Summary: Published February 2023: The 70-weeks prophecy is one of the most significant prophecies found in Scripture. It contains all the elements that properly characterize this topic, as well as the easy-to-follow counting down of time. If you are not familiar with this prophecy, our article should help the believer to easily understand its several parts and comprehensive span/range. Enjoy!
My intention will not be to discuss every controversy of interpretation which may have arisen in the minds of men concerning this prophecy. I have little patience for the propagation of error in the teaching of Scripture, especially by those who hold themselves up as scholars and experts. We should teach only God’s word by the guidance of the Holy Spirit; believers should learn only God’s word through the influence of the Holy Spirit on their hearts and conscience. That seems to be the emphasis of Paul’s instructions here (1 Cor. 2:7-16). Then we should endeavor to keep His word and all of it. That seems to be the emphasis of our Lord’s instructions here (John 14:23, Rev. 3:8). So, I believe you’ll find my explanation of the prophecy to be somewhat direct, not wavering much as to its true meaning. Hopefully you will profit much from such an approach.
The Jews had been in captivity in Babylon for nearly seventy years. Daniel knew from Jeremiah’s prophecy that it would soon be time for God to end the desolations of Jerusalem (2 Chron. 36:15-23, Dan. 9:2). He seeks God in fasting and prayer, confessing his sins and the sins of his people (Dan. 9:3-19). While he was still praying, the angel Gabriel appears with the word of God in the form of a prophecy, and with the promise to give Daniel the skill to comprehend it (Dan. 9:20-23). I do not doubt in the least that if God intended Daniel to understand the prophecy, He intends us to fully comprehend it as well. Jesus makes this statement about N.T. believers, that He no longer calls us servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing. But He calls us friends, for all things that He heard from His Father He has made known to us (John 15:15). Here is the prophecy Gabriel spoke to Daniel:
Daniel 9:24-27 (NKJV)
24 “Seventy weeks are determined
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness,
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy.
25 “Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the [e]wall,
Even in troublesome times.
26 “And after the sixty-two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;
And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end of it shall be with a flood,
And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.”
First some general points. What were Daniel’s petitions about? He was concerned about the future of the Jewish people and the city Jerusalem. At that time his people were still in bondage in Babylon and Jerusalem was still in ruin. In the first verse of the prophecy (v.24), we see what its subject is – “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city…” Without a doubt the prophecy concerns the Jewish people and Jerusalem.
What are these 70 weeks? All the way through the prophecy a single week represents seven years. Therefore, 70 weeks = 490 years. The totality of the prophecy spans 490 years of counted time. But for what result? The first verse answers this – “to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness.” This concerns the Jewish people themselves – it is their transgression, their sins, their iniquity God is dealing with. Then it is added, “To seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.” This is the general fulfillment of all prophecy and a temple in Jerusalem which God will sanctify and bless.
The bible reveals the three dispensations – the Jewish, the Christian, and the future millennium. This is also the order in which they are found in Scripture. Daniel was in the midst of the Jewish dispensation; presently, we are in the Christian dispensation; after Jesus returns to this earth, He will establish the earthly kingdom of God and reign for 1000 years. If we are being direct, we can see the first verse of the prophecy is referring to the future millennium. This will be when Israel’s transgression, iniquity, and sins have been fully delt with by God. Jerusalem will become the earthly capital in God’s kingdom over the world. 490 years would be counted down in order to arrive at our last dispensation.
There are three distinct divisions of the 70 weeks in the prophecy. Two of them are found in the second verse (v.25). 7 weeks (49 years) were necessary to rebuild the streets and walls of Jerusalem. An additional 62 weeks (434 years) would elapse until Israel’s promised Messiah arrived. These weeks were continuous without any breaks. 69 of the 70 weeks have been counted down by the end of the twenty-fifth verse. [The city was rebuilt, and Messiah did eventually come. In this article we are not going to fuss about how we count down 483 years, when we begin the counting and when do we stop. Let’s just trust that these first two parts have been fulfilled and move on]
The third verse of the prophecy (v.26) gives us certain events that would take place after the 69th week was completed. Messiah would be cut off and have nothing – meaning He would be crucified and not receive His promised kingdom/inheritance. Also, the words of this verse indicate that the Romans would destroy Jerusalem and its temple. Ongoing war and desolations would be Jerusalem’s path from that point forward. All this after 69 weeks had already been counted down.
Right away we should notice there is no mention of the 70th week in the third verse (v.26). If we peek into the last verse of the prophecy (v.27) we find it there – he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week. This is the 70th week, the last 7 years of the prophecy. It won’t count down until we reach the events revealed in the twenty-seventh verse. Therefore, it should be obvious to all that the 70 weeks are not continuous. The count-down of years would be interrupted when the 69th week (483 years) was finished. A gap in our timeline comes in where time stops being counted by the prophecy. This gap contains all the events listed in the third verse (v.26): Messiah being cut off, Jerusalem and its temple destroyed by the Romans, and a long course of war and desolations experienced by the city. This gap continues today, having now lasted nearly two-thousand years.
“Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week.” The 70th week, the last seven years of the prophecy, is still off in the future. Now anyone familiar with Scripture knows this time to be the coming tribulation. The events predicted by this last verse (v.27) will all take place during these last seven years. And please remember, the good things promised for the Jewish people and Jerusalem in the first verse of the prophecy (v. 24) will not come to pass until the 70th week has ended. Jesus Christ is Israel’s Messiah. Not until He physically returns to this world do the Jews and the city receive this restoration and blessing.
But who is this man who makes a covenant (agreement) with the Jews for seven years? In trying to be concise and direct I will tell you this part of the prophecy isn’t referring to Israel’s Messiah. The covenant God makes with Israel will be everlasting (Jer. 31:31-34, Heb. 8:8-12), not for seven years. The covenant He makes with the Jews will be at the beginning of the millennium after Jesus returns, not seven years prior to that. God’s covenant will bring about the blessings of the first verse of the prophecy, which can only come in after the tribulation is over.
The one-week agreement defines the length of the future tribulation. It is an agreement which will allow the Jews the freedom to centralize the practice of their religion once again in a temple in Jerusalem. They lost this freedom when the Romans destroyed the city and temple in 70 AD – an event which occurred during the gap in the prophecy described by the previous verse (v.26) – “And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and sanctuary.” If it was indeed the Romans who destroyed the city in 70 AD, then the prince who is to come will be Roman. This is who is referred to at the beginning of the 27th verse – a future Roman leader will make an agreement with the nation of Israel allowing them to resume the practices of Judaism in Jerusalem (including animal sacrifices). The prophecy implies that before the last seven years begin a temple will be built by the Jewish people in Jerusalem for this purpose.
Other prophecies in Daniel and in the Revelation add additional details. In Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is interpreted by the prophet indicating four world empires which would come in succession and exercise civil control over Israel. The Roman empire was symbolized by the iron legs of the great statue in the dream. In Daniel 7, these same four empires are portrayed as unruly beasts in Daniel’s prophetic vision. They follow the same order historically as seen in the king’s dream in Daniel 2 – first Babylon, then Mede-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The 4th beast is described as dreadful and terrible and exceedingly strong. This is the Roman empire. Further, the first beast mentioned in Revelation 13 is this same Roman beast – the description of its features match those of the 4th beast of Daniel 7. This description of the Roman beast is repeated in Revelation 17.
It is significant that the two selections above from the Revelation point exclusively to the future tribulation. But we realize the last verse (v.27) of Daniel’s 70-weeks prophecy we’ve been looking at reveals events also exclusive to the tribulation. It is the third verse (v.26) which identifies the prince who is to come as being Roman, but it is the last verse (v.27) which tells us when he would come and make his famous agreement with Israel – at the start of the tribulation, the 70th week. Matching together the Revelation passages with Daniel nine brings us to conclude that the one making the agreement will be the head of a revived form of the Roman empire, which will exist during the future tribulation.
This is not contradicted by anything we find in the other two prophecies we used from Daniel in identifying the Roman empire; rather they confirm our conclusions. Notice in Daniel 7 the little horn which rises to prominence among the ten horns on the head of the Roman beast (v.8). If we read the entire chapter, we see this horn’s words and actions cause the direct judgement and destruction of this beast by the Ancient of Days (God). This scenario hasn’t happened yet. It shows that the ten horns and the little horn point to the final form the Roman empire will have developed as it is revived back into existence before its last seven years. For that matter, most of the descriptions and associations connected to this 4th beast in the chapter are not pointing to its existence in the 1st century, but to what it will be like during the future tribulation. The Roman empire in the time of Christ never had ten horns – this is exclusive to when it comes back to life at the end. Now it should be clear that the little horn seen in Daniel 7 is the Roman prince “who is to come” and make a seven-year covenant with the Jews in Daniel 9.
The great statue in the king’s dream in chapter two isn’t as specific or detailed. However, it does confirm that two different versions of the Roman empire would exist – the iron legs representing its form in the first century: the iron and clay feet representing its revived form in the last days. The ten toes on the feet are equivalent to the ten horns on the head of the beast in chapter seven. We know the feet and toes refer to the empire’s future form because that is where the stone “cut out without hands” strikes the image to destroy it (Dan. 2:34-35, 44-45) – the equivalent of Jesus returning to this world and destroying the beast and false prophet in the Revelation (Rev. 19:11-21). In both prophesies the earthly millennial kingdom of God is established after the destruction of this future Roman empire (Dan. 2:44-45, Rev. 20:1-6).
Another reason why Daniel’s 70-weeks prophecy is so significant is that its various divisions confirm the three-dispensation theological perspective of Scripture:
- (v.24) The Millennium – the restoration of the Jews, along with a new temple in Jerusalem sanctioned and anointed by God for the practice of Judaism, is the substance of the first verse of the prophecy. This will take place at the beginning of the millennium. (Dan. 9:24)
- (v.25) The Jewish Dispensation – the seven weeks (49 yrs.) for rebuilding the streets and walls of Jerusalem, and the sixty-two weeks (434 yrs.) until Messiah arrived, are the counting down of the remaining years in the Jewish dispensation. (Dan. 9:25)
- (v.26) The Christian Dispensation – the suspension of the count-down of the weeks in the prophecy occurs after the 69th week (483 yrs.). This creates a gap of an unknown length of time between the 69th and 70th week of the prophecy. This gap can only be filled by the presence of the Christian Dispensation. (Dan. 9:26)
- (v.27) The Jewish Dispensation – Daniel’s 70th week, the counting down of its last seven years, is none other than the future tribulation. The angel promised the prophecy would be about the future of Daniel’s people and their city. The 70 weeks or 490 years represented the time remaining in the Jewish dispensation. Although separated from the previous 69 weeks, the last week is still part of the counting process. If the first 69 weeks are part of the Jewish dispensation, the 70th week must be as well. The future tribulation must be seen as the last seven years of the previously suspended Jewish dispensation. (Dan. 9:27)
There is one last time element in the prophecy which is helpful in connecting it with other prophetic passages to form an intelligible and complete account. The twenty-seventh verse not only reveals the Roman prince making a seven-year agreement with the Jews, but that “…in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.” This head of the revived empire will annul his agreement and prohibit any further practice of Judaism. The time element is the “middle of the week” – 3½ years into the seven; 3½ years remaining.
This “middle of the week” is the mid-point of the tribulation. It becomes a marker in the study of prophecy to which we can connect other passages. One such passage is Dan.12:11, which supplies more details
Daniel 12:11 (NKJV)
“And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.
Abomination in Scripture refers to idolatry. Not only will the sacrifices stop in the middle of the week, but idolatry will be set up in Jerusalem’s temple. It will be the worst forms of idolatry that the Jews have ever summitted to in the long history of their nation. Jesus references this passage from Daniel 12 in His prophecies (Matt. 24:15). It directly connects the three passages and their details together in the overall prophetic design.
The most notable signpost in all prophecy is the return of Jesus Christ to this world (Rev. 19:11-21). It begins what is known in many passages as “the Day of the Lord.” His return ends the seven-year tribulation. If we consider both these markers – the “middle of the week” and “His return” – we now have a very noteworthy period identified for us – the notorious last 3½ years. Some prophecies refer to this as “Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7); others as “the great tribulation” (Matt. 24:21, Rev. 2:22, 7:14). Even more remarkable is the various ways this time is counted down in some passages: by days (Dan. 12:11, Rev. 11:3, 12:6), by months (Rev. 11:2, 13:5), and by the prophetic phrase “time and times, and half a time” (Dan. 7:25, 12:7, Rev. 12:13). All these prophecies and more are now connected, enabling us to better comprehend the end time events. Making these connections is always the goal of our studies in bible prophecy (2 Peter 1:19-21).