R. Dean: Daniel Lesson 41
Daniel's Incredible Prophecy – Daniel 9:20-24
Daniel 9, toward the end, the answer to Daniel's prayer, contains perhaps the most incredible prophecy, in my opinion, in all of Scripture, because of its detail. I want to go through it in detail this time because of its implications because this prophecy in Daniel 9, specifically starting in verse 24 down through the end of the chapter, has application in a number of different areas. The primary application, of course, is an outline of God's plan for Israel; it outlines God's plan for Israel, that there would be a future for Israel and the implications of many things in this prophecy is that there is still a future for the nation Israel.
So that has to be one part of our study, to look at God's plan for the future of Israel. This is something a lot of people don't understand. Of course, in most Calvinistic and all replacement theology systems you have many theologians, many churches, many pastors who don't believe there's a future for Israel at all, that because of Israel's rejection of Jesus at Messiah at the First Advent there is no future for Israel; Israel is no different today, in their view, than any other country, any other nation, any other ethnic group. And we do not believe that.
We believe that the Bible clearly teaches that Israel is distinct among all the nations and always will be, that God made certain prophecies and promises to the nation, from Abraham down through Isaac and Jacob, again to Moses in Deuteronomy, again to David, again to Jeremiah, that there will be a distinct future for Israel in the land. And since Israel is out of the land for the most part today, or has been out of the land since 70 AD, and there has been a regathering of Israel, or an apparent regathering of Israel since its founding as a modern nation in 1948, we need address the question, is this somehow an outworking of God's plan and purposes in history. Is this some level of prophetic fulfillment? Even though Israel is not being regathered right now as a regenerate nation, and obviously there are many passages in Scripture that teach that God is going to bring the elect from the four corners of the earth, Matthew 24, many passages in Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel that prophecy that God will restore the nation to the land. And many of those passages focus on Israel as a saved people, people that have already accepted Christ as Savior, as Messiah.
So since this is not a regathering of the nation in belief but the nation Israel is still in unbelief, in fact a vast majority of people in Israel are what they call secular Jews and that means they don't have any religious axe to grind whatsoever, they're not orthodox, they're not reformed, they're agnostic and atheistic in many cases. So we need to address the questions, is there prophecy in Scripture, is there reason to believe that God is going to restore the nation or begin to restore the nation as an unregenerate people. And as part of that study I want to spend some time going through the history of the modern state of Israel, what has happened since the birth of Zionism and almost, as it were, the pre-birth, what was going on with Jews in the land prior to the official rise of Zionism, which began in the late 1890s with a man named Theodore Herzl, who was a journalist who covered what was called the Dreyfus affair in France in the 1890s.
And I remember as a young college student who took a course on World War I and was mightily interested in studying all of the battles and all of the strategy and tactics and armaments of World War I spending the first six weeks of the semester studying the Dreyfus affair and wondering what in the world is this trial of a Jewish French captain in the 1890s have to do wit World War I and basically it was to set up the whole mood of Europe in the late 19th century in terms of anti-Semitism which had a major part in the background of not only World War I but World War II. But when Theodore Herzl was covering that trial as a journalist and Dreyfus was a Jewish officer who was accused of treason, he was found guilty, he was not guilty, he was innocent, but because he was Jewish, that was the real reason he was put on trial, he was sentenced to life on devil's island which the movie, Papillion made knowledgeable and popular to most of you if you've ever watched Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen in Papillion, if you haven't you ought to get the video and watch it. But Theodore Herzl observed that trial and I think it was as early as 1897 he realized that Jews had to have their own homeland, that anti-Semitism in Europe was getting out of hand so he began, with the help of several evangelical believers from England who were premillennial and dispensational, they knew that there needed to be a return of the Jews to the land of Israel, that began what is known as modern Zionism.
That's a fascinating story, how that has come about and how God has worked through all of that but we live in an age today when anti-Semitism is on the rise again in Europe. I've been reading many reports in the newspapers and it's incredible the number of attacks and assaults that have taken place in France in just the last month. There've been synagogues that have been attacked; there was a Jewish soccer team that was out on a playing field and a bunch of men, mostly Arabs, came out of the woods with pipes and clubs and attacked them. There have been bombings, there have been riots, there hare been beatings, there have been comments, the French Ambassador to the Court of St. James, that's in Britain, made a comment referring in an extremely derogatory way towards that blankety-blank little nation Israel, and this was in an official party.
There have been a number of statements like that, problems in Germany as well even though the official line from both the French government and German government is not anti-Semitism, both of these nations, in fact much of Europe has been affected by a tremendous immigration of Arabs and Muslims in the last 30 years and so their population of Muslims in France is incredible and so even though there may be some official non anti-Semitism or anti-anti-Semitism statements from some governments, the fact is, with this large Arab population, and the Arabs make the Nazis look like a bunch of amateurs when it comes to anti-Semitism. With that influence plus the ongoing, somebody has observed that in the last few months we've seen that Europe suffers from the same two problems they suffered from in the 20th century, appeasement and anti-Semitism. And that is going to continue, so we need to address that to some degree.
So we're going to take some time going through these next five of six verses, just to really understand its implications, implications for the rise of the antichrist, implications for the timing of some events that take place during the Tribulation. There are a lot of interesting things going on right now and this focuses, as we will see starting in verse 20, on the temple mount itself. We recognize the background, we've studied for the last several weeks Daniel's prayer in the first 19 verses, that Daniel has recognized from passages that he has studied in Jeremiah and Deuteronomy and 2 Chronicles that Israel is to be returned to the land. They were taken out in discipline beginning in 605 and ending in 586 BC. It's interesting they will begin to return to the land seventy years later in 535 and they will finally build the temple in 516; so the begin to return is seventy years after the beginning of the first deportation, and the rebuilding of the temple is exactly seventy years after the destruction of the temple in 586 BC. So Daniel is reading the Scripture and it's from the chronological not in verse 1, it's "the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus," so we know from history that that was 538 BC.
Daniel can count and he knows that the seventy years are just about up so he begins to pray, to confess for the nation, to confess their sins to God and to pray that God will restore them to the land. And in the midst of his praying, we have seen earlier that he was fasting, in verse 3, and that doesn't just include the period of the prayer because if you read through Daniel's prayer it doesn't take long. You can start reading in verse 4 and read down through verse 19 in just 2 or 3 minutes, so the prayer itself doesn't take long. But the study that goes into the preparation for the prayer is what took so long and that's part of the whole process, is that study. During that time Daniel was too busy studying to take the time to prepare his meals and to eat and clean up. Remember in the technology of that day it took a long time to prepare meals. It wasn't long ago here in the U.S. if you wanted to have a good chicken dinner you'd have to go out and wring the head off the chicken, then you'd have to pluck it and clean it and all of that takes a lot of time.
So that's why fasting an issue. Never once is fasting commanded anywhere in the Scripture. You can look from Genesis to Revelation, it's never mandated, but people did it; the reason is to show that they were setting aside the details of life for a set period of time so that they could focus all of their attention and energy on studying the word and praying. And that is why Daniel is weary when he comes to the time of praying that we see in verses 20-21.
In Daniel 9:20 we read, "Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel," so the temporal clause here indicates that Daniel is in the midst of his prayer when he is interrupted. One point I want to make here is that this is unusual; it's not only unusual in terms of Scriptural prayers, it is unusual in history for any of God's people to be praying and have a direct audible, visual audible response from God, whether it is a Theophany, Christophany, which is an appearance of God or an appearance of Christ, of whether it is an angelic appearance, this is not normal, it was never normal, even in the periods of history in the Old Testament when miracles were more common this was not normal. Very few people in all of the history of the Scripture ever had these kinds of direct encounters with God.
The charismatic movement has so distorted the teaching of Scripture in this that a lot of Christians today think that this was the normative experience of believers, either in the Old Testament or even during the time of Acts. And it was not the normative experience, it was unusual and it was rare when it was happening. But now that the canon of Scripture is complete and closed God does not speak directly to His people any more, any more than he did during the period between Malachi, which was approximately 40BC and the time of Christ. God is silent, He is not speaking, but He has spoken in His Word and that's part of the test for the Church Age believer is whether or not we are willing to simply trust His Word and what He has said in the past.
What happens to Daniel is he's in the midst of his prayer, he's intensely praying and bringing this petition before God for the people and suddenly he is interrupted. Daniel 9:20 says, "while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord," all those "ing" words represent participles in the Hebrew and so it gives a sense of movement, a sense of intensity, a sense of dynamic that's taking place, he's speaking, praying, confessing, presenting his supplication before the Lord, "in behalf of the holy mountain of my God." Notice that phrase, that is crucial. He is praying for "the holy mountain of my God." Now what is "the holy mountain of my God?" That is the mountain that is sometimes referred to as Mount Zion, it is the temple mount.
The temple mount is the location in Jerusalem where Solomon's temple was built. When Solomon's temple was destroyed in 586 BC it was the site where Zerubbabel rebuilt the temple in 516 BC. And we know exactly where that is, it's still located in Jerusalem and it is now controlled by the Arabs and it is the site of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque. And this is why this is so important and why it becomes a focal point in even this war on terrorism, is according to the fatwa back in 98, the reason they were calling for a jihad against America, which they view as Zionists, against America and the supporters of Israel is to free the temple mount.
The reason you have this latest intifada, and the term intifada means uprising, this intifada that has been going on since September of 2000 when Ariel Sharon accompanied by temple police, accompanied by members of the Waqf which is the Arab controlling authority in Jerusalem, it was an official visit and yet the Palestinians used it, Arafat used it as a rationale to fire the people up, get them all excited and the grand mufti of Jerusalem called the Palestinians to riot in the streets because Ariel Sharon and the Jews were desecrating the mosques on the temple mount, and that wasn't true at all, in fact, Channel 2 of Israel news video taped the entire procedure. And since 1967 in the Six Day War Israel gained control of the temple Mount and then Moshe Dayan relinquished it to the Arabs because he was a secular Jew, he wasn't concerned about rebuilding the temple on the temple mount, so he relinquished control but the Jews have maintained oversight of the temple mount ever since the 67 war, and that means it is Jewish policemen who surround the temple mount to keep Jews off the temple mount. And this has been upheld in the Jewish courts and the courts of Israel, they continue to uphold the legitimacy of this decision. So it's not like they are anti-Arab, not in the sense that the Arabs are anti-Israel. They have recognized the fact that the Arabs have legal access and right to the temple mount right now, and there are five different mosques, including the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque on the temple mount.
Daniel is focusing on the temple mount. Incidentally, one of the reasons the temple mount is so significant in Israel's history is because according to Genesis 22 this is Mount Moriah, the location where Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac and when he was about to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah God provided substitute, told him to stop and that there was a ram in the bush and that ram became a substitute for Isaac, which is a picture of Jesus Christ who is our substitute on the cross. So the temple mount is Mount Moriah, that is why it is such a hot spot and it is the place where eventually, according to this prophecy, there will be another temple built. This will be the Tribulation temple, it is an apostate temple, it is not to be confused with the temple that is built during the millennium. That is a completely different temple and if we have time we may spend some time in Ezekiel 40-47 looking at the issues related to the millennial temple. But the millennial temple is a vastly different temple; it is a divinely authorized temple that is established by Jesus Christ at the Second Coming.
This temple that is referred to in this prophecy, the temple that is desecrated by the antichrist during the Tribulation is an apostate temple, it is a temple that the Jews must construct during the Tribulation in order for the antichrist to desecrate that, for the abomination of desolation to take place halfway through the Tribulation there must be a temple, a Jewish temple on the temple mount. Now that's not going to happen today. Some people have suggested that well, maybe they could divide the top of the temple mount and give the Moslems half and give the Jews half but neither one of them would settle for that compromise because the entire site is holy according to each religious group and if the other is allowed to have anything up there, then that would defile the entire temple mount. So it's an all or nothing proposition and that tells us that something has to happen between now and the beginning of the Tribulation to destroy the presence of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque and to destroy Islam's control of the temple mount. They've got to lose it.
And it also tells us that because the antichrist is able to authorize Israel to rebuild the temple that something has to happen between now and then to demilitarize Islam. They are no longer seen as a strong military power at the beginning of the Tribulation. They are not resisting, you don't see Arafat throwing temper tantrums at the beginning of Daniel's seventieth week. You don't see the Palestinians rioting in the streets, you don't have a picture of suicide or homicide bombers at the beginning of Daniel's seventieth week so something has to happen and I'm not a prophet or the son of a prophet but my guess is that this entire war on terrorism, everything that's going on in the Middle East right now may eventually culminate in the defeat of Islam to a degree that they are no longer in a position of political or military power to threaten Israel when this time occurs.
Something has to happen to defang Islam and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if that was part of the purpose of September 11th, is that God was reaching down and doing something horrendous to the U.S. to get us off our butts and to get us involved in international politics and wake up to the reality of what is going on internationally, because Americans are ignorant of what goes on internationally. If you spend some time on the internet and read the Jerusalem Post, read London papers, read Cairo papers, there's a wonderful website, it's called MEMRI, I can't remember what the acronym stands for but I ran across this site about two months ago and they translate, have translations of current articles, speeches, by Islamic leaders, and whether it's Cairo newspapers, Riyadh newspaper, Baghdad newspapers or speeches that are made by various leaders, it's very interesting to read what is actually being said by the Arabs about the U.S.
Frankly you read it, make sure you take your blood pressure medicine; it's horrendous, what they say in English in one thing but what they're saying in their own newspapers, it's just terrible the vitriolic attacks against the United States, the verbal assaults and the hatred and the bitterness that exists in Cairo, exists in Saudi Arabia, it exists in Iraq, Iran and Syria, is palpable, they are just so divorced from reality because in none of those countries is there such a thing as freedom of the press. So they do not have an alternate viewpoint, all they ever hear is the party line as promoted by the dictator, as promoted by the king in Saudi Arabia, as promoted by the Islamic clerics and they never hear any kind of alternate view so every time there's any kind of uprising, any kind of problem in Israel, what you get is a ten-fold intensification and distortion of it in all of the Arab newspapers and they just go out and get everybody all riled up and just develop more and more anti-Israel fervor and anything that the U.S. does, for example about 60% or 70% of the financial aid that goes to the Palestinians comes from your taxes, comes from the U.S. and only about 10% comes from the Arab nations, but that's never reported to the Arabs. The Arab on the street does not know that, he thinks that all of this financial aid, any help that goes to the Palestinians comes from the Arab countries and the U.S. is completely against the Palestinians. There is such a distortion there and I think that somehow that has to be removed. And I think Daniel, the implications of Daniel's prophecy here are such that we would expect Islam to be somewhat removed from a position of power.
So Daniel prays and while he is praying he is surprised by an angel who appears to him. Daniel 9:21, "while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering," of course this refers to the fact that Gabriel had revealed information to him in Daniel 8:16, and in Daniel 8:16 we read, "And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and he called out and said, Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision." So Gabriel is an angel. There are only two angels mentioned in Scripture by name; there's Gabriel and there's Michael. Now church history and tradition have introduced, and if you come out of a Roman Catholic background you probably know the names of two or three other angels but those are not mentioned in Scripture and so there's no Biblical warrant for knowing the name of any others.
The name "Gabriel" comes from the Hebrew noun Gibor which is a name for a mighty man or warrior, and "el," God, so his name means a mighty warrior of God, and he is not a man, he is an angel, but like in almost every other appearance of angels in the Bible, he appears as a human being. So even though angels have bodies of light they are immaterial creatures, they are not material creatures as we are, they don't have corporeal bodies, because of the way they are portrayed in some passages it would seem that their bodies, perhaps, are made of light, but they have the ability to transform their bodies into a corporeal body and to imitate all of the physical functions of the human body.
For example, when God accompanied by two angels comes to visit Abraham in Genesis 17, they come in, they are offered food, their feet are washed, they eat, they are said to be weary so they take a nap and they sleep, they seem to have all of the functions of a human body. So we can expect that there would be other functions available to them, at least at that point, that aren't explained so clearly. And that would help explain how such an event as the "sons of God" which are angels, the terms "sons of God" always refers to angels in the Scripture, and the sons of God in Genesis 6 looked on the daughters of men and took them for wives and they had offspring that were giants or nephilim and the only thing that we can use to explain that, perhaps, is the idea that they are able to transform their body even to a place where they could procreate and they were able to do that. And of course the offspring were half-breeds and that was an attempt to destroy the racial purity of the human race in order to prevent the coming of Jesus Christ as the seed of the woman announced in Genesis 3:16.
So Gabriel, even though he is an angel, appears as a human being and Daniel refers to him as such and in verse 21, "while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel," this is the angel and he is always associated in Scripture with giving specific revelation or announcement. For example, in Luke 1:19 and 26 it is Gabriel who announces to Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, as well as to Mary, the coming of Jesus Christ. So Gabriel has a specific role in terms of announcing God's plans and purpose in human history. Daniel says, "the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously," that's in chapter 8, "came to me in my extreme weariness," he's tired, he's been studying, he's been fasting, he's exhausted, Gabriel came to him "in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering."
Now Daniel is using temple time even though there has not been a temple in existence since 586 BC. This is 538 BC, there's no temple, there's no temple sacrifices, there are no temple offerings and yet he is still using temple time. It's about 4:00 o'clock, 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon.
In Daniel 9:22 he says, "And he gave me instruction and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I have not come forth to give you insight with understanding." Now it's important to look at the verbs here. First of all, Gabriel gives him "instruction," he talks to him, he says I am going to give you "insight," that would be revelation, along with "understanding," that would be perception and application. Notice these verbs emphasize thinking. This experience with the angel is not an emotional experience; it is an experience that has to do with the communication of content, information and thought. The emphasis in the spiritual life is always on thinking, not on emotion, not on feeling, not on having some kind of experience with God. In fact, if there's any emotion in this thing present at all in this situation it is confusion on the part of Daniel. I mean, there's no sense of ecstasy, there's no sense that somehow he's reached a higher spiritual plain, anything like that, if anything he's just confused over the information because it's not quite what he expected.
One principle that we need to note here in verse 22 is that when God communicates prophetic information He does so in a way that is understandable. God is not clouding, obfuscating the information so that we have to guess at what prophecy means. That's how a lot of people want to approach prophecy is we can't really know what it says. I remember the joke in seminary was that there are really four positions regard prophecy, there's premillennialism, postmillennialism, Jesus comes back at the end of the millennium, amillennialism, there's no literal millennium and pan-millennialism, it'll all pan out in the end. And that was always the view of the guys who didn't want to take the time to really study all of the information related to prophecy and they would read one write who took one position, another writer took another position, they would just come away too confused by it all and well, we're just worried about what's going on now in the Christian life, we don't need to worry about prophecy, it'll take care of itself.
And yet almost 20% of the Bible today is unfulfilled prophecy. So if you take sort of an agnostic view towards prophecy that we can't really know what it means, you're really throwing out not only 20% of Scripture but you are also uttering a statement that borders on blasphemy because what you're saying…the thing you're not saying by that statement is that God did not communicate it in a way that we can know it. So somehow God fails; the underlying statement there is God failed because He didn't make it clear. And yet God made it clear and the reason that people don't understand it is because of various different agendas, because of various problems in terms of how they try to interpret Scripture and it doesn't fit some of their preconceived notions but if you stop and interpret the Bible consistently on a literal interpretation, that doesn't mean that you don't believe in figures of speech, but that you consistently interpret the same things the same way, then the Bible does become very clear. Prophecy becomes very clear, and that doesn't mean we understand every aspect of it but that is not due to God's fault, that is usually the problem because we are separated two or three thousand years from when it was originally revealed and there are problems not only cross-cultural communication, trying to understand idioms in ancient Hebrew that may not be completely clear to us today.
But the principle is that God intended to communicate something. I got into a discussion with somebody and this person said well, there's so many different views on this subject (it wasn't prophecy, it was something else) and I made the point, I said well, what you basically are saying is that God isn't very clear when He communicated that. You're saying it could be anything so let's just say we're not really sure, so the implication of that is that God is not a clear communicator. And the point is God communicated, He intended to communicate something and whatever He intended to communicate He communicated it to be understood. So we have to start at that point, that we should be able to understand this, and if there are any limitations then it's our fault. So anything less than that is a very subtle way of blaspheming God and saying somehow God failed and it's not really our fault, it's just too muddy.
Daniel 9:23, Gabriel is speaking and he says, "At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision." "At the beginning of your supplications," so that was how long ago. Remember I said if you start reading the prayer back in verse 4 and read through verse 19 it might take 2 or 3 minutes, at the most. So Gabriel is saying that two or three minutes ago I was in the throne room of God in the third heaven and as soon as you began your prayer, as soon as you said the first word the command was issued, it's not stated but it would be issued by God the Father, it was issued for me to come and give you this information. So "I have come to tell you," it took me all of 2 to 3 minutes to make it across the universe.
It's interesting, they just had these pictures from the Hubble, whole new technology that they just came out with, I saw some pictures on the internet this morning with all these distant galaxies that they got incredible pictures from, and of course they are 200, 300, 400 light years away. A light year is a measure of distance, not a measure of time, although in our current environment there is only one way of viewing how light travels in the universe, actually there are some minor views among physicists that suggest that light does not travel the same way, so that things that appear to be a certain distance away are in actuality much, much closer, the universe is not this continuing expanding infinite thing. The Bible clearly teaches that God created the universe and therefore the universe is finite; it is not infinite. And yet that is the assumption that man has. So outside of the universe we have, probably in my opinion, some other dimension, not in the same space/time existence that we have, that we're used to, we have the throne room of God.
And so Gabriel exits the throne room of God and he comes to Daniel. And he says "I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed," and the Hebrew word indicates that he is valuable and precious in the sight of God. Daniel, because of his devotion to God, because of his unwillingness to compromise is highly valued by God and so God has responded to his prayer, but if you will notice, even though it doesn't say it in so many words in this passage, the answer to Daniel's prayer, the answer to all of his study, his fasting, the answer to everything is "no," because what Daniel is praying to God for in these first 19 verses is that the entire nation be restored to the land. And what he is going to get is an answer that says no, there is going to be a partial restoration but because the nation as a whole has not turned back to me, the nation as a whole is negative to doctrine, the nation as a whole still has not learned their lesson from the divine discipline and the scattering of the nation, I am only going to restore, God was only going to restore a portion of them to the land.
One reason that they are restored to the land, and remember, the restoration that occurs in 535 BC is not the restoration of a regenerate or saved nation, they are not restored as a saved people that have turned back to God. Now they were saved leaders, Ezra was saved, Nehemiah was saved, Zerubbabel was saved, there were various prophets that prophesied during the post-exilic period, such as Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, they were saved. There were others at the time of the nation who were saved, but the nation as a whole was not. This post-exilic period is the period that following the ministry of Ezra, of the generations that created those wonderfully spiritual people that the New Testament calls the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and Jesus said your righteousness has to exceed that of the Pharisees in order to see the kingdom of God. So this is not a generation…this is not going to be a return of spiritually minded, positive volition, people. They are not primarily believers, they are being returned to the land, I think for one reason and one reason only, that is so that there will be a nation in the land to whom the Messiah can come at the First Advent.
And that is the same reason I see that God is restoring Jews to the land today, even though they are not regenerate, there is a group of Jews, there is a minority of worldwide Jews living in the land, with a nation in the land, because there has to be a nation at the beginning of the Tribulation, there has to be a rebuilding of the temple, and incidentally, they have now rebuilt all the temple artifacts, all the utensils of the temple, the golden candlestick was completed last fall and not only that, but in order to dedicate the temple they have to use, according to Exodus, the ashes of a red heifer, and the Institute for Temple Studies in Jerusalem announced that a red heifer was born about a month ago and they have a herd of cattle that were originally started in the U.S. that some people down in the south developed and then sent over to Israel, they had a red heifer that was born three or four years ago and it was disqualified about a year ago because they discovered four white hairs in its tail. So the red heifer has to live to be three and a half years of age, then be evaluated and tested, be completely red, no other color hair on the calf, and then it will be offered as a burnt offering and the ashes will be used to dedicate the next temple. And that's the whole purpose so there is a herd in place.
Not only that, but there is also a group of Orthodox Jews that are concerned with the rebuilding of the temple and having a qualified priesthood. Part of a qualified priesthood means that a priest cannot be unclean; he has to be ceremonially clean. Well, one of the problems with the law is that if you touch a dead body or walk in a graveyard, walk over a grave, that renders you ceremonially unclean. There have been all kinds of wars, with suicide bombings and who knows what over the thousands of years in Israel's history, so the rabbis, remember they're hyper-legalists in their hyper-legalism are afraid that if they find someone who's qualified to be a priest he's not really qualified because if he walked on the ground in Israel he probably came in contact with something that had come in contact with a dead body so it was ceremonially unclean, rendering him ceremonially unclean. So they isolated, I think four couples, who had all the correct genealogy in the Levitical priesthood to have a son that could function as a high priest. So they constructed an edifice that was off the ground and the conception, they've had four births, four male births, all of whom are qualified to be the high priest genealogically but they were all conceived and the mothers spent their entire 9 month gestation period in this house above the ground, and they were given birth and I think they're all young, 8, 9, 10, 11 years of age at this point. So of course they could be qualified to function as a high priest once they are bar mitzvahed official at the age of 13. So it's interesting we have a red heifer that has been born recently who will be qualified in about three years, we have some young men who perhaps might be qualified as early as 3 or 4 years to be the high priest, and we have all the temple furniture prepared.
So it certainly does look interesting and nothing like that has ever occurred before in the Church Age. Now none of this has to do with the rapture, the rapture could occur today or tomorrow, but obviously as we see things developing on the world stage that seem to fit more and more what's going to happen once the Tribulation begins, it seems like the rapture is not very far away.
Gabriel is speaking in verse 23 and says, "At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision." So obviously by his exhortation here, to "give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision," Gabriel expects Daniel and expects us to be able to understand what this vision is all about. And this vision is referred to as Daniel's seventieth week, Daniel's vision of the seventy weeks. That's important to remember that because I refer to it a lot and this way you know what that refers to if you were unclear before.
Let's look at the passage; Daniel 9:24 is the beginning of the revelation. "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city," now what has Daniel been praying for? We got back and we look at the beginning of his prayer back in verse 4, he is praying in reference to the people, the city and the land. Verse 5, verse 6, the emphasis is on the land. In verse 6 it's the princes, the kings, the fathers, again that same phrase is repeated in verse 8, shame belongs to us, our kings, our princes, our fathers,  "to the LORD our God belong mercy and forgiveness," and then he goes on and the focus of his prayer is on the restoration of the people to Israel, and that is the same thing he mentions in verse 20 that he is praying for the holy mountain and the holy mountain is in Jerusalem.
So "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city," that is Jerusalem, "to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place." Now there are six purpose statements listed in verse 24, so these seventy weeks are decreed to that six things will be accomplished during that time. [tape turns]
…as we go into this there are about six different crucial interpretive problems in this passage. One is to identify the time frame, because it isn't seventy weeks in the Hebrew, it is shib'ah shib'yim which is literally seventy sevens or seventy periods of seven. It doesn't identify weeks, days, months or years, and it is only as a result of the study of the context that we can come to a conclusion as to what that actually means. So it starts off "seventy weeks" and that's in an interpretive problem. Secondly, what do these purpose clauses refer to, and have any of them been fulfilled. Some people think the first three are fulfilled at the First Coming and the second three are fulfilled at the Second Coming; we have to look at that.
Then in Daniel 9:25 Gabriel says, "So you," that is you, Daniel, "are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks," and what we will see here is that there are three breakdowns, this seventy week period is broken down into three sections. There's a seven week section, a 62 week section, and a one week section. And that's one problem, what do those refer to. Another problem is when is this decree, which decree is this that is issued.
Daniel 9:26, "Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will 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; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.  And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate."
So when we get into this we need to first of all try to solve the first problem of interpretation, which is what are the seventy weeks? This is the time clock and so there is a very important time clock that's given here and the way this time clock works is it's like a cosmic stop watch that begins at X point when there is a decree. And that stop watch is going to run but when it stops 490 years will go by and this is for Israel. Now we live in an age when Israel is not relevant, it's not related to the Church, it's related to Israel. And as we will see, there is a break that takes place at the time of Christ's coming, when Messiah comes, and it's in that gap that you have the Church Age. And that gap has lasted almost 2,000 years now and it is the last week, the 70th week that is the seven year period related to the Tribulation.
So let's look at the first question and that is how are we to understand this phrase, seventy sevens? Are they days, weeks, months or years? The answer is not obvious until you start looking at a few things in Scripture. First of all, when you take a concordance and you look up the word for seventy sevens, and you look that word up it is used of days, it's also used of years, it's used of various units of time. It's used of days in Leviticus 12:5 and it's used of years in Genesis 29:27. So we have a precedent in Genesis 29 for this to be a week of years and when we look at the context in Daniel we'll see that Daniel is focusing on a yearly problem. We go back to Daniel 9:2 and we realize that as he's studying Jeremiah the prophet he learned that God would accomplish seventy years in the desolation of Jerusalem. So the context is talking about years.
Furthermore, in Jeremiah 29:10-14 we see the background to this. "For thus says the LORD, 'When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.'  'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.'  'And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with your whole heart.'"
Now why didn't Gabriel just say well, Daniel, there is going to be 490 years? That would have been a lot less ambiguous but it skips part of the problem which is understanding why you have these seventy years. And the reason goes back to the violation of the Mosaic Law and that was that once every seven years you were to have a sabbatical year. So you'd have six years of working and then one year of no work; six years of work and then one year of no work. And what happened is that Israel failed, over a period of time, there were times when they followed the sabbatical year system, but there were many sabbatical years where they did not.
Just as an interesting application, this shows that the Bible is pro-environment. See, a sabbatical year you let the land rest, you let the field go fallow. This is an agricultural environment and so God is showing that in the Mosaic Law there should be respect for the creation. Notice I didn't say "nature," but for the "creation," and that man should work well with the creation and use it responsibly and not just abuse it, use it irresponsibly, but that's the Christian view of the use of the environment. There's a radical difference between the Christian view of using the environment for man's purposes and the pagan environmentalist view that dominates everything today which comes out of polytheism and pantheism and the idea that the earth is somehow divine and we can't ever abuse it or use it. If most of these environmentalists had their way we would do away with automobiles and any kind of modern technology because we aren't supposed to really change the environment. The Bible says we are to change the environment; we are to use it and improve upon it and use it to improve man's lot in life.
But Israel disobeyed God and in 2 Chronicles 36:21 explains why the Babylonian captivity was seventy years long and that is because there were seventy of these sabbatical years that were violated. So if you have one sabbatical year every seventh year, then seventy times seven equals 490 years. So for a 490 period Israel had violated those sabbatical laws, so that means that when Daniel comes along in 538 BC God is saying that in the past there were 490 years of Israel's history where they were disobedient. To make up for that they had to spend 70 years out of the land during the Babylonian captivity.
Now he's going to get a vision of seventy periods of seven, and if you multiply that out you get seventy times seven, you come up with 490 years again. So just as there were 490 years in the past, there will be 490 years for Israel in the future. Notice how in God's plan He's got it outlined in terms of a perfect balance. So just as there were 490 years in the past there will be 490 years in the future. So the purpose here is that there will be a future for Israel for this full 490 years. Notice, the "seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city," that's Israel. God said there's going to be 490 years for your people in your holy city and then he outlines the purposes.
There are six purposes listed, so let's see what they mean. First, "to finish the transgression," Now a couple of things we ought to note here and that is that the noun "transgression" has a definite article with it in the Hebrew. It is "the transgression," indicating specificity; the word "the" in English is our definite article and indicates one specific transgression, not just any transgression. And for the Jews this is the specific rebellion against the rule of God. They have rejected the rule of God, they rejected God and they worshipped idols in the past, and so this decree is to finish "the transgression." And that will not happen; they will not accept the rule of God as a nation until the Second Coming, Zechariah 12:10-13. So to finish the transgression cannot refer to the work of Christ on the cross, it must refer to the coming of Christ at the end of the Tribulation, at the end of this age, before the millennial kingdom, and it will not be until then that Israel gives up this sin of rejecting the rule of God.
The second phrase is "to make an end of sin," and actually it is a plural in the Hebrew and it refers to the sins of daily life. And so these 490 years must run their course until the sins of the daily life of Israel are completed. And once again, those daily sins are based upon the root sin of rejecting the rule of God in their life. So these sins are rooted in their rejection of Jesus as Messiah and that won't end until the end of the Tribulation, until they accept Jesus as Messiah.
Third, "to make atonement for iniquity," and though that looks like that was accomplished on Golgotha, in fact Jesus did pay the penalty for every single sin in human history, it is not accepted by the Jews and applied to Israel until the end of the Tribulation, until the Second Coming of Christ. So it is clear that these first three are not fulfilled until the end of the 490 years, till the end of the Tribulation. It has not happened yet.
The fourth one is "to bring in everlasting righteousness," and that is a term that is related to the righteousness of the millennial kingdom when Jesus, as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords returns to the earth and establishes his righteousness kingdom.
The fifth purpose is "to seal up vision and prophecy," and that means to bring to fulfillment all Old Testament prophecy related to the nation Israel. Once again that does not occur until the end of the 490 year period and doesn't occur until Jesus Christ returns a second time.
And then finally, "to anoint the most holy place" and that is a reference to anointing the most holy place in the millennial temple that is constructed at the beginning of the millennium. So there are six purposes outlined in Daniel 9:24 and these six purposes are not accomplished until the end of the 490 year period. They are not accomplished at the 483rd year, when Messiah is cut off. They are not accomplished until the end of the full 490 years.
That handles the first couple of problems and that is the meaning of the seventy weeks and the reference of these six purpose clauses in Daniel 24. Next time we'll look at the actual decree itself, which decree is that, and how does that play itself out in terms of the history of Israel. We'll cover that next time.