The prophecy of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel is without a question one of the most important prophecies of the Old Testament. As we follow the words of the angel Gabriel we learn about the unfolding of events that will necessarily attend the consummation of God’s program to redeem mankind. Most noteworthy about the prophecy is the fact that the angel points to a specific future event (future to Daniel’s time) from which a measured amount of time will pass until the Messiah first appears. But also of importance, especially to the study of Revelation and end-times, is the last verse of the prophecy. That verse reveals details of the seventieth week, the last seven years of the 490 years of the prophecy. One’s understanding of the meaning of that verse determines one’s understanding of the events that will precede Christ’s second coming, and the chronology of events in the book of Revelation.
Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks is usually interpreted by evangelicals in accordance with either of two different major schools of thought. The two different viewpoints disagree on various points of the prophecy. But the point of disagreement that concerns us here is the meaning of the last verse of the prophecy regarding the last seven years of the prophecy. One approach, the Reformed view, is to see the final seven years as historical and fulfilled during the first advent of Christ. The other approach, representing premillennialism, is to view the entire seven years as future and unfulfilled. This last position regards these final seven years as the time of the great tribulation.
A Third Approach
The following discussion, also consistent with premillennialism, presents a third position, which solves the problems inherent in the other two positions. Here we propose that the first half of the 70th week is historical and fulfilled in the three and one-half year public ministry of the Messiah from His baptism to the crucifixion. The second half of the 70th week is yet future and unfulfilled. This last three and one-half years is the time of the great tribulation.
Seventy weeks are decreed upon your people and upon your holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy.
The word translated week is literally seven. Seventy weeks is properly seventy sevens. The sevens should be understood as periods of seven years, and the seventy sevens as 490 years because:
- The context of Daniel’s prayers and reasoning are in terms of years. (Dan. 9:1-2 cf. Jer 25:11, 29:10)
- When Daniel wants us to understand seven as referring to seven days, a regular week, he uses the word “day” with seven. (Dan. 10:2-3, “three units of seven days”, lit. Hebrew)
- Other time-significant passages in Daniel which deal with the time equivalent to the last half of the 70th week are in terms of years. (7:25; 12:7,14)
The years of the prophecy are solar years (365.25 days/year). The Hebrew calendar was directly inspired by the Neo-Babylonian calendar which correctly reconciled the difference between lunar and solar years.1 A year to Daniel, living in the Neo-Babylonian Empire, was solar, not lunar. Some commentators have proposed lunar years (360 days/year). However, there does not seem to be any compelling reason for viewing years in this way.
The events listed in verse 24 are all to find fulfillment within the time frame of the 490 years. In other words, each of these events must be fulfilled at some time while the 490 year clock is running: (1) to finish transgression and to make an end of sins, (2) to make reconciliation for iniquity, (3) to bring in everlasting righteousness, (4) to seal up vision and prophecy, (5) to anoint the Most Holy. As we shall see, some of the errors of understanding occur out of neglect for the sense of this verse. (See Figure 5, The 70 Weeks of Daniel.)
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem to Messiah the Prince, shall be seven sevens, and sixty-two sevens: it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troubled times.
Here the angel Gabriel tells Daniel when the prophetic clock is to begin running. However, conservative scholars are divided between (at least) three different decrees as the one meant by Gabriel. The decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra (Ezra 7:11-26, c. 458 B.C.) appears to be the most likely starting point of the 490 year period. This preference is based on the wording of this decree, Ezra’s comments (Ezra 9:9), its early date and harmony with dates in the life of Christ. The other two decrees sometimes proposed are: (1) the decree of Cyrus, 538 B.C. (Ezra 1:2-4; 6:3-5), (2) the decree of Artaxerxes, 445 B.C. (Neh. 2:5-8, 17-18).
“To Messiah the Prince” has been interpreted variously as referring to (1) Christ’s birth, (2) the beginning of Christ’s public ministry and (3) Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem before His crucifixion. The beginning of Christ’s public ministry at His baptism in A.D. 26 appears to be best because:
It is from this point that Jesus is presented, and recognized by some, as Messiah. (John 1:29, 41; 4:25-26; Luke 4:21)
It is from this point that the promised kingdom is presented as being at hand. (Matt. 4:17, 23)
It is at this point that Jesus announces, “the time is fulfilled.” (Mk. 1:15)
It is at this point that the Father and the Holy Spirit confirm the identity and ministry of Jesus publicly. (Matt. 3:16-17)
A total of 483 years (7 sevens and 62 sevens) had to elapse before the appearance of Messiah the Prince. Starting from 458 B.C. and counting 483 years brings one to A.D. 26, the historically accepted year for the baptism of Jesus and beginning of His public ministry. (It is important to note when counting between B.C. and A.D. that there is no year “0” between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D.)
The period of 483 years is broken into 49 years (7 sevens) and 434 years (62 sevens) probably because 49 years would elapse from the decree until Jerusalem was completely rebuilt.2 Then an additional 434 years would elapse before the arrival of Messiah the Prince.
And after the sixty-two sevens shall the Messiah be cut off, and shall have nothing: 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 even to the end shall be war; desolations are determined.
“After the sixty-two sevens” logically places the events of this verse sometime in the final 70th week. Any other proposal violates the plain sense of the text. It is important to take special note of this fact since some expositors have insisted that the Seventy Week clock is interrupted at the end of the 69th week, leaving the entire 70th week future and unfulfilled. However, note the following:
After the 62 weeks is the same as saying “after 69 weeks” (because the 62 weeks of years followed 7 weeks of years).
After the 69th week is logically sometime in the 70th week, certainly not sometime during or at the end of the 69th week. (After is not equal to at the end of.)
The events of this verse, Messiah being cut-off (i.e. being killed), are after the 69th week but certainly within the framework of the 70 weeks because the angel said that “reconciliation for iniquity” would occur during the 490 years. The Messiah made reconciliation for iniquity necessarily in the only remaining time, the 70th week.
The fact that Messiah is cut off in the 70th week agrees with the statement in verse 27 concerning Messiah putting an end to sacrifice. (See discussion in verse 27).
If it is proposed that an event of this prophecy occurs after the end of the 69th week but not in the 70th week, then such an event logically would fall in a proposed period of time between the 69th and 70th week. That would place such an event outside the seventy weeks. This cannot be the case because the angel said the events of verse 24 would occur during the seventy weeks.
“Shall the Messiah be cut off, and will have nothing” predicts the crucifixion of Jesus.
“The people of the prince who is to come” is probably a reference to the Roman army which destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70. These people are to be distinguished from the Jews who are referred to in verse 24 as “your people”.
“The prince who is to come” is better “a prince”. The reference is indefinite and defined only by the phrase “who is to come”. The Roman Emperor, Vespasian, under whose authority Jerusalem would be destroyed is likely the person in view. To propose that this is the “little horn” of Daniel 7 or the “beast” of Revelation 13 is insensitive to the fact that no points of identity exist either in descriptive words or actions between this “prince” and the little horn or beast.
And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that makes desolate; and even to the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate.
“And he shall confirm the covenant …” (KJV).
“And he shall make a firm covenant” is probably, “And he shall confirm the covenant” (KJV). “He” should be understood as referring to the Messiah because:
The Messiah is the antecedent subject of verses 25-26. Some see “prince who is to come” as the antecedent of “he”, understanding both as referring to the little horn or beast. But “prince who is to come” was used in verse 26 to define the people who would destroy the city and sanctuary, and did not form the subject of any part of the preceding verse. Some reject the Messiah as the antecedent of “he” because they are not certain that Jesus made or confirmed any covenants. However, the little horn and beast could be rejected on the same basis since only this verse is used to hypothesize that the little horn or beast will make a covenant. In fact, when Jesus was baptized and began to proclaim that the kingdom was at hand, he was causing to be realized a promised, prophesied and covenanted event (cf. Is. 11:1-5, 9:6, 52:13, 53:1-12, Jer. 23:5, Zech. 11:10-12).
In the above Zechariah reference (11:10-12) there is no doubt that the Messiah in His first advent is in view, and that the Messiah “breaks” a covenant because of the behavior of the “sheep.” In that passage the Messiah is betrayed for 30 pieces of silver and killed (11:13).
“Covenant” here (Dan. 9:27) is not some new covenant referred to here for the first time, but “the covenant” (Hebrew). The fact that the covenant is “confirmed” is further notice that this is a covenant spoken of elsewhere in Scriptures. The proposal, that the covenant mentioned here is a covenant made with Israel by the antichrist, is a hypothesis, and is not presented or supported in any other Scriptures.
“In the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease” refers specifically to the fact that the Messiah would put a stop to all sacrifice when He voluntarily gave himself as a sacrifice for sin. Verse 26 views the Messiah’s death from man’s point of view, portraying it as murder. Verse 27 views the same event from the Messiah’s perspective, an act of His will as He gave His life, putting the legal end to the sacrificial system. The sacrifice of God’s lamb, the Messiah, occurred three and one-half years after His baptism, bringing the seventy week prophetic clock to the middle of the 70th week. The fact that the nation Israel continued to sacrifice after the death of Christ and until the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 in no way argues against the finality of Christ’s sacrifice or that He put an end to sacrifice. (By using the same absurd “logic” one may propose that the church was not the temple of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts because the temple was not destroyed in Jerusalem until A.D. 70.)
The middle of the 70th week is raised to the focal point of our attention unlike any other point in the prophecy. The event that began the 70th week, confirming the covenant, coincides with the beginning of Jesus’ messianic ministry covenanted by God to Israel. The event that marks mid-week, the stopping of sacrifice and grain offering, coincides with the crucifixion of Jesus, the Lamb of God, and ultimate end toward which all other sacrifice pointed.
In the middle of the 70th week, when Messiah is executed, the advance of the seventy-week clock is stopped, leaving the last half of the 70th week some time in the future. This is required by Daniel’s repeated prophecies of an unfulfilled three and one-half years in the future when the Messiah comes to quell the ambitions of the little horn, accomplishing events of the seventy-week prophecy (7:8-25; 8:9-26;3 12:5-13). The clock is necessarily stopped in the middle of the 70th week because the specific accomplishments of the Messiah during the future three and one-half years are among those listed by the angel as occurring during the seventy weeks (9:24). “To bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy4…(9:24),” are events inside the time frame of the seventy weeks. But these grand events are yet future, and follow the end of the three and one-half year career of the little horn (7:23-28).
There is repeated reference in Scripture to a three and one-half year period of time yet future during which the events of the end-times will take place. On the other hand there is an absolute lack of any prophetic discussion which points to a seven year period of time or any signal of its beginning.
“And upon the wing of abominations” begins to describe the last half of the 70th week. When the Lord Jesus answered His disciples’ questions regarding His coming He pointed to “the abomination of desolation… spoken of through Daniel the prophet” (Matt. 24:15). Conservative scholars generally agree that the appearance of the abomination of desolation marks the beginning of the last half of the 70th week. But, it is instructive to note (Matt. 24:15) that the Lord Jesus pointed to this because the first half of the 70th week, fulfilled during the three and one-half years of His earthly ministry, was about to end with His impending crucifixion.
If, as some have asserted, the crucifixion marked the end of the 69th week, leaving the entire 70th week in the future, and, if verse 27 describes activities of the antichrist (i.e., making a covenant with Israel and then breaking it in the middle of the week), then we would expect the Lord Jesus to point to these unfulfilled events in the first half of the 70th week when He was asked by His disciples for “the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age” (Matt. 24:3). He did not make any such reference, nor did any New Testament writer.
“One who makes desolate” appears to be a reference to the “little horn” of Daniel (7:8, 8:9), “beast” of Revelation (Rev. 13:11), and “abomination of desolation” referenced by Jesus in the Mount Olivet discourse (Matt. 24:15). It is when the “abomination of desolation” stands in the “holy place,”5 God’s place, that disciples are to recognize the beginning of the end. The apostle Paul refers to the same individual in his second letter to the Thessalonians (2 Thess 2:3), calling him “man of lawlessness,” “son of destruction,” “…who exalts himself…so as to seat himself in the temple of God, displaying himself that he is God”.6
The position that would make the whole period of the seventy weeks past and fulfilled must deal with the problem that all the events prophesied by the angel have not yet happened, specifically, “… to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy.”
The position that makes the entire 70th week future has the problem of placing the crucifixion outside any part of the entire seventy week prophecy, at a time between the 69th and 70th week.
The position I have proposed (1) keeps all of the prophesied events within the seventy weeks, (2) accounts for the repeated reference in Daniel and Revelation to a yet unfulfilled three and one half year period of end-time tribulation, and (3) accounts for the answer of Jesus to His disciples wherein He points them to the abomination of desolation.
This is Chapter Two, Total Eclipse: Christ Returns: A Commentary on The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Author, Stephen Amy. See www.expressright.com. Used by permission.
1 Hallo and Simpson, The Ancient Near East, p.169.
2 Notice by way of comparison that it took 46 years for the construction of Herod’s temple (John 2:20).
3 In Daniel 8:25 the 2300 evenings and mornings equals 1150 work-days; to this must be added Sabbath days, which then totals 3 1/2 years. Daniel’s somewhat cryptic language is due to the fact that during the reign of the little horn the seven day week will be changed (7:25) apparently to six days.
4 The reading in some Bibles, “…anoint the most holy place…” (NASB), is unfortunate. The Hebrew word for place is not in this verse. The “Most Holy” anointed is the newly reigning Messiah, not a place. It is instructive here to remember that Messiah means Anointed One.
5 The “holy place” is the place of God, but not the temple structure. The Lord Jesus had begun this discussion with notice that the temple would be in ruins, “not one stone shall be left upon another” (Matt. 24:2).
6 2 Thess. 2:4 literally says, “…so as to seat himself in the temple of God…” (italics for emphasis).