Generally speaking, a seal is something which certifies the authenticity of a document. In Daniel chapter 9 this striking phrase appears, "to seal up the vision and prophecy," A time period is mentioned, "seventy weeks are determined upon thy people." Here we see an event mentioned _ seventy weeks given to the Jews _ as a means of sealing the vision. The question arises, which vision are we speaking about? And how did the time period given to the Jews "seal" the vision? This vision is actually a continuation of the vision received in chapter eight, even though a few years had passed since then. The angel Gabriel is sent to Daniel again to help him to understand the vision he had received in chapter eight. In chapter eight Daniel's great problem had been the twenty-three hundred day period. He had not understood it and had fainted before it had been explained to him. So here now, a few years later, he set himself to fasting and prayer in an attempt to understand the purposes of God, and once again the angel Gabriel is sent to give him understanding.
Part 1: The number of the years
In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. (Dan 9:2)
`It was at the close of this vision (the vision of chapter 8) that Daniel heard "one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision?" The answer that was given, "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed," filled him with perplexity. Earnestly he sought for the meaning of the vision. He could not understand the relation between the seventy years' captivity, as foretold through Jeremiah, to the twenty-three hundred years that the angel had said should elapse before the cleansing of God's sanctuary. The angel Gabriel gave him a partial interpretation; yet when the prophet heard the words, "The vision . . . shall be for many days," he fainted away. . . . Still burdened in behalf of Israel, Daniel studied anew the prophecies of Jeremiah. They were very plain.' Prophets & Kings, pages 553, 554.
`As the time approached for the close of the seventy years' captivity, Daniel's mind became greatly exercised upon the prophecies of Jeremiah. He saw that the time was at hand when God would give His chosen people another trial; and with fasting, humiliation, and prayer, he pleaded with the God of heaven in behalf of Israel.' The Sanctified Life, page 46.
What did Daniel decide to do as a result of his study of the Scriptures? Daniel 9:3.
`With faith founded on the sure word of prophecy, Daniel pleaded with the Lord for the speedy fulfilment of these promises.' RH, March 21, 1907.
It may well be that the prayers that led to Daniel's experience in the lion's den were connected with his studies of Jeremiah's prophecy.
Daniel's example is one which we need to follow. How many times we are in perplexity concerning some aspect of Scripture which seems to be of great importance or which seems to have some particular application to our lives, yet we do not do as Daniel did. Instead of seeking the Lord with earnest, humble determination, we give up trying to understand, or else turn to the nearest person whom we consider to be a better Bible student. It is good to hear the opinions of others, but this will never serve to convict us of truth. Each of us must search the word of God for ourselves with a continual sense of our dependence upon the spirit of God in order that we may understand. Prayer is the better half of study.
The secrets of God are not discovered, but are revealed.
Part 2: Daniel's confession
Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. (Dan 9:11)
". . . . What earnestness and fervour characterize his supplications! He is coming nearer and nearer to God. The hand of faith is reached upward to grasp the never-failing promises of the Most High. His soul is wrestling in agony. And he has the evidence that his prayer is heard. He feels that victory is his. If we as a people would pray as Daniel prayed, and wrestle as he wrestled, humbling our souls before God, we should realise as marked answers to our petitions as were granted to Daniel. Hear how he presses his case at the court of Heaven." Second Advent Review & Sabbath Herald, February 8, 1881.
What was the burden of Daniel's prayer? Daniel 9:4-15, 18-19.
"Notice these words. Daniel does not proclaim his own fidelity before the Lord. Instead of claiming to be pure and holy, he identifies himself with the really sinful of Israel. The wisdom which God imparted to him was as far superior to the wisdom of the wise men of the world as the light of the sun shining in the heavens at noonday is brighter than the feeblest star. Yet ponder the prayer from the lips of this man so highly favoured of Heaven. With deep humiliation, with tears, and with rending of heart, he pleads for himself and for his people. He lays his soul open before God, confessing his own vileness, and acknowledging the Lord's greatness and majesty. . . . " Second Advent Review & Sabbath Herald, February 8, 1881.
What especially was on Daniel's heart? When was Daniel praying? Daniel 9:16-17, 21. Compare Daniel 8:14.
"The man of God was praying, not for a flight of happy feeling, but for a knowledge of the divine will. And he desired this knowledge, not merely for himself, but for his people. His great burden was for Israel, who were not, in the strictest sense, keeping the law of God. He acknowledges that all their misfortunes have come upon them in consequence of their transgressions of that holy law. . . They had lost their peculiar, holy character as God's chosen people. "Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate." Daniel's heart turns with intense longing to the desolate sanctuary of God. He knows that its prosperity can be restored only as Israel shall repent of their transgressions of God's law, and become humble, and faithful, and obedient." _ Review & Herald, February 8, 1881
The greatest cause for concern today is not so much the sin in the world, but rather the sin in the church. (See Ezek. 9:4
Part 3: Gabriel arrives
And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. (Isa 65:24)
It is our Father's delight to answer our prayers. However, there are factors which sometimes necessitate a delay in God's response to our petitions. More often than not there is some obstacle in our lives which makes it necessary for God to delay the blessing which we seek.
"Prayer is heaven's ordained means of success in the conflict with sin and the development of Christian character. The divine influences that come in answer to the prayer of faith will accomplish in the soul of the suppliant all for which he pleads. For the pardon of sin, for the Holy Spirit, for a Christlike temper, for wisdom and strength to do His work, for any gift He has promised, we may ask; and the promise is, "Ye shall receive." _ Acts of the Apostles, p. 564
Who came in answer to Daniel's prayer? Daniel 9:20-21. Compare Isaiah 65:24.
"As Daniel's prayer is going forth, the angel Gabriel comes sweeping down from the heavenly courts to tell him that his petitions are heard and answered. This mighty angel has been commissioned to give him skill and understanding, to open before him the mysteries of future ages. Thus, while earnestly seeking to know and understand the truth, Daniel was brought into communion with Heaven's delegated messenger." _ The Sanctified Life, page 48.
"It was Gabriel, the angel next in rank to the Son of God, who came with the divine message to Daniel. It was Gabriel, "His angel," whom Christ sent to open the future to the beloved John; and a blessing is pronounced on those who read and hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things written therein. Revelation 1:3." _ Desire of Ages, page 234.
How did Gabriel explain his mission to Daniel? Daniel 9:22-23. Compare Daniel 8:16.
"God had bidden His messenger: "Make this man to understand the vision." That commission must be fulfilled. In obedience to it, the angel, some time afterward, returned to Daniel, saying: "I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding;" "therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision." Daniel 8:27, 16; 9:22, 23, 25-27. There was one important point in the vision of chapter 8 which had been left unexplained, namely, that relating to time, the period of the 2300 days; therefore the angel, in resuming his explanation, dwells chiefly upon the subject of time." _ Great Controversy, page 325.
God still sends His angels today in response to the sincere prayers of His faithful children.
Part 4: Seventy weeks determined
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. (Dan 9:24)
"The word here translated "determined" literally signifies "cut off." Seventy weeks, representing 490 years, are declared by the angel to be cut off, as specially pertaining to the Jews. But from what were they cut off? As the 2300 days was the only period of time mentioned in chapter 8, it must be the period from which the seventy weeks were cut off; the seventy weeks must therefore be a part of the 2300 days, and the two periods must begin together.' Great Controversy, page 326.
What was to take place during that period of time? Daniel 9:24.
"The transgression was to be finished; that is, the Jewish people were to fill up the cup of their iniquity, which they did in the rejection and crucifixion of Christ. An end of sins, or of sin-offerings, was to be made. This took place when the great offering was made on Calvary. Reconciliation for iniquity was to be provided. This was made by the sacrificial death of the Son of God. Everlasting righteousness was to be brought in; the righteousness which our Lord manifested in His sinless life. The vision and the prophecy were to be sealed up, or made sure. By the events given to transpire in the seventy weeks, the prophecy is tested. By this the application of the whole vision is determined. If the events of this period are accurately fulfilled, the prophecy is of God and will all be accomplished; and if these seventy weeks are fulfilled as weeks of years, then the 2300 days, of which these are a part, are so many years. Thus the events of the seventy weeks furnish a key to the whole vision." _ Smith, Daniel & the Revelation, 1918 ed., page 217.
When was this period to begin? Daniel 9:25, first part.
"The seventy weeks were declared by the angel to date from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem. If the date of this commandment could be found, then the starting point for the great period of the 2300 days would be ascertained. In the seventh chapter of Ezra the decree is found. Verses 12-26. In its completest form it was issued by Artaxerxes, king of Persia, 457 BC. But in Ezra 6:14 the house of the Lord at Jerusalem is said to have been built "according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia." These three kings, in originating, reaffirming, and completing the decree, brought it to the perfection required by the prophecy to mark the beginning of the 2300 years. " _ Great Controversy, page 326.
Part 5: the Decree of Artaxerxes
And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily, (Ezra 7:21)
What did the decree of Artaxerxes, issued in 457 B.C., specify? Who supervised its execution? Ezra 7:1, 6, 8, 11, 13.
"The reign of Artaxerxes "saw the return of a company of Jews under Ezra, the completion of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah and his associates, the reorganization of the temple services, and the great religious reformations instituted by Ezra and Nehemiah. During his long rule, he often showed favor to God's people; and in his trusted and well-beloved Jewish friends, Ezra and Nehemiah, he recognized men of God's appointment, raised up for a special work." -Prophets and Kings, page 607.
Under what circumstances was the city wall completed? Who led out in this project? Neh. 4:16-18; 6:1-3, 15, 16.
"Notwithstanding the plots of enemies, open and secret, the work of building went steadily forward, and in less than two months from the time of Nehemiah's arrival in Jerusalem, the city was girded with its defenses, and the builders could walk upon the walls, and look down upon their defeated and astonished foes." -Ibid., p. 65-7.
The wall was completed in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes September 21, 444 BC.
How long a period was to elapse from the going forth of the commandment until the appearance of Messiah the Prince? How much of this time was to be devoted to rebuilding of the city streets and walls? Daniel 9:25.
The decree of Artaxerxes went into effect in the autumn of 457 BC From this date, 483 years extend to the autumn of AD 27. (See Appendix.) At that time this prophecy was fulfilled. The word "Messiah" signifies "the Anointed One." In the autumn of AD 27 Christ was baptised by John and received the anointing of the Spirit. The apostle Peter testifies that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power." Acts 10:38. And the Saviour Himself declared: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor." Luke 4:18. After His baptism He went into Galilee, "preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled." Mark 1:14, 15.' Great Controversy, page 327.
Part 6: The seventieth week
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. (Dan 9:26)
What was to happen during the final part of the prophecy? Daniel 9:27.
"And He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week." The "week" here brought to view is the last one of the seventy; it is the last seven years of the period allotted especially to the Jews. During this time, extending from AD 27 to AD 34, Christ, at first in person and afterward by His disciples, extended the gospel invitation especially to the Jews. As the apostles went forth with the good tidings of the kingdom, the Saviour's direction was: "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matthew 10:5, 6. "In the midst of the week He shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease." In AD 31, three and a half years after His baptism, our Lord was crucified. With the great sacrifice offered upon Calvary, ended that system of offerings which for four thousand years had pointed forward to the Lamb of God. Type had met antitype, and all the sacrifices and oblations of the ceremonial system were there to cease.' Great Controversy, page 327.
What was to be the fate of the city and the sanctuary? Daniel 9:26, last part, Daniel 9:27, last part. Compare Matthew 24:15-20, Luke 21:20-24. Compare Luke 19:42-44.
NOTE: `After the destruction of the temple, the whole city soon fell into the hands of the Romans. The leaders of the Jews forsook their impregnable towers, and Titus found them solitary. He gazed upon them with amazement, and declared that God had given them into his hands; for no engines, however powerful, could have prevailed against those stupendous battlements. Both the city and the temple were razed to their foundations, and the ground upon which the holy house had stood was "ploughed like a field." Jeremiah 26:18. In the siege and the slaughter that followed, more than a million of the people perished; the survivors were carried away as captives, sold as slaves, dragged to Rome to grace the conqueror's triumph, thrown to wild beasts in the amphitheatres, or scattered as homeless wanderers throughout the earth.' Great Controversy, page 35.
When was the remainder of the vision revealed to Daniel? Daniel 10:1.
NOTE: `Upon the occasion just described, the angel Gabriel imparted to Daniel all the instruction which he was then able to receive. A few years afterward, however, the prophet desired to learn more of subjects not yet fully explained, and again set himself to seek light and wisdom from God.' The Sanctified Life, page 49.