We’ve been exploring Daniel’s epoch-spanning “70-weeks” prophecy, and have arrived now as the 70th week itself – a week that’s been divided from the other sixty-nine weeks. Why is this?
Several factors set it apart. First, it was divided in the middle, with each period consisting of forty-two months, or three and a half years. This division is marked by an event referred to as “the end of the sacrifices and offerings.” The seventieth week is clearly seen as a time of tribulation and destruction,
…And the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it will be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined (Daniel 9:26).
Verse 27 seems to indicate that these things would take place in the second half of the final week:
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.” (Daniel 9:27).
We must look, now, for some event that might be the fulfillment of this prophecy. First, it seems fairly evident from the text itself that the event in question is the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus alludes to Daniel’s prophecy when he speaks of “the abomination that makes desolate” in the Olivet Discourse. Daniel’s vision of the seventy weeks was a prophecy of the time from Israel’s release from captivity to the time of the end. A problem we face is that Israel’s end did not come in a seven-year period immediately following the crucifixion. Instead, it came nearly forty years later when Rome sacked Jerusalem. This suggests a break in our chronology, a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. Given that our hermeneutic speaks strongly against reinterpreting time frames, we should have a very good reason for suggesting such a gap, and an abundance of evidence that might justify this gap. Let’s take a look at this.
First of all, there is a textual division in Daniel 9:24-27 between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week. The seventieth week is treated separately. At the end of the 69th week, Messiah is “cut off.” Does the expression “cut off” mean that Christ was through with national Israel? Not at all – the “day of the Lord” was still to come. Christ, though cut off, would still deal with temporal Israel:
Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,
that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
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!
See! Your house is left to you desolate;
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!’ (Matthew 23:34-39).
Matthew 24 is a continuation of the predicted fate of Israel, in which we have the Lord’s prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem. It is in this context that Christ mentions the “abomination of desolation” spoken of by Daniel the prophet (Matthew 24:15), which identifies the seventieth week with the destruction of Jerusalem. Where does the gap come in?
First, Christ was received into heaven until the time “of the vengeance of God,”
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,
and that he may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before,
whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:19-21)
The gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week was from the time of Christ’s going into heaven until he came again. His coming, according to Matthew 24, was the time of the end of the world, or the consummation of the age.
Christ went away, but with the promise of coming again (John 14:1-3). His return was accompanied with blessing and destruction – blessing for true spiritual Israel, but destruction for unbelieving fleshly Israel. His coming was the receiving of one (2 Thessalonians 2:1), and the rejection of the other (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). According to Acts 3:21, it was a time of fulfillment of all things spoken by the prophets of God. This also is affirmed in Luke 21:22, “For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” Luke 21:22 agrees with Acts 3:21, and both refer to the war leading to the destruction of Jerusalem – the coming of Christ.
Peter refers to the period of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week while Christ was away as the longsuffering of God:
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance…and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation… (2 Peter 3:9, 15).
It was a time of preaching the gospel, and sealing the servants of God, before “the great day of his wrath has come” (Revelation 6:17). God gave national Israel an opportunity to repent before closing out their age:
After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.
Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea,
saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed. (Revelation 7:1-4)
Luke 19 seems to suggest a gap or space of time between the cutting off of Christ and Israel’s destruction:
Now as he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it,
saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side,
and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:41-44)
Consider Christ’s words in verse 43, “For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you….” Those days of destruction would not immediately follow the crucifixion, but they would come in that generation (Matthew 23:35-36; 24:34).
Another reason for a gap might be that a continuous chronology of Israel’s future would have defeated God’s purpose in keeping “the day or the hour” of Christ’s coming in secrecy. Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matt. 24:36). Because the seventieth week did not uninterruptedly follow the sixty-ninth, the “times and the seasons” would remain in the Father’s own power, to be shared by no other (Acts 1:7).
The seventieth week of Daniel also sheds light on the chronology of the book of Revelation, especially the later chapters. Revelation deals with the end time, the fall of Jerusalem, and the rise and glory of spiritual Israel. The seventieth week of Daniel, Matthew 24, and Revelation are synchronous – all dealing with the time of the end. The remarkable harmony of these prophetic sections of the Bible is a reflection of God’s wisdom and the inspiration of Scripture.
Join us next week as we look at the mystery of Jerusalem’s destruction.
Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King, where this post is drawn from. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Please feel free to weigh in below.