Reprinted from eParousia #7, August, 2003
This month we will continue our study of Daniel 9 and the prophecy of the 70 “weeks.” We saw that the Hebrew term translated “week” in the New American Standard Version means a unit of 7. Contextually we determined that the 70 week prophecy represents 490 years (70 “weeks” of years). The decree from Artaxerxes to Nehemiah in 444 BC started the countdown, and 69 “weeks” or 483 years were completed at the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, after which He was crucified.
Let’s look again at the text of Daniel 9:24-27 as we continue our study:
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.
So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.
Only 69 weeks of years had transpired up to the crucifixion of the Messiah, Jesus. From the time the “commandment was given” to restore and rebuild Jerusalem unto “Messiah the Prince” was 483 years. However, the number of years determined on Daniel’s people was 490 years (70×7). Did the final seven years, or the final “week,” immediately follow the death of Messiah?
Some scholars see the final 7 years immediately following the first coming of Christ, terminating the 490 years around AD 35. Others see the completion of the 490 years as yet future, terminating with the Second Coming of Christ. Which is the best interpretation of this text? We can answer that question by looking at the text and the context.
Following the Hebrew word order, a more accurate and literal translation of verse 26 would read:
After the sixty-two sevens, the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the city and the sanctuary will be destroyed by the people of a prince who is to come, and his end shall come with a flood; the war shall continue to the end; destruction is decreed.
Notice that it is the prince who is to come who is the subject of the last clause, and it is his end that will come with a flood, not the end of the city. Therefore, clearly it is this same prince who is to come who is the object of verse 27, not the Messiah as some would want us to believe. The “one who makes desolate” of verse 27 is a future leader who will confirm a covenant (treaty) with many people for 7 years. After 3-1/2 years, in the middle of the “week,” he will put a stop to the temple sacrifices and set up what Jesus called the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15).
The first thing we need to notice is that Gabriel’s revelation in Daniel 9:24-27 is in direct response to Daniel’s request. Daniel’s plea was for God’s face to shine once again on the desolate sanctuary (9:17). In his own words his prayer was “on behalf of the holy mountain of God,” i.e., the temple mount in Jerusalem (v. 20). It had been in ruins for 70 years and Daniel was praying for its restoration
The information revealed to Daniel by Gabriel discloses that a further period of seventy “sevens” of years, i.e., 490 years, has been determined in the divine plan for Daniel’s people and the holy city. The end result will be an ultimate completion of desolations, this time not after 70 years but after 490 years. Following this period everlasting righteousness will be introduced and peace will be restored to the holy city (v. 24).
At the heart of Gabriel’s message is the fact that “even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined… until a complete destruction is poured out on the one who makes desolate” (vv. 26, 27). There is a parallel here with the previous desolation of 70 years during the Babylonian captivity. At the end of it Jerusalem was restored. So also, during the last seven of the 490 years “there will be war… desolations are determined.” After that all will be well; complete restoration will follow. This did not happen immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus.
The second thing we notice as we look at the context is that the other prophetic chapters in the book of Daniel all lead to the same conclusion – the crushing of the ruler of the final kingdom of men and the establishment of the Kingdom of Messiah:
In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. (Daniel 2:44)
Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him. (Daniel 7:27)
And he will magnify himself in his heart, and he will destroy many while they are at ease. He will even oppose the Prince of princes, but he will be broken without human agency. (Daniel 8:25)
He will pitch the tents of his royal pavilion between the seas and the beautiful Holy Mountain; yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him. (Daniel 11:45).
What, then, is the proper time for the end of the 490 years in Daniel 9? Clearly, it is the same end to which all the other prophetic chapters in Daniel direct us – the end of the age marked by the return of Jesus to establish the Kingdom. It is disturbing to the prophetic unity of Daniel to recognize in chapters 2, 7, 8, and 11-12 the “end” marked by the destruction of the final kingdom and the coming of Messiah, but to place the “end” in chapter 9 in AD 35. To place the completion of the 70 “weeks” immediately after Christ ignores the perfect harmony of each of the prophetic passages in Daniel. In each passage the eschatological tyrant comes to an end at the hands of the Messiah. And chapter 9 follows the same pattern. The desolator is annihilated at the completion of the seventieth week. The week will terminate when “destruction is poured out on the desolator” (Dan. 9:27). No such event occurred in AD 35. AD 35 cannot be the terminus for the 70 weeks. The proper terminus is the time of the arrival of the Messiah at the Second Coming. In this way the prophetic harmony of Daniel is preserved.
Since the 490 years must run until the Kingdom is established, desolation comes to an end, and Jerusalem is restored, there must be a gap between the 69th and 70th week. Gabriel’s striking presentation of the 70 weeks in the form 7+62+1 (vs. 25-27) allows for the possibility of the gap and suggests that the periods may not be necessarily connected. Moreover, the gap principle is established by the other chapters of Daniel. In chapter 11 a gap must exist somewhere between the reference to history (four kings yet to arrive in Persia – 11:2) and the description of Antichrist in verse 21 onwards. All systems of interpretation recognize a gap in this chapter. In chapter 8 a gap must exist between the reference to Alexander as the notable horn and the subsequent description of Antichrist.
This one week, a seven-year period, has yet to transpire. We know that to be true because Israel has not as yet received the fulfillment of the promises given to them, namely “everlasting righteousness.” As Robert Van Kampen wrote:
“The divine King of Israel, the Word of God incarnate, ‘came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him’ (John 1:11). That rejection triggered Israel’s most terrible curse, the great scattering of her people throughout the world that began in AD 70. Most of Israel did not receive their King. Some of the Jewish religious leaders even accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan, ‘Beelzebub the prince of the devils’ – and by that act they committed the unpardonable sin (Matt. 12:24, 31). And because Israel rejected her Redeemer and King, Jesus Christ, God extended His kingdom to the Gentiles to make the nation of Israel jealous (Rom. 11:11).” (The Sign, page 92).
Because of Israel’s rejection of their Messiah and King, the clock stopped at the end of the 69 weeks. It is important to understand that God has not forgotten Israel and will not forsake them but will fulfill His promises to them. In Romans 11 God tells us, “But by their [Israel’s] transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous” (v. 11). Then in verse 23 He states, “And they [Israel] also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again.” And then in verse 26 God gives the promise that “all Israel will be saved.” And so the interlude between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week has given salvation to the Gentiles, in order to make Israel jealous. And there is a day coming when God will restart the clock for Israel and fulfill His promise of “everlasting righteousness” to them.
To read more on the seventieth week of Daniel and see the timeline in chart format, click here.
This article was originally published through eParousia, Sola Scriptura’s monthly end-times e-newsletter.