INSIGHT INTO BIBLE PROPHECY #59
THE REAL PARENTHESIS:
DID GOD STOP THE PROPHETIC CLOCK?
by David Vaughn Elliott
Daniel's 70-weeks prophecy is one of the greatest proofs that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah! It is one of the clearest prophecies to detail the work of the Messiah. It is also an outstanding prediction of God's final judgment upon Jerusalem and the temple.
As seen in previous "Insights," the final 70th week of Daniel 9 is at the heart of this prophetic message. We gave proofs that this "week" was fulfilled from 26 to 33 A.D. Jesus' death for our sins occurred in the very middle of those years, in 30 A.D. We gave further proofs that the balance of the prophecy was fulfilled by the year 70 A.D., when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. Daniel 9 has been totally and wonderfully fulfilled.
"Not so," say today's popular religious teachers. "They" say that Daniel's final week is yet future!
"THE PROPHETIC CLOCK STOPPED"
According to this popular view, God's clock ran flawlessly for 69 weeks (483 years). Then suddenly the clock stopped and has not ticked once since.
Another metaphor frequently used says that our present church age is in a parenthesis or gap. By this "they" are saying that God's major work of the ages is that which relates to Israel.
Hal Lindsey is one of the main spokesmen for this popular view. In his best-selling book "The Rapture" he says: "God obviously stopped 'the prophetic stopwatch' after it had ticked off 483 years... Because Israel failed to accept her Messiah and instead 'cut him off' by crucifying him, God stopped the countdown seven years short of completion. During the ensuing parenthesis of time, God turned His focus to the Gentiles and created the Church" (pages 3,4).
Lindsey is saying that when the Jews crucified Jesus, God had to change His plans! God's millennial kingdom for the Jews had been on the launching pad for 483 years without a problem. The launch was just 7 years away. Suddenly, God had to stop the countdown. Everything went on hold. It has been on hold for over 1900 years! That is what Lindsey teaches.
"AT THE RAPTURE, THE CLOCK WILL START AGAIN"
Today's popular view further says that God cannot continue His plans with Israel as long as the church remains in the world. "They" say the "rapture" must take place before God's prophetic plan can get back on track. To quote Lindsey again: "The Lord will Rapture the Church believers before the beginning of Daniel's Seventieth Week" (page 184).
With the church out of the way, "they" say, God can resume His dealing with the Jews for seven more years--the final week of Daniel. "They" call this seven-year period "the tribulation." Daniel 9, by the way, is the only text from which "they" get seven years for the tribulation. "The Rapture" tells of "this period, which will last seven years. Students of prophecy have commonly called this time 'the tribulation'... The prophet Daniel gave the framework for the Tribulation era in Daniel 9:24-27" (pages 1,2).
The popular claim is that the 70-weeks prophecy foretells all the following. That the antichrist will make a covenant with the Jews for 7 years. That before or during the early part of that period, the Jews will rebuild the temple. That in the middle of the 7 years, the antichrist will break this covenant and stop the sacrifices. That Jerusalem and the third temple will be destroyed.
"They" further say that none or only some of the 6 items mentioned in Daniel 9:24 were fulfilled by Jesus' first coming. "They" say Jesus must return to make fulfillment possible. "They" teach that the church is not the kingdom, that Israel is still God's chosen nation, and that the millennium is a future earthly Jewish kingdom which will begin after the tribulation.
In short, this popular premillennial view (Lindsey, et al.), places a good share of Daniel's 70-weeks prophecy in the same category that "they" place most of the book of Revelation and most of all Bible prophecy--somewhere in the future.
SOME ARGUMENTS "THEY" USE
"They" claim that since the six items listed in Daniel 9:24 were not fulfilled through Jesus' first coming, the fulfillment must take place at His second coming. Therefore, "they" say, a parenthesis between the 69th and 70th weeks is required. Their arguments basically run like this (taking the second item of Daniel 9:24 as an example): "The prophecy says 'to make an end of sins.' Since there is still sin in Israel, the prophecy is not yet fulfilled; it will not be fulfilled until the Millennium."
The major portion of Insight #39, "The Jews' Time Has Run Out," showed how all six items of Daniel 9:24 were fulfilled through Jesus' first coming to earth. Numerous New Testament texts were quoted. In answer to the example given above: consider a parallel text. John the Baptist said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" If we would force John's beautiful words as "they" force Daniel 9:24, then we would have to say that John's words were not fulfilled at Calvary. Why? Because there is still sin in the world. Who would dare teach that?
Another argument "they" use deals with the order in which things are mentioned in the text. "They" notice that the 69th week is first mentioned, then the death of the Messiah, then the destruction of Jerusalem, then the 70th week. "They" claim that everything must take place in the order in which it is mentioned. Therefore, "they" say, some events happen between the 69th and 70th weeks, thus proving a gap.
This very text, however, proves their argument to be fallacious. To appreciate the following, you may need to open your Bible and look at verse 25. It first mentions 7 weeks, then 62 weeks, then the building of the street and wall. Neither "they" nor anyone would claim that this word order proves the events were to take place in that order. All agree, and history confirms, that the building of the street and wall took place during the first 7 weeks, not after the 62 weeks. Their argument does not work.
THE PROPHECY DOES NOT SAY "350 WEEKS"
The proponents of the gap/parenthesis theory--premillennialists/futurists--explain that literal interpretation is one of the bedrock principles of their system. Prophecies about Israel must be interpreted literally, "they" say. The 70-weeks prophecy is one of the major texts about Israel.
How do "they" apply the literal principle to the 70-weeks prophecy? "They" claim that days represent years. We agree; but this is not a literal interpretation. "They" claim that 483 is a literal 483 years, reaching from the order to rebuild Jerusalem unto the Messiah. Agreed. "They" claim that the final 7 years are literal years. Agreed. But then, "they" place a gap between the 483 years and the final 7. Is that a literal interpretation?
The prophecy foretells 70 weeks. Seventy times seven equals 490. It is a prophecy about 490 years. But "they" stop the prophecy at 483 years, interject more than 1900 years, and then claim the last 7 years are yet in the future. Nearly 2000 years interjected! That's more than 4 times the total 490 years the prophecy is all about! To be literal numbers, Daniel should have said, "350 weeks are determined." "They" simply are not as literal as "they" would have us believe: "70 = 350"?
The concept of a "prophetic clock" is itself a figure, and indeed a figure nowhere found in Holy Scripture. What happened to this "clock"? Why did it stop? Did it fail or was it a deceptive device? Which? Stated another way, did God know the clock would stop or did He not know? Neither choice is pleasant. According to "them," for over 1900 years God has not repaired the clock. What happened, anyway? Which scenario would you be willing to defend?
First scenario: The clock failed; it did not work right. God did not know it was going to stop and was powerless to remedy the situation. The clock stopped; it was out of God's control.
Second scenario: The clock was built to deceive. God knew it was going to stop but did not want to fix it. God allowed the clock to act for a while as a trustworthy timepiece, knowing from the start that it was a faulty product.
Which scenario could you live with? When you seriously consider the implications, it is preposterous to say that God's prophetic clock did not work right! Was it a surprise to God? Or, did God know that His plan failed but was a helpless victim? Or, was it God's plan to deceive the Jews and all mankind?
DOES SEVENTY EQUAL SEVENTY?
Someone has explained the gap theory this way. You plan a trip from Los Angeles to Chicago. As you leave Los Angeles, you see a sign that says: "Chicago--70 miles." You travel for 69 miles and see another sign. Pointing back in the direction you came, it says: "Los Angeles--69 miles." Pointing forward the sign says: "Chicago--1 mile." Under that there is another line that says: "(plus 2000 miles)."
Here is another way to look at it. Take a ruler. Cut off the last inch. Attach the inch to the rest of the ruler with a piece of elastic. Now you have a new ruler. Just stretch the elastic as little or as much as you like. Now this ruler is a very literal ruler: it contains 11 literal inches plus one last literal inch, total 12 inches. A literal ruler, right? Oh, the elastic in between? But it's still a good ruler, isn't it?
When this writer was in Guatemala, I was weekly teaching a young man in his home. Since he was very knowledgeable in the Bible, prophetic questions kept coming up, including Daniel 9.
One day I asked him: "Julius Caesar, what would you think if I asked you to lend me 1000 quetzals? [A quetzal is the national money. It takes about 6 to equal one dollar.] I promise to pay you back in eight weeks. When seven weeks pass, I come to you and say, 'Julius Caesar, there is a little matter I didn't tell you. Between the 7th and 8th weeks of our agreement, there is a space of 10 years.' What would you think of me?" Without hesitation, Julius Caesar said, "You would be a swindler."
Do you remember that it was Jesus' apostles (not Jesus himself) who thought that everything came to a halt when their Master was crucified? Jesus then had to appear to them, not only to prove His resurrection, but also to prove that nothing had stopped. Everything was on time exactly as God had prophesied. "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46-47). No clock stopped. No plans changed. Nothing was thrown in parenthetically. Everything was exactly on schedule, exactly as "it is written."
OTHER PROBLEMS WITH THE POPULAR VIEW
Besides the "clock" element, there are other problems with the popular premillennial interpretation of Daniel's 70-weeks prophecy.
For example, many of the things "they" claim are found in Daniel 9:26,27 simply are not mentioned at all. There is no mention of the tribulation, nor of a second rebuilding of the temple, nor of a second restoration of sacrifices, nor of antichrist making a covenant with the Jews, nor of him later breaking a covenant, nor that Jerusalem is to be destroyed two times. None of these things are mentioned. Rather, they are theories that are imposed upon the text.
Then there is verse 24, which clearly says that six items are to be fulfilled during the 70 weeks. "They" say they agree with this; but in fact they do not. Please notice: "They" claim a gap is necessary after the 69th week precisely because "they" think the 6 items were not fulfilled. "They" invent a gap of more than 1900 years to try to get 9:24 fulfilled in the 70th week. But "they" still do not get it fulfilled in the 70th week.
Now, some futurist interpreters agree that one or more of the six items were fulfilled by Jesus at the cross. According to the usual theory, the 69th week ended at the triumphal entry, five days before Jesus' death. Therefore, according to the gap which "they" place between the 69th and 70th weeks, Jesus died in the gap.
According to their own interpretation, the 70th week is a future tribulation followed by the millennial kingdom. Whichever of the 6 items "they" do not see as fulfilled at the cross, "they" claim will be fulfilled in the millennial kingdom. But that is after the 70th week.
Thus, "they" say they need a gap in order to get 9:24 fulfilled in the 70th week. But in reality "they" get 9:24 fulfilled either before or after their 70th week. Their gap simply does not fulfill its purported purpose. Rather than accept such a theory, it is much easier to believe that God knew what He prophesied and that 9:24 was fulfilled by Jesus right on schedule.
THE NEW COVENANT TEMPLE
The futurists admit that nowhere does the Bible prophesy the rebuilding of the temple after 70 A.D. On what, then, do "they" base the assumption that there will ever be a third temple? "They" say that Daniel 9, Matthew 24, 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 11 cannot be fulfilled without a rebuilt temple.
The first two texts are excellent examples of the need to examine prophecy in context. Futurists agree that Daniel 9:26 refers to the destruction of the second temple in 70 A.D. However, "they" believe that 9:27 refers to the destruction of a third temple in the future. However, even "they" know that Daniel 9 mentions only one reconstruction of Jerusalem. Until someone finds a Scripture that clearly predicts a second reconstruction, we will have to understand that verses 26 and 27 both refer to 70 A.D.
In Matthew 24, any statements that Jesus makes about Jerusalem and the temple must be understood in the light of the context. While Jesus and His disciples were observing the second temple, Jesus said: "not one stone shall be left here upon another" (24:2). Jesus talked only about destruction; He gave not the slightest hint of a later reconstruction. Until someone finds a Scripture that clearly predicts a reconstruction after 70 A.D., anything Jesus said about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple must refer to the temple He and the apostles were looking at when He made His remarks.
The latter two texts (2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 11) are excellent examples of the need to settle sound Scriptural doctrine before attempting to interpret prophecy. Both texts speak of "the temple of God." Both texts are part of the New Testament. The stone temple in Jerusalem ceased being the temple of God when God himself tore the inner veil in two at Jesus' death. As both Daniel and Jesus prophesied, that temple was doomed to destruction. No Scripture prophesies a rebuilding after that.
In the New Covenant there is a new temple. Paul tells the church in Corinth: "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and [that] the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthian 3:16). He told the Ephesian church: "Now, therefore, you are... built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner[stone], in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2:19-21). With sound apostolic doctrine, there is no warrant for fabricating another rebuilding of the Jewish temple. Both 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 11 contain prophecies of the Lord's church. That church is not in parenthesis. That church is where God now dwells. It is His temple.
THE REAL PARENTHESIS
The parenthesis or gap theory is upside down and backwards. Why? Because the premillennialists/futurists have placed God's eternal plan in parentheses, while making God's parenthetical plan His major plan. According to "them," God's plan with the Jews is the major theme of Bible prophecy. According to "them," the Gospel age in which we live is just a parenthesis between God's former and future dealings with Israel.
However, the Scripture clearly sustains the opposite view. The main theme of the Bible is God's eternal plan for this church age. It is the Old Covenant of the Jews that was in parenthesis. The book of Galatians was written because some early Christians did not understand the proper place of the Mosaic Law. They did not grasp what the promises to Abraham were all about. The third chapter details the true Biblical gap doctrine.
"And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, [saying], 'In you all the nations shall be blessed' " (Galatians 3:8). Scripture foresaw the salvation of the Gentiles. All nations are blessed in Abraham. How? Through the preaching of the Gospel. The Jews were a vessel used by God to bring us the Savior. In verse 16, Paul says: "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to your Seed,' who is Christ." The promise was made to Abraham. The fulfillment came through Christ.
The real parenthesis in the Bible is the space of time between Abraham and Christ. Listen to the next verse: "the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect." Here is the order of events:
1 - the covenant and promise to Abraham;
2 - the Jewish nation receives the law;
3 - Christ fulfills the promise to Abraham.
The law filled in the gap. So the question comes: "What purpose then [does] the law [serve]? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made" (Galatians 3:19). There you have the gap (parenthesis) that the Bible teaches. The law of Moses is the parenthesis between the promise to Abraham and the fulfillment of that promise through Christ.
God's real parenthesis did not involve any clock stopping. There was no change of plans. Everything happened according to schedule. "When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4,5).
GOD'S CLOCK IS TRUSTWORTHY
Jesus' death was not the start of a parenthesis. It was the end of the Divine Parenthesis between Abraham and Jesus. When Jesus died, God's prophetic clock did not stop. The Mosaic law stopped! It was nailed to the cross. Acceptable temple sacrifices stopped! The veil of the temple was rent in two. It all happened according to God's timetable.
The Jews were given 70 weeks (490 years). No trick clock can extend that time. Jesus told the Jews: "For days will come upon you when your enemies... will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation." (Luke 19:43,44). Before the 490 years ended, their doom was sealed. There was no problem with God's clock. The problem was with the Jews. They could not tell time!
God knew ahead of time that men would reject His Son. It was prophesied in Psalm 2: "Why do... the people plot a vain thing?... And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed (Messiah, Christ)... He who sits in the heavens shall laugh." If you are not sure that this was fulfilled in Jesus' first coming, read Acts 4:25-28. God stop His clock? God change His plans? Not at all! Rather, God laughed at them.
But wait! This is not the whole story. Throughout the Bible God has always worked with a remnant, and such is prophesied numerous times regarding the Jews. So notice: It was in Jewish Jerusalem that the church began. The 12 apostles were all Jews. The first 3000 converts were all Jews. Soon after that it was 5000 men, all Jews. Most of the New Testament was written by Jews. Like Paul asked and replied: "has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, [of] the tribe of Benjamin" (Romans 11:1).
The church and the Gospel are not merely a parenthetically inserted program. They are God's real eternal program, open to Jew and Gentile alike. They are what the promise to Abraham was all about. They are the reason Jesus came to earth. Daniel's 70-weeks prophecy has been gloriously fulfilled. Praise God!
(Scripture in the preceding article is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
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