End of an Era
The political order underlying the Cold War has come to an end. 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 fulfilling the prophetic time of the feet lasted, therefore, from 1948 to 1991, a span of forty-three years.
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?
When we look at other portions of the image, we notice that a division of the body into separate appendages represents the division of a kingdom into parts. 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 held power at various times over the Jews: the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt and the Seleucid dynasty 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. Finally, the statue's two feet symbolize the polarization of the United Nations 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 three reasons.
- The number of European nations seeking political and economic integration grew beyond ten some years ago. In 2004, the political body known as the European Union admitted ten more members, bringing its total membership to twenty-five nations of both Western and Eastern Europe. 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 approximately thirty nations.
- 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.
- 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.
And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
We conclude, then, that the ten toes of the image transparently refer to a time when world political authority would condense into ten regional alliances or federations. At this stage of history, the fifth kingdom would presumably be divided into ten parts. Although each alliance would in some measure govern itself, it would continue to operate under the umbrella of a single world government. Thus, if the fifth kingdom is truly the U.N., as we have said, the ten toes must be ten regional groupings of its member states.
If we accept that the feet represent the United Nations, 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.
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 seems to be in the process of formation.
- Arab League. Founded in 1945, this now has twenty-two members, including the Palestinian Authority.
- Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). The twenty-seven members of this organization, founded in 1947, comprise twenty-two small island states, as well as five major states that once owned these islands. Among the five are Australia and New Zealand.
- 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). In 1994, work began on developing FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas).
- 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-five members, and another three nations have been accepted for membership in the future. It 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.
- African Union (AU), formerly known as the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Founded in 1963, this organization comprises fifty-three nations, including all the nations of Africa except Morocco. The current name, adopted in 2002, signals an intent to seek economic integration after the model of EU.
- Association of South Eastern Asian Nations (ASEAN). The ten members include Brunei/Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. ASEAN was founded in 1967. In 2003, the six original members established AFTA, the ASEAN Free Trade Area, and the whole association wants as soon as possible to achieve economic integration modeled after Europe. The union will be called AEC, the ASEAN Economic Community.
- South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Although SAARC, founded in 1985, has only seven members, they include India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The association therefore represents a huge population.
- Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). This organization, composed of former Soviet republics, was founded in 1991. At present, the roster numbers twelve states.
- 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.
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. 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 existed in nascent form.
To assume that the nine associations listed above have taken final shape would be a mistake. Before the ten toes become well defined, there will likely be unpredictable splinterings, mergers, and realignments. The principal nations excluded from the regional associations we have listed are Iran, Afghanistan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. The first two are missing because their subjection to regional authority lies in the future. The next two are missing because they are essentially satellites of the United States. Except for security agreements with the United States, they could not preserve their independence. In recognition that when the fifth kingdom emerged, the United States would occupy Japan as a conquered nation, prophecy may view Japan as an American satellite also.
We have so far named nine toes. What will the tenth be? We need not resort to guessing in order to name it. As we could show if space allowed, Daniel 8 treats Israel as one of the ten kingdoms. It will remain aloof from regional organizations and retain her independence, thus becoming one of the ten.
A Perfect Fit
The regional associations now on the world scene closely match the ten toes of prophecy.
- Five regional associations 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, SPC, 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.
- 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.
- 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. The other strictly European association, CIS, is also strongly knit together, as a result of its emergence from a single nation. 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.
The Revived Roman Empire
Many students of prophecy would reject the analysis of the fifth kingdom offered here. Why? Because they view the fifth kingdom as a revived Roman Empire. It is true that the Antichrist will be a Roman ruler. Prophecy shows his connection with Rome in several ways.
- One source of helpful information is Daniel's vision of beasts arising from the sea (Dan. 7:1-14). Here we have God's view of the same kingdoms that appear in Daniel 2 as parts of a magnificent image. God sees them, however, as 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." These ten horns appear to be symbolically equivalent to the ten toes of the great image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Notice that the horn representing the Antichrist grows up in the midst of the other ten. The Book of Daniel could hardly make it plainer that the Antichrist will emerge during the period of the toes. Yet it portrays him as a horn on the fourth beast, the beast that, at an earlier stage of the vision, had represented ancient Rome. The only reasonable conclusion is that the Antichrist will be the ruler of a revived Roman Empire.
- 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.
- 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 beast will be both the seventh and the eighth in the same line of succession. The beast is the Antichrist (Rev. 13:16). It says of him that people will marvel at his recovery from a wound. It says also in chapter 17 that he was, is not, and shall ascend from the bottomless pit. The meaning is that he will be killed, but God will bring him out of the bottomless pit for another season of life. That is why he is both the seventh and the eighth king. 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, the woman sits on seven mountains, or seven hills (Rev. 17:9). Rome is, of course, known as the city of seven hills.
If the fifth kingdom is truly the U.N., and if the fifth kingdom must become a revived Roman Empire, 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.
© 2007, 2012 Stanley Edgar Rickard (Ed Rickard, the author). All rights reserved.