Does Daniel Predict the Future? Avoid Sensationalism

 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me.  I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this.”  — Daniel 7:15-16

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The Vision of the Four Beasts, Gustave Dore

Daniel’s visions were predictions of future events, events that are very important to the Kingdom of God breaking into this world in new way.  There are conflicting approaches to understanding Daniel’s prophecies (and Revelation), so there must be a good deal of error floating around.  I’m devoting the next several blog posts to suggest some principles (or caution lights) for how Daniel’s visions should be interpreted and applied today.  (Full Disclosure: The blog series is based on the work of John Calvin, Iain M. Duguid, Tremper Longman, R.C. Sproul)

Daniel’s visions of the future are always relevant to Christians.  However, disturbing world events make it easy for the church to become obsessed with the images of Daniel and Revelation.  And I’m not just talking about Harold Camping.

The turbulent 60’s created a strong market for Hal Lindsay’s The Late Great Planet Earth.  The Gulf War did the same for John Walvoord’s Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis.  Tim LaHaye has done the same with his Left Behind series.  This obsession is nothing new.  The Pope, the French Revolution, dictatorships of every generation have been linked to Daniel’s visions.

Suffice it to say I have serious reservations about books like these, and I would urge anyone who reads Daniel 7-12 (and Revelation) to do so without using them as study guides. In other words, read Daniel and Revelation with caution and humility, and resist sensationalism.

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About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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