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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The 3 Phases of the Jerusalem Temple in Daniel 9:24-27

By Michael J. Vlach (Twitter: @mikevlach)

Daniel 9:24-27 is one of the most important prophetic passages in the Bible. These four verses which concern “your people [Israel] and your holy city [Jerusalem]” are packed with important information concerning many things, most of which we cannot cover here. But with this entry I want to highlight three phases of the Jerusalem temple as predicted in Daniel 9:24-27.

At the time of the prophecy of Daniel 9 the temple built under Solomon had been destroyed for several decades. The Babylonians destroyed it in 586 B.C. But the temple is not done in God’s plans. With Daniel 9:24-27 we will see the Jerusalem temple anointed, destroyed, and desolated (although not in this order).  

       1.      The Temple Anointing (Daniel 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.

Daniel 9:24 describes a 490-year period (seventy sevens) in which six important things will occur, all of which must be fulfilled as a result of this 490-year period.

The sixth thing mentioned is the anointing of the “most holy place” (lit. “holy of holies”). This refers to an anointing of the Jerusalem temple, something that is discussed in further detail in Ezekiel 40-48. This is a positive development. Note that this anointing and restoration of the Jerusalem temple comes as a result of this 490-year period and thus occurs after the temple destruction and desolation that are discussed below. The completion of the seventy weeks (490 years) means an anointed and restored temple.

       2.      The Temple Destroyed (Daniel 9:26a)

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. 

Daniel 9:26a refers to a destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the “sanctuary” [i.e. temple]. Note that this destruction occurs well into the seventy week program. It occurs “after” a period of “sixty-two” weeks, which is really sixty-nine weeks since this assumes a previous seven weeks that already occurred (9:25). Most scholars believe this 69-week period is 483 years (69 x 7 years). In short, after 483 years, which most believe expired in the 30s A.D., two things will occur: (1) the cutting off (killing) of the Messiah; and (2) the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the people of a coming evil prince. Thus, after 483 years the Messiah (Jesus) will be killed and Jerusalem and its temple will be destroyed. Both of these events happened after the first sixty-nine weeks (483 years) expired. The temple destruction referred to here was accomplished in A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed both Jerusalem and the temple. The next verse will discuss what the “prince who is to come” will do to a coming temple.

       3.      The Temple Desolated (Daniel 9:27a)

Daniel 9:27 then predicts a desolation of the Jerusalem temple in the final week (7-year period) of the seventy weeks:

And he [evil prince] will make a firm covenant with the many [Israel] for one week [7 years], but in the middle of the week [3.5 years] he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate. . .

Note that previously Daniel 9:26a discussed a complete destruction of the Jerusalem temple after the first sixty-nine weeks. This did not occur at the end of the sixty-ninth week or in the seventieth week, but it happened in-between—after the sixty-nine weeks but before the seventieth week. This shows the destruction event of 9:26a is different from the desolating event in 9:27.

When the time for the seventieth week of Daniel comes around there is a Jerusalem temple again, which means it must have been rebuilt. But this time the temple is desolated by an evil figure—“but in the middle of the week he [evil prince; antichrist] will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate.” This refers to a violent stopping of the temple system. This evil person is related to the people who destroyed the temple in A.D. 70, making him connected with the Romans. Back at the time of A.D. 70 he was a prince “who is to come.” But now with Daniel 9:27 he is on the scene for this desolation act.

Daniel 9:27 describes a desolation of the temple that involves the stopping of worship in it. Jesus referred to this event as “the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (Matt. 24:15). Paul explains that this abomination involves “the man of lawlessness . . . the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4). So the presence of this evil person in the temple of God is the abomination event of Daniel 9:27.

Putting it All Together

Put together in chronological order, we see the following three phases of the Jerusalem temple from Daniel 9:24-27:

       1.      A destroyed Jerusalem temple after the sixty-ninth week but before the seventieth week of Daniel. This was fulfilled when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70. (Dan. 9:26)

       2.      A desolation of the Jerusalem temple during the still future seventieth week of Daniel by an evil prince (i.e. antichrist). (Dan. 9:27) 

       3.      An anointed temple in Jerusalem as a result of the completion of the seventy weeks during Messiah’s coming kingdom. (Dan. 9:24)

Jesus and the Temple

Some believe we should not be literal when it comes temples in prophecy since Jesus is the true temple. Some have even claimed that the anointing of the holy place of Daniel 9:24 is really a reference to Jesus since Jesus is the Christ and “Christ” means “anointed one.” While certainly the concept of temple is applied to Jesus in the New Testament (see John 2:19) and Jesus is the Christ, this does not mean that Jerusalem temples are now irrelevant or that the Daniel 9:24 “holy place” is Jesus. Four reasons support this.

First, Jesus the Messiah is a person while the end of Daniel 9:24 speaks of an object—“to anoint the most holy place.” The “holy place” (or holy of holies) concerns the temple and is not a person. To confuse a person (Jesus) with an object (temple) does not work, especially when both are mentioned in Daniel 9 as discussed below.

Second, Daniel 9:26 explicitly distinguishes the Messiah we now know as Jesus and the temple:

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 [i.e. temple].

So here Jesus the Messiah is mentioned and the temple is mentioned in the same verse. They are not the same.

Third we have explicit biblical evidence that the Messiah will build a coming temple. According to Zechariah 6:9-15, the Messiah is the One who builds a coming Jerusalem temple—“Behold, a man whose name is Branch [Messiah], for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord” (Zech. 6:12).  

Fourth, even with the coming of Jesus in the New Testament several passages predict the significance of the temple and Jerusalem, including Matthew 24:15; Luke 21:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; and Revelation 11:1-2. So even in the New Testament, Jerusalem and the temple still have future significance.

Conclusion

There is much information in Daniel 9:24-27 and one of the major topics is the Jerusalem temple. This passage teaches three phases of the Jerusalem temple—destruction, desolation, and anointing.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Israel and the "Trans-generational You" with Implications for Matthew 24

by Michael J. Vlach

On many occasions in the Bible “you” refers to people who are contemporaries of the person making a statement. For example, when God asked Adam, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9), the “you” specifically referred to Adam. But on certain occasions “you” is used in a “trans-generational” way concerning national Israel that encompasses people beyond the current generation of Israelites living at the time.

To be more specific, a “trans-generational you” occurs when God addresses Israel as a nation with implications that what is said also applies to generations of Israel beyond the current generation. Knowing this can help us understand God’s purposes. The following are examples of the “trans-generational you” concept:

Deuteronomy 30
Deuteronomy 30 offers a “big picture” summary of Israel’s history from the time of Moses through Israel’s salvation and restoration after a period of dispersion. The previous two chapters (chs. 28-29) detailed both blessings and curses for covenant disobedience. It’s important to note that at this point in history Israel had not begun the conquest of the land. Nor at this point were the people subject to the curses, dispersion, and restoration that Deuteronomy 30 will discuss. 

We start with verses 1-4. Note the references to “you” and “your” and how they go beyond the current generation of Israel at this time:

So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back.

What God describes involves:
1.      Blessing for Israel
2.      Curse for Israel
3.      Banishment for covenant disobedience
4.      Repentance after banishment
5.      God restoring and gathering Israel from captivity
Then consider Deuteronomy 30:5-6:
The Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. “Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. 

Add to the previous list:

6.      Restoration of Israel to the land with prosperity

7.      Israel’s heart is circumcised (i.e. brought into the New Covenant)

If one looks at the list of seven items from Deuteronomy 30:1-6 above one could say the present generation of Israel experienced #1 above which is blessing. But #s 2 and 3, which are curse and banishment, would come to future generations. Then #s 4-7, which include salvation and restoration, still await future fulfillment from our standpoint in history (Rom. 11:26-27).

In sum, with Deuteronomy 30 “you” in reference to Israel does not only apply to the specific people who heard these words.  The “you” is national Israel that encompasses subsequent generations of Israel.

Deuteronomy 4:27-31

Earlier in Deuteronomy the Lord also used “you” in a trans-generational way for Israel. For most of Deuteronomy 4, the Lord offered instruction that directly impacted the current generation of Israel. For example 4:1 states:

Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 

Yet God then offered words that go beyond the current generation to other generations of Israel that will experience dispersion to the nations, distress, and then restoration to the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant in “the latter days”:

The Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord drives you. There you will serve gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and listen to His voice. For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them (Deut 4:27-31).

Like Deuteronomy 30, the predictions concerning Israel in Deuteronomy 4 are predictions concerning national Israel that impact several generations of Israel and cover thousands of years.

Leviticus 26
Leviticus 26 also applies the trans-generational you concept to Israel. Much of what is told Israel in Leviticus 26 involves the present generation of Israel. For example, verse 1 states, “You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the Lord your God.” This certainly applies to the Israel of Moses’ day.
Yet this chapter also uses “you” concerning generations of Israel still to come:
I will set My face against you so that you will be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you (26:17a).

I will also bring upon you a sword which will execute vengeance for the covenant; and when you gather together into your cities, I will send pestilence among you, so that you shall be delivered into enemy hands (26:25).

 I will lay waste your cities (26:31a).

I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be appalled over it. You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste. (26:32-33).

Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. (26:34).

Then 26:40-45 describes a coming a future restoration of national Israel to the land when Israel believes:

If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers…. then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land (vv. 40, 42).

Matthew 23:35-36

The trans-generational you concept is not just an Old Testament truth. Jesus also uses the trans-generational you concerning Israel. In his blistering attacks and woes against the current Jewish religious leaders Jesus declared:

so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar (Matt 23:35-36).

Jesus spoke to a current generation of Jewish leaders yet they carried guilt for all the righteous blood that has been shed since the very first murder involving Abel through Zechariah. Obviously, those current leaders did not personally kill Abel and Zechariah. But as corporate representatives of Israel they carry the guilt for Jewish leadership of past generations. In this case the transgenerational you involves previous generations.

Matthew 23:37-39

Another trans-generational you occurs in Matthew 23:37-39:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'

This passage and its use of “you” and “your” has implications for Israel past, present, and future. Israel had killed the previous prophets (past). And likewise, the current generation was not to repent and believe in Jesus the Messiah—“you were unwilling.” This will lead to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70—“your house is being left to you desolate!” Plus, this generation of Israel will no longer see Jesus.

But Jesus’ words in verse 39 then apply “you” to a future believing generation of Israel—“until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” This quote from Psalm 118 anticipates a positive reception of the Messiah from Israel, something that Paul predicts in Romans 11:26. In sum, the current generation of Israel rejected Jesus but a future one will accept Him. That the current generation never repented shows the future generation is a different generation of Israel. Altogether, this indicates that Jesus uses “you” for Israel in a transgenerational manner—past, present, and future.

“You” in Matthew 24

Understanding the “trans-generational you” concept can help with understanding Jesus’ Olivet Discourse and the timing of the events discussed here. While speaking to the disciples about events to come concerning the temple, Jerusalem, the land of Israel, and His own coming, Jesus will often use “you”:

You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars (24:6).

 Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (24:15a).

But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath (24:20).

Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him (24:23).

Some insist that Jesus’ use of “you” demands that the events He discusses must be fulfilled in the lifetime of the apostles. But must this be the case? Not necessarily. If Jesus spoke to the apostles as representatives of Israel (see Matt 19:28; 21:43), the “you” statements could be trans-generational like they were immediately prior in Matthew 23:35-39. Thus, “you” could apply to Israel as a nation in general and the group of Israelites alive at the time of the predicted events.

This possibility is bolstered by the fact that Jesus himself indicated that He did not know the timing of His own coming—“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matt 24:36). This statement is very significant since Jesus is saying the arrival of these events cannot be known. If Jesus willingly did not know the timing of these events we must be careful when insisting these had to be fulfilled in the first century. Also, this statement means it was possible that the fulfillment of them could transcend the lifetime of the current disciples.

But some will insist that Jesus’ statement that “this generation will not pass away until all these things takes place” demands a first century fulfillment of Matthew 24. Yet while the meaning of “this generation” is important, this is not the only factor to consider. The following also must be considered:

1.      The actual fulfillment of these events in history.

2.      Jesus’ statement that He does not know the timing of these events.

3.      Jesus’ use of the “trans-generational you” for Israel in this context.

4.    Matthew 23:37-39 strongly implied that a future believing generation of Israel would follow the current unbelieving generation. This implies some gap of time for this scenario to play out.

When these factors are also taken into account a rigid first-century fulfillment understanding of everything in Matthew 24 is not necessary.

I think the following approach is most likely: With Matthew 24 Jesus addressed the apostles as representatives of Israel concerning the timing of events related to Israel, the temple, the land, and His own return. As He did at the end of Matthew 23, Jesus uses “you” in a trans-generational manner concerning Israel, and in doing so He is not claiming the events He described in Matthew 24 must be fulfilled in a few years or decades (although this is possible). Yet He does say that the “generation” (Matt 24:34) that experiences the unfolding of the events in Matthew 24 will be the generation of Israel that sees all these things fulfilled, including the second coming of Jesus (Matt 24:29-31). Those who witness the unfolding of these events from the beginning (whenever they occur) will see the conclusion culminating in Jesus’ second coming to earth. But when this complex of events will begin is only known by the Father.

Conclusion

The trans-generational you concept is biblical and should be taken into consideration when studying God’s big picture plans for Israel.