The Eschatological Day of Atonement
Introduction: If you are scratching your head about the word "Eschatological," it means "last day events." The Day of Atonement, as we have studied, refers to the day each year when all the sins transferred from God's people to the sanctuary were then transferred to a goat. The goat then headed out into the desert for its retirement years. The Day of Atonement represented a permanent address change for the sins the people committed during the year. So, you ask, "What could be so important about a permanent address change for sins in the last days?" "Last days" calls to mind the final judgment. Do you want your sins forwarded on or do you want to be like that goat? When Daniel prayed about the sin problem of God's people, God gave him a special message about His grand plan to deal with sin. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more!
- Daniel's Concern
- Read Daniel 9:1-3. What is on Daniel's mind? (Bible prophecy revealed that the time had come for change. This change would allow Jerusalem to be rebuilt.)
- Read Daniel 9:4-6. How does Daniel start his prayer? (With praise! This is how every prayer should start. See Luke 11:1-2.)
- What is the main subject of the prayer? (Confession of sin. The people have a sin problem.)
- Read Daniel 9:11-14 and Daniel 9:17-19. Why do you think Daniel specifically mentions the sanctuary? (Consider this from Daniel's point of view. His people have sinned. God has executed judgment on them through captivity and the destruction of Jerusalem and the sanctuary. The sanctuary is the means for transferring sin and it is out of business. Daniel and the people are loaded with sin!)
- Let's consider the issue of judgment. What kind of judgment concerns Daniel? (Daniel's situation reflects our lives. Disobeying God's law brings its own practical judgment here and now. We often suffer because of our sins. But, the bigger issue is the judgment that comes from being unable to obtain forgiveness of sin. Being unable to transfer sin away from the people through the sanctuary system.)
- Now that we know what consumed Daniel's thoughts, let's turn next to the visions given to him.
- The Message
- Read Daniel 8:1-4. What would you think if you were taking your morning walk and you saw this? (I would be frightened, until I realized that it was a vision.)
- Since this is a vision, what message do you think God is giving Daniel? (Last week we learned that Daniel saw some frightening looking animals which represented empires that would arise in the future. This seems like that.)
- Read Daniel 8:15-20. What is the ram? (Daniel is told by a heavenly messenger that it is the empire of Medo-Persia. This parallels the message we studied last week!)
- Read Daniel 8:5-8 and Daniel 8:21-22. What does the goat represent? (The power of the Greek empire. As in the prior vision, Daniel is being shown the future.)
- Read Daniel 8:9-12. When we looked at the horns of Daniel 7, they represented authorities on earth. What kind of earthly authority can "reach the host of the heavens?" What kind of earthly authority can throw down some of the host of heaven?
- Read Revelation 12:7-9. What does this suggest is this horn? (Satan! Remember that this is symbolic. Whatever is the meaning of this horn, at a minimum it represents the work of Satan.)
- Look again at Daniel 8:11-12. Think back to Daniel's prayer. Why did God decide to give Daniel repeated "history" lessons about the future? (God is telling Daniel that God is in charge even during frightening events.)
- When Daniel heard the reference to the sanctuary, what do you think came immediately to his mind? (This is what Daniel had been praying about! God's temple, God's sanctuary on earth had been destroyed by the Babylonians. To contemplate this must have been depressing.)
- Read Daniel 8:13-14. What hope is given to Daniel? (The sanctuary, the system for dealing with sin, will be back in operation!)
- Read Daniel 8:23-25. This gives another picture of this horn. What does it mean that he will become strong, but not by his own power?
- What does it mean that he will be destroyed, but not by human power? (Both references tell us that this is spiritual warfare. This is war between Satan and God.)
- What relevance do you find in this? (Like Daniel, our world may seem to be spinning out of control. Perhaps we feel that we are suffering judgment from past sins. The message to Daniel from God is "I've got this handled.")
- Read Daniel 8:26-28. How did Daniel react to this message? Was he elated to learn that God was in control? (No. He was sick. He did not understand. Part of the problem might have been that the vision seems to say that God will not be working this out until the end of time.)
- The Victory
- Let's re-read Daniel 9:1-3 now that we have more information. The vision given to Daniel has started to be fulfilled. Babylon has fallen, and Medo-Persia has risen to power. What does Daniel want? (The same thing he has always wanted - that his nation and his sanctuary would be restored. He understands that the prophecy about the time of restoration is near at hand.)
- Read Daniel 9:20-23. What does this teach us about our prayers and our God? (He listens. He cares.)
- How close is heaven? (Gabriel left when the prayer began.)
- Why has Gabriel been sent? (To give Daniel "insight and understanding.")
- Understanding about what? (The series of visions. Recall that in Daniel 8:14-15 Daniel has been told that the sanctuary will be restored in 2,300 "evenings and mornings." This is at the center of Daniel's concern.)
- Read Daniel 9:24-25. What is the good news about Jerusalem and the sanctuary? (That it will be rebuilt!)
- What other good news do we find? (Sin will end! Wickedness will be atoned for! The most holy will be anointed. Everlasting righteousness will come!)
- Does this sound like the sanctuary and the Day of Atonement? (Yes. Recall that "most holy" refers to the part of the sanctuary entered on the Day of Atonement.)
- Read Daniel 9:26-27. This sounds terrible, right? Jesus (the Anointed One) is cut off! I'm not going into the numbers or the calculations, but most Christians who have studied this in detail find that when they work through the numbers this prophecy predicts the date of the incarnation of Jesus, His crucifixion and the second destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.)
- A smaller number of Christians continue the calculation and conclude that 1844 is the date for the beginning of the time that we have been studying: the final judgment, the ministry of Jesus in heaven on our behalf, the heavenly "Day of Atonement." Last week, we put the start of this time to be around 1806, and that accords with the more specific 1844 date. What level of importance do you attach to this series of dates? (Some attach great importance to these dates, especially the start date for Jesus' ministry on our behalf in the final judgment. I think these dates serve two purposes. First, they give us confidence that God is in charge and that we can trust Him. Second, they comfort us that the plan of salvation is not stalled, it is moving forward according to God's plan.)
- Friend, are you like Daniel, concerned about the course life has taken? Are you concerned about the sin in your life and the lives of those around you? God has a plan and we are living in the plan's final phase. God is bringing an end to sin. Jesus is ministering on our behalf to cover our sins with His blood. Will you decide today to rest confident in His work on your behalf - in spite of whatever troubling things are going on in your life?
- Next week: Our Prophetic Message.