Signs of the Messiah – Rebuilding Jerusalem

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Seventy Weeks are Decreed.002

“So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.”

As we noted in our last article, the 70 weeks prophecy concerns God’s intended use of Judah, as a nation, in the scheme of redemption.  The prophecy sets out certain events as markers noting the progress of this plan and allowing the people at any time to recognize where they stood in relation to events whose scope would otherwise have been too large to comprehend.  As such, this prophecy stands as a keystone in post-captivity Judah.  The work of the  prophets Haggai and Zechariah found root in this prophecy as they spurred on the rebuilding of the temple, chiefly by pointing to God’s greater purpose as revealed in Daniel 9.  The same could be said of Nehemiah and his efforts to rebuild the walls and reestablish proper temple worship and hastening to a close the “seven weeks” with which this prophecy begins.

The question we will examine now has to do with the particular markers which are used in the prophecy.  Why were these particular events chosen?  What significance do they have?  Is there any meaning that we today might draw from them despite standing on the other side of the prophecy?

The first “seven weeks” would begin with the decree of Cyrus (discussed in our previous article) and ends with the restoration and rebuilding of Jerusalem, both the city and the temple.  As we have already mentioned, the work of Haggai and Zechariah consisted of motivating the people to build the temple  (Ezra 5:1-2) and Nehemiah’s work was organizing the people to rebuild the walls.  That rebuilding the temple was intrinsic to the rebuilding of the city is clearly seen both in the prophecy itself (vs. 26) and the decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-2; c.f. Jer 30:18; Is 44:28).

The completion of this construction would certainly provide a clear marker for all to see.  However, we might look for deeper significance than just the obvious nature of such an accomplishment.  Why would this mark the end of the first seven weeks and the beginning of the sixty weeks and the obvious tribulation that would follow?  What would the reconstruction of the temple mean to the people of Judah? What would this marker signify in the broader context of the scheme of redemption?

First, it should be noted that the temple represented the presence of and fellowship with God.  When Solomon built the original temple he spoke of it as a house for God to “dwell in,” and that he had been chosen by God to “build a house unto my name” (1Kings 8:12-13, 15, 30-53).  Prior to the building of the temple, the tabernacle had been the “house” in which God dwelt.  Aaron and his sons had gone into the tabernacle to present the atonement blood in God’s presence (Lev 16, Heb 9) as he stood before the Ark of the Covenant.  The Ark was to be kept in the inner chamber of of the Temple, the Most Holy Place, and served as the place which God met the High Priest to receive the atonement sacrifice.  Certainly the reconstruction of this immensely important symbol would indicate to the people that God was with them, that their faith and repentance was being rewarded and that they could move on with God’s plan for them.

Conversely, as we look ahead in the prophecy the destruction of the temple was equally important.  This prophecy pointed to a time when faith rather than ethnicity would be the prerequisite to being in a covenant relationship with God.  Jeremiah describes this new covenant as one in which “they will not teach again each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, “know the Lord, ‘for they will all know Me..'”  This shift would mean the end of God’s covenant with the nation of Israel.  Such a seismic shift would certainly require a clear sign to offer unmistakeable proof.  Daniel was shown this clear sign with the prophesied destruction of Jerusalem and the temple within its walls.  God commanded the temple rebuilt in 536 B.C. because His purpose for it was not complete,  a significant part of that purpose was the coming destruction in 70 A.D.

What can we draw from this prophecy some 2500 years later?  As with all prophecy, we see the sureness of God’s decree.  The rebuilding and the destruction were foretold well before their fulfillment, but the the city was built the temple completed.  Secondly, we see God’s response to repentance.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 must never be separated from the prayer of Daniel 9.  Daniel piously begs the God of heaven to respond to the repentance of the nation and return them to His fellowship.  God responds by returning the people to the promised land, restoring their security and joining them again in the His dwelling place.  Surely we can depend on this same grace from the same all powerful God.

How should we respond to these lessons?  Judah returned to the land, built the city and the temple offered worship to God.  The faithful in Judah waited patiently, watched the signs and prepared for the Messiah (Lk 2:25; 36-38).  They waited upon the Lord to redeem their faith, forgive their sins and bring in His blessed kingdom. Can we not respond in kind, by living a prepared life, trusting in the Lord to return and redeem our “vile bodies,” and to turn the kingdom back to the Father for an eternal and blessed reign?

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