Some (maybe most) Dispensationalists believe that the church will be removed before the last 7 years. However, this view contradicts many Bible passages and it should be rejected.
But there is a group among the dispensationalists who believe in a more attractive interpretation: The Pre-Wrath view. To the benefit of your readers, here is a brief summary of what Pre-wrath means:
The last 7 years are divided into two parts.
FIRST 3.5 YEARS
In the first part (3.5 years) a ‘beast’ will become prominent in the middle east. In that time, he will sign a 7 years covenant with Israel, allowing them to build the Temple and to sacrifice.
MIDDLE OF THAT SEVEN
But in the middle point of those 7 years, he will commit an abomination:
He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of that ‘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.” (Dan 9:27)
The abomination referred to here could be that the beast will pretend to be God himself (thus eliminating the need to sacrifice in the Temple). By doing that, the beast will seduce millions of people:
“He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast-all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” (Rev 13:7-8)
SECOND 3.5 YEARS
In the second half of the last seven years, the beast will put a mark on the people to separate those who believe in him from those who perceive that he is false. This will be the beginning of a period of wrath against true Christian (the great tribulation). I.e. a persecution (against those who don’t have the mark of the beast) that will be so intense that many ‘true’ Christians will die.
“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” (Matt 24:22 – NIV)
DAY OF THE LORD
Toward the end of that period of tribulation (near the end of the last seven years of Daniel), God will intervene (day of the Lord). The Day of the Lord is the wrath against those who have the mark of the Beast.
DIFFERENCE WITH THE TRADITIONAL DISPENSATIONAL VIEW
Note the difference:
The tribulation is against those who don’t have the mark of the beast, these are the true Christians.
The Day of the Lord is against those who have the mark of the beast).
SIGNS IN THE SKY
The Day of the Lord will start with signs in the sky
“The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Joel 2:31).
“The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord” (Acts 2:20).
“Immediately after the distress [i.e. tribulation] of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky.” (Matt 24:29-30)
“I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red” (Rev 6:12).
Then God will gather his elects (the pre-wrath rapture: just before the end of the last 7 years of Daniel. It won’t be a secret event. The pre-wrath view stands on the position that the rapture will happen just before God starts pouring out the bowls of his wrath.
“But at that time your people … will be delivered” (Dan 12:1).
“And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matt 24:31).
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess 4:16).
“Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe” (Rev 14:15). [I.E. brings the dead in Yeshua & those alive who don’t wear the mark of the beast.]
Then God will pour his wrath on the inhabitant of the earth (i.e. all those left on earth because they wear the mark of the beast):
“Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.'” (Rev 16:1)
The main question in this article is when the Daniel-9:24-goals have been or will be fulfilled.
The first two goals—“to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins”—do not mean that a complete and utter end will be made of sin in this world. In the context of the prophecy these goals given to Israel. Israel was to show its loyalty to God when the Messiah appears. But Israel failed.
According to the New Testament the third and fourth goals—“to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness”—were fulfilled by Christ’s death.
The fifth goal—“to seal up the vision and prophecy”—is understood as that the events of the final week, particularly the Cross, would validate the Old Testament promises of the coming Messiah.
The sixth goal— “to anoint the most Holy” —refers to heaven itself. Christ’s death was a great victory over evil, and as we read in Revelation 5 and 12, Satan was cast out of heaven as a result (Rev. 12:5, 7-9).
Dispensationalism denies that Christ’s first advent (His earthly life, baptism, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven) fulfilled the Daniel 9:24 goals for the seventy weeks. It consequently objects to the traditional Protestant interpretation of Daniel 9.
The following are proposed guidelines for interpreting these goals:
Firstly, these goals were given to Israel to fulfill, and Israel was given 490 years to fulfill them. These goals must, therefore, be fulfilled during the 490 years; not at the end of that period.
Secondly, as discussed, the last seven years are the purpose and core of the 490 years. It is therefore proposed that all six goals were to be fulfilled by the events of the last seven years.
Thirdly, the goals are probably listed in the sequence in which they were to be fulfilled.
1. To finish the transgression
2. To make an end of sin
In the parallelism of the prophecy, this seems to be a single thought, expressed in two ways. One can see why Dispensationalism argues that these goals have not been fulfilled, for we still live in a world filled with transgression and sin. But it is proposed that this does not refer to sin in general, but specifically to Israel’s sin, for the following reasons:
(a) In his prayer, Daniel prayed “we have sinned, committed iniquity” (9:5) and “we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our iniquity” (9:13). He said, “I was …confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel” (9:20). When he then hears that 490 years were decreed for Israel to fulfill these two goals (9:24), Daniel would have understood these two goals as a challenge to Israel, to manifest their loyalty toward Him and bring an end to the sinful state of their society that led to the exile.
(b) The definite article “the” identifies the transgression as some specific sin.
(c) The goals are probably listed in the sequence in which they were to be fulfilled, and these two goals are mentioned before the third goal, which is to make atonement of iniquity, which was certainly fulfilled by Christ’s death.
God gave Israel the opportunity to succeed where their fathers failed. In particular, Israel was to show its loyalty to God when the Messiah would appear. These two goals were therefore not fulfilled.
3. To make atonement for iniquity 4. To bring in everlasting righteousness
These two goals are also related; by making atonement, Jesus brought in everlasting righteousness.
Consider firstly “make atonement for iniquity”. Jesus was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). His blood was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). He was sacrificed for our sins and did away “with sin” once for all when he offered himself (Heb. 7:27, 9:26-28). Through His own blood, He has obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12). See also Hebrews 10:10, 12, and 14.
We might be inclined to think that Christ did not bring in “everlasting righteousness” because this world is still dominated by sin. But note how the Bible speaks of the everlasting consequences of the cross as a current reality:
Hebrews 9:12 – “Eternal redemption” already exists. Rom. 5:10, 11; Col. 1:20 – We are already reconciled to God by the death of His Son. 2Co 5:19 – He already does not count our trespasses against us (See also; Col 1:22). Rom 5:18 – Justification of life to all men is already obtained. John 3:17 – The world is already saved. Col. 1:19-20 – God already reconciled all things to Himself, and already made peace through the blood of His cross.
These two goals were not conditional and were fulfilled through His death.
5. To seal up vision and prophecy
“Nabi” is actually is the word for prophet, not for prophecy. Hatam (“seal up”) can have different meanings.
To hide – “Seal up” may mean to hide something, for instance, “conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time” (Daniel 12:4). But to conceal vision and prophet seems hardly appropriate as a goal for the 490 years.
To end– “Seal up” can also mean to make an end of something. This goal could, therefore, be that there would be no further vision and prophet for Israel. The end of the 490 years was also the end of Israel’s special status as people of God. However, these goals were to be fulfilled through Israel, during the 490 years; not at the end of that period. One consequence of their failure may have been to bring an end to vision and prophecy for Israel, but it does not make sense to say it was a goal set for Israel, to be fulfilled during the 490 years.
To validate – A third possible meaning of hatam is to validate something, and since the other possible meanings do not fit, this is proposed as the intended meaning. It is proposed that it means that the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah in general were to be validated or authenticated by Cross, for instance:
“Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirmthe promises given to the fathers” (Rom 15:8).
6. To anoint the most holy place
The word “place” is added by the translators, but accepted here. The phrase translated “most holy” (qodes qodasim) occurs more than 40 times in the Old Testament, and in every instance, it refers to the sanctuary, with the possible exception of 1 Chronicles 23:13. The most holy place is the central chamber of the tabernacle, where God is present. To anoint the most holy place means to inaugurate it (Heb. 9:18-23).
But which temple is intended? If it referred to the temple that was rebuilt after the exile, the anointing should have been listed prior to the third goal of “atonement”. Furthermore, since the last seven years are the core and focus of the prophecy, all six goals should be fulfilled by the events of those seven years.
Temple in heaven
The letter to the Hebrews is significantly different from other letters in the New Testament. None of the other letters mention a temple in heaven, or Jesus as our high priest in that temple, but this is the main message of the letter to the Hebrews:
This is the “true tabernacle” (8:2), not made with hands (Heb. 9:24; cf. 8:1-2). The earthly tabernacle was a copy of this true tabernacle (Heb. 8:5; 9:24).
Similar to the words in Daniel 9:24, the temple in heaven is also called the “holy place” (Heb. 9:24; 10:19).
The first covenant was inaugurated by sprinkling the tabernacle with the blood (Heb. 9:21) of the calves and the goats (Heb. 9:19). But Hebrews tells us that the “heavens”—therefore the sanctuary in heaven—were “cleansed”, but with “better sacrifices” (Heb. 9:23), namely “through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12).
In other words, in Hebrews, Jesus entered the holy place after He obtained eternal redemption at the cross (Heb. 9:12). We find the same sequence in Daniel 9:24—the goal of anointing of the most holy is mentioned after the goal “to make atonement for iniquity”.
It is not proposed that there is a literal temple in heaven. The point of Hebrews is rather that the earthly temple and its ceremonies were images of the real events in heaven. The New Testament often quotes Psalm 110:1 to say that Jesus sat down at His Father’s right hand at His ascension. This event is visually presented by Revelation 5 and 12. See Introduction to the Seven Seals. Revelation 12 describes Jesus’ ascension to His Father’s throne (12:5). Then a “war in heaven” ensued (v7). The outcome was that “the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb” (v10-11). “For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath”.
In other words, the death of Christ enabled God to throw Satan and his angels out of heaven. It is proposed that this is the meaning of the cleansing of the “heavens” with Christ’s blood (Heb. 9:23, 12). It is also proposed that this is what is meant by the goal in Daniel 9, “to anoint the most holy place”.
It is therefore proposed that the last four goals were fulfilled through Jesus Christ on behalf of Israel. 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).
Book of Revelation
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 reflects the events of Antiochus, more than 100 years before Christ. The Critical Interpretation of the 490 years promised by Daniel 9 is discussed in a separate article.
Dispensationalism is another major system of belief within the Church, and puts a vast gap of 2000 years between the first 69 sevens described in verses 25-26 and the last seven described in verse 27. The book of Revelation has been built on the prophecies of Daniel. An incorrect interpretation of Daniel’s prophecies inevitably distorts Revelation’s prophecies. The typical Dispensational interpretation puts everything in the last 19 chapters of Revelation in the final seven years of Daniel 9, 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 whole Dispensational interpretation of Revelation and of eschatology collapses.
The historical view of Daniel 9, as defended in this article, which interprets the last seven years as fulfilled in the time of Christ, was once held by the majority in the Church. But today it is nearly 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)
Daniel 9:24 goals Fulfilled in Jesus Christ – Dispensationalism objects to the traditional Protestant interpretation of Daniel 9 by claiming that Christ’s first advent did not fulfill the Daniel 9:24 goals set for the seventy weeks (9:24). This is true, but remember, Israel failed. There is something which God must do through His people to end the sinful state of this world, and it was His intention to do it through Israel 2000 years ago, but Israel failed.
Revelation – The book of Revelation is built on the foundation of the prophecies of Daniel. An incorrect interpretation of Daniel’s prophecies inevitably distorts Revelation’s prophecies. Dispensationalism puts the last 19 chapters of Revelation in the final seven years of Daniel 9, which are interpreted as the final seven years before the return of Christ. But this article has shown that those seven years describe the Messiah-events 2000 years ago.
Articles in this series
This series discusses the Dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 and includes the following: