God Almighty is Lord of Armies. He has vowed to repay all the fallen realm rebels in full for their crimes, but He is patient. A thousand years are to Him as a day, and every battle occurs in its proper time. In the Book of Daniel, the Lord offers several clues as to when He will finally end this long spiritual war.
The book begins with the prophet’s arrival in Babylon as a captured youth, circa 604 BC. One can only imagine what it must have been like for this descendant of Judah. Daniel may have heard the screams of his friends and family as Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers sacked their homes. He could smell the fires, perhaps even the stench of burning flesh. These marauders would have ordered this handsome youth to gather up anything important and prepare for the long march to Babylon, the capital city of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. (Daniel 1:1–4; emphasis added)
Daniel specifically tells us that the Lord allowed the invasion of Jerusalem. Also, from this brief introduction, we can glean that Daniel was young, that he was of “good appearance,” “skillful in wisdom,” and “endowed with knowledge, understanding, and learning.”
The famous prophecy of seventy weeks is not the first important vision to appear in the book of Daniel, but it’s a good starting place when studying eschatology, for it provides a crucial timeline to all other end-times prophecies.
Starting, therefore, in chapter 9, we learn that Daniel has come to the latter years of his life, possibly as old as eighty, and he has been studying and meditating over the Jewish scrolls of Jeremiah. Here, Daniel discovered the reason for the exile from Jerusalem and just how long Israel would be beneath the yoke of Babylon:
Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the Lord, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste. (Jeremiah 25:8–12; emphasis added)
The cause for the invasion of Jerusalem is simple: disobedience. “Because you have not obeyed my words.” The fallen realm seeks to separate us from the Lord and entice us into sin. Sadly, many living within Judah (the southern kingdom) had failed to learn from their northern neighbor’s plight. Israel had fallen to Assyria in 720 BC.
Daniel, who came to Babylon as a youth, had resided in captivity for nearly seventy years. Imagine his joy when he read Jeremiah and realized their banishment from Jerusalem was nearing its end.
Ever the intercessor, and knowing Jerusalem’s fall was due to sin, Daniel fell to his knees and petitioned the Lord for mercy. Perhaps, he prayed that Yahweh would shorten the seventy-year sentence and bring a miracle. Instead, Daniel received an alarming vision of an extended sentence: Yes, Israel would return to their homeland, but because of their sins, they would remain beneath the yoke of foreigners until the “times of the Gentiles” reached its end.
Just what does this phrase “the times of the Gentiles” mean? Before we unpack this important prophetic answer to prayer, let’s review the reasons God condemned Israel, including both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, and sent them into captivity. Several obvious ones spring to mind:
- Idol worship
- Sacrificing to the stars of heaven
- Building asherah poles (probably as part of ritualistic sex rites to Astarte)
- Eating food sacrificed to idols
In other words, both the northern and southern kingdoms joined with the wrong side of the spiritual war; they broke faith with YHWH the Creator in favor of created beings (fallen angels) and their offspring (the demon spirits of the drowned Nephilim). These inferior gods enticed them into sexual immorality and human sacrifice.
Surely, this is why God exiled them to Babylon, right?
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Actually, there is one other reason for the exile that often goes unnoticed: The nation had failed to observe the shmitas, or Sabbath, years. The word shmita literally means “release,” and it meant the land was to be left fallow every seven years and allowed to go to seed. No agricultural activity was permitted:
When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap what grows of itself in your harvest, or gather the grapes of your undressed vine. It shall be a year of solemn rest for the land. (Leviticus 25:1–5; emphasis added)
As with the manna in the wilderness, the Lord promised to provide a bounty of blessings with plenty for all, providing the people obeyed this simple rule: Let the land rest every seven years. But He made it clear that they would never lack for food:
Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely. And if you say, “What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?” I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. (Leviticus 25:18–21; emphasis added)
Year six would be a bumper crop, so long as the people obeyed God. They would never go hungry, and there would be plenty of seeds to sow after the Sabbath year was done.
But what of those who disobeyed? He also made that clear:
But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.
And take special note of this part:
And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit. Then if you walk contrary to me and will not listen to me, I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins…
Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths. (Leviticus 26:14–21, 34; emphasis added)
This is exactly what happened. The scroll of Jeremiah indicated a seventy-year exile for not celebrating the land’s shmita year, but the scroll of Leviticus added a caveat: Extended sin and refusal to repent would see the sentence multiplied by seven, meaning a total of 490 years.
Daniel must have trembled as he read these words. Having trusted in Yahweh to protect him in that foreign environment, the aging prayer warrior hoped his people might avoid the dire consequence of their intransigence. And so, he fell to his knees and fasted:
I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. (Daniel 9:2–3)
While he “was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice” (Daniel 9:21).
O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.
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. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 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. 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 9:22–27; emphasis added)
First of all, the purpose of the angel is to reveal the Lord’s battle plans for the remainder of the spiritual war. The Fallen Realm must have listened at the door, hoping to determine all of their enemy’s future devices, but our Lord is the best general ever, which is why He doesn’t reveal everything in prophecy.
The angel tells Daniel specifics on how the seventy weeks would be divided, but he also tells the prophet why these events would happen. Seven items on are on this list:
- To finish the transgression
- To put an end to sin
- To atone for iniquity
- To bring in everlasting righteousness
- To seal up vision
- To seal up prophecy
- To anoint a most holy place
Seventy weeks would achieve all of this.
Now, this is how Gabriel tells us these seventy weeks would be broken down: First, seven weeks (49 years) would see the declaration that the exiles could return to Jerusalem (remember that the exiles returned in two groups: one led by Ezra, the other by Nehemiah). Then, sixty-two weeks of sevens would lead to “messiah be[ing] cut off.”
When added together, sixty-two weeks and seven weeks equal sixty-nine weeks (or sixty-nine “sevens,” understood as 69 x 7 years, equaling 483 years). The key to calculating the accuracy of Daniel’s prophecy is understanding the difference between a solar year and a prophetic year.
Now, get this: The man who proved that Daniel’s prophecy of the coming Messiah was accurate to the day had connections to Mount Hermon—and the most notorious serial killer of all time, Jack the Ripper.
That story next time.