Does the Dispensational interpretation fit the time indications?

SUMMARY

In the following respects, the Dispensational interpretation deviates from the time indications in the prophecy:

WHICH DECREE?

DispensationalismIn Dispensationalism, the “decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” (Dan 9:25), which began the 490 years, was Artaxerxes’ second decree in 445/4 BC.

That was a decree to “rebuild” Jerusalem but it was not a decree to “restore” Jerusalem. The word translated “restore” means to return ownership to the previous owner (e.g., 1 Kings 20:34). Artaxerxes’ second decree did not “restore” Jerusalem because Artaxerxes’ first decree in 458/7 already did that and because the second decree only dealt with the physical construction of the city walls.

King CyrusDispensationalism argues that Artaxerxes’ second decree was the first to authorize the rebuilding of Jerusalem. But that is not true. The previous decrees by Cyrus, Darius I, and Artaxerxes I, by allowing the Jews to return to Judea, to rebuild the temple, and to govern themselves, all implicitly authorized the rebuilding of the city.

PROPHETIC YEARS

According to Daniel 9:25, the Messiah will appear 7 + 62 weeks = 483 years after the decree. Adding 483 years to Artaxerxes’ second decree (445/4) brings us to about seven years AFTER Christ’s death. To solve this, Dispensationalism proposes that these are “prophetic years” consisting of 360 days each. This reduces the 483 by about 7 years.

However, the 490 years are an extension of God’s covenant with Israel (see Extend Covenant). Therefore, and since the covenant is based on Israel’s seven-year cycle, where every seventh year is a Sabbath, the “seventy weeks” are weeks of literal years.

TRIUMPHAL ENTRY

In Dispensationalism, the 483 years bring us to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem; a few days before His crucifixion. However, the end of the 69th week, as described in verse 25, does NOT bring us to His death or to the END of His ministry. According to that verse, the Messiah will APPEAR and BEGIN His ministry at the end of the 69th week.

COVENANT SUSPENDED

In Dispensationalism, God suspended His covenant with Israel at the Cross and postponed the last seven years to just before Christ’s return.

However, God’s covenant with Israel continued for a few years after the Cross. This is indicated by the history recorded in the Book of Acts: During the first few years after the Cross, God gave His Holy Spirit only to Jews. That covenant came to an end about three or four years after the Cross when the Jews began to persecute these (Jewish) Christians, beginning with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7; 8:1). Soon there-after, Gentiles also received the Holy Spirit.

– END OF SUMMARY –


DISPENSATIONAL VIEW

Daniel 9:25 reads:

from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem …” (NASB).

Nehemiah, cupbearer to Artaxerxes IThe 70 weeks began with this decree. In Dispensationalism, this was Artaxerxes’ second decree in 445/4 BC (Neh 1-2)

Daniel 9:25 continues:

from the issuing of a decree …
until Messiah the Prince
there will be seven weeks
and sixty-two weeks.

In Dispensationalism, this Messiah Prince (the “anointed” in the KJV) is Jesus Christ and (7+62) x 7 = 483 years after the decree brings us to the time of Christ. However, since 483 years from 445/4 BC takes us to about AD 40; about seven years after the time of the Cross, Dispensationalism proposes that the 483 years are “prophetic years” of 360 days each. This reduces the 483 years by 7 years to about 476 literal years. Adding 476 years to the time of Artaxerxes’ second decree brings us to the year in which Jesus was crucified, assuming that He died in AD 33 or AD 32. More specifically, Dispensationalism claims that it brings us to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, a few days before His death.

Dispensationalism also assumes that God suspended His covenant with Israel at the Cross, to be resumed seven years before Christ returns. The following depiction explains the Dispensational schema:

Dispensationalism prophetic yearsOBJECTIONS

The following objections to this interpretation may be raised:

WHICH DECREE?

Artaxerxes’ second decree did not “restore” Jerusalem to Israel.

As stated (see – Which Decree?), the word translated as “restore” does not mean the same as “rebuild.” The Old Testament uses the word “restore” (shûb) for returning ownership to the previous owner (e.g., 1 Kings 20:34). In Daniel 9:25, it means more than merely allowing the Jews to live in the city. Since Jerusalem is the judicial capital of the nation, to restore the city means to return ownership to the Jews to serve as their capital from where they would govern themselves according to their own laws.

Artaxerxes’ first decree (458/7) already “restored” the city to the Israelites for it made the Mosaic law part of the Persian law and granted authority to the Jews to govern themselves on the basis of the law of God (Ezra 7:26). It provided for a measure of judicial autonomy unknown since the Babylonian desolation of Jerusalem and Judea about 130 years earlier.

Artaxerxes’ second decree did not “restore” Jerusalem because Israel already ‘owned’ the city in terms of Artaxerxes’ first decree and because the second decree only dealt with the physical construction of the city walls.  When Nehemiah asked for this decree, he did not even ask to rebuild the city. He only asked for permission to go to Jerusalem (Neh 2:5) and for wood for the walls (Neh 2:8). 

Dispensationalism claims that the second decree of Artaxerxes I for the first time authorized the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but that is not true. The previous decrees by Cyrus (538/7 BC), Darius I (520 BC), and Artaxerxes I (458/7 BC), by allowing the Jews to return to Judah, to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4; cf. Isa 45:1) and to govern themselves, implicitly allowed the Jews to rebuild their cities.

PROPHETIC YEARS

Artaxerxes’ second decree was too late to fit the time of Christ. If we add 7+62 weeks (483 years) to 445/4 BC, we come to about seven years after Christ’s death. As stated, Dispensationalism attempts to solve this by interpreting the 490 years as “prophetic years” of 360 days each rather than as literal years.

However, since the 490 years are an extension of God’s covenant with Israel, and since the covenant is based on Israel’s seven-year cycle, where every seventh year is a Sabbath, the “seventy weeks” are weeks of literal years. For a further discussion, see – Covenant Extended.

Artaxerxes’ first decree does fit the time of Christ. If we add 483 years to 458/7 BC, we come to Christ’s baptism in 26/27 AD, which may be regarded as the appearance of the Messiah and the beginning of His ministry.

This, then, is another indication that the decree of 445/4 is not the decree mentioned by Daniel 9:25, for it does not fit the time of Christ.

TRIUMPHAL ENTRY

As stated, in Dispensationalism, the “Messiah the Prince” is Jesus Christ and the end of the 483 years brings us to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem; a few days before His crucifixion. However, the end of the 69th week, as described in verse 25, does NOT bring us to His death or to the end of His ministry. According to that verse, the Messiah will APPEAR and BEGIN His ministry at the end of the 69th week. It refers to His appearance; not His disappearance.

Jesus baptizedThe beginning of Jesus’ ministry was at His baptism, where He was “anointed” and introduced to Israel:

John the Baptist said, “so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water” (John 1:31).

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power” (Acts 10:38; cf. Mark 1:9-11; Psa 2:6, 7).

COVENANT SUSPENDED

As stated, in Dispensationalism, the first 483 years came to an end at Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (a few days before His death) and, at that time, God suspended His covenant with Israel and postponed the last seven years to just before Christ’s return.

One objection to this is that there is no indication in the text that the 490 years will be interrupted for an indefinite period. Furthermore, as stated, the 490 years are an extension of God’s covenant with Israel:

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city” (Dan 9:24).

But, contrary to the Dispensational interpretation, God’s covenant with Israel continued for a few years after the Cross:

During the first few years after the Cross, God gave His Holy Spirit only to Jews and the gospel was preached only to Jews. The church consisted only of the “circumcised” (cf. Acts 10:45; i.e. Jews). See Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church.

About three or four years after the Cross, the Jews began to persecute these (Jewish) Christians, beginning with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7; 8:1). See Judea and Samaria Phase of the Early Church.

Soon after this persecution began, Peter received a vision of unclean beasts (Acts 10:19-20). Up to that point in history, these Christian Jews regarded the uncircumcised as unclean and, as all Jews did, they did not associate with them. But, through this vision, God told Peter and the church not to regard Gentiles as unclean and to preach the gospel also to them (Acts 10:34-35). That was the end of God’s covenant with Israel – about three years after the Cross.

STEPHEN’S SPEECH

Stoning of StephenThis conclusion is supported by Stephen’s speech. Similar to Daniel’s prayer, Stephen’s speech was 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 announced of God’s judgment in terms of the covenant. In other words, Stephen announced the end of the seventy weeks.

These three or four years after the Cross, therefore, were part of the 490 years. For a further discussion, see – The Stoning of Stephen.

DIFFERENCE IN DATES

The second decree of Artaxerxes I is dated by most dispensationalists to 445 BC, but by some to 444 BC:

Interpreters that use March 14, 445 BC as the date of the decree (e.g. Sir Robert Anderson) count 173880 days to end on 6th April, AD 32 as the date for Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Interpreters that use March 5, 444 BC as the date of the decree (e.g. Hoehner) count 173880 days to March 30, AD 33 as the date for the triumphal entry, and the crucifixion six days later on April 5, AD 33.

Dispensationalism sometimes claims that its calculations fit the historical events precisely, but the difference in the dates places doubt over such claims.


DISPENSATIONAL VIEW OF DANIEL 9
– LIST OF ARTICLES –

      1. Overview of the Dispensational view
      2. When did the 490 and 483 years begin and end?
      3. Whose covenant confirmed; God’s or Satan’s?
      4. Who confirms that covenant; Christ or Antichrist?
      5. When are the last seven years?
      6. Inconsistencies in the Dispensational View
      7. When will Christ fulfill the goals in Daniel 9:24?
      8. Pre-Wrath Dispensationalism – the church will suffer.

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