Old Bible
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Why the Bible is broken

I confess. I tricked you with the title of this article. There is nothing wrong with our Bible. There is, however, a whole lot of broken with how we read our Bible. Frankly, we need to rescue our Bible back from the fundamentalism that has framed the conversation about the truth of Christianity and the Scriptures for far too long.

For example, Henry M. Morris, the “father of modern creation science” once said, “If the Bible can’t be trusted on scientific and historical matters, then it can’t be trusted on matters of salvation and spirituality.” I heard this kind of message countless times growing up in my fundamentalist church. They say that if you cannot take every verse as being literalistically true, you do not have any foundation for believing Jesus Christ for your salvation. We don’t hold this standard of trust for any other source of truth. We don’t throw out our encyclopedia if we find an error in it. Such a standard would mean that if your parents ever told you one thing wrong, you couldn’t trust them ever again.

The word fundamentalist evokes images of a dwindling group of old men in suits clutching their KJV Bibles. However a new brand of neo-fundamentalism is alive and thriving today, still seeking to hijack our Bible and turn it into some kind of textbook for their own peculiar brand of Christianity.

The problem with such a view is that the Bible is not the foundation for our faith, Jesus Christ is. I do not believe in Jesus because I trust the Bible. I trust the Bible because I believe in Jesus.

My faith in God does not stand or fall on some difficult verses in the Old Testament.   I’m reminded of the Pharisees at the time of Christ. They were the most qualified, in their knowledge of the Scriptures, for the coming Messiah – yet they missed the whole point of the Scriptures, Jesus Himself. The crowning pinnacle of the unveiling of God to mankind is in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the perfect revelation of God’s nature, “the express image of his person” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is the author of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus is our foundation (I Corinthians 3:11), and the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1), the perfect communication of God to mankind. The fundamentalists have elevated the Scriptures above Jesus Christ in an idolatrous Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Bible.

Now, as an Evangelical Christian, I hold to the divine ‘God-breathed’ inspiration of the Scriptures and that they are the supreme authority for faith and practice. However fundamentalism has bent this high view of scripture to include an emphasis on verbal inspiration in which the technical inerrancy of every word in the Bible is necessary for being truly Christian. This treats the Bible as a technical history and theology textbook and not as what it truly is, the unfolding story of God unveiled in a divine collection of historical narrative, poetry, law, visions, dreams and personal letters.

Instead, I prefer Roger Olson’s description of the value of Scripture; “The Bible never fails in its main purpose which is to identify God for us, to communicate his love and his will to us, and to lead us into salvation and a right relationship with our Creator, Savior and Lord.” In other words the Bible is inerrant and perfect with respect to purpose. To insist on a fundamentalist approach to the Bible is the same as attempting to study the poems of Siegfried Sassoon to understand the history of World War I. Where Sassoon’s poem Counter-Attack fails as a historical text it most certainly succeeds in revealing a confrontational and haunting glimpse into the horrors of war.

Not only is the Bible inspired, it is inspiring. It is not a collection of truths waiting to be systematised and assented to. Where the Bible is not accurate in every minute detail of history and scientific fact, it is perfect in its purpose as the story of God’s dealing with mankind through history that invites us into an encounter with that very same God.

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Hands raised in worship
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What is the Church good for?

The Church is the community of believers who confess to follow Jesus Christ. They are organised with qualified leadership (elders and five-fold ministers) who prepare God’s people for- and release them into- ministry. They gather regularly for fellowship, the corporate expression of worship (including preaching from the Bible), and participation in the ordinances (or sacraments) of Baptism and Communion. The also scatter to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission as ministers of reconciliation to the world.

Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, summarises the use of the word Church in the New Testament[1]:

A “house church” is called a “church” in Romans 16:5 (“greet also the church in their house“), 1 Corinthians 16:19 (“Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord”). The church in an entire city is also called “a church” (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; and 1 Thess. 1:1). The church is a region is referred to as a “church” in Acts 9:31: “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was built up.” Finally, the church throughout the entire world can be referred to as “the church.” Paul says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25) and says, “God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers …” (1 Cor. 12:28) … We may conclude that the group of God’s people considered at any level from local to universal may rightly be called “a church.”

Although the Bible is clear as to what the Church is, it is very unclear on how the Church is organised. This is why we have some churches organised in Episcopacy, ruled by Bishops in some form of hierarchical structure. We have Presbyterianism, where the Church is ruled by a group of elders (or presbyters). We also have Congregational churches that are run independently and self-supported by her members. Each type of church organisation can be argued from Scripture. However, if you are honest with yourself, you come to the conclusion that the Bible is not all that clear on how we do Church.

This is because the Church is not primarily an organisation. The Church is a nexus of Word, Spirit and Community. Even though the Word remains constant, to keep in step with what the Spirit is doing and how the Community is currently formed, the Church must constantly adapt for each new generation of believers.

Jesus did not establish the Church to serve her own internal politics or growth strategies. The Church is to embody Christ to the world for its restoration, development and destiny. Furthermore, the organised (or institutional) Church does not cover everything that is Christian. Instead it is a light to the world shining into every other sphere of society.

Every believer needs to participate in this sphere and follow God’s call as a member of the church. Yet at the same time you must live your whole life as a minister of God, not only in the church, but also in your personal, family, social, and political life.

[1] Wayne A. Grudem – Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine – Grand Rapids, MI – Zondervan – 2000, p.857

 

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Mawage
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Marriage and Family

Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder today. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam… And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva… So tweasure your wuv.

—Impressive Clergyman, The Princess Bride, 1987

Marriage, and by extension the family, is the fundamental building block of society. “As the ultimate foundation of every civilization known to history, the family is the proven bulwark of liberty and the key to development, prosperity, and peace”.[1]

Successful marriages and families are built on the ideal of Biblical self-government and in turn form the basis of a successful Church and Society.

Marriage

Marriage was instituted by God and is therefore defined by Him. If, for instance, our government were to redefine marriage in its legislation, it would cease to be ‘marriage’ whether or not people continued to label it as such. Just because I call an apple a pear, doesn’t make it one. Marriage is not merely a human agreement between two consenting adults. Neither does a sexual relationship alone constitute a marriage. Feelings of love do not form the basis for marriage.  Marriage is not achieved through some official recognition by the Church or by the State. Instead, marriage is the covenantal commitment between one man and one woman, for life.

Genesis 2:24 (ESV), “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Marriage is the covenantal commitment that is made when you leave your parents and cling to your spouse. This commitment is so comprehensive that all other earthly loyalties are permanently surpassed. It is this publicly declared covenant, committing yourselves to each other exclusively for life, that constitutes a marriage. Although the State, Church and community can all provide support, guidance and protection for marriage, they cannot compel nor prevent two people of the opposite gender covenanting themselves together in marriage.

Family

In Genesis we discover that marriage is a God-ordained union of one man to one woman. It is based on God’s intent in creating mankind male and female, different and complementary. Marriage is based on the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman. Marriage safeguards the vital relationship of mother, father and child against fragmentation and all the brokenness that comes of it. Marriage is the only relationship that legitimately connects sex with love, and connects children to a mother and father.

The husband and wife working together in a mutually submissive partnership lead the family. Men and women, while not identical, are yet equal in their place of authority in the family. These complementary differences do not form the basis for any kind of hierarchical authority or order in marriage, no matter what your favourite author may say.

It is to the mother and father that the privilege and authority of raising and educating children is given. The Church community can help by providing resources and programs such as Sunday School and Youth Ministry, but these cannot take the place of your commitment to raising your children into godly adults. The State may assist in providing structures and support to help you in educating your children, but it must not be allowed to usurp your leadership role. Your choice of how you engage in educating your children is a God-given responsibility that cannot be left to someone else nor be taken away from you. You choose how to engage in the various options for education, whether it is within the public school system, private Christian education or homeschooling.

The family is vital to healthy churches and a healthy society.  It is within the security that the family relationships provide that we are able to best pursue a life of freedom that seeks to bring all things into the light of the goodness of God.

 

[1] World Family Declaration. http://www.worldfamilydeclaration.org/

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Control Yourself

Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet.
—Robert C. Winthrop, Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions, 1835-1851

Biblical self-government is the fundamental level of government in society. Every other sphere of government is shaped by how successfully individuals govern themselves.

In a nutshell, Biblical self-government is “the desire and the ability to willingly submit to God-given authority without being forced, coerced, or constantly reminded to do so.”[1] Throughout the Bible there runs a theme of government; of God, society and self. It tells the story of our rejection of God’s government through sin, how man’s rule over others tends to abuse and of how we need to govern ourselves well. It is a story of deliverance from our (old) selves; of faith, hope and love and how this is vital to how we respond to and use government.

Robert Winthrop was an American philanthropist, congressman from Massachusetts and one-time Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. He had a remarkably clear insight into the role of self-government in society.

All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they may have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely of private moral restraint. Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet.[2]

When God created mankind and placed them in the Garden they were to be self-governed. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” (Genesis 2:15-17, ESV). In this good place God gave mankind a poor choice. There were no guards set around the tree forcing them to stay away. God didn’t hide it in the middle of a prickle bush or place it on the top of Mt Everest, completely inaccessible to the ‘naked people’ in the garden[3]. Mankind had God-given boundaries and they were expected to exercise self-government to keep them. Only where there is genuine choice is there genuine freedom. Only where there is genuine freedom can there be genuine love. The mark of a free people, created to love and be loved, is the ability of self-government.

However, when Adam and Eve sinned “He [God] drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen 3:24). One of the awful results of the fall was since they could not govern themselves internally they had to be governed externally. Sin had made them slaves. Sin had corrupted their will to the extent that they were now unable choose love, choose God and choose freedom. In fact, even Israel, the people of God, needed to be externally controlled by the Law of Moses. An external relationship governed by an external law with external boundaries and sanctions.

Jesus Christ reversed all of this at the Cross. He completely and finally made an end to sin. As a result all who now trust Him have been made new, spiritually resurrected into a new life, free from sin and free to successfully govern themselves once again. No longer do we relate to God externally via the Law. This life is now one of internal relationship to God where God has written His nature and law on our hearts. There is only one valid form of control in the New Covenant and that is self-control.

The story of redemption shows us that only believers – those saved by God – are truly free and so truly free to govern themselves well. This is why the idea of Biblical self-government is foundational to all other aspects of government. As saints, with a new nature that tends toward holiness, we are able to govern ourselves well without requiring an external force to make us act righteously.

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[1]Watson, S.J. Biblical Self-Government, Chalcedon Foundation (http://chalcedon.edu/research/articles/biblical-self-government/)

[2] Robert C. Winthrop, Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions: 1835-1851 (http://books.google.com.au/books?id=tKohAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA172)

[3] Paraphrased from Danny Silk’s Loving Our Kids On Purpose DVDs

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Who’s the Boss? God and Government

When we talk about the concept of government, almost without exception people immediately think of the state. The state, or civil government, is but one of several spheres of God-ordained authority. In this post we will look at an overview of Biblical authority and the individual spheres of government that God has given to us.

Source of Authority

Before we can begin looking at the specifics of government, we need to understand the source of authority. Approaching an answer from a purely humanistic basis will result in one of two views, that the source of governmental authority lies either in the individual or the group. This is referred to as the philosophical question of “The One and The Many”. Examples of answers to this question include:

  • Social Darwinism: this is ‘survival of the fittest’ on a sociological level. It is ‘might makes right’, in which whoever has the power makes the rules. This philosophy is the basis of the majority of the awful tyrannies of our era: Imperialism, Nazism, facism etc. Since the collective as expressed in the State is the most powerful earthly entity, Social Darwinism clearly sacrifices the individual to the power of the group.
  • Majoritarian Utilitarianism: simplistically this is “whatever the majority (should) want is right”. This is the basis of all democracy and most benevolent socialism. This puts the ‘good’ of the group above the ‘good’ of the individual.
  • Anarchistic Libertarianism: this is the idea that “every individual is free to do as he pleases so long as it does not harm someone else.” The highest authority is the will of the individual. However, trying to come up with some sort of consensus of what constitutes ‘harm’ is impossible. This philosophy sacrifices the group to the individual.

Regardless of what humanistic view you take, ultimately the source of authority will lie with man, either the individual or the group.

Scripture, on the other hand, presents us a Trinitarian answer to the question of “The One and The Many”, in which as much importance is placed on the individual as to the group without subordination or tension between the members of the Godhead. God consists of three persons (the Many, the group), yet each member – Father, Son and Spirit (the One, the individual) – are equal and coeternal. This God is the source of all authority. Since God is the creator of all there is, He alone holds the ultimate authority over all of creation. All authority is derived authority. No legitimate authority exists that is not derived from God’s authority. He alone defines and decides the scope of authority for all individuals, groups and institutions. Since the question of “The One and The Many” is perfectly answered in the Trinity, God’s definitions and boundaries will reflect that answer in a way that any humanistic answer cannot. God has revealed to us these spheres of authority to us through the Scriptures.

Spheres of Authority

Biblical Self-Government

This is the most foundational and basic sphere of authority. It is “the desire and the ability to willingly submit to God-given authority without being forced, coerced, or constantly reminded to do so”[1]. The seat of authority is the individual self. This sphere has authority to do anything that is not forbidden by God. Its aim is godly self-control as guided by the internal Law of Christ within the context of the Kingdom of God. Its goals include personal holiness, a life of worship and service toward God and exercising biblical dominion within your area of knowledge and influence.

Family Government

This sphere has authority over the family, the fundamental building block of society. The seat of authority is the husband and wife partnership as found in the covenant of marriage. Its aim is to join a man and a woman together in a covenant relationship, and together the outworking of biblical dominion in their lives. Additionally, it has authority to raise and educate children so that they may grow into godly adults.

Church Government

This sphere has authority within the covenant community of the local Church. The seat of authority lies in the group of elder / five-fold ministers (depending on your terminology and church tradition). Its aim is to prepare God’s people for- and release them into- ministry. It is for fellowship, the corporate expression of worship and participation in the ordinances / sacraments of Baptism and Communion. Additionally, it is the primary agency of mercy to the world.

Civil Government (The State)

This sphere is the agent of God’s justice on the earth to restrain sin where Biblical Self-Government fails. The seat of authority is with duly appointed representatives of the state. It involves the punishment of crime and restitution to the victim by the criminal. It includes the provision and maintenance of shared infrastructure and community defense.

Boundaries of Authority

A fundamental idea of the spheres of government is that each sphere derives its authority from God within defined and limited areas of authority. One sphere cannot step outside its bounds into another sphere. For example, the right and responsibility for educating children is given to the parents. They may choose to exercise this directly via home-schooling or delegate it via agencies such as Christian, independent or even state-schools. The State cannot usurp the parent’s sphere of authority by outlawing home-schooling or banning Christian schools.

In subsequent posts, we will explore each of these spheres in detail.

 

[1] Watson, S.J. Biblical Self-Government, Chalcedon Foundation (http://chalcedon.edu/research/articles/biblical-self-government/)

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Daniel’s 70 Weeks Part II

In Part I we looked at the purpose of the seventy weeks prophecy found in Daniel 9. We discovered that the goals of the prophecy centre around Israel’s sin and judgement and the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. In Part II we look into the actual timing and events of the prophecy.

The Command

One of the first hurdles to understanding the prophecy is to identify the “command” in verse 25.
“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.” (Daniel 9:25 NKJV)

This command would involve the building and restoration of Jerusalem. There are several candidates for this command.

  • Cyrus’ Decree in 538 B.C. Found in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 and in Ezra 1:1-4; 5:13, 17, 6:3. The focus of this decree is on the Temple and as a result the city remains largely untouched. A far cry from the restoration prophesied.
  • Artaxerxes’ first decree in 457 B.C. Found in Ezra 7:11-26. Ezra certainly understood this decree to include the rebuilding of the walls (Ezra 9:9). It also included the restoration of civil government.
  • Artazerxes second decree in 444 B.C. Found in Nehemiah 2:1-8. This passage specifically mentions rebuilding the walls. However, some scholars argue that this is not a decree proper. It should more correctly be viewed as a letter that strengthens the original decree issued to Ezra.

Artaxerxes first decree in 457 B.C. is the most likely one referred to in Daniel 9:25. The prophecy states that from this decree until “Messiah the Prince there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks”. These sixty-nine weeks total 483 years. Adding this to 457 B.C. we arrive at the date of 27 A.D. This is a very likely date for the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the prophecy divides this period into two parts, the first being seven weeks or 49 years. According to some Bible commentators, the historian Prideaux declared Nehemiah’s last action in rebuilding the city occurred in the 15th year of the Persian ruler Darius Nothus. This is exactly 49 years from the issue of this decree.

The Final Week

26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” (Daniel 9:26-27, ESV).

Dispensationalism teaches that what follows the sixty-ninth week is not the seventieth week but a gap of indeterminate time that has now already stretched to almost 2,000 years. Not only is this gap not apparent in the text itself, inserting this gap causes the whole point of an over-arching seventy weeks to break down. If there is a gap in the chronology the entire point of being able to time the events according to the period of 490 years disappears. Such a gap in the prophecy is not textually, or historically warranted.

Back to the text, we see that there are two groups of events specified in the passage.

First, those that occur “after the sixty-two weeks” (that is, some time after the first 483 years):

  • The anointed one, the Messiah, is “cut off”
  • The “people of the prince who is to come” destroy the city of Jerusalem and the Temple

Secondly, those that occur during specifically in the final week (within the last 7 years):

  • A covenant is confirmed for one week
  • Halfway through this week, the one who confirmed the covenant puts an end to sacrifice and offering.

The Hebrew language shows that the covenant is better seen as being ‘confirmed’ rather than made. What is the covenant that is confirmed for 7 years? Clearly it is the covenant that is featured throughout this chapter in Daniel, the covenant that God has with His people. After the first 69 weeks, “Messiah the Prince” appears (v25), this occurred in 27 A.D. when Jesus began his public ministry. 3 ½ years later, half way through the last ‘week’, Jesus was crucified, or “cut off”. Jesus sacrifice put an end to the old sacrificial system forever. Interestingly, the time of Christ’s earthly ministry (the first 3 ½ years of this week) was dedicated to the Jewish people. Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24 ESV). After Christ’s crucifixion, the Gospel is predominantly focused on the Jews. Only at the stoning of Stephen in 34 A.D., about 3 ½ years later does the Gospel go out to the Gentiles (Acts 8:1). As we can see the covenant is confirmed with the Jewish people for 7 years as the ministry and gospel focus almost exclusively on the Jews. Half way through this time, the Messiah is “cut-off” and at His crucifixion he puts an end to sacrifice and offering.  Once the seven years is complete (that 70th week), the Gospel is no longer the domain of the Jew but begins to be proclaimed throughout the Gentile world.

Destruction of Jerusalem

What about the destruction of the city and Temple and the abomination that makes desolation in verses 26 and 27? As I showed in an earlier post, the abomination of desolation prophesied here is the same event spoken about by Jesus in Matthew 24. This clearly finds fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. The issue is that obviously the destruction of Jerusalem occurs past the end of the time frame for the 70 weeks.

Remember, however, that there are two events that occur after the 69th week; the Messiah being cut off and the city and sanctuary being destroyed. Verse 27 tells us that the Messiah’s death occurs in the middle of the 70th week. However, it does not say when the prophesied destruction occurs, beyond being some time after the 69th week.

The destruction of Jerusalem is not one of the goals of the prophecy (see Part I, Daniel 9:24), but is the consequence of the transgression of Israel and the death of the Messiah. Within in the 70 weeks time-frame, Israel’s sin was sealed and reserved for judgement. Ultimately this was carried out in 70 A.D. This is exactly the way that Jesus Christ interpreted this prophecy in Matthew 24.

Conclusion

Daniel’s 70-weeks prophecy is all about the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.  It focuses on the covenantal relationship between God and Israel.  The Jewish people would finish the transgression by finally rejecting God by crucifying Jesus.  This sin is sealed up and reserved for judgement which ultimately came in the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, just as Jesus himself also prophesied it would in Matthew 24. Jesus sacrifice would finally atone for sin and bring in everlasting righteousness.

Additional Resources
Daniels-70-Weeks-Prophecy-Chart-Web
Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy Timeline Chart (PDF File, 2.5MB)

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Daniel’s 70 Weeks Part I – No Antichrist’s Here

In Daniel 9:24-27 we find the fascinating seventy-weeks prophecy. Contrary to popular views, there is no mention of the Beast, Antichrist or Armageddon.  It is in fact, just like the rest of the Bible, all about Jesus.  This prophecy is import in any understanding of the end-times as it gives important clues as to the purpose and timing of critical eschatological events.

The Covenantal Context

The prophecy in verses 24-27 is an answer to Daniel’s prayer in verses 3-19. God’s covenant with His people is the central concern of Daniel’s prayer. God is a covenant-keeping God (v4); He is faithful even when His people are unfaithful (v5). As a result, His people are now suffering under the curse of the covenant (vv11-15). In fact, Daniel 9 is the only passage in Daniel that includes the covenantal name of God (Yahweh, “LORD”). It is vital to note that Daniel’s prayer about covenantal faithfulness (v4) is answered in a covenantal pattern of seventy weeks (vv24-27).

The Covenantal Pattern of Weeks

The first phase of the seventy weeks is “seven weeks”, or literally “seven sevens” (v25), which results in forty-nine. Forty-nine years leads up to the Year of Jubilee in the fiftieth year, a time of great celebration and the releasing of slaves and debt. This underscores the covenantal and redemptive meaning of this passage.

The total “seventy weeks” covers ten multiples of these seven weeks, which signifies a ten-fold Jubilee. Ten is the number symbolizing completion, therefore pointing to a complete redemptive Jubilee. This undoubtedly points to Christ, who fulfills the Jubilee in bringing full and complete redemption (see Luke 4:17-21).

The Chronological Pattern of Weeks

Not only do the weeks have a covenantal implication, they also outline the time-line of the prophecy. The seventy weeks represent a period of seventy times seven years, or 490 years. A literal seventy week period would be too short to fulfill all that is prophesied and the understanding that each week represents a seven year period has a great deal of Biblical support (e.g. Gen 29:27-28, Num 14:34, Ez 4:6).

The Goal of the Prophecy

Daniel 9:24 is critical to understanding the prophecy. The six phrases form three couplets that provide the ultimate goal of the prophecy, what is to be accomplished within the seventy weeks.

“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.” (ESV)

Firstly, this prophecy focuses on the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem. However, Israel’s Messiah is the only Saviour and so His work, although central to the Jews, reaches far beyond them to include the entire world.

First Couplet

Daniel’s prayer focused on Israel’s sins and the prophecy is focused on Israel. “Finish the transgression” refers to Israel completing her transgression against God. The second phrase relates to the first. The phrase “put an end to sin” can be translated as “seal up sins” (the same word is used further down in “seal both vision and prophet, see NASB, margin). Israel’s finishing of the transgression results in the sins being “sealed” or “reserve sins for punishment” (See Romans 2:5 for another example of this occurring).

It is the transgression of rejecting God’s Son and having Him crucified. As a result, God seals and reserves Israel’s sins for judgement which is ultimately exercised when the Temple is destroyed in A.D. 70.

Second Couplet

The third goal is to “atone for iniquity”. This clearly points to Christ’s atoning death which fulfilled the Temple sacrifices (Heb 9:26). This act secures the next goal “to bring in everlasting righteousness”. Paul in Romans 3:21-25 states that this righteousness is the direct result of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested… through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood…”

Third Couplet

“To seal both vision and prophet”. This speaks of Christ fulfilling the prophecies concerning Him. Clearly this cannot be referring to the fulfillment of all prophecy. Even Dispensationalism which teaches that this will occur at the Second Coming of Christ, does not say that all prophecy is fulfilled at this point. In that scheme there is still the prophecies concerning the final apostasy, the resurrection and the new heaven and earth. The prophecy here is limited by the express purpose in Daniel 9, that is the full accomplishment of redemption from sin and the ushering in of righteousness. Luke 18:31 (ESV), “…See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.”

The final phrase is related to this. Literally translated as “to anoint the most Holy”. This speaks of Christ’s anointing in his baptism and not the anointing of a Temple. This is clear because the context of the prophecy is Messianic, the verses following speak of the Messiah (“anointed one”, vv25,26) and no temple in scripture was anointed.

At Christ’s baptism, the Spirit came upon Him (Mark 1:9-11). In fact after this event, three verses later Jesus states “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” The time that has been fulfilled could very well refer to the timing outlined in the seventy-weeks prophecy of Daniel 9.

Summary

The goal of the seventy-weeks prophecy in Daniel is entirely Messianic. The seventy weeks (490 years) would see the following occur:

  • Israel would finish the transgression by rejecting God’s Son and having Him crucified. God would then seal up and reserve her sins for judgment at a later date. Note, the prophecy does not say that the sins were to be judged in the seventy weeks, but that they are sealed up and reserved for judgement.
  • Christ would atone for sin and bring in everlasting righteousness through his death on the cross.
  • Christ is anointed at His baptism and He fulfills all the prophecies spoken about Him.

As we will look into in later posts in this series, all these things occurred by the time Christ was crucified.  Update: Part II is now available.

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