A Seventh-Day Adventist named Kevin Benta has criticized my post on Daniel 2 for misrepresenting the Adventist position. He didn’t say how, exactly, but here’s the only time the original post mentioned Adventism:
A lot of dispensationalists (both Evangelicals and Seventh Day Adventists) try and turn the iron/clay toes into another Kingdom, to turn it into a prophesy about the Second Coming, instead of about Christ and the Catholic Church. The only problem with this interpretation is that it’s wrong, and goes directly against what Daniel says. Note how Daniel begins this explanation as “finally,” because the legs/toes are one Kingdom — the Roman Empire.
So I’m assuming this is what he’s criticizing. Within this paragraph, I make two arguments he might be objecting to: that Adventists (1) treat the iron/clay toes as a post-Roman Kingdom, and (2) try and turn Daniel 2 into a Second Coming Prophesy. I can show examples of both from popular Adventist works.
There are three ways that I’ve read Adventists attempt to add a post-Roman Kingdom (or Kingdoms) to the prophesy. One is to argue that the Kingdom of Iron is the Roman Empire, while the Kingdom of Iron and Clay is the Roman Catholic Church. Another is to argue that the Kingdom of Iron and Clay is the European Union (although this is more Evangelical than Adventist). And finally, there’s the Millerite position,* which is the norm within Adventism. This is best seen with Uriah Smith’s extra Ten Kingdoms, and their descendants, which add dozens of intervening Kingdoms between the Fourth Kingdom and the Advent of Christ. Smith’s Daniel and the Revelation is perhaps the most important book on Adventist eschatology. In it, he writes on pages 57-58:
We are therefore held to the conclusion that the ten toes of the image denote the ten parts into which the Roman Empire was divided. This division was accomplished between A.D. 351 and 476. […]
But all historians agree in this, that out of the territory of Western Rome, ten separate kingdoms were ultimately established, and we may safely assign them to the time between the dates above named; namely A.D. 351 and 476.
The ten nations which were most instrumental in breaking up the Roman Empire, and which at some time in their history held respectively portions of Roman territory as separate and independent kingdoms, may be enumerated (without respect to the time of their establishment) as follows: Huns, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks, Vandals, Suevi, Burgundians, Heruli, Anglo-Saxons, and Lombards. The connection between these and some of the modern nations of Europe, is still traceable in the names, as England, Burgundy, Lombardy, France, etc.
Smith proceeds to argue that Daniel 2’s fulfillment is a future event. So he’s separated Iron (the Roman Empire) from Iron/Clay (the bolded Kingdoms), argued that we’re still living in Iron/Clay, that Christ’s prophesied Kingdom is yet to come, and that instead of Four Kingdoms, there are dozens (the actual four, plus ten descendants of Rome, plus the modern nations of Europe). In contrast to this, Daniel 2 is quite clear that the Iron/Clay is still part of the Roman Empire — it’s the Empire before her collapse, when she’s internally divided.
Also, Daniel 2 is a reference to the First Advent of Christ, not an end-times prophesy. Christ begins His public ministry by saying: “‘The time has come.’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!'” (Mark 1:15). While it’s true that the Kingdom’s total fulfillment isn’t until the end of time, Smith’s interpretation would mean that we’re to completely ignore the entry of the Kingdom of God into History in determining the advent of the Kingdom. That’s obvious nonsense. This hasn’t been totally lost on Adventists themselves: this criticism, from Adventist Today, makes clear that the futurist interpretation is the norm within Adventism, and shows why that’s a problem:
Despite the laborious research of scholars over the last century and a half, SDAs have learned nothing from them about Daniel 2. We have retained the basic prophetic positions of William Miller. Let me illustrate. The lesson assumes the sequence of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome and the second coming of Christ. Thereby it omits the most important event of all the ages,’the first Advent and the Cross. But Matthew 21:42-44 applies the stone of Psalm 118:22 and Daniel 2:34,45 to Christ. Our Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary says ,“These words strongly reflect the thought of Dan.2:44, 45 (5:476.) To properly exegete Daniel, one must remember that it is not the practice of the Old Testament to separate the two advents. The kingdom of God is seen as a unit ushered in by the death of the Messiah and consummated at his return. Thus the parallel passage in Daniel 7: 13,14 is cited by Christ in Matthew 28:18 as applying to him because of the victory of the Cross.
So that’s what I’m referring to. Daniel 2 is a prophesy of the Incarnation and the creation of an unstoppable Church, and many Adventists and Evangelicals warp the prophesy and ignore the Incarnation to make it about the Second Coming. Any attempt to turn Daniel 2 into a Second Coming prophesy requires you to either create a post-Roman Fifth Kingdom preceding Christ, or pretend the Roman Empire still exists, or both.
*The Seventh Day Adventists descend from the Millerites of the 1840s. William Miller, their leader, was a false prophet who declared that Christ would personally return in 1843 or 1844, which obviously turned out to be false. A chart of the Millerite exegesis of Daniel 2 can be found here, and shows how this incorrect view of Daniel 2 helped yield an incorrect view of when Christ would return.