The full 44 page article on Daniel 9 has been summarized into a 22 page document. Both articles have been published on this website. This current article is another summary that focuses specifically on the dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9.
OVERVIEW OF THE TEXT
Daniel received the Daniel 9 prophecy in 538 BC. At that time the Jewish nation was in Babylon in captivity, and Jerusalem and the temple were in ruins. Daniel prayed for Jerusalem (9:16), the sanctuary (9:17) and his people (9:19). While still praying, the angel Gabriel appeared to him (9:21) and gave him the prophecy contained in verses 24 to 27.
The prophecy starts in verse 24 with the announcement that 70 sevens have been decreed for Israel and their capital city, Jerusalem, listing 6 goals to be achieved through the 70 sevens:
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.
It is generally agreed that each seven represents seven years. The 70 sevens consequently equal 490 years.
The next three verses describe the events through which the goals are to be achieved.
Verses 25 – 26
Verse 25 firstly explains that the 490 years began with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem and that the Messiah would appear 69 sevens (483 years) later.
Verse 25 continues to comment on the rebuilding of Jerusalem during the first 483 years; saying that it will be built “in troublous times”.
Verse 26 jumps forward in time to after the 483 years, stating that the Messiah would be cut off “after” the 69 sevens.
Verse 26 next returns to Jerusalem, stating that it will be destroyed again. Since 70 sevens have been decreed for Jerusalem, this destruction must occur outside of the 70 sevens.
Notice how the prophecy moves back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah. The prophecy of Daniel 9 is a form of poetic parallelism in which Jerusalem and the Messiah are the two foci. These two foci stand in cause-effect relationships; the city is constructed to receive the Messiah, but is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.
The first part of verse 27 (27a) focuses on the final seven years; “he” will confirm the covenant for the full seven years and will cause sacrifices to stop in the midst of the seven years.
The second part of verse 27 (27b) describes destruction.
The only event during the first 483 years is the reconstruction of Jerusalem. But much happens during the final seven years, as described by verse 27. These final seven years are therefore the focal point/climax of the prophecy.
In a typical dispensational interpretation the decree to restore Jerusalem (9:25) is the second decree of Artaxerxes I, dated to 445 BC or 444 BC.
The Messiah Prince that would appear 483 years later is Jesus Christ, but 483 years from 445/4 BC would extend to about AD 40—far beyond the time of Christ. Consequently, the 483 years are understood as “prophetic years” of 360 days each. This gives a total of 173,880 days (483 x 360), which is equal to 476 solar years plus some days. In this way the 483 years are shortened by 7 calendar years to fit the actual historical time from the decree to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before the Cross, assuming the crucifixion was in AD 33 or AD 32.
The 490 years are not viewed as continuous, but a “parenthesis” or “gap” is proposed between the first 483 years and the final seven years. The final seven years will not start until the end of the church age. They are the last seven years before the return of Christ, and describe the acts of antichrist. He is a prince of a revived Roman Empire that will oppress the Jews and bring upon the world a 3½ year tribulation.
STRUCTURE OF THIS ARTICLE
There is not much difference between the Dispensational and the traditional Protestant interpretations of the first 483 years. Both start the 483 years with a decree of Artaxerxes and both end the 483 years in the time of Christ. The major difference between the Dispensational and the traditional Protestant interpretations is with respect to the final seven years. In the traditional interpretation the seven years reflect the time of Christ but in the Dispensational interpretation it is the final seven years before the return of Christ. Most of this document therefore discusses those seven years, which are particularly described by the last verse of the prophecy:
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease (KJV)
The first main division of this article identifies the “he” that is responsible for the events of the final seven years. The second main division discusses the time indications in the prophecy to locate those final seven years in time. The third main division lists some other issues of the Dispensational interpretation.
Verses 26 and 27 read:
26 … after 62 weeks shall Messiah be cut off … and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city … 27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease
Much of the discussion in this article revolves around the identity of the “he” in verse 27.
Dispensationalism assumes that the events in verses 25 to 27 are in chronological order. Consequently:
The final seven years in verse 27 are placed in time after the destruction of Jerusalem in verse 26. Since this destruction is dated to 70AD, the firm covenant of the 70th week (v 27) follows after AD 70.
This would necessitate a gap between the first 483 years and the final seven years.
This would also mean that “he”, that confirms the covenant for that final week, cannot be Jesus Christ, because Jesus was killed at least 40 years earlier.
Since “he” is not the Messiah, Dispensationalism argues that “he” refers to the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD70 (v26).
It should then logically follow that “he” was the Roman Caesar in 70 AD, and that the last week be identified as the time around 70AD. But as already stated, Dispensationalism proposes that this prince will reign during the last seven years before the return of Christ.
These verses will now be analyzed to evaluate these arguments:
Dispensationalism interprets the covenant in 9:27 as a covenant with an end time antichrist, but this is God’s covenant with Israel, as indicated by the following:
God’s covenant with Israel included the following:
The land must have a Sabbath every seventh year (Leviticus. 25:1-2). Israel was to work the land for six years (v3), but not on the seventh (v4). God made this seven year chronological cycle part of the covenant by using it to count the number of years of exile (Lev. 26:35, 43). Should Israel become unfaithful (Lev. 26:14-39) God will scatter them amongst the nations (Lev. 26:33) to allow the land to have its rest (v34, 43) for a period of time equal to the years during which the land did not have its rest (v35, 43). But if Israel confesses their sin (v40), God would renew His covenant with them (v42), that He might be their God (v45).
Daniel 9 follows this covenant pattern:
The prophecy of Daniel 9 was received at the end of Israel’s exile of 70 years (Dan 9:2). This exile was the covenant penalty for unfaithfulness: Israel was scattered to allow the land to have its rest (2Ch 36:21; Dan 9:11-13; cf. Lev. 25:2).
In his prayer (9:4-19) Daniel confessed the justice of the sentence, the righteousness of Yahweh (9:7) and Israel’s guilt (9:5-11). In this way Daniel fulfilled the condition for covenant renewal after exile (Leviticus 26:40-41) on behalf of Israel; Daniel prayed for the renewal of Israel’s covenant privileges.
The announcement “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city” (9:24) was a renewal of God’s covenant with Israel in terms of Leviticus 26:42, 45; limited to 490 years.
God’s covenant with Israel is therefore the central theme in the entire Daniel 9. With this understanding any reference in the prophecy to “covenant” should be interpreted as God’s covenant with Israel. The promised 490 years is an extension of God’s covenant with Israel. The “one week” (9:27) is the final seven years of that time-limited covenant. It is this covenant which “he” shall confirm for one week.
Further indications that this is God’s covenant include the following:
Confirm: The verb translated “make” in 9:27 by the NASB means to “confirm” (KJV). It means that an existing covenant is confirmed. It is not a verb for the initial making of a new covenant as in the dispensational interpretation where a future antichrist will enter into some pact at the beginning of the last seven years.
The many: “The many” with whom the covenant is made most often refer to God’s people. For instance, “the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.” (Isa 53:11; see also Dan 11:33, 39; 12:3; Matt. 26:28; Hebr. 9:26-28; Rom 5:15, 19; 1Co 10:33)
Since the covenant in 9:27 is God’s covenant, it cannot be confirmed by an antichrist. It must be confirmed by the Messiah. It follows that the “he” in verse 27, Who confirms this covenant, is the Messiah.
The prophecy does not mention any specific event for the end of 490 years, but it also follows that the end of the 70 sevens is the end of God’s covenant with Israel. In other words, we should be able to identify some event in history that indicates the end of God’s covenant with Israel. This is discussed further below.
The second part of verse 27 (27b) describes desolation and a complete destruction:
and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (KJV)
This may be understood as saying, that, due to much iniquity, he shall make the desolate completely desolate, as decreed.
This section repeats words and concepts used in 26b (the second part of verse 26) to describe the destruction of Jerusalem:
and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (9:26; KJV)
(A) Refer to desolations (Strong number H8074) that are decreed (Strong number H2782).
(B) Use water as symbol of the force of destruction. In verse 26 the desolations will come with a flood, while they are poured out in verse 27.
(C) Include the concept of completion. Verse 27 refers to a “complete destruction” (NASB) while verse 26 mentions the end of the city (NASB).
Dispensationalism associates the desolation in verse 27 with an end time despot, but the similarity between the two sections implies that they refer to the same event, which is identified by verse 26 as the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The Daniel 9 prophecy promises the reconstruction of Jerusalem to receive the Messiah, but it also promises the reverse: the destruction of Jerusalem as a consequence of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah. The destruction of Jerusalem is therefore an integral part of the Messiah-events of 2000 years ago. In the parallelism of the prophecy the destruction is described twice, with the description of the final seven years in-between. Those final seven years must therefore be limited to the Messiah-events of 2000 years ago. It cannot describe an end time antichrist.
The prophecy uses much parallelism, where two related words or phrases are used together to emphasize a point, for instance:
- insight with understanding (v22)
- give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision (v23)
- your people and your holy city (v24)
- to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin (v24)
- know and discern (v25),
- restore and rebuild (v25),
- seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (v26)
- the city and the sanctuary (v26) and
- sacrifice and grain offering
This repetition of thought is also found in two adjacent verses:
- “I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding” (v22) and “I have come to tell you” (v23)
Perhaps the most important pattern in the prophecy is the way in which the focus shifts repeatedly back and forth between the two foci: Jerusalem and the Messiah:
- 25: from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem;
- until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
- it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
- 26: after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing,
- and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
- 27: he shall confirm the covenant …; and … cause the sacrifice … to cease
- … he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation …
Verses 25 and 26 explicitly shift the focus several times between Jerusalem and the Messiah. The implication is that verse 27 continues this pattern. This would prohibit the introduction of a new major role-player in verse 27. Since verse 26 ends with a reference to Jerusalem, the first part of verse 27, which describes the “he” who confirms the covenant for seven years, is the Messiah, while the destruction in the second part of verse 27 should refer to Jerusalem. This confirms the conclusion from the analysis of the desolation in 27b.
The prince in verse 26 is described as follows:
the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
In Daniel chapter 10 we read of a prince of Greece that is to come:
I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; … the prince of Greece is about to come. … Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince. (10:20, 21; see also 12:1)
Since it is a supernatural being that is speaking here (10:16, 18), the prince of Persia against which he fights (10:20), the prince of Greece that is about to come and “Michael your prince” (10:21) that supports him are also supernatural beings. The NASB quoted above interprets them as “forces”. They are not human beings.
Each of the princes (of Persia, of Greece and “Michael your prince”) represent a nation. Michael can be called the prince of Israel (12:1).
The similarity implies that the prince of 9:26 is also a supernatural being or “force” that represents a nation. This prince represents the Roman nation.
The “he” in verse 27 therefore cannot refer back to the prince in verse 26 because the “he” in verse 27 seems to be a human being.
Dispensationalism proposes that the “he” in verse 27 refers to the prince whose people destroy the city in verse 26 because this prince is the last person mentioned in verse 26. However, the “prince that shall come” is not the subject of that clause in verse 26. It reads “people of the prince”, not “the prince of the people”. The “prince” in verse 26 is a subordinate figure. The dominant figure in the entire prophecy and in verse 26 is the “Messiah”. Based on grammar the Messiah should be preferred as the antecedent of the “he” in verse 27.
The people that destroyed the city (9:26) were the Romans. Their “prince” must therefore be the prince of the Roman Empire. In the Dispensational system the “he” in verse 27 is this Roman Prince that will rule in the final years before the return of Christ. This means that the Roman Empire must exist during those final years. How can the Roman Empire be revived 1500 years after it ceased to exist? And how can one claim that the Roman Empire of ancient history was the people of an end time antichrist if the people and their prince live 2000 years apart?
It is proposed here that since the prince in verse 26 is the Roman Prince, and since no known ruler of the Roman Empire ever confirmed a covenant with the Jews for seven years, that this prince cannot be the “he” in verse 27.
Daniel 9:27 reads:
in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering
In the dispensational interpretation this is the physical destruction of the sanctuary and its services by an antichrist, which means that the sanctuary is to be destroyed in the middle of the last seven years. However, since the full 490 years have been determined for the city of Daniel’s people (9:24), the sanctuary and its services will not be destroyed during the 490 years, but only after the end of it. This stop that is put to sacrifice and grain offering must therefore be something different from the physical destruction of the sanctuary and its services, as in the Dispensational interpretation.
To understand what the termination of sacrifices means requires an understanding of how it relates to the other aspects of the prophecy:
Verse 24 lists six goals to be attained through Daniel’s people during the 490 years, including “to make atonement for iniquity” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness”.
The major events of verses 25 and 26 are the appearance (v25) and the killing of the Messiah (v26).
Verse 27 focuses on the final seven years, which is the climax of the 490 years, and says that an end will be put to sacrifices in the middle of those seven years.
The prophecy of Daniel 9 therefore implies that this world’s sin problem would be solved through the appearance and killing of the messiah, while “sacrifice and grain offering” will be stopped (9:27). In the view of New Testament this is a description of Jesus Christ:
He was “Jesus the Messiah” (Matt 1:1, cf. 1:16, 17; 2:4; John 1:41, 4:25).
He was killed.
He solved the sin problem of the world. He fulfilled the goals in verse 24 through His death. He made “atonement for iniquity” (John 1:29; Matt. 26:28; Hebr. 7:27, 9:26-28; Hebr. 9:12; 10:10, 12, 14) and brought in “everlasting righteousness” (Heb. 9:12; Rom. 5:10, 11; Col. 1:20; 2Co 5:19; Col 1:22; Rom 5:18; John 3:17; Col 1:19-20).
His death caused sacrifice to cease. Jewish sacrifices continued until the destruction of Jerusalem forty years after the death of Christ, but these sacrifices pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Lamb of God. When Jesus—the Lamb of God—died, He fulfilled the significance of those sacrifices. The Jewish sacrifices were consequently terminated at the death of Christ in the sense of its loss of meaning. When Jesus ascended to heaven and became High Priest (Hebr. 6:20), the law changed (Hebr. 7:12), including the sacrificial system (Hebr. 7:19; 8:4; 9:22). Jesus set “aside the first [sacrifices and offerings] to establish the second” (Hebr. 10:9). (See also Hebr. 8:13; Eph. 2:15) In this way His death caused “sacrifice and the oblation (NASB: grain offering) to cease” (9:27).
This was strikingly confirmed by a miracle. At the moment Jesus died “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51). This signified the end of Israel’s sacrificial temple rituals.
Daniel 9 is therefore thoroughly a messianic prophecy and the termination of sacrifices in verse 27 refers to the sacrifice that ended all other sacrifices. The “he” therefore refers to the Messiah.
Verse 27 refers to the death of Christ in this way to link it to the goals in verse 24. Through the ritual animal sacrifices, sins were pardoned. But these sacrifices were all made in expectation of the great and final sin offering which made a final “end of sins” (9:24), made final “reconciliation for iniquity” and brought in “everlasting righteousness” (9:24). Jesus Christ is the messiah in verse 25 that was “cut off” (v26) to achieve the goals in verse 24, thereby causing the sacrificial system to cease (v27).
But then questions may arise: If the termination of the sacrifices and the killing of the messiah is the same event, why is the one described as “after the 62 sevens”, (9:26) and the other as in the “midst of” the last seven (9:27)? And why is the destruction of Jerusalem mentioned between the killing of the Messiah and the stop that is made to sacrifices?
The answer to this question is found in the repetition (parallelism) of the prophecy, as described in the section dealing with the poetic structure. Since the prophecy so often repeats concepts, the repetition of the events of verse 26 by verse 27 is to be expected. To understand this repetition requires a high level view of the prophecy. It consists of three divisions; each provides information relative to a different period of time:
I. Verse 24 announces the 490 years and sets the goals for that period.
II. Verses 25 and 26 describe events relative to the first 483 years, including the killing of the Messiah and the consequential destruction of the city after the end of the 483 years.
III. Verse 27 describes the same events, but relative to the final seven years.
It has previously been shown that the desolations in 27b (the second part of 9:27) repeat the desolation of Jerusalem in 26b. Since the termination of sacrifices in 27a (the first part of 9:27) is an explanation of the killing of the Messiah in 26a, verse 27 repeats verse 26:
|A: Messiah||B: Jerusalem|
|26||after the sixty-two weeksthe Messiah will be cut off||and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary|
|27||he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week … in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice||and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction|
The purpose of this first main division of this article is to identify the “he” in verse 27.
“He” is not the prince of verse 26 because:
- The prince in 9:26 is not a human being.
- The prince in 9:26 is not the main character in verse 26.
- The covenant in 9:27 is God’s covenant with Israel, and cannot be confirmed by a prince of people that destroys Jerusalem.
“He” is not an end time antichrist because:
- If “he” is an end time antichrist, then “he” refers to the prince in verse 26, but that is a prince of an empire that no longer exists, namely the Roman Empire.
- If “he” is an end time antichrist, then he physically terminates the sacrifices in the midst of the last seven years, which implies the destruction of the temple, but since the full 490 years have been determined for the city of Daniel’s people (9:24), the sanctuary will not be destroyed during that period.
- Both the sections immediately before and after the description of the last seven years in verse 27 describe the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This limits verse 27 to the time of Christ.
“He” is the Messiah because:
- The Messiah is main character in verse 26 and in the entire prophecy.
- The covenant in verse 27 is God’s covenant with Israel, which must be confirmed by the Messiah.
- The prophecy of Daniel 9 has a poetic pattern: it repeatedly shifts the focus between the two foci of the prophecy; Jerusalem and the Messiah. In this pattern “he” in the first part of verse 27 is the Messiah.
- The termination of the sacrifices in verse 27 is the death of Christ because the goals in verse 24 and the arrival and killing of the Messiah (9:25-26) identify this as a messianic prophecy, and because the sacrifice of the Lamb of God caused all animal sacrifices, which pointed forward to this one astounding sacrifice of the Son of God, to cease to have meaning.
The Messiah appeared at the end of the long period of 69 sevens in about 26 or 27 AD. Since this same Messiah confirms the covenant for the final seven years, these final seven years cannot refer to events after 70 AD. The fundamental assumption in Dispensationalism (that the events are provided in chronological order) is therefore not correct.
The previous main division discussed the identity of “he”. The current main division investigates the time indications to identify the final seven years during which “he” works. It shows that these seven years do not fit an end time antichrist, but that they do fit the time of Christ.
The 490 years begin with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (v25). Dispensationalism identifies this as the second decree of Artaxerxes I in 445/4, but this decree did not “restore” Jerusalem.
Restore means to give the city back to be ruled by its previous owner. For instance, the Aramean king said to Ahab, king of Israel that he will “return” (same Hebrew word shûb) the cities his father took from Ahab’s father (I Kings 20:34). These cities have not been destroyed. “Restore” does not include the idea of rebuilding. Another example is 2 Kings 14:22.
Jerusalem was the judicial and executive capital of the Israeli people. To restore Jerusalem means that it will be returned to the Jews to serve as their capital from which they would rule their whole nation, according to their own laws as a theocentric society. This the second decree of Artaxerxes I in 445/4 did not do. This decree only dealt with the physical construction of the city walls.
The decree that did restore Jerusalem was the first decree of Artaxerses I in 458/7 BC (Ezra 7:1-26). By decreeing that “Whoever does not obey the law of your God … must surely be punished by death …” the Persian king made the Mosaic Law part of his own law, and granted authority to the Jews to govern themselves on the basis of the law of God. It provides for a measure of judicial and civil autonomy unknown since the Babylonian desolation of Jerusalem and Judea about 130 years earlier.
Dispensationalism claims that the second decree of Artaxerxes I for the first time authorised the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but that is not true. Different decrees were issued by different Persian kings over a period of about 90 years prior to this decree, and all of them, by allowing the Jews to return to Judah and to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4; cf. Is. 45:1), implicitly allowed the Jews to rebuild their cities. This is confirmed by the following:
Nehemiah expected the walls to be completed before the second decree of Artaxerxes I, as indicated by his reaction to the news that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the gates destroyed by fire (Neh. 1:3); he was deeply shocked and wept for days (Neh. 1:4).
Nehemiah found some work done on the walls when he arrived. When he inspected the walls (Nehemiah 2:15), before he had done any work himself, he referred to “the Jews, the priests … who did the work” (v16).
Also, before the second decree of Artaxerxes I, a group of Persian officers wrote to Artaxerxes that “the Jews … are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city; they are finishing the walls …” (Ezra 4:12). Artaxerxes then instructed that the rebuilding be stopped, which was done. This must have been before Nehemiah because he completed the walls of the city within 52 days, with no interruption.
The second decree of Artaxerxes I therefore did not, for the first time, authorise the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
Verse 25 reads:
from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks
The Messiah would therefore appear 483 years after the decree, but 483 years from the second decree of Artaxerxes would extend to about AD 40—far beyond the time of Christ. As stated above, Dispensationalism interprets the 483 years as “prophetic years” of 360 days each. In this way the 483 years are shortened by 7 years to fit the actual historical time from the second decree to the crucifixion, assuming the crucifixion was in AD 33 or AD 32.
However, as discussed above, the covenant pattern forms the framework for Daniel 9. As “prophesied” by Leviticus and confirmed by 2 Chronicles 36:21, each of the 70 years of exile was a Sabbath year. Therefore, each of the 70 years of exile represents 7 years of disobedience, and the 70 years of exile represent in total 490 years of disobedience. The Daniel 9 prophecy therefore extends God’s covenant with Israel for a new cycle of 490 years. Since the covenant timing is based on the seven year cycle, every seventh year would also be a Sabbath for the land (Lev. 25:2 ff.), and every year a normal literal solar year.
The covenant therefore links the seven year chronological cycle to the Daniel 9 prophecy. There is no justification for a symbolic reading of these years as prophetic years of 360 days each, which means that the second decree of Artaxerxes does not fit the time of Christ.
Daniel 9:25 reads:
from the issuing of a decree … until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks
The implication is that the Messiah will start to act as such at the end of the 69 sevens.
In the Dispensational interpretation the Messiah Prince is Jesus Christ and His first appearance, mentioned by 9:25, is His triumphal entry into Jerusalem; 5 days before His crucifixion. However, Jesus did not begin His work at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. His work began about three years earlier at His baptism when He was “anointed” and introduced to Israel (Acts 10:38; Mark 1:9-11; cf. Ps. 2:6, 7).
JEWISH PERIOD AFTER THE CROSS
In the Dispensational interpretation the first 483 years came to an end at Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (a few days before His death), with the last seven years postponed to the end of time.
However, the 490 years are promised by God as years of Jewish preference, and the preference which Jews enjoyed continued after the Cross. During that period the Holy Spirit only came on Jews and the gospel was preached only to Jews. The church consisted only of the “circumcised” (cf. 10:45); i.e. Jews and they did not associate with the uncircumcised (Act 10:34-35).
The period of Jewish preference came to an end about three or four years after the Cross, when the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people. This was preceded by the persecution of the believers by the Jews, commencing with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7; 8:1). Immediately following this persecution (Acts 10) Peter received his dream of the unclean beasts (Acts 10:19-20), through which he was shown that it is okay to associate with people that were not circumcised (v34-35). Simultaneously the Holy Spirit suddenly and powerfully led the Christians to take the gospel to the uncircumcised (non-Jews).
These three or four years after the Cross were therefore part of the 490 years.
This conclusion is supported by Stephen’s speech. Both Daniel’s prayer and Stephen’s speech are based on God’s covenant with Israel. While Daniel confessed the sins of his people and prayed for the mercy promised in the covenant, Stephen’s speech was an announcement of God’s judgment in terms of the covenant. Stephen announced the end of the Seventy Weeks.
Dispensationalism puts a vast gap of 2000 years between the first 69 sevens and the last seven. However:
The wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates a gap. There appears to be no defensible ground for separating the seventieth week from the previous 69.
To postpone the last seven years of final crisis to the end of the age is a form of exegesis without a precedent in all prophetic exposition.
It destroys the simple unity of the prophecy and divides it into two completely separate and unrelated prophecies; one about Christ 2000 years ago, and one about some future antichrist. This gap redirects the focus of the prophecy from Jesus to an end time antichrist.
The last seven years is the climax of the 490 years because all important events occur after the long period of 483 years. The only event during the previous 483 years is the construction of the city. But the prophecy records significant events for the last seven years. The covenant is confirmed for the last seven years and the sacrifices are caused to cease in the middle of these seven years. The only purpose of the 483 years is therefore to foretell the timing of the final seven years. Hence, to dislodge that final seven years from the previous 483 years and to propel it into the distant future is to defeat the purpose of the 483 years.
RETURN OF CHRIST
Dispensationalism maintains that the last week ends with the return of Christ, but the prophecy in no way indicates the return of Christ. If the 490 years are to end with Christ’s return, would verse 27 not end with a description of His glorious return, as the other prophecies in Daniel do? In contrast the Daniel 9 prophecy ends in the accumulation of desolations and chaos.
The question in this second major division is where the final seven years fit in time. This question has already been answered in the previous main section, where it was argued that the “he” that confirms the covenant for those seven years, is the Messiah. Those seven years must therefore be the time of the Messiah.
The time-indicators in the text confirm this by identifying the final seven years as follows:
The 483 years, and therefore the full 490 years, began when Jerusalem was restored to Israel to serve as judicial capital, which was the first decree in 458/7 BC.
These 70 sevens are 70 seven-year-agricultural cycles, and therefore not symbolically interpreted as “prophetic” years of 360 days each.
Exactly 483 years after 458/7 BC Jesus was introduced to Israel at His baptism in AD 26/27, and began His work. The Dispensational schema has to convert the 483 years into 360 day years to make them fit, but 483 normal literal years exactly fit the time from Artaxerxes’ first decree to the Messiah’s baptism.
To insert a gap between the first 483 years and the final seven years is to distort the prophecy. The final seven years therefore began when Jesus was baptized.
The end of the seven years is not the return of Christ. But, about seven years after His baptism, the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people. This was the end of God’s 490 year covenant for Jewish preference. The kingdom of God was then taken away from them (Mat. 21:43).
In the midst of those seven years Jesus was killed, thereby causing the forward-pointing function of the sacrificial system to cease.
Jesus Christ confirmed God’s covenant with Israel during the final seven years through His personal preaching for 3½ years before His death and by sending His disciples to Israel only for a further 3½ years after His death.
Israel sealed the end of the covenant with their rejection of the Holy Spirit when they persecuted His Spirit filled disciples. Since 490 years were decreed for Jerusalem (v24), Jerusalem was not destroyed during those 490 years, but only in 70 AD.
The prophecy promises the rebuilding of the city and the sanctuary, followed by its destruction. This was fulfilled with the rebuilding of Jerusalem a few hundred years before Christ and its destruction in 70 AD. But the Dispensational interpretation requires the sanctuary to be rebuilt again in the future. Such a second rebuilding is not promised by the prophecy. If the intention was that the sanctuary would be rebuilt again after the destruction of the city in verse 26, but before the termination of the sacrifices in verse 27, then the prophecy would have explicitly stated this, given that it is so clear about the rebuilding in verse 25.
In the Dispensational interpretation the Jewish sacrificial system will be revived, but there never can be a valid return to the old covenant and its earthly temple worship. Christ, the Antitype, has terminated once for all the “shadow” and inaugurated a “better covenant” that offers His righteousness as the everlasting righteousness (see Hebr. 7:22; cf. chap. 10:12; Rom. 3:22, 25). That is the very meaning of the statement:
in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering (9:27)
Daniel 9:24 lists 6 goals to be achieved by the events of the 70 sevens, including:
“to make atonement for iniquity” and
“to bring in everlasting righteousness”.
In Dispensational interpretation the 69th week ends a few days before the death of Christ, namely at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, while the seventieth week still lies in our future. Consequently the 70 weeks do not include the death of Christ, which means that the goals of 9:24 have not been fulfilled by Christ 2000 years ago.
Since the final seven years is the climax of the 490 years, these goals are particularly achieved by the events of the last seven years, as described by 27a:
And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease
But in the dispensational interpretation this is the work of an end time antichrist, and will not fulfill the wonderful goals of verse 24. Dispensationalism therefore proposes that these goals will be fulfilled by the return of Christ, which will occur at the end of the last seven years. Apart from the fact that the 490 years do not end with the return of Christ, this proposal denies the 70 sevens their purpose, Daniel 9:24 declares that the 70 sevens were allocated to Israel to achieve the goals stated in verse 24 during the 490 years, through Daniel’s people, not by the end of the 70 sevens:
Daniel did not pray for a messiah. He prayed for Jerusalem. But the prophecy includes the Messiah because that was Jerusalem’s purpose: Jerusalem was to be rebuilt and 490 years were allocated to it to receive the Messiah.
Neither did Daniel pray for the goals in verse 24, but the goals were added because that was the purpose of the Messiah. The Messiah was the means and the goals were the end. To remove these goals from Israel and Jerusalem is to remove the reason for Israel’s election.
In the dispensational interpretation the antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel after 3½ years, but according to 9:27 the covenant is confirmed for the full seven years.
In the dispensational interpretation the return of Christ will make an end to sin, but Dispensationalism also proposes that sin will continue for 1000 years after the return of Christ.
Dispensationalism postulates the Millennium as a period of Jewish dominance, thereby allocating in total 1490 years to the Jews. The prophecy allocates only 490 years.
GOALS FULFILLED IN JESUS CHRIST
Dispensationalism protests against the traditional Protestant interpretation of Daniel 9, as defended by this article, by claiming that Christ’s first advent did not fulfill the six goals for the seventy weeks (9:24). A possible interpretation of these goals is therefore presented:
The first goal is “to finish the transgression”. The definite article “the”, which is not used with the other goals, identifies the transgression as something specific. The 490 years were a probation period for the Jews. It is proposed that this goal was a challenge to the Jewish nation to manifest their loyalty toward Him and bring an end to the sinful state of their society that led to the exile. As mentioned above, the 70 years of Babylonian domination represent 490 years of disobedience. By awarding Israel an extension of their covenant for a further 490 years God gave Israel the opportunity to succeed where it previously failed. This goal was not achieved. Perhaps this goal was particularly relevant to the three years after the Cross when Israel received the Holy Spirit, and had a final opportunity for revival. If they, as a nation, did receive the Christ in those final years, the history of the world would have been very different. If they did receive Him, God might have again renewed His covenant with them, and used them mightily to take His word to the entire world, and Jesus might have returned long ago.
The second goal is “to make an end of sin”. Jesus, as the second Adam and representative of the people of the world, made an end to sin. By never committing a sin, He defeated the accuser (Rev. 12:10) by showing that it is possible for man to live a life free from sin through the power of God, thus nullifying Satan’s claim for dominion of this world.
The third goal is “to make atonement for iniquity”. This Jesus did. He was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, cf. Matt. 26:28; Hebr. 7:27, 9:26-28; 9:12 and 10:10, 12, 14).
The fourth goal is “to bring in everlasting righteousness”. According to the Bible Christ did this as well. According to the New Testament “eternal redemption” already exist (Heb. 9:12) and we are already reconciled to God by the death of His Son (Rom. 5:10, 11; Col. 1:20). Justification of life to all men is already obtained (Rom 5:18), the world is already saved (John 3:17), God already reconciled all things to Himself, and already made peace through the blood of His cross (Col 1:19-20).
The fifth goal is “to seal up vision and prophecy” the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah were validated or authenticated by the Cross.
The sixth and last goal is “to anoint the most holy place”. The phrase “most holy” occurs more than 40 times in the Old Testament, and always refers to the sanctuary, with one possible exception. The “most holy” therefore refers to the most holy portion of the temple. But it is not an earthly temple. It was the temple in heaven (Hebrews 8:2); the “true tabernacle” (8:2), not made with hands (9:24; cf. 8:1-2), of which the earthly tabernacle was a copy (8:5; 9:24). This temple was anointed with “better sacrifices” (9:19, 21, 23) “through His own blood” (Hebr. 9:12). The anointing of the “most holy” in Daniel 9:24 points to the inauguration of Christ’s priestly ministry in the heavenly temple following His ascension.
All six goals, with the exception of the first, were fulfilled through Jesus Christ on behalf of Israel (verses 25-27). This Hebrew man atoned for the sin of the whole world. Through Israel, and particularly through this Hebrew Man Jesus—that became the Lamb of God—God reconciled the world to Himself (Rom. 5:10, 11; 2Co 5:19; Col 1:19-20).
The vast majority of the people on earth do not believe in the supernatural, and since the Bible is a book about the supernatural, it is rejected. Inside the Church one major school of thought shares this view, and believes that Daniel does not predict anything, but that it reflect the events of Antiochus, more than 100 years before Christ.
Dispensationalism is the other major system of belief within the Church. The prophecies of Daniel are the foundation on which the book of Revelation has been built, as explained in other articles. An incorrect interpretation of Daniel’s prophecies inevitably leads to a distortion of Revelation’s prophecies. The typical dispensational interpretation puts everything in the last 19 chapters of Revelation in the final seven years of Daniel 9’s 490 years, which are interpreted as the final seven years before the return of Christ. Since this article has shown that those seven years do not describe end time events, but the Messiah-events 2000 years ago, the view here is that the dispensational interpretation of Revelation is completely misguided.
The view of Daniel 9, as presented in this article, once was the majority view in the Church, but today is held by so few people that it is effectively non-existent. But Daniel was promised:
… seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase. (12:4)