This week a random article from the Middle East Monitor caught my eye and really brought home for me the reality of the fact that we are living in the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. The headline read: “Malaysian army ‘ready to perform its duty’ towards Palestinians.” And I thought wow, Malaysia is pledging the lives of its young soldiers to advance the cause of a Palestinian People that was first artificially created in the 1960’s. These Malaysians, living 4,700 miles away, across deserts and oceans, were preparing to fight for Jerusalem. We are living on the cusp of that Day written of, by the Prophet Zechariah, when he rendered the words God gave him. “For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem.” (Zechariah 14:2) It brings home the real meaning of this contest. It is a test of wills between rebellious mankind and the purposes of God. [And believe me, once God enters in: It will not be much of a contest.] Today we’ll look at one important prophecy that will tell us much about how serious God is about both the people called by His name – as well as the city of Jerusalem.
PART III – GOD’S PURPOSES
Last time we looked at Christ’s prophecy found in what has become known as the Olivet Discourse, delivered to His disciples just before He headed to the Cross. Jesus warned of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, which would occur thirty-odd years later. It was fulfilled right down to the letter. Jesus in His words was both mirroring and expanding on the prophecies contained in the 9th chapter of Daniel. These shed interesting light on those words. That chapter points to the exact time of “visitation” of which Jesus spoke, leaving no excuse for unbelief. As students of the Scriptures, it should have been apparent to the Pharisees, and rabbis that the time of the Messiah was indeed at hand. Many scholars believe that it was indeed the prophecies found in Daniel that inspired the Magi to seek the Christ near the time of his birth. We know that the Essene community near the caves of Qumran, which gave us the Dead Sea Scrolls, was not the only group expecting Messiah in first century Palestine. The precise nature of Biblical prophecy is what drove those expectations. In fact the precision of Daniel’s prophecy reveals the very day of the Messiah’s ascendance into His Kingdom. It then goes on to talk about the destruction of the Temple and the fate of the Jewish nation as well as the ultimate triumph of the Messiah. “Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” (Daniel 9:24-26)
This is one of the most astounding prophecies in all of Scripture. It nails down the exact day the Messiah was to come; – after “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.” Follow this! Daniel was given this prophecy while Israel was in exile. There was no Temple and there was no human reason to believe that one would ever be rebuilt. Yet he was told that the Temple would be rebuilt in 69 weeks, or in the Hebrew, 69 shabuim. Shabuim refers to weeks of years or 7-year periods. And this period of 69 weeks-of-years was to begin precisely when the command was given to “To restore and build Jerusalem.” Now we know from the 2nd chapter of Nehemiah, that King Artexerxes gave a command to rebuild the Temple on the first day of the Jewish month of Nisan, in the 20th year of his reign. British scholar, Robert Anderson, investigated this prophecy in the late 1800s. Using common secular historical knowledge, Anderson found the day of the Decree: March 14, 445 BC. Now sixty-nine weeks-of-years multiplied by seven, gives us 483 years. But both the Jews and Babylonians used 360-day years. So he multiplied the 483 years times the 360-day Biblical year. He got 173,880 days. He then counted forward from the day of that decree. It came out to be the 10th of Nisan, or April 6, 32 AD. That, by no coincidence, was the first Palm Sunday. It was the day Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, accepting and acknowledging His kingship. Exact fulfillment! Now the prophecy in Daniel 9 goes on to tell us that “Messiah shall be cut off” at that time; – and He was. It tells us too of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. We saw that too.[i]
Remember, in Matthew 24, Jesus told us that the people would “be led away captive into all nations.” In Deuteronomy 28:64-66, Moses wrote, “Then the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known—wood and stone. And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life.” And Hosea pronounces God’s judgment on Israel for unfaithfulness to God. “Do not rejoice, O Israel, with joy like other peoples, for you have played the harlot against your God.” (Hosea 9:1) If you recall from above, Jesus had indicted them because they “did not know the time of your visitation.” Hosea had announced God’s judgment for the sin. “My God will cast them away, because they did not obey Him; And they shall be wanderers among the nations.” Deuteronomy 29:23 gave sentence upon the land. “The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur–nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in fierce anger.” And Ezekiel 33:28 concurred. “For I will make the land most desolate, her arrogant strength shall cease, and the mountains of Israel shall be so desolate that no one will pass through.”
And so, as history has shown, it all came to pass in the centuries that followed. The Jews scattered, establishing a presence on every continent. The land, formerly fertile and luxuriant, had become, in the words of Mark Twain, who visited during the late 19th century, “A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse.” But God’s judgment was not final. It came with a promise. “Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, And gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’ Bring My sons from afar, And My daughters from the ends of the earth— Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory.” (Isaiah 43:5-7)