Secret Service Theologian



Unfulfilled Prophecy and "The Hope of the Church"


I responded with real pleasure to a request from the Prophecy Investigation Society to write a manual on the prophecy of "The Seventy Weeks." But I soon found that such a book would be a mere abridgment of The Coming Prince, or The Seventy Weeks of Daniel. And as the narrow limits of space prescribed for me would preclude my citing authorities, or noticing any of the numerous incidental questions involved in the inquiry, I felt that the result would neither satisfy students of prophecy, nor appeal to Christians generally. I sought permission, therefore, to vary the proposed scheme; and, instead of making Daniel ix. the burden of these pages, to use it as the basis for a brief treatise upon unfulfilled prophecy, giving prominence to the well-nigh forgotten truth of that Coming of Christ which is the distinctive hope of the present dispensation-" the Hope of the Church," Bengel calls it.
A "special subject" in a school curriculum is often ignored, as not being essential to "a liberal education"; and prophecy is neglected by many a Christian as being unnecessary to "assurance of salvation." But such neglect is perilous in these days of subtle and sustained attacks upon the Bible; when we are confronted both by the sceptical crusade of the Higher Criticism, and the steadily increasing influence of Romanism. And the study of prophecy will prove a safeguard against both these apostasies. For no Christian who pursues it intelligently, and understands the Divine "plan of the ages," which it unfolds, will be imposed upon by "the learned ignorance" of the Critics. And the present-day decline of Protestantism in England is due to no change in the historic apostasy of Christendom, but to a weakening of faith in Holy Writ. For when the devout religionist begins to lose confidence in the Bible, he is apt to fall back upon "the Church."
"All God-breathed Scripture is profitable." And prophecy fills a large proportion of its pages. The study is a fascinating one; and it will save us from being entrapped either by the Christianised Infidelity of Germany, or by the Christianised Paganism of Rome. I may add that, although The Coming Prince .has been under the search-light of criticism for so many years, not a single point in my scheme of the Seventy Weeks has been refuted or disturbed. Professor Driver's only disparaging criticism (in his "Daniel," Cambridge Bible, page 149) is that my scheme is based on that of Julius Africanus (a fact of which I boast!), and that it leaves the seventieth week unexplained (which suggests that he mislaid his copy of my book when he had read only half of it !). R.A.


Many years ago one of the leading Rabbis of the London Synagogue published a volume of sermons to refute the Christian interpretation of certain Messianic prophecies. The Seventy Weeks of Daniel received prominent notice; and he accused Christian expositors of tampering, not only with chronology, but with the language of Scripture, in their effort to make it apply to the Nazarene. My indignation at such a charge led me to enter upon an extensive course of reading to enable me to refute it. But to my great surprise and distress I found that it was by no means a base-less libel. And this again led me to take up the study of Daniel ix. with an open mind, and a settled determination to accept the words of the prophecy at their face value, and to adopt the standard chronology of the eras and events involved in the inquiry. The error of the received view, that the Captivity era was the basis of the prophecy, was one of my earliest discoveries. And this blunder, trifling though it may seem, has afforded both Jews and Infidels a vantage ground in their attacks upon these Scriptures. There was no "seventy years' Captivity." Because of national sin a judgment of seventy years servitude to Babylon was Divinely imposed upon Judah. This judgment fell in the third year of King Jehoiakim (B.C. 606), when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judea and captured Jerusalem. But his purpose was merely to hold the land as a vassal State, and he left the Jews in undisturbed possession of their City, Daniel and his companions being carried to Babylon to adorn his court as vassal princes.
After three years Jeboiakim revolted; and five years later Nebuchadnezzar returned to enforce his conquest (B.C. 598). And the youthful King Jehoiachin surrendered almost without a struggle. On his first invasion the King of Babylon had proved magnanimous and lenient. But now he had to punish rebellion; and he "carried away all Jerusalem," leaving none behind "save the poorest sort of the people of the land. This was what, in the opening words of his book, Ezekiel terms " King Jehoiachin's captivity," the prophet himself being numbered among the captives.
Jehoiachin's uncle, Zedekiah, was placed upon the throne as vassal king, having sworn allegiance to his suzerain. In common with "the residue of Jerusalem that remained in the land," he had ever before him Jeremiah's warnings that a refusal to submit to the Divine decree which brought them under servitude to Babylon would bring upon them a far more terrible judgment. Nebuchadnezzar would again return to "destroy them utterly," and to make the land" a desolation and an astonishment." But they gave heed to false prophets who pandered to the national vanity by predicting a speedy restoration of their independence; and having obtained a promise of armed support from Egypt, the Jews again revolted. Nebuchadnezzar thereupon invaded Judtea for the third time; and when, after a siege of eighteen months, he captured Jerusalem, the city was given up to fire and sword. The last chapter of 2 Chronicles contains the sad story of Judah's sin and of the Divine judgments it brought upon them.
Three several judgments, distinct, though in part concurrent, thus befell that stiff-necked people. And it was this third judgment of the "Desolations" that filled the thoughts and bowed the heart of Daniel, as he prayed the prayer which brought him the great prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. No words could be plainer or more definite. "I Daniel understood by the books the number of the years whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, for the accomplishing of the Desolations of Jerusalem, even seventy years."
And by those same "books" he would have understood also that the seventy years of the "Servitude" were on the point of expiring. And, of course, the return of the exiles would bring to an end the judgment of the" Captivity," which thus lasted sixty-two years. But as Daniel had already passed his fourscore years of life he would scarcely hope to outlive the Desolations, seventeen years of which had still to run. And I confidently offer the suggestion that his prayer was an appeal that God would cancel those years, and remit the still unexpired portion of the judgment. The circumstances of the time, and the whole tenor of the prayer, seem to point to this. The closing words are specially explicit: "0 Lord forgive; 0 Lord hearken and do; defer not, for Thine own sake, 0 my God; for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name."
What more there was in his heart to utter we know not; for "while he was speaking in prayer" the angel Gabriel appeared to him - the same heavenly messenger who heralded in later times the Saviour's birth in which should be read as in Bethlehem, and from him the prophet received, in answer to his supplication, the great prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. Here are the words:-
"Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and discern, 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: it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times. And after the threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and shall have nothing: 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 even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined. And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week; and for the half of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolator."


The Hebrew Scriptures contain no Messianic prophecy that is simpler and more definite than this of the Seventy Weeks, and none better fitted to silence the infidel and convince the Jew. But its meaning and evidential value are lost in a bewildering maze of forced or fanciful interpretations. And this is the evil work of Christian expositors! The meaning of the language of the prophecy may be deemed matter for discussion; but no intelligent reader, whether he be Christian or Jew or Infidel, who will study it with an unbiassed mind, can entertain an honest doubt as to what it says. Echoing the words of Daniel's prayer, the angel's message told him that not seventy years, but seventy weeks of years were decreed upon his people and his holy city, before they would enter into full Divine blessing.
This era is divided into three portions, of seven weeks, sixty-two weeks, and one week, respectively. It dates from the issuing of a decree to build Jerusalem. From that event "unto Messiah the prince" there were to be 7+ 62 weeks. And after "the sixty-two weeks" the Messiah would be "cut off." The seventieth and last week of the era would be signalised by the advent of another Prince, who would make a seven years' covenant (or treaty) with the Jews; and iii the middle of the week (i.e., after three years and a half), he would violate that treaty and suppress their Temple worship and the ordinances of their religion.
All this is so plain that any intelligent child could understand it. We must remember, however, that with the Jews in ancient times it was as natural to speak of a week of years as of a week of days. And further, that their year was one of three hundred and sixty days. Such was the year in use in Babylon, where the prophecy was given. And, moreover, it was the year by which the judgment of the "Desolations" to which the prophecy referred, was reckoned. That era dated from the day on which the city was invested; namely, the 10th Tebeth in the ninth year of Zedekiah -a day that for four and twenty centuries has been observed as a fast by the Jews in every land. And, as the Prophecy of Haggai so explicitly records, it ended on the twenty-fourth day of Chisleu in the second year of Darius Hystaspes. Now from the 10th Tebeth B.C. 589 to the 24th Chisleu, B.C. 520, was a period of 25,200 days, or seventy years of 360 days.
The first question then which claims attention relates to the "decree" to rebuild the city. And at this point most expositors proceed to discuss various recorded edicts for the return of the exiles, or for building or adorning the Temple. But if we refuse to treat Divine prophecy in the loose and careless way we read a newspaper or a novel, we shall seize upon the fact that Jerusalem was rebuilt in pursuance of an edict issued by King Artaxerxes of Persia in the twentieth year of his reign; and that history, sacred and profane, knows nothing of any other "decree" for the rebuilding of the holy city.
Nehemiah was cupbearer to the King-"an office of high honour in Persia," and his Book opens by mentioning that certain Jews arrived at the Persian capital bringing him grievous tidings of the condition of Jerusalem. The second chapter narrates that, while discharging the duties of his office, the King taxed him with showing signs of private grief in the royal presence. "Why should not my countenance be sad?" he pleaded, "when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire?" "For what dost thou make request?" the King demanded; and Nehemiah answered, "That thou wouldest send me to Judah, unto the city of my father's sepulchres, that I may build it." The King thereupon authorised Nehemiah to undertake the work of restoration; and before the next Feast of Tabernacles Jerusalem was again a walled city, secured by gates and ramparts.
Our next enquiry is whether sixty-nine weeks of years, measured from the date of that edict, ended with any event to satisfy the words, "unto Messiah the Prince." And here we must remember that the Cross, and not the Incarnation, was the world's great "crisis." And while Scripture nowhere records the Saviour's birth date, the epoch of His ministry is given, 'with absolute definiteness, as occurring in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar. Now (pace the "reconcilers" and expositors) "the reign of Tiberius, as beginning from the 19th Augustus A.D. 14, was as well-known a date in the time of Luke as is the reign of Queen Victoria in our own day; and no single case has ever been produced in which his regnal years were reckoned in any other manner.'
We can thus definitely fix upon Nisan A.D. 29 as the date of the first Passover of our Lord's ministry. And as His ministry ex-tended over four Passovers, it is as certain as inspired Scripture and human language can make it that the date of the Crucifixion was the Festival of Nisan, A.D. 32.
In accordance with Jewish custom, the Lord went up to Jerusalem "six days before the Passover," i.e., on Friday, the 8th Nisan. Presumably He spent the Sabbath in Bethany; and in the evening, when the Sabbath was ended, there took place the supper in Martha's house. And upon the following day, the 10th Nisan, He made His "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem. No careful student of the narrative can fail to recognise that this was, both in intention and in fact, a crisis in His ministry. After the great Council of the nation had decreed His death He charged His Apostles not to make Him known; and from that time He shunned all public recognition of His Messiahship. But now He welcomed the acciamations of "the whole multitude of the disciples," and silenced the remonstrances of the Pharisees by declaring that "if these held their peace the stones would immediately cry out."
For on that day was fulfilled Zechariah's prophecy: "Rejoice greatly, 0 daughter of Zion! Shout, 0 daughter of Jerusalem! Behold thy King cometh unto thee, lowly and riding upon an ass." And when the disciples raised the triumphant shout, "Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord," the Saviour looked off toward the Holy City, and exclaimed, "If thou also hadst known even on this day, the things that belong to thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes!" "Even on this day," for it was the fateful day on which the sixty-nine weeks of the Daniel prophecy expired. And it was the only occasion in all His earthly sojourn on which He was acclaimed as Messiah the Prince, the King of Israel.
There is no vagueness in Divine reckoning. As the Jewish year was regulated by the Paschal moon, we can calculate the Julian date of any Nisan. The 1st Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, when the decree to restore and build Jerusalem was issued, was the 14th March, B.C. 445. And the era intervening between that day and the 10th Nisan (or 6th April), A.D. 32, was 173,880 days, or sixty-nine weeks of years, to the very day.(See Ch. x. of The Coming Prince.)
The Artaxerxes date was calculated for me by the Astronomer Royal; and the dates of the years of the Ministry will be found in various standard works upon the subject.
The scheme here unfolded was foreshadowed by Julius Africanus in his Chronography: the detailed elucidation of it is a part of my personal contribution to the interpretation of Daniel. And the result may well give food for thought both to the Christian and the Critic. The sceptical crusade of the Higher Criticism claims to have discredited the Book of Daniel as being either a pseud-epigraph or a romance. But how then can it account for the fulfilment of this particular prophecy? If someone announced that the distance, say, from the main door of St. Paul's Cathedral to some well-known rural landmark, was exactly 173,880 yards, and the statement was found to be absolutely accurate, what estimate should we form of anyone who dismissed the result as being a mere coincidence or a happy guess? Should we not brand him as either knave or fool? And unless we are to allow our respect for Professors and pundits to outweigh our reverence for God and His holy Word, this must be our estimate of those who either champion or accept the "assured results of the Higher Criticism" respecting the prophecy of Daniel.

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