Arithmetic Proves Christianity True
by Desmond Ford
AUDIO IS CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE FOR THIS ARTICLE
Editor's Note: The fact that Dr. Ford is emphasizing a new application of verses 24-27 does not mean that he does not support the literal and chronological application of these verses to the events associated with the first coming of Christ. In response to a query from the editors on this point, he makes it very plain that he has no intention of teaching "dispensationalist futurism" and that the last-day application he makes of portions of these verses does not include the "chronology involved in the primary fulfillment of the prophecy."
SIR ISAAC NEWTON, the greatest of scientists prior to the modern period, wrote a commentary on the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. He described Daniel 9:24-27 as "the foundation-stone of the Christian religion," because centuries in advance it gave the exact time of the appearance of the Messiah and the date of His death, as well as a comprehensive description of His saving work in heaven and earth. The prophecy likewise tells what would be the fate of the Jews consequent upon their rejection of the One whose coming they had long anticipated. The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, foretold in Daniel 9:24-27, was history's testimony that the offerings and services of the sanctuary had met their fulfillment in the advent of the promised Messiah.
As with the earlier prophecies of Daniel, this one refers not only to the Christ but to His great antagonist, the antichrist. The "abomination of desolation," which had a primary fulfillment in the idolatrous and desolating armies of pagan Rome, has a continuing fulfillment through the centuries and, I believe, an ultimate accomplishment at the end of time, when once more the Holy City (the church of God) will be at tacked. And what is true of this one facet of Daniel 9:24-27 is also true of the whole passage it finds its fulfillment initially in the events surrounding the first coming of Jesus; it has a continuing fulfillment through the ages as the city of God (the church) is built, and, I believe, it will find its ultimate accomplishment in the events associated with the judgment and the close of the age.
Interpreters over the ages can be divided into three groups regarding Daniel 9:24. One group has contended that it finds its fulfillment at the cross alone. An other group has said that it finds its fulfillment in the very last days. A third group of interpreters have declared that the verse applies to both events in harmony with the Old Testament prophetic principle of merging the kingdom of grace and the kingdom of glory into a single picture. Only this third position satisfies all the evidence, as we hope to show.
One of the best-known New Testament scholars, George Eldon Ladd, has written most pertinently on principles that should guide us in interpreting this and other prophecies. He says:
"Where then is unity to be found? I believe that it appears in the common eschatological structure found in these several biblical writers: promise, fulfillment, and consummation. . . . The entire New Testament assumes the Old Testament's prophetic promises of an eschatological day of salvation and judgment. . . . These prophetic promises have been fulfilled in the person, mission, words, and deeds of Jesus . . . ; but the consummation of the promises awaits a further eschatological event that will establish the eschatological rule of God in all the world. In other words, the New Testament writers see the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises in two great redemptive events: the earthly person and mission of Jesus, and His glorious appearing at the end of the age. ... In the biblical perspective, these are not two separate events but two acts of a single drama of redemption." --Christianity Today, Nov. 19, 1965, p. 22.
Let us consider then the initial application of this passage to the first advent of Christ, the inauguration (i.e., ratification) of the kingdom of God sometimes called the kingdom of grace, and its relation to the 2300-year prophecy. It is helpful to keep in mind the setting. The major part of the chapter pictures the intercession of a great prophet for his people. Against this mediator no sin is recorded, yet in his prayer we find him taking upon himself the sins of his people. He accepts their guilt and ministers before God in their behalf. Then it is, at the time of the offering of the sanctuary evening sacrifice, that the prophecy of the closing verses is appended. It should be realized as significant that the prophecy uses the key words of the prayer such as sanctuary, sins, iniquity, righteousness, desolate, et cetera.
Daniel, in his person and works, even the time of his prayer, thus prefigures Christ and His intercession for the church. Our Lord who had no sins has taken our guilt upon Himself, and it was at the hour of the evening sacrifice, 3:00 P.M., that He made atonement for the sins of the world. Because the work of salvation had to begin on earth at the cross of Calvary, so the prophecy asserts that within seventy weeks of years (see R.S.V.) from the "going forth of the commandment to re store and to build Jerusalem" the Messiah would come, to be "cut off" as a result of His people's sins, and thus make available "everlasting righteousness" to all who believe.
About a hundred years after Daniel was written, this decree was issued. It is referred to in Ezra 6:14 and Ezra 7, and, as many Bibles show by their marginal references beside Ezra 7, the date was 457 B.C.
The over-all period of the seventy weeks of years comprehends three chief divisions: the first seven weeks of years, which was to cover the time of rebuilding (457-408 B.C.), the second of sixty-two weeks of years (that is, 434 years), which was to extend to the very appearance of the Messiah and the beginning of His ministry (408 B.C.-A.D. 27); while the third division of one week of years (A.D. 27-34) would witness the coming of the Messiah, the cessation of the typical Temple ministry at His death, the beginning of Christ's work as our High Priest in heaven above, and the beginning of the preaching of the gospel to the non-Jewish world (A.D. 34 marked the conversion of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles).
It should be noticed that the time of Christ's death is exactly specified. Christ died at the very year, month, day, and hour fore told centuries prior to the actual event. He died as the antitype of the evening sacrifice and the Pass over lamb. The evening sacrifice was offered at 3:00 P.M. and the Passover lamb was slain from three o'clock onwards. Christ died at the very time that the lamb was to be sacrificed in A.D. 31, in the midst of Daniel's seventieth week. Thus it is certain indeed that "there is none other name [than Jesus] under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
It would richly repay each of us to study prayerfully this magnificent passage in Daniel 9. It en shrines the eternal verities of the gospel. Think upon verse 24, for example, and consider the height, breadth, depth, and length of our Lord's work for us. This verse divides into two parts, each of three phrases. The first part describes Christ's complete overthrow of evil, while the second foretells the setting up of eternal righteousness. Every Christian should ask himself whether what was done once for all at Calvary has be come a reality in him. Has all known sin been wiped from his life, and has his heart become a temple of the Most High through the anointing of the Holy Spirit?
No doubt Daniel was dazed by this revelation of the apparent triumph of evil as outlined in Daniel 8. In his lifetime he had witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem's Temple, the center of true religion, and the carrying into captivity of the people of God by an idolatrous and desolating nation. Now in vision he is informed that this state of affairs is to continue on a much greater scale throughout most of earth's history. It seemed that indeed truth would be "for ever on the scaffold, and wrong for ever on the throne." With great eagerness he listened to the query, "How long shall be the vision?" (Dan. 8:13).
This question, with reference to the length of time wickedness would be permitted to prosper, is found repeatedly in Scripture. (See Ps. 13:1, 2; 94:1-4; Hab. 1:2; Rev. 6:9-11.) The human heart aches for the solution to the mystery of evil's apparent triumph. With great eagerness the captive seer listened to the reply: "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" (Dan. 8:14).
According to verse 17, "at the time of the end shall be the vision." Thus these 2300 symbolic days extend to the closing years of history, which will witness the worldwide proclamation of the true gospel, the last attack against it, and finally the second coming of Christ with the attendant resurrection of the dead. (See Dan. 11 -.40-45; 12:1-3.) These 2300 days, as the days of Daniel's seventy weeks, also represent years. (See Eze. 4:6; Num. 14:34.) Nowhere does the Bible present in days any period longer than a year. Thus this reference is obviously symbolic. Covering as it does the history of the world from the time of Medo-Persia to the modern era, the prophetic period makes sense only when calculated in years.
"The Seventy Weeks"
Note that Daniel 9:24 states that the seventy weeks were "determined" or "cut off." From what? From the longer period of the 2300 years that Gabriel had been commissioned to explain. Here are the words of the interpreting angel: "I am now come forth to give thee skill and under standing. ... I am come to shew thee; . . . therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision" (Dan. 9:22, 23). Here, after referring Daniel to the earlier vision, the angel immediately resumes his explanation by taking up the one element left unexplained in Daniel 8 that of time.
Thus the 2300 years of Daniel 8:14 begin at the same point as the seventy weeks, 457 B.C., and extend to 1844 a significant point of time religiously, scientifically, politically, and sociologically.
As soon as the prophetic section of Daniel 9 opens we are referred to the vision of Daniel 8. The seer speaks of "the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning." The term "vision" (in the singular) is used only up to this point in Daniel and usually thereafter for the vision of the eighth chapter. Further more, the angel immediately says to Daniel, "I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding," and we are thus reminded that the last verse of the preceding chapter asserted that the prophet did not understand the vision's reference to the 2300 evenings and mornings. Thus, if in chapter nine Gabriel was continuing his explanation, and all the evidence indicates that such is the case, we would expect him to be gin by explaining Daniel 8:14, the part of the vision he had not previously explained. He would tell Daniel what was meant by the cleansing of the sanctuary.
In harmony with this we find that the theme of Daniel 9:24-27 does have reference to the sanctuary, which is named repeatedly throughout the chapter in both the prayer and the prophecy. A close consideration of the closing four verses reveals the same out line of the fate of the Temple as given in Daniel 8:10-13. We find reference to the rebuilding of the holy places through the restorative work of the returning exiles and then "the people of the prince that shall come" are mentioned, an allusion to the little-horn power of Daniel 8. Other interpreters recognize this. And it should be noticed that this power in Daniel 9 is spoken of as doing exactly as was stressed in chapter 8, namely, making war on the sanctuary.
Judgment and Destruction
The last part of verse 27 refers to judgment and destruction that is "determined" or decreed upon the "desolator" (margin). Is there any thought here that the kingdom of God is also to be set up at the time of the destruction of the abominable desolating power? If this passage (verses 24-27) is the high point of the explanation of the symbolism of Daniel 8 we would expect that its theme would be the same as the high point of the explanation of Daniel 2 and 7 that of judgment and destruction of evil, and vindication and establishment of righteousness. Do we find anything of that nature here?
There are two words for "end" in this passage, and the second one translated "consummation" means "an absolute full end." It is a word that means both complete eradication and complete establishment. Compare the following: Jeremiah 16:4; Psalm 39:11; with Exodus 39:32; 1 Kings 6:38. In these passages the same Hebrew word is translated as "consume" and "finish." Thus Daniel 9:26, 27, like Matthew 24 and Mark 13 encompasses not only the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 but also the end of the world. The "consummation" and "pouring out" of verse 27 point not only to the wrath of God in A.D. 70 but also to the out pouring of the seven last plagues upon a rebellious world as described in the book of Revelation.
But the most significant point to be noted is that the introductory verse of this prophecy in Daniel 9 clearly sets forth what we are seeking. In six unique and magnificent clauses it pictures the abolition of evil (the first three clauses) and the establishment of all righteousness (last three clauses). This verse thus comments upon the hitherto unexplained cleansing or vindicating of the sanctuary, and points to the same climactic events associated with the setting up of the everlasting kingdom of God as the stone and mountain imagery in Daniel 2, and the judgment scene of Daniel 7.
In summary, not only is the end of Judaism and its earthly sanctuary sketched in Daniel 9:24-27 but also the last days of the Christian church, and the final ministry of the heavenly sanctuary is here typically pictured.
What Might Have Been
Had Israel entered upon her privileges at the coming of the Messiah, Daniel 9:24 would have been fulfilled by both the kingdoms of grace and glory in quick succession. The dove of peace would have gone forth from the city of Jerusalem and, through faithful Jews of the Diaspora, quickly rallied those among the Gentiles prepared to accept the good news.
The prophecy of Daniel 8:14 was penned in harmony with God's foreknowledge of Israel's failure, but the latter prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 indicates not only what is to be but also what might have been. In this our day spiritual Israel, the faithful Christian remnant, is being called upon to come out of Babylon (religious apostasy), in order to prepare the way for the second coming of the Messiah.
"Today the church of God is free to carry forward to completion the divine plan for the salvation of a lost race. For many centuries God's people suffered a restriction of their liberties. The preaching of the gospel in its purity was prohibited, and the severest of penalties were visited upon those who dared disobey the mandates of men. . . . God's church on earth was as verily in captivity during this long period of relent less persecution as were the children of Israel held captive in Babylon during the period of the exile.
No Longer in Bondage
"But, thank God, His church is no longer in bondage. To spiritual Israel have been restored the privileges accorded to people of God at the time of their deliverance from Babylon.
"In every part of the earth, men and women are responding to the Heaven-sent message which John the revelator prophesied would be proclaimed prior to the second coming of Christ: 'Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come.' Revelation 14:7.
"No longer have the hosts of evil power to keep the church captive; for 'Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city/ . . . and to spiritual Israel is given the message, 'Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.'
"As the captive exiles heeded the message, 'Flee out of the midst of Babylon/ . . . and were restored to the Land of Promise, so those who fear God today are heeding the message to withdraw from spiritual Babylon, and soon they are to stand as trophies of divine grace in the earth made new, the heavenly Canaan." --Prophets and Kings, pp. 714, 715.
Thus despite the perversity of human nature the divine purposes of vindication will be ultimately fulfilled. It rests with us as individuals to ensure that the work of God is first completed within our own hearts. Nothing less than wholehearted and continual surrender to Him who was "cut off" in order to make atonement for us and to make possible "everlasting righteousness" will prepare us for the crisis so soon to break upon the world. Should we not often prayerfully review the evidence that God is, that His Word is true, and that today we live in the "time of the end," the time of the judgment? For "how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?"