February 22, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XXIII: The 70

Seventy Weeks (9:1–27)

In this vision Daniel did not see a beast rising out of a sea or rams and goats, Nor does he see Gabriel appear in vision but in bodily form. This new vision needs to be seen as a prophetic revelation a la Habakkuk 2:2. Daniel 9 contains a record of the prophet’s prayer on behalf of the covenant people Israel, the vision is more or less God’s response to that prayer. Daniel prays and intercessory prayer for his people.

The events of this chapter transpire approximately a decase after Daniel’s second vision recorded in chapter 8. Darius the Mede (which is probably an alternative title of Cyrus is described as the son of “Xerxes” or “Ahasuerus” which is a Hebrew equivalent. “According to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet” (v2) is a strong affirmation of verbal inspiration. The writer of Daniel believed that the sacred Scriptures, in this case the prophecies of Jeremiah, were the very words of God delivered to the world through a human instrument. “That the desolation of Jerusalem would last” is literally “to completely fill up the desolations of Jerusalem.”

Jerusalem would lie in ruins until its inhabitants experienced the full measure of the discipline of Yahweh and then they would return and rebuild the city. Jerusalem’s desolations would continue for seventy years.

The prophet Jeremiah had predicted that Judah would go into captivity to Babylon but after seventy years would return to the land

This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Jeremiah 25:11

This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. Jeremiah 29:10

The year 605 B.C. was the year when the first captives were taken to Babylon (Daniel and his friends). It can be assumed that Jeremiah intended this as the beginning date for the seventy-year captivity period. Then Cyrus issued the decree releasing the captives in 538/537 B.C., and the exiles returned shortly thereafter and probably arriving back in Jerusalem en masse approximately 535…70 years later. To me this is an amazing fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy.

Daniels Prayer (9:3)

Daniel prayed in earnest to the Lord with a determined heart. “I turned” in the Hebrew reads, “I gave my face.” Daniel determined to look to God in prayer until He gave him an answer.Not only did God hear Daniel’s prayer, but he also had the power to direct the affairs of world history in order to answer the prayer. Daniel’s mind was amazing versed and filled with God’s Word as the prayer shows Deuteronomy, Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8, and Jeremiah to name a few that are obvious. There is a sense of emphasis given by Daniel in this prayer that is poorly translated in the English as “alas”. Daniel was seriously straining against the spiritual in his petition to God here…I imagine he might have even been sweating, crying, etc. Daniel began to pour out his heart to God as he confessed his sin and the sin of his people Israel. Even though Daniel identified himself with his people, he certainly had not been part of the rebellious majority who had brought the wrath of God upon the nation. I guess the truth is that no matter how little we sin we are all sinners and should see ourselves as such. The Israelites, Daniel and we miss the mark which is exactly what sin means…to miss the mark. This veering from God’s prescribed path is condemned because it is deliberate. The Hebrew verb רָ֭שָׁע “be wicked” may literally be one who is guilty of crimes against humanity or against God. Israel’s crime was rebellion against their God who was holy.

God had sent his “servants, the prophets” to exhort the people of Israel and their leaders to repent of their sin, but they refused to listen. Not all though, the prophets were faithful, and others like Daniel and his friends remained true to God through the covenant. The nation as a whole though stumbled badly, the “kings”, “princes” and “fathers”.

In verses 7 and 8 Daniel contrasted the righteousness of the Lord with the unfaithfulness of Israel and it makes mankind in general look pathetic. Israel was in the present state that they were (just as we are in sin) because they were a disgrace without God. It is only because of God and with God that we have any value. Without him we look like these pathetic Israelites in captivity. Slaves to a subjugating power…slaves to sin.

We see in Israel’s exile to Babylon the curses from Deuteronomy played out in their lives for disobeying their covenant with God. Daniel again reminded them that the disaster that had befallen them was predicted in the Law of Moses. The prophet grieved over the fact that even though this great disaster had come upon Israel “just as it is written,” the nation as a whole still had not repented. Judgment fell because Yahweh God “is righteous in everything he does.” In spite of Israel’s sin the prophet was pleading with God to remember these promises and reestablish the nation of Israel. Daniel prayed for a restoration of Jerusalem, he requested the rebuilding of the temple.

We must never forget that these “requests” were not based on the fact that the Jewish people were “righteous” (lit., “our righteous acts”) because they were not. This is purely based in God’s mercy and grace just as the gift of His Son would be.

Facilitator of the Vision (9:20–23)

Before Daniel even finished his prayer, God sends an answer. God hears our prayers

Gabriel comes for divine communication. The word “came” is a rendering of the Hebrew participle of נֹגֵ֣עַ “to touch.” Gabriel could’ve literally “touched” Daniel but the arrival time immediately follows the evening sacrifice” it probably means Gabriel reached him. Interestingly, the Hebrew supports the reading “in extreme weariness” but should probably be understood “in swift flight.” Although angels are often artistically represented as winged beings this doesn’t always have to be the case but rather appear in human form as a “man” (v.21). Just in case no one ever noticed…men don’t have wings.

Gabriel “instructed” Daniel (v.22) and said that he had come “to give insight” and understanding concerning his request. “Insight” and “understanding” are pretty much the same in this context. Daniel’s prayer, humble spirit, and faith touched the heart of God.  This sends a good example to us as believers to follow. It also seems to indicate that Gabriel came in person.

Daniel had been heard by God, and one of God’s greatest angels, Gabriel the “mighty one of God” came with an answer because Daniel was “highly esteemed or described as something or someone desired or considered precious.

Meat of the Vision (9:24–27)

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place. “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One,[d] the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Daniel 9:24-27

This could quite possibly be the most confusing and controversial passage of the Bible. Although there are many variations, these four views are representative of the majority of views today.

View One

They are literal years extending through the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. According to this view, the “sevens” or “weeks” are made up of seven years each, resulting in a total period of 490 years (seventy times seven). The “decree” of v. 25 must then indicate to Jeremiah’s prophecy of the seventy years of captivity in Jeremiah 25:1, 11 that was delivered in 605 B.C. It appears that those who hold this view inconsistently hold that the “sevens” commence in 586 B.C., the date of Jerusalem’s fall in order to make the timetable work correctly. The termination of the sevens is understood to be the end of Antiochus’s persecution which was either the cleansing of the temple in 164 B.C. or Antiochus’s death in 163 B.C. At that ttime the kingdom of God supposedly would come upon the earth, an event that obviously did not take place as anyone can clearly see. The calculated period of time it is far too short (about 65 years) out of 490 years. Therefore adherents of this view demand a chronological “miscalculation on the part of the writer.” For me this is patently absurd as Scripture is inerrant. NEXT!

View Two

The “seventy sevens” are symbolic periods of time ending in the first century A.D. It is said that the first period of seven sevens extends from Cyrus’s decree allowing the return of the Jewish exiles in 538 B.C. to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, approximately 440–400 B.C. The next sixty-two sevens stretch from about 400 B.C. until the first advent of Christ; the last seven continues from the first advent until an unspecified point sometime after Christ’s earthly ministry but before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. A slight variation on this approach by some takes basically the same approach, but he begins the weeks with the decree of Artaxerxes I in 457.

Third View

They are symbolic periods of time ending at Christ’s second coming. Many adopt this symbolic view. The seventy sevens are a prophecy of church history both the Old Testament and the New Testament church from Cyrus’s decree in 538 B.C. until the return of Christ at the end of the age. According to this interpretation, the first seven sevens extend from Cyrus’s decree in 538 B.C. until the coming of Christ in the first century A.D., a period of about 550 years. The next sixty-two sevens span the time from Christ to the persecution of the church by the Antichrist at the end of the age. During this time (at least two thousand years…duhhhh), the city (spiritual Jerusalem or the church) will be built even “in times of trouble.” A major issue with this interpretation is that the best understanding of the text indicates that sixty-nine sevens, not seven sevens, will pass between the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the coming of the Anointed One. Therefore the events in vv. 26 and 27 occur in the last seven. “The Anointed One will be cut off and have nothing” does not mean that the Messiah will be put to death but speaks of the attack upon Christ and his church at the end when Christ will have “lost His place and function as the Messiah”. In other words, as far as the world is concerned, Messiah shall be a “non” issue. The “ruler” is obviously the Antichrist, who will destroy the city, the sanctuary and stop all organized religion. This to me is frightening as this is exactly what we see happening in governments worldwide to some extent. Out outward manifestations and visual aspects of the church and meaningful worship will be quashed. These oppressive and horrendous conditions will continue until God’s wrath and judgment nails the Antichrist at the coming of the Lord. Some complaints about this view is that it is extremely subjective and varies greatly from other interpretations. A rather large and obvious incongruity is the literal interpretation of the building of the city as it relates to Cyrus’s decree but a figurative the building of the city as the church or a spiritual Jerusalem…within the same verse (v.25). Another hard to believe idea is that Christ and his church will be defeated during the last days.

Another version of this same symbolic view understands the seventy sevens to be symbolic periods that extend from Cyrus’s decree to the second coming of Christ. The sixty-nine sevens conclude with the first coming of Christ but the final seven extends from the first century until the end, which results in one seven lasting up to two thousand years, rendering the sevens even more disproportionate than other interpretations. Of the symbolic interpretations this seems te most consistent since the first sixty-nine sevens appear clearly to conclude during Christ’s first advent and the final seven is terminated by his second advent.

Fourth View

The last view holds that these are literal years ending with Christ’s second coming. This view agrees with the first that the sevens are literal seven-year periods totaling 490 years. The first seven sevens (or forty-nine years) commence with a command to rebuild Jerusalem which was either the decree to Ezra in 458 B.C. or the decree to Nehemiah in 445 B.C. and conclude with the completion of the work of Ezra & Nehemiah about forty-nine years later (409 B.C./396B.C.).

The next sixty-two sevens (434 years) extend from the end of the first group of sevens to Christ’s first coming which could either be his baptism in A.D. 26 or Christ’s presentation of himself to the people as Messiah on Palm Sunday in A.D. 32/33). After the coming of the Messiah, he was rejected by Israel; and the time of the Gentiles began, which is not counted in the “seventy sevens.” Just as God focused his attention on the Jewish people for about two thousand years, these past two thousand years his attention has been focused on the Gentiles. However, just as many Gentiles were saved during the Old Testament period, in this present age there are many Jewish believers. At the end of the present age, God will again deal with Israel in a special manner, and the final seven will begin. During the last seven, which immediately precedes Christ’s second coming, there will be a horrendous time of the Great Tribulation for Israel and the world. God will use this trial to bring Israel and countless others to saving faith. IF Israel hadn’t converted after all they had gone through in the past the Tribulation is going to be beyond comprehension in its magnitude. Think Holocaust (x100). At that time the majority of the people in Israel will acknowledge Jesus as the promised Messiah, repent, and be saved as based in Rom 11:25–29; Zechariah 12:10–13:1. The question remains in my mind, who is Israel in this? The final seven (seven years) will be terminated by Christ’s second coming and the establishment of his earthly kingdom, which will last a thousand years. Christ’s reign will, of course, continue beyond the millennium into the eternal state.

Well, there they are…take your pick. Regardless of which one you pick please keep one thing in mind. This is all about Jesus Christ and God's Sovereignty. Everything else pales by comparison in terms of importance. If you are trying to predict the future with this information...your truly a dope. You have therefore totally missed the point of the last twenty or so posts...and that my friend is the most polite way I could say that.

In The End

In the end we must keep in mind that there are things to be accomplished according to God's plan. When they happen is as important as the fact that He has assured us they will. He is Sovereign. He is in control. What can we expect with certainty?

The best description of the coming "end" is at the beginning of the vision:

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place." ~Daniel 9:24

The a fitting conclusion to the angelic revelation, even though it comes at the beginning. God’s purpose in the events of the “seventy sevens” is the subject of the verse and six crucial goals are articulated. These six goals will not all be fulfilled until the arrival of the future Kingdom of God.
  1. “To finish transgression” is the first named achievement.
  2. “To put an end to sin” or “be complete, come to an end" or to “seal, affix a seal, seal up. 
  3. "To atone for wickedness" is the third accomplishment.
  4. “To bring in everlasting righteousness” signifies that at the end of the seventy sevens an era of righteousness will pervade the earth, which will continue for eternity. 

  5. “To seal up vision and prophecy” may be interpreted in two ways.
  6. “To anoint the most holy” may denote either the anointing of a holy person or a holy place.
So...tell me something.

Has this happened yet? Fully? Partially? literally? Figuratively? Is it worth arguing over? Are you sure?

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