t seems in each era certain beliefs become the “hot button” of emphasis and dogma. In our time any mention of God’s kingdom, particularly its precise nature and timing, present or future, and any reference to the Bible’s eschatological (end times) teaching stir more heat than light, more emotion than comfort and pursuit of sound Biblical teaching. I find it sadly disappointing that end times Bible teaching that served the Christian community such a full platter of comfort through so many centuries of persecution and trial has now become the focus of so much senseless speculation and emotional polarization. The dominant belief of our time, called dispensationalism and primarily characterized by the belief in a “secret rapture” of elite Christians, while lesser believers and wicked people remain to live through a period of tremendous trial, did not exist in historical theology, or historical Christian belief, prior to the year 1827. Thus this doctrine, simply stated, is some one thousand eight hundred years too young to be a credible Bible truth. And interestingly for the first ninety years of its existence this doctrine was rejected by most Christian theologians. Only with the introduction of the “Scofield Bible” in 1909 with a popular revision following shortly in 1917, did the new ideas first taught by John Nelson Darby in 1827 begin to be embraced by mainstream Christian denominations. The typical dispensational interpretation of Daniel Chapter Two’s lesson lays the foundation for this view’s reinterpretation of most kingdom and end time Biblical teaching by claiming an extended and indefinite delay, a time “parenthesis” or injection of an extended time delay that God simply chooses to ignore as if it doesn’t exist. The result of this unusual idea is the conclusion that God didn’t actually set up His kingdom during the days of the four kingdoms depicted in this lesson. Rather He inserted an indefinite time parenthesis, still ongoing and only ending at some future time when God shall finally really set up His kingdom. In other words the cardinal premise of this belief rejects the clear and repeated Biblical truth of God’s present kingdom. Does Scripture teach that Jesus is presently “…King of kings and Lord of lords…” (1 Timothy 6:15) or does it teach that He is presently an absentee deist-like Creator, now absent and uninvolved in this world? Does Scripture teach that there shall be a “secret rapture” of elite Christians, leaving behind wicked people and less accomplished Christians, or does it teach that the Second Coming of our Lord shall be a universal and public event, one event that shall include every human being who ever lived or who is alive at that time? (John 5:28-29) Is the primary purpose of Biblical teaching regarding end times to be a bone of bitter contention, or is it to be a source of unfathomed comfort and encouragement for God’s children in this world? (1 Thessalonians 4:18) Is the idea of Jesus’ present lordship a blasphemous error as stated by Tim Lahaye, popular author and promoter of this errant belief through his Left Behind series of novels? “…To say that Jesus is ruler now is a statement that reaches almost blasphemous proportions…” Tim Lahaye, 21st Century, The End Times Controversy? Who do we believe; the inspired writers of the New Testament or Lahaye? One source clearly, repeatedly, and consistently affirms that our Lord is presently “King of kings and Lord of lords,” while the other scorns the idea as near blasphemous. The two clearly do not agree. No contest, I choose inspired New Testament writers. “…Let God be true….”
hile I shall have several occasions during our present study of Daniel to examine this young and controversial idea, my objective as we study Daniel is to affirm what Scripture teaches and to restore integrity to Biblical prophecy and to restore comfort to the Bible’s end times teaching.
God’s Kingdom: Present, Future, or Both?
"And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. (Daniel 2:44-45)
hen did (or shall) God set up this everlasting kingdom? Is it yet-future? Or has it already been set up? The dominant contemporary interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation is that the prophecy refers to the toes of the image, supposedly a still-future European world power that will in some inexplicable way be an extension of the ancient Roman Empire, the legs and feet of the image. However, it should be observed that Daniel does not interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to include five world empires, but four, and they are sequential, not separated by centuries. From Babylon to Medo-Persia to Greece to Rome, one kingdom overran and replaced the former with no time delay whatever. What about this vision indicates that there is to be an extended and indefinite delay between the image’s feet and toes? Does the vision indicate that the toes are amputated from the feet, or does it reveal that they are connected?
more specific point on which to reject this spurious interpretation appears in the answer to one simple question. Daniel states, “In the days of these kings….” In the days of which kings shall this glorious kingdom be set up? The answer to this question will eliminate any obscurity and erase the view that imposes an indefinite time gap onto the dream’s fulfillment. Notice Daniel’s punctuating, final thought.
orasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
otice also that Daniel assures the king that the dream is certain, as well as his interpretation of that dream. When Daniel observes that God shall set up this everlasting kingdom, he clearly intends to include the scope of all four kingdoms, not a theoretical extension of the fourth kingdom millennia later. God’s kingdom shall be set up during the time span covered by the four kingdoms mentioned, interpreted throughout Daniel as referring to the four empires mentioned above.
iblical prophecy is always specific and precise. We could describe every such prophecy with the same terms that Daniel uses to the king of his own interpretation, “…the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.” Consider the specific accuracy of just a few other Biblical prophecies.
- The Messiah, God Incarnate, shall be born of a virgin. (Isaiah 7:14)
- He will be born in Bethlehem, and not just any little village named Bethlehem, but that particular Bethlehem located in Ephratah. (Micah 5:2)
- A yet future pagan king would initiate steps to free God’s chosen people from an extended period of exile, and he would initiate a decree to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Although this event, including the future king’s birth, was over a hundred years in the future, God named the king, Cyrus. (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1)
f we were to read that Jesus was born in Nazareth, though Joseph’s ancestors lived in Bethlehem, would we dismiss the deficiency and claim precise fulfillment anyway? No. If the future king who issued the order to end Babylonian exile and to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem was named Nebuchadnezzar and not Cyrus, would we claim precise fulfillment, despite the error in his name? No. Biblical interpreters who attempt to apply this flawed logic to Daniel’s writings claim that God merely inserted a prophetic time parenthesis into the prophecy so that the time that unfolds during this parenthetic time lapse should merely be ignored. They impose a major factual flaw in the prophecy, but they attempt to claim accurate prophetic fulfillment, despite that flaw. Consider a far more personal flaw that will illustrate the depth of their logical problem. Jesus repeatedly predicted His death, as well as His resurrection three days later. (Matthew 12:40; 27:63, acknowledged even by His enemies; Mark 8:31) How would we react if someone began to teach that Jesus died and was buried in the borrowed tomb exactly as Scripture affirms, but that He did not rise from the dead on the third day, their claim being that God inserted a parenthetic time gap into the resurrection prophecy, so that He shall eventually arise, fulfilling His prophecy accurately because God doesn’t count time inside the parenthesis? Would you accept this bizarre claim? Why then should we accept the equally bizarre claim of a non-counted time parenthesis regarding prophecies in Daniel, particularly when a clear fulfillment in fact occurred that requires no time parenthesis? One more example; I live in southern California. According to the normal route, the distance between my home and San Francisco is approximately 437 miles. Let’s say that I do not have access to maps, so I ask you to give me directions to San Francisco, knowing that you’ve been there many times. During our conversation and my review of your driving directions, I notice that you have not mentioned the distance, and I do not know how far San Francisco is from Riverside, so I ask you to tell me the distance. You tell me that the distance between Riverside and San Francisco is about a hundred thirty seven miles. You gave me a precise number, so I will accept your information and prepare for a trip of a hundred thirty seven miles. I begin my journey. As my vehicle’s odometer nears the 137 mark, I begin to look for signs of San Francisco, but find none. Then I notice a mileage marker listing San Francisco, but it tells me that I have an additional three hundred miles to drive. What is my first thought regarding your testimony that the distance is a hundred thirty seven miles? When I finally arrive in San Francisco and meet up with you, will I congratulate you on the accuracy of your directions, or will I remind you of the bogus distance you gave me? And how might I react if you explained your answer by telling me that there was a three hundred mile distance “parenthesis” in the trip that you didn’t count? All of these examples clearly reveal the flaw, the essential and factual flaw, on which Bible interpreters dismiss the facts of Daniel’s prophecies and reinvent them according to their own wishes, or forced and unhistorical, unbiblical beliefs, rather than Biblical facts revealed in the text and precisely confirmed in secular history.
f we accept the literal information presented in the text and begin to study Daniel’s prophecy, we will expect to see the prophecy’s fulfillment sometime during the era of the four empires that Daniel identifies in the prophecy, not at some indefinite and extended date after those empires have long since ceased to exist. And if we encounter a difficulty in explaining what this kingdom is, should we make overt attempts to reinvent the prophecy in our own theological image, or should we seek Biblical answers that might accurately explain the prophecy according to God’s design? In simple terms, do we lead the text where we want it to go, or do we follow it where God wants us to go?
erhaps the major single factor that most interpreters of this flawed interpretation offer is their claim that God has not yet set up His kingdom. If God has not yet set up that kingdom, they reason, its fulfillment must be delayed. What if they are wrong? What if God set up the kingdom, but it is different from the kingdom these people expected? I believe this is in fact the case. It is significantly noted that the Jews, religious scholars of the first century, read their own holy writings, our Old Testament, and constructed their own ideas regarding the nature of Messiah’s coming and the kingdom that would attend His appearance. Their construct of God’s Messianic kingdom was so different from the reality that the New Testament presents to us that they boldly rejected Jesus as their Messiah and plotted His death. Were they right, or is the New Testament correct regarding Jesus being the Messiah? Was their image of the Messianic kingdom accurate, or is the New Testament correct? How do we reconcile their errant ideas with the New Testament? Who says we should try to reconcile errant ideas with truth? That is why they are errant; they deviate from the true New Testament message; they contradict the New Testament message, so we inform our faith and grow by identifying those contradictions and rejecting them. Bible believing Christians of our own era would serve their faith similarly by understanding the errors in modern interpretation of precise and accurate Bible prophecies through their frivolous injection of “parenthetic” and non-descript time gaps and by rejecting any interpretation of Biblical prophecy that requires such a flawed explanation. Would they accept that Jesus didn’t really rise on the third day, though through a flawed idea of a parenthetic time gap He shall eventually arise? Of course not; all Bible Christians would shout their rejection of such a blasphemous idea. And well they should. We should do no less with the present idea of randomly inserted time gaps that destroy the precision and accuracy of Biblical prophecy.
Little Zion Primitive Baptist Church
Worship service each Sunday 10:30 A. M.
Joseph R. Holder Pastor