The most frequent challenge to the preterist view of Daniel comes from the futurist or dispensational premillennnialist viewpoint. I have made a more thorough rebuttal to dispensational premillennialism, classical premillennialism and amillennialism in a book I co-wrote, The Four Keys to the Millennium, which presents and critiques four millennial views of four authors. In brief summary, dispensationalism is a system that first appeared in 1829. It is based on a severe separation of the Old and New Covenants, holding the Church and Israel to be two separate “People of God.” This eschatological view applies all millennial prophecies of the Old Testament to a future earthly reign of Christ.
Dispensationalism experienced a boost when the nation of Israel appeared as a geo-political entity in 1948 and later captured the city of Jerusalem during the Seven Day War in 1967. Several well-publicized failed predictions were made by best-selling Christian authors that the Second Coming of Christ would come “in this generation,” or forty years later in 1988. Then when that prediction failed, some dispensationalists predicted 2007. Dispensationalism is now on the wane as the year 1948 fades in the rear view mirror. More and more well-known theologians are turning toward the preterist view.
Yet even when the nation of Israel was born about 70 years ago, books refuting dispensational error appeared, such as George L. Murray’s Millennial Studies: A Search for Truth, first published in 1948. Murray remarked that the very words in Daniel that are meant to point the Jews to the coming of the Jesus Christ are strangely twisted to predict the coming of a future Antichrist in the dispensationalist system.
The closing verse of Daniel 9 has long been a stronghold for dispensationalism. Here, it is alleged, the angel describes and predicts the coming of the Antichrist. Instead of reading out of the passage what it contains, the tendency is to read into it what some people think it ought to teach.
By way of explanation, many dispensationalists readily agree that the prophecy of Daniel 9, which is reiterated in Matthew 24, was fulfilled when the Roman legions led by Vespasian and his son Titus surrounded Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. However, they insist that the prophecy is incomplete. In the dispensationalist view, a future Antichrist will revive the Roman Empire, allow the Jews in the modern state of Israel to rebuild the Temple and make a seven year peace treaty that will last until he betrays the covenant “in the middle of the week” bringing an end to the sacrifices by committing the “abomination that causes desolation.” The full context of this passage is as follows in the New King James Version.
“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;
And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end of it shall be with a flood,
And till the end of the war desolations are determined
Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate” (Daniel 9:26,27).
As Murray states above, the passage is clearly about the Messiah being “cut off” in the middle of the seventieth week (a “week” signifying seven years) bringing “an end to sacrifice and offering” (Daniel 9:26,27). Yet the dispensationalist maintains that this “seventieth week” has been delayed for almost 2000 years and will not be fulfilled until a future Roman Empire is revived and the Temple at Jerusalem rebuilt. Murray’s book contains a quote by a Bible teacher who recognized the error of this position after many years of having taught it.
“For twenty years, I also believed and taught that the Roman Empire would be restored in the last days of the age in which we live … I must confess that in so doing I depended largely upon the ideas and interpretations which I had imbibed from great and Godly teachers, in whom I had unlimited confidence. I did not realize that I was teaching interpretations of the text in place of the Word itself, and had never made an exhaustive study of the Scriptures involved in this idea … I went over these prophecies again was finally led to see that my only ability for maintaining that the Roman Empire would be rebuilt was a footnote in my favorite edition of a study Bible. So for twenty years I had taught as a prophecy of God’s Word a human conclusion based upon an ambiguous paragraph.”
A central presupposition of dispensationalism is that there will be a revived Roman Empire in the end-times in which the Antichrist will be revealed. Many Christians of our day are basing much of their interpretation of Daniel, Matthew 24 and Revelation on the deeply held belief that there must be a revived Roman Empire in the end-times. This is often seen as the European Union. In fact, as I was writing this book in the summer of 2016, Great Britain separated from the European Union. Someone forwarded me this Facebook post from a frantic dispensationalist.
Great Britain separated from the European Union! This is Bible prophecy happening before our eyes! They have voted to separate from the EU. This is going to finish off the U.S. economy and bring in the global collapse, order out of chaos/the Antichrist reign. The Lord foretold this would happen in His word. Pray hard saints!
Daniel 7:4 – The first was like a lion (Great Britain), and had eagle’s wings (United States): I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man (man of lawlessness), and a man’s heart was given to it.
Yes, they are leaving the European alliance they have with the 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. Thus they are separating from the European states, which will finish off our economy. This separation is foretold in the Bible along with the one world currency that will follow the global economic collapse.
The first beast is a combination of Europe, Great Britain, the USA and Roman rule. Great Britain separating from Europe/America will crash our economy and when our economy crashes, the order out of chaos will begin and the Antichrist will rise soon afterwards.
This post is not intended for those who will not receive or understand it. Daniel 12 makes it clear: this prophecy would not fully be fulfilled till the last days, the end before the coming of the Lord. If you cannot read and understand that, I don’t need confusion for those who are willing to read and understand the Spirit.
Of course, this type of crude interpretation is ridiculous. Yet Daniel 9:27 has become the foundation for the popular idea that a revived Roman Empire is the necessary precursor to the Second Coming of Christ. This dispensationalist bias has even made its way into Bible translations. The New Living Translation, which is a paraphrase, not a dynamic equivalent or a literal translation of the Bible, renders Daniel 9:27 as follows.
The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him (New Living Translation).
This may be contrasted with other translations, which add the words “will come one” instead of simply “he” in order to demonstrate the subject of two independent clauses is a different figure separated by a period of time. In the preterist view, the two figures are Jesus Christ and Vespasian who were separated in time by a period of 40 years.
And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate (New American Standard Bible).
There is not a single place in the Bible – except a misinterpretation of Daniel 9:27 – that supports the prediction that there will be a revived Roman Empire in the future. That was popularized over 100 years ago in a footnote in the Scofield Reference Bible. Christians read that interpretation into the Scriptures. Then the idea of a revived Roman Empire became the context to interpret other prophecies about first century Rome in Daniel, Zechariah, Matthew 24 and Revelation. Many futurists readily admit that these are prophecies about first century Rome because they really came to pass. But they also maintain there will be a dual fulfillment in the future. My challenge to futurists is to produce the scriptural foundation for a future revived Roman Empire.