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The Prophecy of Daniel: Overview

By Jay Rogers
Published May 1, 2008

Daniel was of noble birth. He may have been one of the royal family of Judah, but we are not given his genealogy. He was carried captive to Babylon in the fourth year of Jehoiachin, 606 BC, when he was a youth. He was there taught the learning of the Chaldeans, and held high offices, both under the Babylonian and Persian empires. He was persecuted for his religion, but was miraculously delivered; and lived to a great age. He must have been about 90 years old at the time of the last of his visions (Matthew Henry).

Daniel’s nation was taken captive by God’s enemies because they refused to live by God’s Law. The people of Judah continually compromised their nation into a state of spiritual whoredom. The pagan Chaldeans were now using their holy instruments, stolen from the Temple at Jerusalem, in their blasphemous worship. King Nebuchadnezzar sought out the best and brightest of the Hebrew youth Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to convert to humanistic paganism.

In Daniel’s day, there arose a generation of young people called out by God who resisted state-sanctioned evil. They were not seduced into the spiritual mediocrity and compromise which had led the nation of Judah captive. No matter the moral standard dictated by pagan society, Daniel intended to be true to God. The Daniel group refused to join the party. Instead of feasting at the king’s table and joining the social elite, they learned to fast and pray so that deliverance could come to the nation of Israel.

The Daniel group faced the fiery furnace and refused to compromise. They looked to God to be their deliverer. They would not bow down and worship the false gods of Nebuchadnezzar even if it cost them their lives. Jesus Christ himself appeared as the fourth man in the fire and supernaturally delivered them. In spite of the King’s attempts to kill Daniel’s friends, their testimony could not be destroyed. Instead the King’s own men were destroyed by that same fire. In spite of the King’s attempts to kill Daniel and his friends, they kept telling the truth no matter what the cost.

In the next generation, Daniel continued to prophesy and speak the truth to the King’s son who later became king. He did not waver from his declaration or apologize for the judgment which had fallen on the king’s father. The king’s men, jealous of Daniel’s longevity and favor, set a trap for him. They knew that wherever God’s Law and man’s law conflicted, Daniel would choose God’s Law. So they issued an injunction that forced Daniel to either violate the king’s law or God’s primary Law. When Daniel obeyed God rather than man, he was cast into the lion’s den. Daniel escaped the penalty only because of God’s sovereign intervention.

Daniel took on the role of intercessor although he was not personally guilty of Israel’s sins. He assumed the role of spiritual responsibility and birthed Revival for the nation of Israel. Daniel understood that Israel transgressed the Law and that God would not be mocked.

Daniel Interpreted

The book of Daniel is partly historical, relating various circumstances which befell himself and the Jews in captivity in Babylon; but is mainly prophetic, detailing visions and prophecies which foretell important events relative to the four great empires of the world, the restoration of the Jews, further Judean conflicts, the coming and death of the Messiah, and the conversion of the Gentiles.

Many Bible interpreters, especially modern dispensationalists, have sought to apply a futurist interpretation placing at least some of the events described in chapters 2, 7-12 as yet to take place. Others have taken a historicist interpretive approach consigning these events to the Middle Ages, as did many of the Reformers, the Puritans, Matthew Henry and Jonathan Edwards.

Yet the historicist and futurist hermeneutic approaches create difficulties in interpretation. The best possible explanation of Daniel is preterist interpretation. The events described in Daniel were fulfilled at or before the time of Christ. This position creates the least amount of problems from an interpretive standpoint. Only a fair knowledge of ancient history is needed to do this. Nevertheless, there are few commentaries on the bookshelves today fully describing the preterist point of view.

From our perspective today, an understanding of Daniel is paramount to understanding the Mount of Olives Discourse in Matthew 24, Luke 20 and Mark 13. In two of these passages, Jesus refers to the “abomination of desolation refereed to in the prophecy of Daniel.” In Mark 13:14, the author inserts the aside: (“let the reader understand”).

Understand what exactly?“ one might ask.

Obviously, from the context, we must understand this passage of Daniel. And unless we have the correct interpretation of Daniel, we will not be able to understand the Mount of Olives Discourse.

Therefore, a historical approach to Daniel is necessary for understanding the purpose of the book. This was a prophecy given so that the restored Jews would know the times and events surrounding the coming of the Messiah. That is the main purpose of Daniel chapters 2, 7-12.

I will first present a preterist interpretation of Daniel and will conclude with with a series of notes explaining its application to interpreting similar biblical passages, finally showing the flaws in the historical and futurist approaches to Daniel and Matthew 24.

This is not meant to be a complete commentary on the entire book of Daniel or even an exhaustive treatment of the passages quoted here. I am here merely interpreting the language and symbols of the predictive passages by applying them to known historical events.

The Preterist View of Daniel

In this commentary, I’ve tried to show that the prophecy of Daniel has been literally fulfilled in history. Hopefully, the reader will find this argument interesting and persuasive.

I started taking notes on the preterist view of Daniel in 1997. I picked it up intermittently and finally finished it in the summer of 2004 after posting it to a discussion group on the Internet. I received many objections from a historicist commentator, Dr. Francis Nigel Lee, who forced me to go back and re-examine each verse of the prophecy.

At that time, I also came across John Calvin’s Commentary on the Book of Daniel and I was fascinated and delighted to find that he applied many of the same interpretations to the book as I had concluded. I corrected a few of my own comments after I determined that Calvin’s were superior. Obviously Calvin was a preterist with respect to Daniel. According to a preface by Calvin’s translators:

Our readers will remember, that as an expositor of prophecy, Calvin is a Praeterist, and that his general system of interpretation is as remote from the year-day theory of Birks, Faber, and others, as from the futurist speculations of Maitland, Tyso, and Todd. Notwithstanding the disagreement between these Lectures and the writings of Birks, we strongly recommend their perusal by every student who would become thoroughly proficient in the prophecies of Daniel. The first step towards progress, is to surrender all our preconceived notions, and to prepare for the possibility of their vanishing away before the force of sanctified reason and all-pervading truth.

After understanding the concurring argument in John Calvin’s commentary in favor of the preterist interpretation of Daniel, I decided to publish these articles on this web site. I regard my study of Daniel to be incomplete. There is still much more work to do. In The Days of These Kings is a study that remains unfinished, but not abandoned. I post this at this time because there is little available for study on the preterist view of Daniel.


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Your comments are welcome!

Thank you for your thoughtful view of Daniel. Do you have any essays on the book of Revelation, too?

Posted by beth Fink on 03/20/2010 10:50 AM #

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