"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".
Once again we see that a plain, straightforward reading of the text of the Bible provides a clear and convincing understanding that there is a biblical basis for halting God’s clock between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. Robert Culver summarizes our findings as follows:
All attempts to place the events of verse 26 (the cutting off of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem) in either the period of the sixty-two weeks (Keil and Leupold) or in the seventieth week (Young and a host of writers in the past) stumble and fall on the simple language of the text itself. It seems that a more natural interpretation is the one that regards the events of verse 26 as belonging to a period between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks, when God has sovereignly set aside His people Israel, awaiting a time of resumption of covenant relationship in the future, after Israel has been restored to the land.
Thus, with each passing item that we examine, as we plod through the text of Daniel 9:24-27, we find that critics such as Dr. Kenneth Gentry’s complaints fall silent to the ground.
Only hermeneutical gymnastics, a suspension of sound reason, and an a priori commitment to the dispensational system allows the importing of a massive gap into Daniel’s prophecy. Such ideas interrupt the otherwise chronologically exact time-frame.
Sorry Dr. Gentry, but the text of Daniel itself demands a gap of time.
Antichrist or Christ?
Our study of Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy now moves to the final verse in the passage, which also deals with the final week of years.
And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. (Daniel 9:27)
In this section I will provide further reasons for a time-gap between the sixty-nine and seventieth weeks and note features from the text that support the interpretation that this seven-year period is the yet to come tribulation period.
Right off the bat, the first question that arises in verse 27 is to whom does the pronoun “he” refer to? I believe that “he” must refer to “the prince who is to come” in verse 26. However, opponents of literal interpretation disagree. Preterist, Dr. Kenneth Gentry says, “[T]he indefinite pronoun ‘he’ does not refer back to ‘the prince who is to come’ of verse 26.” Fellow preterist, Gary DeMar, insists “it is Jesus who ‘will make a firm covenant with the many,’ not the antichrist.” Yet, such an errant interpretation violates the grammar and syntax of the Hebrew text.
In Hebrew grammar, as with most languages, a pronoun would refer to the nearest antecedent, unless there was a contextual reason to think otherwise. In this instance, the nearest antecedent in agreement with “he” is “the prince who is to come” in verse 26. This is recognized by a majority of scholars, including a number of amillennialists such as Kiel and Leupold. Only a priori theological bias could lead a trained interpreter of Scripture to any other conclusion. Robert Culver explains the correct meaning of this text as follows:
The ordinary rules of grammar establish that the leading actor of this verse is the Antichrist, the great evil man of the end time. . . . If the pronoun “he” were present in the Hebrew, a case might possibly be made for the introduction of an entirely new personality into the story at this point. However, there is no pronoun; only the third masculine singular form of the verb indicates that an antecedent is to be sought, and that of necessity in the preceding context. Usually, the last preceding noun that agrees in gender and number and agrees with the sense is the antecedent. This is unquestionably . . . “the coming prince” of verse 26. He is a “coming” prince, that is, one whom the reader would already know as a prince to come, because he is the same as the “little horn” on the fourth beast of chapter 7.
Leon Wood provides a list of further reasons for taking the “he” in verse 27 as a reference to “the prince who is to come” of verse 26.
Second, as noted above, the unusual manner of mention in verse twenty-six regarding that prince calls for just such a further reference as this. There is no reason for the earlier notice unless something further is to be said regarding him, for he does nothing nor plays any part in activities there described. Third, several matters show that what is now said regarding the one in reference does not suit if that reference is to Christ. (a) This person makes a "firm covenant" with people, but Christ made no covenant. God made a Covenant of Grace with people, and Christ fulfilled requirements under it, but this is quite different from Christ's making a covenant. (b) Even if Christ had made a covenant with people during His lifetime, the idea of mentioning it only here in the overall thought of the passage would be unusual, when the subjects of His death and even the destruction of Jerusalem have already been set forth. (c) The idea of the seventieth week, here closely associated with this one, does not fit the life or ministry of Christ, as will be shown presently. (d) The idea that this one causes "sacrifice and offering to cease" does not fit in reference to Christ in this context. The amillennial view holds that these words refer to Christ's supreme sacrifice in death, which made all other sacrifices and offerings of no further use, thus making them to cease in principle. But, if so, what would be the reason for such a statement (true as it is) in view of the purpose of the overall prediction? One could understand a direct statement concerning Christ's providing atonement for sin-though its placing at this point in the general thought order the passage would be strange-because that would be important to sin-bondaged Israelites. But why, if that is the basic thought, should it be expressed so indirectly, in terms of sacrificing and offering being made to cease?
It is safe to conclude that the immediate context of this passage and the book as a whole supports our understanding of this matter. This interpretation would also support a futurist understanding of verse 27.
The Making of a Covenant
What is it that “he” will do? The antichrist will “make a firm covenant with the many for one week,” that is seven years. Non-literal interpreters of Daniel’s seventy-week prophecy usually attempt to make this covenant a reference to Christ’s covenant to save His people, usually known as the covenant of grace. “This, then, is a confirming of a covenant already extant, i.e., the covenant of God’s redemptive grace that Christ confirms (Rom. 15:8),” claims Dr. Gentry. Dr. Gentry and those advocating a similar view, must resort to a non-textual, theological interpretation at this point since there was no seven-year covenant made by Christ with the Jewish people at the time of His first coming. They must back off from the specifics of the text in verse 27 and import in a theological interpretation, thus providing us with a classic example of spiritualization or allegorical interpretation.
If this is supposed to be a reference to the covenant of grace, then “it may be observed first that this would be a strange way to express such a thought,” notes Dr. Wood. Christ’s salvation covenant is not limited to seven years rather it is an eternal covenant. Daniel 9:27 says the covenant is to be made with “the many.” This term always refers in some way to Israel throughout the book of Daniel (Daniel 11:33, 39; 12:3). Thus it is a narrow term, used in a specific context. It is not a broad term, synonymous with the language of global salvation. Further, “it is evident that the covenant is subsequent to the cutting off of Messiah and the destruction of the City and the Sanctuary, in the twenty-sixth verse; therefore, it could not have been confirmed at the First Advent,” says G. H. Pember. Such an interpretation does not fit this text and it does not account for the seven years that Gabriel says this covenant will be in place. Dr. Wood further explains:
Since the word for “covenant” . . . does not carry the article (contrary to the kjv translation), this covenant likely is made at this time for the first time (not a reaffirmation of an old one, then) and probably will concern some type of nonaggression treaty, recognizing mutual rights. Israel’s interest in such a treaty is easy to understand in the light of her desire today for allies to help withstand foes such as Russia and the Arab bloc of nations.
Since a covenant as described in verse 27 has not yet taken place in reference to the nation of Israel, it must therefore follow that this will be a yet to occur future event. This then, demands a postponement of the seventieth week with a gap of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of years.
For One Week
This passage clearly says that the length of the covenant that “he” will make will be for one week or seven years. I suppose that this could mean either that the covenant will be predetermined to last seven years or that it does not specify a length of time when made, but as it turns out, is only in existence for seven years. Many of those who believe that the entire prophecy of the seventy weeks has already been fulfilled around the time of Christ’s first coming teach that the first half of the seventieth week was fulfilled by Christ’s ministry. “We know Christ’s three-and-one-half-year ministry,” says Dr. Gentry, “was decidedly focused on the Jews in the first half of the seventieth week (Matt. 10:5b; cf. Matt. 15:24).” G. H. Pember objects to such a view with the following:
if the Messiah could be the subject, and the time that of the First Advent, we should then be plunged into the greatest perplexity; for the Lord did none of the things that are mentioned in the twenty-seventh verse. To fulfill that part of the prophecy, He must have made a covenant with the majority of the Jewish people for seven years, neither more nor less. But there is no hint of such a covenant in the Gospels. And, indeed, one of the prophets has intimated to us, that the Lord, just before His death, suspended all His relations with the Jews, and through them with the whole of the Twelve Tribes. This exactly corresponds to the suspension of His dealings with the Jews at the close of the Four Hundred and Eighty-third Year, and to the facts of history. Still further, the very next verse of Zechariah carries us over the interval, and brings us face to face with the Prince that shall come, the Anti-christ, who will make the seven years' covenant on pretence of being the Shepherd of Israel. Lastly, Christ did not cause sacrifice and offering to cease, when He suffered without the gate: the Temple-services were carried on for nearly forty years longer.
Once again we have seen that the text of this passage supports a gap of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the seventieth week is still future to the time in which we now live. “Israel has now been reestablished as a nation (1948), suggesting that the seventieth seven may soon begin.”
In the Middle of the Week
Gabriel divides his prophecy of seventy weeks of years to Daniel into three sections: seven weeks, sixty-two weeks, and one week. The final week of years-seven years-is detailed in Daniel 9:27. I have already dealt with the first part of verse 27, “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week.” Now I will be focusing upon the rest of verse 27, which says, “but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” This verse tells us what will happen during the final week of years, which I believe to be a yet future seven year period often called the tribulation.
Since the week of years is a seven-year period, the middle of a week of years would be three and a half years into the seven-year period. Interestingly, Daniel 7:25 and 12:7 both refer to a three and a half year period (time, times, and half a time). The context of both passages speak of the future time of the antichrist or the beast. This would support a futurist understanding of the seventieth week of Daniel 9:27. Daniel 7:25 says, “And he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.” While this passage was given to Daniel before he received the revelation of chapter nine, it seems clear that the logic for the chronology of Daniel 7:25 is drawn from the seventy weeks prophecy of chapter nine. Daniel 12:7 reads as follows: “And I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed.” Both Daniel 9:27 and 12:7 speak of the antichrist’s rule coming to an end at the conclusion of the same three and a half year period. This supports the notion that they both refer to a yet future time that we often call the Great Tribulation. Dr. John Whitcomb notes,
This important prophetic statement clearly refers to the same time units as previously described in the end-time activities of the Antichrist (“little horn”) of Daniel 7, where “he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they [the saints] will be given into his hands for a time, times, and half a time” (7:25). The clarification provided here is that the three-and-one-half-year period at the beginning of which Antichrist “shall cause a covenant [with the many] to be made strong” (literal translation). Then, for some unexplained reason, “in the middle” of this final seven-year period “he will put a stop to sacrifice [zebâh, bloody sacrifices] and grain offering [minhah, non-bloody sacrifices].”
Recently, I attended a conference in which my friend Hal Lindsey spoke. He used a phrase that I think applies to non-literal interpreters like Gary DeMar and Dr. Kenneth Gentry who do not provide a textual interpretation of this passage. They are rightly called “allegorical alchemist,” because they try to brew-up interpretations from out of thin air by just stating and then declaring them to be true. In Daniel 9:27 they attempt a topical approach, selecting a word or two from the passage and declaring that “Daniel’s famous prophecy finds fulfillment in the first century of our era.” DeMar is even more bizarre in his alchemy when he teaches:
As the result of the Jews’ rejection of Jesus, they would lose their inheritance. This would not occur for another forty years (Matt. 21:33-46; 22:1-14). Similarly, Jesus pronounced the temple “desolate” when He walked out of it even though its destruction did not come for another forty year (23:38). In principle, it was a “done deal” when He turned His back on the temple. It is no wonder that Jesus described the temple as “your house” (23:38). The temple’s destruction was a consequence, a result, of the apostate Jews’ rejection of Jesus (see 2 Sam. 13:32; Job 14:15; Isa. 10:22; Lam. 2:8; Luke 22:22). . . .
. . . The sentence is determined on one day while the sentence may not be carried out until some time in the future. In similar fashion, we are told that the destruction of Jerusalem was “determined” within the seventy weeks while the sentence was not carried out until forty years later.
In response to Dr. Gentry’s claim that Daniel 9:27 refers to Christ’s salvation covenant see my previous installment of this series (Part IX). Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost further explains:
This covenant could not have been made or confirmed by Christ at His First Advent, . . . because : (a) His ministry did not last seven years, (b) His death did not stop sacrifices and offerings, (c) He did not set up “the abomination that causes desolation” (Matt. 24:15). Amillenarians suggest that Christ confirmed (in the sense of fulfilling) the Abrahamic Covenant but the Gospels give no indication He did that in His First Advent.
What Dr. Gentry says just does not explain Daniel 9:27 in context. When one’s interpretation cannot explain the details of a passage, then an allegorical alchemist, like Dr. Gentry, will take words or phrases out of context and place them into a different context so that, to some, it appears that he has explained the passage. Yet, he has nothing of the sort and this a clear example of his interpretative slight of hand. The text of verse 27 is simple not explained by Dr. Gentry’s statements.
In a way, DeMar’s explanation is even worse than his partner in crime-Dr. Gentry. While verse 27 clearly says that the events to which it speaks will take place within the seven-year period, DeMar changes the meaning to simply mean “determine.” Verse 27 says that in the middle of the seven-year period “he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering.” This is the language of something that is to actually take place. This is not the language of something that someone is proposing to do later. The final part of verse 27 says, “and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” How is this just a proposal of what has been determined, when passage clearly says that this will take place within the timeframe?
The Abomination of Desolation
Verse 27 says that in the middle of the week (three and a half years), “on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate.” Here we have a reference to the Antichrist who will do something to desecrate the Temple. This did not happen near the time of Christ’s first coming. If it did, then what event was it? If it happened in a.d. 70, as some might say, then it could not have happened within the time-span of the seventy weeks of years by anyone’s calculation. Yet, Jesus said in Matthew 24:15, “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand).” Here we have the interpretation of Jesus concerning the event Gabriel describes to Daniel in 9:27. The event has to be future to the time of Christ, and since nothing like it corresponds to within seven years of His prediction then we have to see this as a yet future event. Thus, another reason for a gap or postponement of time between the sixty-ninth week of years and the seventieth week. Posttribulationist Dr. Robert Gundry notes:
Moreover, to place the complete fulfillment of the seventieth week at a.d. 70 or before severs the obvious connection between Daniel 9, Matthew 24, and Revelation. (Compare “in the middle of the week” [Dan. 9:27], forty-two month and 1,260 days [Rev. 11:2; 12:6; 13:5], and time, times, and half a time [Dan. 12:7; 7:25; Rev. 12:14]. Under the historical view, if the relationship between Daniel and Revelation were retained, Revelation, which was written probably a quarter century after the destruction of Jerusalem, would be history instead of the prophecy it purports to be.
A Complete Destruction
The latter part of verse 27 says, “even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” Once again, when did this happen in conjunction with Christ’s first advent. It did not! Therefore, another reason to see this as a yet future event when the Antichrist will be destroyed at the second coming of Christ, which will bring to an end the seventieth week of years.
In another interpretation put forth by Gary DeMar that violates the clear statements of the biblical text, he sees the abomination of desolation taking place in a.d. 70.
The abomination of desolation is mentioned in one Old Testament book (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). . . . There 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.
In addition to the problem that an a.d. 70 fulfillment does not fit into anyone’s scheme of the seventy weeks of years, none of the Romans, such as Titus, could be said to have been destroyed after performing the supposed deed. Dr. Randall Price rebuts such an approach with the following:
However, historically, no known Roman leader ever “made a covenant with the Jewish leaders . . . for seven years, and so this awaits future fulfillment when seventieth wee commences.
. . . However, if this is applied to the Romans in their crushing the Jewish Revolt in a.d. 70, the how was the Roman empire punished at this point, since the fall of the empire itself was still several hundred years away?
It is obvious that these events of verse 27 did not take place at or in conjunction with Christ’s first coming in the first century a.d. A gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week is needed because it is what the text intended to make this prophecy work out in history with the exact precision that our Lord intends. It is a shame that some let theological bias prevent them from seeing this, and many other passages, as God intended them when He revealed them to His prophets. No other approach works and when one takes the final week of years literally then this harmonizes with hundreds of other verses that speak of the tribulation period that will lead up to the defeat of Christ’s enemies and the victory of our Lord. Hopefully these events are just on the horizon.
Critics of a Time Gap
Even though I have completed the textual examination of Daniel 9:24-27, there are still other issues to deal with in relation to the passage and the postponement of the seventieth week from the first sixty-nine.
Those who do not think that the seventy weeks of Daniel 9:24-27 have a literal and chronologically precise fulfillment are opposed to the postponement of the seventieth week as a yet future time of seven years. Examples of such criticism can be found by those within the Reconstructionist movement, holding to a form of preterist postmillennialism. Gary DeMar complains:
Placing a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel 9:24-27 “must be fixed” because of the system created by dispensationalists, not because the Bible mentions anything about a gap. . . . dispensationalists force the Bible to comply to an already developed system that insists that these events cannot be describing first-century events.
Fellow preterist, Dr. Ken Gentry echoes DeMar’s refrain in the following:
An overriding concern of the prophecy, in distinction to all other Messianic prophecies is that it is specifically designed to be a measuring time-frame. . . . If there were gaps between the units, the whole idea of measurement in the “seventy weeks” would vanish. An elastic yardstick is a worthless measure. None of the other prophecies brought forward as illustrations of a gap claim to be a measure of time.
Dr. Gentry is right about one thing, that the Daniel 9 passage is the only Messianic prophecy that specifically deals with chronology or the time element. While I believe that I have shown that the passage itself requires a chronological postponement between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of years, it is also supported by other Messianic passages which are not specifically time oriented, but clearly do refer to distinct time-periods: Christ’s first coming and his second coming.
If anyone believes in the two comings of Christ, and both DeMar and Gentry do, then they also believe in a gap of time between the first and second coming of Christ. I want to show how this fits into a clear biblical pattern that in turn lends support to the notion of a gap of time in Daniel 9:24-27.
The Two Phases of Christ's Career
It is obvious from the Bible that if you view the ministry or career of Christ in its entirety, then it is composed of two parts or phases. The first phase encompasses the first coming of Jesus two thousand years ago, while the second phase will consist of His second coming some time in the future. Yet many Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah commingled their descriptions of both phases of Christ into a single passage, without distinguishing between the two comings or phases of His earthly career.
It is commonly understood today that the Jews of the first century did not understand that these Old Testament prophecies spoke of a single Messiah who would come twice-once in humiliation, then again in glorious exaltation. We have learned that many Jews of Christ’s day thought that there would be two different Messiahs-Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David. Messiah ben Joseph would be one who suffers and dies, but is immediately followed by Messiah ben David, who reigns in glory. The reality of Scripture is that there is but one Messiah-Jesus of Nazareth-who comes twice. This means that there is a gap of time between the two comings.
Even though preterists like DeMar and Gentry belittle a gap of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel 9:24-27, they are driven to believe in a gap of time between the two comings. DeMar and Gentry even believe in a gap, so far, of almost 2,000 years. Yet this time-gap is not explicitly stated in Scripture. So how can DeMar and Gentry hold to something like a gap of time that not explicitly stated in Scripture? Because the only possible implication that can be deduced from the facts of Christ’s two comings is that there is a time-gap between the two events. In like manner, such a time-gap must also follow from the fact that Christ has a career that is two-phased.
Why is this important to our study of the seventy weeks of Daniel? It is important, because as Gentry noted above, “An overriding concern of the prophecy, in distinction to all other Messianic prophecies is that it is specifically designed to be a measuring time-frame.” True, so true, Dr. Gentry. Yet, you believe in a gap of time between the two comings of Christ, even though it is not specifically stated in the Bible. In the same way, I would argue that all other Messianic passages that speak of the two aspects or phases of the career of Messiah also must imply that they are fulfilled at the two comings of Christ, . . . with a gap of time in between. This means that there are many similar passages that speak in a single statement of items that encompass both phases of Christ’s career-the first and second advents. However, as Dr. Gentry has noted, only the Daniel 9:24-27 passage deals specifically with measuring time. This explains why the Daniel passage is the only Messianic text that deals specifically with a time frame. However, a significant number of other Messianic passages have something in common with the prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27. They all speak of components of Christ’s career that will take place in the two phases of His two advents. Only the Daniel text speaks of time factors.
Two-Phased Messianic Passages
This means that it is legitimate to argue for a gap of time from the other Messianic passages that also include, in a single passage, the two elements of Christ’s career. Dr. Randall Price makes note of the way Scripture uses time gaps and provides a list of passages that fit into this category in the following statement:
The revelation of a prophetic postponement in the fulfillment of the eschatological aspect of the messianic program is in harmony with numerous passages in the Old Testament that reveal the two advents of Christ (e.g. Gen. 49:10-12; Deut. 18:16; 2 Sam. 7:13-16; Isa. 9:1-7; 11:1-2, 11; 52:13-59:21; 61:1-11, cf. Luke 4:16-19; 7:22; Joel 2:28, cf. Acts 2:17; Zeph. 2:13-3:20; Zech. 9:9-10; Mic. 5:2-15; Ps. 2:7-8, cf. Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5; Ps. 22:1-32; 34:14, 16; Mal. 3:1-3; 4:5-6; 53:10-11).
Perhaps the most well-known example of the kind of prophecy about which I speak is found in Christ’s reading of Isaiah 61:1-2 as recorded in Luke 4:16-30. The passage reads as follows:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn,
Tim LaHaye and I have a chart diagramming this passage in our book called Charting the End Times. We say concerning this passage:
Now when Jesus read the prophecies about Himself in Isaiah 61, why did He stop at the beginning of verse 2? Because He was announcing the reasons for His first coming and because He was to “proclaim the acceptable year of Jehovah’s favor” (kjv). That’s a reference to the church age, often called the age of grace, a time when sinners can freely call on the name of the Lord to be saved (Romans 10:13). Jesus stopped at the words, “and the day of vengeance of our God,” which speaks of the Tribulation period, mentioned by the Hebrew prophets as “the day of wrath” and “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” and by Jeremiah as “a day of vengeance” (46:10). That’s because the purpose of His first coming was to announce the period of grace and salvation we are living in, not the time of judgment that is yet to come.
Another example of what some have called “double reference” is found in Zechariah 9:9-10. Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum says concerning double reference:
This rule should not be confused with another rule often called Double Fulfillment. This author does not accept the validity of the principle of double fulfillment. This law states that one passage may have a near and a far view; hence, in a way, it may be fulfilled twice. . . . This author, however, does not believe that there is such a thing as double fulfillment. A single passage can refer to one thing only, and if it is prophecy, it can have only one fulfillment unless the text itself states that it can have many fulfillments. The law of double reference differs from the law of double fulfillment in that the former states that while two events are blended into one picture, one part of the passage refers to one event and the other part of the passage to the second event. This is the case in Zechariah 9;9-10.
In the same context we see that verse nine refers to Christ’s first coming:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Verse ten is a reference only to Christ’s second coming as follows:
And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; and the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; and His dominion will be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
In the Zechariah passage, there has to be a gap of time between the fulfillment of the verse nine that relates to Messiah’s first coming two thousand years ago, and His second advent, which is still a yet future event. Even though no time factor is explicitly stated in the text, because of the specific nature of the events described in the two verses, a gap of time is required to coordinate the fulfillment of this prophecy with the events of history.
The point that I am making, relating to the seventy weeks of Daniel prophecy, is that it is not unreasonable to find implied time gaps in a significant number of Messianic passages in the Old Testament. I am not saying that this proves that there is in fact a gap in Daniel 9:24-27, I believe that I have demonstrated that earlier. I think that the two-phased career of Messiah means that it is not unreasonable to expect in a Messianic passage a necessity of a time-gap between the fulfillment of all events prophesied in such a passage. This supports our literal interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27.
Recent Development Charges
The final item that I will attempt to handle on this matter is the history of the church’s interpretation of the seventy weeks of Daniel. What has the church believed about this passage down through the years? One of the main reasons for spending time on this matter is that some have said that our view that sees a gap of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel is a recent development in church history. Truth of the matter is that it is the oldest known view in church history. Read on and see.
Over the last few years, I have come to expect outburst against all aspects of the literal interpretation of Scripture from preterists who believe that Bible prophecy is a thing of the past. They come through in predicable fashion concerning this issue of the historical interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27.
Gary DeMar is perhaps the most strident on this issue when he says, “nearly all Bible scholars agree that the first sixty-nine weeks of Daniel’s prophecy refer to the time up to Jesus’ crucifixion, only dispensationalists believe that the entire seventieth week is yet to be fulfilled.” In a later edition of the same book, DeMar asserts concerning a non-gap view that it “has been the standard interpretation for centuries, except for minor differences in details. John Nelson Darby and other changed all this with their church-parenthesis hypothesis.” After the first sentence of DeMar’s statement, he footnotes a reference to an errant source on the matter, Philip Mauro, who declares the following: “Nor, so far as we are aware, was any other meaning ever put upon them until within recent years, and then only by those belonging to a particular ‘school’ of interpretation.” Of course, Mauro’s recent “school” is reference to those of us who see a future seventieth week in Daniel’s prophecy. Mauro certainly was not aware of what was taught in the early church, as we shall shortly see.
Preterist, Dr. Kenneth Gentry, speaking of his non-gap interpretation insists that “Conservative scholars widely agree on such an interpretation, which is virtually ‘universal among Christian exegetes’-excluding dispensationalists.” Later, Dr. Gentry continues his inaccurate statements by saying “that the early Father held to a non-eschatological interpretation of the Seventieth Week.” This is just not true, as shall be noted below. Now I will examine just what the early church did believe about the seventy weeks of Daniel.
Early Church Views
The main point for which I am looking into the early church view of Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy is whether they held to a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of years. Interestingly, an article of note was done on this subject, published in a Reformed Journal, which is the general theological orbit of Gary DeMar and Dr. Kenneth Gentry. The article was written by Louis E. Knowles and referenced errantly by Dr. Gentry when he said, “that the early Fathers held to a non-eschatological interpretation of the Seventieth Week.” Dr. Gentry’s statement is clearly in error when compared with the writings of the early church fathers.
The earliest extant writings of the church fathers reveal just the opposite of Dr. Gentry’s claim, with the exception of The Epistle of Barnabas (about a. d. 90-100), which presents a short and incomplete treatment on the subject. Knowles divides the early church (Barnabas through Augustine) into two interpretive groups, “the eschatological and the historical.” By eschatological, Knowles refers to those who took the seventieth week of Daniel as future prophecy leading up to Christ’s return. By historical, he means those who believe that Daniel’s final week has already been fulfilled. Knowles concludes that Barnabas “envisioned the completion of all the weeks before the development of the church.
When Knowles deals with the next major contributors-Irenaeus (130-200) and his disciple Hippolytus (170-236)-he describes their views as “undoubtedly the forerunners of the modern dispensational interpreters of the Seventy Weeks.” Knowles draws the following conclusion about Irenaeus and Hippolytus:
. . . we may say that Irenaeus presented the seed of an idea that found its full growth in the writings of Hippolytus. In the works of these fathers, we can find most of the basic concepts of the modern futuristic view of the seventieth week of Daniel ix. That they were dependent to some extent upon earlier material is no doubt true. Certainly we can see the influence of pre-Christian Jewish exegesis at times, but, by and large, we must regard them as the founders of a school of interpretation, and in this lies their significance for the history of exegesis.
Thus, it is clear “that in Irenaeus and Hippolytus we have the originators of that method of interpretation that places the seventieth week of Daniel at the time of the consummation.”
Although, Irenaeus does not explicitly spell out a gap in his writings, there is no other way that he could have come up with his view of a future tribulation period of at least at least three and a half years. Irenaeus speaks of how “three years and six months constitute the half-week” in his section on the prophecy of Daniel 9. This is why Knowles says that in Irenaeus “we have the basic concept for a futuristic construction of the Seventy Weeks, viz., the position of the last week at the end of the age.” Hippolytus, Irenaeus’ pupil is even clearer.
Hippolytus is the first known person in the history of the church to write a commentary on any book of the Bible, and he wrote on Daniel. “Hippolytus give us the first attempt at detailed interpretation of the Seventy Weeks,” observes Knowles. “He is dependent, no doubt, upon Irenaeus for the foundational proposition that the last half-week of the seventy is to be connected with the Antichrist, but the detailed development is not found in Irenaeus.” In fact, Hippolytus refers to a gap or, in his words “division,” multiple times. Hippolytus says,
For when the threescore and two weeks are fulfilled, and Christ is come, and the Gospel is preached in every place, the times being then accomplished, there will remain only one week, the last, in which Elias will appear, and Enoch, and in the midst of it the abomination of desolation will be manifested, viz., Antichrist, announcing desolation to the world.
Le Roy Froom grudgingly admits that “Hippolytus . . . arbitrarily separates by a chronological gap from the preceding sixty-nine weeks, placing it just before the end of the world.” “Certainly Hippolytus’ interpretation does not have the refinements of the later development, but it is the direct ancestor of it,” concludes Knowles.
There were a number of others in the early church, up till the time of Augustine (354-430), who spoke about the subject of the seventy weeks prophecy found in Daniel 9. Jerome (340-420) in his commentary on Daniel is reluctant to set forth his own interpretation of Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy, “because it is unsafe to pass judgment upon the opinions of the great teachers of the Church and to set one above another.” So Jerome simply records the various views up till his time. The first view that Jerome cites is that of Africanus (160-240), who does not mention a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks, but does, like early gap proponents “definitely views this passage as eschatological and decidedly Messianic.” Thus, Africanus fits into the eschatological camp, making him closer to the futurist gap position, and not the historical.
Eusebius (270-340), the father of church history, teaches an historical view, but he places a gap of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. Knowles explains:
In regards to the last week, we have some rather distinct views in Eusebius. We must recall that the last week does not follow immediately upon the sixty-ninth, but comes after the ‘indeterminate space of time’ in which the events of vs. 26 are being fulfilled. This last week, then, covers a period of seven years that extend from three and one-half years before the crucifixion to three and one-half years after it.
Knowles speaks of a writer named Hesychius whom Augustine refers to as an opponent of his historical fulfillment view. “Hesychius has questioned Augustine about the fulfillment of the Seventy Weeks, and seems to be an adherent of the futurist school of interpretation.” Thus, it is clear that even in the early fifth century there are still proponents of the eschatological and futurist schools of interpretation of Daniel’s seventieth week. “We have seen the formation of two definite schools of interpretation. . . .” notes Knowles. “All the later developments in Christian literature will be found to fit into one of these categories.”
In one sense it does not matter what others who have come before our current generation think on an issue, since in reality a matter rises or falls upon whether it squares with God’s Word. However, in another sense it does matter what others have thought down through church history, since if something is taught in the Bible then it may be legitimate to ask why others have not understood a particular teaching. While there are a number of doctrines that have gone well over a thousand years before members of Christ’s church have come to realize what was there in Scripture all along, the necessary gap of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel is not one of those late teachings. Why opponents of a future seventieth week of Daniel want to make matters worse for themselves by saying that we do not have ancient historical precedent is beyond me. It is obvious that our futurist view was found early and often throughout the early church, and only became scarce when premillennialism was banded from the medieval church as a result of the influence of Augustine and Jerome. “But the saints shall never possess an earthly kingdom,” declares Jerome, “but only a heavenly. Away, then, with the fable about a millennium!” With Jerome’s banishment of early premillennialism went the literal interpretation of prophecy. History would have to wait more than a thousand years for the revival of a literal interpretation of Bible prophecy and the literal approach to the seventieth week of Daniel.
I think that sound biblical exegesis of Daniel 9:24-27 must lead to an understanding that the seventieth week is separated from the first sixty-nine weeks of years because of Israel failure to accept Jesus as their promised Messiah. Therefore, God has postponed the final week of years until the start of the seven-year tribulation. In the mean time, the New Testament teaches us that the church age will intervene during the postponement of Israel’s final week of years. The church will be composed of the Jewish remnant and elect Gentiles made into a single body-the Body of Christ (Acts 15:13-16; Ephesians 2-3). Thus, the final week of years will be the yet future seven-year tribulation that will lead to the conversion of all Israel (Roman 11:26). This will lead to a full and literal fulfillment of God’s entire program for His people-Israel. May it happen today! Maranatha!
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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