God’s Perfect Timing
9-10-17 Daniel 9:25-27 Lesson 35
Good morning everybody. Let’s take our Bibles if we could take our Bibles and open them to Daniel, chapter 9 and verse 25. We’re finding ourselves the last several Sundays in the 9th chapter of Daniel. The title of our message this morning is God’s Perfect Timing. If there’s anything that we learn about God’s character from God’s Word is He’s right on time. He’s not too early; He’s not too late, and if He’s right on time He’s going to be right on time in your life too, and my life.
And there probably is nothing that better illustrates the timing of God than the prophecy that we’re working our way through here at the seventy weeks Prophecy. Daniel had been studying his Bible; this is always a good thing, right? And consequently he knew that the seventy year captivity that this nation was in was winding down. The year is about 538 B.C. Keep a mental note of that; that will be a big deal a little bit later. He’s in his early 80s, and consequently he begins to seek God for the future. What does the future hold for the nation now that the captivity is ending?
He offers, probably one of the greatest prayers in the whole Bible, verses 3-19 and praying is one thing and as wonderful as it is but God answering is even better. Amen! He gets an answer to the future of the nation and in fact the future to the history of the world. As that answer is given in verses 20-23 the content of the answer is described in what is called the prophecy of the seventy sevens, the seventy weeks prophecy.
It is so tempting for people to just rush through this prophecy and not really grasp what it’s saying. Well, I have made up my mind that I will not do that; I’m going to take as long as it takes to mine the depths of this prophecy. I don’t think it’ll take me seventy weeks to do it. And the reason I feel as strongly as I do about this prophecy is if you will labor with me and try to understand this, perhaps not the easiest thing in the Bible to understand but if you labor with me as I seek to peel back the layers and explain it you’re going to walk away from this study with two blessings.
Number 1, you’re going to understand that this Book is God’s Word. You’re going to believe it not because someone tells you to believe it; you’re going to believe it because you see proof in it. and we’re going to look at some of that proof today.
The second thing you’re going to walk away with is something that most of Christendom doesn’t have; most Christians don’t have it but it’s a blueprint for the end, a big picture for what God is going to do in the end times. Why do we believe in a seven year tribulation period. It’s right here in the seventy weeks prophecy. Why do we believe that the church will not be inserted into that seven year tribulation period. It’s right here in the seventy weeks prophecy. Why, as we saw in Sunday School this morning, do we at Sugar Land Bible Church take prophecy in a normal or literal way, just like we would take other parts of the Bible in a normal or literal way. It’s right here in the seventy weeks prophecy. Why are strange things that seem obscure to us happening in the New Testament. It’s right here in the seventy weeks prophecy.
A proper understanding of the seventy weeks prophecy does so much in terms of opening up one’s understanding to God, God’s character, God’s nature, God’s revelation. And because this seventy weeks prophecy is one of the deeper subjects of the Word of God I have decided to break it down into ten parts. In the prior sermon we went through parts one through four; these parts are logically arranged. Part two builds on part one, part three builds on parts one and two, etc. So therefore it’s imperative that you try to stay with me for each of these sections because if you get lost the other sections won’t make any sense.
We introduced, did we not, the seventy weeks prophecy last time; ten things to understand. The first thing we saw is this prophecy concerns who? The nation of Israel. “Seventy weeks have been decreed” for Sugar Land Bible Church… I wish it said that, it doesn’t say that. But it says, “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city,” the whole focus of the prophecy revolves around the nation of Israel.
By the way, a lot of Christians today are going to try to tell you that we will be in the seven year tribulation period. Well how can that be when the seven year tribulation period, which is part of this prophecy, concerns who? Israel, not the church. When you understand that then you begin to understand why the church is conspicuously absent from any passage of the Bible dealing with the tribulation period. A proper understanding of that starts right here with fact number 1, the prophecy concerns Israel. Fact number 2 we covered is the prophecy concerns the time period of how many years? 490, seventy sevens have been decreed for Your people and Your holy city. The word “week,” sometimes translated seven, refers to a unit of seven, a unit of seven years.
Last week I think I misspoke, I think I said Isaac served for seven years to gain Rebecca, I think I had that wrong didn’t I, I think it’s Jacob who served Laban for seven years to gain the hand of Rachael. Genesis 29:27. [Genesis 29:27, “Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years.”] In Genesis 29:27 you’ll see that seven year period described as a “week” or “seven,” it’s the same Hebrew word that’s used here. A seven refers to a seven year period of time; seventy sevens would be a time period of how long? Any mathematicians… I see some yawns; what’s seventy times seven? 490. This is what the angel Gabriel gave to Daniel; he gave to Daniel a stop watch with 490 years on it. Every stop watch has start button, a pause button and a stop button. That, in essence, is what has been put into Daniel’s lap here in this seventy weeks prophecy.
Number three, each year of the prophecy consists of how many days? Not 365.25 days the way the Gregorian calendar works but 366. As I tried to demonstrate that that’s how God thinks in terms of judgment both in the flood and in the future tribulation period itself.
Fact number 4 is what is going to happen when this clock gets to the end. Once we hit year 490, the end of that year, what can be expected to happen? Well, six prophecies that we looked at last time, and there they are. [1, “to finish transgression”  “to make an end of sin”  “to make atonement for iniquity”  “to bring in everlasting righteousness”  “to seal up vision and prophecy”  “to anoint the most holy place”] You can sum all those up as the political and spiritual restoration of Israel. The political and spiritual restoration of the nation of Israel will be accomplished at the end of this 490 year period.
You know, in Sunday School a couple of weeks ago we were studying Martin Luther and how Martin Luther became, in a sense, upset with a lack of progress that he was making with the Jewish people, how the Jewish people were not accepting rapidly his doctrine of justification by faith alone. And he became frustrated with them and made several comments towards the end of his life against the Jewish people. And yet if Martin Luther had been a student of this prophecy he would have seen that the conversion of Israel is something that cannot and will not happen until Daniel’s clock has run its course.
And this is one of the reasons I like the study of prophecy, it tells us what’s realistic in this age and what is not. The wide scale conversion of the nation of Israel in the present age is something that is out of whack, out of proportion when you understand God’s prophetic blueprint given here in the seventy weeks prophecy. So the focus of the prophecy is Israel; the time period is 490 years. Each year of the prophecy consists of 360 days and at the conclusion of the prophecy you’ll have a political and spiritual reborn Israel.
This takes us to fact number 5 and this fact deals with when does the prophecy clock start? When does the divine finger move onto the start button and the clock begins to run. Now many, many people have come up with very confused understandings of the beginning of the clock, in terms of the elapsing of time, because they run into the Book of Ezra, and I have all of the Scripture there under item number B, and they try to locate the beginning of this time period with the restoration to rebuild the temple, the temple, not Jerusalem. The temple.
And they try to locate the beginning of this time period with the restoration to rebuild the temple… the temple not Jerusalem, the temple. And the Book of Ezra records about three decrees that were given at certain times to rebuild the temple. The Jews started rebuilding the temple as they came back from the exile; they got discouraged; God raised up Zechariah, Haggai to get the project started again. So the Book of Ezra is a start/stop, start/stop sort of effort to get the temple rebuilt.
And many people try to locate these various decrees concerning the temple in the Book of Ezra and they come up with what I think are dates that are incorrect. Why? Because they don’t pay attention to what the prophecy says. The prophecy never says that the clock would run from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild the temple but to restore and rebuild what? Jerusalem. When did this happen exactly? Well, we have a book in our Bible called The Book of Nehemiah, don’t we. The Book of Nehemiah is the story of a Jew who loved God, who was living in Persia. Remember the Babylonians had been conquered by the Persians, many of the Jews stayed behind and did not return after the seventy year captivity had ended. And one of those guys was a Nehemiah, living in a Persian area that the Persians had conquered called Susa, working for his boss named Artaxerxes, a Persian king.
And Nehemiah 2 records the desire of Nehemiah to return to the land of Israel to rebuild the walls around the city of Jerusalem because we’re dealing here with the ancient near east. If you don’t have a wall you don’t have a city. Why is that? Because you have no defenses. So he becomes burdened that the city of God, the city of Jerusalem, has no walls around it. And you’ll notice what is said here in Nehemiah 2:3, 5, 8 and 11. Verse 3 says, “I said to the king, ‘Let the king live forever’” speaking of Artaxerxes, “Why should my face not be sad when the” what? “city,” see his mind is on the city, “the place of my forefathers lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?” Verse 5, “I said to the king, “If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city” the second reference, “of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” Verse 8, “And a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress which is by the temple, for the wall of the” what’s the next word? “city and for the house to which I will go.’ And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me.” Verse 11, now there’s been three references to “the city.” Verse 11 says, “So I came to” where? “Jerusalem….”
See, Nehemiah had a burden, not for the temple, that had already been rebuilt in the Book of Ezra, but a city and its natural fortifications, and its natural protections. And the Book of Nehemiah is all about Nehemiah rebuilding the walls around the city of Jerusalem, despite great opposition. It’s a tremendous book of the Bible to study and to read. And because he keeps saying city, city, city, over and over again, the moment his boss, Artaxerxes, the Persian king, said to Nehemiah, gave him a word, said okay, go back and rebuild the walls around your city, the moment that happened a divine finger put His finger on the start button and the 490 year clock given to Daniel started to tick at that point.
And in fact, when you read the rest of Daniel 9:25 it starts to make sense. It says, “it” that’s the city, “will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.” That’s a tremendous prophecy given about the time of Nehemiah and the opposition that he would encounter as he would experience distress rebuilding the walls around this broken-down city.
Now what’s interesting about this is we can pinpoint the exact day, I believe, when this decree was given. Notice, if you will, Nehemiah 2:1, it says, “And it came about in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, that wine was before him, and I took up the wine and gave it to the king.” Now that’s always a good thing to do when you want to get your boss to agree to something give him a little bit of wine, “Now I had not been sad in his presence.” So Nehemiah 2:1 is giving you the exact moment in time when the decree was issued, thereby starting Daniel’s clock.
You’ll notice that this chapter takes place “in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes.” Now we know from extra biblical evidence exactly when Artaxerxes father left the throne. Artaxerxes father left the throne December 17, 465, at the very end of the year 465. So Artaxerxes came to the throne in 464 B.C. Now notice very specifically that this happened “in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes” so now we go 464 B.C., twenty years into the future, that takes us to 444 B.C. That’s pretty specific, isn’t it.
And then this information goes on and it says this happened “in the month of Nisan.” Now most people when you mention “Nisan” they think you’re talking about an automobile or a car; that is not what Nisan means in the Bible. The month of Nisan is a Jewish month. In fact, here is a Jewish calendar, it gives you the different months of the year. One of those is named Nissan and when you overlay it with a Gentile calendar what you’ll discover is Nisan, for the most part, is the month of March. Now it’s generally believed that these Persian kings issued their decrees the first of the month. And if that’s true, as we go from a Jewish calendar month to a Gentile calendar month and look at it very carefully, and chronologists have looked at this very carefully, you can actually figure out the exact moment that this decree was entered into, March 5, 444 B.C. In other words, March 5, 444 B.C., the moment Artaxerxes said to Nehemiah go back and rebuild the walls around the city is the moment a divine hand put His finger on the 490 year clock and pushed the start button and the thing started to run at that point.
Now remember I asked you to memorize the date when Daniel received this vision. Anybody remember the date? 538. So this is something that would take place and begin to take place after Daniel was off the scene. This initiation of the prophecy wouldn’t take place for close to a century, perhaps a little under a century. And this is why there are so many statements in the Book of Daniel where Daniel is saying when he receives the visions, I heard but I didn’t understand. He says this over and over again in the Book of Daniel. We’ve seen some examples of it: Daniel 7:28, we saw it in Daniel 8:27, we saw it finally at the end of the Book of Daniel, it says, “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time, many will go back and forth, knowledge will increase.” Verse 9 of Daniel 12, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time.”
In other words, Daniel, you don’t need to understand it. You did your job. You faithfully recorded the vision in the Book of Daniel and now leave it up to the timing of God and the providence of God for this to transpire in subsequent generations. So Daniel dies, and God (who cannot lie) remembers what He said almost a century later; the decree of Nehemiah 2 is entered into and immediately when that happened March 5, 444 B.C. the clock starts running.
Number 1, the prophecy concerns who? Israel! Number 2, the prophecy has how many years in it? 490. Number 3, the prophecy consists of how many days per year? 360. Number 4, what’s going to happen when the prophecy reaches its completion? You’re going to have the political and the spiritual restoration of Israel. Number 5, when did the prophecy start running? March 5, 444 B.C.
This takes us to fact number 6 and this is big here. In fact, you might want to buckle your seat belts for this because many of you are going to listen to me talk and you probably won’t believe it when I explain it to you, but I will be sending you to sources where you can do your own investigation and I think as you begin to see this, not only will you understand that this book has to be from God but this prophecy has to be understood to make sense of the New Testament.
So the sixth fact is this; exactly 483 years will elapse between the beginning of the prophecy, Nehemiah 2, and Palm Sunday. Where am I getting this from? Let’s go back to Daniel 9:25, “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” that’s what started the count, “until Messiah the Prince” who would that be? Jesus Christ, “there will be seven sevens and sixty-two weeks;” now seven plus sixty-two is what? Sixty-nine. And why in the world does it not just say sixty-nine, why does it divide it up into seven sevens and sixty-two sevens. I asked the greatest expert in the world, prior to his death on this, Dr. Harold Hoehner, and I’ll make reference to him in just a minute, and this was his answer. “I don’t know!” So if he doesn’t know I don’t know either. Maybe it took seven sevens to rebuild the wall and another sixty-two sevens for the Messiah to show up. Maybe it took seven sevens for the canon to close and another sixty-two sevens for the Messiah to come. I have no idea why it’s divided that way, into seven sevens and sixty-two sevens. But here’s what I do know; seven plus sixty-two is what? Sixty-nine. I can guarantee you that’s true.
What is being said here is in between the decree of Artaxerxes and the coming of Jesus Christ there is going to be sixty-nine sevens, a seven is a seven year period of time, so sixty-nine times seven is how many years. Four hundred and eighty three years. But wait a minute; didn’t we study earlier and I told you when we were looking at this you’re not going to think it’s important but it would pay dividends later, remember we said that last time?
We said that under fact number three each year of the prophecy consists of how many days? 360 and I said you’ll say so what, those will become a big deal later. Well guess what? It’s later, now it’s a big deal because if each year of this prophecy is 360 days we can multiply 483 times 360 and get the exact day count as to the coming of Jesus Christ. In other words, in between the decree of Artaxerxes and the coming of Jesus Christ there will be sixty-nine sevens, or better said, 483 years, or better said, 173,880 days.
Now we make a big deal about how you can’t set dates for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and I’m on board with that. No man knows the day or the hour but what I’m showing you here is you could have set a date, in fact, God gave a date, not for the Second Coming of Christ but for the what? First coming of Christ. Now your Bible says “to whom much is given much is” what? “required.” Jesus, and I’ll be showing you the passages in a minute, when He showed up expected the nation of Israel to understand this.
So the question becomes well, when did Jesus show up? What was the specific time in history where He formally presented His Messianic credentials to the nation and said to them here is your opportunity to enthrone me as your King. And the answer to that is Palm Sunday. That’s what the whole thing is about. Palm Sunday, just prior to Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, was the golden opportunity for the nation of Israel to enthrone the King and not just be the owner but the what? Possessor of her blessings and the kingdom of God would have arrived.
So now the question becomes well when did Palm Sunday take place? And I want to refer you to a book called The Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ by Harold Hoehner. Harold Hoehner was one of my professors at Dallas Theological Seminary, he was one of the readers on my dissertation, and Harold Hoehner had graduated from Cambridge, not exactly academia light, and part of his Cambridge dissertation was proving when certain things happened related to the calendar of Jesus Christ and the final events of his life. Dr. Hoehner, in this book, establishes that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ took place April 3, A.D. 33. Now you can quibble with him if you want, the man had two doctorates, I felt he knew a little something about what he was talking about. Then Dr. Hoehner backs up on the calendar, which you can do, and goes back to the triumphal entry the week before and comes up with the following date for the triumphal entry, March 30, A.D. 33.
So you’ll notice what we have here, we’ve got two dates; we’ve got the decree of Artaxerxes which started the count, March 5, 444 B.C. and then we have this date for the triumphal entry, March 20, A.D. 33. And so the $20.00 question becomes (it’s actually worth far more than $20.00) are there exactly 173,880 days between those two events? Now because Harold Hoehner was on my dissertation committee I had a chance to talk to him a lot about this because this has always been a tremendous area of interest of mine. And I said Dr. Hoehner, I think what you did is you came up with those two dates first and then you went back to make it fit the seventy weeks prophecy. And he assures me that he did not do that; he came up with the dates independent of the seventy weeks prophecy, these two dates that I’m giving you, March 5, 444 B.C. when it started, and April 30, A.D. 33 when the triumphal entry takes place.
He came up with those two dates and he said just for fun let’s see if it fits Daniel’s timeline, not really expecting it to work out. And in his book, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ you’ll see he makes a statement to that effect, not expecting it to work mathematically. But then he says the results were better than anticipated. Talk about the understatement of the year. What he explains is this prophecy was fulfilled EXACTLY to the day. Now how does he get that? Well, he starts with the year 444 when the decree was issued, and the year A.D. 33 when the triumphal entry takes place. Now hos much of a difference is there between 444 and A.D. 33? According to my old math that’s 477 years. But we have to subtract a year because the difference between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D. is counted as one year rather than two. So we subtract 1 from 477 and we come to the year 476. Now we have to multiply 476 times 365 because March 5th and March 30th is a Gentile calendar so he does the math and he multiplies 476 times 365 and he gets the following days between those two events, 173,740. Now that’s a problem because how many days do we need? 173, 880. And we’re just a tad short, aren’t we.
But wait a minute, in between March 5, the decree, and March 30, triumphal entry, is how many days? 25 days. So to make up for that difference let’s add 25 days to 173,740 years and we come to 173,765 days. Close but no cigar! Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, right. We still don’t have our magic number of 173,880 days… but wait a minute, there’s something called leap years. You all know what leap years are, right? The Gregorian calendar is 365 days .25, a quarter in other words, so we have to make up all of those quarters. So consequently Harold Hoehner adds to the number 173, 765 days, he adds 115 days to compensate for leap years and oh my goodness, what’s the count at the bottom, 173,880 days.
This conclusion shocked Hoehner more than anything else; he never really expected to work out to the exact day but if you’re following me on this and if you get his book, The Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, what he is showing is the prophecy given to Daniel was fulfilled exactly on time, to the exact day. You know, God, what we know of Him, is perfect in His timing. Did you know, for example, that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple on the exact same day the Romans destroyed the temple in A.D. 70. God is a God of precision; God is a God of mathematics, God is a God of perfect timing.
And see, if we don’t understand this part of God’s character then we become frustrated with God because we feel like He’s not listening to us when we pray, because we don’t get immediate answers. And we need to remember that God is the God of perfect timing, for marriage, job, promotion, death, whatever it may be. And because we’re sort of oblivious to who God is we’re not resting or trusting in His character. A prophecy like this reveals His perfect character. What Hoehner is showing is the prophecy of the seventy sevens, the first sixty-nine of the seventy was fulfilled exactly on time, to the exact day.
To my knowledge there is nothing like this in the Quran. There is nothing like this in the Book of Mormon. There is nothing like this in any other alleged holy book; it is unique to the Bible and we need to understand this because we’re living in an environment where people are telling us the Bible can’t be God’s Word. How could it not be God’s Word when you see something like this?
What is answered in the seventy weeks prophecy is not just the what question; there’s a lot of what’s out there, what is Christ going to do when he comes the first time? He’s going to be born in Bethlehem, He’s going to be pierced, those are “what” issues. The Bible predicted the “what” issues. What is being shown to Daniel is the answer to those “when” questions; when is this supposed to happen.
Now Harold Hoehner is not the first man that has attempted this. The first man that attempted this calculation is a man named Sir Robert Anderson who wrote a book called The Coming Prince. Who was Sir Robert Anderson? He was a committed Christian and he was very gifted intellectually. In fact, Sir Robert Anderson worked for the Scotland Yard, he was an attorney, he was into forensics, he was into criminal investigation. In fact, the history books tell us that Sir Robert Anderson was instrumental in the resolution of the Jack the Ripper case. You remember that from history? This mad man going throughout London and just splitting people’s throats wide open, sort of like the hillside strangler, no one could figure out who this person was. Well, Sir Robert Anderson figured it out. That’s what kind of mind you’re dealing with.
Sir Robert Anderson took the mind that God gave him and wrote many, many books, probably his most famous is The Coming Prince, which is an analysis of the seventy weeks prophecy. Now his starting dates and stopping dates are a little bit different than Hoehner’s. Anderson charts the decree of Artaxerxes in March14, 445 B.C. and the triumphal entry April 6, 32 A.D. why is it different? And I asked Dr. Hoehner about this and he said because there was archeological evidence available to Hoehner that was not available to Anderson, concerning the year that Artaxerxes came to the throne. Hoehner had information Anderson didn’t. So what Hoehner has done is he took Anderson’s numbers and just adjusted them or updated them to keep up with archeological discoveries. But here’s the point: both of these men, intellectual giants, Harold Hoehner with his two doctorates, Sir Robert Anderson, the Scotland yard who helped resolve the Jack the Ripper case, both men have shown that this prophecy has the potential of being fulfilled to the exact day.
You say well who cares. If you don’t understand this there’s pages of the New Testament and many of the things that Jesus Christ says will never make any sense to you, but with the background of this precise time clock suddenly the things that Christ is saying fall sharply into focus. For example, on Palm Sunday, as recorded in Luke 19, Jesus starts making certain statements. For example, notice if you will Luke 19:37-38, “As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen,  shouting: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” What’s in quotations is Psalm 118:26 which is a Messianic Psalm. [Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.” ]
Why is it He’s riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, on Palm Sunday, and there are people taking Psalm 118:26 and applying it to Christ as the Messiah? Why were they doing that? Because some knew what day it was. Some didn’t. The ones that knew what day it was knew the right verse to apply to the right situation, Jesus as the Messiah. Now the Pharisees don’t like this, they never like praise going to Christ so it says this: “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’” [Luke 19:39] Shut these people up.  “But Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, if these become silent, the stones themselves will cry out!” Why would He make a statement like that? Because this is a special day that Daniel predicted. God is going to be praised one way or the other and if the praise isn’t going to out of the mouth of the disciples God will get the rocks and the stones to praise Him.
Then a little bit later, in Luke 19:42 Jesus, in response makes this statement, “saying, ‘If you had known in this” what? “day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.’” Why in the world would Jesus Christ on Palm Sunday make an issue out of the day? Well it makes sense if you understand that this is the day that Daniel said would come.
Luke 19:44, it says, “and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the” what? “time of your visitation.’” kairos, time, season, you should have known what day it is because “to whom much is given, much is” what? Expected. [Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”]
See the Palm Sunday statements start to fall into focus if you understand the background of the seventy weeks prophecy. It begins to make sense why Jesus would hold that generation accountable for the time that they were living in. Remember what He said in Matthew 16:1-3, “The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.  He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’  and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the” what? “times” You all know how to figure out weather, red sky in the morning, what? sailor take warning, we’ve seen a lot of that recently, haven’t we, with floods and meteorologists and predictions. And yet this was the generation that could not see the prophetic signs happening right in front of their face and they were held accountable for the information.
Now our generation is not given a date but we’re given an awful lot of information to look for, I’ll tell you that much. And there are Christians today, they can tell you about the baseball stats, the basketball stats, they can tell you about the stock market, they can tell you about the price of gold, they can tell you about interest rates, they can give you all kinds of rattling facts and figures throughout world history or American history, and yet they know almost nothing about the season of the Lord’s return. Let me tell you something folks, we’re not held accountable for a date but we’re held accountable for understanding this Book and what it says, just like Jesus held first century Israel accountable.
Why was Jesus born at the time He was born? Have you ever asked yourself that? Why was He born under the reign of the Romans? Why not the reign of the Greeks, or the Persians? Why does the Apostle Paul, in Galatians 4:4 says, “when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of woman and under law.” Why does Paul, in the Book of Galatians say that Jesus was dropped into history at the right time. The answer to that is he had to be dropped into history at the right time so he could grow up and become a man at the right time to present His Messianic credentials to the nation of Israel at the right time. Everything’s on the time table. That’s why Christ, as He’s interacting with his brothers and they’re saying show yourself now and He says for you any time is right, you don’t understand the clock or the sequence that’s happening here.
Have you ever asked yourself this: you go into early Luke and you run into these two, one is a prophet, one is a prophetess; one is named Simeon, the other one is named Anna. And Simeon is told… it says of Simeon, Luke 2:25-26, Simeon is in the temple waiting for the consolation of Israel. Of Anna, it says she’s waiting in the temple, waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. What are they doing in this temple or what are they waiting for? [Luke 2:25, “And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
See, there’s always a remnant; there’s always people that understand the signs of the times. And they can figure out from a clock the triumphal entry, they not have known it as such, is coming and it’s been a few decades and so the Messiah has to be born, so they’re waiting for Him. There are fools, like the Pharisees, who ignore the signs of the times. There are the wise remnant, like Simeon and Anna who’s taken prophecy at face value, recognizing the season they were in. Who are you like? Are you like Simeon and Anna? Or are you like the Pharisees that had just ignored the whole thing and had become wrapped up in worldly pursuits.
Now on virtually every Christmas card it’s something that looks like that. [shows picture of Jerusalem/bright star in the distance with three magi on camels going towards it] I like what it says at the bottom: “Wise men still seek Him.” The magi. They show up in Matthew 2. [Matthew 2:1-2, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,  ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”’] Who were these guys? Where did they come from? Well, we’re told in Matthew 2:2 that they came from the east; do a word study on “east” and what you’re going to discover is east always refers to Mesopotamia between the Euphrates and the Tigris, an area called Shinar in Hebrew, Babylon or what today is known as modern day Iraq. That’s where the Garden of Eden was and it’s also where the tower of Babel once stood.
So these guys are coming from the east looking at a star. Now why would these magi be curious about information about a coming Messiah at this time in history? Well, they knew the triumphal entry, they didn’t know it by that name, was coming up in a few decades and so the Messiah has got to be born pretty quick here. And they began to go from Babylon to the land of Israel to pay homage to the king; they made a 350 mile trek, it’s on all of our Christmas cards. And what people don’t tell you is why they were coming.
Think back for a moment in our study of the Book of Daniel. What happened to Daniel when he interpreted, as a teenager, the statue for Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2. Anybody remember? He was elevated by Nebuchadnezzar into the ranks of the who? The magi? It doesn’t say magi, it says the sorcerers and the magicians of Babylon who were precursors of the magi. [Daniel 2:2, “Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams.”]
Daniel 2:48 says, “Then the king” that’s Nebuchadnezzar, “promoted Daniel and gave him many gifts and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and the chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon,” that’s the forerunner, six centuries in advance of the magi. The magi, I believe, had the seventy weeks prophecy; they had some kind of knowledge of it, awareness of it because that prophecy had been given by Daniel, Daniel was one of their own. This is why they’re intellectually curious about a Messiah coming at a specific season. See that?
Now they had something else, they had another prophecy that God had given them around 800 years earlier, before Daniel was on the scene, and that’s Balaam’s prophecy. You’ll recall that the nation, as it was making its way into Canaan through the Transjordan, east of the Jordan there’s this guy named Balaam; Balak, the King of Moab, hired Balaam to curse Israel, which is a dumb thing to do because every time Balaam cursed Israel what came out of his mouth was a blessing. And there are seven times when Balaam tries to curse Israel and he ends up blessing Israel. And we know there are seven because it says picked up his oracle and he said…, he says that seven times, Numbers 23 and 24.
Now you get to oracle number 4, right in the middle, and this is what it says, “I see him but not now; I behold him, but not near; A” what? “A star…” “A star shall come forth from” the Southern Baptist Church? No, “A star shall come forth from Jacob,” so the Messiah must be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; he must be what? Jewish. And if that’s not clear enough, “A scepter” that’s authority of the Messiah, “shall rise from” what? “Israel….”
Now this man, Balaam, where did he live. Anybody want to take a wild guess? He lived in Babylon. How do I know that? Because it says that in Deuteronomy 23:4, it says of Balaam, the guy who gave this oracle about the star, “the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia,” between the rivers. [Deuteronomy 23:4, “because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.”]
What is going on with these magi coming from Babylon? They had two pieces of information that God had given them. Number 1, they knew the general time because of the seventy weeks prophecy, because one of their own predicted the exact day that the Messiah would publicly proclaim his credentials to the nation and number 2, they had, going back to the time of Moses another prophecy connecting the whole thing to a star.
And what Matthew is doing is these pagans have figured it out and yet the chosen people, with a full canon of Scripture, with a lot more information, are blind to the time period they’re living in. What a rebuke it is that pagans coming from notorious Babylon, same place where the nation was taken in captivity, they’ve got it figured out and yet My chosen people, who have far greater revelation are blind to the whole thing.
Who are you more like in this exchange? Are you more like the magi, functioning by faith on a few pieces of information? Or are you like the Pharisees who have a full complete understanding and yet just choose to ignore it. May God help us to understand the significance of prophetic truth, how God holds leaders and generations accountable for understanding the things that He has disclosed.
How about this—the Messianic secret. Do you know what the Messianic secret is? It’s all of the times when Jesus tells people don’t tell anybody who I am. He performs a miracle, people say You’re the Messiah and He says shhhhh, don’t spread that around. Mark 8:29-30, it says of Him, “And He continued by questioning them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said to Him, You are the Christ.’  And He” that’s Jesus “warned them to tell no one about Him.” Why does it keep saying that in the Bible? It says this over and over again; scholars write books on this, they write journal articles on this, they spill ink about the size of the flood itself on this trying to understand this. And isn’t it interesting that little ole me and little ole you at Sugar Land Bible Church understand the whole thing… because it wasn’t time yet for the Messiah to proclaim Himself as the Messiah. That had to come exactly 173,880 days after the decree of Nehemiah.
And because it wasn’t time yet for his public disclosure to the nation he’s constantly telling people to keep it under wraps for now. It is fascinating the things that start to fall into place, whether it be Palm Sunday statements, the desire of Christ to hold people accountable for the season of His return, the time of His birth, the Messianic secret, all this starts making sense when we begin to understand the clock that was ticking.
Closing question: if the first sixty-nine weeks, the first 483 years, the first 173,880 days were fulfilled literally, then how do you think God is going to fulfill the remaining seven years that haven’t elapsed yet? Any wild guesses? Why would God switch horses in midstream and say 483 years is literal but the rest of it just do whatever you want with it. What a ridiculous thing to think.
Sir Robert Anderson, I referenced him earlier, this is my closing quote here, from the book The Coming Prince, page 147-148, “There is not a single prophecy, of which the fulfillment is recorded in Scripture, that was not realized with absolute accuracy, and in every detail; and it is wholly unjustifiable to assume that a new system of fulfillment was inaugurated after the sacred canon closed… Literalness of fulfillment may therefore be accepted as an axiom to guide us in the study of prophecy.” [The Coming Prince, p.147-148]
The prophets said Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, not Las Vegas and there He was, born in Bethlehem. The prophets said when He dies He’s going to be pierced to death, not stoned to death; that’s exactly what happened. The prophets said he’d be born of a virgin; that’s exactly what happened. On and on I could go and we say well, I guess we can just spiritualize away the rest of the prophecy. You can’t if you want to be faithful to God.
And we’ll continue on marching in our study of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy the next time we’re together. All of this to say that maybe you’re here today encountering God for the first time. There is a Creator and a Redeemer of perfection and perfect timing who has made a claim on you. Have you responded to that claim by faith alone? Have you received, by way of faith, the free offer that He gives, which is the gospel or good news, meaning He paid for all of it and He asks us to trust in what He has done. Well, I just need a little bit more proof… my goodness, how much more proof do you need?
If what we’ve presented today is not enough proof then you’re just making excuses and no amount of proof will ever satisfy you. “To whom much is given much is required,” the requirement of God on anybody here that’s unsaved is to get saved. The requirement of God on people in here that are saved, which I would think would be most of us, is to start trusting Him with the details of your life. Stop fretting and worrying and being anxiety ridden about this and that. If God is the God of perfect timing He’s got your life under control just like He’s got the seventy weeks prophecy under control. So a challenge for the unbeliever, a challenge for the believer, based on the revelation of God’s character as revealed through an ancient prophecy.
Shall we pray. Father, we are grateful for what You have revealed in history and the things it opens up to us. Make us, we pray, good stewards of these things; we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said … Amen.