Summary of Daniel and Revelation
John Heading, Aberystwyth
In the final papers of this series, we shall concentrate on the two books of Daniel and Revelation. In order to see how the various predicted events fit together, it is necessary to have a panoramic view of these two books, and the present paper is devoted to such a panoramic view.
The Book of Daniel, in its prophetical chapters, presents a unified theme under different pictorial visions. This feature is similar to Pharaoh's two dreams (the seven lean kine and the seven lean ears) : "God hath showed Pharaoh what he is about to do ... the dream is one", Gen. 41. 25-26. The larger part of the book of Daniel is not so mysterious as it may appear at first sight, since the first three of the kingdoms of men are interpreted by name, and the consequences of these are found in past history. The fourth kingdom is not interpreted; it is split between the period around the Lord's lifetime, and the end times. One object of prophecy is to show that failure, not spiritual progress, must precede the ultimate kingdom of Christ. Old Testament history up to Nebuchadnezzar showed the failure of the Jews. Nebuchadnezzar to the coming kingdom shows the failure of the nations. Paul's time up to Laodicea shows the failure of local assembly testimony on earth and the corresponding growth of Christendom.
We may summarize the relevant chapters of Daniel as follows:
In Daniel 2, we have the glorious metallic image of the four kingdoms; these are seen from man's self-exalting point of view. We find described the "image, whose brightness was excellent", v. 31. But the end of the whole set-up was God establishing a kingdom "which shall never be destroyed", v. 44.
In Daniel 7, we have the unpleasant vision of the four great beasts; here the kingdoms of men are seen from God's point of view—completely soulless. In particular, the fourth beast in verse 7 is terrible, unlike any created animal in character, and so is nameless both as an animal and as a kingdom. The vision stresses the activity of the "little horn", vv. 8, 20, concluding with the Son of man coming with dominion, glory and a kingdom. Note that verses 19-27 describe in great detail the activity of the fourth beast.
Daniel 8. 1-14 presents another vision of two animals, the ram and the goat, leading to the daily sacrifice being taken away and the sanctuary being trodden under foot, vv. 11, 13. An explanation, including the names of the kingdoms, is given by Gabriel. The head of gold of the image in Daniel 2 had been the beginning of this succession of kingdoms, spoken of the king of Babylon, "Thou art this head of gold", v. 38. The ram kingdom is then named as that of Media and Persia, 8. 20, while the goat kingdom is that of Greece, 8. 21. The predicted order has been, of course, accomplished in past history; these three kingdoms answer to the first three beasts of chapter 7. The fourth kingdom, Rome, followed historically.
In chapter 9, Daniel repents on behalf of his people, leading to his being granted a complete survey of prophetic history in verses 24-27. There we have the seventy weeks split up into sixty-nine weeks and the seventieth week. The former terminated with the cutting off of Messiah, followed by the prophetic silence of the Church age until after the rapture when the seventieth week will unfold. This is divided into two parts, the latter half corresponding to the great tribulation. Expositors may differ, both as to the meaning of these verses and as to the translation of some words and phrases. The safest interpretation is not to take it as a paragraph merely by itself, but to interpret it in the light of the rest of the prophetic scriptures, and this is what we seek to do.
Chapters 10-12 are given to show "what shall befall thy people in the latter days", 10. 14, namely the Jewish nation. Chapter 11 may be considered the most difficult to interpret. The reason is that the prophecy was related to events that would take place relatively shortly afterwards (prior to the Lord's first advent), such that these would themselves be types and pointers to the future; we have noted that prophecy often works in this way. Verses 1 -4 deal with empires two and three. Verses 5-20 develop the history of the third empire, namely that of Greece. What to us now is past history is accurately described in these verses. In verses 21-32 one man is dealt with—Antiochus Epiphanes, a type of a worse man yet to come (that is why he is included here). Verses 33-35 present a brief interlude—the Jews over the centuries, thereby connecting the past with the future. Verses 36-45 are given to show the anti-Christ, together with a description of how the nations to the south and the north will deal with the Jews. Finally, chapter 12 shows the unique time of trouble for three and a half years, together with the hope of resurrection and restoration.
The Book of Revelation, from chapter 4 onwards, may also be briefly summarized in the form of a framework into which all details must fit. We have already noted that the Lord distinguishes between "the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter", Rev. 1.19. The things seen refer to chapter 1, namely the sight of the Lord as Son of man revealed to John on Patmos. The things which are refer to chapters 2-3, declaring the state of the seven churches, and reflecting on the broad periods of so-called church history. The things hereafter refer to events after the rapture, events described in great detail from chapter 4 onwards.
Chapter 4 shows the throne above prepared for judgment; the eternal Throne-Sitter receives the homage, "Holy, holy, holy". In chapter 5, the Lamb in the midst of the throne is seen uniquely as the One to open the seven seals of the book containing the unfolding of the judgments of God. Many readers now find chapters 6-19 difficult to follow, mainly because they cannot perceive any specific order of thought through the chapters. We must realize that three great sections are contained in this part of Revelation, each section stretching from the rapture to the coming of the Son of man in glory. Thus the events of each section take place more or less at the same time, and hence there are certain dovetailing of events and overlappings.
Chapters 6-11 deal with God's judgments on moral and social apostasy during this period. The seven seals and the seven trumpets terminate with the last trump when "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ", 11.15, and "thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned", 11.17.
Chapters 12-14 deal with God's judgments on political apostasy. We understand that the first beast of chapter 13 corresponds to the fourth beast and its leader of Daniel 7, while the second beast corresponds to the anti-Christ, though some expositors differ on this point. Again the section closes with the Son of man appearing in a white cloud for the harvest of the earth (God's people alive at that time) and for the gathering of the vine of the earth (men of sin alive at that time), vv. 14-20.
Chapters 15-19 deal with God's judgments on religious apostasy. Mystery Babylon the great is described in chapter 17, together with its fall. It corresponds to the development of papal Rome at its future zenith of apostasy spread throughout the world. The future imperial Rome will support the future papal Rome, 17. 3, 9, which, as we shall see, will be finally destroyed by imperial Rome. The section ends with the Lord coming forth as "King of kings, and Lord of lords", 19. 16, in judgments on the armies of men at Armageddon, and upon the beast and the anti-Christ or false prophet.
The millennial kingdom is briefly touched upon in 20. 1 -6, with Satan bound and many reigning with Christ, preceded by the "first resurrection" of those who have been killed during the great tribulation. Chapter 21. 9 to 22. 5 describes the millennium from heaven's point of view. The scene on earth is hardly touched upon, presumably because this is so adequately documented in the Old Testament prophets. The eternal state is touched upon in 21. 1-8, a subject that is generally/ beyond the scope of detailed prophecy.
In following papers, we shall describe the political scene as implied in Daniel 7, showing how this leads to the destruction of Babylon, and the Lord's glorious triumph in the kingdoms of men. The details are so vast, that we must limit ourselves to these subjects.
In anticipation, we suggest that readers peruse the books of Daniel and Revelation according to the outlines just given.