Studies in the Prophecies of Daniel
(with comments on prophecy in general)
In the study of the Bible, I think that sometimes there is a dichotomy perceived between the Old and New Testaments. On the one hand, there is the Reformed view that all the Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled. For example, in its study notes of Matthew, the Reformed Study Bible says this about Matthew’s use of several OT prophecies: “His citations are not presented as isolated predictions and fulfillments, but as proof of the fulfillment of all the expectations of the Old Testament,” emphasis added, p. 1360. If this is true, and we don’t agree that it is, then it seems to me that there is really very little, if anything, to be gained by studying Daniel or other prophets.
On the other hand, there is the Dispensationalist view that the Old Testament belongs to an earlier time, and so has little to say to us today. This is especially true of the differences between law and grace. A study of these differences is outside the scope of these studies; let me simply say that while the Bible is crystal clear that we are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, it is also crystal clear that “grace” in no way lessens the authority of God’s Word or our responsibility to obey what it says to us.
Dispensationalism at it’s very simplest teaches that there is a difference in God’s redemptive purpose between the nation of Israel and the church. The Reformed view is that the NT church is the continuation, spiritually speaking, of Israel. They speak of “spiritual Israel,” and treat the the prophetic portions of the OT as if they speak to us. According to this view, God is done with Israel and she as a nation has no further part in God’s purpose.
At least the dispensationalist studies the prophecies of the OT. There is, however, at the same time an unfortunate tendency to set dates for the return of our Lord. According to one such earlier writer, we should now be about 50 years into the Millennium. At the same time, I suppose that’s balanced out by the Reformed teaching that we’ve been in the Millennium since the Book of Acts, though I do wonder where it finds a single national government that acts like it’s being obedient to “King Jesus”. That can’t even be said of a lot of churches.
After a lifetime of reading and studying the Scriptures, I simply cannot accept the idea that every prophecy in Daniel, or the rest of the Old Testament, has been fulfilled. To say that they have been is a very broad statement, to say the least, and makes it very difficult to read the Old Testament prophecies with any clarity. And it seems to me that it also makes understanding the prophetic portions of the NT, if not a good deal of the rest of it, almost impossible.
Background of the Book.
There are really only two areas of concern about the Book of Daniel: who wrote it and when? Whether or not it is truly prophetic is wrapped up in the answer to these questions. We’re not going to deal at length with these answers, but simply state what we believe to be the truth about them.
The Lord Himself referred to “Daniel the prophet,” Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14. The phrase He quoted, “the abomination of desolation,” is found in Daniel 11:31 and 12:11.
The incredible detail given in chapter 11 has caused unbelieving scholars to assert that it must have been written after the events described and not before, during the times of the Maccabees around 165 B.C. These sinners against their own souls, to say nothing of those who follow them, simply cannot accept that there is anything supernatural in the writing of the book, a view they hold about all Scripture, not just Daniel. Conservative scholars believe Daniel to have been written before the events, some time in the sixth century B.C.