Daniel chapters 2 and 7 both relate dreams that cover the same progression of kingdoms from different perspectives, and both serve to contrast the succession of fleeting manifestations of the City of Man with the solid, eternal City of God.
In chapter 2, Daniel interprets a dream that troubled Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. The dream was of a great image, a giant metal man with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, and legs of iron. A stone not cut by human hands struck the image and crushed it all to pieces so that it blew away like chaff in the wind, and then the stone grew to be a mountain that filled the earth. Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that he and his kingdom are the head of gold and that after him would arise other kingdoms: a kingdom of silver, and one of bronze, and one of iron that would break in pieces and shatter all things. But after these, Daniel says, “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. [This kingdom] shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and [this kingdom] shall stand forever.” This kingdom is the stone that grows to be a mountain that fills the earth.
Daniel 7 is a parallel passage, a dream that comes to Daniel and troubles him. He sees four beasts rise out of the sea: the first, a lion with the wings of an eagle to whom is given the mind of a man — this again is Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon; the second, a bear raised up on one side — the coming Medes and Persians; the third, a leopard with four heads — four stages of the Greek Empire; and fourth, a great iron beast that devours and breaks in pieces all things — Imperial Rome. He sees a court of judgment set up and books opened and the iron beast killed and all their dominion taken away. The he sees one like a son of man presented to the Ancient of Days and to him is given a kingdom and dominion that will not pass away and will not be destroyed.
This “one like a son of man” nearly jumps off the page as a reference to Christ, but it is explained in verse 18 that, “the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever,” in verse 22, “judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom,” and again in verse 27, “the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.” It is true that this is Christ, but it is the total Christ, the head and the body.
Paul, writing to the saints in Ephesus, says that we are blessed in Christ and adopted as sons; the saints are made sons of the Most High God. The church is both the “one like a son of man” who obtains an inheritance and the one who is given as a glorious inheritance to the Son. The power of God raised Christ “from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” This is an amazing statement: the church, the body of Christ, is the fullness of Him who fills all in all. The total Christ, the head and body together, is the mountain kingdom that grows to fill the earth, a kingdom that cannot be shaken.