The Seventy Weeks Prophecy
Confession of sin
Are you saved?
When the Catholic Church was born in 1054 (no, it wasn't the church that was born in Pentecost, and no, Peter was not the "first Pope") the middle ages' religious mindset for Western Europe, as we know it, was also born. This little question you see above about salvation was "the" question for people in all Christianity. Because that church was considered the one with power to save or condemn (as yet, confession is made before their priests) even kings were terrified by the possibility of being excommunicated, it means excluded from the church, because they would "lose their salvation".
The end of Catholic supremacy, and of the Middle Ages, the coming of the Reformation and the birth of secular governments (democracies) would greatly change this mindset, mostly for good. But a point is being missing in our modern society, and it is precisely all talk about sin and salvation, condemnation and eternal life, heaven and hell. For many people today, the first reaction to our question would be, "what do you mean 'saved'?" "Saved from what?" Let's see what God means with that.
Jesus is called Savior because He came to save. His constant activity to reach out to those who were considered "the" sinners and outcasts was criticised by deeply religious people who called Him "friend of sinners". One of the most touching stories about salvation was His answer to such accusations. We know it as "The Prodigal Son", and it is found in the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 15.
The prodigal son was the younger of two, both children to a man who seems to be a landowner. This younger son was probably bored by his daily life, and asked his father for his inheritance to be, in order to leave his father's house and take his life in his hands. Because he was neither the best of administrators or a hard working fellow, and because he had a preference for prostitutes and a wild living, he became poor and had to sell himself as a servant, taking care of pigs. He felt as a miserable in his task. One day, he came to his senses, probably thinking about the outcome of his acts, and realised that even his father's servants were in better situation than him. Then he repented, and decided to go back to his father in order to ask him for forgiveness and live as his son again. That was his father's dream scenario; he hadn't heard yet the words of repentance and he was already running to hug his son and receive him. The older son critizised his father with the same attitude than the religious people who attacked Jesus, but the father's answer was "...we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found".
Jesus' portrait of God as our Father is never understood by religious people who want to work their salvation. They can't see a loving God trying to reach out to them and save them. But the Father's love and desire for our salvation is not the only teaching of this story. The whole meaning of salvation is to find the lost one, and to give life to the spiritually dead one, as we hear in the words of the father. That's what our father God wants to do with us all. This salvation is in first place the reason of giving us the Bible and sending Jesus to us. The Lord didn't come to us to teach religion, but to save us from eternal death. Let's take a look to the main words related to salvation.
To be saved from death (eternal) and receive life (eternal)
Jesus means "Savior", It comes fr. Greek "Iesoús", which comes in turn fr. Hebrew "Yehoshúa", which means "the Lord is salvation", the Hebrew name of Joshua, Moses successor. "Yésha" (salvation, deliverance, rescue, welfare) is often found in the phrase "God my Savior" or "God of my salvation" in the OT's Hebrew, meaning that Yaweh is Israel's Savior. It refers often to physical salvation from physical enemies, but also to the salvation of the soul as well, in the same way we Christians see it.
Salvation, the work of God in us to rescue us from eternal death in hell - because of our sins - and to give us eternal life with Him in paradise - because of His mercy - includes redemption, regeneration, justification and sanctification. The door to this blessed state is to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior: "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord', and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved". Salvation is called "sotería" in the NT Greek, which means pretty much the same things Hebrew "yésha" did in the OT.
Salvation in the OT was not related to the Messiah, who had not come yet; it was dependent on a way of life in accordance to God's laws. Even now, after Jesus' manifestation, most of the Jews continue living in the old pact God made with them through Moses, which is valid for them until the Messiah arrives.
To be delivered from slavery.
In the book of Ruth we find a case of redemption - of property and family - which is typical for the redemption procedure, and applied for Hebrew slaves also. We can learn there that the redeemer had to be a near relative (Ruth 4:2-4) He also should have the will to redeem (Ruth 4:4) and the means to do it (Ruth 4:6)
That's why Jesus, being God, became flesh: He became "our relative", a man and brother to us. He answered "Here am I. Send me!" to God's call, because He wanted to save us, and He had the means of redemption, His precious blood which was like that of "a lamb without blemish or defect". It is Jesus' blood which pays for our freedom.
Our redemption is necessary because we are living in sin before our conversion, and sin is slavery. John 8:31-32, 34 shows this point in a discussion between Jesus and the Jews believing in Him: "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free". "Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin". Jesus is the Redeemer who sets us free from the slavery of sin.
Redemption is called "apolutrósis" in the NT Greek, and it is found in Romans 3:23-24, "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (redemption as cause of justification) It is the basis for the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7, "...we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins..." and Colossians 1:14, "...in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins") Last but not least, redemption is the basis for our resurrection; our bodies have been redeemed as well as our souls. In Romans 8:23 we read, "...who have the firstfruits of the Spirit... the redemption of our bodies", and in Ephesians 1:14, the Spirit of God is called "...a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession", being the "day of redemption" the day of our resurrection, the transformation of mortal bodies to immortal ones (Ephesians 4:30)
In the OT this figure of God as a redeemer can be found also in Job 19:25, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth". Redeemer is "goél" in Hebrew, a favorite description of God frequently found in Isaiah. God is especially Israel's Redeemer, the one Who delivered them from slavery in Egypt and Who would deliver them from Babylonia, Assyria and other invaders.
To be "born again", "rebirth".
In Titus 3:5 we read, "He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit"
(This "washing" has been understood improperly as the baptism in water, but it has nothing to do with that, rather with the ministration of the Word of God as we read in Ephesians 5:25-26, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word" and John 15:3, "You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you")
In John 3:5-7 Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’". Again, this "water" is the Word of God, as we read in John 7:38, "Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them" and John 4:13-14, "Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life"
Even when this "rebirth" concept is not found in the OT in the same way, the concept of being cleansed by the Word of God is. We can see it in Psalm 119:9, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word", where "keep his way pure" is literally "cleanse his path" (God's laws are the means to live a 'clean' life, and sin is impurity, dirt, the consequence of transgression of those laws)
To be declared "just", "righteous"
Romans 5:18 says, "Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people". It means that all of us inherit a sinful condition because of Adam, who is our human father and who sinned, and this sinful condition is taken away - we are declared righteous - through Jesus' righteousness. Justification is called "dikáiosis" in the NT Greek, and it means the absolution of someone who was accused, his acquittal - as in a trial, the declaration of "not guilty". Justification is a result of the redemption (by being acquired as God's servants, we are declared righteous, in opposition as Satan's servants who are the sinners)
Justification is the reason that the Jewish people received through Moses a whole system of blood sacrifices. Anyone who had sinned had to bring a sacrifice before the Lord in order to be pardoned and to be made righteous again, "justified". Following the laws of God is your way to live in righteousness in Judaism, and when you failed to do that, and you were guilty of sin, then you had to present a sacrifice for your transgression.
To be "consecrated" to God
As justification was a result of the redemption, santification is also a such outcome. We were serving Satan, and now we shall serve God. In Romans 6:22 we read, "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become servants of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life". Holiness is the benefit of "changing master", and holiness leads to eternal life.
There are two aspects of holiness, an immediate one and a gradual one. You are immediatly declared "holy" and "consecrated to God" in the very moment you're saved, because Jesus' holiness is imputed to you. In Hebrews 10:10 we read "And by that [God's] will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all", and in Hebrews 13:12 "...Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood". The blood of the sacrificed animals in the OT was the means to make you holy again after you had sinned, and the blood of Jesus is the means that makes you holy, once for all. That's immediate, and that's why Paul wrote "to God's holy people" in Ephesus (Corinth, Colossae, etc.) calling them for "holy" ones without considering if they were new converts or if they had been Christian for many years.
Nevertheless, this imputed holiness is to be seen in your life and transform your life. In Colossians 3:12 we read "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience", meaning, "because you've been made holy, live as God's holy ones use to live, seek those virtues holy people possess". That's why we are called to follow Jesus' example as the holy person par excellence. In 1 John 2:6 we read, "Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did", and in Romans 8:29, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters".
A great part of God's law for Israel was destined to imprint in them the notion of "holy people", consecrated to God in the midst of a pagan world. From the first commandment, "you shall have no other gods besides me", most of His law had the purpose of keeping the Jewish people free from idolatry and rebellion. Because, as Deuteronomy 7:6 puts it, "...you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession". It is in this context that Daniel came before God, the God of Israel, to confess their sin and ask for forgiveness.
Salvation in Jesus' story
Back with the prodigal son and his father, we can see how he saved him from his error, redeemed him from his servitude, justified him as his son, made a regeneration possible for him and declared him "holy" to the complaining brother. There are only two conditions to come to God and ask Him for salvation: that you recognise your sin and that you confess it before Him. That's exactly what Daniel did in the verses we are presenting today. However, the prophet doesn't pray about him only, but about all of Israel. Let's read about Daniel's confession in Daniel 9:
"We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land"
The Original Hebrew sounds like this:
"Khatánu veavínu, vehirshánu vemarádnu, vesór mimitzvotékha u vemishpatékha. Velo shamánu el-abdékha hanebiím, ashér diberú beshimrá et-melakhénu, sarénu veaboténu, veel kol am haáretz"
"Our ancestors" is the rendering of "aboténu", "our fathers", and a very good one, because father is poetically used for all of our ancestors (grandfather, great grandfather and so on) For the rest, the rendering is a literal one.
These two verses are not the only ones about confession. In a prayer that has 16 verses in this chapter, 8 of those verses are consecrated to confession. We can read the same idea in 5-6, 8-11 and 14-15. Half of Daniel's prayer is confession!
Daniel's prayer comes to life 66 years after the beginning of the Babylonian captivity, and is the prophet's answer to a prophecy he read in the book of Jeremiah, predicting 70 years of captivity. That very same year, king Cyrus should proclame freedom for the Jews who wanted to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of God (as we read in Ezra 1) Did God spoke through Jeremiah in round numbers, or was He moved to reduce the sentence by Daniel's prayer? God's answer to this prayer of Daniel goes forward to a time of restoration of Israel that has not come yet, even today. But certainly He began the restoration of Israel from the Babylonian captivity in the year Daniel prayed to Him. So powerful is the righteous' prayer, with the honest confession of sins!
Why "honest confession"?
The people of Israel got God's law to live by it, but they failed in doing that. Daniel confessed that they had "turned away from God's commands and laws". To that rebellious people, God sent prophets who spoke to all Israel, from the kings to the last one, in order to get them to repent and obey God again. But they didn't pay attention to the message of those prophets either, as Daniel says, "we have not listened to your servants the prophets". By acknowledging that Israel's captivity was the result of their sin, Daniel was recognising God's authority and power to bless and to punish. That's something our world has forgotten or even denied. Many people think that if they don't believe in God, then they don't have to live as God says. That's a huge mistake.
Do you know if your thoughts, words or acts are abominable to God?
Are you living in wrong ways and not repented?
Do you believe with Daniel that God has the authority to say to you what is wrong and right, and to tell you, "do the right thing"?
Are you living in the love of God, or loving this world?
Where is your relationship with the Lord?
I can't tell you what your sins are, but you know it - and God as well, of course. The good news I most certainly can tell you is that there is a father waiting for you, if you've decided to repent and return to Him, and He is willing to forgive and forget your sins, and to begin again from zero. In these Christmas days when we remember the birth of a child born to die on a cross for our sins, it is important to consider how are we regarding Him.
This world will pass away. But not your soul. We will all probably die some day, and our bodies will decay, but our souls will remain until the resurrection day, when it will be given a body again, to be eternally blessed in heaven or eternally punished in hell. The decision about where to spend eternity is ours. God has made the whole provision, but He wants us to come before Him and confess our sins, so that He can save us. Those who think they've never sinned don't believe they need a Savior.
Come to Jesus and be saved!
In the love of Christ, your brother