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Daniel's Remarkable Prophecy of the Timing of Messiah's Arrival and His Role in God's Plan


Who is the Messiah? And what is the timing of his arrival? The ancient rabbis, in spite of all their great opposition to Christianity, nevertheless still showed some curiosity about how to recognize the Messiah. They said when he comes, they will ask him, "Welcome. Is this your first visit to our country, or have you been here before?"

Ironically, this curiosity fades when it comes to the writings of the prophet Daniel, a book of the Bible that provides some important details regarding the coming of Messiah. In fact there is a rabbinic curse on its study. The Talmud records:

Rabbi Samuel ben Nahmani declared in the name of Rabbi Jonathan: "Blasted be the bones of those who calculate the End, for they used to say, ‘Since the (time of the) End has arrived, but has not come, he will never come'" (Sanhedrin 97b).

Rabbi Jose ben Halafta said, "He who declares the End has no share in the world to come" (Derekh Eres Rabba 11).

Are the rabbis right? Will readers of Daniel be cursed? Or is there is a great blessing in discovering the message of this book? Down through the centuries many people have read the action-packed verses at the end of the ninth chapter of the book of Daniel. But in order to fully comprehend them, we first have to understand the context of this prophecy. And we have to read it through the eyes of Daniel himself.

Daniel's Discovery

It begins with Daniel reading the sefarim—the writings of Jeremiah (Dan. 9:1,2). And he discovered something very significant. He came upon the passage now known as Jer. 25:11 where God declared that Judah "will serve the king of Babylon 70 years." Jeremiah's words concerned the sending of the southern kingdom of Judah into Babylonian captivity for national disobedience.

Why 70 years? Daniel knew what Moses had recorded in the Torah, including God's commandment that every seventh year the land of Israel was to lie fallow (Lev. 25:1-6). Since the nation had ignored 70 sabbatical cycles, the land would get its 70 years of rest by sending the people to Babylon.

As a teenager, Daniel was one of the Jews taken into captivity, so his reading from the book of Jeremiah had a very personal application. And now, in his late eighties, he encountered these words from God in Jer. 29:10 —

"When 70 years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place."

It was a statement of the grace and redeeming character of God, a theme repeated many times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Yes, Israel faced chastening for disobedience, but they were also promised restoration. After reading this passage from Jeremiah, Daniel realized that the 70 year period was almost up. It was most likely the 69th year of captivity.

Daniel's Prayer

"So I gave my attention to the LORD God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (v. 3).

Daniel's immediate response was to turn to God in prayer, characterized by an attitude of humility and repentance. And he gives us a model for prayer with elements of adoration (v. 4), confession (vv. 5, 8-11) and petition (16-19). Specifically he raises four concerns to God:

The need for forgiveness of sin

Daniel acknowledged his own sin as well as the sins of the people of Israel:

"We have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly, and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances" (v. 5).
"Open shame belongs to us, O LORD, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You" (v. 8).
"Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice. . . " (v. 11).

The need for righteousness

In contrast to the state of humanity, he acknowledged God's righteousness:

"And I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, 'Alas, O LORD, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant...'" (v.4).
"For the LORD our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done..." (v. 14).

The need for knowing God's truths

Daniel recognized the accuracy of the message that God had given them:

"We have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets." (v. 10).

The need for God's glory

He did not resign himself to helplessness or to be a mere observer of prophecy. Instead, he prayed specifically for Jerusalem and the Temple, basing his request on what forgiveness would produce—glory to God:

"O LORD, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us.

"So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O LORD, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary.

"O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion"

"O LORD, listen! O LORD, forgive! O LORD, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name" (vv. 16-19).

The Answer

Now, talk about a fast answer....

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.

And he gave me instruction and talked with me, and said, "O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding" (vv. 22,23).

The LORD's answer through the angel Gabriel was not a simple "Okay, you are forgiven." God's answer to Daniel's request would go far beyond granting forgiveness just for Israel. He would reveal some key elements in His grand plan of redemption for all mankind. What would the timing of that plan be?

"Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city..." (v. 24)

What are these 70 weeks described by Gabriel? The Hebrew word found here is shavua, meaning "seven" or a "week." The duration of these weeks is found in the context. The sevens that began this chapter were the seven-year cycles for the sabbatical rest of the land of Israel. Likewise, 70 of these seven-year periods were decreed for the plan that God was setting in motion. What would happen in these 70 weeks?

" 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]" (v. 24).

These words are the elements of God's ultimate plan of redemption. By the time the 70 weeks are completed, God would:

  • Finalize judgment on sin and provide atonement for sinners—This describes a once-and-for-all way of dealing with sin and making humanity right with God.
  • Bring in everlasting righteousness—This phrase is a description of bringing forth God's heavenly kingdom.
  • Seal up vision and prophecy—Vision and prophecy are ways of communicating mysteries. Sealing means to "put an end" to something. This prophecy means that there will be no more need to reveal the unknown, and that ultimately we will actually behold the very One who reveals mysteries.
  • Anoint the Most Holy—The term used here is kodesh kadashim. - In Scripture the "Most Holy" is an idiom that is primarily used for the Temple or elements associated with Temple worship. Thus Gabriel would have been referring to the consecration of a future place of worship in Jerusalem.

The actual execution of this agenda would come about in seven phases...

Phase 1 - The Countdown Begins

"So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until haMashiach—Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress (v. 25).

Four historical decrees by Persian kings have been recorded that permitted Jews to return to Jerusalem. Two involve the reconstruction of the Temple—Cyrus (538 B.C.) and Darius (519 B.C.). Two later decrees involved the actual restoration and rebuilding of the city and its walls. These were given by King Artaxerxes in 458 and 445 B.C. (Ezra 7:11-26; Nehemiah 2:3-5).

The time that immediately follows this starting point is divided into two phases: Seven weeks (49 years) representing the rebuilding phase of Jerusalem, followed by 62 weeks of years for ordinary life and worship in Israel. The following equation becomes apparent:

62+7 = 69 weeks of years = 483 years

Phase 2 - The Coming of Messiah

Here in the book of Daniel, is a remarkable detail. The appearance of the Messiah is linked to the issuing of the decree, and has a limited time window. Let's look closer.

It is unknown which calendar was in view here. It may have been the 365 ¼ day solar calendar or the 354 day lunar calendar of the Hebrews. Or it may have been the 360 day calendar used both by a number of nations in the Ancient Near East and as a prophetic measurement in Scripture (cf. Rev. 12:6; Dan. 7:25). We simply are not told which version is to be used.

However, if you use the first decree of Artaxerxes as your starting point and move forward in time 483 solar years, you reach the date 26 A.D. Similarly, if you move forward in time 173,880 days (483 years times 360 days) from Artaxerxes' second decree in the spring of 445 B.C., you come to a day that we now know as Palm Sunday in 33 A.D. On this day Yeshua came to Jerusalem riding on the back of a donkey in fulfillment of another Messianic prophecy (Zech. 9:9). And he was heralded by a great crowd of Jews who acknowledged him as Messiah, calling out, "Hosanna to the Son of David" (Matt. 21:9). In either case, there is no doubt that the coming of Messiah was firmly set for the time period around 30 A.D.

Phase 3 - The Death of Messiah

"Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing...." (v. 26)

Almost simultaneously with the Messiah's appearance is his cutting off. In the Hebrew, karat means "to be cut off." It is a word that was used in Genesis. 9 to describe the people being cut off from Noah's ark in the flood, and throughout the Torah to describe the death penalty. The second phrase—v'eyin lo literally means- "and he will be not." In both cases, it is a picture of death.

This prophecy about the arrival and death of Messiah is the direct answer to Daniel's specific petition to God for the forgiveness of sins. This prophecy does not stand alone in Scripture. For example, the prophet Isaiah also declared that the solution for the sins of humanity is the sacrificial death of God's Anointed One (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).

Phase 4 - The Destruction of the Temple

"....and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary" (v. 26).

Historically we know that this event did in fact happen in 70 A.D. when the legions of Rome under Titus destroyed Jerusalem. Again we must look to the context and to the specific nature of both Daniel's prayer and God's answer to understand the purpose of this destruction. The destruction of 70 A.D. eliminated the place of sacrificial worship and the priesthood simultaneously.

Is it coincidence that the Temple was destroyed shortly after the ultimate sacrifice of Messiah occurred? In God's economy, the Temple and the Levitical system were no longer needed. The requirement itself for sacrificial atonement had not been annulled, but now the sacrifice of the sinless Lamb of God would last for every day to come.

When Yeshua gave his life at the close of Daniel's 69th week, a perfect judgment on sin and lasting atonement for sinners was provided. At the same time, believers in Yeshua have been given the righteousness of God (Rom. 3:21-26). Thus the means for the first two key elements of God's plan of redemption—judging sin and giving righteousness—were established at the death of Yeshua. But their complete fulfillment awaits a day when sin is totally abolished and righteousness is universal.

Likewise, vision and prophecy have been only partially sealed up. The essential source of revelation—holy Scripture—has been completed. We already have every fundamental piece of information necessary for Godly living. But the details in God's plan of the ages are still being unveiled to us. Furthermore, we have yet to behold the very One who reveals mysteries. Therefore the total fulfillment of this facet of prophecy, as well as the anointing of an ultimate Most Holy place of worship, are still yet to come.

The bottom line is this: each of these facets have been, in part, fulfilled. Something in the future still must happen for them to be completed. And the reason is the on-going presence of sin. While the solution to sin has been provided, its mere existence is contrary to the perfect plan of God. It must be eliminated forever. Thus the completion of God's plan is put on hold until sin and rebellion against God has been eliminated. This point is illustrated in the separation of Daniel's seventy weeks into 69 weeks and a later 70th week, which we know as the End Times. The message from Gabriel now moves forward chronologically to those End Times.

Phase 5 - The End Times

"....and its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined" (v. 26).

War and the land surrounding Jerusalem go hand in hand. We are naive if we believe that our world is going to evolve into a place of peace and harmony, especially when it comes to the Middle East. That is to say without Messiah Yeshua. This passage is quite resolute in saying that not only will this continue to the end of time, but it will culminate in a flood, literally "an outrageous overflowing." The 70th and final week of the time-line now takes place.

"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" (v. 27).

There are three key points to observe about this verse.

The identity of the perpetrator "Who is the "he?"

The structure of the Hebrew language employs the principal of the immediate antecedent. You must trace back to the previous subject to identify pronouns. In this case, the immediate antecedent is "the ruler who will come" (v. 26). There we notice that the people of the ruler to come are the ones who commit the destruction of Jerusalem. This tells us that this coming ruler will originate from the same territory which was under the rule of the ancient Roman Empire.

So the subject here is one who will be the antithesis of the Messiah and whose actions will stand in opposition to everything that is true about Yeshua. He is the one known as the Anti-Christ.

How long does he exercise power?

We are told that he makes a covenant—some form of international treaty or agreement—that lasts one shavua, a seven or week. It is important for us to be consistent in interpreting Scripture. So if there the first 69 weeks are literal years, the 70th week should be a seven year period as well.

What does he do?

He appears to be a peace-maker. But at the mid-point of the seven year period he becomes a peace-breaker. And ultimately he commits an abomination, literally "a detested thing." The most detestable thing to God is for someone from His creation to exalt himself like a God. That is what this Anti-Christ will do. Scripture tells us more about this detestable individual:

"He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God" (2 Thessalonians 2:4).

Satan, the Adversary, will one day concentrate his evil might in one individual know as the Anti-Christ. And He will cause a desolation in the Temple. The Hebrew word used here is shamem, meaning "to stun or astonish."

The plight of Jerusalem in Daniel's day was astonishing when you consider how beautiful and holy it once was. Earlier Daniel prayed, "See the desolation of the city that bears Your name" (v. 18). But in God's answer to Daniel, He is saying that an even greater desolation would come when the Anti-Christ sets himself up to be worshipped as God in this very same place. He will have his day, and it will be a time like never seen before. But his days are also numbered.

Phase 6 - The Demise of the Anti-Christ

At the end of Daniel's 70th week, we read these words: "the end that is decreed is poured out on him" (v. 27). God has made His own decree. And at the appointed time, judgment will come upon the Anti-Christ and every entity of evil. He, too faces a capital punishment. But unlike Messiah, who rose again from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God, the agents of evil will face the most severe retribution. At the end of a final battle with God we are told:

"And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever" (Rev. 20:10)

This will set the stage for the culmination of the four objectives of God's plan of redemption....

Phase 7 - The Grand Finale

Sin and its consequences will be forever abolished

In a later vision, Daniel was shown what would take place after the return of Messiah:

"Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt" (Dan. 12:1,2).

The final vision of Scripture, recorded by John in the book of Revelation, completes this picture. We are told that in the course of judging humanity, sin and its consequences will be eliminated forever:

And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-14).

Everlasting righteousness will prevail

Daniel and John both caught a glimpse of the unbroken righteousness that is to come:

"And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever" (Dan. 12:3).

After these things I heard, as it were, a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; because His judgments are true and righteous." And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude and as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready" (Rev. 19:1-2,6-7).

There will be no more need for vision and prophecy

Both prophets saw how visions and prophecy ultimately will lead us to a face to face encounter with the Holy One of Israel in the End of Days:

"But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time. . ." (Dan. 12:4)

And they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. . . and He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Rev. 22:4,13).

The Most Holy will be glorified

Without the presence of sin in the World to Come, there will be a manifestation of God's holiness without limits. Instead of restricting his shekhinah glory to a physical building, God Himself will serve as the Most Holy. It will be a time for all things to be perfect and complete.

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.
And I saw no temple in it, for the LORD God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple" (Rev. 21:1-4,22).

This, then, is the message that Daniel recorded for all people to know about. If he was present with us today, what would he say to us? He might share some of his personal experiences or comment on the details of his visions. He might even be entitled to a little "I told you so." But it is more likely that he would point us back in the direction of his prayer at the beginning of chapter 9. Listen to the verbs he used:

"seek God"
"pray to Him"

Just as Daniel's pure prayer of confession and humility resulted in the most dramatic unfolding of God's plan for this world, it is only when our hearts are right before God that we can fully comprehend His plan for our own lives. I believe that Daniel would tell us to follow his example.

  • Seek God, especially. if you have not committed your life fully to Him. Daniel would say, "Start today." There is a sure gift of everlasting life for all who seek Him and believe in Yeshua as Messiah.
  • Pray with compassion and from the heart.
  • Humbly confess your sins to Him and receive His forgiveness.
  • Listen to God's still voice that leads and convicts us. And be open to listening to the counsel and testimony of others.
  • Know God's truths for our lives. Read and study His written Word.

And, above all, know that God has indeed set in motion a plan that will surely come to pass. One that will ultimately enable us to stand in His presence and to behold Him in all His glory.

Dr. Galen Peterson
© 2000 American Remnant Missio