Posted in 2Corinthians, Daniel, Genesis, Hebrews, John, Matthew, Psalms

The Gifts of the Magi

“Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

As we think about Christmas let us reflect on the gifts given by the magi which speak to the Gift given by the Father to the human race. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” (2Corinthians 9:15)

  1. Gold – The gift given to kings. The magi didn’t come to worship one who would become king; they came to worship Him who was born king. This caste of wise men from the east were likely in the order of Daniel with access to his prophecies. Daniel gave the time Messiah would appear (see Daniel 9:24-27) and alluded to His Divine nature as well as His universal rule. “One like a son of man…was given power; all the peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped Him.” (Daniel 7:13-14)
  2. Incense – The gift offered by priests. In the Old Covenant kings were from the tribe of Judah and the family of David; high priests came from the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron. But God’s promised Messiah would be both king and priest as was an obscure person in the Old Testament named Melchizedek. (Genesis 14:18) David prophesied about this new order of priesthood that meant there would have to be a new covenant: “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Psalm 110:4)
  3. Myrrh – The spice used for burial. Messiah would not only be the priest to offer sacrifice; He Himself would be the sacrifice. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) The shepherds who were called to witness the birth were rabbinic shepherds whose job it was to watch over the lambs that would be sacrificed in the temple. On Christmas, God called them to watch over the Lamb that would replace all other sacrifices. “Jesus sacrificed for our sins once for all when He offered Himself.” (Hebrews 7:27) Let’s remember the true wonder of Christmas is the One born for us.
Posted in Daniel, Revelation

The Beast

“The beast which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come out of the abyss and go to his destruction.” Revelation 17:8

In Daniel 7 the beast has its body destroyed and is thrown into the blazing fire when the Messiah returns to the earth. (Daniel 7:11; 13)   How can Vespasian be the beast when Jesus didn’t return to end his reign?  In fact, after the Jewish war ended Vespasian reigned six more years until his peaceful death in 79 AD.  How can he be the beast when everything that was supposed to happen to the beast didn’t happen to him?

Is it possible that the beast is both the one who appeared in history using Vespasian and the one who inspires and possesses a future anti-Christ?  The beast, according to the text above, is more than a human being; it is a creature of darkness that has been released in the past, now is restricted, and will be released again before the coming of Christ.

The Apostle John writes Revelation after one of the judgment events has already occurred in history (the fall of Jerusalem), and before the final one (after the second coming). John assures us that the beast who comes up out of the abyss, and once was (had already appeared), now is not (is not presently active in the world), yet will appear again before he is destroyed.  

What Daniel sees is a composite of both comings of the beast. Just like Old Testament prophecies about Jesus are sometimes confusing because they don’t distinguish or even see two comings of the Messiah; Daniel can’t see two comings of the beast.  He can only see what God shows him, so what he describes is everything that the beast will do until God destroys him.

In Daniel we’re told that after the beast changes Jewish law (Vespasian did this at the destruction of the temple), the saints will be placed under his control for a time, times, and half a time. (Daniel 7:25) This is a reference to his second appearance where John sees a future anti-Christ speaking “great blasphemies against God,” waging “war against God’s holy people and conquering them,” and being “given authority to do whatever he wants for forty-two months.” (Revelation 13:5-7)   Revelation 12:14 calls this same period, “time, times, and half a time,” the same words used in Daniel seven.

Posted in Daniel

The Little Horn

“While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it.” Daniel 7:8  

“The ten horns are ten kings who will rule that empire.  Then another king will arise, different from the other ten who will subdue three of them.” Daniel 7:24-25

Almost all scholars identify the fourth beast of Daniel 7 as the Roman Empire who would have “iron teeth” (7:19) and would “devour the whole world, trampling and crushing everything in its path.” (7:23) What they disagree on is who the ten kings were and who the eleventh king was who began as a little horn.  Instead of trying to figure out when the ten successive kings begin, I propose we focus on how he comes to power.  He begins as “the little horn” and doesn’t become king until three of the other horns or kings are subdued before him.

Remarkably there is an event in our history that fits this description.  When Nero committed suicide in 68 AD, the leadership of the Roman Empire was up for grabs.  Sixty-nine AD has become known as the year of four emperors.  Galba, Otho, and Vitellius all seized control for a time but eventually they were subdued before Vespasian.  Vespasian began as Nero’s general (a little horn – a leader, but not a king) and was then the emperor for ten years after coming to power.  If he is the eleventh king all we need to do is count backwards to find the first.  Five of the kings have already been accounted for (Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian), so who were the other six?

Before Nero was Claudius, then Caligula, before him was Tiberius (the emperor during Jesus’ ministry), then Augustus (emperor when Jesus was born), before him was Julius Caesar who wasn’t called an emperor but “Dictator”, and finally, before Caesar was Pompey, who wasn’t called emperor or dictator, but “Sole Counsel.”

Is there any logical reason why God would identify Pompey as the first of the eleven kings when there were many other Roman leaders before him?  There is. Israel did not belong to the Roman Empire until 63 BC when Pompey invaded Jerusalem and desecrated the temple.  He was the first leader (king) in Rome when God’s people, Israel, came under the rule of the Roman Empire.

Posted in Daniel, Mark, Matthew

Daniel’s Seventieth ‘Seven’ – Part Two

“He (a coming prince) 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.” Daniel 9:27

After the Messiah is put to death, Gabriel says “the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary and its end will come like a flood.” (Daniel 9:26) The next verse, quoted above, is a description of this event that will happen during the seventieth ‘seven.’ 

Jesus said that this “abomination of desolation,” spoken by Daniel the prophet (Matthew 24:15) would be fulfilled in the generation that He lived in.  “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Mark 13:30) 

Many commentators don’t believe the seventieth ‘seven’ occurred in Jesus’ generation so they put it off until the generation before the Lord’s return.  They treat the fall of Jerusalem as a foreshadowing of the events that will happen again before the coming of the Lord which is why so many are certain the Jewish temple has to be rebuilt. But all this is conjecture and not in the text.  In Mark’s gospel only one question is asked and it’s about the destruction of the temple (not about His coming or about the end times) and the sign they should look for: “the abomination of desolation.” (Mark 13:14)

Yesterday we looked at what actually happened in their generation and the abomination that was set up in the destroyed temple.  Now let’s reread Daniel’s seventieth ‘seven’ in light of this history: 

“And he (Vespasian) will make a firm covenant with many (Galilean Jews) for one ‘seven.’ (The war went from 66-73 AD)  In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. (The temple was destroyed at the three and a half year mark, so sacrifices could no longer be made.) And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation (the Roman ensign was sacrificed to where the temple had been), until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”  Daniel’s seventieth ‘seven’ was fulfilled in the first century, just like Jesus said it would be.

Posted in Daniel

The First Sixty-nine ‘Sevens’

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city…“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’…After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.” Daniel 9:24-26

 One of the most remarkable prophecies of the Old Testament is found in Daniel 9:24-27.  The seventy years of captivity in Babylon are finished, so Daniel is praying for the deliverance from their exile when the angel Gabriel appears to him and gives the message above.  After telling about the first 69 ‘sevens’ he describes the 70th ‘seven’ but makes it clear that there will be a gap – Messiah will be “put to death and have nothing” after the 69 ‘sevens,’ but before the 70th seven.  The seven ‘sevens’ and the sixty-two ‘sevens’ are consecutive and are only split up so Daniel will know how long it will take to restore and rebuild the Jerusalem – 49 years (seven ‘sevens’).  The 62 ‘sevens’ or 434 years immediately follow the 49 after which Messiah will be put to death and have nothing.  Forty-nine and 434 equals 483 years – not solar years which we use today, but the 360 day lunar years they used then.

 We find the decree Gabriel references in the book of Nehemiah.  Nehemiah is the Persian king Artaxerxes’ cupbearer and he is sad because “the city, the place of my father’s tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire.” (2:3)  So in Artaxerxes 20th year, in the month of Nisan (April), a decree is made to rebuild the city. (2:1-9)

 Artaxerxes began his reign in 465 BC (Encyclopedia Britannica), so his 20th year would be 445 BC according to our calendar (444 BC because Daniel used accessional dating to count his reign).  To convert from lunar to solar we begin by figuring out how many days there are in 483 lunar years: 483 times 360 equals 173,880 days.  Then we divide 173,880 by 365.242 (the days in a solar year) to determine the number of solar years so we can get a date that corresponds to our dates in history – it comes to 476 solar years.  So when we start the prophetic clock in 444 BC and  begin with the first 444 years we come to 1 AD because there is no year “0”. (The year after 1 BC is 1 AD)  That leaves 32 (476 minus 444 equals 32) years which when added to 1 AD brings us to 33 AD.  The Messiah would die after the 69 sevens – the time most scholars give for Jesus’ death is Passover of 33 AD.

Posted in 2Corinthians, Daniel, Jeremiah, Luke, Mark, Matthew

Two Events of Judgment

“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.  But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.  For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.”  Matthew 24:34-37

 I have come to believe that Jesus is describing two events of judgment in His discourse on the future (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 17 and 21) and that they are very different to prepare for.

One event, the destruction of Jerusalem, will happen in their lifetime, or their “generation.”  It is a time of God’s wrath on the Jewish people for rejecting Christ (Luke 21:22-24); it will feature an abomination of desolation being set up in the holy place (Matthew 24:15); and  it will be horrible but “cut short,” otherwise all of the Jewish elect would be wiped out.

  The rescue for the church at this time is to flee Jerusalem when you see these things happening.  “All these things” were to be expected within their generation and they would be as visible as a fig tree budding indicating that summer is near.  There will be a fulfillment of  “all that is written” (Luke 21:22), a reference to Daniel’s seventieth ‘seven’ (Daniel 9:27), and Jeremiah’s allusion to a time of Jacob’s trouble. (Jeremiah 30:7)

   The second event Jesus describes is not just in Judea, it’s world-wide (Luke 21:35); Jesus doesn’t know when it’s going to happen; the elect don’t have to flee, they are taken; and there are no signs to prepare for it, so people have to live ready.  This coming event is not a judgment on the Jews for rejecting Christ (that already happened in the destruction of Jerusalem), but on the Gentiles who have rejected Christ. (Luke 21:24) 

 By the end of their generation this second judgment will be imminent, or “at the door,” (Matthew 24:33-34) because it will occur immediately after Jesus appears in the clouds.  We are now living between the first and second judgment events in a time of God’s favor. (2Corinthians 6:2)  This is the time to respond to God’s salvation!

Posted in Daniel, James, Psalms

The Humility of our Humanity

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” James 4:13-16

God gave King Nebuchadnezzar a dream and then gave Daniel the interpretation to warn him about the brevity of his life. In the dream he was pictured as a head of gold, but Daniel explained that the reason why the metal changed at the shoulders was: “after you will arise another kingdom…” (Daniel 2:39) The king didn’t like this reminder of his humanity so he ordered that a ninety foot statue be made of himself out of pure gold, and then ordered those in his kingdom to bow down and worship it. He had those who would address him use this phrase before stating their business; “O king, live forever!” (Daniel 2:9)

God was very patient with this proud king revealing Himself in many ways until he finally came to a place of worship. Daniel records his words: “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” (Daniel 4:37) I wonder if he had his servants remind him by changing the greeting to something like: “O king, you won’t live forever.”

When we remember how short our time on earth is, it is easier to live for the important things of eternity instead of the temporal things of this world. No wonder David prayed, “Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am;” (Psalm 39:4) and Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

When we’re right with God we have no anxiety about the brevity of our lives because the best is yet to come!