I’ve recently spent a lot of time in the book of Daniel as our entire community focused on the book during a period of 21 days of fasting and prayer. As a result of that I’ll be posting several articles related to parts of the book of Daniel over the next few months. The more time I spend with Daniel the more and more it became apparent that the book of Daniel reveals our view of God and Scripture in a way that perhaps no other book does. Daniel is especially unique because it contains very specific prophecies primarily given in five chapters (Daniel 2, 7, 8, 9, 11). While these prophecies are very specific, we are also forced to deal with that fact that there are historical events that are remarkably similar to what Daniel prophesied though they fall short of fulfilling all the details Daniel prophesied.
Traditionally, there are two ways of working around this. The liberal approach is to put a later date on the book of Daniel and take the view that the author of the book recorded an ancient storyline but also either got some details incorrect or simply embellished the story, particularly the conclusion of it, in the hopes of encouraging the Jews. This approach tends to devalue, or even exclude, the possibility of Daniel as predictive prophecy. There is also the conservative approach. In its zeal to show the power of prophesy in the book of Daniel and the truth of Scripture, Daniel’s prophecies are often marked prematurely fulfilled in ancient events. I say prematurely simply because conservative scholars sometimes overlook and ignore very real differences between ancient events and Daniel’s prophecies in an attempt to provide the reality of the prophetic gift in Scripture.
If we stay true to a conservative hermeneutic, we have to be honest and say that most of what is predicted in the book of Daniel must occur in the future if the text is to be fulfilled as it is written. The fact that there were ancient foreshadowings of some of these events even presses the point even more. Will we stand with what the text says and acknowledge that, though there are remarkable similarities in history, that the text cannot be marked fulfilled in every detail. In other words, is the Scripture truly divinely inspired? Is it true in every detail? Has God predicted specific events with complete foreknowledge? Is He the God that controls history in every detail and is He able to predict in detail future events? How we answer these questions of interpretation in this one small book has great implications for our view of God.
God is specifically forcing an issue in Daniel – will we stand with the Word as prophesied or will we try to rescue God and make our faith more respectable by prematurely marking prophecies fulfilled or, even worse, shipwrecking our faith entirely by denying the ability of God to prophesy with precision through a man? Have Daniel’s prophecies ultimately failed because nothing in history has fulfilled them in detail or can the God of history yet fulfilled, in every detail, what Daniel prophesied? You see there is a stigma to Daniel’s prophecies and a stigma to proclaiming that these ancient prophecies will be fulfilled in all their intricate detail before the age is over. This is why God is testing our hearts in our response to this book. Will we stand with the entire Scripture as divinely inspired? There is a stigma to that, but it is a divine stigma and whether we embrace it or not says volumes about our view of God and of Scripture.
Every form of Christian apologetics is helpful, but we have to realize that God has an apologetic that He has selected and it is the apologetic of fulfilled prophecy. As the age draws to a close, we will again see ancient prophecies fulfilled in intricate detail. At Jesus’ first coming we were shocked to see just how detailed some of the prophecies regarding Him were. There are far more prophecies of His second coming and we will be shocked again with just how intricately they will be fulfilled because this is God’s self-appointed apologetic for His glory.
He will do what no man can do – He will glorify Himself by fulfilling in every detail things prophecies 2,500 years ago. This will be a testimony to the earth that no man will be able to deny and this is one of the ways God has chosen to vindicate His word in plain sight of all men. For the final generation, it will God’s primary evangelistic argument for the truth of the gospel. God is looking for a generation with courage to take His Word at face value and proclaim it with boldness and confidence in the God who wrote these words even before we see these words come to pass. This proclamation before the events is crucial because it is that prophetic witness that will be one of God’s primary means of confronting the earth with truth at the end of the age. This is why our view of Daniel is not a small issue. It goes to the heart of our view of Scripture and our view of Scripture ultimately exposes our view of God Himself. Men can argue small points about the Scripture, but that often obscures the larger issue and that is our view of God Himself.