Is the last week of Daniel 9:27 the last seven years before Christ returns?

Last seven yearsIn Dispensationalism, the last week is the last seven years before Christ returns.  However, the Poetic Pattern and the repetition of words indicate that the desolations in verse 27 are the same as the destruction of Jerusalem in verse 26.  This happened in AD 70.  The last week, described earlier in verse 27, must, therefore, be prior to AD 70.  To propel the last seven years into the distant future defeats the purpose of the 483 years and converts this prophecy about Christ into a prophecy about the Antichrist.

Jesus and the Abomination of Desolation

Jesus teachingJesus said:

Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) …” (Mat. 24:15)

Here Jesus by name refers to Daniel and to the “abomination of desolation”.  This phrase is used a number of times in Daniel.  This phrase is not used in Daniel 9 in that format, but the last part of verse 27 does refer to desolation and abominations:

and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate” (NASB)

An abomination is some grave sin.  “Desolation” means ‘destruction’.

Dispensationalism claims:

(1) That our Lord in Matthew 24:15 placed the “abomination of desolation” at ‘the end,’ just before His second coming in glory (Matthew 24:15, 21, 29, 30).
(2) That the “Abomination of Desolation” is the stop that will be put to sacrifice “in the middle of the week” (9:27).
(3) Therefore, that “he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering” at the end of the age; just prior to Christ’s return.

Abomination of DesolationHowever, Jesus, in Matthew 24:15, did not put the “abomination of desolation” at the end of the age, as the Dispensationalism claims.  To the contrary, He linked it to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  The parallel statement is Luke 21:20-23 (compare Mat 24:16-19).  Luke, writing to Gentiles, who were not familiar with the book of Daniel, interpreted Jesus’ reference to the abomination of desolation as the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem.  See Little Apocalypse.

Chronological Sequence

The question in this section relates to the chronological sequence of the destruction of Jerusalem in 9:26 and the last seven years in verse 27.

Daniel's propheciesVerses 26 and 27 read:

26 … after 62 weeks shall Messiah be cut off … and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city … 27 And 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

Notice the “he” used twice in verse 27.

Dispensationalism

The destruction of the city in 9:26 is dated to 70 AD.  Dispensationalism assumes that the events in verses 25 to 27 are presented in chronological sequence.  Consequently, since the last seven years (9:27) is mentioned after the destruction of Jerusalem (9:26), the last seven years follow after AD 70.  Since the first 483 years came to an end at the time of Christ, this necessitates a gap between the first 483 years and the last seven years.

Jerusalem destroyed
Jerusalem destroyed

It would also mean that the “he” of 9:27 cannot be the Messiah, for the Messiah died about four decades earlier.  The only remaining option is that “he” refers to the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD 70 (9:26).  It should logically follow that “he” is to the Roman Caesar in 70 AD, and that the last week is the time around 70 AD.  But, as already stated, Dispensationalism proposes that the Roman Empire will be revived in the years just prior to Christ’s return and that “he” (9:27) is the Roman Caesar at that time.

Not in a strictly chronological sequence

These proposals may be disputed in a number of ways:

parallelismFirstly, because of the poetic parallelism, as discussed in the previous article, the assumption of a strict chronological sequence is incorrect.  The following examples confirm that the prophecy is not presented in chronological sequence:

The rebuilding of the city (25c) is mentioned after the appearance of the anointed one (25b), while the city was rebuilt four hundred years before the Anointed.

The prince causes sacrifices to cease (9:27) after the sanctuary is destroyed (9:26).  But if the sanctuary is destroyed there does not remain a sacrificial system that can be ceased.

Since 70 weeks have been determined for the city of “your people” (9:24), the destruction of the city and the sanctuary in verse 26 must occur after the end of the 70 weeks, and therefore after the 70th week of verse 27.

Desolations Repeated

Summary: The last part of verse 27 describes the destruction of Jerusalem.  The covenant in verse 27 is therefore confirmed prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. 

Roman Empire Destroyed

The question in this section is what the last part of verse 27 refers to.  This verse describes undefined abominations and a complete destruction:

NASB:and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate

KJV:and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate

Notice the difference in the final words of the two translations:

In the KJV translation, ‘desolations’ are poured on the desolated one which, in the context, seems to refer to the city Jerusalem, which is destroyed in verse 26.

In the NASB, desolations are poured out on a desolator which, in the context, refers to the people who destroy the city (9:26).  The NASB hereby introduces a concept not mentioned by the previous verses.

Dispensationalism uses the NASB-type translation to argue as follows:

(1) The last part of 9:27 refers to the destruction of the Roman Empire.
(2) Since the Roman Empire was not destroyed in Christ’s time, it must be in our future.
(3) Since 9:27 describes the last seven of the 490 years, the last seven years must be in our future today.

Dispensationalism further proposes that the Roman Empire will be revived in those last seven years, to be destroyed again at Christ’s return at the end of those last seven years.

Discussion

However, since different translations present 9:27 differently, we must assume that this verse may be translated in more than one way.  We should not rely too much on a specific translation.

Secondly, according to the literary analysis of the text, the desolation in the last past of 9:27 refers to the destruction of the city, some 40 years after Christ’s death.  See Poetic Pattern in the previous article or the article Chronological sequence in Daniel 9.

Desolations repeated

Furthermore, the last part of 9:27 repeats the main words and concepts from the last part of verse 26, which describes the destruction of Jerusalem.  Below verses 26 and 27 are compared:

MESSIAH CITY
26 Then 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 And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
27 And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

Note the key phrases from verse 26 that are repeated in verse 27:

Both verses refer to desolations (Strong number H8074) that are decreed (Strong number H2782).  The NASB in v26 reads “desolations are determined” and in v27 “desolate … one that is decreed”.

Both verses use water as a symbol of the force of destruction.  In verse 26 desolations will come with a flood, while they are poured out in verse 27.

Both verses include the concept of completion.  Verse 26 refers to the end (of the city) (NASB).  Verse 27 similarly refers to a “complete destruction” (NASB), which is another way of expressing the end of the thing that is destroyed.

Destruction JerusalemDispensationalism associates the desolation in verse 27 with an end time despot, but the similarity between the last parts of verses 26 and 27 implies that they refer to the same event, which is identified by verse 26 as the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The last part of verse 27 does not deal with the destruction of the Roman Empire.

Conclusions

Above Matthew 24:15 is discussed.  If we do make the assumption that Jesus in Matthew 24:15 referred to Daniel 9:27, as Dispensationalism does, then Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:15 confirms that the last part of 9:27 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

In the parallelism of the prophecy, the destruction is mentioned twice, with the description of the last seven years in-between.  Those last seven years must, therefore, be limited to the time prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  It cannot describe an end time Antichrist.

The Daniel 9 prophecy promises the reconstruction of Jerusalem to receive the Messiah, but it also predicts that Jerusalem will be destroyed as a consequence of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah.  The destruction of Jerusalem is an integral part of the Messiah-events of 2000 years ago.

Entire 9:26 repeated

The previous article concluded that it is the Messiah who dies in 9:26a, who confirms the covenant for the last seven years and who puts a stop to sacrifices in 9:27a.  Since we have now shown that the last part of 9:27 repeats the last part of 9:26, it follows that the entire verse 27 is a repeat of verse 26 (NASB):

A: Messiah B: Jerusalem
26 Messiah cut off after the sixty-two weeks people … will destroy the city
27 he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week … in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction

To appreciate this repetition requires a high-level view of the prophecy.  It consists of three divisions; each provides information from the perspective of a different period of time:

(24) Verse 24 sets the goals for that entire period of 490 years.

(25-26) Verses 25 and 26 describe events, including the killing of the Messiah and, consequently, the destruction of the city after the end of the 483 years, from the perspective of the first 483 years.

(27) Verse 27 describes these same events, but from the perspective of the last seven years.

What does the last part of 9:27 mean?

9:27c reads “On the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate” (NASB).  In other words, a desolator will arrive shortly after (on the wing of) abominations.  A desolator is a person; a destroyer.  An abomination is some repulsive sin.  The desolator in 9:27 is, therefore, a person who arrives after some repulsive sin to make “desolate, even until a complete destruction”.

The Cross
The Cross of Christ

In the context, the repulsive sin is Israel’s rejection, first of its Messiah and later of the Holy Spirit.  The desolation refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans 40 years later.

The above three arguments used by Dispensationalism, to show that there is a gap of 2000 years or more between the first 69 weeks and the 70th week, are discussed and opposed.  Other arguments against such a gap include:

Revived Roman Prince

The Romans destroyed the city (9:26) in AD 70.  Their “prince” must, therefore, be the Roman Caesar.  In Dispensationalism the “he” in verse 27 is this Roman Prince that will rule in the final years before the return of Christ.  This means that the Roman Empire must exist during those final years.  But how can the Roman Empire be revived 1500 years after it ceased to exist?  And how can one claim that the Roman Empire of ancient history was the people of an end time Antichrist if the people and their prince live 2000 years apart?

It is to the contrary proposed here that, since the prince in verse 26 is the Roman Caesar, and since no known ruler of the Roman Empire ever confirmed a covenant with the Jews for seven years, that this prince cannot be the “he” in verse 27.

Defeats the purpose

The only event during the initial 483 years is the construction of the city.  But the prophecy predicts significant events for the last seven years.  The covenant is confirmed for the last seven years and the sacrifices are caused to cease in the middle of those last seven years.  The last seven years are therefore the core and purpose of the 490 years.   The only purpose of the first 483 years is to foretell the timing of the last seven years.  Hence, to dislodge that last seven years from the previous 483 years and to propel it into the distant future is to defeat the purpose of the 483 years.

No indication of a gap

The wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates a break or gap.  There appears to be no valid reason, or defensible ground, for separating the 70th week from the previous 69.

To postpone the last seven years of the final crisis to the end of the age is a form of exegesis without a precedent in all prophetic exposition.

It 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.  Dispensationalism places most of the prophecies in the book of Revelation in the last seven years.  Because of this emphasis which Dispensationalism places on the last seven years, this prophecy about Christ is effectively converted into a prophecy about the Antichrist.

Summary

A major issue in this article is to identify the desolations in the last part of verse 27.  In this article, it is argued that this refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  It then follows that the last week, described earlier in verse 27, must have been prior to AD 70:

The abomination of Desolation Jesus spoke about the “abomination of desolation” in Matthew 24:15.  The parallel verses in Luke 21:20-23 indicates that He referred to the Roman armies that surrounded Jerusalem in AD 70.  Since the phrase “abomination of desolation” could possibly be linked to the last part of Daniel 9:27, it is possible that the desolations in that verse might refer to the events of AD 70.

Desolations Repeated – The last part of verse 26 describes the destruction of Jerusalem.  The Poetic Pattern of the prophecy indicates that the destruction in verse 27 refers to the same event.  This is confirmed by the repetition of words and concepts from the last part of verse 26 in verse 27.

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

Other arguments against such a gap include:

ChronologicalChronological Sequence The destruction of Jerusalem is mentioned in 9:26 and the last seven years in verse 27.  Dispensationalism uses this to argue for a gap, but the prophecy is not given in strict chronological sequence, as implied by the poetic parallelism and as confirmed by examples from the prophecy.

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

Defeats the purpose The only purpose of the first 483 years is to foretell the timing of the last seven years.  Hence, to dislodge that last seven years from the previous 483 years and to propel it into the distant future is to defeat the purpose of the 483 years.

No indication of a gap The wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates a break or gap.

Previous articles – The previous articles already concluded that it is the Messiah that works in the last week and that He confirms God’s covenant with Israel.  The last week, therefore, cannot be the time of an end-time Antichrist.

Conclusion

The last part of 9:27 links desolations (destruction) to abominations (severe sin).  The repulsive sin is here understood to be Israel’s rejection of its Messiah.  The desolation refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans 40 years later.

Dispensationalism converts this prophecy about Christ into a prophecy about the Antichrist.

Articles in this series

This series discusses the Dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 and includes the following:

(1) Introduction to Dispensationalism and Daniel 9: Overview of the text of Daniel 9 and of the Dispensational interpretation
(2) WHEN: When did the 490 years begin? When was the decree issued, when did the Messiah appear and when did God suspend His covenant with the Jews?
(3) WHAT: Is it God’s or Satan’s covenant that is confirmed in Daniel 9:27?
(4) WHO: Who confirms that covenant for seven years; the Messiah or the prince?
(5) When are the last seven years?  Are they the last seven years before Christ returns?
(6) Other inconsistencies between the text and the Dispensational Interpretation
(7) When will Christ fulfill the Daniel 9:24 goals, set by for the 490 years?

See also, the Summary of all Daniel 9 articles, including the Historical Messianic Interpretation

Dispensationalism and the Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9; An introduction

DispensationalismDaniel 9 allows Jerusalem a further 70 cycles of 7 years each—490 years—to achieve 6 goals.  The prophecy, therefore, promises that Jerusalem would be restored to Israel to serve as their executive capital.  The city is rebuilt to receive the Messiah, but it is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.  In Dispensationalism the last seven years are the seven last years before the Return of Christ when the Antichrist rule.  In the traditional interpretations, the last seven years revolves around the Cross. 

Origin

John Nelson DarbyEvangelical Christians today extensively hold to the Dispensationalism view on eschatology, in spite of its relatively recent origin.  Dispensationalism is often linked with the teachings on prophecy by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)—from the 1830s on—and the Plymouth Brethren of Ireland.  Scofield (1843-1921) of the United States was influenced by Darby and presented the view of seven dispensations from Eden to the new creation in the notes of the widely used Scofield Reference Bible.

Overview of the Prophecy

Daniel the prophetsDaniel received the Daniel 9 prophecy in the year 538 BC.  At that time the Jewish nation was in Babylon in captivity, and Jerusalem and the temple were in ruins.  Daniel prayed for Jerusalem (9:16), the sanctuary (9:17) and for his people (9:19).  While still praying, the angel Gabriel appeared to him (9:21) and gave him the extremely compact and powerful prophecy contained in verses 24 to 27:

Verse 24

The prophecy commences with the announcement that 70 weeks have been decreed for Israel and for its capital city, Jerusalem, to achieve 6 goals:

Seventy WeeksSeventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to
   finish the transgression, and
   make an end of sins, and   
   make reconciliation for iniquity, and
   bring in everlasting righteousness, and
   seal up the vision and prophecy, and to 
   anoint the most Holy. (KJV)

Israel’s calendar followed a seven-year cycle in which every seventh year was a Sabbath for the land (Lev. 25).  The 70 weeks are 70 of those seven-year cycles, and consequently equal to 490 years.

The remaining three verses describe the events through which the six goals above were to be achieved.

Verse 25

This verse indicates when the 490 years start:

So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to Rebuild Jerusalem Jerusalem

To identify this decree, it is important to distinguish between “restore” and “rebuild”.  “Restore” in the original text means to give the city back to its previous owner.  “Restore” does not include the idea of rebuilding.  Jerusalem was the judicial and executive capital of the Israeli people.  To restore Jerusalem means that it will be returned to the Jews to serve as their capital from which they would rule their whole nation, according to their own laws as a theocentric society.

Verse 25 continues to say that the Messiah Prince would appear 69 sevens (483 years) after that decree:

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

Verse 25 concludes by adding that the rebuilding of Jerusalem would be “in troublous times”.

Verse 26

This verse shifts the focus back to the Messiah.  While verse 25 indicated that the Messiah will appear at the end of the first 483 years, verse 26 states that he would be cut off “after” the 69 sevens.

Verse 26 then again diverts the focus to Jerusalem, stating that it will be destroyed again.  Since 70 weeks have been decreed for Jerusalem, it must be this destroyed after the end of the 70 weeks.

The CrossIt is important to note how the prophecy repeatedly jumps back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  Verses 25 and 26 switch four time from the one to the other.  As discussed in the article Poetry and Chiasm in Daniel 9, the prophecy of Daniel 9 is a form of poetic parallelism in which Jerusalem and the Messiah are the two foci.  These two foci stand in cause-effect relationships; the city is rebuilt to receive the Messiah, but it is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.

Verse 27

The first part of verse 27 focuses on the final seven years:

And he shall with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease” (9:27 KJV)

The only event during the first 483 years is “restore and rebuild Jerusalem”.  The death of the Messiah, the “confirm the covenant” and the “cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease” (9:27) all happen during the final seven years.  These final seven years, therefore, are the core and the real purpose of the 490 years.  The first 483 years merely serve to locate the last seven years in time.

The last part of verse 27 describes unspecified destruction.

Conclusion

Daniel 9 is very different from the other prophecies in Daniel.  Daniel 9 is literal and only deals with Israel and the 490 years.  The other prophecies are symbolic and deal with all nations and with all time.

Dispensationalism: interpretation in brief

In Dispensationalism:

The 490 years start with the second decree of Artaxerxes I (Neh. 1-2), who gave Nehemiah permission to repair Jerusalem.

The first 483 years end with Jesus’ triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

The 490 years are not viewed as continuous, but a huge “paren­thesis” or “gap” is inserted between the first 483 years and the final seven years.  The entire “church age” is a gap during which the prophetic clock has stopped ticking.

The seven years are the final seven years before the Return of Christ, commencing with the rapture of the church.  The rapture includes the resurrection of dead saints and the translation of living saints.  They will secretly be removed from the earth.

Confirm the covenantDuring the 70th week, the antichrist will arise; a revived Roman empire whose prince will oppress the Jews and bring upon the world a 3½ year tribulation during the latter half of the seven years.

Traditional Interpretation

There is not much difference between Dispensationalism and the traditional Protestant interpretations of the first 483 years.  Both start the 490 years with a decree of Artaxerxes and both end the first 483 years in the time of Christ.  The major difference is with respect to the final seven years. In the traditional interpretation:

From a decree to restore – The 490 years began with Artaxerxes’ first decree in 458/7 BC.

Baptism of Jesus ChristUntil Messiah the Prince – 483 literal years later the Messiah appeared at His baptism in AD 26/27.  This was also the beginning of the final seven years.

Sacrifice cease – 3½ years later, in the midst of the final seven years, Jesus was killed, causing “the sacrifice and the oblation to cease”.  These sacrifices pointing forward to His death and lost their purpose and meaning when He died.

Last seven yearsConfirmed – Jesus Christ confirmed God’s covenant with Israel during the final seven years:

First through His personal preaching for 3½ years before His death;

Then, for a further 3½ years after His death, by sending His disciples with the power of the Holy Spirit to Israel only.  In those 3½ years, the church consisted only of Jews and it still adhered to all Old Testament laws.  It was a sect of Judaism.  See Early Church.

The End – God’s 490-year covenant with Israel came to an end 3½ years after His death, when Israel rejected Him by persecuting His Spirit-filled disciples.  After this the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people.

Jerusalem destroyed – Since 490 years were decreed for Jerusalem (v24), Jerusalem was not destroyed during those 490 years, but only in 70 AD.

Importance of Daniel 9 in Dispensationalism

The importance of the Seventy Weeks prophecy for Dispensationalism can hardly be exaggerated.  Dispensationalism often appeals to Daniel 9 as the clear proof that the entire Church Age is a parenthesis in the prophetic program which is found between verses 26 and 27 of Daniel 9.  The other schools of Christian thought on eschatology are able to survive even when their views of Daniel 9 are proven false, but Dispensationalism eschatology stands or fall on its interpretation of Daniel 9.

Summary

Daniel 9 goalsDaniel 9 sets 6 goals for Israel.

For this purpose it grants Jerusalem a 70 weeks.  Israel’s calendar was divided into groups of seven-years, where every seventh year was a Sabbath.  The 70 weeks are 70 of those seven-year cycles, and consequently equal to 490 years.

Jerusalem was to be restored.  “Restore” does not mean rebuilding.  In the original text to restore means that Jerusalem will be returned to the Jews to serve as their capital to rule the whole nation.

The prophecy repeatedly jumps back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 is poetic parallelism in which Jerusalem and the Messiah are the two foci.  The city is restored and rebuilt to receive the Messiah, but it is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.

The final seven years are the core and the real purpose of the 490 years.  The first 483 years merely serve to locate the last seven years in time.

Daniel 9 is very different from the other prophecies in Daniel.  Daniel 9 is literal and only deals with Israel and the 490 years.  The other prophecies are symbolic and deal with all nations and with all time.

In Dispensationalism the first 483 years end with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but the last week is the final seven years before the Return of Christ, when the Antichrist will bring upon the world a 3½ year tribulation.

There is not much difference between Dispensationalism and the traditional Protestant interpretations of the first 483 years.  Both start the 490 years with a decree of Artaxerxes and both end the first 483 years in the time of Christ.  The major difference is with respect to the final seven years. In the traditional interpretation, the final seven years include the 3½ years that Jesus preached in person and the 3½ years after His death, when He preached through His Holy Spirit to Israel only.

Dispensationalism is highly dependent on its interpretation of Daniel 9.  If the dispensational interpretation is Daniel is proven false, the entire Dispensational scheme collapses.

Articles in this series

This series discusses the Dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 and includes the following:

(1) Introduction to Dispensationalism and Daniel 9: Overview of the text of Daniel 9 and of the Dispensational interpretation
(2) WHEN: When did the 490 years begin? When was the decree issued, when did the Messiah appear and when did God suspend His covenant with the Jews?
(3) WHAT: Is it God’s or Satan’s covenant that is confirmed in Daniel 9:27?
(4) WHO: Who confirms that covenant for seven years; the Messiah or the prince?
(5) When are the last seven years?  Are they the last seven years before Christ returns?
(6) Other inconsistencies between the text and the Dispensational Interpretation
(7) When will Christ fulfill the Daniel 9:24 goals, set by for the 490 years?

See also, the Summary of all Daniel 9 articles, including the Historical Messianic Interpretation