See Chart 1
It is sad, but safe, to say that the confusion that has abounded through man's trying to interpret 'the things of God' with his natural mind has shown up more in what has been taught and written on Daniel 9: 24-27 than perhaps on any other prophecy of Scripture. This is not surprising, when the paramount importance of this revelation for both Israel and the Gentiles is considered, and few parts of God's Word can be more hated by the prince of darkness.
'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 (lit.) atonement for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the (lit.) Holy of Holies.'
The first thing we have to consider is that Gabriel had been sent from the Throne of God in answer to Daniel's prayer and intercession on behalf of his people and the 'holy city'. Whatever was going to transpire centuries ahead would certainly not be an answer to Daniel's question regarding the 'seventy years' of desolation referred to in verse 2 of the chapter. Therefore, the prophet is told of a period of 'seventy weeks', or 490 literal days, which were to elapse from the very 'evening' when Gabriel arrived (verse 21) to a day in the following year, 536 BC , when God would once again accept His restored people in the holy city, after an exile which had first begun with Daniel's own captivity, seventy years before, in 607 BC (see Daniel 1:1-6 and Jeremiah 25:1-11).
Much could be said as to the significance of the date - June 22nd, 537 BC - when Gabriel came to Daniel (but we dare not enlarge on this here). From this very 'evening', however, to the opening of the Day of Atonement (Tishri 10th) in 536 BC (Oct. 26th) we can trace the exact span of 'seventy weeks' or 490 days. As we see from Ezra 3: 1-6, the Jewish exiles had by this time returned from Babylon, and were once again offering their sacrifices in the Holy City; for, in the previous spring, Cyrus, king of Persia had been moved to issue his famous decree concerning the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem, thus bringing to an end the 'seventy years' of Jeremiah's prophecy (Daniel 9:2 & Ezra 1:1-5).
However, neither this 'decree' nor any of the other decrees that followed, relating solely to the building of 'the house of the Lord', were in view in the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-25. This had specific reference to the full-scale restoration and building of the 'holy city' Jerusalem, and 78 long years had yet to elapse before this 'building' could commence.
Daniel was therefore to 'know and understand' that his 70 weeks of days were but a token - a type, in fact - of a coming 70 weeks of years which were to reach, not just to a Jewish Day of Atonement when God would, in the immediate future, restore His exiled people after they had gathered together 'as one man' to Jerusalem in the following year (Ezra 3:1), but to the great all-atoning Sacrifice of Messiah Himself, when He should 'finish the transgression ... make an end of sins and ... make atonement for iniquity,' bringing in 'everlasting righteousness' in His own Person - that is, for all who should believe on His Name.
How anyone could suggest (as so many have done) that there would be no actual 'seventy weeks' or 490 years reaching fulfillment at the Cross of Calvary is hard to imagine, but this error is due to a secret which God allowed to exist in the wording of verse 26.
In verse 25 it is shown that 'seven weeks' (49 years) and 'threescore and two weeks' (434 years) from 'the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem' would measure 'unto the Messiah the Prince.' This could only mean to the time when He would be presented to Israel by His herald, John the Baptist, 'in the fifteenth year of the (lit.) leadership of Tiberius Caesar,' as we are shown in Luke 3: 1. No date in the New Testament receives greater emphasis than this, because it is here that the Bible's chronology must be linked securely to a Gentile calendar - the Roman one - which would carry time forward with perfect accuracy down to our own day. (As mentioned in our Chapter 4, this 'fifteenth year' was found to be AD 26, as Augustus Caesar made Tiberius, his adopted son, 'leader' of the army in AD 12.)
AD 26 was therefore 69 'weeks' of years from 'the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem' (also see Nehemiah 2), and AD 33 was the end of 490 years - but it is here that the difficulty (to our natural way of thinking) stands out, because we are told in Daniel 9:26 that 'after (seven weeks and) threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off.' This statement has thrown interpreters into great confusion. Does it mean immediately after, three and a half years after, or 7 years after? Without the aid of the Spirit of Truth (and, we might add, common sense) how can we tell? We can tell by reading verse 24 again, where it is plainly stated that the whole 490 years were to run their course to the finished work of Jesus, the Messiah, when He was 'cut off' upon the Cross of Calvary.
Verse 26, therefore, tells us that 7 years 'after the threescore and two weeks (i.e. when the 490 years were complete) 'Messiah shall be cut off and (lit.) there shall be nothing for Him.' In other words, He would not then be able to bring in the Kingdom for Israel.
Following this, we read in verse 26 of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in AD 70, and of the 'desolations' which would exist 'unto the end of the war.' This is no doubt a reference to the end of the Roman War of AD 66 to 73, after which Jewish history in the land officially ceased until the end of 'the times of the Gentiles,' and of the long age of Jewish dispersion.
We now come to the mention of the 'one week' of 7 years which is needed to complete the 490 to the Kingdom. It will be seen at once that this cannot possibly be the 7 years from AD 26 to 33 again alluded to, but that this 'one week' must refer to a time yet to come. This is because in the preceding verse another 'prince' or (lit.) 'leader' has been spoken of - 'the prince that shall come.' 'The people of the prince that shall come' are clearly stated to be the ones who would 'destroy the city and the sanctuary' - that is, the Roman armies, under Titus, in AD 70.
So it is a Roman 'prince' or leader who is yet to appear on the European stage who, as stated in this final verse of the prophecy, will 'confirm a covenant with (lit.) the many (that is, the majority of the people of Israel) for one week', or 7 years. In the middle of the 7 years,we read, he will break faith with Israel, and 'cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease', producing desolation, 'even until the consummation' which will be visited upon him. (The last word in this verse should be translated 'desolator', that is, this Roman leader.) Many other Scriptures refer to this individual in whom Israel will put their confidence for a while, until they discover their fatal mistake. There is no doubt that Paul is also referring to this same person in his warning in 2 Thessalonians 2: 3-10.
We referred earlier to a 'secret' existing in verse 26, and by this we mean that God, Whose 'thoughts are not our thoughts', was expressing exactly what He foresaw about the seven years of the Gospels.
He foresaw that they would be lost to Israel. They certainly were not lost to the Church of God - which is the Body of Christ - but to Israel as a nation they were lost, for their Messiah was 'cut off' and had 'nothing.'
This is, of course, perfectly illustrated by Pharaoh's dream which, for emphasis, was repeated twice in Genesis ch.41. The seven years 'of great plenty' were clearly figurative of the seven years of the Gospels - AD 26 to 33 - but, as we have said, they were lost to Israel. The Genesis type shows us that the good seven years were 'devoured', or swallowed up, by a very evil seven years that followed them. In other words, the evil years replaced the good years. This is precisely what we see takes place with the 490 years of Daniel ch.9, that is, with the last 'week' of the period.
Because the Jews slew their Messiah and lost the Kingdom that He came to set up, God set the nation aside and brought in the Gentiles, as Paul's Epistles to the Romans and Galatians so graphically reveal.
But God must still complete the 'seventy weeks' and bring in for Israel, and the whole world with them, that which they lost in AD 33. So, in effect, He cancelled from reckoning the seven years of the Gospels, but allowed all the precious store of light and truth concerning the Messiah, and all that He accomplished through His death on Calvary, to be 'laid up' in store for Israel for the seven years to come. Those years, indeed, will be 'very evil', and a more literal translation of Daniel 9: 27 - the latter half of the verse - can read: 'And upon the wing abominations making desolate, even until a consummation, and that determined, shall be poured upon the desolator.' Has not the world already experienced 'abominations upon the wing, making desolate?' What of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the cities of Europe in the Second World War?
We must not forget that Jesus Himself spoke of 'the end' of these coming seven years in His great unfolding of what lay ahead for His Jewish brethren in Matthew 24: 14-44. He said, 'For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened'(verses 21-22). There is little reason to doubt that the final unleashing of nuclear war, at 'the end' of the time of 'tribulation', will create so dire a threat to the very continuance of life in the areas of conflict that only the Personal Return of the Son of God, 'with power and great glory,' will be sufficient to deal with this last effort of Satan to wreak destruction upon the planet.
We see then that this final 'one week' of Daniel 9: 27 is the last 7 years of this age (see Chart 1). Graphically described in the visions of John in the Book of Revelation (chapters 4-19), they will constitute the prelude to the 'kingdom' of 'a thousand years', of Revelation 20, which will be measured in terms of the Redemption Chronology - as 980 lunar years, with their 20 years of Jubilee. 980 years are, of course, twice 'seventy weeks' of years, and a glance backward over the whole course of time, as the Bible's Chronology has revealed it, has shown us that forgiveness - 'the forgiveness of God' - is the only basis upon which the Most High has been able to bear with the human race, from the Fall of Adam onwards. 'Until seventy times seven'(Matthew 18:22) has been His measuring rod and 'four' - the number of universality - times 'seventy times seven' years, that is, 1,960 years, has been shown (however briefly in these pages) to be the length of each of the three main 'dispensations' during which God has dealt, first, with the Patriarchs - from Adam to Abram - then with Abram and his seed to Christ and, finally, with the Gentiles, so that 'out of them' He might take out 'a people for His Name' (Acts 15: 14), that is, true Christians (see Chart 4).
And what of the last two periods of 'seventy weeks' that are yet to come? These 980 years, with their 20 years of Jubilee, will bring to fulness the forgiveness and forbearance of God, with a display of His 'goodness' to both Jew and Gentile, in the Messianic kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, which will surpass all that has ever entered the imagination of man. For God must yet, 'in very deed dwell with men on the earth' (2 Chronicles 6:18) and commune with them, as He did with Adam on that first 'Sabbath' in Eden.
So at the outset of these last 'thousand years' - that is, at the close of the 'one week' of Daniel 9: 27 - we see, in the vision of John in Revelation 19, the return of Messiah the Prince as 'King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.' But His coming then will spell the extirpation of every rebellious element on the earth, the binding of Satan for the whole period of the Kingdom, and thus enable this world to settle down to an era of peace and rest, and the full enjoyment of 'the forgiveness of God.'
The measurement of this 'one week' we find perhaps most clearly given in the vision of Revelation 12. In this and the preceding chapter the seven years are divided into two halves: 'a thousand two hundred and threescore days' and either 'forty-two months' or 'a time (360 day) and times (2 x 360 days) and half a time (180 days).' The 1,260 days will be found on examination to refer only to the first half of 'the week' and the measurement in 'months' or 'times' only to the last half (see Note 1). The reason for this is that, as He looked on to the time of His return, Jesus foresaw that those last 'days should be shortened,' otherwise 'there should no flesh be saved.' Therefore, the second three and a half years are never spoken of as '1,260 days' - only in the looser term of 'months' or 'times'. It is in reference to this coming 'with power and great glory' that our Lord introduces His one prohibition: 'But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only.' (Matthew 24: 22-36).
Why? Because all else will by that time be known! Certainly, the start of the measured '1,260 days' will be known, and the great crisis at their close (see Revelation 11:7-13) after which the '42 months' of Revelation 11:2 & 13:5 will take their course.
It is an amazing fact that because of this one prohibition of knowledge (i.e. 'of that day and hour') the devil has sown a fear in the hearts of the vast majority of the people of God, lest by any means they might 'know' anything positive in regard to time in the Bible!
In Revelation 12:5 we are given an amazing vision of Israel as 'a woman' who brought forth (lit. Greek) 'a son, a male.' This we see clearly figures Christ, Who is 'to rule all nations with a rod of iron' (see also Psalm 2:7-9). Then we see her 'child' - a perfect type of the Church which is the Body of Christ - 'caught up to God and to his throne.' This part of the vision beautifully illustrates the catching up described in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. (It is interesting to note that the word for 'child' is neuter in the Greek, for it typifies the Church which is 'neither male nor female' (Galatians 3:28) and this is in marked contrast to the 'son, a male' which typifies Christ the Head).
Now, if 'the woman' is a figure of Israel, 'of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came,'(Romans 9:5) and we see in this vision her 'child' being 'caught up to God and to His throne' before the measurement of the seven years commences (that is, the 1,260 days and three and a half times) why should a pernicious teaching cover the earth today that the Church is going to pass through 'the great tribulation' of Matthew 24:21?
Let all who have held this doctrine re-examine the facts and, if they are convicted that they have taught what is error, let them confess it, and seek readjustment before God.
The 'feeding' of 'the woman' during the two periods of three and a half years, of course, pre-figures the way the believing Jews (otherwise referred to as the 'sealed' remnant of 'a hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel' in Revelation 7:14), will be nourished upon 'unleavened bread' (i.e. the pure truth of God) right through until the time of tribulation is over. The first seven days, following the Exodus and Midnight 'cry' in Egypt, were the original seven days of unleavened bread, which were also divided into two periods of three and a half days, as Exodus 8:27, and 15:22, Numbers 33:1-9 and their context will show (see Chart 10).
We cannot stay to look further into these facts now, except to say that it
should be obvious that Christ - both Head and Members - must be in
resurrection before the terrible seven years of judgment can commence, and the
testimony of Scripture appears to be conclusive on this point.