Reading Daniel is much like reading Revelation, primarily because both belong to the same type of literature. For millennia, people have argued over Revelation, whether it is literal, metaphorical, future prophecy or past history. But the problem is that we once again put our modern assumptions upon the bible. We do not read the book in its context or as it’s style requires.
Like reading a poem as historical fact, or a fantasy book as a medical textbook, we read Revelation and put our own assumptions upon it. Revelation is written in a form of literature called Apocalyptic literature. In it, the writer is using symbols and images to portray what he sees and knows and experiences. An example follows:
“In the last days, the spider roamed the land, devouring everyone before it. It attacked God’s people who found
no refuge and were killed by the spiders poison breath. From the edge of the sea, the dragon arose and joined the spider in its conquest. The Dragon rose and attacked the mighty Eagle, wounding it’s talon. But the Eagle rallied the people of the world who fought back against the spider and the dragon. The eagle blew fire from its mouth and seared the dragon into submission, then turned its eye toward the spider. The people of the world rose up and slew the spider but the world knew no peace ever again.”
Obviously, this bit of made-up Apocalyptic literature tells the story of WWII. The swastika looks like a spider, Japan is the Dragon, etc. Reading it again it all makes sense, but without the context, it is a strange story. So it is with Apocalyptic literature, whether Revelation or Daniel’s visions.
Before we attempt to define the future based on apocalyptic visions, we need to understand the style of the writing. And before we proclaim our superiority or that of our particular interpretation, lets remember that whatever we believe about it, the future, like the past and the present, is in God’s hands. We are witness to it, but not in control of it. And when reading any type of Apocalyptic literature, a whole lot of humility is in order.
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