Secrets to Success from the Book of Daniel, Part 9b: A Better High Priest

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Secrets to Success from the Book of Daniel, Part 9b: A Better High Priest

Daniel lived most of his life as an exiled. In 605. B.C. he was forcefully uprooted by Nebuchadnezzar and moved from Judah to Babylon where he lived a long life – long enough to witness his captor, Babylon, capitulate to Medo-Persia. During the first year of Persian rule, Daniel searched the prophecies to understand the immediate future. Almost seventy years had passed since the Babylonian captivity and, as recorded in Isaiah 44-45 and Jeremiah 29:10-12, the bondage was soon to end. The predicted liberator was no other than the new ruler, Cyrus, who was foretold to say… of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’(Isaiah 44:28).

 

Anticipating this liberation, Daniel prayed fervently to God for intervention, and divine mercy did not delay. In response to Daniel’s prayer, Gabriel appeared to him with a prophetic message, revealing a better Messiah (link to chapter 9 part I) than Cyrus, a Messiah who would free the entire human race from the bondage of sin. His anointing and atoning crucifixion were predicted via the seventy weeks prophecy. But the revelation given to Daniel went beyond foretelling the most significant events in Christ’s earthly ministry. It also helped clarify Christ’s ministry in heaven—the second phase in the plan of salvation. 

Phase Two of Salvation: 2300 Days and the Cleansing of the Sanctuary

 

Phase two of God’s salvation has to do with the 2300 days in chapter 8. The period given to Daniel in that vision was of utmost importance but it did not provide a starting point, and a prophetic period without a clear starting point is irrelevant. Thankfully, chapter 9 provides the missing link. Since the beginning of this period is not explicitly stated anywhere in Daniel, it must be discovered some other way.

 

Scholars suggest that several connections between chapter 8 and chapter 9 make the implicit explicit and point to 457 B.C. as the starting point for both the seventy weeks prophecy in chapter 9, as well as for the 2300 day prophecy in chapter 8. According to Gerhard F. Hasel, these connections are: “similar terminology, cultic perspective, common angel-interpreter, auditory revelation, and conceptual link.”[i] I will briefly summarize each.

 

  • Similar terminology. A special term for vision is used in 8:16, 8:26-27, and 9:23, suggesting a connection between these passages. Moreover, the phrase “at first” in chapter 9 implies something preceding the vision; it “refers the reader back to 8:16 where Gabriel’s interpretation of the vision is introduced.”[ii] A third association between the two chapters is warranted by the repetition of the various forms of the word “understand.”
  • Cultic perspective. Both chapters have a cultic perspective on the sanctuary. While this is more explicit in 8:13-14, it is clearly implied in 9:24-27 in the usage of the words “atonement,” “holy of holies,” “anointing,” “cutting off” (a term echoing the sacrifice of animals), and the cessation of the temple service after the Messiah’s death.
  • Common angel-interpreter. The same angelic being appears in both visions. In 8:16, a voice called out: “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” In 9:21-22, while Daniel is praying, “the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice.22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding.
  • Auditory revelation. What was missing in chapter 8, is the emphasis of the revelation in chapter 9. In other words, the vision in chapter 8 is given without enough information, leaving Daniel in the dark and ill: “And I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for some days. Then I rose and went about the king’s business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it.” (8:27) Conversely, Gabriel is repeatedly explicit in chapter 9 that he has come to give Daniel understanding (9:21-23).
  • Conceptual link. “Daniel 9 climaxes in the anointing of the sanctuary … and Daniel 8 in the cleansing of the sanctuary… If the first auditory revelation (8:13-14) points to the end of the long-time period of 2,300 mornings and evenings, it would seem that the second auditory revelation of the 70 weeks in 9:24-2 would give its starting point.”[iii]

 

Doukhan concurs with these connections and concludes:

 

On the chronological level, the prophecy of the 70 weeks brings the missing link to the prophecy of the 2300 evenings and mornings: its starting point. The two prophecies commence with the same event, the decree of Artaxerxes in 457 B.C.E. However … the prophecy of the 70 weeks provides the precise date of an event while the prophecy of the 2300 evenings and mornings presents a duration after which there will be another event, that of the cleansing of the sanctuary (verse 14).[iv]

 

By counting 2300 prophetic days (that is, literal years) from 457 B.C., we reach the year 1844.

 

We have already seen in previous articles that the terminology time, times, and half a time, referring to the Day of Judgment of the little horn in Daniel 7:25 corresponds to the 2300 evenings and mornings referring to the Day of Atonement, or the cleansing of the sanctuary in Daniel 8:14 (link to chapter 8). So, by knowing the beginning of this period of 2300 days, we learn something both about judgment and about a special cleansing of the sanctuary. Roy Gane has also noted that the parallelisms between chapters 7 and 8 and suggests that the purification of the sanctuary (8:14) is concurrent with the judgment upon the little horn (7: 9-14). Therefore, “the pre-Advent judgment and the justifying [or purifying] of God’s sanctuary are different ways to describe the same event: Vindication of God before His created beings through an end-time Day of Atonement judgment that demonstrates His justice in condemning the disloyal but saving His loyal, holy people.”[v]

 

This process, therefore, involves the salvation of saints through the imputed righteousness of Christ, and the condemnation of the little horn, doomed for final and irreversible destruction. “At the end of a long period of 2,300 ‘days’… reaching from the Medo-Persian period through to the end of the period of domination by the ‘little horn’ power, a sanctuary will be justified. This end-time event … will remedy problems caused by the ‘little horn,’ which has disrupted the worship of the true God, set up an opposing, counterfeit worship system, attacked the place of Christ’s sanctuary, and harmed some of Christ’s subjects.”[vi]

 

Christ: A Better High Priest

 

A key common feature between Daniel 8 and 9 is the mention of a high priest, the word used for “prince” in chapter 8 being a technical term for high priest (1 Chron. 15:22; Ezra 8:24; Dan. 10:5). Furthermore, in the entire Scripture, the elements of Holy of Holies, atonement, and anointing, are present together only in Daniel 9:24 and Exodus 29:36-44 (the dedication of Aaron as the first high priest and the establishing of the daily sacrificial ritual), linking “the atoning death of the Messiah to the consecration of the high priest and the daily sacrifice.”[1]

 

The person represented by the sacrificial lamb is also represented by the high priest. The same Jesus who died for our sins will purify sin from the universe entirely and eternally. The two concurrent aspects of the second phase of salvation, therefore, (the purification of the sanctuary and the judgment of the little horn) conclude the process of salvation, effectively proving before the entire universe that God is loving and just.

 

Why is this second phase of salvation necessary with Christ as High Priest playing the key role? As Doukhan writes,

 

the two prophecies [seventy weeks and 2300 days] are related and complement each other in regard to their theological truth. Salvation takes two steps: first the event of the cross, and second, the great cosmic atonement (2300 evenings and mornings). The daily sacrifices were not enough. Kippur was also necessary to achieve complete salvation. … Many Christians have overlooked this aspect in their doctrine of salvation. The cross was enough, they declare. … Christianity thus became a religion obsessed with the cross, a religion of the past and the present. …[it] had no need for the future, since the cross had already achieved salvation . … [Yet] the cross without the kingdom makes no sense. Likewise, we need the event of the cross to survive the judgment. …For death and evil to really cease, life must be overturned and all traces of sin wiped out.[vii]

Celebrating the Liberation

There is still more to Daniel’s vision in chapter 9. 2 Chronicles 36:18-23 links Isaiah and Jeremiah in an interesting way – it connects the end of seventy years of captivity foretold in Jeremiah with the proclamation of restoration by Cyrus predicted in Isaiah by describing this period as a Sabbatical year.

 

18 And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king and of his princes, all these he brought to Babylon. 19 And they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem and burned all its palaces with fire and destroyed all its precious vessels. 20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years. 22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 23 ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.’’ (2 Chronicles 36:18-23, emphases mine)

Stefanovic clarifies the significance of this connection by noting that “in Israel, at the end of a jubilee cycle, slaves were to be set free and the land returned to its original owner (Lev. 25).[viii] This link of liberation is not found only in 2 Chronicles 36:18-23 but also in Isaiah 61:2 were the prophet “applies the year of jubilee to the end of times, when, on the Sabbath of Sabbaths, the Lord’s servant would proclaim ‘the year of the LORD’S favor.’” [ix]

 

Interestingly, Jesus began his public ministry by reading about his mission from the book of Isaiah, a mission he described in terms of the jubilee:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4: 18, 19).

 

By referencing the Jubilee, “Jesus situates Himself directly from the perspective of the prophecy of the 70 weeks, which describes the same event also in terms of Jubilee. Jesus thus defines Himself as the fulfillment of the prophecy: ‘And he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’” (verse 21 ).”[x]

 

Thus, while “the 70 years (7×10) lead to the messiah of the sabbatical year [Cyrus], … the 70 weeks, or “seventy sevens” (7x7x10), lead to a messiah of jubilee [Christ].[xi]  This final Jubilee, as fulfillment of the festival symbolizing the liberation and re-creation of the world, is “a Sabbath of sabbaths, … a time of grace and liberty (Isa. 61:1, 2) when humanity and nature [are] born anew.”[xii] It is a time when the entire universe will celebrate liberation from sin, never again to experience its cruelty and misery.

 

Secrets to Success

 

I cannot even begin to imagine what this celebration will look like but I expect it will be both solemn and loud, filled with both laughter and tears. The best thing is, it is not as far away from us today as it was in Daniel’s time. We are past the year 1844—Christ’s beginning of his heavenly ministry. And while the Bible states that the end of this earth’s sinful history will be a surprise and cannot be determined, the signs continue to unfold.

 

Most importantly, we live beyond the completion of the seventy-weeks prophecy foretelling the incarnation and ministry of Jesus on earth. Israel was given a sacrificial system pointing forward to the first coming of the Messiah. We can now look back to that fulfillment and find confidence in it. The past fuels our faith about the future. Yet we have our own anticipation to burn in our hearts and light our hope—the expectation of Christ’s completion of his heavenly ministry as High Priest and of his return to eradicate sin and recreate our world.

 

How shall we then live while waiting for the end of sin—promised but not yet delivered, secured but not yet realized? We wait for it as Daniel did. By searching the Scriptures, by praying to God, by trusting God, and by playing our role in the temporary liberation of those around us even while proclaiming and anticipating a better liberation. The two are not unrelated. Spiritual freedom from sin results in physical and emotional liberation.

 

For some of us, the task is clear; for others, it is elusive. But if we search only a little, we will find ways to offer freedom to someone—someone close or someone far, someone we love or someone we dislike, someone who is always kind to us and someone who has often mistreated us. In doing so, we will get a foretaste of what it means to be more like God and what eternity in His presence is made of.

Read the rest of Adelina’s series on the book of Daniel.

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Notes.

[1] Doukhan, 153.

[i] Gerhard F. Hasel, “The ‘Little Horn,’ the Heavenly Sanctuary, and the Time of the End: A Study of Daniel 8:9-14,” in Symposium on Daniel, edited by Frank B. Holbrook, Biblical Research Institute (Washington, D.C., 1986), p. 436-439.

[ii] Ibid., p. 437.

[iii] Ibid., p. 438.

[iv] Jacques Doukhan, Secrets of Daniel (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2000), 152-153.

[v] Roy Gane’s “Is There a Pre-Advent Judgment of God’s Loyal People in Daniel 8:14?” Biblical Research Institute General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

[vi] Gane, “Is There a Pre-Advent Judgment of God’s Loyal People in Daniel 8:14?” 2.

[vii] Doukhan, p. 154-157.

[viii] Zdravko Stefanovic, Daniel: Wisdom to the Wise, (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2007), p. 359.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Doukhan, p. 147-148.

[xi] Ibid., p. 140.

[xii] Ibid., p. 141.

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Adelina Alexe is a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. She loves God and enjoys nature, arts, and meaningful conversation. Her special research interests are narrative theology and hermeneutics.