“Famous Failures of Prophetic Interpretation”

Manor house & people new try YouTube front page-flattenedI guess everyone has heard about times in history when someone has pointed out something they thought was just about to happen, because they felt Biblical prophecy was just about to be fulfilled. That happened one time as a direct result of misunderstanding something that’s in Daniel chapter 8.  (This article is the text of a video on this subject. The video can be seen here.)

The 1840’s was a time of tremendous change. The Industrial Revolution was changing the order of society as it had been for many hundreds of years. Science was making tremendous strides in understanding God’s creation. And politics and nationalism were bringing huge change around the world.

One new religious movement at that time saw the changes going on as a sign of the soon coming of God’s Kingdom on earth. This group often talked about the return of Jesus. And you could say, “Well, Mark, that sounds a good deal like what you’re doing.” And you might be right. So, I’m sharing this with you as a warning in some ways, both to you and to me. Because, as much as I believe in prophecy, I also know it’s possible to misinterpret things in the Bible.   So this group, back in the 1840’s, looked at some of these verses we’ve been reading, specifically Daniel 8:13 and 14, which say

Then I heard one saint speaking; and another saint said to that certain one who spoke, “How long will be the vision, concerning the daily sacrifice and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?” And he said to me, “Unto two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.”

These verses are rather mysterious and I’m not in any way wanting to make fun of what happened. But these folks back then misinterpreted those verses and ended up being embarrassed and needing to make some difficult explanations. Here’s what happened.

A very key event occurred in the history of the Jews, during the time of their captive in Babylon and the beginning of their return to Israel. Some historians have set the date of that event at 544 BC. Setting the exact date on this and explaining the details and specifics are complicated and I won’t go into it here since it’s part of the class on Daniel chapter 9.

1844-merged-for blog postBut this Christian religious movement in the 1800’s came to the incorrect conclusion that “2300 days” in Daniel 8:14 actually means 2300 years. So they did their math. Using an approximate date of 544 BC, adding an additional 2300 years would mean that these verses in Daniel 8 tell us that the Kingdom of God would be set up in …1844!

The 1840’s were not a particularly traumatic time for people living in the United States. But for Europeans, the 1840’s were a time of revolution and major social dishevel in many countries. Well, this religious group I mentioned, spread out in many lands, came down to a fateful night in October of 1844 when they went up on their housetops to welcome the return of Jesus.Manor house & people-flattened

But, Jesus didn’t come back that night and that whole denomination was mocked and ridiculed.  It didn’t end there. Years later a new denomination was started. They looked over the mistakes the other group made and came up with a new idea. They saw places in the Bible that used the number “70”. And they added 70 more years onto 1844. That would mean that the coming of the Lord would actually be in…1914!

1914-merged- for blog postWell, 1914 was a very significant, turbulent year to say the least. It was the beginning of World War I, a war unlike any other before it. Also, in the fields of science, culture, business and technology, things were changing incredible fast. But, the Lord didn’t return in 1914. So they ended up saying that actually Jesus did return that year to the earth. But that He’s now presently “in the clouds”, looking over the judgment books. And honesty, if you keep up with these kinds of things, this type of prophetic interpretation is happening in our times just as much if not more than it was 100 years ago.

Sadam Hussein2-for blog postRemember Saddam Hussein? At the time of the Iraq war, there were all kinds of web sites and commentators saying that Saddam Hussein was the Biblical Antichrist. And the modern nation of Iraq was the fulfillment of Babylon the Great from Revelation 18. Websites and airwaves were full of those kinds of twisted, opportunistic interpretations of Bible prophecy, often for political motives and secular agendas.

We believers are supposed to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But that doesn’t mean we’re to be naive, gullible and easily manipulated.

I believe it’s important to be very realistic and cautious about interpreting God’s Word. There’s just a real danger in getting overly specific about soon-coming events through a misapplication and misinterpretation of ancient Bible prophecy, especially if politics or nationalism is using Bible prophecy for their own secular ends. Not only can you just being totally wrong, you can do enormous damage to the faith of millions of people, the “multitudes in the valley of decision”, as the Prophet Joel talked about.

There are so many people today “in the valley of decision” who sense the truth and want to learn more. But when they’re stumbled by false teaching and prophetic interpretations that prove false, they turn away from God and search elsewhere for the truth they’re seeking.  That’s heartbreaking and must grieve the heart of the God of Abraham for any of us to do that. On the other hand, simply because mistakes like this have been made, it doesn’t take anything away from the certainty of prophecy. But it’s a serious, sober warning to us all to not teach speculation and hypothesis as something that we should take as absolute gospel truth.

(Romanian) Textul a “O încadrare a profeției în istorie”

[Aceasta este varianta scrisă a înregistrării cu titlul “O încadrare a profeției în istorie“.]

Romanian thumbnail for ITPIHVreau să vă vorbesc despre ceva deosebit ce mi-a marcat în mod special viața. Este vorba despre profeții. E un subiect amplu. La auzul cuvântului „profeție,” diferite gânduri trec prin mintea fiecăruia, așa că am să explic la ce mă refer. Am să vă spun câte ceva despre mine, ca să înțelegeți de ce mă ineresează acest subiect.

M-am născut în Texas și am ajuns să merg la facultate fără să fi înțeles sau să mă fi interesat vreodată lucrurile spirituale. Devenisem ateu și făceam tot ce puteam să întorc de la credință pe oricare ar fi avut vreun fel de credință în Dumnezeu.

Printr-un complex de evenimente am ajuns în punctul în care a trebuit să recunosc… că există o dimensiune spirituală. Nu vroiam să devin “habotnic”, dar știam, îmi dădusem seama, că există o dimensiune în care se găsesc și spirite bune, și spirite rele.shot of me at firstEu vroiam să fiu cu cele bune.

Căutările mele m-au adus în contact cu diferite grupuri și, astfel, am întâlnit alți tineri, creștini cu vederi radicale sau, „Țicniții lui Iisus”, cum erau numiți pe atunci iar ei au reușit să mă ajute să înțeleg adevărurile din Biblie. Dumnezeu a folosit această împrejurare ca să îmi ofere un nou început și, pînă la urmă, mi-am dedicat viața în slujba Lui. Am trăit peste hotare mai bine de 30 de ani și m-am bucurat de o viață minunată, lucru pentru care sunt foarte recunoscător.

Deci, când vorbesc despre profeție, mă refer, de cele mai multe ori, la profeții din Biblie. Pe asta vom pune accentul în această serie de studii. O să ne ocupăm de profetul Daniel din Vechiul Testament. De fapt, când Iisus a fost întrebat despre viitor, l-a menționat în mod specific pe profetul Daniel. A spus: “Când veți vedea (evenimentele viitoare)… despre care a vorbit profetul Daniel (cine citește să înțeleagă)…” (Matei 24:15)

Îmi închipui că unii dintre cei care se uită la acest program au aflat destule despre acest subiect și de-abia așteptați să intrăm în detalii. Alții nu cunosc mai nimic despre toate acestea. Vreau să me adresez și unora, și altora, dar dacă ar trebui să aleg între cele două categorii, prefer să mă adresez celor pentru care acesta este un subiect nou. Așa eram și eu până când am ajuns aproape la maturitate. Acesta este, probabil, unul dintre motivele pentru care vreau ca și voi să bucurați de încântarea de a cunoaște adevărurile din cartea lui Dumnezeu, Biblia.

Acum, poate că unii dintre voi se întreabă: “Ce mai este și profeția?” Vă gândiți că, „da, sigur, sigur, într-o bună zi lumea se va sfârși și chestii din astea.” Așa credeam și eu cândva și totul mi se părea bizar și chiar stupid.

Bethlehem for blog postBun! Haideți să vedem dacă există ceva despre care a auzit fiecare dintre cei care se uită la acest program și care a fost profețit cu sute de ani înainte de a se întâmpla. Putem spune cu siguranță că fiecare dintre cei care urmăresc acest program au auzit despre Crăciun. Știți că de Crăciun oamenii cântă colinde. Se sărbătorește nașterea lui Iisus și ați văzut imagini cu Maria și Iosif și cu pruncul Iisus.

Romanian Jerusalem map for blog postAți auzit, probabil, un vechi colind, nu prea pot eu să îl cânt, dar e cam așa: “În seara de Crăciun venim/ La Vilflaim, la Viflaim/ Pe pruncul sfânt să-L preamărim/ La Viflaim, la Viflaim.

Acest colind este despre orășelul Betleem, de lângă Ierusalim, unde s-a născut Iisus. Poate că deja știați că acolo s-a născut, sau poate vă amintiți că ați mai auzit undeva de asta.

Probabil că cunoașteți măcar câte ceva despre acest subiect. Bun, haideți să ne uităm în Biblie. Haideți să ne uităm în Vechiul Testament, în cartea profetului Mica. Romanian Micah 5-2 for blog postLa mine în Biblie scrie că această carte a fost scrisă în jurul anului 700 Î.Hr. O să citim capitolul 5, versetul 2. Este ca și cum vocea lui Dumnezeu se adresează orașului sau sătucului Betleem. Spune “Și tu, Betleeme Efrata, măcar că ești prea mic între cetățile de căpetenie ale lui Iuda, totuși din tine Îmi va ieși Cel ce va stăpâni peste Israel și a cărui obârșie se suie până în vremuri srăvechi, până în zilele veșniciei.

Aici Dumnezeu se adresează Betleemului și îi spune că, cu toate că este un oraș micuț printre multe altele din regiunea Iuda (o provincie a Israelului din zilele acelea), totuși din Betleem va veni Cel care, până la urmă, va conduce poporul lui Dumnezeu și că asta era stabilit din vechime, din veșnicii.

Este o profeție din Vechiul Testament, profețită cu sute de ani înainte de nașterea lui Iisus, care ne spune exact unde se va naște Mesia, regele pe care Îl va trimite Dumnezeu. Sunt multe alte profeții ca aceasta.

Când toate acestea erau încă o noutate pentru mine, mi-a trebuit o bucată de vreme ca să încep să  înțeleg că există o putere în Ceruri, puterea lui Dumnezeu cel din Biblie, care a prezis viitorul lumii de mii de ani, și că aceste profeții, aceste previziuni s-au împlinit cu o exactitate absolută. Pentru mine asta a fost șocant. Aș putea spune că încă mai este. Acesta va fi subiectul acestor studii: profețiile care s-au împlinit și profețiile care urmează să se împlinească.

Când am menționat nașterea lui Iisus în Betleem am vrut să aleg ceva ce era cunoscut tuturor. Apoi, după ce am văzut din Biblie că cu sute de ani înainte de nașterea Lui a fost dată o profeție care spunea că Iisus se va naște în Betleem, veți putea aprecia importanța și relevanța acestui aspect. Așa că, mai departe o să aruncăm o privire asupra contextului istoric ca să ne încadrăm în timp, cum s-ar spune și să vedem amprenta profeției, care exista cu mult timp înainte și care prevestise multe dintre evenimentele cheie care aveau să se întâmple mai târziu.

Abrahamprays 4 blog postDumnezeu a ales un om cu patru mii de ani în urmă. Îl chema Avraam. El se trăgea din regiunea care în ziua de azi se numește Irak. Din urmașii lui Avraam a apărut poporul pe care noi astăzi îl cunoaștem cu numele de evrei. Dealtfel, și popoarele arabe, și credința musulmană se trag și ele tot de la Avraam.

Dar Vechiul Testament este cartea evreilor. Așa că, pentru a înțelege profețiile, trebuie să avem o perspectivă de ansamblu asupra istoriei evreilor. În același timp, va trebui să privim ascensiunea și declinul imperiilor antice până în zilele lui Iisus și ale Imperiului Roman.

Romanian History timeline for blogpostIată câteva personaje cheie din Biblie și perioada în care au trăit. Avraam este plasat în jurul anului 2000 Î.Hr. Iar Iisus în anul 30 AD. Între aceste date se situează Moise, în jur de 1400 Î.Hr. Regele David a trăit în jur de 980 Î.Hr, iar profetul Daniel, ale cărui scrieri vrem să le studiem, în jur de 600 Î.Hr.

Romanian Bible History Chart for video flat resized

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Text to “The Last 7 Years” video

[This is the text to the video “Daniel 9:27—The Last 7 Years”. To view this video, click here. Also, this blog post is longer than normal.]

D9b video text post headingHi again, I’m Mark. This video is going to be different from the ones I’ve done before. Up till now, the videos have mostly been about prophecies that have been fulfilled. This one will be about prophecies yet to be fulfilled. Also, we’ll mainly be focusing on just one verse, the last verse in Daniel chapter 9.

You might wonder why a whole video would be centered around one verse. Well, we’re first going to have a short review of what we’ve seen already in Daniel chapter 9. That way, we’ll see how much prophecy is still to be fulfilled in this last verse in the chapter. At the beginning of the chapter, we found Daniel reading the prophecies of Jeremiah which predicted a 70 year captivity for the Jewish people who’d been carried away to Babylon. Daniel had read in Jeremiah 29:10,For thus says the LORD, After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.”

Daniel hands raised for D9 blog postAnd then we read that Daniel was moved to pray a very heartfelt prayer to God, for the Lord to forgive the Jews and for Him to fulfill His Word. While praying, Daniel had a visitation from the angel Gabriel who touched Daniel and then began to give him one of the most significant prophecies in the Bible. Gabriel told Daniel, “Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and 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 the vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24)

Gabriel told Daniel of a mysterious “70 weeks” “to make an end of sins”, “to bring in everlasting righteousness”. In our last class, we saw how that this “70 weeks” spoken of here is not what we would think of in our times. The meaning seventy weeks was “70 sevens of years”. And we saw this “70 weeks” was speaking about a period of 490 years.

I’m going over this somewhat quickly and you may want to review the class that was done before this if you have questions here. After Gabriel told Daniel about the 70 weeks, he broke this down and spoke of a period of “69 weeks”, 483 prophetic years. This was to be the period of time between “the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” and “Messiah the prince.”

the commandment to rebuild for D9 blog postThe commandment to restore Jerusalem was given by Artaxerxes in 444 BC and Jesus of Nazareth was crucified in 33 AD. We saw in our class that the length of time between these two periods, “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” and “Messiah the Prince”, amounted to “69 weeks”, 483 prophetic years, just as Gabriel had said would happen. [For an explanation of “prophetic years”, go to the text of the previous class on Daniel, about “The 69 Weeks” which can be read here.]

Going further, the prophecy said that “after” “Messiah shall be cut off”, Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed again. This happened in 70 AD. But we still haven’t come to the conclusion of this prophecy. The 69 weeks of this prophecy were fulfilled at the crucifixion of Jesus. But Gabriel’s prophecy of 70 weeks, 490 years, to bring in everlasting righteousness hasn’t happened yet. There’s still one “week” left. One last 7 year period is yet to be fulfilled in this prophecy in order to bring in God’s Kingdom on earth.

And that brings us to Daniel 9:27. But this is such a key verse; it’s fundamental to most of the prophetic verses in the Bible which are still not yet fulfilled. So I think at this point we should take a brief review of the chapters we’ve studied up till now. Because, in each of those chapters, we found things that are not yet fulfilled. And each one of those parts is an integral component, a piece of the picture that Daniel 9:27 is going to help us put together.

In Daniel chapter 2, we found Daniel as a young teenage who’d been carried away to Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had dreamed a dream that he couldn’t remember. In his fury the king commanded to kill all the wise men of Babylon and Daniel was in training to be one of those. After he prayed desperately, God revealed the secret of the king’s dream to Daniel.

Dan & Neb for D9 postSo Daniel went before the king to tell him his dream. The king had seen a statue with a head of gold, arms of silver, a belly of brass, legs of iron and feet of iron and clay. Then in his dream the king saw a stone which hit the statue on its feet so that the whole statue crumbled to dust and was blown away. And the stone became a great mountain that filled the earth. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that the head of gold was his kingdom of Babylon. After him would come another kingdom, then a third and then a fourth. We now know from history that those coming kingdoms represented Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.

But here’s the part that’s really for us in this class. What did that strange stone represent when it hit the statue, causing it to crumble to dust, and then the stone became a great mountain that filled the earth? What was that? Here is Daniel’s explanation of this to Nebuchadnezzar. “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. And the kingdom shall not be left to other people but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.” (Daniel 2:44)

The 4 beasts of Daniel 7

The 4 beasts of Daniel 7

Those kingdoms that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream have come and gone. But that final kingdom, the coming kingdom of God on earth has not yet happened. Then, many years later Daniel himself had a similar vision, but different. In Daniel’s vision in chapter 7 he saw 4 beasts rising out of the sea: a lion, a bear, a 4 headed leopard and then a great and dreadful beast. These four represented the same 4 kingdoms, seen in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream decades earlier.

But we’ve found that each prophetic chapter builds on the revelations of the previous prophetic chapter and then also introduces important new elements of the future to come. In Daniel 7 we were first told of “the little horn”, the future endtime dictator that’s spoken of more clearly in Daniel 8 and then also in the book of Revelation. It says of this “little horn” (Daniel 7:8) …“he shall speak great words against the most high” and “shall wear out the saints of the most high.” And a length of time was given for this period. “They shall be given into his hand …for a time, times and half a time” (Daniel 7:25).

But Daniel 7 also, like chapter 2, had a happy ending. Verse 27 ended the angel’s explanation to Daniel when he said, “And the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the most high, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

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Text for “The 69 Weeks” video

[This is the text version of the video, “Daniel Chapter 9-a ‘The 69 Weeks’.]

the commandment to rebuild-flattenedHi again, I’m Mark. For years I’ve been looking forward to this moment when I can be doing what I’m doing right now, sharing Daniel chapter 9 with you.

Because it changed my life. As I’ve mentioned before, I was an unbeliever but then, through a series of experiences, I came to faith in God. Later, when someone shared Daniel chapter 9 with me, I’d never seen anything like that. There’s nothing in this world can tell you, in advance, specifically, “This is going to happen and this is going to happen” and then it happens. But we have a God like that, the God of Abraham.

The first part of Daniel chapter 9 can be called “the 69 weeks” or perhaps more accurately, “the 69 sevens”. This chapter is concentrated. There’s a tremendous amount of information conveyed in very few words. In fact, there are really only 4 prophetic verses in the chapter and we’re going to look at the first 3 of those in this class. To start with, we need to know where we are in Daniel’s life and in the history of the Jews.

Daniel, as a young teenager, had been led away with some of the first captives that had been taken to Babylon from Jerusalem around 604 BC. Dan & Neb for D9 postThen, though a miraculous series of events, Daniel ended up telling Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, his dream, when the king couldn’t remember it.

But Daniel chapter 9 is near the end of Daniel’s life. In his 80’s now and has been working as a government official throughout his life. By this time, it’s not Babylon anymore; it’s the Medes and the Persians. So we’re looking at around 539 BC; the Jews are still in captivity, now under the Persians. Daniel chapter 9 starts like this.

Daniel at desk for D9 blog post“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans, in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years which came by the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.” (Daniel 9:1 & 2)

In our times, we look back to the prophecies of Daniel to see our future. But Daniel is looking back to a prophet before him.  We’re finding Daniel reading the prophecies of Jeremiah. Here are the verses Daniel was reading, Jeremiah 29:10 through 13.

“For thus says the LORD, after seventy years are completed at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.” And then the next verse says,For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

That’s a beautiful, comforting verse. God has their best interests in mind. So He’s thinking thoughts of peace and not of evil. Then verse 13 says,And you shall seek Me and find Me when you shall search for Me with all your heart.”

The prophet Jeremiah was perhaps around the age of Daniel’s parents. God had told Jeremiah many years before that Israel was going to be taken captive and carried away to Babylon. And they were going to be there for 70 years. That’s what it says in Jeremiah 29:10, the verse that Daniel was reading. Let’s look at that verse again.

“For thus says the LORD, after seventy years are completed at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.

So Daniel understood by reading Jeremiah, “Our captivity is going to be for 70 years.” And do you know how long it had been? It had been around 68 years. So the same way we read Daniel and we go, “Oh my gosh! We’re in the endtime!” Daniel read Jeremiah and he felt almost the same way. “Oh my gosh! Two more years and that 70 year period is up!” So Daniel starts praying. God had told them,And you shall seek Me and find Me when you shall search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

Daniel kneeling for D9 blog postSo Daniel begins to seek God with all his heart. And he’s going to pour out his heart to God, in sackcloth and ashes as a sign of repentance and desperation. He’s praying for his people, he’s praying for his country, prophecy is just about to be fulfilled. This prayer is actually 16 verses long so maybe we can read the first three and last three verses.

“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.  And I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession and said, ‘O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your commandments and Your judgments.'”  (Daniel 9:3-5)

And the last 3 verses of the prayer were

Daniel hands raised for D9  blog post“Now, O our God, hear the prayer of Your servant and his requests, and for the Lord’s sake, cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary which is desolate. O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our ruins and the city which is called by Your name. For we do not present our prayers before You because of our righteousness but because of Your great mercies.O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, hear and act. Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”   (Daniel 9:17-19)

Daniel was seeking God with all his heart. He was confessing his sins and the sins of his people. He was desperate for God to forgive, to heal, to answer the prayers of His people and to fulfill His prophetic Word. So we can go to verses 20 & 21.

Daniel smiling with Gabriel for D9 blog post“And while I was speaking and praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and presenting my cry before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God, yea, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening sacrifice. And he informed me and talked with me and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come to give you skill and understanding. At the beginning of your prayers the commandment went forth and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved.'”

There are not too many times in the Bible where an angel says that to someone, “You are greatly beloved”. In fact, this was said twice more to Daniel in Daniel chapter 10. Daniel must have been a really special person. He was greatly loved because he greatly loved the Lord.

“Therefore consider the matter and understand the vision:”

This has been our preparation for those 3 prophetic verses we’re going to be looking at in this class. There aren’t going to be any visions of beasts here, like in the earlier chapters. The angel Gabriel is going to give Daniel the straight Word of God. What if you tried to get the most important things in the history of the world for the next 2 or 3 thousand years into 3 or 4 verses? That’s what we’re going to have right here.

X plus Y underlined flattenedSometimes when I teach this, I use the analogy of Algebra, where you have things like “X” plus “Y” equals 5. So “X” and “Y” are unknowns. At the beginning of this, there are going to be some “unknowns”. The challenge for you is going to be to try to not figure it out right away. Because we’re going to have to wait for it and we’re going to have to put it together. So if you don’t understand this right away, just wrap it up in a bundle of faith and put it on the shelf for the moment. Because we’re going to work on it and we’re going to find it out. So Gabriel was telling Daniel,

Daniel leaned back on stool for D9 blog post“…therefore consider the matter and understand the vision:”  Verse 24 “Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and 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 the vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy.”

Now if you don’t watch out, you’re going to go, “Seventy weeks? Let’s see; 52 weeks in a year…” So you do your math and you get “a year and a half…that doesn’t make sense!”  And you’d be right.English week Hebrew shabua flattened But here’s the first thing you need to know. The English word week in the Hebrew is “shabua”.

That’s the Hebrew word for week. And in Hebrew that didn’t always mean 7 days. We have the word in English “a dozen”. It could be a dozen eggs, a dozen houses; it means 12. I’ll give you another example of this word shabua in the Bible. The most important verse in this chapter for people in our times is Daniel 9:27.

Genesis 2927 and Daniel 927 flattenedOur next class is mainly based around that verse. But an interesting cross reference is Genesis 29:27. Daniel 9:27 connecting with Genesis 29:27, interesting coincidence. It’s talking about Jacob, nearly 1500 years before Daniel. Jacob had to work 7 years for one wife, then 7 for the other wife; then 7 more years for the other things. Genesis 29:27 says, “Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you shall serve with me still another seven years.”

70 Sevens of Years flattenedThat’s another place in the Bible where the Hebrew word “shabau”, “a week”, is used as 7 years. So when it says “70 weeks”, it’s not talking about a year and a half. It’s talking about 70 sevens of years. If you do your math, you go 70 times 7 equals 490. Gabriel is telling Daniel that “70 weeks”, 490 years, are determined  “To make an end of sins”, “to bring in everlasting righteousness”. (Daniel 9:24)

Do we have an end of sins right now in our world? No. Do we have everlasting righteousness right now in our world? No. Maybe in our hearts, we have the kingdom of God within us. But in this world we do not have an end of sins and we do not have everlasting righteousness. So already, from what we can tell so far, this 490 year period has not come to its conclusion, even up to our modern times.

But, we were reading about Daniel praying desperately because that 70 years prophecy of Jeremiah was just about due to be fulfilled. It was just about time for the Jews to be allowed to begin to return to the land they’d been driven from so many years before. But then, the angel Gabriel here seems to start talking about something different. Nothing about that prophecy but about a 490 year period  “to bring in everlasting righteousness.” (Daniel 9:24)

return1final for D9 blog postWhat about that 70 years prophecy of Jeremiah, did it get fulfilled? Yes it did. Two years after this prophecy of Daniel 9, King Cyrus of Persia signed a proclamation allowing the return of the Jews to Jerusalem. And they began to do that in fulfillment of the 70 years prophecy which had been given to Jeremiah.

But it seems God had something else on His mind. Gabriel’s message here to Daniel was about something far, far greater and more important. Gabriel’s message was at the heart of God’s overall plan for all nations, the salvation of all peoples and the bringing in of God’s rule and reign on our very earth.

One thing about these verses, they’re so packed with significance that it’s difficult to make this into a somewhat brief class, especially for those studying this for the first time. There’s much here that could be explored and looked into which I’ll need to pass over for now in order to focus on the most important elements of this message from Gabriel to Daniel.

490 years for D9 blog postSo Gabriel first gave the big picture “Seventy weeks are determined… to make an end of sins to bring in everlasting righteousness”. (Daniel 9:24)  We’re told of “seventy weeks”, a period of 490 years. But then in the next verses, he begins to break those seventy 7’s of years into smaller periods. Verse 25 says

“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again and the wall, even in troublous times.”

The angel Gabriel is talking to Daniel somewhere in Persia, around 539 BC. At this time none of the Jews had even gone back to their homeland yet; they were all still captives. But as I was saying earlier, two years later, they were allowed to begin to return to Jerusalem. But that’s not what this “commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem”  (Daniel 9:25) is talking about.

return2final-fixed-for D9 blog postThe Jews who returned to Jerusalem back then went back to a city that was ruins. They were allowed to go back but they couldn’t really rebuild. Because in those days, to fortify a city, you had to get permission to do that. Because if you have built up a city, you can begin to defend yourself, you could be independent from the Persians.

reworked Throne Room 1 for D9 blog postSo it was actually nearly 100 years after this time,  when Nehemiah poured out his heart to king Artaxerxes of Persia about the sad condition of the Jews who’d returned to Jerusalem, that this commandment to restore and build Jerusalem took place, around 444 BC. That’s what Nehemiah 2:5 records when Nehemiah said,

And I said to the king, “If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I pray that you would send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, so that I may build it.”

the commandment to rebuild for D9 blog postThe next verses in Nehemiah are about where Artaxerxes gave a decree to Nehemiah to go back and build. And that’s when the commandment went forth to restore and to build Jerusalem.

So let’s look at verse 25 again in that light. “Know therefore and understand that, from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince,…”

I didn’t believe in God until I was nearly 21 years old. And the first time I read this and saw that it’s speaking specifically about “Messiah the Prince”  in the Old Testament, I’ll tell you, I was really stunned. And I found that there are so many places, in the Old Testament, that specifically foretell a Messiah who would come. This is one of the most amazing ones right here.

new 483 years box for D9 blog post“From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks…”  (a week is seven years) 7 times 7 is 49 so 49 years  “and 62 weeks”. Seven weeks plus 62 weeks equals 69 weeks which would amount to 483 years between “the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem” and “Messiah the Prince.”

It’s almost hard to believe that the angel Gabriel, over 500 years before the birth of Jesus, gave an exceedingly specific prophecy to the prophet Daniel about a 483 year length of time before the arrival of “Messiah, the Prince.” But, you probably wonder, “Was it really exactly that length of time, 483 years?

Let’s look at that. First, it’s beyond the scope of this video to present to you the many historical details of all this. There have been some amazing studies to find the exact year of “the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem”.The Coming Prince photo

A book that has helped me in the study of all this was published in 1894,  “The Coming Prince” by Sir Robert Anderson. Through much study, Robert Anderson found that the king that Nehemiah served, Artaxerxes, gave the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem in 444 BC.

476 years flattenedAnd since Jesus’ years of ministry looks to be between 30 and 33 AD, this would at first glance not fit, since the amount of time from 444 BC to 33 AD equals 476 years, not 483.

But here’s a factor that changes that. Throughout the Bible and in ancient societies, a year was calculated as 360 days, not 365¼ as we know now. Here’s something Sir Isaac Newton, who was an ardent student of the prophecies of Daniel, wrote about this fact

“All nations, before the just length of the solar year was known, reckoned months by the course of the moon, and years by the return of winter and summer, spring and autumn. In making calendars for their festivals, they reckoned thirty days to a lunar month, and twelve lunar months to a year. From this comes the division of the path of the sun’s annual rotation into 360 degrees.”    

Here’s a chart to show this.

69 weeks main chart -11-flattenedThe angel Gabriel said there would be “7 weeks” and “62 weeks”, 69 weeks or 483 years between “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” and “Messiah the Prince”. Historically between 444 BC and 33 AD there are 476 years. (Just to note: we go from 1 BC to 1 AD since there’s no year “0”.)

173880 days-flattenedSo it seems to not quite fit. But let’s do the math. The 483 Jewish years of this prophecy, each having the 360 day year of ancient times, would amount to 173,880 days.

173859 days-flattenedHistory says that 476 of our modern years past between these two periods. 476 years multiplied by 365¼ equals 173,859 days. So 483 years in the ancient world would equal the 476 years that modern history computes between these two key points in this prophecy.

Revelation 11 3D-d for D9 blog postThis same thing can be seen in the book of Revelation. Talking about a future period in the endtime of 3½ years, the length of time is called “42 monthsin chapters 11 and 13. But in several other places in Revelation, the same period is called “a thousand, two hundred and sixty days”.

A period of 42 months, mentioned twice between Revelation 11 and 13 and a similar period of 1260 days, also mentioned twice in those chapters. 42 months divided by 12 months equals 3½ years. And 1260 days, divided by a 360 day year equals 3½ years. These references in Revelation are talking about the same length of time reckoned with years being 360 days.

Let’s look at this all again from a larger view.second main chart for 69 weeks -13-flattenedFirst we are told of “70 weeks”, 490 years, “to bring in everlasting righteousness.” Then within the 70 weeks, a period of 69 weeks, 483 years, from the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince. The 69 weeks are then broken down into periods of 49 years and 434 years. And it says, “the street shall be built again and the wall, even in troublous times.” And the beginning of verse 26 says,And after sixty two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself…”

History shows that it took the Jews 49 years to complete the rebuilding of Jerusalem. In fact, around the time of that completion, about 400 BC, was when the last Jewish prophet, Malachi, received God’s Word for the people. After that, for the next 400 years, there were no more prophets.  For believers back then, this part of the prophecy may have been a real beacon and light to their future. It could almost have been like a road sign, during a long desert crossing, that from the completion of the building of Jerusalem, there would be “62 weeks”, 434 years before the Messiah.

You can read the historical and prophetic books in the Bible from the time after the Jews had come back to Jerusalem and you never hear them saying that they were expecting the Messiah at any moment. But then, in New Testament times, there are repeated references to people who were expecting to see the Messiah in their lifetimes. Perhaps these verses from Daniel chapter 9 were talked about during that time. The Living Bible, says this in Luke chapter 3 verse 15  Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and eager to know whether or not John [the Baptist] was He. This was the question of the hour and was being discussed everywhere.

Wisemen2-fixedMany of us have heard about “the 3 kings of the east”, also called “the 3 wise men” who saw His star in the east at the time of Jesus’ birth and came to worship Him. These wise men, “the magi” or magicians of the east may have known of this prophecy in Daniel 9. We read in Daniel 2 that after Daniel had told Nebuchadnezzar his dream, “Then the king promoted Daniel, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men [the magicians] of Babylon.” (Daniel 2:48) So it’s quite possible the 3 wise men from the east knew the time had come for the birth of the Messiah from this prophecy of the ancient chief of the wise men of Babylon, Daniel himself. They didn’t ask when the king of the Jews was to be born, just where.

Jesus on Cross for D9 blog postBut it even says, And after sixty two weeks shall Messiah be cut off,  but not for himself…”  (Daniel 9:26)  We can look back at this and truly be at a loss for words. The prophecy says  “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself“. The Messiah would be killed, but not for Himself.  And for those of you who know the message of Christianity, you know that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus of Nazareth willingly went to his crucifixion. He was cut off, not for Himself or his sins (He didn’t have any) but to give His life as an offering and a ransom for many. You may not believe that. Certainly I didn’t at all. But then, what can we do with this prophecy? We can doubt it, we can dismiss it, we can wish it wasn’t there. But it is. Not in the Christian writings of the New Testament but in the Hebrew writings of the Old Testament.

But there’s still another equally amazing part to verse 26. Let’s read the full verse and focus on the last part, “And after 62 weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself, and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood. And unto the end of the war desolations shall be determined.”

Most of you watching this are not Jewish and this may not stand out to you. But for a Jewish person, especially one from those times back then, this would shock them very much. What they would notice is that Gabriel says here, that, after the Messiah shall be cut off, “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary…” (Daniel 9:26)

At the time Gabriel gave this message in, 539 BC, Daniel and his people were in prayer and expectation that they’d be allowed to return to Jerusalem and hopefully to rebuild the city and even the Temple. But Gabriel is telling them that, at a future date, Jerusalem would be destroyed again. And the future Temple.  “The people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary…”(Daniel 9:26)

Jerusalem-fixedDid this actually occur in history? Yes it did. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified in Jerusalem in 33 AD. In 70 AD, the Roman legions of Titus surrounded Jerusalem and destroyed the city and the sanctuary. Israel was effectively ended; over 1 million were killed and the Jews were scattered among all nations for nearly 1900 years. But when does the angel Gabriel say that this will happen? “After Messiah shall be cut off. (Daniel 9:26)

So, God has a foreknowledge of events in our world. God has a destiny foreordained for mankind and it’s going to be fulfilled. We individually have free choice and we’re responsible for our choices. But God has an overall design for mankind.

I’m going to go over this once more.

third chart tenFrom 444 BC till 33 AD, from “the Commandment to build JerusalemuntilMessiah shall be cut offshall be7 weeks” (49 prophetic years)  and62 weeks” (434 prophetic years) which make a total of 483 prophetic years. And it says, after the Messiah is cut off “the people of the prince who shall come [the Romans] shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.

We can look back and say, “Oh, yeah”. But who can do what we’ve just seen here? Nobody can do that, nobody. No religion, no philosopher, no scientist. Only the God of Abraham can so clearly and explicitly tell us the future. And He did it. It’s so powerful. It’s just unique. But you know what?

That’s only 69 weeks. The angel said, “70 Weeks

fourth main chart for 69 weeks 9-flattenedSeventy weeks are determined …to bring in everlasting righteousness.69 weeks were fulfilled at the crucifixion of Jesus. So, there’s one “week” left. One last 7 year period is yet to be fulfilled in this prophecy in order to bring in God’s Kingdom on earth.

That’s what’s called “the 70th week” or “the Last 7 years” and that hasn’t happened yet. You could think, “Well, maybe 7 years after the death and resurrection of the Messiah, that would be the other 7 years and that would be the fulfillment, wouldn’t it?” But then, is that when there was  an end of sins? A bringing in of everlasting righteousness.

One of the most famous things Jesus of Nazareth ever taught was when His disciples asked Him how they should pray. His answer to His disciples has come to be called, “the Lord’s prayer”. One of the first things taught in that prayer is that we should pray to God, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

We only have to look at history and our own times to know that isn’t how it has been or is now. We don’t have God’s Kingdom on earth right now. That last “week”, the last seven years of this prophecy is yet to come, yet to be fulfilled. That’s what the final verse in this chapter is about, verse 27

When He was asked by His disciples about His return to the earth, Jesus referred to things mentioned in Daniel 9:27 and other verses we’ve not yet read in Daniel. Our next class is going to be centered around Daniel 9:27 and those other verses. We’ll find that this verse is the crux, the keystone, fitting together so much of what we’ve read already in Daniel and what can be found in the book of Revelation. I’ve already started on the next video on this subject and I’m eagerly looking forward to sharing that with you soon, God bless you.

Alexander the Great reads about himself in Daniel chapter 8

(This is the text version of the supplementary video to Daniel chapter 8, “Alexander the Great comes to Jerusalem” which can be seen here.)

Daniel8 picture3_smallopening shot for Alex-Jeru blog postHere’s a little history to highlight the power of prophecy. In Daniel 8, from 553 BC, we saw that Daniel was shown a vision of a goat with one horn. This goat was identified by the angel Gabriel as being prophetic of the Empire of the Greeks that was to come. Alexander the Great, and his empire, were the fulfillment of this, over 200 years later.

D 8-21 for blog postIn Daniel 8:21 the angel Gabriel tells Daniel, “And the rough goat is the kingdom of Greece; and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.” The vision not only predicts the coming of the empire of the Greeks, but it also ­mentions “the great horn” as signifying its first king.

I’m going to be quoting from an ancient Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus. He was sometimes an associate and a negotiator for the Roman government in the first century AD. But he also was a loyal Jewish citizen of Israel who wrote perhaps the most famous secular history of Israel, “The Antiquities of the Jews”. I’ll be quoting from book 11, chapter 8, paragraphs 4 and 5.

Josephus tells of when Alexander the Great came to Jerusalem, during his conquests of the Middle East, around 332 BC. The high priest in Jerusalem, knowing that Alexander had recently destroyed Tyre and Gaza, poured out his heart to God for divine protection.

(Text in blue below is taken directly from “The Antiquities of the Jews”.)

Daniel8 picture priest sleepingAfter that God spoke to the high priest in a dream “that he should take courage, and adorn Jerusalem, and open the gates. The rest of the people should appear in white garments. But the priests should meet Alexander in the robes of their priesthood, without fear, because God would protect them.”

Daniel8 picture3_smallWhen Alexander was not far from Jerusalem, the high priest went outside the walls of the city in a procession, with the other priests and multitudes of citizens.Daniel8 picture2a

Alexander’s army was expecting him to plunder the city. But, when he saw the multitude at a distance, in white garments, and the priests in fine linen, the high priest in purple and scarlet clothing, Alexander approached by himself, showing respect to their God, and saluted the high priest.Daniel8 picture4a-corrected&merged-flattenedsmall for blog post

Those who’d come with Alexander thought he had lost his senses.Daniel8 picture4a-finally one asked him for blog post

Finally one asked him how, when all others adored him, he should adore the high priest of the Jews?Daniel8 picture4b-Alexander explains for blog post

Alexander replied, “I did not adore him, but that God who has honored him with his high priesthood. I saw this very person in a dream, in these very clothes, when I was in Macedonia.

Macedonia for blog postAlexander and his primary forces were from Macedonia originally. In fighting the Persians, Alexander had three main battles, first at the Granicus River, then the battle of Issus, ­and the ultimate one, at Gaugamela.

3 battles for blog postBut Alexander is saying that, before he ever started his drive east to defeat the Persians, he’d had this dream in Macedonia that he’s now describing to his followers, outside the walls of Jerusalem.

[Alexander’s dialogue from “The Antiquities of the Jews” continues.]

Daniel8 picture4b-Alexander explains for blog postI was considering with myself how I might obtain the dominion of Asia. And I saw this man who exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly to pass over the sea. He would conduct my army, and would give me the dominion over the Persians. I have not seen any other so clothed that way since then. And now, seeing this person, and remembering that vision in my dream, I believe I bring this army under the Divine conduct, and shall conquer Darius, destroy the power of the Persians, and that all things will succeed according to what is in my own mind.”

Daniel8 picture entering Jerusalem for blog postThen he gave the high priest his right hand and came into Jerusalem.

Daniel8 picture5b-for blog postAnd, when the Book of Daniel was showed him where Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians,

Daniel8 picture5c-for blog postAlexander supposed that himself was the person intended.

Daniel8 picture6-a-for blog postThe next day Alexander asked them what they would want of him. The high priest asked that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and might pay no taxes on the seventh year.

Daniel8 picture6-b-for blog postAlexander granted all they desired.

When Alexander the Great was shown Daniel’s prophecy by the priests in Jerusalem, he acknowledged that this was a prophecy about himself. Furthermore, years before this, he’d personally seen, in a dream, these ones in Jerusalem, dressed in priestial robes, coming to meet him. And this information is taken from a famous secular history book, written in the 1st century AD.

Why could this matter to us, over 2000 years later? To me, it’s another amazing proof of the veracity and certainty of Bible prophecy.

Here one of the most famous conquerors of all time is shown the prophecy about himself, which had been given to Daniel over 200 years before. Alexander acknowledged that it was about him and then asked the high priest what he could do for them.

And Alexander went on to be a benefactor of the Jewish people in his lifetime. So those who dismiss Bible prophecy and feel it’s not relevant to our times are doing so at their own peril. On the other hand, there are those who look for God to yet fulfill His Word, for the events of the endtime to come and the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus to be established. Bible prophecy was fulfilled so dramatically and tangibly in the secular world with Alexander in Jerusalem, reading about himself in Daniel Chapter 8. This should encourage us believers that it will yet be so in our times or times soon to come.

 

Introducing Prophecy in History

[This is the text version of my video, “An Introduction to Prophecy in History”.]

I’ve got something to tell you about that’s had a tremendously good effect on my life: prophecy. opening shotIt’s a big subject. Just the word prophecy brings different thoughts to people. So I’ll narrow it down a bit. But first, I’ll tell you about myself so you’ll understand my interest in this subject.

I grew up in Texas and was in university before I had any knowledge of spiritual things. By then I was an atheist, active in turning anyone who had faith in God away from that faith. But through experiences, I just could no longer believe that there was not a spiritual world. I didn’t want to be “religious”. But I’d experienced a world of both good and evil spirits. And I wanted to be with the good ones.shot of me at first

My search took me to different groups and I eventually met some young people who were radical Christians, “Jesus freaks” they were called. They helped me understand the truths in the Bible. God gave me a new start in life and I eventually dedicated my life to Him. I’ve now lived over 36 years abroad and it’s been a wonderful life I’m very thankful for.

So when I say “prophecy”, I’m speaking of the prophecies in the Bible. And that is the subject of this series of classes. We are going to look at the prophet Daniel. In fact when Jesus was asked about the future, He mentioned specifically the prophet Daniel. He said, “When you shall see…  (the future events) …spoken of by Daniel the prophet (whoever reads, let him understand)…” (Matthew 24:15)

I imagine some of you know a lot about this and are itching to dive into the details. Others of you know basically nothing about this. And if I had to choose between those two groups, I’m going to aim this at those of you who are new to this subject. That’s how I was till I was almost grown. And that’s perhaps one of the reasons why I want you to know the thrills and joys of the truths within the book of God, the Bible, and the truth in that book.

Some of you may be wondering, “What in the world is prophecy?” And you think, “Oh yeah, sure sure; someday the world will end, blah, blah, blah.” That’s the way I used to think about this and it all sounded pretty stupid and bizarre to me.

Bethlehem for blog postWell, let’s see if there is something almost everyone already knows about which was clearly prophesied centuries before it happened. It’s safe to say that everyone reading this knows about Christmas. And you know at Christmas people often sing Christmas carols. It’s the celebration of the birth of Jesus and you’ve seen the pictures of Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus with them.

And you’ve probably heard the old Christmas carol, I can’t really sing it but goes something like, “Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie…”. Bethlehem map for blog postThis Christmas carol is about the town very near Jerusalem where Jesus was born. Maybe you already knew that He was born there or at least you remember you heard that somewhere before.

This is something you know at least a little about. So, let’s look at the Bible. Let’s look in the Old Testament in the book of the prophet Micah. This was from around 700 B.C.Micah 5 2 shot We’re going to look at chapter 5, verse 2. In it, it’s like the voice of God is speaking to the town or village of Bethlehem. It says, “But you, Bethlehem, though you be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth He which is to rule my people Israel, whose going forth is from old, from everlasting.

Here God is speaking to Bethlehem and saying that, although Bethlehem is a small town among the many in the region of Judah (a province of Israel at that time), yet out of Bethlehem would come the One who would ultimately rule God’s people. And that this one was from old, from everlasting.

That’s a direct prophecy from the Old Testament, given hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, declaring specifically where the Messiah, the King whom God would send, would be born. And actually there are a lot more prophecies like that.

When this was new to me, it took me a while to begin to realize that there was a power in heaven, the Power of the God of the Bible, that has been telling the future of the world for thousands of years. And that these foretellings, these prophecies have been coming to pass with absolute accuracy. This was astonishing to me. In some ways it still is. This is what we are going to study about: prophecy that has been fulfilled and also prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled.

But, when I mentioned about the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem, I wanted to find something almost everyone was familiar with. And then when we saw from the Bible that, 100’s of years before His birth, there had been given a prophecy about Jesus being born in Bethlehem, you could appreciate and understand the significance of it. So, next we are going to look briefly at the backdrop of human history and set the stage so to speak, in order to see the imprint of prophecy that’s foretold so much of what came to pass afterwards.

Abrahamprays 4 blog postGod chose a man around 4000 years ago (2000 BC). He came from the part of the world that we today call Iraq. His name was Abraham. From the descendents of Abraham come the people that we know of today as the Jews. For that matter, the Arab peoples and the Muslim faith also draw their roots back to Abraham.

But the Old Testament is the book of the Jews. So to understand prophecy, we’ll need to have a bird’s eye view of the history of the Jews. At the same, time we’ll need to see the rise and fall of the ancient empires up to the time of Jesus and the Roman Empire.

Bible time line for blog siteHere are some of the key characters of the Bible and their points in history. Abraham is placed at approximately 2000 BC and Jesus at 30 AD. Between these dates we have Moses around 1400 BC, King David around 980 BC and the prophet Daniel, whose writings we are preparing to study, around 600 BC

Bible History Chart 4 blog postSomeone put this together and I found it a very convenient way to remember and place the major phases of the history of Israel. It’s called “The Seven Periods of Israel’s History”. To start with you have “Abraham to Egypt”.Abraham 2 Egypt 4 blog post

God spoke individually to the man Abraham and told him to leave his country and journey towards a new land that God said He would give him. Abraham traveled up the Euphrates River and then down into the land of Canaan, the area we today call Palestine or Israel.

Abraham in Euphrates 4 blog postAll the while God was promising Abraham that He would eventually make of him a mighty nation. Perhaps Abraham’s greatest quality was his faith in God. For example, it was difficult for Abraham to believe God on this thing He was telling him because by this time both Abraham and his wife were up into their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and they had no children. So how could Abraham be able to be the father of a mighty nation? But Abraham “kept on believing”, just as God knew he would.Isaacbirth 4 blog And eventually Abraham’s wife, Sara, did have a son, Isaac. And as time passed on, Isaac married and his wife, Rebecca, had twins: Esau and Jacob.

I’m just giving you the highlights here; there are oodles of interesting parts I’m leaving out. This is all in the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis. And what we’re talking about now took place nearly four thousand years ago in Palestine or as it was called then, Canaan.Joseph in Egypt 4 blog post

Jacob eventually married; actually he had two wives, 12 sons and one daughter. One of his sons was named Joseph. As it turned out, Joseph ended up being his dad’s favorite. Also God Himself seemed to be indicating that Joseph was going to be special among his brothers. Joseph sold 4 blog postWell, as so often happens, his brothers got mad and jealous of him and they ended up selling Joseph as a slave to some people who were traveling off to Egypt at the time.

But in the long run this was all the hand of God. Joseph ended up becoming “second in Egypt” the Bible says, next to the Pharaoh. Joseph waving 4 blog postMany years later, his brothers who had sold him came to Egypt to buy food because of a great famine. It’s an incredible story. But Joseph recognized his brothers and made it possible for them and their aging father Jacob and all their families to move from Canaan to Egypt where they could be under the protection of Joseph.Jacob waves 4 blog post And they stayed there and grew over the next 400 hundred years until they became…a mighty nation, just like God had told Abraham they would.

The next period of Israel’s history is maybe one you might be more familiar with. The Exodus 4 blog postHave you ever heard of “The Ten commandments”? This period is called “The Exodus”. That’s also the name of the second book of the Bible. It takes place around 1400 BC and the main characters were Moses, Aaron who was Moses’ brother, and Joshua, who was the man God chose to lead the Jews after Moses passed on.

Moses himself was a little similar to Joseph in that he was Jewish but had ended up in a very high position in Egypt. However God spoke very directly to Moses that He wanted him to lead the Jews back out of Egypt. They were to return to the land of Canaan where their forefathers had been.

crossingRedsealayers 4 blog siteLed by Moses and the very presence of God, the Jews miraculously crossed the Red Sea, journeyed through the Sinai desert and eventually re-entered and conquered the land of Canaan. moses & fire 4 blog siteDuring this time, God gave the 10 Commandments to Moses and the laws that the nation of Israel was to be ruled by.

I could tell you about a prophecy all the way back, 100’s of years before this time, where God was already telling the ones then that this was going to happen. Four centuries before the Exodus, God spoke to Abraham in a dream. From Genesis chapter 15: 13 & 16, “Then He said to Abram: ‘Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs. [And that’s what happened to them in Egypt.] And will serve them. [They eventually became slaves in Egypt.]. And they will afflict them four hundred years. [That’s how long it turned out they were there.] But in the fourth generation they shall return here.

And this is exactly what was happening with the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt and their return to Canaan. After their return and conquest of Canaan, the Jews lived with a form of government that can be called a theocracy for around the next 300 years. That is, they were to be ruled by God. They didn’t have a parliament or even a king. But they were ruled by the laws and commandments God had given Moses. And the tribe of priests called the Levites were entrusted to see to it that these things were carried out.

Period of the Judges 4 blog postThis time can be called “The Period of the Judges” because every so often God would raise up key people to lead Israel during times of crisis. Some of those listed here were Gideon, Samson and Deborah. The unity of the country was primarily a spiritual unity and the people lived in the various regions of Canaan or Israel, according to the tribe they were from.

Around 1050 BC some major things began to change in Israel. Samuel & Saul 4 blog postGod had raised up a very wise and devout high priest, Samuel. But the people of Israel, wanting to be like other nations, called upon Samuel to choose for them a king, like other nations had. God had in the past cautioned against this but the people insisted that Samuel give them a king. saul & Samuel 4 blog postThe result was that God led Samuel to choose out a man named Saul to be their king.

At the first Saul was truly a man of God and was used to gather together and strengthen Israel against some of their enemies. All Israel united under this king Saul and for a while things went well. This period that we are talking about now can be called “the United Kingdom”. United Kingdom 4 blog siteDuring this time Israel went from be a loose-knit confederation of tribes under the priestial tribe of Levi to being a genuine nation. Eventually they were even a major regional power in the Middle East.

But ultimately the life of Saul is one of the saddest stories in the Bible. As he became more successful and honored in Israel, he less and less followed the instructions he was given from God through the prophet Samuel. Because of this God told Samuel that he should anoint a new king. This turned out to be Israel’s best loved and most remembered monarch, King David.David 4 blog post  Samuel was told that that “the Lord had found him a man after his own heart”. (I Sam. 13:14).

And this was certainly an appropriate description of King David. Under king David Israel reached its zenith as David fulfilled the role of king, prophet and in his prayers even somewhat a priest. At war or at prayer or in repentance for his sins, David lead by example and was called by his people in his lifetime, “the light of Israel”.  Again here we can go back to ancient prophecy and see if fulfilled at this time. Gen 18 4 blogWe can go back almost 1000 years before the time of David to Abraham again, when he was just an old man with an old wife and no children at all. From Genesis 15, verse 18,  On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.’”David and Solomon map 4 blog site

Under the rule and conquering kingdom of David and Solomon after him, the borders of Israel stretched from the border of Egypt all the way up to the Euphrates River, just as God had told Abraham it would happen nearly 1000 years before.

David’s son Solomon was the third and last king of this period of the United Kingdom. God had given him his request from the beginning of his reign. Solomon 4 blog siteSolomon asked God for wisdom to rule God’s people. And that wisdom is still spoken of and studied in the book of Proverbs in the Bible to this day.

Unfortunately, the influence of one dynamic and Godly leader, like King David, seems seldom to reach beyond the second generation of his followers. This is what happened and it culminated in the division of the Jewish nation. Solomon’s son, whose name was Rehoboam, was supposed to rule after his father. But he didn’t have the heart of his grandfather David or the wisdom of his father Solomon. A rebellion sprung up among the formerly united tribes and the result was that the kingdom and nation of Israel divided.

Divided Kingdom 4 blog postThis began the period of “The Divided Kingdom”. The 10 northern tribes were led initially by a rebel against the dynasty of David and they set up a capital in the north. These 10 northern tribes came to be called at that time “Israel”. Only the tribe that David’s family came from, Judah, along with Saul’s tribe, Benjamin, stayed together in the south of the country. These people came to be called simply “Judah”.Israel & Judah map 4 blog post

So around 920 BC., after over 100 years as a united nation, the Jewish people became two countries. In the next two hundred years, the northern part, “Israel”, generally went from bad to worse. Have you ever heard of “Jezebel”? Even today that is a term meaning a woman without shame. She was the foreign wife of one of the kings of Israel at that time. God sent prophets to warn the people of their apostasy and coming judgment if they didn’t come back to God, prophets like Elijah and Hosea. But they were largely ignored. Assyria Map 4 blog site

In 722 BC the unthinkable happened. God allowed the foreign power of the Assyrians to conquer northern Israel and carry away most of the people as slaves and captives far away to the east. The nation that God had brought into being and called His own was decimated and, as their prophet Hosea had told them would happen, they became “wanderers among the nations.” (Hosea 9.17)

But the southern two tribes, “Judah”, stood firm. The reason was simply that the people and their kings, more often than not, stayed closer to the Lord. They were less idolatrous and more humble and believing than northern Israel and therefore God could and did protect them and keep them longer. Both the north and the south had their better and worse of times and leaders. But Judah, in times of national crisis, took heed to the prophets God sent, such as Isaiah. Or at least they did sometimes. Eventually though, Judah also fell away from her faith in and love for God so that God finally told them that they’d become more evil and idolatrous than the pagan nations surrounding them.

We come now to the generation of Daniel, approximately 600 BC. Judah was in the last years before her fall and destruction. God had raised up the prophet Jeremiah,Jeremiah 4 blog post one of Israel’s greatest prophets, to have the thankless job of being His mouthpiece during the last years of the nation’s existence. Jeremiah told them that the new world power, Babylon, which had recently defeated the Assyrians, would come up against Jerusalem. God was going to allow Babylon to act as His judgment on His own people.

Babylonsoldiers 4 blog postAnd this is what happened. Around the year 604 BC, the king of Babylon sent an expeditionary party against Judah and Jerusalem and brought them partly under his rule. By 586 BC, in response to their resistance, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon Exilefinal 4 blog posthad totally defeated and destroyed the kingdom of Judah as well as their capital, Jerusalem. Most of the survivors were carried away to be captives and slaves in Babylon. Only a very small remnant of the Jews was left in their homeland. This then began the next period of Israel’s history, “The Captivity”.The Captivity 4 blog post

Had God abandoned His people? Far from it. During this most difficult of times, when the Jews were receiving the judgment they had been warned of for decades and centuries, a cluster of the mightiest prophets ever were used by God to speak his Word to the Jews at that time. Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel, although a generation apart, lived during this time. They taught and spoke to Israel, and to surrounding nations as well, to explain what was happening and to exhibit God’s continuing presence.

And through this time of intense uncertainty, God continued to give clear prophecy for the hope and future of His people. One example of this is found in the writings of Jeremiah. Twice God spoke clearly to Jeremiah that there would be a specific, limited amount of time for this captivity of the Jews. From Jeremiah chapter 29, verse 10, we can read: “For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.

It was to be for 70 years. And did that happen? Was it a 70-year captivity? Yes, it was. According to the Bible and secular history, the beginning of the end of the captivity took place between 536 and 516 BC, marking 70 years from the beginning of Babylon’s occupation of Israel around 606 BC, as well as its final destruction in 586 BC.

We continue to see the eternal hand of prophecy, God keeping His Word to us down through the centuries. Are there more things like this in the Bible? Is there anything like that yet to be fulfilled in our day or in days to come in our times? This will be our focus more and more as these classes continue.medo-persian map 4 blog post

During the 70 year period of the Jews’ captivity, the empire of Babylon was defeated by a coalition of two nations, the Medes and the Persians. This dual kingdom became the predominant power in the ancient world for the next 200 years.

The Return 4 blog siteThe final period of Israel’s history is called “The Return”. It was King Cyrus of Persia who first granted permission for the Jews to begin to return from exile in Persia to their former country and to inhabit Jerusalem.

temple 4 blog postHumbled and repentant, the Israelites who did decide to return to their land made a renewed effort to keep the laws and faith that had been entrusted to their forefathers so many centuries before. In time Jerusalem was rebuilt and a temple was erected, although it was nowhere near as glorious as the original one built by Solomon.greek map 4 blog site God preserved the Jewish nation and they survived the coming of the Empire of Alexander the Great and the era of Grecian world rule in the centuries that followed, up to the time of Rome.

The society of Israel evolved and changed much through the influences that Greece brought during their realm. And yet there were those in Israel that led them back to the faith that they had originally been entrusted with, the calling to be separated from other nations and to worship only the Lord their God.Rome map 4 blog site

In time Rome replaced the Greeks as the dominant secular power in the world of that day.Bethlehem for blog post And it was in the first century of Roman rule in the Middle East that we come up to the time of the birth of Jesus in the city of Bethlehem.

In this first class we’ve learned at least a bit about what is prophecy. We’ve taken a bird’s eye view of the history of the people and nation of Israel. And we’ve looked a just a few of the many incredible prophecies that are throughout the Old Testament.

The future that those prophecies pointed to back then is now for us, for the most part at least, the past. But we may yet find things to be fulfilled. The certainty of prophecy may yet have words to speak for our times or those soon to come. In our next study we’re going to drop down into the period of time just as southern Israel, or Judah, is about to be overrun by Babylon. This is around 600 BC.

young Daniel 4 blog postWe’re going to study events in the life of Daniel who was a young Jewish exile in Babylon. At that time perhaps he was no more than 14 years old. The second chapter of Daniel will be our introduction and next step along the path of prophecy. We’ll learn how God will picture for us the ancient empires that would come to pass in the next centuries after Daniel’s time. And we’ll learn that God spoke clearly as well that eventually, in His time, He Himself would bring a government and rule of His own to our very earth. Some call it the Millennium. Hard to believe? I hope you’ll be back for the next class to see this all for yourself. God bless you!