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Notes on Daniel: Most of Daniel is History

By Jay Rogers
Published April 27, 2008

Most of Daniel (except for a few verses in Daniel 12) refers to events that took place by the end of the first century. Nero was the fulfillment of the little horn of Daniel 7 and the sixth of the seven kings of Revelation 17.

And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful (Revelation 17:10-14).

Five are fallen — The five Roman Emperors were Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius who each fell before Nero.

And one is — Nero was the sixth Emperor and was alive when John wrote the prophecy.

The other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space — The seventh is Galba who reigned only seven months. It might seem odd to call attention on Galba at all. But John is accomplishing two purposes here. He is keeping the purpose of the book of Revelation before him, which was a letter to seven churches written to comfort them in time of great tribulation. He is encouraging the churches to be patient in suffering. John is also drawing a dividing line in the form of a seventh king between the time of Nero and the tenth and final king, Vespasian, who is responsible for the final conquest of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple.

Even he is the eighth, and is of the seven — This is an idiomatic way of transitioning to the interpretation of the next vision of the “ten horns.” The eighth is of the seven is saying that there will be yet more kings after the seventh dies, but these will go into perdition along with the sixth king, Nero.

And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings — This is the full list of Emperors within the scope of the prophecy: Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian.

Now compare this with Daniel:

I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things (Daniel 7:8).

Another little horn — As I have written, the “little horn” of Daniel 7 was Nero because Tiberius, Claudius and Caligula did not persecute the early Christians. On the contrary, Nero was the first Emperor to speak “great things” against Christ. Nero was born during the lifetime of Tiberius and three Emperors were assassinated in order to make way for the sixth Emperor who was not in the direct line of succession.

Who the Little Horn is Not

If we decide that the Little Horn is the same figure as the “sixth” king of Revelation, then we’ve narrowed the field. If we count the Emperors from Julius Caesar, Nero is the sixth. However, we can also use process of elimination by examining the specific description of this king in the following passage:

John writes:

And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them (Revelation 17:12,13).

The little horn could not be Julius Caesar. While it is true that Caesar established his rule over the Roman Empire by overcoming three kings, he did not persecute the church. In fact he was assassinated a full generation prior to the birth of Christ.

The little horn could not be Augustus Caesar. Although Augustus reigned at the birth of Christ, and Herod tried to kill the infant Jesus, Augustus did not “make war with the lamb.” In fact, it was Augustus who ordered the census that brought Christ to his prophesied birth place.

The little horn could not be Tiberius, Caligula, or Claudius. The Gospel spread freely under Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius.

Eusebius even records that Tiberius put a bill before the Roman Senate to make Christianity a legal religion, but was defeated due to political opposition.

There is no record of Caligula’s dealings with the early church. Perhaps the church flourished because he was unconcerned.

The New Testament records that the Christian church flourished in Rome when Claudius was Emperor. According to the Roman historian Suetonius (70-122) in his The Twelve Caesars, Claudius “expelled the Jews from Rome, since they rioted constantly at the instigation of Chrestus.” Some have theorized that this may have been a reference to Christians who were seen as a sect of Judaism, but there is no record that he specifically persecuted Christians or was even aware of them. This one sentence is too little to establish Claudius as the “beast.”

However, we know a lot more about Nero’s war against both the Christians in the Roman Empire and his war against the Jews in Palestine. According to the Book of Acts, Nero heard the Gospel preached by Paul and he allowed the Gospel to spread freely for several years among members of his own household.

According to Acts 28:30:

And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

In fact, the concluding greeting of the Epistle to the Philippians makes it sound as though Paul had gathered a church around him while under house arrest and had made converts among Nero’s family members:

All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen (Philippians 4:22,23).

This was in the late 50s to early 60s AD. Paul was then released according to the histories written by the early Church fathers. According to Josephus, in 62 AD, Nero had married Poppea Sabina, a proselyte to Judaism. It is likely that Poppea is one of the members of Nero’s household who had heard Paul preach. Chrysostom relates that a young woman that was one of Nero’s concubines was converted by Paul’s preaching, to the Christian faith. She was changed from the lewd course life she had lived, that Nero was incensed against Paul for it. He ordered him first to be imprisoned, and then put to death.

In 64 AD, the first persecution of Christians began under Nero. When Rome burned for six days, Nero blamed the Christians. Of Nero’s persecution, Tacitus wrote:

First Nero had self-acknowledged Christians arrested. Then, on their information, large numbers of others were condemned…. Their deaths were made farcical. Dressed in wild animal’s skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be ignited after dark as substitutes for daylight.

Suetonius was more succinct: “Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.”

In 66 AD, Jewish rebellion began and war between the Romans and Jews ensued. Jerusalem was taken in 70 and destroyed, as was Herod’s temple. Later, in the second century, Justin Martyr would teach that this destruction was the judgment of God upon a nation that had rejected its Messiah and failed to discern that, under the new dispensation, the temple sacrifices were abrogated. I date the book of Revelation to this year, it was also the year of Paul’s second trial in Rome, 2 Timothy written and later Mark and Timothy joined Paul in Rome (2 Timothy 4:11-13).

In 67 AD, Paul was beheaded by the sword. About this same time St. Peter also martyred, crucified upside down. According to Church history this occurred on the same day June 29th, AD 67.

I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom (Daniel 7:21,22).

And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints (Revelation 13:7-10).

Make war with the saints — Nero began a three and a half year persecution against the Christians in the Fall of 64 AD. It did not end until the Spring of 67 AD when Nero sent his general Vespasian to conduct the military the campaign against Palestine culminating in the Fall of AD 70.

He that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword — About one year after the deaths of Peter and Paul, on June 9th, AD 68, Nero committed suicide by stabbing himself in the neck with a sword used to execute people. Nero’s last words before stabbing himself in the neck were ironically, “What an artist the world is losing!”

The little horn could not be either Galba, Otho, Vitellius. All three Emperors served too little time during a space of less than 18 months.

The little horn could not be Vespasian. However, he is the tenth Emperor on the throne at Rome when the whole scope of the prophecy of Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 and 17 is fulfilled. At this time, the general had returned to Rome to assume the role of Emperor, but left his son and successor Titus to finish the war against the Jews in Palestine. However, neither Vespasian nor Titus are specifically the “little horn.”

We now have ten consecutive Emperors, who together symbolize the unified Imperial might of Rome. If Revelation is compared with Daniel, we see that the sixth head (and sixth horn) of the Beast of Revelation is the same king as the “little horn” of Daniel.

And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them (Revelation 17:12,13).

They have received no kingdom as yet or They have received no power as yet — The Empire of Rome received no power to make war with Christ until Nero came to the throne. The ten horns are the ten Caesars who reigned up until the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. Even though five of the first ten are dead and the seventh is “not yet,” in “one hour,” the ten will become a kingdom, a power and a unified mind to persecute the church.

One hour — This means simply that this persecution will occur at one time, under one Emperor, Nero. The church was not persecuted under the five previous Emperors.

The Lamb shall overcome them — This speaks of the coming of Jesus and the kingdom of God. This kingdom “shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever … And there was given him [the Son of man] dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44; 7:14).

Nero was the sixth in succession the Emperor who “is” at the time of John’s writing.

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever (Daniel 2:44).

The plain meaning of this prophecy is that Jesus Christ appeared in the first century and set up His kingdom.

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13,14).

When did this everlasting dominion come?

According to Daniel 2:44, it came “in the days of these kings,” that is, the Roman Emperors of the first century.

The rest of the prophecy of Daniel is meant to point to the exact time of the coming of the Messiah. Daniel provides a map and a time-line of the wars of world history surrounding Judea 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.

In Daniel 9:24-27, the angel Gabriel tells Daniel that the vision is to be sealed up until the end of “seventy weeks” when the vision will be accomplished.

From a futurist and historicist perspective, the scope of Daniel extends beyond the first century. If this is the case, then Gabriel’s words to Daniel make no sense. From a preterist perspective, at the end of the seventy weeks, the Temple at Jerusalem is destroyed, sacrifices cease, and the vision is accomplished.

In Daniel 12:4, the angel again tells Daniel to seal up the vision: “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”

From the historicist or futurist perspective, if the scope of Daniel includes the papacy and the rise of Islam, events in the Middle East in our current day etc., then this is in contradiction to the plain meaning of the text. The vision of Daniel is the coming of a kingdom that will vanquish all other world kingdoms. This is to be accomplished “in the days of these kings.”

In Revelation 22, the angel’s commandment to John is not to seal up the words of the prophecy “for the time is near.” This also indicates that the prophecy of Daniel will soon be fulfilled. So in effect the opening of the seals in Revelation is also the opening of the vision of Daniel.

If you interpret “near” in Revelation 22 to mean five centuries and more into the future, then that is in contradiction to the meaning of near in the parallel passages in Daniel. The prophecy of Daniel does not depict 530 B.C. (the approximate date of the end of Daniel’s visions) to be anywhere “near” the coming of the Messiah.

Further, all Christians believe that the closing of the canon occurred sometime in the first century AD. If the entire prophecy of Daniel is sealed up (or hidden) for an appointed time, then this time must have been the first century. It could not have been “opened” at a time when the canon was closed. If it were, there would be no inspired prophetic witness to tell of its opening.

Yet the historicist view has specific events being fulfilled from 500 to 1500 years after the time of the writings of the Apostle John, the last of the New Testament scriptures.

John witnessed the opening of the scroll that was sealed. Shortly after he records his visions in the book of Revelation the canon is closed. By witnessing the opening of the scroll, he completes the canon that remains “open” or revealed for all time.

The strength of preterism is that we have an infallible interpreter in John to point us to the fulfillment of prophecy in his day. John gives the interpretation of Daniel in the book of Revelation.

The weakness of historicism and futurism is that we are left to wonder and guess at the meaning of the beasts’ heads and horns in Daniel 7 and Revelation 7 and 13.

Only the preterist view lets scripture interpret scripture.


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