Israel's Future: Daniel's Remarkable Prophecy
We now move from the modern state of Israel to the future. Jeremiah 31:35, 36, "Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea and its waves roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: if those ordinances depart from before me, says the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever." What this tells us is that in Jeremiah 31, at a time just prior to the Babylonian captivity, God is saying that if these ordinances—the sun, the moon and the stars, and all the laws of the universe—depart from before Him then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation from before me forever. So there is the emphasis here on the permanency of the seed of Israel Even though they are about to go out of the land they are not going to be destroyed as the seed of the people. Verse 37, "Thus says the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the LORD." The point that we see here is a reminder, a reiteration, of God faithfulness to Israel and of their permanence in history.
How does what is going on today help us to understand what may be going on in the future with Israel? Current events, even though they may not necessarily be the fulfillment of prophecy, are certainly significant. Our first question is: Does the modern state of Israel have a legitimate claim on their historic homeland today. The answer to that is yes. The type of the current fifth cycle of discipline is the fifth cycle stage that occurred in the Old Testament between 585 and 516 BC. Those are really the dates for the 70 years because that is the destruction of the temple to the rededication of the temple. It is that period that they are out of the land, and what is happening during that time is that the Babylonians are also introducing other ethnic groups that come into the land, just like what has happened in the lengthier period of the past two millennia. Nevertheless, they still have a right to the land because God is the landlord who gave them this unconditional lease, this eternal lease to the land. Even though squatters come in while they are temporarily removed, Israel still has the right to the land because God says they will never lose their status, even though they may be in apostasy and carnality.
A second question is: Is the existence of the modern state of Israel prophetically significant? Third question: What should the role of the believer be in relationship to modern Israel? This is a very important question. If the Jews are still God's people, of the Abrahamic covenant is still in effect, what should my role as a believer be in terms of supporting Israel? Generally we should be in support of Israel. Generally speaking, the foreign aid that America gives to Israel is not excessive. There are many who believe that Israel should be completely self-sufficient. That is not really the issue. The issue is, if Israel is a distinct nation in history then you can't apply to Israel the same set of standards you apply to foreign aid or help to every other nation of the world because Israel, and only Israel, has a contractual relationship with God. They are distinct and they should be treated as such. This pro-Jewish attitude and the desire to support the Jews and their restoration to Israel has been a part of the thinking of American culture since the Puritans and various Christian groups came to America at its very foundation. They brought that attitude with them from Britain, and this is what has set apart the British and the Americans down through the ages: support for Israel. And where did it come from? It came from our understanding of Scripture because as believers we have access to a level of historical truth that the unbeliever doesn't have, and it needs to affect the way we make decisions in terms of national policy because we do know the truth.
We now focus on Israel's future and the foundation for understanding God's plan for Israel's future is contained in the book of Daniel. Daniel chapter 9 is one of the most remarkable prophecies in all of Scripture. In 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar invaded down through the area we know as Syria and into what was formerly the northern kingdom of Israel and into Judah. He basically conquers Judah even though at this time he doesn't conquer Jerusalem or destroy the temple, but because of his conquest he is able to take back with him a number of captives. These are members of the aristocracy, members of the royal family. These are the young men who are the princes of Judah. He takes them back to Babylon to train them as administrators. Even later on Ptolemy is going to take many Jews with him to Egypt because he understands that the Jews are good administrators. Among these young men is Daniel, and God has a remarkable plan for Daniel's life. Even though Daniel is not a Babylonian he is blessed by God. God prospers him. Daniel is obedient and committed to God and over the course of his life God raises him from the status of basically a slave, a prisoner of war, to the second highest position in the kingdom of Babylon and also the subsequent kingdom of Persia.
In 605 BC the Jews were under the fourth cycle of discipline. In 586 the fifth cycle took place when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah for the third time, conquers Jerusalem, and destroys the Solomonic temple and thus the first temple period comes to an end. This began what is known in history as the seventy-year Babylonian captivity. It begins with the destruction of the temple in 586 and ends with the dedication of the second temple, or the temple of Zerubbabel, in 516. About 48 years after the destruction of the temple, in 538, a year after Babylon is destroyed by the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians, we have the events in Daniel chapter 9.
Daniel 9:1, "In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans." So this locks us down into a particular date in history. Daniel who is elderly at this time has concluded a study of Old Testament passages. He has been searching these Scriptures to see how long they are going to stay out of the land. He studies a variety if passages and he comes to realize that according to God's prophecies in the law about their removal from the land, and according to God's timetable given in Jeremiah, that it is now almost time for the Jews to return to their homeland. In his thought he thinks it is time for them to go back and experience that final restoration spoken of in Deuteronomy chapter thirty when they are going to establish the kingdom and the Jews will all be a regenerate people and go back to the land and enter into their glorious kingdom. That is what he is expecting. But God is going to send Gabriel to him to interpret the timetable for Israel, and to tell him that they are not quite there yet. There is another 490 years in the timetable. There would be a return shortly, but it is not the return, not that ultimate return from all the nations spoken of in Deuteronomy.
Leviticus 26 gives us these cycles or stages of increased catastrophe and calamity that God promises to bring on to the Jews as a result of their disobedience to Him. These included economic crises, military collapse, and other things that are outlined. Verse 31ff, "And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odors. And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it. And I will scatter you among the nations, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lies desolate, and you be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when you dwelt upon it." The Sabbath was the seventh day of the week. The Jews were to work for six days and rest of the seventh day. But there was also a sabbatical year, the seventh year in a cycle. Every seventh year was to be a Sabbath unto the Lord with no work. This encouraged an economy of saving rather than spending because they had to store things up for the seventh year when they were not going to work, produce, manufacture. Israel's calendar was built on this seven-year cycle, with each cycle having one year of rest when the land could lie fallow and everyone could devote themselves to the study of the Word and to the worship of the Lord.
Between 1406 BC when they enter into the land under Joshua and 586 BC when they are taken out of the land by Nebuchadnezzar there are apparently seventy of these sabbatical years that are ignored. So seventy sabbatical years times seven-year cycle comes out to be 490 years. So that gives us a time frame. There is a 490-year time frame that precedes 586 BC and part of the reason they are removed from the land, based on Leviticus 26, is because they have violated the Sabbath law. The Sabbath was the sign of the Mosaic covenant and they had violated it, so they have to let the land lie fallow for seventy years to make up for those seventy years when they failed to obey the Sabbatical law.
Then next prophecy we go to is in Deuteronomy 4. Moses is clearly stating that the Jews will reject God, they will rebel against God, and they will get kicked out of the land. Verses 26, 27, "I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you shall soon utterly perish from off the land where you go over Jordan to possess it; you shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed. And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the LORD shall lead you."
And what will happen? Verse 28, 29, "And there you will serve gods [still be apostates out of the land], the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But if from there [scattered among all the nations] you will seek the LORD your God [there will be a turning to the Lord], you will find him, if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul." So what we see is that this restoration that is spoken of in Deuteronomy chapter four has positive volition turning to God preceding their restoration to the land. This is talking about a restoration in regeneration.
Deuteronomy 30:1, "And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you [Deut. 28 & 29], and you will call them to mind [where?] among all the nations, where the LORD your God has driven you. And will return to the LORD your God, and will obey his voice according to all that I command you this day, you and your children, with all your heart, and with all your soul; that then the LORD your God will turn your captivity, and have compassion upon you, and will return and gather you from all the nations, where the LORD your God has scattered you." Has this been fulfilled yet? No. 536 wasn't a return from all the nations and there wasn't a massive turning back to the Lord that occurred. There were just a few that returned and many of the Jews are still on negative volition. So we haven't seen the fulfillment of this type of return at all—the return from all the nations in positive volition and regeneration where the Lord brings them back. This is what occurs at the end of the Tribulation period. In fact the Tribulation is designed to bring the Jewish people to a point where they turn and call for the Messiah to come again and deliver them.
Isaiah prophecies a lot about what is going to happen when the Babylonians come, the Assyrians come, when they are taken out of the land, and what is going to happen during the restoration. In Isaiah 11 we have a description of the status of the time of that great and glorious return. This passage is talking about that return we have just read about in Deuteronomy, the glorious return in regeneration. Isaiah 11:11, "And it shall come to pass in that day [when Messiah is back; at the end of the Tribulation; Millennial circumstances], that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea." That restoration didn't occur in 536 BC when they just came from Babylon. This is talking about a second time, which is future. It is Millennial, the recovery of the people who are left and they come from all over the earth. How many recoveries is this? It is the second recovery. How many recoveries can come before this? How many times can they return to the land from all over the earth before this? Only once.
Daniel thinks that the recovery in his time is going t0o be this glorious recovery. Jeremiah gives us a timetable. Jeremiah 25:11, 12, "And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, says the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations." The point is that Daniel has been reading this and he says, "What, the king of Babylon has been punished for their iniquity? It's about time." Daniel 9:2, "In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem." A side note here: How did he interpret those numbers? Was it allegorically? Was it symbolically? No, it was literally! So if it is interpreted literally here, then when we get to the end of the chapter and the next timetable we expect that those numbers should be taken literally as well.
2 Chronicles 36:21, "To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years." This connects it back to the Leviticus passage. They were going to be taken out because of their failure to fulfill the Sabbaths.
Then as Daniel goes back and reads Leviticus 26:40 he reads that there is a condition for restoration: "If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; and that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land."
So what does Daniel do when he reads this? He says, "We have to confess our sins." They can't go back until there is national confession. He is the key man, he is the leader, so in Daniel 9:11 he begins to confess for the nation. He stands in their stead as their substitute, as their leader, and he begins to confess their sin. "Yes, all Israel have transgressed your law, even by departing, that they might not obey your voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him…As it is written in the law of Moses, all this disaster is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand your truth." They are not going to go back until there is confession. There has to be cleansing before they can go back into the land.
Then God sends Gabriel to clear everything up. Daniel 9:21, "Yet, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give you skill to understand." The word "skill" means to act with understanding, to be able to think deeply about all these different passages and put them together and come to a conclusion. This is discernment to see how things apply. He goes on to say, "At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I am come to tell you; for you art greatly beloved [prized]: therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision."
Then in verses 24-27 we have one of the most significant and remarkable prophecies in all of the Scriptures, because it shows us, for one thing, that these prophecies are to be taken literally. But it is also a great indication of when the Messiah was to come and in support of the fact of Jesus' claims to be the Messiah. "Seventy weeks [literally, 70 periods of 7, i.e. 490 years] are determined upon your people [the Jews] and upon your holy city [Jerusalem], to finish the transgression [lit. rebellion], and to make an end of sins [the national sin of Israel], and to make atonement for iniquity [not the payment for sin on the cross but the realization of the prophetical fulfillment of the day of atonement, i.e. when Israel realizes her reconciliation to God, fulfilled when Messiah comes back], and to bring in everlasting righteousness [Messianic kingdom], and to seal up the vision and prophecy [brings it to a fulfillment], and to anoint the most Holy [Millennial temple]. You ate to know and discern, that the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks: it will be built again with plaza [the inside parts of the city], and the moat [external fortifications], even in times of distress." So this isn't a return of people to reestablish the city. It is more than that, it is a reestablishment of the city in terms of its defenses and its fortifications. "And after the sixty-two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and have nothing: and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary; and its end will come with a flood, and even to the end of there will be war, desolations are determined. And he [the prince who is to come] will make a firm covenant with many for one week [the 70th week]: but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering, and on the wing of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until complete destruction, and one that is decreed is poured on the one who makes desolate [the end of the Antichrist]."
We have 70 weeks == 490 years. It starts with the decree to restore and rebuild, and that first period of sixty-nine weeks goes from the issuing of the decree to Messiah the prince. Now which decree? There were four from which to choose. Cyrus decreed in 538 for the people to start going back to the land. Another decree by Darius Hystaspes is mentioned in Ezra 6, and that is just to go back to the land again. Then there is the decree by Artaxerxes Longimanus which is given in 457 BC. None of these relate to rebuilding the fortification. So we have to exclude those. But there is a second decree by Artaxerxes given to Nehemiah in 444 BC to go back and complete the construction of the fortifications and the walls around the city. That is the decree that we are talking about. There is a decree to restore, and we can date it to March 5th, 444 BC. It is for "your people," so this is related to Israel. If we take seven times seven we have 49 years, 62 times 7 is 434 years, and when we add them together we have a time period of 483 years. If we multiply 483 years times a 360-day year we come up with a 173,880 days.
There is a reason we use a 360-day year and it comes right out of Scripture. In Daniel 9 we are told that this last week is split in half, so it has two sections—two halves in one week. This is also referred to in Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 12:14 by the phrase "time , times , and a half a time" – three and a half. In Revelation 12:6 it is also described as one thousand two hundred and sixty days, defined as 42 months in Revelation 11:2 and 1260 days in Revelation 11:3, and we divide 1260 days by 42 months, we come up with a 30-day month. 30 x 12 = 360 days. So in a prophetic calendar God is operating on a 360-day year. That is what we have to work with. We can check this. If we multiply 69 x 7 x 360 we come up with 173,880 days. From March 5th, 444 BC to March 30th, 33 AD, which is Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem, is 173,880 days. God tells Daniel precisely when the Messiah is going to come. And Jesus marches right into Jerusalem, and everybody is singing Hosanna, Glory to God in the highest, and Jesus is welcomed as the Messiah, but of course they reject Him the next day. In Daniel it says, "Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off." It doesn't say "In the seventieth week." That implies a gap, doesn't it? After the 69th week is over but before the 70th week begins Messiah is cut off. The temple is destroyed.
Now we are going to have the 70th week which is the time of the coming prince. That is also for Israel: "your people and your holy city." So when we go through our timeline we have 70 x 7 = 490 years which are decreed for Israel. But we have only 173,880 days or 483 years up to the cutting off of the Messiah. So what happened to the other seven years? Are they going to be literal? Everything else is literal. So that means there is a literal seven-year period in the future for Israel. Conclusion: God has a future plan for Israel for the fulfillment of this time clock, and that is the seven-year Tribulation in the future. Daniel 9:27, "Then he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering, and on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation…" So there is a one-week period here: seven days which in fact are seven years. In the middle of the week, three and a half years into it, there is this desolation. Jesus picks up this terminology in Matthew 24 when He is describing the Tribulation. Half way through when there is the abomination of desolation when the Antichrist desecrates the Tribulation temple. Are the Jews regenerate during the Tribulation, or apostate? They are apostate. When they rebuild that Tribulation temple that has to be there in the Tribulation, is it apostate? Yes. So there has to be a new temple built sometime by the first three years of the Tribulation for the Antichrist to desecrate. Furthermore, for the Antichrist to have a covenant with the many, to enter into a peace treaty with Israel, what else has to be present at the beginning of the Tribulation? What begins the Tribulation is the signing of the peace treaty. So what has to be present at that time? The nation Israel! There has to be somebody there for him to enter into a peace treaty with. There has to be an apostate, unregenerate group of Jews, organized as a nation in the land, at the beginning of the Tribulation. Otherwise it can't get started. This structure in Daniel 9 is the structure and the outline for what Jesus describes as the Tribulation in Matthew 24. It is the basic structure for Revelation 4-19. We can't really understand Matthew 24, the Olivet Discourse, or Revelation 4-19, without understanding the prophecy of Daniel.