KEY: After the 62 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be put to death, but not for himself. (Daniel 9:26, literal translation in the NIV note)
Are we ready to help bring deep Joy to the World because our graceful Messiah has come, ministered, died for us, and rose from the dead? Before the Messiah ("Christ," the "Anointed One") was born, what did the ancient people know about him and his upcoming ministry? What background knowledge may have been available to the Magi and other highly literate people from their sources in Persia, India, China, or other great cultures in the East?
One of the most remarkable prophecy of Messiah was entrusted to Daniel after his intensely deep prayer to God for forgiveness for his people Israel and himself (Daniel 9:1-19). Immediately, on a special mission to Daniel, the angel Gabriel revealed core aspects of Messiah's work and ministry - as well as an amazing formula for calculating the time of Messiah's upcoming appearing.
Significantly, in this text Daniel notes that Gabriel arrived at "about the time of the evening sacrifice" (9:21). Of course, with the Temple destroyed many years before, there was no evening sacrifice - and Daniel still grieves over that horrific loss and continuing spiritual vacuum. However, the timely reference to the broken sacrifice system is also awesome background information preparing us for Gabriel's revelation. Gabriel announced the astounding truth that the divine Messiah would also be the ultimate Sacrifice, "put to death, but not for himself" (9:26). About one hundred years earlier, Isaiah had alluded to the same stunning fact in Isaiah 52 and 53.
In Gabriel's prophecy, the coming Messiah - the "Anointed One," the "Christ" - was going to (1) finish transgression off, (2) make an end to sins, and (3) make atonement for "iniquity," the inward sin condition - and do even more (9:24)! God's grace is so awesome!
Daniel's own hope was that the Messiah would come to complete these needed ministries very soon. He was now well into his 80s, having experienced personally the gruesome Babylonian destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, having been a captured slave brought to Babylon, and now having lived through nearly all of the prophesied 70 years of the Israelites' Babylonian captivity (9:2 and Jeremiah 29:10).
However, when Gabriel gave him the prophecy, he indicated that Messiah (sometimes translated "Anointed One" or "Christ") would do his main work after seven "sevens" (49 years) and then sixty-two "sevens" (434 years) - for a total of 62 "sevens" (483 years) after the work of restoring Jerusalem would begin. This would be a long time after Daniel. He would not live to see Messiah on earth.
That work of restoration of Jerusalem that would start Gabriel's count-down to Messiah's ministry was authorized by Cyrus in around 538-536 BC, at about the time of Gabriel's prophecy. However, it did not begin under Cyrus. That Jerusalem-restoration work began 80 years later in the reconstruction of the Temple under the Biblical Ezra in 458 BC, authorized and supported by emperor Artaxerxes. More reconstruction for the rest of Jerusalem was led by Biblical Nehemiah beginning in 444 BC, also authorized and supported by emperor Artaxerxes. These dates would place the Messiah's ministry to begin 483 years after 458 BC, according to Gabriel's prophecy - which would be AD 25.
In AD 25, Jesus was about 30 years old (since Jesus was likely born in 5 BC). This was the very time of the beginning of Jesus ministry (Luke 3:23). Amazing prophecy and wonderful fulfillment!
Even more amazingly, Gabriel revealed to Daniel - and to us - the deep and stunning mystery of the Christ's ministry - that "the Anointed One will be put to death, but not for himself" (Daniel 9:26 NIV's literal translation in a footnote). God's promised "Anointed One," the Messiah, would not rule as a new emperor, but as one who would die for others. This is a shocking, life-changing prophetic revelation that is so essential to the Gospel.
Perhaps the very literate Magi later understood that the Messiah would need to be around 30 year old to accomplish such a ministry - and so they were ready and eager to travel a great distance "from the East" when they saw the special Bethlehem Star in about 5 BC. After all, Daniel wrote down this prophecy in his book while he was in Persia (present day Iran). Daniel's book was important enough to be widely read among very literate peoples in Persia, India, and perhaps China and elsewhere in the East - both (1) because of Daniel's deserved reputation as an intensely wise sage, and (2) because he had served three successive powerful emperors as a very wise, competent, and trusted advisor and government leader. Besides, as an official advisor to emperors, Daniel himself was one of the "Magi" of his time, a wiseman, a wiseperson - in a role similar to the later Magi at the time of Jesus' birth. The Magi were not kings, but kings' advisors, kings' wisepersons.
By God's grace, the Joy of Christmas freely made available to everyone is so very deep. Still, the deeper truths of God's long-standing plans - revealed to Daniel, one of the Lord's most impactful servants, and through him to us - can help make our profound Christmas joy even more joyous. Joy to the World is now our ministry.