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  • Writer's pictureTim Hemingway

Partakers of the Golden Jubilee


Note from the author: Views expressed in this sermon about the precision of the prophetic numbers contained in Daniel 9:20-27 represent one view amongst many. The conclusions that I've drawn, represented in this sermon, can also be arrived at by a more literal interpretation of the numbers, where counting begins at the point when Artaxerxes delivered his decree to Ezra (Ezra 7). I don't believe the word from God to Daniel is specific enough about the timing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, to discount the Artaxerxes decree as a meaningful starting point for counting the '70 sevens'. However, I am not convinced that is the best interpretation. Given the ambiguity in Daniel 9, I esteem highly, other points of view on these numbers.


“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish 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 9:24

If there was a text that we could wave as a flag over this message it would be Romans 9:22-25:

What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction? [Israel]

What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory – even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one’.

The reason why it would be that text is because we are Gentiles, and the riches of God’s glory have been made known to us and we should not be complacent in that fact, but we should remember how God rejected Israel and created a new people for himself out of those who were called ‘not his loved ones’.

We’re turning our focus to Easter and I want to take us back into the prophets to see how God planned and revealed to Daniel that he was going to call a new people for himself - the church - made up of Jew and Gentile and dispense his glorious riches on them.

The aim is to remind us how unbelievably privileged we are!

At the opening of this chapter Daniel is found pouring out his heart to God about the sin of his people and about the rebellion of his nation Israel.

His knowledge of their sin and his knowledge of God’s anger against it was the occasion for Daniel’s prayerful request - namely that God turn away His anger and His wrath from Jerusalem (v.16). And, that He look with favour on His desolate sanctuary (v.17) – the temple in Jerusalem.

He says in verse 19, ‘Lord listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay’.

And, now in verse 20, that’s exactly where we find him when he is met by the angel Gabriel with a word from God – an answer to his request: ‘As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed’.

So, three things to say straight away: First, it is very good to be aware of our sins and to confess them to God. Two, our sins need to be met with the benevolence of God Almighty or we are a desolate people, and abominations are decreed for us. And third, God hears and answers prayers, which gives us great reason to approach him in that way, with the expectation that a broken and contrite heart, the Lord will notdespise.

So, the sins we’ve committed this week can be confessed in this manner to God - with a contrite confidence that we will be heard on high.

This is the context for the word that comes to Daniel. The word is God’s answer to Daniel’s prayer for mercy because of the sin of his people and his country. As a result of that sin, the temple was lying in ruins back in Israel, and the people were lying in chains in Babylon – exiled from their home land.

So, let’s look and see what the word to Daniel was and what it might be saying to us. Notice that in verse 22, Gabriel tells Daniel that he has come to give him ‘insight’ and ‘understanding’. Then in verse 23, Gabriel tells Daniel to ‘consider the word and understand the vision’. The reason for highlighting this is that Gabriel is telling Daniel that there is an answer to his prayer contained in the vision, but that Daniel will have to do some work to figure out what it is.

So, when you come to the word of God, there are treasures beyond compare contained within, but they don’t come to the surface without digging. And that digging looks like consideration and meditation.

Is that what you do, at least some of the time, when you go to the word of God? Or, is the word like a tub of sweets which you pick at often, but never have a nourishing meal? If you only get a nourishing meal on a Sunday morning and pay no careful attention to God’s word the rest of the week (I mean more than just a bible reading plan) then you will notgrow spiritually. You need to do a Daniel on the text, often – you need to consider carefully the word of God.

Daniel had to give this vision some thought according to Gabriel to figure out the precious answer to his prayer. So, let’s do the thinking with him right now.

Three things to note:

Verses 24 to 27 have a structure to them and if we miss the structure, not only will this be hard to understand, it won’t be very beneficial to you.

This is the structure: Verse 24 is the overview; the summary; the synopsis of God’s answer.

Verses 25-27 contain the detail.

And verse 26 and 27 are saying the exact same thing only in different language, because they are talking about the apex and the goal of the revelation.

Just like in Genesis 41, when Pharaoh had his dreams – the first was of thin and fat oxen, the second of healthy and scorched grain – when Joseph interpreted them, he revealed they meant the same thing. And he said the reason why pharaoh had dreamed the same thing twice was because ‘the matter had been firmly decided by God and God will do it soon’. We’ve got the same thing here, repetition in the vision tells Daniel that God will definitely bring this vision to pass.

So, let’s start with the summary and get a handle on that, and then move to the detail.

The summary says that 70 sevens are decreed for Daniel’s people and for Jerusalem, culminating in six unbelievably good things.

These are the six things: wrongdoing will finish, sin will be put to an end, wickedness will be atoned [or made amends] for, everlasting righteousness [or uprightness] will be brought in, vision and prophecy will be sealed up [or fulfilled], and the most holy place will be anointed [or established].

And it sounds like ‘70 sevens’ could be a calendar calculation for the period of time in which these six precious realities are going to come to pass.

But what does ’70 sevens’ mean? It’s reasonable to think that Daniel would have understood the reference to ‘sevens’ as a reference to the Sabbatical calendar given in the Law of Moses. We know he knew the law well because in his prayer he quoted from it in verses 11 and 13.

In the law, God told Moses that every seventh year was to be a special sabbath year. In that year the whole land of Israel was to be rested from producing grain – no planting and no harvesting.

But there was more. Every time 7 lots of sabbatical period had come to pass, there was to be a special sabbatical year called a ‘Jubilee’.

I know we’re having a Jubilee this year for the Queen’s 70th year on the throne, but in the law of Moses the magic number was 50.

So, the Israelites would have counted each time a sabbatical year happened until they got to seven occasions of it – a total of 49 years – and then the 50th year was to be a Jubilee year. The Jubilee year was to be even more amazing than the sabbatical year.

You can read in Leviticus 25 & 27 about the Jubilee and there you’ll find words like these: ‘release’, ‘redeem’, ‘set free’, ‘liberty’, ‘return’, ‘price paid’, ‘devoted’. These are the hallmarks of the Jubilee.

Daniel would have understood the connection between Jubilee, as a multiplication of sevens, and the words of Gabriel in the vision. Except, here he would see a ten-fold Jubilee!

Moses had never spoken about a Jubilee like this! If the Jubilee following the 49th year was so full of liberation and freedom and ransom, then what about a Jubilee that followed the 490th year?!

What kind of Jubilee would that be?!

So now, taking this golden Jubilee that is being promised and combine it with the six answers to Daniel’s prayer for God to turn his anger away from Israel and Jerusalem, and it is looking like Daniel has a lot to be very excited about.

That was the summary, now let’s look at the details. And they are very surprising in many ways. I think they would have surprised Daniel a lot.

Before we go to them, let me say one more thing about the calendar. The details we’re about to consider might seem like they can be pinpointed to the year because of the 70 times seven calculation in the vision, but that’s not the case.

In verse 25, Gabriel says the sevens start being counted from the word going out to rebuild Jerusalem. That word went out from Cyrus in 538BC – Daniel knew Cyrus as Darius (v.1) who had just come to the throne when he made his prayer.

The word, then, to rebuild the city that Gabriel is speaking of, went out in Daniel’s own life time.

490 years on from 538BC keys in with absolutely nothing of great significance whatsoever. So, it’s much better to think of this number as symbolic.

And there’s good reason to do that. Jeremiah prophesied 70 years for Israel’s captivity (v.2), but in reality, it only lasted 60 years at most.

So why did he say 70 then? The answer is the number was symbolic of ten-times the perfect and complete biblical number seven.

So, we don’t need to press these numbers literally, we need to see the amazing significance behind the numbers.

The first detailed thing Daniel is told in verse 25 is that a word is going to go out from Darius to rebuild Jerusalem and that there is going to come in the future an ‘anointed one’. That’s precisely what the word ‘Messiah’ means; ‘anointed deliverer’.

And in-between these two events – word going out and the appearing of the messiah – one seven and sixty-two sevens would elapse. That total period then accounts for 69 of the 70 sevens, and leaves only one seven left over.

The first seven sees Daniel’s prayer answered – liberation of exiles and restoration of the city. During that period, the exiles would return to Jerusalem and the temple would be rebuilt. In fact, Gabriel says the city would be rebuilt with squares and a mote symbolising the completeness of its restoration.

But then he adds, it would all happen under the cloud of ‘trouble’. And certainly, Nehemiah experienced a lot of trouble during the rebuilding if the city walls.

After the reoccupation of the city by the returning people, hundreds of years - represented by 62 sevens - of nothing very spectacular flows by until the Messiah-Jesus comes on the scene, and then we find ourselves in the final seven. Everything that the ten-fold Jubilee is, is made possible by the work of the final seven. In other words, the Golden Jubilee flows out of this last seven.

So, if the previous 62 sevens were essentially uneventful, then we should expect the last seven to be radically eventful in order that there might be awesome things to rejoice about in this unique Jubilee of Jubilees. And it is!

Verses 26 and 27 detail the events and accomplishments of the anointed one – the Messiah-Jesus Christ during the last 7.

Now, an important note: In these two verses there are two figures, or characters, mentioned. The first is the ‘anointed one’ who we’ve already encountered and we know is the Messiah-Jesus. The second is ‘the ruler’. And the temptation is to think that these are two different figures, but that’s not the case. Verse 25 uses the two terms interchangeably and side by side.

Here’s what I mean: I’m working with an industry colleague at the moment called ‘Ronaldo’. So, if I say in the office, ‘Ronaldo, the footballer’ – everyone knows I’m not talking about Christiano Ronaldo and some other person who’s a footballer. We all know I’m talking about Ronaldo who is the footballer – but by saying ‘Ronaldo the footballer’ they know I’m not talking about the Ronaldo who works for the council.

It’s the same here. Messiah means ‘deliverer’, but God wants Daniel to know he’s going to be a ‘ruler’ too.

There’s a good reason why people allow ‘the ruler’ in verse 26 to be someone other than the Messiah – it seems to make more sense from the details of verses 26 & 27 to go that route. But resist that temptation because it’s not a careful, considered understanding of the vision.

Let’s be consistent. Ruler in verse 25 means Messiah, therefore it means Messiah in verse 26 also. So, it’s very important in verse 26 that we don’t start thinking ‘the ruler’ is someone different from the Messiah – he’s not; it’s the same person.

The other thing to remember is that the first half of verse 26 corresponds to the first half of verse 27 and the second half of verse 26 corresponds with the second half of verse 27.

So, let’s deal with verse 26 part 1 and verse 27 part 1 together, and then verse 26 part 2 with verse 27 part 2 together.

Verse 26 part 1 says that when the anointed one comes, he will be ‘put to death’ and ‘will have nothing’. Jesus the Messiah – this promised deliverer – will be cut off.

And he was cut off from life, by being put to death on a cross. Acts 2:23 says, ‘this man [Jesus] was handed over to you [Jews] by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you [Jews], with the help of wicked men [Romans], put him to death by nailing him to the cross’.

Daniel was given a preview of God’s express plan to raise up a saviour for his people who he would cut off in the prime of his life! And Daniel is being told that the Messiah would have nothing – no life, no Father, no friends – he would be a forsaken figure. Listen to Jesus’ words:

Then Jesus told them, “This very night you [disciples] will fall away on account of me, for it is written: ’I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’”’ (Matt 26:31) and Jesus said whilst hanging on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’.

The reason this is the first detail of week 70 that Gabriel mentions is because, out of the ‘cutting off’ and ‘forsaking’ of the Messiah, flow all the benefits of verse 24.

How will transgression finish? The messiah will be cut off and forsaken.

How will sin be made an end of? The anointed one will be put to death and have nothing.

How will wickedness be atoned for? The messiah will make payment with his own blood shed on the cross as the once-for-all sacrifice for sinners.

How will everlasting righteousness be brought in? On the cross the Messiah will receive the punishment of his holy Father in the stead of his people by taking upon himself their sins, so that the Father could not even bare to have anything to do with his own son, and the son would give his perfect righteousness to his people in a totally unique transaction, the likes of which could not have happened without his being totally cut off.

How would all the visions and prophecies be fulfilled? They all pointed here – to this moment. His being cut off means that all of the promises made in the prophecies are ‘yes and amen’ in this messiah by his death.

And How would the holy place be anointed?

We’ll come back to that shortly.

That’s verse 26, part 1. Here’s verse 27, part 1, ‘He [the messiah, Jesus] will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven’. In the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.

There is no better place to see where the idea of ‘many’ and the idea of ‘covenant’ converge than the last supper: ‘Then [Jesus] took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for manyfor the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:27-28).

Jesus’ blood shed on the cross created a new covenant in which ‘many’ are justified (Isaiah 53:11).

Who are the ‘many’ who benefit from the new covenant? Is it only Daniel’s people – Israelites? Not at all – the opposite! The Apostle Paul takes the words of the Lord Jesus at the last supper and directs them straight at the gentile believers in Corinth. The ‘many’ who are partakers of the new covenant are the Church of Jesus Christ made up of both Jew and Gentile.

God’s word to Daniel is telling him that the redemptive accomplishments of the 70th week are going to flow out in Golden Jubilee blessings on a new people of God called ‘the church’, not on national Israel.

And this is absolutely nailed home by the phrase, ‘he will put an end to sacrifice and offering’.

Hebrews 10:10 says, ‘we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’. Verse 18, clinches it, ‘where these [sins] have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary’.

The messiah’s death is all conquering over sin and death, and allsufficient to usher in righteousness. And those who receive his meritorious death on their behalf receive it by faith and not by the works of the Jewish covenant.

So, if the Jewish covenant is abolished because it was a ministry of death – Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3 – and if there has been one definitive sacrifice which ushers out sin and brings in righteousness, then what use is there for the temple which was rebuilt in the first seven? The answer is ‘none’! Which is precisely why Gabriel’s word in verse 26 part 2 and verse 27 part 2 describe the desolation of the second temple.

Verse 26 part 2 says, ‘the people of the ruler – [the ruler is Jesus and his people were the Jews, so that’s who’s in view here] – the Jews will destroy the city and the sanctuary. War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed’.

And verse 27 part 2 says, ‘At the temple he [the messiah] will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him’.

In AD66 the Jews led a revolt and occupied Jerusalem. They picked a fight with the Romans and it caused a war. And in AD70 Roman legions, under the leadership of Titus, reclaimed the city and destroyed almost the entirety of it, including the temple.

The historian Josephus not only claims that the first fires at the temple were set ablaze by the Jews themselves, but records terrible atrocities by the Romans during the siege.

These events are the precise fulfilment of the word that went out to Daniel and of which Jesus spoke of in his day when he said, ‘So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation [he probably has in mind the Roman legion]’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand’.

And when he said, ‘this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written…Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentilesuntil the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled…truly I tell you, thisgeneration will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened’.

So, what does ‘anoint this holy place’ mean then, in verse 24? Daniel would have thought ‘temple’ when he heard those words, but by the end of the vision he would have thought it can’t mean the temple because the opposite of anointing is going to happen to that building – destruction has been decreed for that place.

Here’s how the New Testament scriptures conceive of the temple going forward, and it’s not a building: ‘Don’t you know, says Paul to the Corinthians, that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple’.

God dwells in a new temple now and forever, that temple is his new covenant, blood-bought people -the church of Jesus Christ.

So, let’s sum up. Daniel was dismayed by the sin of his people and his nation and asked God to turn aside his anger and his wrath. And God heard his prayer and he answered it in a way even Daniel couldn’t have predicted.

God’s answer is a golden Jubilee of peace and reconciliation and joy and hope through the death of God’s anointed one - Jesus Christ.

He came into the world and dealt with all the sins of all his people – the church – and brought in everlasting righteousness and, by the blood of his everlasting covenant, sent his Spirit into the midst of his people to dwell with them forever.

What a glorious Jubilee is ours brothers and sisters – Daniel would have longed in his day to have seen it arrive on the scene. What glorious riches we have to give thanks for as we move towards Easter! It is our celebration and remembrance of Daniel’s 70th week!


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