The Most Dramatic Prophecy in the Bible
by Bill Nugent
The Bible contains hundreds of predictive prophecies. Predictive prophecy and accurate fulfillment of prophecy sets the Bible apart from all other holy books of all other faiths. No other sacred writing of any other faith compares with the Bible’s record of prophecy and fulfillment! In this article we’ll explore what can be considered the most dramatic of all Bible prophecies. This prophecy was so important and crucial that Gabriel, the archangel, appeared to the prophet and spoke the prophetic words directly to him!
Of the more than 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that predict the coming of the Messiah very few actually use the word “Messiah” [Hebrew: “mashiach”]. Most of the prophecies speak of the Messiah in figurative or metaphorical terms. Even fewer prophecies predict the exact time of the coming of the Messiah. (‘Messiah’ is the Hebrew equivalent of ‘Christ.’)
There is, however, a powerful prophecy consisting of just four verses, found in the book of Daniel, that uses the word “Messiah” twice and also predicts the time of the coming of the Messiah. This same short prophecy also gives crucial information about the future antichrist. I consider it to be the most dramatic prophecy in the Bible.
Daniel was one of the three prophets to the Jewish people during the time of the exile. Israel had been conquered by the Babylonians in the sixth century BC and the Jews were exiled to the land of Chaldea of which Babylon was capitol. God did not leave His chosen people without prophetic witness. Jeremiah was the prophet to the few remaining Jews who were in the land of Israel. Ezekiel was out in the countryside of Chaldea by the river Chebar. Daniel was in the capitol city, in the king’s court, ministering to the Jews in exile there.
In the ninth chapter of Daniel we find that Daniel had read in the writings of Jeremiah that Jerusalem would be desolate for 70 years. The 70 years of exile were almost over. By this time, Daniel was an old man, Jeremiah was long dead and Ezekiel had also gone to his reward years earlier. Daniel didn’t just say “Finally, the 70 years are over, let’s pack our bags for the trip back to Jerusalem!” Instead he prayed a lengthy humble prayer of repentance and asked God to restore Jerusalem. This is called praying the promises or birthing prophetic fulfillments through prayer.
After Daniel’s prayer, Gabriel the archangel appeared to Daniel and gave him a prophetic prediction of great things to come. I’d say that’s pretty dramatic. Gabriel appeared to Daniel and spoke the words of the prophecy directly to him! This most dramatic prophecy in the Bible is recorded in four verses, namely Daniel 9:24–27. This prophecy, like most Bible prophecies, is in the form of a riddle. How are you at crossword puzzles, Daniel?
Why does God speak in riddles? He could have just said: “The coming Messiah will be named Jesus, He will be born in Bethlehem and be raised in Nazareth.” God speaks in riddles because He doesn’t want everyone to understand. God doesn’t want demons to understand and He doesn’t want people who hate God to understand prophecy. God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, yet only those who are enabled by grace will understand the riddles.
Nevertheless, Daniel 9:24–27 is among the easiest riddles to understand. More importantly it gives the timing of the fulfillment of its predictions and this is rare in prophecy. The main subjects dealt with in this prophecy are sin, atonement for sin, righteousness, the temple, Jerusalem, the Messiah, the death of Messiah, the destruction of the temple, a great war, the antichrist and desolations made by the antichrist. That’s a lot of territory to cover in just four verses!
9:24 “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.
25 So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
27 And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate”
(all quotes are from The New American Standard Bible)
The timing is given very clearly in the opening words of Daniel 9:24: “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city.” The weeks are weeks of years or “septads.” The Jews had a sabbath year every seventh year. They measured years in septads like we use decades. Seventy weeks equals 70 x 7 years or 490 years.
Now consider the lofty accomplishments that God expected of His chosen people during those 490 years. They were commanded “to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place” (Dan. 9:24).The Jews were commanded to accomplish all of that in 490 years!!! How can sinners “finish the transgression” or make an “end of sin”? With all due respect for the Jewish people, I have to point out that the Jews are mere mortals that are not perfect and they fall into sin. Their sins are what got them exiled to Chaldea in the first place! How can they end sin?
I will show how the Jews, or rather one particular Jew, did in fact, end sin as this prophecy predicted. This Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, also made atonement for sin when He died and rose again. More on that later.
Also notice that the phrases seem to be repetitive. The phrase “finish the transgression” is essentially the equivalent of “make an end of sin.” In Hebrew, emphasis is made by repetition. In Isaiah 6:3 the holiness of God is emphasized by the repetition “Holy, Holy, Holy.” So we see in Daniel 9:24 that the phrases seem repetitive and this is to highly emphasize the importance of finishing the transgression, ending sin, atoning for sin and bringing in everlasting righteousness.
How did the Jews atone for sin? They offered animal blood sacrifices in the temple as God commanded in Leviticus. Animal sacrifices had ceased because of the Babylonian conquest of Israel. The command in Daniel 9:24 “to anoint the most holy place” is a prediction of the rebuilding of the temple which was in ruins when Daniel received this prophecy. When the temple would be rebuilt, animal sacrifices could be resumed.
The prophecy continues in Daniel 9:25–26a. “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing.”
Daniel 9:25 sections off 7 weeks and 62 weeks. Seven weeks of years after the decree was issued to rebuild Jerusalem, (i.e. 49 years after the decree of Artaxerxes in 444 BC, recorded in Nehemiah 2:1–8) the city and the temple were rebuilt. Then a 62 week period (434 years) is given after which “the Messiah will be cut off.” “Cut off” is an expression meaning death and so we have a clear prediction of the timing of the death of the Messiah!
Do the math and you’ll see that from 444 BC, the 7 weeks and the 62 weeks (which equals 69 weeks or 483 years) brings us to about 33 AD. It is important to note that, in doing the math, one has to adjust the length of each year to be 360 days to conform to the ancient lunar calendar. If you multiply 483 times 360 it comes to 173,880 days. Starting at March 5, 444 BC the 173,880 days takes us to April 6, 33 AD. (See Josh McDowell’s book, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict.) What prominent leader was “cut off” (killed) in 33 AD? The obvious answer is Jesus. This prophetic chronology is clear evidence that infers that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah of Israel!!!
This prophecy deals with the two biblical methods for atonement for sins, animal blood sacrifice and the sacrifice of the Messiah. The temple was predicted to be rebuilt so that Old Testament animal blood atonement could be made. This prophecy also predicted that the Messiah would die. The death of the Messiah is the New Testament means of atonement for sins. Jesus died for our sins. When Jesus suffered and died, He took upon Himself the penalty we deserved for our sins. The New Testament atonement fulfills and supercedes the Old Testament means of atonement. Jesus offered His blood and so we no longer offer animal blood.
Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead after the 69 weeks which means during the 70th week. The 70 weeks are over. Did the Jews “finish the transgression” and “make an end of sin”? I would say that the Jews did accomplish this because Jesus was the perfect Jew. Jesus represented the Jews before God. Jesus kept the Law of Moses perfectly and fulfilled Israel’s side of the covenant of Sinai. Jesus ended sin. He atoned for sin. He redeemed all humanity from sin!
Jesus brought in everlasting righteousness because all who trust in Him for salvation are given the new birth in which our human spirits are regenerated and given a new sinless, righteous nature. The spirit of a born again Christian is already experientially righteous. The soul of a born again Christian is in the process of being sanctified and the body of a born again Christian will be perfected at the resurrection of the righteous dead.
In Daniel 9:26, after the phrase “Messiah will be cut off” the words: “and have nothing” appear. The phrase, “and have nothing” has always intrigued me. It means that Jesus did not have an earthly kingdom manifesting at the time of His death (see John 18:36). The political, earthly taking of the throne of David did not occur at His first coming but will occur at the second coming of Christ.
The phrase “and have nothing”, meaning that Jesus, the true Messiah would have nothing, is a crucial dividing line in this prophecy. There’s no prediction here of Jesus’s resurrection. His resurrection is prophesied elsewhere in the Old Testament. In this prophecy we see the rejection of Christ. The words that follow immediately after the phrase “and have nothing” refer to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the coming antichrist. So we see the death of Christ and immediately see the destruction of Jerusalem in this prophecy with no explanatory transitional words. Remember, this is prophecy; it is a riddle; it is not ordinary prose.
The remainder of Daniel 9:26 and all of 9:27, predict the destruction of Jerusalem and the activity and ultimate end of the antichrist. The prediction of the coming of the antichrist concerns future events. The antichrist has not yet appeared on the scene of world events as of 2015. I believe that we are living in what the Bible calls “the last days” and the antichrist will soon arrive on the political scene.
Daniel 9:26 goes on to state that the city (Jerusalem) and the temple would be destroyed by the people of the coming prince (the antichrist): “and the people of the prince [the antichrist] who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined” (Dan. 9:26b). The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD utilizing troops whose ethnic background could be the same as that of the coming antichrist. According to Josephus, the Roman troops who destroyed the city and the temple were legions that were raised in Syria and other parts of southwest Asia. This could indicate that the coming antichrist will be a Syrian or Arab. Some commentators, citing this and other scriptural references, claim that the antichrist will be of Muslim background.
When the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the Jews lost the place to offer animal blood sacrifices. Animal sacrifices were, by that time, obsolete. The death and resurrection of the Messiah superceded the animal sacrificial system.
We’ve seen the coming of Messiah and His death in 33 AD and we’ve seen the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, now we will see in Daniel 9:27 what will happen in our own times with the rise of the soon coming antichrist.
Daniel 9:27 says that “he [antichrist] will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering.” This implies that there will be a temple built in Jerusalem in the near future in which animal sacrifices and grain offerings will be reinstituted. A sect of Judaism, The Temple Mount Faithful, has been preparing for decades to rebuild the temple in modern Israel. Such a temple would be a false temple and sacrifices offered in it would be false sacrifices because Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system in His death and resurrection on our behalf. Animal blood sacrifices are now obsolete and inappropriate. The seven year (one week)covenant that the antichrist makes with Israel will be the “covenant with death” of Isaiah 28:18.
There will be a false messiah making a false covenant, ending false sacrifices in a false temple. Dramatic indeed!
The New Testament in Second Thessalonians 2:3–4 speaks of the man of lawlessness (antichrist) who will take his seat in the temple of God and claim to be God. That would desecrate the temple and cause sacrifices to cease. Revelation 13:5 indicates that the beast (antichrist) will have authority to act for 42 months. Forty two months is exactly half of the seven year (one week of years) duration of the antichrist’s covenant. The final words of Daniel 9:27 speak of this antichrist figure who will bring terrible desolations and that a complete destruction will be poured out upon him.
“On the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate” (Daniel 9:27b). The phrase “on the wing of abominations” is interesting and it refers to the fact that the animal sacrifices offered in the temple will be abominations. Such animal sacrifices are an implicit denial of the one great sacrifice, the death of Messiah, that made final atonement for sin.
The antichrist essentially desecrates a temple that is itself a desecration. It is a compound error that takes sin to its extreme. Abominable sacrifices will be offered in the false temple before the antichrist even arrives to make the ultimate desolation. Complete destruction is then poured out on the antichrist.
After these dramatic future events, the true Messiah, Jesus, will come again and “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26). The Jewish people will “look on Me [Messiah] whom they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10) and receive Jesus as Savior and follow Him as Lord!
This most dramatic of all Bible prophecies covers a whole lot of territory. It gave the command for the Jews to end sin and they were helpless to do it. So God sent the Messiah to “remove the iniquity of that land in one day” (Zech. 3:9) and “His own arm brought salvation to Him” (Isaiah 59:16). Perhaps most dramatic of all, is that the prophecy in Daniel 9:24–27 gives the timing of the coming of the Messiah with unmistakable clarity. It went on to warn of the coming of the antichrist and the desolations he will bring.
All Israel and indeed all the world is forever warned to choose Jesus Christ who made true atonement for sin and to reject the antichrist. The antichrist is coming and when he comes there will be great drama in Israel as people will be forced to make the ultimate choice between Christ or antichrist! Pray to receive Jesus Christ into your heart today!
Bill Nugent, Overcomer Ministries of Fort Mill, South Carolina, USA
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(C) 2015 William P. Nugent, permission granted to email or republish for Christian outreach.