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The 70 Weeks Prophecy

Ironing Out Some Errors

A large number of charismatic, pentecostal and evangelical believers have been fed incorrect information about Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy. As a result they have false expectations and will be disillusioned when events in the Middle East do not work out the way their teachers anticipate.

The widespread error is rooted in a misinterpretation of Daniel 9:27, which reads in the NKJV:

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering...

The usual interpretation of this text is that the “he” does not refer to Christ. The explanation goes something like this:

“The 70th week is the subject of discussion here (vs. 26,27)... The ‘prince who is to come’ is the beast from the sea [see Rev 13] and the ‘little horn’ is the Antichrist. After making a covenant [treaty] with Israel for one week, or seven years, he will break it in the midst of the week, cause sacrifice to cease, and destroy the city of Jerusalem and the temple....” (Footnote, NKJV Believer’s Study Bible.)

The major problem with this thesis lies in the failure to appreciate to whom the word “he” refers at the beginning of the verse. If you run your eyes up the page to the previous verse and notice who the subject is, you will see it refers to Christ, NOT to the prince (civil ruler) who was to come.

Verse 26 reads:

After the 62 weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.

I will explain about the 62 weeks later, but first notice that the subject is the Messiah. The “he” of verse 27 refers to Him. Christ is the primary subject of the passage. Then it mentions “the people of the prince”. Note that the prince is a secondary subject. This ‘prince’ was the Roman commander Titus (who later became emperor in AD 79) who destroyed Jerusalem in AD 69 and 70, slaughtering its inhabitants, destroying the temple and putting an end to animal sacrifices. Organised, centralised worship in Judaism ended at that time.

“Till the end of (the) war desolations are determined” has certainly been fulfilled in Jewish history since! War has not ceased, because Jesus has not yet come to take control of human affairs. And the Jews have suffered vicious persecutions. Up until recent times, Jerusalem was occupied by foreign powers, and Moslems still control part of it.

But the One who puts an end to “sacrifice and offering” in verse 27 is not a civil ruler. The subject is the Messiah. He put an end to the need for ritual sacrifice and offering when He died on the cross in c. AD 33 or 34. At that time He ratified His new covenant with the people He had called then. This is the covenant being referred to in verse 27. It’s a spiritual covenant, not a human pact or peace treaty.

Confirming The Covenant

The account also states that He confirms this covenant with many for one week. Going by the principle of a prophetic day for a year (Num 14:34; Ezek 4:5,6), this equates to 7 years in actuality.

We know from a careful study of NT chronology that Jesus spent 3½ years training (“confirming the covenant” with) His disciples before He was crucified. This corresponds to the part of the prophecy which states that He would be cut off and end animal sacrifices in the middle of that prophetic week (9:26,27). (The fact that Jesus’ ministry spanned 3½ years is shown under the heading Four Passovers in Jesus’ Ministry.)

Take a closer look at this phrase confirm the covenant with many. The word confirm is gabar in Hebrew, meaning to “strengthen” or “prevail”. It strongly implies a revealing of hitherto unrealised knowledge or understanding which needs to be strengthened or to prevail. The revelation of new truth always attracts hostility and opposition. The new covenant was vehemently opposed and had to prevail!

Jesus revealed new truth to His ethnic people during the 3½ years of His ministry. And that revelation has been available to MANY people ever since, through the writings of the New Testament. But what about the remaining 3½ years? How will He complete the full 7 years as prophesied? Has that occurred?

Many think it has not. They assume that there was a break between the first 3½ years and the next 3½. It has been suggested that Jesus will complete the final 3½ years at the beginning of the Millennium, or that the 2 Witnesses perform that task during their ministry of 3½ years (Rev 11).

But these suggestions overlook the precision in the wording. Daniel wrote (9:27) that the sacrifice and offering would cease in the MIDDLE of that week of 7 years. The middle of 7 years is at the point of 3½ years from the outset and 3½ years from its completion. Jesus confirmed the covenant by His physical presence for 3½ years, and then continued that with His invisible presence for 3½ years, as He established His Church. (More on this later, under The ‘Missing’ ½ Week.) I have not heard anyone put forward this view, but I believe it is the only valid proposition to explain how the prophecy was completed. Thus, Jesus established His Church and fulfilled the 70 weeks prophecy.

The general view in the Church is clouded with error because it is assumed that the prophecy should culminate in the Second Coming. Certainly the Jews living in Jesus’ time were expecting a Messiah to come and to restore Israel’s greatness in the world, delivering them from foreign oppression. But like most people, their perception was too physical. The thrust of the prophecy is spiritual in nature (see Dan 9:24 below).

Another reason for ignorance is because God only reveals the truth to those who truly fear Him (Ps 111:10; Dan 12:10). The meaning of prophecies is generally concealed from those who don’t want God’s Spirit living in them, and from the proud. Notice this principle:

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter (Prov 25:2).

“How does it glorify God?” you ask. After God’s words are fulfilled, they glorify Him by showing His perfect foreknowledge of what was to occur. They also glorify Him in another more subtle way. Knowledge puffs up (1 Cor 8:1). Those who claim great knowledge or superior (even esoteric) understanding, like the Gnostics at the time of Paul, usually have a problem with pride. People who seek glory for themselves by trying to interpret God’s words without His inspiration (and there are many self-proclaimed teachers who claim to have authority to teach) will ultimately be humbled when they see how their wild speculation was just a lot of hot air!

If God can salvage any of them (if they are not among the incorrigible wicked), He will have achieved His main aim – the humbling of arrogant man! Only like a little child, with humility, will they be able to enter the Kingdom of God. And so, it is to God’s glory that He conceals such things, lest the pride of man ruins God’s work in him.

Daniel’s prayer which preceded the 70 weeks prophecy illustrates the type of person to whom God will reveal what is on His agenda to show.

To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets (Dan 9:9,10).

Daniel’s humility and desire for holiness endeared him to God, which is why he received so much from Him.

From Daniel 9:27, what becomes more apparent to me is that confirming the covenant signifies the restoration of truth, and also implies that Jesus enables this formerly unappreciated truth to prevail where it had not done so previously.

When Jesus came and revealed new spiritual gems to the Jewish people, those truths went largely unrecognised and unappreciated. It was only later that MANY (but not the majority!) accepted what He said. That occurred in the 3½ years immediately following His resurrection (Acts 6:1-7).

Jesus confirmed the covenant by: 1) revealing new spiritual knowledge, understanding and truth, and, 2) providing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

For the covenant to be fully confirmed, Jesus had to send the Holy Spirit, so the second 3½ year ‘term’ is as vital to the prophecy’s fulfilment as the first 3½ years, if not more so!

The 69 Weeks

Gabriel the archangel had said to Daniel:

70 weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, (1) to finish the transgression,(2) to make an end of sins, (3) to make reconciliation for iniquity, (4) to bring in everlasting righteousness, (5) to seal up vision and prophecy and (6) to anoint the Most Holy (Dan 9:24).

Christ has fulfilled all that. He died to pay the price of sin. Paul explained that the sting of death is sin and Jesus has conquered sin and death (1 Cor 15:56,57). In the spirit, Jesus has done it. He has achieved victory over sin. At the end of this age all will be made apparent to the world.

Let’s take each of the points mentioned in Daniel 9:24 above to see how Jesus fulfilled the prophecy: 1) He has made it possible for transgression to be finished; 2) He has made it possible for people to be free of sin; 3) He has made it possible for them to be reconciled to God; 4) He has made it possible for everlasting righteousness to come in. All that is lacking for the complete fulfilment of those aspects is human compliance – and God never violates a person’s free will. It’s up to individual people now to benefit from Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Jesus has done His part. Now people must do theirs.

Looking at the last two aspects: 5) He has fulfilled many visions and prophecies concerning His coming. (I list a number of these prophecies in a centre table in the booklet Why Jesus?); 6) He has been anointed in heaven, crowned King of kings, the ruler of the world. To repeat: at the end of this age that will be made apparent to the world.

Then Gabriel revealed:

Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there shall be 7 weeks and 62 weeks... (Dan 9:25).

Jerusalem had been vanquished by the Babylonians in 586 BC and her inhabitants had been taken captive to Babylon. While in captivity, it was revealed to Daniel (by the Holy Spirit as he read the writings of another prophet, Jeremiah) that after 70 years in captivity, a remnant would return (Jer 29:10). Jerusalem would be rebuilt.

God even predicted through Isaiah, 150 years before the event, the very name of the Persian ruler (Babylon was taken over by Medo-Persia while the Jews were being held captive) who would first instigate this return. His name was Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28-45:4).

70 years after their exile, a Jewish remnant returned to rebuild the Temple and to establish true worship in Jerusalem once again. The book of Ezra chronicles that return. And the book of Haggai is a corrective prophetic work which accompanied their efforts. Zechariah also prophesied at that auspicious time. Nehemiah covers a later return from exile.

The seven weeks corresponds to 49 (7 x 7) years of rebuilding Jerusalem, and the 62 (2 x 31) weeks to the period of 434 years from then until the coming of Messiah. The numbers are significant. 7 is a number which denotes God’s perfection, 2 is certainty or emphasis, and 31 is the numeric value of El, the Hebrew name for God. The numerics are a further sign certifying that God was very much behind all the restoration that took place in the return of those Jews from exile.

The number 69 (3 x 23) contains two interesting features. 3 is a numeric symbol for finality or completeness, and 23 depicts hypocrisy – which is often simply human inadequacy (10) under the mastery of Satan (13) [10 + 13 = 23].

Three Decrees

Just as the Jewish people were taken captive “in three successive stages (605, 597, 586 BC), they returned in three stages. The first stage occurred under the leadership of Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel (538 BC). After a long delay, this return resulted in the rebuilding of the temple (520-516 BC), encouraged by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Ezra led the second return in the seventh year of Artaxerxes I (458 BC, cf. Ezra 7:1,8). Nehemiah led the final return in the 20th year of Artaxerxes I (445 BC; cf. Neh 2:1-11).” (NKJV Believer’s Study Bible, p 632.)

The building of the second temple was finished in 516 BC, 70 years precisely from the complete devastation of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

Notice that Jeremiah’s 70-year prophecy hinges upon the temple – a focus of the spiritual purpose God was working out. This is critical to correctly understand the fulfilment of these prophecies. People tend to visualise everything too physically, while God’s main intent is to convey something far more important spiritually!

While Cyrus was the first ruler to sanction the return to Jerusalem, that was principally for the purpose of rebuilding the temple (Ezra 1:3). It was a later Persian ruler, Artaxerxes, who gave the command to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, as was prophesied through Daniel (9:25).

The date for that decree is unknown, but it was somewhere between 458 and 444 BC. My belief is that it was in 454 BC (but I can’t prove it), which would mean Jesus was born in 1 BC.

Several years ago, I researched this issue as far as I was able to do so, and I reached the conclusion, like so many others who have looked into it, that Dionysius (who originally arrived at the birth date of Christ, saying it was Dec 25th, 1 BC) got it wrong, and that it was in the autumn of 4 BC that Jesus was born. However, since then I have seen other evidence which could suggest that Jesus was born later than 4 BC, so the question is still not satisfactorily settled in my mind. Perhaps Dionysius Exiguus was right after all with his calculation of 1 BC for Jesus’ birth?! (Although he was definitely wrong to place the date on December 25th! Jesus was born in the autumn.) It is one of those things that will probably have to remain unknown until Jesus finally enlightens us with the actual details in the spirit realm. (It is not important to know the date at this stage. Prophecy buffs, who get so involved in trying to date things, usually miss the important aspects which God wants us to benefit from most – spiritual things.)

To continue in Daniel:

...and after the 62 weeks Messiah shall be cut off [die] but not for Himself (Dan 9:26a).

At first glance you might think that this prophecy means that Jesus would die immediately after 62 weeks of years (434 years) had expired after Jerusalem was re-established. But it doesn’t have to be fulfilled that way. The fact that Jesus died 3½ years later still fulfills what God said – after 62 weeks.   

Will A Physical Temple Be Built?

Another contentious issue concerns the rebuilding of the temple. Some say that Daniel’s prophecies indicate it must be built before Jesus’ second coming and that the Jews will resume offering sacrifices on an altar there in Jerusalem. This is based on two presumptions: 1) a literal / physical interpretation of Daniel 12:11 which reads...

...from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be 1290 days (Dan 12:11),

...and 2) a wrong understanding of Daniel 9:27, which we have already mentioned.

What these proponents forget is that the Bible is a book of spiritual intent and spiritual importance, not one of physical significance. Its messages are no longer for a physical race, but for the spiritual people of God. The people of God transcend racial boundaries. So, the ending of sacrifices (Dan 12:11) is not a warning to the Jews but to the Church. It foretells of a time when freedom of worship will be curtailed and controlled by the state to such an extent that your own spiritual life could be affected. I have written more about this in Understanding the Book of Revelation (£7.00) in the sections about the Abomination of Desolation.

Paul wrote about the temple of God in the New Testament, but he said nothing of a physical temple or of animal sacrifices. That is all history now, for the people of God. The temple of God is composed of those in whom God’s Spirit dwells (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16). This is the modern temple of God to which Daniel’s prophecies allude. And the sacrifices being curtailed for 3½ years refer to the illicit spiritual domination of God’s people by secular powers.

It shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished (Dan 12:7).

The ‘Missing’ ½ Week

God reveals things little by little, step by step, line upon line, here a little, there a little (Is 28:10).

This is how He has revealed the understanding of this prophecy to us. For many years I believed the widely held view that Jesus accomplished the first half of confirming the covenant for one week (Dan 9:27) before His death and resurrection, but that the second half awaited fulfilment.

How that would be accomplished was hidden from view, and we assumed that it would occur later, probably at the beginning of the Millennium.

But, as I explained earlier, that prospect denies the precision in the wording which says that “he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.” You don’t have a break in the middle of a week, inserting further time. The suggestion is untenable. A week is a week. It's seven consecutive days. And since it symbolises 7 years, there cannot be interim years in the middle. It depicts seven years in continuous sequence, like the preceding 483 years.

The understanding which I was receiving on this came when I was writing this account. After I had nearly completed it, I took the rough draft to Helena and asked her to enquire of the Lord also about several specific pivotal aspects written here. In all cases, she received confirmation acknowledging that what I had written was correct.

I was a bit stunned. It is humbling to find out that God has used you to be a vehicle of His working to receive revelation.

As we talked about what God was showing us, she made a comment about Paul’s ministry. It was something I had meant to pursue before finishing this article, but I had forgotten to do so.

I remembered a Bible which the late Miss Barbara Jackson had given me shortly before her death in 1999. It is an old Bible printed in 1814. Inside the front cover are the remains of a page (in two pieces with bits missing) with Edward Irving’s signature. Apparently the Bible was originally a gift from the now famous Scottish revivalist preacher. The wording reads (if I correctly decipher the ancient handwriting) “To My Brother-in-law Mr Herbert Dickson, from Edw Irving, Kircaldy, January 21, 1816.”

In the margins of this Bible are dates when events were thought to have occurred. They probably represent the fruits of work done by Archbishop Ussher. He tirelessly researched the whole Bible to try and establish a chronology for historical reference. Many believe that his dates have not been bettered since.

The margin dates the death and resurrection of Jesus in AD 33 and the conversion of Paul in AD 35. (The dramatic events surrounding Paul’s conversion are recounted in Acts 8 and 9, and Galatians 1 and 2 include some chronological hints.) While the dates are not certain and may possibly be a year or two out, they are accurate enough for our purposes.

It dawned on me that the ‘invisible’ 3½ years which completed Jesus’ “confirming of the covenant for one week” centred upon His preparation of the apostle Paul to reach out to the Gentiles.

Jesus had spent 3½ years training His first 12 apostles (and others) and revealing to them spiritual truths. That was the first ½ week of Daniel 9:27 fulfilled. Then Jesus spent the second ½ week preparing Paul likewise (with others). Christ revealed further understanding to Paul, which he then included in His letters to various churches. They now form a very important part of New Testament scripture.

Besides other things, they show that God’s promises of sonship and eternal life with Him are open to all who will call upon Him, Jew and Gentile alike. God has illustrated the perfection of this plan in the numerics of the prophecy:

70 weeks  =   70   x   7   =   490    =   7   x   10   x   7

God’s perfect working (7) in man (10) = In Jew and In Gentile
(7 symbolises God’s perfection. The number 10 depicts man.)

God’s plan for man is certainly perfect!

Malcolm B Heap, July 2001

Copyright: Midnight Ministries, PO Box 29, Aylesbury, HP17 8TL, UK