Time of the Gentiles: Daniel’s Prophecies

The prophecies in the Book of Daniel are integral to understanding the prophetic timeline that begins with Judah’s deportation by Babylon and ends with Christ’s Second Coming. Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 predicts successive Gentile kingdoms that will dominate the earth until Christ returns and establishes His eternal kingdom. Jesus refers to this period of Gentile domination as the “Time of the Gentiles.” Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy in Daniel 9 further enhances our understanding of the prophetic timeline by giving us more details on God’s plan for Israel and the world. Let’s explore in more detail these two prophecies.

Statue Prophecy

During Judah’s 70 year exile in Babylon, Daniel, a Jewish exile, served King Nebuchadnezzar, who consulted with Daniel about every matter of wisdom and understanding (Daniel 1:20). King Nebuchadnezzar had a disturbing dream and asked his magicians, conjurers, and sorcerers to first tell him his dream and then interpret it. When they responded that he was asking the impossible, he ordered all the wise men of Babylon to be killed, including Daniel (Daniel 2:12-13).

Daniel, hearing of the King’s plan, went to the Lord in prayer, knowing that only the God of heaven could reveal and interpret dreams. And God did just that; He revealed the mystery of the King’s dream to Daniel through a night vision.  Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar his dream was about what would take place in the future and gave him the details of his dream:

"You, O King, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze,  its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:31-35)

Daniel interpreted the dream for Nebuchadnezzar. He told him that each body part of the statute represented a different kingdom that would replace the one before it. Through the lens of history, we can name the world empires Daniel described. We also can tie these Gentile empires to Jesus’ reference in Luke 21:24 to the Gentile nations trampling underfoot Jerusalem until “the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

In addition to each body part’s representation of a successive world kingdom, the type of metal comprising each of these parts/kingdoms is progressively less fine but somewhat stronger than the previous metal, just like the actual empires the metals represent.

The head of gold on the statue represents the first kingdom, the Kingdom of Babylon, which conquered the southern kingdom of Judah and took its citizens captive for 70 years. The Babylonian empire was known for its luxury and contained one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

The second kingdom, the Persian empire represented by the breast and arms of silver, was not as “fine” as the Babylonian empire, but it was stronger. It was during the Persian rule that the last six books of the Old Testament were written. The Persian Empire ruled over Israel until Alexander the Great conquered much of the world.

The belly and thighs of bronze represent the third kingdom, the Greek empire that trampled over and ruled Jerusalem during the silent years of the Bible, between Malachi and Matthew. The legs of iron represent the fourth kingdom or historical Rome, which occupied Israel’s land, eventually pushing them out of their homeland in A.D. 70. The Roman Empire was stronger, more extensive, and longer-lasting than all the other empires. It was the Roman empire that ruled over Israel during New Testament times.

These first four empires represented by the statue’s head down to its legs are historical empires. However, the figure’s partly iron, and partly clay feet and toes represent a future revived Roman Empire that the Antichrist will rule over right before the Second Coming of Christ. Like the iron and clay, part of this revived empire will be strong, but part of it will be weak.

Daniel then tells King Nebuchadnezzar that there will be a fifth kingdom, a kingdom that God will set up “in the days of those kings” which will never be destroyed and “will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever” (Daniel 2:44). This fifth kingdom is represented by the stone cut out without hands that struck the statue on its feet, crushing them. This stone puts an end not only to the revived Roman Empire over which the Antichrist rules but to the days of the Gentiles’ dominion over Israel.  The fact that the stone was not cut from human hands represents that the stone was not of human origin. The stone that destroys the Antichrist and sets up an eternal kingdom is Jesus Christ!

The first four kingdoms are real kingdoms. This is significant because some believe that the fifth kingdom will not be a literal kingdom but only a spiritual one. Since the first four kingdoms are literal, we can expect that the last kingdom, the Kingdom of Christ, will be too.

Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks

During Judah’s captivity in Babylon, Daniel, while reading the Jewish scrolls, found Jeremiah’s prophecy setting the number of years of Judah’s captivity in Babylon at 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12 and 29:10). Realizing that Judah’s Babylon captivity was coming to an end, He began to speak and pray to God about what was next for his people. Suddenly Gabriel appeared to Daniel and told Him God’s plan for Israel. This prophecy is set out in Daniel 9:24-27.

"Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate."

The seventy years of captivity are about to end for the people of Judah. In this prophecy, God sets out the next 70 weeks of His unfolding plan for Israel. However, “weeks” are not actually “weeks” to the Jew. “Weeks” literally means “sevens” and could mean days or years, depending on the context. Looking back at this prophecy from the future, we see that “weeks” means years.  Therefore, Daniel 9:24 is saying “70 sevens” or 490 years.

The prophecy goes on to state that six things will occur during these 490 years; the first three are related to sin (finish the transgression, make an end to sin, make atonement for iniquity), and the second three are related to righteousness (bring in everlasting righteousness, seal up vision and prophecy, and anoint the most holy place). The first three were fulfilled at Jesus’ First Coming when he conquered sin once and for all through His atoning work on the cross. Although the Jewish people did not accept Him at His first coming, His work was still complete concerning sin. The second three things will be accomplished for the Jewish people at Jesus’ Second Coming when at last, Israel as a nation turns to Christ.

The seventy weeks are broken further down into four time periods: seven weeks (49 years), sixty-two weeks (434 years), the unspecified time after the sixty-two weeks, and finally one week (seven years).

Seven Weeks

This period of 49 years is the time that it took to restore and rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple after the Persian ruler Artaxerxes gave the decree to Nehemiah in 445 B.C. (Nehemiah 2:1-8).

 Sixty-Two Weeks

This time of 434 years spans from the Persian Artaxerxes’ decree to rebuild Jerusalem to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem in 33 A.D (Zechariah 9:9, John 12:12-19).

The Time After the Sixty-Two Weeks

According to Daniel, after the sixty-two weeks, the “Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary…(Daniel 9:26). Daniel is foretelling the crucifixion of Jesus in 33 A.D. where he is “cut off” and the destruction of Jerusalem and the sanctuary (Temple) in 70 A.D. by the Romans, who are the people of the Antichrist. Up to this point, Daniel’s prophecy has been startingly and accurately fulfilled.

Final Week (7 Years)

Daniel goes on to say of the prince to come, otherwise known as the Antichrist,  that “he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and the grain offering, and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate (Daniel 9:27). Remember, a week is seven years. This period is the beginning of the Tribulation or the time of great trouble (Jeremiah 30:7). It begins with the Antichrist making a firm covenant at the beginning of the seven-year tribulation, but halfway through it, he breaks his agreement and commits the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15).  Daniel tells us that the end will come when the “complete destruction…is poured out on the one who makes desolate”, the Antichrist.

The first 483 years of Daniel’s prophecy have been literally fulfilled. What God says, He is going to do, He does. The final seven years will be fulfilled literally as well. The Antichrist will come, he will reign terror on the world, but in the end, Jesus, our Messiah, will completely and utterly crush his head!



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