Many Christians expect an end-time scenario that goes something like this: The Church will be raptured to heaven before the start of the "great tribulation." Then the Antichrist will arise and convince the Jews that he is actually the prophesied Messiah. The Antichrist will make a seven-year peace treaty with the Jews and will allow the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. But midway through that treaty, the Antichrist will break his covenant. He will enter the restored Temple and proclaim himself to be God. This event will start the 3½-year reign of terror known as the "great tribulation." At the end of this time period, Christ will return from heaven with the Church and defeat the Antichrist in the Battle of Armageddon.
The scenario above is built around just a few prophetic Scriptures. The primary one is the "70 weeks" prophecy found in Daniel 9:24-27. This is one of the most misunderstood and misused prophecies in the Bible. This prophecy is the primary foundation used by most pre-tribulation rapturists to support that particular doctrine. But does this passage really support a pre-tribulation rapture? We'll examine the 9th chapter of Daniel in detail to make that determination.
DANIEL 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans – 2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. (NKJV)
There were several Medo-Persian kings named Darius. Various theories have been advanced by eminent scholars to identify the Darius mention in verse 1. Some believe he is Gubaru (Gobryas), the general who led the actual attack on Babylon. Others think that Darius was a title for Astyages, the last king of the Medes and the grandfather of Cyrus the Great. Per the records of Greek historian Xenophon and the Jewish historian Josephus, some have adopted the view that Darius was "the son of Astyages" – namely, Cyaxares II, the uncle of Cyrus the Great. Regardless of the actual identity of Darius, it is clear that he ruled by appointment (Dan. 5:31; 9:1); he was made king over Babylon by Cyrus the Great.
Here is the passage from Jeremiah's prophecies that Daniel was reading:
JEREMIAH 29:10 For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (NKJV)
The 70 years spoken of by Jeremiah speaks of the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity. God decreed that the land of Judah was to lie desolate for 70 years. The book of II Chronicles tells us why their punishment was to run for that particular amount of time:
II CHRONICLES 36:20 And those who escaped from the sword he [Nebuchadnezzar] carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years. (NKJV)
As recorded in the 26th chapter of Leviticus, God warned Israel through Moses about this very punishment for disobedience:
LEVITICUS 26:31 "I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation, and I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas. 32 I will bring the land to desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it. 33 I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste. 34 Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies' land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. 35 As long as it lies desolate it shall rest – for the time it did not rest on your Sabbaths when you dwelt in it." (NKJV)
Apparently Israel did not keep the sabbatical years for a period of at least 490 years (70 times every 7th year). Therefore, God allowed the land to be desolate for 70 years in order for it to observe those neglected Sabbaths.
Daniel seemingly understood after the fall of Babylon around 539 BCE that the 70 years of Judah's captivity, which began in 605 BCE, were about to end. Leviticus 26:40-42 detailed what the Israelites were supposed to do after such a situation:
LEVITICUS 26:40 "But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me, 41 and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt – 42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land." (NKJV)
In accordance with the command for confession and repentance recorded by Moses, Daniel beseeched the Eternal in prayer for forgiveness for his nation:
DANIEL 9:3 Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. 4 And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, "O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. 6 Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. 7 O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day – to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You. 8 O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. 10 We have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets. 11 Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your Law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him. 12 And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. 14 Therefore the LORD has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day – we have sinned, we have done wickedly! 16 O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. 17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord's sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name." (NKJV)
Daniel's plea for his people and his land was done in accordance with God's command found in the Torah. In response to his prayer, God sent the angel Gabriel to explain how He would deliver His people Israel from their situation:
DANIEL 9:20 Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God, 21 yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. 22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, "O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. 23 At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision": (NKJV)
The prophecy that concludes chapter 9 is Gabriel's revelation regarding God's redemption of His people and His land:
DANIEL 9:24 "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 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." (NKJV)
Now let's go through the heart of this prophecy verse by verse, to see what it really says. We'll start with verse 24:
DANIEL 9:24 "Seventy weeks [shavu'im shiv'im] 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 [chetom] vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy." (NKJV)
The phrase "seventy weeks" in this verse comes from the Hebrew shavu'im shiv'im, which literally means "seventy sevens." Just as we in western culture tend to view years in groups of ten ("decades"), anciently the Jews thought of years as being in groups of seven (based on the seven-year sabbatical cycle, Lev. 25:1-7). The "seventy sevens" spoken of here refers to 70 X 7 years, or a total of 490 years.
According to this Scripture, seven things would occur within the 490-year period decreed for the Jews and Jerusalem. All seven of these things relate to the Messiah and his people:
1) "restrain the transgression"
ISAIAH 53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken. (NKJV)
HEBREWS 9:15 And for this reason he is the mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (NKJV)
2) "make an end to sins"
JOHN 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (NKJV)
HEBREWS 9:26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, he has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (NKJV)
3) "make atonement for iniquity"
ISAIAH 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (NKJV)
ROMANS 3:25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – (NIV)
HEBREWS 2:17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. (NIV)
4) "bring in age-lasting righteousness"
ISAIAH 53:11 He shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. (RSV)
ROMANS 5:17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. (NIV)
5) "seal up vision"
The word translated "seal up" here is from the Hebrew root word chatam. This word literally means "to lock up" or "to shut up."
ISAIAH 29:10 For the LORD has poured out on you the spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes, namely, the prophets; and He has covered your heads, namely, the seers. 11 The whole vision has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one who is literate, saying, "Read this, please." And he says, "I cannot, for it is sealed." 12 Then the book is delivered to one who is illiterate, saying, "Read this, please." And he says, "I am not literate." 13 Therefore the LORD said: "Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, 14 therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden." (NKJV)
6) "seal up prophecy"
ROMANS 11:7 What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. 8 Just as it is written: "God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day." 9 And David says: "Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a recompense to them. 10 Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see, and bow down their back always." (NKJV)
7) "anoint the most holy"
LUKE 4:18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed;" (NKJV)
ACTS 10:38 "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him." (NKJV)
Clearly, it was Yeshua the Messiah that fulfilled this part of the prophecy. Now let's look at the next verse:
DANIEL 9:25 "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince [mashiach nagid], there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times." (NKJV)
Verse 25 speaks of the time period between the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem and the coming of mashiach nagid ("Messiah the Prince"), a clear reference to the prophesied Messiah. The first thing we must determine in our quest to understand this prophecy is WHEN the cited command regarding Jerusalem actually went forth. The Scriptures show us that three different Persian kings issued such decrees:
EZRA 6:14 So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. (NKJV)
The first king mentioned, Cyrus the Great, was the conqueror of Babylon, which fell to his forces in 539 BCE. In 536 BCE, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem:
II CHRONICLES 36:22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, 23 "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up!" (NKJV)
This first decree by Cyrus came 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptian army at Carchemish and first invaded Judah in 605 BCE. He deported some Jews, probably including Daniel, to Babylon at that time.
The second decree to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem was issued about 520 BCE by Medo-Persian king Darius the Great. It is recorded in the 6th chapter of Ezra:
EZRA 6:1 Then King Darius issued a decree, and a search was made in the archives, where the treasures were stored in Babylon. 2 And at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of Media, a scroll was found, and in it a record was written thus: 3 In the first year of King Cyrus, King Cyrus issued a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem: "Let the house be rebuilt, the place where they offered sacrifices; and let the foundations of it be firmly laid, its height sixty cubits and its width sixty cubits, 4 with three rows of heavy stones and one row of new timber. Let the expenses be paid from the king's treasury. 5 Also let the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple which is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and taken back to the temple which is in Jerusalem, each to its place; and deposit them in the house of God" – 6 Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and your companions the Persians who are beyond the River, keep yourselves far from there. 7 Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God on its site. 8 Moreover I issue a decree as to what you shall do for the elders of these Jews, for the building of this house of God: Let the cost be paid at the king's expense from taxes on the region beyond the River; this is to be given immediately to these men, so that they are not hindered. 9 And whatever they need – young bulls, rams, and lambs for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the request of the priests who are in Jerusalem – let it be given them day by day without fail, 10 that they may offer sacrifices of sweet aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his sons. 11 Also I issue a decree that whoever alters this edict, let a timber be pulled from his house and erected, and let him be hanged on it; and let his house be made a refuse heap because of this. 12 And may the God who causes His name to dwell there destroy any king or people who put their hand to alter it, or to destroy this house of God which is in Jerusalem. I Darius issue a decree; let it be done diligently. (NKJV)
Daniel, one of the first exiled Jews, understood from the writings of the prophet Jeremiah that the period of Jerusalem's desolation would last 70 years (Dan. 9:2). The Soncino Commentary on Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah states: "A rough calculation of the seventy years would be from 586, when the Temple was destroyed, to 516, when it was rebuilt" (p. 111). Therefore, the fulfillment of this 70-year period is generally considered to be between the destruction of Solomon's Temple (586 BCE) and the finishing of the Second Temple (516 BCE) in the 6th year of King Darius (Ezra 6:15).
King Artaxerxes Longimanus, who ruled Medo-Persia from 464-425 BCE, also issued a command regarding the Temple in Jerusalem. About 457 BCE, in the 7th year of his reign (Ezra 7:7-8), King Artaxerxes allowed Ezra the scribe, along with some other Levites, to return to Jerusalem. He sent a letter with them that authorized Ezra to purchase articles for the worship of God from the King's treasury:
EZRA 7:27 Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem, 28 and has extended mercy to me before the king and his counselors, and before all the king's mighty princes. So I was encouraged, as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me; and I gathered leading men of Israel to go up with me. (NKJV)
Later during the reign of Artaxerxes, in about 445 BCE, the king issued a decree allowing his Jewish cupbearer, Nehemiah, to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the city. He completed the walls within about six months and initially remained there as governor of Judah for 12 years.
Our problem now becomes determining which of these decrees is the one spoken of in the prophecy given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel. God obviously intended for this prophesied time frame to help the Jews understand when the time was near for the appearance of the Messiah. However, because of the four different potential starting points for the calculation, an "after-the-fact" look at the time line from each date is required to clearly show us which decree was intended to be the starting point of this prophecy.
Counting 483 years from the decrees of Cyrus and Darius proves that they occurred too early to fulfill the prophecy. From Cyrus' decree in 536 BCE, 7 weeks of years plus 62 weeks of years takes us only to 53 BCE. From Darius' decree in 520 BCE, 483 years only brings us to 37 BCE, which is also too early (unless we want to proclaim Herod the Great the fulfillment of messianic prophecy).
However, the completion of 483 years after the third decree by King Artaxerxes to Ezra brings us to the fall of the year 26 CE. Many scholars pinpoint this as the year in which Yeshua was baptized by John and began his public ministry. This decree by King Artaxerxes fits the time frame for Messiah's appearing and certainly looks to be the one referred to by Gabriel in the prophecy given to Daniel.
Some reject this date, arguing that Artaxerxes' decree did not deal with the city of Jerusalem, but only the Temple. However, Ezra's comments regarding his charge by the king, recorded in Ezra 9:9, clearly show that he understood his commission to include rebuilding the city wall of Jerusalem also:
EZRA 9:9 "For we were slaves. Yet our God did not forsake us in our bondage; but He extended mercy to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem." (NKJV)
Ezra's own interpretation of his commission by King Artaxerxes shows that he understood it to include more than just the Temple. He specifically mentions repairing the Temple and rebuilding the wall around the holy city of Jerusalem.
However, pre-tribulation rapturists reject Artaxerxes' decree of 457 BCE issued to Ezra as being the correct one. They use his 445 BCE decree to Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the city as their starting point. Unfortunately, 483 years after this date brings us to 40 CE, a date all scholars agree is too late for the start of the Messiah's ministry.
The pre-tribulation rapturists attempt to circumvent this shortcoming through some fancy mathematical sleight of hand. To do this, they rely primarily on the calculations of Sir Robert Anderson, which he published in 1894 in his book The Coming Prince (a reference to the Antichrist). Anderson, using Artaxerxes' decree to Nehemiah in 445 BCE, shortened the 69-week time period from 483 solar years to 476 years by assuming Daniel's prophecy was using a "prophetic" 360-day year. He thus placed the end of the 69th week in 32 CE, which he presumed to be the year Messiah was crucified. A later variation on this theory starts the count in 444 BCE and ends it in 33 CE.
While a number of significant errors and problems with Sir Robert Anderson's calculation have been documented, we'll look specifically at two that are readily evident. First, this prophecy was given to Daniel and recorded for the Jewish people to know when to expect the Messiah. The Jewish lunar/solar calendar does not contain 360-day years. To account for the difference between a lunar year and a solar year, the Jewish calendar adds an extra month at the end of the year seven times in a 19-year cycle. Therefore, although the Jewish year starts at a different time than the Roman year, a period of 483 years on the Jewish calendar would also be 483 years on the Roman calendar, NOT 476 years. There is no scriptural basis for converting the 483 calendar years identified here into 476 "prophetic" years.
Secondly, Sir Robert Anderson's calculations show the Messiah being "cut off" at the crucifixion at the END of the 69 weeks, leaving one prophetic week of seven years yet to be fulfilled. However, Gabriel plainly told Daniel that the Messiah would bring sacrifice and offering to an end in the middle of the 70th week (we'll look at this more closely when we examine Dan. 9:27). Counting from Artaxerxes' 457 BCE decree to Ezra, this would have occurred at Passover in 30 CE, after 486½ years of the prophesied 490 years had elapsed.
Something that is seldom considered is that there are really four time periods specified in this prophecy: 7 weeks (49 years), 62 weeks (434 years), and a final week (7 years) that is split into two 3½ year periods (Dan. 9:27; Rev. 11:3; 13:5). Too often the first two of these time periods are lumped together, as if there were no importance to the differentiation in them made by God.
However, the 49-year period mentioned first is important. It is the "troublesome" time period during which the Temple was upgraded and the streets and the wall of Jerusalem were rebuilt. This trying time is described in detail in the book of Nehemiah. The enemies of the Jews were so angry about the rebuilding of the city walls that those who labored had to work with one hand and carry a weapon in the other (Neh. 4:16-18).
The next period of 434 years brings us to the time of the Messiah's anointing, which we have already dated to the fall of 26 CE. Yeshua's first public address in Nazareth after his baptism confirms that the "anointing of the Most Holy" mentioned in verse 24 took place at this time:
LUKE 4:16 So he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And he was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written: 18 "The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD." 20 Then he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." (NKJV)
Liberty was proclaimed to Israel during the Jubilee year (Lev. 25:10). Therefore, Yeshua's fulfillment of this prophecy indicates that the year he began his ministry (26-27 CE) was likely a Jubilee year.
DANIEL 9:26 "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah [mashiach] shall be cut off [yikaret], but not for himself; and the people of the Prince [nagid] who is to come shall destroy [yashchit] the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined." (NKJV)
We are told in this verse that AFTER the 62-week period (which followed the 7-week period, giving us 69 total weeks of years), the Anointed One, the Messiah (Heb. mashiach), would be "cut off." The root of the Hebrew verb used here is karat, which literally means "to cut." While it can simply mean "kill," many times in the Scriptures this word is used to describe the making of a covenant. In ancient times, covenants often were ratified by sacrificing animals and cutting their carcasses in two down the middle (as shown in Gen. 15:9-10, where we see the institution of God's covenant with Abram).
The use of "cut off" here implies not only that the Messiah would be killed, but also that his sacrifice would be instrumental in the making of a "new" covenant with the people of Israel. The New Testament confirms this understanding in several places:
MATTHEW 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." 27 Then he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (NKJV)
I CORINTHIANS 11:25 In the same manner he also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." (NKJV)
This "cutting off" of the Messiah occurred after the 62 weeks (434 years) had been completed. As the next verse (Dan. 9:27) tells us, it took place in the middle of the 70th (or last) prophetic week, at Passover in 30 CE. He was not "cut off" for himself, but rather for the sins of the nation:
HEBREWS 10:12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, 16 "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds," 17 then he adds, "I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more." 18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. (RSV)
The next part of the verse tells us that "the people of the Prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." To truly understand this prophecy correctly, we have to understand the identity of the coming Prince (Heb. nagid) spoken of by Gabriel.
Many Christian scholars ignore the plain context of this statement and try to make the case that the "Prince to come" was either Titus, the Roman general who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 CE, or the Antichrist prophesied to arise at the end of the age. But staying within the context of the immediate passage, it is clear that the Prince referred to by Gabriel was none other than the coming Messiah (who is called "Messiah the Prince" in Dan. 9:25). No other understanding of the Prince is supported by this prophecy.
If indeed the Prince is Messiah, then the people of this Prince, who were prophesied to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple, are none other than the Jewish people. Were the Jews responsible for the destruction of the holy city and the holy Temple?
Yes, the Scriptures clearly show that it was the Jews who were responsible for this destruction because of their rebellion against God and their disobedience to His commands. God clearly told Israel the consequences of not obeying Him:
LEVITICUS 26:27 "And after all this, if you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me, 28 then I also will walk contrary to you in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. 29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. 30 I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars, and cast your carcasses on the lifeless forms of your idols; and My soul shall abhor you. 31 I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation, and I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas. 32 I will bring the land to desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it. 33 I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste. (NKJV)
This prophecy was fulfilled initially when the Assyrians conquered the northern House of Israel and took them into captivity because of their sins in 722 BCE. Later, beginning in 605 BCE, the southern House of Judah was also overcome and taken into captivity by the Babylonians for their lack of obedience. Gabriel's prophecy shows that God's people were again going to bring desolation on their cities and on the Temple due to their rebellion.
The word translated "destroy" in verse 26 is a form of the Hebrew verb shachat, which can also mean "to corrupt," or "to bring to ruin." The disobedience of the Jews and their national rejection of the Messiah brought the holy city and the Temple to ruin, as Yeshua himself prophesied:
MATTHEW 23:37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 "See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see me no more till you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!' " (NKJV)
In addition to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, God's judgment upon the Jewish nation for their rejection of the Messiah was that they would be blinded for a time (Rom. 11:7, 25). Until the completion of the 70 weeks, vision and prophecy has been sealed up to them. Only that small remnant of Israel that God is now calling can understand these things. To the rest, they are sealed up and blocked from being understood.
The end of the city and the sanctuary was when, in 70 CE, the Roman army swept over Jerusalem and destroyed it. Here, as in other Scriptures, this destruction by a human army is portrayed as a flood (Isa. 59:19; Jer. 46:7-8; 47:1-4).
Over and over again in the Scriptures, the number 40 is associated with testing and trying (Gen. 7:4; Exo. 24:18; 34:28; Num. 13:25; 14:33-34; 32:13; Deu. 8:2; 10:10; Deu. 25:3; I Sam. 17:16; Jon. 3:4; Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2). Not coincidentally, the Jews had 40 years from the crucifixion of Messiah until the fulfillment of Gabriel's prophecy regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. The Jewish Talmud records that in this 40-year period (30-70 CE), there were signs that God was not accepting the Yom Kippur sacrifice which annually removed the sins of the nation (Lev. 16). This is because the true fulfillment of the Yom Kippur sacrifice had been slain at Passover in 30 CE.
The Roman war against the Jews finally ended in 73 CE with the capture of the mountain fortress Masada. By that time, the entire country was desolate.
DANIEL 9:27 "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 [shiqutzim] shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate." (NKJV)
This verse speaks of the 70th week of Gabriel's prophecy. The one who confirms the covenant with many is the Messiah, since he is the focus of this prophecy. This portion of the verse cannot be speaking of the Antichrist, because this entity is never mentioned here. Unfortunately, those conditioned by years of false teaching mistakenly continue to read the Antichrist into this text.
Because he is the ultimate Yom Kippur sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin, the Messiah brought an end to the need for this annual sacrifice when he died on the cross in the middle of the 70th week. The author of Hebrews, speaking of the annual sin offering for the nation of Israel every year at Yom Kippur, explains this concept in more detail:
HEBREWS 10:1 For the Law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. 5 Therefore, when he came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for me. 6 In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. 7 Then I said, 'Behold, I have come – in the volume of the book it is written of me – to do Your will, O God.' " 8 Previously saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then he said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that he may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (NKJV)
For the nation of Israel, Yeshua on the cross became the offering that would cleanse them of their sins. After his resurrection, he became the heavenly High Priest that went before the mercy seat of God the Father to intercede for Israel. The Levitical priesthood was thus superceded by the priesthood of Melchizedek, which had in fact preceded it (Gen. 14:18).
The next part of verse 27 in the NKJV says that "on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate." This is a poor translation from the Hebrew, most likely due to the preconceived notion that this portion of the prophecy is speaking of the Antichrist. A better translation of this would be "upon the wing of abominations it shall be made desolate." The root of the Hebrew noun translated "abominations" here (shiqutz) is frequently associated with the worship of idols in the Old Testament. Gabriel is simply emphasizing again that because of the increase of Israel's sin (particularly idolatry evidenced by the rejection of the prophesied Messiah), desolation will fly down upon "it" (the city and/or the sanctuary).
The next part of the verse confirms that Jerusalem, the Temple and the Jewish people are the focus of Gabriel's prior statement. The Soncino Commentary on Daniel 9:27 translates this part of the verse as: "and that until the extermination wholly determined be poured out upon that which causes appalment" (p. 79). The "extermination" or "desolation" was poured out upon the Jewish people and their cities, particularly the holy city Jerusalem.
Josephus tells us the number of Jews caught up in this desolation:
Now the number of those that were carried captive during the whole war was collected to be ninety-seven thousand; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege, eleven hundred thousand, the greater part of whom were indeed of the same nation, [with the citizens of Jerusalem,] but not belonging to the city itself; for they were come up from all the country to the feast of unleavened bread, and were on a sudden shut up by an army . . . (Book 6, Ch. 9, Sec. 3, The Wars of the Jews)
In this entire passage of prophecy, Gabriel was giving Daniel (and through him, the Jews) a time line showing WHEN to expect Messiah, the Prince who was to redeem his people. He was to appear after 69 weeks of years (483 years) and he was to be cut off in the middle of the 70th week (after 3½ years). His cutting off in the middle of this last prophesied week of years is what brought about the desolation of the holy city spoken of by Gabriel. That's why Yeshua gave this warning during his ministry:
MATTHEW 24:15 " Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened." (NKJV)
The nature of the "abomination of desolation" is clearly defined in the parallel account in Luke's Gospel:
LUKE 21:20 "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. 22 For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. 24 And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (NKJV)
Luke makes it plain that the "abomination of desolation" is the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies. But it cannot be just the desolation of Jerusalem by the Romans, because this prophecy in all the Synoptic Gospels takes us up to the return of Messiah from heaven to initiate the "day of vengeance of our God" (Isa. 61:2). So the desolation of Jerusalem must be dual – it happened in 70 CE, and it will happen again at the time of the end. Another army will desolate Jerusalem before the last half of the 70th week, as Zechariah tells us:
ZECHARIAH 14:1 Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. 4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. (NKJV)
God is once again, at the time of the end, going to allow Jerusalem to be desolated by invading armies. This time, as Zechariah tells us, it will be the united armies of all nations. Just as the desolation by the Roman armies came AFTER the first 3½ years of the 70th week, it appears the desolation by the international armies will come BEFORE the final 3½ years of the 70th week. When the final half of the 70th week is over, the ultimate redemption of Israel will occur, as the apostle Paul told us:
ROMANS 11:25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins." 28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, 31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. (NKJV)
As we can see from an in-depth look at the prophecy of the 70 weeks, it has nothing to say directly about the Antichrist. The primary focus of the prophecy was to tell Daniel (and through him, us) WHEN the prophesied Messiah would appear in Israel. It also foretold the Jews' overall rejection of Yeshua as that Messiah, and the consequences to Israel of that rejection.
However, the Antichrist is indirectly tied to this prophecy, because he plays a prominent part in the final half of the 70th week which remains to be fulfilled. This 3½-year time period, which will occur just before the messianic age begins here on earth, is spoken of in the 11th and 13th chapters of the book of Revelation (as 1,260 days and 42 months, respectively). It is only after the completion of ALL of the 70 prophesied weeks, which will be fulfilled at the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Rev. 11:15), that transgression will be truly finished, an end of sins will indeed be made, reconciliation for iniquity will be initiated, and everlasting righteousness brought in to God's children. At that time, the salvation of ALL of Israel will commence. May the end of the 70 weeks come soon!
Bryan T. Huie
November 11, 2001