By: A.G. Martin
We all have our perception of the end times. If you’ve been a Christian for any period of time you have thought about what will take place, and asked “what do the scriptures say about this?” All over the place there are book being written and movies produced about the “rapture,” and asking “are you ready?” Every Christian has an eschatological view that they hold to, and our view of the end times can tell a lot about how we view scripture and the victory of Christ in history. This is not an analysis as to which eschatological view is more correct. Instead, this will be an exegetical look at the seventy weeks prophecy found in Daniel 9:24-27. In this I will give my interpretation of the passage E.J. Young says, “Is one of the most difficult in all the Old Testament.” Upon giving my interpretation, I will also interact with other eschatological approaches that differ from mine.
It is important to note that this passage in Daniel 9 does play an interesting role in the discussion of eschatology. The interesting role it plays, is that it is crucial to only one view, the dispensational pre-millennial view. It is not a foundational aspect to views such as amillennialism, or post-millennialism. Dispensationalist John Walvrood, says the “interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 is of major importance to premillennialism as well as to pretribulationism.” This passage holds the entire dispensational system together, and “no single prophetic utterance is more crucial,” as “one of the most important prophecies of the Bible.”
Before we get into the passage mentioned we first need to gain context. It is imperative to the interpretation of this passage that we keep the context in mind. This will prevent us from eisegeting the text and reading into it something that is not supposed to be there. Starting at the beginning of chapter nine, “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus” (vv.9:1), Daniel received this revelation at a time when he was concerned about the coming end to the seventy years of exile which the prophet Jeremiah talked about (vv.2, Jeremiah 29:11). Daniel, turning to God in prayer, sought to inquire of God what was to happen after the exile came to an end. What was to be the outcome of Israel and the Jewish people? Daniels prayer included a confession of who God is (vv.4), repentance for the people (vv.5-15), and a petition to God for grace and mercy (vv.16-19). Daniel says while he was speaking and praying, Gabriel came and delivered the revelation. A revelation that I believe is centered on Christ and his redemptive work. I would also like to point out that the first reason I believe this passage is speaking of Christ is because Gabriel is relaying the vision to Daniel, and it was also Gabriel who told Mary in Luke 1:31 that she would give birth to the Messiah.
24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”
- “Seventy weeks” – At the start of the prophecy we see that seventy weeks are decreed by God. This is a specific amount of time that God gives. The “weeks” however are not literal seven day weeks like we would think of. Rather, the Hebrew word used here is “Sabua” which refers to weeks of years. This phrase is more correctly translated “seventy sevens.” If you study the Jubilee pattern of the Old Testament, you notice that seven sevens or seven times seven years is forty-nine years. After the forty-ninth year, you have the jubilee year (50th year) which is the year of redemption according to Leviticus 25. In Daniel 9:24, we have the same pattern, only on a larger scale. Instead of seven times seven, now we have seventy times seven equaling 490 years; ten seven week periods. Most scholars would agree with this, however, each applies the years to different periods of time. It is my belief that the number ten signifies quantitative completeness making these ten seven week periods the full, final, and complete jubilee. The final Jubilee redemption found in Jesus, who is the leading character in this passage.
“To finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.” – Looking at the continuation of verse 24, we have six things that need to be accomplished within the seventy weeks. Some believe that “these six goals will not all be fulfilled until the arrival of the future kingdom of God.” Culver says these seventy weeks are not “to be found in any event near the earthly lifetime of our Lord.” Others, such as myself believe that these goals have already been fulfilled, and that we are currently living in the Kingdom. Jesus said, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28). While the kingdom may be here, it is not here to its complete fullness. It is continually growing like a mustard seed to large tree or leaven to a lump of dough (Matthew 13). These are the main points of the prophecy:
- “To finish the transgression” This is transgression as it relates to Israel’s sin. We see this in the prayer of Daniel in verses 5-11. This transgression was completed at the rejection of Jesus. “Away with him, away with him, crucify him…we have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25).
- “To put an end to sin” Here, the idea is that in the seventy weeks, Israel fulfills their sin and transgression, and God says he will not forget their sin. He will reserve it and He will bring judgement upon Israel at a later time. The context of the passage is still within the context of the chapter where Daniel has prayed to God regarding the future of Israel. Premillennialist J. Barton Payne said this means to “reserve sins for punishment.” We can see a parallel to this in Matthew 23:38, “see, your house is left to you desolate.” Continuing on to the reserving of judgement for one generation in Matthew 24:34, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” The Greek word used here for “generation” is “genea” meaning a span of 30-40 years. This is not to be confused with the term “genos” which refers to a specific ethnic group as the dispensational view would have you to believe. One generation after Jesus spoke the words in Matthew 24:34, his judgement came upon Israel in the destruction of the second temple in 70 AD.
- “To atone for iniquity” This speaks of the death of Christ. Dispensationalist say this point is speaking to the application of the atonement to the people of Israel in the future rather than the effect of the atonement on the cross. Atonement (Kaphar) means the covering of sin. This prophecy of the seventy weeks looks to Christ’s accomplishment on the cross in being the final sacrifice for the covering of sin (Hebrews 9:26).
- “To bring everlasting righteousness” “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). This was accomplished in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous…” (1 Peter 3:18). “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:21-22).
- “To seal both vision and prophet” Steven Miller says this phrase, “must include revelation concerning both Christ’s first and second advents. Therefore, this promise cannot be fulfilled until the end of the age.” It is my strong belief according to the scriptures that this refers to Christ fulfilling all of the prophecies which were spoken of him. “…see, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished” (Luke 18:31). Jesus appearing to His disciples after His resurrection said, “…everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). “What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled” (Acts 3:18). The scriptures are clear that Christ fulfilled all the visions and prophecies that were about him.
- “To anoint the most holy (one or place)” Many believe that this phrase is referring to the temple. In the Old Testament the phrase “holy of holies” is used to reference either the Tabernacle or the Temple. The temple is a symbolic feature that housed the presence of God. Yet, it also spoke of a greater temple that is to come in Christ. Speaking of the temple of his body Christ said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). This passage in Daniel is looking forward to the Messiah (specifically referenced in v. 25, 26) as the fulfillment of the temple, and not backward to the re-establishment of the ceremonial systems that took place in the temple building. More specifically, the “anointing” is addressing the baptism of Christ where he was anointed with the Holy Spirit. Some in the preterist view believe this may also be the time that the seventieth week began when Jesus said, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
- “Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks.” –
Verse 24 told us what will take place during the seventy weeks, and verse 25 then explains it to us. Some have thought that this was to referring to the decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1) who gave the legal right to the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem in 538-537 BC. This would make the seventy weeks symbolic and Daniel 9:26-27 refer to the attack on the city by Antiochus Epiphanies. Another view, and the one I hold to is that the decree came from the seventh year of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7) in 458-457 B.C. Ezra was given and all-embracing decree to “restore” and to “rebuild” Jerusalem socially, spiritually, and physically. In Nehemiah we see the rebuilding of the walls taking place.
“Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time” – If we take the first seven weeks and add them to these sixty-two, we get a total of sixty-nine weeks or 483 years. Starting from the decree of Artaxerxes in 457 BC moving forward 483 years we arrive at 26 AD which would have been the year of the baptism of Jesus, and the beginning of his public ministry (Matthew 3:13-4:17; Mark 1:14-15).
Other views considered, the continuous view begins with the destruction of Jerusalem in 588 BC, to the decree of Cyrus in 538, from Cyrus sixty-two weeks to Seleucus in 176 with the last week ending at Antiochus.
- “And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing” – After the sixty-two weeks makes a total of sixty-nine weeks. The cutting off of the anointed one is to occur after the sixty-ninth week making this the seventieth week, and this speaks of the crucifixion of Christ. Here the Messiah will be “cut-off,” but in being cut off he will confirm the covenant (vv.27). His confirming of the covenant brought a completion to the covenantal actions mentioned in verse 24.
“And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” –
What we have to look at here is, “who is the prince?” It is my belief that the prince is Jesus. If we look at the Parable of the wedding feast which Jesus told in Matthew 22, the King (God) was upset that no one invited came to the wedding feast. “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city” (Matthew 22:7).
“Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war.” –
“But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries and will pursue his enemies into darkness” (Nahum 1:8). In Matthew 24:6 Jesus said, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars…but the end is not yet.”
“Desolations are decreed” – (Matthew 23:38).
- “And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week” –
Here we have to ask ourselves, who is “he?” First, the “he” is talking about the “prince mentioned in verse 26. Dispensationalist believe that this is referring to the Antichrist. “The use of the term ‘prince’ for this one identifies him as one who will be in some sense parallel with Christ in his role, and this will be uniquely true of the Antichrist, who will be Satan’s counterfeit Christ.” The problem is there is nothing to indicate that the “prince who is to come” is different from the Messianic prince mentioned in verse 25. As previously stated, the covenant mentioned speaks of the completing of the covenantal actions listed in verse 24. The “he” can only be the Messiah. Luke 1:72, “To show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant.” Hebrews 7:22, “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.” Romans 15:8, “Christ became a servant to the circumcised… to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs.”
“And for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering.” –
Christ died on the cross half way through the seventieth week. His baptism culminated the sixty-nine weeks, at which point Christ began his ministry for three and one half years. This is the point at which Christ was crucified. This put an end to the sacrificial system as Christ was the final sacrifice that needed to be made. The second half of the week is not as clear as to when it came to completion. We do know that the Gospel was preached in Israel (Acts 2) and some scholars believe the week finished with the conversion of Paul in 33 AD.
The dispensationalist view believes that the Antichrist fulfills this section by breaking covenant with the Jews during the great tribulation. While this is an interesting thought, this view is only based off of assumption and relies on a series of unproven claims about the text. Nevertheless, this view sells a lot of books.
“And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” –
From Jesus speaking in Matthew 24 we know that this is referring to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. And the temple was in fact destroyed in 70 AD, 40 years after the death of Christ. How does 40 years fit into the remaining week? The dispensationalist view believes there is a gap between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth week which takes place at the rapture and second coming of Christ. However, the passage is clear that two events will happen after the sixty-ninth week. First, the messiah will be cut off (crucifixion of Christ). Second, the sanctuary and city are to be destroyed. If the messiah is cut off in the middle of the seventieth week as we have seen, and the ending of the seventieth week is at the conversion of Paul, stoning of Steven, or inclusion of the Gentile (Cornelius, Acts 10); then the destruction of the city and sanctuary are consequences of the fulfillment of the seventy weeks. The revelation does not say that the event of the destruction of the city falls within the seventy week period.
For decades the church has held to this passage as a key to interpreting the end times looking for the “signs” of when it would take place. When that happens it is referred to as “newspaper eschatology,” or using the current events to guess when the end will be. The dispensational interpretation of this passage makes it necessary to place a two thousand year gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week, while the partial preterist postmillennial view requires no gap, as well as explains every verse as being fulfilled. Neither the amillennialist nor the postmillennialist “spiritualize prophecies relating to a future kingdom on earth” the way the dispensationalist does. No matter what eschatological view you hold to, one thing we can all agree on (excluding hyper preterist who do not believe in a second coming of Christ) is that Christ will return for His bride. Therefore, we must be watchful and prepared like the virgins Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25.
 E.J. Young. The Prophecy of Daniel. (Grand Rapids. Eerdmans, 1949). P.191
 John F. Walvoord. The Rapture Question. (New York. Harper Collins, 1979). P.25
 Alva C. McClain. Daniel’s Prophecy of the 70 Weeks. (Grand Rapids. Zondervan, 1940). P.9
 John F. Walvoord. Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation. (Chicago, Moody Press, 1971). P.201
 James Strong. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. (McLean. MacDonald Publishing) Loc, 7620.
 Author Unknown. What is the Significance of Numbers in Scripture? (2001) Bible.org Accessed 6/14/2017 https://bible.org/question/what-significance-numbers-scripture
 Steven R. Miller. The New American Commentary: Daniel, Vol.18. (Nashville. B&H Publishing Group, 1994). P.259
 Robert Culver. Daniel and the Latter Days. (Chicago. Moody Press, 1977). P.145
 J. Barton Payne. The Goal of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 21.2 (1978) 97-115
 Strong, 1074
 Ibid, 1085
 Ibid, 3722
 Miller. P.261
 Michael Horton. The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology. (Grand Rapids. Zondervan, 2011). P.950