By Archie England, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
Question: Who is the Messiah mentioned in Daniel 9:24-27?
Archie England responds: Daniel foresaw six actions (9:24) that would mark the future messianic event. These six actions are best understood as the first coming of Jesus Christ, since atonement, the closing of Scripture, etc., certainly took place at the first coming. Thus, what Daniel saw was the (theological) impact of the messianic event (cp. Luke 1:16-17; John 4:25). In the light of Israel’s exile, his statements are clearly hopeful: The Messiah will bring much needed change!
Second, nowhere in the Old Testament is the word Messiah (“anointed one”) ever used to denote Satan or Antichrist. This term is exclusively used to denote the consecration of a high priest or to specify the future promised Messiah. Daniel 9:24-27 employed the “messiah” terminology three times, each time providing less definitive identification: “Messiah the Prince”(9:25); “Messiah” and “prince” (apparently equivalent, 9:26); and “he” (9:27, twice).
In Dan 9:25 the princely Messiah will appear 483 years after a decree (issued by a Persian monarch, occurring both in 458 and 444 BC) to restore Jerusalem. Using the first date, that future moment points to AD 25. This directly corresponds to the life of Jesus, perhaps even to his 30th year of age (assuming he’s born about 6-4 BC before Herod’s death). If so, then Daniel specifies a certain time line for when the Messiah will come. Incredible?! It’s certainly the most literal way to read the text and, as such, points clearly to His first coming.
In Dan 9:26, the title “Messiah the prince” is separated into two distinct statements. The first designates Messiah and points to his death (“cut off; cp. Isa 53:8). The second statement designates the prince, only to focus upon what his people will do–destroy Jerusalem and the “sanctuary.” To introduce Satan or his antichrist here, as some do, muddles the text even further. It would be better to argue that Daniel foresees the Gospel (Christianity) replacing the Law (Judaism) as man’s access to God. Dan 9:25 makes part of this clear: the Messiah and the prince are the same person. Moreover, it’s not the prince who wars against Jerusalem but his followers (whom Daniel left unclear here).
The third reference (9:27) is the least definite: “he” is the subject. Though grammar points to “Messiah” as the antecedent (9:26), Daniel only identifies “him” further by three actions: 1) he makes a covenant with many for the final week; 2) he interrupts sacrifice halfway through that final week; and 3) he apparently suffers an outpouring (of wrath presumably) as the “one who desolates.” If “he” refers to the Messiah, this is could be Jesus on the cross suffering God’s wrath while yet shedding his blood for us. If not, most view this as an agent of Satan desecrating the Temple. Only in the hereafter will such things be known for sure!
Archie England Ph.D. is director of the Baptist College Partnership and Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, occupying the J. Wash Watts Chair of Old Testament and Hebrew at NOTBS.