End of an Era

The political order underlying the Cold War is now extinct. The overthrow of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe was accomplished with breathtaking rapidity. It was a mere two years from the first upheavals in 1989 until democratic forces took power in 1991. The monolithic Communist system that once held sway from Hungary to Hanoi, from Berlin to the Bering Sea, is gone forever.

At the downfall of the Soviet Union, the world was no longer divided into two opposing camps appropriately symbolized by two feet. The period of the feet lasted, therefore, from 1948 to 1991, a span of forty-three years.

If the fifth kingdom strictly refers to the world during the Cold War, we would be forced to conclude that this kingdom has slipped into the past. But notice that within the feet we see two consecutive stages of history. The upper feet, each from the ankle to the base of the toes, are the first; the visible toes are the second. Only the first represents the world divided into East and West. Thus, if the first stage has gone to completion, the world must now be in the second stage. Indeed, within a few years after 1991, the political scene changed drastically. Upon leaving the period of the feet, history moved down to the very bottom of the dream image and entered the period of the toes.

We might think that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream employed undignified, or even comical, symbols for the great kingdoms dominating human history. But one purpose of the imagery was to illustrate the continual irreversible decline of human civilization. The Creator chose to represent the final kingdom as feet and toes precisely because these bodily parts are low, close to the dirt, mindless, and not deserving of high esteem. Yes, we see here a touch of divine humor. Man has never been more conceited than he is now, when the leaders of the world have adopted the religion of humanism, the worship of man. But what is God’s estimate of modern man? He is as inconsequential as his toes scrunched into the ends of his shoes.

Among the Toes

In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar noticed the ten toes just before he saw the stone strike the feet of the image. In other words, the toes represent human government on the eve of Christ's return to establish His kingdom. If the world has indeed entered the time of the toes, we cannot escape the momentous implication that Christ's return is very near. What evidence can we marshal to verify that mankind has come to the final period of history? A convincing case requires that we first explain what the toes signify.

When we look at other portions of the image, we notice that a division of the body into separate appendages always signifies the division of a kingdom into a plurality of power centers. For example, the two arms show the Medes and the Persians before they united. After the death of Alexander, the Greek empire dissolved into four kingdoms. The thighs of the statue represent the two remnant kingdoms that at various times held sway over the Jews: the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt and the Seleucid kingdom of Syria. As we have seen, the two legs side-by-side, together yet obviously capable of separating, picture the bisected character of the Roman Empire, part Latin and part Greek, eventually becoming two rival empires. Finally, the statue's two feet symbolize the polarization of the U.N. during the Cold War.

How then do we understand the ten toes? The meaning is that the fifth kingdom will not always be divided into just two parts, but will fragment into ten. Many students of prophecy have believed that the toes prefigure a ten-nation alliance in Europe, developing perhaps from the Common Market. But such a fulfillment is unlikely, for four reasons.

  1. The number of European nations seeking political and economic integration grew beyond ten some years ago. Now, the political body known as the European Union has a total membership of twenty-eight nations of both Western and Eastern Europe, and several more are waiting to join. Indeed, the cherished dream of many Europeans that all of Europe will unite under a single government may eventually be realized. The new entity in its final form will be an alliance of not ten nations, but more than thirty nations.
  2. The toes are partly iron and partly clay. The ten divisions of the fifth kingdom must therefore incorporate non-European as well as European nations.
  3. The Book of Revelation foresees only ten kingdoms at the end of the present age.

    12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.

    13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.

    Revelation 17:12-13

    The ten horns are symbolically equivalent to the ten toes. The beast is the Antichrist, the king who will demand worship of himself and persecute all followers of the true God. He will hold power in the years right before Christ returns to establish His kingdom on the earth. After descending in glory, Christ Himself will end the beast’s reign of terror by slaying him at the Battle of Armageddon. It is enlightening to read the preceding passage in conjunction with the next.

    And it was given unto him [the beast] to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

    Revelation 13:7

    Taken together, these passages seem to say that the power which the ten will confer upon the beast is power over the whole world. We certainly do not gain the impression that the ten kingdoms are a group of small nations in Europe. Rather, they appear to be worldwide in extent.
  4. If we accept that the feet represent the U.N., we have another reason to view the toes as geographically broader than Europe. Since every part of each foot ends in a toe (what is obvious may still be significant), the toes must span the world.

We conclude, then, that the ten toes of the image must refer to a time when the nations of the world would place themselves under ten regional authorities. These in turn would operate under the umbrella of the worldwide kingdom corresponding to the feet. If this fifth kingdom is truly the U.N., the toes must be ten lower governments that exercise authority over regional groupings of its member states.

Numerous considerations support identifying the toes as ten regional governments controlling the whole world.

Fulfillment of the Number Ten

While retaining their membership in the U.N., most of the nations of the world have also in recent years joined a regional association. The principal regional associations presently on the world scene are eight in number, and a ninth, while not formally entitled a regional association, is the virtual equivalent of one.

  1. Arab League. The League of Arab States, founded in 1945, now has twenty-two members, including Palestine (the Palestinian Authority within Israel).
  2. Pacific Islands Forum. The parent organization is the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), founded in 1947, when it was called the South Pacific Commission. The SPC comprises twenty-two small island states, as well as four major states with interests in the region. From the SPC in 1971 emerged the Pacific Islands Forum (originally known as the South Pacific Forum), conceived as a step toward political union. It now has sixteen members including Australia and New Zealand, plus two associate members and six states with observer status.
  3. Organization of American States (OAS). OAS was formed in 1948 to replace the Pan American Union (which in turn replaced the International Union of American Republics, founded in 1890). The thirty-five members include the United States. The general secretariat is in Washington, D.C. In 1990, President Bush proposed a Common Market of the Americas. In 1993, the United States, Canada, and Mexico entered into NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
  4. European Union (EU). Formed in 1993, EU is an offshoot of an older organization, the European Communities (EC), which originated in 1951. EU now has twenty-eight member states, besides another five that are candidates for membership and three more that are moving toward candidacy. Still another four are building closer ties to EU. The organization is governed jointly by the European Parliament (a legislative body) and the Commission (an executive body under a president). Economic integration is proceeding rapidly, as a result of introducing a common market in 1993 and a common currency in 2002.
  5. African Union (AU), formerly known as the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Founded in 1963, this organization comprises fifty-four nations, including all the nations of Africa except Morocco. Some hold dual membership in AU and the Arab League. The new name, adopted in 2002, signals an intent to seek economic integration after the model of EU.
  6. Association of South Eastern Asian Nations (ASEAN). The ten members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Two other states are observers of this alliance, founded in 1967. In 2003, the six original members established AFTA, the ASEAN Free Trade Area, and the whole association wants by 2015 to achieve economic integration patterned after Europe. The union will be called AEC, acronym for ASEAN Economic Community.
  7. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Although SAARC, founded in 1985, has only eight members, they include India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The association therefore represents a huge population.
  8. Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). This organization, composed of former Soviet republics, was founded in 1991. At one time, the roster numbered twelve states, but Georgia has since withdrawn.
  9. China and its satellites. China, the largest nation in the world, spans such a diversity of peoples that it may be viewed as a supranational entity—a regional association—in itself. The nations that are essentially satellites of Communist China include Tibet, Mongolia, and North Korea.

We submit that nine toes of the image picture precisely these nine associations. What then does the tenth represent? We need not resort to guessing in order to name it. As we will show later, in our discussion of Daniel 8, the tenth toe is Israel. Israel has stood aloof from regional organizations and retained her independence, thus becoming one of the ten, and so she will remain.

No association arose before 1945, the first of the transitional years ushering in the period of the feet, yet all (except the Commonwealth) arose before the end of the same period, in about 1991. It is now evident why Scripture associates the first stage in the history of the fifth kingdom with both the feet and toes, for during this stage, many of the toes already existed.

To assume that the nine associations listed above have taken final shape would be a mistake. Before they become fixed, there may be splinterings, mergers, and realignments. The principal nations excluded from the regional associations we have listed are Iran, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. The first is presently an observer of SAARC. The next two are not actually missing from the nine toes if prophecy sees them as essentially satellites of the United States. Except for security agreements with this superpower, they could not have preserved their independence. Prophecy may view Japan as an American satellite also, in recognition that when the fifth kingdom emerged, the United States would occupy Japan as a conquered nation.

A Perfect Fit

The regional governments now on the world scene closely match the ten toes of prophecy.

  1. Five regional governments are Western; five are Eastern. There were of course five toes on each foot of the image. In other words, five of the toes would be composed of nations from the East, five of nations from the West. Of the ten toes we have identified, Pacific Islands Forum, OAS, EU, AU, and Israel would generally be considered part of the Western world. The other five would generally be considered part of the Eastern world.
  2. The European nations remain the strongest. Daniel said that the iron would be strong. The meaning is that military power would continue to be concentrated in the European nations. As we look about us today, we can see that the military gap between the developed European nations and the underdeveloped non-European nations has not significantly narrowed. Very few third-world countries have acquired nuclear weapons. The main exception is China, which has developed rapidly because it has assimilated European technology and business practices.
  3. The non-European associations are the least cohesive. Daniel said that the clay would be fragmented. Whereas any combination of European nations would be highly unified, any combination of non-European nations would be fractured and loose. It can be no coincidence that, indeed, one of the most cohesive regional associations so far achieved is EU. All the non-European associations except China are poorly integrated, and even China is a powder keg of ethnic and regional antagonisms that could explode at any time.

Although the nations are now agglomerating into regional groupings, the ten toes prophesied in Daniel 2 will not fully emerge until the the Antichrist rises to preeminence on the world scene.

And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.

Revelation 17:12

The Revived Roman Empire

Many students of prophecy would reject the analysis offered here, because they believe that the fifth kingdom of the image is not the U.N., but a revived Roman Empire. They do so because Scripture clearly teaches that the Antichrist will be the last Roman ruler. His connection with Rome is manifest in many prophecies, which we will briefly consider here.

  1. One source of helpful information is Daniel's vision of four monstrous beasts arising from the sea.

    1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.

    2 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.

    3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.

    4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.

    5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.

    6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.

    7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.

    8 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.

    9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.

    10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.

    11 I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.

    12 As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.

    13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

    14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

    Daniel 7:1–14

    Here we find another view of the same kingdoms that appear in Daniel 2. The change in imagery corresponds to a change in perspective. From Nebuchadnezzar’s perspective, expressed in his dream, earthly kingdoms are a magnificent and awe-inspiring monument to man. But from God’s perspective, revealed in the vision of Daniel 7, the same kingdoms are no better than vicious beasts. Babylon is a lion with eagles' wings. Medo-Persia is the bear raised on one side. Greece is the leopard with four wings. The dreadful and terrible beast is Rome. The fifth kingdom appears abruptly in the simple statement, "And it had ten horns." Then in verse 8 we learn of another horn that appears after the ten. In our discussion of chapter 7, we will show that this eleventh horn is a person, the Antichrist. He appears throughout the final visions of Daniel, each disclosing new information about him. In chapter 7, he grows up in the midst of the first ten horns. This prediction could hardly make it plainer that he will emerge during the period of the toes. Since Daniel’s prophecy describes him as a horn on the fourth beast, the beast representing Rome, a reasonable conclusion is that the Antichrist will be the ruler of a revived Roman Empire.
  2. The Book of Daniel prophesies that after Christ's death, Jerusalem would be destroyed by the people of the "coming prince," a reference to the Antichrist (Dan. 9:26). Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans. It follows that the Antichrist will be a Roman ruler.
  3. The Book of Revelation places the Antichrist in the succession of ancient Roman emperors (Rev. 17:8-11). Six have reigned until the moment John is writing, and the Antichrist will be another in the future (Rev. 17:10). Moreover, the beast representing the Antichrist carries the woman called "that great city, which [presently, in John’s day] reigneth over the kings of the earth" (Rev. 17:18). Lest we fail to recognize Rome in this description, prophecy adds that she sits on seven mountains, or seven hills (Rev. 17:9). The city that has long been known as the city of seven hills is, of course, Rome.

How can we reconcile all these insights from prophecy with our position that the fifth kingdom is the U.N.? The answer is that prophecy also reveals that the Antichrist will be a world ruler.

And it was given unto him [the beast] to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

Revelation 13:7

Thus, it appears that the revived Roman empire under his dominion will not be confined to the territories of its ancient predecessor, but will embrace all the states and megastates on the earth. Its ten divisions will span the globe. In its extent, the fifth kingdom will equal the U.N. In fact, as we have argued, the U.N. is the fifth kingdom.

If the U.N. is indeed equivalent to the fifth kingdom that will become a revived Roman Empire under the Antichrist, we infer that the U.N. will someday transfer its headquarters from New York City to Rome. The most likely reason is that New York will fall under divine judgment, making it unfit to carry on world government.