O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
This is a short study pinpointing the ending date of Daniel's 70-week prophecy and the God-sanctioned transfer of the gospel focus toward the Gentiles that followed this 490 years. This topic has been covered on other posts, but I would like to come at it from a relatively new angle that I haven't encountered elsewhere yet.
It involves a close look at Paul's words in I Timothy 1:15-16 from the Interlinear. "Faithful is the word, and of all acceptation worthy, that Christ Jesus came into the world sinners to save, of whom the first am I. (v.16) But for this reason I was shown mercy, that in me, the first, might shew forth Jesus Christ the whole longsuffering for a delineation of (or a pattern to) those being about to believe on Him to life eternal."
All my life, this quote of Paul's claiming to be the "chief of sinners" was taught with a twisted interpretation. Paul was depicted as beating his chest in self-condemnation here, claiming the title of The Worst Sinner Ever Born because of his zealous persecution of the early church. The only problem is that this isn't the lesson we are to get from these verses.
The Greek word used here is "protos", meaning the first, or foremost in time or place. The reason "protos" should not be understood to mean "the worst" sinner of all time is because Paul pairs this idea of being first along with his being a pattern or an example for the sinners who were potentially about to believe on Christ following Paul's conversion. He was the leader of the group about to arise who would mimic his experience. The "sinners" noted in I Tim. 1:15 are meant to indicate the Gentile class, which Paul also refers to in I Timothy 2:7. In this verse, Paul claims his ordination as the herald (going before), apostle, and teacher of these Gentile nations. "Sinners" was a label used at times as a synonym for the Gentiles. As Galatians 2:15 puts it, "...we who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles..."
Paul calls himself "the first" of these sinners who was saved. Was Paul a Gentile by race? Of course not. Or does this mean that there were no Gentiles saved before Paul came on the scene? Also, of course not. What God intended was for Paul to act as a highly visible example to lead off this New Covenant era following the 490 covenant with ethnic Israel - a pattern for Gentile redemptions from then on. Paul would provide a living picture of God taking individuals alienated from birth who had a history of vehemently opposing Him, and then converting them into His most faithful followers. Because Paul's persecution against the faith of Christ was so notorious to start with, his conversion became even more of an obvious, dramatic contrast. This is why Paul claims God's mercy had been given to him - in order to set him up as this pattern for those who were about to believe from among the Gentile nations by his ministry to them. This "about to" period is referring to the time following the close of the 490 year prophecy - after Israel's "fall" described by Paul in Romans 11:11. This fall, by the way, is not the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD under discussion. Paul speaks of this fall as already having occurred as he addresses the readers of Romans.
Some would argue that Paul equally devoted his time to both Jews and Gentiles throughout his ministry. For a time, yes, this was God's purpose for him. We have God's words to a fearful Ananias before he went to baptize Paul. "But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel." (Acts 9:15) Multi-focus ministry here to start with.
Almost immediately following, we see Paul in the synagogues of Damascus reasoning with the Jews. He stays in Arabia/Damascus for 3 years until so much animosity from the Jews builds against him, that they want to kill him. At this point, Paul finally travels to Jerusalem, (Acts 22:17-21), where he receives a vision in the temple. This is where Paul's commission from God changes and turns from the Jews in order to center it's focus on the Gentiles in 37 AD. "And He said unto me (Paul), Depart, for I will send thee far hence to the Gentiles." Single-focus ministry as of this point.
It's not that Paul never speaks of the gospel to his fellow Jews ever again. That's not the idea. What we see is God's agenda being set up. The last part of Daniel's covenantal 70th week offered to national Israelites passed away here with Paul's vision. On the calendar, it has been about 3 years since Paul's baptism. Incidentally, this is almost a duplicate of the way Christ's ministry was set up. First, Christ's baptism in 26-27 AD. Then, an approximate 3-year novitiate period before the start of His public, miraculous ministry in Cana around 30 AD. It's similar to the gap between an election and an inaugueration, at which time the intended purpose of the candidate's office begins to function. An anointing was not the equivalent of a coronation for the Old Testament kings. Neither is a baptism equal to the start of someone's ministry - even Christ's baptism. Paul's ultimate ministry purpose was to be the apostle to the "uncircumcision", just as Peter was to concentrate on those of the circumcision. (Galatians 2:7-9, Ephesians 3:8, and Romans 11:13)
(If I could make a comparison here, the regulations in I Timothy 3:6 for selecting a bishop include the stipulation that he not be a novice. It would seem that both Christ and Paul's approximate 3-year novitiate terms would serve as a precedent for this proving period before a pastor was qualified to serve.)
There have been debates aplenty where scholars have insisted that there is absolutely no way to mathematically line up all the prophetic time markers in Daniel's prophecy of the 70 weeks in one unbroken span. Whether you agree with him or not, Ussher's "Annals of the World" laid out a seamless solution for this a long time ago. What I have just presented concerning Paul as the "first" sinner dovetails perfectly with Ussher's research concerning this 70 weeks. It's 454 BC that is the starting date for the decree to rebuild and restore Jerusalem. (It's NOT 457 BC - check Ussher's records regarding the proof of 474 BC being the actual first year of Artaxerxes I reign. The twentieth year of his reign would then arrive at the 454 BC date for the decree mentioned in Daniel 9:25 that starts this 70 weeks. From there, everything lines up. The confusion arises from not including within this twenty years the nine-year period when Artaxerxes I served as viceroy along with his father Xerxes before his death. Their reigns overlapped by this much.) 454 BC is the date for the second rebuilding decree by Artaxerxes I in Nehemiah 2. The 70 weeks extends from this date up to Paul's vision in the temple in 37 AD for the culmination of the prophecy. Jesus is "cut off" in the middle of the last "week" at Passover, 33 AD. Christ gave the Jewish nation one last covenant "week" to repent and accept Him, from the time his ministry launched in 30 AD until 37 AD.
No gaps, no stretching, no problems.