"One of the most important prophecy passages in the whole Bible is that of God’s prophecy given to Daniel in Daniel 9:24-27. This passage constitutes one of the most amazing prophecies in all the Bible. If worked out logically, this text is both seminal and determinative in the outworking of one’s understanding of Bible prophecy".
The Terminus a Quo of the Seventy Weeks
Daniel 9:25 provides the starting point for the chronological unfolding of the seventy weeks prophecy. But, at what point does the text tell us it was to begin? Since there are different views concerning the beginning point (sometimes know by the Latin phrase “terminus a quo”), I will provide an in-depth examination of this issue. Examination of Daniel 9:25 should start with a reading of the text to make sure that this passage is foremost in our mind.
So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
Gabriel tells Daniel that he is “to know and discern” the message that follows. The Hebrew word for “know” is a common word for knowledge or information. However, “discern” has the notion of “to gain insight,” “comprehension,” or “to reach understanding.” Thus, Daniel was to learn “from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem,” that the seventy weeks of years would begin their countdown. Why Gabriel’s exhortation to Daniel? “The history of the interpretation of these verses is confirmation of the fact that this prophecy is difficult and requires spiritual discernment.”
A Decree to Restore and Rebuild Jerusalem
The next element of Daniel 9:25 is clear. The countdown of time will begin with “a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” The Hebrew word for decree is the common word “dâbâr” which means “thing,” “speak,” “word,” or “instruction.” In this context, it has the force of an urgent and assertive statement or decree.
The text is specific that the countdown will start with “a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” The decree involves the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, not the Temple. This is important since earlier edicts were issued in relation to the Temple (see 2 Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; 5:3-17; 6:3-5). There are at least three different decrees that are considered in an attempt to “know and discern” the beginning of the seventy weeks of Daniel.
First, there was the decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1:2-4; 6:3-5), issued in 537 b.c., which I will call decree one. Second, the decree of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:11-26) given in 458 b.c., (decree two). Third, a second decree from Artaxerxes (Neh. 2:5-8, 17, 18) given in 444 b.c., at the time of Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem, (decree three). I want to note at the outset of the examination of these possibilities that the third decree is the only one that literally fits the exact words of Daniel 9:25, as we shall see. Leon Wood notes that the “first stressed rebuilding the Temple; the second, the establishment and practice of the proper services at the Temple; and the third, the rebuilding of the walls, when, long before, most of the city had been rebuilt.”
Non-literal interpreters of the 490 years of the seventy weeks of Daniel are vague and non-precise in their overall handling of the numbers. If they try to establish a terminus a quo, it is rarely, if ever, the one given to Artaxerxes in Nehemiah 2:1-8. For example, preterist, Gary DeMar, is fuzzy, at best, in explaining his beginning point for the prophecy. In a lengthy quote of J. Barton Payne, DeMar appears, at first, to favor our view when he says: “The beginning point would be indicated by the commandment to restore Jerusalem (v. 25), an event that was accomplished, a century after Daniel, in the reign of the Persian, Artaxerxes I (465-424 b.c.), under Nehemiah (444 b.c.).” He then proceeds to say that he favors the second view noted above, of Artaxerxes’ first decree (Ezra 7:11-26) which was issued in 458 b.c. DeMar declares that “from 458 b.c. this brings one to a.d. 26, the very time which many would accept for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus Christ and the commencement of His incarnate ministry.”
Like DeMar, fellow preterist, Kenneth Gentry, is likewise vague, perhaps on purpose, as to the start of the 490 years. Like DeMar, Gentry also references J. Barton Payne, but without specifically stating his terminus a quo. Also, like DeMar, Gentry holds that the 483-year period comes to its end at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, “sometime around a.d. 26.” Gentry’s support for his view does not come from providing biblical data to persuade. Instead, he says, “This interpretation is quite widely agreed upon by conservative scholars, being virtually ‘universal among Christian exegetes’-excluding dispensationalists.” In contrast to Gentry and DeMar, I will present reasons from the biblical text for holding that the correct starting point is the decree from Artaxerxes given in 444 b.c. as recorded in Nehemiah 2:1-8.
It is clear to me that of all the options available, the only decree that specifically fits the statements of Daniel 9:25 is the one by Artaxerxes given in 444 b.c. as recorded in Nehemiah 2:1-8. Why? Because decree one and two relate to rebuilding the Temple. Only decree three speaks specifically of Jerusalem. It is clear that Nehemiah received a decree to “rebuild and restore Jerusalem” from King Artaxerxes. The passage says, “let letters be given me . . .” and “a letter to Asaph . . .” (Neh. 2:7-8). These letters were permission being given by King Artaxerxes to Nehemiah for permission and authority to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild it. Said another way, the letters are decrees and they granted Nehemiah the right to rebuild Jerusalem (Neh. 2:5). “The entire book of Nehemiah is proof that this godly governor built Jerusalem and its streets and walls,” declares Harry Bultema, “and that, as this prophecy says, in troublous times. According to qualified chronologists this also agrees with the needed chronology set forth in Daniel.”
Problems with Decrees One and Two
Further examination of the first two decrees provide us with even more objections to their being the one that Gabriel had in mind in Daniel 9:25. Dr. Harold Hoehner, Chairman of the New Testament Department at Dallas Theological Seminary, has produced one of the best works on the chronological aspects of the seventy weeks of Daniel in his book Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. Dr. Hoehner provides the following objections against the first decree as the one that fulfills Daniel 9:25:
First, Cyrus’ edict refers to the rebuilding of the temple and not to the city. . . .
Second, a distinction should be made between the rebuilding of a city and the restoration of a city to its former state. . . . The commencement of the rebuilding began with Cyrus’ decree but the city’s complete restoration was not at that time.
Third, if one accepts the seventy weeks as beginning with Cyrus’ decree, how does one reckon the 490 years? . . . the final week would be divided into two parts, the first half covering the life of Christ and going even until the destruction of the temple in a.d. 70, a period of thirty-five to seventy years (about ten to twenty years for each week), and the second half of the seventieth week would have not terminus ad quem. . . . it seems that this system makes havoc of Gabriel’s sayings, which were rather specific.
Dr. Hoehner demonstrates that the second decree option does not fare any better than the first. He notes the following objections:
First, and foremost, is that this decree has not a word about the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem but rather the temple in Jerusalem. . . .
Second, to have the sixty-nine weeks terminate at the commencement of Christ’s ministry in a.d. 26 or 27 is untenable for two reasons: (1) The cutting off of the Messiah (Dan. 9:26 is a very inappropriate way to refer to the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus at the commencement of His ministry. (2) The date for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry is not a.d. 26 or 27 but a.d. 29, as discussed previously.
Third, to what does Daniel refer in 9:27 when he states he is confirming a covenant? If it refers to Christ, then what covenant was it and how did He break it?
Fourth, to say that the middle of the seventieth week refers to Christ’s crucifixion in a.d. 30 is untenable on two grounds: (1) the sacrifices did not cease at Christ’s crucifixion, and (2) though the date of a.d. 30 is possible the a.d. 33 date is far more plausible.
Fifth, to say that the end of the seventieth week refers to Stephen’s death and Paul’s conversion in a.d. 33 is pure speculation. There is no hint of this in the texts of Daniel 9:27 and Acts 8-9 to denote the fulfillment of the seventieth week. Also, the dates of Paul’s conversion as well as Stephen’s martyrdom were more likely in a.d. 35.
In conclusion, the decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra in 457 b.c. serving as the starting point of the seventy weeks is highly unlikely.
The third decree is clearly the beginning point for the countdown of the seventy weeks of Daniel. Dr. Hoehner provides the following arguments in support of the final decree as the terminus a quo as recorded in Nehemiah 2:1-8:
First, there is a direct reference to the restoration of the city (2:3, 5) and of the city gates and walls (2:3, 8). Second, Artaxerxes wrote a letter to Asaph to give materials to be used specifically for the walls (2:8). Third, the book of Nehemiah and Ezra 4:7-23 indicate that certainly the restoration of the walls was done in the most distressing circumstances, as predicted by Daniel (Dan. 9:25). Fourth, no later decrees were given by the Persian kings pertaining to the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
I have shown that the third decree is surely the starting point for the countdown of Daniel’s seventy weeks. Next, I hope to build upon the fact that the exact date of this decree can be determined as March 5, 444 b.c. This provides a solid plank in developing a literal interpretation of Gabriel’s great prophecy to Daniel.
The passage now at hand reads as follows:
“So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. (Dan. 9:25)
Because there is no need to reinvent the wheel, I want to approach this issue by presenting two of the best treatments on this matter. First, I will look at Sir Robert Anderson’s masterful presentation in The Coming Prince. Then, I will present Dr. Harold Hoehner’s insightful refinement of Anderson’s basic position from Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ.
Sir Robert Anderson
Sir Robert Anderson, a British Brethren, developed a chronology that used a 360-day year, that he called a “prophetic year.” Anderson bases this upon the Jewish calendar and the clear implication that the prophetic timetable of Daniel was derived from it as well (i.e., 42 months = 1260 days). Anderson began the 483-year countdown with Artaxerxes’ decree that he said was March 14, 445 b.c. (Nisan 1, 445 b.c.) and it culminates in Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on April 6, a.d. 32 (Nisan 10, a.d. 32). Here is Anderson’s explanation:
. . . According to the Jewish custom, our Lord went up to Jerusalem on the 8th Nisan, which, as we know, fell that year upon a Friday. And having spent the Sabbath at Bethany, He entered the Holy City the following day, as recorded in the Gospels. The Julian date of that 10th Nisan was Sunday the 6th of April, a.d. 32. What then was the length of the period intervening between the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and this public advent of "Messiah the Prince"-between the 14th of March, b.c. 445 and the 6th of April a.d. 32 (when He entered into Jerusalem)? THE INTERVAL WAS EXACTLY AND TO THE VERY DAY 173,880 DAYS, OR SEVEN TIMES SIXTY-NINE PROPHETIC YEARS OF 360 DAYS).
From b.c. 445 to a.d. 32 is 476 years = 173,740 days (476 x 365) + 116 days for leap years. And from 14th March to 6th April, reckoned inclusively according to Jewish practice is 24 days. But 173,740 + 116 + 24 = 173,880. And 69 x 7 x 360 = 173,880.
It must be borne in mind here that in reckoning years from b.c. to a.d. one year must always be omitted; for, of course, the interval between b.c. I and a.d. 1 is not two years but one year. In fact, b.c. 1 ought to be called b.c. 0; and it is so described by astronomers, with whom b.c. 445 is-444. And again, as the Julian year is 11 m. 10.46 s., or about the 129th part of a day, longer than the mean solar year, the Julian calendar has three leap years too many in every four centuries. This error is corrected by the Gregorian reform, which reckons three secular years out of four as common years. For instance, 1700, 1800, and 1900 were common years, and 2000 will be a leap year.
As valuable as Anderson’s work continues to be, I believe that it does contain a few errors, even though this overall approach was a major breakthrough in understanding this part of Daniel’s prophecy. The needed corrections have been provided by Dr. Harold Hoehner of Dallas Theological Seminary.
Dr. Hoehner has questioned the starting and ending times put forth by Anderson. Hoehner advocates the time of Artaxerxes’ decree as 444 b.c. and not 445 b.c. Dr. Hoehner explains:
The date of this decree is given in the biblical record. Nehemiah 1:1 states that Nehemiah heard of Jerusalem’s desolate conditions in the month of Chislev (November/ December) in Artaxerxes' twentieth year. Then later in Artaxerxes' twentieth year in the month of Nisan (March/April) Nehemiah reports that he was granted permission to restore the city and build its walls (2:1). To have Nisan later than Chislev (in the same year) may seem strange until one realizes that Nehemiah was using a Tishri-to-Tishri (September/October) dating method rather than the Persian Nisan-to-Nisan method. Nehemiah was following what was used by the kings of Judah earlier in their history. This method used by Nehemiah is confirmed by the Jews in Elephantine who also used this method during the same time period as Nehemiah.
Next, one needs to establish the beginning of Artaxerxes' rule. His father Xerxes died shortly after December 17, 465 b.c. and Artaxerxes immediately succeeded him. Since the accession-year system was used the first year of Artaxerxes' reign according to the Persian Nisan-to-Nisan reckoning would be Nisan 464 to Nisan 463 and according to the Jewish Tishri-to-Tishri reckoning would be Tishri 464 to Tishri 463. . .
In conclusion, the report to Nehemiah (1:1) occurred in Chislev (November/December) of 445 B.C. and the decree of Artaxerxes (2:1) occurred in Nisan (March/April of 444 b.c.
Therefore, Nisan 444 b.c. marks the terminus ad quo of the seventy weeks of Daniel 9:24-27.
Dr. Hoehner further objects to Anderson’s use of the solar year instead of the sabbatical year. Dr. Hoehner also corrects some of Anderson’s calculations. Dr. Hoehner spells out his difference in the following:
First, in the light of new evidence since Anderson's day, the 445 b.c. date is not acceptable for Artaxerxes' twentieth year; instead the decree was given in Nisan, 444 b.c. Second, the a.d. 32 date for the crucifixion is untenable. It would mean that Christ was crucified on either a Sunday or Monday. In fact, Anderson realizes the dilemma and he has to do mathematical gymnastics to arrive at a Friday crucifixion. This makes one immediately suspect. Actually there is no good evidence for an a.d. 32 crucifixion date.
In previous chapters in this book it was concluded that Christ's crucifixion occurred on Friday, Nisan 14, in a.d. 33. Reckoning His death according to the Julian calendar, Christ died on Friday, April 3, a.d. 33. As discussed above, the terminus a quo occurred in Nisan, 444 b.c. Although Nehemiah 2:1 does not specify which day of Nisan the decree to rebuild Jerusalem occurred, it cannot have occurred before Nisan 1. . . . it could have occurred on some other day in Nisan.
“Using the calculating method Anderson used, Hoehner comes up with the 476 solar years. This is the difference between 444 b.c. and a.d. 33. By multiplying 476 by 365.24219879 days, comes to 173,855 days, and Hoehner states:”
This leaves only 25 days to be accounted for between 444 b.c. and a.d. 33. By adding the 25 days to Nisan 1 or March 5 (of 444 b.c.), one comes to March 30 (of a.d. 33) which was Nisan 10 in a.d. 33. This is the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. . . . The terminus ad quem of the sixty-ninth week was on the day of Christ's triumphal entry on March 30, a.d. 33.
As predicted in Zechariah 9:9, Christ presented Himself to Israel as Messiah the king for the last time and the multitude of the disciples shouted loudly by quoting from a messianic psalm: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord" (Ps. 118:26; Matt.21:9; Mark 11:10; Luke 19:38; John 12:13). This occurred on Monday, Nisan 10 (March 30) and only four days later on Friday, Nisan 14, April 3, A.D. 33, Jesus was cut off or crucified.
The seventieth week of Daniel's prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. When that is accomplished, Daniel's inquiry will be fully realized for Israel will be back in her homeland with her Messiah.
Dr. Hoehner has put together an airtight case for his understanding of the beginning and ending of the first sixty-nine weeks of Daniel’s prophecy. Dr. John Walvoord notes, in support of Dr. Hoehner, that “the best explanation of the time when the sixty-nine sevens ended is that it occurred shortly before the death of Christ anticipated in Daniel 9:26 as following the sixty-ninth seven. Practically all expositors agree that the death of Christ occurred after the sixty-ninth seven.”
To date, no one has been able to answer the work done by Dr. Hoehner. It is fully supportive of the literal interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy and is the only approach that has been demonstrated, thus far, to make the numbers work out. This is why most all those who take this text literally have adopted Dr. Hoehner’s view. Those taking other views, like preterists Gary DeMar and Ken Gentry, offer vague generalities when it comes to the number of the seventy weeks prophecy.
A further value of the literal approach of Dr. Hoehner is that this prophecy provides an exact time in which Israel’s Messiah was predicted to show up in history. “And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. . . . because you did not recognize the time of your visitation’” (Luke 19:41-42, 44). How was Israel to have known the time of their visitation? From a literal understanding of Daniel’s prophecy. In fact, this prophecy, along with Christ’s fulfillment of every other first coming Messianic prophecy proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah. Many Jews have come to faith, over the years, as a result of being challenged by this prediction about the time of Messiah’s coming. It is clear that a literal interpretation of this passage is demanded by the text itself.
The Seven Weeks
As I continue our study in verse 26, it is important to note that God, through Gabriel the archangel, divides the seventy weeks into three sections: “seven weeks,” “sixty-two weeks,” and “one week” (Dan. 9:27). What is the significance of these divisions?
Since the first seven weeks of years (49 years) is segmented from the whole, to what does it refer to? Without belaboring this point, since it is not a point of significant debate, this first of three segments refers to time when “it [Jerusalem] will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress” (Dan. 9:25c). This modifying statement connects the first seven weeks with the distressing days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Thus, the first seven weeks refer to the time of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. Dr. John Walvoord notes:
The best explanation seems to be that beginning with Nehemiah’s decree and the building of the wall, it took a whole generation to clear out all the debris in Jerusalem and restore it as a thriving city. This might well be the fulfillment of the forty-nine years. The specific reference to streets again addresses our attention to Nehemiah’s situation where the streets were covered with debris and needed to be rebuilt. That this was accomplished in troublesome times is fully documented by the book of Nehemiah itself.
The fact that this prophecy divides the seventy weeks of years into three sections will come into to play later when examining the single week in verse 27.
The Sixty-Two Weeks
The next segment of time is the sixty-two weeks of years that are said to follow the first seven weeks of years. The total of the two parts equal sixty-nine weeks of years or 483 years. The sixty-two weeks follow consecutively the first seven weeks because there are no textual indicators or historical events that would lead to any other conclusion. The sixty-two weeks will end with the arrival of “Messiah the Prince.” Daniel 9:25 says, “until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.” Messiah the Prince can be none other than the Jewish Messiah-Jesus the Christ. As was noted in the previous article, Dr. Harold Hoehner has demonstrated that the seven and sixty-two weeks (that is sixty-nine weeks) ended on the day of Christ’s triumphal entry. This is diagramed in the chart below, which was adopted from Dr. Hoehner’s book. The fulfillment of the seven and sixty-two weeks is recorded in Luke 19 as follows:
“And when He [Jesus] approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, ‘If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. . . . because you did not recognize the time of your visitation’” (Luke 19:41-42, 44).
After the Sixty-Two Weeks
We now enter the area of the greatest controversy concerning the seventy weeks prophecy. The debate is focused upon whether the seventieth week follows consecutively the first sixty-nine. I believe that the seventieth week is postponed until a future time we know as the tribulation. Defense of a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks will be the topic of most of the material that I will cover in the rest of this series.
The issue now before us can be divided into two basic views, regardless of how a specific individual may handle the details. The two views are whether all seventy weeks of years have already been fulfilled in the past, or whether the final, seventieth week is future. Note what Daniel 9:26 says:
Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
Textual Reason For A Postponement
Before I look at broader arguments for a parenthesis, I want to point out reasons from the Daniel 9 passage itself. Critics of our literal, futurist understanding of this text claim that there is no justification for a gap or postponement between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week. Perhaps no one is more shrill in his criticism of a gap than preterist Gary DeMar, who says:
The ‘gap” that has been placed between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel’s prophecy was created because it was needed to make the dispensational hermeneutical model work. Nothing in the text of Daniel 9:24-27 implies a “gap.”
He later asks the following question:
Since there is no gap between the seven and sixty-two weeks, what justification is there in inserting a gap between the sixty-ninth week (seven weeks + sixty-two weeks = sixty-nine weeks) and the seventieth week?
I believe that there are textual reasons for a gap of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week! First of all, the text says, “Then after the sixty-two weeks . . .” In other words, after the seven plus sixty-two weeks, which equals sixty-nine weeks of years (483 years). The Hebrew text uses a conjunction, combined with a preposition, usually translated “and after,” or better “then after.” “It is the only indication given regarding the chronological relation between these sixty-two weeks and the cutting off of the Anointed One. This event will occur ‘after’ their close, but nothing is said as to how long after.” Robert Culver clearly states the implication of what this text says:
There can be no honest difference of opinion about that: the cutting off of Messiah is ‘after’ the sixty-two weeks. It is not the concluding event of the series of sixty-two weeks. Neither is it said to be the opening event of the seventieth. It is simply after the seven plus sixty-two weeks.
Steven Miller summaries developments in the passage thus far as follows:
After the reconstruction of Jerusalem in the first seven sevens (forty-nine years), another “sixty-two sevens” (434 years) would pass. Then two momentous events would take place. First, the “Anointed One” would come (v. 25), then he would be “cut off.” Apparently his coming would be immediately at the end of the sixty-nine sevens, . . .”
There is no real debate among conservative interpreters as to who is spoken of by the phrase “the Messiah will be cut off,” as a referral to the crucifixion of Christ. Thus, it means that Jesus would be crucified after completion of the seven and sixty-second week, but before the beginning of the seventieth week. For this to happen it requires a gap of time between the two time periods. This is not the result of an a priori belief like dispensationalism, as claimed by some. G. H. Lang notes, “it is here that the interval in the Seventy Sevens must fall. This is not a matter of interference, but of fact.”
For interpreters like Gary DeMar, who advocate a continuous fulfillment view of all seventy weeks without a break, it is they who must put both the crucifixion of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem, some forty years later, into the final week of years which is only seven years in length. Yet, DeMar accuses those of us who see a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week as exercising “’silly-putty’ exegesis,” of stretching out this biblical timeframe in a manner not supported by the text itself. DeMar argues that Christ’s death took place in the middle of the final week, which would then draw to a conclusion in a.d. 33 with the conversion of Paul (an event which in no way is even remotely alluded to in Gabriel’s prophecy). What DeMar fails to tell his readers is that while he rails against a gap, he is oh so silent about how to ram, cram, and jam two events separated by forty years into a seven year period. Perhaps his approach should be called “shoehorn” exegesis!
A closer look at DeMar’s problem reveals a grave contradiction in his understanding of Daniel 9:24-27 and his view of Matthew 24:15 as having been fulfilled in a.d. 70. “The abomination of desolation is mentioned in one Old Testament book (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11),” declares DeMar. He then states that “[T]here was no doubt in the minds of those who read and understood Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:15 that the abomination of desolation prophecy was fulfilled in events leading up to the temple’s destruction in a.d. 70.” Clearly DeMar links the fulfillment of the abomination of desolation in Daniel 9:27, which will occur in the middle of the week, with the Roman destruction of the temple in a.d. 70, some 40 years later. Sorry Gary, but even with the flexibility of new math, the numbers don’t add up. There is no way to ram, cram, and jam events that occurred at least forty years apart into seven years.
Randall Price notes that “the events in verse 26: ‘the cutting off of Messiah,’ and of ‘the people of the prince,’ are stated to occur after the sixty-nine weeks. If this was intended to occur in the seventieth week, the text would have read here ‘during’ or ‘in the midst of’ (cf. Daniel’s use of hetzi, ‘in the middle of,’ verse 27). This language implies that these events precede the seventieth week, but do not immediately follow the sixty-ninth. Therefore, a temporal interval separates the two.” Only the literal, futurist understanding of the seventy weeks of Daniel can harmonize in a precise manner the interpretation of this passage.
Messiah Will Be Cut Off
As I work my way through the various items to be tackled in the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27, I will continue my focus on issues related to verse 26. We have seen thus far that verse 26 begins with the phrase “after the sixty-two weeks.” The text goes on to describe three things that will take place at the end of the sixty-ninth week of years (i.e., 483 years). Therefore, in this installment, I will deal with three important phrases in verse 26. They are: 1) “the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing,” 2) “the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary,” and 3) “its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.”
All evangelical interpreters agree that the cutting off of Messiah certainly refers to the death of Jesus. This fits perfectly into my interpretation thus far. Since the 483 years were fulfilled to the day on March 30, a.d. 33-the date of Christ’s Triumphal Entry (Luke 19:28-40)-and Jesus was crucified four days later on April 3, a.d. 33, then it was an event that took place after the 483 years, but not during the final week of years. This textual point is recognized by many, including amillennialist E. B. Pusey who says, “[N]ot in, but after those three score and two weeks, it said Messiah shall be cut off.” “As this relates to the chronology of the prophecy,” notes Dr. John Walvoord, “it makes plain that the Messiah will be living at the end of the sixty-ninth seventh and will be cut off, or die, soon after the end of it.” G. H. Pember further explains:
Now, His crucifixion took place four days after His appearance as the Prince-that is, four days after the close of the Four Hundred and Eighty-third Year. Nevertheless, the prophecy does not represent this great event as occurring in the Seven Years which yet remained to be fulfilled. Here, then, is the beginning of an interval, which separates the Four Hundred and Eighty-three Years from the final Seven.
The next phrase “and have nothing,” literally means “and shall have nothing.” To what does this refer? Certainly Christ gained what was intended through His atoning death on the cross as far as paying for the sins of the world. What was it that He came for but did not receive, especially in relationship to Israel and Jerusalem, which is the larger context of this overall passage? It was His Messianic Kingdom! Indeed, it will come, but not at the time in which He was cut off. Dr. Charles Feinberg declares, “it can only mean that He did not receive the Messianic kingdom at that time. When His own people rejected him (John 1:11), He did not receive what rightly belonged to Him.” It is because of Daniel’s people (the Jews) rejection of Jesus as their Messiah that the Kingdom could come in. The coming of the Kingdom requires acceptance of Jesus as Messiah in order for it to be established in Jerusalem. The Kingdom will arrive by the time the final week is brought to fruition. Since Israel’s kingdom has not yet arrived, this means it is future to our day. Therefore, we have just seen another reason why the final week of years is also future to our day.
The Prince Who Is To Come
Identity of the prince who is to come is a matter of considerable debate and discussion. The full statement says, “the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” Perhaps the best way to determine the identity of this prince is to first look at what he is prophesied to do at his arrival upon the stage of history. The people of this coming prince will destroy the city, clearly a reference to Jerusalem because of the overall context, and also the sanctuary. What sanctuary was there in Jerusalem? It could be nothing else other than the Jewish temple. Has the city and the temple been destroyed? Yes! Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in a. d. 70 by the Romans. This cannot be a reference to a future time, since, as Dr. Walvoord notes, “there is no complete destruction of Jerusalem at the end of the age as Zechariah 14:1-3 indicates that the city is in existence although overtaken by war at the very moment that Christ comes back in power and glory. Accordingly, it is probably better to consider all of verse 26 fulfilled historically.”
The subject of this sentence is “the people,” not “the prince who is to come.” Thus, it is the people of the prince who is to come that destroys the city and the sanctuary. We have already identified the people as the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in a.d. 70 under the leadership of Titus. Yet, I believe that the prince who is to come is a reference to the yet to come Antichrist. Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost explains,
The ruler who will come is that final head of the Roman Empire, the little horn of 7:8. It is significant that the people of the ruler, not the ruler himself, will destroy Jerusalem. Since he will be the final Roman ruler, the people of that ruler must be the Romans themselves.
The coming prince cannot be a reference to Christ, since He is said to be “cut off” in the prior sentence. This prince has to be someone who comes after Christ. The only two viable possibilities is that it could either refer to a Roman prince who destroyed Jerusalem in a.d. 70 or a future Antichrist.
Why should we not see the prince who is to come as a reference to Titus who led the Roman conquest in a.d. 70? Because the emphasis of this verse is upon “the people,” not the subordinate clause “the prince who is to come.” This passage is apparently stated this way so that this prophecy would link the Roman destruction with the a.d. 70 event, but at the same time setting up the Antichrist to be linked to the final week of years to the first “he” in verse 27. He is not described as the prince coming with the people, but instead a detached and distant description, as one who is coming. This suggests that the people and the prince will not arrive in history together. Dr. Steven Miller adds, “but v. 27 makes clear that this ‘ruler’ will be the future persecutor of Israel during the seventieth seven. ‘The people of the rule’ does not mean that the people ‘belong to’ the ruler but rather that the ruler will come from these people.” Interestingly our amillennial friends agree that this is a reference to the Antichrist as noted by Robert Culver:
Neither is there any difficulty with our amillennial friends over the identity of “the coming prince,” . . . Keil and Leupold recognize him as the final Antichrist, said to be “coming” because already selected for prophecy in direct language in chapter 7 as “the little horn,” and in type in chapter 8 as “the little horn.” Young thinks otherwise but is outweighed on his own “team.”
Its End Will Come With A Flood
This final sentence of verse 26 also occurs during the interval between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. However, the first part, ”its end will come with a flood,” refers back to the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, while the final phrase, “even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined,” is being fulfilled throughout the entire period (2,000 years thus far) of the interval.
“The antecedent of ‘it’ is obviously Jerusalem,” explains Leon Wood. “’Flood’ or ‘overflowing’ can refer only to the degree of destruction meted out. History records that the destruction of Jerusalem was very extensive.” The war and desolations that began with the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 would continue throughout the interval leading up to the seventieth week. In fact, this language appears to parallel that of Luke 21:24, which says, “and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” Charles Feinberg agrees:
The final words of verse 26 sum up the history of Israel since a.d. 70: “desolations are determined.” Surely the determined wars and desolations have come upon them (cf. Luke 21:24). Such has been the lot of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, and such will be the portion, until the “time of the Gentiles” have been fulfilled.
Dr. Pentecost adds the following:
But that invasion, awesome as it was, did not end the nation’s sufferings, for war, Gabriel said, would continue until the end. Even though Israel was to be set aside, she would continue to suffer until the prophecies of the 70 “sevens” were completely fulfilled. Her sufferings span the entire period from the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 to Jerusalem’s deliverance from Gentile dominion at the Second Advent of Christ.
This paper continues in part three of "The Seventy Weeks of Daniel.
Click here to view: The Seventy Weeks of Daniel Part 3
Dr. Thomas Ice: Heads up The Pre-Trib Research Center. The Pre-Trib Research Center is a "think tank" committed to the study, proclamation, teaching and defending of the Pretribulational Rapture (pre-70th week of Daniel) and related end-time prophecy. Editor: Thomas Ice, : Send correspondence to Rev. Thomas Ice, Executive Director, Address: Pre-Trib Research Center, P. O. Box 14111, Arlington, TX. 70694-1111
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