The main reason many people read Daniel for its teaching on the end times. The book teaches that God is sovereign and that he has a plan for the world. This plan will be successful despite human sin and rebellion. For Daniel, this means there will be a succession of kingdoms ruling over Israel until God breaks into history in a spectacular way and establishes a new kingdom of God fulfilling his promise to David. The future in Daniel is based on the foundation of the past.
Before that future arrives, the successive kingdoms of the Gentiles will oppress the Jews and make it difficult for them to live as the people of God. This calls for patient endurance and commitment to God in a pagan world which will eventually attempt to stamp out all godliness altogether.
Many of the eschatological themes from Daniel are echoed in the New Testament.In Matthew 24:15-28Jesus cites Daniel when he describes a future “abomination which causes desolation.” For a Jewish listener in AD 30, this abomination looked back to the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, but Jesus says there is another abomination coming in the future. This might refer to the Roman destruction of the Temple in AD 70, or any number of desecrations of the Temple Mount leading up to a still-future sacrilege.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of Daniel 7:13-14 for understanding messianic expectations in the late Second Temple period. That Jesus would call himself the son of man (Mark 10:45, for example) and he alludes to the passage when he responds to a direct question from the high priest, “Are you God’s messiah?” (Mark 14:62). Even the Great Commission may allude to Daniel 7:13-14: after the resurrection “all authority in heaven on earth” was given to Jesus.
Paul may have themes from Daniel in mind when he describes the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2. Paul’s description of this final enemy of God is similar to the “little horn” in Daniel 7 and 11. John Goldingay suggests 1 Corinthians 15:23-38 is shaped by Daniel 6 (Daniel2, 107).
The New Testament book most influenced by Daniel is obviously Revelation. Daniel provides the outline for Revelation’s vision of the final conflict. In addition Daniel is one of the main sources for Revelation’s imagery of an end-times beast, an anti-God government making war against the people of God, a final judgment using thrones and books, etc.
In the history of the interpretation of Daniel, it is the eschatological themes that have dominated. When will the “fifth kingdom” of Daniel 2 finally arrive? When will God break into history and rescue his people from their oppressors and finally establish his kingdom?
Church history is full of movements that attempted to make Daniel (and Revelation) apply to their own day by reading the numbers of Daniel as a prediction of the number of years until God destroys the kingdom of the final beast, usually just a few years in the future.
Is it possible to predict the second coming of Jesus as the Messiah? Do the numbers found in Daniel someone extend into present age? Although the book of Daniel does have a remarkably accurate outline of history up to a certain point, it is silent on the period between the cutting off of the Messiah and the return of the Messiah to establish the kingdom.
These attempts to interpret Daniel as a roadmap to current events obscure the real message of Daniel: God is still sovereign and he is still protecting his people as the faithfully serve him in an increasingly ungodly world.