The Timing of Daniel 7
Preterism, Futurism, and Historicism
Brief Idea: While all three classes of prophetic interpreters see Daniel 2 from a historicist perspective, the same does not go for Daniel 7. But the reasons to view Daniel 7 from a historicist’s perspective are sound. And that conclusion shapes much of the rest of our understanding of the book of Daniel, and even of the Revelation.
Preterism: A method of prophetic interpretation that approaches apocalyptic prophecies of Daniel and Revelation as stretching no further than the first century AD.
Futurism: A method of prophetic interpretation that approaches apocalyptic prophecies of Daniel and Revelation as being fulfilled, almost entirely, in the final years of earth’s history.
Historicism: A method of prophetic interpretation that approaches apocalyptic prophecies of Daniel and Revelation as stretching, generally, from the time of the writer until the end of the world – over the course of more than 2,000 years.
Evangelicals: A large class of prophetic expositors that tend to take an eclectic approach to prophecy. They combine elements of Preterism and Futurism. They see fulfillment of prophecy up until the first century, then a large gap, and fulfillment again in the very end of time.
A number of authors have written ably on the dual Jesuit/Charismatic origin of the current trends in prophetic interpretation. See Steve Wholberg’s writings on the rapture, for example.
We can pinpoint the historical origin of these alternative methods of interpretation (alternative to the standard Protestant method, Historicism). Yet we can not allow the origin of the method to finally decide its accuracy or inaccuracy. The Bible must do this alone. In Daniel 7, the Bible will.
Evidences for Historicism in Daniel 7
Some commentators have perceived the beasts of Daniel 7:3 to have risen simultaneously. This view supports a futuristic interpretation that places all these nations as rising to prominence in the end of the world. This is Hal Lindsay’s view.
But the consecutive nature of the beast-risings is indicated by:
- Their ordinal number of “first” “second” “after this…another” “fourth”
- The statement by the angel that the fourth beast “shall be the fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms.” v. 23
- The “strength” and “iron” of the fourth beast, along with the number of beasts, that both parallel Daniel 2—four nations, fourth of iron and very strong.
- The parallel’s of the two shoulders of the bear and the two horns on the Ram (Daniel 8), the four heads on the Leopard and the four horns from the Goat (Daniel 8), and the Little Horn of both chapters following these 2nd and 3rd kingdoms.
- The simple history of Babylon, Persia, and Greece and Rome, justifying the use of “lion”, “two wings”, “three rib”, “four wings”, “four heads”, “ten horns”, “three horns”, “1260 days”, etc.
Of course the strongest of these points is the second one. Only one power qualifies for being the fourth kingdom on the earth from the perspective of an angel speaking to Daniel while interpreting the dream. (In other words, Daniel 7:23 is not the vision, it is the explanation of the vision).
When we prove that the fourth beast is the Roman Empire that followed Greece, we have ruled out futurism. We have not, however, ruled out Preterism.
To do that we must show that the prophecy extends to the close of time. Thankfully, this is easier to do in Daniel 7 than in many other prophecies. Already we have observed the correlation between history and the ten horns, three plucked, little-horn scenario. This history is far beyond the first century and, as such, does not fit the Preterism framework.
But more than that, Daniel 7 speaks of the opening of the judgment in heaven as correlating with the destruction of the fourth power and the subsequent establishment of God’s kingdom over the affairs of man.
To our Adventist eyes this is clear evidence that the book of Daniel extends to the end of time. But to the Preterist, this is not at all clear. Ideas like “Christ’s coming” and the “resurrection” and the “end” and others are understood to refer to spiritual events that happened in connection with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and with the persecutions of Nero and the Destruction of Jerusalem by Titus.
While this paper can not be a thorough refutation of Preteristic principles, it can show its disharmony with Daniel 7.
First, the judgment scenes in Daniel 7 take place in heaven. Second, it concludes with the abolition of earthly empires and the destruction of the Roman power. (This, of course, did not happen in the first century.) Third, the correlation between the prophecy and the events of the 6 through 12th century is uncanny if it is not a fulfillment.
Both Futurism and Preterism, when taken to their very roots, are part of the same plant. They deny the year-for-a-day principle of prophetic interpretation.
But that will have to belong to another lecture. If that principle is valid, then historicism is triumphant.
For the Word Doc, click here: Dan_7_-_The_Timing