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The 70-Weeks Prophecy: A Challenge to the Skeptic

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The 70-Weeks Prophecy: A Challenge to the Skeptic

MP3 Audio (29.31 MB)


The 70-Weeks Prophecy: A Challenge to the Skeptic

MP3 Audio (29.31 MB)

Around one third of the Holy Bible is devoted to prophecy. One of the most astonishing, detailed prophecies, known as the “70-Week Prophecy” is in Daniel Chapter 9. God through Daniel, in total defiance of the skeptic, foretold the exact year when the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would begin His ministry here on earth.


The 70-Weeks Prophecy: A Challenge to the Skeptic

Steve Corley
Given in Houston 3-26-2016 as split sermon
Expanded, given as sermon 6-19-2021 in Kingsport
Given as sermon 2-12-2022 in Knoxville
Different version (with pre-Passover material added) given as sermon in Roanoke 3-19-2022
Original version (without pre-Passover material) given as sermon 7-1-2023 in London/Corbin
If you never remember any other sermon I have ever given or will ever give, please remember this one. I consider this the most important sermon I have ever given – and I cannot ever imagine giving a more important sermon in the future, at least in this life. The reason is that the topic of this sermon is so fundamental to our faith, our conviction that God indeed exists. Many out in the world take the position that God does not exist and that Jesus, if He existed at all, was merely a man. And there is a philosophical school of thought which I would like to bring up which is related to such. Solipsism (metaphysical) is the philosophical position that the only reality exists in one’s mind – that everything one sees may be just a figment of his imagination (remember the song “row, row, row your boat…life is but a dream”) and may not actually exist. [You may remember the word “solipsism” from freshman philosophy class.] In George Orwell’s novel 1984, O’Brien mentions the concept of solipsism to Winston Smith to ask whether Smith is simply imagining that O’Brien is torturing him. Solipsism, however, has never been a popular philosophical position -- imagine a lecturer telling an audience that they do not actually exist and he is merely imagining that they do. Solipsism is totally foolish although it is hard to disprove. But many out in the world take a similar position that One whom they cannot see does not actually exist. In this sermon I would like to show prophecy’s challenge to the atheist and particularly to focus on one particular prophecy which is perhaps the one most difficult of all for the skeptic to attack. We might title this sermon “The 70-Weeks Prophecy: A Challenge to the Skeptic.”
First let us consider the spread of atheism – which the Bible twice calls foolishness (Psalm 14:1 and 53:1). Some wonder about the spread of atheism in this age and whether it is consistent with prophecy. Doesn’t prophecy foretell a great religious movement under the false prophet? But I would like to propose that the spread of atheism in this age is entirely consistent with prophecy. Remember “-- will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7-8). Romans 1:20-23 shows that rejection of the True God leads to atheism which is ultimately supplanted by paganism [when people come to realize that the supernatural actually does exist but have no knowledge of the True God].
When we hear people trying to give physical explanations of Biblical miracles, we need to be aware of the mindset which often leads to such. Frequently these people are reasoning from an atheist worldview which says that miracles are impossible since God – or any supernatural being – does not exist. Hence, according to this worldview, if these events actually happened there had to be some natural physical explanation. Atheism and the existence of miracles are not compatible (repeat this). Indeed God sometimes does use the physical laws of the universe (which He created) in order to work miracles (e.g. “a strong east wind” in Ex. 14:21). But He does not have to do so. He can suspend the operation of the physical laws of the universe in any situation He wishes in order to accomplish His purpose. (He does not often or routinely do such and this is why science actually works.)
Atheists normally have little knowledge of the Bible – why should they waste time studying something they consider to be irrelevant? (Of course, there are some atheists who do study the Bible in detail in an attempt to discredit it – for example, the science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov who wrote what virtually amounted to a Bible commentary from an atheist perspective – but they are relatively few.) As atheism spreads, the resultant lack of Biblical knowledge may be setting up the western world (and Europe in particular) for the rise of the beast and the false prophet. When atheists without Biblical knowledge come to see indisputable evidence of miracles, they will naturally be drawn to glorify the miracle worker – in this case, the false prophet. Without Biblical knowledge most people will not recognize the events in Revelation as they happen (note behavior of people not killed by plagues in Rev. 9:20-21) – although some will (note the great crowd in Rev. 7:9, 13-17). The events described in the book of Revelation, if one thinks about them, would be almost impossible to happen in a world where most people are familiar with the prophecies foretelling them. People would recognize that the prophecies were being fulfilled and would be led to repent. Apparently those who do know the prophecies will be unable to spread the knowledge then (with the exception to some extent of the two witnesses; note the prophecy in Amos 8:11-12 about a famine of hearing the word of God).
God challenges the skeptic in Isaiah 46:9-10, stating that He is the one who can declare the end from the beginning. Atheism claims that it is impossible to predict the future with greater than chance frequency, unless of course one can predict future behavior to some extent based purely on one’s physical and material knowledge (for example, predicting that future historical events will follow courses similar to past ones). Such physically based ability to predict the future, of course, declines as one attempts to predict events further into the future. If a detailed Biblical prophecy (of events which were in the far future at the time the prophecy was claimed to have been written) was indeed fulfilled, the atheist reasons that the so-called “prophecy” had to have been written after the events occurred. But God declares that He can accurately predict events any length of time in the future (as we read in Isaiah 46:9-10).
There are many prophecies in the Old Testament which were fulfilled during its own time. Examples are the prophecies of the deaths of the sons of the rebuilder of Jericho (Joshua 6:26, 1 Kings 16:34), the burning of the bones of Jeroboam’s pagan priests by Josiah (1 Kings 13:1-2, 2 Kings 23:15-17), the appearance of the Persian emperor Cyrus as an anointed one (Isaiah 44:28, 45:1) and much of the prophecy of the interactions and wars of the kings of the north and south (Dan. 11). But the skeptic can attack these. He can claim that the prophecy of Joshua was actually an item inserted after the deaths of the sons of Hiel took place. He can similarly propose that much of the book of Daniel was written centuries after Daniel’s time, after the wars between the Seleucids and Ptolemies actually occurred. He can similarly claim that the name of Cyrus was inserted into Isaiah 44 and 45 at the time of the return from the Babylonian exile.
Similarly, a number of sections of the Old Testament (especially in Psalms, Isaiah and Zechariah) are full of Messianic prophecies whose fulfillment is detailed in the New Testament For example, Zech. 12:10 prophesied that the Messiah would be pierced – which was carried out both when He was nailed to the cross and when the Roman soldier later apparently actually killed Him by piercing Him with a sword (John 19:34 – a parenthetical verse). Zech. 11:12-13 foretold that a value of thirty pieces of silver would be put on the Messiah and that this money would subsequently be thrown down in the temple and then given to the potter, as was fulfilled in Matt. 26:14-15 and 27:3-7. But the skeptic can similarly claim that the New Testament writers simply searched the Hebrew Scriptures for Messianic prophecies and invented stories about Jesus, which they wrote into the Gospel accounts, to claim that He fulfilled these Old Testament prophecies. (If so – then the writers knew the stories were false and why would most of them be willing to die for something they knew was false? History records the martyrdom of all but one of the original apostles. An insane man might be willing to die for something he knows is false but one is not going to find a whole group willing to do this. But this is an aside.)

70-weeks prophecy – what sets it apart

But the 70-weeks prophecy in Daniel 9 has some unique characteristics. It pinpoints the year of the beginning of the Messiah’s ministry. It is accepted as part of the Hebrew Bible by Jews who do not acknowledge the Messiahship of Jesus. It would really be a “stretch” for someone to charge that the prophecy was a “Christian” insertion into Daniel – how would the Jews who were hostile to Christianity have permitted this? But the prophecy and its fulfillment stand as a testimony against the skeptic.
The prophecy (Dan. 9:24-25) said that the Messiah would appear 69 weeks (62 weeks plus 7 weeks) after the command to restore and build Jerusalem. This clearly does not refer to actual weeks but rather weeks of years. The Hebrew word “shabuwa” (Strong’s #7620) translated “weeks” actually means “sevens.” 69 weeks would equal 483 days (or years) according to the day-for-year principle in Ezekiel 4:4-6 (remember that Ezekiel and Daniel were contemporaries in Babylon during the exile). There are three different commands to restore and build Jerusalem which are mentioned in the book of Ezra. The Messiah was prophesied to appear 483 years after one of these commands was given – appearance 483 years after any one of them would have constituted a fulfillment of the prophecy. [As a comparative example, remember that under the Old Covenant there were ceremonies both on the Passover and on the Day of Atonement which pointed to the future death of Christ, but He of course could actually be crucified on only one of those days.] Where are these three commands in Ezra? The first is in Ezra 1:2-4 and was given in the first year of Persian King Cyrus (generally thought to be 539-538 B.C.) This command could not have been the one referred to in the prophecy since the time 483 years later would be 56-55 B.C. The second decree is in Ezra 6 and was apparently given in the second year of King Darius (generally believed to be 521-520 B.C.) Similarly, this command could not be the one referred to in the prophecy since the time 483 years later would be 38-37 B.C. The remaining command is detailed in Ezra 7 and resulted in the sending of Ezra to Jerusalem. It was given in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes I (Ezra 7:8).
The Jewish Encyclopedia (definitely not a “Christian” source!) and other references identify the seventh year of Artaxerxes I as 458-457 B.C. This was the year when Artaxerxes sent Ezra to Jerusalem as priest over the Jews who had returned there and commanded that there be a temple with temple worship (Ezra 7), basically reversing his earlier decree in Ezra 4:17-22 which had stopped construction of the city and the temple. Adding 483 years to (-)457 B.C. and correcting for no year 0 yields 27 A.D. – the year which is consistent with the New Testament date when Jesus began His ministry. Remember that He began His ministry at age 30 (Luke 3:23) and Herod the Great had ordered that all males in Bethlehem under age 2 be killed in an attempt to eliminate the future King (Matt. 2:16). Herod is traditionally believed to have died in 4 B.C. – if so, this is the latest possible date for Jesus’ birth (assuming that Herod gave the order to kill the Bethlehem children as soon as he found that the wise men had returned, and that Herod died very shortly thereafter). A birth of Jesus in 4 B.C. (again correcting for no year 0) would have made Him turn 30 years old in 27 A.D. – the year predicted in the 70-weeks prophecy for the Messiah’s appearance. (Note in Luke 3:1-2 that John the immerser began his ministry also in the 15th year of the reign of Roman Emperor Tiberius which would also have been in 27 A.D., a few months before Jesus began His own ministry.)
These dates predicted by the 70-weeks prophecy in Daniel and confirmed in the New Testament are also consistent with the writings of the secular (and in fact anti-Christian) Roman historian Tacitus, who identified “Christus” as having been killed under Pontius Pilate during the reign of the emperor Tiberius. Tiberius began to reign in 12 A.D. (15 years before 27 A.D.) as co-emperor although he did not become sole emperor until two years later; he died in 37 A.D. while Pilate was governor of Judea from 26 to 36 A.D. Such fixes the dates of Christ’s ministry and death within a narrow historical time range which agrees fully with both the New Testament account and the prophecy in Daniel.
We have seen that God through Daniel, in total defiance of the skeptic, foretold over 400 years in advance the year when the Messiah would begin His ministry on earth – and the dates agree with the history recorded in the rest of the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and by non-Christian secular historians of the time. No one can reasonably and believably claim that this prophecy was written after the events happened – the words are accepted as part of the Hebrew Bible by those who do not acknowledge the Messiahship of Jesus. And we look forward to the day when the final seven years of the prophecy (after the gap) will have been fulfilled – when the Messiah will rule over the earth in God’s Kingdom, when people will be able actually to see members of the God Family (cf. “your eyes shall see your teachers” – Isaiah 30:20-21) and when those who were atheists will be seen for the fools they were. In that day it will be as ridiculous for a person to be an atheist as it is now for a person to be a solipsist, who believes there is no reality outside his own mind. And for us now – let us remember the Messianic prophecies but especially this one, which prophesied exactly when the Messiah would come and that He would be killed for our sake, not His own. Let this prophecy and its fulfillment confirm our faith that God indeed exists and that He really sent His Son to die that we might have our sins forgiven and have the opportunity to live forever. And, now or at any time in the future, whenever something causes us to question our faith – let us always remember the 70-weeks prophecy.