On this morning, as Ulster awakens to a further chapter in the betrayal of the Protestant people, it is fitting that we turn our eyes heavenward and, through the lens of God’s Word, view what it is God has planned.
Unlike unfaithful man, God keeps His promises aye, to the very last letter!
“The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand,” Isaiah 14:24.
I trust this first part of a simple two-part study of the eschatology of the book of Esther will serve to settle our hearts and minds this morning.
THE BOOK OF ESTHER . . . . Part 1.
A picture book of the final deliverance of God’s Jewish remnant in the last days!
As I began reading the book of Esther in my daily Bible readings on January 24th, it come home to me with fresh power that the book is a narrative that is truly suggestive of the events the Jewish people will encounter at the close of this age just prior to the Lord’s return to deliver the Jewish remnant that will have escaped the Antichrist’s attempt to destroy them. The Lord will also return to slay the latter-day ‘Haman’, a very clear likeness in his murderous hatred of the ancient people of God to the coming Antichrist.
Let us first of all note that:
I. THERE IS NO MENTION OF THE NAME OF GOD IN THE BOOK OF ESTHER
It is the ONLY book in the Bible where this is the case! It occurred to me that a possible reason for this is the fact that it prophetically pictures for us the period in this world’s history when the knowledge of God will have all but disappeared. There is a time coming to this world and particularly to that region within the boundaries of the old Roman Empire for that will be Antichrist’s dominion, where he will lead people in rebellion against God.. Within this territory there will be a deepening darkness which will eventually see the name and knowledge of God ‘outlawed’ on the pain of death for any who violate this decree.
It says of the Antichrist that: “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” Revelation 13:5-8.
It will be a time like that which Daniel encountered, as recorded in Daniel chapter 6. It then was forbidden that prayer should be made to Jehovah. “All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree,” Daniel 6:7-9.
This chapter records events just some 20 years before the incidents in the book of Esther.
It will be one day as David prophetically perceived it. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD,” Psalm 14:1-4.
David here speaks of a time when mankind is “all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” This will be the circumstances that will mark Antichrist’s kingdom. Paul predicts the same universal state of affairs in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Please note his use of the general term, ‘men’! It is not just some or many but what he says will be true universally.
In the day of Esther, it is clear that none cared about the fate awaiting the Jews under Ahasuerus and his cruel decree. Rather, the ‘enemies of the Jews’ (Esther 9:1) stood ready to carry out the slaughter sought by Haman. Surely it pictures for us the dark times ahead for the Jew and also for the true follower of the Lord Jesus.
It should be noted that this decree affected almost all the territories that the future Antichrist will rule over.
The days of Esther were surely a time when very few had any knowledge of the true God. We are fast moving toward such a darkness today, as is evident when we consider the apostate state of professing ‘Christendom’!
II. THE POSITION OCCUPIED BY ESTHER FORESHADOWS A TIME WHEN JEWS WILL ENTER INTO A ‘MARRIAGE’ RELATIONSHIP WITH ANTICHRIST.
“And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” Daniel 9:27.
This is a reference to Antichrist and the ‘league’ that he will make with the Jewish people in Israel in the last days. The word ‘week’ is a Hebrew word which literally means a ‘period of seven’. We know it used of our 7-day cycle which begins with the Lord’s Day. But it can also refer to a period of seven years. The Jewish people were required to observe a 7-year cycle of Sabbatical years. They were therefore acquainted with the use of the word ‘week’ as referring to a period of seven years.
Proof of this fact may be seen in Genesis 29, where we have Laban deceiving Jacob by giving him Leah instead of Rachel, his younger daughter, after he had “served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her,” Genesis 29:20. In response to Jacob’s upbraiding of him for his deceit, Laban replied: “It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week: and he gave him Rachel his daughter to wife also,” Genesis 29:26-28.
Twice in these verses we have a seven-year period referred to as a ‘week’. That helps us understand the period of time referred to in Daniel 9:21-27.
Let us remember that Daniel was praying at the beginning of this chapter 9 about the release of the Jews from their Babylonian captivity. “In the first year of his reign (Darius the son of Ahasuerus the Median) I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem,” Daniel 9:2. He is thus thinking in terms of ‘years’ and I believe that it is in such terms heaven responds to his prayer.
“Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined,” Daniel 9:21-26.
Daniel is here told that from the issuing of the commandment to “restore and to build Jerusalem” until the first coming of the Messiah and His cutting off will be “seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks” or 69 periods of seven years. Accepted research into the complex issue of the chronology of the Old Testament would give us a date of 454 or 455 BC for the ‘decree’ to build again Jerusalem given to Nehemiah by Artaxerxes the king (Nehemiah 1:1, 2:1). Add to that date 69 X 7 years and you arrive at the date of the crucifixion of the Saviour. This confirms that the 69 weeks are 69 periods of 7 years!
But what of the final ‘week’ of years which are given as the period that God has determined will cover the final period of His dealings with His ancient people. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy.” Sixty nine of those weeks ended at the crucifixion and it was then that the Lord broke off His dealings with Israel. But we know from Romans 11 that God has not cast away His people forever! Jeremiah 29:11-14 reads: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” The full and final accomplishment of that prophecy lies in the future for it was only partially fulfilled by the restoration at the end of the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity. Returning to Romans chapter 11, Paul speaks to Gentiles and shows how that through the ‘fall’ of Israel, we have obtained mercy but that the same mercy will restore fallen Israel.
“And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.,” Romans 11:23-36.
The ’seventieth week’ is that period covered by the time in which Antichrist will feature in the lives of the Jews in Israel. I have already quoted Daniel 9:27 but let me do so again. “And he (the Antichrist) shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” Daniel 9:27.
Antichrist will form an alliance with Israel, which they will happily enter in their state of spiritual blindness. I do think we see something of that reflected in the union between Ahasuerus and Esther. It is clear from Esther chapter 4 that she knew nothing of the cruel intent of the king toward ‘her people’.
“When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry; And came even before the king’s gate: for none might enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth. And in every province, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. So Esther’s maids and her chamberlains came and told it her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him: but he received it not. Then called Esther for Hatach, one of the king’s chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was. So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king’s gate. And Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him, and of the sum of the money that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them. Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people,” Esther 4:1-8.
What an awakening that was for Esther. Likewise, there will be an awakening amongst the Jews in the latter days to the full horror of the consequences of their alliance with ‘the prince’. They will, as the Saviour had prophesied they would, receive one who came to them in his own name. “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive,” John 5:43.
The Antichrist will throw off his ‘disguise’ and reveal himself as the ‘Haman’ he truly is, ‘the enemy of the Jews’, Esther 9:10. This action, in the middle of his seven year reign, (Daniel 9:27) will initiate the three and half years of the ‘great tribulation’. Let us remember the Saviour’s words. “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be,” Matthew 24:15-21.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
30th January 2024