Home > Bible Study, Book of Daniel, Christian Authors, Daniel, eschatology, Old Testament > Classic Historic Premillennialism: Nathaniel West, Daniel’s Great Prophecy (1898)

Classic Historic Premillennialism: Nathaniel West, Daniel’s Great Prophecy (1898)

February 12, 2022

Several years back I read Nathaniel West’s The Thousand Year Reign of Christ.  Recently I read another of West’s books, this time his commentary “Daniel’s Great Propecy,” sometimes titled “The Eastern Question” (available online here).

This commentary on Daniel has also been a good read, from another of the historic classic premillennialists.  S.P. Tregelles’ Daniel commentary is well known, and West’s has been considered by many as the next best, of a similar quality; I find that I actually prefer West’s writing.  Nathaniel West was about 50 years later (this book in 1898), and one of the later historic premillennialists of this era.  Only David Baron, who wrote his now classic Zechariah commentary in the 1920s, was later than this time.

In Daniel’s Great Prophecy, West continually links various scriptures together in sets, with numerous scripture references for various eschatological events, and throughout much of the book treats the theme of “Warfare Great” along with fascinating observations – from a historical perspective of the late 19th century — about the military power of Europe at that time.  Remember that this was just 16 years before the outbreak of World War I, a time when the “spirit of the age” was strongly postmillennial with great ideas about Utopia and man’s wonderful “progress.”  Yet in 1898 West observed, relating to the text of Daniel, the development of modern warfare technology “within the last 25 years.”

Another strong emphasis from West is the broad overview and significance of history, the epic nature of all history as unified and as God’s purpose and moving toward God’s stated end.  A few examples of this:

There can be no question that the book of Daniel, containing the first mention of the great idea of the succession of the ages and of the growth of empires and races, is the first outline of the philosophy of history.

Like a blazing head-light cast across the centuries and illuminating the whole track of time, shines the announcement that human history is the result neither of chance nor fatality, nor of man’s will alone; that the events of nations and the actions of men, although the product of their own free will, are yet pursuant to a pre-determined plan of God, Most High, who “removes and sets up kings, gives wisdom, to the wise and knowledge to them that understand; who reveals secrets, knows what is in the darkness, and in whom light dwells;” that history has an appointed goal to which it must attain, and that the rise, rule and revolution of empires, their apogee, decline and fall, have already been decreed, recorded, and must eventuate according to the will of God.

I’ve heard that during WWI, at least some Christians were excited about seeing the “last days” soon approaching.  The SGAT – Sovereign Grace Advent Testimony – still in existence today, was founded in 1918.  In hindsight, we realize that the time for Christ’s Return was still not yet.  Of course we, now over 100 years closer to the end, can see even more of the “end times staging” in the events of the last century.

As an aside, while reading Nathaniel West, a feature of his literary style suddenly reminded me of where I had seen that same type of writing before:  a scene from The Hobbit, where Bilbo starts talking to Smaug the Dragon and describes himself with many adjective phrases which refer to previous events of the book, of “attributes” of himself as “the thief.”  West, similarly, often writes very long sentences that contain numerous clauses and adjective descriptions extolling the greatness of our Redeemer God and His many deeds.  It’s interesting to note that Tolkien, writing The Hobbit, was only one generation after Nathaniel West, and so this similarity may reflect general writing styles of English authors during that time.

Above all, in West’s writing is seen a firm, solid commitment to God’s word and love of the truth, and great summary statements affirming this.  In closing, a few such quotes:

It is not that a man’s convictions are either the measure or the test of “Truth,” or his emotions a proof, that his creed is right. The Holy Spirit often dwells in sanctifying power where he does not dwell as an illuminating power in the deep things of God, and time embalms the errors it does not destroy, and creeds are propagated from father to son. But it is that the long, prayerful, and independent study of the truth — with a sincere desire to know it, and a heart honest enough to receive it — does bring with it a self-evidencing and self-interpreting light, by which the truth is sealed to the conscience in the sight of God, with a certitude transcending all conjectures, and superior to all the changes of human feeling — an “assurance of understanding” in the mystery of God.


The question is not what “views” do I hold, but what “views” hold me, and what their ground, and whence their origin?  “it matters not what I say, what you say, what he says, but what saith the Scripture.”

  1. Lance Wonders
    February 12, 2022 at 11:07 am

    West was a Presbyterian pastor and scholar whose love for the Jews was well-known at the time, but apparently somewhat rare within the mainline denominations of the day –especially among “conservatives”, who seemed otherwise drawn to Dispensational viewpoints that were then fast becoming increasingly popular (as well as the post-millennial errors that you refer to in your blog). Messianic theologian Daniel Juster, himself a former Presbyterian, agrees with me that West was unique and extremely important. In the Thousand Years book West dialogues some with continental Lutheran scholar Johannes C,K. von Hofmann (see his Interpreting the Bible, ed. and trans. by Preus in English) about how best to interpret Revelation and Israel’s future role in salvation-history as viewed in that time-frame (contemporaneous with Spurgeon, Delitzsch, and others still pertinent today); and what struck me most was West’s view that Rev. 12 refers to Israel’s last-days awakening or conversion, as a regathered nation, to Jesus as Messiah PRIOR TO His return in glory. Thank you for keeping interest in West’s work in the public seeker’s eye!

    • February 12, 2022 at 2:16 pm

      Thanks Lance, for the comments on Nathaniel West. Yes, West was unique and provided a great contribution in his writings.

  2. Bob
    February 13, 2022 at 9:25 pm

    I was thinking that by “historic premillennialism” you meant historicist premillennialism, but that’s not the case, right? It looks like West is a futurist.

    If only West had tried to do the math between the 7th or 20th years of Artaxerxes and Christ, he would have realized that it is impossible to date the first 69 weeks if the 70th week is severed off and thrown 2000 years into the future.

    A fascinating statement by West:

    “Concede to the Historical system of interpretation all it can demonstrate validly from history: that Nero was an Antichrist, the Pope another, the one a pagan, the other an ecclesiastic, and also, that, while the Papacy is Western Antichrist, Islam is the Eastern, the one ruling as “Vicar of Christ,” the other as “the Shadow of God,” still to Futurism must be allowed the unconquerable answer that the Scarlet Woman, Rome, the Horns and Little Horn, exist till Christ comes to destroy them, and the Jews wage their last conflict with the last Antichrist, in times immediately preceding the Second Advent. Therefore, the final distribution of the Roman territories into TEN KINGDOMS IS STILL FUTURE.”

    “Unconquerable answer”? And yet Rev. 13 explicitly says that the deadly wound would be healed, and so the papal system’s resurgence today and presence at the second coming fits, even though that’s an historicist position, not a futurist position.

    But that last sentence: “Therefore, the final distribution of the Roman territories into TEN KINGDOMS IS STILL FUTURE.”

    Does that not contradict Dan. 2:43? “But they shall not cleave one to another”? Once Rome was divided, it was never to be reunited. Thus, how could the rise of the 10 still be future?

    • February 14, 2022 at 7:09 am

      Thank you for the comment, Bob. Yes, Nathaniel West is a futurist. The historicist view has been around a long time, but its many varying interpretations, trying to connect Bible texts to particular historical events, finally ran its course and so the historicist view fell out of favor. I have recently come across a few who hold to historicism — but the problems with historicism have been well-documented, its failures to correctly interpret the prophecies of scripture.

      Actually, dating from the time of Nehemiah (the rebuilding of the wall) to Christ’s First Coming, for the first 69 weeks, does fit very well to the time of Christ, and several Christian writers have worked the math and the dating, and it is the 69 weeks, not 70, that correctly brings us to that time.

      Rev. 13 mentions the deadly wound being healed, but also mentions many other specifics, and these have not occurred yet and do not refer symbolically to the papal system.

      As to Daniel 2:43 — well, that is the futurist view and it has been written about by many theologians. Though Rome divided into two parts, and later the west fell, followed much later by the eastern part, yet the Roman cultural system has been with us throughout the centuries, embedded in our thought and legal system, in the territory that was held by Rome — much of Europe as well as the Middle East and North Africa.

      Christ’s Return is still future, along with these prophecies that have not been fulfilled in their normal, plain-language understanding. Prophecies such as in Daniel, Revelation, and elsewhere, can only be said to have already been fulfilled, by a great distorting and twisting of the plain words to mean something other than what they plainly say. But if the scriptures are to be allegorized, they can be shaped to mean anything and everything under the sun, and thus be emptied of all their power and real meaning, as having no real meaning.

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