“I see your M.Th. and I raise you a Ph.D.” Naturally many ‘experts’ argue vehemently and dogmatically for their own particular take on so-called ‘End Times’ prophecies. All views can, of course, marshal a range of seemingly authoritative sources and can’t all be right, can they? Maybe not entirely, but the notion is not completely far-fetched. Just as a number of Old Testament prophecies typically contain multiple fulfilments, so too (possibly) here.
We must remember that most Old Testament prophecy actually forecasts forward only a few years to impending judgment at the hands of nations (such as Babylon or Assyria) and that there are very few explicit references to the end of time. Some references, though, are to the (then later) coming of Christ. Yet some concepts clearly have multiple fulfilments such as the ‘Day of Lord’ which can be about impending judgment, the first coming of Christ’s judgment against sin, and second coming of Christ’s finality. This thinking is adapted from Clarence Larkin’s well-known Mountain Peaks of Prophecy chart which sees multiple outworkings of prophecy as multiple mountain peaks which can all be viewed as one mountain from the ‘side-on’ perspective of a particular observer.
Could the ‘Seventy Week’s Prophecy’ of Daniel (and, by implication, the Book of Revelation) have a partial fulfilment in the first century and in church history and in the future? A fourth perspective, that of symbolism, might either deny these three or simply overarch them. Nevertheless, the beauty of such a multiple applications theory (which would need more detailed fleshing out) is that the Bible speaks afresh to each age with renewed eschatological fervour. Maybe it will continue to do so for many more generations of keen readers or avid (is that ‘avaricious’?!) seminar presenters and authors.
Finally, the futurist interpretation warrants some further brief comments. Obviously, all views include some futurism, but the idea that the 70th week of Daniel can legitimately be divorced from the other 69 by two thousand (or more) years of history is fundamentally based on the view that this 7 years is an end-time tribulation covenant made, not by Christ, but by an Antichrist, like the Beast. Such an interpretation is quite possible by reading the prophecy differently. Maybe it is intentionally vague enough to permit this.
And maybe I am intentionally vague enough as to refrain from denying it or any other perspective! In the end, I won’t let it distract me from the main game and I certainly won’t even try to convince anyone too fully of any particular conclusion in such a brief commentary. Being ready for Christ’s Second Coming at any time, but planning my life as if it is well beyond my time on earth, probably remains the best way to live in the light of the eternal implications of such events, however they might be viewed.