The history of Israel and the Jewish people has been fraught with tests and trials, persecution, and tribulation. They are a people sought out and called by God for His eternal plans and purposes. Part of their troubles undoubtedly have occurred throughout Israel’s history as a direct attack of Satan. The Lord ordained that through Abraham’s seed all of the Earth would be blessed. [See Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Acts 3:25] We know from the revelation given to the apostle Paul that the “seed” that would bless all of the families of the earth was Christ. [See Gal. 3:16] Satan knew from the very first prophecy of the Bible that when the “seed” came into the earth, his days were numbered. He knew the birth of the “seed” meant that his head would be crushed, in other words, he would be utterly and hopelessly defeated. [See Gen. 3:15]
Because of this fact, the devil absolutely despises the Jewish people and has tried repeatedly down through the centuries to wipe them out. In Genesis 6, for example, he attempted to so pollute the bloodline of humanity that the promised seed could never be born. He almost succeeded, however God had one man, Noah, through whom He could repopulate the earth whose blood was untainted, nor that of his three sons and their wives.
During the 430 years of Israel’s captivity in the land of Egypt, because of the fact that the Jews were reproducing so rapidly; an evil thought came into the mind of the Pharaoh of Egypt and he ordered the midwives to kill all of the male Jewish babies, while leaving the female babies alive. This was all an attack on the seed. Miraculously, baby Moses was preserved alive, and was even raised in Pharaoh’s house. Many years later this child would grow to become Israel’s deliverer, and thus a type of Christ.
As the years passed, Israel often because of their own rebellion, found themselves persecuted and in bondage to their enemies. Every time they would cry to the Lord, He would send a deliverer and bring them out. He has shown Himself to be faithful to His Word even when His people were not always faithful to Him.
By the time of the birth of our Lord Satan again put into the heart of a national leader, in this case King Herod, to kill all of the male babies from two years old and under. This was an attempt to kill the seed, the one who would come and crush the serpent’s head. The young child Jesus was saved when in a dream his foster-father Joseph was warned by an angel to flee to Egypt until the death of Herod, thus fulfilling the words of the Prophet Hosea. [See Hosea 11:1]
Make no mistake, Satan and his minions hate God, and consequently; the people of God. He especially hates the Jews and the Church. It is all because of our connection to the seed.
There is coming a time when Israel and the Jewish people, as well as the unredeemed people of the nations, will face a time of trial, a time of testing, a time of tribulation that will be unlike anything anyone has ever dealt with before. I do not say this on my own authority. That would be foolish at best. I make this statement on the authority of the never changing, forever settled in Heaven, Holy Spirit inspired Word of the Living God! Jesus said, looking to this future time I am referring to, For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.[Matt. 24:21] Go through history. Think about all of the times of great trial and tribulation this world has seen. Think about all of the plagues, the devastating storms, times of famine, and great human suffering; and yet Jesus said there was coming a time, as He looked down through the prophetic telescope through the centuries distant from His time, and saw a time that would trump them all. That is hard to imagine I don’t mind telling you. Yet that is what Jesus said.
I know there are different schools of thought within the pail of orthodoxy in the Christian Church with regard to not only the timing of the Great Tribulation but also as to who exactly will be present on the earth during the time of it. For example, my Preterist friends would say that Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled in the invasion of Jerusalem by Titus Vestpasian in 70 A.D. With all due respect to my friends who teach this, it simply cannot be. While some of the things of which Jesus spoke did occur in 70 A.D., many others did not; making it ineligible to be the fulfillment of Jesus’ words as far as I am concerned.
Then I have brethren who would insist that the Church will endure the horrors of the Great Tribulation, protected in the midst of it much like Israel during the plagues of Egypt, but present on the earth nonetheless. Still others would say that while the Church will be here for the first three and a half years of the Tribulation, she will be caught up prior to the second half, or “Pre-wrath.” I respect my brethren who hold to these various views. I realize they love the Lord and His Word as I do. Thankfully, our eschatalogical views and convictions are not the basis for our fellowship. Anyone who has followed my teachings for any length of time knows that I hold to a pre-tribulation catching away position. I believe that prior to any of the Tribulation events, Jesus will come to within about 6,000 feet of this planet’s surface and the dead in Christ will rise to meet Him, followed closely by those who are alive and remain (I plan to be in that number), and we will all rise to meet Him in the great clouds of saints who will be accompanying Him. What a glorious day that will be, as the songwriter said!
Someone asks, “You mean to say that you believe that there will be a generation of Christians who will not only not face death, but also not have to go through all of the trials and persecutions of past generations of Christians?” First, I don’t believe that this generation of Christians is escaping persecution. We have brothers and sisters in various parts of the world who are dying for their faith in Jesus everyday. As I write this, there are saints laying down their lives for their faith. I realize this. On the other hand, however, I believe that this generation of the Church will escape the Great Tribulation! It seems anytime you make a statement like that someone will chime in with various scriptures to prove you wrong. For example, Jesus said, These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.[John 16:33 emphasis added] Jesus said His people would have tribulation in this world, right? Also we are told that on Paul and Barnabas’ missionary journey through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch that they were, Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. [Acts 14:22 emphasis added]
Don’t scriptures like the above provide irrefutable proof that Christians will indeed endure the Great Tribulation? No, they do not. The word translated, tribulation is the Greek word, thilipsis. This feminine noun appears some 45 times in the New Testament, 18 of which it is translated, tribulation. It appears as affliction 11 times, afflictions 6, tribulations 6, and afflicted, trouble, anguish, and persecution each one time. Yes, it is true, we will not get through life on this fallen planet without having our share of trouble, anguish, and trouble. However, when we speak of the prophetic period of time known among other things as the GREAT Tribulation (Lit. “Tribulation the GREAT”), we are not speaking of the regular tests and trials and troubles of life we each face. No, we are referring to a time that will be like none other before, or after. [Matt. 24:21]
The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates the above referenced passage, For at that time there will be great tribulation, the kind that hasn’t taken place from the beginning of the world until now and never will again! This will be a time completely set apart from any other time in all of recorded history. It will be the seven last years of the age. Time as we know it will never be the same again following that time. Where do we get the idea of the Great Tribulation being seven years in duration? We get this from the prophecy of the Prophet Daniel. He said, Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. [Daniel 9:24 – 27]
This can be a difficult passage of scripture to understand, so lets walk through it. First, the word “week” is not referring to a literal seven-day period as we normally think of it. The Hebrew word for “seven” is shabua meaning, “a unit of measure.” It is comparable to our word, “dozen.” You can have a dozen donuts, a dozen bananas, a dozen roses, etc. It doesn’t really matter a dozen what, it is just a unit of measure. This Hebrew word is a lot like that, in this case it is seventy sevens. It could be seventy sevens of anything. It could be units of days, months, or years. If we look at the context, it is clear that Daniel had been reading after Jeremiah concerning years, seventy years. Jeremiah had been preaching that the captivity would be 70 years. The seventy years were a specific penalty for violating seven sabbatic years. So that would be seventy sevens, a total of 490 years. Israel had violated exactly seventy Sabbatic years; so they would go into captivity seventy years. [See 2 Chr. 36:21] Mathematically speaking, you could break this period down thus – 1 week = 7 years, 70 weeks = 490 years, 70 weeks divided into three periods: 7 weeks – 62 weeks – 1 week (the final 7 years).
Prior to this revelation Daniel was no doubt puzzled as to how the end of the seventy years of captivity fit into the long period of Gentile world dominion which the visions in chapters 7 and 8 had indicated. He probably thought, as did many during this period of time that the seventy years would be ended, his people would return to the land, the promised Messiah would come, and the kingdom promised to David would be established. Yet how could that be? The Seventy Weeks, or the seventy sevens, answer two questions. First, Israel’s kingdom would not come immediately. The seventy sevens had to run their course. This 490 years deal with Israel as a State and a Nation, even offering up sacrifices, carrying her forth all the way to the Second Coming. In fact, the following verses will explain how this 490 years is to be broken up, because these years do not run in succession, which we will see. They are broken up to fit into Gentile times. The word translated as “determined” is the Hebrew, chathak and literally means, cutting off. These seventy sevens are to be, cut off. The seventy sevens for Israel and the Times of the Gentiles will both come to an end at the same time, that is, at the Second Coming of Christ. This is important to understand to properly understand the prophecy.
This seventy weeks deal with two of the people groups that God sees in the earth: Jews and Gentiles (Nations). [See 1 Cor. 10:32] The primary focus of the final “week” will be Israel and the Jewish people. It will affect the Gentile nations inasmuch as they are involved with Israel. Israel achieving her Statehood in 1948 was the beginning of the fulfillment of these prophecies of Daniel. May 1948 as a date had nothing to do with anything relating to the “seventy weeks”, except in leading up to the fulfillment of the final seven years of the 490 years. In other words, Israel had to be in the land and established as a people for the prophecies to be fulfilled. Six events are actually recorded in verse 24, and we will look at those in a moment. As we demonstrated above, the 490 years can be divided into three parts, which we will look at as well. Since these years do not run in succession, it may be helpful to understand them as a clock. It is kind of a like a ballgame that lasts for an hour, but the clock doesn’t start until the ball is actually in play; so an hour long game might last for two or three hours. So it is often with the prophetic clock. It starts and stops at different periods of time.
When the 490 prophetic years are finished, the six things of verse 24 will be accomplished. They are as follows: 1) “To finish the transgression”, 2) To make an end of sins”, 3) To make reconciliation (Atonement) for iniquity”, 4) “To bring in everlasting righteousness”, 5) “To seal up the vision and prophecy”, and 6) “To anoint the Most Holy”. All of this will be fulfilled at the Second Coming, which will conclude the 490 years.
Verse 25 reveals us to the first block of years in the 490 year cycle of Daniel’s prophecy. It began with the command of Cyrus, King of Persia, to rebuild the Jewish Temple. This was carried out in the first year of his reign. [See Ezra 1:1 – 4; Isa. 44:28; 45:1 – 4; 46:11] However, from the time that Cyrus gave his decree until all of the wall and Temple were complete was some 141 years. Actually the clocked stopped and started several times during this 141 years, making some 49 years when work was truly in progress, comprising the first seven weeks of years (49 years). This means that the 92 years when the Jews were not building their wall or Temple were wasted as far as the plan of God was concerned.
The second block of time began at the end of the 49 years, and ended with the Crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was a total of 434 years. This block of time continued uninterrupted. Combining then the 49 years with the 434 years brings it out to a total of 483 years. The third block of time (you will recall we stated that the 490 prophetic years could be broken into three parts), which we study in the last verse, will be the last week of years, totaling 7 years, which will make up the Great Tribulation period, concluding Daniel’s Prophecy of seventy weeks of years, i.e. , 490 years.
Again, it must be remembered that these 490 years did not run consecutively. There were stoppages, as stated, in the first 49 years, and there has been a huge halt of nearly 2,000 years from the time that Christ was crucified, which has not concluded yet. The last week of seven years is yet to come.
There are definitely dark days ahead for the nations of the world, and specifically for Israel and the Jewish people. I want to continue our exposition in Daniel 9 next time and see in greater detail God’s focus during the Great Tribulation period.