The Coming of the Messiah, the Anointed One
Daniel had been reading his Bible. As he read the prophet Jeremiah he understood that the current troubles of Jerusalem were due to be brought to an end in the not too distant future and he started to pray.
Daniel was a godly man, an OT Christian if you like. And as such he wasn’t simply interested in his own personal spiritual life he was deeply concerned for the spiritual well-being being of his people too. This was inevitably bound up with the Temple in Jerusalem which was the place where God had declared he would meet with his people and so Daniel was concerned for the state of the Temple.
More than that both the Temple and his people were closely identified with God and so as both were experiencing real problems there was a negative knock on effect on the honour and glory of God. Daniel understood this and it drove him to prayer.
We live in a different age and in different circumstances. The people of God no longer has a national identity – the church crosses national boundaries and includes people from everywhere on an equal footing. Nor is worship any longer focused on a Temple in Jerusalem – God’s promise is to meet his people wherever there are gathered together.
For us to pray like Daniel we will be involved in praying for the revival of the church worldwide. We can, of course, and must pray for the spiritual state of our own nation but we must not make the mistake of thinking our nation is the people of God.
As Daniel prayed and prayed so fervently he was led further and deeper into spiritual realities as Gabriel was sent to him with further revelations concerning God’s plans for the future looking down the centuries to the coming of the Christ.
So the subject we are to consider this morning is just what Gabriel had to tell Daniel.
Before we embark upon this study together I want to make a few preliminary remarks:
Daniel was given more information and granted deeper understanding while he was actively involved in practically living out his faith:
We’ve already reminded ourselves that he had been reading his Bible and that this reading had led Daniel to pray. Well now we are told emphatically that it was while Daniel was praying that Gabriel came and imparted fresh information to him in a new vision. Both Daniel and Gabriel refer to the fact the Daniel was engaged in spiritual activity:
vv.20-21 "While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the LORD my God for the holy hill of my God, while I was speaking in prayer"
v.23 "At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you"
Why do you think this is emphasized for us in this way if not to encourage us to similarly be serious about our spiritual exercises? Do you want to grow in grace and in spiritual understanding? Then don’t sit back passively waiting and doing nothing rather we should put into practice what we do know and live up to the light we have received and as we do that we put ourselves in a great position to receive more and more from God.
We sometimes like to give the impression that it is what we don’t know and understand that hinder us either in coming to Christ or of going on to grow in his likeness – but the truth may indeed lie elsewhere. Our problem may lie in our failure, sometimes in our wilful and deliberate failure, to act responsibly and coherently upon what we do know and understand!
One of the reasons given as to why Gabriel had come to give Daniel insight and understanding was that Daniel was greatly loved. How encouraging those words must have been to Daniel.
But we must not thereby put Daniel in a class apart for the NT teaches us that every believer is "greatly loved" too! Those of us who attend on Sunday evenings have recently seen how Jude describes the Christian church to which he was writing as being "beloved of God"(Jude 1) and this is just one of many examples we could cite in the NT (see also Jn.14).
So then when we go about our spiritual lives seeking to put our faith in Jesus Christ into place then we too can do so with a confident expectation of spiritual help and growth.
A New Vision for Daniel
When Daniel had read in the Book of Jeremiah he discovered that the troubles that Jerusalem was currently experiencing would last for a period of about 70 years. Most of the people had been removed from the city as indeed Daniel had been some 66 years previously. But the end of the exile was in sight. The people would return, the Temple would be restored and the city walls would be rebuilt. It was a wonderful discovery that Daniel had made in his Bible reading but now he was going to discover something more. This restoration of Jerusalem would not be the end there was more much more to come!
Picking up on the 70 figure Gabriel tells Daniel that a further period of 70 "sevens" was allocated to the city and to the people and when that time was up six remarkable things would have been accomplished. Daniel had been much concerned as he prayed by the whole matter of sin and now Gabriel tells him his prayer has been heard. Just look the things that Gabriel said would be brought about at the end of this new period of 70 "sevens" – they’re all there in v.24:
To finish the transgression
To put an end to sin
To atone for iniquity
To bring in everlasting righteousness
To seal both vision and prophet
To anoint a holy one/place
I’m sure you’ll recognise at least some of these things and be able to identify the One who was to accomplish them for this is a wonderful description, before the event, of what the Messiah would come to do and achieve!
In the fullness of time Jesus did come to deal with sin and he did so by himself paying the penalty that sin called for. With transgression thus ended and sin put to an end Jesus had made provision for forgiveness to be extended to those who had no claim upon God. By offering himself as a sacrifice for sin the Messiah, Jesus, atoned for iniquity and that meant that he was able to bring near two opposed and hostile parties by the removal of that which separated them. With sin out of the way nothing need any longer separate the sinner from God.
And in the gospel forgiveness of sin, while being very important and indeed crucial, it remains nevertheless only part of the solution. The other essential part of the gospel is the provision of a necessary righteousness. Not only does the sinner need his sin to be forgiven he also needs to possess a righteousness that is acceptable and pleasing to God. Many folk fondly imagine that their own efforts will prove to be good enough for God – they both overestimate their own ability and underestimate the glorious exalted righteousness of a Holy God. Isaiah in his day had understood this clearly when he spoke about the very best that man could offer as being nothing other than filthy rags in the sight of a Holy God. But Gabriel was now telling Daniel that there was a solution to this problem and it would be brought about in God’s good timing.
The sealing of vision and prophet can be interpreted in a couple of ways which are not exclusive. The coming of the Messiah with demonstrate the authenticity of all the visions and prophecies that had been given – one of the important aspects of "sealing" was this guaranteeing of authenticity. This practice is carried out with the sealing of some legal documents even today though in most cases this is no longer necessary. The other aspect of sealing that could well be in view here is that of completion – the vision and prophet is sealed because there is nothing more to be said or added. And of course when we turn to the NT we read again and again that the Scriptures of the OT pointed to Jesus, that he was their central character and that all God’s promises were to find their fulfilment in him. With the coming of the Messiah and the completion of his work nothing more needs to be said!
The Holy One will be anointed is another reference to Jesus Christ – the anointed one. He would come to his people, his land and his city – Jerusalem – he would be seen, the Long Promised Messiah come to save his people!
I have attempted to make plain to you what the overall thrust of Gabriel’s message to Daniel was all about and now it is time to think a little about what Gabriel meant when he spoke of the future with his series of 70 "sevens".
Now these verses have sometimes been described as being the most difficult to understand of the entire Bible and you can find just about as many interpretations as there are commentators.
Are the 70 "sevens" to be interpreted literally and if so does each period of "seven" refer to seven years? Or are we meant to figuratively or perhaps to some combination of the two? Do the "sevens" immediately follow on one after the other? You’ll find widely differing answers to these and many more questions.
I don’t intend to even try to lay out even the main alternatives that are proposed - on the one hand I doubt that I would make a good job of it and on the other I doubt that you would be any better off if I did. There are after all many difficulties involved in deciding between the various interpretations. I have deliberately avoided zooming in too quickly on some of the technicalities because in doing so we would likely have missed the wood for the trees and how important it is for us not to miss Daniel’s message for his audience.
So what was that message? It was that God had determined to send his Messiah God and he had allocated the time necessary for every event to take place. God’s people had every reason to trust him and to persevere in their faith.
In speaking about the future 70 "sevens" Gabriel divided them up into three subsections:
7 "sevens" represent a relatively short time and Gabriel indicated that this period began with the issuing of the decree to rebuild and restore Jerusalem. The rebuilding of the city would be completed during this time. This is the period of Ezra and Nehemiah.
62 "sevens" a long period during which time life in the rebuild Jerusalem would continue but the times would not be easy (do you remember that we’ve already seen how Antiochus Epiphanes would cause such stress and difficulties for God’s people?) No major or significant event is said to take place during this lengthy period – everything however changes as the period ends!
1 "seven" The climactic period follows the first 69 "sevens" and what things were to occur then! The anointed one, the Messiah, was to appear on the scene and during this final "seven" he would also be cut off – the end of Jerusalem’s significance would be finally determined – and a new covenant would be confirmed with many!
Gabriel had wonderful news to pass on to Daniel. Daniel had been looking for the restoration of Jerusalem and the forgiveness of sins and he is just how God planned to do it.
The restoration and rebuilding of Jerusalem would come about and God would demonstrate his faithfulness for many years even as the city and its inhabitants proved themselves again to be utterly unworthy.
But Daniel must not be duped into thinking that the restoration of earthly Jerusalem was the final stage of God’s plans; God had something far greater in store – the coming of the Messiah and the establishing of the promised new covenant!
The careful breaking down of the future into its successive segments served to underline just how much in control of things God was and how that must have been an encouraging to Daniel and his prayers!
The Fall of Jerusalem and the Gospel
Although Jerusalem was not destroyed until AD 70 its demise had been determined during the seventieth "seven" when the Jewish religious leaders rejected the Christ who had come to them.
Do you remember how on approaching Jerusalem Jesus lamented, crying out how readily he would have gathered her children as a hen gathers her chicks? But they would not have it and it left them desolate though they did not know it. Shortly after uttering his lament Jesus would be announcing the catastrophic destruction of the temple – you can read for yourselves what he had to say on that subject in Mt.24.
Jesus’ death rendered any continuation of the OT sacrifices offered in the temple unnecessary. His death was provided the sacrifice to end all sacrifices; it was the one great sacrifice to which all the earlier sacrifices were mere signs and shadows. The complete effectiveness of his sacrifice was symbolically underscored by the rending of the curtain in the temple as he yielded his spirit to his Heavenly Father on the cross. That curtain which had prohibited access to the Father had been brought crashing down, torn from top to bottom. Later the writer to the Hebrews would provide a more theological explanation of what Jesus had done – there was to be no going back, there was no need and what is more to return to the signposts when the destination indicated by them had arrived would be utterly illogical and foolish.
The temple had stood in the purposes of God as the place where God would meet with his people, the Jews but it had never been God’s ultimate plan. In God’s ultimate plan there was a new and better covenant and Jesus was to inaugurate during that final "seven" – he did so with many and we remind ourselves month by month as we celebrate the meal the Saviour gave us:
"This cup is the new covenant in my blood" he said while exhorting his followers to remember his sufferings on their behalf.
And this gospel has gone out into the whole world! It was a message that would have thrilled Daniel. He lived hundreds of years before God’s plan came to fruition but the effectiveness of Jesus’ sacrifice would work both forwards and backwards in the economy of God and Daniel being a godly man who trusted in his Lord would have benefitted from it.
But what of you?
You have heard once again about this remarkable man Jesus Christ. You have seen how hundreds of years before his coming the details of his coming were already determined by God. You have heard too that this news was broken to Daniel as he was greatly concerned with the problem of sin – and this was God’s solution. You too have a problem with sin and Jesus is the only solution there is for your sin.
Repent and believe for the kingdom of God is at hand! Don’t delay any longer! And if you have already trusted in the Lord Jesus then keep on believing, keep on trusting for Jesus is a most wonderful Saviour!
To God be the Glory