Print Friendly and PDF

DISPENSATIONALISM’S DIFFICULTY WITH DANIEL

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  7 Comments

Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy is a popular and intriguing passage. It serves as an important element in dispensational eschatology and theology. Unfortunately, it creates great difficulties for the system, one of which is its important role in dispensationalism.

The chronology Daniel provides in his prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (Da 9:24–27) is a linchpin in the dispensational system. This is unique in that it is not crucial to any of the other millennial systems. And this weakens the dispensational apologetic. A postmillennial view of Daniel’s great prophecy is much more coherent and satisfying, even if less significant for postmillennialism as a system.

John Walvoord comments that the “interpretation of Daniel 9:24–27 is of major importance to premillennialism as well as pretribulationism.” And as such, he continues, it “provides the indispensable chronological key to Bible prophecy.” [1] (By “Bible prophecy” he means “dispensationalism.”)

Indeed, “the dispensational view depends on the validity of interpreting the Seventieth Week eschatologically.” [2] This is because it is “the major biblical prophecy about future events related to the nation of Israel.” [3] Dispensationalists believe that Daniel 9 involves “prophetic postponement” which “is a distinct tenet of dispensational interpretation.” [4] Thus, famed Reformed scholar O. T. Allis correctly observes that “the importance of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks in Dispensational teaching can hardly be exaggerated.” [5]

Dispensationalism’s depending on Daniel 9 is unfortunate for two reasons.

First, historically: This passage is extremely difficult to interpret. J. A. Montgomery calls the prophecy “the Dismal Swamp of Old Testament criticism.” [6] Young concurs: “This prophecy is one of the most difficult in the entire OT” and “the interpretations are almost legion.” [7] Baldwin warns that this prophecy is “the most difficult text in the book.” [8] Miller agrees: “these are four of the most controversial verses in the Bible.” [9]

Second, theologically: This “extremely important prophecy” is the most difficult for dispensationalists to make credible to those outside of their system. Even dispensationalist Robert Culver admits: “The difficulty of the verses that now lie before us is evident.” [10] “Premillennial writers of two or three generations ago were very far apart on the details. Much of the same diversity appears in premillennial contemporary writers.” [11] Kenneth Barker confesses: “It is quickly admitted that these verses are among the most difficult to interpret in Daniel.” [12]

In fact, Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy leads dispensationalism into one of its most strained peculiarities: the doctrine of the gap theory of the Church Age. The dispensational “interpretation requires a prophetic postponement (older writers referred to this as a ‘gap’ or ‘parenthesis’) between the events of verses 26 and 27.”[13] I will study this destructive flaw in a later post.

Though dispensationalists eagerly point to Daniel’s Seventy Weeks as a major cornerstone of their system, they would be better just employing it as a possible element supporting it. We will see how this prophecy generates further problems for dispensationalism.



Footnotes

1. Walvoord in LaHaye, Popular Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, 356.
2. Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, 77–78. Emph. mine.
3. Prophecy Study Bible, 1011.
4. Randall J. Price in Willis, Issues in Dispensationalism,160.
5. Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 111.
6. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, 400.
7. Eerdmans Bible Commentary, 699.
8. Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel (TOTC) (Downers Grove, Ill: Tyndale, 1978), 163.
9. Stephen R. Miller, Daniel (NAC) (Nashville: Broadman, 1994), 252.
10. Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days, 144.
11. Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days, 144.
12. Barker in Campbell and Townsend, Case for Premillennialism, 143 n39.
13. Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, 77.

Print Friendly and PDF

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Posts

Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

7 responses to DISPENSATIONALISM’S DIFFICULTY WITH DANIEL

  1. Kirk DiVietro June 15, 2012 at 6:30

    You do not prove your point by citing a few comments by dispensationalists, and a few derogatory comments of your own. Show the inherent weakness of taking a literal interpretation of the eschatological promises of God if you want to disprove dispensationalism. Then show the biblical basis for a non-literal interpretation prophetic scriptures that can be used to ignore the specific promises of God in favor of your subjective interpretations. Comfort and emotional satisfaction is not the basis of sound hermaneutics.

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. June 15, 2012 at 6:30

      Hang on, Kirk. This is the first of a several article series dealing with Dan 9.

    • Kirk,

      This appears to me a survey of the prevailing popular thoughts among dispy premils w/ regards to Daniel 9: 24-27. Ergo, Ken’s closing statement:”We will see how this prophecy generates further problems for dispensationalism.” An introduction, if you will.

  2. Daniel 9:24-27 is NOT difficult to interpret. It simply means that Daniel was prophecying of the Messiah. This prophecy is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant and happened at Jesus’ baptism. “Behold the Lamb…”. Jesus was cut off in the middled of Daniel’s week at his crucifixion and put an end to sin and sacrifice by His atonement. The rest of the time is sealed up to Daniel (that is the last 3 1/2 years of the seventieth week). It is later opened by the Messiah Himself to John in Revelation. Here we see the final 3-1/2 years during the reign of the antichrist who deceives all those whose names were not written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life.”

    We are living in the Church Age where Jew and Gentile must be made ONE NEW MAN. Then Jesus will return at the last trump.

    It is very simple. No where in Daniel 9:24-27 is it talking about the Antichrist. Jesus is the ONE who put an end to the SACRIFICE because HE IS THE SACRIFICE.

    [email protected]

  3. Kevin Evans June 15, 2012 at 6:30

    I agree with Kathy that Daniel 9:24-27 is not a prophecy about Antichrist. I believe that the Messiah the Prince in the passage is none other than the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. The other prince mentioned in the passage is the first century Roman Prince Titus, who led his Roman forces against the city of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The passage says that in the middle of the week, which is three-and-a-half years, ”He” shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease. I believe that the ”He” is Jesus Christ. His sacrificial death, according to Hebrews, was the final sacrificial offering which had put an end to the Old Testament Levitical sacrificial system. Moreover, Jesus’ ministry on earth lasted for three-and-a-half years. Interestingly, the Great Tribulation, or the Jewish War lasted for three-and-a-half years, from A.D. 66 to A.D. 70. Notice that verse 24 in Daniel 9 says that Messiah shall seal up the vision and prophecy. This means that the canon of Scripture would be closed by A.D. 70. That is why I don’t believe any New Testament books were composed after this important year in Jewish history. Had any of them had been written after Jerusalem’s destruction, you would expect it to have been mentioned by the apostles. Nevertheless, I do believe in a future Antichrist, according to 2 Thessalonians 2. This evil apocalyptic figure will arise in the Last Days of human history to persecute the people of God. His dastardly plans will be frustrated because of the glorious coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I thank God for Dr. Gentry’s ministry. But I wish that he or Gary Demar would write a book which deals exclusively with the Second Coming and the resurrection on the Last Day. Many Dispies have accused Demar, Hank Hanegraaf and David Chilton of not believing in a future second coming and resurrection because of their emphasis on the catastrophic events surrounding Jerusalem’s demise in the first century. I would prefer to read a book dealing with the second coming by Gentry than by,say, a famous prophecy teacher like Hal Lindsey,Grant Jeffrey or John Hagee. These gentlemen have a penchant for making predictions that never come to pass. I left the Dispensational camp because of this.Thank you!

  4. So does Dr. Gentry believe there is a gap in the 70th week, between the middle and the last 3 1/2 years?

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. July 16, 2012 at 6:30

      No. Please read the series. I specifically write that a gap would destroy the whole conception of providing a numbered series of 490 years. And the gap would be four times longer than the actual measuring stick of 490 years. It simply doesn’t make since, in addition to be anti-contextual.

Leave a Reply

Text formatting is available via select HTML.

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> 

*