[This post was created from a comment (#3514) in the Post-eschatology and 2nd century church identity - clarification sought… thread.]
I’ll set out how I see it, roughly.
According to Daniel’s prophetic narrative, as the climax to a period of wrath against Israel a pagan force invades Judea, making war against the righteous in Israel, corrupting worship of the true God, acting blasphemously, and imposing Hellenistic values and practices on Jerusalem. Some in Israel advocate a covenant with the Gentile intruders; others resist, remaining faithful to the covenant at the cost of great suffering. At the end of this period of unprecedented affliction Israel will be delivered. Daniel 7 encapsulates in symbolic form the judgment that lies at the heart of this deliverance: the oppressor is judged and destroyed, and the kingdom is given to the suffering saints of the Most High, represented by the figure of one like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven. The oppressor seduces many in Israel, who become, therefore, equally wicked; and the time of deliverance is also a time of devastation for the Israel - the culmination of God’s judgment against a rebellious nation. But the central act of judgment in the tableau is against the pagan power, the fourth beast, and the king who ‘shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods’ (Dan. 11:36).
The New Testament, of course, is not solely dependent on this narrative. There is also, as you mention, the general Old Testament pattern of judgment on Israel followed by judgment on the enemies of Israel that appears in various shapes and colours in the Psalms and Prophets in particular. But I believe that the Son of man motif (and the larger narrative in Daniel 8-12 that it encapsulates) was critical to how Jesus and the apocalyptic tradition that developed from him constructed a vision of hope for the future.
The narrative makes sense of the connection between the war against the Jews and judgment on the persecutor of the people of God, between judgment on Israel and judgment on Rome. Your argument that the connection no longer applies once the old covenant has been nullified is interesting and worth thinking about further; but the theme of retribution, of judgment on the persecutors, is clearly there in the New Testament. If Jesus identifies himself the Son of man in Daniel’s vision, it seems very unlikely that he would have overlooked the fact that before the Son of man is given the kingdom, the pagan enemy is destroyed. Paul says that wrath comes first on Israel, then on the Greeks; he writes in 2 Thessalonians 1:6 that God considers it just to ‘repay with affliction those who afflict you’; Revelation, to my mind, predicts judgment on Rome as the enemy of the people of God. We have frequent allusions to Psalms 2 and 110, both of which speak of a king who defeats his enemies. And as I have suggested, the Apostolic Fathers spoke of imminent judgment on the world and deliverance of the suffering community of believers. The reason, I think, the connection doesn’t get dropped is that judgment on the enemy entails an end to the suffering and a vindication of the faithfulness of the followers of Jesus: judgment historically makes space for the renewed people to emerge and enjoy their new life in the Spirit.
I said in the book that we have to be very careful interpreting prophecy on the basis of hindsight (COSM 4). There is no reason to think that prophecies about a ‘first resurrection’ of the martyrs were given with a clear and detailed sense of how such an event would fit into the programme of history. The prophecies present a few fundamental convictions: that evil would not triumph, that the blasphemous and hostile ideology of Roman imperialism would be overthrown, that the suffering would come to an end, that those who suffered would not be abandoned to death but would be crowned with glory, and so on.