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

July 28, 2021 7 comments

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.

God’s Unfailing Purpose: A Study in Daniel, from Covenantal Premillennialist Michael Barrett

June 20, 2016 Leave a comment

A few months ago I read Michael P.V. Barrett’s “Beginning at Moses: A Guide to Finding Christ in the Old Testament,” a well-written, layperson-level book from a current-day covenantal premillennialist.  Now I am enjoying another of his books, also available on Kindle for 99 cents:  God’s Unfailing Purpose: The Message of Daniel.

This one is shorter (198 pages) but similar style of a well-written layperson book on an always relevant topic: God’s sovereignty over the nations and over history, as seen especially in the book of Daniel.  The focus here is not a sensationalist-type prophecy book, nor the specifically premillennial emphasis of Robert Culver’s “Daniel and the Latter Days”  (see this previous post), but more of a straight-forward commentary overview (not verse-by-verse) look at the theme of the book of Daniel.  Topics presented include a look at Daniel himself (the facts), the basics of reading prophecy including the nature of history and the nature of prophecy, and detailed consideration of several items brought out in Daniel’s prophecies.

Barrett explains the features of prophecy and types, how prophecy differs from history – progressive prediction or prophetic telescoping, in which the focus is on the events’ certainty rather than their timing.  Barrett acknowledges the never-ending debate over “partial, single, or double fulfillment—or even multiple fulfilments,” stating simply his own view of single-fulfillment of prophecy:

A single prophecy has a single fulfillment… the single fulfillment axiom works well in almost every instance. … The temporal ambiguity guarantees its relevance; one fulfillment is all that is necessary.

He provides examples from specific scriptures, as with the comparison of Isaac to Christ:

The fulfillment of the prophecy develops progressively from element to element until the completion of the whole.  For instance, both Isaac and Christ constitute Abraham’s promised Seed. Obviously, Christ was the main issue, but there had to be an Isaac before there could be the Christ.  Isaac marked the beginning of the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy.  I prefer phrasing it that way rather than that the promise was fulfilled in Isaac and then again in Christ.

A later chapter considers the parallel prophecies in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 – pagan man’s viewpoint of a figure with gold and other metals, versus God’s view of four monsters – and brings out some interesting observations.  I knew the main points from these texts, about each type of metal or creature representing each of the successive kingdoms: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.  Barrett goes beyond this, to note the description of the lion that “was made to stand upon the feet as a man, and man’s heart was given to it” as a reference to the individual Babylonian ruler, Nebuchadnezzar.  He brings together the prophecies given in Daniel 2 and 7, along with the events of Daniel 4 – subsequent events, the later dream to Nebuchadnezzar and what it took for God to teach the lesson to Nebuchadnezzar.

Ironically, God put a man’s heart into the beast [Daniel 7 vision] by putting a beast’s heart into a man (4:16). … The humanizing of the lion symbolized the gracious conversion of the king.

The above is just a brief sampling, from the first third of the book (my reading of it still in progress).  I recommend this book from Barrett, as one that I appreciate and enjoy: an easy, straightforward reading style, while also instructive and helpful, providing depth of material and many scripture points to study.

The Trinity In the Old Testament: Daniel 9?

January 17, 2014 4 comments

I’ve recently listened to S. Lewis Johnson’s “Divine Purpose in History and Prophecy” series, including a three-part section that exposits Daniel 9:24-27, considering the details of the 70 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy.

Dr. Johnson gets interesting in the details, as always in his exposition of Old Testament texts.  While noting that the doctrine of the Trinity is not directly taught, is not spelled out, in the Old Testament, in various expository lessons he notes specific texts that give some indication of “plurality in the Godhead,” as for instance the Genesis 1 creation text (the Hebrew plural word Elohim) and Isaiah 48. Here S. Lewis Johnson presents another such indirect possible reference to the Trinity,  concerning Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9 — a text I had never thought of as containing such; but other commentators, even John Calvin, have noticed this.

Here he (Daniel) says, “Now, therefore, our God, hear the prayer of your servant, and his supplications, and cause your face to shine on your sanctuary for the Lord’s sake.”  Now, I’m not the first one, of course, who has ever noticed this.  As a matter of fact, Calvin himself noticed it.  “This verse contains the name of the Lord twice” he pointed out.  And many other expositors with him thought that this was an allusion to the second person of the Trinity, but the details are not spelled in, and so we have to leave it at that, as an anticipation of what would come to full understanding with the New Testament times.  Now, read on, verse 18.

“O my God, incline your ear and hear, open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city (Notice how large the city looms in Daniel’s thought) which is called by your name, for we do not present our supplication before you because of our righteous deeds but because of your great mercies.  O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, listen and act.”

Now, what would you think if I were to read this:  “O Lord Father, hear; O Lord Son, forgive; O Lord Spirit, listen and act.”  Three times the term “Lord” is on the lips of Daniel.  Again, I’m not the first person who has noticed this in connection with the doctrine of the Trinity. … many exegetes and some dogmaticians have suggested that there is an allusion to the mystery of the Holy Trinity even in this verse as well.

The “Little Horn” of Daniel’s Visions

January 13, 2011 Leave a comment

From studying Daniel with S. Lewis Johnson, I have learned of the different views concerning the identification of the “little horn” in chapters 7 and 8.  The “standard” explanation of the text, as taught in the Scofield Bible as well as by popular present-day teachers (for instance, John MacArthur and others associated with the Masters Seminary) is that the “little horn” in chapter 7 is the AntiChrist, but the same character in chapter 8 is Antiochus Epiphanes.  The position is well summarized by John MacArthur:

But you must keep a distinction for this reason. The little horn in chapter 7 comes out of the Roman Empire. The little horn in chapter 8 comes out of the Greek Empire. And so they are to be kept distinct. One is the antiChrist, and the other is one that prefigures the antiChrist. Now all of the commentators who study the Bible, with almost little or no exception, see this individual as a man named Antiochus. Antiochus Epiphanes. He was the eighth ruler of the Seleucids from General Seleucus’ area. And he reigned from 175 to 164 before Christ, BC, in what is known as the intertestamental period. The Old Testament shut down at 400 BC. The New Testament picked up at AD, the time Christ. In those 400 years, you have a Biblical time of silence. And it was in that time that this Greek power dominated the land of Israel. And at that time, this man Antiochus rose to a place of prominence.

That sounds fine at first glance — how can the same “little horn” come out of two different empires?  But S. Lewis Johnson brings out several more details from the relevant texts of scripture, to support an understanding of the same little horn.  As to the difficulty of each horn coming from a different empire, we also understand that Greece (third kingdom) was included within the overall fourth kingdom of Rome.  The Romans borrowed, or carried forward, the strengths of the Greeks:  their literature, their intellectual skills.

Scripture itself, though, adds additional support.  The interpretation itself, given by Gabriel later in chapter 8, tells us (in verses 17, 19 and 26) that the vision (just given) concerns the last days.  Consider verse 19,  “what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end” and verse 17, “that the vision is for the time of the end.”  Johnson notes that the Hebrew word translated “the indignation” is a technical term used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe the Great Tribulation period, the special time of trouble for Israel — a word also used in Isaiah 10:24-25 and  26:20, in Ezekiel 21:31 and Daniel 11:36.  Antiochus Epiphanes, obviously, did not come at the time of the end.  In keeping with our understanding of Old Testament types (illustrations or examples), it is clear that Antiochus is a type, a foreshadowing of the future AntiChrist–but not the primary reference in Daniel 8.

Another strong indicator concerning the Grecian origin of the AntiChrist comes from Revelation 13. In Revelation 13:2 the beast is described as “like a leopard.”  The leopard is a reference to Daniel 7, the third kingdom (Greece).

From the book of Daniel we can understand that the prophecy hype about a European antiChrist, and a 10 nation confederacy in the European Common Market, is somewhat misguided.  As S. Lewis Johnson pointed out earlier in the Daniel series, that ten nation group is worldwide, not something focused solely within the western world or confined to Europe specifically.  We can also look for the AntiChrist to arise from the Middle East, rather than from Italy (Rome).

More Illustrations from Daniel: Chapters 4 and 6

January 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Continuing with S. Lewis Johnson’s Daniel series, here are some highlights from Daniel 4.

In the application part of Biblical Interpretation, we can learn these 5 things from Nebuchadnezzar’s experience (Daniel 4:34-35):
1.  The eternal self-existence of God:    He praises the Most High and honors Him who lives forever
2.  God has an eternal kingdom and eternal throne:   For His dominion … His kingdom endures
3.  The Nothingness of Mankind:   All the inhabitants of earth are accounted as nothing
4.  The Divine Power is at Work Sovereignly:  He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth
5.  God’s Fiat / God’s Decree is Irresistible:   No one can strike against His hand.

Another good point:  how long must we endure the discipline?  As long as it takes for you to learn the lesson.  In Nebuchadnezzar’s case it was 7 years — but sometimes God’s hand of discipline lasts even longer than that.  Paul was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, and no time limit is specified for how long he had to endure it.

Back to SLJ’s use of typology, we come to Daniel 6, the well-known story of Daniel in the Lions Den, and some interesting similarities between Daniel’s story and God’s people Israel.  Daniel’s personal experience here parallels that of human history, in that other people are often jealous of the Jews, as the other governing leaders were of Daniel.  Daniel also represents those placed in captivity (Israel), among the lions (the Gentiles).  The overall story also suggests the future Great Tribulation and the deliverance of the Jews from it.

The Book of Daniel: Illustrations of the Future Great Tribulation

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

I’m currently listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s series through Daniel, a 16 part series he did in 1979, and have completed the first six chapters.  These are familiar chapters to many Bible students, in a book that is commonly divided into two parts: Historical — chapters 1-6, and Prophetic — chapters 7 – 12.

S. Lewis Johnson suggests a slightly different outline, one that notes the interesting use of Arabic language for chapters 2 through 7 — the chapters which have to do with the nations outside of Israel:
Chapter 1:  Introduction
Chapters 2-7:  Concerning the Gentile nations
Chapters 8-12:  Concerning Israel

I previously blogged through John MacArthur’s Daniel series, from transcripts I read back in early 2009, when I was still learning about premillennialism and didn’t yet understand how everything fits together.  That series helped me understand some of the basics, especially what the Bible has to say concerning the rise and fall of the various nations throughout history — and that God’s future kingdom is just as physical and just as much a part of human history as the human kingdoms described in Daniel.  At that time I was still “unlearning” the amillennialist / preterist scheme which sees the final kingdom in Daniel 2 as relating to Christ’s First Coming.  But as MacArthur often pointed out in that series, in Daniel chapter 2 God’s kingdom is one that will play out in human history, in the same realm as the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.

S. Lewis Johnson’s Daniel series is more concise, and yet he brings out some interesting ways in which we can relate the historical events in Daniel (types) to the future events associated with Christ’s Second Advent.

But first, three principles of Bible Interpretation:
1.  Primary interpretation:  the history and grammar of the text
2.  Present application:  Paul and others in NT said that the OT was written for our instruction, and that includes application to us
3.  Prophetic Revelation:  passages in OT that look on to the final consummation of events in the future

Following SLJ’s established definition concerning the proper use of types (or illustrations), we can note the following correspondences in Daniel 3:

  • Nebuchadnezzar setting up his image of gold — like the AntiChrist who is to come
  • The Image Itself — like the Abomination of Desolation
  • The Three Hebrews — the nation Israel in the Great Tribulation
  • The Fiery Furnace — suggesting the Great Tribulation itself
  • The Deliverance by “one like the son of the gods” — like the Second Coming deliverance of our Lord Jesus, by which He delivers Israel from the tribulation judgments

In this chapter the number 6 (the number of man) predominates:  “60 cubits tall and 6 cubits wide” (the dimensions of Nebuchadnezzar’s image) brings to mind the man-made worship in Babylon, the place where man’s worship began (Genesis 11) and where it will end as well (Revelation 18).

Daniel 4 can also be seen as a Typical presentation of the future — of the Gentiles in the last days:

  • Tree:   often symbolic of a man of great power and influence.
  • Nebuchadnezzar:    typical of Gentile world dominion
  • “Chop down the tree” — end of Gentile world power, and the madness of Gentiles during the Great Tribulation (the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments)
  • leave the stump — no complete destruction of Gentiles during the Great Tribulation; some are preserved, and experience blessing afterwards in the Millennial Kingdom
  • “till 7 times” — 7 years, which interestingly enough is the same time period as that of the period of judgment in the future — ref. Daniel 9 and Daniel’s 70th week.

For next time:  the application of Daniel 4, and lessons from Daniel 6 (the Lions Den).