Our faith rests on the words of Scripture. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Through the operation of the Holy Spirit inside us, saving faith begins with hearing the Gospel as recorded in God’s Word, and we grow in our faith in the same way as the Spirit brings the words of the Bible to life in our hearts.
In the same way, our Gospel hope rests on the words of Scripture. We read passages such as Philippians 3:20-21 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 and find much comfort in these promises of Jesus’ imminent appearing, the “blessed hope” of Titus 2:13.
However, many pastors today insist that prophetic texts that refer to the restoration of a kingdom for Israel, the tribulation, and Jesus’ future reign are allegory, symbolical of another reality. This discrediting of the words of the Bible, however, is like a loose thread on a knit sweater. If one pulls on it for a long enough time, it unravels the entire sweater.
Let’s take, as an example of how allegory negatively impacts the integrity of Scripture, Daniel’s prophecy regarding the antichrist’s future desecration of the temple. “And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator” (Daniel 9:27).
How Does the New Testament Treat Daniel’s Prophecy?
Jesus referred to Daniel’s prophecy in Matthew 24:1, “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand).” Not only did the Lord regard Daniel 9:27 as a sign of the last days, but He also gave the Jews who would witness it specific instructions of what to do and how to pray when it happens (see Matt. 24:16-20).
Paul referred to Daniel’s prophecy in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”
Like Jesus, the apostle believed that the words of Daniel 9:27 regarding the antichrist would happen at a specific time in the future. He believed in a real, literal antichrist who would desecrate a Jewish temple.
In Revelation 13:5-6, we find another mention of the temple desecration that Daniel places at the midpoint of the seven-year tribulation. “And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.”
Finally, in Revelation 19:20, we read of the final fate of the antichrist. “And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.” This matches Paul’s words regarding the fate of the antichrist in 2 Thess. 2:8, “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming”
Jesus kills the antichrist at His return to earth.
Jesus, along with apostles Paul and John, did not assign a symbolical meaning to Daniel’s prophecy but interpreted the prophet’s words to signify an actual future event carried out by a real person, the antichrist, who will appear at a future time.
Can the Allegorical Approach to Biblical Prophecy Explain Daniel’s Prophecy?
If a pastor or teacher regards Daniel’s prophecy in 9:27 as an allegory, that leader needs to explain why Jesus answered the question of the disciples regarding the “sign” of His return with a symbolical event that could not tell His followers anything about its timing (Matt. 24:3, 15). A sign that predicts the timing of a future event is by its very nature a real tangible occurrence, or else it reveals nothing about when it will occur.
Additionally, why would Jesus provide specific instructions of what to do and how to pray if Daniel’s prophesied desecration of the temple were merely symbolical (Matt. 24:15-20). Jesus clearly regarded the antichrist as a real person and his future desecration of the temple as an actual future event and accordingly gave instructions to the Jews who would someday witness it.
The most amazing aspect of Paul’s reference to Daniel’s prophecy is that it was not new information for the saints in Thessalonica. He asked his readers this question in reference to the antichrist’s desecration of the temple, “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?” (2 Thess. 2:5). Why would the apostle, while teaching brand new converts about their hope in Jesus’ return, tell them about a future event that was not real, but only symbolical? He would not.
In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul tells his readers about two future events that had not yet happened so they would know that the day of the Lord had not yet begun (2 Thess. 2:2-8). If the allegorical approach to Daniel’s prophecy is correct, how can one explain Paul’s reference to a symbolical person, the antichrist, as proof that the day of the Lord had not yet started? That does not make sense.
And if the antichrist is merely symbolical and not real, who does Jesus destroy at His Second Coming (2 Thess. 2:8; see also Rev. 19:20)? Both the apostles Paul and John tell us that Jesus kills the antichrist at His return to earth, thus making the two events inseparable.
Can the Historical Approach to Biblical Prophecy Help Explain Daniel’s Prophecy?
Many amillennialists, those who allegorize Jesus’ future thousand-year reign in Jerusalem before the eternal state, agree that Daniel 9:27, as quoted by Jesus in Matthew 24:15-20, is not allegory. Instead, they claim that Titus fulfilled this prophecy in the first century AD.
In AD 70, Titus and the Romans destroyed Jerusalem along with the second temple and killed a great many Jews. However, we have no record of Titus entering into the temple and proclaiming himself to be God. And most importantly, Jesus did not return at that time and kill the Roman general as both Paul and John explicitly tell us will be the fate of the man who defiles the temple according to Daniel’s prophecy.
The antichrist’s desecration of the temple cannot happen apart from Jesus’ return and His killing of the real person that Paul refers to as the “man of lawlessness.” The fact that Jesus’ return to earth remains a future event eliminates a first-century fulfillment of Daniel 9:27 and Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:15-20, but there is much more that securely places it in the future.
Matthew 24:3-35 is all about the Second Coming and the events/signs leading up to it. Jesus wove all these occurrences together into one coherent message. Those who relegate everything but Jesus’ return to the first century AD disconnect the signs Jesus gave of His return from the actual event. How could a sign that occurred two thousand years ago, such as the defilement of the temple, indicate the nearness of an event, the Second Coming, that has not happened?
Not only that, but those who assign an AD 70 fulfillment to Daniel 9:27 cannot explain why Jesus’ killing of the temple defiler remained a future event when John wrote the book of Revelation in about AD 95.
They also cannot explain why a renowned second century AD theologian, Irenaeus, in his famous work Against Heresies, regarded Daniel’s prophecy, and the New Testament references to it, as still future when he wrote this in AD 180, “But when the antichrist shall have devastated all things in this world, he will reign for three years and six months, and sit in the temple at Jerusalem; and then the Lord will come from heaven in the clouds . . . sending this man and those who follow him into the lake of fire.” [i]
The Interconnectedness of Scripture
As we follow the thread of the Daniel 9:27 prophecy through the New Testament, we see that it becomes inseparably connected to the Second Coming as both a sign pointing to it (Matt. 24:3-31) and the time Jesus kills the defiler of the temple, the antichrist (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 19:20).
The Daniel 9:27 prophecy is a conundrum for the amillennialists because a strictly allegorical interpretation of it cannot explain Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:3-20 or Paul’s reference to it in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8. The interconnectedness of the prophecy with Jesus’ Second coming eliminates relegating it to a first-century AD fulfillment. And if this prophecy awaits a future fulfillment, and it most certainly does, this necessitates a literal seven-year tribulation.
This interconnectedness of God’s Word explains the importance of interpreting biblical prophecy according to the intent of the prophet. When one overlays the objective words of a biblical text with a meaning foreign to the author at the time of its writing, this allegorization of Scripture inevitably spreads to other passages, which also lose their original intent.
At first, it never seems as though it’s a matter of allegory versus the integrity of Scripture or even an attack on the purity of the Gospel. Many who promote allegorical interpretations of prophecy appear to be biblically sound regarding the Gospel despite their misrepresentation of many prophetic texts in the Bible.
With the passing of time, however, the practice of allegorizing the words of biblical prophecy inevitably spreads to other passages in the Bible. It’s then that the tug on a supposed loose thread of biblical prophecy unravels more and more of the fabric of Scripture and much apostasy ensues.
Scott Lively recently wrote an article on the WND website entitled More pastors bow to LGBT crowd – and it’ll only get worse. In it, Scott cited evidence that a growing number of pastors and Christian leaders in America, many of whom one might assume to be Bible-believing, now support the LBGT agenda or have apologized for being against it in the past. [ii]
I am not saying that all cases of such blatant disregard for the words of Scripture stem from allegorizing biblical prophecy. On the other hand, I know that many churches and pastors that now support the gay agenda and bow their knee to Black Lives Matter have long ago abandoned the literal interpretation of the words of biblical prophecy in favor of allegorical interpretations that, among other things, deny the reality of a future antichrist who will defile a future Jewish temple.
Defending the integrity of Scripture necessitates a stand against the allegorization of still future prophetic texts in the Bible.
Website: Our Journey Home
Please consider signing up for my newsletter on my website. Thanks!
[i] Irenaeus, “Against Heresies, Book 5,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979) Vol. 1, p. 560.
[ii] Scott Lively, More pastors bow to LGBT crowd – and it’ll only get worse, March 17, 2021. @ https://www.wnd.com/2021/03/pastors-bow-lgbt-crowd-itll-get-worse/