The words “the things that must soon take place” (ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει) (Rev. 1:1) are probably an allusion to Daniel 2:28-29, 45 in Greek translation: the Lord “made known to King Nebuchadnezzar things that must take place at the end of days [ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐπʼ ἐσχάτων τῶν ἡμερῶν], and he who reveals mysteries showed to you things that are necessary to take place [ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι.] (Dan. 2:28-29, LES) (Ladd 1972: 21; Thomas 1992: 53; Beale 1999: 137, 153; Osborne 2002: 54; Smalley 2005: 27; Boxall 2006: 24; Leithart 2018: 71; Fanning 2020: 74-75).
G. K. Beale and Peter Leithart argue that the allusion to Daniel 2:28-29, 45 indicates that John’s visions refer to events that began in John’s own time (Beale 1999: 137, 153; Leithart 2018: 71).
However, there are good reasons for understanding the allusion to support yet future referents (generally speaking) to John’s visions.
a. The earliest commentator on Daniel distinguished between the legs of iron, symbolizing ancient Rome, and the ten toes of iron mixed with clay, which he related to future entities (Hippolytus 2017: 78; cf. Hippolytus 1886: 186). The basic correctness of his interpretation is confirmed by the parallel with the ten horns on the fourth beast in Daniel 7:24-27. These horns relate to the fourth beast but represent a distinct eschatological stage of his activity (see below).
b. The stone, representing Christ’s kingdom, smashed the image, not upon the iron legs of the fourth kingdom (Rome), but upon the iron and clay mixture that represented the divisions that followed the Rome of Jesus’s day (Miller 1994: 100).
c. The stone destroyed not only the feet but all the previous parts of the image as well. The utter destruction of the image symbolized the complete replacement of human kingdoms with the Messianic kingdom (Miller 1994: 101; Greidanus 2012: 76, n. 51). The destruction of “every rule and every authority and power” comes at “the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father” (1 Cor. 15:24). Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Theodore of Cyrus all connected the crushing of the statue with the second advent. Irenaeus taught that the ten toes referred to kings existing in “the last times,” that is in the time of Antichrist. He concluded, “they shall be destroyed by the coming of our Lord” (Irenaeus, AH 5.26.1-2). Theodoret wrote, “Clearly, this teaches about that which will occur at the end, that is, the coming of the kingdom of heaven that is without end.” And, “The stone that was cut without hands and grew into a great mountain and fills the whole earth is the second advent” (Stevenson and Gluerup 2008: 171). Hippolytus taught that the stone crushes “the kingdoms of this world” when Christ “comes from the heavens” that he “might set up the heavenly kingdom of the saints which shall never be destroyed” (Hippolytus 2017: 78 [2.12.7, 2.13.2]; Hippolytus 1886: 209-10 [§27]).
d. Psalm 110 provides a paradigm for understanding the two stages of the coming of Christ’s kingdom. At present the kingdom is coming in salvation, and Christ reigns in the midst of his enemies. In the future, the kingdom will come in judgment, and Christ will scatter kings in the day of his wrath. This vision clearly displays the latter.
e. This eschatological reading finds confirmation in Daniel 7. Interpreters of diverse perspectives recognize that the vision in Daniel 7 elaborates on the vision of chapter 2 (Steinmann 2008: 328; Tanner 2020: 396-97). The same four kingdoms found in Daniel 2 reappear in Daniel 7, symbolized as beasts (cf. Dan. 7:17, 23). Notably, even commentators who denied an eschatological referent to the feet of the statue in Daniel 2 see an eschatological culmination in Daniel 7. Young, along with interpreters from the church fathers onward, identifies the little horn with the Antichrist (7:8, 20, 24) (Young 1949: 150; cf. Hippolytus 136-37 (4.5.3; 4.7.1); Jermone 1958: 77; Wood 1973: 188; Miller 1994: 202-3; Steinmann 2008: 348-49; Tanner 2020: 413; note, however, that these interpreters have different views on Antichrist and his appearing). Young concludes, “Thus, in one remarkable picture, the entire course of history is given from the appearance of the historical Roman Empire until the end of human government” (Young 1949: 150). Steinmann similarly says, “It seems that the vision given Daniel in 7:9–14, which is interpreted in 7:15–28, pictures in one scene the entire sweep of salvation history that includes Christ’s first advent, the church age, and Christ’s second advent” (Steinmann 2008: 329-30).
f. The opposition of the little horn to the saints will only end when the Ancient of Days comes to put an end to it (Dan. 7:22) and when the Son of Man comes to the Ancient of Days (Dan. 7:13-14).
h. Since Daniel 2 is a prophecy about the establishment of the kingdom of God coming in eschatological judgment, the things that must soon take place which John will see in his visions are about the future coming of the kingdom in judgment.