Does Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel 4 have prophetic meaning for us today?


Over the years, many ideas have been advanced to the effect that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, as described in Daniel 4, has some kind of hidden prophetic meaning for us today. In the last Q&A, we discussed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in much detail. We pointed out that the dream referred to that ancient king and predicted his seven years of insanity to punish his pride. We showed that the dream was fulfilled, exactly as God had pronounced it, and that King Nebuchadnezzar subsequently repented of his pride at the time when his sanity was restored to him.

Some have pointed at Nebuchadnezzar’s “seven years” of insanity and applied it to seven “prophetic” years of punishment for the entire Babylonian Empire. The rationale goes something like this: A “prophetic” year of 360 DAYS is the equivalent of 360 YEARS. [The one day for one year PRINCIPLE is, in fact, biblical in some instances, and is described in passages such as Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:4-6.] If applied in this way, seven prophetic “years” of 360 “days” or “years” each, would amount to 2,520 years. Beginning to count with the time when Babylon fell (which occurred about 539 B.C.), one would reach the year 1982 A.D.

It is also claimed by some that the Babylonian Empire was somehow unproductive for 2,520 years after its ancient fall, but emerged again, beginning in 1982.

As one author puts it:

“The tree of the… dream may represent not only Nebuchadnezzar but the Babylonian Empire as well. Babylon fell in 539 B.C… In essence, the ‘roots’ of the tree remained to sprout anew in the future. Considering this, it has been proposed that the ‘seven times’ could be viewed as seven 360-day prophetic years. The prophetic ‘day-for-a-year’ principle… yields 2,520 years… perhaps stretching from the fall of ancient Babylon to the beginnings of its revival in modern times.”

Another author wrote:

“Daniel records a prophecy about a tree (picturing the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar) that was to be chopped down, but its stump and roots were to remain—bound by a band of brass and iron until seven times had passed… The king’s seven years of insanity partially fulfilled the prophecy. However, the Bible also reveals that a prophetic year of 360 days is the equivalent of 360 years… Seven prophetic years (of 360 days) amount to 2,520 years. Babylon fell in 539 [B.C.]… Seven prophetic times from 539 [B.C.] brings us to 1982—the date John Paul urged Europeans to ‘give life to their roots.’ Since 1982 the modern Babylon emerging in central Europe from its ancient roots has seen dramatic growth.”

Depending on who is identified as modern Babylon, it is also said that the Catholic Church began in 1982 to exert its ever-growing influence on the countries of Europe; or that the nations of Europe experienced a revival, beginning in 1982 [pointing at a Scripture in Daniel 4, speaking of the band of iron and bronze around the tree (verses 15 and 23), which was allegedly loosed in 1982, or that the new leaders of modern Babylon, which are sometimes falsely claimed to be the USA and the Catholic Church, will begin to defeat the ancient Medes and Persians (which are alleged to be modern Iraq and Iran)]. Others make different claims, which are all related, somehow, to 2,520 years of punishment of “Babylon,” followed by a revival and restoration to power.

To complicate matters even further, it is also claimed that Christ’s reference to the “fulfillment” of the “times of the Gentiles” in Luke 21:24 relates, somehow, to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 4. We have explained in a previous Q&A that the “times of the Gentiles” will be fulfilled when Christ returns. We also showed that Gentile kingdoms have ruled throughout the history of man.

Some of those who link “the times of the Gentiles” to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 4 claim that this phrase speaks exclusively of the rule of the ancient and modern Babylonians and that the times of the Gentiles BEGAN in 1982 (when the 2,520 years-long insanity or punishment of Babylon was removed and Babylon’s rule was restored). Others have claimed in the past that the times of the Gentiles would actually END in 1982, and that Christ would return BEFORE the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled. (Since Christ has not returned, that concept was subsequently dropped.) Others teach correctly (as we pointed out in our previous Q&A), that the times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled AT the time of Christ’s return.

Can the concept that Daniel 4 contains a prophecy for the ancient and modern Babylonian EMPIRE be proven from Scripture? Is it even biblically POSSIBLE that this idea COULD BE correct?

When we carefully examine what the Bible DOES teach, the answer is, NO!

First of all, as pointed out in our previous Q&A, there is not even the slightest hint in Daniel 4 that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the cut-down tree refers to anyone but Nebuchadnezzar. He was indeed insane for seven years, living with the animals, but when he repented of his pride, the kingdom was restored to him. To apply this scenario of seven prophetic years of insanity to the Babylonian power is inaccurate, as Babylon was not “unproductive” or “paralyzed” from 539 B.C. to 1982 A.D.

In addition, the Bible shows that end-time modern Babylon will behave in a totally insane way and will be responsible for a worldwide catastrophe, which would lead to the annihilation of man if Christ were not to return to save man from himself. Therefore, it cannot possibly be suggested that Babylon was insane from 539 B.C. until 1982 A.D., but REPENTED of its pride and regained its sanity, beginning in 1982.

Those who claimed, albeit erroneously, that the times of the Gentiles would be fulfilled in 1982, after Christ’s return, understood at least that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 4, IF applied to the Babylonian Empire, would require repentance before its kingdom or rule could be restored.

As one author wrote as early as 1953: “[1982 is the year] when the seven times of punishment would be fulfilled…. Since Zechariah 14:1-3 shows that Jesus Christ will return in order to deliver Jerusalem from the Gentiles, it is plain that the second coming of Christ will occur SHORTLY BEFORE the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled… Just as Nebuchadnezzar finally regained his throne and acknowledged God’s authority, so the Gentile nations when their punishment is over, will come up to the kingdom of God and ask to learn of his ways (Micah 4:1-3) so that they also may become begotten and finally born into His kingdom as members of the ruling family of God.”

Of course, the idea that Christ would come back prior to 1982 and that the punishment of modern Babylon would end in 1982 and that they would come to repentance in 1982 was clearly wrong. But at least it recognized the need for Babylon to REPENT–IF we WERE to apply Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 4 to 2,520 years of Babylonian punishment. Those who teach today that Babylon returned to power in 1982 don’t even seem to recognize THAT.

We should also ask, what spectacular event occurred in 1982 which would have indicated that Babylon returned to power after 2,520 years of paralysis? As we have already seen, some of those who preach the prophetic meaning of the dream for the Babylonian system state that Pope John Paul gave a speech in 1982 encouraging Europe to discover its origins and give life to its roots. It is claimed that THIS SPEECH indicates, somehow, the return to power of modern Babylon and the beginning of the growth of the cut-down tree.

The whole concept that one can apply the “seven times” in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to “seven prophetic years” of 2,520 years seemed to have been invented by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Society. They claimed that the destruction of Jerusalem through Nebuchadnezzar [alleged to have occurred in 607 B.C.] began the times of the Gentiles which allegedly ended in 1914 when God allegedly reestablished His Kingdom in heaven. However, as we will show, that entire concept is biblically unconvincing.

First, we need to explain what the Bible says about the identity of modern Babylon. We need to comprehend who Babylon is. For instance, modern Babylon is not a combination of the USA and the Catholic Church, as it has been suggested, and, in passing, the modern Medes are not the Iraqis, either.

As we point out in our free booklets, “Europe in Prophecy” and “Is That in the Bible?–The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation,” modern Babylon is identified in Revelation 17 as the “WOMAN riding the beast.” That woman is a religious power which has been sitting on the LAST SEVEN POLITICAL AND MILITARY REVIVALS of the ancient Roman Empire. It is true that modern Babylon also describes the military and economic aspect of the Babylonian SYSTEM in Revelation 18, but the fact that the woman (the religious system) has been riding the last seven revivals of the beast (the political system) MUST NOT BE NEGLECTED. This PROVES that Babylon has not been dormant for 2,520 years. Quite to the contrary, BABYLON has been ALIVE and WELL for many centuries prior to 1982.

Note how Revelation 17 describes Babylon. In verse 3, we read that John sees in a vision “a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having SEVEN HEADS and TEN HORNS.” Verse 5 explains that on the woman’s forehead, the name was written: “Mystery, Babylon the Great, The Mother of Harlots…”

That woman is further described as follows, in verse 18: “And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” That city is described, in verse 9, as being built on seven mountains or “hills” (compare, for example, the New International Version and the Living Bible).

Halley’s Bible Handbook writes: “The description of Babylon the great… exactly fits Papal Rome.” Ungers’ Bible Handbook states that the woman “denotes a religious system… the woman has her headquarters in the Beast’s capital, which is the seven-hilled city of Rome.”

Focusing on the BEAST on which the woman sits, we learn in Revelation 17 that the seven heads of the beast are seven kings or kingdoms (verse 10). What John saw in that vision referred to a time when five of the seven kings or kingdoms had fallen, one was, and one was still to come (verse 10). When it comes, it will be ruled by the ten horns or ten kings, giving their power and authority to the beast (verses 12-13).

As we explain in our above-quoted literature, the seven heads of the beast on which the woman sits, are the seven last revivals of the ancient Roman Empire. In fact, Revelation 13 and Daniel 7 tell us that the ancient Roman Empire would be revived TEN times, but the first three revivals occurred through barbarian tribes which did not believe in the religion propagated by the woman. In fact, the woman was responsible for the demise of the rule of these barbarian tribes (the Vandals, the Heruli and the Ostrogoths). The woman did not sit on the first three revivals of the Roman Empire, but according to Revelation 17, she would and did sit on the last SEVEN of the ten revivals.

We learn from history that six of the last seven revivals have already occurred. These were revivals of political and military kingdoms cooperating with the woman–the religious power. Six of these last seven revivals have already occurred under Justinian (bringing about the Imperial Restoration of Europe, by uniting East and West Rome), Charlemagne (crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III), Otto the Great (crowned by Pope John XII), Charles V of Habsburg (crowned by Pope Clement VIII), Napoleon Bonaparte (crowned by Pope Pius VII) and Hitler/Mussolini (who worked closely together with Pope Pius XII).

For instance, under Charlemagne, the revival was called “HOLY Roman Empire,” and under Otto the Great, it was called, “HOLY Roman Empire of the German Nation,” indicating the RELIGIOUS and political nature of these revivals. The last and final revival of the ancient Roman Empire is happening right now in Europe.

To say that biblical Babylon was inactive for 2,520 years since its fall in 539 B.C. is historically inaccurate. In fact, going way back in history, Will Durant explained in “The Story of Civilization,” that the Code of Justinian (who brought about the fourth resurrection of the Roman Empire) “enacted orthodox Christianity into law [and] acknowledged ecclesiastical leadership of the Roman Church, and ordered all Christian groups to submit to her authority.”

In addition, and just focusing on modern events, it still cannot be legitimately said that the Pope’s speech in 1982 signified the revival of the Babylonian system. For instance, it was as early as 1929 when the Lateran Treaties were signed between Mussolini and the Pope, establishing the Vatican City State and the international character of the Holy See, and making Catholicism the official religion of Italy. Four years later, in 1933, Adolph Hitler signed a concordat with the Vatican, purportedly protecting the rights of the Catholic Church in Nazi Germany. Der Stern Online wrote in February of 2004 that Mussolini’s and Hitler’s fascist governments profited from the Lateran Treaties and the concordat, and that the Catholic Church supported the fascist propaganda.

Even when reviewing the very last and still ongoing revival of the ancient Roman Empire, the Pope’s speech in 1982 was not a decisive event, either. We need to emphasize that the Common Market itself was started under the inspiration of Catholic politicians. The Telegraph wrote in 1991 that politicians “such as Adenauer of Germany, Paul-Henri Spaak, Jean Monnet and Robert Schumann… were all deeply influenced by Catholic social teaching.” The Financial Times added on May 22, 1995 that the “idea of a united Europe” has been viewed as “essentially a Catholic concept.” But that concept existed long before 1982. It was in 1957 that the Treaty of Rome was signed by the original six member states. It gave birth to the unification of Europe. Der Stern Online wrote that that treaty signalized the “beginning of the success story of Europe.”

It should be obvious that 1982 was not a decisive year in the development of the last religious/political revival of the ancient Roman Empire. Notice, by contrast, the following years which DID represent milestones in the slow but sure unification of modern Europe. First of all, as mentioned, there is of course the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, giving birth to the unification of Europe.

In addition, please note the following article, which was published in “Deutsche Welle” on June 27, 2009, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain:

“On June 27 [1989,] exactly two decades ago, then Hungarian foreign minister Gyula Horn and his Austrian counterpart Alois Mock symbolically cut some barbed wire representing the Iron Curtain on the border separating their two countries. Two months later, on August 19, [1989,] some 600 East Germans escaped to the West during a picnic for peace organized at the Austro-Hungarian border during a period when the border gate opened for three hours. [The Wikipedia Encyclopedia adds that commencing with August 23, 1989, more than 13,000 East German tourists in Hungary escaped to Austria. Shortly thereafter, similar incidents occurred in neighboring Czechoslovakia.] In reality, Hungary had already begun to dismantle the Iron Curtain nearly two months earlier, on May 2, 1989.”

The fall of the Iron Curtain was necessary to bring about a united Europe which would embrace eastern European nations.

The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, and Germany’s reunification was formalized on October 3, 1990. Of course, a united Germany was and is necessary for a united EU.

On January 1, 1999, the euro was introduced. Newsweek wrote at the time: “The Euro will turn Europe into a superpower… Whether you love the Euro or hate it, know this; nothing so big has ever happened before.” Again, a common currency was and is absolutely necessary for a powerful united Europe.

What we need to remember, then, is that Revelation 17 states that the WOMAN–BABYLON THE GREAT–sits on ALL of the seven last [political/religious] revivals of the Roman Empire. By no stretch of the imagination can it be said, then, that Babylon had no influence on the world scene and that it was kept in chains for 2,520 years since its fall in 539 B.C., or, that the times of the Gentiles BEGAN 2,520 years after its fall; that is, in 1982.

The biblical prophecies and the historical records prove beyond the shadow of any doubt that the dream in Daniel 4 could not possibly be construed as a prophecy, stretching over 2,520 years, beginning with the fall of Babylon and an alleged revival in 1982. The dream in Daniel 4 related strictly and exclusively to the life of ancient King Nebuchadnezzar, containing the timeless message for us today that “the living may know That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will, And sets over it the lowest [“basest,” Authorized Version] of men” and that “those who walk in pride He is able to put down” (Daniel 4:17, 37).

For more information, you might want to view our video-recorded sermon on the topic, “Babylon the Great.”

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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