Home > Bible Prophecy, Daniel, premillennialism > Daniel’s Prophecy, and Revisiting B.W. Newton

Daniel’s Prophecy, and Revisiting B.W. Newton


Recently I read (at least most of it) a book co-authored by two well-known Reformed Theology authors, a  short book that had been a Logos monthly free offer.  Much of the content was decent, general thoughts about Christ, and exalting Him and our giving Him thanks.  Then I came to a part where they took an eschatological passage, Daniel 7:13, and turned it completely around — to fit into their theology about Christ’s intercession and ‘reigning now’ — to say that the scene of the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven was not at all about His Second Coming, but a reference to the Ascension:  Christ coming to His Father (First Coming) after the Resurrection. 

In all this discourse, nothing was mentioned about the very next verse — the Son of Man receiving a kingdom.  They also omitted the many other later references to this particular passage.

  • Jesus’ own reference to the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven in Matthew 24:30
  • Christ’s words to Caiphas, that Caiphas would see the Son of Man coming, an indication of judgement
  • and Revelation 1:7, which also describes this as future, and that every eye will see Him

Such writing — which sounds very spiritual and God-honoring — shows that even the best of Christian teachers can have blind spots, completely missing the real point of a text in order to advance their own idea of amillennialism (Christ is now reigning) and their desire to fully praise God for all the great, present blessings that we now have in Christ.

It also shows that teachers can be correct and solid in some areas of doctrine, and helpful for some areas of overall Reformed theology.  Yet, there comes a time — after having studied Reformed theology to get a good grasp of covenant theology, the moral law and the Sabbath, and the important doctrines taught in the Reformed confessions — to return to the writings of the classic Historic Premillennialists, and particularly to what they said regarding the prophetic passages of Scripture.  

It’s been several years since I first discovered B.W. Newton, George Mueller, and S.P. Tregelles, and read a few of their works such as Newton’s “Thoughts on the Apocalypse,” (previous post).   So I recently read the online PDF of Newton’s “Babylon: Its Revival and Final Desolation” (part 2 in his series on Prophetic Enquiry).

The historical detail is interesting in itself, but I find Newton’s commentary quite interesting and, yes, prophetic, as he described the world state of his day, over 170 years ago, and considered characteristics of government and economies in the future days of the last events.  Remarking on Zechariah 5 and the significance of the ephah, Newton noted the commercial interests of his day, and a then-recent trend, of the commercial wealth, the businesses of society, becoming the controllers of morality:

Few, I suppose, will question that in this country at least, commercial wealth is becoming the great controlling centre of society. The producing power of manufacture, the distributing skill of the merchange, the controlling power of those who trade in money and command the circulating medium of commerce–these, and similar interests, when combined, are able to speak with a voice which no government can refuse to hear. Their will is potent. Legislation and government accommodate themselves to their demands.

Sure enough, this trend has developed, far beyond what Newton saw in his day.  We’re familiar with the 1984 Orwellian idea of government being the one censoring and restricting people; and yet Newton, 170 years ago, saw the implications of Zechariah 5 along with the early development of commercial power, and recognized the real power of such censorship.  We now see the advance of “big tech” and its “censorship” of contrary ideas.  One clear example from a few months ago: a best-seller book that had been out a few years suddenly, one day, completely disappeared from Amazon’s site; and when that company has over 80% of all book sales in the country, it indeed has a powerful influence over which books will be published, and power to suppress the morality that it objects to.

This is just one of several books on prophecy from B.W. Newton, and soon I plan to read the other volumes of his “Aids to Prophetic Enquiry.”  At the moment I’m reading S.P. Tregelles’  “Remarks on The Prophetic Visions in the Book of Daniel, another of these great works with plenty of insights, along with observations on the value of studying the Prophetic Word.

  1. johntjeffery
    July 28, 2021 at 8:34 pm

    I was attracted to B. W. Newton many years ago while tracing a hermeneutical principle back from one source to another, and ultimately to him. The more I learned about him the more my respect for him grew, and this despite my doctrinal disagreements with him. It has to do with his demonstration of the fruits of the Spirit in relationships with others. I believe that the Brethren would have had greater influence and a brighter future if were not for Newton’s breach with Darby which ultimately led to the Exclusive/Open split which remains to this day. IMHO this had more to do with Darby’s authoritarianism than anything else. Darby had great gifts and made significant contributions, but his great flaws made it all but impossible for him to take the lower seat or exhibit humility and graciousness. 3rd John 9 comes to mind: “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.” I have often imagined that if I had lived in that era and been associated with the Brethren that I would have had to stand with Newton.

    • July 29, 2021 at 6:00 pm

      Yes, B.W. Newton was a great thinker, lots of insights. I’ve heard about that split with Darby, and that the hostility came from Darby, as you mentioned. Good summary of Darby’s character flaws in that situation.

  2. July 29, 2021 at 9:01 am

    Clearly written as always.

  3. Neil Schoch
    July 31, 2021 at 5:36 pm

    As someone who grew up in the Exclusive Brethren following J N Darby and being encouraged/Forced to read everything he wrote, I can certainly agree with what has been said. It was legalism in the extreme.
    I was hauled up before the church as a teenager for discipline because my hair grew to the bottom of my ears and I would not shave it off at the top of my ears. Yes, scripture does tell us that “it is a shame for man to have long hair” but my reply was that J N Darby had a beard and if he could somehow attend, would be excommunicated.
    I spoke out on much more important matters and was excommunicated and treated as dead by my family as was the usual habit.
    Having said that, I still treasure fond memories of attending meetings every day and multiple times on the weekends and learning much from the Word of God that was very true. I still have the JND Bible by my bedside and use it as a guide frequently.
    It is never wise to put a man so high up on a pedestal that he is bound to fall off. We are to respect and obey those who have charge over us as the scripture says, but never to idolise them.
    Blessings to all,
    Neil.

    • johntjeffery
      July 31, 2021 at 8:48 pm

      I am sorry that you had to endure this. I can understand the benefit of gathering with the Brethren which I also did when the opportunity presented itself while a student in Bible college. I had a beautiful gilt-edged leather-bound copy of JND’s translation which I recently passed along to one of my grandsons.

  4. August 20, 2021 at 12:55 pm

    Lynda I appreciate you being discerning and thinking through these things. Can I offer some counter, hopefully balancing, examples of the presence tense kingdom? Instances like the end of the sermon in Acts 2. The crowd is cut to the heart because our King is enthroned, and they respond recognizing this with genuine fear that leads to repentance. He’s not enthroned waiting to exercise his authority or waiting to posses a kingdom, he’s enthroned ruling and acting in his kingdom. That makes sense for me when I read very clear presence tense items in Revelation, like 1:4 where John says Jesus is, presence tense, “the ruler of kings on the earth” and that he is, again presence tense, our partner in “the kingdom” (verse 9). There are obviously future aspects of the Kingdom, but I feel like it’s a quick judgment not see His ascension as bringing a form of the presence tense kingdom where he “led a host of captives and he gave gifts to men.” (Eph 4 quoting Psalm 68 – very much about the king, in his kingdom, conquering his enemies)

    I read you WAY more than I ever chime in, and super appreciate your thoughts and especially the material you reference, but I thought your quick judgment on the amillennialism interpretation of Daniel 7 above was not totally fair.

    • August 20, 2021 at 4:31 pm

      Thanks for the comment, and I agree about the importance of Christ’s Ascension — another great truth and how He is continuing to intercede for us, every day intercession, His bringing our prayers before God the Father. And there are many great verses in scripture, that teach about Christ’s Ascension and His intercession for us.

      However, there are other texts that are talking about His Second Coming. It’s a “Both / And,” that we have scriptures on both the present benefit of intercession (God’s “universal kingdom” or other terms to describe it), and other verses that are about the future kingdom of God upon the earth.

      It is not beneficial, or handling God’s word in truth, to take away the futurist, prophetic texts about Christ’s Second Coming, by reinterpreting those to only focus on the First Coming. We should appreciate both the present texts about Christ’s work now — AND the texts that speak of the great things in the future. One does not take away from the other.

      Regards,
      Lynda

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