Daniel's Prophecy of the 70 Weels
By Thomas Williamson
"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.
"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 9:24-27.
Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks is one of the most significant prophecies in the Bible, and one of the most misunderstood.
In this prophecy, the Jews were given the approximate time of the coming of their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. For this reason, there was a great air of expectancy among the Jews 483 years after the order by the Persian king Artaxerxes for the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in 445 BC (see Nehemiah 2:4-8).
It is generally accepted that the weeks in Daniel 9:24 are weeks of years, or periods of 7 years. The coming of Christ after 483 years (69 times 7), thus fulfilling this prophecy, is one of the greatest proofs of the divine inspiration of the Bible.
When Christ came, He told the people that "the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel," Mark 1:15. The time that had been fulfilled was the chronology that had been given by Daniel.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Daniel 9:24 gives us specific prophecies that would be fulfilled by Christ by the end of the 70 weeks or 490 years. He would "finish the transgression," which was accomplished when Christ died on the cross, saying "It is finished," (John 19:30, see also Hebrews 9:15).
He would "make an end of sins," which can be understood as making an end of the sacrifice for sins. Christ did this when He offered Himself for our sins once and forever on the cross, Hebrews 9:26, 10:12, thus taking away the sin of the world, John 1:29, 1 John 3:5.
He would "make reconciliation for iniquity." Christ made reconciliation for the sins of the people on the Cross, Ephesians 2:16, Hebrews 2:17.
He would "bring in everlasting righteousness." Christ has been made unto us righteousness, Romans 5:18, 1 Corinthians 1:30, Colossians 1:20.
He would "seal up the vision and prophecy." We are told that Christ fulfilled the law and the prophets, Matthew 5:17, Acts 3:18, Romans 3:21.
The Most Holy would be anointed, and this was fulfilled when Christ was anointed to be our Savior, Luke 4:18, 21.
In Daniel 9:26 we are told that Christ would be cut off, but not for Himself - He died for us. The next event after that on the prophetic calendar would be the arrival of the "prince that shall come" to destroy the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.
This was fulfilled in 70 AD when the Roman general Titus came, within one generation of the time of Christ, as predicted (Matthew 23:35-36, 24:34) and destroyed Jerusalem.
In verse 27 we are told that Christ would confirm the covenant with many (not all) for one week (Daniel’s 70th week). We are told in Hebrews 12:24 that Christ was the mediator of the new covenant. In the middle of the week Christ caused the sacrifice and oblation to cease, when He died on the cross for our sins - at that moment when He was on the cross, the veil of the temple was torn in half (Matthew 27:51, see also Hebrews 10:18).
This disruption of the temple sacrifices was a sign that Christ had opened for us the way into the heavenly sanctuary, so that the animal sacrifices in the Temple were no longer necessary. (Based on this reference to Messiah’s ministry culminating "in the midst of the week" it has been traditionally believed that His earthly ministry lasted for 3 1/2 years).
Over the centuries, the great commentators have agreed that Christ is the One who confirmed the covenant with many (see Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, Adam Clarke, Jamieson Fausset and Brown, Edward Young, John Calvin, John Wesley, Geneva Study Bible, etc). The Church Fathers such as Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Athanasius, Augustine and Eusebius regarded the 70th week of Daniel as having already been fulfilled by Christ’s earthly ministry, as did the Venerable Bede, John Wycliffe, Luther, Melancthon, John Gill, etc.
Take a close look at Daniel 9:24. This verse clearly describes Christ’s earthly ministry, and tells us that all these things, including His making reconciliation for iniquity by dying on the Cross, were to take place within the 70 week period. Therefore, all 70 weeks have already been fulfilled.
To place the 70th week in the future is to deny that Christ made reconciliation for iniquity when He died on the Cross, which would strike at the very foundations of Christianity. If Christ did not make reconciliation for iniquity on the Cross, then we may as well become Muslims or Zen Buddhists.
However, some prophecy teachers in recent times have come up with an alternative interpretation which places the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70th week into the future.
CHRIST OR ANTICHRIST? They say that the "prince that shall come" in verse 26 is the Antichrist, and that the Antichrist will make a seven-year treaty with the Jews in Israel at some point yet in the future. Some have identified this as any treaty that may be made between modern Israel and the Palestinians. They say that whenever we see such a treaty enacted, that will signal the start of a 7-year period of tribulation - some say that Christians will be "raptured out" at that time, while others say that Christians should be prepared to go into hiding when they see the peace treaty signed.
There are a lot of mistaken consequences that naturally arise from this incorrect interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy. This type of thinking results in an irrational, morbid fear of (and opposition to) any peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, thus helping perpetuate an ongoing conflict that has claimed thousands of Jewish and Arab lives.
Not only that, but since there is at this time no Jewish Temple offering animal sacrifices in Jerusalem, those who follow this theory feel that it is their duty to help destroy the Muslim Dome of the Rock and build a Temple on that site.
Some fundamentalist Christians have donated millions of dollars to Jewish terrorists so that they can attempt to blow up the Dome of the Rock. The activities of these terrorists have been rejected by the Israeli government and the vast majority of Israeli people, who do not want to be plunged into a devastating war over this issue.
How is it possible that these events in Daniel’s prophecy, which were so clearly fulfilled in the First Century AD just as Daniel said they would be, can be projected 2000 years in the future?
Those who insist that Daniel’s 70th week has not been fulfilled insist that there must be a gap of 2000 years between Daniel’s 69th week and his 70th week. In other words, God lied when He said that the prophecy would be fulfilled within 490 years.
BRIDGING THE GAP. We have no right to insert a gap between the 69th and 70th week, any more than we would have the right to put in a gap of thousands of years between the first 7 weeks and the 62 weeks. For us to add a gap in time, where God has not made any mention of it, is to add to the Word of God, and we are not permitted to do that.
Those who insist that the 70th week is in the future say that there must be a great slaughter of the Jews when the Antichrist breaks the peace treaty with them. However, there is absolutely no mention in Daniel’s prophecy of anyone breaking any peace treaty or any covenant with anyone. Read it again - we are told that He, the Messiah, will confirm the covenant, but there is absolutely nothing about anyone breaking or abrogating any covenant or treaty.
In fact, there is nothing in Daniel 9:27 about making any covenant or treaty. "He," that is, the Messiah, will not make a new covenant - He will confirm the covenant that was already in existence between God and His people.
Edward Young explains the correct meaning of this confirmation of the covenant by the Messiah:"The Hebrew words are unusual. They are sometimes interpreted as though they meant simply ‘to make a covenant.’ Such an interpretation, however, is incorrect, for it does not do justice to the original which can only mean to cause a covenant ‘to prevail,’ or ‘to make a covenant firm.’ The implication is that the covenant is already in existence and that its terms and conditions are now to be made effective. . . .
"It is better to regard the subject as the Messiah, since He has been the most prominent Person in this passage. The covenant which is to prevail is the covenant of grace wherein the Messiah, by His life and death, obtains salvation for His people."Matthew Poole’s commentary says: "I say then, with Graser, Mede, and others, that this he is the Messiah, and the covenant He confirms is the new testament or covenant. . . . ‘Shall confirm the covenant;’ He shall corroborate it, as if it began before His coming to fail and to be invalid. ‘With many;’ noting thereby the paucity of the Jewish church and nation, compared with the great increase and enlargement by believing Gentiles throughout all nations and ages of the world. ..." At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let it be repeated that there is absolutely nothing here about the Antichrist or anyone else breaking a covenant with the Jews, as taught by sensationalist "prophecy teachers." Daniel 9:27 teaches that the covenant will be confirmed, not broken.
Supposedly when the Antichrist comes and breaks the peace treaty and starts killing the Jews, this will be a fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy. But this cannot be true.
In Luke 17:22 Christ said, regarding the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, that "these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." In other words, all the Bible prophecies of judgment upon the Jews would be completely fulfilled at this time, with nothing more left to be fulfilled. (Compare with Matthew 23:35-36, where Christ says that all the punishment for the various sins of the Jews would come upon that generation that was alive in the First Century AD).
Virtually all Bible commentators agree that the events described in Luke 21:20-24 refer to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. Even the great Scofield teaches this - you can look it up on page 1106 of the Old Scofield Reference Bible.
Think about it - if all the prophecies of vengeance and judgment against the Jews were fulfilled in 70 AD, that would include Daniel’s prophecy with regard to the 70 weeks. That means that the judgments of Daniel 9:24-27 cannot possibly refer to anything that is going to happen to the Jews in the future. It was all fulfilled in the First Century AD.
Everything that Daniel said would happen within the 70 weeks, in Daniel 9:25, was indeed fulfilled within 490 years. Daniel did not say that the desolations predicted in Daniel 9:26-27 would happen within the 70 weeks. However, Christ did say that these desolations would be fulfilled within one generation of His crucifixion, and it all happened as predicted, by 70 AD.
Since that time, many misfortunes have happened to the Jews, such as the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms, Holocaust, etc. But none of this was necessary to fulfill any Bible prophecy, nor is there any need for a mass slaughter of the Jews in modern Israel to fulfill any Bible prophecy.
NO FEAR OF THE STORM. Here are the implications of a proper understanding of Daniel’s 70 weeks: Now that we realize that the 70 weeks have already been fulfilled, we need no longer fear a peace treaty between Israel and Palestine. Such a treaty would have absolutely nothing to do with the manifestation of the Antichrist’s infernal presence, nor the approach of the Tribulation.
Nor do we need to help build a Jewish temple in Jerusalem, or try to start World War 3 by blowing up the Muslim mosque that is there now. Our job is to build New Testament Baptist churches, not to help construct a temple for animal sacrifices, which according to the epistle to Hebrews would be an act of apostasy against Christ.
Some Christians have developed an unhealthy and unscriptural fixation on the belief that there must be devastating conflicts in the Middle East that will result in the demolition of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and the slaughter of millions of Jews, in order that the "ancient prophecies" may be fulfilled.
This type of deluded thinking is a bad testimony and it makes all fundamentalist Christians look like a bunch of enthusiasts for war and destruction. It may help explain the knee-jerk support, from some elements of the "Christian Right," for American involvement in any war or "pre-emptive first strike" anywhere in the Middle East, for any reason or no reason.
In reality, there is nothing in the book of Daniel, or anywhere else in the Bible, that says that there must be a temple with animal sacrifices in Jerusalem, or a mass slaughter of the Jews, in order for Christ to be able to return.
Ralph Woodrow, in "Great Prophecies of the Bible," says,"The fact is, Daniel 9:27 says nothing about a future rebuilt temple, nothing about restored sacrifices, nothing about the Antichrist making a covenant with the Jews! There are over 280 references to ‘covenant’ in the scriptures and NOT ONE of them in any way introduces the idea of a covenant being made between the Jews and the Antichrist." We have seen that the prophecy of Daniel 9:27 was fulfilled 19 centuries ago, within the time-frame predicted by Daniel and the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should stop misusing it as a proof-text for nutty, speculative notions about "things to come" in the Middle East in the near future.