CHAPTER 3 - Unfulfilled Prophecy - 93 Years in the 70 Weeks of Daniel

 

No Christian doubts the Messianic fulfilment of the 69 weeks of this prophecy. And if we distinguish between what is doubted and what is doubtful, no less certain is it that the 70th week awaits fulfilment in a future age.

The suggestion that such an era should be thus interrupted in its course may seem strange and untenable, but the intelligent student of Scripture will recognise the principle which this involves. That principle is strikingly exemplified in the era of four hundred and eighty years, reckoned from the Exodus to the Temple (1 Kings vi.). According to the historical books, that period was in fact five hundred and seventy-three years; and this is confirmed by the Apostle's words at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:18-31). How then can this difference of ninety-three years be explained?

Though this problem has perplexed chronologers the solution of it is plain and simple. These ninety-three years are the sum of the servitudes recorded in the book of Judge. During five several periods Israel's national existence as Jehovah's people was in abeyance when, in punishment for their idolotry, He "sold them into the hands of their enemies." They thus became enslaved to the King of Mesopotamia for eight years, to the King of Moab for eighteen years, to the King of Canaan for twenty years, to the Midianites for seven years, and finally to the Philistines for forty years. (The sum of 8+18+20+7+40 is 93. The servitude of Judges 10:7,9 affected only the tribes beyond Jordan, and did not suspend Israel's national position.) When God forgives our sins He blots out the record of them. And if this principle obtains even in reckoning an historical era, how legitimate it seems in the case of a prophetical era like that of the Seventy Weeks. By their rejection of Messiah, Israel forfeited their normal position of privilege and special blessing. And seeing that Messianic prophecy runs in the channel of Israel's national history as the covenant people, its fulfilment is tided back until the Lo-ammi sentence which now rests upon them is withdrawn.

The 24th chapter of Matthew, moreover, is an end of controversy on the question here at issue. The first book of the New Testament, like the last, is prophetic. And the 24th chapter is well described by Dean Alford as "the anchor of Apocalyptic interpretations." To understand it aright we must shake free from traditional exegesis, and read it with intelligent appreciation of the position and attitude of those to whom it was addressed. They were men whose thoughts were moulded and whose hopes were based upon the Hebrew Scriptures. And when they put the question, "What shall be the sign of Thy Coming and of the winding-up of the age?" they had in view the age of Israel's subjection to Gentile supremacy and the Coming again of Christ "to restore the Kingdom to Israel."

It is extraordinary that any intelligent reader should confound that event with the Coming revealed in the Epistles. The one is the Coming foretold in Hebrew prophecy, which will bring deliverance to the favoured nation in days to come. The Lord here terms it "the coming of the Son of Man. "-a Messianic title which never occurs in the Epistles, and is never used in Scripture save in relation to His earthly people. But the Coming revealed in the Epistles is one of the "mystery " truths of Christianity - a "Coming" to call up to their heavenly home the redeemed of this Christian dispensation. These "Comings" have nothing in common save that both refer to the same Christ. With still greater force does this remark apply to "the Second Advent" of theology, an event which will be not less than a thousand years later than "the Coming of the Son of Man." For the Coming foretold in Matthew 25-25. will inaugurate the kingdom of heaven upon earth-"the millennial reign of Christ" (to use a theological phrase), whereas "the Second Advent" of theology is His coming to judgment at the end of that thousand years. There can be no intelligent study of unfulfilled prophecy if we fail to distinguish between these several "Comings" of Christ.
Certain it is that if the Coming of Christ of which the Epistles speak be the same as "the Coming of the Son of Man" of Matthew xxiv., the Apostle's words are in flat and flagrant opposition to the Lord's explicit teaching. For His warning is clear and emphatic that His Coming as Son of Man must not be looked for until after the coming of Antichrist, the horrors of the great Tribulation," and the awful signs and portents foretold in Messianic prophecy. Whereas the Epistles will be searched in vain for even a suggestion that any event of prophecy bars the fulfilment of what Bengel calls " the hope of the Church." If then these several Scriptures relate to the same event, we must jettison either the First Gospel or the Pauline Epistles, for the attempt to reconcile them is hopeless.

But, it may be asked, did not the Lord on that same occasion use the words, "Watch. for ye know not what time your Lord doth come"? Yes, truly; but those words have reference to the waiting time when the Tribulation is past. and all the events foretold to precede His Coming have been fulfilled. For at that juncture the attitude of the earthly people toward the Coming which is their special hope, will be the same as that which is enjoined upon us in this present age -constant expectation of the Lord's return." (Alford.)

For, as the Epistle to Titus tells us, the grace-taught Christian learns '' to live looking for that blessed Hope." And "looking for" is but a poor equivalent for the Greek word it represents. A still stronger word the Apostle used when, in writing to the Philippians from his Roman prison, he said, " We are looking for the Saviour." It is a word that. expresses earnest expectation of something believed to be iminincnt. According to Bloomfield, '' it. signifies properly to thrust forward the bead and neck, as in anxious expectation of hearing or seeing something." Such was the attitude of the mother of Sisera as she watched for her son's return: Through the window she looked forth, and cried through the lattice, "Why is his chariot so long in coming? And yet there are religious teachers who assert, and sometimes with dogmatic vehemence, that the Lord cannot come until after the Tribulation, thus relegating the "blessed hope" to the sphere of other Christian hopes which, like that of the resurrection, for example, though divinely "sure and certain," are indefinitely remote. Indeed. this teaching absolutely kills the hope. For we recall the Saviour's words that "except those days should be shortened" none of His people would survive them. And this being so, it would surely be our longing wish and prayer that He would let us pass to heaven by death before the advent of such evil times.

Nor is this all. For this question may be viewed from another standpoint. We are Divinely exhorted to live in constant expecta tion of the Coming of the Lord; to stand with our hand upon the latch, as it were, in readiness to obey His call. And yet, we are assured of a long-drawn-out warning of His coming, not only by the fiercest persecution earth has ever known, but also by a series of appalling signs and portents in the sphere of nature!

Suppose that some chapter of a novel should contain the story of a man who announces to his retinue of servants that he is going abroad, and may be absent for a considerable time. The date of his return he cannot fix, but he assures them that they shall have a very clear and ample warning notice of it. And yet, at the same time, he goes on to impress upon them to live in constant expectation of his coming back, for any day and any hour he may walk in upon them. Should we not throw down the book with feelings either of amusement or contempt for such utter nonsense? What, then, shall be our estimate of the teaching above impugned, remembering that on a theme so sacred as that of our Lord's return all folly is profane?"
( If the master told his servants that between the warning notice of his coming and his actual arrival there would be an interval, and that during that interval they might expect him any day and any hour, the story would exemplify the difference between the words of verses 4-0 and of verses 33-44 of Matt 24.)