Daniel 8-12, and "The Time of the End" (Part II)
As Seventh-day Adventists we are not only interested in the fact that Daniel's final prophecy revolves round the sanctuary as surely as does chapter 8 but, as has been suggested already, we also are desirous of ascertaining whether a close consideration of the parallel nature of these prophecies will cast further light on the latter-day application of the 2300 days. Almost all other groups of Bible scholars limit this time period to the Old Testament Age, and trace its fulfillment in the events that succeeded the desolations of Antiochus Epiphanes. The Feast of Dedication commemorates the cleansing of the sanctuary foretold in Daniel 8 and fulfilled by the Maccabees, we are told. Does our present study cast further light on this problem?
First, let us review certain conclusions of conservative scholars over the years regarding the chain prophecies of Daniel. L. E. Froom's Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers gives ample evidence that these conclusions are both sound and fundamental.
1. It is characteristic of these chain prophecies to climax in a presentation of the latter days and the establishment of the kingdom of God. See Daniel 2:28, 44, 45; 7:25-27; 8:25; 12:1-4.
2. These prophecies are given according to the principle of repetition and enlargement. Daniel 7 deals with the same powers as Daniel 2, but enlarges the outline. Daniel 8 also deals with these empires, those still future from the standpoint of the vision. There are evident parallels between the enlarged description of the persecuting little horn in Daniel 8 and the briefer picture in Daniel 7. For example, in the latter chapter we learn that the little horn will speak boastfully and persecute the saints until the kingdom of God is set up. Chapter 8 also brings to view a power that would "magnify himself in his heart" and "destroy wonderfully" until its destruction, which is described as being accomplished "without hand," an evident allusion to Daniel 2:44, 45. The following chain prophecy in chapters 10, 11, and 12, begins where chapter 8 began—with a prophecy concerning Medo-Persia. It enlarges the description given in chapter 8 and then dilates on the future history of Greece, once more with greater detail than found in any of the preceding chapters. Here again, when it concentrates upon the power entitled "the abomination of desolation" (Dan. 11: 31), we find obvious parallels to the anti-God power of chapters 7 and 8. Note the similarities between the following from the three successive prophecies:
Daniel 7:25: "And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws."
Daniel 8:23-25: "A king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, . . . and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. . . . And he shall magnify himself in his heart."
Daniel 11:36: "And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished."
While Daniel 7 gives five verses to the description of the antichrist, Daniel 8 gives eight verses and Daniel 11 more than twenty verses. This demonstrates the principle of repetition and enlargement.
3. The preceding point gives emphasis to this one, namely that the chain prophecies of Daniel give far more specific and exhaustive treatment to the Christian Era than the Old Testament Age. Even in Daniel 2 this is the case. Even more is it true in Daniel 7 where the prophet quickly passes over the powers symbolized by the lion, the bear, and the leopard, and then dwells upon Rome, pagan and papal which would span the Christian Era. Daniel 11 introduces the Christian Era by its mention of the breaking of the prince of the covenant in verse 22; and from this verse forward till the end of chapter 12, the events of the Christian Age are dwelt upon.
Surely these principles, so evidently demonstrated throughout the prophecy of Daniel, provide safe guides for interpreting Daniel 8:13, 14. If the book is consistent with itself, Daniel 8 could not possibly climax in events that belonged to the Old Testament Age only.
A similar point to the last is the fact that with increasing specificity and exhaustiveness there appears toward the end of Daniel a lessening of symbolism and an emphasis upon literal interpretation. Daniel 8 presents mainly symbolism, while the following chain prophecy of chapters 10-12 uses no symbols but gives literal explanation instead. The earlier prophecies of chapters 2 and 7 contain first a symbolic presentation and then an interpretative explanation. For this reason many scholars have asked, Is the prophecy of chapters 10-12 the complete literal explanation of the symbolism of chapter 8? Daniel 2 ends its symbolic presentation by the view of the stone cut out without hands smiting the image and then filling the whole earth. This is interpreted as representing the coming of the kingdom of God. Daniel 7 ends its sequence of imagery by the vision of the Son of man coming to the Ancient of days to receive an everlasting dominion and kingdom. In Daniel 8 the symbolism closes with verse 14: "Unto two thousand and three hundred days: then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." Does this follow the pattern of the preceding chapters and signify events connected with the setting up of Christ's kingdom at the end of the age? Consistency argues that it is so.
As with Daniel 2 and 7, we would expect this chapter (chapter 8) also to present in literal terms an explanation of the preceding symbols. Four major symbols had been presented—the ram, the he-goat, the little horn, and the cryptic expression regarding the sanctuary and the 2300 days. The angel explains the first three, and comments upon the fourth as being true, but does not interpret it.
Now, it is a commonplace with Seventh-day Adventists that Daniel 9 interprets the first section of the 2300 days, but it is not so widely recognized among us, as I believe it should be, that the following chapters continue the literal explanation begun in Daniel 9:24-27, and do so by stressing events that approach their climax about the time of the completion of the 2300-year time period—that is, the time of the end. We have long pointed out that the explanations given by the angel in Daniel 8 did not completely fulfill the commission to make the prophet understand. But neither did the continued explanation of Daniel 9 do so. Thus in the next chapter Gabriel, now on his third visit, declares again that he has come to give the prophet further understanding. "Fear not, Daniel," he says: "for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words." In other words, the prophet's prayer for understanding is now to find its complete answer. Notice also Daniel 10:14: Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days."
W. J. Fitzgerald has written the following on this point:
If chapter 10 were introducing a new vision there is one word in v. 14 that could not be there. It is the word "yet." That word "yet" signifies that the vision of days under consideration had already been partially explained; that some of the days of the vision had already been dealt with and that the vision of days, some of whose days had already been explained, still extended into the future many days. ... It would not have been proper for Gabriel to have stated it thus to Daniel if a new vision were being introduced, but having already explained a portion-490 years of the vision of days in question, it was proper for him to say. "Yet the vision is for many days."
Note again the connection between these visions inferred in the wording of Daniel 10:1: "The thing was true, but the time appointed was long."
Daniel 8:26: "And the vision . . . is true: . . . it shall be for many days.-
Daniel 10:1: "And he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision."
Daniel 8:16: "Make this man to understand the vision."
Daniel 8:17: "Understand . . . : for at the time of the end shall be the vision."
Daniel 9:22: "I am now come forth to give thee . . . understanding."
Daniel 9:23: "Understand the matter, and consider the vision."
While the term "the vision" is used in Daniel 10:7 for the appearance of Gabriel, it is doubtful that the expression is so applied in verse 1. Verse 14 obviously does not refer to the same as verse 7, as it could hardly be said that the appearance of the heavenly messenger would endure for many days. It is more likely that verse 1 and verse 14 both refer to the vision of Daniel 8. In chapters 8 and 9 there are seven references to the prophecy of Daniel 8 as "the vision," and probably chapter 11:14 is another such reference.
Similarly the words "understood" and ‘`understanding" in Daniel 10:1 refer back to Daniel 8:16, 17, 19, 27; 9:22, 23, where these words or their equivalents appear.
Several translations suggest an interesting variant for a portion of Daniel 10:1 which, if correct, also would evidently connect this prophecy with the preceding.
Revised Standard Version: "And the word was true, and it was a great conflict."
Moffatt: ". . . a true revelation of a great conflict."
Knox: "Here is truth indubitable, and a great host."
Concerning this alternative rendering, in Cook's Commentary we read as follows:
An excessively difficult clause, owing to the abruptness of the present Hebrew text. . . . Literally and in their order the words of the sentence arc "and truth (is) the word and a great host." Comparing this with viii: 12 the sense would seem to he: —the word of God now revealed to Daniel was about the subjects alluded to in the previous vision, ch. viii, "the truth" cast down and the "host" given to the little horn. The clause may therefore he taken as a kind of title or designation of the section. . . . Chapter x:1 8c c is the amplification of this revelation.2
Considering these points, it seems evident that Daniel 10:1, 14 indicate that the purpose of this final prophecy is to delineate the events of the 2300 days not explained previously. Thus it would apply chiefly to the remaining 1810 years of this great time period. The first 490 years had to do with literal Israel, but the larger portion concerns spiritual Israel. Further evidence of this is found by comparing the terminal points of the prophecies in chapters 8 and 10-12.
Daniel 8:17: "At the time of the end shall be the vision."
Daniel 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9, 13: "And some of them of understanding shall fall, . . . even to the time of the end................. And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him. . . . But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end. . . . The words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. . . . But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days."
These verses demonstrate that the 2300 days reach to the same point described at the close of the prophecy of chapters 10-12. Be it noted that according to Daniel 12: 1-3 this time of the end ushers in the kingdom of Christ and the resurrection of the dead.
There are other parallels between the final remarks of each of these visions. Compare also Daniel 8:19; 11:36, 45; 12:6, 7.
Daniel 8:19: "Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be."
Daniel 11:36, 45; 12:6, 7: "And the king . . . shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.... He shall come to his end, and none shall help him. . . . How long shall it be to the end of these wonders? . . . It shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished."
The thought of termination, of destruction of the wicked, is prominent in each of these prophecies and identical terms are employed.
It is clearly stated that during that period of time before the setting up of the kingdom, the period called "the time of the end," the book of Daniel would be unsealed and knowledge concerning its prophecies would be greatly increased. This must mean particularly the time prophecy of chapter 8, as most of the other predictions were never sealed. The preview of the work of Medo-Persia, Greece, and pagan Rome never had a seal attached to it. But the prophetic period of 2300 years was not to be understood until the dawning of its fulfillment.
A still further demonstration of the affinity between these prophecies is found by comparing Daniel 8:12-14 with Daniel 12:7, where the same personalities, place, and question are described. Thus it is apparent that the "time, times, and an half" of Daniel 12:7 (and 7:25) fall within the greater period of 2300 days. Inasmuch as the former belongs to a power that was to succeed the tenfold division of the Roman Empire, it is obvious that the 2300 days must extend well down toward the end of the Christian dispensation. New Testament confirmation of this fact is found in Revelation 10:6, 7; 11:2, where Daniel 12: 7 is quoted and it is declared that "there should be time no longer: but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets." In this setting we find a little book open, and a time proclamation concerning the finishing, or the end of the work of God in the earth. Vitally associated with this picture is the command to measure the sanctuary after it had been trodden down for forty and two months, that is, the time, times, and a half of Daniel 12:7.
Chapter 12 of Daniel, by more than seven allusions to the language of Daniel 8, demonstrates its kinship of meaning with the earlier prophecy. Review the references to the shutting up or sealing of the prophecy, the time of the end, the increase of knowledge or understanding, the figures of Gabriel and Christ by the river, the question, "How long?" the scattering of the holy people, the daily sacrifice being taken away, the end of the days, et cetera. These terms are common to both chapters 8 and 12 and cannot be without significance. One more example should suffice:
Daniel 8:19: "At the time appointed the end shall be."
Daniel 12:13: "But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days."
The cumulative evidence is conclusive that the 2300 days extend to the final work of the church, a work that will run parallel with the taking away of the dominion of the little-horn power as many begin to walk in the light of Daniel's unsealed prophecies. At the same time, the persecuted and despised saints of God, among them Daniel the prophet, shall stand in their lot, to be vindicated before heaven and earth and to "shine as the brightness of the firmament; . . . for ever and ever." After the 2300 days comes the time of the end, the finishing of the mystery of God, and then the awakening of multitudes from the dust of the earth.
Such an interpretation is worthy of the character of the Author of the prophecy, and consistent with the grandeur of the other chain prophecies, which point to the close of the great controversy. The Seventh-day Adventist interpretation of Daniel 8:14 in an eschatological setting is therefore neither special pleading, nor a face-saving device, but rather it is an interpretation demanded by the larger context of this controversial verse—even the context of all the following chapters.
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1 W. J. Fitzgerald, "The Time of the End" (unpublished report of a Bible study given at Watford Seventh-day Adventist church. Watford. England, 1915).
2 F. C. Cook (ed.), The Holy Bible With an Explanatory and Critical Commentary, VI (London: John Murray, 1900), p. 36.