The Ram and the Goat

And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.

While the First Temple, the one built by Solomon, lay in ruins, the prophet Daniel received several visions from God that described future scenes in the heavenly sanctuary. (Remember, the earthly sanctuary was a representation of the heavenly sanctuary.) And just as the daily sacrifice on earth was designed to point the Hebrews to the Messiah’s death for their sins, so their yearly Day of Atonement pointed forward to another of His works in His mission to redeem humanity: the final work of the High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary. In one of these extraordinary visions, Daniel saw a ram with uneven horns pushing west, north, and south and conquering every beast he met (Daniel 8:3, 4). The angel Gabriel later appeared and explained to the prophet, “The ram which you saw, having the two horns—they are the kings of Media and Persia” (Daniel 8:20).

Daniel then saw another powerful animal attack the ram, breaking its horns: “The male goat is the kingdom of Greece The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king. As for the broken horn and the four that stood up in its place, four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation” (Daniel 8:21, 22).

History affirms that Greece conquered Medo-Persia, so it is clear that the “large horn” on this goat represents Alexander the Great, “the first king” And just as the vision foretold, after his death, the empire was divided among his four generals, symbolized by the four horns. But then Daniel sees in vision another power that would arise after Greece, “a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land” (v 9). What world power arose after Greece?

The Next World Power

History reveals that the kingdom mentioned in Daniel chapters 2 and 7, the one that would follow Greece, is Rome. This is in harmony with the prophetic rule of “repeat and expand,” where the same prophecy is foretold more than once and each time more detail unfolds. Daniel 7:24–27 establishes that Rome in its papal form will be succeeded by the kingdom of Christ. The “little horn” of Daniel 8 fits this pattern exactly: It follows Greece and is finally supernaturally destroyed—“broken without human means” (Daniel 8:25)—at Jesus’ second coming. (Compare Daniel 8:25 with Daniel 2:34.)

Daniel 8 says that the Medo-Persians would become “great” (v 4), the Grecians “very great” (v 8), and the little horn “exceedingly great” (v 9). History is clear that no power following Greece and occupying Israel became “exceedingly great” other than Rome, which, as the prophecy also predicted, extended its power to the south (Egypt), the east (Macedonia), and “the Glorious Land” (Israel). Moreover, only Rome has attempted to stand against Jesus, “the Prince of the host” (v 11) and “the Prince of princes” (v 25). Pagan Rome crucified Him and also destroyed the Jewish temple.

Later, papal Rome effectively caused the heavenly sanctuary to be “cast down” (v 11) and “trampled underfoot” (v 13) by seeking to replace Jesus as our High Priest in heaven with an earthly priesthood that claims to forgive sins. Of course, no one but God can forgive sins (Luke 5:21), and Jesus is our only Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). Daniel 8 tells us that the little horn would also destroy many of God’s people (vv 10, 24, 25) and “cast truth down to the ground” (v 12). When asked how long God’s people and the sanctuary would be attacked, the angel replied: “For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed” (Daniel 8:14). Heaven’s reply was that the sanctuary in heaven—and God’s church on earth—would experience a cleansing after 2,300 prophetic days, which is 2,300 literal years. (In Bible prophecy, there is a day-for-a-year principle See Ezekiel 4:6 and Numbers 14:34.)

We learned that the cleansing of the earthly sanctuary took place on the Day of Atonement. On that day, God’s people were identified as belonging to Him and the record of their sins was removed. Those who clung to sin, however, were cut off from Israel. Thus, the camp was cleansed from sin. In Daniel 8:14, the Lord assured Daniel that sin and the “little horn” would not always prosper, control the world, and persecute God’s people. Instead, after 2,300 years, God will step in through the heavenly Day of Atonement (or judgment), when sin and unrepentant sinners will be identified and, later, removed from the universe.

Thus, the universe will be cleansed from sin forever. The wrongs against God’s people will at long last be righted, and the peace that once characterized Eden will once again fill the earth.

The 2,300-day Prophecy

When speaking about the 2,300-day prophecy, the angel Gabriel stressed, “Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end. … I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation … Therefore seal up the vision, for it refers to many days in the future” (Daniel 8:17, 19, 26, emphasis added). This special prophecy, as we shall see, applies to all of us who are living at the end of earth’s history. After Daniel’s vision of chapter 8, the angel Gabriel came to explain the vision to the prophet. However, when Gabriel reached the point of the 2,300 days, Daniel collapsed and became ill. He eventually regained his strength and resumed doing his normal work, but he remained concerned regarding the unexplained portion of the vision. Daniel prayed earnestly for his people, the Jews who were in captivity in Medo-Persia, pleading with God to forgive them.

Daniel 9 begins with this prophet’s beautiful appeal to God. While Daniel was in prayer, Gabriel returned and stated that he had come to explain the rest of the vision described in Daniel 8 (compare Daniel 8:26 with Daniel 9:23). The angel explained that 70 weeks from the 2,300 years would be “determined for” (9:24) Daniel’s people, the Jews, and their capital city of Jerusalem.

These seventy prophetic weeks equal 490 literal years (70 x 7 = 490). It meant that God’s people would soon return from their captivity in Medo-Persia, and that when
that happened, the Lord would allot 490 years from the 2,300 years to His people as another opportunity to repent, serve Him, and proclaim the first advent of the Messiah to the world. The starting point for the 2,300-year and 490-year prophecies is found in Daniel 9:25:

“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.”

This starting event was fulfilled by a decree from Persian King Artaxerxes authorizing God’s people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. The decree, found in Ezra 7, was issued in 457 bc—the seventh year of the king (v 7)—and was implemented in the autumn.

The Time Is Fulfilled

The angel said that 69 prophetic weeks or 483 literal years (69 x 7 = 483) added to 457 bc would reach to the time of the Messiah (Daniel 9:25). Simple math shows that moving ahead 483 years from the fall of 457 bc reaches the fall of ad 27. (Note: There is no year 0.)

In Hebrew, the word “Messiah” means “anointed” (John 1:41, margin). Exactly as predicted, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38) at His baptism (Luke 3:21, 22). Again, using the Jewish calendar, His anointing took place in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar (Luke 3:1), which was ad 27 Amazing! The prediction that this would occur was made more than 500 years before it happened!

At that time, Jesus began to preach that “the time is fulfilled,” confirming the time prophecy of Daniel, beginning His ministry by clearly referring to the 2,300-year prophecy and stressing its importance and accuracy. (See Mark 1:14, 15; Galatians 4:4 ) This is awesome and thrilling evidence that the Bible is inspired, that Jesus is the Messiah, and that all the other dates in the 2,300-year/490-year prophecy are valid!

With 483 years of the 490-year prophecy covered, there was still one prophetic week (seven literal years) left to unfold (Daniel 9:26, 27). The Bible teaches that Jesus was “cut off”—that is, crucified—“in the middle of the week,” which was three and a half years after His anointing in ad 27. This brings us to the spring of ad 31.

Please notice that the gospel is revealed in verse 26: “After the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself.” Indeed, when Jesus was cut off, it was not for Himself. He “who committed no sin” (1 Peter 2:22) was crucified for you (1 Corinthians 15:3; Isaiah 53:5). Jesus lovingly offered His life to save us from our sin. Hallelujah! Jesus’ atoning sacrifice is in the very heart of Daniel 8 and 9.

The 490-year period of final opportunity for the Jewish nation ended in the fall of ad 34, when Stephen, a martyr of the early church, was tried by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court. As Stephen preached the gospel to them, the leaders plugged their ears (Acts 7:57), signifying that the nation of Israel was officially rejecting the message of Christ. The Sanhedrin then ordered Stephen to be stoned, and he died praying, like Jesus, that God would forgive his executioners.

From that date, ad 34, onward, the Jews, having rejected Jesus, were no longer to be the standard-bearers of salvation. The disciples then began preaching the gospel to other people and nations of the world (Acts 13:46). God has chosen “spiritual Jews” to be the messengers of salvation in Jesus Christ, given to people of all nationalities who accept and serve Him. All who accept Christ have become His chosen people, “heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). Spiritual Jews, of course, include Jewish individuals who embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior (Romans 2:28, 29).

Years Remaining

After ad 34, how many years of the 2,300-year prophecy remain? What is the ending date for the prophecy? And what did the angel say would happen on that date (Daniel 8:14)? There were 1,810 years remaining (2,300 - 490 = 1,810). That means that the ending date for the prophecy is 1844 (ad 34 + 1810 years = ad 1844).

The angel said that at this time, the sanctuary would be cleansed—meaning that the heavenly judgment would begin. (Recall that the earthly sanctuary was destroyed in ad 70, replaced by a new earthly temple, the church.) We learned that the heavenly Day of Atonement was slated for the “end time”. We know that the beginning date for this event is 1844. God set this date It is as certain as the ad 27 date for Jesus’ anointing as the Messiah. God’s end-time people are commanded to announce it (Revelation 14:6, 7).

In the days of Noah, God said that the Flood would occur in 120 years (Genesis 6:3)—and it happened. In Daniel’s day, God stated that His end-time judgment would begin in 2,300 years (Daniel 8:14)—and it happened! God’s end-time judgment has been in session since 1844. It is a judgment that will soon reveal the truth about God’s character and the enemy’s deception to destroy humanity.

The Sanctuary in Your Life

When you consider the wickedness and injustice in the world today, it is easy to become bewildered by events that make it appear as though the Creator is disconnected from it all. Evil people seem to prosper while men and women of faith are persecuted. The innocent suffer; the guilty walk free Where is God in all of this? Does He even care? David, the shepherd-king of Israel, knew the feeling. When he observed unrestrained evil, he wrote, “When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me” (Psalm 73:16). Who could blame him?

But a divine perspective has been given that makes the answer clear: Our loving God has unfolded, through the sanctuary, His master plan to rescue humanity. Even now, the Lord is working for the salvation of all through the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Just like David, we may know this to be true, for David added, “It was too painful for me—until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end” (vv 16, 17, emphasis added).

Like a drone hovering above the scene of an accident and capturing images for the news, the message of the sanctuary provides us with a view from above that opens our understanding to the great war between good and evil, a war which is unfolding in our world today. Furthermore, the work of Christ as our High Priest in the heavenly temple—offering Himself as a sacrifice to purge our sin—gives us hope that judgment will soon bring an end to the evil on our planet.

God is calling His people to proclaim, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come” (Revelation 14:7). We are living now in the time of the heavenly Day of Atonement, a day in which all people should assess their lives and repent of their sins.

The opportunity to choose to be on God’s side will soon be over and Jesus will come. Christ says, “Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is” (Mark 13:33). The good news for God’s people is that this is not a time to be afraid! When we look to the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, we can understand why:

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14–16).