I know that many of those who regularly read this blog have also read Hidden in Plain Sight By Mark Davidson. Mark blogs at Four Sign Posts. If you have read both Mark’s book and my latest book, Mideast Beast, then you are aware that we interpret Daniel 7 and 8 differently. In Mideast Beast, I interpret the four beasts of Daniel 7 as a reiteration of the four Kingdoms of Daniel 2. Mark interprets Daniel 7 to be speaking of four contemporaneous end-time nations. This approach, although a minority view, is also espoused by several other interpreters who I am aware of, such as G.H. Lang, Geoffrey R. King, David Pawson, Chris White, Charles Cooper, Hanoch Ben Keshet, Dr. Noah W. Hutchings, Dr. Henry M. Morris, and Irvin Baxter, Jr.
Concerning Daniel 8, in Mideast Beast, I interpret verses 3-22 as being fulfilled with the historical conflicts that took place between the Medo-Persian Empire (the ram) and the Alexandrian Greek Empire (the shaggy goat). But from verse 23 on, where it speaks of the “little horn”, I interpret this as ultimately fulfilled in Antichrist, of whom Antiochus IV Epiphanes was merely a historical shadow. Davidson understands all of Daniel 8 as speaking of future events and correlating to the 2nd and 3rd beasts of Daniel 7. He understands these to be Iran (the second beast) and Turkey (the third beast).
So, what do I think about Davidson’s scenario?
First let me say that I have over a hundred commentaries on the Book of Daniel and have worked through this book for some years now fairly extensively in my own private studies. The more I work through this profoundly important book, the more I realize how difficult certain some portions of it truly are. I am convinced that we must thus take a humble attitude as we seek to fully understand the revelations contained in this book. Let me also say that the world of end time prophecy is a world rife with opinions, pet-theories and often significant disagreements. While there are certainly some issues that I have very strong opinions concerning, there are several other issues that I am very open to reconsider. Daniel 7 and 8 are two such examples. So I am presently working through the possibility of a futurist interpretation of Daniel 7 and 8, and I do see some validity to this as the possible meaning of these chapters. But more than that, I am fascinated by the potential implications of this perspective. To be clear, I am not convinced, as this perspective is not without its own difficulties, but I am quite open to, and wrestling through this perspective. There are some aspects of Davidson’s interpretation that I do not agree with, such as his identification of the four seals / four horsemen of Revelation as correlating to the four beasts of Daniel 7. (After all, it would be impossible for any two prophecy teachers to fully agree with one another on everything!) Nevertheless, in light of the possible implications of these two chapters having future application, I want to describe three potential future scenarios for the region including Davidson’s rather fascinating theory (Scenario Three). To be clear, these are not the only possible scenarios, as we could certainly come up with several others. But based on my present understanding of prophecy, these three scenarios are the best candidates to see fulfillment in the days ahead. As always, God knows best.
Scenario One: Turkey continues to emerge as a regional leader, consolidating power over the northern swatch of the Middle East. Eventually a leader arises from this nation who will be revealed as the Antichrist. As a side note, many folks have asked me if I suspect or believe that Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey could be the Antichrist. For the most part, I try to avoid directly speculating on such matters as I am well aware that such speculation can be dangerous for many reasons. Nevertheless, let me say quite clearly that while Erdogan certainly has many qualities that one would expect to see in the Antichrist, I think it is unlikely that he is the man. My reason for this is the Scriptural requirement that the Antichrist emerge as a “little horn” (Daniel 7:8, 8:9, 11:23). The Scriptures seem to indicate that the Antichrist will initially appear as an obscure and little-known leader who will rise up in the midst of ten other contemporary leaders. He is said to first usurp or uproot three others and then gain the allegiance of all ten. In light of this, I do not think that Erdogan could be said to be the Antichrist, as he is perhaps one of the most prominent leaders not only in the Middle East, but also the whole world. In my opinion, because of the requirement that the Antichrist emerge as a leader of little influence or prominence, it is unlikely the Antichrist is an individual that is presently on anyone’s radar.
Scenario Two: The conflict in Syria continues to destabilize the region and eventually one of the breakaway segments of Syria and possibly segments of northern Iraq and Turkey produces a much lesser known leader who rises to become quite powerful, eventually being revealed as the Antichrist. This scenario is similar to scenario one, except rather than simply looking to Turkey, the leader arises from Syria or Iraq or some new breakaway portion of that part of the world, which may or may not include a portion of Turkey. In considering where the Scriptures point with regard to the coming of the Antichrist, there is a tension. On one hand, Ezekiel 38-39 clearly emphasizes Turkey as the region from which the Antichrist will emerge. The Antichrist is Gog, who is from Magog, and is the chief prince, or leader of Meshech and Tubal, which correlate with modern day Turkey. On the other hand, Daniel 8 and 11 place great emphasis on Antiochus Epiphanes as a type of the Antichrist. As such, it would seem to be from the region of the ancient Seleucid Kingdom (Which Antiochus ruled over) that the Antichrist will likely emerge. This would tend to point to south-eastern Turkey, northern Syria or northern Iraq. But it is somewhat difficult to determine how much weight we should place on a precise geographic correlation between the historical Seleucid Kingdom and the ultimate future fulfillment of these prophetic texts. This is further complicated by the fact that the Seleucid Empire took various shapes at different periods of its existence. So while I continue to lean toward seeing the Antichrist as coming from Turkey, (as I simply cannot see anyway to get around Ezekiel 38 and 39′s clear emphasis on that nation), in light of Daniel 8 and 11′s emphasis on the Seleucid Empire, I believe we would do well to remain open to any of these three nations as candidates from which the Antichrist could emerge.
Scenario Three: This scenario, as espoused by Davidson, which is based on a fully futurist interpretation of Daniel 7 and 8, would see Iran (the ram) as launching a regional offensive primarily into Iraq and Syria. After this offensive, we would see Turkey (the shaggy goat) respond with its own crushing military offensive. Iran would be defeated by Turkey, with the result being Turkish dominance of much of the northern Middle East. However, after crushing the Iranian offensive, the nation of Turkey would see its prominent leader die and for some unforeseen reason the new Greater Turkey would be broken up into four distinct segments. One of these segments, that which most closely correlates to the historical Seleucid Empire, likely including large segments of Syria and Iraq, would produce a little know leader who would eventually be revealed as the Antichrist.
The strength of this view, from my perspective, is that it could reconcile the tension that is felt between Ezekiel 38,39 and Daniel 8 & 11. One of its weaknesses is that it is an incredibly specific scenario. For this reason, while I think it is a view we should be aware of, consider, and watch for, I would not take a strong dogmatic stance on. The bottom line is that we see only through a glass darkly. The Scriptures tell us that our understanding of the future will be limited and obscured by our own limitations. I am convinced however, that when the time comes, the Lord will graciously allow his people to recognize the fulfillment of prophecy and understand the times. Our corporate understanding will continue to open up as the times draw closer. Now, to be clear, while I am encouraging a humble and open approach to prophecy, I am not suggesting that we should be equally open to every idea that is floating around out there. If we are to be honest, there are an abundant number of end time theories out there, and many are outright bizarre and not at all based on a careful and responsible interpretation of the Scriptures. But even among careful exegetes, there are various interpretations and options, and we will do well to be aware of and consider these various interpretations as we watch the present rolling waves and changing tides of the nations and eagerly watch for the coming of our King.
In a few weeks, Davidson is releasing a new version of his book, where he has significantly updated and expanded his previous work. I’ll make an update when it is released, but I would encourage everyone to pick up a copy and carefully consider his presentation.