Daniel’s Seventy Weeks
Daniel’s famous seventy weeks prophecy not only predicts the coming of the Messiah, but the exact date of Jesus’ crucifixion. This prophecy also predicts an “abomination of desolation” in that same timeframe. Here’s the prophecy:
Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator. (Dan 9:24-27)
This is a seriously misunderstood passage. The folks in Tim LaHaye’s camp think that this refers to the Antichrist. Actually, it refers to the Messiah. Both Satanic forces and heavenly forces are in view and presented as having a hand in the events. However, the ultimate focus of the passage is Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and his actions are what LaHaye and his futurist school of thought gravely misunderstand. Indeed, they must for their interpretation to even work.
First, a necessary hermeneutic: In prophecy-speak, a day is equivalent to a year. This is foreshadowed in a few places:
- In Genesis 5, “Thus all the days of X were Y years” appears several times, the first time “day” and “year” are related to one another
- In Genesis 6, God decrees that the days of man would be 120 years
- Because of Jacob’s love for Rachel, the seven years he had to serve for her seemed but a few days
- In Numbers 14:34, God punishes the people one year for each day of iniquity, so they had to wander the desert for 40 years
- Isaiah connects a day to a year with regard to divine vengeance in 34:8, 38:10, 61:2, and 62:4
- God again punishes one year for one day in Ezekiel 4:5-6
The seventy weeks were given to rebuild Jerusalem, complete the decreed iniquity, put an end to sin, and atone for this iniquity. Forty-nine years (seven weeks, seven days each) are given to rebuild Jerusalem for the coming prince (the Messiah). The Temple shall stand for 434 years (62 weeks, seven days each). After that, the end is coming with a flood and a war.
The final week is what LaHaye and company get wrong. In it, we shall see a covenant with many for seven years, and the midpoint an end to sacrifice and offering is made.
LaHaye and company assert that the final week hasn’t happened yet; that it isn’t spelling the end of the Second Temple Era. Rather, they say it is spelling an end to time itself. Since we’re still here, they reason that it hasn’t happened yet.
The problem is, any cursory reading of this prophecy indicates that it is referring to seventy consecutive weeks, not 69 weeks, then a gulf of 2000 years or more, followed by the last week. Nothing in the text indicates that. Which means that the actions of the final week are the actions of the Messiah, not the Antichrist.
The final week has someone, I say the Messiah, making a covenant with many. At the Last Supper, what did Jesus say? “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:27-28). Note the similarity to the language used by Daniel 9:27. Note also that sins will be forgiven in the seventy weeks.
Jesus sees himself as the Son of Man figure described by Daniel in 7:13-14, and this figure is given a heavenly (not an earthly) dominion over all people, nations, and languages. They will all serve him. Since Jesus saw himself this way, it makes perfect sense that his language would be geared to confirming the prophecies made about the Messiah in Daniel.
This is what Jesus is doing, and what happens in Daniel’s seventieth week. The prince discussed in Daniel 9:26: “the annoited one shall be cut off and have nothing.” This is ancient death imagery, and that’s what we find happened to Jesus. That was to happen at the end of the 69th week, and so the covenant is confirmed with the many (which the writers of the New Testament understand to be the elect) and an end comes to sacrifice and offering. Neither actually stops, but it is no longer considered necessary since Jesus’ sacrifice atones for us all (Heb 7:26-27).
The final destruction of the Second Temple in 70 will be the end of all sacrifice and offering. What this means is that, contrary to Jewish theology, the Messiah must have already come. The prophet Daniel says that it is the Messiah who will end sacrifice and offering (9:27), not the pagans that eventually storm the temple and lay it to waste (9:26). Since sacrifice and offering are not ongoing Jewish practice (there is no holy Temple in which to offer the sacrifices), the Messiah had to have come at a time when these were still being offered. That is, before 70.