In the days of Christ and His apostles, the mystery of God was revealed in a fullness never before known and was preached "to all nations for the obedience of faith." Rom. 16:25, 26. From the beginning of the world unto that time this mystery had "been hid in God," had "been hid from ages and from generations," but was then "made manifest to His saints" to whom "God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." Col. 1:26-29; Eph. 3:3, 5, 9.
But even at that same time, in the very days of the apostles, the "mystery of iniquity" did "already work." And it continued to work until it gained world-power and supremacy and even power over the saints, the times, and the law of the Most High--standing up against the Prince of princes, magnifying itself even to the Prince of the host, putting itself in the place of worship of God, and passing itself off for God. And thus, again, but not this time in God, the mystery of God was "hid from ages and from generations." But now, again, in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, even now, the mystery of God which hath again been hid from ages and generations, is made manifest to His saints to whom now "God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus."
And this, as we have already quoted, is itself according "as He hath declared to His servants the prophets." It is not alone the prophet of Patmos who declared that in this time, even now in our day, "the mystery of God should be finished." For when the angel of God made this proclamation in the vision of the prophet of Patmos, he had already, and long before, declared the same thing to His servants the prophets. And this proclamation on Patmos was only the declaration of the angels that that which God had long before declared to His servants the prophets should now surely be accomplished and that with no more delay. The full proclamation of the angel is this: "and the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by Him that liveth forever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time ["delay," R.V.] no longer: but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as He hath declared to His servants the prophets." Rev. 10:5-7.
The one prophet to whom this thing was more fully and more plainly declared than to any other was the prophet Daniel. For not only did Daniel see the rise of this little horn and see it magnify itself "even to the Prince of the host," and "stand up against the Prince of princes," and cast down to the ground His truth and His sanctuary and stamp upon them, but he also, and in the same vision, saw the truth and the sanctuary of Christ delivered from this little horn power, rescued from its blasphemous stamping, lifted up from the earth and exalted to the heaven where it belongs. And it was in this part of the transactions in the vision that the heavenly ones seemed to be most interested; for, says Daniel: "Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint ["the Wonderful Numberer"] which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice [the continual service], and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden underfoot? And He ["the Wonderful Numberer"] said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." Dan. 8:13, 14.
Then the angel Gabriel was commanded to make Daniel understand the vision. He began to do so, but when in the explanation he had reached the point concerning the many days of this vision, the astonishing and terrible things revealed in the vision overcame the prophet, and says he: "I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king's business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it." Dan. 8:27. So far as the explanation had proceeded, it was easily understood: for it was plainly spoken that the ram represented the kings of Media and Persia; and the rough goat the king of Grecia; and, in view of the explanation that had already been made in the second and seventh chapters of Daniel, the description of the next great power after Grecia was easily understood so far as the angel could then go with the explanation. But in the very midst of the explanation of the most important part of it, Daniel fainted, and so the most material and essential part of the explanation was missed, and "none understood it."
However, the prophet sought diligently for an understanding of the vision. And after the destruction of Babylon, in the first year of the king of the Medes and Persians the angel Gabriel came to Daniel again and said: "O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding." Dan. 9:1, 22. And it was understanding in this particular vision which he was explaining when Daniel fainted that he now came to give. Accordingly he directs Daniel's attention first of all to that vision, for he said: "At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision." Verse 23. Having thus directed the prophet's attention to the vision, the angel begins immediately to discuss the time mentioned in the vision--the very part of the vision which, because of Daniel's fainting, had been left unexplained. Thus he says: "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city." Verse 24.
The word "determined" signifies "limited," "restricted within bounds," "to mark off and fix the bounds." In explaining the vision at the first, the angel had come to the point of the time--the "many days," the "two thousand and three hundred days" of the vision. Now, he tells Daniel to consider the vision; he begins immediately to speak concerning these days and to explain the events of them. "Seventy weeks," or four hundred and ninety of these days are limited and restricted to the Jews and Jerusalem, and this also marks the limitation of the Jews and Jerusalem as God's special people and city. For these are prophetic days, in which each day is a year: the seventy weeks, or the four hundred and ninety days, thus making four hundred and ninety years of the two thousand and three hundred days which are two thousand and three hundred years. The beginning of the four hundred and ninety years is thus also the beginning of the two thousand and three hundred years.
The story of the "seventy weeks," or four hundred and ninety years, is given by the angel as follows: "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week He shall cause the sacrifices and oblation to cease," and "upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate, ["and upon the battlements shall be the idols of the desolator."--A.V. margin] even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolator." Dan. 9:25-27; 9:27, R.V.; 9:27, margin.
The commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem here referred to went forth in the year 457 B. C. and is recorded in the seventh chapter of Ezra. The decree was issued from Babylon and was addressed, first, to Ezra, empowering him to leave Babylon and to take with him such people and materials as were supplied for the work of restoring Jerusalem and the worship of God therein, and secondly "to all the treasurers which are beyond the river" Euphrates, directing them to supply whatever was required by Ezra for the carrying on of the work. It was the fifth month of the year when Ezra reached Jerusalem, so that about half the year 457 B. C. was gone, which would give about the year 456-1/2 as the time of the beginning of the four hundred and ninety years and the two thousand and three hundred years.
From that time four hundred and eighty-three years were to reach "to the Messiah the Prince," which would reach twenty-six and one-half years into the Christian era or into the year A. D. 27, which is the very year of Christ's appearance as the Messiah in His public ministry, when He was baptised in Jordan and anointed with the Holy Ghost. Mark 7:9-11; Matt. 3:13-17. After this He, the Messiah, was to "confirm the covenant" "for one week"--the remaining week of the seventy. But in the midst of that week He would "cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease" by the sacrifice of Himself on the cross. In the midst of the week would be at the end of three and a half of the seven years from the fall of A. D. 27. This gives the date the spring of A.D. 31, the very time when the Saviour was crucified, and thus by the sacrifice of Himself--the only sacrifice for sins--forever caused the sacrifice and the oblation to cease. Then the veil of the earthly temple "was rent in twain from the top to the bottom," showing that the service of God there was ended and the earthly house was desolate.
There was yet the last half of the seventieth week remaining as the limit of the time of special favour to the Jews and Jerusalem. This half of the week, beginning in the spring of A.D. 31, extended to the fall of A.D. 34. In that time "they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen ["went everywhere preaching the word"] travelled as far as Phenice and Cyprus and Antioch preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only." Acts 11:19; 8:4. But when this time was expired and the Jews had confirmed themselves in the rejection of the Messiah and His gospel, then was their decision accepted and under the leadership of both Peter and Paul the door of faith was opened fully to the Gentiles, to whom pertains the remaining portion of the two thousand and three hundred years.
After the four hundred and ninety years of the limitation upon the Jews and Jerusalem, there yet remained one thousand eight hundred and ten years to the Gentiles. This period, beginning, as we have found, in the fall of A.D. 34, reaches inevitably to the fall of A.D. 1844 and marks that date as the expiration of the two thousand and three hundred years. And at that time, upon the word of the "Wonderful Numberer" in Daniel 8:14, "then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." In 1844 also was the very time of "the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound" and when "the mystery of God should be finished, as He hath declared to His servants the prophets."
At that time there would be broken up the horror of great darkness by which the mystery of iniquity had hid from ages and generations the mystery of God. At that time the sanctuary and the true tabernacle and the truth of it would be lifted up from the ground where the man of sin had cast them down and stamped upon them and would be exalted to the heaven where they belong and whence they will shine forth in such light as that the earth shall be lightened with the glory. At that time the transcendent truth of the priesthood and ministry of Christ would be rescued from the oblivion to which the abomination and transgression of desolation had consigned it and would once more and forever stand in its true and heavenly place in the faith of the church, accomplishing in every true believer that perfection which is the eternal purpose of God which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.