Daniel’s Seventieth Week

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting right-eousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. (Dan 9:24)

Dispensationalists are adamant that the Kingdom of God, which Jesus Christ “offered” to the Jews, was postponed when they rejected Him as king, and that the postponement fits into the prophecy of Daniel above, between the 69th week and the 70th. They call this a “parenthesis”, and fit the entire “church age” into that parenthesis.

Not to dwell on the fact; but there is no such thing as a “church age”, in the sense that they mean it — that is, the span of time from Pentecost to the rapture in which the New Testament church will have existed. For the church has existed from the earliest days of history; though not in its modern form. Christ died for the church and no other; and that means everyone in history who has trusted in Him for salvation. Otherwise, the Old Testament saints must have been lost.

But there is no parenthesis between Daniel’s 69th week and the 70th that contains the entire church age. Not only does Scripture not mention any such gap, but the possibility is precluded by the fact that the “seventy weeks” are a measure of the time from the decree of Cyrus (freeing the Jews to return and re-build Jerusalem) to the kingdom of “Messiah the prince”. To arbitrarily insert or delete any period of time anywhere would change the total to something other than seventy weeks. The prophecy would then be of no use at all!

Let’s say that I told you I would complete a job for you in two weeks, and you find at the end of the two weeks that I’m not half done. You ask me why I’ve not kept my word, and I reply that I have. You ask “How so?” I answer, ”I’m sorry. Obviously there’s been a misunderstanding. I guess you didn’t know about the parenthesis.” “The parenthesis?” you say. “That’s right”, I say, “There’s a parenthesis of indefinite length between the first week and the second. I’m not sure when the second week starts, but it could be any day now – or it could be years off. No one knows for sure. Is this a problem for you?” Who would listen for a moment to such nonsense?

In American football, a chain is used to measure the distance gained by the team that is on offense. What if a part of that chain were replaced by a large rubber band? That is what the Dispensational interpretation does to this text; for it adds an undefined period in the middle of a definite measurement of time.

The Dispensationalists place the seventieth week, as I have said, after the church age, at the “rapture of the church”, when it is taken from the earth during the entire seven years. These years are said to be characterized by the “Great tribulation”, and they take the “great tribulation” of Matthew 24, etc. out of context to prove it. All of this is defended with the very poor arguments and the faulty hermeneutic that characterizes Dispensationalism.

The seventy weeks are broken down into seven weeks, sixty-two weeks, and one week. Naturally, they run consecutively; the seven, then the sixty-two, then the one final week. During the first seven weeks of years, the city and temple were rebuilt. Then, after sixty-two more weeks, Messiah made His public appearance (at His baptism), exercised His ministry, and performed His redeeming work, which culminated in His being “cut off” in the final week of the seventy, having established the New Covenant just before His death.

The prophecy had its fulfillment at the end of the Babylonian captivity of the Jews: the restoration of Jerusalem(v.25), the building of the second temple (that took exactly 49 years), the advent of Christ, his redeeming work (v.24), and succeeding events (v.27). Jesus the Messiah was “cut off” after the sixty-ninth week, that is, in the seventieth week. There is therefore no remaining week of prophetic time to be fulfilled in the future.

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after [the] threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off…” (Daniel 9:24-26)

The prophecy does not say how long after the sixty-ninth week it would be when Messiah would be cut off, but it was obviously within that week. That is all the prophecy requires. The time period is not measured in years; such that we must calculate the number of years to the end of the seventy weeks, that is 490; and say that the predicted events must run right up to the 490th year. The units of measure are hebdads, weeks of years — not years as such.

The phrase “unto the Messiah the Prince” probably refers to the time of His baptism, when he was about thirty years of age. This is when his forerunner, John the baptist, told the world that this man was the Messiah, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, and when the Father gave testimony that Jesus was His beloved son:

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after [the] threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off…” (Daniel 9:24-26)

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God…

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:1-6;21-22)

It is important that we notice that this particular date is marked in Luke’s gospel with greater precision than the date of any other event in the New Testament. Why, but because it is the year when the sixty-nine weeks of Daniel were ended? It would be strange indeed if it were only the beginning of John’s ministry that was so carefully marked, and Jesus the Messiah’s appearance was not! As the text suggests, Jesus was baptized near the beginning of John’s ministry:

Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized…”

Besides, John’s ministry probably only lasted about six months (A.T. Robertson’s Harmony of the Gospels), so the baptism of Christ likely took place in the year so carefully defined here.

The evangelist would have been very conscious of the predicted time when Messiah was to appear. The Jews kept a precise chronology. Jesus Himself, at the beginning of His ministry, preached “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). What “time” was fulfilled? Did Jesus merely mean the time fixed by God in His secret decree? Or was He not rather pointing to a concrete and verifiable fact, which would enable His hearers to authenticate His person and mission? If Jesus had not appeared at the predicted time, the Jews would certainly have known it, and would have used it against Him! There was only this one prediction in the Jewish Bible of the time of the coming of Messiah. So when Paul spoke of “the fullness of the time”, when “God sent forth His son” (Galatians 4:4), it is probable that He too had Daniel’s prophecy in mind.

Therefore we believe that the first sixty-nine weeks (483 years) of Daniel’s prophecy reach to the baptism of Christ and the beginning of His ministry. Since Jesus’ ministry continued for about three and a half years, it follows that the crucifixion of our Lord occurred at about the halfway point in the seventieth week of Daniel. It is clear that His death served “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness”. Opinions differ as to what the other phrases “to seal up the vision and prophecy,” and “to anoint the most Holy” refer to, but whatever view we take of these items, it is certain that they must also have been fulfilled within the seventieth week.

What becomes then of the Dispensationalists’ “parenthesis theory”? The seventy weeks have long since run out! There is no remaining seven year period to be pushed far into the future. And it follows that there is no “parenthesis” during which the kingdom was postponed. Jesus was born a king. In His ministry, He announced that the kingdom was at hand. And He inaugurated His kingdom when He ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God.

For further study, see Calvin’s Commentaries on the Prophet Daniel, or Mauro’s exhaustive study, The Seventy Weeks of Daniel.

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