The Seventy Weeks of Daniel
24 "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. 25 "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. " (Dan. 9:24-27)
The seventy week prophecy of Daniel 9 is one of the most difficult passages in all of scripture. Consistent with their tendency to hang their hats on the more obscure passages, dispensationalists (according to postmillennial critics) alone attach make-or-break significance to this passage (along with other difficult passages from Revelation and Ezekiel).
Interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 is of major importance to premillennialism as well as pretribulationalism…it is the "key" [to prophecy and] one of the most important prophecies of the Bible. As Allis wrote, "the importance of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks in dispensational teaching can hardly be exaggerated." 177
We will not spend a great deal of time on this, because there is general agreement that the first sixty nine weeks-of-years takes us up to the ministry of Christ.
Recall that dispensationalist view. It places the end of the sixty-ninth week at the point where Christ allegedly offers the kingdom (Palm Sunday). As a result of the Jewish rejection, the kingdom was postponed and Christ was crucified. There is an indeterminate gap between week sixty-nine and seventy. At the start of the seventieth week, the rapture occurs. The seventieth week proper includes the tribulation and the rise of the antichrist.
The postmillennial (and amillennial) interpretation is quite different. Verse 26 states that after the sixty two weeks, which follows after the first seven weeks (v. 25), and hence means after sixty nine weeks of the prophecy (and so we are somewhere in the seventieth week) the Messiah is "cut off", i.e., He is crucified.178 This is elaborated upon in verse 27, where we read the he (the Messiah) will put and end to sacrifice (by His own atoning work) in the middle of the seventieth week, i.e., after his roughly 3½ years of public ministry. Verse 27 then concludes that, at an unspecified time later, "and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate…" This is taken to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Dispensationalists accuse their critics of having a "mini-gap theory" of their own, since more than 3½ years (but not more than a generation!) passed from the Crucifixion to the destruction of Jerusalem. However, a careful reading shows that while an event (the end of sacrifice) marks the middle of the seventieth week, no event marks the terminus of seventieth week. The events of the second part of verse 27 are the consequence of murdering Jesus, and the text does not demand that the abomination that it promises "will come", will necessarily happen within or at the end of the seventieth week. It only states that it will come. It does, however, have to come within a generation, as is identified with the tribulation described in the Olivet Discourse and hence with the destruction of Jerusalem.
If pressed to explain the remaining half of the seventieth week, many argue that the first 3½ years of apostolic work following the Resurrection and Pentecost focused on the Jews, and this provides a logical terminus to the seventy weeks, which is more-or-less a prophecy concerning Jews. This explanation, which may be correct, is not demanded by the scripture.
Apart from the gap that dispensationalists place between week sixty nine and week seventy, you will note one other huge difference. Postmillennialists and amillennialists take the “he” in verse 27 to refer to the Messiah, and that the covenant he makes is the New Covenant. Dispensationalists take “he” to refer to the antichrist, and the covenant to be a covenant of treachery he establishes with the post-rapture left-behind Jews.
Note the use in verse 27 of "confirm" a covenant is better understood with the non-dispensational view, in which the Christ confirms the New Covenant, already prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-34. See also Rom. 15:8). The dispensational view is that a heretofore unknown covenant is between the antichrist and Israel.
Mathison argues that the antecedent of "he" in verse 27 is the Messiah of verse 26, and not the "ruler" [prince] of verse 26 is confirmed in several ways: 179
- The word "ruler" [prince] is not the subject of the sentence in verse 26, the Messiah is.
- The "end" in verse 26 is the end of destruction, not his end.
- The Messiah is the focus of the entire passage.
Gentry draws similar conclusions: 180
Although the event that serves as the terminus of the sixty-ninth week is clearly specified, such is not the case with the terminus of the seventieth. Thus the exact event that ends the seventieth is not so significant for us to know. Apparently at the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity, the covenantal proclamation began to be turned toward the Gentiles.
The indefinite pronoun "he" does not refer back to the prince [ruler] who is to come of verse 26. That "prince" [ruler] is a subordinate noun; "the people" is the dominant noun. Thus the "he" refers back to the last dominant individual mentioned: the Messiah.
Of course, another interpretation renders the whole question of the antecedent of "he" moot. To wit, the prince [ruler] of verse 26 is the Messiah. The "ruler who will come" (verse 26) is in fact "the Anointed One, the ruler" (verse 25). All ambiguity is vanquished. This is consistent with the preterist view that Christ returned in A.D. 70 in judgment and that is was His armies, more so that Titus', that destroyed Jerusalem:
2"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. 4"Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' 5"But they paid no attention and went off--one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. (Matt. 22:2-7)
177 Walvoord, The Rapture Question, p. 24. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation, pp. 201, 206. O. T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church, p.111.
178 The Hebrew word translated as "cut off" is karath, used to denote the death penalty.
179 Mathison, Postmillennialism, an Eschatology of Hope, pp. 221-222.
180 Kenneth L. Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, p 329, 334.