Gabriel’s Good Tidings


Daniel 9:20-27

Turn with me to Daniel 9 please.  This will be our second and final lesson from this chapter.  The last time I said the year was approximately 538 BC and the aged Daniel has been reading the Scripture, the book of Jeremiah, or at least excerpts of it.  Jeremiah prophesied before, during and after the fall of Jerusalem in 586/7 BC.  Jeremiah foretold a 70 year period of exile and then the Lord would restore His people to their homeland.  Daniel, himself, was taken captive in the first wave of exiles in 605 BC.  70 years from then would be 535 BC, so his heart beat faster and he prayed more earnestly as the time of exile nears its completion

Last time we dealt with the substance of his prayer.  Because so much of his prayer was recorded for us we were compelled to study it and consider how it is instructive for us.  I said it bears all the marks of a sound corporate confession of sin.  A sound corporate confession of sin will keep us thinking biblically about ourselves as sinners—we are a community of rebels who sin continually—and it will keep us thinking biblically about God.  In this prayer we are reminded of His unwavering commitment to His righteousness, mercy and glory.  However bad we may be, He is far greater still.  Our mountain of sin is easily drowned in the ocean of His mercy; therefore, a sound corporate confession will always convey hope.

This morning we take up the answer to his prayer.  Remarkably, as he’s praying the angel Gabriel is sent and appears to him to give heaven’s answer to his pleading.

Read text: Daniel 9:1-4, 20-27

The interpretation of this passage has been described as a ‘dismal swamp’ by J.A. Montgomery and has been said to be ‘at the heart of many eschatological debates’ by the notable Old Testament Professor and former President of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, Walter Kaiser, Jr.

I am not going to pretend to illuminate the passage in such a way as to put an end to all debate and satisfy the myriad of questions that arise from the text.  I will leave that to men who know the original languages better and are more studied in apocalyptic literature.  The sermon comes in three parts.  First we will outline the three major views of interpretations of this passage, then we’ll listen to an imaginary dialogue between Daniel and Gabriel and then we will conclude with some application.

Let me begin by briefly outlining three major views of this perplexing passage.  We should keep in mind that each of these views is like three main branches of a tree that have many limbs shooting out of them.

I am going to call them:  I. The High Priest and Antiochus IV view; II. Christ and Titus view; III. Christ and the ‘Anti-Christ’ view.

  1. The High Priest and Antiochus view, 175-167 BC

“The Anointed One” of vv. 25-26 is Onias III.  “The ruler who will come” of v. 26 is Antiochus.  During this period the Jewish high priest, Onias III, was assassinated and Antiochus replaced him with another.  Over time, Antiochus would defile the sanctuary and set up the abomination that causes desolation by entering the holy of holies, sacrifice a pig on the alter, erect a statue of Zeus in it and bring the Jewish daily sacrifices to an end.

In this view the seventy seven’s refer to the period of time between the restoration of Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah until Antiochus erected his statue of Zeus in the Jewish Temple of 167 BC.  This view is not held as widely and taken as seriously as the other two views mostly because it fails to satisfactorily demonstrate how sin was brought to an end and how everlasting righteousness was ushered in.

  1. Christ and Titus view

 

“The Anointed One” is the Lord Jesus Christ and ‘the ruler who is to come’ is the Roman general who became the Emperor Titus.  This view holds that all the predictions of this chapter were fulfilled or at least inaugurated by the time Titus destroyed the Temple in 70 AD and set-up another temple to Jupiter in its place.

In this view the seventy seven’s refer to the time period between the restoration of Jesus under Ezra and Nehemiah to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD under Titus.

  1. Christ and the ‘Anti-Christ’ view

 

This view holds that Jesus, ‘the Anointed One’ only fulfilled the first three purpose statements of v. 24, namely, that He finished transgression, put an end to sin and atoned for wickedness by dying on the cross for sinners at His first coming.

But the last three purpose statements of v. 24 ‘to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy’ are yet to be fulfilled at some future time.  (Titus was a type of the Antichrist to come)  Here, the seventy seven’s refer to the period of time between the restoration of Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah until the coming of the Antichrist at some future date.  As I said, these three brief descriptions, especially the last one, come with many variations. 

The two primary commentators I have consulted through much of my study in Daniel are Sinclair Ferguson and a former homiletics professor of mine and founding senior pastor of Twin Oaks Presbyterian Church in St. Louis and now with the Lord, Rodney Stortz.  Both of these men prefer the second interpretation I am calling “Christ and Titus” view.

All the purpose statements of v. 24 were fulfilled or at least inaugurated in some sense at the Lord’s first coming.  The seventy seven’s refer to the time period between the restoration of Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD under Titus.

About these six purpose statements Hebrew scholar, S.R. Driver, remarks “While there are in this statement of purpose a few difficulties with individual words and some unique expressions, the meaning of the whole cannot be in doubt:  that the Messianic age is to be marked by the abolition and forgiveness of sin and by the perpetual righteousness.  I am going to focus on the meaning of the whole.  Another scholar would remark, “That Daniel was instructed to expect One who would mean the end of sins long reign, the eternal establishment of righteousness, and the inauguration of true religion, cannot be controverted.”  As much as this passage may be ‘at the heart of eschatological debate’ the meaning of the whole is not unclear.

Of course, it is much easier for us, living on this side of the cross to see how the Lord Jesus Christ would make a perfect atonement for sin and bring in everlasting righteousness.  We have the advantage of reading and studying the gospels, furthermore, we have the inerrant interpretation of our Lord’s life and work in the Epistles.  All of which raises the question—how much of the Lord’s life and work was Daniel supposed to understand from this vision?

What if Daniel was able to do with Gabriel what the Lord’s disciples were able to do with Him?  Occasionally we read that when the disciples were alone with Jesus they asked Him the meaning of a confusing parable and He would interpret it for them.

What if Daniel were able to detain Gabriel and process the meaning of this vision with him?  What would it be like if we could listen in?  Maybe like this….

Dialogue between Daniel and Gabriel:

Daniel:  This is now the second time you have come to me.  O holy one, I am deeply honored and seized with trembling, but if I am highly esteemed, as you say, not me, may I be so bold as to plead with you to tarry and speak more plainly to me concerning these persons and events?

Gabriel:  You are highly esteemed Daniel and the honor is just as much mine as you say it is yours.  But you must remember, I am only the Lord’s messenger and can give you only what is given to me.  It seemed good to the Most High God to impart these truths not in plain speak, but shrouded with a measure of mystery.  He intends to inspire humility in His subjects by using this genre.  This genre defies complete disclosure and so all interpretations, though some are clearly better than others, are to be held with humility and even a degree of tentativeness.  He means for us to walk by faith and not by sight.  If He told us in great detail and in plain speech about the future, we would be less apt to walk by faith, which pleases Him much.

Daniel:  Yes.  I see that, Messenger of the Most High.  I cannot help but think He also intends for His people to have to think hard and pray and study and discuss and debate His holy revelation.  It seems He gets pleasure in that, too, as we love Him with our minds.  I think I understand the general gist of your revelation, but forgive me, with all due respect to you and your holy office, you said you ‘have now come to give me insight and understanding’, so I beg you for more light.

Gabriel:  As I said, son of man, I can only give you what the Revealer of Mysteries puts on my tongue.  I don’t know the future anymore than you.  Why don’t you tell me what you do understand of these good-tidings?

Daniel:  What seems clear to me, Most holy angel, is that the Lord Most Sovereign’s overarching purpose for His people has always been to prosper them and not to harm them and to give them a hope and a future.  I gather from your tidings He intends to restore His people to Jerusalem, it will be rebuilt again though through times of trouble.  The holy hill of His temple will serve His purpose again.  I am overjoyed to hear, as all His people must be, that an end will be made of sin, transgression and wickedness and that everlasting righteousness will be ushered in.  And all this will take place with the coming of ‘the Anointed One’.

Gabriel:  Well said, Daniel well said.  You have the meaning of the whole.

Daniel:  But I have so many questions still.  Is there even the slightest chance, Gabriel, that there is more you can tell me about the Anointed One?

Gabriel:  I have been given no more about the coming of this Anointed One, at this time.  But let me remind you what you have already been given concerning Him.  There were at least two terms in my message that should have reminded you of two important texts of Holy Scripture that will add to your understanding of the person and work of the Anointed One.  Scroll over to Psalm 2 and read it aloud.

Daniel:  Of course, the only other text in all of Scripture, as we now have it, that makes use of the title ‘the Anointed One’.

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together vs. the Lord and vs. His Anointed One.”  There it is.  ‘Let us break their chains,’ they say, ‘and throw off their fetters.’ The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.  Then He rebukes them in His anger and terrifies them in His wrath saying, ‘I have installed My King on Zion, my holy hill.  I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become Your Father.  Ask of me and I will make the nations Your inheritance, the ends of the earth Your possession.  You will rule them with an iron scepter; You will dash them to pieces like pottery.’  Therefore, you kings, be wise, be warned, you rulers of the earth.  Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.  Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for His wrath can flare up in a moment.  Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”  Psalm 2

Gabriel:  Daniel, this psalm tells us that ‘the Anointed One’ is our Sovereign’s appointed King and His own Son who will rule with iron discipline and finally overthrow all the incorrigible rulers and nations.  His reign will be sovereign; there is no refuge from Him, only in Him.  He will be the most powerful ruler mankind has ever known.  Yet, this very ‘Anointed One’ has a gentler, meeker side—the perfect embodiment of submission.  Remember, I said there were two terms in my revelation that should remind you of previous passages?  Besides Psalm 2 the term ‘cut off’ should bring to mind Isaiah’s Suffering Servant.  The ‘Anointed One’ of Psalm 2 is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 is the same person.

Daniel:  Isaiah 53, a text I am well familiar with Gabriel.  Let me see if I can remember the passage of which you speak.  “By oppression and judgment He was taken away.  And who can speak of His descendants?  For He was ‘cut-off’ from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people He was stricken.”  Isaiah 53:8

Gabriel:  That is the text, Daniel, and earlier we read, “He was pierced for our transgressions….and by His wounds we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:6

Daniel:  So these good-tidings you bring intend for us to wed the powerful ruler of Psalm 2 with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53?

Gabriel:  Indeed, He, the Most Powerful Ruler, will Himself bear your guilt and justify many.  After He suffers, He will see the light of life again.  His being ‘cut-off’ has everything to do with putting an end to sin and transgression and wickedness and ushering in everlasting righteousness.

How one can be so powerful and yet so meek is a mystery indeed!  That is all I can help you with, O esteemed one.  Let us both be about the King’s business.  I must away.

As I said, it is so much easier for us, living on this side of the cross, to see how the Lord Jesus Christ would make the once for all perfect sacrifice to atone for sin and usher in everlasting righteousness.  How should we then live in light of this further and fuller revelation of  of the Lord’s person and work?  To whom much is given, much is required.  It is required of us to know and cherish all that what is called the New Testament reveals about the ‘Anointed One’.  Let us agree with F.F. Bruce and confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that …

In Jesus, the promise is confirmed,
The covenant is renewed,
The prophecies are fulfilled,
The law is vindicated,
Salvation is brought near,
The perfect sacrifice
Has been offered and accepted,
The Great Priest over the Household of God
Has taken His seat at God’s right hand,
The Prophet like Moses has been raised up,
The Son of David reigns,
The Kingdom of God has been inaugurated,
The Son of Man has received dominion
From the ancient of days,
The Servant of the Lord,
Having been smitten to death
For His people’s transgression
And born the sin of many,
Has accomplished the divine purpose,
And is now exalted and made very high.’

F.F. Bruce

Is the Lord Jesus Christ getting bigger with every year we age?  I love Lucy’s first encounter with Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ book Prince Caspian.

‘Aslan, Aslan.  Dear Aslan’ sobbed Lucy, ‘At last.’  The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half-sitting and half-lying between his front paws.  He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue.  His warm breath came all around her. She gazed up into the large wise face.  ‘Welcome, child,’ he said.  ‘Aslan,’ said Lucy, ‘you’re bigger.’  ‘That is because you are older, little one’ answered he.  ‘Not because you are?’  ‘I am not. But, every year you grow, you will find me bigger.’ P. 136

Is the Lord Jesus Christ getting bigger with every year we age?

What else does this further and fuller revelation require of us?  At least that we tell the gospel often and well.  It is glad tidings of good news and all good news begs to be shared.  Some theologians have said that Romans 3:21-26 is perhaps the most important paragraph in the entire Bible because it explains the heart of the gospel.  If we are to tell the gospel well, it seems to me we will know this paragraph very well and perhaps even put it in our own words.

Like Raymond Ortland, Jr., Professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  I don’t mean to suggest we should be able to restate it as well as a seminary professor, but merely to give us a fresh hearing of what some have called the most important paragraph in the whole Bible.

“But now, accepting that we stand condemned before God, we are finally prepared to hear the good news. God has revealed his way of declaring us righteous in his sight, and it has nothing to do with our earning his favor by keeping the law. His method of restoring sinners is no novelty, however. The law and the prophets teach it. What I am talking about is justification by faith in Jesus Christ, and it applies equally to all who receive his merit with the empty hands of faith. There is no ranking, no hierarchy, no distinction between people when it comes to justification, for we all have equally discredited ourselves by our sins. None of us is anywhere near coming up to God’s glorious standard. This is why God reinstates us in his favor as a free gift. Our justification is all of his grace, paid for at the cross by Christ Jesus, whose death won our release from the moral debt we owed. God put Jesus there on the cross as the sacrificial Lamb placating God’s holy wrath, justly offended at the outrage of our sins. Our part is simply to look upon his bloody sacrifice in faith. God had a point to make at that cross. He wanted us to know that he is a just Judge. He does not trivialize our sin. He hates it. For a long time he had patiently allowed human sin to accumulate unpunished. But at the cross God finally demonstrated that he does uphold a perfect moral standard. The cross, then, shows us this glorious paradox: God executes his justice against human sin and God justifies the one who trusts in Jesus.”  Romans 3:21-26

To whom much is given much is required.  As we still may be mulling over New Year resolutions, perhaps the Lord would have us recommit ourselves to telling the gospel often and well and nothing will fuel that like getting to know the Lord Jesus Christ better and finding Him bigger and bigger in the coming year.

Amen.