Saturday, March 29, 2014

Forgiveness and the seventy weeks

In today's reading from Lent for Everyone: Matthew Year A, N.T. Wright connects Jesus' teaching on forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35) with Daniel's prophetic vision of the seventy weeks.
In the book of Daniel (9.24) the prophet is told, after praying that Jerusalem will be forgiven, that it will take 'seventy weeks of years' - in other words, seventy times seven years - before transgression, sin and iniquity are finally dealt with. This takes us back even further, to the ancient law of the Jubilee (Leviticus 25), which lays down that every forty-nine years (seven times seven) all debts must be remitted, with land returning to its original owners. Daniel is speaking of a Great Jubilee, a cosmic version of the Jubilee law. There will come a time when God will deal, once and for all, with all debts of every kind.

And Jesus? Well, Jesus announced that the moment had come. He was the Great Jubilee in person. His entire mission was about implementing God's age-old plan to deal with the evil that had infected the whole world. Forgiveness wasn't an incidental feature of his kingdom-movement. It was the name of the game. Those of us who find ourselves drawn into that movement must learn how to play the game, all the time. It's what we're about. It's what God is about.
This connection should be easy to spot for anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Old Testament prophecy. Allusions to Daniel abound throughout the Gospels, culminating with Jesus' ascension in Acts 1, a direct fulfillment of the vision of "one like a son of man" coming "with the clouds of heaven" into the presence of "the Ancient of Days" to be given everlasting dominion (Daniel 7:13-14). A lot of unnecessary confusion has been caused, however, by two centuries of aberrant teaching from the dispensationalist school of biblical (mis)interpretation. The infamous "gap theory," that God interrupted the seventy weeks at the end of the sixty-ninth and won't pick up the final week until after the "rapture," is a quintessential example of the havoc wreaked whenever Christianity is divorced from its very Jewish roots.