A series of three prophetic studies outlining Jewish history, as presented by Amos, Daniel, and by the Conference at Jerusalem (Acts, chap. 15)

The Program of Daniel Chapter Nine

IN THE SECOND YEAR of Darius the Mede Daniel the prophet was reading Jeremiah's prediction concerning the desolations of Jerusalem. This first year of Darius was the sixty-eighth of the Babylonian captivity. There were therefore only two more years until the seventy foretold by Jeremiah would be accomplished. Daniel, being a man of faith, believed God would make good His promise that at the expiration of the seventy years He would return the captives to the land of their fathers. According to the second verse of this chapter Daniel understood by "the books" the number of years of which Jeremiah spoke. This statement shows that he had been studying the prophecy of Jeremiah in the light of other books. What books could these have been? Without doubt included in them was the Book of Kings--and possibly Chronicles if it was written at that time.

The prophecy of Jeremiah is recorded in chapter 25 of that book and is repeated in the letter written by Jeremiah to the captives in Babylon, which constitutes chapter 29 of the Book of Jeremiah.

REALIZING that the seventy years for the desolations of Jerusalem were practically accomplished and believing that God would fulfill His promise of restoring the exiles after the Babylonian captivity, Daniel, upon reading the prophecy and studying it in the light of all the facts, began to pray and to confess both his own sins and those of his people. His heart being right, naturally as he studied prophecy, he began to pray for all concerned.

While he was still speaking in prayer and confessing his own sins and those of Israel, the angel Gabriel, who had been dispatched from the Lord to him, arrived upon the scene and delivered a special message to him which the Lord had sent.

Daniel was a man like any of us--just the same as Elijah of whom James declared that he "was a man of like passions with us ..." (James 5:17).

Gabriel informed Daniel that he had been sent to give him instruction, to teach him wisdom and understanding. He therefore exhorted the prophet to "consider the matter and understand the vision" (Dan. 9:22,23). The fact of the angel's stating that he had come to bring Daniel wisdom and understanding and that he urged him to open his mind and heart to receive this new information shows that Daniel, though he was a prophet, did not understand the prophecy which he had been studying. How was it that a prophet of God could misunderstand the Scriptures as he read them? The answer is this: Whenever the Spirit of God was upon a prophet, he spoke infallibly, making no mistakes. But the Spirit was not
always upon the true prophets; for they very frequently tell us that the word of the Lord came to them on a certain day, of a given month, and of a definite year. Thus the dating of certain prophecies show us conclusively that the prophets were not always inspired. When, however, the Spirit was not making new revelations to and through them, they could, as they read the Scriptures, reach wrong conclusions the same as anyone else. That this statement is true is evident from the fact that Nathan, a true prophet of God, encouraged David to build the house of the Lord. Then the word of God came to him that night and instructed him to go to David, informing him that he had made a mistake and that the king would not be permitted to build the house of Jehovah, because he was a man of blood. In view of these facts we see that, when the Spirit of God was not upon a prophet, he could arrive at incorrect conclusions the same as anyone else. Moreover we learn that the prophet had to be of a receptive attitude in order to comprehend the message when it was delivered.

Can we ascertain the mistake which Daniel made? Yes, since the information which Gabriel brought to him was to give him instruction and to show what was the truth about the matter, we may be certain that there is reflected in his message the mistake which the prophet made. In other words, the message from Gabriel corrected him and enabled him to see the situation as it was and is. We must therefore study carefully the entire message.

GABRIEL told Daniel that seventy sevens were decreed upon his people and upon his holy city (Daniel 9:24). Our English version translates the Hebrew text here as "seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city ...." The English word weeks has a definite specific connotation and always suggests to us the idea of a period of seven days. This is not true with reference to the Hebrew text. Rendered literally the passage would read, "Seventy sevens are decreed ...." The word rendered weeks simply is the numeral seven. In a given case the facts of the context must determine the article or thing that is thus numbered. If there were seven birds, for instance, and the Hebrew was speaking, he would use this very word; if he were talking of children and noted the fact that there were seven, he would use the same word. In other words, the word translated weeks here is like our English word dozen. You may be thinking of or speaking about any article and declare that there is a dozen of it. Everyone would understand that the one making the statement indicated that there were twelve of the article or thing under consideration.

When Daniel said that there were seventy weeks, of what was he speaking? We must look at the facts of the context. From verse 2 of this prophecy we see that he was reading about the seventy years of the desolations of Jerusalem. He had therefore read of them, had been thinking about them, was praying in regard to them, and looking forward to the end of that period, at which time he confidently expected God to restore the people to the land of the fathers. As suggested above, Gabriel came to give Daniel the correct interpretation of the original prophecy. He therefore in substance said to Daniel: You have arrived at the wrong conclusion. The things for which you are looking will not come to pass at the end of the seventy years of Babylonian captivity; instead of their being fulfilled within the next two years, there will be seventy times seven years for the bringing in of this ideal condition concerning which you have been reading. Thus Gabriel told Daniel that the thing for which his heart yearned--as we shall presently see--would not come to pass until seven times seventy years were accomplished. In other words, 490 years would pass before the materialization of the vision for which he confidently looked.

WHAT were the things for which the prophet was longing? The answer is, the things mentioned in verse 24; for declared Gabriel, "Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy." From this statement we may confidently expect that at the end of this period of 490 years God will finish transgression--the transgression of the Jewish nation. There is one transgression of that people that stands out above all others and that is designated
the transgression. When this passage is studied in the light of related one, we see that this national sin of Israel is the rejection of her Messiah. Thus at the end of this 490 year period the matter concerning the transgression of the Jewish people will be brought to a final consummation and the books will be closed on that subject--in accordance with the principles of righteousness and justice to all--when Israel repents of it, confesses it, and requests her Messiah to return. The next item is "to make an end of sins," that is, that at the end of the 490 year period there will be no more sin in Israel. The entire nation will be righteous. At that time reconciliation will be made for iniquity--inborn sin, sin in the flesh. Then will be brought in everlasting righteousness, or the righteousness of the ages--the righteousness which God sponsors and which is a reflection of His own true character. His system of ethics and morals will be the order of the day from then on. At that time all vision and prophecy will be sealed. There will be no further need of prophecy, for all will be taught of God and will see and know fully even as they are fully known. Finally the most holy place--the sacred sanctuary of God--will be anointed.

When one looks at these statements, one sees that the angel Gabriel was talking about millennial conditions, that is, the conditions which will exist upon earth during the thousand years reign of our Lord. These facts show us that at the end of the 490-year period here mentioned, the Millennium will be established upon the earth and the glory of God will encircle the earth as the waters cover the sea.

THE NEXT question arising is, When does this period of 490 years begin? This is found in verse 25: "Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and three score and two weeks ..." According to this prophecy the initial date is the year when the commandment goes forth to restore and to build Jerusalem. When was this decree issued and by whom? The answer is clear and specific. Let us turn to Isaiah 44:24--45:13. (I urgently request the reader to study this block of Scripture in order to see the force of the subject under consideration.) In 44:24-28 Jehovah, Israel's Redeemer, is speaking and declares in saying to the deep, "Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers; that saith of Cyrus,
He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure, even saying of Jerusalem, She shall be built; and of the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid" (44:27,28). According to this prophecy Cyrus, the Persian, would issue the decree for the rebuilding of both Jerusalem and the Temple. If words means anything at all, this passage means this--nothing more, nothing less--that God unequivocally declared that Cyrus would be the one who would issue such a decree. In chapter 45 the Lord, through Isaiah, declared that Cyrus was His messiah in the sense of His using this heathen monarch to carry out His plans and purposes in liberating Israel from Babylonian captivity. In 45:12 the Lord declared again that He is the creator of man upon the earth and that He is the one who has stretched out the heavens and all their host. Following this statement he asserted, "I have raised him [Cyrus] up in righteousness, and I will make straight all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let my exiles go free, not for price nor reward, saith Jehovah of hosts." It is crystal clear that Cyrus was the one ordained of God to issue the decree for the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and for the liberation of the exiles. Since the Lord has said that it was Cyrus whom he would use to issue the decree for the rebuilding of the city and of the Temple, can we doubt this clear, unmistakable prophecy? Did God do what he here foretold? Did Cyrus make the decree concerning which God here spoke? There can be but one answer given by those who believe God infallibly inspired the Word, which is that certainly Cyrus did what God foretold that he would do.

In this connection our attention is often called to the decree which Cyrus issued and which is recorded in Ezra 1:1-4. Then it is pointed out that nothing is said about the rebuilding of Jerusalem in this edict, but that the Temple only is mentioned. That is true. In reply to this position let me call attention to the fact that there are two versions of this decree issued by Cyrus which are recorded in the Word. The first one is as just stated, Ezra 1:1-4. The second is found in 6:3-5. This latter one contains things that are not mentioned in the record of chapter 1. What does this fact show? Simply this: The first account, in chapter 1, does not give the decree in full. It is therefore gratuitous to assert that, because the rebuilding of Jerusalem is not mentioned in the draft of the decree given in chapter 1, therefore Cyrus did not authorize the rebuilding of Jerusalem--as God through Isaiah foretold he would do.

There is another fact that we must note in connection with this discussion. The Jews who returned under Zerubbabel to Jerusalem by the decree of Cyrus, armed with this decree, set about rebuilding the city and completed the repairs on the wall; for in Ezra 4:12 we have this record: "Be it known unto the king, that the Jews that came up from thee are come to us unto Jerusalem; they are building the rebellious and the bad city, and have finished the walls, and repaired the foundations." This is a statement which was made by the enemies of the Jews to the Persian king. The facts that the Jews did rebuild the wall and were restoring the city after they returned under Zerubbabel show that the decree which allowed them to rebuild the Temple also permitted their rebuilding their city and repairing the wall. If it had not given such authority, the Jews would not have dared to rebuild their city. These facts in the historical record show that Cyrus did exactly what God foretold that he would do, namely, issue the decree for the rebuilding and restoring of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple.

Since Gabriel said that the initial date of the 490-year period was the year for the issuing of the decree to restore Jerusalem, and since Cyrus issued that decree, we may be certain that this 490-year prophetic period began with Cyrus's issuing the decree, which was proclaimed in the year 536 B.C. according to the Ussher chronology; but, since, as we learn in Daniel 9:25 and 26, the Messiah would be cut off after 483 years (seven weeks and three score and two weeks), and since the Messiah (the Lord Jesus Christ) was crucified in 30 A.D., there were more than 483 years from 536 B.C. to 30 A.D. The facts are that there are 82 years too many between these two dates of the Ussher chronology. Is there a mistake in Daniel's prophecy? I answer with a most emphatic denial. God's word is infallibly inspired and is accurate in every detail. But Daniel's prediction does not coincide with the chronology which we accept. Obviously there must be a mistake in the received chronology. All who have studied the basis of the current chronology know that it is founded upon the Ptolemaic system of dating. Ptolemy, the heathen astronomer and chronologer, simply made the wrong calculation and devised a system of dating which contradicts the plainly written Word of God. We of the modern world have accepted a chronology that was worked out by a heathen philosopher. Which shall we then take, that which God has infallibly inspired or that which a heathen chronologer has given to us? As for me, I choose God's infallible Word. I therefore am convinced that this period of 483 years from the issuing of the decree to restore and to build Jerusalem to the execution of the Messiah is an interval of only 483 years. We must therefore discard the current chronology for the biblical record.

ACCORDING to Daniel 9:26 the Messiah is cut off at the end of this period of 483 years. When he is thus executed he has nothing. This prediction was literally fulfilled in the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. For details concerning his execution as set forth in prophecy see Psalm 22:1-21 and Isaiah 53.

DID THE seventieth week of Daniel follow immediately the sixty-ninth? In other words, did the last seven years of these 490 years follow the crucifixion? My answer is in the negative; for we are told in Daniel 9:26, "... the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined." The prince who is here called "the prince that shall come" is none other than the prince mentioned in Daniel 7:25, the last world ruler, the Antichrist. In Daniel 9:26 we are told that the people of that coming prince would destroy the city of Jerusalem and its Temple. What people destroyed Jerusalem? History shows that it was none other than the Romans, who razed it to the ground in 70 A.D. Here Daniel looked beyond the crucifixion of the Messiah out into the future to 70 A.D.--forty years later--and spoke of that calamity. Then he declared "and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined." The end of what? There can be but one answer. The end of the 490-year period. This statement puts the last seven years of the 490-year period out beyond 70 A.D. From this passage we do not see how long the interval would be from 70 A.D. to the end of the seventieth week. When this prophecy is laid down by such a one as Isaiah 61:1-3, one sees that this period is a rather long one. However an examination of the Isaiah passage shows that the Messiah at His first coming would "proclaim the year of Jehovah's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God."

Here two periods are mentioned. The first one is compared to a year whereas the latter is thought of as a day. The day of vengeance--the Tribulation--is a period of seven years. Preceding this day of vengeance is the year of Jehovah's favor. We are justified in arriving at the conclusion that an approximation of the ratio existing between the period of grace and that of wrath is the same as that between a year and a day. We may therefore safely conclude that, since Daniel said that he saw that interval existing between the time of Messiah's being cut off and the end of the seventieth week, he was granted some definite idea of its length. In view of these facts, the careful Bible student can see clearly the era intervening between the close of the sixty-ninth week of Daniel and the seventieth one, which is none other than the Christian Era. Yes, the Prophet Daniel clearly saw the Christian Dispensation, which is followed by the day of vengeance, the Tribulation; in turn the Tribulation is followed by the great Millennial Era of our Lord's reign.

The seventieth week is given in Daniel 9:27. It is a period of apostasy from God. It is a period when the Antichrist makes a covenant with the Jews for seven years, in the middle of which this ruthless dictator abrogates his treaty with the Jews and in a high-handed manner brings in every type of abomination. At the conclusion of the Tribulation the Lord will pour out His wrath upon this one who makes desolate, that is, the Antichrist who ruthlessly destroys all opposition to him and everything that is not in conformity with his ideas.

Thus the prophecy of Daniel 9 shows clearly the period of reconstruction under Zerubbabel, a period of forty-nine years; the next era reaching from the restoration to the execution of Messiah; the third epoch extending from the crucifixion of Messiah to the Tribulation Period--the Christian Era. The last of this 490-year period is the seventieth week, the Tribulation. Here the prophecy concludes; but from related passages we know that the great Millennial Era of our Lord will follow immediately the seventieth week of Daniel. Chart of The Jewish Calendar

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