Is there in the Bible a prophecy about the future?
Why then are there so many different interpretations?
Maybe are all true?
How can we know the real interpretation? Mark the words of Daniel the prophet:
"After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others"
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The rendering of NIV of the original Aramaic is a good one. As you see, there's no big differences or quarrels in translating from Aramaic to other languages. But there have been many different interpretations of this vision, and it is a "must" to find an answer to the questions above, if we want to get a revelation about the future which is supported by biblical prophecy.
"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths"
This passage comes from 2nd Timothy 4:1-4, which was written by the apostle Paul to his disciple Timothy - who would become a pastor and a teacher - and shows us some details about the "sound doctrine" which the apostle wanted to be preached in the churches:
1) The Lord Jesus Christ "will judge" the living and the dead, when He "appear" with "his Kingdom" (by that time)
2) There "will come" a time when people who want to hear the word of God will not "put up with sound doctrine" but will satisfy their own desires (the fleshly ones) and they will "turn aside to myths" by "turning their ears away fom the truth" (this conduct is called "apostasy")
Observe that this apostasy (to "turn away their ears from the truth", to "not put up with the sound doctrine") and the manifestation of the kingdom of God are seen by Paul in a future, and because he is writing after the Messiah's revelation and after the Holy Spirit's coming, we can infer that the apostasy and the coming of the kingdom hadn't happen yet after the birth of the Lord, or after the birth of the church.
The Second Coming of Christ is one of the most solid and frequent doctrines in the Scriptures. Our Lord himself and almost every apostle who wrote the NT talk about it. Whole chapters and almost the whole book of Revelation are dedicated to this event, which will change the face of the earth. Why then have been originated so many different interpretations of this prophecy, including the ones which deny the event by claiming that "it is just something spiritual, which will not happen physically"?
Because there will be "a great number of teachers" who will speak myths, could we say. "Because there is a devil who is opposed to God's purposes, and he wants us to be deceived, so that the power of God can't act on us", could we say also (if we talk about the REASON which makes those "teachers" not to follow the Holy Spirit but to follow the "desires of the flesh" - and they are only satisfied by listening to "other spirits")
In the light of 2 Timothy's passage, we could formulate the third question in new ways, could be all interpretations true? Could some "teachers" following their own "desires of the flesh" give us a revelation of biblical prophecy? Can the truth come from Satan? Is there some way to receive a supernatural revelation of God's purposes without the intervention of the Spirit of God?
Whereas you answer those questions, let's pay attention to a pair - among many others - false interpretations. Let's see their arguments, their origin and the reason of their existence.
The first one - and the interpretation that has deceived most persons - is the so called "classical interpretation". When we talk about something as "classical" - for instance, about "classical antiquity", referring to the excellent Greek sculptures, or "classical music", talking about the excellent melodies written by Mozart or other composers - we use the word to mean something well done, that we should imitate if we want to get some good results, a kind of "canon". But the "classical" interpretation of the prophecy of the book of Daniel is far, far away of being a "canon" or guide to know the truth. Do you wanna know why?
That interpretation came from some exegetes whose writings aren't "Word of God". Maybe they used exegetical resources in a wrong way ("exegesis" is the interpretation of the Bible) or maybe they tried to conform the book of Daniel with "Amillennialism" (the theory that the Second Coming of Christ is something spiritual which has already taken place in Pentecost, and that the "Millennium" has already begun) This satanical lie was the basis for many people who called themselves "Christians" to force millions to conversion, to persecute Jews to death, to burn in the fire the "heretics" and to try to suffocate everything which would be contrary to their ideas and conceptions (very wrong ones, by the way) By this doctrine they were "creating the kingdom of God on earth".
The second one, another way by which Satan has tried to pervert the truth, appeared in the writings of Porphyry of Tyre (233-305 AD) This Anti-Christian philosopher pretended that the book of Daniel had been written by the times of the Maccabean revolt (ca. 164 BC) and "prophesied" already known events - which had taken place earlier - only to encourage the Jews who fought Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Greek king of the Seleucid Empire who tried to "hellenize" the Jews by force. This so called "Maccabean Thesis", which even today is taken by many as the true and is taught by teachers who call themselves "Christian", makes the book of Daniel a fraud, because in the book itself we can read that the events and the visions which we read about there took place on Babylonia's times, and in the beginning of the Persian Empire (before 500 BC) To speak of the Scriptures as a spoof is not exactly the work of the Spirit of God, but this "Maccabean Thesis" is used by those "Christian" teachers who want to "fabricate" the kingdom of God their own way. That's why they need to discredit the Scriptures and open a way to the "myths". But we can't be save "by grace" and live "by grace" and at the same time be save and live "by works". Human arrogance resents at the fact that it is God who will intervene in human history to bring the Messiah for a Second time to this earth, and with him, the eternal righteousness believers are waiting for. But it is what the Scriptures teach, if we like it or if we don't.
To adapt Daniel's prophecy for their purposes, this two "interpretations" - Satanical lies should be a better description - identify the rest of the statue wich Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream in the following order:
EMPIRES----"CLASSICAL" INTERPRETATION---MACCABEAN THESIS
Silver --------- Media -------------------------------------- Persia and Media
Bronze ------- Persia --------------------------------------- Greece (Alexander)
Iron ----------- Greece ------------------------------------- Greece (the Diadochi)
Iron+clay ---- The Diadochi ----------------------------- Alliances of the Diadochi
(the "Diadochi" is the word with which Alexander's successors are known for)
We can observe that both interpretations seek the same conclusion, in the long run: to demonstrate that Daniel's prophecies were fulfilled by the times of the Seleucid Empire (a Greek territory in the "Hellenistic Period" which ran from Turkey to India) A brief look to the Bible and to secular history shows that:
1) "Media" was an empire which occupied about the same territory that Persia conquered. But Media didn't came after Babylonia, and didn't defeat Babylonia (to be exact, Media was Babylonia's ally to fight Assyria) The empire which defeated Babylonia was Persia (after conquering Media; as a matter of fact, Babylonia lasted a little longer than Media)
2) "Media and Persia" are named in the book of Daniel (chapter 8) as a single empire, which is defeated by Alexander the Great, king of Greece.
3) The empires which are represented in the king's dream and in the "great beasts" of Daniel seven had an impact on the Jewish nation (Media is not in this group)
4) Daniel 7:23-28 shows us that the "fourth beast" (in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, the iron which is mixed with clay later) is an empire which will be defeated by God himself, to be succeeded by an "eternal" Kingdom of the "holy people of the Most High" (Israel is meant) If you listen to the news or read them somewhere then you'll surely know that the Jewish nation hasn't received yet all that is promised to them in the Bible by God, and that the Kingdom of God hasn't come yet, so this "fourth beast" is to arise again (we will talk about this later) It is very significant, in order to show these interpretations wrong, the prophecy of our Lord in Matthew 24:15, were He says that "the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel" is yet to be seen (it was not definitively fullfilled by Antiochus IV Epiphanes)
5) The "Maccabean Thesis" puts Media and Persia together (correctly) but it makes of the "bronze" and the "iron" the same empire. The book of Daniel describes them as different ones (bronze and iron; leopard and "terrifying beast") The Diadochi were Alexander's successors, which shared the huge territory he conquered and began several dynasties that fought each other. A brief look to the history of Ancient Greece will show us that this was the rule, not the exception (by that time, Greece was divided* most of the time, and all these dynasties were Greek and represented Greek dominion over different territories)
There is much to be said to expose Satan and his lies, to "tie up the strong man" about these interpretations which try to "suppress the truth by their wickedness". But we'll see other details (for instance, differences between two "little horns" in Dn 7 and Dn 8, showing two different kings) For the present we just want to emphasize that everything you can read or hear about these prophecies is not "word of God". We need the help of the Spirit of God to lead us to the right revelation.
May the Lord bless you. In the love of Christ, your brother
PS Jesus is coming soon!
* You can read about Chalcis and Eretria, Athens and Sparta, Macedonia and Thebes, and other ones. The Roman Empire was a very compact one, until the separation between the "Western Roman Empire" and the "Byzantine Empire", but the Ancient Greece was formed by many city-states which sought supremacy all the time, and the brief period of Alexander the Great was the only one when history speaks about a unified "Greek Empire".