From Contamination to Purification

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Published:
February 26, 2020

Biblical Passages: Daniel 8; Dan. 2:38; Gen. 11:4; Lev 16; Heb. 9:23-28

INTRODUCTION

The Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Beliefs #24  on “Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary” interprets Daniel 8:14 in terms of Christ’s heavenly ministry as follows:

In 1844, at the end of the prophetic period of 2300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry, which was typified by the work of the high priest in the most holy place of the earthly sanctuary. It is a work of investigative judgment which is part of the ultimate disposition of all sin, typified by the cleansing of the ancient Hebrew sanctuary on the Day of Atonement.

This belief is the only unique contribution of Seventh-day Adventism to Christian theology. Partly for that reason, this doctrine has continued to come under heavy attack during the 175 years since it was first formulated. The Sabbath School commentary primarily on Daniel 8 that is presented here investigates the investigative judgment teaching by evaluating its biblical basis, some challenges to it, and the “so what?” question of its ongoing relevance for twenty-first century Seventh-day Adventists.    

Every few years, we observe yet another anniversary of 1844, reminding us of our Millerite roots and the Great Disappointment. Is it true what other Christians have thought about us—that our Seventh-day Adventist pioneers concocted the idea of a pre-Advent Investigative Judgment in heaven beginning in 1844 to save face because they could not admit that their date-setting was wrong? This belief has the advantage that it cannot be disproven because the judgment is supposed to be in heaven. On the other hand, nobody on earth can see what happens in heaven, so how can it be proven?

Of course, the fact that nobody on earth saw Christ move to a new phase of ministry in 1844 does not rule out this possibility. Neither did anyone on earth see him inaugurated as our high priest just after his ascension to heaven, but many Christians believe that because the book of Hebrews says so.

However, does the Bible indicate that Christ began to do something new in heaven in 1844? If so, what difference does this make to us?

END-TIME JUDGMENT IN HEAVEN

End-Time Gospel Message of Judgment (Rev. 14)

Jesus predicted, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14; ESV here and following unless otherwise noted). Then Revelation 14:6-12 announces end-time warning messages to the world before Christ’s second coming that are transmitted by three angels. Seventh-day Adventists regard the communication of the three angels’ messages to be our basic mission, so anything involved in these messages makes a difference to us.

The first angel is introduced as having “an eternal gospel” (v. 6). This expression links his message to Christ’s “gospel of the kingdom.” The angel announces: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water” (v. 7). This is an end-time gospel message of judgment that begins before Jesus comes, which holds all inhabitants of Planet Earth accountable to worship God as the Creator.

The words “the hour of his judgment has come” are cryptic, giving very little information, and implying the possibility that we should already know something about this judgment. The previous chapter of Revelation gives us a major hint. If we pursue this, we may learn something more about the end-time judgment.

End-Time Judgment in Heaven (Dan. 7)

The three angels’ messages in Revelation 14 are God’s response to what happens in chapter 13: human worship of a power represented as “a beast rising out of the sea” (vv. 1, 4, 12; cf. v. 15) and a “dragon,” identified in 12:9 as Satan, who gave his authority to the “beast” (13:4). The three angels’ messages are “gospel” (good news) because their goal is for people to be saved by the true Creator God through “the faith of Jesus” (14:12), rather than lost because they are deceived by a blasphemous false object of worship.

Revelation 13:1-2 describe the sea beast: “with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth.” Most of this imagery comes from Daniel 7, where Daniel sees four beasts coming out of the sea: a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a fourth beast with ten horns (verses 3-7). These represent four earthly kings/kingdoms (vv. 17, 23-24), paralleling the four kingdoms or empires represented in the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar II in a dream (Dan. 2). The first of these kingdoms is Nebuchadnezzar’s Neo-Babylonian kingdom (vv. 37-40), which the Bible and history tell us was conquered by Medo-Persia (Dan. 5; 8:20), which was conquered by Greece (8:21), which was taken over by Rome, the fourth kingdom.

Revelation 13 includes in its “beast” the basic features of all four kingdoms depicted in Daniel 7, indicating that this ten-horned beast represents a phase of Rome, which has accumulated aspects of the previous kingdoms. This phase of Rome is a power that blasphemes God and persecutes his people (Rev. 13:5-7), corresponding to the characteristics of an eleventh horn, initially “little” but becoming greater, that sprouts on the head of the ten-horned beast in Daniel 7 (verses 8, 11, 20-21, 24-25). Therefore, the beast worshiped in Revelation 13, to which the end-time judgment warning message in Revelation 14:7 responds, is a blasphemous, persecuting Roman power. This cannot be imperial Rome, which ended in late antiquity. The end-time phase of Rome is that of the Roman church (compare 2 Thess. 2:3-12, still in the future for Paul, writing in the time of imperial Rome).

In Daniel 7, God’s response to the “little horn” Roman church power is a judgment (vv. 9-14) before the end of the present era, when Christ and his loyal people will take over the dominion of this world (vv. 22, 27). This parallels the timing and purpose of the judgment in Revelation 14:7, indicating that this verse refers to the same event. The judgment in Daniel 7 is in heaven, where God (here “the Ancient of Days”) is located (v. 9), and it involves opening books of record in the presence of millions of God’s created beings (v. 10). This judgment is investigative for them, but not for God, who already knows everything and does not need it for his own information. For him the judgment is demonstrative: to show his created beings that they can continue to trust him because he treats human beings fairly, in accordance with his character of love (1 John 4:8, 16), which includes both justice and mercy (Exod. 34:6-7).

With the judgment in Daniel 7, “one like a son of man” (i.e., like a human being) comes to God in heaven and receives the eternal kingdom (vv. 13-14). This individual must be Christ, the divine “son of man” (Matt. 8:20; 9:6; 10:23, etc.), who receives the kingdom in heaven before his second coming through a judgment that identifies the makeup of his kingdom in terms of his subjects, who will receive the dominion.

Nobody on earth can see this judgment because it is in heaven. But the book of Daniel describes it as a real event at a crucial, climactic stage of salvation history, making it possible for God’s faithful people to be delivered from oppression and to enjoy Christ’s eternal reign of peace (cf. Rev. 21-22). As in Revelation 14:6-7, this judgment is good news, a vital part of the gospel that is highly relevant to us.

JUDGMENT JUSTIFYING GOD’S SANCTUARY (DANIEL 8)

Historical Context of Judgment: Identification of the “Little Horn” in Daniel 8

Daniel 8 follows and largely parallels Daniel 7, providing additional perspective, just as Daniel 7 expands on Daniel 2. Daniel 2 and 7 are written in Aramaic, the lingua franca of the ancient Near East at that time, implying that their prophecies were for all nations. But Daniel 8 is in Hebrew, the language of the Jewish people, implying that the message especially concerns them.

The account of Daniel’s vision in 8:3-12 contains three subunits, each of which contain three kinds of information regarding successive kingdoms/empires: (1) description of a symbol representing an empire, (2) directions in which the empire expanded, and (3) indication of greatness. Verses 20-21 explicitly identify the first two empires: the ram represents Medo-Persia and the he-goat represents Greece. Therefore, it is already clear that Daniel 8 predicts future history that chapters 2 and 7 already covered. It is also clear that Medo-Persia is a united single empire, which it was by the time it conquered Babylon in 539 BC. It cannot be divided into Media and Persia so that the four kingdoms would be Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece (from which Antiochus IV Epiphanes came; see below), as many scholars maintain.

Daniel 8:9-12 predict a third empire. Information in this subunit includes (1) description of the symbol: a “horn from littleness” (literally in Hebrew), commonly translated “little horn,” that grows, (2) directions of expansion: south, east, and “toward the glorious land” (v. 9), i.e., the land of Israel (cf. 11:16, 41, 45), indicating that it comes from the northwest, and (3) indication of greatness: it becomes “exceedingly [Hebrew yeter] great,” as compared with Medo-Persia, which simply “became great” (Daniel 8:4) and Greece, which “became exceedingly [‘ad me’od] great” (v. 8).

The Hebrew word yeter, which the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament 2:452 interprets as “excessively,”  intensifies the greatness of the “little horn” (compare yeter in Ps 31:24 [Engl. v. 23]; Isa. 56:12—with me’od). Therefore, the empire represented by the “little horn” is at least greater than Medo-Persia and may be greater than Greece, that is, the empire of the Macedonian Alexander the Great, who (scholars agree) is represented by the “great horn” on the goat (vv. 5, 8, 21—“the first king”).

The fact that the subunit in Daniel 8 on the “little horn” contains the three kinds of information—description of symbol, directions of expansion, and indication of greatness—indicates that this represents a separate empire, not a continuation of the Greek empire. Alexander’s empire split into four Hellenistic kingdoms (v. 22)—known from history as Antigonid Macedonia, Attalid Pergamum, Seleucid Syria, and Ptolemaic Egypt—as symbolized in Daniel 8:8 by replacement of the broken “great horn” by “four conspicuous horns [“horns” is implied here; the word for it is not in the Hebrew text] toward the four winds of heaven.” Then “Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land” (v. 9). Most scholars assume that the logical antecedent of “them” in “Out of one of them” is the horns implied in the previous verse, so that the “little horn” is another Greek power, namely, the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 BC). However, some Adventist scholars have argued that the “little horn” comes out of one of “the four winds,” which is the nearest antecedent, and that the “little horn” is the next great empire: Rome.

Critics of the latter interpretation say that horns cannot come out of winds, but they fail to recognize four points. First, this is symbolic prophecy that does not conform to constraints in the material world. Compare a goat running “without touching the ground” in verse 5. Second, horns do not come out of horns either. Third, “the four winds of heaven” represent directions of the compass (Zech. 6:5-8), from which empires do come (cf. Dan. 8:5—“from the west”). Fourth, in Daniel 8:9 the “little horn” does not come up (vertically) as it would on the head of an animal (7:8, 20; 8:8). Rather, it goes out (yatsa’) in a horizontal direction from one of “them,” which makes good sense if “them” refers to winds/directions, but not if it refers to horns.

Even if the “little horn” were to come out of one of the four Greek horns, this would not necessarily mean that the “little horn” itself is Greek. Rome took over the Greek empire not by conquering it all at once, as Cyrus had conquered Babylon and Alexander the Great had conquered Medo-Persia. Rather, Rome first defeated the Antigonid Macedonian kingdom at the battle of Pydna in 168 BC, first replacing it with four republics and subsequently making Macedon a Roman province. Later over more than a century, Rome took over the remaining three Hellenistic kingdoms one at a time. So, it could be said that Rome came from Antigonid Macedonia, one of the four Greek “horns,” and expanded from there in the northwest to possess the rest of what had been Alexander’s empire.

Excursus: Was Antiochus IV Epiphanes the “Little Horn”?

Most Daniel scholars (now influencing some Adventists) are “preterists,” that is, they believe that Daniel’s eschatological prophecies were fulfilled in the past, with the “little horn” in Daniel 7 and 8 and the “contemptible person” in 11:21 referring to Antiochus IV Epiphanes. However, this historical identification does not fit the text of Daniel for several reasons, including the following:

First, Antiochus was only one king of the Seleucid dynasty, so he was part of one of the four Hellenistic “horns”/kingdoms in Daniel 8:8, 22; he did not supersede them by establishing an empire that was distinct from the Greek empire.

Second, Antiochus was Greek, so he came from the third kingdom predicted in Daniel 2 and 7, but in Daniel 7 the “little horn” comes from the fourth kingdom (vv. 7-8, 19-20), which is Rome.

Third, Antiochus IV was not nearly as great as his father, Antiochus III the Great, and his success bears no comparison with that of Cyrus, the Persian conqueror (v. 4), or Alexander the Great (v. 8). Antiochus gave up his initial success in taking Egyptian territory because he was intimidated by a warning from the Roman senate, and he lost the land of Israel to the Jews under the leadership of the Maccabees. On the other hand, Rome in its republican and imperial phases became “exceedingly great” (v. 9), including through conquests by Julius Caesar and other generals.

Fourth, the duration of Antiochus’s persecution of the Jews was 1,080 days, which was not close to the length of any of the prophetic time periods in the book of Daniel. Preterists attempt to make the “2,300 evenings and mornings” (literally “2,300 evening morning”) in Daniel 8:14 approximately equivalent to the 1,080 days by interpreting the 2,300 as regular morning and evening burnt offerings, two sacrifices per day (Num. 28:2-8), over 1,150 days. Some English translations (influenced by the Antiochus interpretation) do speak of “the regular burnt offering” (NRSV, ESV) or “the daily/regular sacrifice(s)” (NKJV, NASB 1995, NET Bible, NIV 2011) in verses 11-13. However, the Hebrew text here has only “the regular” (ha-tamid), i.e., that which is regular, referring to all kinds of regular worship of God by his people (cf. Ex. 25:30; 27:20; 29:38, 42; 30:8; Lev 6:20; 24:2-4, 8), not limited to morning and evening burnt offerings.

Also, the regular burnt offerings were offered morning and evening, not evening and morning, the order in Daniel 8:14. The only regular ritual with an evening-morning cycle was the burning of the lamp “from evening to morning” (Exod. 27:21) through each night, once every 24 hours (cf. the evening-morning cycle of full days in Gen. 1). “2,300 evening morning” in Daniel 8:14 is likely an abbreviation for “2,300 evenings and 2,300 mornings” (cf. v. 26—“the evenings and the mornings”), referring to 2,300 full days (cf. Deut. 9:25—“the forty days and the forty nights”). In any case, there is no justification for dividing the 2,300 into 1,150 half days.

Fifth, Jesus predicted future fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy that the “little horn” power would set up the “abomination of desolation,” a blasphemous or idolatrous object or practice (Matt. 24:15-16; see Dan. 8:12-13; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). Similarly, Revelation 12:14 interprets the “time, times, and half a time” of Daniel 7:25, referring to the period of domination by the “little horn,” as following Christ’s life on earth (cf. vv. 5-6; 12:6—equals 1,260 days; 13:5—equals 42 months for the sea “beast”), not in the past during the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

It is true that the deuterocanonical book of 1 Maccabees speaks of something that Antiochus IV set up at the altar of the temple in Jerusalem as the “abomination of desolation” (1:54), implying that this fulfilled Daniel’s prediction of a despicable action by the “little horn” power (Dan. 8:12-13; cf. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). However, Steven Weitzman has shown that the books of Maccabees are Hasmonean (Maccabean) propaganda, aggrandizing the Hasmonean rulers to portray them as the saviors of the Jewish religion who even defeated the mighty “little horn” of Daniel (“Plotting Antiochus’s Persecution,” Journal of Biblical Literature 123 [2004]: 219-234). First Maccabees does not provide an inspired biblical record regarding the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy.

Historical Context of Judgment: Vertical Phase of “Little Horn” as Church of Rome

We have found that the “little horn” in Daniel 8:9 matches the historical profile of pagan Rome in its horizontally expanding republican and imperial phases, which in Daniel 7 was represented by the fourth beast (vv. 7, 19). In Daniel 8:10-12 the horn’s expansion goes vertical, “even to the host of heaven” (v. 10) and “the Prince of the host” (v. 11; cf. v. 25—“Prince of princes”), who would be the divine Christ (cf. Josh. 5:14-15; Rev. 19:11-16). So, the horn is blasphemous, and it is also a persecuting power (vv. 10, 24). This matches the profile of the church of Rome that we found in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13. Therefore, the scope of the “little horn” symbol is greater than in Daniel 7, representing Rome both in its pagan phase and its church phase. During its church phase, the “little horn” removes the tamid, “that which is regular” (v. 11; cf. 11:31; 12:11), referring to regular worship of God by his people (cf. Rev. 11:2—by trampling of “the court outside the temple,” i.e., persecution of worshippers there).

Daniel 8:13-14 records a brief conversation between holy beings, presumably some kind of angels, consisting of a question and an answer. The question asks, “For how long is the vision…?” and briefly refers to some of the later elements of the vision, including that which is regular, “the transgression that makes desolate,” and the trampling of God’s sanctuary and host (v. 13). The Hebrew word for vision here is khazon, which refers to the entire vision covering history from Medo-Persia through the church of Rome, which is introduced in verses 1-2 as a khazon. The answer is: “Until 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be justified” (my translation).

From this answer we can derive several key points. First, the “2,300 evenings and mornings” cannot be 2,300 literal days, which would amount to about 6.3 literal years, because this period covers far too much history for that. Second, the justifying of the sanctuary comes after the problems caused by the Roman church, so the sanctuary cannot be the Jerusalem temple that the pagan Romans destroyed in 70 AD. It can only be God’s temple in heaven (e.g., Heb. 8-9; Rev. 11:19; 15:5). Third, as the solution to the problems caused by the Roman church, justifying the heavenly sanctuary is the functional equivalent of the judgment in heaven described in Daniel 7:9-14 and referred to in Revelation 14:7. This is reinforced by the fact that the Hebrew verb from the root ts-d-q that is translated “will be justified” in Daniel 8:14 is a legal term (e.g., Deut. 25:1; 1 Kgs. 8:32).

Justifying God’s Sanctuary in Heaven = Vindicating His Character

Now we come to the heart of the contribution of Daniel 8 to our understanding of the end-time judgment, which is part of the “eternal gospel” (Rev. 14:6-7). This judgment justifies God’s sanctuary in heaven, his headquarters where he is enthroned (Ps. 11:4; Rev. 4), which represents his administration, character, and “name”/reputation (cf. Deut. 12:5, 11; Ezek. 20:9), just as the White House represents such aspects of the president who resides and presides there. As pointed out above, the judgment in Daniel 7 shows created beings that they can continue to trust him because he is fair. That is, it justifies/vindicates his character of love, which is represented by his sanctuary in 8:14.

Supporting this interpretation is the background provided at the Old Testament sanctuary by the annual Day of Atonement, which ritually enacted the justifying of God’s character by purifying it from symbolic contamination that had accumulated there, which was caused by loyal and disloyal Israelites (Lev. 16). God had forgiven the non-defiant khatta’t sins of loyal and repentant people who offered their purification (khatta’t) offerings (so-called “sin offerings”; Lev 4:1-5:13). Therefore, he bore judicial responsibility for forgiving guilty people, which a judge is not supposed to do (Deut. 25:1; 1 Kgs. 8:32; cf. 2 Sam. 14:9).

This problem of judicial responsibility was represented by a kind of defilement that was borne by his sanctuary and had to be cleansed from it, along with defilement caused by pesha‘, “rebellion/transgression” sins (Lev. 16:16) that automatically affected the sanctuary from a distance when they were committed (Lev. 20:3; Num. 19:13, 20; cf. Dan. 8:12). Cleansing defilement from the sanctuary indicated that God was right in having forgiven people through sacrifices prefiguring Christ’s sacrifice (e.g., John 1:29), who showed their ongoing loyalty to him on the Day of Atonement by practicing self-denial (fasting, etc.) and abstaining from work (Lev. 16:29-31).

Therefore, because God as the judge was vindicated, his loyal people as the recipients of his forgiveness were secondarily vindicated (v. 30—morally “pure”). God was also right in condemning the disloyal, whether because they had committed rebellious or defiant sin (cf. Num. 15:30-31; however, see Acts 13:39) or because they failed to show loyalty on the Day of Atonement, in which case they were condemned (Lev. 23:29-30). Therefore, the Day of Atonement was Israel’s judgment day. So it makes sense that in the book of Daniel, a judgment (Dan. 7) justifies (legally cleanses) the sanctuary (Dan. 8) both from sins of God’s loyal people (7:22—judgment for the benefit of the holy ones) and from sins of disloyal rebels (vv. 11-12, 26).

Why does God need a judgment to justify him? Isn’t he already justified in forgiving us on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, according to Rom 3:26? This verse says that God is just when he justifies “the one who has faith in Jesus.” The question in the judgment is: Who continues to have faith in Jesus,” that is, loyalty to God? This is the same issue that was in question on the ancient Israelite Day of Atonement. The question is not “who has sinned” because “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). God’s judgment is not to bring up our sins so that we must be re-forgiven all over again, as our critics allege. It is atonement beyond forgiveness, which puts to rest any potential questions that could come up regarding God’s character in order to prevent sin and its consequent suffering from ever arising again.

We have nothing to fear in God’s judgment if we have the Son, i.e., Christ (1 John 5:12), because he is our judge (John 5:22, 27), defense attorney (1 John 2:1), and “true witness” (Rev. 3:14). This judgment sets our assurance in concrete so that by the end of the judgment, the so-called “close of probation,” we will be safe forever (Rev. 22:11). We are saved by God’s grace that He freely gives us through Christ’s sacrifice, so we decide our own destiny by choosing whether to accept that free gift or not (e.g., John 3:16; Eph. 2:8-9), and God respects our final choice. 

Timing of the End-Time Judgment/Justifying God’s Sanctuary

So, when can it be said that “the hour of his judgment has come” (Rev. 14:7)? We already know that it is in the end-time after the period of domination by the church of Rome (e.g., Dan. 7:25). Because the judgment is the same event as the justifying of the sanctuary, it comes at the end of “2,300 evenings and mornings” (8:14), which cannot be literal days. But we are lacking two pieces of information: the starting point of this period and the time units represented by “evenings and mornings.” The answers to both are found in Daniel 9:24-27.

Daniel was upset because he did not understand the “2,300 evenings and mornings” in the dialogue that constituted a mar’eh, “vision” (Daniel 8:26-27; cf. vv. 13-14), distinct from the khazon, “vision,” of the ram, he-goat, and “little horn” that he had seen (verses 1-13). He was still upset several years later when he was studying Jeremiah and learned that the Babylonian exile would last seventy years (9:1-2; cf. Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10). Daniel should have been overjoyed to learn that the exile was about to end, but instead, he was distraught. He sought the Lord “by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes” (Dan. 9:3; cf. vv. 4-19).

Why? Daniel’s response makes sense if he was concerned that because his people had sinned so badly, God was delaying their restoration, and that of Jerusalem and the temple, by the “2,300 evenings and mornings” of domination by great empires that had been revealed to him (Dan. 8). He would not have been worried if he thought the 2,300 would be literal days, only 6.3 years, so he must have understood this to be a much longer period.

In response to Daniel’s prayer, Gabriel came to reveal to Daniel what would happen to his people in the near future (Dan. 9:21-27) as an explanation of the mar’eh (v. 23). There is no vision in Daniel 9, so this must be the mar’eh of 8:13-14 regarding the “2,300 evenings and mornings.” Gabriel’s explanation encouraged Daniel by informing him that Jerusalem would be rebuilt in the near future and the Messiah would come, but the Messiah would be “cut off” and Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed again (9:25-27). In the process of his explanation, Gabriel supplied the keys to understanding the “2,300 evenings and mornings.”

First, the period allotted for the Jewish people, during which the Messiah would come, etc., would be “seventy weeks” (9:24). The Hebrew word for “weeks” is the plural of shabua‘, which usually denotes a week of days but can also refer to a week of years (cf. Lev. 25:8—sabbatical year periods). In the context of Daniel 9, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament 4:1384 opts for weeks of years, no doubt because the predicted events could not be fulfilled in seventy weeks of days.

Second, the “seventy weeks” are cut off concerning the Jewish people (v. 24). The verb for “cut off” (from the root kh-t-k) only appears here in the Hebrew Bible and is usually translated “decreed” (NJPS, NASB 1995, ESV, etc.) or “determined” (NKJV, NET Bible). However, the larger context provided by rabbinic Hebrew literature shows that the basic meaning of the verb is “cut (off)” and “decreed/determined” is an extended meaning (Marcus Jastrow, A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature [New York: Judaica Press, 1975], 513).

Since the “seventy weeks” are Gabriel’s explanation of the “2,300 evenings and mornings,” showing what would happen to the Jewish people in the near future, it makes sense that the “seventy weeks” would be “cut off” from the 2,300 as the first segment of this longer time period. The extended meaning also applies because the “seventy weeks” are determined concerning the Jewish people. The “seventy weeks” are weeks of years, so the 2,300 from which they are cut must also be years: “2,300 years.” Notice that we have derived this from contextual exegesis, without needing to cite a day/year principle.

Third, Dan 9:25 identifies the beginning point of the “seventy weeks” of years: “from the going out of the word to restore [Hiphil of sh-w-b] and build Jerusalem.” Of three Persian decrees recorded in the book of Ezra, it was the decree of Artaxerxes I in the seventh year of his reign, 458-457 BC, that explicitly expressed concern for the city of Jerusalem and restored it to the control of the Jewish people so that it would be governed according to the law of their God (Ezra 7:11-26, especially vv. 25-26). The Hebrew verb rendered “restore” (Hiphil of sh-w-b) with a city as its direct object refers to restoration of a city to its former owner(s) (cf. 1 Kgs. 20:34; 2 Kgs. 14:22; 2 Chr. 26:2). By the time Ezra traveled to the land of Israel with a copy of Artaxerxes’s decree (Ezra 7:7-9) so that this message could go out to the Jewish people, it was 457 BC.

Fourth, putting points two and three together, 2,300 years after 457 BC (with no zero year between AD and BC time) is AD 1844. This is when “the hour of his [God’s] judgment has come” (Rev. 14:7), so that the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6-12 are especially relevant to prepare people for Christ’s second coming. It is also when God’s sanctuary in heaven, representing his character and his reputation for what he does, begins to be vindicated through the judgment (Dan. 8:14). Therefore, this is the end-time global equivalent of the Day of Atonement, which includes a new and unique additional phase of priestly ministry in the holy of holies (cf. Lev 16).

CONCLUSION: SO WHAT?

God told the ancient Israelites when the Day of Atonement would begin so that they could know when to humbly show loyalty to him by self-denial (fasting, etc.) and keeping sabbath (Lev. 23:32; cf. Ps. 35:13 regarding self-denial). Similarly, God tells us when his end-time judgment/Day of Atonement begins so that we can cooperate with his final gospel outreach, inviting others to loyal acceptance of his free gift of salvation that is shown by keeping “the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Rev. 14:12 NKJV). God’s commandments include the Sabbath (Exod. 20:8-11) and faithful Jesus “humbled himself” (Phil. 2:8) as our example (vv. 3-5; 1 Pet. 2:21-24), so our end-time guidelines relate to those of the Israelites on the Day of Atonement.        

Christ could come any time after 1844, but first “this gospel of the kingdom,” which includes the news of God’s judgment (Rev. 14:6), must “be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matt. 24:14). Christ has entrusted this proclamation to us (Matt. 28:19-20).

 

SOME RESOURCES FOR FURTHER STUDY

Gane, Roy. Cult and Character: Purification Offerings, Day of Atonement, and Theodicy. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2005.

Gane, Roy. Who’s Afraid of the Judgment? The Good News About Christ’s Work in the Heavenly Sanctuary. Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2006.

Pröbstle, Martin. “Truth and Terror: A Text-Oriented Analysis of Daniel 8:9-14.” Ph.D. dissertation, Andrews University, 2006. https://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1131&context=dissertations

 

Roy E. Gane, PhD, is professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Languages at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary of Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan.

Photo by Livin4wheel on Unsplash

 

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