Bible Prophecy Explained - Jesus Christ and End Times
I've read the book of Daniel several times. Recently, I read a verse that I'd never noticed before that got me quite excited. In Daniel chapter 12 God instructed Daniel to seal up the prophecies in the book until the last days. He describes how knowledge will increase dramatically as the Second Coming of Christ approaches.
As I look at what's going on in the world this makes me think that the last days are upon us. So many prophecies seem to be fitting together in ways that people have not seen for 2000 years. Could you please comment on this?
Of course, you are referring to Daniel 12:4: "But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
The prophecies do seem to be opening up for us to see and understand. And of course, knowledge is doubling every year or so; as result, I'm getting rather excited, too.
Old Testament Prophecies - Book of Daniel
The book of Daniel provides an overview of world events from the days of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon all the way to Christ's crucifixion, resurrection and subsequent millennial reign. Daniel forms the framework for the book of Revelation and for the understanding of biblical prophecy.
Daniel's 70 "sevens" prophecy encompasses the chronological framework for the history of the Jews from now until eternity. Again, the book of Revelation fits into this framework. It's really impossible to understand what's going on in Revelation without understanding the book of Daniel.
Daniel's generalized overview occurs in Daniel chapter 9. Daniel was reading the book of Jeremiah when he realized that the 70 years of Jewish Babylonian captivity was coming to an end. Daniel wondered what would happen next--exactly what many Christians today are also wondering about our own times. Understanding these prophecies can help us understand what God has revealed to us about His plan for the End of the Age.
Along with asking God to tell him what came next for Israel, Daniel spent time in prayer, confessing the sins of Israel and pleading God's forgiveness for those sins.
Daniel's overview begins with Nebuchadnezzar's dream-vision in Daniel 2.
Prophecy 1 - Nebuchadnezzer's dream
Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of a huge multi-metallic man with a golden head, chest and arms of bronze, belly and thighs of brass, and feet and toes made out of iron mixed with clay. He then saw a mountain coming out of the sky which hit the man on the toes and feet. The mountain crushed the man into powder, and the mountain grew to fill the earth.
Daniel explained to Nebuchadnezzar that the different metals represented different kingdoms. Babylon was gold; Media-Persia was silver; Greece was bronze; and Rome was iron. The iron mixed with clay represented a future conglomeration of loosely federated governments united around one man whom Daniel identifies as the antichrist. The nations were in chronological order from top to bottom. We see here the devolution of human governments. The value of these kingdoms begins with gold and ends with iron. Also, notice that the nations increase in power over time. Babylon was a terrible foe; however, its wickedness and power were nothing to match the wickedness, strength, and power of the Roman Empire.
I suppose that the lesson here is that all governments degenerate over time and that God is ultimately in control of each of them.
As explained in the book of Revelation, the 10 toes represent 10 nations, occupying the area of the old Roman Empire. These nations will come together in the last days in an attempt to destroy Israel and take over the world. The nations don't get along very well just as iron doesn't mix well with clay. Revelation describes these nations, along with several others, that will all be led in a loose coalition by the antichrist.
The mountain which destroyed the multi-metallic man is a picture of the resurrected Jesus Christ at His Second Coming destroying the wickedness of the Gentile nations on earth. The mountain which grew to fill the earth is a picture of the millennial reign of Christ on earth.
Prophecy 2 - 490 Years and the Reign of Jesus (Messianic Kingdom)
God sent the angel Gabriel to give Daniel an answer to his prayer concerning what God had planned for Israel.
Gabriel shared that God had another program for Israel when the 70 years were concluded. This plan was for 490 years. As you read the verses below you will see how the book of Revelation fits into this passage.
Daniel 9:24 is the overview: Seventy "sevens" are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place."
Daniel 9:25-27 gives the details: “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven. In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him."
Remarkably, this passage looks 560 years into the future to predict the very day when Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, April 6, 30 A.D.
In Daniel 9:24 we learn three facts regarding God's plan for Israel.
1. First, God’s program for Israel extends for 70 "Sevens" (70 x 7 = 490 Sevens). "Seven" is the Hebrew word "Heptad." This is a generic word which can mean seven of anything. It is similar to our word, "Dozen" which can mean twelve of virtually anything: twelve bananas, twelve pencils, twelve years. The context of this passage helps us to determine that here the word "Heptad" is referring to seven years. One "Seven" equals 7 years. (70 X 7 years = 490 years.)
2. Second, this program applies to Israel. "Your people and your holy city."
3. Third, this program will continue until Christ establishes His Messianic Kingdom.
Gabriel shared six characteristics of the Messianic Kingdom of Christ's l000-year reign on earth.
- To finish transgression: refers to Israel's national transgression of rejecting the Messiah. At the Second Coming, transgression will be ended because they will accept Him as Savior.
- To put an end to sin: the national sin of Israel will end.
- To atone for wickedness: refers to the reconciliation for all in the Cross of Christ. At the Second Coming Jew and Gentile alike will recognize and believe in the atoning work of Christ.
- To bring in everlasting righteousness: Christ's Kingdom is set up on earth for a millennium.
- To seal up vision and prophecy: After 70th week all prophetic announcement and visions will be confirmed and fulfilled.
- To anoint the Most Holy: refers to the Millennial Temple which will function during that time.
God reassured Daniel that He still has a plan for Israel. After 490 years Israel will be restored to their land and will prosper in a glorious future.
The first sixty-nine "sevens" (483 years) (Daniel 9:25) began at the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. This decree is described in Nehemiah 1:1 and 2:5-8. Historically, the "20th year of Artaxerxes" was 444 B.C. Using the Jewish calendar of 360 days per year and the fact that the prophecies began on the first day of the month, we know for certain that this period began on March 4, 444 B.C.
Prophecy 3 - Birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ
The 69 "sevens" are broken down into two phases: One seven and sixty-two "sevens."
1. Seven "sevens" tells of the time during which the temple was rebuilt. It took 49 years. Ezra and Nehemiah both helped in the rebuilding and spoke often of the troubled times occurring during this process.
2. The 69 "sevens" concludes when the Anointed One, the Ruler comes." From 444 B.C. until the coming of Christ on Palm Sunday is 483 years or 69 "sevens." 483 prophetic years (360 days adjusted to 365.25 days =5.25 days difference between the Jewish calendar and our present-day calendar. 483 X 5.25 = 2535.75 days or about 6 years and 11 months. Subtract adjustment... and...483 Jewish years from March 4, 444 B.C. to Palm Sunday is April 6, 30 A.D. (see Robert Anderson's book, The Coming Prince).
This is one way that Anna and Simeon knew that it was about time for the Messiah to be born so that they could carry out their planned worship of Jesus as a baby.
To a believer in Christ, Daniel's 490 year prophecy is a tremendous confirmation of the Word of God!
We live in a day in which the Word of God is under attack on every hand. Many mock it, and thousands ignore it; yet, here is a tremendous confirmation for all of us to see this prophecy fulfilled in absolute detail to the very day.
Of course, most of Israel was blinded to it all, as many are blinded to how God is working today as well.
Several things occur between the end of the 69th seven at the beginning of the 70th (Daniel 9:26).
Prophecy 4 - Death of Jesus Christ
First, "the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing."
This is one of the prophecies in the Bible of the death of Jesus Christ.
One of Holman Hunt's most famous paintings of Jesus hangs in the Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, and is called "The Shadow of Death." Christ is pictured as a young man in Joseph's workshop. The sun is setting. Christ stretches out his hands after a hard day's work. At that moment, the artist catches Jesus' image. The shadow on the wall shows a man with arms outstretched like He's dying on a cross.
Jesus Christ lived his entire life in the Shadow of the Cross. He came to die on that cross for the sins of Israel and for the sins of the entire world.
After 69 "sevens" - 483 years, Jesus was "cut off".
Prophecies 5, 6, 7 - Jerusalem Destroyed, Antichrist, Church Age "Gap"
"The People of the Ruler who will come" refers to the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D.
More than three million Jews were killed. Masada occurred. When you are in Rome be sure to see the huge arch of Titus standing at the entrance to the Roman forum which commemorates Titus' his victory over Israel. Seeing the coming Holocaust, Jesus wept for Jerusalem as described in Matthew 23.
"The Ruler who is to come" is the Antichrist. He's the little horn of Daniel 7:8 and the Beast of Revelation l3.
A time gap occurs after the end of the sixty-ninth "seven" and before the beginning of the seventieth "seven".
At the Triumphal Entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, 30 A.D., God's prophetic time clock stopped. The hands stand poised at 69, indicating that there is still one seven-year period left.
We have no indication giving insight into how long until the 70th "seven" commences. After all, long gaps of forty years occurred between the crucifixion and the destruction. Today we are in the gap, waiting for the last seven years to commence, but in His Word, God has revealed much information concerning his plan for this "seven," so that we can understand the times in which we live.
Prophecy 8 - Antichrist Rules
The Seventieth "Seven" (Daniel 9:27) begins when the antichrist makes a peace treaty with the nation of Israel for seven years.
"He" is "The Ruler of People Who Will Come". The Romans came in 70 A.D. The antichrist will be descended from them. "Many" refers to the Jews and the nation of Israel.
Daniel sketches the outline of 70th seven; Jesus roughs in the picture with the Olivet Discourse; John fills in details with the Book of Revelation.
This is why we don't have to be baffled or surprised by what we see in Europe and the Middle East. I believe that God is preparing to restart the clock. The teams are lined up and the ball is about to be snapped.
Amazingly, Israel has never been assimilated into another nation. In 1948 Jews came home from all over the world. Sociologically, this has never happened with any people. When's the last time you saw a Babylonian walking around? They're all gone. But not the Jews.
We're told elsewhere that the Jews will accept the Peace Treaty with the Antichrist who rules Europe because they are fearful of the threat of the "King of the North."
When a Bible student sees Israel aligned with the West, and not the North or South or East, he or she is not surprised! This is simply a sign of the times. The teams are lining up. We may one day witness the Antichrist taking control of a ten-nation confederacy in Europe by subduing three nations.
Incidentally, the Jews will mistake the Antichrist for their coming Messiah and the beginning of peace for the initiation of the Millennium.
Notice that the Rapture does not restart God's prophetic clock. No one knows exactly when the Rapture may occur. It could come at any moment.
Prophecy 9 - Antichrist Led by Satan - Abomination of Desolation
Then, the Antichrist breaks the peace treaty and does two things:
1. He forbids the offering of sacrifices in the Temple (Daniel 9:27). This indicates that Israel will have a Temple during this time.
2. He sets up the Abomination of Desolation on the altar in the Holy Place in the Temple.
The Abomination of Desolation is mentioned by Christ in Matthew 24:15-16. The Abomination of Desolation as described in the Old Testament refers to anything which desecrates the Temple of God. The Abomination of Desolation is a resurrected image of the Antichrist that the Antichrist forces people to worship as God or face death (Revelation13).
Prophecy 10 - Great Tribulation
Jesus said that this is a sign for the godly to flee. The Antichrist will then launch the greatest wave of Anti-Semitism that the world has ever seen.
Three and a half years of Great Tribulation will then begin as the Antichrist tries to wipe the Jews off of the face of the earth. As the time of great tribulation comes to an end, Jesus returns with the Armies of Heaven and defeats the Antichrist (Revelation 19).
Prophecy 11 - Second Coming of Jesus
The Messianic Kingdom begins and the six characteristics of Daniel 9:24 will occur.
Baffled? Never, thanks to Daniel 9.
Today, we see the rise of Israel as a state, its alignment with the West, its possession of Jerusalem, its plans to rebuild the Temple, soon to be deployed Iranian nuclear missiles, and the beginnings of worldwide anti-Semitism: all of which are preparing the way for the Beast, Watch closely the rise of the European Union,
Here is a good way to think about the Second Coming: "We plan as though Jesus isn't coming for 1,000 years, but we live as if He is coming in the next 10 minutes." Israel's immediate future is desperate, but she will repent and turn to God, trust in the blood of Christ, and have a glorious future with the Lord. By the way, the same future is available to all who apply the blood of Christ to themselves.
Susanna, I know that I answered a lot more than you asked, but hopefully this overview will help you to make sense of Bible prophecy and how it applies to what is going on in the world today, as well as to remind you that God is in control of our future, and has been since the beginning of time.
Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears atPreach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
This article is part of our larger End Times Resource Library. Learn more about the rapture, the anti-christ, bible prophecy and the tribulation with articles that explain Biblical truths. You do not need to fear or worry about the future!