Sacred Cow: “…anything that is considered to be immune from question or criticism.” There are interpretations of end time prophecy that have become sacred cows—interpretations that are so widely accepted that any challenge to their veracity will be met with great resistance. In this post, I want to address one of those sacred cows. It’s the idea that Daniel’s 70th week is divided up into three sections: pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib. The sacred cow I’m addressing is the idea that the entirety of Daniel’s 70th week is the tribulation. The tribulation, however, is not seven years long. Its entire length of time is only 3 ½ years.
Matthew 18:16 says, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” There are several “witnesses” in end time prophecy that all agree the tribulation period is only 3 ½ years long. The very first “witness” that says the tribulation period is only 3 ½ years is in Daniel’s vision of the four beasts. Are you ready for this sacred cow to be knocked over? If yes, then keep reading.
DANIEL’S VISION OF FOUR BEASTS
By Karen Thompson
Fifth in a Five-Part Series
This is the fifth in a five-part series on Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts. In the last post, we looked at how God will judge the beasts that have persecuted and abused Israel and the Jewish people. In this final post, we see Daniel asking one of the angels for the interpretation of what he just saw in his vision. We will be studying the portion of scripture in Daniel 7:15–28.
Dan. 7:15 I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 16 I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. 17 These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even for ever and ever.
At this point, the vision has come to an end. Now Daniel tells us he was grieved in his spirit because the visions of the beasts troubled him. He asked the heavenly messenger standing beside him in the vision to tell him “the truth of all this.” He wants the interpretation of the vision. The messenger gave Daniel the interpretation, and additional details come to light. Though we’ve already looked at these verses, they’re worth repeating.
In verses 17–18, the heavenly messenger explained to Daniel that the four beasts were four kings/nations in the earth. Then he said, but “the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even for ever and ever.” What this means is that after these four kingdoms have come and gone, it is at that time the saints of God will take the kingdom of man and possess it forever and ever.
At first, this statement seems contradictory, because, after all, didn’t the verse right before this say the Son of man would be given the kingdom? Both statements are correct. Both the Messiah and the saints will take and possess the kingdom. The book of Revelation says the saints will help Messiah rule His kingdom. Revelation 12:5 says the saints of God will help Him rule the nations with a rod of iron. Then in Revelation 2:26–27, it says helping Messiah rule the nations is one of the overcomer’s rewards. When the little horn is defeated and is judged by the Father God, the times of the Gentiles will have come to an end. That’s when the children of Israel will finally step into their calling as that holy, set apart nation and will help Messiah rule His kingdom—“forever and even for ever and ever.”
Daniel Asks for the Interpretation of the Beast and Ten Horns
Dan. 7:19 Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; 20 And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. 21 I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22 Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
In this section of scripture, Daniel requests more specific information about the last beast, the one with ten horns and the little horn. Daniel said he wanted to know the truth of the fourth beast that was different from the other beasts that had iron teeth and brass nails. He wanted to understand about the fourth beast that was so dreadful, breaking his prey in pieces and then stomping it with his feet; and the ten horns on the head with the little horn coming up and displacing three of the ten horns. He especially wanted to know about the unique horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things.
Lastly, Daniel wanted understanding about the war between the little horn and the saints saying, “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (vv. 21–22).
Dan. 7:23 Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. 24 And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. 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: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. 26 But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 27 And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. 28 Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.
Verse 23 is the beginning of the messenger’s interpretation of the fourth kingdom with the ten horns: “The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.” As already discussed earlier, the fourth kingdom is the end time Antichrist kingdom. Let’s first clarify the statement made by the messenger when he said the fourth beast “shall devour the whole earth.” When he says the “whole earth,” it makes is sound as though the fourth beast/king will rule over all the nations of the earth. But that is not the case.
There are three main reasons why that will not be the case. First, Revelation 6:8 makes it clear that Antichrist will have power over only a fourth part of the earth, not the whole earth: “And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” This turbulent time on the earth will involve several nations, and though it is not yet apparent in this vision, Daniel’s following visions make it understood all the nations in the fourth part of the world will be located in the Middle East. The Antichrist kingdom will affect the whole world, but he will not rule over the whole world… just that one-fourth part of the world.
The second reason we know Antichrist will not rule all the world, because the horns on the beast’s head tell us all we need to know about his kingdom. The ten horns indicate that Antichrist’s kingdom will be ten nations strong. Yet he himself will have actually only conquered three of those kingdoms; that is symbolized by the uprooting of three horns by the little horn. The other horns are not conquered by Antichrist. Revelation 17 tells us these kingdoms will submit, or surrender, their kingdom to Antichrist. Antichrist’s empire will be ten nations; ten nations is not the whole earth.
The third reason we know Antichrist will not rule the whole world is that common sense tells us it would be impossible for Antichrist to rule the entire world, because of the short time in which he has to go forth and conquer. At this point in time, there are 196 nations in the earth. That is not enough time to conquer the whole world. In this case, the expression “whole earth” would be better translated as the “whole land.”
Then the messenger explained the ten horns and the little horn: “And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings” (v. 24). As we’ve already established, the ten horns symbolize ten kings. These ten kings will be already established in their place of power, and after they are in place, an eleventh king will come on the scene. He will uproot, or conquer, three of these kings.
The Little Horn Interpreted
Verses 25 and 26 talk specifically about the little horn: “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: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.”
Verse 25 tells us five things about the little horn. The first thing the messenger says about the little horn is “he shall speak great words against the most High….” This is in reference to the blasphemous nature of this king, saying great things against God. It’s important to note that this is the first thing that is said about him. He will be a blasphemer, always railing against God. It will be his most notable characteristic.
The second thing that is said about the little-horn king is that he “shall wear out the saints of the most High….” This is speaking about the little horn’s constant persecution and war against those that worship God the Father. His persecution of those that worship God is due to his blasphemous nature. Antichrist will be an enemy of God, and as a result, those who worship God will be his enemies as well; therefore, that’s his motive for “wearing out” the saints of God. The book of Revelation sheds a little more light on the situation. Antichrist will declare he is god and demand everyone must worship him (Rev. 13:15–17). Those that refuse to worship his image will be killed by the personage known as the false prophet.
Thirdly, Antichrist will make an attempt “to change the times and the law.” The Amplified Bible translates that phrase as “and think to change the time [of sacred feasts and holy days] and the law.” Some Bible scholars surmise this means he will make decrees against God and His Word, making laws that forbid anyone to worship God under the threat of death. No one is exactly sure what this phrase means, but it can be confidently asserted that it has something to do with God and spiritual matters.
The Length Antichrist Will Occupy Jerusalem
Now we come to the phrase which gives us the first “witness” that the tribulation period described in the book of Revelation is only 3 ½ years long. Remember, “in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established (Matt. 18:16). This is only the first witness and, as such, doesn’t give us a complete picture, but when you add all the witnesses together, there is absolutely no doubt that the tribulation is only 3 ½ years long.
Here is the last part of verse 25: “and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” The phrase “given into his hand” means the Jewish people will fall under the power of Antichrist when he invades Jerusalem. Revelation 12:2 confirms Antichrist invades Jerusalem: “the Gentiles … will trample the holy city [Jerusalem] underfoot” (Amp.).
Now let’s examine the phrase that tells us how long it says Jerusalem will be given into his hand: “a time and times and the dividing of time.” This odd phrasing “a time, and times, and a dividing of time” equals 3 ½ years. How do we know that? We know it because the book of Revelation tells us.
In Revelation, we are told the length of time the Gentiles (Antichrist) will occupy Jerusalem in three different ways. First, Revelation 11:4 tells us how long the Gentiles will occupy Jerusalem in months: “for it is given unto the Gentiles [Antichrist]: and the holy city [Jerusalem] shall they tread under foot forty and two months” (KJV). Forty-two months equals 3 ½ years!
Next, Revelation 12:6 tells us the woman (who symbolizes the Jewish people) will flee into the wilderness to get away from the Antichrist who has just invaded Jerusalem: “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days” (KJV). In this verse, we are told how long the Jewish people will live in the wilderness: “a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” The word “score” is a Middle English word that means 20. That configures to 1,260 days which could also be defined as 42 months or 3 ½ years.
Now let’s look at this same phrasing “a time, times, and a half a time.” Revelation 12:14 talks again about how the woman (who symbolizes the Jewish people) will flee into the wilderness away from Antichrist for “a time, and times, and half a time.” We can deduce this phrasing (a time, and times, and half a time) means 3 ½ years because of how it previously described their time in the wilderness as 1,260 days. One thousand two hundred sixty days (1,260) equals 3 ½ years (using the Jewish lunar calendar of 30-day months). From this, we can correctly deduce the phrase “time, times, and a half of times” refers to a year, two years, and a half a year—exactly 3 ½ years. Tribulation begins when Antichrist invades Jerusalem and occupies it for the last half of Daniels’ 70th week. As I said, this is only the first hint that tells us the length of the tribulation is only 3 ½ years.
I know this one verse of scripture is not enough to change your mind about the tribulation being seven years long. I’m just saying this is the first witness. There are more. And by the time you see all the witnesses that say the tribulation is only 3 ½ years, you’ll agree with me!
Little Horn Kingdom Is Judged
Then verse 26 says about the little horn, “But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.” The phrase “the judgment shall sit…” is another way of saying the court is now in session. This court of heaven will be set up to judge these end time events. The first time we see this court in Revelation, they are sitting in their seats ready to judge end time events: “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold” (Rev. 4:4). Throughout the book of Revelation, this court of 24 elders makes declarations about the events taking place. The last part of verse 26 tells us the court’s final judgment for Antichrist will be that “they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.” Antichrist’s kingdom will be destroyed and it will never rise again.
The Saints Rule the Kingdom
Verse 27 tells us about a change of government and dominion: “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” After the kingdom of Antichrist is destroyed, the people of God will be given dominion on the earth to rule and reign with Christ. The last phrase says, “all dominions shall serve and obey him.” The kingdom and influence of Antichrist will be only one-fourth of the world, which will be the Middle East. But this verse is telling us “all dominions,” meaning every nation will be under the rule of Messiah and His holy set-apart nation.
Finally, Daniel shared the emotional and mental state of mind he was left with after the vision was over: “Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart” (v. 28). This vision affected Daniel greatly. His thoughts were troubled by what he saw in the vision of the four beasts. Daniel said his countenance changed within him, which means his state of mind was changed by the vision. It changed him greatly and not for the good. He was devastated by the revelations God had shown him.
We have come to the end of our study of Daniel’s vision of the four beasts. Our next series will be Daniel’s vision of the ram and goat.
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