(Image courtesy of https://www.thebiblejourney.org.)

Recently, I read through the books of Daniel and Revelation in the Bible. I didn't stop to study each prophecy or each historical data point; however, by reading through the written accounts by Daniel and by John, and knowing enough about the historical context to be helpful in understanding the times in which they wrote, I discovered some similarities that I thought would be beneficial to share here.

Differences: Daniel

First of all, Daniel was written during the time of Jewish exile. The Babylonians were now the dominating middle eastern world power. The power struggles throughout the history of the ancient near east included societies like Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, and the Hittites. These nations warred with one another and conquered smaller kingdoms regularly, such as Israel, who was caught in the middle.

At the time of Daniel, Babylon was in charge of Israel. They were the suzerain nation, and Judah (southern kingdom in the land of Israel) was its vassal. The Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, decided to take some of the Hebrews to his land as slaves. Daniel was one of those chosen.

In more specific detail, Eugene H. Merrill recounts the events of Daniel's day:

"[A]fter dealing with the Assyrians, Nebuchadnezzar routed the Egyptians from Palestine as well, forcing them to retreat to their own country. Meanwhile, [the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar's father] died, necessitating Nebuchadnezzar's hasty return to Babylon in order to secure his succession. En route he took Jewish captives, including Daniel, and on his return he solidified his hold on Judah, elevating and deposing her kings as he saw fit.

Judah clearly was not pleased with this arrangement and, despite the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah to the contrary, Judah embarked on a program of independence under King Jehoiakim. Nebuchadnezzar, heaving dealt with problems that had allowed Jehoiakim's intemperate action, returned to Jerusalem to bring the kingdom of Judah to heel. Jehoiakim died in the interim, and it fell to his unfortunate son Jehoiachin to face the Babylonian fury. The young king was captured and sent to Babylon, and his uncle Zedekiah was placed on the Davidic throne. Within a decade he also rebelled. This time there was no mercy when the Babylonians returned, and in 586 Jerusalem and the temple were demolished and the cream of Judean political, religious, and cultural society was carried off to Babylon" ("The Historical Setting of the Old Testament," The World and the Word, 2011, p. 36).

Not only do I find history interesting, but also it is important to note a few important details from this time period to get a better understanding Daniel's prophetic visions:

1. the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed;

2. the Jews were in exile;

3. and the Hebrew kingdoms had fallen. 

Times were bleak, to say the least, for the Jews at this time.

Differences: Revelation

When the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation, early Christians had already suffered much at the hands of unbelievers, specifically in the Roman empire. Nero, the emperor of Rome from AD 54-68, persecuted the church severely, capturing Christians for sport in the Coliseum to be torn apart by wild beasts. Not only this, but John was the last surviving apostle, he himself being exiled to the island of Patmos, an island off the coast of modern-day Turkey. His revelation is said to have been written around AD 95.

While most of the persecution of Christians and Jews came from local authorities, the Roman emperors Nero and his successor, Domitian, were exceptionally brutal to the early church. Below is one historian's re-telling of the persecutions endured by the early church:

"The historian Pliny called Domitian the beast from hell who sat in its den, licking blood. In the Book of Revelation, John of the Apocalypse may have referred to Domitian when he described a beast from the abyss who blasphemes heaven and drinks the blood of the saints.

Domitian repelled invasions from Dacia (modern—day Rumania)—something later emperors would have increasing difficulty doing. He also was a master builder and adroit administrator, one of the best who ever governed the Empire. Suetonius, who hated Domitian, had to admit that 'he took such care to exercise restraint over the city officials and provincial governors that at no time were these more honest or just.'

But there was something wrong with Domitian. He enjoyed catching flies and stabbing them with a pen. He liked to watch gladiatorial fights between women and dwarfs. And during his reign he was so suspicious of plots against his life, the number of imperial spies and informers proliferated, as did the number of casualties among suspect Roman officials.

Domitian was the first emperor to have himself officially titled in Rome as 'God the Lord.' He insisted that other people hail his greatness with acclamations like 'Lord of the earth,' 'Invincible,' 'Glory,' 'Holy,' and 'Thou Alone.'

When he ordered people to give him divine honors, Jews, and no doubt Christians, balked. The resulting persecution of Jews is well-documented; that of Christians is not. However, the beast that the author of Revelation describes, as well as the events in the book, are perhaps best interpreted as hidden allusions to the rule of Domitian. In addition, Flavius Clemens, consul in 95, and his wife, Flavia Domitilla, were executed and exiled, respectively, by Domitian’s orders; many historians suspect this was because they were Christians" (Mark Galli, "Persecution in the Early Church: A Gallery of the Persecuting Emperors," Christian History Institute).

To recap, the events surrounding John's revelation are significant. At this time:

1. Christians were persecuted and even killed;

2. John himself, the last surviving apostle, was exiled;

3. and Jesus, who said before his ascension that he would return, was nowhere on earth to be found.

Hopelessness, indeed, must have characterized this time period for Christians and Jews alike.


First, a personal disclaimer: I do not find it necessary to force my interpretation of the prophecies of Daniel and John. Some, however, do. Again, I do not for two reasons: 1) not even Daniel and John, to whom the prophecies were given, were told an explanation of many of the visions they saw, and 2) Jesus said he would come again in the same way he went into heaven. As some have voiced already, I do not need to understand the timeline of the fulfillment of biblical prophecy or be able to explain future events fully in order to participate in the second coming of Christ. I - and you - need only believe and trust in Christ for justification. That being said, I am not going to interpret future events in this article.

Secondly, I want to draw one major similarity between these two historical accounts separated by centuries, and draw one main application for believers today.

1. God's sovereignty is on display in both Daniel and John.

The Jews in Daniel's day were wondering what was going on. Their Promised Land, and the land possessed by the patriarchs, had been taken away from them. The promised eternal line of David's house on the throne of Israel had been broken. The temple, the holy place where God dwelt, had been destroyed. How could this happen? Was God beaten by man's armies?

When one reads through Daniel, these are the questions the reader assumes the people of his day must be asking. But one theme shines out in response: God is still in control, and he will win!

"I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14).

Over and over again in Daniel's visions, the kings of earth are beaten and surpassed by the glory of God's anointed king, who will reign forever! Even though Daniel didn't understand all the prophecies shown to him, he must have understood that his only hope was with God who had not deserted his people and who had not been beaten by the kings of earth.

Likewise, in John's day, the early Christians were undoubtedly wondering what had happened to their Lord, who promised to return. If there was ever a time when Christians expected their Lord to return, it was during these times of trouble. Also, at one point, fear struck in particular when a letter was circulated claiming that Jesus had come again, but the church had missed it (2 Thes 2:2)!

With hopelessness abounding, Christ visited John on the island of Patmos to declare to him the hope that God will reign and to reiterate the fact that Christ would come again, conquering all his enemies!

"And he said to me, 'These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirts of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.'

'And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.' ...

'I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star'" (Rev 22:6-7, 16).

What should this do for believers today? Let us not give up hope, for Christ shall return as he has promised! There is no earthly power or power of the devil that can overturn the plan of God! He is, after all, the Creator of all things and all things in Christ are subject to him! No matter what comes, let us hope in the Lord!

"Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you" (Psalm 33:22).