THIS BLOG IS ENDING JULY 1ST !!

Dear Readers,

It is with great regret that I must say farewell to all of you as of July 1, 2018. Unfortunately, I have lost a major source of income and must reduce expenses to deal with the change.

It has been an honor to write for you! Honoring Christ with our lives and words is the only way to go, and I have tried to do that here.

With love,

-Barry

P.S. Try me again in a month or two. If my circumstances change, then I will try to bring the blog back into operation.

The seventy sevens — Daniel 9:22-27

The seventy sevens

Daniel 9:22-27

22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:

24 “Seventy sevens are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.

25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven sevens, and sixty-two sevens. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two sevens, the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one seven. In the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

COMMENTARY — Daniel 9:22-24

22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:

24 “Seventy sevens are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.”

Seventy sets of seven — contours of the enhanced punishment

In the moment that Daniel’s prayer reaches a passionate crescendo,[1] the angel Gabriel swiftly approaches to reveal to Daniel the vast span of God’s plans. When Gabriel returns to explain more fully what Daniel has found in Jeremiah’s writings, he reveals a much bigger context of Yahweh’s discipline for the Jews and looks far into the future to the end of all such judgment. In doing so, Gabriel not only answers Daniel’s short-term concern but also unveils the much larger picture of how God’s ultimate judgments will unfold and when they will end.

This chapter concerns not only the end of God’s punishment for his people but the end of his tolerance for human rebellion. In effect, Gabriel reveals that God’s people are nearing the end of the original 70-year punishment, but the seven-fold enhancement of their penalty still lies in Daniel’s future (as well as our own).

Miller calls verses 24-27 “four of the most controversial verses in the Bible.”[2] A detailed discussion of the four major views is beyond the scope of this study guide but may be found in Miller’s commentary.[3] We will begin by clarifying terms.

All four views depend upon the interpretation of the very first word in verse 24, the Hebrew noun shabu’, which means “period of seven (days, years), heptad, week.”[4] Because translators prefer the simple, self-explanatory nature of the word “week” to the more accurate phrase “period of seven,” quite a few English versions (ESV, NET, CEB, NASB, HCSB) start verse 24 with the words “Seventy weeks”. But “weeks” is a poor choice since multiples of 7 years are what the interpretation of the passage requires. We must congratulate NIV for saying, “Seventy sevens,” but the grand prize goes to NLT for saying, “A period of seventy sets of seven”.

Commentators generally agree that Daniel was speaking in terms of sets-of-seven-years. Recall that Hoehner said, “Each year of captivity represented one seven-year cycle in which the seventh or Sabbath year had not been observed.”[5] Daniel has already shown his understanding from Jeremiah (25:11-12; 29:10) that the Babylonian captivity would last 70 years. And we have established from the Law of Moses both the requirement of giving the land rest in the seventh year (Lev. 25:4) and the seven-fold enhancement factor for disobedience (Lev. 26:18, 21, 28).

So, if commentators generally agree Daniel is dealing with multiple periods of seven years, what is the reason for their splitting into four different views of the passage? The answer is that differences of opinion exist about (1) whether the years are literal or figurative, and (2) when the periods of time begin and end.

Since the meaning of years related to this passage is literal, we agree with Miller[6] and Wood[7] that the interpretation must also deal with literal years and that the last of those years will end with the second coming of Christ. We will briefly show that this interpretation gives a coherent understanding of what God has revealed to Daniel and to us.

Daniel 9:24 “Seventy sevens are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.”

We have already explained that the sevens refer to multiple periods of seven years. So, seventy sevens is a period of 490 years (70 x 7 = 490). Hoehner[8] rightly points out that, by looking toward the past from Daniels day, we see a scattered series of seven-year-periods for which the Sabbath-year rest commanded by God was not observed. Since this happened 70 times, we are talking about 490 years in all. Gabriel looks forward from Daniel’s day and sees a scattered series of seven-year-periods also totaling 490 years. At various points within the seventy sets of seven-year-periods, the events listed in verse 24 will all take place, most of them positioned at the end.

It is vital to realize that the seventy sevens have been imposed upon “your [i.e., Daniel’s] people and your holy city” (verse 24a). Wood explains, “It should be noted that Gabriel said the 490 years will be in reference to the Jewish people and the Jewish capital city, which would seem to exclude any direct concern with Gentiles.”[9] In other words, the terms of the prophecy should be interpreted in relation to the Jews and Jerusalem; how they relate to the church or to people who live in the 21st century is a separate issue. We cannot hijack the prophecy!

Six things will be accomplished in relation to the Jews and Jerusalem:

“to finish transgression” — Miller explains, “It would probably refer to Israel’s rebellion against God.”[10] Chisholm agrees by translating “putting an end to rebellion.”[11]

“to put an end to sin” — Miller notes, “This prophecy cannot be fulfilled in any real sense until Christ personally returns to earth.”[12]

“to atone for wickedness” — This must surely be a reference to the cross of Christ, the Messiah of Israel. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood — to be received by faith (Rom. 3:25). Only at the Messiah’s second coming does Israel turn to him.

“to bring in everlasting righteousness” — Miller says, “As the prophecy pertains to Israel specifically, it indicates that at the end of the seventy sevens the nation as a whole will have received permanently a right relationship with God.”[13] That is not possible until Jesus returns.

“to seal up vision and prophecy” — Perhaps better is NLTs translation “to confirm the prophetic vision” since the verb means either “seal up” or “confirm.” Wood observes: “The words taken together refer to the final fulfillment of revelation and prophecy; i.e., when their functions are shown to be finished. The time in mind can only be the final day when Christ comes in power.”[14]

“to anoint the Most Holy Place” — The exact phrase given as “the Most Holy Place” is one that occurs thirty-nine times in the Old Testament, always in reference to the Tabernacle or Temple or to the holy articles used in them.[15]

COMMENTARY — Daniel 9:25-27

25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven sevens, and sixty-two sevens. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two sevens, the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one seven. In the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

Seventy sets of seven — the unfolding timeline

Daniel 9:25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven sevens, and sixty-two sevens. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.”

In this verse Gabriel gives a starting point — “the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” — as well as an ending point — “until the Anointed One, the ruler comes.” Gabriel further reveals that the interval between these two events is “seven sevens, and sixty-two sevens.” Opinions differ at this point depending on whether the years are taken figuratively or literally. Those preferring the figurative view of years cannot make good sense of the numbers, but they question the assumptions of those who attempt exact calculations. Both views are possible, but we prefer the literalist or numerical approach.

We follow the traditional view of the church in saying “the Anointed One,” or “Messiah” (HCSB), is Jesus; verse 26 makes this identification even stronger. The specific analysis of dates that makes the most sense is that given by Hoehner.[16] He starts with the words of the Persian king Artaxerxes I to Nehemiah, the man who led the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and biblical data place that conversation in March/April 444 B.C. (Nehemiah 2:1-9).[17] The king specifically authorized rebuilding Jerusalem, but the project later ran into a lot of local opposition from the Samaritans and others.

Hoehner demonstrates that using a 360-day year, having 12 months of 30 days each, is a model that has biblical support. With a starting point defined and a year composed of fixed elements, Hoehner is well able to do the math and arrive at an ending date for the seven sevens, and sixty-two sevens of March 30, A.D. 33, the time of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Not all agree, but his analysis holds its own. By this reckoning, 69 sevens-of-years end when Jesus enters Jerusalem to die.

Daniel 9:26 “After the sixty-two sevens, the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.”

Note that the death of the Messiah comes after the 62 sevens-of-years; the vital word after arises from a particular word in the Hebrew text and not from the sense of the passage. In the view of the world, Jesus died as a capital criminal, the ultimate shame. Since honor was paramount in the Mediterranean world of Jesus day, he died with nothing.

Note carefully that it is “the people of the prince who will come” who destroy the city and the sanctuary, not the prince.[18] We have already said that the Roman general Titus totally destroyed Jerusalem and its temple in A.D. 70. The Roman Empire in some renewed form is the one repeatedly presented by Daniel as the one to emerge in the last days with the Antichrist (called “the prince who will come”) at its head. As Miller says, “[Verse] 27 makes clear that this ruler will be the future persecutor of Israel in the seventieth seven.”[19]

A covenant with a treacherous man

Daniel 9:27 “He will confirm a covenant with many for one seven. In the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”

At last we find the seventieth seven-of-years, and it lies in our future. The unpredictable nature of the onset of the seventieth seven fits Jesus words: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36). Often, the seventieth seven is called the tribulation and the last half of it is called the great tribulation. Although there is a sharp theological debate about whether Christians will be on the earth at this time, Gabriel says nothing about that. His focus is on the Jews and Jerusalem.

Some have been critical of the gap between the first sixty-nine sevens and the seventieth seven, a period of almost two thousand years. This criticism overlooks the spotty occurrence of the missed sabbath years as well as the gap between the seventy years of captivity and the authorization to begin rebuilding Jerusalem. These sevens-of-years are part of the seven-fold enhancement of the original punishment, and God may place them as he chooses.

The “he” who will confirm a covenant (verse 27a) is “the ruler who will come” in verse 26; we know him as the Antichrist. We agree with Miller that, in this context, “‘the many’ is best taken as a description of the Jewish people as a group.”[20] The Jews will likely agree to a seven-year treaty with the powerful renewed Roman Empire to have security from their enemies.

After half the period is over — three and a half years — the Antichrist will end any worship activities (verse 27a) presumably being conducted on Temple Mount (whether or not a temple is actually standing). What happens next is not clear, but it will involve the most profane possible activity in defiance of Yahweh. The NIV follows the Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, in saying “at the temple,” but the Hebrew text says nothing of the temple. CEB offers: “… he will stop both sacrifices and offerings. In their place will be the desolating monstrosities until the decreed destruction sweeps over the devastator” (verse 27bc). So, for three and a half years that part of Jerusalem most associated with Yahweh will be dreadfully desecrated until the time appointed for the Antichrist to be destroyed.

It is easy for us to underestimate the effect of this astounding revelation on the elderly Daniel. We know that he understood, based on Jeremiah’s prophecies, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years (Dan. 9:2). Is it possible that he did not understand the seven-fold enhancement of the seventy years — 70 x 7 = 490 years, seventy units-of-seven years for further desolation, as declared in Leviticus 26? In verses Dan. 9:17 and 9:18 he asks Yahweh to look on the desolation of Jerusalem and the temple. But Gabriel repeats that word in Dan. 9:26 and 9:27 (twice) to refer to further desolations of Jerusalem to come. This news must have been appalling to the elderly Daniel.

[1] Miller, Daniel, 249.
[2] Miller, Daniel, 252.
[3] Miller, Daniel, 2537.
[4] BDB, shabu, period of seven, q.v.
[5] Hoehner, Daniels Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology, 49.
[6] Miller, Daniel, 257.
[7] Wood, Daniel, 244.
[8] Hoehner, Daniels Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology, 49
[9] Miller, Daniel, 259.
[10] Miller, Daniel, 260.
[11] Chisholm, Handbook on the Prophets, 313.
[12] Miller, Daniel, 260.
[13] Miller, Daniel, 260.
[14] Wood, Daniel, 250.
[15] Wood, Daniel, 250.
[16] Harold Hoehner, Daniels Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology, Bibliotheca Sacra 132 (JanuaryMarch 1975) 4765. This material also appears as chapter 6 of Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978).
[17] Hoehner, Daniels Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology, 59.
[18] Wood, Daniel, 255.
[19] Miller, Daniel, 268.
[20] Miller, Daniel, 271.

Matthew 16:1-4, The face of evil

Some have passed the point of no return. What they fail to understand is where their journey will end.

Matthew 16:1-4

1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

2 He replied, When evening comes, you say, It will be fair weather, for the sky is red, 3 and in the morning, Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast. You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. Jesus then left them and went away.

Commentary

You may think at first that the fresh appearance of the Sadducees in Galilee means that some new faces are in town (verse 1). The NIVs wording conceals the fact that the whole purpose for the Pharisees and Sadducees approaching Jesus was to test him.[1] We have examined this verbal form before: Greek peirazo can mean either tempt or test, and the hostile context here tells you what is going on. Indeed, this verb occurs only six times in Matthews Gospel, and the first two involve Satan tempting Jesus, while the last four involve emissaries of Satan, as seen here.

Even without such analysis, their request for a sign from heaven rings hollow after Jesus has performed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miraculous healings in Galilee and the nearby regions. Accordingly, Jesus answers them in a metaphorical way. There is irony here as well, because Jesus will play with the various meanings of heaven as either the place where God dwells or the sphere in which weather occurs. The NIV translates the same Greek noun ouranos as heaven in verse 1 (in the demand from the Pharisees and Sadducees) and sky in verses 2-3 (in the pointed answer that Jesus gives using the weather analogy).

Jesus notes that the religious leaders are experts at reading the signs provided in the ouranos by the changing weather, yet they cannot discern the signs of the favorable moment, the moment of opportunity (verse 3). We know why this is the favorable moment, but the willful blindness of the religious leaders leaves them clueless.

In verse 4, Jesus tersely rejects the request for a sign, but not without calling them a wicked and adulterous generation (verse 4), where the adultery is spiritual and consists of failing to honor their covenant with God. The sign of Jonah is not explained here, but can be found in Matthew 12:40-41. Osborne rightly points out that the sign consists of the resurrection of Jesus and the repentance of Ninevah.[2] The Sadducees did not accept any kind of resurrection, and none of the Jewish religious leaders saw any need to repent. But they could not have been more wrong!

When Jesus left the leaders and Galilee behind, he did not return to Galilee until after his resurrection. Constant opposition put an end to their hour of opportunity.

Copyright 2017 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Materials originally developed for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 636.
[2] Grant R. Osborne, Matthew, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 613.