What does Nebuchadnezzar's dream mean in Daniel 2?

What is the meaning of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2:31-45)?

King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and therefore considered that his gods had overcome the God of Israel, Jehovah (Daniel 1:2). God gave him a dream of future events (2:28). Demonstrating that He could reveal the unknown, God revealed to Daniel both the dream, that only the king knew, and also its interpretation. Thus the Lord affirmed to Nebuchadnezzar that He knew and controlled the future and that He had given the king his kingdom (verse 37). This dream also helped God’s people because it informed them of the course, extent, and conclusion of the troublesome "times of the Gentiles," the period when Jerusalem is under Gentile control (Luke 21:24).

The dream centered around an image composed of four metals: a head of gold, arms of silver, torso of brass, and legs of iron (verses 3 1-33). Daniel interpreted these as four kingdoms, beginning with the Babylonian empire (verses 37-40). In keeping with the revelations in Daniel 7, 8,9, and 11, the other three kingdoms are Medo-Persian, Grecian, and Roman. Viewed from head to feet, the image had metals of decreasing value, a reflection of the increasingly less autocratic structure of the successive kingdoms. The "iron kingdom" is a divided kingdom (verse 41) because at the image’s feet the iron was mixed with clay, an unstable combination. Since the kingdoms are sequential, this suggests that the Roman kingdom is viewed in one form, iron, and a later form, iron and clay. Between these two forms is most of the present Church age.

Daniel draws attention to the toes of the image and their instability (verses 42, 43). When he then refers to "these kings" (verse 44), Daniel seems to be interpreting the toes as kings, 10 in number. In the days of this 10-king confederacy of the revived Roman Empire, a stone "cut out without hands" struck and destroyed the image in the king’s dream and became a great mountain (verses 34, 35). Thus, as Daniel’s subsequent visions reveal, the revived Roman kingdom, over which "the Beast" will reign (Revelation 13:1, 2; 17:11-14), will end when our Lord, the Stone rejected, yet exalted (Matthew 21:42, 44), will destroy Gentile power and establish His everlasting kingdom.

D.Oliver