Harry Whittaker
The Last Days

Chapter 3 - A Neglected Feature Of Daniel’s Prophecies

The Book of Daniel contains five separate visions or prophecies. These, on careful examination, are found to have several characteristics in common. For instance, in the brief explanatory passages they are all given a “continuous historical” fulfilment. Also, they are all Messianic—they all find their great climax in the appearance of Messiah the Prince. Yet another feature, which they have in common, is this — they all include a long gap or break in the continuity of the fulfilment.

All students of the prophecy have noticed this in chapter 11. Early in that chapter the vision merges into a long sequence of literal historical detail.[2]

This impressive sequence of detail continues to the period of the Maccabees, and then all at once the reader finds himself transported to the Last Days — “a time of trouble such as never was”, and the day of resurrection (ch. 12:1, 2—the continuity into chapter 12 is undeniable).

Somewhere, then, the continuous character of the revelation breaks off, and at a leap one is taken to the end of the age. Students of prophecy have been unanimous in their recognition of this fact. Some put the break at the end of verse 35, most at the end of verse 39; but all are agreed that the gap is there.

The ram and he-goat vision of chapter 8 is almost as explicit in making similar requirements. The explanation of the prophecy begins at verse 19: “I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation”. Then for three verses the exposition of the details proceeds in a “continuous historic” fashion presenting little difficulty.

Then, “in the latter time of their kingdom (i.e. of the four Greek kingdoms), a king of fierce countenance shall stand up”. At first, the student may be inclined to apply this to Rome, which power certainly destroyed “the holy people” and “the Prince of princes” himself. But this interpretation is vetoed by the words: “but he shall be broken without hand” (i.e. by divine power; compare chapter 2:34). This fact, combined with the clear assurance that “the vision belongeth to the time of the end” (v. 17 RV), requires that this “king of fierce countenance” be looked for in the Last Days—though doubtless Antiochus Epiphancs (vv. 9-12) or the hard power of Rome provide a vivid prototype.

It would seem then that the true exposition of verse 25 will equate this ruthless king with the Beast of Revelation 17 who, with his ten allies, is to make war with the Lamb and suffer destruction at his hands (Revelation 17:14). But whether this equation be correct or not, the gap in the prophecy is certainly there.

The same approach is now seen to provide a much more realistic view of Nebuchadnezzar’s image.

The commonly accepted interpretation has the following scheme (roughly):

70 years (approx.)
200 “ “
180 “ “
600 “ “
Divided Kingdoms
1500 “ “

With the first four items here, there can be no quarrel. But the fifth is hardly so satisfactory, since in the vision the feet with their ten toes are to be destroyed by the Stone, the Messiah, whereas throughout the long period indicated they have been vigorously engaged in destroying one another.

It is more reasonable, surely, to regard the ten toes as representing the ten kingdoms in existence at the time of Messiah’s coming. Once again, as in chapter 8, there is an equation with the ten kings who give their power and strength unto the Beast (Revelation 17: 14). Read thus, Daniel 2 provides the ten kings and Daniel 8 foretells the Beast—the two visions are complementary here.

If this alternative interpretation be accepted—and it is to be noted that it also avoids the anomaly of having the least important part of the metallic anatomy represent by far the longest period—then once again the gap in the continuity of the historical fulfilment is plainly there, between the iron representing Rome and the mixed iron and clay representing the discrete powers of the time of the end.

The problem of Daniel 7 is more complex and calls for more detailed treatment than this chapter will allow. All that can be said at the moment is that probably the familiar “Papacy” interpretation of the little horn is at best only a partial or preliminary fulfilment. An impressive case can be made for the view that the little horn represents a power which will oppress the Jews (the “saints”, the holy people; Daniel 8:24) in the Last Days immediately before the coming of their Messiah—in other words, that the little horn and the other ten correspond to the Beast and ten Kings of Revelation 17:12-14.

If this were so, then once again there appears a noteworthy gap in the prophetic sequence of Daniel 7 between the fourth kingdom (Rome) and the sensational developments of the Last Days.

To sum up so far—it may be taken as almost certain that the prophecies of Daniel 11 and 8 require a gap in the historical fulfilment, that of Daniel 2 probably has the same feature, whilst Daniel 7, even if it does not require a similar view, at any rate lends itself readily to the same scheme of interpretation. To put the matter thus is probably to understate the case.

Students of the Olivet prophecy will already have recognized that what is being argued for here is the existence in Daniel’s prophecies of the same gap which exists so markedly in the words of Jesus there: “and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”. This is A.D. 70, and its ghastly consequences. The next words transport the reader to the day of Christ’s return: “And there shall be signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity . . .”. Would any first-century student of the words of Jesus have even the smallest reason for suspecting the existence of a 1900-year gap between those two sentences?

Now back to Daniel. An examination of the famous “Seventy Weeks” prophecy in chapter 9 reveals the possible existence of the same kind of gap. The precise dating of the fulfilment does not affect the issue under consideration. The prophecy is explicit that “in the midst of the (seventieth) seven he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease” (Daniel 9:27). This can only mean that the cutting off of “Messiah the Prince” was to correspond to a time of 37~ years from the end of the full period of 490 years.

The question promptly thrusts itself forward: What is the significance of the remaining 3½ years?

The usual answer that this leads on to the death of Stephen and the conversion of Paul simply will not do. It is too obviously make-shift — for the following reasons:

  1. This prophecy is about “Messiah the Prince” and his great work. To have the climax of the prophecy concerned with one of his disciples is bathos, even though that disciple be Stephen or Paul.
  2. There is absolutely no evidence available to demonstrate that Stephen died or that Saul was converted precisely 3½ years after the crucifixion. The guesses of the “experts” about the dating of the events mentioned range from one to ten years after the death of Christ.
  3. The climax of the “seventy weeks” is to be to “finish transgression (in ‘thy people’ and ‘thy holy city’), to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Daniel 9:24). Is this language appropriate to the death of Stephen?
Is it possible, then, that the prophetic gap already clearly discernible in several other revelations is asserting itself here also, and that the outstanding 3½ years represent a deferment to the Last Days when the words of verse 24 just quoted will receive an abundant literal fulfilment in connection with the people of Israel and “the holy city”?

Such a possibility opens up the way to sensational re-interpretation of a number of Bible prophecies. It is proposed to explore some of these in later studies.

[2] Detail so full and complete as to lead conservative scholars such as C. H. H. Wright and Boutflower to speculate that here the original prophecy has been replaced by a targum or commentary.

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