If someone were to ask for a prophecy that places the time of the Coming of the Messiah in the Old Testament, almost inevitably, the focus would be on Daniel 9. However, I submit that there is an additional passage in Daniel that squarely places the Messiah in the first century, and that is Daniel 2. If that is all that passage purported to do, it would not be a cause for controversy with many Christians, but it does much, much more. It also places the Messianic Kingdom as starting during that same time frame which of course makes utmost sense—with the King comes the Kingdom. There is no need to posit any gap, parenthesis, or delay until the Second Coming. The implications of this are not only monumental; they are deliciously intuitive. One need no longer wonder why the “Second Coming” is invisible in the Old Testament as ushering in the Kingdom and allegedly combined with Christ’s First Advent as one event (the unfortunately fabricated “ two mountain peaks blending together when viewed in the distance” theory). [FN 1] One need no longer relegate the Church to a secondary place in the plan of God.
Daniel is interpreting a dream of King Nebuchadnezzar that featured a statue comprising various materials which represented four kingdoms. The identity of the first kingdom is generally not in dispute, though there are splits pretty clearly along liberal/conservative lines about the identities of the remaining three. Amongst conservative, it is almost universally agreed that the fourth kingdom is Rome. [FN2] When interpreting the fourth kingdom (which comprised all the former ones— thus it suffers from lack of cohesiveness in its “feet”), Daniel states:
Daniel 2:44-46: "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”
The context is clear… Daniel identifies a progression of kingdoms leading up to the Kingdom of God. The last “kingdom” before the Kingdom of God is Rome. Futurism requires that get out our handy-dandy gap inserter and shoehorn in an enormous wedge of history with multiple subsequent “kingdoms” rising and falling, which are invisible in the text, and that the Roman Empire be “reconstituted” at some time in the future in order to fulfill this prophecy. This passage nowhere even hints at a gap, and though no time frames (such as 490 years) are laid out, the chronology is presented as sequential (in the days of these kings) with no inference of intervening “kingdoms” in the progression. The futurist paradigm here destroys a powerful apologetic for the claims of Christ. Most people when they think of Old Testament prophecies that specify the actual time of Christ’s First Advent only think of Daniel 9, yet this passage is just as astounding. The Messiah and His Kingdom came as expected (though the nature of His Kingdom was unexpected) in the days of the Roman Empire. It is a fabulous prophecy that fits in well with many of Christ’s Kingdom parables; and remember, Matthew 16:28 and Luke 21:31 also place the “coming of the Kingdom” squarely in the first century. The connections and confirmations are many and varied.
And notice what happens to this “stone” which begins in the first century, i.e., in the days of the Roman Empire…
Daniel 2:35: And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
One objection is that this stone is simply the Gospel, and that I am reading more into this than is necessary. Yes, the stone is the Gospel in a sense, but that is imprecise. The stone is Christ; His Body, the Church; and the Kingdom of God which is manifested by the spreading of the Gospel. Christ of course is referred to with such imagery (as the rock or stone) [FN3], and the Gospel is the expression of His work for us, so thus, it is a part for the whole. Of course Christ physically is not going to grow into a monstrous Man who sits upon the earth, it is the Church as His metaphysical Body that does.
This is reminiscent of Christ’s words on the nature of the Kingdom:
Matthew 13:33: The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.
The Kingdom grows and permeates the earth. Christ’s enemies are progressively being conquered and put under His feet.
Psalm 22:27-31: All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the LORD’s, and He rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth shall eat and worship; All those who go down to the dust shall bow before Him, even he who cannot keep himself alive. A posterity shall serve Him. It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation, they will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, that He has done this.
Notice again here, in its Messianic context, these verses follow immediately after the crucifixion imagery. The crucifixion accomplished victory which subsequently brings in the Messianic age. There is no mention of a physical resurrection (of believers) or Rapture that must occur first, and in fact, it speaks of a time where there is still “poor” (see verse 26), death, and posterity. This posterity, I believe, is directly tied to Isaiah 53:10 which again, chronologically, speaks of the results of His crucifixion.
Psalm 67 refers to the Messianic hope as happening in the natural progression of time again without an intervening physical resurrection/Rapture of believers, and Psalm 72 in its Messianic application speaks of the same; in great hope and detail. The New Testament also bears out that the chronology of this Messianic reign began with Christ’s resurrection/ascension in Romans 14:9-11, Ephesians 1:20-22, Colossians 1:18, and 1 Peter 3:22 (see also Revelation 17:14 and 19:16—He already bears those titles which is the reason why He is victorious.) At the time of His earthly ministry He was then given ALL authority (confirmed by Philippians 2:9). There were no intervening events mentioned before the Messianic reign could begin other than His crucifixtion, and there presently are no intervening events whatsoever, it is a present reality.
In fact Peter cites the resurrection/ascension also as the beginning of the promised Messianic reign, tying the resurrection to the ancient promise of God to “raise” up the Messiah to sit on David’s throne:
Acts 2:29-36: "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
See also and notice the mountain/stone imagery.
Isaiah 2:2-4: "Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."
Again, here there is no reference to a physical resurrection that must come first, and it contains the interesting phrase “latter days,” which although it can mean simply “the future,” it is a loaded phrase that the NT writers call the “last days” which definitely began in the first century.
This “mountain” is the Church; the city on a hill (Matthew 5:14); the holy Mount Zion (Hebrews 12:22). His judging between the nations started with his judgment upon Israel and continues as the nations are all gathered before Him (Matthew 25). [FN4]
Now for anyone wondering why in the world I am arguing for my position by pointing out that there is no intervening physical resurrection of believers before the Kingdom begins—this is why. Most of my debate opponents are premillennial, and must, by definition, believe that the resurrection MUST take place prior to the Messianic Kingdom as represented by the “Millennium” —thus if that is expressly not the case, premillennialism fails on that ground as well.
[FN1] Like most errors, there is some truth to this assertion. The two physical advents are presented as one event as they are the beginning and ending of one event: the reign of Christ. Dispensational premillennialism fails in that it present the period between the comings as an invisible valley between the two peaks. To stretch the analogy, my position sees only one mountain, which is the growing Kingdom of God, and one peak; which is the Consummation
[FN2] Liberals generally put the sequence of kingdoms as Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece while conservatives put the sequence of kingdoms as Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
[FN3] See Matthew by R.T. France for an excellent discussion of such imagery in the Gospel of Matthew.
[FN4] It is quite peculiar that modern Christians separate “judging” and “ruling” as if they were not two aspects of the same concept. The early “rulers” in Israel were called “judges,” but that made them no less leaders/rulers of their community. When the Scriptures say that we will “judge” angels, it isn’t referring to us merely evaluating their behaviour. We will be exalted above the angels in all respects.