The Prophecies Make History

The Prophecies Make History


On the plain of Dura, Hananiah’known as Shadrach to those around him in the Babylonian court’stood with his friends Mishael and Azariah. Daniel, the fourth member of their close-knit group of exiles from Judah, was absent that day. King Nebuchadnezzar had sent him far away on an important mission.

Daniel had risen high in the king’s favor since he had interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. They had all received new honors and new riches.

For a while after the dream, King Nebuchadnezzar had seemed to believe its message and had even been interested in learning more about the God of the Hebrews, the God who had interpreted his dream.

But the king’s self-centered, power-hungry nature had been coming back in full strength. For months he’d had sculptors working on a gigantic statue of solid gold.

The haughty king had thought, My dream told me that I would be only the golden head in a whole progression of world kingdoms. But I challenge fate and the gods! I will re-create this image in solid gold to show that my kingdom will never end!

So governors, administrators, and officials from all over the empire were assembled at Dura that day to bow down and show homage to this great statue, a monument to King Nebuchadnezzar’s belief that he would rule forever.

For anyone who refused to bow, the penalty was death’death in a blazing furnace.

Hananiah, who knew that as a servant of the God of Israel he would never bow to any foreign idol, drew his cloak a little more tightly around him and looked at his friends.

In a moment the musicians would strike up the music ordering the crowd to fall to its knees’and the servants of God would remain standing. What would happen then?

It was hard to imagine at that moment that the kingdom of Babylon would ever be destroyed. It was the world’s mightiest nation. Its armies had crushed surrounding countries. The wealth of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom’lavishly displayed in the capital city of Babylon with its glorious temples and its famous hanging gardens’was the talk of the whole world.

No wonder such a king found it hard to believe he’d ever be defeated.

But the God who rescued the three Jewish exiles from the fiery furnace had plans King Nebuchadnezzar could not have foreseen. The great kingdom of Babylon would survive for just two more generations.

By the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, Belshazzar, the mighty army of Cyrus the Medo-Persian was knocking at the gates.


The prophet Daniel himself’by now an old man’was in town on the very night when the Medo-Persian empire overthrew the city of Babylon, fulfilling the first part of his prophecy.

King Belshazzar was throwing a banquet that night when suddenly, horrified, he saw a disembodied hand writing unfamiliar words on the palace wall. All the guests were thrown into confusion until someone thought to send for Daniel.

Daniel was able to read the strange words’Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin’and to tell the king their meaning. Once again it was a message from God: the days of the Babylonian king had come to an end. He had been “weighed on the scales and found wanting” (Daniel 5:27). The kingdom would fall into the hands of the Medes and Persians.

That very night the city fell and the prophecy came true.

Under the Persian king Cyrus the Jewish exiles were allowed to return home to Judah and try to rebuild their land. Many chose to return’but many others stayed and made Persia their home.

One of those was a young Jewish girl named Esther, who found herself caught up in a chain of events that led her to become the wife of King Xerxes.

Esther stood in the courtyard before the Gate of All Lands in her husband’s summer palace at Parsa. The gate was flanked by two huge winged bulls bearing the inscription: “I am Xerxes the mighty, king of kings.”

King of kings’that was the title by which the Persian emperors were known. Yet it was also, and more truly, the title of the God of her people, the God of Israel. He was the true King of kings, the one who controlled the destiny of all people in all lands.

Esther, feeling very alone and frightened, sent up a desperate prayer: “Lord God of Israel, I don’t understand why You have placed me in this position of power or what role You have for me to play here. Do You have a purpose for my life, even here in a foreign monarch’s court?”

God was indeed guiding Esther’just as He guides all of human history. The book of Esther tells us how this Jewish teenager was in the right place at the right time to save her people from a bloodbath of destruction.

Later, in the reign of King Artaxerxes, God used two more faithful Jews who served in the king’s palace’Ezra and Nehemiah’to help bring His law back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple there.

Yet even the mighty Medo-Persian empire couldn’t last forever. King Xerxes tried to push his empire westward to conquer Greece and failed.

The Greek city-states were disunited at that time and tended to fight among themselves. But 150 years later they were united under a powerful young general who became known to history as Alexander the Great.


Alexander the Great’s armies conquered most of the then-known world, including Medo-Persia. Alexander himself died in 323 B.C. at just 33 years of age. Before his death he wept because there were no more worlds to conquer (or so he thought).

The empire Alexander left behind him lasted until 168 years before the birth of Jesus.

Greek culture laid the foundations for our modern world. Democracy, the system of government now used in much of the world, began in ancient Greece.

Philosophers today still debate the ideas of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle, the ancient Greek thinkers. Greek art and Greek literature have influenced the way people paint, write, and think from their time to the present.

Also in our modern world, every four years athletes from around the world gather to continue a tradition that began in ancient Greece: the Olympic Games. Young Greek men competed in races and other athletic contests in honor of Zeus and the other gods who, the Greeks believed, lived on Mount Olympus.

Greece continued to be the most important world power for more than 150 years after Alexander’until an even bigger power came along. One country after another fell to the mighty armies of Rome.

About this time, the leader of an incredibly dedicated Jewish army arrived on the scene.

“We must rid this land of sacrilege!” cried Judas Maccabaeus.

Fed up with the foreign ways of worship that had been forced upon God’s people, this man led an army bent on dealing with the problem. In the end, the worship of God was restored at the Temple. Today, the Jewish Feast of Hanukkah remembers that event.

LEGS OF IRON: ROME, 168 B.C. – A.D. 476

Claudia stood with her back straight, showing no fear, but her heart raced. Across the river, the dull glow of a smoldering fire lit up the night sky. Rome was burning.

With her fellow Christians, she joined hands and prayed for the people suffering and dying in the city. Surely the Lord Jesus would soon return to end this terrible suffering!

Claudia and her family had heard the message of Jesus preached by Peter, who had been one of Jesus’ followers himself, and later by the great missionary preacher Paul. Those two great leaders had recently died, leaving the Christian church in Rome to face an uncertain future.

Within a matter of days the future became far more frightening than anything they had imagined.

Life for Christians in Rome was already difficult: they faced suspicion and distrust. But now, in the aftermath of the fire, everyone was looking for someone to blame. The emperor Nero had declared that Christians were to blame for the devastation.

Soon everyone in the Christian community became used to tales of terror: Christians were being dragged from their beds in the middle of the night, forced into circus rings with hungry lions, or crucified as the Lord Jesus had been.

Claudia and some friends and family hid in the catacombs (underground cemetery) beneath the city. As they waited and prayed for deliverance, they repeated to each other Jesus’ words: “Blessed are you when people persecute you because of Me, for great is your reward in heaven.”

The Roman empire was the mightiest the world had ever known’truly an empire of iron. For more than 600 years Rome ruled the known world, conquering territories that hadn’t even been heard of in Daniel’s day.

Jesus was born in Israel when it was an occupied Roman colony. He died on a Roman cross’the most common form of execution for criminals and troublemakers. Romans would often leave bodies to rot on crosses as a reminder to those who saw them: don’t mess with the Roman government.

Despite persecution, the religion of Jesus’ followers'”Christianity,” as it came to be called’spread like wildfire throughout the Roman world. By A.D. 312 the emperor Constantine had experienced something of a conversion, and Christianity became the official religion of the empire.

But with power came corruption. As the Christian church joined hands with the powerful but cruel Roman government, it began more and more to imitate that government and use its methods.


The mighty Roman Empire finally fell, weakened by corruption within and attacked by enemies from outside. The barbarian tribes of Europe rebelled against Roman rule and finally conquered the city of Rome itself.

With no central government and no common language or civilization, the Western world began to look like the iron-and-clay feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s image. Some countries were strong, some weak. A brand of Christianity was woven into the government of Rome, but like iron and clay, the two did not mix well.

Throughout the time period we call the Middle Ages, there was one power that united many people’the Roman Catholic Church. As monks and missionaries traveled the world, more and more people became Christian.

But in many countries “Christian” armies forced people to convert to Christianity at the edge of a sword. And the same church whose early heroes had died at the hand of the Roman emperor Nero now put to death people who protested against what the church had become and tried to return to Jesus’ original message in the Bible.

These protestors, or “Protestants,” suffered for their faith, but they led to the Reformation of the 1500s and 1600s, when new church groups sprang up and tried to lead Christians back to “the Bible and the Bible only.”

For more than 1,500 years we’ve been living in the feet of the image. Our modern world is still a collection of countries, some weak, some strong, not tied together by any single powerful world empire or king.

Today many people believe we are “living in the toes” of Nebuchadnezzar’s image. According to the vision, we are literally on the edge of eternity. So what happens next?


Kyle and Jenna sat with their parents beside a small fire, shivering in the cold night air.

Over the past months they’d gotten used to living in mountain campsites, having hardly enough to eat, staying on the run. It wasn’t safe to be a follower of God’s Word anymore.

Things had happened so quickly. Kyle could still remember being in elementary school and not having a care in the world. Now, when he should have been a high school freshman, his whole world had fallen apart.

New laws made religious freedom just a dream of the past. The world was pulling together, people said, to fight crime, disease, and terrorism. One new law was aimed at forcing people to turn back to God. But the drive for unity meant that anyone who thought or worshiped differently was pushed to the edges.

The only things that kept Kyle and Jenna’s world together were the love and unity of their family and their church family. Fellow Christians who’d once been just faces in the next pew were now like brothers and sisters. They’d been through so much together.

When would the trouble end?

“Look!” Jenna said, pointing skyward. Kyle followed his sister’s glance, expecting to see military or police helicopters.

Instead he saw something else: a small cloud that, instead of moving across the sky like other clouds, seemed to be rushing directly toward them.

The people around them were gradually noticing the unusual cloud. Mom was already on her feet, her hands lifted to heaven. “Praise Jesus!” she cried.

A few feet away, someone else shouted, “This is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us!”

Kyle and Jenna were standing too now. Kyle felt a rush of excitement and joy. For so long this day had been just a dream; sometimes he’d even had trouble believing it would come. But now it was here. Jesus was coming!

Already the cloud was filling the sky. Kyle could actually see angels, hear trumpets. The long wait was over. It was time to go home.

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever” (Daniel 2:44, 45).

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

Written by Trudy J. Morgan-Cole
Illustrated by Terrill Thomas

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The Prophecies Make History

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