EXCERPT: Daniel 9:24 sets 6 goals for the 490 years. These goals are important because, in the correct interpretation of the events described in the later verses, these events will fulfill these goals. In the traditional interpretation, they were fulfilled through Christ’s life and death. Dispensationalism claims that only His return will fulfill these goals.
A summary of this article is available HERE.
In Daniel 9:24, God gave Israel 490 years to achieve 6 goals, namely to:
- Finish the transgression;
- Make an end of sins;
- Make reconciliation for iniquity;
- Bring in everlasting righteousness;
- Seal up the vision and prophecy; and to
- Anoint the most Holy.
In the traditional interpretation, Jesus Christ fulfilled most of these goals through His earthly life, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven.
In contrast, Dispensationalism denies that Christ’s first advent completely fulfilled the goals set in Daniel 9:24. It claims that these goals will only be fulfilled at the end of the 490 years, namely when Christ returns. For example, Walvoord wrote, “‘to make reconciliation for iniquity’, seems to be a rather clear picture of the Cross of Christ” but he still maintains that, “while the basic provision for reconciliation was made at the cross, the actual application of it is again associated with the second advent of Christ.“
But verse 24 seems to say these goals were given to ISRAEL (“your people and your holy city”) to fulfill DURING the 490 years. Then they cannot be fulfilled only at the end of the 490 years.
To further evaluate these possible interpretations, the purpose of this article is to explain what these goals are and how they were to be fulfilled:
The following are proposed guidelines for interpreting these goals:
Firstly, these goals were specifically given to “your people and your holy city” (Dan 9:24). They must be fulfilled BY OR THROUGH Israel.
Secondly, 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.
Thirdly, the first 483 years bring us to the Messiah (Dan 9:25) but the main action in the prophecy is reserved for the last seven years (Dan 9:27). It is therefore proposed that all six goals were to be fulfilled through the events of those final seven years.
Fourthly, the goals are probably listed in the sequence in which they were to be fulfilled.
The first two goals are “to finish the transgression and to make an end of sins.” “Transgression” and “sins” are synonyms. This implies that these two goals are, actually, a single goal, 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 sins. But, for the following reasons, it is proposed that this goal does not refer to sin in general, but specifically to Israel’s sin:
(a) At the time, Israel was in exile due to their sins. In his prayer, Daniel confessed Israel’s sins (Dan 9:5, 13, 20) and he prayed that God would forgive them (Dan 9:19). Given this context, when Daniel hears that 490 years were decreed for Israel “to make an end of sins,” he would have understood that Israel must make an end to the sin in their society that led to the exile.
(b) The definite article “the” seems to identify 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.
Walvoord agrees that “transgression” and “sin” here refer specifically to Israel’s sin.
God gave Israel the opportunity to succeed where their fathers failed. The prophecy promises the Messiah (Jesus Christ). These two goals, therefore, in particular, required Israel to accept the Messiah when he comes. But they killed Him.
Another article argues that God’s covenant with Israel did not end when they killed Jesus. For a few more years after the Cross, God appealed to Israel for repentance with an intensity never seen before or after. He sent the Holy Spirit in power, but only to Israel. But once again, Israel rejected God by killing His Spirit-filled disciples, beginning with Stephen. These two goals, therefore, were NOT FULFILLED.
RECONCILE FOR INIQUITY,
The third and fourth goals are:
- “to make reconciliation for iniquity and
- to bring in everlasting righteousness.”
As Walvoord admits, “‘to make reconciliation for iniquity‘ seems to be a rather clear picture of the Cross of Christ.” But he still maintains that that “reconciliation” will only be ‘applied’ when Jesus returns: “The actual application of it is again associated with the second advent of Christ.”
However, although we will only see the result when Jesus returns, the Bible makes clear that God, through Jesus, ALREADY made “reconciliation for iniquity” (2 Cor 5:19; Rom 5:10, 11; Col 1:19-22). 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 and for all when he offered himself (Heb 7:27, 9:26-28). Therefore, our sins are already forgiven (e.g., Matt 26:28; Heb 9:12; 9:26-28).
“Righteousness” describes thoughts and deeds and desires that are good and right with God. When the word “everlasting” is added, it refers to a condition in which all thoughts, deeds, and desires will always be “right” with God. The words, “bring in” point to the event that begins that condition.
In Dispensationalism, only Christ’s return will “bring in everlasting righteousness.” However, technically, evil will still exist during the 1000 years after His return (Rev 20:7-8).
Furthermore, “righteousness” is the opposite of “iniquity.” Therefore, and since the first two goals express a single thought, “to make reconciliation for iniquity” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” are one and the same thing. Since Jesus made “reconciliation for iniquity” through His life and death, that same act also brought in “everlasting righteousness.”
Although in one sense, “everlasting righteousness” will only exist after the end of the Millennium, in another sense, it already exists “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Note how the Bible often speaks of the eternal consequences of the cross as an existing reality:
“God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:11-12; cf. e.g., John 5:24).
“We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10).
“By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb 10:14).
These two goals, therefore, were fulfilled through Christ’s life and death.
TO SEAL UP VISION AND PROPHECY
This is the fifth goal. The word translated as “prophecy” is “nabi.” This, actually, is the word for prophet. Hatam (“seal up”) can have different meanings:
To hide – “Seal up” may mean to hide or conceal something, for instance, “conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time” (Dan 12:4). But to conceal vision and prophet hardly seems appropriate as a goal for the 490 years.
To end – “Seal up” can also mean to make an end of something. This goal, therefore, could be that there would be no further vision and prophet for Israel. However, these goals were given to ISRAEL to fulfill DURING the 490 years and it does not make sense to say that Israel had to make an end to vision and prophet during the 490 years. And, since “to seal up vision of prophecy” is a purpose for the 490 years, it also does not make sense to say that it will be realized at the end of that period.
To validate – A third possible meaning of hatam is to validate something. Since the other possible meanings do not fit, it is proposed that this is the intended meaning, namely that the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah were to be validated by the events of the 490 years; particularly by the life and death of Jesus Christ. For example:
“Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers” (Rom 15:8).
TO ANOINT THE MOST HOLY
This is the sixth and final goal. The word “place” is added by the translators, but it seems appropriate. The phrase translated as “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 to which temple does the prophecy refer?
Some propose that it refers to a temple that will exist after Christ has returned. In Dispensationalism, some see this as the millennial temple. But, again, since all six goals were to be fulfilled DURING the 490 years, it cannot be the inauguration of a temple that will exist after Christ has returned. And in the eternal dispensation, after the 1000 years, namely in the New Jerusalem, there will not be any temple (Rev 21:1-3; 22).
Another possibility is that it refers to the temple that was rebuilt after the exile. But we assume that the goals are listed chronologically. For that reason, and since the third and fourth goals already point to Christ’s life and death, the last goal cannot refer to a temple that was rebuilt centuries before Christ. 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 and that was long after the temple was rebuilt after the exile.
TEMPLE IN HEAVEN
It is, therefore, proposed that the final goal refers to the inauguration of the temple in heaven. The letter to the Hebrews is significantly different from the other letters in the New Testament. None of the other letters explicitly mention a temple in heaven or Jesus as our high priest in that temple, but this is the main message of Hebrews:
That is the “true tabernacle” (Heb 8:2), not made with hands (Heb 9:24; cf. 8:1-2). The earthly tabernacle was a copy of this tabernacle (Heb 8:5; 9:24).
Similar to Daniel 9:24, Hebrews also refers to the temple in heaven as the “holy place” (Heb 9:24; 10:19).
The first covenant was inaugurated by sprinkling the tabernacle with the blood of the calves and the goats (Heb 9:19, 21). But Hebrews tells us that the “heavens”—therefore the sanctuary in heaven—were “cleansed” 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, according to Hebrews, Jesus, after He obtained eternal redemption at the cross, entered the holy place (Heb 9:12). We find the same sequence in Daniel 9:24; the goal of the 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 that was literally anointed or cleansed. The point, rather, seems to be that the earthly temple and its ceremonies were images or symbols of the REAL EVENTS in salvation history (Heb 8:5; 9:24). For that reason, it is proposed that, “to anoint the most holy place,” points to the eternal and cosmic consequences of Jesus’s life and death.
The following shows that Jesus’s death had real consequences in ‘heaven’:
The New Testament often quotes Psalm 110:1 to say that Jesus, after His ascension, sat down at His Father’s right hand (e.g., Eph 1:20; Rev 3:21). At that time, “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil 2:8-11).
After He sat down (Rev 12:5), a “war in heaven” broke out (Rev 12:7) and Satan and his angels were expelled from heaven (Rev 12:8-11). (See, War in Heaven.) In other words, the death of Christ enabled God to exile Satan and his angels from heaven.
Through His death, God reconciled all things to Himself; “whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col 1:20). (See, Why Jesus had to die.)
Through Him, God “disarmed the rulers and authorities” (Col 2:15). These are “the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).
What all of this means we will only understand in the future eternity. To have an inkling of why Jesus’ death is so important, we need to understand what problem His death solved: Revelation 5 symbolizes the problem as a sealed book (Rev 5:1-4). We may ask:
- What is this book?
- Why does sin exist?
- Why did God not eradicate the first traces of sin?
- Why did Jesus have to die?
- Why did God not make an end of sin after Jesus’ death?
This website proposes that 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.
The first two goals required Israel to be faithful but they failed. 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 Jesus – the Lamb of God, God reconciled the world to Himself (Rom 5:10, 11; 2 Cor 5:19; Col 1:19-20).
However, there is a sense in which Dispensationalism is right. Jesus has not yet returned because, before He can return, He must have a special people (cf. Rev 7:3) through whom God will overcome sin on earth. Only then will God be able to make a final end to sin. (For a discussion, see The Seven Seals.) It was His intention to do so through Israel – 2000 years ago, but Israel failed. If Israel accepted the Messiah, history would have been very different. If Israel were faithful, they would have proclaimed God’s message to all nations through the power of the Holy Spirit and perhaps Jesus would have returned at the end of the 490 years.
For a further discussion, see Christ’s Return was delayed.