In our previous article I wrote about the view that the rapture of the church comes before the great tribulation and mentioned that the prophecy of Daniel 9.24-27 is relevant to this subject. In this article we will look at the interval between the first and second coming of the Messiah and how this passage gives information on this subject.
This is the word given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel, as he was praying for the restoration of the Jewish people to Jerusalem after they had been taken to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar who also destroyed the Temple and the city of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25, 2 Chronicles 36). In response to Daniel’s prayer God sent the angel Gabriel to give him the famous ’70 weeks of years’ prophecy:
‘Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then he shall confirm a 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, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.’ Daniel 9.24-27.
The subject of the prophecy is ‘your people’ (the Jewish people) and ‘your holy city’ (Jerusalem). The prophecy speaks of ’70 weeks of years.’ A week in this case is understood to mean seven years. This period is divided into three periods of 7 + 62 + 1 times 7 years, so this means 70 times 7 years, equalling 490 years. Verse 24 tells us that by the time it is accomplished these things will have happened:
- Finishing transgression and making an end of sins.
- Making reconciliation for iniquity and bringing in everlasting righteousness.
- Sealing up the vision and prophecy and anointing the Holy of Holies.
There has not been a complete fulfilment of this prophecy. In particular point 3 has not yet been fulfilled as there are still unfulfilled prophecies concerning the Messiah and Jerusalem. So the completion of this prophecy remains in the future.
At a specific point, which comes at the end of the 69 week of this prophecy, it is stated that ‘Messiah shall be cut off but not for himself.’ After this the ‘city’ (Jerusalem) and ‘the sanctuary’ (the Temple) will be destroyed. At the time when Daniel received this prophecy the Temple site was a ruin. Now he was hearing that the Temple would be rebuilt on this site, but this Temple would also be destroyed as the First Temple had been. The fulfilment of this prophecy was the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 CE.
Some time before this event, Messiah would come and ‘be cut off.’ Bible students have calculated that the dates given in Daniel line up with the crucifixion of Jesus (for details of how we come to this conclusion, send for our Winter 2011 edition). In Daniel 9.26 we read that Messiah would be ‘cut off’, but ‘not for himself’ (Hebrew ve’ein lo). The Hebrew has a double meaning ‘not for himself’ (Authorised Version translation) or ‘shall have nothing’ (NIV translation). Both apply to Jesus.
He was cut off / suffered as a judgement for sin not as a result of his own sins, but the sins of others, fulfilling Isaiah 53.6: ‘All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.’ In the Hebrew prophets there are two sets of prophecies about the Messiah. One set shows him as the Suffering Servant and the other set as the Reigning King. On the occasion of His first coming, Jesus would fulfil the prophecies of the Suffering Servant, not those of the Reigning King.
As a result of this He had no visible kingdom – i.e. He ‘shall have nothing.’ Contrary to Jewish Messianic hopes, the Messiah would not defeat Israel’s enemies at this time nor rule on earth from a revived throne of David in Jerusalem. Instead He would be put to death and rise from the dead. He would give forgiveness of sin and eternal life to all who call on His name for salvation. The kingdom He did have was an invisible one, of souls saved and brought into the kingdom of God through repentance and faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
According to Daniel’s prophecy, Messiah being ‘cut off’ would be followed by the destruction of the city and the sanctuary (Jerusalem and the Temple). This will be accompanied by a flood (a figure often used in prophecy for an invasion) and wars and desolations. Jesus warned that the age following His first coming would be characterised by ‘wars and rumours of wars’ (Matthew 24.6), the opposite of the hoped for age of peace. Jesus also prophesied the coming desolation of Jerusalem: ‘For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.’ Luke 19.41-44. This prophecy was fulfilled to the letter by the Romans destroying the Temple and Jerusalem in 70 CE. The long period of Jewish dispersion began and Jerusalem was ruled by different Gentile powers, something Jesus also prophesied in Luke 21.20-24. As a result of the death and resurrection of the Messiah the clock of Israel’s countdown to the fulfilment of the 70 weeks of years prophecy stopped. This creates the interval between the 69 and the 70 week of Daniel’s prophecy which separates the events of the first coming of the Messiah from the events leading up to His second coming.
There are other passages in the prophets which speak of this time, including Hosea 3 which describes a long unspecified time when Israel would be without king, sacrifice / priesthood or revelation from the Lord: ‘For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim.’ (Hosea 3.4, see also Isaiah 29.9-13). Nevertheless this time will come to an end when God turns again to Israel, revealing the Messiah in the latter days: ‘Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days.’ (Hosea 3.5). The New Testament also shows that the Jewish people remain a people before God and will come to salvation through recognising Yeshua / Jesus as Messiah in the last days of this age (Romans 9-11).
The clock of Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks is taken up again when the 70 week begins. The first event of this ‘week’ is this statement: ‘he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week’ (Daniel 9.27). The question here is ‘Who is he?’ The Messiah or the last person referred to in verse 26 as ‘the prince to come?’ If it is the ‘prince to come’ (and I believe it is) this refers to the anti-messiah (antichrist), who rises out of the revived Roman Empire. Why the Roman Empire? Because the previous verse says, ‘the people of the prince to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.’ The Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem in AD70 and so it appears there is a Roman connection with this one who makes the seven year covenant with Israel.
It is possible that this treaty follows the War of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38-9) as described in our previous article. The leader of the western alliance brings a peace settlement to Israel, on one level aiming to give Israel security, but in fact leading to control by the antichrist.
It appears that this treaty allows Israel to rebuild a Temple in Jerusalem, which is then defiled by the antichrist at the midpoint of the 7 year period when he puts his image, the ‘abomination of desolation’ in the holy place (Daniel 9.27, 11.31, 12.11, Matthew 24.15 Revelation 13.14-5). This leads to the time of Jacob’s trouble, or the great tribulation (Jeremiah 30.5-7, Daniel 12.1-4, Matthew 24.21-2). This reaches its climax with the armies of the world gathering together against Jerusalem (Joel 3, Zechariah 12-14, Revelation 16 and 19) and the visible, physical return of the Messiah to the earth, when He stands on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14) and brings in the Messianic Kingdom in which He rules the world from Jerusalem.
All of this takes place in the 70 week of Daniel’s prophecy and concludes with all that is promised in Daniel 9.24 coming to pass, as Messiah Jesus fulfils the prophecies of His first and second coming.
So what does this prophecy say about the church? Actually nothing, since its focus is on Jerusalem and the Jewish people. However if the clock of Daniel’s prophecy stops as far as Israel is concerned, it starts as far as the church is concerned. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Jewish believers in the resurrected Lord Jesus who proclaim the good news of salvation, beginning in Jerusalem, and going into Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth, as instructed by the Lord. The believing church, made up of Jews and Gentiles who accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord, becomes God’s means of bringing salvation to people all over the world.
This period will end with the rapture of the church as described in 1 Thessalonians 4:
‘For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.’
Thus the present age fits into the interval between the 69 and 70 week of Daniel’s prophecy.
After the Lord takes the believing church in the rapture, the focus of attention goes back to Israel and the clock starts again with Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy entering its final week. Revelation 6-19 describes this final seven year period on earth before the return of the Lord Jesus to the earth, corresponding to Daniel’s 70 week. According to Revelation 7, 144,000 Jews will accept Jesus as Messiah at the beginning of the tribulation period. They will be supernaturally empowered to spread the message of Jesus during this period after the church has been removed. They will refuse the Antichrist covenant and preach the true Messiah. Multitudes will be saved as a result, many of whom will be martyred.
According to Revelation 11, two witnesses will prophesy in Jerusalem for 1260 days (3 ½ years or half of the seven year period). They will have a supernatural power like Elijah and Moses and will be divinely protected from their enemies until they are killed by the Antichrist, and then rise from the dead. After this, there will be a great earthquake in Jerusalem ‘and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven’ (i.e. they accepted salvation through Jesus). Zechariah 12.10 tells us that at the end of the tribulation period the Spirit will be poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem and ‘they shall look on Me whom they have pierced’ (i.e. accept Jesus as Saviour).
In the final seven years before the physical return of the Messiah to the earth the focus of attention will be on Israel and the Jewish people, but many people from all nations will also come to believe in the Lord. Then He will return to the earth ‘with the saints’ (i.e. those who died in Christ in previous generations and those taken in the rapture) and set up His kingdom ruling from Jerusalem and fulfilling the prophecies of Messiah in the Hebrew scriptures.
There is a fascinating verse in Hosea 5.15 where the Lord says, ‘I will return again to My place till they acknowledge their offence. Then they will seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.’ The period of the interval will begin with Israel’s offence of rejecting the Messiah. Romans 11 tells us that through that ‘through their fall, salvation has come to the Gentiles.’ However Israel will remain a people before God and Romans 11.26-7 goes on to speak of Israel being when ‘the Deliverer will come out of Zion and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob, for this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.
This ties in with Hosea’s prophecy which implies that they will accept Jesus as the Messiah as they ‘acknowledge their offence’ (confess their sin) and ‘earnestly seek Me.’ The next verse says ‘Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.’ Hosea 6.1-2. We may think of the third day as referring to the day of the resurrection of Jesus, but a ‘day’ can also refer to a 1000 year period in the Bible: ‘With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.’ (2 Peter 3.8, see also Psalm 90.4).
As we approach the end of the ‘two days’ (2000 year period) after the resurrection of Jesus and the birth of the church, we look forward to the ‘third day’, the day of Messiah’s kingdom being established on the earth at His return, when His people Israel seek Him and ask Him to come! He said to us, ‘Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.’ Luke 21.27-8. Those who believe in Jesus now have a soon coming appointment to meet the Lord as He comes for His church. Maranatha, may the Lord come!