ABSTRACT: In Daniel 9:27, who confirms what covenant with whom during the last 7 years? In Dispensationalism, an end-time Antichrist will make a covenant with many during the seven years before Christ returns. This article shows that it is God’s covenant with Israel and that Jesus Christ confirmed it through His 3½ years of personal ministry plus, after His death, 3½ years of His ministry through the Holy Spirit.
A summary of this article is available HERE.
Daniel 9:27 reads:
“… 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”
The “one week” is the last of the seventy weeks, namely, the last seven years. The “he” must refer to somebody mentioned in the previous verse (v26). That verse refers to two people: the Messiah that is “cut off” and “the prince that shall come,” whose people will destroy the city. It must be one of them.
In Dispensationalism, the “he,” who will make a firm covenant with many in verse 27, is the “prince” of verse 26 whose people destroyed the city in AD 70. Since that refers to the destruction of Jerusalem on AD 70 by the Romans, Dispensationalism argues that the prince in verse 27 will be an end-time leader of a revived Roman Empire. He will be the Antichrist and will reign during the last seven years before Christ returns. The “firm covenant” is interpreted as some new pact into which that Antichrist will enter at the beginning of the last seven years. But in the course of those seven years, he will break his covenant and destroy the sanctuary and its services.
In contrast, the purpose of this article is to show that “he” is the Messiah and that it is God’s covenant with Israel that “he” will “make.” This article will:
- Provide objections to the view that “he” refers to an end-time Antichrist.
- Argue that the covenant of the 70th week is God’s covenant with Israel.
- Show that the “he,” who confirms the covenant, is the Messiah; Jesus Christ.
Firstly, this article provides the following objections to the view that “he” refers to an end-time Antichrist:
(1) LIVE 2000 YEARS APART
As stated, “the people of the prince” who destroy the city (v26) refer to the Roman Empire which destroyed Jerusalem in the first century. But then, if the prince is an end-time Antichrist, then the people and their prince live 2000 years apart. One can argue that the “prince” serves as a symbol for the series of emperors, but it remains a bit of a forced interpretation.
(2) NO INDICATION OF A GAP
The wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates that the 490 years will be interrupted for an indefinite period. There appears to be no valid reason, or defensible ground, for postulating a gap between the 70th week and the previous 69 weeks.
(3) TWO UNRELATED PROPHECIES
To postpone the last seven years to the end of the age divides the prophecy into two completely separate and unrelated prophecies; one about Christ 2000 years ago, and one about an end-time Antichrist. This destroys the simple unity of the prophecy.
(4) CHRIST’S RETURN
If the last “week” is the seven years before Christ returns, then it ends with Christ’s return but the prophecy in no way indicates the return of Christ. If the 490 years are to end with Christ’s return, would the prophecy not end with a description of His return, as the other prophecies in Daniel do? In contrast, the Daniel 9 prophecy ends in the accumulation of desolations and chaos.
(5) ROMAN EMPIRE REVIVED
But how can the Roman Empire be revived 1500 years after it ceased to exist?
(Actually, the answer is that the Roman Empire was never fully destroyed. It continued to exist in the little horn growing out of it and is still alive and well today. For more detail, see The Beast.)
(6) TEMPLE REBUILT TWICE
As prophesied in Daniel 9, Jerusalem was rebuilt a few hundred years before Christ and destroyed again in 70 AD (Dan 9:25-26). But Dispensationalism requires that the sanctuary be rebuilt a second time at the end of the age and that sacrifices be resumed. However, the prophecy explicitly promises only one rebuilding of the city and the sanctuary. If the temple was to be rebuilt a second time after the destruction in verse 26, would the prophecy not have explicitly stated that, given that it is so clear about the rebuilding in verse 25?
Furthermore, after the sacrificial system was abolished 2000 years ago, there can never 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 Heb 7:22; cf. Heb 10:12; Rom 3:22, 25). In fact, that is precisely the meaning of the statement: “In the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering” (Dan 9:27).
The reinstatement of the sacrifices is based on the assumption that Daniel 9 covers the same ground as the other prophecies of Daniel, but this is not true. Another article shows that Daniel 9 does not describe the same crisis as the other prophecies in Daniel. For example, Daniel 9 deals with Israel only, and with the 490 years allocated to her. The other prophecies in Daniel deal with all nations and with all time from Daniel until Christ’s return.
(1) COVENANT RENEWED
The first justification for this proposal, as discussed in a previous article, is that the 490 years are an extension or renewal of God’s covenant with Israel. Therefore, the seven-year covenant in 9:27 must be the last seven years of that 490-year covenant.
(2) CENTRAL THEME
To come to that conclusion, the previous article has shown that the covenant pattern of disobedience – repentance – covenant renewal is the central theme in Daniel 9 that unites the prayer and the prophecy. This context speaks against the supposition that an altogether different covenant is abruptly introduced in the last 7 of the 490 years.
(3) THE WORD “COVENANT”
Of the six times that the word “covenant” appears in Daniel, four times it is explicitly God’s covenant with Israel (Dan 9:4; 11:28, 30, 32). Some propose that the covenant in 9:27 is not God’s covenant with Israel because of the absence of the article “the,” but in Daniel 11:28, 30 and 32, “covenant” is also used without the article, while the reference is explicit to God’s “holy covenant.”
(4) CONFIRMS THE COVENANT
The verb translated as “make a firm” in the NASB is “gâbar.” Strong’s short definition of this word is “prevailed.” Of the 25 times that this word appears in the Old Testament, the NASB translates it 14 times as “prevail.” As stated by Meredith G. Kline in The covenant of the Seventieth Week, the evidence of the usage of gâbar in the Bible indicates that verse 27 has in view the enforcing of a covenant previously granted. It is not a verb for the making of a new covenant. It should, therefore, be translated as “make firm a covenant”, and not as “make a firm covenant.” Similarly, the KJV translates it as “confirm the covenant” and Young’s Literal Translation reads “strengthening a covenant.” These translations imply a covenant that existed before the last seven years. Then it can only be God’s covenant with Israel.
(5) THE MANY
“The many,” with whom “he” confirms the covenant, most often refers to God’s people. For instance:
“The Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities“ (Isa 53:11).
“Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame” (Dan 11:33; See also Dan 11:39; 12:3; Matt 26:28; Heb 9:26-28; Rom 5:15, 19; 1 Cor 10:33).
If “the many,” with whom the covenant is confirmed, are God’s people, then it must be God’s covenant.
“HE” IS THE MESSIAH
By showing that the “he,” who confirms the covenant for the seven last years, is the “Messiah” of verse 26, namely, Jesus Christ, and not the Antichrist, this section confirms that the covenant of the last “week” is God’s covenant:
(1) POETIC PATTERN
As discussed, the prophecy has a poetic pattern that shifts the focus repeatedly back and forth between the two foci; Jerusalem and the Messiah:
|v25 decree to rebuild||until Messiah the Prince|
|7 weeks||62 weeks;|
|built again||v26 Messiah cut off …|
|destroy||v27 firm covenant for one week|
This shows the two foci:
Daniel prayed for Jerusalem (Dan 9:18) and Gabriel told him that seventy weeks were decreed for the city, starting with “the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” (Dan 9:25). Jerusalem will be rebuilt (v25), but, Daniel had to also hear that it would again be destroyed (v26).
The other main focus of the prophecy is “Messiah the Prince” (Dan 9:25). Daniel was told that the Messiah would appear at the end of the first 483 years (v25), but “will be cut off” (v26), which means to be killed.
The table above shows that, in this pattern, it is the Messiah who confirms the covenant for seven years in verse 27.
As also discussed, the prophecy is also structured as a chiasm. In a chiasm, the first item corresponds to the last, the second to the second last, etc. In the chiasm in Daniel 9, the “one week” in verse 27 corresponds to the Messiah in 25b:
Messiah cut off 26a
Construction 25c —— Destruction 26b
Messiah the Prince 25b ———– Covenant one week 27a
Construction 25a ———————- Destruction 27c
(3) THE MAIN PERSON
The “prince that shall come” is not the subject of that clause in verse 26. It reads “the people of the prince”, not “the prince of the people.” The subject of the clause is “the people.” Verse 27, therefore, should not refer to the prince with the pronoun “he.”
The main person in verse 26 (and in the entire prophecy) is the “Messiah.” He is, therefore, the appropriate antecedent for “he” in verse 27.
(4) SUPERNATURAL BEING
The prince in verse 26 is described as “the prince who is to come.” A few verses later we read of another prince who 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.”
(Dan 10:20, 21; see also Dan 12:1)
Since this is a supernatural being that is speaking here (Dan 10:16, 18), the princes against whom he fights, and the prince Michael who stands with him, are also supernatural beings. The NASB, quoted above, refers to them as “forces.” They are not human beings.
Since both the “prince of Greece” and the prince of Rome are “to come” (Dan 10:20; 9:26), it is implied that the prince of Rome in 9:26 is also a supernatural being.
The Messiah is also called a prince (Dan 9:25). Since He could say, “before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58) and, since the Baptist could say, “He existed before me” (John 1:30), the Messiah is a human being but also a supernatural being.
Each of the princes (of Persia, of Greece, and “Michael your prince”) represents a nation:
Michael is the prince of the nation of Israel (Dan 12:1).
Both the princes of Rome and “of Greece” are “to come” (Dan 9:26; 10:20). But the “prince of Greece” was to come sooner, for he was “about to come,” just like the empire of Greece came before the Roman Empire.
In conclusion, the prince in 9:26 is not a human being but a supernatural “force” (Dan 10:21) or being representing the Roman nation. Since the “he” of verse 27 is a human being, he cannot refer back to the prince in verse 26, for the latter is a supernatural being.
(5) THE MESSIAH BRINGS EXPECTATIONS.
The Messiah arrives at the end of the 69th week (v25). This causes us to expect that great things will now happen, particularly given the goals set in verse 24. Verse 26 adds that He will be killed, but say nothing more. Verse 27 lists the events for the 70th week, namely “he will make a firm covenant” and “he will put a stop to sacrifice.” The great expectation, that the arrival of the Messiah brought, implies that the events of the 70th week are the actions of the Messiah. To assign them to an end-time Antichrist, as Dispensationalism does, is to convert this prophecy about Christ into a prophecy about the Antichrist.
(6) PUT A STOP TO SACRIFICE
The “he” of verse 27 will confirm the covenant for seven years but he will also, “in the middle of the week … put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering.”
In the context, where the purpose of the 490 years includes “to make atonement for iniquity” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” (v24), through killing the messiah (v26), and given the context of the New Testament, the “he,” who makes an end to the sacrificial system, is the Messiah:
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. As required by verse 24, He made “atonement for iniquity” (John 1:29; Matt.26:28; Heb 7:27, 9:26-28; Heb 9:12; 10:10, 12, 14) and brought in “everlasting righteousness” (Heb 9:12; Rom 5:10, 11; Col 1:20; 2 Cor 5:19; Col 1:22; Rom 5:18; John 3:17; Col 1:19-20). He was “pierced through for our transgressions” (Isa 53:5).
His death put a stop to sacrifice. Christ’s death did not cause the Jewish sacrifices to cease immediately. The Jewish sacrifices continued until the destruction of Jerusalem forty years later. But these sacrifices pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of the 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.
The letter to the Hebrews states this explicitly. When Jesus ascended to heaven and became High Priest (Heb 6:20), the law changed (Heb 7:12), including the sacrificial system (Heb 7:19; 8:4; 9:22). Jesus set “aside the first [sacrifices and offerings] to establish the second” (Heb 10:9). (See also Heb 8:13 and Eph 2:15.) In this way, His death caused “sacrifice and the oblation (NASB: grain offering) to cease” (Dan 9:27).
The Daniel 9 prophecy, therefore, is thoroughly messianic in nature. According to the chiastic structure of the prophecy, the killing of the Messiah is the main event through which the goals are fulfilled. In this context, the “stop to sacrifice” in verse 27 refers to Jesus’ death and the “he” is Jesus Himself. To allocate verse 27 to an end-time Antichrist, as Dispensationalism does, or to Antiochus IV in the second century BC, as the liberal interpretation does, does injustice to the overall essence of the prophecy.
Verse 27 says that Jesus Christ will confirm God’s covenant with Israel during the 70th week. The discussion of the end of the 490 years has shown that, during these final seven years, Jesus confirmed God’s covenant with Israel: Never before or after in human history has God appealed so strongly for the heart of any nation as He did, firstly, through Christ’s personal ministry on earth for 3½ years and, secondly, through the Holy Spirit during the 2 to 4 years after He died.
Daniel 9 does not specify a specific event for the end of the seventy weeks. However, as discussed, the seventy weeks was an extension of God’s covenant with Israel, as also indicated by the phrase, “Seventy weeks are cut off for your people and your holy city” (Dan 9:24). The seventy weeks, therefore, end when God’s covenant with Israel ends.
This is confirmed by verse 27, which reads, he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week. This is the last of the seventy weeks. When that week came to an end, the messiah no longer confirmed the covenant with Israel.