Three Angels' Messages Part 26

            Thanks again for joining us in our study of the Three Angels’ Messages, found in the heart of Revelation 14. We are currently looking at the phrase that is positioned in the message of the first angel, “The hour of His judgment has come,”
            We’ve been exploring the question, Can we know when the 2300-day prophecy would begin, and when it would come to its terminus, since the “cleansing of the sanctuary” refers to the pre-advent judgment? And yes, the Bible gives us the information we need to answer that question. By employing the “day for a year in symbolic prophecy” rule (see Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6), we find that we are actually working with a period of 2300 years, making it the longest time prophecy in Scripture. This is entirely reasonable, because the angel Gabriel forewarned Daniel, “the vision refers to the time of the end.” Daniel 8:17. Only with a “day for a year” yardstick could we have a prophecy extending from just after Daniel’s day to modern times.
            Just to review, we need to connect three chapters within the book of Daniel in order to discover the beginning, and therefore, the end of this time period. Daniel 7 gives us a view of this heavenly judgment, but doesn’t tell us when it starts. Daniel 8 gives us a time period, but doesn’t tell us when it begins. Daniel 9 gives us a beginning point, as well as some helpful “markers” to confirm that we’re on the right track.
Last time, we spent our time noting the “connecting links” that tie Daniel 8 and 9 together. We saw that in his address to Daniel, the angel linked this visit with the former by saying, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplication the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision.” Daniel 9:23. There being no intervening vision, Gabriel must be referring to the vision of chapter 8, concerning which Daniel had unresolved issues.
            During this visit, the angel focuses on the subject of time. Many details are provided by Gabriel to Daniel, including the fact that the first part of this period of time is allocated in a special way to “your people,” that is, the Jews. The angel said, “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city.” Daniel 9:24. By the way, so confident were some Bible translators that these 70 weeks should be understood by the “day for a year in symbolic prophecy” rule that they even translated the phrase “seventy weeks of years.” There is no question but that these 490 “days” are to be understood as 490 literal years, in that the scope of material presented, including the restoration of Jerusalem and reaching to “Messiah the Prince” could not possibly be fulfilled within 70 literal weeks.
            Seventy weeks, or 490 literal years, are “cut off” (a meaning of the Hebrew word translated “determined”) and applied especially to “your people” to see if they will indeed live up to the covenant stipulations. Because two time periods are now under discussion (the 2300 days and the 70 weeks, or 490 days), and since there is only one beginning point mentioned, and because the verb “cut off” implies the shorter period being “cut off” from the larger, it makes sense to see the two time periods as having the same starting date. And, if it is true that the “day for a year in symbolic prophecy” rule applies to the first part, the 490 “days,” a point upon which virtually all commentators and Bible students agree, why would we think that it would not equally apply to the larger prophecy of 2300 “days,” of which the 70 weeks are a part? Therefore, the 2300 “days” must be understood as 2300 years.
            The period of the 490 days/years pertained especially to the Jews and represented a period of probation, to see if they would indeed live up to the terms of the covenant. As history sadly records, the Jews not only didn’t accept Jesus; they crucified Him. John the Baptist had preached that if the nation didn’t comply with the divine template, the ax would be laid to the tree. Matthew 3:7-10. In Jesus’ parable of the vineyard (Matthew 21:33-44), the mistreatment of the servants and the son of the owner and its shocking conclusion that the “kingdom” would be taken from them and given to “another nation,” became reality.
When the 490 year period of probation ended, the Jews were disenfranchised as the primary torch-bearers of God’s truth, being replaced by the Gentiles, as demonstrated clearly in the book of Acts. Think of it! The primary message God wanted the world to know what that Jesus was the Messiah of prophecy, that He died for our sins and rose from the grave. How could the Jews, as a community, be trusted to spread that message to the world? They rejected Him as the Messiah and put Him on the cross, and then lied about His resurrection. God was forced to inaugurate another group, the Christian Church, to carry out this objective.
            Gabriel then provides critical information by which the beginning of the time period could be ascertained. “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; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.” Daniel 9:25. Daniel must have been encouraged to know that his beloved city of Jerusalem would again be rebuilt.
Can we know when this “command to restore and build Jerusalem” was given? Yes! Actually there were three edicts given by three different rulers; Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes. The last and most complete of the three is the one which initiated the time prophecy. Notice that in Ezra 6:14 the three commands are combined into one. “So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandments of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.” The singular usage of the noun “command” is significant.
            The edict of Cyrus was given shortly after the fall of Babylon in 539 B. C. and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild. Reference to this decree is made in II Chronicles 36:22, 34, and Ezra 1:1-4. However, many discouragements hindered their progress. A second decree was issued by Darius I shortly before 515 B. C. This document can be found in Ezra 6:1-12 and concerns the rebuilding of the temple.
            A third decree, which can be found in Ezra 7:12-26, was necessary and proclaimed by Artaxerxes I. This edict provided funds from the king’s coffers for the temple services and sacrifices, and allowed the wall of the city to be rebuilt, a story chronicled by the prophet Nehemiah. It put the finishing touches on the temple edifice. Ezra alludes to this latter component in his prayer, “Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem.” Ezra 7:27. Thus the third decree, the one given by Artaxerxes I in his seventh year (Ezra 7:8) which history tells us was given in the fall of the year 457 B.C., the one which authorized full restoration of Jewish life, temple services and the teaching of the Law of God, is the one which finalized all aspects of the rebuilding and is the one whose date is the subject of Gabriel’s explanation. The date of 457 B.C. will be the anchor for the beginning of both the 70 “weeks” or 490 years and the 2300 days/years of prophecy.
            It is noteworthy that the rebuilding of the wall under the leadership of Nehemiah, within the scope of the first part of the prophecy, was conducted under the most strenuous circumstances, being opposed by those who did not wish to see the work progress. Gabriel alluded to this very matter, as we shall see. This work of repair and rebuilding was completed by 444 B. C. (Nehemiah 6:15), well within the time allowed by the first segment of Gabriel’s explanation of the 70 weeks.
            How kind and gracious of our God to lay out the details of the prophecy, providing way-markers along the timeline so that we could be assured that the prophecy was trustworthy. Since the event at the end of the prophecy of the 2300 years, the cleansing of the sanctuary in heaven, would be something unseen by human eyes, He provided events that could be readily seen and verified by history, so that we could know with certainty that likewise the pre-advent judgment taking place in heaven would take place.
            We are now living in the awesome period of the heavenly judgment. Let us pray that our hearts are in tune with the Master, that He is cleansing our records and our hearts, so that when that Day comes, we can joyfully welcome Him as our Lord and Savior!

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