The Seventy Weeks of Daniel
by Thomas Ice
It has been well observed by various writers that if the seventy weeks are to end with the death of Christ and the incoming destruction of Jerusalem, it is simply impossible—with all ingenuity expended in this direction by eminent men—to make out an accurate fulfillment of prophecy from the dates given, for the time usually adduced being either too long to fit with the crucifixion of Christ or too short to extend to the destruction of Jerusalem. —George N. H. Peters
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 saw last time 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."
Messiah Will Be Cut Off
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.
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 article, 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. Maranatha!
EndnotesLink to Word document containing footnotes