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What is God’s Plan?
God, in his wisdom, created all things through Christ Jesus, with the intention of universal glorification of His Son, on earth and in heaven (Ephesians 1:1–14). He knew that man would be deceived by Satan allowing sin to invade and corrupt His creation, and hence, in eternity past, He planned a way of salvation and restoration through His Son. God chose a nation, Israel, initially represented by Abraham, and promised them a land, prosperity, and a kingdom. The Old Testament is a record of their history and relationship with God. Ultimately, their Messiah came, as prophesied, but they rejected Him. Currently, God is building His Church from all, Jew or Gentile, who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. When the church is complete, Christ will return to the air to receive her to Himself. He will then return to this earth to fulfill the promises given to Israel.
God has a timetable for events concerning Israel. The prophetic clock stopped at Christ’s death, but when the Church is complete and “raptured” by the Lord, it will start ticking again.
What is God’s Timetable?
From the very beginning God told Israel, through His prophets, what specific things they were to do, and that many of their life’s experiences would be on dates, and for time periods, established by Him. For example, the sabbath was to be kept as a day of rest at the end of each week, and seven feasts—Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles—were to be held annually on appointed dates (Leviticus 23). These seven feasts comprise a sacred calendar of redemption, as described in detail in the little booklet authored by Paul Van Gorder, Radio Bible Class, in 1981. They are but a shadow of things to come, the substance fulfilled in Jesus Christ, as illustrated below.
Prior to making a covenant with Abram, God told him that his descendants would be enslaved and oppressed in a foreign land for 400 years (Genesis 15:13, 14), speaking of Israel’s future captivity in Egypt. In Exodus 12:40–41 we read that Israel lived in Egypt for 430 years to the very day. I believe the first thirty years were those from the time Jacob and all his descendants joined Joseph in the land of Egypt until sometime after Joseph’s death.
In Jeremiah 25:11, Jeremiah prophesied that Judah would serve the king of Babylon for seventy years, until the land enjoyed its Sabbaths (2 Chronicles 36:21), and then they would be restored to the land (Ezra). Also, Isaiah prophesied, long before Cyrus was born, that Cyrus would set the exiles free (Isaiah 45:13).
It is possible, through diligent searching of the Scriptures and historical records of ancient world empires, to verify the remarkable precision and accuracy of many Old Testament prophecies. We will now examine, in some detail, a key prophecy in the book of Daniel to demonstrate this, and to initiate our look into the future.
Daniel’s Seventy Weeks (of Years)
Open your Bible to Daniel 9 and read verses 20–27. The key verses are 24–27. Daniel was told that seventy weeks (sevens) (of years) had been decreed for his people (the Jews) and the holy city (Jerusalem), starting with a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. How do we know that 490 years were meant rather than seventy literal weeks? Well, at the beginning of the chapter, Daniel had been thinking about the years of captivity so we could assume that the prophecy would also relate time periods in years. However, there is a much more certain reason that years and not literal weeks were meant. None of the predicted events occurred during seventy weeks following the date on which the decree was issued.
This is probably an appropriate time to emphasize that biblical prophecy is always 100% accurate, both with respect to time and to detail. Sometimes, events took place after a prophecy was made suggesting a fulfillment of that prophecy, and yet one or more prophetic details were missing. This is often referred to as a prophetic foreshadowing. For example, Peter connected the events on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14–21) with Joel’s prophecy, but he did not say that the prophecy had been fulfilled. Joel’s prophecy is yet to be fulfilled in all its detail just prior to the Lord’s return in glory.
Let’s return to Daniel’s prophecy. A period of 490 years was required to do the following: i. finish the transgression, ii. make an end of sin, iii. making atonement for iniquity, iv. bring in everlasting righteousness, v. seal up vision and prophecy, and vi. anoint the most holy place.
The 490-year period begins with the issuing of a decree to restore and build Jerusalem. The book of Ezra describes the return of Israel to the land, after seventy years of captivity, and the completion of the temple. Nehemiah later learns that the walls and gates of Jerusalem are broken down and petitions King Artaxerxes to be allowed to return and rebuild them. The king issues a decree in the spring of 445 BC, in the twentieth year of his reign (Nehemiah 2). [Historical evidence indicates Artaxerxes came to power in 464 BC.]
Look at verses 25 and 26 of Daniel 9. The time between the issuing of the decree and the coming of the Anointed One (Jesus Christ) is (7 + 62) * 7 or 483 years. These are prophetic years, each of 360 days, and therefore are 483 * 360 / 365.25, or 476.06, of our years. This would provide a date in the spring of 32 AD for the entrance of the Messiah into Jerusalem. Historical records, using the names referred to by Luke (Luke 3:1–2), suggest that Jesus began his ministry in the fall of 28 AD at His crucifixion therefore occurring in the spring of 32 AD.
Grant Jeffrey, in his book “Armageddon: Appointment with Destiny,” demonstrates this prophecy is accurate to the very day. The truth is that God’s timing is precise and accurate and exactly 483 prophetic years after the decree was issued the Lord entered Jerusalem, riding on a colt. Less than a week later he was crucified (“cut off,” Daniel 9:26).
Look at the remainder of verse 26. Following Christ’s death, the prophecy states that people of the prince, who is (yet) to come, will destroy Jerusalem. This happened in 70 AD when the Romans, under Titus, destroyed the city. Since such an event was to occur sometime after the end of the 69th week, but before the 70th week began (verse 27), there must obviously be a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks. What about this 70th week, or seven years required to complete the 490 year period? Based on the fact that some of the events given in verse 24 are still to occur, this seven-year period must be still in the future. Daniel 9:27 refers to this week and states specific things that will happen during that time. Many other Scriptures, such as Daniel 11:36–45, Matthew 24, 2 Thessalonians 2:3–12, and especially Revelation 6–19 provide more details, some of which will be discussed later. The long gap between the end of Daniel’s 69th week and the beginning of the 70th week is the Church age, the period in which God is building His Church. After Christ’s death, the prophetic clock stopped ticking and will only start again when the church is Complete.
Scripture’s Three Days
I would like to discuss briefly the three different “Days” of Scripture. These are: i. The Day of the Lord; ii. The Day of Christ; and iii. The Day of God.
First, the Day of the Lord is principally an Old Testament theme, and is initiated, and associated, with judgment, wrath, destruction, and terror produced by God’s active and open intervention in world affairs at the end of this age. See, for example, Isaiah 2:12–19, 13:6–11, Joel 1:15, 2:1–11, and Zechariah 14:1–11. The few references in the New Testament include Acts 2:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:1–3, 2 Thessalonians 2:2–12, and 2 Peter 3:10, and are consistent with the Old Testament picture.
Many years after Pentecost, both Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:3) and Peter (2 Peter 3:10) spoke of the Day of the Lord as being yet future. It is clear that it is still yet future since specific signs indicated, such as the revealing of the man of sin (2 Thessalonians 2:3) have not occurred. Second Peter 3:10 is very interesting in that it refers to the beginning of that Day as unexpected (“as a thief”), and the close of that Day with the heavens passing away with a roar and the earth and its work being burned up. This Day, therefore, extends from God’s sudden intervention in world affairs, through the Lord’s millennial reign on earth, and onto the end of earth’s history (see also Zechariah 14:9).
Second, the Day of Christ (also Day of our Lord Jesus Christ; of our Lord Jesus; of Jesus Christ) is exclusively a New Testament theme and not seen in the Old Testament. This is because it concerns the Church and covers the same ground as the “coming” of the Lord for His people. Therefore, this Day is quite distinct from the Day of the Lord. Similarities between the Day of Christ and the “coming” of Christ are seen by comparing specific scriptures such as:
- 2 Corinthians 1:14 with 1 Thessalonians 2:19,
- 1 Corinthians 1:8 with 1 Thessalonians 3:13, and
- Philippians 1:6 with 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
These Scriptures indicate the Day of Christ to be a complete contrast to the Day of the Lord, both with respect to the people involved and the general character. It is evident that the Day of Christ is associated with comfort and joy. It begins with the return of the Lord in the air to receive His own unto Himself and may I suggest that it has no end since 1 Thessalonians 4:17 tells us that so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Third, the Day of God is mentioned only once in Scripture (2 Peter 3:12). It suggests that the dissolution of the heavens and the earth, which closes the Day of the Lord, also ushers in the Day of God, or eternity (see Revelation 21:1–22:5). This brings new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
Peter’s words “we look for” remind us that the hope of the Christian is three-fold. First, for Christ’s coming for us, then to Christ’s reign on the earth, and finally to the eternal state where God will be all and in all.
This series of posts has been adapted with permission from F. J. Hopton, From Here to Eternity: What Every Christian Should Know, Canada, 1999.