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Prophetic Postponement in the Prophecy of Daniel 9:27 Part #1
According To Prophecy Ministries & Evangelist Perkins, brings you articles from some of his colleagues in Bible Prophecy. He has also included the email addresses of the authors at the bottom of their articles, please email the authors and let them know what you think of their articles".
By: Dr. Randall Price

"Classical dispensational interpretation has always recognized that the New Testament revelation of two phases to the messianic advent has necessitated an interruption in the fulfillment of the restoration program unconditionally guaranteed to national Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-37).."

Synopsis of the Article

A distinctive tenent of the dispensational hermeneutic is apotelesmatic interpretation or prophetic postponement. This phenomena can be demonstrated in Old Testament texts in which unfulfilled aspects of the messianic program for national Israel are discernable. Daniel 9:26-27 as a much contested model for the demonstration of temporal intervals in eschatological passages, reveals historical, structural and grammatical justification for the apotelesmatic approach. This Danielic model is found to inform the sequence and motif selection of the individual synoptic accounts of the Olivet Discourse, and in part to have shaped the genre, motifs, language, and general structure of the book of Revelation. Daniel, however, is but one of a corpus of postponement passages, defined by type as either eschatological “Day of the Lord,” or eschatological messianic.


Classical dispensational interpretation has always recognized that the New Testament revelation of two phases to the messianic advent has necessitated an interruption in the fulfillment of the restoration program unconditionally guaranteed to national Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-37). This is evidenced by the observation in the Old Testament that this restoration included the two inseparable elements of spiritual redemption (cf. Isaiah 49:1-7; 53-55; Ezekiel 36:25-27; 37:14, 23) and national restoration (cf. Isaiah 49:8; 56:1-8; Ezekiel 36:24, 28; 37:24-28).1 The first phase of the messianic advent accomplished spiritual redemption for ethnic Israel (Matthew 1:21; cf. Luke 2:11), but being rejected on a national scale, i.e., the Nation as represented by its national leadership, (Matthew 23:37, cf. Acts 3:13-15, 17; 4:25-27) necessitated a second phase of advent which was to complete the promise of national restoration (Matthew 23:39; cf. Acts 1:6-7).

The Recognition of Prophetic Postponement

Jesus had instructed His disciples concerning these two phases of messianic redemption and restoration following the preview of the Messianic Kingdom (Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:26-27) with Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36). The appearance of Elijah with Jesus (Matthew 17:4-5; Mark 9:4-5), coupled with Jesus’ statements concerning His rising from the dead, Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:9-10) had confused the disciples and provoked the question “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” (Matthew 17:10; Mark 9:11). Jesus’ reply was made with respect to the two phases when He answered: “Elijah is coming to restore all things (cf. Malachi 4:5); but I say to you, that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer” (Matthew 17:11-12; Mark 9:12-13). In other words, just as the messianic forerunner’s comings has two phases: John the Baptizer (one to suffer and die), and Elijah the Prophet (one of restoration and glory), so also would the Messiah’s coming. The response to the forerunner foreshadowed the response to the Messiah, and necessitated the postponement of the fulfillment specifically promised to national Israel.

The Early Jewish-Christian Interpretation of Postponement

This interruption in the divine program of Israelite redemptive history was also interpreted in early Jewish-Christian theology as a postponement of the messianic blessings originally promised to the Nation. This recognition of postponement is explicit in the earliest post-Pentecostal preaching of the apostles. For example, in Acts 3:18 we read of the fulfillment of the messianic blessings of redemption in the first phase of Jesus’ advent in the words: “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Messiah should suffer, He has thus fulfilled.” This redemptive proclamation is then tied in the text to the second phase of advent, which further fulfills the messianic blessings of restoration in verses 19-21: “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Messiah apointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.”

The phrases “times of refreshing” and “period of restoration of all things,” are expressions for the messianic era or the promised restoration of national Israel to the divine ideal (cf. Isaiah 2:2-4; 4:2-6; 11:6-9; 62:1-12; et. al.).2 The latter term for “restoration” is especially related to national Jewish repentance toward the redemptive work of Messiah, since the two terms come from the same root3 and seem to be patterned after the prophetic condition for the restoration of the messianic kingdom: “(re)turn to Me [with a restored heart], and I will return to you [with restored blessings]” (Zechariah 1:3; Malachi 3:7; cf. Matthew 3:1-2; 4:17). If all of the messianic blessings for Israel were fulfilled in the cross-work of Christ, then why is Israel’s repentance (verse 19) is so closely tied with the purpose of the second advent? The text reads “repent … in order that He may send the Christ appointed for you” (verse 20).4 Nowhere in scripture is it ever said to Gentiles that their repentance would result in God sending the Messiah. On the contrary, I Thessalonians 1:9-10 says that Gentile repentance has simply put them in a position to “wait” for the Messiah’s return. Also of significance here is the specificity of address “…for you.” That this addresses Jews alone, and especially Jews as “national Israel” is affirmed by verses 1, 13-18. This connection between Jewish repentance toward Messiah and the Messianic advent for the Jews (cf. John 4:22) therefore requires a prophetic period until fulfillment is realized.

The Pauline Interpretation of Postponement

In the Pauline apologetic for national Israel, the rejection of the promised Messiah by Israel is presented as having brought a suspension in the fulfillment of the messianic promises to Israel (Romans 11:12, 15, 23, 25-28, 31). Paul argues that it is only because God has not failed (and will not fail) in His promise to national Israel (cf. I Kings 8:56; Zephaniah 3:11-20), that Gentiles, who presently share in Israel’s Messiah during the Church Age, can have assurance of God’s promised blessings (Romans 9:6; 10:1; 11:11, 29-32). Yet, even the present mercy that has come to Gentiles is not complete, but awaits a final fulfillment. In Romans 15:8-12 Paul cites from four Old Testament (LXX) passages that predicted Gentile salvation (Psalms 18:49; Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalm 117:1; Isaiah 11:10) in order to show that God is fulfilling His promise to bless the Gentiles through Israel’s Messiah in His confirmation of the Abrahamic Covenant (cf. Genesis 12:3; John 4:22). None of the passages cited in the Greek text use the definite article with “Gentiles,” since it is individual, not universal, Gentile obedience to Messiah that is in view during the present age. The Old Testament contexts depict an obesience of the Gentile nations, a future accomplishment attending the second advent when Israel is restored as head of the nations and itself becomes the instrument of universal blessing, in complete fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant (cf. Deuteronomy 28:13; 30:1-10; Zechariah 8:22-23). The argument would then run: if individual Gentiles are now being saved (Acts 15:14), it is a proof of the future fulfillment of the promise of national Gentile salvation. Therefore, like the proof offered in individual Jewish salvation for national Israel’s salvation, individual Gentile salvation guarantees that national Israel must be restored to carry out her role with respect to national Gentile salvation (Isaiah 19:23-25).

Consequently, dispensationalists have observed that in order for God to fulfill His stated purpose in sending the Messiah to Israel (Matthew 1:21; 4:17-18; 6:10; 26:29; Luke 12:32; Acts 1:6), He must restore Israel, first to spiritual faith in the Messiah as Redeemer, and then to the spiritual and national blessings under Messiah as Ruler. Theologically, the phenomena that has occurred as a result of national rejection has been a delay in the fulfillment of national restoration.

The Terminology of Postponement

The technical expression for this delay in the fulfillment of the messianic program for Israel is derived from the Greek verb apotelo meaning “to bring to completion, finish.”5 This apotelesmatic interpretation recognizes that in Old Testament texts that present the messianic program as a single event, a near and far historical fulfillment is intended, separated by an indeterminate period of time. Older dispensational writers used to refer to this as an “intercalation” or a “gap,” however, we prefer the term “prophetic postponement.” Postponement, because it retains the original idea of an interruption in fulfillment, while supplementing it with the notion that such a delay is only temporary, and prophetic, because we understand a purposeful, preordained act in the divine program.

Such a parenthesis was implied in those Old Testament texts concerned with Israel’s hardening (Isaiah 6:9-13; Zechariah 7:11-12), and judicial exile (Deuteronomy 4:27-30; 28:36-37, 49-50, 64-68), yet not fully revealed until the New Testament revelation (John 12:37-40; Acts 28:25-28; Romans 11:25-26). This parenthesis in Israelite history, then, is not so much an interruption of redemption as an extension of predicted hardening (Romans 11:7-10). The exile, which was a punishment for national disobedience, has therefore been prolonged during the present age until the appointed time for Israel’s national (including spiritual) restoration (Acts 1:7; 3:21; Romans 11:25-27). So that none can question the infallibility of the divine promise to Israel (Romans 9:6; 11:29),individual Israelite redemption is presently being fulfilled within the Church (Romans 11:1-5). This salvation of an individual Jewish remnant (a part of the “all Israel,” Romans 9:8b; 11:24, 27) during the present age testifies to the ultimate salvation of a national Remnant (“all Israel,” Romans 11:26) in the age to come. This unrevealed aspect of the messianic plan (Romans 16:25-26; Ephesians 3:3-6), reveals that the promise of national Israelite redemption (Romans 11:23b), will be accomplished by Messiah in the future as certainly as individual Jewish and Gentile salvation has been effected in Messiah at present (Romans 11:12, 15, 23, 31).

The Expression of Prophetic Postponement

The prophetic postponement is implied in Old Testament restoration texts that are cited or alluded to in the New Testament in terms of future fulfillment. For instance, the Old Testament promised that the city of Jerusalem would be delivered from Gentile domination by messianic intervention (Zechariah 14:1-4). This is an event that has never seen fulfillment in Israelite history in terms of the prophetic expectation. The New Testament, however, records that the Messiah at His first advent promised this fulfillment at His second advent (Luke 21:24b-31). In this New Testament prediction of fulfillment, given in response to questions concerning the future (verse 7), Jesus teaches that the destruction of the Temple (verses 20-23), the period of Jewish Diaspora (verse 24a), wars on an international scale (verse 10), natural disasters (verse 11), persecutions (verses 12-19), and celestial and terrestrial phenomenon (verses 25-26) will all precede the time of deliverance (national redemption) brought by the second advent (verses 27-28). Therefore, the final redemption for Israel (“this generation,” verse 32), has been postponed until these events culminate, including national Israelite hardening, with the conclusion of “the times of the Gentiles” (verse 24b; cf. Romans 11:25).

When the Old Testament records that the Messiah will be born (Isaiah 9:6) and will rule on the throne of David and over his kingdom (Isaiah 9:7), it portrays one Messianic Advent. However, returning again to our text in Acts 3, we understand that the complete fufillment of this advent has been postponed. Here it is explained that the Messiah was sent to Israel (from heaven to be born on earth), according to the prophetic word (verse 18), in fulfillment of Isaiah 9:6, and will be sent again to Israel (from heaven to rule on earth) in completion of the prophetic word (verses 20-21), thus fulfilling Isaiah 9:7.

One must ask why a second coming would be necessary if all the prophetic promises (to Israel) were fulfilled (as preterists and historicists contend) at the first advent (i.e., at the cross)? It should also be noted that the apotelesmatic approach is different from the “already … not yet” dialetic, in that the latter would see a partial fulfilment of the complete promise, while the former would see a complete fulfillment of part of the promise.6 Therefore, rather than interpreting Jesus as partially fulfilling the promise to reign on David’s throne by His present heavenly session as Lord over the Church (Acts 2:34-36; Hebrews 1:3; 12:2), this is postponed for a future earthly enthronement, which completely fulfills the literal requirements of the Old Testament context with respect to national Israel (2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 89:4; Matthew 19:28; 25:31).

Qualifications for Postponement

It is important to remember that these messianic texts were originally directed to national Israel, and as such, they have their ultimate fulfillment exclusively with Israel. While the Church occupies a prophetic period in the fulfillment of Israel’s destiny , it is clear from both the teaching and the tenor of the New Testament epistles that the Church has not been relegated to a prophetic position by this historical consequence (cf. Ephesians 1:12; 2:6-7; 3:9-10; 5:25-27; Colossians 1:26-27; et. al.). Rather, the New Testament revelation concerning the Church gives it a distinct purpose in the messianic plan, alongside that of Israel, in the consummation of the ages to the glory of God the Father (I Corinthians 15:23-28). It is in the Church that the Elect (Jew and Gentile) have an equal access to God (Ephesians 2:11-22), a new revelation of God’s saving grace through Israel’s Messiah, which has incorporated Gentiles as fellow heirs of the messianic blessings (Ephesians 2:3-6), including the inheritance of the Kingdom (I Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:5).

It must further be recognized that the restoration promises made to national Israel require a future fulfillment in the same manner as the redemptive promises have found past fulfillment. As the Messiah’s first advent was originally directed to national Israel (Matthew 15:24), and was accomplished literally in terms of Israelite redemptive expectation (Isaiah 53; Daniel 9:26), so the Messiah’s second advent will fulfill the prophetic expectation of Israelite restoration (Acts 1:6; Romans 11:26-27; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; 2:3-12; Revelation 19:11-20:9). If this was to be understood otherwise (e.g., in the first advent as the historicist interpretation), then why did Jesus in the Olivet Discourse and Peter in Acts (3:19-21) project its fulfillment into a time attendant to the second advent? Or, if this text was intended to find its fulfillment in A.D. 70 (the preterist interpretation) with the greater domination of the Gentiles (Romans) over Israel, how are “the times of the Gentiles” thereby “fulfilled” (concluded), and Israel’s fortunes restored? The only way to harmonize these discrepencies is to reinterpret historic fulfillment in terms different from the Old Testament prophets.

We must further note that apotelesmatic passages, where intervals in the fulfillment of prophecies occur, are a common biblical phenomena, especially in the Prophets (where the messianic restoration of Israel is addressed). The length of an interval is inconsequential to the fulfillment of the prediction, as can be seen from past historical predictions that encompassed many centuries (e.g., the prophecy of the exodus and establishment in the Land, Genesis 15:13-16). Our final section in this study presents a survey of the many passages which represent examples of prophetic postponement.

Postponement and Chronological Continuity

The apotelesmatic approach includes both an extension of Israel’s exilic condition and a postponement of the Israel’s restoration, with a prophetic period incorporated to fulfill the messianic salvific promises for those (whether Jew or Gentile) who have accepted Israel’s Messiah. Since Israel’s hardening did not permit the promise of national repentance toward Messiah at the first advent, this will be fulfilled at the second advent. An objection to this concept of postponement, especially in prophetic passages where a definite measure of time or space is specified (e.g., Daniel 9:24-27), has been that in such cases the units of time or space must be understood to run continously and successively.7 However, postponement does not affect such fulfillment of measured events. The same chronological events are fulfilled in the same temporal order as if no interruption occurred. Dispensational writers have sought to illustrate this by the imagery of a “prophetic clock”. If we reckon that this clock is keeping only “Israeli time,” with the “times of the Gentiles” the hands on the clock froze in position, to resume their continuous run and complete the appointed hour “when the times of the Gentiles is fulfilled.” From the human perspective it would seem that the clock has stopped, and the perceived interval may appear as a failure in fulfillment. From the divine viewpoint, nothing has changed, and all is proceeding according to schedule (since the “times of the Gentiles” was always an intended part of the fulfillment). Therefore, despite the apparent delay in fulfillment, the promise to Israel has not been prevented, simply postponed.

Postponement and the Prophetic Perspective

Another illustration offered to explain postponement is that of “prophetic viewpoint.” The rationale here is that biblical authors had a need to treat prophetically events concerning both advents of Christ, but simply had no need to describe an intervening history (particularly since that history related more to fulfillment for Gentiles than for national Israel). To illustrate, let us imagine the Old Testament prophets looking at “mountaintops of prophetic revelation” (the Messianic Advents). They could clearly see the mountaintops, but from their vantage point the two mountaintops appeared to converge as one peak (i.e., as one Messianic Advent). In between these mountains lay a valley (the Church Age), which, of course, was hidden from view. In I Peter 1:10-12 we seems to find a confirmation of this principle. In this text, addressed to predominately Gentile exiles (cf. 1:14; 2:9-10; 4:3-4), it is explained that the prophets of Israel had received revelation concerning God’s intentions to bring Messiah’s gracious salvation to the Gentiles, verse 10a (e.g., Isaiah 9:1-2; 19:21-25; 42:1-2; 56:1-8). These prophets had known that Israel’s Messiah, “the Servant of the Lord,” was to be a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6; 59:6), and had diligently sought to discover in their prophetic writings the appointed time for the Messianic Advent (verse 10b-11a), which for them combined both the first advent (“the sufferings of Messiah,” cf. Isaiah 53), and the second advent (“the glories to follow,” cf. Isaiah 11:1-5), verse 11b. These prophets could not clearly discern when the Gentiles would receive mercy (the Church Age, cf. Colossians 1:26-27), for most of the promises to this effect were connected with the time of “the glories to follow” (the Messianic Age), cf. Isaiah 11:10; 42:6; 60:3; Malachi 1:11.

This may have been the basis for James’ argument in Acts 15:13-19, for he cited from Amos 9:11-12 which has as its context the future restoration of Israel, cf. “In that day…I will restore the captivity of My people Israel” (verses 11, 13-14). James may be grounding his plea for the present acceptance of Gentile believers on the principle of Gentile salvation in the restored Davidic (Millennial) Kingdom, which made no mention of proselyte requirements. In this case, James’ interpretive words introducing the citation: “After these things I will return” (verse 16), may indicate the Second Advent.8

However, we seek to explain the phenomena of postponement, it is evident from many prophetic texts that a postponement of messianic fulfillment has occurred, otherwise we are left to explain such fulfillment in terms other than that understood by the prophets, the apostles, and our Lord in their eschatological narratives.

Prophetic Postponement and Christocentric Interpretation

Those who adopt alternate interpretive systems insist that the New Testament reinterprets the Old Testament in christological terms, so that complete fulfillment of the messianic program is now understood to take place within the Church. Jesus, however, employing this hermeneutic in His commentary on Isaiah 61:1-2a (Luke 4:16-21), appears to have understood a postponement in the fulfillment of the text. In the Lukan narrative, Jesus, applying the Old Testament text to Himself in terms of fulfillment (verse 21),9 went against Jewish tradition in public reading,10 and abruptly ended His selected passage (Isaiah 61:1-2) in mid-sentence with the words: “to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord …” (Isaiah 61:2a).11 The completion of the sentence in Isaiah 61:2b reads: “…and the day of vengence of our God; to comfort all who mourn.” If the Lord’s purpose at the first advent was to redeem rather than to reign, then we can understand why the second half of this verse, which focuses on the second advent (with its attendant judgment on the nations) was omitted. It will not do, as some claim, that it was omitted in order “to stress the grace of God,”12 for the words in verse 2c: “to comfort all who mourn,” and especially those in verse 3, also stress the grace of God. It seems preferable to conclude that Jesus knew that the day of Gentile judgment was to be postponed and so read only that portion of the verse for which He could claim present fulfillment.

Opponents of this view claim that no “gap” was intended here, because even if the entire passage was not cited, “the day of God’s wrath as well as the day of redemption were inaugurated by our Lord’s ministry.”13 Historicists and preterists would find this day of wrath fulfilled either at the cross or in A.D. 70.14 The problem with this interpretation is that wrath fell on the Jews, not on the Gentiles, as predicted in the Isaiah text. By contrast, Isaiah 61 sees the nation of Israel revived and restored (verses 2b2-10) for a witness to the Gentile nations (verse 11), who in fact will serve the Jews (verses 5-6), not destroy them. Again, we must ask why the Parousia was postponed if two of its primary goals: the day of vengence (on the nations), and the restoration of Israel, was already fulfilled at the cross (or in A.D. 70) and within the Church? This example of christological (or christocentric) interpretation of the Old Testament, therefore, seems to incorporate prophetic postponement. We now turn to one of the most contested examples of prophetic postponement, the Seventy Weeks Prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27.

The Significance of Daniel 9 as an Example of Parenthetical Postponement

Daniel 9:24-27 is accepted by dispensationalists as an example of prophetic postponement.15 Conservative and critical scholars alike hold that Daniel’s seventy weeks (verse 24) are to be interpreted as seventy weeks of years.16 This resulting period of 490 years (70 x7) is divided acording to verses 25-27 as periods of seven weeks (49 years), sixty-two weeks (434 years), and one week (7 years). Dispensational scholarship has traditionally accepted the context of this passage as messianic, with the Messiah coming after the sixty-two weeks (i.e., after the 7 weeks + the 62 weeks = 483 years) to die. Some would see the words “and have nothing” to mean without inheriting the messianic kingdom (verse 26a),17 leaving the fulfillment of this purpose to the final week (verse 27), which depicts the resumption of the messianic promise for Israel with the overthrow of the Antichrist (the apocalyptic prerequisite to the establishment of the messianic kingdom.

This text has been regarded by non-dispensationalists as the locus classicus for the dispensationalist argument. In this regard Gary Demar cited Hans K. LaRondelle’s citation of Alva J. McClain: “For the dispensationalist, ‘Probably no single prophetic utterance is more crucial in the fields of Biblical Interpretation, Apologetics, and Eschatology’ than the seventy-weeks prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27. If the gap theory cannot be proved from a study of this messianic prophecy, then there is no validity to dispenationalism, and the entire endtime system called dispensationalism must be rejected. Because dispensationalists understand this, they must devise a way to create a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks.”18

Before responding to this statement, it should be noted that DeMar dependence upon LaRondelle has led to his misrepresentation of McClain’s intention in his statement.19 McClain’s point, as maintained by all evangelical and Reformed scholars alike, is that Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks is the classic defense of the reality of predictive prophecy.” McClain’s statement concerning the fields of Biblical Interpretation, Apologetics, and Eschatology, relate to the messianic context of the prophecy and its proof for divine inspiration in light of higher critical assumptions that would deny any “predictive element” in prophecy. Only after this discussion does McClain add: “Finally, with reference to its importance, I am convinced that in the predictions of the Seventy Weeks, we have the indepensable chronological key to all New Testament prophecy.”20

In response to DeMar, dispensationalists do not regard Daniel 9 as the sole text for the concept of prophetic postponement, rather, it is one among many such texts that implicitly reveal this fact in the light of progressive revelation (Matthew 13:16-17; 1 Corinthians 10:11). The crucial significance of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy, as McClain has observed, is its value as an interpretive aid for comparative predictive texts. This significance of Danelic prophecy was testified to by the first-century Jewish historian Josephus: “He [Daniel] not only predicted the future, like the other prophets, but specified when the events would happen” (Antiquities x. 268).21 In this regard, Daniel 9:27 uniquely serves as the single Old Testament text cited by our Lord in the synoptics as a chronological indicator of eschatological events (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14). It is also thought to be the text underlying Paul’s eschatological treatise in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 concerning “the son of destruction (Antichrist) and the Temple” (language which has no other only literary referent but Daniel 9:27),22 and also may have served as a literary paradigm for the structure of the Book of Revelation.23

Dispensationalists have been accused of theological bias in their apotelesmatic interpretation of Daniel 9:26-27, but it is rather the interpretation of Daniel 9:27 in light of the New Testament citations and allusions, along with an exegesis of the original text itself, that has convinced dispensationalists of the Seventy-Weeks prophecy as an example of prophetic postponement. For this reason is is important for both non-dispensationalists as well as dispensationalists to understand the apotelesmatic argument with respect to this important text.

The Apotelesmatic Interpretation of Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy

Because of the nature of Danelic terminology in the ninth chapter,23 the earliest attempts at commentary have revealed a diversity of interpretations.24 The question which has most concerned commentators has been the identification of the terminus a quo (the commencement) and the terminus ad quem (the conclusion) of the prophecy. We will bypass discussion of the terminus a quo of the prophecy (verse 25a),25 in order to focus on the terminus ad quem of the prophecy. However, a brief summary of competing interpretationsof the Seventy Weeks Prophecy26 will help us understand the difficulties in attempting to resolve these termini:

(1) The Maccabean Interpretation,28 with the terminus a quo in 605 or 586 B.C. (either the first Babylonian deportation or destruction of Temple) and the terminus ad quem in 167-165 B.C. (when the Temple was purified or with Antiochus Ephiphanes’ desecration);

(2) The Roman Interpretation,29 with the terminus a quo in the Persian period - either Cyrus (538 B.C.), Darius (519 B.C.), or Artaxerxes (either 458 or 445 B.C.), and the terminus ad quem in A.D. 70 (with the destruction of the Temple by Titus);

(3) The Hasmonean Interpretation,30 with the terminus a quo as the time of the issuance of Jeremiah’s prophecy of the seventy years (605 B.C.), and the terminus ad quem is the end of the Hasmonean dynasty under Alexander Jannaeus (88 B.C.).

(4) The Eschatological Interpretation,31 with the terminus a quo in the Persian period (Artaxerxes in 457 or 445 B.C.),32 and the terminus ad quem in the end times (at the mid-point of the 70th week with the desecration of the Temple by Antichrist). The eschatological interpretation is sometimes combined with both the Maccabean and the Roman interpretations by those who view the passage as having a dual reference or fulfillment.

Interpretive Views and Historical Validation

In the first two interpretations the 70th week follows almost immediately the 69th week, with the events described in Daniel 9:27 having been already fulfilled (with events in verse 26 already considered part of the 70th week). The eschatological interpretation, by definition, argues that the nature of the events in Daniel 9:27, which take place only in the 70th week, have not yet been consummated, but await literal fulfillment in harmony with the eschatological context of verses 2 and 24, the Olivet Discourse, and parallel passages in Revelation. If one takes the Maccabean, Hasmonean, or Roman view one must either conclude that the prophecy of Daniel has failed in terms of precise historical fulfillment,33 or that it was intended to be fulfilled other than in a strictly literal fashion. Because of the chronological difficulties, S. R. Driver declared at the turn of the century: “the prophecy admits no explanation, consistent with history, whatever…”34 Lester Grabbe, has recently written: “… much of 9:24-27 does not clearly and easily fit the known historical context. This is highlighted by practically all the major [critical] commentaries which resort to a great deal of emendation in order to make the statements correspond with history.”35

In like manner, because the historical events do not fit with any known history, amillennial and postmillennial interpreters have sought to find a symbolical or spiritual fulfillment within the uninterrupted scope of the seventy weeks (i.e., the first-century). Employing a hermeneutic of replacement (of national Israel by the Church), they argue for a christological fulfillment within the ministry of Christ or, at the latest, the time of the first preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles. However, John Collins36 has observed in this regard that the book of Daniel is presented on two axes: the horizontal axis of chronology and the vertical spatial axis of imagery (contrasting heaven and earth). This latter axis figures prominently in every vision of the book except chapter 9, where the chronological axis, with a clearly future reference, is prominent. This indicates that the focus of Daniel 9 is not in relation to heavenly mysteries, but is concerned with historically identifiable events that will transpire on earth. Therefore, any approach that seeks to deal with this text, must do so on literal contextual-grammatical historical terms.

The Basis for the Eschatological Interpretation

A difficulty with all non-eschatological interpretations is the fact that in the conclusion to the prophecy in Daniel 9:27 no specific answer to the time of the end of captivity was given to Daniel. It was this was very thing that Daniel was attempting to “understand” (verse 2a; cf. 8:17; 9:23), and the motivation behind his prayer (verse 19). Non-eschatological views must find an end to exile in a temporary Jewish revolts, all which were unsuccessful and ultimately led to the destruction of the City, the Temple and further exile. This, of course, offers no solution to Daniel’s specific petition for his people’s restoration (which included a return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple, verses 16-19). However, what we do find in verse 27 are eschatological time markers, such as the Hebrew terms qetz (“end”), yashebitim (“cause to cease”), and kalah (“end”), ’ad (“until”), and necheratzah tittak (“an appointed end”). These terms indicate that this section belongs to the eschatological period, qualified later in Daniel as “the end time” (cf. Daniel 12:4, 9, 13).37 This identification is enhanced by the presence parallel concepts between the two chapters (e.g., prayer for understanding, 9:2/12:8; desolation of Jewish people, 9:27/12:7; three and one-half year period, 9:27/12:7, 11; the abolition of sacrifice, 9:27/12:11; and the abomination of desolation, 9:27/12:11). Thus, Daniel’s prayer for an end to exile will be fulfilled in the eschatological age when all of the elements of his petition will be realized.

The Eschatological Interpretation and Jewish Interpretation

The eschatological interpretation of Daniel 9:26-27 finds further corroboration in view of Jewish apocalyptic literature. In this literature, probably influenced in part by Daniel’s seventy weeks, are found the themes of an end-time Jewish persecution and war on Israel (especially Jerusalem), cf. 1 Enoch 56; 91-104, an Antichrist figure (Belial/Beliar) who serves as a portent of the imminent conclusion of the age and its cataclysmic end (cf. Sibylline Oracles 635-636; IV Esdras 13:31; Testament (T) of Joseph 20:2; T. Simeon 5:3; T. Naphali 2:6; T. Issachar 6:1; 7:7; T. Reuben 2:1; T. Dan 5:10; T. Levi 18:12; T. Judah 25:3), an avenging Messiah who is sent by God and fights for Israel (cf. T. Dan 5:10; cf. 5:3-7),38 and casts “the Antichrist” into eternal punishment (cf. T. Dan 5:10; T. Issachar 6:1; T. Levi 18:12; T. Judah 25:3).39 In the Dead Sea Scrolls (which contained 9 fragments of the biblical Book of Daniel) many non-biblical texts present an eschatological conflict similar to that depicted in Daniel40 and especially a pseuepigraphical Daniel-type text (known as pseudo-Daniel) which contains similar eschatological interpretations (cf. 4Q psDan Aa/Dand 209).41 Of course, primary support is given by the New Testament eschatological texts already mentioned (Matthew 25:15; Mark 13:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:4-5), which interpret the events of the seventieth week as future to their time. Even if one considers that the events predicted in the Olivet discourse were fulfilled in A.D. 70, the fact that they were viewed as future at least dismisses the Maccabean interpretation. The challenge to those who accept A.D. 70 as the terminus ad quem of the seventy weeks is to explain the details of the prophecy in the events of Roman history, a task of harmonization which will require as significant a degree of re-working the text, as required for the Maccabean interpretation.

The Eschatological Interpretation and Early Patristic


In support of the dispensational eschatological interpretation, it should be noted that the earliest recorded patristic interpretations of Daniel 9:24-27 advocated an apotelesmatic approach.42 Most of these interpreters maintained a futurist perspective (though not all),43 which was consonant with Jewish apocalyptic44 and rabbinic interpretation (cf. the Seder Olam Rabbah ch. 28, the oldest tradition for interpreting the seventy weeks).45 In order to understand the eschatological nature of the events presented by this prophecy, and the hermeneutical precedent in the text for literal historical interpretation, let us consider the context of our passage.

The Context of Daniel 9:27

Daniel 9:27 concludes the prophecy of the seventy weeks (verses 24-27), which is part of the division of the book that records visions of future earthly kingdoms (human and divine), (chapters 7-12).46 The reference to the seventy weeks and their predicted fulfillment in this text, points to the purpose for Daniel 9:24-27 in relation to the prayer of Daniel (9:3-19) following his observation of the seventy years prophecy in Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10 (Daniel 9:2). The prophecy in 9:24-27 is declared to be the divine response to Daniel’s prayer as communicated by the heavenly messenger Gabriel (verses 20-23). Since the prophecy appears as an answer to Daniel’s prayer, it should be noted that in this prayer that: (1) Daniel’s primary petition is for divine clemency toward the desolated Temple (verse 17), the people and the City (verses 18- 19); (2) Daniel uses a number of terms that will be later developed in the prophetic response in verses 24-2747; (3) the prayer contains vocabulary similar to the desecration terminology of Jeremiah and Ezekiel:48 (a) the departure of Israel from covenant (verses 5, 10-11, 13, 14-15), (b) the judgment of the curses written in the Law (verses 11, 13), (c) the refusal to hear the prophets (verses 6, 10), (d) the sins of the fathers (verses 6, 8, 16), (e) identification with holy Name (verse 19), (f) exile due to cultic rebellion (verse 7), and (g) the reproach from the nations caused by Israel’s exile (verse 16).49 These similarities are significant, in that the concern of Jeremiah and Ezekiel was idolatry and desecration, the very problem faced by Daniel as a captive in exile. Further, Jeremiah’s prophecy concerned the judgment of the Gentile nations, beginning with Babylon (Jeremiah 25:12-14) and extending to all historical oppressors of national Israel (verses 15-38). This judgment is also affirmed in Daniel 9:27. Being more specific, a survey of the desecration motif in these prophets reveals that desecration by foreign invaders (as a result of Israelite violations of covenant) form the materia prima of their discourses. Further support may be found in the association of the terms shiqqutz and meshomen in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, which most likely influenced Daniel’s cryptic construction of shiqqutzim meshomem in Daniel 9:27. If this is so, then Daniel may be attempting to load a theological summation of desecration into this expression, to convey in a single thought the entire corpus of prophetic doctrine touching on any future events earmarked by this phrase. This may be helpful in explaining why Jesus in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14a) used this expression to denote the signal event which would serve as warning of the arrival of apocalyptic fulfillment (Matthew 24:16-31; Mark 13:14b-27).

Our point here is that Daniel’s prophecy must be interpreted within the context of his contemporaries, who envisioned fulfillment in eschatological terms (cf. Jeremiah 31:27-37; Ezekiel 37:23-28).

The Relationship of Daniel 9 to Jeremiah

Daniel’s prayer helps us to especially draw a link between the desecration/restoration context of Jeremiah’s prophecy and that of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.50 Just as Jeremiah’s prophecy was a reaction to desecration, with the promise of resultant judgment on all foreign desecrators, so was Daniel’s. Just as the consequence of this judgment of the nations was to result in Israel’s restoration (spiritually and nationally), Jeremiah 30-33, so also in Daniel (cf. chapters 11-12, which are prefaced by a declaration of their eschatological in 10:14). This answers to Daniel’s petition for Israel’s restoration based on divine election (verses 17-19; cf. Ezekiel 36:22-23). What is significant here, is that Daniel 9:3-19 places the prophecy of verses 24-27 in an historical context as an extension of Jeremiah’s historical prophecy.51 Therefore, as Jacques Doukhan has pointed out: “The seventy weeks’ prophecy must be interpreted with regard to history in as realistic a way as Daniel did for the prophecy of Jeremiah.”52

The Prophetic Goals of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy

Equally important to the contextual setting of Daniel 9:27 are the six goals (six infinitives) given in verse 24 which serve to establish the terminus ad quem of the prophecy. The interpretation of these goals is germane to the consideration of postponement in the seventy weeks, for if all of these goals can be proven to have been fulfilled historically, then it can be argued that the seventy weeks were meant to be interpreted as being fulfilled consecutively without interruption. These goals are: (1) “to finish the transgression, (2) “to make an end of sins”), (3) “to make atonement for iniquity,” (4) ”to bring in everlasting righteousness,”(5) “to seal up vision and prophecy,” and (6) “to anoint the most holy [place].”

First, it is crucial to observe those for whom this prophecy is to find fulfilment, namely “your people and your holy city” (verse 24). In other words, the fulfillment of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy must occur with respect to national Israel and the city of Jerusalem.53 Because such a Jewish remnant did return to Judah to nationally resettle the Land, and to rebuild Jerusalem, this prophecy cannot be interpreted other than in terms of literal, historical fulfillment for national Israel.

Setting aside the debate over the arrangement of these goals,54 it is important to consider the nature of these goals to determine whether they could have been fulfilled in past history, or require an eschatological fulfillment. In verse 24a we find that the first three goals relate to the sins of national Israel. The terms “finish” (trangression) and “end” (sin) both look at the culmination of a condition.55 A similar expression is found in an eschatological context in the Dead Sea document Psuedo-Daniel (4Q243-245).56 According to the Jewish commentator Abarbanel, the condition of Israelite punishment

Dr. J. Randall Price is the Author of In Search of Temple Treasures and Ready to Rebuild and has appeared on the nationally televised CBS special "Ancient Secrets of the Bible." He is president of World of the Bible Ministries, Inc. He is a Th.M. graduate of Dallas Tehological Seminary and holds a Ph.D. in Hebrew Languages and Literature from the University of Texas at Austin and is personally acquainted with many leading figures in Scroll research.

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