In Daniel chapter 2 we are told of a vision of a statue comprising four metal parts. From the head of gold down to the legs and feet of iron we are given a striking and amazing foretelling of four world dominating empires. Its iron feet peter out into toes mingled with iron and clay and then, in the vision, a Rock smashes into those ‘feet of clay’ and brings the entire edifice crashing and crumbling down scattering all into dust.
There is a common broad agreement about which four empires are represented by the four metals (Gold, Silver, Brass & Iron) and there is a general recognition by most that the Rock represents Christ. The question here then is this… Does the Rock, which strikes the statue’s feet (Daniel 2), signify the first or second coming of Christ? Below I have attempted to outline the two streams of thought about this and further tie this question to the subject matter of Revelation chapter 20 – The Millennium.
(PLEASE NOTE: There are variations within each of these schemes. The following is a simple overview.)
VIEW ONE... The Rock is Christ AT HIS FIRST COMING
This viewpoint sees the legs, feet and toes of the envisioned statue as all representing the Roman empire – as it is typically and most commonly understood. That is, it all combines to give an overall snapshot of the historic, imperial Roman empire – being mostly strong but in various places, or at later stages, somewhat fragmented. In this view the Rock is considered to represent Christ – AT HIS FIRST COMING. The outworking of this viewpoint would run something like this: From the time of Jesus’ baptism and ministry He began to build His Kingdom here on earth and He is continuing to do so today. The Kingdom of God is here now. It is within us. It has spread in various ways across the world but it is also very much a ‘spiritual kingdom’.
VIEW TWO... The Rock is Christ AT HIS SECOND COMING
The second view considers the legs, feet and toes to signify more specific stages/developments of ‘Rome’. The legs are the historic imperial Roman empire (just as in view one) but the feet and toes represent something that extends ‘from’ that empire – something that is a ‘continuation’ of it. This surviving extension of the Roman empire continues to this day, albeit mixed with clay and weakened. In this view the Rock is considered to represent Christ – AT HIS SECOND COMING. The outworking of this viewpoint would run something like this: Although the historic Roman empire eventually collapsed in its ‘classic’ form, out from it came the ROMAN-Catholic Church – and/or the ROMAN-centric nations of Europe (currently in the form of the EU, founded by the ‘Treaty of Rome’). When Christ comes (again) He will destroy these vestiges of the Roman empire and nullify all of the influences of the former ‘kingdoms of men’ and will rule the nations Himself, literally, physically, personally.
LINKING THE ABOVE TO REVELATION 20 & THE MILLENNIUM
I am hoping that this next part will be easy to grasp even though it is going to require some long words! View one above leads to two different (yet similar) ‘Millennial’ outlooks. View two above couples with the third view of the Millennium given below.
(The Rock is Christ AT HIS FIRST COMING)
The belief that the Kingdom of God is growing and will continue to grow ‘successfully’ and eventually everyone in the world will either become a Christian or at least live quietly and acceptingly under Christian ‘rule’ and world dominance. There will be a 1000 years – either literally or this is figurative of an undefined period of time – where ‘world peace’ and respect for God and His Christ will prevail, after which time Jesus will return – hence ‘POST’-Millennial – He comes AFTER The Millennium.
(The Rock is Christ AT HIS FIRST COMING)
The ‘A’ in A-Millennial means ‘without’ – like ‘Atheist’ means literally ‘without God’. The A-Millennial view is very similar in many ways to the above Post-Millennial view except it does not necessarily anticipate a ‘glorious’ period of Christian growth and dominance in the world prior to Christ’s return. The ‘Kingdom’ is still seen as being a ‘spiritual’ kingdom which began to be established at Christ’s first coming and as with the Post-Millennial view it does not expect there to be a literal, ‘physical kingdom’ at any time. The ‘Millennium’ in Revelation chapter 20 is simply figurative of ‘The Church age’.
(The Rock is Christ AT HIS SECOND COMING)
Pre-Millennialism is, in simple summary, a more literal, physical understanding of The Kingdom of God. Whilst there is acknowledgement of The Kingdom being here now and growing spiritually now it views the Rock in Daniel 2 as being Christ at His second coming – when He physically returns to earth – literally stands on the mount of Olives, enters Jerusalem and begins the subjugation, direct rulership and governance of the entire earth from this location. He therefore comes and establishes His Kingdom rule for a literal 1000 years – at the end of which there are a few final events that culminate in the formation of the new heaven and new earth.
To my mind, all three above ‘proposals’ are entirely rational positions to hold. There are strengths and weaknesses in all these views. There is both reasonable logic and persuasive Scriptural arguments for holding any of these views. There are good and godly men, both past and present, who take these differing positions. My above summaries are not designed to provide enough detail for anyone to come to any kind of conclusion about these matters. You have a lot of serious research to do if you want to arrive honourably at any firm conclusion on this. Typically, the ‘historic’ understanding of Revelation usually takes the Premillennial view (though not always) and sees His second coming and literal reign over the earth as being the culmination of this present age of struggle. For me personally, being inclined to this latter view, this is a constant theme of contemplation and anticipation as I long and hope for this better time to come. AMEN!