Scriptural Quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version
The book of Daniel is one of the most analyzed books of the Bible on the subject of prophecy. It can be a confusing book of the Bible given that it has prophecies that seem to have already been fulfilled, and prophecies that have not been clearly fulfilled, presented in very close textual proximity. Furthermore, prophetic writings are mixed in with depictions of events going on in Daniel’s own lifetime.
This style of writing is typical of Bible prophecy in general, and I think it is the reason why there is so much debate and disagreement among scholars as to the meaning of prophecies. I personally have reached a point where I do not try to untangle cryptic prophetic writings and arrange a precise, chronological prediction of world events. Instead, I try to step back and consider broader, overarching themes of Scripture that are reflected not only in these prophetic writings, but the Bible in general, and to understand how these themes are playing out in my own life.
That said, specific prophetic writings are still important to talk about, and I am not opposed to discussing them in relation to historical or current events as long as there is some room for uncertainty. So, in this article, I want to discuss some prophecies of Daniel that are often used to predict future events.
The book of Daniel is where the idea of a seven year period preceding the end of this age comes from. A critical passage is in Chapter 9, Verses 24-27:
“Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time. After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator.”
There is general agreement among Biblical scholars that if a “week” refers to a quantifiable period of time, it means seven years. Thus, the “seventy weeks” in Verse 24 probably refer to seventy periods of seven years, which equals 490 years. When Daniel wrote this, the Jews were still in Babylonian captivity. Verse 25 says that the seventy weeks would begin once Israel was released and began rebuilding the temple. Daniel wrote in Verse 26 that after sixty-two weeks (483 years), an “anointed one” would be cut off. Biblical historians have noted that Jesus’ ministry began about 483 years after the Jews were released from captivity. Thus, the “anointed one” being “cut off” after 483 years probably refers to the crucifixion of Christ around 27-33 A.D. Most Christians are in agreement up to this point; it’s what comes next that starts a debate.
Verse 26 mentions troops of a future prince destroying Jerusalem and the temple in association with wars and desolations. There is general agreement that the destruction of the temple was fulfilled in 70 A.D. The controversial part is, who is the prince?
The traditional Evangelical view of prophesy, known as the Futurist view, says that since it was the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., there will be a new Roman empire created sometime in the future, and the leader of that empire is the prince Daniel referenced. Despite the fact that the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., Verse 27 mentions the temple again by referencing “sacrifices and offerings.” Thus, Futurists contend that the temple will be rebuilt in the future so that this prophesy can take place. The prince is identified as the Antichrist. Since Verse 27 says that the prince will make a covenant for seven years, Futurists teach that the antichrist will make a seven-year covenant with Israel and allow them to rebuild the temple. They identify this seven year period as the Tribulation. Verse 27 says that the prince will eventually cause the sacrifices to stop, and desecrate the temple. Futurists believe this will occur at the midpoint of the Tribulation.
Although this interpretation can make sense, the problem is that the Bible never explicitly says a temple will be rebuilt before the coming Messianic age. Furthermore, I believe there is very substantial evidence that the prophecies of Daniel 9:24-27 had a fulfillment in the first century.
First, let’s consider the part about someone making a covenant with the Jews. That word translated “make” could also be translated “confirm,” and the New King James Bible does so. Note that in Daniel’s prophecy, there are two men mentioned: the “anointed one” (the Messiah) and an apparently evil figure that is often called the Antichrist. Many commentators with a first-century perspective say that it is the Messiah, not the Antichrist, who confirms a covenant with the Jews.
Espousing this view, Larry T. Smith wrote,
“He shall ‘CONFIRM THE COVENANT WITH MANY FOR ONE WEEK.’ This does not mean that the covenant was just seven years long, but it is dealing with the one week that is left of the 70 weeks in which the Messiah will confirm the covenant with many. This week had to begin with Messiah the prince being anointed at His baptism. This was verse 24’s anointing of the most holy. This fulfilled one of the 6 requirements of the 70th week” (quoted from “The 70th Week of Daniel”).
Also, keep in mind what Jesus Himself said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”
Through this statement, Jesus was confirming the covenant with the Jews which God established through the Law of Moses in the Old Testament.
What I want to examine now is the concept of spiritual-physical parallels in the events of Christ’s life and death on earth, and the war of 66-70 A.D. in Jerusalem. Here are interpretations from Duncan McKenzie of PlanetPreterist.com:
“Daniel 9:26 and 27 parallel each other; that is, they each address the same two topics. The first part of each verse contains a reference to the killing of Messiah and the resulting end of the legitimacy of the sacrificial system. The death of Jesus brought an end to the legitimacy of the sacrificial system (cf. Matt. 27:50-51; Heb. 10:11-18); it happened after seven and sixty-two weeks [483 years], Dan. 9:25 (i.e. it happened during the seventieth week)
. . .
The second part of verses 26 and 27 contain a reference to the coming of the one who would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple” (quoted from “The Last Half of Daniel’s 70th Week”).
The idea here is that the spiritual fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecies occurred through the death of Christ, circa 30 A.D., which ended the validity of animal sacrifices. However, in the physical, earthly realm, the end of animal sacrifices came to an end in 70 A.D. via the Romans’ destruction of the temple.
McKenzie’s view is that Daniel’s 70th week could be interpreted either literally or symbolically. In a literal interpretation, the seven years take place in two 3.5 year segments, separated by a gap of 37-40 years. The first half took place during Jesus’ earthly ministry of 3.5 years. At the end of this period, the spiritual validity of animal sacrifices came to an end. The 2nd half took place during the war of 66-70 A.D. At the end of this half, sacrifices and offerings as prescribed by the Law of Moses became logistically impossible, as they had to be performed at the temple. Thus, if you add the two halves together, it equals seven years (i.e. one week). On the other hand, in a symbolic interpretation, McKenzie says that the period between Christ’s resurrection and the temple’s destruction could be viewed as the latter half of the 70th week. Under that interpretation, the two segments are not quantifiable time periods, but rather, the two halves are two phases of prophecy.
I think that McKenzie’s interpretations of the 70th week are reasonable ways to approach the prophecy. I also want to bring out a point that Gary Amirault of Tentmaker Ministries raised in his audio series “The Rapture You Missed.” Although I do not agree with his view that the Rapture took place in 70 A.D., I believe his series contains a lot of very important information regarding the events of 30 – 70 A.D. in relation to Bible prophecy. Amirault believes that the destruction of the temple was a necessary event in order to end a conflict that was dividing the Christian church and obscuring the gospel of grace.
The conflict involved whether believers in Christ were still required to follow the Mosaic laws. Prior to the ministry of Paul, who taught salvation apart from works of the Law, many believers in Christ were still preaching the ordinances of the Mosaic Law, including James, a half-brother of Jesus who was head of the Jerusalem Church about 10 years after Jesus’ ascension. Thus, even though believers were already free from the Law through Christ, the physical destruction of the temple was a necessary event in order to bring this realization to the Church on a practical level (“The Rapture You Missed,” Gary Amirault, Part 2, 5:00-7:00).
I believe there is very substantial Scriptural and historical evidence that the prophecies of Daniel 9 had a fulfillment during 30 – 70 A.D. My upcoming installments of this series will look at Jesus’ prophecies in the Synoptic Gospels, where I find more evidence of a first-century fulfillment. The reason I am highlighting first-century fulfillments is because it is important to understand the spiritual, political, and moral factors that were at play in that fulfillment, in case these prophecies are to have another fulfillment at some point in the future, a scenario that I consider possible, and I will show where and why at the end of this series.
Smith, Larry T. “The Seventieth Week of Daniel.” Rightly Dividing The Word. Rightly Dividing The Word, 2002. Web. 17 July 2016
“Daniel 7: A Preterist Commentary.” Revelation Revolution. n.p., n.d., Web. 18 July 2016.
McKenzie, Duncan. “The Last Half of Daniel’s 70th Week.”PlanetPreterist. n.p., 05 November 2007. Web. 17 July 2016.
Gary Amirault. “The Rapture You Missed (Part 2 of 6).” Tentmaker Ministries. Tentmaker Ministries, 27 January 2010. Web. 17 July 2016