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New Light on Daniel 8:14

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Archives / 1969 / October

 

 

New Light on Daniel 8:14

Desmond Ford
-Bible Department, Avondale College, Australia at the time this article was written

 

 

WHEN the editor inquired recently, "Have you discovered anything in your sanctuary research that is new evidence on the topic of the judgment and our interpretation of Daniel 8:14?" I decided to tentatively submit some thoughts on this matter that have seemed significant to me. It must be admitted, however, from the outset that what at first seemed "new light" proved to have been old truth, once cherished but of late forgotten.

First, a nutshell summary of the present thesis will be given, and then some spelling out in detail. It is both strange and significant that when Seventh-day Adventists interpret the vision of Daniel 8 they utilize the angel's explanation that is found between verses 17 and 26 for expounding the early features of the vision, but when explaining "then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" we turn to Leviticus 16 and work from there. At the same time, we affirm that the ninth chapter of Daniel was given to explain the unexplained portion of Daniel 8:1-14, especially the fourteenth verse. Then we proceed to expound Daniel 9:24- 27, saying in effect that this postponed interpretation of the vision of chapter eight explains the first part of the 2300 year prophecy, and thus enables us to fix upon the date of 1844 when the sanctuary would be cleansed. In effect we are affirming that the angel Gabriel never really fulfilled his commission "to make this man understand the vision." We are saying that the angel explained the ram, the he-goat, the little horn, the date that would begin the 2300 years, the events that would mark the first section of the 2300 years, but that he did not explain what was intended by the climax of the vision "then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." How much more homogeneous our approach would be if we could explain Daniel 8:14 by using the inspired words of the angel Gabriel rather than suddenly shifting from the angel's interpretation of the early section of the vision to give our own to verse 14.

It is the contention of this article that Daniel 9:24-27 not only explains the events that mark the beginning of the 2300 days but that it likewise gives us the events that mark its close; that is to say, it explains clearly what is meant by the cleansing of the sanctuary. The tentative position taken by this writer is that verse 24 of Daniel 9 is explanatory of Daniel 8:14 and that while it has its first application to the ushering in of the kingdom of grace and the events surrounding the cross of Christ, it has its ultimate application in the events that usher in the kingdom of glory.

In support of this position it can be said that interpreters over the ages can be divided into three groups regarding Daniel 9:24. One group has contended that it finds its fulfillment at the cross alone. Another group has said that it finds its fulfillment in the very last days in connection with the kingdom of glory. A third group of interpreters have declared that the verse applies to both events in harmony with the Old Testament prophetic principle of merging the kingdom of grace and the kingdom of glory into a single picture.

Seventh-day Adventists face two major difficulties in their interpretation of Daniel 8:14. The first is that most commentaries see in the little horn a prophecy of Antiochus Epiphanes. And the second problem is that they seem to interpret Daniel 8:14 arbitrarily by turning elsewhere in Scripture, away from the book of Daniel, for an exegesis of this passage. If the present suggestion is correct that Gabriel did indeed make Daniel to understand the vision, and did indeed explain the cleansing of the sanctuary as he was ordered to do by Christ, then we have solved both of these problems at a stroke. If Daniel 9:24 is commentary on Daniel 8:14, then it is obvious that the little horn of chapter eight cannot be restricted to a minor power that functioned and ceased more than a hundred years be fore Christ was born. And second, if Daniel 9:24 is explanatory of Daniel 8:14, we are relieved of the accusation of inventing and devising an arbitrary interpretation.

Does Daniel 9:24, on the face of it, seem to interpret "then shall the sanctuary be cleansed"? We have always pointed out that preceding this verse there are references to the vision of Daniel 8. For example, we read of "the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning" and also "I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding," and again, "understand the matter, and consider the vision." Here are definite statements that link the following verses with the explanation that was begun in the eighth chapter. Furthermore, we have also emphasized that Daniel 9:24-27 is concerned with the issue of time. While in Daniel 8 the angel had explained the powers mentioned in the vision he had said nothing about the time except that the prophecy of verse 14 was a true matter. But here in chapter 9, taking up the threads, he alludes to the issue of time.

Glancing now at the twenty-fourth verse, is there anything there that does indeed harmonize with our understanding of what the cleansing of the sanctuary involves? Undoubtedly there is. Here is a statement saying that sin is to be finished. The twenty-fourth verse uses the same expressions for sin found in the Day of Atonement description in Leviticus 16:21; namely, "transgressions," "sins," and "iniquities." The verse declares that all are to be finished and ended. Then on the positive side, the verse continues by saying that "everlasting righteousness" is to be brought in. This term "everlasting" is used else where in the book of Daniel in connection with the kingdom of glory. (See the second and seventh-chapters.) This verse also affirms that all vision and prophecy will be sealed up; in other words, it will be fulfilled, completed—which could only be at the end of time. And finally the prophecy alludes to "the anointing of the most Holy," an expression that is used through out Scripture in connection with God taking up His place among His people. The anointing of the tabernacle is a symbol of God coming to make His residence among His people, and points finally to what is described in the twenty-first chapter of Revelation when "the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them" (verse 3). A well-known exegete has written as follows on Daniel 9:24:

If ever there was an exegetical crux, this is it. Jerome was already acquainted with nine interpretations. Some, like Keel, state the passage to apply to the consummation of all things, and this position is exegetically sound. The six statements of Daniel 9:24 cover the sum total of the purpose of God with men, covering the perfect consummation of the Messiah's work that will be achieved when the second coming and the judgment have transpired.— Leupold's Commentary.

It is difficult for us to see that Daniel 9:24 could have a secondary application to the kingdom of glory because we are so used to stressing its application to the ushering in of the kingdom of grace at the cross. A statement from a well-known evangelical scholar may help. In the article "Unity and Variety in New Testament Faith," George Elden Ladd declares:

Where then is unity to be found? I believe that it appears in the common eschatological structure found in these several biblical writers: promise, fulfillment, and consummation. . . . The entire New Testament assumes the Old Testament's prophetic promises of an eschatological day of salvation and judgment. The promise appears in different forms in the several prophets; but common to all is the conviction that God . . . would finally bring his redemptive purposes to a glorious consummation that would include the destiny not only of Israel but also of the Gentiles. . . .

The entire New Testament reflects the conviction that these prophetic promises have been fulfilled in the person, mission, words, and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth within history; but the consummation of the promises awaits a further eschatological event that will establish the eschatological rule of God in all the world. In other words, the New Testament writers see the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises in two great redemptive events: the earthly person and mission of Jesus, and his glorious appearing at the end of the age. . . . The Messiah appears first as a man within history to fulfill the mission of the Servant of the Lord in suffering and death, but he will later appear at the end of the age as the glorious heavenly Son of Man in both judgment and salvation. In the biblical perspective, these are not two separate events but two acts of a single drama of redemption. --Christianity Today, Nov. 19, 1965, p. 22. (Italics supplied.)

It is also helpful to remember that the prophetic wording of the Apocalypse concerning the last message of the world alludes to the typical history of Israel and her removal from ancient Babylon to restore the sanctuary. Such passages as "come out of her my people" and "the hour of his judgment is come,' et cetera, are quotations from the book of Jeremiah concerning typical Israel's experience at the time of the restoration. The events at the beginning of the 2300 days are typical of the events at the close. This is why Daniel 9:24 can apply both to the kingdom of grace and the kingdom of glory. The beginning of the 2300 days marks the call for all the honest in heart to forsake Babylon and rally around the sanctuary of God and the holy law therein. In the book Prophets and Kings, pages 677, 678, Ellen White tells us clearly that the work of the exiles in rebuilding the sanctuary was typical of the work of the saints who repair the breach in the wall of God's law in the last days.

Not only is it true that the events at the beginning of the 2300 days parallel the events at the close of the 2300 days, but events at the close of the first section of the 2300 days (that is, the 490-year period), also parallel the events that will take place at the end of time. Toward the close of the seventy weeks the professed religious people of the age united with the state to crucify the Sinless One, who was proclaiming the law and gospel of God. The loud cry (triumphant entry) of Christ's ministry was rejected, the nation grieved away the Holy Spirit, and was left desolate. Christ Himself experienced "a little time of trouble" in Gethsemane when the death decree had been made against Him, and then the longer "time of trouble" through the official trials and the ensuing cross. God's judgments against sin were manifested at Calvary in the plagues of darkness, earthquake, and thirst, et cetera. But then came ultimate deliverance. A parallel may here be traced between the experience of Christ and that of the final generation of the church. Such books as The Great Controversy and The Desire of Ages frequently allude to this parallel. The article "The Companions of the Lamb," in Our Firm Foundation, volume 2, page 403, spells out this topic in some detail.

Thus there are good grounds for assuming that verse 24 of Daniel 9 applies both to the first section of the 2300 days (that is, the 490-year period, closing in A.D. 34) and then as regards the most significant events mentioned, the abolition of sin and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness— these apply also to the end of the age— Christ's final work in the heavenly sanctuary, beginning in 1844 and extending until the end of the millennium.

A. T. Jones taught this long ago (see The Consecrated Way), and while A. T. Jones went out into darkness, many of the things that he taught were truths of God. Ellen White in Testimonies to Ministers and elsewhere wholeheartedly endorsed the central emphasis of his message. (This does not guarantee inerrancy in all his teachings.) We use his name as an illustration that this interpretation of Daniel 9:24 is not a novel one. It is not "new light." Second, we should note that Ellen White uses the language of this verse and applies it to the future consummation of all tilings (see Selected Messages, book 1, p. 374).

Further confirmation of this thesis is found in the fact that the final prophecy of Daniel (chap. 10-12) is yet another enlargement of Daniel 8. Most commentators on the book assert this to be the case. In the last prophecy of Daniel the same conflict of the ages presented in the vision given in Daniel 8, is expanded, and in literal rather than symbolic terms. Can we find anything in this final chapter that has to do with finishing the transgression, making an end of sins, making reconciliation for iniquity, and bringing in everlasting righteousness, et cetera? I believe that the twelfth chapter of Daniel is a very clear elaboration of what is meant by the cleansing of the sanctuary. We have reference to investigation of God's book in order that those found therein as righteous might be delivered at the coming of the Lord (Dan. 12:1). We are distinctly told that the righteous (symbolized by Daniel) will stand in their lot at the end of the days (verse 13); that is, stand in the judgment at the end of the 2300 days. The translators recognized this allusion to the judgment as is shown by their placing of Psalm 1:5 in the margin. This twelfth chapter of Daniel brings to view the complete abolition of sin, the reward of the righteous who are to shine as the brightness of the firmament and as the stars forever and ever, and the fate of the wicked who will be exposed to shame and everlasting contempt. In fact, the twelfth chapter of Daniel, when linked with the last verse of the preceding chapter, pictures the fate and disposition of all men who have ever lived. We have the living wicked and the living righteous brought to view, and the dead wicked and the dead righteous.

While Daniel 12:2 has often been used as pointing only to a partial resurrection, it is far more likely that it is a summary statement concerning the two resurrections of Revelation 20. Christ's quotation from these verses endorses this position (see John 5:28, 29). Such famous Hebrew scholars as Tregelles so interpreted Daniel 12:2 on the basis of the original Hebrew. "Many" in this verse means the same as "the many" in Romans 5. If this is the case, Daniel 12:2 brings to view the first and second resurrections. The first verse of the chapter brings to view the reward of the living righteous while Daniel 11:45 speaks about the end of the antichrist and his host, that is, it presents the fate of the living wicked. Thus the work of the judgment and its outcome is clearly explained in this final prophecy of Daniel, and it is this that constitutes the cleansing of the sanctuary. Note carefully the following statement from Patriarchs and Prophets regarding the significance of the Day of Atonement:

Thus in the ministration of the tabernacle, and of the temple that afterward took its place, the people were taught each day the great truths relative to Christ's death and ministration, and once each year their minds were carried forward to the closing events of the great controversy between Christ and Satan, the final purification of the universe from sin and sinners. --Page 358. (Italics supplied.)

Let it be particularly noticed that Ellen White does not limit the cleansing of the sanctuary to the investigative judgment merely, but shows that the cleansing of the sanctuary has to do with the final disposition of evil and the ushering in of everlasting righteousness throughout the universe.

I commend this theme to my brethren for their prayerful consideration. I believe that a true exegesis of the twenty-fourth verse of Daniel 9, applying it not only to the kingdom of grace but also to the kingdom of glory, will lend great strength to our exposition of Daniel 8:14. Our exegesis of the prophecy of Daniel 8 can then be consistent and homogeneous. We will be able to interpret each phase of the prophecy from the book of Daniel itself and not be guilty of intimating that the angel Gabriel failed to fulfill his commission to make Daniel understand the vision of the cleansing of the sanctuary. It will be shown that God Himself has clearly spelled out for us the significance of the antitypical day of atonement when all sin, iniquity, and transgression is to be finished, and when everlasting righteousness is to be brought in. All the prophetic promises will then be sealed by their fulfillment, including the promise of the return of God's tabernacle to dwell forever with the children of men. May that day be hastened by our walking in the full light of His Word.

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