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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC 8am & 11am service, 2017-05-28

Text: Daniel 9:20-27

Since last month we have been studying the four visions that Daniel received during the later years of his life. The first one came in 553 BC and is recorded in Daniel chapter 7. In this vision Daniel saw four great beasts which represents four great kingdoms of the world. Then he saw a little horn emerging out of the head of the fourth beast. This represents the powerful Antichrist who will gain worldwide power in the end-times. The vision ends with our Lord Jesus coming in glory and power to defeat the Antichrist and to establish His eternal dominion over the entire world.

Two years later, (551 BC) Daniel received the second vision which is recorded in chapter 8. It was a vision of a ram that was attacked and defeated by a goat. This portrays the conquests of Alexander the Great, whose empire was divided into four parts after he died. A little horn emerged from one of these parts, and we know from history that this little horn was the Greek king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The purpose of this vision was to warn the Jews of Daniel’s time about the terrible persecution they would face under this king.

Thirteen years later, (538 BC) Daniel received the third vision. This vision came in answer to a prayer that Daniel made in the first part of Chapter 9. In fact Daniel had not even finished praying when an angel of God suddenly came and revealed it to him.

 

The Background – Daniel’s Prayer

The Babylonian Empire had fallen just a year before that, but the Jews were still living in exile, far, far away from their homeland in Israel. By this time Daniel had been delivered from the Lion’s den (as we had seen in chapter 6) and he was now in his 80s. But despite his very advanced age, Daniel’s faithfulness to God had remained unchanged. He maintained a close walk with God through prayer and the study of His Word.

Chapter 9 begins with Daniel studying the prophecies of Jeremiah, and in particular a prophecy that the Captivity of the Jews would last for 70 years. This prophecy was given 50 years earlier in Jeremiah 29:10 – “For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform My good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.”

This must have made Daniel very excited since the Jews had been taken into Captivity about 68 years earlier. This means that it would not be long before they could return home! But Daniel did not take the fulfilment of this prophecy for granted. He knew that God had sent the Jews into Captivity because of their sins. He knew that they deserved to be kept in captivity much longer than 70 years if they had not changed their sinful ways. And so he gets down on his knees to pray and to plead with all his heart to God.

There are two petitions that Daniel made in this prayer: The first petition is found in verse 16 – “O Lord, according to all Thy righteousness, I beseech Thee, let Thine anger and Thy fury be turned away from Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mountain…” This was a petition for peace to be permanently restored to Jerusalem, which was still in ruins from its destruction 48 years earlier.

The second petition of Daniel’s prayer is found in verse 17– “Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of Thy servant, and his supplications, and cause Thy face to shine upon Thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake.”This was a petition for the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt and for the worship of God there to be fully restored.

God’s response to Daniel’s prayer came almost immediately, as he testifies: “…whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel,… touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding… therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.” (vv. 21-23)

The Vision – The Seventy ‘Weeks’

The answer, which is given in vv.24-27 is this: Your petitions will be granted completely, but only within a time frame of seventy ‘weeks.’ Verse 24 – “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city.” The ‘week’ here is not referring to a seven-day week at all. In Hebrew, the word used for “week” has the same meaning as the word used for “seven” (sheba’). Hence what was meant in verse 24 was seventy sevens or 70x7. But the question is: What unit of time is this all about?

Verse 2 gives us a clue – “…that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” When the 70 weeks of v.24 is seen together with the 70 years of this verse, we may conclude that 70x7 years is meant here. Hence God’s answer to Daniel was this: “It took 70 years for desolations to be accomplished at Jerusalem. But it is going to take seven times that number of years before your petitions will be granted – when God will forever turn away His fury from Jerusalem and when His face will shine upon His sanctuary.

Daniel’s vision continues in v.24: The angel now reveals to him six things that will happen within this time frame: The first two are “to finish the transgression and to make an end of sins.” This means that even after being chastised in the 70-year Captivity, the Jews would still continue to transgress God’s laws and sin against Him. It is a sad thing but true – they were cured of the sin of idolatry. But the Jews went on to commit many other sins, and their sins will not come to an end until something happens at the end of the 70 weeks.

The third thing to be accomplished within this time frame is “to make reconciliation for iniquity.” From a New Testament perspective ‘reconciliation for iniquity’ clearly refers to the atonement that Jesus Christ would make through His death on the cross. As Romans 5:10 tells us, “…when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son,…”

The fourth thing to be accomplished is to “bring in everlasting righteousness.” This most likely refers to the resurrection of Christ for our justification, as revealed in Romans 4:25 – [Jesus] was delivered for our offences, andwas raised again for our justification.” To be justified is to have the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ permanently imputed to us.

The fifth thing to be accomplished is to “seal up the vision and prophecy.” This probably refers to the completion of the Bible around AD 96, when the apostle John received the final vision from God, which is the book of Revelation. The apostle Peter referred to the Bible as ‘a more sure word of prophecy’ which we now have and should take heed unto (2 Peter 1:19).

The sixth thing to be accomplished within the same time frame is “to anoint the Most Holy.” The ‘Most Holy’ is literally translated as the ‘Holy of the Holies’ which is the innermost chamber of the Temple. This anointing will take place only when the new Millennial Temple in Jerusalem is consecrated for God’s use with anointing oil (cf. Exodus 40:9). The throne of the Lord Jesus will then be set up in the Most Holy place. This is described in Ezekiel 43:7 – “…the place of My throne, and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever…”

The question we ask is: Have all these six things been accomplished yet? The answer is No. More than 25 centuries have already passed, but not all have been accomplished. The last one, which is the anointing of the Most Holy Place, is still in the future. This will help us to understand the next 3 verses where we see the time frame of seventy weeks divided into three segments.

1. The First Segment – Seven ‘weeks’

Verse 25 – “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks…” The first segment is seven weeks which is 49 years long. It begins at the going forth of the commandment to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem. And it terminates with the completion of this work as mentioned at the end of this verse: “…the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.”

In the year 458 BC, King Artaxerxes issued a decree allowing Ezra to lead a group of Jews to return to Israel, and he granted them the right of self-government. Thirteen years later, Nehemiah led the Jews to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and they did this in 52 days amid much opposition from their enemies. By the end of the first segment (which is about 409 BC) the work of restoring and rebuilding Jerusalem was complete.

2. The Second Segment – Sixty-two ‘weeks’

The second segment is mentioned next in v.25: “…threescore and two weeks…” This segment is 62 weeks which is 434 years long. Since this segment began in 409 BC, it would end in AD 26 which is the year when Jesus began His public ministry. He is therefore the One mentioned here as ‘the Messiah the Prince’. John the Baptist was the herald who proclaimed His arrival. Jesus then began to preach, teach and perform great miracles. His ministry went on for 3½ years until He died on the Cross of Calvary in AD 30. This event was foretold in verse 26 – “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself.” Why is it stated here that He was‘cut off, but not for Himself?’ It is because Christ died on the cross in our place, as a sacrifice for our sins. Can you see how precise this entire prophecy is? Only God could have predicted the beginning of the public ministry and the death of Jesus with such great accuracy over five centuries beforehand!

But that’s not all that happens after the second segment. Verse 26 continues, “…and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” At the time when Daniel received this vision, the city of Jerusalem and the Temple were all in ruins. So this destruction must refer to another destruction that would take place only after the city and the Temple are rebuilt. When did this second destruction take place? It took place in AD 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and demolished the Temple. The Jews were then exiled from their homeland and were scattered all over the world.

And ever since then, the city of Jerusalem has faced wars and conflicts as the end of v.26 says – “and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” Though the name “Jerusalem” means “City of Peace” there has been very little peace for the people who live there. According to Eric Cline, a lecturer in archaeology, Jerusalem has been “destroyed completely at least twice, besieged 23 times, attacked an additional 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times. It has been the scene of 20 revolts and innumerable riots, and had at least five separate periods of violent terrorist attacks during the past century.”

3. The Third Segment – the Seventieth ‘week’

Thus far we have seen that the first segment of the 70-week time frame is 7 weeks, and that the second segment is 62 weeks. These two add up to 69 weeks. That leaves only one week of seven years for the third and final segment of the time frame – which is the 70th week. The next verse tells us what will happen in this 70th week – “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease…”

Who is this person who will do all these things during the final segment? In the preceding verse (v.26) he is called ‘the prince that shall come.’ Since the Romans were the ones who destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70, this prince that shall come must belong to the Roman Empire or to a later form of it. You may remember that in chapter 7, the little horn came out of the fourth beast which represents the Roman Empire. This Prince or world dictator that shall come is therefore the ‘little horn’, or the Antichrist.

Verse 27 foretells what the Antichrist will do: He will successfully broker a covenant or peace treaty that allows the Jews to reinstate their Temple sacrifices for seven years. And the whole world will praise him for this achievement. But when he has gained sufficient power he will revoke this covenant. He will put a stop to all Jewish worship in the Temple in the middle of that seven-year period. His true colours will then be revealed, as the rest of this verse says, “And for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

The word “desolate” here is identical to the “abomination of desolation” which Jesus spoke about in Matthew 24:15 – “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains.” This abomination refers to the idol-worship which the Antichrist will set up in Jerusalem. Those who refuse to worship will suffer great tribulation. More details of this great tribulation are found in Revelation 13. This will go on during second half of the seven years. After that our Lord Jesus will return to destroy the Antichrist and to rule over the world from Jerusalem. The Jews will finally acknowledge Him as their Messiah and they will be gloriously saved. As the 70th week ends with the Messiah’s return, Daniel’s two petitions will finally be granted. God’s fury will be turned away from Jerusalem, and He will cause His face to shine upon His sanctuary which is the rebuilt Temple (vv.16,17).

The Gap between the Second and Third Segments

It should be quite obvious by now that there is a time gap between the second and third segments of the 70 weeks, since the last thing mentioned in v.24 (to anoint the most Holy) is not accomplished yet, and there are already two events that take place after second segment but before the third segment: the death of Christ in AD 30 and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. And now we are in this time gap, which has extended to almost 2,000 years!

Actually many OT prophecies also have unspecified time gaps in them. One example is found in Isaiah 9:6, where the 1st and 2nd advents of Christ seem to be portrayed as consecutive events – “For unto us a child is born, (1stadvent) unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder (2nd advent): and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

But why is there such a large gap within this time frame of 70 weeks? Verse 24 gives us a clue: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city…” Hence this time frame is about God’s specific plan for the Jews and for the city of Jerusalem. But unfortunately the Jews rejected their Messiah. John testifies that “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.” (1:11)

So for the last 2,000 years the Lord’s focus has been on the salvation of the Gentiles. That’s how we were saved! Paul wrote about this in Romans 11:11,25 – “…through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy… blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” When the present times of the Gentiles is over, God will then turn His focus back to Israel and the third segment will begin.

The stage is already being set for this to happen: After spending almost 19 centuries in exile, the Jews returned to their homeland, and against all odds they re-established their nation 69 years ago. Fifty years ago, the entire city of Jerusalem came under Israeli control. Last week the US president made his first visit to Israel on a mission to bring peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The big question now is: Will this visit eventually lead to the beginning of the 70th week of God’s calendar? We really don’t know. But it is certain that we are living quite close to that time!

The Lessons from this Vision

The more important question for us at this time is: What lessons are there for us to learn from this vision? The first lesson comes from observing that God’s sovereignty affects even the precise timing of events in history. This applies to us on a personal level: Our times are in His hands. Let us therefore rely on Him patiently to work out His glorious plan for our lives. Do not be impatient when things don’t happen according to your timing and plans. Instead, you should do what Daniel did – he prayed earnestly when he understood that the captivity of the Jews would last for 70 years. This brings us now to the second lesson…

Let us watch and pray with alertness for the return of our Lord Jesus, s we do not know exactly when it will happen. There are actually many different views on how to interpret the 70 weeks. What you have heard today is what I believe to be the best view for us to take. But some of you who have studied this passage may not agree with me on the details. Let me say that it is of no value to spend too much time arguing whose interpretation of this passage is correct.

Two people were arguing so intensely at a train station about the exact time when a train would arrive that the train actually came and went without them. Please don’t let this happen to you. If you are not saved yet, please make sure that you are saved! The end may now be nearer than you think. As we see world events developing every passing day, the seventieth week of God’s calendar may well be just around the corner.

In the meantime, we must occupy until Christ returns! This means maximising the remaining time to do as much as we can for the Lord. We must be consistent in doing what we should be doing in this world – making disciples of Christ by sharing the Gospel with those who are still unsaved. This is so much better than trying to scare them into God’s kingdom with sensational doomsday predictions. If we keep on telling people that disaster will come at a certain time but it fails to come as predicted, they will soon stop listening to us – just like the story of the boy who cried “wolf.” So let us be careful not to give false alarms, but let us be diligent to share the Gospel widely while there is still time for sinners to be saved!

The third and final lesson we learn from this vision is to be content to know what God has revealed in His Word. God may have a special purpose for not giving us a comprehensive calendar filled with every single detail of the seventieth week, like when it will happen, and who the Antichrist will be. How we wish we could know the exact moment to prepare ourselves for. But what He has revealed here is sufficient to keep us alert – just like waiting for a thief to come at night. Why is this so? Because knowing our sinful nature, we can imagine what would happen if we knew every detail about the Lord’s coming beforehand – we and the rest of world would be taking things too easy right up till the very last moment, and then just before He comes, we would start getting ourselves into gear.

So let us all take heed to the words of our Lord Jesus in this regard: “Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Revelation 22:12). 

 

 

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25