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A Critique Of The Preterist Interpretation Of Daniel-2 & 7

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In the second chapter of the Book of the Prophet Daniel, we are introduced to King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a massive metallic statue:

“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.” —Daniel 2:31-33

The statue, we are then told, represents a series of historical kingdoms or empires. Daniel informs the king that the first component of the statue, that of gold, represents the historical Babylonian Empire, which Nebuchadnezzar ruled over. Scholars and commentators are in general agreement that the next three empires represented by the respective metals of silver, bronze, and Iron are the Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires. Though this is the majority position, in my book, Mideast Beast, I demonstrate that the descriptions of the kingdom of Iron laid out within the text align perfectly with the historical Islamic Caliphate, and not with the Roman Empire. Though this view will likely be met with skepticism by those who have not yet considered the exegetical and historical arguments in support of this view, what is unarguable is that during the final days of the fourth kingdom of iron, a stone suddenly appears and strikes the feet of the statue, causing the entire statue to shatter:

As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. —Daniel 2:34

Commentators of all persuasions identify the stone as representing the Messianic Kingdom of God here on the earth. As the stone shatters the statue, the fragments are seen to blow away as dry chaff in the Autumn winds. The stone however, is seen to grow and spread, until it fills the entire earth:

Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. —Daniel 2:35

Later, in Daniel 7, we are given further details concerning the timing of this victory of the Kingdom of God over pagan earthly governments. There, we are told that it will come after a period of intense persecution, even near complete victory, by the final empire, against the saints:

“I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.” —Daniel 7:21-22

This is essential to note. The timing of the coming of the Messianic Kingdom of God is placed in the midst of an intense period of great persecution against “the saints of the Highest One”. It is not until after this period of great tribulation that the saints then come to possess the Kingdom of God.

The Futurist versus the Preterist Interpretation

Among Christian interpreters, there exists disagreement concerning the nature and timing of the stone striking the statue. Those who take the Futurist position understand this event to remain yet in the future. The feet of mixed iron and clay represent a secondary, distinct and final manifestation of the empire or iron—the final Antichrist empire—which will be utterly destroyed when Jesus returns. The stone, of course, represents the second coming of Jesus the Messiah, whose kingdom will then come to dominate the whole world.

Alternately, the Preterist interpretation sees the feet of mixed iron and clay to simply be one with the legs of iron. To the preterist, there exists no distinction between the legs of iron and the feet of mixed iron and mixed clay. The stone that strikes the feet represents the first coming of Jesus with his invisible, spiritual kingdom. Preterists would claim that the legs and feet represent the historical Roman Empire, which was conquered by the coming of the invisible Kingdom of God. Today, this spiritual kingdom is spreading throughout the earth.

The purpose of this article is to very briefly discuss some of the more obvious failures of the Preterist interpretation of Daniel 2 & 7.

The Five Components of the Statue

The first problem with the Preterist view of Daniel 2 is its inability to account for the two-fold division of the fourth kingdom between the legs and feet. Although the passage speaks of “four kingdoms”, when one analyzes the structure of the passage, the statue is seen to be divided into five distinct components. There is both a continuity and a division between the legs of iron and the feet of iron and clay. Consider the following structure of the text translated literally, word for word, in exact order:

The Image Head Fine Gold Breast Arms Silver Belly Thigh Brass Legs Iron Feet Part Iron Part Clay. —Daniel 2:32,33

The following chart demonstrates the organization and structure of the passage, again with the words maintaining their exact order:

Body Part / Element
——————————
Head / Fine Gold
Breast Arms / Silver
Belly Thighs / Brass
Legs / Iron
Feet / Part Iron – Part Clay

Because the Preterist position is unable to satisfactorily account for the clear distinction between the legs of iron and the feet of mixed iron and clay, it is forced to argue that the feet merely represent a particular period within the broader historical Roman Empire. Some argue that the clay intermixed with the iron in the feet represents the mixture of Roman and Jewish-Herodian rule during the first century. This explanation however doesn’t represent the totality of the Roman Empire, but merely one very small segment of the broader empire. Nor does this view satisfactorily account for the sharp distinction between the legs and feet.

The Futurist view however, understands the feet of the statue as describing the broader final period of the fourth empire as defined by its revival in the last days. This latter days revival of the fourth kingdom is clearly articulated by John the Apostle in the Book of Revelation. There, John speaks of the final kingdom as suffering a fatal head wound and coming back to life”

I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast —Revelation 13:3

Later, the apostle also speaks of the same final “seventh” empire, as being an empire which “was, and is not” and finally reviving as an “eighth”:

The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. —Revelation 17:11

And so it is seen that only the Futurist position is able to reconcile Daniel’s prophecies with the Book of Revelation’s descriptions, accounting for both the continuity and the division of the last empire. The Preterist interpretation however offers only a strange and forced explanation, which does not sufficiently explain the distinction, nor can it define any period within the Roman Empire when any could say that it “was and is not”.

It should also be noted that the Preterist position here is forced to understand the seven heads of the Beast to represent specific historical Roman emperors, rather than as historical kingdoms, as is consistent with the motif of “mountain” as found throughout the Bible. While virtually all Preterists attempt to identify the final seventh heads / mountain of Revelation 13 and 17 as referring to some series of historical Roman emperors, it seems as though no two Preterists can agree as to which seven these might be. Virtually every Preterist seems to have a different list of which Roman emperors they believe “fit” the criteria of the prophecy. Futurists however, share general agreement that the seven heads of the beast represent a series of pan-historical, pan-Biblical pagan empires, beginning with Egypt, each which at one time, tried to destroy the Hebrew people and her connection to the promised land.

The Nature of the Destruction of the Statue

Some further insurmountable problems with the Preterist interpretation of Daniel 2 is that the text portrays the final kingdom, in fact, the whole statue, as being destroyed suddenly, immediately, and completely. No sooner does the Messianic rock strike the feet of the statue that it is shattered, and its residue is blown away. The Messianic Kingdom of God fills the whole world leaving no trace of the previous pagan kingdoms. All four of the kingdoms are destroyed “at the same time” (Dan. 2:40, 44). When one compares the descriptions given concerning the end of this final pagan kingdom, in both Daniel 2 and 7, it is clear that the text emphasizes the finality and totality of the transition from pagan to Messianic rule. First, the establishment of the Kingdom of God is expressly placed within a particular timeframe. It is established “in the days of those kings”, a reference to the final period of the fourth kingdom:

“And in the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.” —Daniel 2:44

An essential portion of the above verse is often overlooked. We are informed that, unlike the other kingdoms mentioned within the passage, the Kingdom of God will not be left to others. This same theme is later expressed again in Daniel 7:

“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time. —Daniel 7:11-12

Many have misinterpreted this verse to mean that the other kingdoms in Daniel 7 are essentially contemporary empires or kingdoms that exist in their fullness during the time when the fourth kingdom is destroyed. This is not the meaning of this verse however. Instead, its point is to contrast the nature of the destruction of these previous empires. The other empires, unlike the final empire were given to other peoples, with much of their culture, languages and peoples having lived on in those empires that conquered them. This is not the case however with the fourth kingdom. It would first suffer an apparent death. Then, after having come back to life will suffer a final, devastating, immediate and ultimate blow. This is also seen to contrast sharply with the Messianic Kingdom of God, which will never be given to another people, but will last forever:

‘Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’ —Daniel 7:27

Yet history informs us quite clearly that the Roman Empire never met such a fate. In fact, the fate of the Roman Empire was precisely the exact opposite of the descriptions given within Daniel’s prophecy. Instead of meeting an immediate and decisive blow, the Roman Empire continued to exist and even grow for many years after the coming of Jesus in the first century. The Roman Empire, suffering from internal decay and external attacks, sputtered and crept along for another 1400 years after the coming of the Messiah. History informs us that it was not the influence of the Church that destroyed the Roman Empire, but moral decay within, and pagan forces from without. And all of this, over a very long and drawn out time-frame, at various times, in various places, long after the coming of Jesus.

Christo-paganism? Who Assumed Who?

Additionally, it can also be argued that instead of being entirely overwhelmed by the gospel, instead, the Roman Empire essentially incorporated and assumed Christianity into itself, resulting in a significant Roman-pagan influence within the culture, practices, traditions, and even to some measure, the liturgy and doctrines of Christianity. Though I reject the radical views on these matters as argued by Alexander Hislop and many after him, it must be admitted that the exchange between Roman and Christian culture was certainly not entirely one-way.

In keeping with the language of the passage, the Futurist interpretation looks forward to the time when Jesus will return to genuinely shatter the pagan governments, and ungodly systems of this world, resulting in the complete and utter victory of the very real and substantial Messianic Kingdom of God filling the whole earth, leaving no remnant of the former pagan influences.

The Timing of the Coming of the Kingdom: During Great Persecution

Earlier, we showed that the timing of the coming Messianic Kingdom is said to occur specifically during a time of unparalleled persecution by the final empire against the “saints of the Highest One”:

“I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.” —Daniel 7:21-22

The Preterist interpretation of these chapters cannot account for this clear statement concerning the timing of the coming of the Messianic Kingdom of God. When Jesus came the first time, it was not during a time of unparalleled persecution by the Romans against the Jewish peoples, nor did the Kingdom come later during Roman persecution against the Church. The Futurist position, on the other hand, in faithfulness to the text, looks forward to the time when the Messiah will deliver his people from out of a period of overwhelming persecution under the Antichrist, perhaps even in the near future.

Who Struck Who?

Another point that few Preterists seem to acknowledge is that unlike the descriptions of the prophecy, the Romans struck and killed Jesus, not the other way around. It will not be until Jesus returns that his victorious judgments will be executed against the pagan governments of the earth.

True Messianic Hope

In the perpetual cycle of increasingly frustrating and even outright depressing seasons of political elections, it is heartening to take note of the fact that when the Messiah comes, all corrupt, pagan, and ungodly politicians, governments and unrighteous leaders throughout the earth will be utterly, completely and finally judged and removed. Unlike the vague, partial, and perpetually drawn-out hope that is held-out by the Preterist vision of history (and the future), only Futurism provides us with a vision of the days to come that truly encourages our hearts with the incorruptible hope of a soon coming transition to truly righteous, humble and godly leadership throughout the whole earth. Maranatha!

 

via: http://archives.joelstrumpet.com/?p=4115

Joel Richardson Joel Richardson (20 Posts)

Joel is a husband and a father committed to the pro-life and adoption movements. He is a teacher on prophecy and the Middle East and passionately desires to see Muslims come to Christ.


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