The Bible Specifically Demonstrates Historicism
In this session first we’re going to look at how the Bible teaches us to interpret prophecy, and how the Bible specifically demonstrates the historical method of interpretation. If we want to know how we should understand prophecy and the Book of Revelation, well it needs to be understood historically, that is if we’re going to take our cue from God’s Word itself. Because I believe the only way that we can rightly divide and teach and understand the Word of God and prophecy in the Word of God is by looking to the Word of God to be our teacher. So we’re going to do a little bit more of that today.
First looking at Daniel chapter 2, and I’m not going to go deeply into Daniel chapter 2 because everyone can do this on their own, and many of you already have, as we’ve talked about Daniel chapter 2 many times here. But in Daniel chapter 2 Nebuchadnezzar is given a dream and of course he won’t tell anybody the dream because he doesn’t trust his servants and soothsayers and all of the wise men of his kingdom, because he thinks they’ll just make something up. So he throws down the gauntlet so to speak and he gives them a challenge that no mere mortal can meet, and that is that they must tell him the dream and the interpretation! Well only one man can step up because Daniel though he is a mere mortal he has a line to someone who is immortal, and that someone would be the God of Israel, and our God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So this dream is a history in advance and it’s an overview of the entire history of the world from Babylon when the dream and the interpretation is given to Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel, an overview of history until Christ comes again and establishes his kingdom for the millennial reign. And there are no time gaps for us to fill in this vision, no period of time is left out. So if you have anything that doesn’t fit into this, what I call a template for that period of history, everything has to fit in there, and if it doesn’t fit in there then you can just toss it out. But it doesn’t go into detail, like I said, it is an overview, so filling in the details is where the rest of the prophecy comes in. What this demonstrates is our principle of prophecy given and prophecy fulfilled and verified in history. This Image dream is like a chart that we can pin point our position in time.
Now we’re going to jump to Daniel chapter 11 because Daniel chapter 11 is kind of like the book of Revelation. The Revelation, according to this historical method that we learned from the Bible itself, is a contiguous history given advance much like Daniel chapter 11. So we’re going to do a little overview of Daniel chapter 11 so I can show you how God has revealed to us a historical method, so let’s take a look at Daniel chapter 11 quickly.
Daniel 11:2, Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.
This prophecy was given in the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia 535 BCE. The next three Medo-Persian kings after Cyrus were: (1) his son, Cambyses II 530-522 BCE; (2) Gaumata the Magian, also known as the pseudo-Smerdis – 522 BCE; and (3) the Persian Darius I the Great – 522-486 BCE. (4) The fourth king was Xerxes 486-465 BCE.
Daniel 11 3, Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will.
After the military defeat of Xerxes by the Greeks, a number of additional Persian kings ruled the empire. But Xerxes had set the stage for a strong Greek ruler to arise. This ruler was the Macedonian Alexander the Great, who defeated Persian King Darius III Codomannus in 333 BCE at the battle of Issus (located on the Mediterranean coast in what is now southeast Turkey). This defeat signaled the beginning of the end of the Persian Empire.
At the height of his power, Alexander conquered and ruled an empire that stretched from southern Europe to North Africa to central Asia. But the Greek empire of Alexander was not destined to endure. He fell ill and died on June 10, 323 BCE in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon.
Daniel 11 4, And when he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not among his posterity nor according to his dominion with which he ruled; for his kingdom shall be uprooted, even for others besides these.
Alexander left a huge empire at his death. His family and his generals jostled for control of this kingdom. When the dust settled, only two of his top officers remained alive. His other generals, his mother, his wife, his son, his illegitimate son, his sister, his half-sister, and his half-brother, were all dead. Of this group, only one general (Antipater) died of natural causes.
After much fighting and jockeying for position, Alexander’s empire was divided into four major portions by 301 BCE: (1) Cassander ruled over Greece, (2) Lysimachus ruled in Asia Minor, (3) Seleucus I Nicator ruled in Babylon and Persia, and (4) Ptolemy I Soter ruled over the Holy Land and Egypt.
Daniel 11-5 Also the king of the South shall become strong, as well as one of his princes; and he shall gain power over him and have dominion. His dominion shall be a great dominion.
Twenty years later (281 BCE), when Seleucus I killed Lysimachus in battle, only two dynasties remained in Alexander’s old empire – the Seleucid kings in the north and the Ptolemaic kings in the south.
So you see the history following, fulfilling the prophecy here. Now I’m not going to go through the entire history right now, but it’s there and if someone wants to search “Daniel 11 history” more detail of history as well as imputed futurist speculation will avail when you research it for yourself. For now I’m going to jump ahead and move towards the end of this era covered by Daniel chapter 11 – this is primarily the era of the Seventy Weeks period, which is the focus as an era of the prophecy given in Daniel chapter 11. So we move forward in time toward end of the era here, from v. 5 to v. 36, and where the futurist want to insert another gap. We’re looking at:
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: for that that is determined shall be done.
Now you can see why the futurists want to move this off with their gap, so they can apply it so their speculated future Antichrist. But there’s nothing in the text to move this off into the future. In this verse, the king being spoken of changes. Starting in verse 21, Antiochus IV Epiphanes was the referenced king. Verses 32 through 35 prophesy his defeat by the Maccabees (the Hasmoneans) and encompass the subsequent fall of their dynasty. But the context shows that the remaining verses in this chapter cannot apply to Antiochus IV.
Most Christian scholars (Futurists) try to insert a huge chronological gap in the prophecy here, making the rest of it apply not to the antetype Antiochus IV, but to the end-time type, the counter-reformation Antichrist. But staying in the time sequence context earlier alluded to by Gabriel (Dan. 11:1), what should we expect to see next in this prophecy? Was there a king who ruled Israel after the end of the Hasmonean era?
So let’s take each attribute individually:
“the king shall do according to his will”
The first thing said of this king is that he would “do according to his own will.” While most take this to mean that the king would do as he pleased, it is instructive to see how this phrase is used elsewhere in the prophecy. In Daniel 11:3, we see that it is said of Alexander the Great that he would “do according to his will.” Similar words are used of Antiochus the Great in Daniel 11:16. This means more than simply a strong-willed ruler who did things his own way. Both of these rulers (Alexander and Antiochus III) were exceptionally successful in achieving their goals.
Success in achieving and maintaining power also defined Herod the Great. History shows that Herod was an Idumean (the Edomites were forcibly converted to Judaism under the Hasmonean ruler John Hyrcanus about 130 BCE). His father Antipater II, a friend and advisor of Hasmonean ruler Hyrcanus II, was made procurator of Judea by Julius Caesar. In that position, Antipater II made Herod the governor of Galilee at the age of 25 in 47 BCE. Herod ingratiated himself with Rome following the assassination of Julius Caesar and eventually married Mariamne, a granddaughter of Hyrcanus II (even though he was already married with a young son). Due to a recommendation by Hyrcanus II (as well as a bribe paid to Roman ruler Mark Antony), Herod was appointed as a tetrarch over Judea in 41 BCE.
Shortly thereafter, the Parthians overran Judea in 40 BCE and installed Antigonus, the Hasmonean brother of Hyrcanus II, as king. Herod fled and eventually came to Rome, where he was appointed king of Judea by Gaius Octavius (the grandnephew of Julius Caesar) and Mark Antony. He left Rome with an army and by 37 BCE had captured Judea and deposed Antigonus. He bribed Antony to have Antigonus killed, lest his claims to the Judean throne be found to be more legitimate than Herod’s own. All in all, Herod’s rise to power showed that he was very successful at doing “according to his own will.”
Viewing the expression in the sense of doing as he pleased, history shows that Herod was ruthless and cruel in doing his own will. He did not hesitate to murder those he considered to be threats to his rule, including Hyrcanus II and almost the entire Hasmonean line. Even those closest to him, his own family, were not safe. Herod had his beloved wife, Mariamne, executed on a trumped-up charge of adultery, as well as three of his own sons because he suspected them of conspiring to take his throne. These and other deeds of evil willfulness characterized his entire reign.
“he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god”
The word god here is the Hebrew el which can refer to priests, judges or rulers. It is clear that Herod exalted and magnified himself above all of these in Israel,. He appointed whomever he chose to the sacred office of high priest. However, because he owed true allegiance only to himself in his lust for absolute power, Herod truthfully could be said to have exalted and magnified himself above all other gods (including the God of Israel, whose will he attempted to thwart by destroying the promised Messiah).
“shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods”
The Hebrew word, here marvelous, is rendered blasphemies in some translations, but actually means astonishing (in a negative sense). This charge against Herod primarily refers to his command to slaughter the male babies of Bethlehem. This was done for the express purpose of destroying the coming Messiah, the prophesied King of Israel (Matt. 2:4), the one God had promised to send. Herod chose to act directly against God’s will in this way to ensure that his throne would not be taken over by the rightful heir. It continues:
Daniel 11 37, He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all.
Again the Futurist’s take this and they place it not contiguously, but after a long gap, into a future speculation that mirrors the counter-reformation Antichrist scheme of the Jesuit Ribera. Let us rather here consider a more biblical and historical interpretation:
“He shall regard neither the God of his fathers”
Even though Herod was an Idumean (a descendant of Esau), his family had converted to Judaism in the 2nd century BCE. Therefore, Herod was generally regarded as a Jew. In fact, when addressing the Jewish people, Herod customarily used the expression “our fathers” to emphasize his genealogical ties to the patriarchs. Yet Herod promoted Greek and Roman gods and built the port city of Caesarea (named after the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus), which became a symbol in Jewish eyes of everything pagan. In Caesarea, Herod built a huge temple dedicated to the worship of Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor/god. Additionally, he built temples dedicated to Augustus in Sebaste (the rebuilt city of Samaria) and Panias (a city long associated with the worship of the pagan god Pan). He also supported the restoration of the temple of Pythian Apollo on the Greek island of Rhodes, participated in the building of the temple to Ba’al Shamim at Si’a, and contributed to temples in Tyre and Sidon. Herod also extensively remodeled the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, but then placed a huge golden Roman eagle at the main entrance, which religious Jews saw as a blasphemous idol. A group of Torah students destroyed this emblem of idolatry, earning themselves the fate of being burned alive by Herod. Herod’s regard was for the benefits that he could achieve by supporting various gods; his religion was one of expedience, not conviction. He exalted himself above all the gods.
“nor [shall he regard] the desire of women”
The phrase the desire of women has been variously understood and most Futurist gurus have the opinion that this, speaking of the end-time Antichrist, that this indicates that he will have no desire for women, so that he may be a homosexual, but biblically speaking, this is far from the intended meaning of the phrase. In Haggai 2:7 the messiah is called the “desire of all nations.” The exact same Hebrew word is used in that verse and in Dan. 11 37.
It was the hope of every religious Jewish woman that she might be the mother of the prophesied Messiah, the seed of the woman. Therefore it was primarily the Messiah who was the desire of Jewish women. Additionally children in general were the desire of women, or at least in a time when women actually believed that children were a blessing, and they weren’t killing their babies by abortion, or like the heathen, throwing them into the fire or leaving them to die on the rocks somewhere.
The fact that Herod had attempted to murder the infant Messiah by destroying numerous babies shows that he had no regard for the maternal nature of women. Herod exalted himself above all by valuing his own grasp of power and position above everyone and everything else, including the God of Israel and His Messiah.
Daniel 11 38, But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things.
The Roman emperors proclaimed themselves to be gods, and it was by their military forces and fortresses that they enlarged and sustained their power and their empire. Herod was quick to honor the warring Roman rulers with tribute and building projects. He rebuilt many fortresses in the land as well as the temples previously mentioned. He rebuilt the ancient Phoenician coastal fort called Strato’s Tower and renamed it Caesarea in honor of Caesar Augustus; he rebuilt Samaria, and renamed it Sebaste. He built many other fortified cities and named them in honor of Caesar. Herod also introduced Greek-style games in honor of Caesar. He often sent delegations to Rome to deliver valuable gifts and money to show his respect to Caesar.
And Daniel continues on… But, I think I’ve demonstrated adequately, contrary to the futurist contention, that there is no gap here, and in this case it is certainly contiguous, as it brings us up of course to Herod and the time when Jesus was born.
So what is our conclusion? The expanse of the prophecy record in Daniel 11 highlights the political maneuverings of the powers which fought over and ruled in and about Judea throughout the period of the 70 weeks, in much the same way that the Revelation records in advance, the political maneuvering of the powers which fought over and ruled over God’s church during what we’ll just call, for expedience, the Christian era: The era from the giving the Revelation to the time that Jesus returns. This is the primary focus of the book of Revelation. It is a contiguous prophecy covering the entire era, much more complicated than the chapter 11 prophecy of the 490 years of the Daniel 70 weeks, because it’s a much greater era. We’re already exceeding four times the duration of the 490 years of the 70 weeks of Daniel. And of course the book of Revelation is a whole lot more, because it goes off into the millennium, and then it goes off into the new heaven and new earth. You also have the epistles to the seven churches opening the Revelation: the things that are; and the things that shall “shortly come to pass,” following.
The era of the 490 years is a lesson for us now. If you open up Daniel chapter 11 and you don’t know any history, and you never before heard any of the things that I just read, chapter 11 would sound like a lot of nonsense to you. Well then try opening the Revelation, and if you don’t know any of the history, and you don’t know any futurism or anything, well it would sound like a lot of nonsense as well.
When the historicist, such as E. B. Elliot, looked back at the history and tried to fit it in the Revelation, he would see some things that clearly fit, but some things are questionable because we mere mortals, though we know some history, we can never see all things on the ground like God sees them, and it would take an incredible amount of research to ferret out every detail. When God was giving the prophecy there would be a few people that would see these things and record them in history, and that’s where much of the history I’m sharing with you comes from, from historians that recorded that history, with no eye toward prophecy, making their witness even more credible, leading some to believe that God’s hand was on the varied Historian as well.
Thus we have plenty of history to fill in the Revelation, and that’s what books like History Unveiling Prophecy, and the great Horae Apocalypticae, which we are republishing in a hardback for those who want them, who want a scholarly library form; you can also look at the text on this for free before you buy, it’s available at HoraeApocalypticae.wordpress.com. You can see the actual text as it appears in our finished Reformation Quincentennial Edition. E B Elliot’s great work has over 10,000 footnotes to historical references to validate and verify the work. Remember, God is the one who gives us in his word a historical method of interpreting Bible prophecy, and when you consider that the entire Bible is a book of history, and some of it is prophecy, history given advance, some of it even has the fulfillment or gives the interpretation in some places, or recorded later by later authors whom God chose to pen his word following, they wrote of the events that fulfilled prior prophecy that was given by prior prophets that God chose to pen his word.
So we use God’s Word to interpret His word. That is the key to understanding, whether it’s prophecy or anything else, we use God’s Word to interpret His word. Also God’s Word is its own dictionary, I mean this is fantastic when you learn this. You get your E-sword or one of your electronic Bibles out there, get the authorized King James Version, the best English version we have, ok, I’m not saying it’s a perfect translation but it is the best translation we have because the spirit of the word of God, is spirit and it is life. It’s not in the cold dead letters written on parchment or paper, without the Spirit of God, it is meaningless, but with the Spirit of God, you have the best translation in the authorized King James Version for the English-speaking people. Do you want to use it as its own dictionary? You highlight a word in the Hebrew or Greek and you look up that word, then you study how that word is used everywhere in the scripture and you’ll get a bible definition and you’ll realize that a lot of these words can mean several different things, but they are context sensitive and we can learn the difference this way.
The defense of historicism as a method of interpretation in my way of thinking it’s a no brainer. You either go with it or you just don’t understand God’s Word. If God’s Word cannot interpret itself then we’re all left out here with nothing to go on – we’re just making it up or using our own imagination, which is what most of these futurists and a lot of these prophecy pundits, that’s all they do. They just make stuff up continually. We don’t want to be numbered amongst them, we want the truth, the Holy Spirit truth of God’s Word. You know that you have a sure interpretation because you’re getting your interpretation from the one who wrote the book.