The vision in Daniel 2 uses the statue of a man to symbolize the history from the time of Daniel to the return of Christ:
Its head of gold (2:32) is explained as king Nebuchadnezzar (2:38), and represents the Babylonian Empire.
Its breast of silver (2:32) is explained as “another kingdom inferior to” the Babylonian Empire (2:39), which will follow “after” the Babylonian Empire (2:39).
Its belly and thighs of bronze (2:32) is explained as “another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth” (2:39).
Its legs of iron (2:33) is “a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces” (2:40).
Its feet partly of iron and partly of clay (2:33) is “a divided kingdom” (2:41). During each of the four successive kingdoms (2:37-40) there will be a supreme king over all nations. But during the “divided kingdom” there will not be a supreme king. During that time there will be many kingdoms and many kings. Verse 43 confirms this by explaining that these kings will “combine with one another” through intermarriage, but unity will not be achieved.
Then “a stone was cut out without hands” (2:34). “Without hands” is explained as “God of heaven will set up” (2:44). It means supernatural (Mar. 14:58; Col. 2:11). This stone completely destroys the image. “Not a trace of them was found” (2:35). “But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (2:35). This is explained as a “kingdom which will never be destroyed” (2:44). The parallel vision in Daniel 7 refers to an “everlasting kingdom” (7:27)—“the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come” (7:18). This eternal kingdom will be on earth (2:35).
Although the first four kingdoms dominate one after the other, each of them continues to exist until the eternal kingdom is set up. Only then do they all disappear without a trace (2:35).
The vision in Daniel 2 therefore divides the history of the world into six successive epochs. The first is the Babylonian Empire and the last is the eternal kingdom:
1. Head of gold = Babylonian Empire (2:38)
2. Breast = Silver kingdom (2:39)
3. Belly and thighs = Bronze kingdom (2:39)
4. Legs = Iron kingdom (2:40)
5. Feet of iron and clay = Divided kingdom (2:41)
6. Great mountain = Eternal kingdom (2:44)
NEXT: For a further identification of these kingdoms, see the four beasts of Daniel 7.