Daniel 7:3: And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse from one another. (KJV)
“The beast” of Revelation is portrayed in the Left Behind novels as a man named Nicolae Capathia. (discussion of Revelation chapter 13 later in this manuscript) But the beasts here in Daniel’s prophecy form the basis for the symbolism in Revelation, and they tell a different story.
The seventh chapter of Daniel deals with visions the prophet saw in a dream. (verse 1) Four fearsome beasts appeared before him, representing a series of “kings” or governments (verse 17) that would rule over the world inhabited by Daniel’s people, the Jews.
The footnote on verse 3 in The New Scofield Reference Bible says,
“The monarchy vision of Nebuchadnezzar (ch. 2) covers the same order of fulfillment as Daniel’s beast vision.”
Paralleling the four parts of the statue in Daniel chapter 2, the “four great beasts” in chapter 7 verse 3 are likewise the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires. Bible commentators have long agreed on this.
John Calvin was familiar with the works of other scholars and declared,
“It is clear that the four monarchies are here depicted. But it is not agreed upon among all writers which monarchy is the last, and which the third. With regard to the first, all agree in understanding the vision of the Chaldean Empire, which was joined with the Assyrian, as we saw before. For Nineveh was absorbed by the Chaldeans and Babylonians.” (Calvin’s Commentaries on the Book of Daniel, volume 2)
So, while there were differences in the details, most traditional writers agreed Daniel was referring to the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires.
These beasts are the key to understanding the seven-headed beast that appears in the thirteenth chapter of John’s Apocalypse or Revelation. While Daniel’s vision uses a different beast to represent each of four successive empires and their offshoots, John’s later vision rolls the four beasts into one.
Daniel’s beasts have a total of seven heads and ten horns, while John sees a single beast with seven heads and ten horns.
“The first was like a lion” (Dan. 7:4) 1 head 0 horns
“a second, like a bear” (Dan. 7:5) 1 head 0 horns
“another, like a leopard” (Dan. 7:6) 4 heads 0 horns
“a fourth beast, dreadful” (Dan. 7:7) 1 head 10 horns
Totals for the beasts of Daniel ch. 7, 7 heads 10 horns
compare The beast of Revelation ch. 13, 7 heads 10 horns
While each of the four beasts Daniel saw stood for a successive empire, the composite beast John saw incorporated into one body the whole series of biblical ruling powers down through history.
John’s beast carried all seven heads and all ten horns on one body.
Why, then, do the authors of Left Behind show ‘the beast’ to be Nicolae Carpathia, a man, a single individual—when Scripture speaks plainly of empires?
This is just one more area where this fiction series departs from the clear meaning of Scripture and the understanding held by Bible readers over the centuries.
Daniel 7:8, 21, 25
A fourth beast . . . it had ten horns. While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully. . . . As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them . . .He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time. (NIV)
In his Commentary on Daniel, John Calvin applied much of this to pagan Rome and declared that “the Caesars became more and more stirred up to carry on war against the elect, and to oppress the Church.”
He identified the little horn with the powerful Caesars who ruled the empire.
Referring back to Daniel in his commentary on Matthew 24:15-28, he noted that believers would find themselves:
“enduring tribulations through an uninterrupted succession of many ages. There is no small consolation also in the phrase, half a time, (Daniel 12:7) for though the tribulations be of long continuance, yet the Spirit shows that they will not be perpetual. And, indeed, he had formerly used this form of expression: The calamity of the Church shall last through a time, times, and half a time, (Daniel 7:25.)” (Calvin’s Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists)
While some writers have agreed with Calvin’s analysis, others have proposed different meanings. In fact, this passage has been given a wide range of interpretations.
“The learned are not agreed concerning this anonymous beast,” wrote Matthew Henry (1662 – 1714) in his Commentary on the Whole Bible. “Some make it to be the Roman empire, which, when it was in its glory, comprehended ten kingdoms, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Britain, Sarmatia, Pannonia, Asia, Greece, and Egypt; and then the little horn which rose by the fall of three of the other horns (v. 8) they make to be the Turkish empire. Others make this fourth beast to be the kingdom of Syria …and then the little horn is Antiochus Epiphanes…”
Matthew Henry concluded, however, that “this prophecy has primary reference to the Syrian empire, and was intended for the encouragement of the Jews who suffered under Antiochus… But yet it has a further reference, and foretells the like persecuting power and rage of Rome heathen, and no less in Rome papal, against the Christian religion, that was in Antiochus against the pious Jews and their religion.”
English scientist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727), better known for his laws of motion and universal theory of gravitation than for his religious writings, said of the little horn, “This is the Church of Rome.” (Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse, p.76)
Colonial American Congregationalist theologian and missionary Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), who also served as president of Princeton, wrote,
“the little horn is said to have a mouth speaking very great things, and his look to be more stout than his fellows. This also was verified in the pope, and the church of Rome.” (A History of the Work of Redemption)
Left Behind departs from the traditional Protestant interpretations by moving the fulfillment of these verses to the future, during a supposed seven-year tribulation. The Antichrist Nicolae Carpathia appoints ten kings to rule the world under his supreme authority, but three of them rebel and must be crushed or “uprooted.”
The three horns uprooted are “the president of the United States . . . joined by the leaders of England and Egypt.” (Are We Living in the End Times? p. 167)
Authors LaHaye and Jenkins portray this in their second novel Tribulation Force: American president “Fitzhugh…was merely playing into Carpathia’s hands. This was all part of the foretold future. The uprising against Antichrist would be crushed and would initiate World War III.” (p. 424)
LaHaye and Jenkins assert that the verses above speak of the Antichrist (Are We Living in the End Times? page 274), and throughout their writings they assume that “the saints” mentioned here are “Tribulation saints” —men and women who come to faith in Christ during an end-times tribulation period. (The later novels in the Left Behind series show Antichrist Carpathia oppressing them during the three and a half years of the Great Tribulation.)
In this case the prophet Daniel was given visions of “what will happen to your people [the Jews] in the days to come” (Dan. 10:14 Jerusalem Bible), including “a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then” from which “your people [the Jews]…will be delivered.” (Dan 12:1 NIV)
So, when Daniel used the term “saints,” he had in mind Daniel’s own people, the Jews.
The events Daniel foretold were to be in the future from his day, but that does not necessarily mean that they still lie in the future from our day.
Has there already been an episode in history that could have fulfilled this prophecy? A time when the Jews were handed over for three and a half years to a boastful foreign ruler like the “little horn”?
The Bible book of Esther relates in great detail an attempt to exterminate the Jewish people during the reign of the Medo-Persian empire. Haman the Agagite persuaded king Ahasuerus “to destroy all the Jews” throughout the empire, which ruled “from India unto Ethiopia.” (Esther 3:6, 8:9)
The king was not aware that his own wife, Queen Esther, was a Jewess. She and her uncle Mordecai worked together to save their people. But Ahasuerus was not at all like Daniel’s little horn. He did not oppress the Jews and was only tricked into decreeing their destruction. When he realized the truth, he came to their rescue. He did not actually wage war against the Jews. Haman was not like the little horn either, because he was not a national ruler—just an appointed official serving under the king.
If the Bible would record in such detail Haman’s failed attempt to exterminate the Jews, is it logical to believe that Scripture would omit mention of Hitler’s Holocaust that claimed some six million Jewish lives?
Could that be the fulfillment of Daniel’s words above?
Daniel wrote that his people would be handed over to a foreign ruler for “a time, times and half a time.” It was a similar time span of three and a half years from when the first Nazi extermination camp became operational in December 1941 until the last death camp was liberated in May 1945. (Concentration camps set up to house Jews existed before this, but camps set up specifically to carry out genocide were operational for just three and a half years.)
In Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages, volume eleven in the Left Behind series, the authors show their Antichrist, Nicolae Carpathia, attempting to implement “the final solution of the Jewish problem.” (p. 223)
Unfortunately, that scenario had already played out during the rule of Adolph Hitler. Hitler’s Third Reich could certainly fit the description of the “little horn.” It waged war against the Jewish people. (Daniel does not speak of them here as a “nation,” but rather as a “people”—which would fit the circumstances of the Jews at the time of the Holocaust.)
The Third Reich spoke boastfully against God like the little horn. And it was an offshoot of the Roman Empire that rose up after the other offshoot nations, the “ten horns” of Daniel chapter 7.
France, Spain, England and other fragments of the former Roman empire had already been established as sovereign nations for centuries, when Germany finally united in the 1800’s under Baron von Bismark.
Like Daniel’s little horn, Germany “came up among” the other ten as a late-comer.
As noted in some of the quotes above, many Christian commentators since the Reformation have identified the “little horn” as the papacy, which also rose as a secular power after the Roman Empire disintegrated into “ten horns.” And they liken the oppressed “saints” to Christians persecuted by the Pope of Rome during the Inquisition.
Daniel certainly had in mind his own people, the Jews, who are referred to as saints throughout the Old Testament, but we can’t rule out a further application to Christians oppressed by the papacy. Prophecies can have both primary and secondary fulfillment’s.
In any case, if the prophet had lived to see the excesses of the Inquisition against Bible-believers, and had lived to see his own people gassed and cremated in extermination camps for a time and times and half a time, he would not have found a need for Left Behind’s fictional scenario to fulfill his prophecy.
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (KJV)
In their official defense of Left Behind theology titled The Truth Behind Left Behind, with Introduction by Tim LaHaye, apologists Mark Hitchcock and Thomas Ice write that;
“The seven-year Tribulation is a cornerstone of the entire Left Behind series.” (page 89)
Then they go on to discuss Daniel 9:24-27 as the basis for this teaching, calling this passage “the indispensable key to all prophecy.” (page 90)
But there is a problem with using this particular passage as a “key” to interpreting prophecy, and then deriving from it a seven-year Tribulation as a “cornerstone” for Left Behind theology.
The problem is that the wording of the passage is confusing. What the words actually say is debatable, even before any attempt to understand what they mean. Sincere translators and experts on the original language have come up with wide variations in both wording and meaning.
Is it sound practice to build an entire theological teaching on a key” or “cornerstone” that is so uncertain?
For example, notice how the New International Version renders the same verses, with that translation’s footnotes in parentheses to show alternative renderings:
“Seventy ‘sevens’ (Or ‘weeks’; also in verses 25 and 26) are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish (Or restrain) transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. (Or Most Holy Place; or most holy One) Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree (Or word) to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One (Or an Anointed one; also in verse 26), the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. (Or off and will have no one; or off, but not for himself) The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ (Or ‘week’) In the middle of the ‘seven’ (Or ‘week’) he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him (Or it).” (Or And one who causes desolation will come upon the pinnacle of the abominable temple, until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolated city) (NIV, Revised Edition of 1983)
The phrase “of the temple” in the last sentence is not found in the original Hebrew, but is added by the NIV translators.
Also in the last sentence the translators’ alternative renderings indicate that the end may be poured out on him or on it or on the city—city being a word not found in the original, but added in an attempt to complete the meaning.
Moreover, a comparison with a number of other translations will reveal even more possible readings, besides those offered in the NIV footnotes.
In addition to all of these translation issues, there are also problems with understanding the grammar.
There is disagreement as to whether the pronoun he in “He will confirm a covenant” refers to “the Anointed One” or to “the ruler who will come.”
These alternatives drastically affect the meaning.
We should recognize, of course, that God left certain portions of prophecy unclear or ambiguous, just as Christ spoke in parables on purpose. Some of Jesus’ listeners walked away in disgust; some looked to the religious authorities of their day to put their own spin on Jesus’ words; others went to the Lord privately to learn the meaning of what he said, or simply continued following him with full trust that he would make the meaning known in his own due time.
Occasional obscurity in Scripture should not undermine our faith in God and his written Word, but it should make us cautious about seizing upon one of many competing human interpretations, and then using that questionable
interpretation as the foundation for our faith.
In this case, it is important to recognize that this passage is one of the most obscure or puzzling sections of the entire Bible. Besides the debate over what it means, there is considerable controversy over what it actually says in the first place. The words themselves can be translated in different ways.
Does it make sense to use this passage as the foundation for a whole system of belief? Yet that is exactly what Left Behind does.
Not only that, but the authors of Left Behind turn the traditional understanding of this passage on its head.
For example, consider the phrase, “he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week .”
As will be shown below, Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin both understood the “he” who confirms the covenant to be Jesus Christ himself.
Bible readers down through the centuries shared that understanding.
The Left Behind series, however, teaches that “he” is the Antichrist, fictionalized in the novels as Nicolae Carpathia. What a dramatic reversal!
But there is much more revealing information here; let’s look at this passage in its entirety.
The seventy weeks or seventy sevens are nearly universally understood by Christian commentators as referring to seventy seven-year periods, or a total of four hundred ninety years (70 x 7 = 490), applying the prophetic use of “a day for a year” found at Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6.
This was naturally assumed to be a contiguous period of 490 consecutive years, until the 1800s when John Nelson Darby’s teaching introduced the thought that there would be a parenthesis, or a gap of nearly 2000 years between the first 483 and the final 7 years.
It is the final seven-year period that has been adopted by the Left Behind movement as the Tribulation.
“In other words,” Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins write in Are We Living in the End Times?, “483 of the 490 years ‘decreed’ for Daniel’s people have already elapsed; the divine ‘counter’ stopped just before the death of Jesus, with seven years still left to go. That remaining seven-year period is what we call the Tribulation.” (p.153)
But what basis is there to claim that the 490 years should be interrupted in this manner?
Daniel certainly did not suggest any such gap. Nor is such a gap taught elsewhere in Scripture. Yet it is key to the thinking of the Left Behind authors.
To use their own illustration, they suggest that God’s prophetic clock has stopped ticking as long as the Church is upon the earth, and will resume ticking after Christians are raptured to heaven.
Unfortunately, they offer no biblical basis for this assertion.
The traditional understanding is that the 490 years ran uninterrupted from beginning to end. The first 483 years brought us to the commencement of Jesus’ ministry, and the final 7 years consisted of Christ’s three-and-a-half year ministry plus another three-and-a-half years during which the Apostles preached the Gospel to the original Covenant people, the Jews.
This is well stated by Martin Luther:
“For when Christ sent out the Gospel through the ministry of himself and of the Apostles, it lasted three or three and a half years, that it almost amounts to the calculation of Daniel, namely the 490 years. Hence he also says, Christ shall take a half a week, in which the daily offerings shall cease; that is, the priesthood and reign of the Jews shall have an end; which all took place in the three and a half years in which Christ preached, and was almost completed in four years after Christ, in which the Gospel prospered the most, especially in Palestine through the Apostles (that when they opened their mouth, the Holy Ghost fell as it were, from heaven, as we see in the Acts of the Apostles), so that a whole week, or seven years, established the covenant, as Daniel says; that is, the Gospel was preached to the Jews, of which we spoke before.” (Martin Luther’s “Sermon for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity; Matthew 24:15-28” from his Church Postil, first published in 1525)
Calvin spoke similarly, emphasizing that the middle of the last ‘week’ occurred at the time of Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross:
“The angel now continues his discourse concerning Christ by saying, he should confirm the treaty with many for one week. …the angel says, Christ should confirm the covenant for one week…” (Lecture Fifty-First)
“In the last Lecture we explained how Christ confirmed the covenant with many during the last week…” (Lecture Fifty-Second)
“The Prophet now subjoins, He will make to cease the sacrifice and offering for half a week. We ought to refer this to the time of the resurrection. For while Christ passed through the period of his life on earth, he did not put an end to the sacrifices; but after he had offered himself up as the sacrifice, then all the rites of the law came to a close. …This is the Prophet’s intention when he says, Christ should cause the sacrifices to cease for half a week. …Christ really and effectually put an end to the sacrifices of the Law…” (Lecture Fifty-Second, Commentary on Daniel – Volume 2 by John Calvin)
So, after the Babylonian exile of the Jews there are 69 weeks of years (483 years) from the command to rebuild Jerusalem, until the coming of God’s Anointed One, the Messiah. Then there immediately follows a 70th week (7 years) of favor for God’s covenant people, the Jews: Jesus’ 3 1/2 year ministry exclusively to the Jews plus 3 1/2 years of the Apostles bringing Jews into the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31)— before opening the door to widespread Gentile conversion.
There is no biblical basis for abandoning this long-held understanding of Scripture to embrace the contrary teaching of Left Behind.
And, since proponents of the new teaching see their interpretation of this passage as the key and the cornerstone of their belief, that entire Left Behind structure rests on very shaky ground.
And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished; for that which is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the gods of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall magnify himself above all. . . .And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon. He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape. But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians [shall be] at his steps. . . . And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him. KJV
Left Behind authors LaHaye and Jenkins claim that “the king of the north” in the latter part of Daniel chapter 11 is their post-Rapture Antichrist, Nicolae Carpathia. (Are We Living in the End Times? Pages 275-276)
In this they follow the example of C.I. Scofield, whose notes assert that Daniel “overleaps the Church Age”in verse 36 when discussing the time of the end:
“Here the discussion . . . which had to do with Palestine and the Jews up till the time of Antiochus Epiphanes . . . overleaps the Church Age and centuries to ‘the time of the end.’” (Footnote on Daniel 11:36 in The New Scofield Reference Bible, 1967, Oxford University Press.)
However, for readers whose thinking is not already colored by dispensationalist assumptions, there is no basis for Scofield’s assertion that the Church is already raptured, and no basis for the assertion by LaHaye and Jenkins that Daniel is foretelling an individual like Nicolae.
Throughout his eleventh chapter, Daniel discusses “the king of the north” and “the king of the south.” Scholars have traditionally agreed that both kings are actually kingdoms, not individuals. Scholars also generally agree that the chapter begins by predicting that the Persian domination Daniel lived under would be replaced by the Greek empire. Then, according to verse 4, the domain of Alexander the Great would be divided into four parts after his death. (This had already been foretold in Daniel 8:21-22.)
Alexander’s four generals, who inherited his kingdom, then wage war against each other. Daniel describes their rivalry from the perspective of the land of Israel and the Temple Mount, “the glorious land” (vs. 41) and “the holy mountain” (vs. 45), with one faction “north” of Israel fighting against the other faction “south” of Israel.
Over the centuries the king of the north and the king of the south change their identity—they are no longer Alexander’s generals, but rather the kingdoms and empires that eventually succeed them centuries later in “the time of the end.”
Their identity at this point is no longer as certain as it was when following the immediate succession of heirs to Alexander the Great.
Calvin acknowledged that commentators offered a wide variety of interpretations, but he concluded that the understanding is to see ‘the king of the north’ as the Roman Empire:
“This passage is very obscure, and has consequently been explained in very opposite ways by interpreters. And whatever is obscure, is usually doubtful . . . The Jews, for instance, are not agreed among themselves . .. The Christian expositors present much variety, but the greater number incline towards Antichrist as fulfilling the prophecy. . . . I apply it entirely to the Roman Empire.” (Commentaries on the Prophet Daniel)
By “Antichrist” Calvin meant, of course, the traditional understanding of this term among his contemporaries, rather than the dispensationalist or Left Behind view which was unknown in his day. Many of his contemporaries applied Daniel’s words to the papacy, but Calvin himself saw fulfillment in the occupation of the Holy Land by the Roman Empire:
“This language of the angel—they shall fix the tents of their palace—will suit the Romans exceedingly well, because they reigned there in tranquility after the east was ubdued.” (Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Daniel by John Calvin)
As Calvin noted, however, there has been a lot of disagreement as to the identity of Daniel’s king of the north and king of the south in the time of the end. Commentators have been far from unanimous.
Sir Isaac Newton commented to the effect that “these nations compose the Empire of the Turks, and therefore this Empire is here to be understood by the King of the North.” (The Prophecies of Daniel and The Apocalypse, p. 189)
That Islamic empire and its successors held the Holy Land until the Turks suffered defeat along with their German allies during the First World War and Jerusalem was taken from them by a British and Jewish force in 1917.
The description of a king rejecting the gods of his fathers and the desire of women could fit Islam, which Luther and Calvin considered the Eastern ‘horn’ or ‘leg’ of the Antichrist. (See the discussion of 2 Thess. 2:4)
Or, viewed another way, the prophecy could fit the Nazi Third Reich, which considered itself to be the third incarnation of the Holy Roman Empire. (See the discussion of Daniel 7:8, 21, 25.)
In any case, there is nothing in this passage that would require a post-Rapture Antichrist like the Nicolae Carpathia character of the Left Behind series.
Although traditional commentaries disagree among themselves as to which kingdom or empire is meant, they agree that Daniel referred to a such a world power, rather than to an individual like the fictional Carpathia.
. . . and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. (KJV)
Jesus paraphrases this passage in Matthew 24:21-22 and Mark 13:19-20 when he speaks of “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matt. 23:21 KJV)
So, this is the Great Tribulation—which Left Behind portrays as the future world-wide reign of Nicolae Carpathia, the Antichrist.
But did Daniel have in mind such a time of trouble for a world of people ‘left behind’ after the Rapture? No. The angel told him it was a time of trouble for “thy people,” the Jews. And Jesus’ words also show it to be the trouble that would come upon that people, the Jews, after their
rejection of the Messiah.
This is the way that John Calvin understood it. Commenting on the parallel passages in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, he wrote:
“21 For there will then be great tribulation. Luke says also, that there will be days of vengeance, and of wrath on that people, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. For since the people, through obstinate malice, had then broken the covenant of God, it was proper that alarming changes should take place, by which the earth itself and the air would be shaken. True, indeed, the most destructive plague inflicted on the Jews was, that the light of heavenly doctrine was extinguished among them; but they were compelled—as the great hardness of their hearts made it necessary that they should be compelled—to feel the evil of their rejection by sharp and severe chastisements. . . . And therefore Christ says that, unless God put a period to those calamities, the Jews will utterly perish, so that not a single individual will be left; but that God will remember his gracious covenant, and will spare his elect, . . . But a question arises, how was it on account of the elect that God set a limit to these calamities, so as not utterly to destroy the Jews, when many of those who were saved were reprobate and desperate? The reply is easy. A part of the nation was preserved, that out of them God might bring his elect, who were mixed with them, like the seed after the chaff has been blown off.” (Calvin’s Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists)
So, Calvin understood Daniel’s “time of trouble” to refer to the calamities the Jews suffered, beginning shortly after they rejected the Messiah in the first century.
There is no compelling reason to reject Calvin’s wisdom, to adopt the contrary teaching of Left Behind.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk. (KJV)
A major problem with the Left Behind books is the authors’ failure to apply sound principles of interpretation when it comes to distinguishing between literal and symbolic language in Scripture.
In Kingdom Come: The Final Victory, characters living in Israel after the return of Christ walk to the Judean “foothills, where the streams had become pure white milk. Having only half finished his meal, Rayford knelt and cupped both hands in the white cascade.”
Some distance from the streams of milk there are also literal streams of red wine: “There, gushing down the mountainsides were deep purple channels, collecting in great, beautiful pools below.” (page 13)
One of the characters quotes Joel 3:18 to explain this phenomenon.
The problem is that the language in this Bible passage is clearly poetic, symbolizing a land that has become abundantly productive. Similar language is used throughout the books of Moses when speaking of the Promised Land; for example, compare Deuteronomy 26:9 which says, “He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
When the Jews left Egypt and occupied the land of Canaan, did they encounter literal streams of milk and honey flowing down from the hills? No, of course not.
Well, Joel 3:18 obviously uses the same sort of poetic symbolism.
Left Behind authors LaHaye and Jenkins insult the reader’s intelligence when they, in all seriousness, teach that white milk and red wine will literally gush from the hillsides.
Can this objection be dismissed with the excuse that the story is intended to be fictional, and not to be taken seriously? Perhaps, if that were the case—but it is not.
A “Note from Dr. Tim LaHaye” at the end of the volume portraying streams of milk and wine says,
“We’ve attempted to follow the Scriptures carefully in a timehonored pattern of taking the Bible literally wherever possible. . . .we believe what we have portrayed here will happen someday.” (Kingdom Come: The Final Victory, pages 355-356)
Why would the Left Behind authors play fast and loose with biblical symbols like this—interpreting literally passages that are clearly symbolic?
As will be show later, this sets a pattern that allows them to abandon the understanding Bible readers have had for centuries, and to apply new meanings to the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation.