Daniel’s ministry spanned the entire seventy-year period of Israel’s Babylonian captivity. Various sources identify this period as commencing between 607 and 605 BC and ending between 539 and 536 BC when the Jews returned to Jerusalem, link. During this time Daniel became God’s prophetic mouthpiece to both the Gentile and Jewish worlds. Much of the book of Daniel in the Bible revolves around vivid and detailed dreams of the future many years ahead. Many apply today! These prophecies are addressed here.
Interpreting Bible Prophecy
Any prophecy is subject to various interpretations since, as scripture says, we are ‘looking through smoked glass’ – God has not revealed all the details. However, He has given believers His Spirit to guide them to the truth on such issues (John 14:26). For an End Time or Last Days view to be true it must agree with knowledge i.e. established fact. It must agree with both historical fact and present-day reality – what is observed. The interpretation must also be consistent with many Bible scriptures.
The Old Testament book of Daniel contains some of the most significant and intriguing prophecies of the Bible. In Daniel chapter 2 the prophet interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a ‘great image’ as foreshadowing four world kingdoms that would persecute the nation of Israel (up to the end of this age). The dream is explained via different symbolism in Daniel’s vision of Four Great Beasts (chapter 7). In Daniel chapter 9 the prophet adds detail of the fourth and terrible kingdom and gives a time-scale of such events in the well-known “Seventy Weeks” prophecy.
The Four Kingdoms Prophecies (Daniel 2 and Daniel 7)
The prophet Daniel saw a vision of a great statue (Dan 2:31-35) and God gave him its interpretation (Dan 2:36-43). The statue symbolised four great empires or kingdoms that would reign over Israel. The vision is not concerned with most of the nations (or empires) of history, but only with those nations that had, or will have, a direct impact upon Israel. Historically these were the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires, the historic Roman Empire being symbolised by the statue’s legs of iron. Note that these empires decrease in ‘quality’ with time – symbolised by gold, silver, brass and iron. Some see the iron legs to symbolise the eastern empire (Constantinople or Byzantium) and the western empire (Rome) of ancient Rome, link.
Note that the statue’s feet are comprised of “iron and clay”, (Dan 2:33), two materials which do not naturally combine. Some see this as highly significant in that it implies the poor cohesion of the last empire, as seen today for example in the European Union. Moreover, it is the feet that are struck by Christ as He returns to earth at the end of the age, implying that the feet denote a Revived Roman Empire:
… a stone [Christ] was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay [the final form of the fourth empire], and broke them in pieces (Dan 2:34)
The result is the complete removal of all vestiges of corrupt human-based World Government and the ushering in of a Millennial Age on this earth.
Daniels’ Second Vision:
Again, only four great empires are seen in Daniel’s second vision:
And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other (Dan 7:3)
This time Daniel sees four great beasts arising from the ‘sea of humanity’ (Dan 7:1-8), and again these can be identified as the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman Empires. The same terminology is used in Revelation 13:1, which also refers to the last world empire. But, as in the feet of iron and clay, there is a hint that the fourth beast maybe something else besides historic Rome. It was different from the other beasts; it had ten horns and it devoured the whole earth (Dan 7:7,23). As in the great statue, the vision here appears to extend to the end of the present age, when Christ returns to completely destroy this fourth tyrannical empire.
The Seventy-Weeks Prophecy (Daniel 9)
Seventy weeks [1 week = seven 360-day years] have been decreed for your people [Israel] and your holy city [Jerusalem], to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place (Dan 9:24, annotated)
This prophecy first defines a timeline (70 ‘weeks’) for some of the most significant events in history. It is widely accepted that one ‘week’ refers to a period of 7 (Old Testament) years. The prophecy then refers to the Jews (Daniel’s people) and to Jerusalem (‘your holy city’). The final part of the prophecy refers to the plan of salvation for all mankind. It spans from Old Testament times to the time of Christ, or to the Second Coming of Christ, depending upon how we interpret the prophecy. The prophecy is then expanded in Daniel 9:25-27.
One interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27, which fits observed facts extremely well, takes the present age to lie between week 69 and week 70. Week 70 is still future but, prophetically speaking, very close. After all, if Week 70 elapsed around the time of Christ (Historicist view) there is no framework within which to fit many end-time prophecies, such as Jer 30:4-7; Dan 7:23-28; Dan 11:21-45; Dan 12:11-12; Mat 24; 2 Thes 2:3-4; Rev 7:3-8; Rev 12:6 and Rev 13.
So here we assume that at the end of Week 70, Jesus returns to earth to establish Himself as “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev 19:11-21). He comes to “bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up the vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place” (Dan 9:24).
What about the Church?
Some who adhere to the Futuristic interpretation believe that the true church will be removed from the earth prior to the start of Week 70 and before the traumatic times shortly to be unleashed upon the earth. Jesus implied this in His illustration of Noah and the Flood (Mat 24:36-44) and Lot and Sodom (Luke 17:28-36). For a detailed discussion of this viewpoint see What is the Rapture?. Others believe Week 70 is still future, but maintain that the true church will be removed ‘mid-week’ or at the end of week 70. Either way, world events will get dramatic just before the end of this age, especially during Week 70. Daniel says the world will see a crushing world government (the fourth kingdom, Dan 2:40) led by a godless world dictator who will persecute Israel in particular.
An Atheist Investigates Daniel
Heard of “The Daniel Project”? The Daniel Project is a genuine investigative documentary that puts Daniel’s prophecies under a journalistic microscope. Presenter and self-confessed atheist Jeremy Hitchen accepts the challenge to investigate the plausibility of such prophecies.
The film looks into end time prophecies of rapidly expanding travel and knowledge, a world leader, electronic ID, extreme weather events, the restoration of Israel, Middle East war and much more. By examining observable evidence (reality) it finds that prophecies appear to be unfolding one after the other with astonishing accuracy. Over 100 prophesied end time events have already occurred. Is the world as we know it rapidly coming to an end?
Warning: this film may change your worldview!