Nathaniel West. Daniel’s Great Prophecy. New York: Hope of Israel, 1898. Google Books 8 Aug 2015. E-book.
———. The World’s Great Problem. Philadelphia: Winston, 1859. Google Books 7 November 2008. E-book.
Daniel’s Great Prophecy is the real deal. It lives up its name. Over the years I have read numerous books on end-times prophecy. I used to work in a Christian bookstore, so I had access to many of them. There really is a good reason that Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth was the biggest selling book in America in the seventies. I have even read some books specifically on the Book of Daniel. This book serves its purpose best.
As the title suggests, Daniel’s Great Prophecy is an examination of the prophecies in the Book of Daniel. This is not a commentary. There is virtually nothing about the Lion’s Den, the Fiery Furnace, or Belshazzar’s Feast. This is about Daniel’s historical prophecies. For that matter it barely touches on the two prophecies that came true in Daniel’s lifetime, Nebuchadnezzar’s madness and Belshazzar’s fall.
This book takes a look at the historical scope of Daniel’s prophecies with the emphasis on the end times. West is very literal but also fairly even handed in his approach. And he is thorough.
He emphasizes the two prophecies in Daniel that detail the four kingdoms that rule the Holy Land. These are found in chapters two (the giant image made of four metals) and seven (the four beasts). In addition chapters eight through twelve are also all prophecies of future events—future with respect to Daniel in the sixth century B.C., and many in the future with respect to us in the twenty-first century A.D.
What is refreshing about this book is that the author does not try to necessarily say that certain prophecies yet to happen must occur a particular manner. He notes that all four of the prophetic kingdoms (Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome) not only take over Israel, but they have dominion in all three of the continents of the Old World. Since the breakup of Rome only the Turks have had an empire in all three, but at the time West is writing, he is unsure of how much longer their reign will last. He notes and emphasizes that the Turks would probably not have been in power at all in his lifetime except that various Western powers made deals with them.
Like some other writers such as Henry Halley of Halley’s Bible Handbook fame, he suggests that the final persecution of Christians and Jews may be based on Islam. He is not dogmatic about it, but he quotes figures of the numbers of Christians executed in his lifetime by the Ottomans. Now this was a decade and a half before the Armenian genocide, but there were already signs that the Sultanate was headed in that direction. He also notes that the woman in Revelation 12, usually seen as representing Israel because she is surrounded by twelve stars for the twelve tribes, stands over the moon, the most common symbol associated with Islam.
Since the world began, no greater crime has been committed—save the crucifixion of Christ—than the introduction of this organized anti-Christian power, in 1856, into the family of civilized and Christian nations by the so-called “Christian Powers” themselves, at a cost of 300,000 lives and 300,000,000 of money, and in the face of gigantic massacres whose atrocities made the blood of mankind run cold. And all the more unutterably guilty have been the “Powers,” since the suosequent massacres in 1860, 1876 and 1894-1897, in south-eastern Europe, Crete, Greece, Armenia, with the slaughter of 130,000 Christians, and a total since 1822 of 162,000, and the destruction of the homes of 1,000,000 sufferers, and the agonies, tortures and dishonor of mothers, daughters and babes, have been allowed by the ” Powers ” to pass unavenged—Russia now consenting—all the “Christian Powers” shelling with their fleets (1897) defenseless Christians fighting to secure their freedom from the Turks! (678-85)
As the last paragraph suggests, West refers frequently to other prophetic Scriptures as well, especially Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Zechariah, Matthew 24 and 25, Revelation, and the letters to the Thessalonians. He shows how the different prophecies fit together, especially which ones are describing the same event. An obvious one is when Jesus specifically mentions a prophecy in Daniel. There are numerous others, and West makes a pretty convincing case.
Even in his day, there were those who had different interpretations of end times prophecies, including those who said they should not be taken literally. But when we see so many of the prophecies having already come true—e.g.. Greece will conquer Persia rapidly but that empire will be divided among four leaders with the passing of the first leader—it is hard to take them as mere parables or fictions illustrating spiritual truths.
No, the Book of Daniel and prophecies like those in Matthew give us hope. God does have a plan. He will see it through.
As mentioned in another book by West, he sees the necessity for the Jews to repopulate the Holy Land before the Second Coming. He also says that it is unlikely that many will convert to Christianity until the Lord comes.
He also has fairly convincing arguments about why the pre-tribulation secret rapture will not happen. Apparently by 1898 that teaching had gained some traction among Christians. He says:
It is remarkable how plainly the 70th week dominates the structure of our Lord’s Olivet-Discourse from Matthew 24:15 to Matthew 25:40. Warning against three snares, (1) that His Advent might be any moment, Matthew 24:4-8; (2) that it might be a secret one, Matthew 24:27; (3) that it might precede the close of the Tribulation, Matthew 24:29-31…He makes the Resurrection and the Rapture the first acts at His coming, the gathering of His elect by His angelic ministry, Matthew 24:30-31,40-41,44; Matthew 25:1. (1615-18, 1625-16)
He also does refer to various political events around the world, but holds off connecting them specifically to Bible prophecy. They are general observations mostly about how mankind has fallen short. For example, he is writing as the United States is deliberating about the crisis in Cuba. After the book was already published, of course, America would be involved in the Spanish-American war.
Time and again he refers to what in his day was called the Eastern Question. Now it is usually called the Near Eastern Peace Process, but it seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same.
West was born in 1826 and died in 1906. While reading Daniel’s Great Prophecy, the reader gets the impression that this is his life’s work. The organization, the clarity, the handling of Scripture are all very tight. Earlier works reflect some of his views, but this seems to be the one that puts it all together.
Of course, there may be a few quibbles. People do understand the dates of some of the events described in the Bible differently. West is using the best chronology available at his time. Indeed, in some cases he is probably more accurate than many today. This blog, though, notes a different date for the beginning of the “countdown” for Daniel’s prophecy of weeks (see “The Day the Lord Did Make”). He takes it to begin with Cyrus’s original order to resettle Judah in 536 B.C. The results are different and more specific if one takes it to mean Artaxerxes’ order to establish the city of Jerusalem in 444 B.C.
Those are minor differences because since the time of Jesus we are specifically told NOT to try to set dates (See Matthew 24:36). West gives reasonable interpretations of the Bible to share why the day-year interpretation of prophecy does not usually work. Most of those who have set dates for the Lord’s return usually do that scheme, and they have so far all been unsuccessful: the Millerites, Ellen G. White, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even Sir Isaac Newton tried his hand at the day-year substitution though the date he set is still in the future (2060 if you really care to know).
I had a friend who used a yellow highlighter to mark things in books and articles that he thought were important. He used to sometimes say that a particular article should just be dipped in a bucket of yellow ink, everything it had to say was important. I found myself highlighting a lot of Daniel’s Great Prophecy. If it were a print edition, I might need a bucket of yellow ink as well.
The World’s Great Problem is a short piece written much earlier but it reflects a point of view that comes through indirectly in much of West’s book on Daniel.
What is the great problem? Very simply, the world is always looking to create some kind of perfect society. It seems like most ideologies are utopian in some way. He emphasizes that the problem is simply that fallen man cannot set up a perfect anything until Jesus sets up His Kingdom. Even the so-called Christian nations of the West in the author’s day do not trust one another and appear to be building for war. West did not live to see how accurate he was, but it appears to be true.
Fans of C.S. Lewis note this theme in novels like The Last Battle or That Hideous Strength. It has become a common concept in many of the dystopian novels that have appeared in recent years.
It also is certainly true in our day that those who are trying to create some kind of utopia do not tolerate those who do not share their belief about their schemes. We see this in socialism, certainly in Communism and Fascism, and even in the Islamist or Hindu Nationalist movements today. Submit or die. The blood of martyrs is not a foundation for building a perfect society.
Both books, but especially Daniel’s Great Prophecy, are meant to give the reader hope. Read them and see.
N.B. As anyone who has tried to read files posted on Google Books knows by their own admission “you may see spelling mistakes, garbage characters, extraneous images, or missing pages” because of the OCR scanning. There are many spelling mistakes and odd characters in the edition I was reading, but anyone familiar with the English alphabet should be able to understand what was meant in most cases, although it does slow down the reading. For example, a common error was “The Son of Alan” for “The Son of Man.” If you see that a capital A followed by a lower case l could be mistaken for an M, such errors begin to make sense.
Above references cite Kindle locations, not page numbers. Quotations from West citing Bible passages use Roman numerals. I have changed these to Arabic numbers for easier reading and spelled out the names of the books instead of abbreviating them for the Bible citation links to appear in this blog.