CHRIST'S KINGDOM AN EVER-INCREASING AND CONQUERING STONE
"O king, you saw…a great image [depicting four successive kingdoms]…. You kept on looking, until a Stone was cut out, without hands. This smote the image upon its iron-and-clay feet, and broke them into pieces…. And the Stone Which smote the image, became a great Mountain and filled the Earth….And in the days of these kingdoms, the God of Heaven shall set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed. And that Kingdom shall not be left to other people. But It shall break into pieces and consume all these kingdoms. Yet It, shall keep on standing for ever."1746
From just before the time of Ezekiel and for a very long time thereafter, his fellow-exile Daniel began to prophesy. He did so in Babylon, from about 604 and until approximately 536 B.C. Very significantly, his predictions largely focussed on the then-future advent of Christ's Kingdom — at the time of His Incarnation and thereafter.
In the first of these prophecies, the Lord revealed to the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar that God Himself "removes kings and sets up kings."1747 For the king had received a dream about a huge statue of a man with a golden head and a silver thorax and a brass abdomen and iron legs. But then, in the dream, after a rolling stone had come and hit and destroyed the statue — it then itself went on to become a great Mountain which finally filled the Earth.
Daniel later explained to Nebuchadnezzar that this "Stone Kingdom" was the Kingdom of God. For God, declared Daniel, would destroy the "golden" Babylonian World-kingdom of which Nebuchadnezzar himself was the "head."1748 After the destruction of Babylonia, its remnants would be amalgamated into the succeeding lesser and "silver" kingdom,1749 namely the "thorax"-like dual empire of the Medes and the Persians1750 (with its two "arms").
This second kingdom, after its destruction, would be amalgamated into the subsequent "kingdom of brass which shall bear rule over all the Earth."1751 This would prove to be the "abdomen' kingdom of Alexander the Great of Macedon in Greece. That, after his death, was destined to divide up into four lesser Hellenistic kingdoms,1752 as is clear from Daniel chapters seven & eight.
The remains of the three successive World-kingdoms would in turn ultimately be amalgamated into the last great empire of the ancient World, namely the "iron" kingdom which would replace the brass kingdom of Hellenism.1753 Hence, this fourth or iron kingdom was the Empire of Ancient Rome — according to all pre-Christian Israelites and all post-Christian Judaists and all Early-Church and all Mediaeval and all Reformational Theologians.
Such include Judaistic writings such as: the Targums; IV Ezra 12:10; the Talmud (Abodah Zarah 2b); the Midrash; and the Pseudepigrapha — as well as those of: Flavius Josephus; Johanan ben Zakka; Akiba ben Joseph; Saadia ben Joseph al-Fayyami; Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer; Jephet ibn Ali; Rashi Solomon ben Isaac; Abraham ben Ezra; Moses ben Maimonides; Levi ben Gershon; Don Isaac ben Judah ben Abravanel; and Josef David ben Yachya; etc. Also included here are ancient syncretistic-pagan writings — like the Sibylline Oracles — which too identify the fourth kingdom with Ancient Rome.
The same view is upheld in the Early-Patristic writings of: Irenaeus; Tertullian; Hippolytus; Lactantius; Eusebius; Aphrahat; Cyril of Jerusalem; Chrysostom; Sulpicius Severus; Augustine of Hippo; Isidore of Pelusium; and
Theodoret. Indeed, it is affirmed even in the mediaeval writings of: Andreas of Caesarea; the Venerable Bede; Berengarius; Peter Comestor; Joachim of Fiore; Thomas Aquinas; and Robert Bellarmine.