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)
It is either the Messiah that is killed or the prince who destroys Jerusalem. The Poetic Pattern and the messianic nature of the prophecy indicate that it is the Messiah. He is also the dominant figure in the previous verse, and as argued in the previous article, it is God’s covenant with Israel. It cannot be the prince, for he is a supernatural being.
Verse 26 refers to two people: the Messiah that is “cut off” and “the prince that shall come”. Verse 27 continues with a “he”:
“… 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”
This article identifies of the “he” in verse 27. Dispensationalism argues that “he” refers to the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD 70, and that this prince will reign during the last seven years before the return of Christ.
Summary: The Poetic Pattern of the prophecy indicates that “he” in verse 27, who confirms the covenant for seven years, is the same as the Messiah who is cut off in verse 26.
The prophecy in Daniel 9 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 an 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.
We also find this repetition of thought in two adjacent verses:
“I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding” (v22) and “I have come to tell you” (v23)
But 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 four times between Jerusalem and the Messiah. The implication is that verse 27 continues this pattern. Since verse 26 ends with a reference to Jerusalem, the first part of verse 27, describing the “he” who confirms the covenant for seven years, but “cause the sacrifice … to cease” in the middle of that week, should be the Messiah.
Summary: The dominant figure in verse 26 and in the entire prophecy is the “Messiah”. He is therefore the appropriate antecedent for “he” in verse 27.
The prince whose people destroy the city is the last person mentioned in verse 26. Dispensationalism therefore proposes that the “he” in verse 27 refers to this prince.
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“. The Messiah should therefore be preferred as the antecedent for the “he” in verse 27.
Summary: The prince in 9:26 is a supernatural being, representing the Roman nation, while the “he” of verse 27 is a human being, and therefore cannot refer to a supernatural being. The proper antecedent for “he” is therefore the Messiah.
The prince in verse 26 is described as “the prince who is to come”. A few verses later we read of a prince of Greece who also 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 this is a supernatural being that is speaking here (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, calls them “forces”. They are not human beings. Each of the princes (of Persia, of Greece and “Michael your prince”) represents a nation. Michael is the prince of the nation of Israel (12:1).
Since both the “prince of Greece” and the prince of Rome are “to come” (10:20; 9:26), it is implied that the prince of Rome in 9:26 is also a supernatural being. The “he” in verse 27, who is a human being, therefore cannot refer back to the prince in verse 26.
Summary: According to Daniel 9 this world’s sin problem would be solved by the killing of the messiah, while an end will be made to the sacrificial system. In the light of the New Testament these refer to Jesus, and the “he”, who makes an end to the sacrificial system, is the Messiah.
Daniel 9:27 indicates:
… in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering
In Dispensationalism this is the work of the Antichrist during the seven years prior to the return of Christ. He will destroy the sanctuary and its services.
In Dispensationalism the first 7+62 weeks (483 years) came to an end the Sunday prior to the Cross, while the 70th week is still in our future. The Cross, therefore, does not fall within the 490 years and none of the goals set for the 490 years, as listed in verse 24, have been fulfilled through the Cross, but will only be fulfilled at the end of the future 70th week.
However, this “put a stop to sacrifice” must be understood within its context:
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 goals must be fulfilled through seven events listed in 9:25-26, including the appearance (v25) and the killing of the Messiah (v26).
Verse 27, saying that a stop will be put to sacrifices in the middle of the final seven years, is the core and purpose of the 490 years.
The prophecy of Daniel 9 therefore implies that this world’s sin problem would be solved (9:24) through the appearance (v25) and killing of the messiah (v26), while “sacrifice and grain offering” will be stopped (9:27).
Fulfilled in Jesus
In the light of the New Testament, this describes 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. Through His death, He fulfilled the goals in verse 24 “to make atonement for iniquity” (John 1:29; Matt. 26:28; Hebr. 7:27, 9:26-28; Hebr. 9:12; 10:10, 12, 14) and “to bring 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. 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” (Daniel 9:27).
The Daniel 9 prophecy is therefore thoroughly messianic in nature. In this context, the statement that “he will put a stop to sacrifice” in verse 27 must be understood as referring to the sacrifice at the Cross which made an end to all other sacrifices. The “he” therefore refers to the Messiah. To allocate verse 27 to an end time antichrist does injustice to the overall gist of the prophecy.
The prophecy – received 500 years before the cross – discloses a most profound aspect of the Messiah’s mission, namely that His death would be the true sacrifice for sin. As also disclosed by Isaiah 53, He was “pierced through for our transgressions”. This is not only another proof of the existence of the supernatural but also it tells us much about the nature of the universe. God knows where we are. He sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins. We cannot understand why and how, for His thoughts are as high above our thoughts as the stars are above the earth, but it is wonderful to understand that the Source of all power and love feels this way about us; undeserving sinners.
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 above 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 almost to be expected. The prophecy consists of three divisions; each providing information relative to a different period of time:
490 years – Verse 24 announces the 490 years and sets the goals for that period. 483 years – 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. Final 7 years – Verse 27 describes the same events, but relative to the final seven years.
The previous verse identifies two options; the Messiah that is “cut off” and “the prince that shall come”. The previous article found that it is God’s covenant. It must therefore be the Messiah. In this article:
Poetic Pattern – The prophecy has a poetic pattern which shifts repeatedly back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah. In this pattern the “he” is the Messiah.
Dominant Figure – The dominant figure in verse 26 and in the entire prophecy is the “Messiah”. He is, therefore, the appropriate antecedent for “he” in verse 27.
Supernatural Being – Comparison with the princes in Daniel 10 shows that the prince in 9:26 is a supernatural being, representing the Roman nation, while the “he” of verse 27 is a human being, and therefore cannot refer to a supernatural being.
Messianic Prophecy – The purpose of the events predicted by the prophecy is to solve this world’s sin problem (v24) through the killing of the messiah (v26), while an end will be made to the sacrificial system (v27). This is a prediction of Christ’s mission. Since the Lamb of God caused sacrifices to cease, the “he”, who makes an end to the sacrificial system, is the Messiah.
Articles in this series
This series discusses the Dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 and includes the following: