolism in Daniel 7 have been historically and archeologically verified with amazing precision. However, it’s not my purpose to discuss the nitty-gritty details of the same, but stick to the primary theme of this article: how does the Kingdom of Christ differ from the kingdoms of the world?

Daniel 2 highlights the earthly empires in their historical succession from the head to the toes – from a position of superiority to inferiority – and this correlates with the nature of the metal that represented each body part. The statue had the following features: a head of gold, arms and chest of silver, trunk and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet partly of iron and clay. Though there was historical continuity between these kingdoms, there was a decrease in their value and position (denoted by the type of metal and the body part associated with it). The regression from gold, to silver, to bronze, to iron, and eventually clay denotes the decreasing nobility and increased brutality of these respective kingdoms and civilizations.

Daniel 7 gives another snapshot of these kingdoms with further details on their nature. The chimeric representation, which might seem fanciful to the (post)modern mind, was very well understood by the ancients.[v] The first kingdom is a lion with eagle’s wings; the second is a bear raised on one side with three ribs in its mouth; the third is a leopard with four heads and four wings; the last was the most terrible beast with iron teeth, bronze claws, and ten horns on its head. These kingdoms too, follow in succession, and each animal that is portrayed reveals the nature of that kingdom and civilization. There is increasing ferocity and predatory appetite associated with each succeeding animal and the civilizations symbolized by them.

The table below gives the comparison of these kingdoms as referenced in Daniel 2 and 7, and a brief discussion follows.

Daniel 2 Empire Referred To Daniel 7
Body Part Metal Type Head of Animal Other Features
Head Gold Babylonian Lion Wings of an eagle
Chest & Arms Silver Medo-Persian Bear 3 ribs in its mouth
Trunk & Thighs Bronze Grecian Leopard with 4 heads 4 wings
Legs, Feet & toes Iron (with clay) Roman 10 horns on the head Teeth of iron
Increasing ferocity
Decreasing value
Decreasing honor


Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold (Daniel 2:37-38). Gold, denoting ornamental magnificence, represented the greatness and glory of the Babylonian empire. The parallel symbolism is represented by the lion with eagle’s wings. The lamassu is a well-renown archeological artefact depicted either as a winged lion or bull with a man’s head, which has been excavated from several sites in Mesopotamia, and coincide with the Assyrian/Babylonian period.[vi] God gave Nebuchadnezzar extensive geographical territory under his control and unparalleled imperial glory (Daniel 4:20-22). This also correlates with the symbolism in Daniel 7, where the lion is the king of the beasts. The eagle is the most prominent bird that symbolizes strength and soaring to heights, and God also uses this symbolism to describe the Babylonian army (Habakkuk 1:6-8). The wings being clipped off, and being made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart being given to it (Daniel 7:4), has parallels with the events that happened to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4.  Nebuchadnezzar’s pride, and God’s judgment of the same, and the period of ensuing insanity could be a reference to the wings being “plucked off” – he was humbled before God. Being made to stand on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man given to him could refer to the restoration of his sanity following his acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty (Daniel 4:34-37).

What emerges here is quite clear: even the greatest of earthly kingdoms are bestial in character, and the only way for any such kingdom to be transformed and have superior character and intelligence like that of a human – for it to “stand upright” and have the “heart of a man” – and to serve in the best interests of humanity, is when its wings are “plucked off,” denoting the clipping of pride in the hearts of its leader(s). This incident demonstrates that if a leader (who previously is ignorant of God) is personally humbled by God after a private crisis, and acknowledges the sovereignty of God’s rule and practices righteousness by adopting policies that prevent oppression (Daniel 4:24-27), greater glory will be restored to him (v. 36).

The next kingdom – the Medo-Persian kingdom – is inferior to Babylon, just as how silver is inferior to gold, and the bear is inferior to the lion. Silver was the most common means of monetary exchange in the ancient world, and the Achaemenid Empire was well renowned for its taxation which were paid mostly in talents of silver.[vii] The bear raised on one side signifies the prominence of the Persians over the Medes, and the three ribs in its mouth symbolizes the three nations that it overthrew – Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt.

The next kingdom – of Alexander the Macedonian – is denoted by the trunk and thighs of bronze, which is inferior to both Babylon and the Achaemenid empires. Bronze is the primary metal associated with weapons of warfare.[viii] The parallel symbolism of a leopard – which is the fastest land predator – correlates with the lighting speed with which Alexander conquered territory all the way up to the Indus Valley in a span of less than ten years (331 B.C. to 323 B.C.). This also ensured the spread and infusion of Hellenistic culture and Greek language through all the conquered lands. Greek served as the lingua franca of the Mediterranean world several centuries after Alexander’s demise, even in the first century A.D. The four heads and four wings of the leopard signifies the break-up of his empire under his four generals – Ptolemy, Selucius, Cassander, and Lysimachus – each of whom governed specific territories.

The final kingdom – the Roman Empire – is denoted by the legs and feet of iron, and is the least inferior of all these kingdoms. Its parallel symbolism shows it to be a terrible beast with teeth of iron, claws of bronze, and ten horns on its head. Though immortalized and extolled as the foundation of Western civilization, in God’s sight the Roman Empire was the least noble and most savage of all empires.[ix] The toes of iron mixed with clay represents the assault of the barbarian hordes on the fringes of the Roman Empire, during its terminal stage, and its eventual fall. In Revelation 13:1-2, the Roman Empire is portrayed as having the composite features of the three beasts that were portrayed before it in the Daniel 7 vision: it appeared like a leopard, with the feet of a bear, and the mouth of a lion. These features specifically denote the predatory appetite of the three previous kingdoms that were magnified and expressed in the fourth and final kingdom. This was the full expression of the Roman Empire animated by satanic power to persecute the people of God in the first century.

Thus, what emerges from a preliminary analysis of these two visions is that all earthly kingdoms are of a bestial character and predatory nature – as it relates to their goals of territorial expansion, extensive extraction of tribute from governed territories, and the accompanying savagery, bloodshed, and oppression. However, we are not without hope in history, because the God of Heaven installs His Kingdom in the midst of the chaos and turmoil that engulfs earthly kingdoms, and this remains our hope even the midst of the fiercest geopolitical whirlwinds of our day.

  1. The Mountain of the Lord

In Daniel 2 and 7, at the end of the visions of the poly-metallic statue and the various beasts, God inaugurates His Kingdom and this overturns the despotic and despairing situations in history. In Daniel 2, a stone “not cut by human hands” (v. 34) strikes the imposing statue on its feet of iron and clay, eventually breaking the entire statue into pieces, and the breakdown is to such a fine level that they become like chaff on the threshing floor, and the wind carries them away, not leaving any trace of it behind (v. 35). But this stone becomes a mountain and fills the whole earth.

First to note is that the stone is not cut by human hands – this “stone” is not the work of man; it is the work of God. Jesus said: “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). He was mentioning this to Pontius Pilate – the Roman Empire’s representative in the province of Judea. This exchange represents the very essence of the clash between earthly empires and the Kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom is not a continuation of earthly fiefdoms. Though there might be a chronological overlap and correlation with earthly kingdoms, in a very real and distinct sense, God’s Kingdom is separate from these earthly kingdoms.

Secondly, the stone is very small when compared with the bright, immense, and frightening poly-metallic statue (Daniel 2:31), but it brings the entire statue down. Two things to note are the small size of the stone and the target area of attack – the feet of this statue. God’s Kingdom – though initially insignificant and hardly noticeable, like the stone, can bring down the imposing, imperialistic, and idolatrous kingdoms of man. Next, rather than striking the head, the stone strikes the feet. A headshot gives greater guarantee for lethally downing a target, but here, the stone strikes the feet of the statue and the rest of the statue crumbles down. This seems impossible by natural explanation, but this is how it works in God’s Kingdom. Greeks looks for wisdom and Jews look for signs – but we are commanded to preach Christ crucified – a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:21-25). This is the dynamic of God’s Kingdom.

Thirdly, in terms of value, this stone doesn’t stand any comparison with the metals represented in the statue. A stone doesn’t have the ornamental magnificence of gold, nor have the monetary equivalence of silver, nor have the martial applications of bronze, nor have the metalwork applications of iron in civilization. God’s Kingdom, likewise, would be unnoticeable when compared with earthly standards of glory, and its subjects won’t be the best of aristocracy or the nobility of society. But God chose the insignificant stone to destroy an immense and imperial statue. Likewise, God chooses those that are weak and foolish to shame those that are strong and wise; He chooses the things are not to shame the things that are. Therefore let him who boasts, boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

It’s also significant to note that Jesus mentions the confession of his deity as the “rock” on which He will build His Kingdom, and the gates of hell will not be able to prevail against it (Mathew 16:13-20). While some might find an argument for apostolic succession of the Pope from this passage, even without appealing to the Greek text, this argument can be refuted without further discussion. If Jesus wanted to build the church on Peter, He could have directly told him: “You are Peter, and on you I will build my church.” It could have been as simple as that, but Jesus doesn’t build the church on Peter, and few verses later, Peter serves as an unknowing and unwilling mouthpiece for Satan when he advices Jesus against the path of the cross, and Jesus reserves some harsh rebuke for him (Mathew 16:21-23). Thus, to postulate that Peter was the foundation of the church is sheer absurdity. In verse 18, the Greek, the word for Peter is masculine (Petros, Πέτρος) and the word for ‘this rock’ is feminine (Petra, πέτρα).[i] Though there is a definite play on words, Jesus is not referring to Peter as the foundation on which He will build the church; rather He is referring Peter’s confession as the foundation on which He will build the church – it is Petra and not Petros. Thus, an explicit confession of the deity of Christ is the “rock” on which the church is built and against this foundation, the gates of hell don’t stand a chance.

Next, the stone destroys the immense image, and it becomes a mountain that fills the whole earth. The allusion to ‘mountain’ points directly to the ‘Mountain of the Lord’ as described in the millennial vision of Isaiah 2:2-5.

It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the Lord

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be lifted up above the hills;

and all the nations shall flow to it,

and many peoples shall come, and say:

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,

and shall decide disputes for many peoples;

and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war anymore.

Depending upon one’s eschatological persuasion, this passage can either be interpreted as referring to a literal restoration of the Israelite polity – which is what the Jews in the first century were hoping for, and much to their disappointment, Jesus refused to act on their terms (John 6:14-15, 18:16) – or as a spiritual fulfillment through the church. Towards the end of the article, I shall briefly outline the apostolic exposition on this matter and its link with the biblical philosophy of history, but at this juncture it suffices to say that the Mountain of the Lord is a reference to God’s Kingdom that expands over all the earth, infiltrating every stratum of thought and culture. The Mountain of the Lord will be established as the highest of the mountains – God’s Kingdom will outlast and overshadow every earthly kingdom’s influence. The nations – the Gentiles (i.e. those who don’t know God) – will stream to the Mountain, seeking to learn about God’s ways and His judgments. This is the hope of postmillennial eschatology.[ii]

Psalm 2 links the Mountain of the Lord (Mount Zion) with Sonship of Christ, which links up with Peter’s confession of Jesus’ identity (Mathew 16:16). Romans 1:4 mentions that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God” by His resurrection from the dead. Following his ascension, Jesus is now seated at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 1:3), and is given the mandate to make the nations and the ends of the earth His possession. This is the impetus and authority with which the Great Commission is carried out, where we are to go and make disciples of all nations (Mathew 28:18-20), teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded, bringing them to the obedience that comes by faith (Romans 1:5).

“As for me, I have set my King

    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:

The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;

today I have begotten you.

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

and the ends of the earth your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron

and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

Psalm 2:9 is quoted in Revelation 19:15, referring to the Rider on the White Horse – whose name is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:11-16), who is Jesus. Out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and this is the parallel with the ‘rod of iron’ in Psalm 2. The nations are like clay vessels, and God’s Word is like iron that can smash the pottery to pieces. Note that the Sword – which is a symbolic reference to the Word of God – is not held in His hand, but coming from His mouth. This is a reference to the primacy of proclamation and is a prohibition against use forceful and violent means to advance the gospel.

Recall from Daniel 2 that the stone strikes the immense statue where its feet are mixed with clay and iron. The kingdoms and civilizations of the world will eventually transition from precious metals to clay, and God’s Kingdom will be renewed at each successive transitions points. As the imperialistic and idolatrous kingdoms of world history deteriorate from a head of gold to toes of clay, the seemingly insignificant stone of God’s Kingdom will strike them, causing them to crumble till they become like chaff on the threshing floor, being carried away by the wind without leaving any trace behind (Daniel 2:35). The Word of God will be the iron rod that smashes these cultures and kingdoms of clay, destroying all ungodly influences and practices, and transforming these nations and cultures for the Kingdom of God (Revelation 11:15).

  1. The Kingdom of the Son of Man, the Second Adam

The parallel vision in Daniel 7 throws more light on God’s Kingdom from a totally different perspective. Here, these same nations that were mentioned in Daniel 2 are viewed with different symbols. God uses symbols to communicate richly variegated ideas and specific meanings which cannot be explained by crass literalism (Numbers 12:6-8). Jesus also spoke in parables using earthly symbols to communicate heavenly meaning (Mathew 13: 10-17, 34). Recollect that from our previous analysis of Daniel 7, few things were obvious: the four kingdoms had a bestial character with predatory appetite. Revelation 13:2 shows that the last beast had composite features from the previous three beasts – looked like a leopard, had feet like a bear, and the mouth of a lion – each of these symbols convey the totality of the ferocious nature and appetite for territory and tribute, accompanied with the ensuing brutality, savagery, and oppression, that characterized the Roman Empire.

However, God judges the nations, and nations – as much as individuals – are accountable to Him. The last section in the book of Jeremiah is a list of prophecies against various nations (Jeremiah 46-52), and reading through those sections is encouraging because despite the judgment that God brings on his own people Israel and the other nations, He also promises to restore their fortunes (Jeremiah 33:7, 48:47, 49:6, 49:39). Despite the seemingly frightening effect these beasts produced in the earth, God intervenes to restrain their power, judges them, and destroys them. The last beast was killed and this is a reference to the destruction and dissolution of the Roman Empire (from its ascension in the first century B.C. till the end of the Byzantium in 1453 A.D. with the Ottoman invasion). The fall of the Roman Empire was lamented by the historian Edward Gibbon in six volumes, published over a span of 13 years![iii] The heavenly verdict pronounced on the last beast and the appearance of the Son of Man is mentioned below.

9 “As I looked,

thrones were placed,

and the Ancient of Days took his seat;

his clothing was white as snow,

and the hair of his head like pure wool;

his throne was fiery flames;

its wheels were burning fire.

10 A stream of fire issued

and came out from before him;

a thousand thousands served him,

and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;

the court sat in judgment,

and the books were opened.

11“I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire.

12As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

13“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven

there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days

and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,

that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion,

which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:9-14.

Following the verdict on the last and most ferocious of all beasts, we read about the ‘Son of Man’ presenting himself before the Ancient of Days. We already mentioned about Psalm 2, where Jesus’ resurrection validated His Sonship and now He is seated at the right hand of the Father. Jesus is coming with the “clouds of heaven” – Jesus is referencing Himself in Mark 14:62 and Luke 21:27 – and receiving a Kingdom from God the Father. The subjects are people from all nations and languages – recollect that we are to “make disciples” of all nations (Mathew 28:18-20) – and the dominion of this Kingdom is everlasting, and it shall never be destroyed.

The Hebrew/Aramaic[iv] word for Son of Man is ‘bar enosh’/ ‘bar adam,’ which when loosely translated it means ‘like Adam.’ The Kingdom of the ‘Son of Man’ is Christ’s Kingdom.[v] This tells us something very significant and finds echoes in the Garden of Eden.

First, it is Christ’s Kingdom that bears the true marks of humanity, unlike the other earthly kingdoms with their beastly, chimeric features. The beasts in Daniel and Revelation were stirred up out of the sea (Daniel 7:1-2, Revelation 13:1-2); and the “sea” is frequently used to referred to Gentile nations (eg. Psalm 65:7, Isaiah 8:7-8, Jeremiah 46:7-8, Ezekiel 26:3).[vi] Genesis 1:20-25 records that God created the creatures of the sea and land directly from the sea and the land respectively – they were created from the earth. Adam’s creation, however, was different: his physical body was made from the earth, but God breathed His life into Adam, and he became a living being (Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7). Adam was created in the ‘Image of God’ which separated him from the rest of animal creation. Likewise, Christ’s Kingdom – as seen in Daniel 7 – is the only one that bears the true characteristics of human nature. The rest of the kingdoms have bestial features that serve the predatory appetites of earthly glory and power. These beastly kingdoms are judged by the Father, and their dominion and stranglehold over the nations is brought to an end, but Christ is received by the Father, and he is given an eternal and everlasting Kingdom that can never be destroyed with people from every tribe, tongue, and nation serving him before God’s throne (Revelation 5:9-10).

Next, we note that the First Adam in Eden was given authority over the beasts of the earth (Genesis 1:26). The First Adam failed in his protection mandate, and was expelled from the Garden of Eden. But the Second Adam succeeded where the First Adam failed (Romans 5:12-21). Just like how the First Adam was given authority over the beasts of the earth, Christ – the Second Adam – is now given authority over bestial powers that control the nations. Where the First Adam failed, the Second Adam was victorious; likewise, Christ will conquer and rule over the nations (Revelation 11:15).

This is the fundamental distinction between the Kingdom of the Son of Man and the kingdoms of the earth that manifest their chimeric and bestial characteristics. Thus, when Jesus told Pontius Pilate that his Kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), we need to understand that statement in light and weight of this text in Daniel 7.

  1. How Does World History Serve Redemptive History? A Possible Framework

We have seen thus far that the Kingdom of God is a force to reckon with in history, on the global stage. Now, it’s obvious from the analysis of previous texts that God acts in history with a definite purpose. What is it? Various secular philosophies have tried to explain and account for meaning and purpose in history, and try to find significance in historical events apart from God. Delving into that will be a digression right now, but it suffices to say that there are two philosophies of time: either time is cyclical, or linear. The cyclical view of time robs history of meaning, while linearity endows it with purpose – a teleos – and a biblical philosophy of history is teleological.

Commenting on both views, Gordon H. Clark, a Christian philosopher, explains it excellently:

Significance requires a purpose for which history takes place. A purpose or a goal is the prerequisite for assigning a value to life. One cycle may have a beginning and an end; but an endless series of cycles has no end, no purpose, no goal. A goal is something final, something ultimate, and something permanent. Mere change, constant change, aimless motion, is not purposeful. For change to be purposeful, it must have a direction. And a direction is determined by an end or goal. Progress, likewise, is possible only when there is a goal. Many people believe that mankind has been making progress; they believe that we today are better off than our ancestors. The idea of progress has been and still is popular. At this moment, however, I am not asserting progress as a fact; and I am certainly not approving the popular notion of what progress consists in. I am merely pointing out that if there is to be progress of any sort, there must be a goal toward which we may progress.

The goal cannot be merely the end of a cycle that is to be repeated again. A true goal is final, ultimate, and permanent. Accordingly, if history is to be granted significance, something must happen once for all. The end must occur once, and endure. And if the end can occur but once, it also follows that the various means to that end can occur but once. The whole historical process must consist of a series of unique events that usher in the culmination. There may be similarities among the means. One civilization may pass through stages that are similar to the stages of another civilization. In this sense history may repeat itself. The book of Judges shows how history repeated itself many times. The victorious Jews forsook God; they were defeated by their enemies; a leader called them to repentance; and God restored them to favor and delivered them from the oppression of their enemies. But Deborah lived only once; and Gideon lived only once; and Samson lived only once; and Christ died once for all.

History could be a series of dis jointed events and still be instructive; but far from being disjointed, history is a process so planned that the early events prepare for the later events. In particular the events of the Old Testament, the call of Abraham, the separation of the Jews, the establishment of the theocracy, all prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah. The ritual typology also indicates this, even though obscurely. The explicit prophecies state the matter so as to leave no doubt. Two centuries before Cyrus was born, the prophet mentioned him by name and predicted that he and the Persians would rebuild Jerusalem. Almost five centuries before Christ was born, the prophet stated definitely that the Messiah would come within 490 years. And in the fullness of time Christ came. And the fact that He came, that He was crucified, and that He rose from the grave, leads to another and still more important fact about history. It is perhaps the most important fact about history. It is that history is the scene of God’s activity. The significance of history according to the Christian view is not that men can learn a spiritual lesson or two. It is not that early events prepare for later events. But rather history is significant because in history God acts.[vii]

The teleos – or purpose – for God’s actions in history is mentioned in Ephesians 1:11 – in the fullness of time, it is God’s intent “to unite all things in him (i.e. Christ), things in heaven and things on earth.” The Greek word “to unite” (ἀνακεφαλαιόω, anakephalaioó) can also be translated as “summing up” (NASB); or “gather together into one” (KJV); or “to head up” (INT).[viii] The Strong’s Concordance defines it thus: “showing the head as the ‘organizing center,’ causing all the parts to work together in harmony.”[ix] Thus, Christ is the fountainhead of history, directing all events – even seemingly unimportant ones – to fulfill and achieve His objectives and purposes in the destinies of men and nations. Therefore, to have an accurate and objective view of history, at the bare minimum, the following needs to be acknowledged: the centrality and supremacy of Christ and the sovereignty of God. Any view that fails to acknowledge this much is defective. Our view of history will determine our decision-making in the warp of woof the events in our everyday lives – therefore, the more we understand God’s purpose in the past, the better prepared we are in the present to make choices that honor Him and advance Christ’s Kingdom, even as we look toward our glorification and consummation of God’s purposes in future.

Now, I would like to quickly summarize the role played by each of the four nations mentioned in Daniel 2 and 7, and see how God used them to serve His people. Babylon was used to bring judgment on apostate Judaism and to carry them into exile. This is how diasporic communities of Jews were established throughout the Levantine and Mediterranean regions, which served as focal points for the spread of the gospel later on throughout the Mediterranean. Persia was used to release God’s people from exile and sent them to rebuild the Temple. Greece was used to spread Hellenistic culture and the Greek language all across conquered territories, so that when the Gospel spread across these regions in the first century A.D. and beyond, all the communities could have a common medium of communication (even the Jewish diaspora were routinely using the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament). Though Rome carried out severe persecutions, the administrative architecture of the empire made travel less bureaucratic for Paul and others during their missionary journeys. God also used Rome to destroy the Jewish Temple once for all in A.D. 70. It was at the heights of Roman power and glory that God birthed His Kingdom. Galatians 4:4 says that “in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son” – and the Greek word translated ‘time’ is chronos referring to time in the chronological sense (and not kairos, which means an opportune time).[x] This carries immense import for understanding God’s sense of time. Though God is eternal and outside time, He still acts in history at specific junctures, and the “fullness of time” when God acts is related to birthing the fulfillment of His promises regarding His Son. When Christ is “birthed” – i.e. when the Kingdom of Christ is advanced – whether in our individual lives, in the corporate lives of Christian communities, or in the historical trends and situations of nations, we can be sure that God is acting to move all events to prepare for the manifestation of Christ’s Kingdom.

With the above understanding, it is not an exaggeration or a stretch in hermeneutical application to consider the following: Babylon could refer to those authorities/forces/events that God uses to discipline an apostate church or Christian community, and carry them into a period of symbolic exile, where their freedom of worship and expression are severely curtailed. Persia could refer to those whom God uses to release the faithful remnant from their symbolic exile. Greece could refer to those that increase global interconnectedness and create administrative platforms for increased mobility and cross-cultural communication. Rome could refer to those that unleash further persecution and destroy the vestigial and symbolic elements of Christian worship (recollect the sacking of Jerusalem by Titus/Vespasian in A.D. 70), and yet also serve to advance His purpose by enabling messengers of the gospel to travel freely throughout their territories.

VII. How Should We Then Live?

In the light of this understanding of history and how God brings His purposes to fulfillment and consummation, it is natural to ask: as God’s children, how do we relate with the world in the midst of the volatile political dynamics? After all, God was not just acting in the history of Judah and Israel in the Old Testament, but also in the lives and nations of Gentiles. Even during the Old Testament times, the mission of God was centrifugal (radiating out) and not just centripetal (radiating in).[xi] God was involved saving Gentiles even in the Old Testament.

Melchizedek was priest of God Most High, and the king of Salem, and even Abraham paid tributes to him (Genesis 14:18-20).  Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, was a priest of Yahweh, in the region of Midian, who advises Moses on matters of legal administration (Exodus 18). Rahab was the first convert from Canaan (Joshua 2:8-11). Ruth, a Moabitess, believed in the Yahweh, and was the great grandmother of David (Ruth 4:13-21). Jonah was sent to proclaim repentance to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh, and the people respond positively, and God averted his destruction (Jonah 3:6-10). Isaiah envisions a time when the Gentiles will pour into God’s Kingdom, and some of them even taking on priestly duties (Isaiah 66:18-21).

Jesus quotes the examples of Elijah being sent to the Gentile widow in Zarepath, when Israel was in a period of famine, and Namaan, the military official from the Assyrian kingdom, being healed of leprosy (Luke 4:14-30). Mentioning about these very two examples in his first synagogue sermon in Nazareth, earns Jesus the wrath of the Jews, since He spoke about God’s reach to the Gentiles, and they want to get him killed immediately (v. 29).  When Paul is mobbed by the Jewish crowd in the Temple, and later rescued by the Roman guards, he is given an opportunity to make a verbal defense. The Jews listen attentively until the moment he mentions about God’s call for him to go to the Gentiles. At this point, the Jews start rioting and demanding his death (Acts 22:21-22).

God was not zeroed-in on the Jews during the period of the Old Covenant, and He continued to reveal and minister even to Gentiles during that time. God strategically positions His children in the midst of the nations and their rulers to advance His purposes throughout world history. The Babylonian nation was used as an instrument of judgment against apostate Israel. They ransacked the Temple – the very essence of Jewish polity and religion – and carried away the remaining Judeans into exile. Yet, God tells the exiled Jewish community to seek the welfare of Babylon and to pray to the Lord on its behalf (Jeremiah 29:4-7)! Daniel served under both the Babylonian and Medo-Persian kingdoms (Daniel 2:46-48, 6:1-3). Nehemiah was cupbearer to the Persian king Xerxes (Nehemiah 1), and he gets official sanction to go and rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem.

Jesus healed a Roman Centurion’s servant, commenting that not even in Israel had he seen such great faith as demonstrated by the Roman centurion (Mathew 8:5-13). During the crucifixion of Jesus, when the Jewish leaders were passing mocking comments about him, it was a Roman centurion who affirmed the deity of Christ (Mark 15:25-39). When God first directed Peter to take the gospel to the Gentiles, it was to the household of a Roman Centurion, Cornelius, serving in the Italian Regiment (Acts 10). Paul knew how to use his Roman citizenship for official purposes (Acts 16:35-39), and to even obtain legal protection from the persecution of the Jews (Acts 22:21-29). The Philippian jailer’s family had come to believe in the Lord as a result of Paul’s ministry when the earthquake rocked the foundations of the prison where Paul and Silas were being held (Acts 16:25-34). Several years later, from a Roman prison, Paul writes that his imprisonment has actually served to advance the gospel and the entire Praetorian guard have come to know that Paul is imprisoned for Christ (Philippians 1:12-14). Thus, though the Roman Empire – symbolized by the fourth beast of Daniel, and the beast of Revelation – was the most ferocious of all beasts, God still found ways to minister to individuals inside the Roman Empire. In fact, there were saints even in Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22)!

Though the larger historical processes operating within these kingdoms were antagonistic to God’s Kingdom and His purposes, yet God found ways to reach out and minister to individuals within these nations. Likewise, in our day, though we might be faced with nations and forces that are overtly hostile to the Christian faith – and might even have persecution as a matter of official policy – it is imperative for us to be aware of the fact that God still reaches out to His elect who may be located within these communities and nations. God’s Kingdom is not of this world, and yet are commanded to pray ‘Thy Kingdom Come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ Paul, writing from a Roman prison, mentions that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Romans 3:20). Our ultimate identity, loyalty, and obeisance belong to Christ’s heavenly Kingdom, though we might be citizens of various polities on earth.

III. Symbols versus Reality, and God’s Kingdom in History

When speaking about a biblical philosophy of history, it isn’t right to bypass the critical eschatological issues related to the last days, what happens to Israel and so on. Though it is impossible to touch upon all those topics at the moment, I will highlight key themes as it relates to our discussion. For a thorough understanding, one needs to exegete the Olivet Discourse, in Mathew 24 along with related passages in Daniel and Revelation. But, since there is no time for that now, I will quickly make several statements with references, without explaining too much, and suggest some books for further reading. The key principle to remember when dealing with eschatological passages is this: Scripture interprets Scripture. We start with Scripture and then interpret the surrounding events in world history, rather than starting outside Scripture and then misinterpreting Scripture based on current-day fancies and trends.

In Mathew 24:1-2, when Jesus and the disciples are passing through the Temple, the disciples point out the magnificence of the Temple architecture, specifically mentioning the large stones (Mark 13:1-2). In response, Jesus bluntly mentions this: “there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” The Temple symbolized the centrality and the very foundations of the Jewish nation, and here, Jesus is mentioning that the Temple will be destroyed. However, this is not the first time that this is happening. God had already disciplined apostate Israel in the past, by sending Nebuchadnezzar to ransack the city, destroy and burn the temple, carry away its vessels and artefacts to Babylon, and to mobilize an exile population from Judah to Babylon (Daniel 1:1-2, Jeremiah 40:1-3). Thus, God had done this in the past, and He didn’t hesitate to destroy the Temple again in the first century.

When Jesus enters Jerusalem towards the end of his ministry, there is in the incident of cursing the fig tree. Mark’s narrative (Mark 11:11-21) preserves the chronological sequence of events as it happened: Jesus enters Jerusalem and sees the temple, and returns to Bethany; the next day they head out to Jerusalem, and see a fig tree in leaf but not having any fruit, and Jesus curses it saying “may no one ever eat fruit from you again”; Jesus enters Jerusalem and cleanses the Temple, accusing them that they have turned his Father’s house – which was meant to be a house of prayer – into a den of robbers; then the team returns back the same route, and the disciples notice that the fig tree has withered. It’s hard to miss the symbolism here: the fig tree is symbolic of the Jewish nation. Just like how the fig tree had a lot of leaves but lacked fruit, the Jewish nation had a lot of religious activity and tradition but lacked spiritual fruit. This was the main charge of John the Baptist as well (before Jesus began his ministry): “produce fruits in keeping with repentance” (Mathew 3:8). The Jews lacked national contrition before God and their religious activity was no substitute for spiritual fruit. In the parable of the tenants Jesus makes it clear that the kingdom of God would be taken away from the Jews and given to a nation that will produce its fruit (Mathew 21:43).

Thus, the destruction of the Temple was guaranteed by Jesus and it happened exactly as he predicted it. Jesus warned that all these events will come upon this generation (Mathew 24:34). This was a reference to the ‘Great Tribulation’ when the Roman Army (let by the father-son duo – Titus and Vespasian) besieged Jerusalem in A.D. 70, killed the inhabitants of the city, and razed the temple to the ground. Even today, the victory arch commemorating Titus’ victory over Jerusalem shows his soldiers carrying the Temple’s lampstand – the Jewish menorah – and it is engraved in the arch in the Via Sacra, Rome.[xii] Jesus had mentioned that “this generation” – that particular generation that was listening to the words of Jesus – would face the wrath and tribulation (Mathew 23:29-36). He specifically mentioned that there would be some standing there listening to his very words who would not face death until they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom (Mathew 16:28).

The coming of Jesus on the clouds of heaven is also loaded with prophetic symbolism. Recollect from Daniel 7:13 that the Son of Man comes on the clouds of heaven. Throughout the Old Testament, God used such imagery to reference Himself when it comes to coming on judgment on His enemies and salvation for His people (see Exodus 13:21-22, 14:19-31, 19:16-19; Psalm 104:3, Isaiah 19:1, Nahum 1:3). Thus, when Jesus refers to Himself coming on the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62, Mathew 26:64), it is a reference to his ascension after His resurrection, and coming in judgment on apostate Judaism.[xiii]

The astronomical language referring to the darkening and the shaking of the heavenly bodies (Mathew 24:29-31, Acts 2:19-20) is prophetic vocabulary referring to the shaking of the Jewish polity and the destruction of their leadership. In Genesis 1:14-16, it is mentioned that the sun, moon, and stars are mentioned as “governing” the day and night. Likewise, several passages in the Old Testament (Isaiah 13:9-10, Isaiah 34:4, Amos 8:9, Ezekiel 32:7-8) mention the heavenly lights as a symbolic reference to earthly rulers. Thus, the “lights going out” is not a literal reference, but a symbolic one, highlighting the extinguishing of earthly powers and their spheres of control.

When Peter stands up to preach the first sermon at Pentecost, he quotes the ‘last days’ passage from the book of Joel and mentions this: “This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: in the last days I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:16-17). Peter mentions that the ‘last days’ started with the outpouring of the Spirit in the Upper Room in the first century A.D. – and not referring to global superpowers staging a nuclear war in the Middle East theater several thousand years later! No, Peter was referencing the ‘last days’ with the Pentecost incident in Acts 2. He also uses similar astronomical language (Acts 2:19-21) to denote the soon-to-come destruction of the Jewish nation and an irrevocable collapse of their covenant privileges and leadership in the Kingdom of God. Thus, the ‘last days’ when mentioned in the New Testament passages do not refer to the end of the cosmos, but to the end of the Jewish nation in a covenant relationship with God.

We had earlier seen that, when Jesus’ disciples point out the magnificence of the stones of the Jewish Temple, Jesus specifically mentioned that “not one stone will be left standing on top of the other” (Mathew 24:1-2, Mark 13:1-2). When he cleansed the temple, Jesus also mentioned: “destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Even the disciples understood that he was referring to His own body as the Temple, only after he was raised from the dead (John 2:19-22). Jesus represented the fulfillment of everything that the Jewish Temple pointed to. Once the reality comes, the shadows and symbols become obsolete (Colossians 2:16-17). This is the whole argument of the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 10:1). Though the physical temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Roman army, the church was the new temple, with God in their midst!

Writing to believers in Corinth, Paul mentions that the believers both corporately (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) and individually (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) are God’s temple, and that God dwells in the midst of the church and in their bodies personally. Peter, writing to the Gentile Christian communities in Asia Minor (1 Peter 1:1) mentions that they are “like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5)! Yes, Gentile believers now constitute the new spiritual temple, with Jesus Christ himself as the chief cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4). He further expands on this to say that the Gentile believers are now a “royal priesthood and holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9-10) – privileges and titles once exclusively which referred to the Israelite nation in the flesh. Writing to the believers in Ephesus, Paul echoes the same thought that the Gentiles who were once alienated from the covenant in the Old Testament time, have now come near because of Jesus’ death and resurrection; now, the believing Jews and Gentiles together constitute the household of God, a holy temple in the Lord, a dwelling place for God’s Spirit (Ephesians 2:18-22).

In the book of Hebrews – which carefully expounds on how Christ has fulfilled all symbolism in the Old Covenant – uses two terms to refer to the church in the New Testament: Mount Zion and the Heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22-24). A specific point to note in this passage is the reference to “the removal of things that can be shaken” (v. 27), referring to the destruction of Jewish Temple and the dissolution of the Jewish nation as a theocratic polity in a special covenant-relationship with God. In Galatians, physical Israel is equated with Ishmael and the earthly Jerusalem is referenced as Hagar; while the church is the heavenly Jerusalem and Isaac – a reference to those who believe in justification by faith in Christ – are the true inheritors of Abraham’s promise (Galatians 4:22-28). Not all the physical descendants from Israel are the true spiritual Israel (Romans 9:6-9), and a true Jew is not one who just circumcised physically by spiritually in his heart by the Spirit of God (Romans 2:28-29, Philippians 3:3, Colossians 2:11).

The physical nation of Israel failed to produce fruit, and now the church global – including Jews and Gentiles from all over the world – has received the promises to bear fruit for God (Mathew 21:43). The church has now inherited the kingdom of God – this is the Kingdom that “cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28). The church is now the royal priesthood, a holy nation consecrated unto God (1 Peter 2:9-10, Isaiah 66:18-21) to carry forth His purposes even unto the ends of the earth (Mathew 28:18-20). Paul mentions that his work of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles was a priestly calling to make them an acceptable offering to God, sanctified by the Spirit (Romans 15:15-16). The Arch of Titus in Rome stands today with the engraving of the Jewish menorah being carried away from the spoils of the Jewish war. However, in the very first chapter of the book of Revelation, we see the resurrected Christ walking in the midst of the seven lampstands, which are the seven Gentile churches in Asia Minor (Revelation 1:12, 20). We – i.e. the church – are the final reality to which the physical menorah in the Jewish Temple pointed to. God destroyed the symbols once the reality had arrived, with the ransacking of the Temple in A.D. 70. The church now has the task of shining God’s light in the midst of the world.

Understanding these facts bring forth both encouragement and warning to us today. Encouragement because even the midst of the political turmoil that affects and envelopes Christian communities and regions today, we can be sure that God is still preserving His remnant within these places (Romans 11:1-6). Warning, because, if God did not spare the Jewish nation for their apostasy, then he will not spare any Christian community today either (Romans 11:21). If a Christian community/region/nation professes the name of Christ in word, but doesn’t produce fruits in keeping with repentance, then the same judgment that befell Israel in the first century awaits them: the axe is at the root of the tree, and if fruit is not present, it will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Mathew 3:10). Therefore, let us consider both the kindness and the sternness of God (Romans 11:23). “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).

  1. The True Foundation for World Peace

Isaiah 2:2-5

It shall come to pass in the latter days

that the mountain of the house of the Lord

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be lifted up above the hills;

and all the nations shall flow to it,

and many peoples shall come, and say:

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

that he may teach us his ways

and that we may walk in his paths.”

For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,

    and shall decide disputes for many peoples;

and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war anymore.

This passage serves as the only true foundation for world peace. It’s ironical that the last phrase in this passage – “they shall beat their swords into plowshares…..neither shall they learn war anymore” – is inscribed on a wall near the United Nations office in New York (though not a part of the building complex),[xiv] and has inspired a piece of artwork titled ‘Swords to Plowshares’ by the Soviet artist Evgeny Vuchetich, gifted to the United Nations Art Collection in 1954.[xv]

A text without a context becomes a pretext, and this is a blameworthy example in shoplifting a phrase from the biblical text without quoting it in full! The verses preceding this phrase mention that God’s Law will go forth from Zion (i.e. the church) and God – through His people – will judge between the nations, and settle disputes for many peoples. The nations will stream to the Mountain of the Lord, to learn about God’s law and His judgments. These things will happen only after the Mountain of the Lord (i.e. Mount Zion, which is a reference to the church) is established and exalted as the highest among the mountains. This is the true basis for global disarmament and world peace.

The pundits of progress who prognosticate for world peace based on a humanist foundation are ignorant of this fact, and their assumptions are empirically contradicted each time a new war erupts across the globe – despite the burgeoning progress in science, technology, peace-making efforts, global interconnectedness and cross-cultural understanding. The world should look to the church for solutions, but of course, given the doctrinal squabbles which led to bloodshed within Christendom in the last 2000 years – all carried out in the name of the ‘Prince of Peace’ – we Christians have much to be ashamed for and much to apologize for.[xvi] The tainted global Christian witness lacks credibility as a resource to draw upon for resolving international conflicts, but regardless of the failures of global Christendom across the ages, there is still reason to hope as even though the religious polities that are focused on shadows and symbols might get destroyed (Hebrews 10:1, 12:25-29), Christ will still establish His unshakeable Kingdom (Hebrews 12:28). He will move it through history, by sovereignly controlling all events – both big and small – with precision and purpose, and ultimately bring all things to consummation.

22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

1 Corinthians 15:22-28.

So be it. This, in essence, is the foundation of a biblical philosophy of history. Amen.


For Further Reading

Note: I don’t fully subscribe to every idea put forth by the authors in the following books; however I do concur that the overall trend in their thought is consistent and biblically faithful.

The Christian Faith & Historical Understanding, Ronald H. Nash

The Gospel of the Kingdom, George Eldon Ladd

Glorious Kingdom, Stan Newton

Judgment of the Nations, Christopher Dawson

The Great Tribulation, David Chilton

The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology, Oliver O’Donovan


While I have referenced some articles for further research, I reiterate that I don’t fully subscribe to all the ideas advocated in these articles. I quote/reference them, just to provide further background for a particular statement that I have made, and this does not equate to endorsement or wholesale acknowledgement of all their ideas.

[i] On This Rock, from Ancient Road Publications | link here

[ii] I am convinced, by far, that the postmillennial position (Partial Preterist, to be specific) does maximum justice to Scripture in faithful interpretation within exegetical boundaries on the topic of eschatology.

[iii] Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volumes I – VI | link here

[iv] The original text of Daniel 2:4b to 7:28 is in Aramaic | See here

[v] Son of Man, Ligonier Ministries | See here

[vi] In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations, Revelation Revolution | link here

[vii] The Christian & History, Gordon H. Clark | link here

[viii] Ephesians 1:10, Greek Concordance from Bible Hub; link here

[ix] 346, Strong’s Concordance, Bible Hub; link here

[x] Galatians 4:4, Lexicon, Bible Hub; link here

[xi] Walter C. Kaiser, Mission in the Old Testament: Israel as a Light to the Nations, 2nd edition, 2012; Baker Publishing Group | link here

[xii] Arch of Titus Menorah Relief, Bible | link here

[xiii] Daniel 7:13, Mark 9:1 & Eschatology, Kenneth L Gentry Jr., from Postmillennial Worldview | link here

[xiv] Isaiah’s Echo: Progress, Prophecy, and the UN Charter, from the European Journal of International Law | link here

[xv] Let us Beat our Swords to Plowshares, from Vanderbilt University| link here

[xvi] The Dark Side of the Reformation, The Areopagus | link here

[i] I deliberately use upper case ‘K’ to refer to Christ’s Kingdom, to differentiate it from other earthly kingdoms.

[ii] See Kenneth Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, Victorious Hope Publishing, 2010. Link available here.

[iii] Note that in the Greek, the words for ‘Martyr’ and ‘Witness’ are derived from the same Greek stem μάρτυρ-, martyr | See more here.

[iv] Open theism, for example. For a refutation, see here and here.

[v] Even as late as a hundred years ago, at the time of the Treaty of Westphalia, the coat of arms of several kingdoms used complex animal features for symbolic representation.

[vi] The Mythical Lamassu: Impressive Symbols for Mesopotamian Protection, from Ancient Origins | link here.

[vii] Taxation in the Achaemenid Empire, from Oxford Handbooks | link here

[viii] How Bronze Changed War, from The Bronze Age: Armor, Weapons, and Warfare | link here

[ix] John Robbins, Christ and Civilization, The Trinity Foundation | link here