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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.

Where Does AntiChrist Come From: East or West?

April 4, 2011 2 comments

Over the last few months I have become aware of the “controversy” regarding the location of the AntiChrist:  East (Grecian / Syrian) or West (Rome).  I first heard the common (and popular) view, as from John MacArthur and many others, that the antiChrist comes from the Roman Empire and therefore European (a king from the west).  After all, Daniel 9 mentions the “people of the prince who will come” who destroy Jerusalem — the Romans.  S. Lewis Johnson’s Daniel series, however, brings out some interesting features of the texts and evidence that the antiChrist is the Syrian aka the “King of the North,” as I blogged here.

One of the key points for the Western AntiChrist view is the identities of the two “little horn” figures in Daniel 7 and Daniel 8.  The standard view is that these are different characters:  the “little horn” in Daniel 7 is said to come out of the Roman Empire (west), whereas the “little horn” in Daniel 8 comes out of the third kingdom (Greece); also much of Daniel 8 appears to describe the actions of Antiochus Epiphanes in the 2nd century BC.  Since one account has a “little horn” coming out of the fourth kingdom, and the second account out of Greece, it is said that these cannot possibly be referring to the same person.

However, as we all know, the Roman Empire covered vast territory, both in what is now Europe as well as the Middle East.  Rome (the fourth kingdom) conquered Greece, and so such statements as found in Daniel 7 and 8 present no conflict when we realize that the third kingdom was included (as a subset) within the fourth kingdom.

Furthermore, the reference in Daniel 9:26 does not necessarily mean that the people who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. were Roman (Italians).  As noted in this article (“From where the Antichrist will come“), Josephus tells us that the people involved were predominately Syrian.  It was customary for Rome to conscript soldiers from their conquered territories, which in this case meant Syria.

Time and again throughout the Old Testament, God speaks of a certain person who will come against His people Israel, who will be defeated by God at the end, and without exception he is described as from the north (Greece/Syria) not the west.  This individual is described as “the Assyrian” or “the Assyrian king” in Isaiah (see Isaiah 14:24-27), as the “King of the North” in Daniel 11-12, and as “Gog, of the land of Magog” in Ezekiel 38-39.  Ezekiel 38:17 asks:   Are you he of whom I spoke in former days by my servants the prophets of Israel, who in those days prophesied for years that I would bring you against them? The only text which might indicate a western antiChrist is that statement in Daniel 9:26 about the people of the ruler, related to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  Yet Daniel’s prophecies continue to further discuss the “King of the North.”

As I first mentioned in this blog, the only reason that modern prophecy buffs think that Ezekiel’s war is a separate event that happens sometime before the main Armageddon is because of the idea of the western-Roman AntiChrist, from that description in Daniel 9:26.  Yet the verses immediately following Ezekiel 38:17 clearly describe the same event as Armageddon, and the whole idea of Ezekiel’s war being a different event is a relatively new idea (since sometime in the 20th century).

In a sermon series through Joel, S. Lewis Johnson noted Joel 2:20, which speaks of “the northerner,” and that this could well be a reference to the anti-Christ and his armies in the final day.  Of special note is the fact that locust plagues in Judah almost always come from the south or southeast, not from the north.  I followed up with a word study (from Johnson’s suggestion here) on all the references to the term “northerner” and “north,” to find that indeed many verses in the OT prophecies speak of the last days enemy as one from the north — not west as is popular thinking today.

Here is a sampling of additional references that well establish Israel’s history, that in ancient times invaders came from the north.  In many of these verses, the prophecy has a near-term sense with respect to the ancient armies of Assyria and Babylon, but in many cases the prophet also zooms out to the distant future (of which the near-term prophecy is but a type, an example):

Jeremiah 46:20 has interesting reference to the future, as does Jeremiah 50:3.  The verses immediately following in Jeremiah 50 clearly refer to other events associated with this judgment, events that did not occur in the 6th century BC.

The “Little Horn” of Daniel’s Visions

January 13, 2011 Comments off

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 Comments off

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 Comments off

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).

Recent Bible Readings: Horner Bible Reading Update

August 6, 2010 Comments off

Another update from Bible readings, in my daily walk through the different Bible genres in a modified Horner Bible Reading Plan.  As always, this genre plan of reading Bible chapters in parallel, with selections from each of several (eight) sections of the Bible, provides some interesting cases of readings that go together.  Consider the following recent readings, two selections both read on the same day:

Some other good observations, scripture thoughts from Bible reading:

For encouragement, Phillipians 3:15 , Job 33:16-26, 1 Thessalonians 3:3-4 and 13, 2 Thessalonians 3:5, and 2 Timothy 3:12

Observations from reading through history and the prophets:
In 1 Kings 1:7 I noticed again the mention of Abiathar the priest, who now must be at least 42 years older than when he was first introduced in 1 Samuel 22, as the young son of Abimelech the priest, the one that managed to escape from Saul and Doeg.  After all, David has now reigned for 40 years, and 1 Samuel 22 was at least two years before that, before David spent time in Philistine territory.  By now Abiathar’s son Jonathan, also mentioned in 1 Kings 1, is also a priest.  Yet what a different person, now hardened and turned against David to support Adonijah.  By the end of 1 Kings 1 he is deposed from the priesthood, as yet another fulfillment of the words spoken to Eli by the prophet Samuel so many years before.

1 Kings 4:31 mentions Ethan the Ezrahite, indicating that he must have been a contemporary of Solomon.  This time I remember the name as the author of Psalm 89, a passage that S. Lewis Johnson spent some time discussing in reference to the Davidic covenant.

This time through Ezekiel, I have especially noticed the many references to the word “prince” as descriptive of the human ruler, usually the ruler in Jerusalem but sometimes other uses such as Ezekiel 30:13 in reference to the ruler of Egypt.  As pointed out in SLJ’s Davidic covenant series, the Lord God is the king, and the human ruler, David (and his descendants) is the prince.  This designation of prince throughout the earlier chapters of Ezekiel, makes the references in Ezekiel 44-48 more understandable–as referring to the human ruler over the people.  Knowing the use of that word, prince, throughout the many earlier chapters, makes it obvious that of course in Ezekiel 44-48 it’s not talking about Christ — as even some of the passages in Ezekiel 44-48 indicate, that the prince is a separate person than the Lord God (reference Ezekiel 44:3, The prince himself is the only one who may sit inside the gateway to eat in the presence of the LORD).

Bible Prophecy and Practical Christian Living

May 28, 2010 Comments off

Again and again in my Bible study I encounter exhortations to holy living, in the light of our understanding of the prophetic word: from J.C. Ryle, S. Lewis Johnson, John MacArthur, David Jeremiah, etc.  Certainly I can see some change within my own thoughts, over the last two years, as I continually conform my thoughts to the word of God (Romans 12:2) and appreciate the wonders of what God has revealed in His word.

Specifically, I can more readily accept the hardships and craziness of our world, knowing what the future holds.  During a recent spell of extremely hot weather, for instance, I remembered Romans 8:20-21, the promise from God that the creation itself will one day be restored to how it was in the original perfect creation, and what awaits during that glorious Millennial Kingdom age when the weather patterns will no longer bring extreme heat and cold, or the terrible natural disasters; the ground will yield forth food instead of the thistles and thorns brought about in the curse.  Just as we await the redemption of our bodies, so the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage.  Such understanding brings God’s grace to patiently endure the heat which I used to complain too much about.

Another area of difference:  understanding the seeming craziness of the world and the rise and fall of nations, and the true nature of the visible Church.  Certainly God’s word in general (basic evangelical gospel) tells us to trust God, that He is in control of the big things as well as our lives, and that He is the one who appoints the governments and leaders, and one day we’ll die and go to be with God in heaven.  Without the added understanding from prophecy, though, it is much harder to accept the specifics of the things we actually see going on in the world.  I first started learning about the rise and fall of nations from reading John MacArthur’s sermon series through the book of Daniel in early 2009, a new, biblical perspective contrary to the popular “Christian America” moral message I imbibed during my early Christian years.

What I now realize that the Bible has to say concerning the future of certain locations — especially Israel, Asia (its very large population), and Babylon — makes perfect sense of the rapidly increasing decline of the U.S., and of the U.S.’s now declining relationship with Israel.  It even makes sense of specific news items, such as what I found so disturbing a few years ago: that the U.S. was sending mega-bucks of our taxpayer money over to Iraq to rebuild its economy, even subsidizing its economy with cheap gasoline at the pump.  When I consider the amazing implied prophecy in Revelation 11:9-12, that the Bible predicted over 1900 years ago a world that would have instant, worldwide communication including the transmission of visual images, I am that much more awestruck by our great God.

That the Bible predicts great apostasy within the visible Church, and increasing apostasy as the end nears, gives me peace of mind concerning the reality observed in the Church today, in contrast to the optimistic kingdom (as in the Church is the Kingdom) language that so popularly expresses the misconception of many confused believers.

Understanding what God’s word has to say regarding the believer’s rewards compels me toward holy and righteous living — not as though my salvation were dependent on works, but to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” recognizing the need to redeem the time, since we must give account to God for how we used our gifts and spent our time — not in frivolous things of no value (wood, hay, straw), but in those things which build up God’s people and glorify Him (gold and silver).  John MacArthur’s emphasis on the value of studying and meditating on the things of God, and the great reward ahead for those who do so — a reward that will include greater capacity to know, enjoy and love God — is an encouragement to persevere toward that end, to run the race to win the prize.

By contrast, the anti-futurist Christian view emphasizes the equality of all believers in Christ without distinctions, a view that is actually quite uncomfortable with the idea of rewards or differences among believers (as I even heard one such preacher admit recently): we’re all equal, the Church has replaced Israel, and we will be judged along with unbelievers at the Great White Throne — to show that we’re just as guilty as them but for the blood of Jesus.  Yet such incomplete and unbiblical teaching lacks the extra motivation (the believer’s rewards) — provided by the study of biblical eschatology — toward holy living in believers, instead destroying our great blessed hope of our Lord’s imminent return for His people (1 Thess. 4:17-18, John 14:3).  Truly, God’s word including the prophetic picture is a great blessing that God has revealed to us, and those who endeavor to search and study the scriptures will gain this blessing (Revelation 1:3) and not be disappointed.

Horatius Bonar and Our Human Limitations on God’s Word

April 1, 2010 7 comments
Horatius Bonar

Horatius Bonar

I’ve been reading Horatius Bonar’s “Prophetical Landmarks” (first published in 1847), and it is interesting to read different viewpoints to help understand the variations in premillennial and dispensational thought.  Specifically, I’ve learned that Bonar was premillennial with future for Israel, but not dispensational — and this comes up in the details such as his understanding of Daniel’s prophecies, saying that those events will happen to the Church.

Chapter 10, “Distribution of Times and Events,” especially reveals Bonar’s weaknesses and limitations in understanding.  Here he abandons the standard literal interpretation of some prophecies because, to his mid-19th century viewpoint, the literal meaning seemed impossible to him. Consider the following two observations from Bonar:

Further, there are some things foretold as taking place during the well-known period of twelve hundred and sixty days, which scarcely admit of being compressed within the space of so many days. The “wearing out” of the saints of the Most High is something which cannot be accomplished within three years and a half. It denotes a long period of trial, a gradual, continuous oppression of the Church, not the sharp and sudden infliction of calamity upon one generation of saints. It is true this expression occurs in Daniel, not in the Apocalypse, but the periods are the same, and the expressions made use of in the latter are of the very same import.

Here Bonar reflects the evolutionary thinking of the mid-19th century, unable to conceive of things happening very quickly and catastrophically.  Yet he also missed a few biblical references that perhaps could have helped:  the sudden calamity of the flood in Noah’s day (reference 2 Peter 3), and Jesus’ words that the elect would not survive except that the days (of tribulation) be cut short.

But the next part is really interesting — again, consider Bonar’s 19th century perspective:

Again, we read that the dead bodies of the witnesses are to lie unburied for three days and a half, (Rev. 11: 8-10,) that is, three and a half literal days, if the abridged scheme be correct. And then it is added, that “they of the people, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations, shall see their dead bodies, and shall not suffer them to be put in graves.” Now, is it possible, that within three days and a half, people of the different nations even of the prophetic earth should be able to come together to the street of the great city, and see these bodies lying? Or is it possible, that within that short space the intelligence of their death should be so universally diffused, that men should have time to congratulate each other, and send gifts one to the other in token of their common joy? We can hardly conceive this possible.

Though Bonar and his contemporaries could not understand this as literal, our generation — with satellite communications, cell phones, instant messaging and the Internet — has no difficulty with the idea that the literal meaning could actually be fulfilled.  It really is amazing, how God’s word should always be taken at face value.   The oft-quoted saying, “if the plain sense makes sense, seek no other sense” bears repeating.  The passage itself has a plain enough meaning, a narrative description of a particular event, so it definitely fits with the advice to “seek no other sense.”  If people in one age cannot see how it will happen literally, it is because future events — and technology unimagined — must yet come to pass.  We can be sure, though, that God will in the course of human history bring about what is necessary to make such prophecies — which completely befuddled Horatius Bonar — literally come to pass.