We want to pick-up our study where we ended last week, dealing with the 70 Weeks of Daniel’s prophecy.
The importance of the prophecy is stressed by Alva J. McClain in his book Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, in which he wrote: …only an omniscient God could have foretold over five hundred years in advance the very day on which the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem and present Himself as the “Prince” of Israel. Yet this is precisely what has been done in the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.
There are two important facts to remember while studying the prophecy.
What were these “sevens”?
The context clearly shows them to be sets of seven years. Daniel had just been considering the years of the captivity of his people and had read Jeremiah’s prophecy that said the captivity would last for seventy years. The seventy years of captivity were years of chastening for not allowing the land to have its Sabbaths for 490 years. The land was granted its Sabbaths during the absence of the Jews. The context is not onlyyears, but another seventy weeks of years, or 490 years. There is no question about the length of time here intended — 490 years.
But 490 years from when? And to accomplish what?
The vision is clear. The 490-year count would begin when the commandment went forth to restore and build Jerusalem. That is a date that has been preserved for us in the Bible.
When the time came for the Jews to return to their land, Nehemiah asked King Artaxerxes for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. The king issued the decree to restore and build Jerusalem as Nehemiah requested. It is a thrilling story, especially since it begins by recording the date of Nehemiah’s request and the forthcoming decree:
v.1 And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that wine was before him: and I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence.
v.2 Wherefore the king said unto me, Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart. Then I was very sore afraid,
v.3 And said unto the king, Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?
v.4 Then the king said unto me, For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven.
v.5 And I said unto the king, If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it.
v.6 And the king said unto me, (the queen also sitting by him,) For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
v.7 Moreover I said unto the king, If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the river, that they may convey me over till I come into Judah;
v.8 And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me.
(Nehemiah 2:1-8, emphasis mine).
Note that important date again — the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes. Since the king had taken the throne in 465 B.C., his twentieth year would have been 445 B.C. The month the decree was issued was Nisan. Since the day is not given, Jewish custom demands it to have been the first day of the month. Translating the date given in the Bible to our calendar, the king’s decree to rebuild Jerusalem went forth on March 14, 445 B.C.
At first glance, then, it would appear that 490 years from March 14, 445 B.C. should have brought the end of transgressions, reconciliation for iniquity, the beginning of everlasting righteousness, the fulfilling of all prophecy, and the crowning of the Messiah as King (Dan. 9:24).
But wait! There is a time break in the prophecy. After sixty-nine weeks (483 years) the Messiah would come as the Prince but He would be rejected and cut off.
That is exactly what happened.
Precisely 483 years after the issuing of the decree to build Jerusalem, the Messiah came riding into Jerusalem as had been prophesied:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, 0 daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass (Zech. 9:9).
Messiah the Prince was rejected by His people. He was cut off (crucified), but not for Himself; He died for others.
At the moment of Jesus’ death the prophetic clock stopped ticking as far as this vision for Israel is concerned, for it deals with that time in history when God interacts specifically with that nation.
Through the death of Christ, the wall between Jews and Gentiles was broken down.
In this church age, Jews and Gentiles become one in Christ at the moment of new birth;
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace (Eph. 2:13-15).
The prophetic clock will remain silent, leaving one week of years unfulfilled, until the church makes its exit from the earth at the return of Christ — the Rapture. Israel will then again become the object of God’s special dealing; the final seven years of Daniel’s vision will be counted off in the world’s most terrible time.
The final stages of Daniel’s prophecies will all find fulfillment simultaneously.
Ten nations that once were part of the Roman Empire will join together in an economic and political alliance.
The “little horn speaking great things” will emerge as a powerful political leader to whom three national heads of the new European federation will give full allegiance. Soon the other seven leaders will follow, making this evil man a dictator of immense power.
This newly acclaimed head of the revived Roman Empire will sign a seven-year peace treaty with Israel but will break it in the middle of the seventieth week — the middle of the final seven years:
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, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate (Dan. 9:27).
Those will be traumatic days for Israel. Just when peace seems to have come, it will be taken from her and she will be plunged into another bloody persecution.
What are the ingredients in the mixture of time and circumstances that will produce such a devastating explosion of persecution and misery for Israel at closing time?
And why has this particular nation suffered so much?
We will continue our study in this next week.
A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR JACK VAN IMPE