At the end of Daniel 9, we discover one of the most astounding and radicle prophecies in all of the Bible — The 70-Weeks Prophecy. And yet, as I mentioned last Sunday, this prophecy was not given in a vacuum. Daniel is deeply concerned about the future of the people of Israel so he turns to the Scriptures for answers, specifically the Book of Jeremiah.
What he discovers is that after 70 years in exile, if the people were willing to seek the Lord, confess their sins, and repent God was willing to bring them back into the land. In response, Daniel hits his knees and prays one of the most incredible prayers in all of the Bible.
What happens next is amazing… Daniel 9:20-23, “Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering.
And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision…”
Before we dig into the particulars of this vision, there are a few points that arose in our last study that are worth repeating… First, Daniel’s motivating concern that drove him to the Scriptures and in which this vision seeks to alleviate centers not on world empires, but on whether or not God still had a plan for Israel and the Hebrew people. As a result, we should note how the vision will be Jew-centric and not have any bearing for a Gentile Church.
Secondly, not only does Daniel view the prophecies of Jeremiah as being divine in origin (“The word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet”), but he viewed them as being literal. You see when God said the people would be allowed to return following 70 years in exile, Daniel believed the LORD actually meant 70 years and wasn’t speaking symbolically!
Finally, we discussed last week how Daniel realized these 70 years removed from the land had been specifically tied to 490 years of disobedience. In Leviticus, God mandated the people work the land for 6 years and allow it to rest on the seventh. Tragically, upon their arrival into the Land of Promise, the Israelites never obeyed. As a result, their exile from the land was determined to last at least 70 years as a back-payment for what the land was owed.
Again, Daniel is worried about the Hebrew people and their future, so God answers his prayer with the following word delivered to him by Gabriel… Daniel 9:24, “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.
Let’s break this down line-by-line… God begins, “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city.” Right from the jump, the translation of “weeks” from the original Hebrew is misleading. The word simply means seven — seventy sevens. Think of it as being very similar to the way the word dozen is used in English — twelve of something. As such, this phrase “seventy weeks” is a reference to 70 couplings of seven.
Now the obvious and logical question centers on 70 couplings of what — seven days, weeks, months, years, decades? As you study the Bible please note that when faced with such a question always look for the context to determine the definition. The entire point of the chapter is Daniel has on his mind 70 years as they related to 490 years. As a result, it is almost universally believed that God is laying out 70 couplings of seven YEARS = 490!
Next, notice what God “determined” or literally marked out these 490 years for… He says, “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city.” Consistent with what’s already on Daniel’s heart, God is revealing to him that not only is He not done with Israel, but He’s specifically “determined” or set aside 490 years to finish His work in the lives of the Hebrew people (“your people”) and in the city of Jerusalem (“your holy city”).
Aside from the radicle nature of providing such a timeline, God continues by revealing to Daniel what He planned to accomplish during these 490 years. With the focus being Israel and the Jews, the rest of verse 24 provides for us a list of 6 specific items.
First, God tells Daniel by the end of these 490 years He will “finish the transgression.” In the Hebrew, this word “transgression” means rebellion, but not just any rebellion — the definite article refers to “the” rebellion. In the course of these 490 years, God reveals to Daniel that He would end the original rebellion that began back in the Garden of Eden.
The original compulsion or tendency within man to rebel and resist the commands and will of God his Creator will cease to be. Harmony with man’s Maker will finally be restored.
Secondly, God tells Daniel He will also “make an end of sins.” With the desire to rebel no longer within the heart of man, the manifestation of his rebellion will also cease. Sin and wickedness, the destructive behaviors of man choosing to live apart from his Creator will no longer exist. Harmony with God will manifest in human righteousness. For the first time since Eden, man will no longer experience the destruction or guilt of his fallen, sinful state.
Third, God tells Daniel He will “make reconciliation for iniquity.” In the original, this word “iniquity” spoke of more than a behavior, but the consequences or the results of behaviors. In order to “finish transgressions” and “make an end of sins” God would have to act on behalf of mankind to first cover over his sin by providing a permanent atonement. The intervention of God was the only way man could be “reconciled” with his Creator.
For man to live in harmony with God and experience righteousness, his sin had to first experience its just demands. Sin required death and there was no way around this reality. God is telling Daniel, by the end of these 490 years, He would solve this human quandary.
Fourth, God says that when these 490 years were completed He will have ushered “in everlasting righteousness.” While this could refer to individuals, the application is much broader than that. God is not only speaking of the fundamental transformation of people but the righteous ordering of a brand new society. In the end, God will “bring into” this world a kingdom not of this world to last forever. He will establish a culture based on what is right.
Fifth, over the course of these 70 couplings of seven years, God promises to “seal up vision and prophecy.” This word “seal up” means to affix one’s seal. Not only will all “prophecy” be fulfilled by the end of these 490 years, but God’s “vision” or plan for the ages will finally have come to fruition. When this determined timeframe was completed, God is telling Daniel there will be nothing more He needs to accomplish in this world.
Finally, God tells Daniel He will “anoint the Most Holy.” Admittedly, the word choice in the Hebrew is ambiguous at best. While the idea behind “anointing” implies consecration, it’s difficult to be dogmatic as to what “the Most Holy” refers too. Some believe it’s a reference to the Messiah and His reign on the earth. Others still see it as being a reference to the New Jerusalem. In reality, it could apply to both.
I think if we’re all being fair this morning, while we can agree this is quite an incredible list of things God planned to accomplish during these 490 years, from our vantage-point some 2600 years later, we know very little of this list has actually been fulfilled!
Sure, you can say #3 on this list — “to make reconciliation for iniquity” — was achieved by Jesus when He took upon Himself the righteous demands of our sin through His death of the cross. Jesus made a permanent atonement for our sin possible. And yet, beyond this, it’s really hard to make the case any of the other five have been fulfilled.
Think about it… Has God “finish the transgression?” No. Has He “made an end of sins?” I can confidently say He hasn’t! Has the LORD ushered “in everlasting righteousness?” If this refers to a new society, not even slightly. As you read your Bible, do you come across any “prophecy” still needing to be fulfilled? Absolutely! Has God “anointed the Most Holy?” Not any official sense. You see the fact so much of this list presently remains unfulfilled gives us the impression the majority still has a yet future fulfillment in history.
Let’s see what else God reveals to Daniel… Daniel 9:25, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.”
Regarding the beginning of these 490 years, God tells Daniel the clock will begin with “the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem.” While that seems to be rather straightforward, in much the same way the Hebrews had been taken by Babylon into exile in three separate waves spanning 18 years, the Bible provides their return to the land occurring through four separate “commands” issued by three different Persian kings.
In 538 BC, during the first year of his reign, King Cyrus issued the original decree giving the Jewish people the legal standing to return to their homeland in order to rebuild the Temple. As a result, a man named Zerubbabel leads a group of roughly 50,000 back to the land.
Sadly, after a valiant start where the Temple’s foundation was laid, the project is abandoned for about two decades. Appealing for more funding to restart construction, in 517 BC, King Darius (a totally different man than the one referred too in Daniel) issues a second decree reiterating the legal standing the Jews had regarding the rebuilding of their Temple.
While Zerubbabel is credited for rebuilding the Temple, a man named Ezra will be praised for leading a spiritual reformation. In 458 BC, King Artaxerxes issues a third decree allowing Ezra to lead another group back to the land in order to instituted much-needed reforms. And yet, as awesome as this would be, his command had nothing to do with rebuilding the city.
As you study these things, keep in mind, not one of the first three commands allowed the Hebrews to return in such a way that it fit the particular parameters described in Daniel 9:25. Our text is clear “the command” designed to initiate God’s 490-year prophetic timeline had nothing do to with the people returning or the rebuilding of the Temple. Instead “the command” would uniquely allow the Jewish people “to restore and build Jerusalem.”
Historically, we understand this command was ultimately given to a man named Nehemiah by King Artaxerxes on March 14, 445 BC. Not only does the story recorded for us in the Book of Nehemiah document the particulars of this event, but it also confirms the reality “the street shall be built again and the wall in troublesome times.” We know the construction of the city along with the walls was fraught with challenges and difficulties.
With the understanding this 490-year prophetic timeline begins with “the command” of Artaxerxes on March 14, 445 BC (“the first day of the month of Nissan” in the Jewish calendar) God also reveals to Daniel another important event in relation to this date. He says, “Know and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.”
As God continues this prophecy, He mentions the culmination of “seven weeks” or 49 years and then “sixty-two weeks” or 434 years. Extrapolating out 49 years from 445 BC we land in the year 396. What’s interesting about The 70-Weeks Prophecy is that we aren’t told what would happen after 49 years. Theories range from the completion of Nehemiah rebuilding the walls to the conclusion of the Old Testament Scripture. In truth, we don’t know.
And yet, while vague on this issue, God is absolutely crystal clear what would happen in Israel at the conclusion of these “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” or 483 years from Artaxerxes command… “Messiah the Prince” would be revealed to Israel!
Regrettably, most Bible studies will quickly take a hard turn at this point to date setting. If you’re interested, the quintessential work done on this topic was by an Irishman named Sir Robert Anderson. He extrapolated 483 years using the Babylonian calendar of 360 days to refer to 173,880 days. Then taking these days he makes the necessary adjustment for the Julian calendar concluding Jesus’ Triumphal Entry occurred on April 6, 32 AD. If you’re interested in how he exactly reaches these conclusions, I’ve included a PDF on C316.tv.
The truth is no one can say for sure what the date would have been 483 years from March 14, 445 BC because the calendar and designation of how many days existed in a year get really funky. If you take a dive into these things, you’ll discover in recent years people have mounted some compelling challenges Anderson’s conclusions. Who really knows?
What we can say for sure is 483 years from “the command” Jesus of Nazareth makes His triumphal entry into Jerusalem where the people hail Him as their King!
Building off this amazing revelation of Daniel’s prophecy, Zechariah the Prophet (a close contemporary) would add another interesting detail to this event. He writes in Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey.”
Let me read for you the fulfillment of these prophecies as recorded in Matthew 21 and Luke 19. “The disciples brought the donkey, laid their clothes on him, and set Jesus on him. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road (from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem); others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!’
And some of the Pharisees called to Jesus from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.’ Now as He drew near, Jesus saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.’” Whatever the specific date ended up being as you transition from one calendar to another, Jesus confirms His arrival into Jerusalem indeed took place exactly 483 years from the command given by King Artaxerxes!
As awesome as this is God has more to explain to Daniel… Daniel 9:26, “And after the sixty-two weeks (in Hebrew this is not as confusing as it translates into English… First, there was a set of 7 weeks or 49 years. This was followed by a second set of 62 weeks or 434 years. Now verse 26 picks things up after the second set or the combination of 49 and 434… 483 years) Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.”
Following the presentation of Jesus to Israel as their Messiah 483 years after the command, God now reveals to Daniel what would have been shocking, to say the least. After Jesus is presented to Israel — so “after” the 483-year mark, two terrible things would take place.
First, the “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself.” While the long-awaited Messiah would reveal Himself to Israel, tragedy would strike! In the Hebrew, this word translated “cut off” describes not only a violent but intentional death — it wasn’t an accident. God is revealing to Daniel, after His grand reveal, the Messiah would be formally executed. Again, with the benefits of hindsight, we see this fulfillment in the crucifixion of Jesus.
Secondly, because the Jewish people rejected Jesus as their Messiah, Daniel is told “the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it (this destruction) shall be with a flood (a dispersion of the Jewish people from the land would result as well), and till the end of the war desolations are determined.”
Daniel is presently longing to see the Jewish people return their homeland, to see the city rebuilt, and the Temple reinstituted. Can you imagine what it was like for Daniel to hear everything he’d experienced in his lifetime was going to be repeated in the future — the city destroyed, Temple left in ruins, and the people once again exiled from the land?
Again, in line with the very thing Jesus predicted would happen during His triumphal entry into the city, this section of Daniel 9 was fulfilled when, in 70 AD, Titus Vespasian came into the region, utterly destroyed Jerusalem, demolished the Temple, and scattered the Hebrew people around the globe where they remained until the 20th century!
Let’s look at the final verse… Daniel 9:27, “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.”
“Then he shall confirm a covenant…” The obvious question when you get to verse 27 is the identity of this masculine pronoun “he” — who “confirms a covenant?” While we aren’t given a specific answer, there is no doubt the passage provides more than enough clues.
As a general rule for studying Scripture, never forget an antecedent like “he” will always revert back to the most recent reference. As such, we can conclude the “he” in verse 27 connects directly back to “the people of the prince who is to come.” Because we know the Roman Empire fulfilled the prophecy of verse 26 by “destroying the city and the sanctuary,” we understand “the prince who is to come” was not Titus (he’s being described to us using a future tense), but would likely be of a European, Roman descent.
The other significant clue as to this man’s identity is found in what he ends up doing. We’re told, “He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations (something is done that’s appalling) shall be one who makes desolate (a severe desecration), even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.”
In line with other passages of Scripture, including the next few chapters we’ll be studying in Daniel, the man who commits this “abomination of desolation” by entering the Temple, ending the “sacrifice and offering,” and declaring himself to be god we know to be the Antichrist, the man of sin and lawlessness, the Beast, Little Horn, or the Son of Perdition.
The reason this section of Daniel 9 is of such importance is that it provides for us a specific marker for when this final week or seven years of God’s 490-year timeline in dealing with the Jewish people begins. Additionally, we’re also told what would happen “in the middle of this week” (3.5 years) as well as how these seven years would ultimately conclude — “the consummation, which is determined, being poured out on the desolate.”
For starters, these final 7 years will commence when the Antichrist “confirms a covenant with many for one week.” While in context this would undoubtedly include the Nation of Israel, the implications of a “covenant with many” tell us this is a far-reaching peace accord. From a planet in turmoil, the Antichrist is able to get the world to agree to a 7-year peace! What the world doesn’t know is the “covenant” reengages God’s prophetic clock!
Additionally, “in the middle of this week” or at the 3.5-year mark we’re told the Antichrist turns on the Children of Israel. He not only commits this “abomination of desolation,” but begins a systematic persecution of the Jews initiating what Jesus calls a “great tribulation.” In Matthew 24, Jesus will actually reference the “abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel.” Most notably, He does so by placing its fulfillment at a much later date.
Finally, at the end of these seven years, we’re told “the consummation” or literally the complete destruction, termination, or annihilation is finally “poured out on the desolate.” Connecting this with other passages describing Jesus’ Second Coming, we understand at the end of these seven years, the Antichrist will be cast into the Lake of Fire and all those who’ve taken his mark are placed in Hades to await the Great White Throne judgment.
Broadly speaking, there are two components about The 70-Weeks Prophecy we have no doubts concerning at all. First, 483 years or 69-weeks of God’s “determined” 490-year timeline have clearly taken place! Historically, we know the day “the command” was issued to rebuild Jerusalem, and subsequently when “Messiah the Prince” was revealed.
Furthermore, after these first 483 years but before the beginning of these final seven, we also see how these things were fulfilled when the Jewish people unjustly and tragically execute Jesus their Messiah. In response to this, there is no mistaking how God allowed the Romans to “destroy the city and sanctuary” again exiling the Jews across the world.
The second thing we know for sure about The 70-Weeks Prophecy is that, in addition to 5 out of the 6 items on God’s to-do list not being presently accomplished, this final week or seven-year period of time has no clear historical fulfillment. In 70 AD Titus may have brought to “an end sacrifice and offerings” in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, but he didn’t “confirm a covenant” or commit this “abomination of desolation.”
You see, in light of this reality, you’re only left with one conclusion… God’s “determined” 490-year timeline for Israel was placed on pause following their rejection of Jesus and that the events of this final 70th week or seven-year period of time still remains future.
To this point, I should add such a pause in the midst of a prophecy is not uncommon at all. Let me give you just one example… Luke 4:17-21, “And Jesus was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: (Jesus reads from Isaiah 61) ‘The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.’
Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And Jesus began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” Now look at the section He read in Isaiah 61…
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn…” It won’t be until His Second Coming this last part of the prophecy will be fulfilled.
You need to know Daniel 9 is critical to our ability to understand future prophecy because it establishes for us the skeleton of what is known as the Great Tribulation. In fact, without The 70-Weeks Prophecy, the Book of Revelation as well as Jesus’ teaching on the End Times known as the Olivet Discourse would make little to no sense at all.
Because of Daniel 9 we know at some point in the future the Antichrist will come onto the world stage by achieving the unachievable — a seven-year peace in the Middle East, including Israel. We can even surmise the building of a new Jewish Temple in Jerusalem alongside the Dome of the Rock may very well be a central component of this covenant.
Furthermore, we know when this happens this final period of seven years — the 70th week God determined for Israel will commence. While there is some debate as to what will happen over the course of these first three and half years, at the middle marker, the Antichrist will desecrate the Temple and initiate a period of Jewish persecution the world has never seen. At the end of these seven years, Jesus will come again, crush the armies of the Antichrist in the Valley of Megiddo, and establish His Kingdom on this earth for 1000 years.
Daniel is on his knees before the Lord wanting to know what God’s plan was for the Hebrew people. Not only does God answer his request by insuring He wasn’t through with Israel, but He provides Daniel a specific timeline for what He was planning to do and when!
In closing… I want to address an overarching question that should arise when studying The 70-Weeks Prophecy. If God’s timeline was paused following Israel’s rejection of Jesus leaving a final 7-year period, what’s holding back the prophetic clock from re-engaging?
To answer this question I want to read two important New Testament passages written by Paul that shed light on the answer… In recapping a section in his first letter concerning the End Times, Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8, “And now you know what is restraining, that he (the Antichrist) may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains (the Holy Spirit) will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.” First, Paul notes how the current work of the Holy Spirit in the world must stop BEFORE the Antichrist is revealed.
Related to this idea, Paul will also write in Romans 11:25, “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery (in context he’s talking about God switching His focus from Israel to the Church), lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”
I mentioned this in our lead-in to the prophecies of Daniel that the emergence of the Gentile Church in place of the Nation of Israel had been completely hidden from the view of the prophets. As such, Daniel’s only concern was God’s plan for the Jewish people.
You see, it’s my position, the reason for the prophetic pause in God’s handling of Israel and fact Daniel provides us no explanation was that His attention shifted onto the Church largely made up of Gentiles who’d accepted Jesus! Again, something Daniel could not see!
Situated between verses 26 and 27 is what we’d call the Church-Age or as Jesus said, “The times of the Gentiles.” And yet, Daniel 9 is explicit that at some point in the future God’s attention will return to His dealings with Israel. The question centers on when?
While there is no evidence the Rapture of the Church begins the Great Tribulation, it’s only logical the two are chronologically connected. You see drawing from 2 Thessalonians and Romans 11, I do believe God has determined a specific plan for the Holy Spirit’s work in the world through the Church — a work that once completed will pave the way for the Antichrist to be revealed, a covenant reached, and Daniel’s 70th week initiated.
In fact, this phrase Paul uses in Romans “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” might indicate God’s prophetic timeline for Israel is on hold until the very last man or women repents of their sin and accepts Jesus as their Savior! Could it be the very last remaining domino to fall that sets in motion the final chain of events is you giving your life to Jesus?