In The Fulfilling of Time

[continued from previous post, "Jerusalem, The City of God"]

In Daniel 8, we find the prophet in vision witnessing a ram with two horns (representing the joint empire of Medo-Persia), and a goat (representing Greece) fighting with each other. The goat overpowers the ram with his prominent, but singular horn, which soon afterwards breaks and is replaced by four other horns in its place. History teaches that it was Alexander the Great, king of Greece, who in victory over the Medo-Persian armies overthrew that kingdom to establish his own as the next ruling world empire. His victory was short lived however, as he died at the tender age of just 32. Having left no heir to the throne, his 4 generals took over rulership of the kingdom, dividing it in four parts between them.

Daniel’s vision continues, and we find that a mighty horn emerges from one of the goat’s four horns to become the prominent feature. It goes on to commit vile abominations against God and His people. A voice is heard asking how long would these things seen in this vision by Daniel last, and the reply is given, “unto 2300 days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” Dan. 8:14.

Daniel upon seeing this realises that God’s people are to suffer greatly, and it seems as though many true believers will be snuffed out from the face of the earth, but for the hope of deliverance prophesied at the end. So distressed by this scene is he, that he becomes physically sick by it.

A few questions arise here…

  • When precisely would the 2,300 days begin?
  • What does it mean to cleanse the sanctuary?
  • Which power was to arise after Greece that persecuted the saints and blasphemed against God?

Fortunately, the Bible interprets itself, and these questions are answered for us that there needs be no speculation on the matter. In chapter 9 of Daniel, we find the prophet still troubled by the thoughts of his vision. After turning to God in prayer for understanding, the angel Gabriel visits him later that day to provide the answers he seeks.

In beginning his explanation of the 2300 days, the Gabriel declares that 70 weeks (or 490 days) of probationary time was apportioned for the Jewish people (Dan. 9:24). This time was set aside specifically for them to do away with the sinful behaviour and attitudes that had characterised their history since the exodus from Egypt, and led to their repeated (and current) enslavement under the heathen nations around so that they could prepare themselves to receive the Messiah.

So that there would be no vagueness or grey areas about what was to take place during the 70 weeks, Gabriel then goes into detail about what was to take place during this time period. He states that 69 weeks (or 483 days) was set aside for the rebuilding of the temple, the city of Jerusalem and the restoration of the Israel as a self-governing nation for the Messiah to appear; Immediately after which the Messiah would appear. Importantly, Gabriel states that this would begin at the issuing of an official proclamation allowing the Jews to do so (Dan. 9:25).

So far, we have 69 weeks accounted for in which the Jews would be given their freedom, their city rebuilt, and at the end of which, the Messiah would appear to confirm the covenant with many for 1 week (7 days). Gabriel continues however, that the Messiah would be “cut off” in the middle of that final week, his death bringing an end to sacrifices (Heb. 9:25,26).

To summarise so far:

  • A probationary time period of 70 weeks was set for the Jews to make spiritual reconciliation
  • The 70 weeks begins with an official proclamation allowing the Jews to begin rebuilding (see the books of Ezra and Nehemiah)
  • After 69 weeks, the Messiah would appear
  • He would confirm the covenant with many in the final week,
  • He would also be cut off after 3 1/2 days of that final week to bring an end of sacrifices

It is interesting that Daniel chapter 9 begins by telling us exactly when he is writing. “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 Chaldean.” No doubt, this is for our benefit in searching out history to ascertain the starting point of this prophecy. And history does indeed tell us that it was king Artaxerxes, in the autumn of 457 B.C. who gave this command (this will be further explored in a future post).

Now if we were to calculate the prophecy, 490 days beginning from the autumn of 457 B.C. seems a rather meagre period of time considering the events mentioned would lead right up to Jesus’(the Messiah) day and beyond. The questionable nature of such a scenario is put to rest once we investigate the concept of the ‘year-day’ principle, advocated by men such as John Calvin, John Knox, Martin Luther, John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon. Chiefly associated with the historicist method of prophetic interpretation, the ‘year-day’ principle was the primary method of understanding Biblical time prophecies in the light of last day events up until the last 250 years of Christian history (and the counter-reformation). For the sake trying to keep the length of this article within a reasonable limit, I will only give a brief explanation of what the year-day principle is (a more detailed study on the subject may be found here).

The year-day principle basically means that when prophetic time periods are used in the context of apocalyptic events, they are to be understood by applying the principle that one literal calendar day is equivalent to one literal calendar year. Thus, 70 weeks, or 490 prophetic days becomes 490 literal years.  In the Old Testament, it was common practice to parallel a day for a year, as evidenced by God’s command to the prophet Ezekiel to lay on his side, "a day for each year," according to the pattern of when Israel came out of Egypt. As a result of their disobedience and lack of faith, Israel had been sentenced to 40 years of wandering in the desert according to the 40 days that they had spied out the land––”a day for every year” (Numbers 14:34).

“I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the people of Israel. After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the people of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year.” Ezekiel 4:5,6.

A study of the literary structure of Revelation 20 and Isaiah 24 reveals that “days” in Isaiah 24:22 is indeed parallel to “years” in Revelation 20:2.

Thus using the year-day principle in the interpretative reckoning of prophetic time presents itself highly plausible. Secondly, we understand from the angel’s words, and history itself, that the starting point of this prophetic time period is indeed autumn 457B.C. Therefore, calculating 490 literal years (70 prophetic weeks, or 490 days) forward from that point brings us to 34A.D (it must be noted that when moving from B.C. to A.D., there is no year 0). Within that 490 year probationary time period, we are told that the rebuilding and restoration of Jerusalem unto the Jewish nation, and for the Messiah (or anointed one) to arrive would take 483 years (or 69 weeks). Calculating 483 years (69 weeks) from 457B.C., accounting for the fact there is no year 0, brings us to the late summer, or early autumn of 27A.D (more on this in a further post).

Remarkably, we find in Luke 3:1 the date and scene set for Jesus’ baptism as the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar. A bunch of other ruling dignitaries of the time are listed for no obvious reason. No obvious reason that is, except to establish the time of Christ’s baptism. Most historical records date the beginning of Tiberus’ reign in 14A.D., however further investigation shows that he co-reigned with Augustus for 2 years prior to assuming full control of the monarchy. Adam Clarke’s commentary on Luke 3:1 reads thus, “This was the fifteenth of his principality and thirteenth of his monarchy: for he was two years joint emperor, previously to the death of Augustus.” This account is also verified by other credible commentators such as James, Fausett and Brown. 

Therefore, accounting for his two years prior to 14A.D. as join emperor, the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar falls precisely in the year 27A.D. Exactly 483 years (69 weeks) after the 70 week prophecy of Daniel 9 began in 457B.C. It is important to note that the word “Messiah” means “anointed” (see John 1:41, margin). Jesus, having been anointed with the Holy Ghost (Acts 10:38) at His baptism (Luke 3:21, 22) then began to preach that “the time is fulfilled” (referring to the 483 years which were to reach to the Messiah). He thus audibly confirmed the prophecy (Mark 1:14, 15; Gal. 4:4).

Having considered 483 years of the 490 year prophecy, we are left with one final week remaining. Most modern Christian authors seek to apply this to a future fulfilment. However, looking carefully at the context of Daniel 9, we see that the 70 week prophecy was primarily set aside as a probationary time period for the Jews. It was secondarily a Messianic prophecy, charting when the world was to expect the Messiah’s arrival. Thereby, requiring its fulfilment in the life of, or around the time of Christ. No indication is given that the 70 weeks (or any other time prophecy for that matter) is not a continuous, contiguous passage of prophetic time. However, in order to verify this, we must look at what happens in the first 69 weeks and the events prior, to see if they follow a theme of continuity into the final week.

[continued in the following post, "70 Weeks of Judgement,"]

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