Chapter 11:27-30 (ESV) - Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
Question to consider: How did God use the famine to unite the churches in Jerusalem and Antioch?
Once Peter started preaching to the Gentiles in Caesarea and Saul helped disciple the Gentile church of Antioch, I would argue that the promises given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel in Daniel 9:24-27 were complete. Daniel had been interceding for Israel, confessing their sins and asking for God’s mercy to let the temple be reestablished in Jerusalem. God heard Daniel’s prayer and sent Gabriel with the following promise, ““Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”
This promise would see the rebuilding of the temple and usher in the ultimate Jubilee era in which God would finish transgression, put an end to sin, atone for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness. All of these of course would be brought about by Christ. To seal up vision and prophet referred to Christ’s fulfillment of all the prophecies by Isaiah, Jeremiah and the like, and what gets translated “anoint a most holy place” can also be translated “anoint a most holy one” which I think is also a reference to Christ.
When would these things play out? Over 70 sabbath years. The 70 sabbath years are divided up into near-term and distant fulfillments. Just as a holy one would come in the final seven years so one would be anointed within a generation of when Jerusalem would get the decree to be rebuilt. This allowed the people of Israel to rest assured that the rest of the prophecy would come about, for after another 434 years, the people of Israel could expect their Messiah. This is why there were many false Messiahs at the time of Jesus. This is why Gabriel is the one who announced John the Baptist’s birth as a forerunner to Christ, and Jesus’ birth as the fulfillment of the promises he gave to Daniel. Also worth noting is that Daniel was chief of the Magi in Babylon, and the visit from the Magi in Matthew with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, show that they were anticipating the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy.
The final seven years is frequently disputed among different views of end-times prophecy. Some say there is a large gap between the first 69 sabbath years and the final one. Some take the first 3 ½ years of the final seven literally and say the last 3 ½ years is symbolic of the church age. I actually take the whole thing literally. Since I believe the 70 sevens are describing the breakdown of the initial promise to finish transgression, put an end to sacrifice, etc., I think the one who makes a “strong covenant” is Jesus when He ushered in the everlasting covenant. 3 ½ years into His ministry, Jesus put an end to sacrifice and offering on the cross. The final verse of abominations and desolation referred to Christ’s crucifixion which made the temple desolate. The “end shall come with a flood” which is decreed on the desolator by war is the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies.
This leaves 3 ½ years left to usher in all of the rest of the promises to the Jews. When we look at the texts of Peter and Saul running in parallel and incorporate the time reference from Galatians, it can work out that the first 3 ½ years after Christ’s resurrection was devoted to spreading the gospel to Jerusalem and the areas surrounding Judea, and once that time ended, the gospel went out to the Gentiles.
Today’s passage contained a prophetic word from Agabus about a forthcoming famine which would devastate the church in Jerusalem. In order to survive, they would have their needs supplied by the Gentiles in Antioch. Imagine how it must have crushed the pride of the Jerusalem church to accept this kind of help from Gentiles? And so God would use this to unite Jews and Gentiles in Christ.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for allowing difficult times in our lives to draw us closer to You and to strip us of our pride. May we humbly strive to love one another in the church as Christ did and gave Himself up for her and faithfully go out and tell others of Your marvelous grace. Amen.