Understanding Bible Prophecy
"If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream." "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." Numbers 12:6; 2 Peter 1:21.
The book of Daniel shows how prophecy covers the broad scope of human history. The succession of world kingdoms brought to view in Daniel 2 begins with ancient Babylon (See comments on Daniel 2:36-40). Daniel 8:20, 21 names the kingdoms of Medo-Persia and Greece which would follow sequencially after the fall of Babylon. Daniel's prophetic sweep continues until "the time of the end" (a phrase found five times in Daniel).
This view of prophecy, known as the Historicist approach, is the traditional method of applying the prophetic word. It was the standard system used by most Bible students until the 5th century when Augustine redefined the kingdom of God as the church and the millenium as the Christian Era. Augustine's views dominated western thinking until the time of the 16th century Protestant Reformation. It was the revival of Historicism which gave the Reformation its power.
In an attempt to thwart the Reformation, two Jesuits proposed counterinterpretations of prophecy, neither of which are accepted by this commentary. Luis de Alcazar devised what came to be known as the Preterist (past) view, claiming that nearly all of the Bible's prophecies were fulfilled by the time of the Roman Empire. Francisco Ribera, on the other hand, introduced what is now known as the Futurist view, projecting the focus of prophecy into the future. The Futurist approach, which was quickly adopted as the standard Roman Catholic method of interpretation, was eventually accepted in Protestant circles, and now dominates Evangelical eschatology.
It is not the purpose of this study to point out all the flaws of Futurism, but it is sufficient to say that no theories ever postulated by Futurism have ever proved true. On the other hand, the evidence of the last two and a half millennia has consistently confirmed the accuracy of the Historicist method. As you study the prophecies as outlined in this commentary, we think you'll agree.