The Timeline Unfolds
By Elder Joe Holder
As we examine the time line of Gabriel’s prophecy to Daniel, we must confront the dominant and, I believe hopelessly errant, dispensational view of the prophecy that is sadly commonplace in our time. The unique dispensational view of end times, of eschatology, originated around 1830 with John Nelson Darby. The view did not exist at all in historical doctrinal belief among Christians prior to that date, making it some eighteen hundred years too new, not to mention too novel and too void of any Biblical support, to be given serious consideration as a Biblical truth. The dispensational error begins by destroying the integrity of Gabriel’s prophetic timeline to Daniel. Since this view must justify two returns of Christ at the end, it forces an artificial and illogical division onto the seventy week (four hundred ninety prophetic years) prophecy, claiming that, when the Jews rejected Jesus at the end of the First Advent, God suspended His prophetic clock, leaving the prophecy’s last or seventieth week unfulfilled and disjointed from the first sixty nine weeks. Their view of the final week is that it will occur as the seven years of “Great Tribulation” that separates their view of a “secret rapture” of elite believers from all other humans who shall be resurrected at the end of the seven year tribulation.
The depth of error in this view begins with its view of a failed Jesus, not with an artificial dissection of Gabriel’s seventy week prophecy to Daniel. Where in the New Testament do we find any evidence that God viewed the First Advent, the coming of His Son into His creation, as a failure? Rather the New Testament consistently affirms that it was a success, victory unquestionably won. The Jews’ rejection of Jesus, God Incarnate, brought God’s judgment upon themselves, but it didn’t defeat Jesus or the angel’s revelation of His mission to “…save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) Isaiah and other Old Testament prophets reveal in God’s inspired revelation hundreds of years in advance exactly how the Jews would react to their Messiah, the “…stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner…” not that He became a hopeless failure. (Psalm 118:22) New Testament writers cite or refer to this verse some six times. Notable to my point here is Acts 4:11, “This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.” Where in Peter’s affirmation do we find any indication that he viewed Jesus’ First Coming as a failure? Such a view is abominable and should be consistently rejected!
Once we rationalize one error we open the door for its multiplication. Let me give you two brief but quite informative examples of the way these folks senselessly divide Scripture by this same long, indeterminate period of time.
1. In Peter’s sermon on the
Day of Pentecost we read Peter’s reference to Joel’s prophecy.
2. The senseless and arbitrary injection of this hypothetical prophetic parenthesis appears even more clearly in the dispensational interpretation of Titus 2:12-14.
Teaching us that,
denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and
godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the gloriousd
appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for
us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a
peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:12-14)
Jesus makes His teaching on the Second Coming quite clear.
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:28-29)
Simpler words could not be found to state the profound and grand truth of the Biblical view of the Second Coming. Rather than dividing the “rapture” of elite Christians from the general resurrection by an epochal seven years of “Great Tribulation,” Jesus simply states the point. One epochal “hour,” one period of prophetic time, is coming when “…all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth….” The righteous are not “raptured” at one time and all others sometime later.
Paul affirms this same truth.
And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. (Acts 24:15)
“…there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” Paul affirms one integrated Second Coming, not a hypothetical two-stage rapture, one “secret rapture,” followed by the horrors of Great Tribulation, followed by a second rapture or resurrection.
The Biblical truth of the Second Coming, a doctrine that is central to all other Bible doctrines, is not so complicated that one needs a rocket scientist to explain it, and then ten rocket scientists give you ten different and often contradictory explanations of it. It is a simple—profoundly so—and amazing supernatural truth that little children can understand and draw comfort from it as they face untimely death, as well as seasoned and aged saints can anticipate with incredible joy.
The Timeline Unfolds
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street 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 thereof 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, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Daniel 9:25-27)
Verse twenty-five distinguishes this prophecy from all other Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament in that it stipulates a specific timeline in which the Messiah, God Incarnate, would come into the world. To be valid and meaningful, a timeline must have a beginning point and an ending point. Gabriel reveals the beginning point to Daniel in Verse twenty-five.
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem….
Daniel is living in the late sixth century B. C. He has just realized that God imposed a seventy year exile upon his beloved people because of their sins. Those seventy years are almost over. Soon the Jews will be released from their exile and be allowed to return to Judah.
In fact both Scripture and non-Biblical history record several edicts from Babylonian-Medo-Persian kings related to the Jews’ return from this exile. Apparently the Jews found it difficult to take their release seriously at first. We find much about this era in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Some Bible students date the beginning of this prophetic timeline at Cyrus’ decree. Some two hundred years or more before the Jews’ release from Babylonian exile, God revealed the name and role of Cyrus to Isaiah. (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1) Based on the timeline’s termination with the coming of Jesus, this date appears to be several years too early. Admittedly the task of precisely dating Old Testament events is challenging because of limited reconstruction abilities and resources. The release decree of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:11-26) seems to fit the overall timeline most nearly. Generally this decree is dated around 457 B. C. Tom Constable’s Expository Notes on the Whole Bible date the decree at 457 B. C. If we subtract 457 from 490, the years included in Gabriel’s revelation to Daniel, we have 33. Thus the climax of the four hundred ninety years from Artaxerses’ decree takes us precisely to the time of Jesus. Various dates are offered for this decree that would date the end of the four hundred ninety years from 26 A. D. to 33 A. D. If we subtract the seventieth week (the time from the command to rebuild the city “…unto Messiah the Prince…”), sixty nine weeks takes us to around 26 A. D. The beginning of Jesus’ ministry is dated sometime from 26 A. D. to 30 A. D. It is therefore my belief that the Artaxerxes decree is the correct beginning date for the prophecy.
Why the various subdivisions in the sixty-nine week timeline? It would appear that the rebuilding process, once it began seriously, took at least forty nine years, the first seven weeks of the prophecy. After the rebuilding, the next prophetic event occurs at the end of the sixty-ninth week, the coming of “Messiah the Prince.” “…threescore and two weeks…” (sixty two weeks) plus the first seven weeks equals sixty-nine weeks; four hundred eighty three years.
Dispensational advocates attempt to make a case that at the end of the sixty-ninth week, God’s primary purpose in Jesus’ First Advent was defeated and frustrated with His crucifixion, so God suspended His prophetic calendar or time line indefinitely. They refer to this interruption as a prophetic “parenthesis.” In their teaching the final week of this prophecy correlates with their final week of “Great Tribulation” at the end of time. Various dispensational advocates differ widely—and vigorously—regarding when the “rapture,” a term that never appears in our King James Bible, shall occur. Will the “rapture occur at the beginning of the week, at the end of the week, or in the middle of the week? They vigorously debate this question, but seldom agree on the answer. Various dispensationalists strongly defend each option. I offer that the whole of dispensational theology errs at its roots by destroying the integrity of Gabriel’s revelation in their parenthetic insertion of an extended and indefinite time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week. Let me give you an example. If I had never driven from my home in Riverside, California to San Francisco, California, and I knew that you had driven the course many times, I would naturally ask you to give me some clues as to the trip. How far is it? What route should I take? How long should I schedule to make the drive? The actual distance is around five hundred miles. However, if you were to tell me that the distance is four hundred miles, what would I expect when my automobile’s odometer reported that I had driven four hundred miles? Would I not naturally expect to see the city limits of San Francisco immediately ahead of me? What would be my reaction when, at the four hundred mile marker, I saw only orchards and crops in the San Joaquin Valley, with a mileage marker ahead of me reporting that San Francisco lies yet another hundred miles ahead of me? Would I not question your facts? And well I should. Would you restore my confidence if you responded that you did not include a distance “parenthesis” for the last hundred miles? Hardly! The measure of time or of distance must be sequential and inclusive, or we destroy the integrity of the measurement. Dispensational advocates of this prophecy wholly destroy the integrity of Gabriel’s prophecy with their theoretical “parenthesis” of unmeasured time before we arrive at the seventieth week.
The internal evidence in the prophecy for inclusion of the seventieth week in chronological sequence with the first sixty-nine is substantial. Consider the following:
1. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself…. Gabriel does not tell Daniel that Messiah is to be “cut off,” a rather clear reference to the crucifixion, at the end of the sixty-ninth week, but rather “after” the sixty-ninth week. Thus sometime in the seventieth week we should expect to see a record of Jesus’ crucifixion.
2. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week…. Ah, in a prophecy of seventy weeks—and sixty-nine have already been accounted for, we should be logically and reasonably looking for an accounting of the seventieth or final week. Here it is. It is a week in which “he,” a rather likely reference to Messiah, since Messiah, not the dispensationalist’s antichrist, is the central figure in this prophecy, shall confirm His covenant with many.
3. …and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease…. Precisely in the middle of the seventieth week, “he,” again a logical and reasonable reference to Messiah, the central figure in the prophecy, causes Jewish sacrifices to cease, to end. What happened in the temple in Jerusalem that precisely coincided with Jesus’ death on the cross just outside the city? Both Matthew and Mark report a common event.
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent…. (Matthew 27:51)
And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. (Mark 15:38)
Once the temple veil that hide the priestly work in the inner sanctuary was torn apart, the priest could no longer attend to the sacrifices that had occurred there. Further, once Jesus, God’s one and only true “Lamb” who was to take away the sins of His people by one sacrifice, had performed His sacrificial (both priestly and sacrificial lamb) offering, any subsequent pretense of animal sacrifices in the temple would be a meaningless farce.
4. By John’s inspired account of the number of annual feasts Jesus attended during His public ministry, we gain a rather clear indication that Jesus’ public ministry covered approximately three and a half years. Let’s see if we have this all together. Jesus confirms His covenant in His personal ministry for three and a half years. “After” the sixty-ninth week and in the precise middle of the seventieth week, Jesus dies for our sins, causing the Old Testament Jewish symbolic sacrifices to cease. And through the testimony of the apostles to the Jewish people for the next three and a half years, the covenant is in fact confirmed for the full prophetic seventieth week in immediate sequence to the other sixty-nine weeks of Gabriel’s prophecy.
Further, if we look back at the six prophetic accomplishments that were to mark this seventy week prophecy, they all are accomplished in Jesus’ coming, death and resurrection. We have no Biblical, prophetic, or logical need to stretch the prophetic calendar to the breaking point—or to stretch it at all for that matter. Everything Gabriel prophesied was accomplished exactly as he indicated within the prophetic four hundred ninety years of the prophecy.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!