Category Archives: Theology

Amazing Prophecy about the Church

Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding the interpretation of Revelation 10-11 has robbed these chapters of much of their power. In reality, they provide an amazingly clear guide from God with interesting detail about our role in the church age.

Our conviction is that these words complete the prophecy given to God’s people (Daniel 10:14) by Daniel in Daniel 10-12. What was closed to Daniel (Daniel 12:4, 9) was opened to John who now completes it. A word which starts in the third year of Cyrus in 535 BC and ends at the end of the age. A word whose first half, described in Daniel, is temporarily suspended when the power of God’s people is totally shattered (Daniel 12:7) by the Roman Empire. A word whose second half is resumed when the Islamic Kingdom came to power and completed during the rest of the church age. So Revelation 11 is not a prophecy which is fulfilled in 3.5 calendar years, but rather in more than 1,200 years.

The language is clearly symbolic, but is also narrative prophecy with a literal meaning. If the prophecy was just for 3.5 calendar years, then very likely the two witnesses introduced in Revelation 11:3 are two individuals. The NIV reference to the them as men (Revelation 11:6) seems to favour this futurist perspective and perhaps reflects a translator bias. However, given that the prophecy extends for over 2,500 years and begins in 535 BC and is explicitly about God’s people then the two witnesses must be God’s people, not two individuals.

Therefore, the period of 3.5 years must be symbolic. Since the two witnesses are called to minister in the power of the Spirit for 3.5 years, then to be defeated, die, to lie dead for 3.5 days, rise again and then ascend into heaven, then they are clearly called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, exactly as Jesus did. The allusion to the ministry of Jesus is remarkably clear and obvious.

At this point we could delve deeply into the detail of what we are called to be and to do. That would make this post incredibly long. We leave it for another time.

So these two chapters sit at the crossroads of understanding the book of Revelation. Previous chapters set the context, subsequent chapters’ flow along the direction implied by how they are interpreted.

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ISIS

The Islamic State in Syria also known by other names, is a newly emerging state that has grown rapidly especially in the last two years. It has produced world wide condemnation like nothing else even Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein and other notorious regime leaders. Unlike most of these, it is a theocracy with both a spiritual and physical agenda. It is promoting a radical form of Islam and claiming to follow the Koran with greater purity than other forms.. It is strictly Sunni Islam and has shown extreme violence against other forms of Islam and of course Christians, Jews and others who refuse to accept its form of Islam.

In the Bible, the book of Daniel (chapter 8:9 and following verses) teaches that the ruler at the end of the age will start off small (he will initially be a little horn), then grow towards the south and the east and towards the land of Israel. He will keep on growing and be very successful and become very powerful. He will cause fearful destruction, destroy powerful nations and God’s people, but in the end be broken, but not by a human hand. Many biblical scholars identify this person with the Seleucid king Antiochus IV who reigned from 175 to 164 BC. However, although matching some of this rulers characteristics, it fails badly in others, especially in starting small, his degree of violence and his lack of success. Antiochus IV did not start small, was not very successful and indeed was defeated by the Jews before his sudden death.

Intriguingly, in recent times, there have been many speculative proposals about the identity of this end of the age ruler. If the criteria mentioned above had been applied to these proposals they would all have been rejected, for example President Obama. None of them have been likely candidates. None of them have resided north to north west of Israel which is necessary to fulfil Daniel 8:9. In contrast, it should be seen that ISIS matches quite a few of the criteria well, but it is too early to establish that identity since other criteria remain which have not been satisfied. Especially, we do not yet know how successful ISIS will be. The world is horrified at what ISIS is doing and confidently predicts its destruction. However, the longer it survives the stronger it is becoming. It is a very well organised state, has substantial wealth and is training an army of people who will die for their cause. It also has world wide domination as its objective.

World conditions are such today that it is very difficult for the high technology and military capability of the west to intervene as was done in Iraq in 2003. The west is extremely fragile economically being under huge debt. It cannot afford and is very unwilling to put many troops on the ground in the Middle East now even in spite of its heavy reliance on Middle Eastern oil. The west has lost much of the trust of Middle Eastern countries because of its ambiguous political alignments. The internal conditions of many countries in the Middle East is unstable and deteriorating with many disparate groups often fighting one another. Loss of life and human displacement is huge. Suffering is huge. This is making this whole region ripe for the emergence of radical groups just like Daniel 8:23 NIV says “In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a master of intrigue, will arise”.

The other very significant feature of ISIS is their declaration of the reestablishment of the Islamic caliphate on 29 June, 2014. That status is currently rejected by the majority of Islamic nations. However, in my understanding of the book of Revelation, the reestablishment of the Islamic caliphate is a very significant event. Let me take a little time to explain its significance.

If your view of Revelation is some form of preterist view so that most of Revelation is fulfilled in the first century AD or perhaps until the collapse of the Roman Empire, you will probably interpret the “beast out of the sea” in Revelation 13:1-10 as the Roman Empire. If you are futurist, with most of Revelation being fulfilled in the last 7 or 3.5 years before Jesus returns, then the “beast out of the sea” will be the final anti-Christ kingdom and likely a “revived Roman Empire”. If you are a historicist who takes the visions in Revelation as history being fulfilled in the chronological order in which they were written, there will be a variety of identifications of the “beast out of the sea”. If you are an idealist, you will probably identify the “best out of the sea” first with Rome, but then as symbolic of all the emerging empires opposed to God’s kingdom throughout history. I am none of these. I am a historicist who sees a very close integration between Daniel and Revelation which therefore necessitates concurrently parallel visions in Revelation like in Daniel. I see that Revelation reveals the rest of the vision that was closed to Daniel in Daniel 12:9 and opened to John when he wrote Revelation and could only be opened once Jesus had won the victory on the cross. I do not know anyone who holds this view; let’s call it historicist with recapitulation.

That lead to the unambiguous identification of the “beast out of the sea” with the Islamic kingdom that began with Muhammad starting around 610 when he received his first vision. History reveals that the Islamic kingdom grew very rapidly for about 150 years under Arabic leadership, grew further until significant defeats in France in 732, and in Vienna when the Ottomon’s were defeated in 1683. From that time on the Islamic kingdom entered a period of slow decline until its most serious humiliation when the Caliphate was disbanded in 1924. In this perspective, this is the only reasonable way to interpret the head of the beast which seemed to have a mortal wound as described in Revelation 13:3. This is a very apt way to describe the status of the Islamic kingdom since 1924, a theocracy without a unifying leadership head. Reading Revelation 13:1-10 carefully then makes clear that the “now time” of this vision is when the head is healed, in other words, when the Islamic Caliphate is reestablished. This is seen by the world as like a resurrection since the whole world marveled at the beasts recovery. Note that up until and including verse 7, everything is in the past tense, however, the worship by the whole world of this beast in verse 8 is future. So if indeed the whole Islamic world comes to recognize the Caliphate established by ISIS, that will be very significant.

In my opinion, we should watch and pray with great alertness and not allow any of our well-formed end time theologies to prevent us from seeing what is happening. We need to be prepared spiritually for what is unfolding and be very excited at the spiritual revival that has been and is occurring in many parts of the world, especially in the last 20 years. Paul ensures us that if we remain alert we will not be surprised at the events that lead to the return of the Lord (see 1 Thessalonians 5:4).

Synchronism between Bible and Current Events

Although we regard the collapse of our modern civilization as inevitable, it is most likely impossible to determine when that will occur and what it will look like. Our modern world system is hugely complex and tightly coupled and the unfolding of events is very dependent on human decisions especially by key people. However, we may be able to set some date boundaries around future events if (1) the Bible is the word of God and if (2) it lays out a prophetic word picture of God’s plan, and if (3) we can interpret it correctly. Up until now the third point has been singularly unsuccessful especially when it comes to the timing of future events.

Perhaps the most serious example of difficulty in using the Bible to predict future events is seen in the huge diversity of ways the seventy sevens prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 has been used to calculate events in Jesus’ first coming. Careful examination of these calculations shows their methodology to be highly suspect. In particular they often assume what they are trying to prove and try to adjust the beginning and end points to fit this assumption. This arises because the anointed person in Daniel 9:25 and 26 is translated “Messiah” (=Jesus) in some English translations when the Hebrew word is less specific and so it needs to be proved that it is Jesus (it cannot be legitimately assumed). In one well known case, a calculation was made predicting Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem to the very day and for many years this was touted as the most amazing prophecy in the Bible until it was discovered that there was a simple oversight in the calculation arising because of confusion over the use of Julian and Gregorian calendars resulting in a 3 day predictive error.

As my just published book, “The Time is Near Volume 1” seeks to show among other things, the whole basis for Preterist and Futurist end time theologies is seriously to be questioned because of the way the Seventy Sevens prophecy is used as a foundation framework in those theologies. In my opinion, the root assumptions in these theologies, that so often go unquestioned, are seriously flawed and that is why future prophesies are so often wrong.

Aside from this, in my view the real situation is not as bad as it seems and we have to continue to search why specific events linked to periods of time are recorded in the Bible. We also have to recognize that Daniel did precisely predict the rise of key leaders, notably Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great, Antiochus the Great and others and he did predict significant details of emerging empires 100’s of years before they happened. Most encouraging is that research in the last 50 years continues to improve our understanding and knowledge of past events including their timing. In reality, today we are in a better position than ever, to interpret what the Bible says providing we are careful and rigorous in our approach.

To assist us in this we can learn from the attempts to match events in the Bible with extra-Biblical sources (synchronism’s) in order to accurately fix dates. Perhaps the oldest of these which has a large measure of concurrence is the lunar eclipse recorded by Ptolemy and the Babylonian Chronicles in the fifth year of Nabopolassor king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar’s father, which computer calculations can pinpoint accurately to 621 BC. Both the Canon of Ptolemy and the Babylonian Chronicles record that he reigned for 21 years which enables us to pinpoint the Battle of Carchemish to 605 BC (probably May or June) and the exact day of Nebuchadnezzar’s accession to the throne (30 August, 605 BC). Since Jeremiah 25:1 says that this was the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, a synchronism between the Bible and history can be made with a high degree of confidence. All significant historical events later than this are usually known accurately to within a year or two. Bible chronologists can work backwards from this date using numerical details in the Bible such as the lengths of the reigns of kings to pinpoint when earlier events occurred..

Most chronology recorded in our modern Bibles for the kings of Judah and Israel, is based on the work of Thiele which starts the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son in 931/930 BC. however, research continues to question his work especially the accuracy of the synchronism’s he made with the Assyrian records and his inference that the Southern kingdom dated the accession of most of their kings from the seventh month of the Hebrew year rather than the first. This can lead to the date of Rehoboam’s reign starting up to 45 years earlier in 975 BC, so that dates of Rehoboam’s reign near 975 BC are probably more accurate and the dates of the kings in many Bible Study notes could be in error by up to at least 30 years. Still, to date the reign of a king 3,000 years ago within 45 years is not bad. We can also date Abraham pretty accurately too. Here we should seriously question the skepticism of many about the Bible. In reality, it gives us a remarkably accurate, honest and relatively detailed history of a nation whose existence began some 4,000 years ago. No other ancient literature comes close to this achievement.

Moving forward from the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s accession to the throne in 605 BC we can be confident that Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC (some say 587 BC). Jeremiah’s prophecies in chapter 25 and 29 also tell us that after 70 years the servitude of the nations to Babylon would end and the exiled Jews would return to their land and start to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. History pinpoints the fall of Babylon to Cyrus the Great in 539 BC and the commencement of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem to about 535 BC, 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar came to the throne.

The book of Daniel gives us some remarkable prophetic detail of key events that will impact the Jews. In particular it speaks of Alexander the Great and the subsequent Ptolemaic and Seleucid kings whose campaigns trampled over the Promised Land until the Seleucid king Antiochus IV sought to destroy the Jews (we know about 164 BC). The subsequent uprising by the Jews which led to their survival is then briefly mentioned. This is then followed in Daniel 11:36 and onward with a description of the rise and fall of Rome beginning with the major military conflict of Antiochus III with Rome (Daniel 11:40) which history dates as occurring from 192-188 BC. It then gives details of the advance of Rome leading to the fall of Jerusalem (we know this occurred in 63 BC) and Egypt becoming a major resource of wealth for the Roman Empire (Daniel 11:43, dated 30 BC) among other things. Rome’s character is also accurately described in the military prowess of their infantry especially in siege warfare (Daniel 11:38) and their soldiers worship of a Persian god (see Daniel 11:39). The persecution of the Jews which led to their eventual scattering and total loss of control over Jerusalem (which we know finally occurred when the Muslims captured Jerusalem in 638 AD) is then described (Daniel 12:1 and 7). From these descriptions we get a sense of the degree of significance of historical events impacting Israel which lead to them being mentioned in the Bible. This gives us major clues as to events in recent history concerning the Jews whose significance might lead us to expect some entry in the Bible.

This has led us to conclude that in the modern era, there are three very important synchronism’s about which we can have a reasonable degree of confidence These are

1. The end of the 1260 days in Revelation 11:3 and 12:6 which equates to the end of the period of time when the Jews were without a home and scattered all over the world and during which God’s people mourned and fasted for Jerusalem. We suggest this equates to the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948.

2. The end of the 42 months (which computes to 1279 days if converted to days and rounded up using the Julian Calendar in use by the Roman Empire) in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5. This equates to the period of time when Jerusalem was under the authority of non-Jewish people’s which ended historically in 1967 with the outcome of the famous six day war.

3. Is it then coincidence that if you regard the days as years, both these periods of time begin in the same year and that year is 688 AD when the “Dome of the Rock” was bring constructed in Jerusalem and probably the year when that construction began? For those that question there is substantial evidence in the Bible of equating the Hebrew word for day with years. There are no less than 6 explicit examples when this is being done.

In further support of these synchronism’s we can provide extensive subjective reasons based on the correspondence between many Biblical prophecies with the current situation in the Middle East. It is beyond the scope of this post to go into that here. Just let me say that the ongoing pressure on the nation of Israel and negotiations that focus on the nation of Israel returning to its 1967 borders highlights the huge significance of the outcome of the six day war in modern Jewish history. In my opinion, when compared with significant events of Jewish history in Daniel, it has sufficient stature so that it is very likely to be included in Biblical prophecies. Both Jesus in Luke 21:24 and John in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5 pointed to a specific time when full governmental authority over Jerusalem would be restored to the Jews.

Let me also add that it is most unreasonable for literal interpretations of the 1260 days and 42 months to claim they are the same length of time. Their use in Revelation has very distinct contexts and a 360 day year had been replaced by a more accurate calendar by all nations by the time of Daniel all of which point to a year of around 365 days.

If this analysis is correct, then we can pinpoint where we are today with respect to prophecies in the book of Revelation. I would suggest somewhere in Revelation 11:3-6 since we are after the end of the 42 months, but the witness of the church has not finished. Somewhere approaching Revelation 12:13-16, because Satan is still trying to destroy the Jews. Somewhere around Revelation 13:6-7a, because this is after the end of the 42 months and the opposition to the church is increasing.

If you accept these synchronism’s then it sheds a very different light on the chronology of Revelation than most scholars promote, while retaining a very literal interpretation. This is very evident in Revelation 11. Firstly, the two witnesses can no longer be individuals for the period of their prophetic ministry exceeds 1,000 years. Secondly, there is an unspecified period of time between the end of the 1,260 days and the completion of the prophetic ministry of the two witnesses referred to in Revelation 11:7.

The Time is Near Volume 1

I am excited to announce that this book has now been published and is available as an eBook and in soft copy from all major online bookshops including Amazon and can be ordered by any bookshop. Published by Balboa Press it is available on their website http://www.balboapress.com as an eBook for $US9.99 and in softcover for $US33.99.

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Taking 686 pages, it is not a quick read, but a serious study and reference book. It is a theological work which gives insight into history, God’s nature, plan and purpose and whose outcomes seriously impact our lives. It supplies a radically new perspective and if read carefully will challenge aspects of every existing work on the book of Daniel. Everything is laid out carefully and in detail, so that the understanding can be tested and the fundamental assumptions examined. The goal is to understand God and His ways as accurately as possible.

Some of the posts on this website already present aspects contained in the book. However, the book will give you a comprehensive understanding of the root ideas in those posts. You will see the rise and fall of five civilisations who had authority over Jerusalem for substantial periods of time, but also see that the nation of Israelites, although small, survives them all sometimes through periods of suffering even until the present day just as Jeremiah had prophesied in his chapters 30-31.

You will see how Daniel’s understanding grew as his life unfolded and how influential he was in the courts of both the Babylonian and Persian Empires. You will see how prophecies he received about his own time were gradually fulfilled and therefore the prophecies he received about the future even until the end of the age carry compelling authority. You will see the precision in his understanding and how all the visions he received were anchored in the present that he knew. It is a book that gives remarkable insight into those ancient times.

Then you will see how Jesus understood the book of Daniel and how this understanding informed His prophetic words in the New Testament. Then you will glimpse how The apostle Paul was informed by Daniel too. To appreciate how Daniel influenced the book of Revelation you will have to wait for Volume 2, but this website does give snippets of understanding.

If you have studied the book of Daniel, you will be familiar with the phrase a “time, times and half a time” which occurs in Daniel 7:25 and 12:7 and also in Revelation 12:14. As well as being a symbolic phrase meaning 3.5 and a period of time which is trying to complete by reaching 7, but is cut short, it is almost universally believed to be 3.5 years. The conviction that it is 3.5 years is so entrenched in our thinking, but rarely questioned. We show that the two “time, times and half a time” in Daniel are two consecutive periods of time forming a symbolic complete period of 7 and that both are literally in excess of 1200 years in a way which we believe will be very hard to refute. When combined together they span the whole of history from the return from exile to the end of the age. This perspective devastates existing end time theologies as strongly as Copernicus devastated the idea that the earth was flat and revealed how the earth moved around the Sun about 500 years ago.

Overall, one of my goals is to see end time confusion in the world wide church resolved. Since that confusion correlates with the ambiguities in the Hebrew text and English translations of Daniel 9:24-27, the famous seventy sevens prophecy I have hope. This is because this book shows how the better foundation for end times understanding is in Daniel’s final vision in his last two chapters. This final vision is narrative prophecy and is so historically accurate that some scholars believe that it must have been written after the events described. This book shows why this is not possible. The beauty of basing our end time understanding on this vision is that it is not hard to understand like his earlier visions which are written in an apocalyptic style, and so should have fewer interpretive difficulties.

The Structure is Key Part 2

This is the second of what was going to be six posts on the structure of the book of Daniel and Revelation and continues the post written for Christians interested in end times theology.

Instead of completing this content as six separate posts, the whole content is now available as a single PDF file on the download page of this website. The reason for this change is its technical complexity and some difficulties in formatting some of its content.

The Structure is Key Part 1

This is another post written for Christians interested in end times theology. It is the first in a six part series of posts on the structure of the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation.

I have hesitated to put these posts in the public domain. The reason being they are of special interest only to Christians and even then their technical nature will, I suspect, discourage many from a thorough reading. I really would prefer a wider readership of this web side than just the Christian Community. The contrary argument is their importance. I am firmly convinced that end time theology is severely compromised by an inadequate understanding of structural issues in interpretation, especially of Hebrew text.

In our view, the importance of structure in the prophetic books, especially Daniel and Revelation is severely underestimated. It is often assumed that for each scholar to come up with their own structure for the book of Revelation is the norm. In our view, John must have written Revelation with a structure in mind and that for correct interpretation we need to determine what that structure is.

Our understanding is that the book of Revelation records the visions John received in the order they were received. There is little disagreement with this in the literature. However, it’s the follow on two key questions which are crucially important

1. Does the fulfilment of the visions occur in the same order as they are written?

2. If the answer to question 1 is no, then what is the structure of the visions?

Our observation would be that those who strongly emphasise that the interpretation should be literal, often assume that literal interpretation implies the chronological ordering of the fulfilment of the visions. In fact, there is no necessary connection between literal fulfilment and a requirement for chronological order. In fact, when we examine the content of the visions, a literal interpretation strongly suggests that some of the visions are chronologically in parallel. This is most evident when we see that a literal interpretation of the vision of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven plagues and Revelation 12-14 would seem to lead us to conclude that they all finish at the end of the age, suggesting that these passages describe visions that are fulfilled chronologically in parallel not sequentially.

Most interesting and very important is the outcome of comparing the structure of the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation. No one that we know disputes that the visions and dreams in Daniel are fulfilled chronologically in parallel. We note that there are four of these when we exclude the seventy sevens prophecy in Daniel 9 which is uniquely different. These are

1. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 which pictures 4 earthly kingdoms which we interpret as the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian and Roman Empires followed by a spiritual kingdom which God will begin to set up during the Roman Empire, but will eventually replace the others and last forever.

2. In Daniel 7, Daniel had a dream depicting the same 4 earthly kingdoms followed by the leader of a fifth one whose kingdom will last to the end of the age, but which will eventually be destroyed and be replaced by God’s eternal kingdom.

3. In Daniel 8, Daniel had a vision of the Medo-Persian and Greek Empires followed by a leader who emerged out of the region of the Greek Empire. This leader we are told, starts off small, becomes great and will be very successful until destroyed at the end of the age, so he must be the end of the age ruler.

4. In Daniel 10-12, Daniel had a final vision depicting the Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman Empires which is cut short at this point because the it was closed to Daniel and sealed until the “time of the end”. In fact, this vision is incomplete and as we will see it is completed by John’s vision in Revelation 11. An earlier post showed that the time of the end begins with the Roman Empire and extends to the end of the age, roughly corresponding to the period of the book of Revelation.

Further examination of the structure of the book of Daniel shows that it divides into two halves. All scholars agree on this, but the majority make the division between chapter 6 and 7 and recognise that chapters 1 to 6 are history and chapters 7 to 12 prophecy. When divided this way, the events in chapters 1 to 6 are written in chronological order and the visions in chapters 7 to 12 are also recorded in the order they were received. However, there is another, more hidden and very informative way to divide Daniel into two, which leads to two balanced, halves. The first half from Daniel 2:4 to 7 was originally written in Aramaic and the rest in Hebrew. Each of these two parts are framed by two visions with a centre part revealing the persecution and suffering of God’s people.

Daniel’s preparation (1) (605 BC)
———————————————————
I. Gentile Focus: in Aramaic from 2.4b to 7
A Four Empires (2) (603 BC)
B The present affliction of God’s people (3-6)
A’ Four Empires and a little horn to the end (7) (552 BC)
———————————————————
II. Jewish Focus: in Hebrew (8 to 12)
A Two Empires and a little horn to the end (8) (550 BC)
B The future affliction of God’s people (9) (538 BC)
A’ Three Empires (10-12) (535 BC)

We will see that the book of Revelation, very naturally, contains the same broad structure, although it is substantially more complex. We will argue that John deliberately structured the book of Revelation to be like that of Daniel. We believe what Daniel is to the Jews, Revelation is to all God’s people, Jews and Christians alike. We argue that the book of Daniel smoothly merges into Revelation to form a complete prophecy; Daniel fits into Revelation like a hand in a glove. For these reasons, it is impossible for the fulfilment of the visions in Revelation to be in chronological order. We argue that when this structure is recognised, the ambiguity in the interpretation of Revelation disappears since only one interpretation becomes possible. We argue that this is so clear that many previously plausible interpretations are ruled out and the understanding converges to a single, unified interpretation. We argue that confusion is removed when this is done.

Peace in the Middle East? Part 2

This post will be fairly technical and targeted especially for Christians interested in end time theology. It will seek to answer the question “What will identify the beginning of the end times? Our answer will be, “the establishment of a significant treaty between many nations centred around Israel”. This post will seek to answer this question as simply as possible. It will suggest that the emerging, current context of conflict, tension and power alignment discussed in part 1 may well lead to a treaty signalling the beginning of the end times so we should watch and pray with heightened alertness.

For many reasons outside the scope of this post to investigate fully, it is possible to show that the unfolding events in the history of Israel form a means by which we can discern the timeline of God’s plan. In other words, we can see where we are in God’s plan today by what is happening to Israel. From this we can infer that we are not in the end times yet, but we are approaching them and we are near. We make a distinction between the last days which begins with Pentecost about 30 AD and spans the whole church age and the end times which is associated with the emergence of the end of the age ruler (sometimes called the anti-Christ). We understand that the key verses that mark that starting point (although it would take too long to explain the reason for that here) are Daniel 9:26-27 from the seventy sevens prophecy.

Our understanding of this prophecy is different from many. An earlier post explains why the periods of seven are not periods of seven years. We also indicated that the Hebrew text of Daniel 9:24-27 is highly ambiguous. We believe the reason for this ambiguity is intentional for these verses are highly structured so that they can form a template whose interpretation only makes sense when slotted into their correct contexts. And there are three contexts which fit; we call them scenarios! The fact that it is structured should be expected since scholars now know that Hebrew text is often structured and that the structure carries substantial meaning and clues to its interpretation. Discerning that structure, if present, is therefore of critical importance. So I want to write these verses in a way that exposes their structure.

The final two verses make a statement about a covenant for the final period of seven preceded and succeeded by a tri-colon. To explain this, Hebrew text can contain multiple lines (or colons) in a thought unit. These lines each add to the thought and can be parallel, inverted parallel, opposite or in other kinds of related thoughts. If there are two lines it is a bi-colon, if three a tri-colon and so on. The bi-colon is usually unmarked, but if the writer wants to vary from this to serve some special discourse function, he will usually mark the thought unit in some way. For example, we see that Psalm 1:1 is a tri-colon marked by the phrase “Blessed is the man”, whose three following thoughts identify characteristics he does not have.

In Daniel 9:26-27 we claim the author does this by beginning the two tri-colons with a time phrase. Typical of Hebrew writing, the most important thought is in the middle rather than at the beginning. Here that central thought is framed by the two tri-colons, each of which contains an opening time phrase followed by three balanced and matching phrases.

Daniel 9:26
After sixty-two sevens
(A) an anointed one will be cut off and will have nothing.
(B) People of a coming ruler will devastate the city and the sanctuary and its end will be with a flood.
(C) Until an end of warfare, desolations are decreed.

Daniel 9:27a
And he will make a strong covenant with the many for one seven.

Daniel 9:27b
From the middle of this seven
(A) sacrifice and offering will be made to cease,
(B) and upon a wing desolating abominations,
(C) until an end which is decreed will pour out on the desolator.

Careful consideration of the three lines in the thought unit shows that they are related; the cutting off of the anointed one with ceasing of the sacrifice and offering, the devastation of the city and sanctuary with the desolating abomination and the continuation of the effects of these things until the end. The two time phrases identify a period of time which must be within the period of the final seven and so the events in the tri-colons must be concurrent. It is also apparent that Daniel 9:26 deals with physical effects whereas Daniel 9:27b is associated with religious ones.

This structure is highly significant and to our knowledge has not been recognised before. We’d be delighted if it was accepted, but our expectation is that it will produce many objections. For one, it challenges those who interpret the passage as describing events in chronological order. Our conviction is that the heart of the message is the middle statement which is framed by two statements which are chronologically in parallel, because the first statement is fulfilled after sixty two sevens which must therefore be within the final seven and the other occurs in the middle of that seven. The two statements outline the events which will occur within that seven, whereas the middle statement indicates that the strong covenant is put in place at the beginning of the seven, not the middle of it as some interpret. This structure is quite typical of Hebrew literature as explained above, although in this case it has some unique features.

In general, the prophecy is focused on the survival of Israel and the answer to Daniel’s prayer although it will take a long time and Israel will suffer greatly in the process. If you study commentaries on Daniel you will find that the prophecy is usually interpreted so that the “coming ruler” in Daniel 9:26 is one of three authorities, (1) the end of the age ruler or (2) Antiochus IV or (3) a Roman general. In our view, the prophecy is written as a template which can be applied to all three authorities and which then leads to three distinct scenarios . Each covers a period of time when Israel’s survival in the Promised Land was severely threatened. So rather than being applied to just one of the three authorities identified above, all three are covered. In all scenarios, the crisis is in the final period of seven. In the first two scenarios, the final seven is short although not seven years. The final seven in the first scenario is still future and will be the worst and will begin when the end of the age ruler appears and the strong covenant will then identify the beginning of the end times. The second scenario was completed when Antiochus IV attempted to impose Hellenism on the Jews before he died in 163 BC. In the third scenario, the whole period of Jewish history starting with the return from exile to the end of the age is covered, with a focus is on rebuilding Jerusalem, the persecution and scattering of the Jews under Rome, the death of Jesus, and the Jews survival through a long period of difficult times.

When Daniel received God’s answer in Daniel 9, he only knew of one scenario to which it could be applied; that was the message he was given in Daniel 8. In the final vision, he was given the other two which can be identified by the phrase “the abomination that causes desolation”. Interestingly, this phrase is plural in Daniel 9:27, but singular in Daniel 11:31 and Daniel 12:11.

The reason we cover all this is in order to explain that only in the first scenario is the final seven still future. The “he will make a strong covenant with the many for one seven” in Daniel 9:27a is what initiates the end times and is therefore a crucial event still in the future whose occurrence will mark a key synchronism between current affairs and God’s plan revealed in the Bible.

Let’s examine Daniel 9:27a for this first scenario. Note there are at least 3 ambiguities that can lead to different interpretations, (1) the identification of the “he”, (2) the identification of the many and (3) the length of the period of one seven.

Firstly, who is the “he”? Normal grammar would connect it to the previous, immediate antecedent which in this case is the coming prince who will devastate the city and the sanctuary. The parallelism between phrase “B” in Daniel 9:26 and Daniel 9:27b suggests that the devastation occurs in the middle of the final seven and causes worship to cease. We connect this to what Jesus said in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 which speaks of a coming invasion of the location of the sanctuary which should cause God’s people to flee Jerusalem in urgent haste. So the “he” in this scenario is the end of the age ruler.

Secondly, who are the “many”? Our conviction is that these are many nations and the “he” will be the leader of one of them, but he does not necessarily have to come from the most powerful of those nations.

Thirdly, with regard to the length of the final seven, if we connect this scenario to Daniel 8 we are told there that following the defilement of the location of the sanctuary there will be 2,300 evenings and mornings until the end of the little horn. This is most likely to indicate that the period is literal 24 hour days which equates to about 6.3 years. The overall period of the final seven would therefore be perhaps 10 to 20 years since the defilement of the temple location is somewhere in the middle of this seven.

By the way, in our understanding of this scenario, the anointed one cut off in Daniel 9:26a is the nation of Israel. In this respect, it is most enlightening to read Isaiah 53 as a prophecy with dual fulfilment, applying to Jesus at His first coming and to Israel in the end times.

So the key event we are looking for is a major treaty involving many nations probably including Israel although that is not essential from the text. To me this will signal the beginning of the end times. Of course, the treaty could be initiated for many reasons, so we will have to wait and see what happens. We will also need to discern whether the treaty has the right stature and significance, because Bible prophecy is quite high level. This may only be possible after a period of time. It will also give us clues as to the identity of the “he”.

The discussion about a treaty initiated by the U.S. and Russia to bring peace to Syria, also involving many Middle Eastern countries, may lead to a major treaty with the right stature to be this key event. We must watch and pray because the end times could soon be upon us.

I believe that if a treaty occurs soon, for whatever reason, many Christians will miss its significance for a while because of their end time theology. This will be particularly true for those who see the rapture occurring seven years before Jesus returns. The situation will not be unlike the Jews during Jesus’ first coming who expected the Messiah to overthrow Rome and take world wide authority. Because their interpretation of the Bible was wrong, they failed to recognise who Jesus really was. It may also be missed by those with a dominion slant, because they are expecting the church to embrace the world and God’s kingdom to be established on earth before Jesus returns. We are in interesting times!

Thus, in these days, we need to be alert and on the watch and prayerfully seek to understand what is happening so we can guide our people through the coming crises. We must also weigh up events and be alert to what the Spirit is saying so we rightly understand what is happening. That is why we must test our understanding very carefully with the word of God and hold onto what is good.

The permission of God to allow Satan to carry out damage is significant in the book of Revelation. It stems from God allowing mankind to reap what they have sown. God’s grace operates to prevent wars and disasters occurring until the appointed time. Satan continually tries to throw God off His plan and precipitate conflict He does not desire. In part, this is one of the lessons we can learn from Daniel and Revelation especially.

The outcomes of the evolving tensions in the Middle East are having significant impact on the alignments of major powers. Some have not yet shown their hand, but they are certainly watching very closely and will act if their own security is threatened. The outcome of a major treaty seems very possible. In all of this, it is hard to envisage the terrible suffering of civilians especially in Syria. So this is also God’s opportunity as many turn to Him in their desperate cry for help. This is how I believe we should pray. It is the salvation of as many as possible that is at the centre of God’s heart.

In all this turmoil, God’s mercy is available to everyone no matter how evil they have been. Anyone who calls on the name of The Lord will be saved. This is what we must pray. Also, when peace comes to Syria, there may be open doors for a short time in a narrow window. We need to stay alert.