Rome worshiped power.
From its militarily strategic locale upon seven hills, it sought to rule the world. Just as Daniel had told the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, the Roman Empire was as strong as iron. As predicted, it used its military strength to break in pieces and crush all its rivals (Daniel 2:40). By the time of Jesus’ birth, it had succeeded in bludgeoning the ancient world into submission. Whenever the Emperor made a decree, the rest of the world complied (Luke 2:1ff).
Rome’s thirst for power ultimately grew to the point of worshiping its emperors as gods. Regardless of how perverse, bloodthirsty, and tyrannical he was, an Emperor was venerated for having reached the pinnacle of power. He was living “the Roman Dream”.
According to Daniel’s specific prophecy, it was in the days of Rome’s Empire that “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44). In the presence of this seemingly irresistible force, God would put His immovable object, His unshakable kingdom (Hebrews 12:28). Built upon the bedrock foundation of Jesus’ deity, neither Rome nor the gates of Hades could prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
How could this be?
This answer is quite simple: Jesus—whose kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36)—would place in the hands of earthen vessels His gospel, the faith, which is the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16). Those who are obedient to the faith (Romans 16:26), the gospel, will experience victory greater than any achieved by Rome’s infamous Legions. Regardless of the hardships endured by Christian soldiers (Romans 8:35-36), “we are more than conquerors (literally, “super-victors”) through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
Rome had earthly, military power. The gospel has divine, spiritual power.