Daniel chapter 9 verses 20-27.
IN studies on Daniel-however short--it would he difficult to exclude consideration of this particular passage, which is the centre, and heart of all prophecy. I draw attention to it here with a very real sense in my own mind that I am attempting something beyond mere human comprehension, and that we need very definitely the light and grace of the Holy Spirit in its understanding. We must remember that this revelation was given to Daniel in special circumstances. It is a principle all the way through Scripture (and in almost every experience of life), that the way by which the revelation is made is the way by which the revelation is to be understood. The Holy Spirit must needs endue His prophets with special understanding; so also in these days we need a special enduement of the Holy Spirit to understand the revelation that has been given. Before we pass our judgments upon a passage of Scripture like this, and say that it is utterly confusing. We must ask ourselves if we have brought to the study of it the credentials of Daniel; for the nearer we get to Daniel's spiritual position the clearer will be the understanding of the revelation that God gave to him through Gabriel.
Therefore we are bound to look at the first part of the chapter, however briefly, because it is very important. You find Daniel with the Scriptures in his hand. Daniel is a man who in a time that was grievous to his nation, was a careful and thoughtful reader of Scripture. I suppose Daniel was shut up to God's Word. (He had not, of course, the New Testament.) I am confident in my own mind that God never gives a deep revelation to any Christian until he has proved to God by practice that he has placed the Word of God supreme in his reading. The Word of God is to be read, to be believed, and to be acted upon. If that is not our position, then we may be sure that the Spirit of God will not communicate to us all the deep and abiding treasures of truth into which He is willing to lead us.
Here then is Daniel with the Scriptures in his hand, and he is reading the prophet Jeremiah. He reads that prophecy through, and we may be sure that he looked at chapter 25 verse1 1. "And this whole land shall be desolation and astonishment: and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years." Daniel would also read chapter 29: verse 14. "And I will he found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord: and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive." Believing the Word of God and meditating upon it, Daniel was fully convinced of the integrity of the word that had been spoken by Jeremiah.
We saw in our previous study that as a young man Daniel had received an understanding of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. He had seen, as given under the image of the man, the picture of Gentile rule: the government of man, or the misgovernment of man by man. He had seen that the whole working out of man's government was to be comprehended in four kingdoms. Very probably he imagined that those four kingdoms would all rise and fall within the seventy years of the Captivity, but he was destined to be strangely confounded. He found, as the time of the end of the exile was drawing near, that they had not even seen the fall of the second kingdom, let alone the fall of the fourth, and he was strangely perplexed. Then he had a vision himself of those four kingdoms in the form of beasts, and when he had considered that wonderful vision for himself, he was agitated and troubled.
Two years later we find him reading this passage of Scripture, reading it again, no doubt. Very much impressed by it, and conscious that God had said something about the seventy years, and still seeing them afar off, he tells us, "I fainted, and was sick many days." How do you explain that? Well, Daniel is now an old man. It has taken him a long time, I imagine, to be able to accept God's truth. He has been hoping possibly, that at the end of the seventy years the promised Messiah would come and establish his throne. That has been the objective, which has kept his spirit strong through the years, the definite assurance that the seventy years would end in the establishment of Messiah's throne. Now, as he sees those seventy years coming to a conclusion, and realises that wickedness has not yet worked itself out he is brought low and suffers extremely.
That is one of the things, which every Christian has to pass through in some form, or another. From being simply a prejudiced patriot of your own country you are to be transformed into a man or woman who is prepared to accept the truth of God, whatever that truth may be. That is not done easily or readily. Every one of us has got a strong patriotic vein within us. There is not one of us for example who would not view other than with the greatest possible intensity of pain, the thought that we were coming under the heel of Germany in a few months. If we were to read that in the Scriptures and really were compelled to believe it, we should go to our homes sick at heart. Daniel had to pass through that experience.
He came to see that the time was going to be much longer than he had dreamed; that there were still mighty empires which the world was to see before his own people would be delivered, and the Messiah would reign. That was his perplexity, and unless you bring your imagination to bear you will not understand him. As he comes to the very threshold of the concluding years of that seventy years period, Daniel is perplexed: he asks himself--What is going to happen at the end of those seventy years? How can I reconcile deliverance with the understanding that God has given me of these mighty empires that have not yet arisen? How will he let things take their course? Shall he shrug his shoulders and say, I cannot possibly find any explanation of this: it is beyond my understanding: I can do nothing? No man who believes in the prophetic word ever takes that attitude. Immediately Daniel gives himself to prayer. It is untrue to say that the 'Second Adventist sees the world going to pieces, and is content that it should be so" What the Second Adventist stands for is this; he sees the trend of events, but he cannot participate in any man-made solution of man's troubles, just as the world will not participate in God's solution of man's troubles. Never let it be said that because we believe in the ultimate disintegration of Gentile nations that we fold our arms, and are indifferent. God's people who have seen the truth are ready to move along the line of God's will.
So Daniel begins to pray in the light of Scripture truth. That is the only way you can pray. Before you begin to pray you should read the Word of God. Get something from God's Word before you begin to tell Him anything. If you are seeing anything from God's Word, even though it may be only a glimmer of light, pray in the light of what God has revealed to you, and act in the light of it. Every prayer you utter, every step that you take, will bring you out into the dawning of the morning of God's revealed purpose.
Notice how Daniel prepared himself for waiting upon God. There was the confession of sin, his own personal identification with the nation, the recognition that God was bringing down judgment upon them. Then comes his intercession. He says, "O God": then "O our God:" then "O my God:" --"Defer not for thine own Sake, O my God." There is intensity behind these words. Daniel realises that the issue is one of prayer. He is confident that it must he wrought by God. Oh, for an intensity in prayer like that today! "Yea whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning touched me." He had been caused to fly swiftly to him. How Heaven reacts to the prayers of God's people! The angel said, "O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. I want you to know Daniel, that at the beginning of thy supplications I got my instructions to come to you."
What a revelation! Think of that the moment you get down on your knees to really pray in the light of the revelation that you have received. Learn that there is tremendous value in real prayer--the prayer of one who prays in the light of divine revelation, the prayer of the man who believes that God is, the prayer of the man who believes in the supernatural world. "I have my orders Daniel." says Gabriel. If that is the experience of Daniel, what shall be the experience of those who pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord? What might we not do for a poor broken world in an hour like this? Think of the lethargy of the nation in not addressing itself in prewar days to deal with its peril! But the lethargy is not to he compared with the lethargy of God's people with the weapon of prayer in their hands yet so little and so slowly used.
"Thou art greatly beloved," says Gabriel to Daniel. Those words are an exact counterpart of the words that he spoke to the Virgin Mary, "Thou art highly favoured." It is interesting to note that the Gabriel who here speaks to Daniel was the same Gabriel who five hundred years later spoke to Mary. Daniel was highly favoured and blessed: and so was Mary. The angel, Gabriel, one of God's great servants, came to Daniel to declare to him the time of Messiah being cut off. Five hundred years later he came to Mary to declare to her that she was God's appointed instrument for the birth of the Messiah! Gabriel-what a mighty being he is! He is in Heaven, and now he has been sent forth to speak to Daniel, and to give him a word of understanding -concerning the seventy years period.
He says, "I want you to understand that the consummation of things is not going to he so quick as you have, perhaps hoped for. There is much more behind the scenes that you do not understand, which God must accomplish." So there is a seventy years period which must he interpreted in this particular passage of Scripture as seventy weeks of years. That seems to be the only interpretation though the word "years" is not in the original. Seventy weeks of years,- that is to say 490years have been decreed concerning the Gentile nations, Daniel's city, and Daniel's country, and certain things that are going to happen in that period.
First of all, "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins." That is to say, if I understand it correctly to hold sin and evil in check; because no nation would survive today if God did not, in some measure, restrain the evil in its midst. "And to make reconciliation for iniquity." To expiate--I do not know that it means necessarily the cross of Christ, so far as the world is concerned: but it means to complete the expiation. "And to bring in everlasting righteousness." The kingdom that you are hoping for, Daniel, as being just at hand, has got to be at the other end of the period of 490 years. "And to seal up, the vision and prophecy." That is to say, to complete all that God has declared in prophecy concerning His ancient people. "And to anoint the most Holy"--I presume "the most holy Person." That is to say, to present the Messiah Himself.
Now just a word upon chronology. "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince sha11 he seven weeks and threescore and two weeks (nine and sixty weeks of years) which is short of the 490 years, in fact-483. Now there is a good deal of discussion on chronology. I do not understand chronology, and, therefore I cannot make any real contribution to it, but I come to a very happy solution, which satisfies me, and saves me a lot of intellectual trouble. I remember that when our Lord began His ministry, He said, "The time is fulfilled." I remember that He is the Truth, and He makes no mistakes.
When He came to this earth He was fulfilling the time of which Daniel was here speaking. Now as to whether He fulfilled it in the year of His birth, or whether He fulfilled it when He began His public ministry, or whether He fulfilled it on the first Palm Sunday, I must leave you to judge. But I am of the opinion that the two periods that are determined in these 483 years are covered from the time that Nehemiah commenced to build the walls of' the City. They were concluded on the Sunday that our Blessed Lord presented Himself as the Prince Messiah and was rejected. Until then He had never presented Himself. He had always wanted to keep His identity very closely guarded as a secret. But on the day that He entered into Jerusalem, offering Himself as the Messiah to His people, the 483 years declared by Daniel were fulfilled: At the end of the 483 years Messiah was cut off, and had nothing. As someone has said, He was born in a borrowed manger, and He was buried in a borrowed tomb.
"And the people of the Prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." We know that the Romans destroyed the city and the sanctuary in A.D. 70. That is to say, that if our Lord was crucified somewhere about 32 or 33 A.D. there was a period of 37 years, which elapsed before the City was destroyed. I have never read any explanation of that fact, and I have not heard any exposition by any speaker upon it. What is the explanation of those 37 years that succeeded Calvary before the City is destroyed? In that period you have got the strange fact that God was still permitting the Temple rites and the synagogue to continue, and yet at the same time, the new message of the Gospel is being preached! I call attention to this because so many people feel that God must never come into any new relation with His people until the work of the Gospel is absolutely completed. I am not so sure. I see that the Temple era trickled out over a period of thirty-seven years: it overlapped the Church period by thirty-seven years. I see no reason why we should not see the revival of Jewish institutions in Palestine, and the Temple site, and still hear the message of the Gospel going forth. But there I must leave it. There is this undoubted fact that these thirty-seven years elapsed after Calvary--before the City, and the Temple were destroyed. In consequence, "unto the end of the war desolations are determined." The world being wrong with its Messiah, the whole international field is in chaos. That is the secret as regards Israel.
There will never be a straightening out of national and international affairs until the Messiah is with His people. God's people have not yet experienced this final period. Before the Lord Himself comes there is this winding-up period. This seventy weeks of years is yet to he completed. It cannot be that it ended in A.D. 70, because if that was so, then God's dealings with His Ancient People are finished. His promise that they shall never again be uprooted out of the land would mean nothing. The whole thing is a misconjecture. It is impossible to believe that this period has passed, because at the end of this period Satan is to he bound: and it is impossible to believe that Satan is under such restraint.
So this last week concerns the people, the city, and the land. The "prince" who is named inv. 26 the "prince" of the people that destroys the city, has not yet arisen. He is to make a covenant with the majority of those who are in the land. The Jews will make with him a political covenant, seeking to establish their religion by a political treaty, which is negotiated for seven years. Now that does not seem very long: but when the time comes a seven-year treaty will be an abnormal thing. I suppose it is now. I do not know if you can think of any nation apart from the United States, with whom we should be prepared to enter into a treaty for seven years. But this prince who is to come, he will enter into a treaty for seven years for the preservation of the people in the land. When that treaty is made, it will be believed by the people of the world to be one that has solved the greatest problem in the international field. International politics centre in Jerusalem, they centre around the Jew; so when that treaty is made people will believe (except God's elect) that in the middle of t he week the prince will alter his tactics.
"He shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease." The reason is not given. Do not however put all the blame on the prince, because the Jew will agree to this treaty for political reasons and he will seek to use it as a cloak for political ends. So the prince makes himself the centre of worship, and the world will see what it does not understand, and cannot interpret, but God's people will understand it to be "the abomination of desolation." This makes Jerusalem the centre of all world-purposes for the days to come": and that which is determined shall be poured out on the desolator."
Now if my understanding of this passage is correct, all the happenings of this week are comprehended under the seals, trumpets and bowls of Revelation. Where is the Church in this period? First of all, the Church is not mentioned here at all. I would not be so dogmatic as some people. There are many who feel that when John saw the doors open in Heaven (Rev. ch. 4) ' that was the Rapture of the Church, and thereafter all through the chapters of Revelation, the Church is with Christ in glory. But I find one or two difficulties in interpretation when I take that view. I have not yet read any book that convinces me that at the end of Chapter 3 of Revelation the Church was raptured. It might have been raptured, but I cannot see definitely that it has been raptured.
There are others who say that what is going to happen is that the Church will be raptured as mature Christians who are watchful, are made ready, and during this period they will be gathered to the Lord. I have great respect for at least one man who holds that view, and I think of him with great thanksgiving. But I cannot believe myself that we are going to be raptured on the basis of watching. We must be raptured on the basis of our redemption, and our Lord wants His Body to be complete.
There are others who say, Oh, yes, the Church is going through the Tribulation. I am not sure about that either. I am not convinced that that is proved. I suppose my type of mind is something like this. I am a man who is always trying to seek a middle course. When I find myself in a difficulty I seek a middle way; and I think there is going to be a middle way in this truth. I think that when the prince and the antichrist is first revealed, we shall have to be very careful to recognise him. The whole impression will be, "What a splendid thing this man is doing!" The man who says he does not think that the problem is being solved will in those days be considered a crank: one who absolutely refuses to face facts. Only the wise man will understand.
Therefore I have a strong feeling myself that in the early days of the manifestation of the antichrist, the Church will still he here to witness, and it may be that we shall not be raptured until the middle of the week, when the Tribulation itself commences. I invite your consideration of that and see whether it does not begin to fit in and satisfy most of the demands of Holy Scripture in this respect. There must be the fulfilment of certain indisputable facts. The first is this, the wickedness of the Gentile nations has got to be proved to the hilt. The evil heart of unbelief in the ancient people of God has got to be manifested beyond question, and that will be shown in their receiving of the false Messiah. The third thing is the utter bankruptcy of the Laodicean Church. The fourth thing will be the manifestation of righteousness at the appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
When He comes at the conclusion of this "Seventieth Week" it will be to exercise wrath on the desolator, --to offer reconciliation to the people who have refused Him, --and to reign in righteousness with His beloved people. The week nay be a trying one; it will be a desperate one. "Watchman, what of the night?" And the answer of the watchman is "The morning cometh, and also the night." And the night that is spreading over the nations today is to be succeeded by the dawn of the Coming of the Lord, and the Day of God. Whilst the earth is in its travail God's people may be sure that they are in the hollow of His hand, and we look beyond the darkness to the dawn; beyond all that is false to the One Who is true.
Daniel is my favourite Old Testament character. Surely in these days we would do well to 'pray to be a Daniel. We need the spirit of that great man of God. The wonderful thing about Daniel was that even when he was well advanced in years his love to his Lord, his zeal for the honour of God, and his devotion were, as deep and real and glowing as they were when he was a young man. Gabriel said to him, 'Daniel, thou art a man greatly beloved." I would like an angel to say that to me! This man who was so greatly beloved of God was 'a man of desires' (margin). It is so easy for us as we grow older to settle down into a sober, middle-aged type of Christianity. As we examine our hearts do we realise that there is not the same glow and fervour in our spiritual life as there was when first we were converted? God can keep the fire of God-honouring desires burning brightly in our lives to the very end. May we go on our way ablaze for God, a living witness for Him to our day and generation that we may help to hasten the Day of the Lord."
Rev. J. Douglas -Wood, M.A., M.C.
"There is a phrase in Daniel 11: 32: -'The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits.' That has a special emphasis regarding the people of God-in the midst of the turmoil of trouble and temporary triumph of evil. There are those to day who are saying that it was not possible to do Christian work in these days. If the devil is able to do his evil work why cannot God's people do His work? Is God's work going to be held up because the devil is so busy doing his? The great thing to remember is that God is working His purposes out, and that He is on the throne. His people are to be mighty not only in word, but in deed. Those who believe in the Advent Hope are, the people who were best equipped to do things in the Name of God."
Rev. Stanley P. Plunket, M.A.
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