Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Daniel 7; What does Pre-Advent Mean Anyway

The Lesson Study Guide for this week begins with the following assertion:

“In short, in Daniel 7 we are shown the pre-Advent judgment.”

“Pre” means before something. “Advent” means:

  1. the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
  2. the second coming of Jesus Christ.

--Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

Clearly the term pre-Advent judgment covers a lot of territory. There are numerous judgment made in the Old Testament for instance. The Judgment of Egypt described in Exodus 7:4 “he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.” (NIV) The judgment on Edom; Isaiah 34:5 “My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; see, it descends in judgment on Edom, the people I have totally destroyed.” (NIV) Numerous judgments could be listed and most of the judgments fit into that wide time frame of before the incarnation and before the second coming.

We can safely assume that the term pre-advent judgment has a different meaning for the author of the lesson study, though no definition of the term has been given so far, in the lesson study guide it is treated as a fait accompli that Daniel 7 shows us the pre-advent judgment. As with much of this study guide the conclusions have been made and the guide is not meant to study the Biblical messages but to support the traditional conclusions.

The lesson for Sunday states of the four beasts in Daniel 7:

“Scholars have long recognized them as the following: Babylon (lion) Media-Persia (bear) Greece (leopard) Rome (fourth beast).”
There is very widespread agreement on the first three of these beasts among Christians. The reason is not so much scholarly discernment as it is based upon the interpretations given in the book of Daniel itself. In Daniel 8:19-22 we read the interpretations; “He said: ‘I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between his eyes is the first king.”’ Since each of the visions have similarities it is easily assumed that they are each dealing with the same kingdoms with simply each vision adding more detail. Daniel 2 had already related that the first kingdom was Babylon (Daniel 2:38-39). It appears the vision in Daniel 2 was a general outline: the vision of Daniel 7 gets more detailed. Though the time frame without further specifics can refer to different things, likely why there are many different theories about the various prophecies of Daniel.

Tuesday’s lesson is about the little horn power. It is assumed that the reformation held the little horn to be the antichrist, that the little horn is the Roman Catholic Church defined by the papacy. Historically speaking the 10 horns of Daniel 7 do not work out well to indicate the rise of the Roman Catholic Church or as Adventists like to call it Papal Rome. See The Ten Horns Of Daniel 7 An Historical Perspective

John Wesley saw the fourth beast as Rome and the little horn of Daniel 7 as “Probably either the Turk or the Romish antichrist” but the horn of Daniel 8 was “This little horn was Antiochus Epiphanes.” See Wesley’s commentary; Calvin’s Commentary on Daniel 7 says: “For as to the Pope having erected his own throne there, this empire is unworthy of the name of monarchy; but whatever be our view of this point, for about 1500 years the Romans have been in bondage as slaves to foreign princes. For, after the death of Nero:, Trajan was his successor, and from that time scarcely a single Roman obtained the empire; and God branded it with the, most disgraceful marks of ignominy, when a swine-herd was created emperor, and that too by the lust of the soldiery! The senate retained its name till then; But. if it pleased the soldiers to create any one a Caesar, the senate was immediately compelled to submit to their dictation. Thus, the Prophet with great propriety says, The beast was slain shortly after the promulgation of the gospel. Then the presumptuous speaking of the little horn was at an end, and the fourth beast was extinct about the same time. For then no Roman became an Emperor who claimed for himself any share of power; but Rome itself fell into disgraceful slavery, and not only foreigners reigned there most shamefully, but even barbarians, swine-herds, and cow-herds! All this occurred in fulfillment of what God had shown to his Prophet, namely, after the coming of Christ and the opening of the books, that is — after the knowledge which shone upon the world through the preaching of the gospel — the destruction of that fourth beast and of the Roman empire was close at hand.”

The Lesson Study guide concludes Tuesday’s lesson on the little horn with the comment:

All these attributes have been powerfully and graphically recorded in history. There's no question here regarding the identity of this little-horn power.”
Historically among Christians there is no consensus about the little horn power and the idea that Adventists are just carrying on the Reformation tradition is not really true though often presented that way. There were numerous views during the Reformation about the little horn and Daniel. The assumption that it is only referring to the Papacy is an over simplification.

The lesson on Wednesday is unusually nonspecific when dealing with the 1,260 (time times and half a time). Normally Adventists give a date of 538-1798 but perhaps people are finally learning that 538 is rather non important as an historical date. It was accepted for so long because of the lack of understanding of the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Rome, the continuation of the Roman Empire) and the political maneuvering between different factions. The historical accuracy of dates has always been a problem for the Year-day principle as we will no doubt see when the lesson moves to that subject. Even in the SDA church there are different explanations for why the year 538 is used. The two most popular are that it was that year that the Emperor wrote some document that gave the papacy power and the other view is that the date was the fall of the Ostrogoths. Whatever reason is given it is very likely that the method for arriving at that date was developed using the common Millerite interpretation which saw 1798 as the fall of the Papacy when the Pope was taken captive. Working backworks 1260 years rendered 538 from that point all that is needed was to manufacture an event. In any case the Ostrogoths were not destroyed in 538 nor was there a significant document that empowered the Papacy. The 1798 date is used to substantiate the event of 1844 using the idea that the capture of the Pope is the destruction of the little horn power.

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