Not exactly the world’s typical picture of a king. A convicted man–scourged nearly to death, a crown of thorns on his head, nailed to a cross. But one supplicant at least recognized the true king. Namely, the criminal crucified next to Him. [Spanish]
This supplicant for royal favor, however, did not request a dukedom, or a large purse, or a military command. Instead, the dying criminal asked this favor of his dying king: Remember me, Lord, when you come into your kingdom.
To which the unlikely crucified king said: Today you will be with me in paradise.
…Now, speaking of the divine kingdom: the second chapter of the book of the prophet Daniel recounts a dream of the Chaldean king Nebuchadnezzar. The Lord revealed the dream and its meaning to the young prophet Daniel. Daniel then praised God, saying, “He reveals deep and mysterious things!”
Daniel knew that Nebuchadnezzar had seen in his dream the image of a man. “The head was of fine gold, the breast and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of bronze, the legs of iron, and the feet partly of iron and partly of clay.”
Daniel interpreted the various parts of the figure’s body as a succession of kingdoms: gold for Nebuchadnezzar’s own kingdom, silver for an inferior succeeding kingdom, then bronze, iron— and then a final, brittle kingdom of iron and clay.
But that wasn’t the end. Daniel continued, describing Nebuchadnezzar’s dream: “As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand. It smote the image of the man and broke it in pieces–the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold all together were broken to pieces, and became like chaff on the summer threshing floor, and the wind carried it all away, so that no trace could be found.”
The human figure in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream represents the kings of history, man dominating the earth. Human pride. In the end, it all disintegrates into nothing. We are patriots; we love our country. But we have to face it: The day will come, someday, when the world will forget that the United States of America ever even existed. Just like countless ancient nations have vanished altogether from the earth.
Then Daniel continues: “The stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” Daniel interprets this: “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all the other kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.”
Now, of course, we understand this as a prophecy of the reign of Christ. God intervened directly in the political organization of mankind. He established a unique community, His chosen people, united under our unique king. The Christian Church, united in the faith and love of Christ, has fulfilled Daniel’s prophecy.
The fact that, in the dream, no human hand cut the rock that became this mountain, the everlasting kingdom of Christ: Surely this represents the absolute “otherness” of God. The fact that He exercises His omnipotent power on His terms alone. We little human beings can never pretend to grasp the inevitable divine plan. We can only submit ourselves to His rule with humble faith, saying “Our Father in heaven, Your kingdom come; Your will be done.”
So: Daniel 2 gives us a pretty stunning prophecy about God’s eternal kingdom. But it actually does not paint the whole picture. One crucial aspect got revealed later, when the fullness of time had come.
The rock not cut by human hand does indeed represent the transcendent awesomeness of God Almighty. God’s sovereignty nullifies every human conceit, every presumption on our part to understand on our own terms the ultimate meaning of the events of history.
But: in the fullness of time, God revealed that this crushing rock is, in fact, a human being. A humble man. A man of gentle love, Who does not break even a bruised reed or quench even a smoldering wick.
The divine rock that crushes all of mankind’s delusions of grandeur: He came as a man with no delusions of grandeur. He submitted to scourging and crucifixion even though He committed no crime. He promised paradise to the penitent man dying beside Him. An impossible, preposterous promise for a dying convict to make. Which this perfectly honest, crucified king then proceeded to fulfill.
Christians, rejoice! It turns out that the rock that crushes the pride of man and establishes the endless domain of God has fallen from the sky. Not with violence, but as the king Who died for us on the cross, so that we could reign with Him forever.