The Protestant Understanding of Daniel

The Revelation to the Protestants

We will discuss the meaning of the abomination of desolation in more detail, but first let us understand what all Protestant Reformers knew about Daniel’s prophecy of the time, times and half a time.

The Protestant Reformers did not understand the entire Book of Daniel, but they did clearly understand the Kings and Kingdoms prophesied in Chapters 2, and 7. They could easily see the relationship of the Ten States of Europe and the Pope. The Ten States were the Ten kings that came out of the Roman Empire in Chapter 7, and the little horn that came up among these Ten Kings, or Kingdoms.

Beginning with John Wycliffe, in 1376, the Protestants saw the little horn as none other than the Pope.

This gave them the confidence to break free from the Catholic Church, which the Book of Revelation called, “the kingdom of the beast.”

Daniel 1 – Taken into Captivity

In the first verse of the Book of Daniel, we read that the King of Babylon besieged Jerusalem.

Not only did he take the Israelites into Babylon, but he also took some of the articles of the house of God, which he kept in the treasure house of his god.

This helps us to understand the meaning of “mystery Babylon” that we find in the Book of Revelation.  Just as the Israelites and their religion were taken captivity in Babylon, the kingdom of heaven, and the saints, would be taken into captivity in “Mystery Babylon,” by the Bishop of Rome.

Babylon was only one of six great powers that held the saints in captivity.

Assyria and Egypt, had already taken Israel into captivity.

And after Babylon, the Israelites would remain in captivity under Persia, Greece and finally Rome.

The last earthly power to hold the saints in captivity would be a conglomeration of Ten Kingdoms, that Daniel said would come out of the Roman empire.

Daniel’s prophecy begins in the second Chapter.

Daniel 2 – The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar

In Chapter Two, we learn that King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him, and he called all the wise men of Babylon to interpret it.

Not trusting them, he told them that they first had to tell him what the dream was, before they could explain it.

When no one was able to tell him the dream, he began killing all the wise men of Babylon.

But when his soldiers came to Daniel, Daniel begged them for a chance to explain the dream.

Daniel prayed to God, who revealed the dream to him, and its meaning, which Daniel told the King

You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

Daniel 2:31-35

After describing the dream, Daniel explained its meaning:

“You O King … are the head of gold”

“after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours,”

“then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth

“And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron it breaks in pieces and shatters everything”

“Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided – as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed”

Daniel 2:37-43

The identity of the first four kingdoms was already known by the time the Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation. These were Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, the four kingdoms that kept Israel in captivity.

That Stone is Christ.  Isaiah wrote, “Behold, I lay in Zion, a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation, whoever believes will be unshakeable” (Isaiah 28:16). The Spirit of Christ is the foundation, the mountain of the Lord’s House.

The preaching of His Gospel, the message of salvation by faith, by Martin Luther, broke the power of the beast.

The Protestants understood that the Ten toes of King Nebuchadnezzar’s statue represented the Ten States of Europe, that came out of the legs of iron. The alliance of these Ten States with the Pope was broken by the preaching of the Protestant Reformers.

Daniel 7 –  The Four Beasts and the Little Horn

In Chapter 7, Daniel saw four Great beasts, which he called Four Kings and Four Kingdoms.

First, a lion – which we know as  Babylon, symbolized by Nebuchadnezzar the Great.

Second, a bear – the Persian Bear, as it is still called today, symbolized by Cyrus the Great, who had “three ribs in its mouth,” the Median Empire, the Lydian Empire, and finally the Babylonian Empire.

Third, a leopard – Greece, which had the appearance of a leaping leopard; from it came four dominions,  four territories divided amongst the four Generals of Alexander, the Great.

And fourth, an exceedingly dreadful beast having Ten Horns – we know that this beast was Rome, and the power of Rome that continued through a relationship of a little horn with Ten States of Europe. This little horn had the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. 

In verse 8, we are told that the little horn subdued three states, which are the three Latin states of France, Italy and Spain, which are still subdued by Catholicism today. The Latins were the people of the fourth beast, “the people of the Ruler to come,” that Daniel described in Chapter 9.

In Chapter 7, verse 12, we read, “as for the rest of the beasts, (the lion, the leopard, and the bear), they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. “A time” as one year, and “a season” as three months, gives us 457 days, or years, bringing us from the first year of King Belteshazzar (555 BC1) until 98 BC, when the Greek Empire fell to the Romans.

Finally, in verse 24, we read that the “Ten horns are Ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom.”

Of course, more than Ten states came out of the Roman Empire, but only Ten came on the northern territories. They had a relationship with the Pope, who was called “the King of the North” in Chapter 11.

The Protestants had different ways of counting these States, some in the order in which they appeared, but the most credible listing came from Machiavelli, in 1532. He was a supporter of the Catholic Church. 

In his history of Florence, Machiavelli described Ten States as the “irruption of Northern people upon the Roman territories.”

1, the Ostrogoths in Moesia (Rumania);

2, the Visigoths in Pannonia (Austria);

3, the Sueves and Alans in Gascoign and Spain;

4, the Vandals in Africa;

5, the Franks in France;

6, the Burgundians in Burgundy (Germany);

7, the Heruli and Turingi in Italy;

8, the Saxons and Angles in Britain;

9, the Huns in Hungary; and

10, the Lombards at first upon the Danube, afterward in Italy (let’s say Switzerland, where the Language is spoken).

Daniel 8 – The Antichrist

Protestants have different opinions about Daniel 8. Some believe that the “little horn” who exalted himself “as high as the Captain of the Armies,” was Antiochus Epiphanes, and others, like Martin Luther understood the little horn as the Antichrist.

In 1537, Martin Luther wrote:

the Pope is the very Antichrist, who has exalted himself above, and opposed himself against Christ because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power, which, nevertheless, is nothing, and is neither ordained nor commanded by God. This is, properly speaking to exalt himself above all that is called God as Paul says, 2 Thessalonians 2:4.

The Smalcald Articles, II.IV.9.

Daniel 11 – The Pope

The Apostle Paul quoted from Daniel 11 to warn the saints, saying, “it (the Day of Christ) will not come unless the man of sin is revealed … who …sits as God in the temple of God showing himself as God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

From the Apostle Paul, all Protestants understood that the King of the North, in Daniel 11:36-39, was the Pope.

Daniel said he will “magnify himself above every god” and “have no desire of women,” “he will act against the strongest of fortresses,” in the crusades against the fortress of Islam, that were the strongest in the world. Finally, verse 39 says that “he will divide the land for gain.” The Catholic Church is still the largest non-governmental landowner in the world, with 177 million acres.

The Rejection of Prophecy

In the eighteenth Century, all Protestants knew that the “time, times and half a time” was the time of spiritual captivity in the hands of the Bishop of Rome.

But today, there are very few Evangelical Protestants who believe this.

Most Evangelicals now say the “time, times and half a time” is a literal 42-month tribulation. And they debate whether Christ will return before or after this and break themselves into Pre-Trib and Post-Trib camps.

Why is the modern interpretation of Protestants so different from the view universally acknowledged 200 years before?

Because in the nineteenth Century, the Seventh Day Adventist Church successfully argued that if the Pope was “the beast,” then the “mark of the beast” was obviously the changing of the God’s commandment of the Sabbath Day. 

As a result, many Protestant denominations abandoned the understanding of “the beast” that they had held for centuries.

Evangelicals today say that the beast has not yet appeared, and “the mark of the beast” is a microchip that will be implanted in people’s foreheads.

But the 19th Century Protestants simply quoted from the last Chapter of Daniel, to say that the words of his prophecy were sealed up until the time of the end.

  1. Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906,   BELSHAZZAR