Sermon by John MacArthur
Tonight I want to draw your attention back to the ninth chapter of Daniel where we left off three months ago. And we got through the first 19 verses before we went away and we're going to pick it right up there for our Bible study tonight. What a great week it's been for me in the adventure of this tremendous tremendous chapter. In fact, this afternoon, I spent a couple of hours just reading through another paper dealing with the intricacies of the prophecy of this particular text, just to fill my mind with even more of the wonderful things that the Spirit of God has given us here.
As we come to chapter 9 verses 20 through 27, we come to the most marvelous, exact, amazing prophecy in all of the Bible. It is in the mind of some writers the single greatest defense of the divine authorship of Scripture. In fact, Sir Isaac Newton once said, quote: "We could stake the truth of Christianity on this prophecy alone, made five centuries before Christ," end quote. We could stake the truth of Christianity- on this prophecy alone." A powerful statement, monumental prophecy and you'll see as it begins to unfold. Frankly, I want to tell you at the beginning, we're not going to get through the whole thing tonight; it's just too rich, there's too much in it. We're going to take our time so that you can understand the fullness of all the Spirit of God is saying.
Now let me remind you of the scene a little bit as we approach the ninth chapter of Daniel because it's been a few months since we talked about this and you may need some refreshing. You remember, that after the reign of Solomon, the kingdom of Israel was divided into two parts: the northern kingdom known as
Israel, the southern kingdom known as Judah. Israelhad been taken into a form of captivity and they were dispersed and never really returned. So, Israel at this particular time is out of existence as such, that is the northern kingdom. The southern kingdomof Judah, the southern half of the divided kingdom has also been taken into captivity, this by the nation Babylon.
There were a series of three deportations. Nebuchadnezzar came, first of all, in about 605, or 606, and he carried away the young men of the nobles and the princes, among them a young man named Daniel and his three friends--Mishael, Hananiah and Azariah who became known as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Babylonian terms. So, the nation of Judah, the people of God, had been captive in the land of
Babylon. Babylon was the first great Gentile world empire of which there would be four: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.
Now Daniel, who was taken captive, because of the amazing commitment to God that he had and because of the marvelous quality of his character, had risen to become the prime minister of
Babylon. Even though he was a Jew in exile, his quality caused him to reach the very highest place in the land. And so, Daniel, at this particular time in chapter 9, is the prime minister.
The Babylonian Empire has, however, been defeated. And for one year the Medes and the Persians have been in power and the king by the name of Darius whom I believe is the same as Cyrus--Darius being a title rather than a name--is in power. And so we find then, at this particular time, that the people of God had been in captivity for nearly 70 years. They- have endured the Babylonian Empire and the fall of the Babylonian Empire and they are now living under the power of the Medo-Persians.
Interestingly enough, Daniel again, because of the prowess of his nature, because of the character of his life, because of the impact he had made on society, maintained his position in the Empire even though the structure of the Empire changed. So, Daniel is still prime minister in a foreign land.
Some scholars believe it's about 537 B.C., or so. And Israel has been captive, or Judah has been captive, nearly 70 years by now. In fact, some believe from the first deportation, it's in the sixty-ninth year.
And since Daniel was in the first deportation, he's very concerned that the 70 years is fast coming to an end, for Daniel had been exposed to the writings of Jeremiah.
Look back at verse 2 of chapter 9. "In the first year of the reign of Cyrus, or Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, I Daniel understood by books the number of the years. He was reading in the Old Testament canon, "...Concerning which the Word of the Lord came to Jeremiah." Now Jeremiah had mentioned several times that the captivity would be a captivity of 70 years. And so Daniel knew that if God began to count with the first deportation, that 70 years was nearly up. Now he didn't know whether God started with the first deportation or the second deportation or the third deportation, which was in 586, so he really didn't know specifically when it began and therefore didn't know specifically when it ended, but he knew that it was imminent. Now Daniel is too old to go back to the land, but he has in his heart the people of God. I'm sure he knew that he wouldn't go back, but his heart longed to see the people go back. For 70 years their nation had been a rubble. For 70 years they had been dispossessed. And worst of all, they- had been under Gentile domination.
And so Daniel in chapter 9 begins to pray. And he is asking God to bring the captivity to an end. He wants the people to be brought back to the land. Now, in answer to his prayer, God gives him a monumental prophecy and that is what occurs from verses 20 to 27. His prayer is from verse 3 to 19.
Now keep in mind that this is not the first great prophecy given to Daniel. Daniel was the recipient of other amazing statements from God. You will recall the first two great prophecies that Daniel received were in chapter 2 and in chapter 7. And both of them dealt with the Gentile world empires. Chapter 2 gave to Daniel a broad outline of Gentile world history: the four great empires to be succeeded by a fifth and last great empire which was the Kingdom of the Most High God and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Then in chapter 7, God gave him that same vision in another format and He added to it the whole element of the antichrist and how he would rule over the final form of the final phase of Gentile world power.
So Daniel's visions to this point have been related primarily to the Gentile world powers. But from chapter 7 verse 28 on, the focus turns away from the Gentiles and it turns toward the Jews-- Israel, God's people. And chapter 9 gives us this great prophecy of the people of God.
If you look at verse 24, it will give you a hint. "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy holy city." And that is an affirmation of the basic content of this prophecy that it relates to Israel, or to
Judah if you're looking at it from the southern kingdom viewpoint. As chapter 9 opens, the people are still in depression, they are under foreign rule, their land is in heathen hands, their holy city is a heap, their temple is in ruins and they're ready to go back. And Daniel knows the time is near. And so he prays.
Now, as this unfolds to us, from verses 20 to 27, I want you to see three features--three features and three main characters. Number one, the circumstances of Daniel; number two, the coming of Gabriel; and number three, the communication of God. Three features, three main characters--the circumstances of Daniel, the coming of Gabriel, and the communication of God.
Let's look, first of all, at the circumstances of Daniel in verse 20. And by the way, we find him in very familiar circumstances. And while I was speaking and...what?...praying." If ever there is a man in the Bible who is associated with praying, it is Daniel, is it not? In fact, he was so committed to prayer that it got him in a lion's den. Daniel was a man of prayer. Daniel was praying.
If you go back to verse 3 of chapter 9, you'll find the beginning of his prayer. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by- prayer and supplication with fasting and sack cloth and ashes and I prayed unto the Lord my God." I mean, this is a man who is serious about his prayer. This is not whimsical. This is not a passing fancy. This is a man who settles into prayer with great commitment. Daniel was a man of prayer. In fact, it was in chapter 6, you'll remember, that his great commitment to prayer was the trap that they used to get him thrown to the lions. But he never wavered. If you go back to chapter 6 verses l0 and 11, you'll find that it didn't matter what the decree of the king was, Daniel was going to pray no matter what and God sustained him because of his faithfulness. He faced Jerusalem as was his custom and he prayed three times every day because that's the way he had been trained and that was what he was committed to doing. And so we find him in a common circumstance.
Now look again at verse 20 and you'll find four verbs there that are important. "And while I was speaking and praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God..." Four verbs: speaking, praying, making confession, and laying up supplication. Just four ways of speaking about his prayer, four elements, four ingredients, four facets. And I think in a way they are there to sort of sum up verses 3 through l9. All of those four verbs, by the way, are repeated somewhere in the prayer in verses 3 to l9. And so, this is the Holy Spirit's way of saying - Now while Daniel was praying that prayer - and the Holy Spirit just picks out four verbs selected from within the prayer to sort of sum it up. While Daniel was in the midst of that prayer. In other words, the idea is before the prayer had ever ended, while it was still going on, God began to move.
Now we could say a lot about Daniel but I guess maybe. the greatest thing about Daniel is at the end of verse 20, in terms of the focus of his prayer. There are a lot of things you could focus on in prayer, Daniel had the right focus. Most people have the wrong one. Believe it or not, most people, most of us included, most of the time pray to consume it upon our own lusts.
That's just basically the way we pray. "Lord give me this." "Lord, protect me from that." "Lord, make sure I get my needs." "Lord, me, me, me, me." But that was never Daniel's focus. He was speaking and praying and confessing his sin and the sins of his people
Israeland presenting his supplication, laying it up before the Lord my God. And for what purpose? "For the holy mountain of my God." It was for the sake of Zion. It was for the character of God. It was for His holy name, the mountain being representative of all of His glory. He prayed for God's glory and that was the heart and the focus of his praying. It grieves me so much when I hear people say, "Well, you need to demand this from God and demand that from God and you tell God what He has to give you and you lay claim to these and that." Daniel prayed for God's glory, not his own indulgence. And in response to that, he got a prophecy without equal.
And I guess as I was thinking through this, I couldn't help but think Daniel got such an incredible answer, I wonder if my prayer life could be so altered that God could be so gracious to do in my life just a portion of the marvelous things He did in Daniel's. And as a result of that, I went back over the chapter again and started to relearn because I had forgotten some of them already, relearn the characteristics of Daniel's prayer that released such a word from God. I couldn't help but think what is it in Daniel's prayer that caused such a response. In fact, in verse 2l it says, "Yea, while I was speaking in prayer the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning being caused to fly swiftly, touched me." Now get this. I mean, the guy didn't even say "Amen" before the angel had arrived with the answer. Now that's the way to pray. And when the answer came, it was a more marvelous answer than anyone could have ever imagined.
How can one so pray to receive such a divine response? How can one so pray to be so blessed? So, I went back over the chapter and I do it just briefly for you. What was right about Daniel's praying? What made it so answerable? What made it so that God touched Him? Because it seems sometimes that we pray and we don't have the sense of the touch of God. What was it? Be reminded, will you? First of all, he prayed in response to the Word of God. He prayed in response to the Word of God. His prayer was born out of experience in the Word. That's verse 2. "I understood by- books the number of the years, I was reading Jeremiah and I set my face to the Lord." In other words, the parameters of his prayers were established by- the Word of God. He prayed within the bounds of the revelation of God. He probably read Jeremiah 25:11, Jeremiah 25:l2, Jeremiah 29:l0 cause all of those verses talk about the 70 years. And he said, "I know what God's purpose is. God's purpose is 70 years. And consistent with God's revelation, I can now pray for God to send my people back because it's consistent with the time frame He's established in His own Word."
So, the first thing you learn about prayer is that prayer is to be lined up with the revelation of God. You cannot pray rightly unless you understand the eternal purposes of God, you see. Second thing, and I have to add that just because it's so obvious, he prayed not only in response to God's Word but in accord with God's will. He said, "Lord, You've already said You're going to do it, so do it." In fact, the only request in the whole prayer and all of the stuff from verses 3 through verse l8 is just preparation, and he finally comes down to verse l9 and here is the request, "O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, hearken, and do." That's the request, one word, do it. You said You're going to do it, it's in Your Word that You're going to do it, it's Your will to do it, do it, according to God's will. If you ask anything in My name and in accord with My will, I'll do it. So Daniel says You said You'd do it, do it. That's the way to pray.
He prayed also, thirdly, with fervency. Verse 3, "I set my face..."
That's a Hebraism for a resolute spirit. "I set my face unto the Lord God." And he got serious. He fasted. In fact, some commentators think that Gabriel started the fly when he began to fast, before he'd even started to pray. Because God sure didn't wait to hear his request before He knew what he was going to ask. He was resolute, fervent.
He prayed with self-denial, verse 4, "I made my confession." I mean, the man began with the fact that he was not worthy, right? Whenever you go into the presence of God you have to go in on that premise, that you are not worth-v. And he prayed for others. That was really the heart of his prayer. You notice in verse 5, we; verse 6, we, our, our, our; verse 7, us, unto all Israel; verse 8, us, our, our, we; verse 10, we, us; verse 11, all Israel, us, we, us, us. There was nothing selfish about his prayer. He prayed for
So, he prayed- in response to God's Word, in accord with God's will, with fervency, self-denial, prayed for others, prayed with confession, didn't he? That's number six. Verse 5, he says we've sinned, we've committed iniquity, we've done wickedly, we've rebelled, we've departed from Your precepts, from Your ordinances, we never listen to Your prophets. See, he's dealing with his own heart, the heart of his people.
He prayed, seventh, dependent on God. Utterly dependent on God. He said "You're a great," in verse 4, "awesome God, You keep Your covenant, You show mercy to those that love you and to those that keep Your commandments.. In other words, he prayed his prayer dependent on the absolute unchanging promise of an unchanging God.
And finally, I would say that he focused on God's glory. The whole point of his prayer was on the glory of God. That was the whole thing. "Do it for Your sake." Verse l9, "O Lord, hear, O Lord forgive, O Lord hearken and do, and defer not," and here it comes, "for Thine own sake, O my God, for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name." This is Your people and Your city and Your name is at stake. And he was praying. And he was praying the right way.
There's another little note about his praying, too, in verse 2l, look at it. It says at the end of the verse that the angel Gabriel came, and I like this, "He touched me about the time of the evening oblation." Now that's a very special thing, the time of the evening oblation. Daniel had brought his prayer to God at a very, very special time. This was the time of the evening sacrifice and it was also a time for prayer, 3 P.M. was the time. Ezra 9 indicates that this time was also a time for prayer, in verse 5.
But this was traditionally a very special time--in the evening, Daniel when he was living in
Jerusalembefore the captivity as a boy would have remembered. Smoke would rise from the temple ground because a lamb was slain and the lamb was slain for sin and offered up to God. Sins were confessed. The one who brought the lamb would lay his hands upon the lamb signifying identification and confess his sin with his hands on the lamb and then the lamb would be offered as a sacrifice. Daniel would remember that. And he would remember also that there was a meal offering and a drink offering associated with that sacrifice.
But let me just give you a little thought here. Isn't it interesting that 69 years later, he is still faithful to the evening oblation though there hasn't been one for 69 years and though there's no temple for him to look to? Now there's a man who doesn't forget, and that was the key to his spiritual success. A lot of people departed from Israel, got in a pagan land and forgot the whole deal. Not Daniel...remembering again anchors the soul. And so he remembered. He could remember even though there hadn't been a sacrifice since 586 B.C. And there he was and what a fitting time to confess his sins. He was confessing them. And I just believe that every day at 3 o'clock may have been, because of the tradition in which he was raised, his time to confess his sins even though there was no sacrifice offered. And so, Daniel came to God in prayer but he came with a sense of the need for a cleansing. So he was praying, the circumstances of Daniel.
Second, the coming of Gabriel, verse 2l. And this is really a wonderful text. Look and see what happens. "Yea, while I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me." Now what an amazing thing. Daniel is still praying and the angel arrives before he's even done. Now that will give you a little idea how fast angels fly. Heaven is not very far away when you have a supernatural body.
Notice it says "Gabriel the man," or "the man Gabriel." Now that is not to deny that he is an angel. It is only to identify- him with the previous appearance in chapter 8 verse l6 because in chapter 8 verse l6, you remember, when Daniel was by the banks of the river Ulai he heard a man's voice and the man's voice called and said "Gabriel, make this man to understand the visions. So when he came near where I stood and when he came, I was afraid and fell upon my face. And he said unto me, Understand, O son of man," and so forth and so on. In the eighth chapter, Daniel confronted Gabriel the angel in a human form. And the reason he is called here the man Gabriel is probably best understood as a way of identifying him with the same visible form. You see, if he had come only as a spirit being, Daniel would not have known that it was Gabriel because Daniel wouldn't have known what Gabriel looked like. But it was Gabriel.
And I believe that God wanted Daniel to know it was Gabriel. Why? Because I believe Gabriel is a number-one, class A messenger angel. And Daniel was to know that this was a high priority delivery and that he was getting Gabriel.
So, the reference to the man Gabriel is not a denial that he's an angel but it serves to link him with the vision of chapter 8 verses l5 and l6 where he appeared in the form of a man. And Daniel makes that comment when he says, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning."
By the way, you might also note, too, that the word for man here, the word ishis sometimes used of a servant and it could be in that sense, too, that he's called the man insofar as he acts as a servant of God. And by the way, the word Gabriel, have you ever thought about that word? The last two letters of that word signify the name of whom? Of God. And literally elmeans the "strong one." God, the strong one. And the first part of Gabriel comes from the Hebrew word, basically the word is gabar. And gabarmeans "the strong one." So it is man--the strong one; God--the strong one. Or, it is "the strong man of God." The strong one of the strong God. That's his name. And he was the key heavenly messenger.
Who was it that announced to Zacharias the birth of John the Baptist? Gabriel. And he was the greatest man who ever lived up until his time. Jesus said that in Matthew 11:11. Important announcement. Who was it who announced to Mary the birth of Jesus Christ in Luke l:26? Gabriel. Now this is a repeated function of holy angels in the Scripture. Angels were involved in the revelation of the law to Moses. You can find that in the seventh chapter of Acts in the sermon of Stephen. He says the angels delivered the law to Moses. Zechariah says there was an angel that talked to me and interpreted the visions from God.
Much of the book of Daniel, much of the book of Revelation came through the mediation of angels. Angels were used as God's messengers. Now, back to verse 2l. This angel was caused to fly swiftly, so fast he got there before Daniel finished praying. And by the way, just keep this in mind, angels literally are not omnipresent so they have to go from somewhere to somewhere else, right? So it is a question of speed. That's right, it's an issue of speed. In fact, we find also in Daniel, don't we, that God had dispatched one angel to deliver a word to Daniel and the angel got held up in space by some demons and the Lord had to send Michael to loose him so he could finish the journey. So angels go from somewhere to somewhere else. And this one went fast. By the way, the only other angel named in the Bible is Michael, the only other good angel is Michael and he's super angel, champion angel, the leader of the heavenly forces. The one other angel who's mentioned is Lucifer.
But notice at the end of verse 2l, it says that "...he touched me." He was so intent in prayer and I think it indicates something of the posture of prayer. Daniel was so intensely involved in prayer, no doubt his eyes were closed, his head was bowed and the angel had to touch him to wake him up, to make him alert to his presence. Then verse 22, "And he informed me and talked with me and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding." And Gabriel speaks to him about his mission.
Now Daniel's prayer was not for understanding. And Daniel's prayer was not for skill. And really, those two words mean very much the same, it's very hard to distinguish the two. But Daniel wasn't asking for something for himself. Daniel wasn't asking for insight into the future. Daniel was not some kind of a lurid prophecy- buff. "O Lord, just show me what it's going to be," see. I mean, what concerned Daniel was the purpose and the plan of God, not the fascination of the future. But, the angel said, "I want to inform you. I've come, O Daniel, to give you skill and understanding." The Lord wanted to assure Daniel of His unwavering purpose to fulfill all of His promises and He wanted to assure Daniel fully so there would be no question in his mind.
Verse 23, "At the beginning of thy supplication, when you first started this process of prayer," and that's why some commentators believe it was when he began to fast because that was the real beginning of the prayer, even before he had uttered the prayer. But at the beginning, whenever it was, early in the day, "The commandment came forth." Where do you think it came from? It came from God. All of the angels' commandments come from God. "And I am come to show thee." Now get this. "For thou art greatly beloved." Isn't that tremendous? Tremendous thought. Just when you began to pray, the commandment came: send him an answer and take it firsthand and I want Gabriel to deliver it in person.
Now how in the world do you ever tap that kind of a divine resource? I think it has to do with the character of your prayer and the quality-of your life. The word went out. And by the way, the word is in verses 24 to 27, as we shall see. Gabriel was the divine agent. Why? Why did God answer his prayer? Not only because he prayed- as he should pray, but because he was what he should be. See it in verse 23? "For thou art greatly beloved." Oh, what a thought that is. What a thought that is.
I think a good parallel, I just really thought of this just this moment, is in the book of Jude. There's a wonderful little verse in Jude verse 20, you don't need to turn to it, just listen to it. It says this: "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying' in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God." And what do you mean--keep yourselves in the love of God? Boy, initially that's a scary statement, isn't it? What do I have to do to stay in the love of God? What is he saying? Is he saying that I can step outside the love of God? Well, not in the ultimate sense, but I think the way to perceive that is this.
There is, if you will, you draw a circle on the ground somewhere just for the mental imagery, and a great big wide circle and assume that within that circle- and by the way, that circle has an "O" around it and that stands for a great word in the New Testament...what is it? Obedience. So I call it the circle of obedience but you draw this great big circle and as long as you stand in it, that's where it rains the love of God. That's where the love of God is releasing blessing in the fullness. Now as long as you stay within that circle, you are keeping yourself in the love of God.
God's blessing is always going to be poured out on the obedient. As soon as you step out of that circle and You begin to be disobedient, it isn't that God has stopped pouring out the blessing, it's just that you stepped outside of the parameters in which it's happening. It isn't that God says, "O Daniel, I love you more than anybody else." What He's really saying is, Daniel, you are in a greater position than most to receive the blessing that I want to give all, but because of the character of their lives, I'm unable to do it." In other words, there's a certain kind of life that puts you dead center in the circle of the raining of God's eternal blessing. And that's right where Daniel was. I don't know about you but that's where I want to be. You want to be there?
I think about this and then I think about John. He says, .For thou art greatly beloved." And John, whenever he writes about himself, he says, "...and there was Peter, and there was Andrew and there was James and then there was the disciple whom...what?...Jesus loved." I mean why call yourself John when you can call yourself that? Right?
And so, Daniel--not only because his prayer life was so right but because his character was so right--was greatly beloved by God. You know what that says to me also? That says to me that God has the capacity- to respond to my obedience, that God actually does pour out blessing when I am obedient to Him. I want to be greatly beloved because I want to experience what that means for His glory.
So, He says, at the end of verse 23, "Therefore...therefore what?...because you're so greatly beloved, I want you to understand the matter and consider the vision." You kind of have to get your thinking cap on and listen carefully and get it good. A better way to understand the word "vision" would be to translate it "appearance" because it isn't really a vision. This is the real angel Gabriel there in some kind of physical form. It's a real appearance of Gabriel rather than a vision. And so, God sends His angel and we see the circumstances of Daniel and the coming of Gabriel.
That leads us, thirdly, to the communication of God...the communication of God, verse 24 to 27. Just listen to this: "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city to finish the transgression and to make an end of sins and to make reconciliation for iniquity and to bring in everlasting righteousness and to seal up the vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build
Jerusalemunto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks. The streets shall be built again and the wall even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off but not for Himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city-and the sanctuary and the end of it shall be with a flood and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, for the overspreading of the abominations he shall make it desolate even until the consummation and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."
Now do you know why the angel told him to listen carefully? You've read that many times and you probably don't understand everything that I just read. That is a very complex statement, highly complex, and yet startlingly accurate. Let me see if I can give you a little summary so you get a feel for it.
First of all, the entire prophecy has to do with Daniel's people and Daniel's city, that is the nation of
Israeland the city of Jerusalem"?
Secondly, there are two different princes mentioned. There is Messiah the Prince in verse 25 and there is the prince that shall come in verse 26. One is Christ and one is antichrist.
Thirdly, the entire time period involved is exactly specified as 70 weeks, verse 24. And 70 weeks are divided into three sections: first section is seven weeks, the next one is 62 weeks and the last one is one week. So you have three segments. The whole time period begins, according to verse 25, at the going forth of the commandment to restore and rebuild
Jerusalem. The end of it all, in verse 25, is when the Messiah the Prince comes.
Now, that's just a general view. And we'll see it as we go through this text. Look at verse 24. And we're not going to get finished, in fact, we may not get as far as I thought tonight, but we'll jump in at verse 24 for a moment. "Seventy- weeks are determined upon they people." Now I want you to notice the word "determined." This is a divine indication. This tells us that God has a plan, that God charts the course of history, that God has predetermined what's going on. It's the assumption of a comprehensive plan of God. In fact, the Hebrew word for determined is a most fascinating word. It literally means "to cut off something." And the idea is that in all of human history, in all of the flow of human history, God has cut off a segment of time and pulled it out for His own purposes with His own people. He has taken a period called "seventy weeks" and cut it off from the rest of history. And it is a period geared to the accomplishment of the deliverance of Israel.
Notice again in verse 24 that it is "thy people and thy holy city." Daniel had prayed in his prayer for the people, he had prayed for the city and the answer came related to both.
Now, what is the purpose of this prophecy? There are six purposes given in verse 24, they are just astounding. First of all, the seventy weeks are cut out of history for God to work with your people and your city for these six objectives. Three are negative--watch it--and three are positive.
Number one--to finish the transgression. Literally it means to restore restrain firmly the transgression. In the world in which we live today, sin has the freedom to express itself. But there's coming a day when that will not be the case. There's coming a day when every time sin rears its head it will be crushed with a rod of iron. It will be firmly restrained and the freedom of sin to express itself will be over. All apostasy will be over. All evil will come under divine control. And this seems to be a word--that is the word "transgression" which has reference to a general perspective on sin.
Now look at the second purpose. Not only to finish or to restrain firmly the transgression, but to make an end of sins-- plural. Not only is sin in total to be dealt with, or in general, but sins in specific are to be dealt with as well. Now there's a lot of debate about what the verb means--to make an end. Some think it means "to end." Some think it means "to seal up." And every time the root word of "to seal up" is used, it speaks about divine judgment in the Bible. It always assumes the idea of judgment. But the idea is that not only will God deal with sin as a totality, but God will deal with specific sins as well. In other words, there's a seventy-week period of history, the end of which God will wipe out sin. Now that's a great finality in that thought.
Finally, the third negative statement. To finish the transgression, to make an end of sins and to make reconciliation for iniquity--to make reconciliation for iniquity. The verb is kaphar, it simply means "to cover iniquity, to cover sin." And literally in the Hebrew it is "to atone for, or to expiate." It is the normal Hebrew word for atonement. Now did you get it? Now watch. There's coming a time when God is going to deal with sin in general. He's going to deal with sins in specific.
And He's going to deal with it by bringing about an atonement for those sins. Summing up these three: they all refer to getting rid of sin. And that was a welcome word for Daniel because it was sin that had brought
Israelto captivity. The first deals with the idea of sin in general, the second, sin in specific, and the third tells how--by atonement.
And I really believe that what Daniel sees but doesn't see, what the Spirit of God speaks of here, has to be the coming of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. It was on the cross that sin in general was dealt with, right? Even though the full application of that awaits His Second Coming. It was on the cross that sins in specific were dealt with as He bore them in His own body. It was on the cross that atonement was made. And so I see in those first three purposes of the seventy weeks a picture of the cross and its marvelous and amazing provision for sin.
Satan's head was bruised...where?...at the cross, even though the final sentence hasn't happened. All of our sin was paid for, right?
All of our sins were dealt with. We not only had the general problem of a sin nature taken care of, but we had received from the cross the forgiveness of every specific sin as well. So, sin has been dealt with there.
Then there are three positive purposes for the 70 weeks. Number one, to bring in everlasting righteousness. What a great exchange. You do away with sin and you bring in everlasting righteousness. Literally, it is in the plural. It is the righteousness of the ages, the righteousness of the eons, the permanent righteousness of eternity.
Righteousness takes permanent control. Now mark this. The Jews never saw in the Old Testament the distinction between the first and second coming of Christ and the gap in between. So that you can have a prophecy in the Old Testament that comes to the cross and is followed immediately by an understanding of the kingdom because the gap, or the church age, is a mystery. So, the first three are how God is going to deal with sin and the next three, how He is going to establish eternal righteousness.
The fifth one, it says He will seal up the vision and prophecy. In other words, there will come an end to revelation. There will come an end to prophecies. There will come an end to visions. Why? Because in His great glorious and eternal Kingdom, when it's finally established, we shall know as we are known, revelation will cease, all knowledge will be ours. Some believe that's speaking of the completing of the New Testament. That it's saying the New Testament canon will be finished? But I don't take that view for the reason that it says that there will be an end to prophecy and prophecies and visions will occur in the initiation of the Kingdom, according to Joel 2. So there has to be room for that in the future. So I see this as the final consummation.
And you can't get too picky about fitting it all in a little chronological thing. What the prophet is saying is there's coming a time when the Messiah will come and the Messiah will end sin and the Messiah will bring in the Kingdom of everlasting righteousness and there will be no need for us to be receiving little special revelations because everything will be disclosed to us...everything. And I think he sees, especially in a Jewish context, the glorification of the Jewish saints in the Kingdom.
Finally, and this is a good word at the end of verse 24--and we'll stop with this--to anoint, now mark this, the Holy, or better, a Holy of Holies, or a Most Holy. Now what is this? The best translation, beloved, is "a Holy of Holies." And what it is saying is simple. The phrase "Holy of Holies" refers either to the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle or the Holy of Holies in the temple. And I believe that what it's saying is that in the end with everlasting righteousness and with full knowledge, and we shall know as we are known, there will also be the establishing of a Kingdom temple. And all you have to do is read Ezekiel 40 to 48 to find that confirmation. This is the restored temple of the millennial Kingdom.
So, you get the picture, right? Summing it up. You have a prophecy here. And if this doesn't wet your appetite for next week, I don't know how to do it. You have a prophecy here that stretches from Daniel's day to the time when the Messiah comes when He does away with sin and sins and He atones and He establishes a Kingdom of everlasting righteousness and He ends visions and prophecies. A marvelous thought. And He builds a magnificent incomparable millennial temple.
This prophecy stretches from Daniel's day to the end. And the amazing thing is that the prophet tells us exactly how long it's going to be--70 weeks, 70 weeks. The first three negative parts of this perspective seem to point to the cross. The second three positive points go beyond the cross to the Kingdom?? And that lets us know that there's a gap in there. We know it will be 70 weeks from Daniel's time till the end.
But we also know that those 70 weeks are divided into three sections. First, there's a seven-week period; then there's a 62-week period; and then there's a final seven-week period. And we're going to find out next time that there's a gap in there that accounts for the distinction between the coming of Christ the first time and the second time. Now if you want to know specifically what the 70 weeks are, you come next Sunday and I'll tell you.
Let me just reiterate as we part, tonight. What has the Spirit of God said to you tonight? I think the sum of what I sense in my own heart is this. Daniel received the very best things that God could ever give. And you know what the very best thing is that God can ever give?
A sense of His own presence. What do I mean by that? I mean, it isn't things. The greatest thing that you could ever receive from God is His Word brought into your presence under the dispatch of His own angels.
What a thought...what a thought. The New Testament affirms that His angels are still ministers, that God can bring into our lives great realities from His very throne. Now I don't want to be mystical about it, I just want to be in the place where I can know what it is to be greatly beloved so that I can experience all that goodness that God desires to give. I'm not looking for visions or revelation, but only to sense that God has brought to my heart the truth of His already revealed Word in a very special way.
Maybe you don't understand what I'm saying. I can put it another way. The thing that I fear the most is dryness in my spiritual life. And I covet that I should so live that every time I open the Word of God it's as if God touched me with His own hand, it's so alive to me. And so, in the words of Jude, I would say: Keep yourself in the love of God." Know what it is to be greatly beloved by God because you stand in the circle of obedience. And that's a matter really of your own character, the virtue of your life. And then when you fall on your knees to pray, you'll receive from God's hand things far greater than you ever dreamed.
Well, it's very frustrating not to be able to finish this because I'm so excited about it. I'm going to leak this sermon out of me all week long. I can feel it coming.
Father, thank You for our fellowship tonight. We're so grateful for just the thrill of Your Word. Wonderful to be together tonight to enjoy- this great text and just to begin to scratch its surface. We sense that You're so very real, that You hear our prayers, and You move Your angels in response. How wonderful...how wonderful to know You're really involved, You really do respond as we see in the case of Daniel. O God, that we should be so greatly beloved, that we should receive such a Word from You, that there should be such a freshness when we on- en its pages, that we should know the outpouring of Your blessing.
Father, we pray tonight for every person who is here. We ask Your special attention to every need. There are many of these dear folks who have burdens. Help them to pray right. Help them to get their character lined up with Your principles and to pray in the way You taught us to pray so that they- can know the fullness of Your answers.
Father, for those who may be with us gathered tonight who've never given their life to Christ, we pray this might be the night they. Do that. Open their hearts.
Lord we just thank You for this good fellowship. We thank You for the testimony of every life here that knows You and loves You. May this be a week of special blessing for the sake of Your name above all things, we pray, amen.