“Think to change times and laws”. (Daniel 7:25)
What, then, is the meaning of the word “times”? An examination of the context will make it crystal clear. Let us go back in our minds to Daniel 2. We all remember the story. God gave the king a dream and when he woke up he couldn’t remember it. So the wise men of Babylon were called in, but they were unable to tell the king the dream or its meaning. Finally, through Daniel, God reminded the king of his dream and provided the interpretation. Even before Daniel described the dream and its meaning, the king was informed: “Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all.”(Daniel 2:37-38)
God then proceeded to tell Nebuchadnezzar how history would unfold. Babylon would be succeeded by Medo-Persia, Medo- Persia would be followed by Greece, Greece would be supplanted by Rome, Rome would be divided into ten kingdoms and then God would set up His everlasting and indestructible kingdom. In short, God was telling Nebuchadnezzar: “Human history is under my control. I enthrone rulers and I depose them. I am able to predict precisely how historical events will unfold, and history will develop precisely as I have preestablished.” This is what Daniel meant when he said that God “changes the times and the seasons, removes kings and sets up kings”. It is God who reveals and determines the calendar of prophetic events!! Daniel 3 informs us that Nebuchadnezzar was unhappy with God’s prophetic scenario, so he built an image like the one he had seen in his dream but this one was made of gold from head to foot.
Most Bible scholars have totally missed the main point of Nebuchadnezzar’s rebellious act. The central issue is not worship or even obedience. The critical issue is, who controls human history. Will history unfold as God has announced or will history develop in harmony with the king’s scenario? The king is saying, in effect: “Daniel’s God has said that history will be composed of several kingdoms. But I say that my kingdom will last forever. And woe to him who dares question my perspective!!”
In short, Nebuchadnezzar thought he could change the times and seasons which God had already determined and announced. Don’t miss the point: IT WAS GOD’S CALENDAR OF PROPHETIC EVENTS WHICH NEBUCHADNEZZAR THOUGHT HE COULD CHANGE!!
But the story does not end here. There were three young men who refused to recognize the king’s changed calendar of prophetic events. We all know how the story ends. The three young men were delivered. God changed the king’s program. The significant verse is in Daniel 3:28 where the king states: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word. . .” In the end, not only was Nebuchadnezzar unable to change God’s prophetic scenario, but God actually interrupted and changed the kings plans. We find a similar story in Daniel 6. There, Daniel kept the appointed time of prayer (6:10, 13). As a result, it appeared that the king’s unchangeable decree would result in Daniel’s death (6:8, 15, 17). But God intervened and overturned the king’s decree and delivered Daniel.
We must now move on to the New Testament. We will find that there is a remarkable agreement of both Testaments with regard to the meaning of the “times”. We will begin with Acts 1:7. But first we will read verse 6 for the context. Here the disciples ask Jesus: “Lord, wilt thou at this time, restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Here the disciples are asking a prophetic question. They want to know if God’s calendar of prophetic events for Israel will be fulfilled at this time or in the future.
Notice the answer Jesus gives: “It is not for you to know the times [kronos] or the seasons [kairos], which the Father hath put in his own power.” It is worthy of note that the Greek words kronos and kairos are coupled together, and, as we shall see, are frequently used synonymously throughout the New Testament. In this passage, as we saw in the book of Daniel, the times and seasons are under God’s control and they describe God’s calendar of prophetic events. In other words, Jesus is saying to his disciples: “Prophetic events [times and seasons] are under the control of my Father. He will determine when the kingdom will be restored to Israel”.
The apostle Paul employs a very similar expression in I Thessalonians 5:1: “But of the times [kairos] and the seasons [kairos], brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.” Here the apostle uses the word kairos twice. He then goes on to speak about future events, particularly the close of probation and the second coming of Jesus. Once again, the expression “times and seasons” refers to God’s calendar of prophetic events. In the Greek lexicon by Arndt and Gingrich, pp. 394-395, we are told that kairos can mean “definite, fixed time, determined or alloted time.” William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek- English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979). We are also told on page 395 of the same lexicon, that kairos is “one of the chief eschatological terms”. Very frequently both kairos and kronos are used to depict future events on God’s prophetic calendar. We will now look at several examples:
Matthew 16:3–Jesus speaks about discerning the signs of the times [kairos].
Luke 1:20–The angel Gabriel tells Zacharias that he will be dumb “because thou believest not my words which shall be fulfilled in their season [kairos]. Gabriel himself explains in the same verse that his words will be fulfilled when the things he spoke of “shall be performed.” Once again the word “season” refers to a previously determined prophetic event which is announced before it occurs.
Matthew 26:18–Jesus states that “his time [kairos] is at hand”. What He means is that He must die at the precise time which had been determined in God’s prophetic calendar.
Luke 21:24–In this text Jesus states that Jerusalem would be trodden under foot “until the times [kairos] of the Gentiles be fulfilled”. Once again, we have a prophetic period which is described by the word “times”.
Revelation 11:18 refers to “the time [kairos] of the dead, that they should be judged”. Some Adventist scholars believe that this text is describing the beginning of the judgment of the righteous dead in 1844. Others believe it refers to the beginning of the judgment of the wicked dead during the millennium. For our present purposes, it makes no difference. The point is, that there is an appointed time which God has placed on His prophetic calendar for the judgment of the dead. Once again, the word “time” in this text refers to a future event which God has announced before it takes place.
Mark 1:15–At the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus said: “The time [kairos] is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” The time Jesus spoke of here was the conclusion of the 69th week of the 70 week prophecy of Daniel 9. Once again, the word “time” refers to an event which God has previously incorporated into His prophetic calendar.
I Timothy 6:15–In speaking about the Second Coming of Jesus, the apostle Paul states: “Which in his times [kronos] he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords. . .” Once again, a future event in God’s prophetic calendar is described with the word “times”.
Acts 17:26, 30, 31 presents an interesting use of the words kairos and kronos. In fact, they are used interchangeably. Verse 26 tells us that God has “determined the times [kairos] before appointed”.
This is, once again, a clear reference to preestablished prophetic events. In verse 30 Paul affirms that God winked at “the times [kronos] of this ignorance” and in verse 31 he assures us that God has “appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained. . .” Once again the word “times” is used in the context of God’s prophetic calendar of events.
In I Timothy 4:1 the apostle tells us that “in the latter times [kronos] some shall depart from the faith. . .” The latter times here would be parallel to “the time of the end” in the book of Daniel.
Revelation 12:14 (which is clearly parallel to Daniel 7:25) explains that the woman would have to flee to the wilderness for “a time [kairos], and times [kairoi] and half a time [kairos]” Once again, prophetic events on God’s calendar are described with the word “times”.
Revelation 10:6–In this text, Jesus Christ announces that “there should be time [kronos] no longer”. The time referred to in this verse cannot mean the end of human history for at least two reasons:
1) This announcement is made during the period of the sixth trumpet. Jesus does not come to take his kingdom until the seventh trumpet (Revelation 11:15-19).
2) After the announcement is made that “time will be no longer”, John is instructed to prophesy again (Revelation 10:11). How could he do this if the world had come to an end?
It is clear that the end of “time” here referred to is not the end of the world, but rather, the end of the prophetic time periods. Once again, the word “time” is employed to describe the events on God’s prophetic calendar.
h. Before we conclude this examination of the Biblical meaning of the “times”, it would be well to make just a few remarks about the use of the word “times” in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint, LXX). We will limit our remarks to Daniel 7:25. Significantly, all four uses of the word “times” in this verse are translated with the word kairos, thus creating a direct linguistic link between Revelation 12:14 and Daniel 7:25.
On the basis of our study we can reach the following conclusions:
The “times” are God’s calendar of prophetic events which He has previously appointed and announced. These events are under His control and will be ultimately fulfilled in the time and way which He has previously established.
This must mean that the little horn would attempt to change God’s prophetic calendar in some way. It would present a false prophetic scenario of endtime
events. In this sense, it would attempt to do precisely what Nebuchadnezzar had once tried to do in Daniel 3, that is, rewrite the prophetic scenario which God had previously appointed and revealed. The final fulfillment of the story of Daniel 3 is found in Revelation 13.
The Changing of the Times: A Historical Perspective
The Protestant reformers held the almost unanimous view that the Papacy was the predicted Antichrist of Bible prophecy. They shared several theological concepts: 1) The fourth beast of Daniel 7 is imperial Rome. 2) The “restrainer” of II Thessalonians 2 is the Roman Empire. 3) The Antichrist is not an individual, but rather a succession of popes who, taken together, constitute an apostate religious system. 4) The time periods in symbolic prophecy are to be understood figuratively, not literally. 5) The “temple” in which the Antichrist sits is not the literal Jerusalem temple, but rather, the Christian Church. 6) The word “Antichrist” does not denote a blasphemous
individual who openly denies and defies God, but rather, one who opposes Christ by posing as the vicar of Christ. 7) Though not unanimous, most Protestant reformers believed that the little horn of Daniel 7 represents the Roman Catholic Papal system.
When we think of the Protestant Reformation, expressions such as sola scriptura (Scripture alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone) come to mind. However, all these “solas” grew out of a realization that the Roman Catholic system was the predicted Antichrist of Bible prophecy.
You see, the Protestant reformers knew for certain that in the prophetic flow, the lion (Babylon), the bear (Medo-Persia), the leopard (Greece), and the dragon (Rome) had already ruled the world. They also knew that Rome had been divided into ten kingdoms when the Barbarians carved up the Empire. They also knew that the predicted Antichrist was to arise among these ten kingdoms of Western Europe. They saw clearly and distinctly that they were living in the time of the little horn.
The historicist hermeneutical method made it quite simple. A correct understanding of Bible prophecy gave them the unmistakable mandate to unmask this system which had usurped the prerogatives of Christ and adulterated the truth of God!!
There is much evidence in written form of the almost unanimous view of the reformers that the RCC was indeed the antichrist. For the sake of space I will not quote them here, but can provide quotes if desired.
Bear in mind that those who pointed the finger at the Papacy as the great Antichrist were highly educated individuals. They could not be accused of being ignorant and unlearned. Many reached their own conclusions independently of others. Their expositions were saturated with quotations from Daniel 7 (the little horn), Revelation 13 (the beast), Revelation 17 (the harlot), II Thessalonians 2 (the Man of Sin), and Matthew 24 (the abomination of desolation). And their testimony was unanimous and covered the entire Continent of Europe!!
The Papacy knew it could triumph only by turning away the incriminating finger of Bible prophecy. But, how could it do this when the evidence was so clear and overwhelming? The Papacy saw that in order to be successful, it must change the method Protestants had used to interpret prophecy. Only by obliterating the method of historicism could the Papacy deflect the accusing
finger!! And the Papacy laid out a carefully devised plan to do just
In 1545 the Roman Catholic Church called a church council which was held at Trent. The avowed purpose of the Council of Trent was to arrest the growing Protestant Reformation. The council lasted until 1563 (the longest church council in the history of the Roman Catholic Church). No major decisions were reached with respect to Bible prophecy but the Papacy did reaffirm categorically the dogmas of the Church and pronounced an anathema upon anyone who taught otherwise.
Just eleven years before the Council of Trent, St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Jesuit Order (in 1534). Besides providing the Papacy with a formidable secret police force, the Jesuits also trained an elite of theological scholars whose avowed purpose was to overthrow Protestantism. In fact, in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, there is a statue of Loyola trampling Protestants underfoot!!
Loyola’s Jesuit Order would eventually spawn two able scholars whose views would not only arrest the growth of Protestantism but actually conquer it!! To this story we must now turn. Let’s begin with Luis de Alcazar, the preterist.
The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus (born in the year 37 A. D.), believed that the little horn of Daniel 8 (perhaps also the little horn of Daniel 7, though we are not sure) was Antiochus Epiphanes, a Seleucid ruler who governed from 174 till 163 B. C. In this, Josephus shared the view of the LXX and many other Jewish scholars of his day..
In the second century A. D., an enemy of Christianity whose name was
Porphiry, corresponded with Tertullian, one of the early church fathers, trying to persuade him that the little horn was Antiochus Epiphanes.
Luis de Alcazar, Jesuit from Seville, Spain, picked up on the idea of Josephus and the LXX. From 1569 onward he worked on counteracting the Protestant view of the prophecies. He wrote a 900-page commentary on the book of Revelation, titled: Vestigatio Arcani Sensus in Apocalypsi [Investigation of the Hidden Sense of the Apocalypse]. The book was published posthumously in 1614.
The main thrust of Alcazar’s book was to relegate the fulfillment of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation to the distant past. This system of prophetic interpretation became known as preterism. According to Alcazar,
the entire book of Revelation was fulfilled in the first six centuries of the Christian Era. For him, Nero was the predicted Antichrist. By relegating the fulfillment of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation to the distant past, Alcazar argued that they could not apply to the Papacy in the 16th century.
If Alcazar’s view was true, then the preaching of the Protestants was gravely wrong. Alcazar established a rival method of interpreting prophecy which removed the incriminating finger from the Papacy and pointed it at Antiochus and Nero!!
Tragically, Protestants soon picked up Alcazar’s deviant theory. It was first adopted by Hugo Grotius of Holland in his Annotationes of 1644. Many other Protestant scholars would follow suit. Noteworthy is the German rationalist J. G. Eichhorn (1752-1827), who had the audacity of republishing Alcazar’s preterist interpretation. (For a list of other rationalist scholars who followed
Grotius and Eichhorn, see, Froom, PFF, II, p. 510).
What made the preterist method so attractive to the German rationalists was that it seemed to eliminate the predictive element from the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. Remarkably, preterism was introduced into the United States for the first time by Moses Stuart in 1842. Thus, while William Miller and his fellow preachers were proclaiming a message based on the method of historicism, Satan was working to introduce the rival method of
Preterism is still the prophetic method of choice in the Roman Catholic Church. It is also the favorite menu for liberal Protestant scholars who use the historical-critical method to do away with the supernatural predictive element of Bible prophecy.
The preterist hermeneutic involves a change of God’s times, that is, it creates its own prophetic scenario and tries to change our understanding about the manner in which prophecy was and will be fulfilled (remember what Nebuchadnezzar attempted to do in Daniel 3?). And liberal Protestants, by adopting the preterist method from Roman Catholicism, have become the False Prophet of Roman Catholicism. By reflecting the prophetic views of the
Papacy, they have become, hermeneutically speaking, an image of the beast.
Is this perhaps the reason why liberal Protestants are becoming practically indistinguishable from Roman Catholicism? Could this be the reason why liberal Protestants are reaching across the abyss to clasp the hand of
Catholicism? Having cast aside the compass of a proper prophetic hermeneutic, liberal Protestants cannot but wander in a maze of uncertainty and confusion.