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The Prophet Daniel

This chapter focuses on the prophecies in the book of Daniel. The content is adapted from the author’s online book, Bible Prophecy: Foundation and Future.

Though prophecies are scattered throughout the Old Testament, arguably the best-known and most remarkable of them are found in the book of Daniel. Much of its content has already come to pass, but not all, and not all completely. But the most important aspect of Daniel is that it gives a sequence, whereas the sequence or timing of the others is less clear. Since Daniel gives an overview of history in advance, we must have a good grasp of its content before considering any of the others.

An abomination in prophecy is understood to mean that an idol is set up in a holy place that belonged to another god (see Ezekiel 8 for example). Its purpose is to defile the other god’s temple. Its first use in the Bible is in Daniel 9:27, immediately after he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. The next two references are in Dan. 11:31 and 12:11 and include the phrase profane the sanctuary. To provide additional context for use of the word, apocryphal books (between the Testaments) also use it in the context of desecrating the temple. Antiochus Epiphanes, who died in 164 BC, is the only historical figure to deliberately fill the temple with unclean things, especially a statue of Zeus with his own face on it in the Holy Place.

So Daniel’s prophecy of the Abomination was indeed fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes. But long after all of this, Jesus spoke of the Abomination as still to come. Paul also spoke of the man of lawlessness (2 Thes. 2:3-4) entering the temple and declaring himself God at some future time, which certainly qualifies as desecration. Also, in Rev. 13:14 we’re told that an image or idol will be made, which all people on earth will be forced to worship, though it doesn’t say it will be put into the temple.

This is just one of many prophecies that seem to have a now but not yet fulfillment; they’re fulfilled in part at one time but fulfilled more completely at another time. Then the question is whether the complete fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy was met in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. It should also be emphasized that a complete fulfillment must meet every criterion and detail without exception.

Please take a moment to read these scripture quotes for Jesus’ statements about events surrounding the future fulfillment of this prophecy. They are presented as lists for easier comparison.

Mat. 24:14-22

Mark 13:14-20

Luke 21:20-28

History shows that the people of Judea were indeed scattered among the Gentile nations, and that Jerusalem has been trampled by them throughout. Even today there is much Gentile control over Jerusalem and the Israelis aren’t allowed to build their temple in its ancient location. Of course, there have been many wars and many natural disasters in the last two thousand years.

Asking the Right Questions

Did anyone desecrate the temple in 70 AD? Though it was burned and dismantled by the armies of Titus, he didn’t set up any idol in it. Neither did he take his place in the temple and proclaim himself God, per 2 Thess. 2:3-4 and Rev. 13:1-8, Rev. 14-15.

Did the people of Judea flee to the mountains when they saw Jerusalem surrounded? There is no indisputable record of any mass exodus at that time to the mountains. (The city of Pella, where many Christians are thought to have fled before the siege, is at a fairly low altitude according to this source). In fact, the Roman armies allowed people into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover but refused to let them leave, in order to put great strain on their resources and supplies during the seige.

Was the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple sudden (1 Thes. 5:3, Luke 21:34)? Clearly not; the events leading up to the final siege didn’t happen in a day; see this source.

Did Nero, whom some identify as the final fulfillment of the prophecies of both Daniel and Revelation, die as specified in 2 Thess. 2:8 and Rev. 19:19-21? No, he committed suicide. Neither did he or any of his associates cause the whole world (even if limted to the Roman Empire) to take a mark on their forehead or right hand and forbid commerce without it.

Did Jesus return in the clouds, accompanied by all the signs in the sky, and set up his visible earthly kingdom for a thousand years? This should have happened at or very shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD if that event marks the final fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy and Revelation. Yet the only way to claim it happened is to completely spiritualize it, and this is inconsistent with the claim that everything else, such as the destruction and the abomination, was literal and physical.

So while some aspects of the prophecy were fulfilled in 70 AD and others in the ensuing centuries, other important details have yet to occur. We cannot presume that only the unfulfilled parts remain, since we have already seen that Jesus put events such as the Abomination in the future in spite of it having been fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes in the past. So how much of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation remain is anyone’s guess. But we should note that the Abomination and fleeing Jerusalem is also seen in Rev. 12 and 13.

However, there are parts of the book of Daniel that have had many details fulfilled in the past. In fact, Dan. 2-7 and 11 have been the most perplexing aspects of the book to critics of Bible prophecy due to their detailed predictions of successive kingdoms. We need to be aware of this, since some mistakenly hold all of it to be yet future and confuse it with modern events. We will now look at those, and then go back to look at another prophecy that remains unfulfilled.

Specific Prophecies

We will look now at particular prophetic visions and messages by chapter, but not in order.

Chapter 2

Ch. 2 is Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue whose head was made of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, lower legs of iron, and feet of a mixture of iron and clay. Daniel identified the head as Nebuchadnezzar himself, king of the Babylonian Empire. After him would follow a lesser kingdom (Medo-Persia, ruled by Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian), then another (the Grecian Empire, ruled by Alexander the Great), and finally one that would smash all others (Rome).

It is commonly believed that the two legs represent some kind of division or separation, yet the statue also has two arms and two feet, without anyone presuming such separation. The significance of the statue is in the metals, not the structure, except for the feet as a mixture of iron and clay. Just as we do not separate the ten toes into two groups of five, so also we should not think that the two lower legs (curiously, the upper legs or thighs are never seen as a division either) represent any division. As for the feet and toes, the text states that the iron and clay represent a divided kingdom of strength and weakness, composed of a mixture of seeds (Dan. 2:41-43). Whether this mixture means a clash of cultures and ideologies, or even between humans and semi- or non-humans, the focus is on their inability to blend, not the reason for the inability. The division is between strength and weakness, not east and west.

Chapter 8

Ch. 8 is a vision about a goat and a ram, and the angel tells Daniel that the ram’s two horns represent the kings of Media and Persia. It describes the conquests of Alexander the Great (the first king of Greece), after whose death four of his generals would rule: Lysimachus, Cassander, Seleucus, and Ptolemy. The little horn coming later was none other than the vile Antiochus Epiphanes, who didn’t die in battle but from an infestation of worms. There is more detail here.

Chapter 11

It is the four generals who are described in detail in chap. 11. Ptolemy I was the king of the south. The daughter was Berenice (actually granddaughter, as her father was Ptolemy II), who was given in marriage to Antiochus II in a doomed plan to achieve political gains by intrigue and deception. After various raids and generations, this king of the south was Ptolemy IV and then Ptolemy V.

The king of the north was Antiochus III, who as prophesied was utterly defeated in 217 BC. The details fit historical record as with the Ptolemies, right up to the contemptible person Antiochus Epiphanes. It is he who is believed to have engineered the murder of a prince of the covenant, Onias III, the high priest. The first chapter of the apocryphal book 1 Maccabees details his plundering of the temple and other acts of savagery.

Again, though these things were indeed fulfilled in the past, we cannot dogmatically state that no future fulfillments remain. But neither can we presume that these alliances and military campaigns will be repeated in the future. In all the details of the remaining prophecies given in Revelation, there is no mention of the kings of the north and south and details that would connect them to future events. So though a future fulfillment is possible, it seems most unlikely.

But starting in verse 36 we read of the king who exalts himself who has no regard for the gods of his fathers or the desire of women and will instead honor a god of fortresses. We might still tie him in with the preceding discussion of Antiochus Epiphanes and the kings of the north and south, but these new details have no historical precedent. More importantly, they’re tied in with chapter 12 which begins with At that time and includes the resurrection of the dead. See also this article.

Chapter 12

So it seems that Antiochus Epiphanes is a very clear type or foreshadow of the ultimate future fulfillment in the Antichrist (popular name for the Beast in Revelation). Early in chapter 12 is where we see the phrase Jesus used, a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. There has been much terrible suffering in the world since 70 AD, such that the fall of Jerusalem at that time cannot have been the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy.

But because of this overlap and duality, teachers of Bible prophecy must exercise restraint and caution in looking for modern fulfillments. All we can be sure of is that those things without any historical match will certainly take place.

Chapter 7

The first half of this chapter is a dream about four beasts, and the second half is the interpretation, focusing primarily on the fourth beast. Though the first three are described as a winged lion, a bear, and a winged leopard, the fourth is not compared to any known animal. It has ten horns, three of which are replaced by another horn. The angel states that this beast will overcome the righteous for 3-1/2 years. The description of the fourth beast exactly matches that of Revelation (e.g. 13:1, 5-8, 17:12-13). Since none of this describes the situation of 70 AD, it must be yet future.

Chapter 9

Now that we have a good grasp of all that was prophesied through Daniel, we can focus on the Seventy Weeks prophecy of chapter 9, since it lays out a clear sequence for all remaining prophecies about Israel. The first 69 of those weeks was marked as completed when Jesus came. Now seven years remain, divided into two halves at the point where the 7-year treaty is broken by the Abomination. So when we see this same event in the New Testament, we know that it marks the midpoint of the seven years, such that 3-1/2 years remain before the return of Jesus to the earth and the restoration of Israel and Jerusalem.

We must not overlook the stated purpose of those Seventy Weeks: to end and atone for sin, begin eternal righteousness, seal up prophecy, and anoint or dedicate the Most Holy Place. These things are all specified as applying to your people and your holy city, meaning the people of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. Thus the atonement for sin and end of all prophecy will not be completed until that final seven years ends. This is a very clear and focused prophecy to and about Israel and Jerusalem, rather than the Body of Christ or the world at large. Certainly the judgment of the nations is included on other accounts, but this particular prophecy is very exclusive.

The Seventy Weeks prophecy of Dan. 9:24-27 is easily the most familiar to students of Bible prophecy:

Seventy sevens are decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy Place.

Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven sevens, and sixty-two sevens. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two sevens, the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one seven. In the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.

To summarize:

  1. The prophecy concerns the people of Israel and Jerusalem, not the Body of Christ.
  2. Purpose: to finish (complete) transgression.
  3. Purpose: to put an end to sin.
  4. Purpose: to atone for wickedness.
  5. Purpose: to bring in everlasting righteousness.
  6. Purpose: to seal up (complete) vision and prophecy.
  7. Purpose: to anoint the Most Holy Place in the Temple.

The Seventy Weeks would begin when the decree was given (turned out to be Nebuchadnezzar) to rebuild Jerusalem, and it would stop short of the final week when the Messiah would be killed. There would be a prince to come, known now to have been Titus, whose people destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. This is the same event Jesus referred to about not one stone being left upon another (Mat. 24:2), as it was literally fulfilled when the Romans wanted the melted gold that had run between the blocks. After this event there would be wars and desolations. Then after that span of wars would come he who does all of the following:

  1. Confirm a 7-year covenant or treaty with many
  2. Violate the treaty at the midpoint by ending sacrifice and offering in the temple
  3. Set up an idol in the temple

Clearly Jesus did not set up any idols, nor make and break any seven-year treaties. The same he does all of this.

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