BELIEFS AND TEACHINGS

Prophecies of Daniel— Daniel 2

Within the many fascinating Old Testament prophecies, those of the book of Daniel stand out in many ways. While it is true that at the beginning of Genesis God’s people received the first Messianic prophecy (Gen. 3:15), later expanded by additional details in the rest of the Hebrew canon (for example, Isa. 7:14; Mic. 5:2), only Daniel specifies the date when the Messiah would appear. Furthermore, the apocalyptic prophecies of Daniel—distinct from the rest of the classical prophecies of the other Old Testament prophets whose oracles often encompassed foreign nations but primarily focused on Israel as the chosen nation—are universal in scope.

Daniel 2. Echoing the narrative of Pharaoh’s dream and its interpretation by Joseph in Genesis 41, 42, Daniel 2 presents the story of another Jew in a foreign court who interprets a revelation that God gives to a pagan king. After none of the wise men of Babylon could tell King Nebuchadnezzar the dream he could not even recall, the king threatened them with death to ensure that they would give him a correct interpretation. Only Daniel could reveal both the dream and its interpretation. The king had seen a large image comprised of various metals that represented the various world empires that would follow one after another, culminating in the establishment of the kingdom of God.

Thus, the head of gold represented the kingdom of Babylon (605–539 BC). The breast and arms of silver represented the empire of the Medes and the Persians (539–331 BC). The belly and the thighs of bronze symbolized the Greco-Macedonian Empire (331–168 BC) founded by Alexander the Great. Then the Roman Empire (168 BC–476 AD) succeeded it. The image’s legs of iron, with its feet partly of iron and part of clay, anticipated the fragmentation of the Roman Empire into what would become several modern nations. Finally, just as the king saw a great stone strike the image’s feet and completely destroy it, God would establish His eternal kingdom and the kingdoms of the present world would disappear. Daniel 2 is the foundation on which the book’s other prophecies build and expand.

Daniel 7. This chapter depicts world empires through the symbolism of wild animals. Interestingly, the decorations of Babylon’s famous Ishtar gate consisted of animals representing Babylonian deities. Daniel would have seen them frequently. In Daniel 7, the animals are hybrids, combining characteristics of more than one creature. A lion with eagles’ wings now represents the Babylonian kingdom. The second beast, resembling a bear, had four ribs in its mouth and corresponded to the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians. The third beast, a leopard with four heads and four birdlike wings, stood for the Greek kingdom, which divided into four parts after the death of Alexander. The fourth beast, representing the Roman Empire and its subsequent divisions, was different from all the others. It had 10 horns on its head, and as one of them grew, it uprooted three other horns.

After Daniel describes the beasts, the prophet introduces a Son of Man, who is a clear contrast with the “little horn” and represents the Messiah. Coming before the Ancient of Days (God the Father), the Son of Man pronounces judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High. (Daniel 7 is the only place in the entire Old Testament where a prophet sees more than one member of the Godhead in a vision, thus affirming the plurality of Persons within the Godhead [cf. Gen. 1:26, 27]). Even though the little horn, which represents in prophecy the religio-political power that persecuted the saints of the Most High “for a time, times [a Hebrew word meaning “twice”] and half a time” (Dan. 7:25), that is 1260 days/years extending from 538–1798 AD (Something we must always keep in mind is that in the Bible a prophetic day means a year [see Num. 14:34, Ezek. 4:6]. The vision is actually talking about years instead of literal days). Finally, God has inaugurated a pre-advent judgment since 1844 that now rules in favor of the saints. In other words, the Lord has the final word, not the rulers of this world, and at last, the faithful receive the kingdom of God (Dan 7:18, 22, 27).

Daniel 8. This chapter, distinct from the prophetic chains of Daniel 2 and 7 that depict four empires followed by the kingdom of God, here focuses on only three of the four. Besides, instead of hybrid wild animals—as they appear in Daniel 7—it uses ceremonially clean animals, those employed in the Old Testament sacrificial system, specifically the two animals that appear in the ritual for the Day of Atonement. It is crucial to keep in mind that this chapter continues building on the previous ones (Dan. 2, 7). Thus, although no animal represents Babylon or Rome in Daniel 8, both empires are an integral part of the prophecies. The prophet receives the prophecy of Daniel 8 during the Babylonian ruler Belshazzar’s third year of reign (Dan. 8:1), and the horn that grows exceedingly great in Daniel 8 corresponds to the fourth beast with the little horn in chapter 7, that is pagan and papal Rome.

Unlike the other prophetic chains that do not identify the various world kingdoms, except for Babylon in Daniel 2, Daniel 8 clearly labels the animals depicted: the ram and the goat are representations of the kingdoms of the Medes and Persia and the kingdom of Greece respectively (Dan. 8:20, 21). The prophecy culminates with the 2300 “days” (Dan. 8:13, 14) at the end of which the heavenly sanctuary—where God dwells—will be “cleansed.” Since the immediate context of Daniel 9—the prophecy of the 70 weeks—represents a time that refers to weeks of years not days—that is to say 490 years—in reference to the Messiah’s appearance, then the 2300 days also must be equivalent to 2300 years.

Thus, the integral connection of both the 70 weeks and the 2300 years must indicate that they begin at the same time, that is 457 BC (Dan. 9:25; see below). Furthermore, what Daniel 7 calls the judgment, Daniel 8 describes as the purification of the sanctuary, which makes total sense in the light of the sacrificial system depicted in the Pentateuch, which anticipated a work of purification in the heavenly sanctuary. The same animals portrayed in Daniel 8 were sacrificed on the Day of Atonement, that is, the Day of Judgment, the day of purification (Lev. 16:5).

 

457 BC AD 1844

2300 days/years

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Order/decree Artaxerxes Purification of the Sanctuary

The following chart gives us a visual overview of the prophetic chains of Daniel 2, 7, and 8:

Daniel 2 Daniel 7 Daniel 8
Golden head Babylon Lion Babylon Babylon Implied
(King Belshazzar)
Silver chest
Medes and Persians
Bear
Medes and Persians
Ram
Medes and Persians
Belly and thighs of bronze
Greece
Leopard
Greece
Goat
Greece
Legs of Iron
Rome
Beast with ten horns Rome Little horn (first phase) pagan Rome
Ten feet of iron and clay Rome fragmented Little horn
Papal Rome
Little horn (second phase) papal Rome
  Judgment Purification of Sanctuary
Stone
God’s kingdom
God’s kingdom  

Daniel 9. In the context of the longest prayer in the book of Daniel, the prophet asks forgiveness not only for his sins but also for those of the people. He prays for a better understanding of the vision of the prophecy of 2300 days/years. God sends the angel Gabriel to give the necessary elements for the prophet to understand “the vision” (Heb. mareh) (Dan. 8:16, 26; 9:23), especially as to when the prophecy began. According to Gabriel, God cut/determined 70 weeks from the longest period of the 2300 years destined for the holy city and the Jewish people (Dan 9:24-27). Thus, it is affirmed that beginning with the decree to restore the city, the wall, and the Temple of Jerusalem, the coming of the Messiah would occur in 69 weeks (7+62). And during the final week of the 70-week period, the Messiah Prince would be anointed at its beginning, His life taken in the middle of the week (the last week allotted specifically to Israel), and a covenant with many confirmed at the period’s end. History confirms the exact fulfillment of this extraordinary prophecy.

Both the prophecy of 2300 days/years and the 70 weeks began in 457 BC when King Artaxerxes I decreed the reconstruction of Jerusalem and the restoration of its governing authority, thus providing the means to fulfill all aspects of the prophecy, which the previous decrees of Cyrus and Darius had not done. At the end of the 69 weeks, that is 483 years later, the Messiah Prince was anointed in AD 27. In that year, the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus at His baptism (Matt. 3:13-17; Acts 10:38). In the middle of the last prophetic week, the Messiah Prince would be put to death, that is, in AD 31. It is the same year that Jesus was crucified for our sins, thus putting an end to the Old Testament sacrificial system that anticipated the death of the Messiah. So, in the last week of the seventy weeks, God confirms the covenant with many, spreading the gospel to the whole world. The Holy Spirit descends to the primitive church. In AD 34, the end of the seventy weeks, the martyrdom of Stephen takes place, and God chose Saul of Tarsus to be the apostle of the Gentiles.

 

457 BC AD 27 AD 31 AD 34

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7+62 weeks= 433 years 1 week

Order/decree of Jesus is Jesus is Death of

Artaxerxes baptized crucified Stephen

The fact that the prophecy of the seventy weeks, the first section of the longest prophetic period of 2300 days /years, was fulfilled exactly in the coming, anointing, and death of the Messiah, guarantees that the remaining part of the prophecy, the purification of the sanctuary at the end of 2300 years—that is to say in 1844—would also have an exact fulfillment.

457 BC AD 27 AD 34 AD 1844

I———I———-†———-I————————————————– ———————-I

Jesus is Jesus is Death of

baptized crucified Stephen

70 weeks= 490

Order/decree Artaxerxes Purification of the Sanctuary

 

Doukhan, Secrets of Daniel: Wisdom and Dreams of a Jewish Prince in Exile.

Doukhan, Daniel: The Vision of the End.

Holm, Of Courtiers and Kings: The Biblical Daniel Narratives and Ancient Story-collections.

Stefanovic, Daniel: Wisdom for the Wise: Commentary on the Book of Daniel.