I am about to send my messenger, who will clear the way before me. Indeed, the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple, and the messenger of the covenant, whom you long for, is certainly coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
In this section we read of two distinct people:
The messenger - John the Baptist, who will clear the way for Jesus.
The messenger of the covenant - Jesus Christ.
The Reformation Study Bible notes,
It was the practice in the Near East to send messengers in advance of a visiting king to announce his coming and to remove all hindrances or obstacles. This messenger (Matt. 11:10) will be the last of his kind to appear before the coming of the Lord, who is “the messenger of the covenant.”
The Book of Malachi was written between 440 and 400 B.C. From this text we can then conclude that the coming of the Messiah will not be long after this date. To establish the exact date, we need to delve a bit deeper to other prophecies.
I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not close at hand. A star will march forth out of Jacob, and a sceptre will rise out of Israel. He will crush the skulls of Moab, and the heads of all the sons of Sheth.
The Reformation Study Bible notes,
In his fourth oracle, Balaam predicts the future advent of a royal conqueror who would triumph over Moab and Edom. An initial fulfillment of these predictions is found in 2 Sam. 8:2–14, which describes David’s victory over the Moabites and Edomites. But his accomplishments prefigure the greater conquests of Christ (e.g., Col. 2:15; 1 Cor. 15:25, 26; Rev. 20:10, 14).
Yet the timing of this is still unclear.
The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; the nations will obey him.
King David was the first descendant of Judah to attain the sceptre of leadership among the tribes of Israel, and the divine promises were clear that the Messiah would be in David's lineage. Both Jesus' parents were from the lineage of David. Both of these genealogical records which document Joseph and Mary's lineage were in tact when the New Testament was written so no one could dispute them.
Interestingly, in 70 AD the records were destroyed and the Temple with them. This means that no later claimant to the title could ever prove his right to the throne (of David). Jesus has come, the sceptre has departed Judah and is retained by Jesus.
We know therefore that the Messiah must have already come.
Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.
Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.
He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.
From the above passage we can know a few things that will happen with regards to the Messiah, however our specific focus at the moment is the time of His coming.
The prophet Daniel was a Jewish exile who lived during the time of the Babylonian Captivity, about 500 years before the birth of Jesus. During Daniel's lifetime, the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple and had taken many Jews as captives to Babylon. Daniel, while in Babylon, delivered a prophecy of what would happen during the centuries that followed.
We see that from the time the temple is rebuilt until the coming of the Anointed One, there will be seven 'sevens' and sixty-two 'sevens', this makes sixty-nine 'sevens'. After sixty-two sevens the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. Then the templed will be destroyed (as we have already seen happened).
It is clear that the seventy 'sevens' will start at the decree to rebuild the temple. There were four such decrees after the time of Daniel:
The decree of Darius Hystaspes in 521 which reaffirmed Cyrus’ decree (Ezra 6:6-12);
The decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra in 458 B.C. (Ezra 7:11-26);
The decree of Artaxerxes in 444 B.C. to Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:1-8).
There is much debate over which one was is in view when we look at Daniel's prophecy, but one thing is certain, after 444 BC, the countdown of the seventy 'sevens' has begun.
Take note that when we talk about 'sevens' we are talking about groups of seven years. Biblical chronologist Harold Hoehner wisely concludes, “The term shabuim in Daniel 9 translated as 'sevens' most reasonably refers to a unit of seven years.
So seventy 'sevens' means seventy times seven years which totals 490 years.
Now as we read in the prophecy, Fruchtenbaum (CARM.org) comments, “As clearly as Daniel could have stated it, he taught that 483 years (sixty-nine sevens) after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem had been issued, Messiah would be here on earth, and he would die a violent death.
Adding the numbers and using the decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah in 444 BC we see that the prophecy indicates the death of the Messiah in and around the year 46 AD. Using the decree to Ezra in 458 BC the prophecy indicates the death of the Messiah at around 32 AD.
We know that Jesus was crucified around 30 AD. That's pinpoint accuracy.