Early on in the Book of Genesis, God called a man named Abraham out of the chaos of a collapsing empire. God promised that he would establish a “house” for Abraham — a family for Abraham — that would also be God’s ”house”, God’s family. In response, Abraham built a series of altars where his new family could worship. And, as a result, God promised to turn Abraham’s small “house” into a great nation that would one day bless every nation on earth.
At the same time, God let Abraham know that the future history of his nation would not be an easy one. In particular, he said that Abraham’s descendants would spend four hundred years in a foreign country, and that they would be enslaved and mistreated there. And sure enough, near the end of the Book of Genesis, Abraham’s growing family moved to Egypt and ended up in slavery there.
And yet, as the Book of Exodus picks up the story, we find out that it was actually during those four hundred troubled years that Abraham’s family grew up to become the great nation God promised they would be.
Still, near the end of that four hundred years things really started to fall apart: a new king came to power who tried to wipe the Israelites out. So God sent his people a messiah, a saviour named Moses, who judged and destroyed Egypt and led God’s nation out of the chaos of that collapsing empire. Just as he had for Abraham, God promised Moses that he would establish a “house” for him — a priesthood, and a nation of priests. And in response, Moses build a “house” for God: a tent called the tabernacle, a kind of temple that could travel with God’s people through the wilderness to their new homeland.
But before they entered their new land, Moses warned God’s people that — if they wanted to keep their land — they would have to learn how to rest.
Apparently their time of slavery in Egypt had turned them into a nation of workaholics. Unfortunately, workaholism is a kind of idolatry, a kind of false religion: a workaholic is a person who puts their faith in the works of their own hands, instead of putting their faith in God’s love for them.
That is bad enough. But, like all idolatry, workaholism is not just a private sin: it always begins to affect others. Workaholics don’t just drive themselves to exhaustion, they also drive the people under their care to exhaustion. And a workaholic nation will drive the land under their care to exhaustion, they will drive the economy to exhaustion.
So, through Moses, God set up a system of regular rest periods that was based around cycles of seven.
First of all, every seventh day, every living creature would get a day off to rest: the Sabbath Day. That way no person or animal would ever become exhausted through overwork.
But there’s more: every seventh year, the land would get a year off to rest: the Sabbath Year. That way the soil would not become exhausted through over-farming.
And every seventh seven of years — every 49 years — the economy would get a year off to rest: the Jubilee Year, the Celebration Year. All debts would be canceled. All employees would be freed to start their own business if they wished. All property would revert to its original owners. Basically, every 49 years, the nation of Israel would be reset, so that everyone would have a chance to start again.
And this system built around cycles of sevens was really a living discipleship system. By living these cycles of sevens, the people would learn to rest. And this was really important, because is only by learning how to rest that God’s people learn how to resist false man-centered religions and learn how to put their faith wholly in God’s love and care.
And so, when God instituted this system of sevens, he told his people, “Listen, if you follow this discipleship system faithfully you will thrive! But if you refuse to follow this system, you will exhaust yourselves and exhaust the land, you will find yourselves having to work harder and harder for less and less return, which will result in all kinds of slavery and injustice and death. So if you refuse to give the land its scheduled rest every seven years then I will eventually have to scatter you among the nations. Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time you are in the country of your enemies; the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.
“But if my people will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors — their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me — then I will remember my covenant, and I will remember the land — and bring you back home.”
Well…guess what? Over the next 400 years or so after Moses, the people really struggled to follow God’s discipleship system. They insisted on exhausting themselves and the land, they insisted on worshiping the works of their hands. Now, God was very patient: he did not scatter them among the nations. Instead, he allowed the nations to invade them, each invasion a fresh reminder of what it is like to live as slaves, without the freedom to rest.
But in the end, things really fell apart just as they had back in Egypt: there were multiple attempts at genocide by foreign powers — along with a civil war in which the tribes of Israel tried to wipe each another out!
And that is the moment God acted again to deliver his people. He sent them a messiah, a saviour named David, who judged and destroyed the foreign nations and led God’s nation out of the chaos they had created for themselves. Just as he had for Abraham and for Moses, God promised that he would establish a “house” for David — an eternal kingship, an eternal kingdom. And in response, David — or, really, David’s son Solomon — build a “house” for God: a temple in Jerusalem at the center of their homeland.
But…guess what? Over the next 400 years or so after David, the people still really struggled to follow God’s discipleship system. They insisted on exhausting themselves, exhausting the land, exhausting the economy, they insisted on worshiping idols and worshiping the work of their own hands. And God was right: this led to terrible slavery and injustice and death.
So he finally kept his promise: he sent King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to scatter God’s people among the nations so that the land could finally rest and recover from the centuries of abuse it had suffered.
In fact, the bible attaches a very distinct number to this whole process; this is what we are told in 2 Chronicles, chapter 36, verse 21: The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.
In other words: God’s people, by refusing to repent of their workaholism, had robbed the land of seventy rest years. And the land needed to be paid back for those stolen years. Those seventy years in exile were God’s way of making sure his people paid back the land for all the years of rest they robbed it of!
Now — follow me here — if the land was supposed to get one year of rest every seventh year, and if the land has missed out on seventy of those seventh years, then that means the land has missed out on seventy seventh years: the land has missed out on seventy “sevens”.
And that phrase sounds very familiar, doesn’t it?
All this talk of “seventy years” and “seventy ‘sevens’” actually brings us back around to Daniel!
Because, if you recall, last week Daniel realized that the seventy years of exile promised by Jeremiah was almost finished. And we talked about how, in the bible, the concept of “seventy years” is not so much a distinct measurement of time, but rather a measurement of how God refines and judges nations for their sins.
So, for instance, King Nebuchadnezzar did not know it, but when he attacked God’s people, he started a “seventy year” refining process for his empire. Now, yes, Nebuchadnezzar himself did learn to honour God and God’s people. But then new kings came to power that did not. And that is why the Babylonian empire’s “seventy year” refining process ended in judgement and destruction rather than restoration.
But out of the chaos of that collapsing empire, last week we discovered that God has once again provided a messiah for his people: a saviour named Daniel. God had promised that, if his people would confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors — their unfaithfulness and their hostility — then he would remember his covenant and bring them back home. And last week we saw Daniel do exactly that. It was Daniel alone of all the exiles who had the wisdom to read the signs of the times and realize that the seventy years are completed for Babylon, and that now is the time to confess, now is the time to offer up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the only one who could save his people.
And as we read last week, God answered Daniel’s prayer. In Daniel’s words here, beginning in verse 20: While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel —  while I was still in prayer, Gabriel came to me about the time of the evening sacrifice and said, “Daniel,  as soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you. Here it is:
 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.”
And with Gabriel’s mention here of “seventy ‘sevens’” — 490 years — we find a whole new aspect of the “seventy years” in exile opening up to us.
Last week, we saw how Jeremiah’s letter focused on the sins of the Babylonian nation. He said that after seventy years are completed for Babylon, God would bring his people home.
Well, here we are confirming that the “seventy years” were not just about Babylon’s sins, they were also about the sins of Israel: these were also seventy years of rest for the land of Israel, the soil of Israel.
In essence: both of these nations have overworked God’s earth, God’s plants and animals, and God’s people.
The only difference is that the one nation — Babylon — refused to pay back the years of rest they had stolen; that is why, when their “seventy year” opportunity to repent was over, they paid the ultimate penalty: they paid with everything they had.
But the other nation — Israel — did pay back the years they had stolen; they were forced to, actually, which goes to show how even God’s harshest discipline of his people is actually an act of grace and kindness, because if he had let them keep on going they way they were they would have ended up like the Babylonian empire: gone forever!
As it is, because God forced them to pay back the seventy years they had stolen from the land — and because God has now provided for them Daniel as a messiah who can repent on their behalf and intercede for them — now Daniel’s people are going to get another chance to learn how to rest in the land that God has given them.
In fact, according to what Gabriel has just said, Daniel’s people are going to get seventy more chances to learn how to rest: seventy more seven-year cycles. Seventy more chances to finish transgression. Seventy more chances to put an end to sin. Seventy more chances to atone for wickedness — to completely pay back every single thing they have stolen from the earth and from their fellow human beings and from God.
But it is equally clear that they are not going to be able to accomplish this: no single individual or nation has the power to completely pay God back for everything. This is simply not possible!
Which is why Gabriel also includes this Good News, this promise from God: during these next seventy seven-year cycles — during these next 490 years — God himself will be working to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place — the eternal temple that will never again be defiled by the peoples’ sins.
And really, we do not need any more Good News than that! We could end the sermon with these words right here — which is where we did end the sermon last week.
But Gabriel is not finished with this word from God to Daniel. He wants to reassure Daniel that God is still at work in these repeating historical cycles of “building a temple“ and then “overworking the land for four hundred years“ and then ”losing the temple”. In fact, he wants to reassure Daniel that these repeating cycles of desolation are themselves the evidence that God is still in complete control.
So now Gabriel goes into the details of the next 490 year cycle:
 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
Okay. The word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem has just gone out from God’s throne. That is what Gabriel said when he first arrived: “Daniel, as soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you.”
So — *click* — start the clock: over the course of the next seven “sevens” — during the next 49 years — God is going to provide a messiah, a ruler, who will lead God’s people in rebuilding the temple and Jerusalem.
But, come to think of it: when we look back at the seven year cycles that Moses put into place, we see that every seventh cycle — every 49 years — God’s people are supposed to enjoy a year of Jubilee, a year of celebration, when the whole nation is reset, when everyone gets a chance to start over!
So, this makes sense! Finishing the temple and restarting the system of sacrifices on the 49th year would definitely be a major reset for the nation! A major reason to celebrate, right?
Very reassuring, Gabriel! Thank you.
Then, over the course of the next sixty-two “sevens” — during the next 400 years or so — Jerusalem will continue to grow in strength and in numbers, even though these will be times of trouble.
And, again, come to think of it: when we look back at the history of God’s nation, we remember how the Israelites continued to grow in strength and numbers even during their 400 years or so in Egypt.
So, again this makes sense! God was at work among his people during those centuries in the past; he will be at work among his people during the centuries to come.
Again: very reassuring! Thank you, Gabriel.
Going on:  After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.
Ohhhhh…that’s not so reassuring.
Of course, this Anointed One here cannot possibly be the same Anointed One who rebuilt the temple 400 years earlier. But that just raises the question: who is this Anointed One that gets put to death? What is his significance?
Well, let’s go on:
The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
Oh. So that is the significance of this second Anointed One. The first Anointed One presided over the rebuilding of the temple. This last Anointed One will preside over the destruction of that temple: he will be like the last good king of the Jews before some foreign ruler comes along and kills him and destroys Jerusalem and ends God’s atoning sacrifices.
And, again, come to think of it: when we look back at the history of God’s nation, we remember how King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed temple and scattered the people once before this.
And so, painfully, yet again: this makes sense: if it has happened before, it can happen again.
The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.
So, once again, desolations have been decreed: God’s decree will remove his people from the land so that it can lie desolate for as many years as it needs in order to get the rest that God has ordained for it.
 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”
And this section looks like a more detailed look at the seventieth “seven” — the last seven year-cycle of this 490 year cycle. Apparently, after the sixty-two ”sevens” — at the beginning of the sixty-third “seven” — this foreign ruler will begin his attack on the temple by making a treaty with God’s people, perhaps winning some of them over to his side? At least lulling them into some kind of complacency. Then, half-way through that “seven” — three and a half years later — he will suddenly change policy, and begin a reign of terror: stopping the temple sacrifices, replacing God’s pure worship with some terrible, defiling counterfeit, until — suddenly — God’s judgement is poured out upon him.
Whew. So that last little bit is reassuring: in the end God will get him.
But still, this does not sound good!
Though, in fact, come to think of it: when we look back over the visions that Daniel has already received, this enemy that shows up at the end of the 490 years strongly resembles that mysterious Greek king who will cause deceit to prosper among God’s people, and then — when they feel secure — will attack and destroy many and defile God’s worship and oppress God’s people for a time, times, and half a time — which can add up to three and a half years.
And so: this does also makes sense. The pattern Gabriel is describing here is consistent with the pattern he has described to Daniel twice before. There is Good News at the end, of course! but only after terrible suffering for God’s people.
And as usual, now that we know these details, we are left wondering if we would have been better off not knowing these details!
Maybe we would have been better off just ending the sermon with the simple Good News: that in the end, God himself will bring in everlasting righteousness, he will seal up vision and prophecy, he will anoint the Most Holy Place —
But waaaaait a minute here! There is no Most Holy Place mentioned here at the end!
When we go back up to Gabriel’s introduction, he clearly says that, “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed…to anoint the Most Holy Place.” In other words, by the end of this 490 year cycle, the final Most Holy Place will have been built!
But when we look at Gabriel’s details of this 490 year cycle, he says that a temple is built near the beginning, and then destroyed near the end. But he makes no mention of a final Most Holy Place being built to replace the one that is destroyed!
How are we supposed to make sense of this?
Well…perhaps this vision is like Daniel’s vision back in Chapter 8, which was “beyond understanding” until we looked into history and saw that it has already been fulfilled. That vision was much easier to understand in retrospect.
So, that is what we are going to do again today. We are going to look into history and see if this 490 year cycle was fulfilled as Gabriel said. And if it has, then we will see if it might make more sense in retrospect.
And sure enough, when we look back into history we do find that Gabriel’s prophecy was fulfilled:
Over the next 49 years, God did provide a messiah, a ruler, a man named Zerubbabel, who led God’s people in rebuilding the temple.
Then, over the next 400 years or so, Jerusalem continued to grow in strength and in numbers, even though those were times of trouble, centuries of occupation by foreign powers — first the Persian empire, then the Greek empire, which both allowed the Jews to practice their religion without interference.
And then a ruler did come, that wicked Greek king who continued to practice religious tolerance for a while, and then — when many felt secure — attacked and killed God’s Anointed One, the high priest of that time. He took over the temple, stopped the legitimate sacrifices, and set up an abomination upon the altar by sacrificing pigs on it, until the end that was decreed was poured out on him.
So: there we go! It all works out.
…except that this wicked Greek king shows up at the wrong time, about 120 years too early. He also did not quite destroy the city and the sanctuary like Gabriel said he would.
Oh, that temple was eventually destroyed! — but only much later, by a Roman general named Titus, who became the emperor of Rome shortly after his great victory.
Interestingly enough, however, General Titus’ war against the Jews lasted for just a little over seven years. And it was approximately halfway through that seven year war that Titus destroyed the city and sanctuary, thus putting an end to sacrifice and offering…
So: could it be that General Titus is the real fulfillment of Gabriel’s prophecy here?
Well, it sure looks like it!
…except that, really, General Titus also shows up at the wrong time: about 130 years too late, to be honest.
Ooo! But what if, instead of starting the 490 year clock with this “word to rebuild” that Gabriel brings, here in the year 538 B.C.E., what if we start the clock with the second official “word to rebuild” that came from the next Persian king?
Let’s see, the second decree came in the year 521 B.C.E…521 — 490 = 31 B.C.E. So that can’t be right: Titus destroyed the temple in 70 A.D.
What about the next decree in 458? 458 — 490 brings us to 32 A.D. Mmmm. That is closer to 70, but not close enough.
But what about the final decree to Nehemiah that came in 445 B.C.E? 445 — 490 comes up to 45 A.D. Still 25 years short!
So none of these dates really add up properly! The evil Greek king shows up too early; the evil Roman king shows up too late — what is going on here!
Oh, but wait…here we are, falling back into the same trap that so many people fall into when they read the book of Daniel: here we are trying to take these numbers and fit them exactly into history as if they are meant to be distinct measurements of time.
But we have had this conversation before, haven’t we? In our culture, we are used to tracking numbers and dates and time right down to the millisecond. But ancient people did not share our obsession with precision. Yes, they did maintain calendars, but they were actually far more interested in the meaning of events rather than in their exact timing. And this is especially true when we are dealing with apocalyptic prophecies like this one.
So once again, for the Jewish people, these numbers have more symbolic value than they do calendar value. These cycles of seven, and seventy, and seventy times seven are deeply rooted in ancient patterns of scripture:
Sevens contain the concept of a perfection in quality. Tens contain the concept of a perfection in fulness. Seven times sevens — 49s — embody the concepts of rest and renewal, while seven times tens — 70s — are deeply linked to concepts of nations and migrations and history.
And when all these concepts are woven together into seven times seven times ten — seventy “sevens” — we find that these 490 years are meant to be a picture of the process by which God gathers a nation in from the darkness of slavery and then slowly refines them and leads them to a place of perfect rest.
Friends, what we are seeing here, today, is the Jewish conception of history.
Back in Chapters 7 and 8 we saw how the Babylonians viewed history: as this repeating pattern of bestial civilizations that devour and supplant one another, each cycle ending with an empire that conquers all the rest and then falls apart, making room for the cycle to begin again. Quite a hopeless, fatalistic view of history!
But the Jewish people, when they looked back over their most ancient scriptures, they saw God at work in the history of their nation. And to them, God seems to work in 490 year cycles. Not precisely, but approximately.
And really, this makes sense: bcause if every generation gets to experience a Jubilee Year reset every 49 years, then of course the nation as a whole should get to experience a Super-Jubilee reset every 490 years!
The Jewish people also found that this 490 year cycle always begins with a messiah, a leader who sort of lays the foundation for that cycle. He builds an ark, perhaps; or an altar, or a tabernacle, or a temple, he establishes a pattern of worship for that first generation. Then the following generations build on that foundation, rising and falling, wrestling through the events of history. And then, near the end, things begin to decay, and the final collapse happens rather suddenly, in half a generation.
So every cycle could be described as running for a generation, generations, and half a generation…a time, times, and half a time.
But the Jewish people also noticed that during those final generations leading up to the collapse, God is always preparing the way for a new messiah who will build a new temple, and begin a new cycle.
So, instead of counting years, and trying to figure out exactly when these seventy “sevens” began and ended, we ought to be looking for the messiahs — the ”Anointed Ones” — that book-end the cycle.
We have already found the first one: his name was Zerubbabel, and he did rebuild the temple within that first generation, within those first seven “sevens”.
So all we have to do now is find the last Anointed One of the cycle.
Let’s see: Zerubbabel’s temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. So we are looking for a man who lived during the last generation before that. We are looking for a man who claimed to be God’s Messiah, a man who was anointed by a priest and/or a prophet. According to Gabriel, we are looking for a man was put to death. But Gabriel also said that by the end of this 490 year cycle, God would finally anoint a new Most Holy Place. So we should also be looking for a messianic figure who claimed that he had come to tear down the old temple and build a new one.
And when we dig into the history of that last generation before Titus destroyed the temple in Jerusalem…yes, we do find a man who matches that description. His name was Jesus of Nazareth. He did claim to be the Messiah. He did claim that he had come to build a new temple. He was certainly put to death. And then — according to his followers — he was lifted back up into a new kind of eternal life. And his followers spent the next sixty years or so writing what we now call the New Testament, which spends all of its time explaining how Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection did, in fact, lay the foundation for a new temple: the nation of people that we now call Jesus’ Church.
But if it is true that the true Messiah would rise from the dead to build a new temple, why didn’t Gabriel mention that here? Why didn’t Gabriel say that, after the Anointed One is put to death, he will rise again and build an eternal temple?
Well…I do not want to make all of our heads explode with what I have to say next. My head exploded when I discovered this during my studies in preparation for this message. And I had to ask for a conversation with Phil and Jason and some other guys from our church so they could help me find the pieces of my skull and put them all back together.
Because, here’s the thing: Gabriel did say this.
Did you miss it? So did I.
But the most ancient interpretations of the Christian Church all agree that, in verse 27, when Gabriel says, “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him”…all of the ancient scholars say that Gabriel is not just talking about the Roman general Titus, who destroyed the temple. He is also talking about Jesus, who founded the new temple of the Church.
See, Jesus also confirms a covenant with many for one “seven”, a new covenant. This is literally the first thing he announces during his first recorded sermon: he reads a passage from Isaiah that is all about God’s new and final covenant. Then Jesus sits down and says, “Today I have fulfilled this scripture. The new covenant, the new temple, begins now, in this generation.”
And Jesus also put an end to sacrifice and offering when he became the final sacrifice. Half-way through that generation’s “seven” — approximately three and a half years after Jesus began his ministry — the curtain of the temple was torn open, and the Spirit of God burst out into the world, never again to return to that little stone room. A new temple burst into being, a new Most Holy Place, anointed and filled with the Spirit of God, a temple that quickly expanded to bless all the nations on earth — just as God had promised Abraham at the very start! — thus establishing a pattern of worship that has continued to this very day.
And Jesus also set up an abomination that causes desolation. He warned that final generation several times that their plan — to sacrifice the Son of God on the altar of their nationalistic workaholic ambitions — warned them several times that their plan was an abomination that would cause desolation to fall upon the land. But Jesus also made it clear that he himself was willing to participate in this abomination so that his people would be scattered, so that the land would have the chance to lie desolate and finally enjoy the years of rest it was owed. He allowed this abomination to be set up so that the temple would be destroyed, thus clearing the way for the new temple, the final eternal temple that will give the whole earth rest.
Basically, friends, the final sentence of this prophecy is like one coin with two sides, one set of words with two meanings. This prophecy is about two covenants and two messiahs — two “christs”, we could say: a true Christ, and an antichrist.
There is a true Christ who confirms a true covenant with many for one “seven”. That one is our Christ, that new covenant is our covenant.
But there is also an antichrist who confirms a false covenant with many for one “seven”. That one is the world’s Christ, the false Christ who rules by deception and ambition and the sword.
This final sentence describes one set of events: a confirmed covenant, a change in worship, an abomination, and a decreed end. But what these events mean depends entirely on which side of history we are on, which ruler we submit to.
Which brings us to our application for today.
Every week we like to ask ourselves what our Father wants us to understand and then do because of what we have just discussed. And today, at its most simplest level, this is our application: let’s make sure we are on the right side of history, members of the true covenant and not the false one!
So if you are here today and you have not submitted your life to Jesus Christ, you need to understand that this does not mean you actually rule yourself. If you are not in covenant with the true Messiah, then you are actually in covenant with the anti-messiah. And you know how you can tell? Because you are always working so damned hard all the time. You are always longing for rest and peace and contentment, and you catch glimpses of it from time to time — but you never quite arrive. If this is you, then I’m telling you to pay attention to those signs and realize that you are bound in slavery to a ruthless master who wants nothing more than make sure you work yourself to death.
But escape is available to you. Rest is available to you. And all you have to do is ask for it. You can ask Jesus, right now, to set you free from the endless grind to give yourself worth; you can ask him right now to atone for all your sins — and he will do it. With just a single prayer, just a single word, you can take your first step on the journey toward total forgiveness and complete freedom.
I strongly urge you to take advantage of this offer today.
Now, what about the rest of us, who have already been forgiven, who already live in covenant with the true Messiah: what does our Father want us to understand, and what does he want us to do with our understanding?
We need to understand this: we are now passing through the final 490 year cycle of earth’s history. This cycle began on the morning Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. That is what we are celebrating right now, during this sacred Easter weekend: the resurrection of the Anointed One, and the foundation of his eternal Church.
The pattern is continuing, exactly as the angel Gabriel described it:
For the first seven “sevens” after his resurrection, Jesus and his Apostles laid the foundation for this cycle. They built a spiritual temple and a spiritual city, they established a pattern of worship for that first generation.
Then the following generations began to build on that foundation. For the last sixty-two “sevens”, Jesus’ Church has been built with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. And this is where we are living right now: in the midst of the final sixty-two “sevens” of earth.
Only one last step remains: the final “seven”, during which the final antichrist will be revealed, a king who will make one final attempt to wipe out God’s people, just as the king of Egypt did in the beginning. It will be a time of great persecution and suffering for Jesus’ Church, a time of great deception and defeat as the world measures such things.
But the end will come like a flood: our Anointed One will descend, and our desolated earth will finally come to its eternal rest.
Now, those of you who are good at maths are going to point out that this “490 year cycle” has actually gone on for almost 2000 years.
But this should not surprise us. The ancient Jews believed that God was refining their nation, step by step, in symbolic 490 year cycles, and the Old Testament outlines at least four distinct cycles in their history: from Abraham to Moses, from Moses to David, from David to Zerubbabel, from Zerubabbel to Jesus Christ. And God applied all that effort to just one single nation.
So how much longer ought it to take for God to refine all the rest of the nations of the earth?
Friends, as the Apostle Peter once pointed out, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
This is what our Father wants us to understand about him, and about his plan for the world.
And so this is what our Father wants us to do: he wants us to be patient also. But above all, he wants us to learn how to rest during these seventy “sevens”. And he wants us to teach all the nations how to rest.
How are we to accomplish this task?
By doing what we are doing right now, on this Easter Sunday: by worshiping in patterns of seven, by preaching Jesus Christ who fulfilled every possible cycle of sevens times sevens times tens. The cross stands empty on its hill, the tomb empty in the valley below, reminders that these are still the times of trouble, and that there is still one final dark “seven” to come. But more than this, they are reminders that we are living here in the long restful twilight after the time of the evening sacrifice. The sun has set on earth’s last day, but that just means the stars are shining more brightly than ever, and all of our prayers have already been answered.
Every time we do this we proclaim his death — and his resurrection — until he comes. So let’s keep on doing this.