UNTO THE MESSIAH, THE PRINCE
"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." (#Da 9:25)
We have seen that the first part of this passage gives the starting point of the seventy weeks. The passage also gives the measure of time (7 weeks and 62 weeks, or 69 weeks in all) from that starting point "unto the Messiah." We shall postpone to a later chapter the question why the total measure of time here mentioned is divided into two parts. The question which is of immediate importance for us to determine is, what was the precise occasion or event in the earthly lifetime of the Lord Jesus Christ, to which this stretch of 483 years from the decree of Cyrus brings us? We will now seek the answer to this question.
Assuming, as we do, that God intended this prophecy to be understood (for verse 25 says, "Know therefore, and understand, " and our Lord said, "Whoso readeth let him understand") we confidently expect to find both the starting point and the terminal point clearly revealed in the Scriptures. We have already found this to be the case as regards the starting point, and we shall now find that the Scriptures also indicate clearly the event to which the measure of 483 years reaches, and to which the angel referred in the words "unto the Messiah, the Prince."
Had we followed the usual custom in beginning our study with a chronology selected from the various ones that are available, we should be forced thereby, as others have been, to pick out the event lying nearest to the 483 year mark on our adopted scale of years. We should have been obliged moreover to manipulate the materials, so far as necessary (either stretching the measuring line, or taking up the slack, according as it was too short or too long), and then to present the best arguments we could find for the conclusions arrived at. But, being untrammelled by a chronological scheme, we are entirely free to enquire of the oracles of God as to the meaning of the words "unto Messiah, the Prince, " and as to the occasion or event to which those words specifically refer. If we can, from the Scriptures, identify that event (which, we believe, can be clearly done) then we know, from the prophecy itself, that it is precisely 69 weeks (483 years) from the going forth of the decree of Cyrus, and that but one week of the seventy remains; and we know further that the fulfilment of the six predictions of verse 24 must be found within that remaining week.
We must, of course, look to the words themselves to guide us to the information we are seeking; and those words are all we need. We are accustomed to regard the term "the Messiah" as merely a name or a title, but in fact it is a descriptive Hebrew word meaning "the anointed (one)." In Greek the word Christos has the same meaning. Therefore, we have only to ask, when was Jesus of Nazareth presented to Israel as the Anointed One? As to this we are not left in any doubt whatever, for it was an event of the greatest importance in the life of Jesus our Lord, as well as in the dealings of God with Israel, and in the history of the world, an event which is made prominent in all the four Gospels. It was at His baptism in Jordan that our Lord was "anointed" for His ministry; for then it was that the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily shape as a dove. The apostle Peter bears witness that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power" (#Ac 10:38). This is clear and explicit to the point that, when the years of Israels history had unrolled to that marvellous day on which Father, Son and Holy Spirit were simultaneously manifested to the senses of men, it brought them "unto the Messiah." There is no day in all history like that. The event is marked in a way to distinguish it most conspicuously. The Lords own testimony in regard to the matter is even more definite and impressive. For, after His return to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, He came to Nazareth where He had been brought up, and going into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, He read from the prophet Isaiah these striking words "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor"; and after He had closed the book He said, "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears" (#Lu 4:16-21). Thus the Lord declared Himself to be, at that time, the "Anointed" One, that is, "the Messiah."
The testimony of God the Father is to the same effect. For the Voice from heaven bore witness to Him, saying, "This is My Son, the Beloved." This declares Him to be the One of Whom David prophesied in Psalm 2 (#Ps 2:7). But that same Psalm sets Him forth as Gods "anointed" (#Ps 2:2)
But we have a special witness in John the Baptist, who was a man sent from God to bear witness of Christ, and to make Him manifest to Israel; for John himself declared this to be his mission, saying, "that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water" (#Joh 1:6,7,31). When, therefore, the Lord Jesus had been "anointed" with the Holy Ghost and had been "made manifest to Israel" by the testimony of John the Baptist, then the words of the prophecy "unto the Anointed One" were completely fulfilled. From that great and wonderful event down to the day of His death He was constantly before the people in His Messianic character, fulfilling His Messianic mission, going about, doing good, healing all that were oppressed of the devil, preaching the glad-tidings of the Kingdom of God, manifesting the Fathers Name, speaking the words His Father gave Him to speak, and doing the works the Father gave Him to do. Indeed, even before He announced Himself in the synagogue of Nazareth as Gods "Anointed One, " He had plainly said to the woman of Samaria (after she had spoken of "Messiah, who is called Christ"), "I that speak unto thee am He" (#Joh 4:25,26). Moreover, to the Samaritans who came out to see Him on the womans report, He so fully revealed Himself that they were constrained to confess Him, saying, "We have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ (the Anointed One), the Saviour of the world" (#Joh 4:42).
Furthermore, the nature, as well as the effect of John the Baptists public testimony to the Lord Jesus, is clearly revealed by the words of those who, on hearing his testimony, followed Jesus. It is recorded that "One of the two who heard John speak and followed Him (Jesus) was Andrew, Simon Peters brother. He first findeth his own brother and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah, which is, being interpreted, the Christ" (#Joh 1:40,41).
In these scriptures the Holy Spirit has caused the important fact that Jesus was the Anointed One to be stated in both Hebrew and Greek, so that the significance of it should not be missed. That "this Jesus is the Christ" is the great point of apostolic testimony (#Ac 17:3); and it is the substance of "our faith"; for "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (#1Jo 5:1,4,5). It is likewise the rock foundation on which He is building His church (#Mt 16:18 1Co 3:11).
We have cited the foregoing scriptures to make it clear beyond all doubt that, from the Lords baptism and His manifestation to Israel, He was in the fullest sense "the Messiah" or the "Anointed" of God. To this fact the inspired records bear, as we have seen, the clearest testimony. Manifestly there is no previous event in the earthly lifetime of our Lord which could be taken as meeting in any way the words of Gabriel. And it is equally clear that no subsequent event could be taken as the fulfilment of those words; for there is no subsequent occasion when the Lord was any more "the Anointed One" than He was when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him at His baptism, Thus the Scriptures absolutely shut us up to the Lords baptism as the terminal point of the 483 years; for it was then that "God anointed Him with the Holy Ghost, and with power."
Another fact which has an important bearing on this part of our study is the great particularity with which the date of the beginning of Johns ministry is given in the Gospel by Luke (#Lu 3:1-3). There we read that the preaching of John the Baptist began in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod (Antipas) tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea, Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, and Annas and Caiaphas being high priests. Thus the new era, which was that of the MessiahGod manifest in the fleshis marked with extraordinary precision. And this is the more remarkable because it is the only event whereof the date is thus recorded in the New Testament.
This is highly significant; for just as the date of the decree of Cyrus, marking the beginning of the Seventy Weeks, is stated with great definiteness, so likewise the preaching of John, which marked the termination of the 483 years, is stated with extraordinary minuteness. It is a reasonable inference that God has given prominence to these dates in His Word because they mark the beginning and the ending of this prophetic period.
It is also worthy of special notice that the dates of both these events are given by reference to the reigns of Gentile rulers. One is given as occurring "in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia, " the other "in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar." This is an indication that the things which were to be consummated within the time limit of 70 weeks were not matters which concerned the Jews only, but were of worldwide interest, having to do with the welfare of all mankind. Gods dealings, theretofore, had been matters of Jewish history. But now, beginning with the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, " a new era was beginning, one in which Gods dealings were to be matters of world history. It is appropriate, therefore, that we should find at this point in the Word of God (#Lu 3:1-3) a change from terms of Jewish to terms of Gentile chronology.
The prophets had foretold the ministry of John the Baptist in words which show that his appearance was to mark the beginning of a new and wonderful era, the preparation for the coming of Christ and His gospel (#Isa 40:3-11; Mal 3:1; 4:5,6). Moreover, just as the prophets had pointed forward to Johns ministry as the beginning of this new era, so likewise the apostles pointed back to it. Thus, when one was to be chosen to fill the place of Judas, it was required that the choice should be limited to those who had companied with the apostles all the time that the Lord Jesus had gone in and out among them, "beginning from the baptism of John" (#Ac 1:21,22). Again, when Peter preached to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius, telling them of "the word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ, " he declared that the preaching of this message (or "word"), which was "published throughout all Judea, " had begun "from Galilee after the baptism which John preached" (#Ac 10:36,37). And Paul likewise, in proclaiming the fulfilment of Gods great promise of a "Saviour" to Israel, referred to Johns preaching as the beginning of the era of this fulfilment (#Ac 13:24).
It is clear, therefore, in the light of Scripture, that the 483 years "unto the Messiah" terminated at the Lords baptism, when His ministry as "the Messiah" began. Moreover, the prophecy itself furnishes a means whereby we can check up our conclusions thus far, and test their correctness. To this we will refer later on. The terms of the prophecy make it plain that the expiration of the sixty ninth week would bring the fulfilment of the greatest of all promises, the manifestation of Christ to Israel; and we have now shown that the records of the New Testament mark the era of His manifestation with the utmost precision.
Thus we have the coming of Christ plainly announced, and the time of His manifestation to Israel definitely fixed by the measure of years from the decree to restore and build Jerusalem. But for what purpose was He to come? And what was He to accomplish for the deliverance and welfare of His people Israel? The Jews would, of course, look for an era of triumph over all their foes, of great national prosperity and glory, and of supremacy for them over all the nations of the world. In the light of their expectations the prophecy would seem most strange. It would be utterly irreconcilable with their hopes in regard to what their promised Messiah was to do for them. For the only thing said of Him was that He should be "be cut off and have nothing"; and while there was some hope in the promise that He should "confirm the covenant with many, " yet there was also the dreadful prediction of a prince whose people should destroy the rebuilt city and sanctuary, and the further prophecies that the land should be devastated as by a flood, and that to the end there should be wars and desolations. A more depressing prophecy, or one more in conflict with the Messianic expectations of the Jews, could not well be imagined.
But our immediate concern is not with the character of the message but with the time of the several events foretold in it. The chief thing said of the Messiah is that He should "be cut off and have nothing" (#Dan 9:25,26); and this was to be "after the threescore and two weeks." Thus we have our attention focused as it were upon the cutting off of the Christ. That transcendent event, the Cross, is thus made the central feature of the prophecy. And this feature becomes the more grandly prominent when we take notice of the facts: (1) that it was by the cutting off of the Messiah that the six predicted things of verse 24 were to be accomplished; (2) that it was by the cutting off of the Messiah that the covenant with many (#Dan 9:27) was to be confirmed and the sacrifice and oblation caused to cease (as will be shown later on); and (3) that it was because of the cutting off of the Messiah that the devastating judgments foretold in the prophecy were to fall upon the city, the temple, and the people.
Thus it is seen that the prophecy is one of marvellous unity, and that all its details centre around the Cross.
Now as to the time of this transcendent event, it is expressly stated that it was to be "after the threescore and two weeks." That part of the determined period was to bring us only "unto the Messiah." None of the predicted events were to happen within the sixty nine weeks, The expiration thereof left only "one week" (Da 9:27) of the appointed seventy. Hence, within that one remaining week Messiah must be cut off if the predictions of verse 24 were to be fulfilled within 490 years from the beginning of the prophetic period. For it should be carefully noted, in view of certain interpretations which have been put forth within recent years, that we have not yet come to the fulfilment of any one of the six things foretold in Daniel (Da 9:24). The expiration of the 483 years has brought us only "unto" the One in Whom those six things, which involve the whole purpose of God in redemption, were to be accomplished. Sixty nine weeks of the determined seventy have passed. Only one week remains. It follows, therefore, of necessity, that the predictions of verse 24 must be fulfilled in that last week. Within the next seven years the transgression of Israel must be finished, reconciliation must be made for iniquity, and everlasting righteousness must be brought in, else the prophecy would utterly fail.
But this is just what might have been understood from verse 24 alone. The words "seventy weeks are determined" are enough to inform us that the seventieth week was the one which would see the accomplishment of the predicted events; for if they, or some of them at least, were not to fall in that last week, then the prophetic period would not have been announced as one of seventy weeks, but as one of a lesser number. In fact, the very manner in which the prophecy is given to usthe last week being set off from the rest for special and separate mentionindicates the exceptional importance of that week. And this is easily seen; for if we look attentively at the terms of the prophecy, we perceive that our Lords personal ministry lay entirely within the seventieth week. We ask our readers to lay firm hold of this fact. The prophecy plainly says there should be 69 weeks "unto the Anointed One." Then, to make this clear beyond all doubt, it says, "And after the threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off." This definitely places His whole ministry within the seventieth consecutive week from the decree of Cyrus. This is of the highest importance to an understanding of the prophecy. In this connection, and by way of anticipation of what we propose to consider more fully hereafter, we briefly call attention to several points which bear directly upon this part of our study:
(1) It is clear from what is recorded in Johns Gospel (and this has been often pointed out from the earliest days of our era) that our Lords ministry was approximately, if not exactly, three years and a half in duration. Hence from His anointing to His death would be half a "week, " and His crucifixion would be "in the midst of the (70th) week."
(2) Glancing now for a moment at (#Dan 9:27) we note the words "and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease." If, as we expect to show hereafter by ample proof, the "He" of this verse is Christ, and the words quoted refer to His causing the sacrifices of the law to cease by His offering of Himself as a sacrifice for sin once for all, then we have a perfect agreement, in the finished work of Christ, with all the terms of the prophecy, and particularly in regard to the length of time assigned to His earthly ministry both by the prophecy and by the Gospel according to John.
We need to exercise much care in this part of our study, because it has to do with matters regarding which there has been great uncertainty and wide difference of opinion. The difficulties, however, have been largely imported into the subject. They are due in great measure to the wrong method which has been pursued (as we have shown in a previous chapter), and to the choice of a wrong starting point. For manifestly, the consequences of a mistake at the beginning will appear all along the way. On the other hand, it will be easy to keep from error and confusion if we bear in mind these simple facts (1), that, at the baptism of Christ 69 weeks had elapsed; (2) that the beginning of His ministry was the beginning also of the 70th week; ( 3) that His entire mission lay within the compass of that last week; and (4) that in that week we must needs look for the accomplishment of the six predictions of (#Daniel 9:24).
We have not thus far referred to the latter part of (#Dan 9:25). It merely tells that the street and wall (of the city) were to be built again "even in troublous times." The period of "seven weeks, " mentioned in the verse, was no doubt the measure of those troublous times. This will serve to explain why the entire period of 70 weeks was divided into three partsseven weeks, sixty two weeks, and one week. In the first portion (7 weeks), the rebuilding of the city and temple took place, and Gods last messages to Israel were given through Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Then follows a long stretch of 62 weeks, which period was uneventful, so far as this prophecy is concerned. Chapter 11, however, (as we shall show later on) foretells the principal events of this period, which brings us "unto the Messiah, " and then comes the last and most momentous "week, " which appropriately stands by itself, for in it occurred the most stupendous events of all time.
The fact that the angel Gabriel, in speaking of the Messiah, gave Him the title "Prince" (#Dan 9:25) suggests an inquiry, which, when pursued, is found to yield fruitful results.
Two of the great visions which Daniel records give an outline of the history of human government, from the time of the vision to the very end of world government in the hands of men; and in both of these visions it is shown that the last of the world kingdoms will be followed, and the whole system of human rule will be displaced, by the Kingdom of God. The vision of chapter 2 shows this kingdom as a stone, carving itself out of the mountain without the agency of hands (this being a special feature of the vision), smiting the great image (which represents human rule in its entirety) upon its feet, demolishing the whole image, and finally becoming itself a mountain which fills the whole earth. Daniel, in expounding the vision, said that this stone represented "a kingdom" which "the God of heaven" would set up, and which should "stand forever" (#Da 2:44). Plainly the Lord Jesus had this Scripture in mind when, in warning the Scribes and Pharisees that the Kingdom of God was to be taken from them (for the promise of the Kingdom, along with all other promises, had been given to the Jews), He spoke of "the Stone which the builders refused, " and declared that whosoever should fall upon it (then, at His first advent) should be broken; but on whomsoever it should fall (at His second coming in power) it should grind him to powder (#Mt 21:42-44).
The companion vision (#Da 7) reveals further details concerning this Kingdom of God. Particularly does it show that it was to be conferred in heaven upon One like the Son of man, to whom was to be given "dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His Kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (#Da 7:13,14).
In view of these two preceding visions, which speak so definitely of a kingdom, it might be expected that the angel, in announcing in the vision of chapter 9, the coming of the Anointed One (who, of course, is the One Who is to receive the kingdom) would have referred to Him as "Messiah the King." And indeed, if His coming to which the Seventy Weeks was the determined measure of time had been with a view to setting up a kingdom which would forthwith displace the earth rule of man, then the title "King" would be the appropriate one to use. But, in view of the actual purpose for which Christ was to come at that time, and of the work He was then to accomplish, there is a wonderful suitability in the title "Prince." And not only so, but this title serves as a connecting link with certain New Testament scriptures, referred to below, in which His work for this age is set forth in a comprehensive way.
For the title "Prince" is given to the Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, four times; whereas He was not once proclaimed by Heavens authority as King, at His first coming. (He was referred to as the King by the Gentile Magi, by Nathanael when he first met Him, by the excited multitude at His last entry into Jerusalem, when their nationalistic expectations had been raised to a high pitch by the miracle of the raising of Lazarus, and by Pilate in derision. He was not so styled by John the Baptist, by Himself, or by His immediate disciples and apostles. These latter called Him "Master" and "Lord".)
The four New Testament passages to which we refer are these:
1. #Ac 3:15"And killed the Prince of life, Whom God hath raised from the dead."
2. #Ac 5:31"Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins."
3. #Heb 2:10"For it became Him, for Whom are all things, and by Whom are all things in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain (Prince) of their salvation perfect through sufferings."
4. #Heb 12:2"Looking unto Jesus, the Author (Prince) and Finisher of faith, Who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Taken together, these four scriptures present a wonderful view of the work of the Anointed One at His first advent. To begin with it should be noticed that in each passage His sufferings are made prominent. Peter says to the Jews at Jerusalem, "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life." Again, in( #Ac 5:30), he said: "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, Whom ye slew and hanged on a tree, Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour." In the third scripture we read that it became God, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Prince of their salvation perfect through sufferings. And finally, we read that as the Prince of faith, the One to Whom we must trustfully look while running the race set before us, He endured the Cross, despising the shame. It is needless that we should point out how perfect is the agreement in all this with the one thing foretold of Messiah the Prince in (#Daniel 9:25, 26), namely that He should be cut off and have nothing. All these scriptures then agree in their testimony that this Anointed "Prince" was, for the accomplishment of His mission, to suffer and to die.
Again, viewing these scriptures together, we see in them Gods fourfold objective in sending forth His Son in the likeness of man, and in anointing Him with the Holy Ghost and with power. It was (1) that He might be the Prince of life, thus to meet the deepest need of His perishing people, for He came "that they might have life"; ( 2) that He might also be the Prince and Saviour empowered to grant repentance and forgiveness of sins; (3) that He might be the Prince or Leader of the salvation of Gods many sons, to bring them all safe home to glory; and (4) that He might also be the Leader as well as the Finisher of that faith whereby Gods people are to run (and without which none can possibly run) with endurance the race which is set before them. This fourfold object of the purpose of Christs mission at His first advent seems to present a comprehensive setting forth of His work.
In these scriptures then we view Him as the Prince of life exalted by Gods right hand; as the Prince and Saviour, granting repentance and pardon, and giving the Holy Spirit "to them that obey Him" (for He will accept only willing obedience); as the Prince of the complete and final salvation of Gods "many sons" whom, by death, He has delivered from him who has the power of death, that is the devil (#Heb 2:14,15); and lastly as the Prince and Completer of a faith which triumphs through all difficulties, and sustains us to the end of the race.
To summarize: The first passage has to do with the birth of the children of the kingdom; the second with their pardon and justification; the third with their protection and safety while on their journey to the glory; and the fourth with the perfecting of their faith for the endurance of all the trials of the way. Taken altogether they give us the character of that kingdom which we have received through grace, and which is described in (#Heb 12:28) as "a kingdom which cannot be moved."