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The Prophecies of Daniel: Why They Don't Point to Us

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For Hal Lindsey, every news story is a sign that we are living in the “rapture generation.” It wasn’t too long ago that he claimed in his wildly popular prophetic book The Late Great Planet Earth (1970) that the “this generation” of Matthew 24:34 would end sometime before 1988 (1948+40 years=1988). In an interview published in Christianity Today (April 15, 1977), Ward Gasque asked Lindsey: “But what if you’re wrong?” Lindsey replied: “Well, there’s just a split second’s difference between a hero and a bum. I didn’t ask to be a hero, but I guess I have become one in the Christian community. So I accept it. But if I’m wrong about this, I guess I’ll become a bum.”

Well, Lindsey was wrong, and he didn’t become a bum in the eyes of so many Christians who yearn for the “rapture” and catastrophic world events that will mean the death of billions of people. They seem oblivious to the history of failed predictions, including many made by Lindsey. He still writes and sells books on Bible prophecy, reports on prophetic events on his website, and pens a regular column for WorldNetDaily. His latest end-time prediction is that Daniel 12 is referring to events in our day, more than 2600 years from the time the prophecy was given to Daniel. In reality, Lindsey is reading these prophecies through the interpretive lens of today’s newspaper headlines.[1]

Lindsey begins his exposition by citing the following: “When Daniel emerged from the vision, the angel instructed him, ‘But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase’” (Dan. 12:4). He then adds: “The prophecies of Daniel were indeed ‘sealed’ for centuries following the Reformation.”

Contrast this with what the angel tells John in Revelation 22:10: “And he said to me, ‘Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near.’” If Daniel’s sealed prophecy refers to our day, then to what time does Revelation’s unsealed prophecy refer? Contrary to Lindsey, Revelation reopens the prophecy given to Daniel, a fulfillment that was said to be “near” for John and Revelation’s first readers (Rev. 1:1, 3). The “end time” of Daniel is a fulfilled reality by the time we get to Revelation. We learn from Peter that “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Pet. 4:7), that is, the end of all things related to the old covenant (Heb. 1:1–2; 10:23–25). The destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 brought to an end any need for a temple, high priest, or animal sacrifices.

Lindsey sees modern-day technological advancements as a fulfillment of Daniel 12.

The angel told Daniel his vision would be unintelligible to generations other than the one to whom it was addressed, a generation whose hallmark would be that of ever-increasing knowledge.

Thanks to Bell Labs’ 1948 invention [of the transistor], Moore’s Law of Computer says that today’s computers get twice as smart every 18 months to two years. That means we get twice as smart.

The angel also identified the generation of the time of the end as one in which “many would go to and fro”—the generation that witnessed the birth of rapid mass transportation.

Many run “to and fro,” knowledge is increasing at an exponential rate, and more books have been written about the prophet Daniel in this generation than in the last 2,500 years combined.

Like so much of Lindsey’s prophetic speculation, his exegesis is guided more by newspaper headlines than the Bible. John Cumming (1807–1881), one of Lindsey’s favorite prophecy writers, practiced a similar form of “newspaper exegesis” in his day. Robert H. Ellison, in an insightful study of Cumming’s views on Bible prophecy, makes the following observation: “[Cumming] asserts that it is ‘neither hasty nor irrelevant’ to compare ‘ancient prophecy’ with daily press reports and states that ‘This use of the modern newspaper is all the originality I claim.’”[2] Here are some examples of Cumming’s “newspaper exegesis” as detailed by Ellison:

Cumming’s use of current events to interpret ancient Scripture gets rather ingenious at times. He claims, for example, that Daniel’s phrase ‘And knowledge shall be increased’ [Dan. 12:4] can also be translated ‘And knowledge shall be flashed along’, a rendering which anticipates the telegraph, the ‘mysterious whispering wire’[3] that can transmit a message to ‘the most distant capital of Europe’ in less than an hour’s time. Even more inventive is his interpretation of the prophecy he sees in Isaiah 18:1–2—‘Woe to the land . . . beyond the rivers of Ethiopia: That sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes upon the waters’. He asserts that the phrase ‘vessels of bulrushes’ is literally ‘vessels of that which drinks water’, a phrase which may have perplexed the translators working in 1611 [when the King James version of the Bible was published] but which can now be seen as a reference to the steamship, a ‘vessel whose . . . motive force from beginning to end, is water’.[4]

Cumming also saw “railway traveling”[5] as a reference to “many shall run to and fro” (Dan. 12:4). Current prophecy writers like Lindsey are just as ingenious when they see modern transportation systems and computer technology as a fulfillment of Daniel 12:4.[6]

[1] Hal Lindsey, “The Prophecies of Daniel: Why They Point to Us” (August 24, 2007): [2] Robert H. Ellison, “John Cumming and His Critics: Some Victorian Perspectives on the End Times,” Leeds, Centre Working Papers in Victorian Studies: Platform Pulpit Rhetoric, ed. Martin Hewitt, vol. 3 (Horsforth, Leeds: Leeds Centre for Victorian Studies, 2000), 83, note 20.[4] John Cumming, Behold, The Bridegroom Cometh: The Last Warning Cry with Reasons for the Hope That is in Me (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1865), 357–358. Also see pages 189–190[4] Ellison, “John Cumming and His Critics,” 77.[5] Quoted in Ellison, “John Cumming and His Critics,” 79.[6] Ed Hindson and Lee Fredrickson, Future Wave: End Times Prophecy, and the Technology Explosion (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2001); Peter Lalonde and Paul Lalonde, Racing Toward . . The Mark of the Beast: Your Money, Computers, and the End of the World (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1994).

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