The Priesthood of Christ - Faithful Generations

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The Priesthood of Christ

The Priesthood of Christ

The priesthood of the blessed Lord is an integral part of Christianity, as the Aaronic priesthood was of the Levitical system.  The Lord's present priestly service is founded on God's acceptance of the sacrifice, and is exercised alone on behalf of those who are saved.  The SPHERE of His priesthood is Heaven.  He could not be a priest on earth (Heb. 8. 4), says the apostle.  The earthly sanctuary could only be entered by the sons of Levi, while Christ as to earthly descent came from the royal tribe, Judah, "of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood," and "of which no man gave attendance at the altar" (Heb. 7. 11-14).  Connect royalty with Judah, and priesthood with Levi.  There are three aspects of the Lord's priesthood.  First, sacrificial (Heb. 2. 17), which is past.  Second, intercessory (Heb. 4.14,15; 7.24-26), which is present.  Third, royalty and grace combined (Heb. 7; Zech. 6. 13), yet future.

The ORDER of the Lord's priesthood is after that of Melchisedec (Heb. 5. 6), type of the Lord in the glory and dignity of His Person (7. 1-3).  Thus there is secured for us an "unchangeable priesthood." What strength this imparts to tried and suffering saints (verse 25).  The Melchisedec character of priesthood is millennial, and will be exercised by the Lord when "He shall be a priest upon His throne" (Zech. 6.13) - a combination of royal authority and priestly grace.

The PATTERN of the Lord's priesthood is after that of Aaron's priestly service.  It is threefold in character: First, making propitiation by blood in the holiest as did Aaron (Lev. 16. 14; Heb. 2. 17; 9. 11, 12).  The blood was shed at the altar outside, it was then carried in by the high priest and sprinkled on and before the throne inside.  This latter is termed propitiation.  It has been done once, and in its nature is incapable of repetition.  Second, succouring the tempted, sympathising with infirmity, and supplying mercy and grace in time of need (Heb. 2. 18; 4. 14-16).  Third, in practically maintaining us all along the way - ever living to intercede for us - saving even to the "uttermost" of human need, taking account of our sorrows, difficulties, trials, exercises, and tears. (7. 25).  His compassion and tenderness are boundless.  He leads our worship, and in all things, and at all times represents us before God in the heavenly sanctuary.  His own special place there is on "the right hand of the throne of the Majesty." There He sits as our "Great High Priest," a title of dignity peculiar to our Lord.  The priesthood of Christ is not to procure righteousness, but to help, bless, comfort, and sustain a people made righteous through grace.  The priesthood is only exercised on behalf of believers.

Next, as to the priesthood of believers.  All true Christians are priests to God (Rev. 1. 5, 6), all having an equal title to draw near (Heb. 10. 22).  The Jewish priest and the Christian priest have each their sacrifice, sanctuary, and guide-book as to worship.  Leviticus was the guide-book of the Jewish worshipper, while 1 Corinthians 11-14 and Hebrews form the guide and directory to the Christian worshipper.  Our sacrifices as priests are praise to God, the fruit of lips touched by the live coal of judgment, and of practical benevolence to man (Heb. 13. 15, 16).  The former is referred to by Peter when he styles us a "holy priesthood," (1 Peter 2. 5-9).  It is interesting to observe that when the priesthood of all believers is directly referred to the high priesthood of our Lord is not mentioned at all, as in 1 Peter and the Revelation.  Judaism sent the worshipper of old to the priest; Christianity reveals direct approach to God by the ever-living Priest.  The priests of old stood outside the holiest.  The veil was unrent and the conscience unpurged: The priests of Christian times stand and worship inside the 'holiest, the veil is rent and the conscience purged.  The Jewish priests could never enter the holiest.  The Christian priesthood enters the holiest and worships there, the blood their righteous and holy title.  Priestly functions are not confined to a favoured class.  All believers are priest, irrespective of age, maturity in Divine life, or attainments in either the intellectual or spiritual domains.  In ministry there are distinctions (1 Cor. 12. 28-30).  In worship there are none (Heb. 10. 22).

Priesthood and ministry are totally distinct truths.  The former is towards God, the latter towards man.  All Christians worship as priests, and all serve as ministers.


ATONEMENT
The word "atonement," the very embodiment of fundamental truth, does not occur in the original New Testament Scriptures.  It is found once in the Authorised English Version of Romans 5. 11, the margin of which, however, rightly reads "reconciliation." But although the word does not occur in the New Testament, yet the precious truth, as a whole, and in all its parts, is unfolded therein.  We may here remark that the result of Jewish sacrifice was to cover sin from God's sight (Psa. 32. 1); the result of the sacrifice of Christ is to put it away completely and eternally (Heb. 9. 26).  We must turn the pages of the Old Testament, where alone the word is used, for a scriptural answer to the oft-repeated question, "What is atonement?"

A reference to a good concordance will show that atonement" occurs about thirty times in the book of Leviticus - half of its verbal Biblical references.  Why is this? Because atonement not only necessitates a sacrifice, but a sanctuary, and also a high priest to deal with the sacrificial blood.  Now these - i.e., a sacrifice, a sanctuary, and priest - are prominent features of the third book of Scripture, especially of chapter 16, where the verb to make atonement,i.e., to cover (the noun is not met with in the chapter), occurs no less than fifteen times - a chapter which unfolds in type the whole work of atonement, both in its essential elements, as also in its varied and interesting details.  Both redemption and atonement for us are by blood, but unlike the former, the latter requires the service of the high priest to deal with the blood in the holiest.  Redemption is not dependent on the ministry of the priest, nor on the value of the sanctuary.  Atonement is first met with in Genesis 6. 14, pitched or covered.  The ark was made judgment-proof without and within.

The ritual observed on the annual day of atonement was both impressive and suggestive (Lev. 16).  It was the only day of the year when the duties of the ordinary priests were suspended in the sanctuary (verse 17), for both they, as all the people, needed atonement to be made for all their sins (verses 33, 34).  It was also a day of entire cessation from all work - this was imperative upon all Israel and strangers amongst them (verses 29-31) - the only occasion, moreover, when the high priest laid aside his pontifical attire "for glory and for beauty, " and arrayed himself in linen garments.  Both sets of garments art; termed "holy garments" (Exod. 28. 2; Lev. 16. 4).

There are several main elements in the scriptural teaching of atonement.  It might be well to compare current theological teaching with God's answer to the question: What is atonement? First, we have God's judgment upon, and death of the sacrificial animals (Lev. 16. 24, 6, 9).  Second, sprinkling of the blood by the high priest in the sanctuary, once upon the mercy-seat and seven times before it. This important action could only be performed by the high priest of the nation (verse 14). Third, the confession of the sins of the people.  Putting all the confessed sins upon the head of the scapegoat, or "goat of departure," and its dismissal into a land of separation (verses 21, 22).  This, too, could only be done by Aaron as representing the nation before God.  Azazel, or "goat of departure," occurs but four times in the Word, and only in this chapter.  These and other features combined constitute atonement.

These various elements of atonement are separately treated of in the New Testament, although the word which expresses the whole is not there used.  Many expressions in common use really narrow the scope of the comprehensive and fundamental truth of atonement.


PROPITIATION
Atonement is a word found only in the earlier Revelation - the Old Testament.  Propitiation verbally occurs alone in the later volume of Inspiration - the New Testament.  On the tenth day of the seventh month the high priest, clad in garments of white, annually entered the sanctuary, not without blood - the solemn witness of death (Lev. 16).  Atonement, typically as a whole, and, of course, in all its parts, had to be effected on that one day of twenty-four hours.  No part of it could be left over till the following day.  What was said of Boaz of old might have been said of Aaron, Israel's first high priest on the atonement-day, and surely more so of Christ in view of effecting atonement once and for ever: "The man will not be in rest until he hath finished the thing this day."

Now propitiation and substitution were essential parts of atonement.  The former was solely the work of the high priest, as he alone could enter the innermost part of the sanctuary to sprinkle the atoning blood on the mercy-seat and before it; the latter, too, was the work of the high priest, but as the nation's representative before God.  He alone could make propitiation, and this he did by blood, sprinkling the blood once upon the mercy-seat, Jehovah's throne in the midst of a sinful and guilty people; also seven times before the mercy-seat or propitiatory (5. 14).  Propitiation is thus towards God, as substitution is towards believers.  The blood on the mercy-seat made propitiation.  Our sins borne by Christ is substitution.  Now propitiation, it will be observed, was effected by blood-sprinkling, that is, the presentation of the blood God-ward, not simply by blood-shedding.  Shed at the altar; sprinkled on and before the mercy-seat.  The latter was the work of the priest, the former generally that of the offerer beside the altar.  Christ as High Priest, and in the upper sanctuary, has made propitiation by His own blood (compare Lev. 16. 14-17, the type, with Heb. 9. 11, 12, the antitype).  This He alone could do in His character and office as a merciful and faithful High Priest (Heb. 2. 17, where "reconciliation" should read "propitiation").  But He has not only made it by His blood, but He is the propitiation, or blood-sprinkled mercy-seat. (1 John 2. 2; 4. 10; Rom. 3. 25).  It will be observed that propitiation is always for sins and uncleanness of every description and character (Lev. 16. 16).  "He is the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 2. 2), i.e., for those of believers only, and for, or on behalf of, the whole world.

Propitiation is the satisfying of God's claims in respect to His nature.  The blood of the Substitute could alone accomplish this, and Christ as High Priest was alone competent to do it, and only in the heavenly Sanctuary, i.e., the immediate presence of God.  He shed His blood as a Victim; by it He entered into the holiest as High Priest (Heb. 9. 12).  Carefully distinguish between the blood shed and sprinkled This latter effects propitiation.


SUBSTITUTION
"We died in the person of our Substitute" is an unscriptural expression.  The Word does not say "we died in Christ," else we must have shared in God's judgment on Christ on the Cross.  Because we are in Christ, in contrast to our being in Adam, we consequently share in the blessed consequences flowing from such a connection.  The condition of the Head of the race determines that of each member of it.  Hence it is equally true of us, as of Him, that we are:


  • Dead with Him to sin, to the law, &c. (Rom. 6. 7).
  • Quickened with Him (Eph. 2. 5).
  • Risen with Him. (Col. 3. 1).
  • Seated in Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2. 6).


We never get "in Him" till the Ascension is viewed.  It will be of great advantage to Bible students to present the truth in its order and exactness.  "Accepted in the sacrifice" is not the truth of Leviticus 1. There we read, "It (the sacrifice) shall be accepted for him" (verse 4); not we accepted in it, but just the reverse, "it for him.  " The phrase "accepted in the beloved," as in our ordinary version is a misleading thought.  Ephesians 1. 6, R.V., conveys a totally different line of idea from acceptance in Christ.

This term, "substitution," nowhere occurs in Scripture, but the truth of which the word is the expression is taught in both Testaments.  Dying for our sins (1 Cor. 15. 3) and bearing our sins (1 Peter. 2. 24) are exclusively believers' truths, and substitutionary in character.  Universal bearing of sins involves the unscriptural thought of universal salvation.  Both are utterly false.

Substitution is one instead of another, not one in another.  It is the actual bearing of the sins of all who believe - only of such (1 Peter 2. 24; Isa. 53. 6).  We may remark that we are neither directed to "look on the blood" nor to "lay our sins on Jesus." We could do neither.  Jehovah has done both.  "When I see the blood I will pass over you" (Exod. 12. 13), and "Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all". (Isa. 53. 6). Our souls rest on God's mighty delivering work, our confidence is in what He has done and said as to that.  Evangelists and teachers should be extremely careful and guarded in their statements on this vital truth.  Loose and careless remarks on this subject have wrought an incalculable amount of mischief to souls.  It is not said in the Scriptures that Christ bore the sins of the world.  He tasted death for all (Heb. 2. 9), but bore only the sins of His own.  This latter, we repeat, was substitutionary.  "The sin of the world" (John 1. 29) and "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many" (Heb. 9. 28) - i.e., of believers - are accurately distinguished in Scripture.  The confession of Israel's sins over the scapegoat and its dismissal never to re-appear finely illustrate the truth of substitution (Lev. 16. 21, 22).

Preach propitiation to sinners - the blood on the mercyseat, and God in righteousness and grace freely receiving all who will but come.  Teach substitution to believers - their sins confessed and borne by Christ, and never to be remembered.


PURCHASE AND REDEMPTION
Purchase implies a change of masters.  Redemption signifies a change of state or condition.  The two terms are constantly confounded in current theology.  The world - of things and persons - is bought or purchased (Matt. 13. 44); the field is the world (verse 38); (Heb. 2. 9; 2 Peter 2. 1).  Believers only are redeemed, and that by the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1. 18; Eph. 1. 7; Rev. 5. 9); their bodies await redemption by power at the coming of the Lord. (Rom. 8. 23; Phil. 3. 20, 21).  Scripture intimates the purchase of mankind, but never the redemption of the race.  The purchased things (not persons) of Heaven and earth await redemption (Eph. 1. 14).  The redemption of persons, of believers, is a present truth; the redemption of things is yet future.

To sum up.  All persons and things are purchased, and as such belong to Christ, but believers only now share and enjoy redemption by blood, as their bodies will by and by from the effects of sin by power, and at Christ's coming.  The wicked are purchased, but are never said to be redeemed by blood.  The heavens and the earth are purchased, but await redemption by power.  Israel was redeemed by power at the Red Sea (Exod. 14), and will yet share in Christ's redemption by blood in the blessed future awaiting them.


RECONCILIATION
Scripture nowhere intimates that the death of Christ reconciled God to sinners.  The mighty work of the Cross was not the procuring cause of God's great love, but the fruit rather of love already and eternally in the heart of God.  "A reconciled God in Christ" is a faulty expression.  He was never alienated from His sinful, guilty creatures, but they were and are from Him, and hence they need to be reconciled.  Persons and things have departed from God; the former willingly, the latter involuntarily (Rom. 8. 20); hence the need of reconciliation.  Reconciliation changes the attitude of things and persons to God, not God to them.  The ground of reconciliation is death (Col. 1. 22); but whose? The death of God's Son is the Divine answer (Rom. 5. 10).  Justification is by blood (verse 9).  Reconciliation of persons by death.  This is one of the niceties of Scripture thought and language, and which lie scattered as gold dust throughout the truly matchless volume of inspiration.  Believers are now reconciled (2 Cor. 5. 18).  The reconciliation of things is limited to Heaven and earth, and is future, and by the blood of the Cross (Col. 1. 20); that of persons is present, and in the body of His flesh through death (verse 22).  Christ's blood for things; Christ's death for persons.  The long-continued alienation of the celestial and terrestrial spheres from each other will cease (Hosea 2. 21, 22), and all estrangement from God in these regions - in these only - be for ever set aside.  For the reconciliation of things we wait the second return of our Lord in power; for that of persons we have reconciliation as a present fact, immediately dependent upon the death of God's Son; of course, only available for those who believe.  God is not reconciled to sinners, for He never was estranged from them.  Not He, but we, needed the reconciliation.


ADVOCACY
"If any man (i.e., Christian) sin we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.  And He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world" (1 John 2. 1, 2).

Our relationship to God as His children is a fixed and eternal one; it cannot cease.  No power of evil can nullify or break it. But the enjoyment of the relationship and our communion with God are interrupted by the allowance of the flesh in us.  The fact of the inward existence of the flesh, i.e., the carnal mind, does not of itself soil the conscience nor hinder in the slightest a holy and happy walk with God; but if we allow it to act, it does.  Hence God's gracious provision in the advocacy of Christ.  This most needful part of the blessed Lord's intercessory work and service of love on behalf of His own is founded on the, to us, precious fact that propitiation has been made once and for ever; yea, He is it abidingly in the presence of God.  He is also, and ever, in His own Person, "The Righteous One" What a firm basis! What strength for our faith! Propitiation and righteousness are the pillars on which the advocacy of Christ securely repose.  The intercession of Christ on the Cross was for sinners. (Luke 23. 34), whereas His
intercession at the right hand of God is for believers (Rom. 8. 34).  Now this latter, i.e., intercession, branches out into at least two main channels, namely, priesthood, as in the epistle to the Hebrews, and advocacy, as in John's first epistle; the former is to maintain the believer in spite of infirmity and temptation, to which priesthood directly refers; while the latter is to effect his restoration if he sins.

Priesthood is to sustain the saint, and is fully treated of by Paul.  Advocacy is to restore him, which is as fully treated by John.  Priesthood is with God; advocacy with the Father.  The former regards the Christian in his place and standing as a saint, the latter views him as a failed and erring child.  Sin, as treated of in the Hebrews, has a twofold character.  First, as atoned for, and then ultimately put away by Christ; second, when committed by a professing believer it takes the character of apostasy, for which there is no remedy (Heb. 6 and 10).  Hence the everyday failure of the believer is not treated of in the Hebrews, for sin there is in view of the final giving up of Christianity, which no true child of God can or ever will do.  For backsliding there is a remedy; for apostasy there is none.  John treats of the former, Paul of the latter.

It will be observed that the advocacy of Christ begins, not when a Christian confesses sin, but when he sins.  "If any man sin we have an Advocate." In answer to the gracious intercession of Christ the Holy Spirit uses the Word in dealing with the soiled conscience, recalling the backslider to the love he has sinned against, leading the erring one to true and thorough confession, and thus communion with God is restored and the soul is again happy.  We do not go to the Advocate, nor does He come to us when we sin, but He goes to the Father about us, and that is just the service we need at such a moment, and on such an occasion.  It is interesting to observe the word "Advocate" applied to Christ as the One who looks fully after our interests on high, and when we sin - a time when we might naturally think our interests were imperilled - is also applied to the Holy Ghost, who undertakes all for us as fully down here (John 14.16-26, &c.) "Comforter" is the same in the original as "Advocate.


HEADSHIPS OF CHRIST AND OF ADAM
Christ ascended is both Head of the body and Head of the race.  He entered the heavenly -sanctuary as High Priest, He ascended into Heaven as man.  We are united to Him - the body.  We are in Him - the race, Ere the truths of dead to sin (Rom. 6) and dead to the law (7) are entered upon, the respective headships of Adam and Christ are unfolded in chapter 5. 12-19.  "In Christ," as distinguished from "in Adam," is the key to the truths of chapters 6 and 7. It is because we are in Christ, and that by the Holy Ghost (8. 9), that we share in His condition, "dead with Christ," and consequently dead to all that He is dead to, as sin, law, and the world.  Those in Christ are a new creation (2 Cor. 5. 17; Eph. 2. 5-10; Gal. 3. 28, 29), in which no national, social, nor sex distinctions are recognised.  It is a new and spiritual race.  Distinctions in the Church there are; in Christ there are none.  We are not brought into a new creation, but as in Christ we are that.


IN THE FLESH AND THE FLESH IN US
"In the flesh" and "the flesh in us" are terms of very dissimilar import.  The former is a weak condition, expressive of the state of Old Testament saints, and of the experience detailed in chapter 7 of Romans. it is a condition not of sin, but of weakness, one in which the holy desires of the new nature cannot be carried out for want of power, the power being the Holy Ghost.  The rehearsal of a past experience , under law, but quickened or spiritually alive, by one in the full enjoyment of deliverance is the sad story told in Romans 7; the present state of one fully delivered, and in whom the Holy Ghost acts in power, is the lovely picture  unfolded in chapter 8. "Lazarus come forth" - there was life in the voice of Christ.  "He that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin." There you have life, but not liberty. "Loose him, and let him go." These three successive stages illustrate the spiritual history of many: (1) Life given (Rom 6). (2) Bound and powerless (7). (3) Liberty (8).

But the flesh in us is not a weak condition, but a sinful one.  The flesh in us is sin, and must not be allowed to reign (Rom. 6. 12).  Being in Christ we are dead to sin (Rom. 6. 2) now reckon it to be so (verse 11).  The believer is also regarded as dead to sins (I Peter 2.24). Dominion over the sin in us is our present victory.  Freed from the presence of sin in us is our future triumph (Rom. 8. 11).  Dead to sin and alive to God (Rom. 6); dead to sins and alive unto righteousness (I Peter 2); dead to the law in order to bring forth fruit unto God (Rom. 7).  These are weighty, solemn, and practical correspondencies.


CERTAIN SCRIPTURAL TERMS EXPLAINED
God's sovereign and eternal choice of persons (Eph. 1. 4) infallibly secures all embraced in God's election, and which believers now know. (I Thess. 1. 4).  They cannot perish, for they were chosen in Christ before sin entered or the course of human responsibility commenced, hence neither the state of the creature nor his doings can frustrate God's eternal purpose.  Believers are "vessels of mercy which He had afore prepared unto glory" (Rom. 9. 23).  Sovereign election, where all are guilty, is our only ground of hope.  Who dare arraign the purpose of God in choosing some? His right to do so is unquestionable.

Predestination refers to that special character of blessing to which we are set apart.  Thus predestinated to adoption (Eph. 1. 5); to have part in Christ's glorious inheritance (verse 11); and to be perfectly conformed to God's Son (Rom. 8.29, 30).  Election secures the person, predestination secures the blessing.  Predestination is applied to the special privileges of believers, not to those special to the Church as such; whereas purpose is used of the Church (Eph.  I.; 3. 11) and of believers as well. (Rom. 8. 28).

Purpose and counsel (Eph. 1. I 1).  The former refers to the blessed fact that God in Himself, in the exercise of His Divine and sovereign will, devised a system of government and glory to be displayed in coming ages, while the latter term intimates the way, the means, and method of carrying out that purpose.

Foreknowledge.  "For whom He did foreknow" (Rom. 8. 29).  God's absolute foreknowledge of persons, of things, of events small and great, is necessarily a Divine attribute.  With God all is one ever present.  The Eternal God is.  A past and future are relative ideas.  But what a strength and consolation to God's tried saints that they individually were known to God in eternal ages, their life-history, the most trivial circumstances concerning them, every detail of life and character lay open to Him.  All were and ever are before Him.  The text in Romans 8 refers to individuals.  We, and each personally, before Him in absolute knowledge of what and where we were, before Him in our sin and ruin, yet He chose us for blessing.  "For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son" in glory.


THE CELEBRATED PROPHECY OF THE SEVENTY WEEKS
(Daniel 9. 24-27)

To whom does the prophecy of the seventy weeks refer to Christians or Jews? To the latter undoubtedly.  " Thy people" and "Thy Holy City" (verse 24) signify the Jews as a nation and Jerusalem their city.  These both form the subjects of the prophecy, and to them all prophetic dates refer.

The seventieth week is future.  The second half of it is variously spoken of as times, days, months, and "the midst of the week." In the prophetic or central part of the Apocalypse the history of the closing three years and a half is unfolded.

Are the weeks periods of days or years? All competent Hebrew scholars hold that the term "week" simply denotes seven - of days, years, or other denomination of time must be gathered from the context, and from the surroundings of the passage where the word occurs.  The learned Tregelles says: "I retain the word 'week' for convenience sake, and not as implying seven days to be the import of the Hebrew word." That they are weeks, or sevens of years, is evident on the surface of the prophecy.  In chapter 10. 2 we have weeks of days; in our prophecy weeks of years.

But now an important inquiry is raised.  When and where did the 70 weeks or 490 years commence? We are informed by Gabriel that it was "from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem." Where do we find this Persian decree? The two historical books of the Restoration from the Babylon captivity of 70 literal years are Nehemiah and Ezra.  There are several decrees in the latter book, but they respect the tape whereas the one on hand refers to the city.  Now in Nehemiah 2 we have the commandment in full referred to in Daniel 9. 25.  This decree was promulgated in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the King.  It is the very commandment referred to in our prophet to "restore and to build Jerusalem." Thus, then, we have the exact commencement of the 70 weeks - 445 B.C. Nehemiah is the last historical book of the Old Testament, and this second chapter one of all importance as fixing the time when Jerusalem and Jews come definitely within the scope of carefully measured prophecy.

The 70 weeks are divided into four unequal parts:


* Seven weeks or 49 years during which Jerusalem is rebuilt.
* Sixty-two weeks or 434 years from the restoration of the city till Messiah the Prince (compare Zech. 9. 9 with Matt. 21. 5).
* One week or seven years in which the coming Prince of the Roman people will league himself with the apostate nation then returned to Palestine in unbelief (verse 27).
* "Midst of the week," or three years and a half, during which the godly Jews or remnant are given over to awful tribulation, because of their refusal to worship the beast.  This period is curtailed by seventeen days and a half (in all exactly 1260 days, Rev. 12. 6).  The remaining days, seventeen and a half. needed to complete the three years and a half, is in accord with the word of the Lord recorded in Matthew 24. 22: "Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved." During these seventeen and a half days the vials are poured out in rapid succession on the beast, i.e., the revived imperial power of Rome.  Instead, therefore, of the great tribulation lasting 1277 and a half days (three years and a half), it is shortened to 1260 days.  How exact is Scripture! How perfect is the Word of God!

The two first computations, i.e., 49 and 434 years added, makes 483 years, or 69 weeks from the commandment to restore Jerusalem (Neh. 2) till "Messiah the Prince" (Matt. 21. 1-10).  What is meant by this latter expression has been a difficulty to some.  The reference is undoubtedly to Christ; but is it to His birth or His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, or to His death? Observe the terms of the prophecy.  It concerns "thy city" - that is Jerusalem, the city of the great King; it cannot, therefore, apply to His birth in Bethlehem.  Neither does it speak of His death as a victim for sin, for that comes after the completion of the 69 weeks and before the opening of the 70th (verse 26).  We are convinced, therefore, that the sublime prophetic sight afforded us six days before the Lord suffered, when amid the acclaim of the multitude He was hailed as King on the way to the Holy City, and as Son of David in Jerusalem, is the reference to Messiah by our prophet.

We shall now transcribe in full verse 26.  "And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself (or, 'shall have nothing,' i.e., His throne, rights, &c.); and the people (the Romans) of the Prince that shall come (the prophetic coming ahead of the revived apostate power of Rome) shall destroy the city and the sanctuary (accomplished under Titus, A.D. 70); and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined."

Now, observe that the series of events foretold in this verse form no part of the seventy weeks.  They come in after the sixty-two weeks (and the seven previously named), and before the seventieth.  Between the close of the sixty-ninth week and the opening of the seventieth the whole history of Christianity has its place; Jerusalem is trodden down and the Jews scattered.  The desolation of Judea is complete.  It is a parenthesis of nigh 2000 years, one of grace to the Gentiles and of governmental wrath on the Jews.  Israel has been judicially set aside as God's witness on earth, and the Gentile professing Church - the olive tree of public testimony, of which Abraham was the root and Israel the natural branches (Rom.  I 1) - takes the place of Israel in testimony.  When the Church is fully gathered Christ comes down from Heaven and receives to Himself the whole body of believers from Abel onward, all His own are caught up in the clouds to meet Him in the air (I Thess. 4. 17).  Thus the lengthened break between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth week is doubly characterised: (1) By Jerusalem's desolation still going on, the subject of prophetic testimony. (2) By the calling out of the Church, also going on the subject of apostolic ministry.

When the long interval closes, which it does with the translation of the heavenly saints (I Thess. 4; 1 Cor. 15), then the Jew and the Jewish question are taken up governmentally by God, and the course of the seventy weeks is resumed at the point where they were broken off (verse 27).  The last week of seven years starts with the Roman Prince making a league or covenant with the restored (Isa. 18) Jewish nation, then apostate from God and truth.  The Jews, immediately on their return, proceed to rebuild the temple, and offer sacrifice, accepting the Antichrist as their king (Dan. 11. 36) over them, and "the prophet" in his false ministry amongst them.  "The false prophet" and the "king" are one and the same person (Deut. 18. 15).

The relation of this future seven years to the revived Roman Empire in its ten-kingdom form (Rev. 13 and 17) and to Christendom and Judaism is unfolded in the Apolcalypse.  It is, however, the second half of the week which is of absorbing interest to all prophetic students; the history of the first three and half years is nowhere given in the Scriptures.  The covenant is broken in the midst of the week (Dan. 9. 27), the beast out of the bottomless pit (Rev. 17. 8) forces idolatry upon the nation, sets up an image on the temple as an object of general or national worship, which God-fearing Jews refuse, then bursts forth suddenly the great tribulation, which in its effects extend to the limits of Christendom, but its horrors are felt and endured chiefly in Judea, in Jerusalem especially.



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