The Dispensational Interpretation of Daniel 9 – Summary

This article has been substantially revised.  Please see Introduction to Dispensationalism Daniel 9 for the revised article.  The current article is still valid, and serves as a summary of the main point.

Overview of the Text and of the Dispensational Interpretation

Jerusalem in ruins

Daniel received the Daniel 9 prophecy in 538 BC.  At that time the Jewish nation was in captivity in Babylon, and Jerusalem and the temple were in ruins.  Daniel prayed for Jerusalem, the sanctuary and his people.  While still praying, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and gave him the prophecy in verses 24 to 27:

70 sevens have been decreed for Israel and their capital city, Jerusalem, to achieve 6 goals (v24).

It is generally agreed that each seven represents seven years.  The 70 sevens consequently equal 490 years.

The 490 years began with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (v25).

In a typical dispensational interpretation this is the second decree of Artaxerxes I, dated to 445 BC or 444 BC.

483 years later the Messiah Prince would appear (v25).

In Dispensationalism this is Jesus Christ, but 483 years from 445/4 BC would extend to about AD 40—far beyond the time of Christ.  Consequently, the 483 years are understood as prophetic years of 360 days each.  In this way the 483 years are shortened by 7 calendar years to fit the actual historical time from this decree to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before His death, assuming the crucifixion was in AD 33 or AD 32.

Jerusalem would be rebuilt “in troublous times” (v25).
After the 483 years the Messiah would be cut off (killed) (v26).
Jerusalem will be destroyed again.

Notice how the prophecy moves back and forth between the two foci; Jerusalem and the Messiah.  These two foci stand in cause-effect relationships; the city is constructed to receive the Messiah, but is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.

“He” will make strong a covenant for the full seven years and will stop sacrifices in the middle of the seven years (v27).

The only event during the first 483 years is the reconstruction of Jerusalem.  But much happens during the final seven years, as described by verse 27.  These final seven years are therefore the real purpose of the prophecy.  The 483 years merely serve to locate the last seven years in time.

In Dispensationalism:

The Gap

The 490 years are not viewed as continuous, but a “paren­thesis” or “gap” is proposed between the first 483 years and the final seven years, which will be the seven years before the return of Christ.

The final seven years describe the acts of antichrist.  He is a prince of a revived Roman Empire that will oppress the Jews and bring upon the world a 3½ year tribulation.

The second part of verse 27 describes destruction (v27).

He

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

Dispensationalism argues that “he” refers to the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD70, and that this prince will reign during the last seven years before the return of Christ.

The article (Who is he?) discusses the identity of the “he” in verse 27 and concludes that the “he” in 9:27 is the Messiah because:

The God’s Covenant with Israel is the central theme in the entire Daniel 9.  The covenant in 9:27 must therefore also be God’s covenant, and it must therefore be the Messiah who confirms it.

The word “confirm” (9:27) means that this covenant existed prior to the 70th week.  Then it can only be God covenant with Israel, and it must be the Messiah that confirms it.

The parallelism of the Poetic Pattern of the entire prophecy indicates that “he” in verse 27, who makes strong the covenant for seven years, is the same as the Messiah that is cut off in verse 26.

The dominant figure in the entire prophecy and in verse 26 is the “Messiah”.  He is therefore the appropriate antecedent for “he” in verse 27.

The prince in 9:26 is a supernatural being who represents the Roman nation, while the “he” of verse 27 is a human being, and therefore cannot refer to a supernatural being.  Therefore the proper antecedent for “he” is the Messiah.

According to Daniel 9 this world’s sin problem would be solved by the killing of the messiah (v26), and an end will be made to the sacrificial system (v27).  In the light of the New Testament the end is made of the sacrificial system by the Lamb of God.  The “he” therefore is the Messiah.

 “He” in 9:27 cannot be an end-time despot, because:

The desolation in verse 27 is a repeat of the destruction of Jerusalem in verse 26.  The covenant in verse 27 is therefore confirmed prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  It cannot be an end-time covenant.

How can the Roman Empire be revived 1500 years after it ceased to exist?

Since the 490 years have been determined for the city of Daniel’s people, the sanctuary and its services will not be destroyed during the 490 years, but only after the end of the 490 years.  The last seven of the 490 years therefore cannot be the end of the age.

TO: Who is he?

TIMING

The previous section discussed the identity of “he”.  This section investigates the time indications to identify the final seven years during which “he” works.

RESTORE

The 490 years begin with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (v25).  Restore means to give the city back to be ruled by its previous owner.  Dispensationalism identifies this as the second decree of Artaxerxes I in 445/4, but this decree did not “restore” Jerusalem.  The decree that did restore Jerusalem was the first decree of Artaxerses I in 458/7 BC (Ezra 7:1-26).

Rebuild

Dispensationalism claims that the second decree of Artaxerxes I for the first time authorised the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but that is not true.  Different decrees were issued by different Persian kings over a period of about 90 years prior to this decree, and all of them, by allowing the Jews to return to Judah and to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4; cf. Isa 45:1), implicitly allowed the Jews to rebuild their cities.  This is confirmed by evidence from the Old Testament.

Sevens

The Messiah would appear 483 years after the decree (9:25), but 483 years from the second decree of Artaxerxes would extend to about AD 40—far beyond the time of Christ.  Dispensationalism therefore interprets the 483 years as “prophetic years” of 360 days each.  In this way the 483 years are shortened by 7 years to fit the actual historical time from the second decree to the crucifixion.

However, as discussed in The Covenant in Daniel 9, the covenant pattern forms the framework for Daniel 9.  As “prophesied” by Leviticus and confirmed by 2 Chronicles 36:21, each of the 70 years of exile was a Sabbath year.  Therefore, each of the 70 years of exile represents 7 years of disobedience, and the 70 years of exile represent in total 490 years of disobedience.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 therefore extends God’s covenant with Israel for a new cycle of 490 years.  Since the covenant timing is based on the seven year cycle, every seventh year would also be a Sabbath for the land (Lev. 25:2 ff.), and every year a normal literal solar year.

This means that the second decree of Artaxerxes does not fit the time of Christ.

TRIUMPHAL ENTRY

The Messiah will start to act as such at the end of the 69 sevens (9:25).  In the Dispensational interpretation this is His triumphal entry into Jerusalem; 5 days before His crucifixion, but Jesus began His work as Messiah about three years earlier at His baptism when He was “anointed” and introduced to Israel.

JEWISH PERIOD AFTER THE CROSS

In the Dispensational interpretation the first 483 years came to an end at Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (a few days before His death), with the last seven years postponed to the end of time.

However, the 490 years are promised by God as years of Jewish preference, and the preference which Jews enjoyed continued after the Cross.  During that period the Holy Spirit only came on Jews and the gospel was preached only to Jews.  The period of Jewish preference came to an end about three or four years after the Cross, when the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people.   These three or four years after the Cross were therefore part of the 490 years.

GAP

Dispensationalism puts a vast gap of 2000 years between the first 69 sevens and the last seven.  However, the wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates a gap.  To postpone the last seven years of final crisis to the end of the age destroys the simple unity of the prophecy and divides it into two completely separate and unrelated prophecies; one about Christ 2000 years ago, and one about some future antichrist.  It redirects the focus of the prophecy from Jesus to an end time antichrist.

The last seven years is the climax of the 490 years because all important events occur after the long period of 483 years.  The only purpose of the 69 sevens is therefore to foretell the timing of the final seven years.  Hence, to dislodge that final seven years from the previous 483 years and to propel it into the distant future is to defeat the purpose of the 483 years.

RETURN OF CHRIST

Dispensationalism maintains that the last week ends with the return of Christ.  If this was the case, would verse 27 not end with a description of His glorious return, as the other prophecies in Daniel do?  In contrast the Daniel 9 prophecy ends in the accumulation of desolations and chaos.

THE TIME OF THE MESSIAH

The time-indicators in the text identify the final seven years as follows:

The 490 years began with the decree in 458/7 BC.

Exactly 483 literal years later the Messiah appeared at His baptism in AD 26/27.

This was also the beginning of the final seven years.

About seven years later the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people.  This was the end of God’s promised 490 years of Jewish preference.

In the midst of those seven years Jesus was killed, thereby causing the forward-pointing function of the sacrificial system to cease.

Jesus Christ confirmed God’s covenant with Israel during the final seven years through His personal preaching for 3½ years before His death and by sending His disciples to Israel only for a further 3½ years after His death.

Since 490 years were decreed for Jerusalem (v24), Jerusalem was destroyed after those 490 years in 70 AD.

OTHER ANOMALIES

Second Rebuilding

The prophecy promises the rebuilding of the city and the sanctuary, followed by its destruction.  This was fulfilled with the rebuilding of Jerusalem a few hundred years before Christ and its destruction in 70 AD.  But the Dispensational interpretation requires the sanctuary to be rebuilt again in the future.  Such a second rebuilding is not promised by the prophecy.  If the intention was that the sanctuary would be rebuilt again after the destruction of the city in verse 26, but before the termination of the sacrifices in verse 27, then the prophecy would have explicitly stated this, given that it is so clear about the rebuilding in verse 25.

Sacrifices Resumed

In the Dispensational interpretation the Jewish sacrificial system will be revived, but there never can 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” (see Hebr. 7:22; cf. chap. 10:12; Rom. 3:22, 25).

Goals Achieved

Daniel 9:24 lists 6 goals to be achieved by the events of the 70 sevens, including:

    • “to make atonement for iniquity” and
    • to bring in everlasting righteousness”.

Dispensationalism proposes that these goals will be fulfilled by the return of Christ, which will occur at the end of the last seven years.  Apart from the fact that the 490 years do not end with the return of Christ, this proposal denies the 70 sevens their purpose.  Daniel 9:24 declares that the 70 sevens were allocated to Israel to achieve the goals stated in verse 24 during the 490 years, through Daniel’s people, not by the end of the 70 sevens.

Other Objections

In the dispensational interpretation the antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel after 3½ years, but according to 9:27 the covenant is confirmed for the full seven years.

In the dispensational interpretation the return of Christ will make an end to sin, but Dispensationalism also proposes that sin will continue for 1000 years after the return of Christ.

Dispensationalism postulates the Millennium as a period of Jewish dominance, thereby allocating in total 1490 years to the Jews.  The prophecy allocates only 490 years.

GOALS FULFILLED IN JESUS CHRIST

Dispensationalism protests against the traditional Protestant interpretation of Daniel 9, as defended by this article, by claiming that Christ’s first advent did not fulfill the six goals for the seventy weeks (9:24).  A possible interpretation of these goals is therefore presented:

The first goal (to finish the transgression) was a challenge to the Jewish nation to manifest their loyalty toward Him and bring an end to the sinful state of their society that led to the exile.

The second goal (to make an end of sin), the third goal (to make atonement for iniquity) and the fourth goal (to bring in everlasting righteousness) were achieved by Jesus through His death.  According to the New Testament Bible “eternal redemption” already exist (Heb. 9:12).

The fifth goal is “to seal up vision and prophecy; the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah were to be validated by what the Messiah did.

The sixth and last goal is “to anoint the most holy place”.  The “most holy” refers to the most holy portion of the temple.  But it is not an earthly temple.  It was the temple in heaven (Hebrews 8:2); the “true tabernacle” (8:2), not made with hands (9:24; cf. 8:1-2) that was anointed with “better sacrifices” (9:19, 21, 23) “through His own blood” (Hebr. 9:12).

CONCLUSION

Verse 27 is the key verse of the prophecy and the major point of disagreement between the traditional Protestant and the Dispensational interpretations.  It has been argued above that this is a description of Jesus in His work as Messiah during the final seven years of God’s renewed but time-limited covenant with Israel, nearly 2000 years ago.

 

AVAILABLE ARTICLES Word documents
Daniel 9: Full 44 page article Daniel 9: Full document
Daniel 9: 22 page summary of the Full article Daniel 9: Summary
Daniel 9: The dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 Daniel 9: Dispensational
Daniel 9: The dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 – Summary Daniel 9: Dispensational summary

TO: General Table of Contents

Evaluation of the Four Major Interpretations of the 490 years of Daniel 9

This commentary on the 490 years-prophecy of Daniel 9 provides an overview of the prophecy, discusses the key points of dispute, and analyses the four major interpretations:

      • The Consistent Symbolical,
      • Liberal-Critical,
      • Dispensational and
      • Historical-Messianic Interpretations.

This article is a brief summary of various more detailed articles. Where appropriate, links to these articles are provided below.

Overview of the Prophecy

When Daniel received the prophecy in Daniel 9 in 538 BC, the Jewish nation was in captivity in Babylon, and Jerusalem and the temple were in ruins.  The first 19 verses of Daniel 9 record Daniel’s prayer for the temple and the city.  While he was still praying (Dan 9:21), the angel Gabriel appears to him and gave him this extremely compact prophecy.  It is contained in only four verses (Dan 9:24-27) but is critical for our understanding of end-time events.
(For more detail, see the article Overview Daniel 9.)

Weeks of Years

Gabriel told Daniel that 70 weeks have been decreed for his people and their holy city.  Israel’s calendar followed a seven-year cycle in which every seventh year was a Sabbath for the land (Lev 25); the land had to rest.  The 70 weeks are 70 of those seven-year cycles. Consequently, the 70 weeks are equal to 490 years.  This is confirmed by the Covenant in Daniel 9.

Two Main Foci

The prophecy has two foci:

The one focus is the city of Jerusalem.  Daniel prayed for Jerusalem (Dan 9:18), and Gabriel told him that 70 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 (9:25), but, Daniel also had to hear that Jerusalem would again be destroyed (Dan 9:26).

The other focus of the prophecy is the “Messiah the Prince“:  He will appear at the end of 69 weeks (483 years), but “will be cut off,” which means he will be killed.  For more detail, see the Poetic Pattern of Daniel 9.

Three sub-period

The 70 weeks are sub-divided into three sub-periods; 7 weeks (49 years), 62 weeks (434 years), and the last 1 week (7 years).  All the action is reserved for after the long period of 49+434=483 years, implying that the purpose of the long period of 483 years is simply to locate the last seven years in time.  The last week is, therefore, the real purpose and focus of the 490 years.

The Purpose of the 490 years

The period of 490 years has a specific purpose.  Gabriel announced six glorious goals for the 70 weeks, including “to make an end of sin” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Dan 9:24).  The purpose of the 490 years is, therefore, to solve the sin problem of the whole human race. God gave these goals to Israel to fulfill, and He gave Israel 490 years to fulfill these goals.  Since the last seven years are the real purpose and core of the prophecy, these six goals are fulfilled during those seven years.

Alternative Interpretations

The last seven years are interpreted by:

    • Liberal scholars interpret the last seven years as the work of Antiochus IV, 168 years before Christ.
    • Traditional Protestantism locates those seven years in the time of Christ.
    • For Dispensationalism, the seven years are the last seven years prior to the return of Christ and describe the work of the Antichrist.

This extremely compact prophecy gave to Israel six glorious goals and gave them 490 years to fulfill these goals; particularly during those last seven years.  But it also promised the messiah, through whom these goals would be fulfilled.  However, both the Liberal-Critical and the Dispensational interpretations exclude Jesus Christ from the last week.

Messiah after 49 Years

In some translations, the messiah appears at the end of the first 49 years.  In other translations, the messiah appears after the first 483 years.  This difference in the translations is due to assumptions with respect to punctuation, for there was no punctuation in the original text of Daniel 9.  The article, When does the Messiah Appear, shows that the messiah appears after 483 years.

Is this the Same Crisis?

Does Daniel 9 describe the same crisis as the other prophecies in Daniel?  The article Same Crisis compares the Daniel 9 prophecy to the other prophecies in Daniel and concludes that Daniel 9 deals with Israel specifically, and with the 490 years allocated to her, while the other prophecies deal with all nations and cover the full period from the time of Daniel to the Return of Christ.  Another difference is that the other prophecies are symbolic, while Daniel 9 does not use any symbols.

Jeremiah’s 70 Years

Daniel knew that the LORD revealed to Jeremiah that Babylon will rule for 70 years and that God promised to then restore Israel to Jerusalem (Dan 9:2).  The Daniel 9 prophecy was received in the year after Babylon was conquered by Cyrus (Dan 9:1).  These events inspired Daniel to pray for His people and for Jerusalem.  For more detail, see Jeremiah’s 70 years.

Five Decrees

The 490 years begin with a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.  Restore means to return the city to the Jews to serve as their capital from which they would rule their whole nation, according to their own laws.  The article Which Decree evaluates four Persian decrees:

(1) The decree by Cyrus in 538/7 BC allowed Jews to rebuild Jerusalem but did not give Jerusalem back to the nation to serve as their national capital.

(2) The decree by Darius I in 520 BC simply confirmed Cyrus’ edict.

(3) The decree by Artaxerxes I in 457 BC for the first time granted autonomy of Judah, and if we add 490 years to 457 BC, we come to the time of Christ.  This is, therefore, the decree referred to in the Daniel-9 prophecy.

(4) The second decree by Artaxerxes—in 445/4 BC—simply confirmed his previous decree and was too late to fit the time of Christ.

Prayer and Prophecy are a unit.

Daniel 9 consists of two parts; the prayer by Daniel, and the prophecy which Daniel received even while he was still praying.  A separate article shows that the Prayer and Prophecy form a unit:

God promised, through Jeremiah, to bring Israel back from exile in Babylon after 70 Years (Jer 29:10).  When Daniel prayed, in Daniel 9, the 70 Years of Babylonian exile were nearly over and Daniel prayed for the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophetic promise.

In response, God sent Gabriel to give Daniel the 70 Weeks prophecy as assurance that Jeremiah’s promise will be fulfilled.

Covenant in Daniel 9

Leviticus 26 lists the covenant curses, climaxing in exile: 

Israel would be in exile one year for every Sabbath year it neglected to observe;then the land will enjoy its sabbaths.”  But if Israel in exile would confess its iniquity, then Israel would be restored to Jerusalem.

The Leviticus 26 covenant sequence, therefore, is:

      • Disobedience,
      • Exile,
      • Confession and
      • Restoration

This sequence is the central theme in Daniel 9 and binds together prayer (confession) and prophecy (of restoration).  For more detail, please see Covenant in Daniel 9.

Covenant in Daniel 9:27

During the last of the seventy weeks, “he” will “confirm the covenant” with “the many”.  The article Confirm the Covenant shows that this is to God’s covenant with Israel.  Through the seventy weeks-prophecy, God extended His covenant with Israel for a further 490 years.  During those last seven years, the Messiah will confirm God’s covenant with many from Israel.  After that, God’s covenant with Israel comes to an end.

Chronological Sequence

The prophecy lists 8 events, but not in chronological sequence.  The prophecy alternates between two foci (Jerusalem and the Messiah).  The Jerusalem-events are in chronological sequence and the Messiah-events are in their correct chronological order.  For further information, see The Chronological sequence in Daniel 9.

End of the Covenant

The 490 years promised to Israel in Daniel 9 came to an end a few years after the Cross; at the stoning of Stephen: In those first few years after Jesus died, when the Holy Spirit worked with power through the disciples, the gospel was preached only to Jews.  The Christian Jews continued to live like Jews.  Christianity was a sect of Judaism, with its headquarters in Jerusalem.  Two to four years after the Cross, the Jewish persecution of the Christians commenced with the stoning of Stephen.  This was the end of the 490 years which God added to His covenant with Israel through the prophecy of Daniel 9.  For more detail, see the article Stoning of Stephen.

Consistent Symbolic Interpretation

The major interpretations all understand the Daniel 9 prophecy to be literal, in contrast to the other prophecies in Daniel, which are symbolic.  In the Consistent Symbolical Interpretation, Daniel 9 is also symbolic.

Critical View of Daniel 9

The book Daniel was written during the Babylonian Empire in the sixth century BC and contains very precise predictions of the later Medo-Persian and Greek Empires.  The liberal critical view of the Bible, which dominates the academic centers of the world, makes the a priori assumption that knowledge of the future is impossible.  It, therefore, must show that Daniel was written after the events it so accurately ‘predicts’.  Its solution is that Daniel was written during the second century BC crisis that was caused by the Greek king Antiochus IV. Consequently, in this theory, Daniel does not contain truly inspired predictions.  But if this is true, then Daniel 9 predicts 490 years from the decree to restore Jerusalem until Antiochus, while there are less than 400 years between the Babylonian Empire and Antiochus.  These academics, therefore, offer creative solutions.

For a discussion of this view, read The Critical Interpretation of Daniel 9.

Dispensational Interpretation

Seven articles have been posted on this website to critique the Dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 (See Dispensationalism). The purpose of this section is to provide a brief overview of those articles.  The following 10 elements of the Dispensational interpretation are discussed below:

      1. The 490 years began with Artaxerxes’ second decree.
      2. The first 483 years came to an end with Christ’s death.
      3. These are ‘prophetic’ years of 360 days each.
      4. At the Cross, God suspended His covenant with Israel, to be resumed later.
      5. The covenant in Dan 9:27 is made by an end-time Antichrist.
      6. The last ‘week’ of Daniel 9 is the final seven years before Christ returns.
      7. The temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt twice.
      8. The Antichrist will break his covenant in the middle of the last seven years.
      9. The last part of verse 27 describes the destruction of the Roman Empire at Christ’s return.
      10. The goals listed in Dan 9:24 will be fulfilled when Christ returns.

The objections to these points, as discussed by the articles on Dispensationalism, may be summarized as follows:

1. The 490 years began with Artaxerxes’ second decree.

The 490 years began with “a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” (Dan 9:25).  Dispensationalism proposes that this is Artaxerxes’ SECOND decree.  However:

The word in the original text, which is translated as “restore,” does NOT mean to rebuild.  “Restore” means to give the city back to its previous owner, TO RULE ITSELF. Artaxerxes’ FIRST decree in 458/7 BC already restored Jerusalem to Israel as its judicial and executive capital.  Artaxerxes’ second decree only dealt with the physical reconstruction of the city walls. (For more detail, see Which decree.)

Furthermore, adding 483 years to the second decree does not bring us to the time of Christ, while adding 483 years to Artaxerxes’ first decree does bring us to Christ, namely to His baptism. 

Lastly, different renowned Dispensational interpreters use different dates for Artaxerxes’ decree. This raises some doubts over the calculations.

2. The first 483 years came to an end with Christ’s death.

The “Messiah the Prince” will APPEAR after 69 weeks (483 years – Dan 9:25).  Dispensationalism assumes that this refers to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem; 5 days prior to His crucifixion. However:

His death was not His appearance, as required by Daniel 9:25; it was His DISAPPEARANCE.  Jesus began His work as Messiah about three years earlier at His baptism, where He was anointed and introduced to Israel. 

Furthermore, different Dispensational interpreters also use different dates for Christ’s triumphal entry. 

3. The 490 years are ‘prophetic’ years of 360 days each.

Since the second decree of Artaxerxes is too late to fit the time of Christ, Dispensationalism reduces the first 483 years by about 7 years by interpreting the 483 years as ‘prophetic years’ of 360 DAYS EACH; rather than as literal years of 365 days each.

However, the 490 years are ‘covenant’ years, and ‘covenant’ years are literal solar years.  To explain:

The Jewish calendar was divided into cycles of seven years each. In this calendar, every seventh was a Sabbath year (when the land had to rest).  God warned Israel that they would be in exile ONE YEAR FOR EVERY SABBATH YEAR NOT OBSERVED.  Israel was in exile for 70 literal years. This means that the exile was the consequence of a literal period of 490 years, BEFORE the exile, during which the land did not rest.  Since the new 490 years, that God promised to Israel through the Daniel-9 prophecy, are an extension of God’s covenant, and since the covenant is based on literal years, the 490 years that God promised to Israel in Daniel 9 are LITERAL SOLAR YEARS. 

For a more detailed explanation of this very important matter, see Covenant in Daniel 9 or the section Seventy Weeks in Time indications in Daniel 9.

4. God suspended His covenant with Israel at the Cross, to be resumed later.

Dispensationalism assumes that the prophetic clock (the 490 years) was stopped (suspended) at Christ’s death.  However:

God’s strongest effort of all time for the hearts of the Jewish nation came in the years immediately after the Cross.  At that time, God sent His Holy Spirit with power, but ONLY TO Jerusalem and ONLY TO Jews.  See Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church.  God’s covenant with Israel, and therefore the 490 years, only came to an end when the Jews rejected the Holy Spirit by persecuting His Spirit-filled disciples.  Thereafter, for the first time, God allowed the gospel to be preached to Gentiles. See Judea and Samaria Phase of the Early Church.  God, therefore. continued His covenant with Israel for about four years after the Cross.

Furthermore, Dan 9:27 is the core of the Daniel 9 prophecy.  All important events occur AFTER the long period of 69 weeks (483 years).  The purpose of the 69 weeks is therefore merely to help us to know WHEN the last week will be.  Hence, to postpone that final week of years and to propel it into the far distant future is to defeat the purpose of the 69 weeks.

Lastly, there is no indication of a gap in the text of Daniel 9.

5. The covenant in verse 9:27 is a covenant made by an end-time Antichrist.

The objections to this view are as follows:

    • Firstly, as explained below, the covenant in Dan 9:27 is God’s covenant.
    • Secondly, as also explained below the “he,” who confirms the covenant in verse 27, is Christ.
    • Lastly, the emphasis which Dispensationalism places on the Antichrist rule during the last seven years converts the Daniel 9 prophecy from a prophecy about Christ into a prophecy about the Antichrist.

5a – The covenant in Daniel 9:27 is God’s covenant.

As mentioned above, the comparison of the covenant in Leviticus 25-26 with Daniel 9 shows that Daniel 9 follows the covenant pattern: Disobedience – Repentance – Covenant Renewal.  This covenant theme binds together the prayer and prophecy into a single unit and implies that the 490 years promised by Daniel 9 are a time-limited extension of God’s covenant with Israel.  The last part of it (the last week in Dan 9:27) must therefore also be God’s covenant with Israel.  The following confirms this:

The word “confirm” (9:27) in the phrase “confirm the covenant” supports this conclusion, for it means that this covenant existed prior to the 70th week.  Then it can only be God’s covenant with Israel.

The covenant in 9:27 is confirmed with “the many.”  This also supports this conclusion, for this phrase most often refers to God’s people.

For more information, see:

The Covenant in Daniel 9
Whose covenant is confirmed in Daniel 9:27?

5b – The “he,” who confirms the covenant in verse 27, is Christ.

Dispensationalism assumes that the “he,” who will confirm the covenant with “the many” for seven years (Dan 9:27), is the same as the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD 70 (Dan 9:26) and that this prince will reign during the last seven years before Christ returns. However, this cannot be, for an analysis of the text with other parts of Daniel indicates that the prince who destroys the city is a SUPERNATURAL being, representing the Roman Empire. 

The following identifies this “he” as the Messiah that is cut off in Dan 9:26:

The Daniel 9 prophecy has a poetic pattern that repeatedly shifts the focus back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  In this pattern, the “he” in the first part of Dan 9:27 is the Messiah.

The Messiah is the dominant figure in the entire prophecy, and therefore the appropriate antecedent for “he” in Dan 9:27.

The purpose of the 490 years is to solve this world’s sin problem (Dan 9:24) through the killing of the messiah (Dan 9:26), while, at the same time, an end will be made to the sacrificial system (Dan 9:27).  In the light of the New Testament, this is a prediction of Christ’s mission.  The animal sacrifices pointed forward to the Lamb of God.  His astounding sacrifice caused all animal sacrifices to cease in terms of meaning.  Given this context, the “he”, who makes an end to the sacrificial system, is the Messiah; the Lamb of God.

It is serious enough to state again that Dispensationalism converts the Daniel 9 prophecy from a prophecy about Christ into a prophecy about the Antichrist.

6. The last ‘week’ of Daniel 9 is the final seven years before Christ returns, during which the Antichrist will rule.

In Dispensationalism, the entire church age is regarded as a gap or parentheses between the first 483 years and the last seven years.

6A – Matthew 24:15

Dispensationalism finds support for the view, that the last seven years of Daniel 9 describe the final seven years before Christ returns, from Matthew 24:15, where Jesus mentioned the “abomination of desolation.” Dispensationalism claims that this “abomination of desolation” is the same as the stop that will be put to sacrifice in the last week (Dan 9:27). This would mean that Jesus, in Matthew 24:15, said that the events of 9:27 will occur at THE END OF THE AGE.

However, Luke 21:20-23 records the same discussion as in Matthew 24:15 and shows that the “abomination of desolation” refers to the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem in AD 70.  See Little Apocalypse.

Therefore, if we assume that Jesus, in Matt 24:15, did refer to Dan 9:27, then Jesus’ statement in Matt 24:15 actually confirms that the “abominations … desolate” in the last part of 9:27 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, which means that the last week must be prior to AD 70.

6b – The last week is mentioned after AD70.

Dispensationalism finds further support for a huge gap between the first 69 weeks and the 70th week in the fact that the “firm covenant” (Dan 9:27) of the last week is mentioned after the destruction of the city in AD70 (Dan 9:26) and must, therefore, be after AD70.

However, the prophecy does NOT describe the events in chronological sequence.  For example, the prince causes sacrifices to cease (9:27) after the sanctuary is destroyed (9:26).  See Chronological Sequence in Daniel 9.

7. The temple will be rebuilt twice.

The Daniel 9 prophecy explicitly promises that Jerusalem will be rebuilt.  This was fulfilled with the rebuilding of Jerusalem a few hundred years before Christ.  But Dispensationalism reads into 9:27 that the temple will be rebuilt again, namely during the last seven years before Christ returns.  There is no evidence in the text for such a second rebuilding.  If the temple was to be rebuilt after the destruction of Dan 9:26, would the prophecy not have explicitly stated this, given that it is so clear about the rebuilding in Dan 9:25?

Furthermore, there can never be a valid return to the old covenant and its earthly temple worship.

8. The Antichrist will break his covenant in the middle of the last seven years.

In Dispensationalism, the Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel and “put a stop to sacrifice” in the middle of the last seven years.  However, according to Dan 9:27, the covenant is confirmed for the full seven years.

Furthermore, since the full 490 years have been determined for the city of Daniel’s people (Dan 9:24), the sanctuary services will not be stopped during the 490 years.

9. The last part of verse 27 describes the destruction of the Roman Empire.

Dispensationalism understands the last part of 9:27 as referring to the destruction of the Roman Empire, and since the Roman Empire was not destroyed in Christ’s time, it argues that this verse must describe the destruction of the Roman Empire when Christ returns. However:

Firstly, the prophecy has a Poetic Pattern. In that pattern, the last part of verse 27 is the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, already mentioned in Dan 9:26.  This is confirmed by the repetition of words from 9:26 in 9:27.  The last week, described earlier in verse 27, must, therefore, be prior to AD 70.

Secondly, how can the Roman Empire be revived 1500 years after it ceased to exist?

Thirdly, there is no indication in the prophecy of the return of Christ.  If the 490 years were to end with Christ’s return, would verse 27 not end with a description of His glorious return, as the other prophecies in Daniel do?  In contrast, the Daniel 9 prophecy ends with the accumulation of desolations and chaos.

10. The goals listed in verse 24 will be fulfilled with Christ’s return.

In Dispensationalism, the 70 weeks do not include the death of Christ, and the goals in Dan 9:24 have not been fulfilled by the Cross.  Dispensationalism proposes that these goals will be fulfilled at the end of the last seven years, with the return of Christ.  But this proposal denies Israel its responsibility and it denies the 490 years their purpose.  The goals in 9:24 were set for Israel to achieve, and Israel was given 490 years to accomplish those goals. In other words, these goals were to be achieved during the 490 years, through Israel.

Dispensationalism argues that the last week must be in our future because the goals set for the seventy weeks (9:24) have yet not been fulfilled.  This may be true, but remember that Israel failed.  If Israel succeeded in their task, the Daniel 9:24 goals would have been fulfilled.  Since they failed the kingdom of God has been taken away from them.  For more detail on this important subject, see the article Daniel 9:24.

Historical-Messianic Interpretation

This interpretation is called Messianic because it interprets this entire prophecy as pointing to Jesus Christ.  It is called historical because the full 490 years is interpreted as past history.  Daniel 9 has been understood this way ever since the early church.  It is only in recent centuries that dispensationalism and liberal criticism have become the dominant interpretations.

Eight short articles have been written to explain this interpretation.  See Historical Messianic Interpretation.  It may be summarized as follows:

Start of the 490 years

The “decree” (Dan 9:25) that began the “seventy weeks” was Artaxerxes’s first “decree” of 458/7 BC.  This decree restored Jewish self-rule through Jerusalem.  See Which Decree.

49 years later

There is no messiah after the first 49 weeks.  Using the punctuation as reflected in the NASB, the Messiah the Prince appears at the end of 483 years.  This is Jesus; the One that is called Christ.  See When does the Messiah Appear?

At the end of 483 years

The Messiah appeared when He was anointed by the Holy Spirit at His baptism.  This also marked the inauguration of His public ministry.  He was baptized in AD 26/27, exactly 483 years after the decree in 458/7.

Last Seven Years

The last “one week” of years follows immediately after the 69th; therefore immediately after His baptism.  There is no gap, as in Dispensationalism

The “he” who makes a firm covenant with many for one week is still Jesus Christ, and the covenant is God’s covenant with Israel.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 extended God’s covenant with Israel for a final 490 years.  Jesus made the covenant strong (Young’s literal translation):

By His personal preaching for 3 or 4 years before His death, and

By sending His disciples to Israel, powered by the Holy Spirit after His death, when the infant church was still a Jewish sect, .  In those seven years, the gospel went exclusively to Jews.  God’s covenant with Israel, therefore, did not come to an end when they crucified the Messiah.

Midst of the week

The Messiah who is cut off (killed) is our Lord Jesus Christ.  “In the midst of the week” (that is, 3 or 4 years after His baptism), Jesus caused the cessation of the entire system of sacrifices appointed for Old Testament times by offering Himself as the once-for-all and all-sufficient sacrifice for sins.  The sacrificial system lost its meaning at the Cross because it pointed forward to the Lamb of God.

The goals

During the last seven years, including through His atoning death, the purposes of the seventy weeks, as set out in verse 24, were to be fulfilled.  These include making “atonement for iniquity” and bring in “everlasting righteousness” (Dan 9:24).  For more detail, see When will the Daniel 9:24 goals, set by for the 490 years, be fulfilled?

End of the 490 years

The 490 years came to an end when “heno longer “confirm the covenant with the many” (Dan 9:27).  The phrase “seventy weeks are cut off for your people and your holy city” (Dan 9:24), also implies the end of God’s covenant with Israel at the end of that period.  The kingdom of God was taken away from the Jews (Matt 21:43).

When was Jesus crucified?

Scientists are unable to determine the year in which Christ died with certainty.  The chronologist must be content to simply cite the range of possibilities and their likelihood.  Some give the most probable date as April, AD 30.  If Jesus was baptized in AD 26/27, then April, AD 30 was approximately in the middle of the seven years after His baptism.

Jerusalem destroyed

Since seventy weeks were decreed for Jerusalem (9:24), the city was destroyed after the end of the seventy weeks.  God did not purpose the Jewish nation to fail, but through their rejection of the Holy Spirit, they lost their divine protection.  This led to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

In summary

The decree of Artaxerxes in 458/7 “restored” Jerusalem to the Jews.  In AD 26/27, 483 years later, Jesus was baptized.  3 or 4 years later, in AD 30/31, He was crucified.   Another 3 or 4 years later, in AD 33/34, God’s covenant with Israel came to an end.  The period from 26/27 to 33/34 is seven years, with the crucifixion “in the midst of” these seven years.  Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, after the end of the seventy sevens.

490 years

The historical-messianic interpretation offers those that accept it a testimony to God’s foreknowledge.

Concluding Thoughts

The essence of Daniel 9:24-27 is that within 500 years from the restoration of Jerusalem (after the Babylonian captivity) and therefore before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Messiah would arrive.  It is understandable that the Talmud places a curse on those who attempt to compute the seventy weeks of Daniel (Sanhedrin 97b (Soncino ed.), p. 659).

It is an irrefutable fact that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, began his public ministry 483 years (69 weeks) after Artaxerxes’ first decree.  Furthermore, the specifications of the prophecy find complete fulfillment in the events during the seven years around the Crucifixion.

While objections can be raised against all four of the major interpretations of Daniel 9:24-27, the historical-messianic interpretation is not subject to the difficulties encountered by the other systems.  The exact date of the crucifixion and of the end of the 490 years remains uncertain, but compared to the difficulties facing the other interpretations, the relative chronological uncertainty appears to be insignificant.

Consequences

A person that accepts Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of this prophecy is astounded by the mathematical exactness of the prophecy, received five hundred years prior to those tremendous events that changed the entire course of human history.  Daniel 9:

Confirms that God knows the future precisely.

Proves Jesus Christ to be the true and only Messiah.

Affirms the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible when predicting future events.

These give me confidence that we will one day see God with our own eyes.  The things that we read about in the Bible are really true.  There is a wonderful future ahead of us.

The accurate fulfill­ment of the prophecy is compelling support for the argument that Daniel is real prophecy written in the 6th century BC, and not in the second century BC, as liberal scholars propose.

Messiah focus

Daniel did not pray for a Messiah.  He prayed for Jerusalem and the temple.  But the prophecy he received includes a Messiah because the purpose of the additional period awarded to Israel was to bring forth the Messiah, and through the Messiah, to achieve the goals listed in verse 24.  Israel would be restored, but as a means to an end.

There is no greater unfolding of the gospel provisions in all the prophetic Word than is revealed here and in Isaiah 53.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 is precious because it sets forth Jesus Christ as our atoning sacrifice, made on Calvary nineteen centuries ago.   We are all sinners and do not deserve to live.  Through Him, through faith, we are justified from our sin.

Other Important Articles

For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.