In uncertain and catastrophic times it is easy to wonder whether there is any hope for the future.
For people living in such times, an ancient Jewish prophet by the name of Daniel made an amazing prediction (Daniel 9:24-27).
The background of this prophecy. While being held as a political prisoner in Babylon (present day Iraq), Daniel learned from the prophet Jeremiah why his nation had been defeated in the military invasions of 605 and 586 BC. (Daniel 9:2; Jeremiah 25:1-11).
As Daniel prayed and acknowledged the wrongs of his people, he writes that the angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him not only that the exile would last for 70 years, but also how long it would be before the long awaited Messiah appeared.
The Messianic prediction of this prophecy. According to Daniel, Gabriel revealed to him that “seventy sevens” must pass before Jerusalem would experience the Messianic peace and redemption that she had been waiting for (Daniel 9:24-27; Isaiah 2:1-4; Genesis 12:1-3) The KJV says seventy “weeks”, but the original is seventy “sevens”.
The starting point of Daniel’s prediction is “the going forth of the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem.” The Bible mentions three edicts of two Persian kings who gave the Jewish people a right of return to their homeland. In 539 BC and 458 BC decrees were made that permitted the rebuilding of the temple. The third edict by Artaxerxes in 445 BC clearly allowed restoration of both the temple and city of Jerusalem.
The starting point is followed by (1) a period of seven “sevens” (49 years) and (2) a period of sixty-two “sevens” (434 years), totaling sixty-nine “sevens” (483 years).
To avoid being distracted by the details of this prediction, we don’t need to choose here which royal edict is to be regarded as the starting point. If we begin in 538 BC and follow Daniel’s prediction of 69 sevens (i.e. 483 years), we come to about 55 BC. If we begin at 458 BC we come to AD 25. And if we begin at 445 BC and move forward 483 years we come to about AD 38.
What is so compelling to me is that no matter how roughly we calculate Daniel’s numbers, it’s clear that the Messiah Daniel predicted would be “cut off,” sometime between the dates of 55 BC and AD 38.
The prediction says Messiah would be “cut off.” Even though Jesus of Nazareth lived within this predicted time period, many Jewish people insist that he could not have been the true Messiah because he did not bring in the expected Kingdom of God. Yet Daniel, along with other Jewish prophets (see also Isaiah 53), indicates that the Messiah of Israel would be “cut off” (i.e., killed) in apparent defeat before reigning as King of Kings.
This part of the prophecy is the clearest to us because we can look back on it and see how it was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. It leaves us, however, with the question of why we are not living in a Messianic age of global peace, and why the nation of Israel has not been spiritually restored as predicted in the rest of this prophecy.
So here are a few more details that are worth considering. Again, if you are interested please read more detail at “The Daniel Papers”.
The prediction shows an interval before the last “seven.” The prophecy shows that the “anointed one” (lit. Messiah) would be “cut off” after the 69th “seven,” but not in the 70th “seven” (Daniel 9:26-27). This allows for a period of undefined length that separates the completion of the 69th “seven” from the resumption of the 70th “week.” This idea of an interval is reinforced by the fact that the New Covenant prophecy of Revelation describes three and a half years of last days events (Revelation 11:3; 12:6) that correspond with the last three and a half years of Daniel’s 70th “seven.” (Please don’t let the details here detract from the amazing parts of the prophecy that have already been fulfilled).
The prediction allows for the “interval” in which we are living. According to the New Covenant, this temporary suspension of God’s program with Israel is being used to call out an international body of believers in God’s Messiah. Many students of Bible prophecy believe that the final 7 (years) of Daniel’s prophecy will follow the church age. During the last 7 years, catastrophic “acts of God” will bring a surviving remnant of the world to its knees (Revelation 4-19).
Who within Daniel’s time frame could qualify as the “cut off” Messiah? If Jesus is the one Daniel foresaw, who can afford to ignore Him? If He died not for Himself but for us, how can we survive in this life and the next unless we entrust ourselves to Him? And how can we be ready for His promised return if we don’t hear Him say, “Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44)