The Prediction of the Messiah’s First Coming

Fredi Winkler

The Seventy Weeks of Years in Daniel 9

As a result, the exact point in time (or at least the year) of the Messiah’s appearance was relatively concrete, and served as a calculable fixed point in the history of the people of Israel. Everything else, however (e.g., the destruction of the city and the temple), wasn’t precisely timed. At the beginning of verse 26, it says only that these things will happen after the 62nd week.

What did Israel’s religious leadership at that time do with this prediction?

As we know from the Gospels, there wasn’t any real expectation of the Messiah among the religious leaders. Quite the contrary: When Jesus appeared and performed clear messianic signs, acts, and miracles, He was met with rejection by the religious leadership. However, there was a strong expectation of the Messiah among the people. This is especially true of the Essenes. It can’t be proven whether this expectation was based on Daniel’s prophecies, since the Dead Sea Scrolls—which deal with the book of Daniel—are only fragmentary. However, there is a high probability that this is the case.

According to the New Testament, John the Baptist was the promised precursor of the Messiah. Matthew 3:5 says of him, “Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him.”

This kind of mass movement can’t be explained if there was no expectation of the Messiah among the people. In John 1:19-24, we read that the religious leaders in Jerusalem sent men to ask John the Baptist who he was. Significantly, their first question was, “Are you the Messiah?” This shows that the religious leadership was aware there was a general expectation of the Messiah.

The mighty influx of people to John at the Jordan is therefore indicative of their expectation of the Messiah. People even came from far away, as John 1:35-51 shows. Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael came from Galilee to see John the Baptist near Jericho in the Jordan, apparently hoping to find the Messiah. Then in verse 41, Andrew tells his brother Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah.”

These four men became the first desciples of Jesus the Messiah. They had apparently also seen Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan and had witnessed the voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

The general consensus is that the prophecy is pointing to the Messiah’s death and resurrection. There are calculations that are supposed to show how the crucifixion fulfilled this prophecy to the day. The calculation begins with the date when the command was issued to rebuild Jerusalem, and ends with the date of the crucifixion. But the prophecy only says, “to the coming of an anointed one, a prince.”

Jesus was revealed as the Messiah at His baptism by John in the Jordan. With this, it can be said that the prophecy is referring to the event when God’s voice proclaimed from heaven that the baptized Lord is the Son of God. All of the events that are prophesied after this must therefore be arranged according to this divinely legitimate event, whose exact date is lost to time.

The temple and the sacrifices lost their meaning from that point onward. The legitimate question arises: Could ritual sacrifices really forgive and cancel sin? Hebrews 10:4 states: “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

The Hebrew word kapar, which we recognize from “Yom Kippur,” doesn’t mean to cancel or forgive sins, but to cover them. Covered sins remained under divine patience until the arrival of the One who could truly forgive sins. Only through the perfect sacrifice of the Son of God can sins be forgiven and canceled.

After Jesus made atonement for the world’s sins on the Cross of Calvary, the temple and ritual sacrifice lost their importance and were destroyed, as Daniel’s prophecy had predicted. Sacrificial service ceased.

The Book of Daniel became an inconvenient book for Judaism after the temple was destroyed. Jews who didn’t believe in Jesus complained over the centuries: “The temple was destroyed, but the Messiah didn’t come.”

As a result, the Book of Daniel became a “forbidden book” for Jews. It was forbidden for the common people to read, and only the rabbis could interpret it. Why? The answer is obvious. The reader might discover from Daniel 9 that the Messiah must have already come, and might ask uncomfortable questions.

A student in Israel once referred to the Book of Daniel in answering a question in religion class, and was told, “The Book of Daniel doesn’t count for us.”

The Hebrew Bible also doesn’t count the Book of Daniel as belonging to the Prophets, but instead classifies it with the Writings, despite it containing the deepest prophetic visions in world history.

It was forbidden in Judaism to calculate the end. As mentioned before, the rationale for this is obvious. The attentive reader could use the information in Daniel 9 to calculate and determine that the Messiah must have already come.

In light of this, it should be pointed out that Christians have repeatedly misused Daniel to calculate the time of Jesus Christ’s return. The figure given in Daniel 8:14 is most often used for this purpose.

It’s heartening to see that when Jesus began making public appearances, there was a faithful remnant in Israel who were heeding God’s Word and awaiting the Messiah.

What about today, before His return? Does Jesus the Messiah have a remnant of faithful ones? For us as Christians, the most important thing in our lives must be to belong to the “faithful remnant” who are heeding the signs of the times, and watching and praying for Him. Maranatha!

News from Israel - 05/2023

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