The Book of Daniel and the End Time: Towards a Close Reading Approach

The Sabbath School lessons for this quarter are titled Preparation for the End Time. This is virtually the same as the popular 1960s book Preparation for the Final Crisis–copiously used during my seminary days–which provides an “actionable” timeline of the end (often called soft date-setting).

I think the author sets up a good premise when he writes that Daniel and his friends, living in Babylon in the 6th century BC “were examples of what Israel as a nation was to have been and done” (p. 14). But I felt that this plausible approach is somewhat overshadowed by a tendency to inject historical fulfilments into the prophecy without giving the reasons for such conclusions. Thus the lesson effectively removes the original Jewish readers from the place of “ideal readers” of Daniel and instead places longtime Adventists with expert knowledge on historicist prophetic interpretation in their place.

Surprisingly, although the study this week is titled “Daniel and the End Time,” the lesson does not really delve into the mechanics of “the time of the end” in the book of Daniel. I suspect that I’m not the only Adventist who expected a slightly different take on “Daniel and the End Time” in this week’s lesson.

It goes without saying then that the author understands Daniel as central to the “end times”: Daniel is mentioned and quoted well over 100 times in the entire lesson, second only to Jesus Christ (300+) and God (270+). The book of Daniel colors all references to dates and events in the lesson; in “Christ and the Heavenly Sanctuary” (lesson 4) we read: “From the study of the book of Daniel, we can see that this phase of ministry began in the year 1844” (p. 43). The year 1798 as the fulfillment of Dan 7:25 and Rev 13 appears four times in all thirteen lessons. Modern-day Europe is “depicted” in Dan 2:40-43 (p. 16) and the “unsealing” of Daniel is fulfilled in the “latter days”, i.e., the 19th century (p. 20).

The problem with this approach is that it superimposes a neat template to Daniel (and Revelation). What comes out of the texts then can only pass through this pre-set mold. Like those TV color screens of the 1960s which applied only three colors to black and white images, historicist presuppositions (as well as futurism and preterism) apply a monochromatic pattern to apocalyptic prophecy in favor of a pre-determined end result.

So, for all its worth, I hereby offer a “supplement” to this week’s lesson in the form of a brief exegetical study of the expression “the time of the end” in the book of Daniel. This approach is the product of a “close reading” of the text which simply means that the immediate context controls meaning.

I do so because Adventist interpretations are largely built on the notion that the visions of Daniel (especially chapter 8) refer without exception to the eschatological “time of the end,” a point in time far removed (2,600 years) from Daniel’s time and applies it to another primary audience rather than 6th century BC Jews. But as we’ll briefly see below, this interpretation stems from a circular, “auto-pilot” reading of the book of Daniel based mostly on (incorrect) Bible translations. And misunderstanding the “time of the end” in Daniel will invariably lead to misinterpretation of its prophetic visions.

Let’s look at the expressions of “time of the end” in Daniel.

“The time of the end.” The “time of the end” appears twice in Daniel 8: “the time of the end” (et-qets, v. 17) and “the appointed time of the end” (l’môe‘d qets, v. 19). The meaning of these expressions is clarified by the same “time of the end”(et-qets) when the “abomination of desolation” would appear (Dan 11:31, 35; 40; 12:11). This “time of the end” reappears twice as et-qets in 12:4, 9 and its meaning is further elucidated by Gabriel: it is the time when the book of Daniel would no longer be “secret” and “sealed” but would begin to be understood by the original audience, the Jews.

We see this unsealing of the book of Daniel predicted for the “time of the end” taking place when the Jews began reading and understanding the prophecies of Daniel, probably shortly after the end of the Babylonian captivity or at the latest when the book of Daniel became part of the Hebrew Bible. Thus the unsealing of Daniel in the “time of the end” is parallel to “the latter part [future, posterity] of their rule” in 8:23, that is, the rule of the four Greek kings coming out of Alexander the Great, which happens “many days from now” (8:26). Scholars often call this provisional, contextual “end” the prophet’s own “eschatological horizon”1 and not the actual “end.”

Accordingly, the books of Maccabees (ca. 100 BC) indicate that the Jews understood the visions of Daniel to apply to the desecrations of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the 2nd century BC, especially the “abomination of desolation” predicted for the “time of the end” (cf. Dan 9:27; 11:31, 35, 40; 12:11; 1 Macc 1:41–50, 57; 2 Macc 6:1-12). These events provide a historical starting point to understand the “time of the end” in Daniel.

But there’s more.

“The days to come, future, latter part, posterity.” It is worth noting that Daniel uses a different expression to describe the “final” periods in the visions. We read in Dan 2:28: “[God] has disclosed to King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen at the latter part of the days [Aram. aharît yômayya’]” while Dan 10:14 has: “I …have come to help you understand what is to happen to your people the latter part of the days [b’aharît hayamim]”. Notice that I did not translate these expressions as “the end” and there’s good reason for that.

The word aharît present in the preceding verses can have a range of meanings such as “after part, end (of place), latter part, future (of time), posterity, least part, back”2 and lexicons are agreed that its meaning must be decided by the context; aharît means “posterity, descendants” in several passages of the Old Testament (e.g., Prov 24:20; Psalm 37:37, 38; Amos 4:2, 9:1, Dan 11:4; Ezek 23:25) and also means “future” as in Jer 29:11: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future [aharît] with hope” (NRSV, cf. also Job 8:7; 42:12; Jer 31:17; Prov 23:18; 24:14; Isa 41:22; 46:10).

Significantly, Dan 8:23 has: “in the latter part of their reign [aharît malkûtam]” while Dan 11:4,––which explains how Alexander’s kingdom was going to be divided––reads: “And when he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven [cf. 8:8], but not among his posterity [aharît] nor according to his dominion with which he ruled; for his kingdom shall be uprooted, even for others besides these” (NKJV). Notice in Dan 11:4 how aharît has the very narrow meaning of “posterity, descendants” and not “end”.

We need to keep in mind that the “time of the end” appears in a chapter centered on the rise of Greece onto the world stage and its aggression on the Jewish people. In fact, most of Daniel 8 (15 out of 27 verses) is dedicated to explaining how Greece history intersected with the Jewish people. That the vision of Daniel 8 focuses primarily on the Jewish people is evident for three main reasons: (1) the chapter returns to the holy language of the Jews, Hebrew (1:1-2:3) rather than Aramaic (the international language of the time, 2:4-7:28); (2) the animals in the vision stem from the Hebrew sanctuary service (a male goat and a ram) as opposed to the unclean animals of Daniel 7, and; (3) the vision centers on the attack on the “host,” the “holy ones” and their “sanctuary” (8:10-13, 24).

According to Gabriel, this vision is for the “time of the end” which is synonymous with the “latter part of their kingdoms”, contextually interpreted as the time reign of four Greek kings which rise after the death of Alexander, the Great in 323 BC.

Coming back to Daniel 8:23 and 11:4, since both passages are thematically related and parallel, it seems then that the best translation of aharît in Dan 8:23 should be “posterity, descendants” as it does in 11:4 instead of “latter part”; thus we’d have in Dan 8:23: “And during the posterity [the period of the descendants] of these [Greek] kingdoms, when the transgressions have reached their full measure, a [Greek] king of bold countenance shall arise, skilled in intrigue.”

Scholars are unanimously agreed that this refers to the intersection of Greek and Jewish history because the textual evidence demands it. A cursory look at events in the second century BC appear to point to a striking fulfillment of this prophecy in the career of the Seleucid (Greek) king Antiochus IV Epiphanes who rose in 175 BC and inflicted horrific attacks on the Jewish people and the sanctuary. After Alexander and his sons (his aharît, Dan 11:4) were murdered, his four generals fought for control of different regions of his empire (cf. 8:8: “the four winds of heaven”) and this period lasted from 323-281 BC. When Alexander’s generals died, their kingdoms were in turn passed down to their descendants (aharît), called by historians as the “epigonoi” (a term commonly used for the offspring of mythological heroes).3 Thus aharît in Dan 8:23 seems to point to the descendants of the four Greek kingdoms out of which the “little horn” arises.

But even if we take aharît to mean the “latter part of their [Greek] rule”4 in Dan 8:23 as most Bible versions do, Antiochus IV fits here too. When he rose to power in 175 BC the Seleucid empire was in steep decline, having lost 80% of the territory it held since 303 BC (it lost Asia Minor to the Romans in 188 BC). Antiochus IV is considered the last significant Seleucid king by historians, the kings that followed him were negligible. After him, the Seleucid empire never regained the former significance and became increasingly disintegrated under the power of the Parthians (141 BC) and finally fell to Rome in 64 BC.5 Significantly, Antiochus IV’s defeat in the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC) set the stage for Judea to become an independent state as evidenced by the dynasty of Jewish Hasmonean kings, 140-64 BC. After Antiochus IV, Israel was never to be a subject of Greece again; this was “the end” of their “transgressions” against God’s people. (A full discussion of the textual evidence for this Greek “little horn” can be found in my essay: “A Response to Clifford Goldstein on the “Little Horn” of Daniel 8.”

Now we can look at another “time of the end” in the book of Daniel.

“The end of all time.” The actual eschatological end of all things in the book of Daniel is found only in 12:13: “But you, go your way, and rest; you shall rise for your reward at the end of the days [l’qets hayyamîn].” The unique Hebrew expression l’qets hayyamîn literally means “the end of the days,” i.e., “when days/time will come to an end.” It appears only here in the entire Old Testament and points to the day when Daniel would be resurrected and thus refers undeniably to theend of all things (cf. 1 Cor 15:51-53; Rev 20:5).

In sum, the expression “time of the end” in Daniel 8, 11 applies to the fulfilment of the events described in the vision involving ancient Greece, the four Greek kingdoms and their “posterity” and the aggressions of a Greek “little horn” on the Jews. Only once does “time of the end” refer to the eschatological end in the book, Dan 12:13.


The evidence perused in this essay indicates that when read in context and with as little external presuppositions as possible, Daniel offers the hope that a heinous assault against the people of God and his sanctuary in the “time of the end” of the visions would not last forever. After a short time (either 2,300 or 1,150 days, both work, see Dan 8:14) the earthly sanctuary would again be consecrated and the worship of Yahweh restored. This restoration was such an important event for Jews that Jesus joined in celebrating it at the Feast of Dedication (Hannukah) as recorded in John 10:22.

Finally–and in this I agree with this week’s lesson–Daniel, especially in chapter 8, provides enduring principles of the “end time” and the struggle between good and evil which are applicable to all such attacks on God’s people and His worship (as also applied by Jesus to the Roman invasion of Jerusalem; cf. Matt 24:15) until the end of time. After all, the horrific aggressions of the Greek “little horn” on the Jewish people and the Temple as well as their continuous iterations throughout history ultimately attempt to overthrow “truth” (Dan 8:12), a core attribute of God’s character and his worship.

Our challenge today is to allow these prophecies to continue to speak without “neutering” them by imposing “preferable” fulfilments in lieu of their clear, original intent as established in the text. Thus the question for us today remains: How are other such “little horns” inflicting attacks on God’s truth and worship and how should we guard against them?

Notes & References:

[1] Cf. Carol Ann Newsom and Brennan W. Breed, Daniel: A Commentary (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 2014), 63.

[2] R. Laird Harris, “68 אָחַר, [ahar]” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 33.

[3] Cf. Droysen, Johann Gustav, Geschichte der Nachfolger Alexanders (Hamburg: Friedrich Perthes, 1836), 517.

[4] Cf. Goldingay, Daniel, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 30 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 217: “in the closing period of their rule”.

[5] Cf. Susan M. Sherwin-White, Amalie Kuhrt, From Samarkhand to Sardis: A New Approach to the Seleucid Empire (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993), 215-235.

André Reis has published articles and book chapters on theology, church history, worship, and music. He has recently finished a PhD in New Testament.

Image Credit: Matt Botsford / Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Well said. However, I think that since administrators took over as guardians of correct theology as opposed to theologians circa Glacier View, we have less ability to make the appropriate adjustments even as they become more and more obviously necessary.


Why does the author persist in Adventism? Does he think he will change it from the inside? Why does he not join Good News Unlimited?


Dear lover of pagans with no name: André would be welcome to join Good News. And we invite you to join us as well. But we are NOT A CHURCH and have no desire to be one. God bless you.


Well said. Joining GNU would be more moral rather than pretending, but perhaps there is a pay packet, or intended pay packet involved methinks.

I shake my head in disbelief when I reviewed the sources of info he uses and obviously reads from. Talk about a miasma of philosophy thinkers who think nothing of spiritualizing away portions of the Bible they specialize in - Job and Daniel seem popular. One served as chairman of the paraphrasers’ of the New International Bible which speaks volumes.

One delves into controversial thinking like Kierkegaard and dialectic thinking, “reading Job as Kierkegaardian text,” and uses philosophy thinkers for study. Some more older sources had leanings that were notably political biased historians; toward German superiority and used sources like Kittel of Hitler infamy, etc.

We have a conglomeration of names, positions and connections, some of which (but not all) are significant in notoriety like Fuller Theological Seminary, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, University of Oxford, Yale Divinity School, Church of England priest.

The only thing missing in this treatise is a notice, “dear Des, I’m coming over.” But I see Gillian has made that offer already as his theology fits in so well with GNU. We just seem to find any SDA scholars missing from the line-up of sources. Perhaps this is sadly significant.


Cliff’s book sales must be dropping off.:rofl:


Because Adventism means MUCH MORE to me than just a “little horn.” :wink:


But judging by the amount of time and effort you have spent on the Little Horn and essentially corroborate Des Ford’s position, the Little Horn must mean a lot to you.


What if that was the position of Daniel to begin with? The text seems to be less ambiguous than previously thought. Have you read my response to Clifford?

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What a breath of fresh air! Hebrews tells us that the outer apartment of the sanctuary represented this earth while the inner apartment represented “Heaven itself”. On earth, God needed an area that demonstrated separation of holy from profane. There can be no veil in heaven, no separation of holy from holy.

No cleansing of the most immaculate place in the universe!


The book of Daniel is at least two books written in different languages at different times. It has more to do with the fate of The Hebrews than of the world. At best it gives assurance that God knows and will take charge over any beast The devil brings to the fore. The Christian finds his hope and assurance in Romans, Philippians, Hebrews, etc. why spend time with the mystics when the Gospel is so clear.


Two points in reply

  1. Cliff is not the principle contributor and it is not necessarily his views the lessons present.
  2. The Introduction to the Bible Study Guide clearly points out that this series of lessons presents two emphases in each lesson: (1) a short review of eschatological issues and (2) a spiritual application.
    It was never the intention of this series to outline details of eschatological events.
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,because on IT (sadly) hinges the entire SDA faith system. Let’s admit, THEY GOT IT ALL WRONG. Can we say that? October 1844 came and went and they got it wrong. People suffered through a difficult winter watching their crops rot in the fields. But all was not lost - Hiram Edson to the rescue.

If someone (SDA) were to emerge out of a sunflower field in Kansas (or corn), declaring he knows what happened in 1844 - in heaven, what would any normal person (even in the SDA church) think about that declaration? Why have we grasp on to Hiram’s declaration, making it the major point of faith and doctrine in the SDA church, worthy of determining who gets kicked out of membership and who gets to stay? Aren’t there more important issues at hand?

Ok, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that something happened in heaven - somewhere through Orion’s nebula, in 1844 - what difference does that make to our faith? What difference HAS it made to this point in time to your faith, to the church?

I went through this rigamarole ages ago, and it was very upsetting to find out that the entire SDA faith is based on some farmer who couldn’t accept he was wrong. It was genius, of course, nobody could prove him wrong - except people who could actually read THE BIBLE FOR THEMSELVES.

I would suggest you ditch the King James (or keep it - but it’s too familiar, bringing up word associations) and pick up any other Bible (Except the CLEAR WORD) try to find 1844 anywhere in it. The problem is, you can’t erase all your “foreknowledge.”


The article in response to Clifford was in a debate on Adventist Today.

actually, it isn’t Hebrews that tells us that…

Many Adventist leaders insist that while prophecy is conditional, end-time prophecy is not. It must and will be fulfilled as we have believed. What follows is an attempt to help believers who are unsure about that given the strange events now occurring in our world. This is not an endorsement of the accepted position, nor is it necessarily a critique–it is a warning, it is advice.

While there may be issues with our entire effort to understand the relation of apocalyptic to eschatology, as Reis indicates, let’s give Ellen White the benefit of the doubt on how she interpreted the “Signs of the Times.”

We have all been nurtured on several kinds of events as history ends it tortuous and circuitous journey to the end point.

(1) Sabbath-keeping will be a central, GLOBAL issue and those who observe it will be persecuted;

(2) Roman Catholicism, hand-in-hand with “apostate protestantism” will join forces to persecute Sabbath-keepers;

(3) Along with resistance to Sabbath-keeping, those who will not respond to the three-angel’s messages will also join the persecution, while those who respect religious liberty will join forces with “God’s people,” the last faithful remnant on the earth;.

(4) Probation will close and “plagues” will fall on the earth just prior to the end.

What Ellen White did not account for, and probably could not have accounted for:

The global impact of Islam and Communism (she passed two years before the Bolshevik revolution). Her insights partly arose out of frightening (to Anglo-Saxon eyes) waves of European Catholic Believers (Ireland, e.g.) steeped in a Catholic tradition and “way of doing things.” It joined church and state in a monolithic, controlling system that treated religious liberty as the liberty to worship according to the dictates of the Catholic Church (no longer taught in most places, esp. since Vatican II and Fr. John Courtney Murray’s impact on their thinking). In addition, a strong anti-Semitism in the USA did not abate with immigration from the “Old World,” but probably increased as more Jews arrived, fleeing Nazi oppression decades later. And, Sunday legislation surfaced in states dominated by fundamentalist Protestants.

Jump to the present through Ellen White eyes:

(a) The current Pope is facing a major backlash for being too “liberal” and may force the Catholic community to revert to a more conservative approach to their theology and practice;

(b) A significant percentage of evangelicals (not all) have swung far-right and supported Trump whom they perceive as furthering their own very conservative agenda (anti-abortion, conservative SCOTUS–which allows them to enact “laws” restricting behaviors they see as too liberal)

© Dramatic rise in anti-Semitism, white anglo nationalism, and so on.

I mention anti-Semitism because that is the one place I see SDAs possibly being attacked for keeping the Sabbath as “Jewish” in their true religious faith (hearken back to the first two centuries). Given the “warnings” we have received, sit would be prudent to be alert for where this is all going, especially in a world-wide, socially (not necessarily “factually”) driven media which seems to incite the worst conspiracy theories we have encountered in recent times. Even the most sacred institutions of American democracy are being assaulted with untruths.

On the other hand, we should also be alert to the possibility that end-time prophecy is not unconditional, and that divine wisdom and sovereignty will allow the events to unfold somewhat differently. SDA’s have come to the conviction that hosts of believers in a variety of Christian churches will be “saved” at the end. Many also argue that the “faithful” are found in every religious faith, not just Christian, and that in some sense the “end” does save the wheat wherever it is growing. Therefore, we must be open to a new, creative way God will accomplish the divine will as we near the return of Jesus. But that way will not be inconsistent with the principles we have received: (1) Religious Liberty will be under attack, including worshipping in any way the majority does not permit; (2) Persecution of those unwilling to abandon their faith (Muslims Friday, Adventists Saturday, etc.) will follow; (3) The contrast between authoritarian evil, falsehood, and mass delusion, with true liberty, based on truth and respect for “facts,” including those in Scripture, will be blindingly clear.

As Jesus warned us, while we think we know what the “signs” are the master is returning, we must also "be ready, for he comes in an hour you do not expect. May God help us to do just that.

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I was baptized with zero knowledge of Daniel 8 - even at 15. The one main issue that was emphasized was the fourth commandment, as being the one commandment no one else was paying attention to. The rest is a blur for me. I have a minor in Religion" and studied “Daniel and Revelation” as a class, after which I couldn’t tell you what it was about in connection with 1844, only remembering that it was odd that Ezekiel wasn’t the “little scroll, bitter in the stomach”.

When I did study Daniel in great detail, years later, it just didn’t add up. Since this issue is central to SDA belief, let’s ask those 12 year olds lining up for baptism to explain that before we accept them into the fold.

Honestly, I probably shouldn’t be posting on this subject because I get viscerally ill with frustration. When Des Ford came on the Adventist scene I couldn’t have been more thrilled. But, what happened to him told me everything I needed to know about how we actually approach Bible study. I should have known that when I talked to a pastor, at the time, saying what I was finding didn’t match up with EGW, and he told me to “pray again” - sort of like the WO thing where we pray and study until God tells us what we want Him to say.

So, good luck sorting this out again. I’m staying tuned until the next go-around. Personally, I think we will all be surprised by what is actually going to happen.


Andre, I have read your paper.

A few points:

Little Horn - in chapters 7 and 8. If there is talk of a little horn in two consecutive chapters of a book (even if they were not consecutive), it is logical to expect that they are referring to the same entity. Of course it doesn’t have to be that way, but a straightforward reading would lead one to that conclusion. (i.e. if one thought it was not the case the onus is on that one to demonstrate why it is so). Hence, I believe it is perfectly logical and acceptable to assume that the little horn in both chapters 7 and 8 is the same entity.

Who is “them” - winds or horns? You mention the issues with gender conflict. Have you read William Shea’s document “Selected Studies on Prophetic Interpretation”? I presume you have. “Out of one of them” literally translates as “from the one from them”. If you line up the genders in verse 8 and verse 9 you get the following:

vs 8 to the four winds (feminine) of the heavens (masculine)
vs 9 from the one (feminine) from them (masculine)

You have here a case of syntactic parallelism. Remember, Hebrew had all sorts of interesting textual styles which help to illuminate the text, something which is often lost in English or other translations. (Just as for example Chinese poetry translates very badly into English and one can only get a general understanding of the meaning but cannot grasp the beauty and precision of the original, some of the textual structure of the Hebrew text gives clear meaning to the text but if the translator is not “fluent” in Hebrew some of the meaning is lost. One can then go to the list of words that a particular Hebrew term can mean and try to choose the best, but one is treading blindly, as it could just as well be any of the other possible meanings.

TLDR - it is perfectly justifiable to expect the 2 little horns to be the same entity, and therefore if one of them comes out of Rome (this is a clear reading), and the other appears to come out of Greece (this is a more obscure reading), one has to study the text to see what it really means, and one shouldn’t let the obscure reading contradict the clear one.

And one point not covered in your linked article - the 2300 days. You CANNOT line up the 2300 days with Antiochus Epiphanes IV’s reign. You simply cannot. You can’t do it as 2300 literal days, you can’t do it as 1150 literal days (2300 evenings and 2300 mornings) as his reign was not exactly either of those, and you definitely can’t do it with prophetic days-literal years. This is where Ford and many others get unstuck. They simply cannot account for the precise numbers given in prophecy. God did not give us these precise numbers for us to get bogged down in the peripheral details and ignore them altogether because we don’t know what to do with them. If you can’t account for the 2300 days (nor the 1260, 1290, 1335) you are ignoring a big factor in prophetic interpretation. In short Antiochus CANNOT be the little horn.


I challenge anybody in this thread to prove from Scripture that seventh-day Sabbath keeping will be the the final test and the basis for the persecution of people who worship on Saturday during the final days of earth’s history.

Before somebody quotes Revelation 14:6, 7 and Genesis 2:1, 2, I suggest a close reading of Revelation 4 and 5. There we may just discover what worship is all about in the book of Revelation. Chapter 5:9, 10 are key verses. It’s about the slain Lamb and His shed blood that purchased us for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

We can miss-read Rev. 14:6,7 if we miss the point of Rev 5:13. There it talks about every created thing in heaven, on the earth, under the earth and on the sea and all things in them. Worship is all about our giving praise and honour and glory to the Lamb who created us and who was slain and who redeemed us by His shed blood on Calvary.

True worship is our privilege every moment of every day because the crucified and risen Christ, through His Holy Spirit, now dwells in us. On this basis we are blessed to join the elders and fall down and worship Almighty God and the Lamb.

The final test could well be, “What think you of Christ? Whose Son is He?” Or might it be, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’


I address these arguments in the long version of my response to Goldstein.

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