The Seventy “Weeks” of Daniel
Introduction: There’s a front-page today on today’s New York Times website entitled: “Region Boiling, Israel Takes Up Castle Strategy.” The gist of the article is that as the stability of the Middle East collapses and one Arab nation after another destabilizes, Israel has in effect dug a moat around itself and assumed a defense posture while the Arab world goes up in flames. The “moat’ is a high-tech border fence, intensified military deployments, and sophisticated intelligence. The newspaper quoted the man who just stepped down as Israel’s national security advisor, who said: “What we have to understand is everything is going to be changed – to what, I don’t know. But we have to be very, very cautious not to take part in this struggle. What we see now is a collapsing of a historical system, the idea of the national Arabic state. It means that we will be encircled by an area which will be no man’s land at the end of the day.” He said that Israel just has to “Wait, and keep the castle.”
Here’s another quotation in the article from an Israeli official: “The region is full of bad choices. What that requires you to do is take your security very seriously. And you shouldn’t be intimidated by people saying, ‘Well, that’s a worst-case analysis,’ because lately, the worst is coming through.”
We need to be watching what’s happening in Syria and Iran and Iraq with great interest because the clock of prophecy is ticking in our time zone, in our own lifespan. And the place where that clock was wound was in Daniel 9.
I have two clocks in my home I have to wind up with a key in the old fashion way. That’s one of my little chores every Saturday. Well, Daniel 9 is when God showed us how He wound up the clock of history. We began our study of this chapter last week, and I want to conclude it tonight. So let’s take a moment and review what the chapter is about.
Review: Verse 1 says: In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom—in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes…
This took place in the year 539 B.C. The Babylonian kingdom, of which Daniel had been the Prime Minister, had fallen to the Persians. And Daniel, who was approximately 80 years old, had gone to the Scriptures to try to ascertain the signs of the times. He had studied Jeremiah 25 and 29, and he had studied out the promise that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. That seventy-year period was drawing to an end, and so Daniel set himself to confess his sins and the sins of his people and to petition God for the repopulation of the Jews to the Promised Land. The contents of his prayer are recorded in verses 4 – 19.
And now we come to verse 20, and we see how quickly God responded to Daniel’s prayer. Sometimes the Lord is just waiting for us to ask. Sometimes he is just waiting for us to pray. Sometimes the answers are already set aside and waiting for the prayer to come through.
Verse 20-22: While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for His holy hill—while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:
1. The Seventy Sevens
Verse 24: Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy Place.
The number “seven” is literal. It means a period of seven years. The old translations rendered it “seventy weeks,” because a week is a period of seven days. But literally this is talking about seventy sevens, or seventy period of sevens, or seventy periods of seven years. So this verse – Daniel 9:24 – says that in seventy periods of seven years – 490 years – will pass, and at the end of that period six things will happen. It will take 490 years in human history to:
- Finish transgression
- Put an end to sin
- Atone for wickedness
- Bring in everlasting righteousness
- Seal up the vision and prophecy
- Anoint the Most Holy Place
Those six things, in essence, bring us to the Millennium and then the eternal state. After 490 years, we’ll not have to worry about sin any more. It will be abolished and banished and ended. All wickedness will be resolved and atoned for. Everlasting life and righteousness and peace will reign for God’s people, who will be enjoying their everlasting home in heaven. All the prophecies and visions of the Bible will be fulfilled and the books will be closed on all the predictions of Scripture. Each one will be fulfilled. And God will be dwelling eternally among His people from His Most Holy Place.
Notice also that the first three of these six items have to do with sin, and the last three have to do with the kingdom. The first three deal with the negatives and the last three with the positives. All of that in 490 years! However, these are not 490 unbroken years. There is a starting point for it, and there is a gap. There will be a series of 483 years, and then there will be a gap before the final seven years of human history.
The time line is: A period of 483 Years / A Parenthesis / A Final Period Seven Years.
3. The Sixty-Nine Sevens or 483 Years
Verse 25: Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven “sevens” and sixty-two “sevens.” It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. This verse is very specific. It tells us:
- There will be an edit to restore and rebuild Jerusalem
- 483 years will pass (7 x 7 and 62 x 7 = 69 x 7 = 483 years)
- These 483 years would include 49 years to rebuild and stabilize Jerusalem, and then a period of 423 years before the Anointed One (the Messiah) comes.
- Hebrews counted years as having 360 days
- That equals 173,880 days
- From the time to rebuild Jerusalem (444 BC) until the Messiah came (AD 32) would be 173,880 days
- The Anointed One (Messiah), the Ruler, will come — and He would be cut off!
This is a specific prediction regarding the exact time of the Messiah’s First Coming to earth! Many scholars have done the arithmetic on this and found that it corresponds to the very day Jesus entered Jerusalem at the beginning of Passion Week on Palm Sunday.
Remember: At the time Daniel was praying in Daniel 9, Jerusalem sat in ruins. But according to Gabriel, an edict would soon come to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, and from that moment it would be 483 years before the Messiah came into the rebuilt city.
Furthermore – as this might be the most astonishing prediction in the entire Bible – when the Jewish Messiah entered the rebuilt city of Jerusalem 483 years after the rebuilding edict, He, the Messiah, would be put to death and would have nothing.
Verse 26a: After the sixty-two sevens, the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.
So this is the remarkable prediction. There would be an edict to rebuild Jerusalem. A period of 483 years would pass. The Messiah would enter the city. And the Messiah would be put to the death and would have nothing. That is exactly what happened. Now, there are several ways of calculating the 483 years, and it gets a little confusing because there were four known edicts by Persian rulers to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem, and there are several ways of calculating the number of days in the year as practiced in antiquity. One of the tricky things is that the Jewish calendar is based on a 360-day years. But here’s the simplest way I know to explain it.
The decree that seems to be the one Gabriel had in mind was made by King Artaxerxes on March 5, 444 BC. It’s recorded and described in Nehemiah 2. From that day until Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey on Palm Sunday, it was exactly 483 Hebrew years, or 173,880 days. That is based on exhaustive studies done by Sir Robert Anderson.
444 BC ——- 32 AD
Decree to Rebuild Jerusalem ———- Palm Sunday
4. The Final Seven Years
Now, according to Daniel 9, that still leaves one “seven” to go—one period of seven years. That’s the period of time Jesus called the Tribulation. Between our Lord’s first coming and His second coming, there is a parenthesis, a gap, an interval of time the prophets were not told about. Jeremiah didn’t know about it. Daniel didn’t know about it. Isaiah didn’t know about it. They may have wondered why this final period of seven years was set off by itself; but they weren’t told about the age of the church.
In Ephesians 3, the apostle Paul explained the God had a surprise—a mystery—that was not revealed to the prophets or peoples of earlier generations. It was the mystery of the church, of the age of grace, of a parenthesis of time in which converted Jews and Gentiles would form a united body to take the Gospel to the world. Paul said: “(It) was not made know to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:5). He said it was a “mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things” (v. 9).
As soon as the church is raptured from this earth, the last seven years will be triggered. And that brings us to Daniel 9:26b.
Verse 26b: The people of the ruler who will come…
Who is the ruler to come? The antichrist, the world’s last brutal dictator. And what will he do? He will seek to destroy Jerusalem and destroy the rebuild temple, the Third Temple.
The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.
Gabriel now gives us some details about that last period of seven years. It will be divided into two equal parts—three-and-a-half years and three-and-a-half years. Referring to the antichrist, Gabriel tells Daniel:
Verse 27: He will confirm a covenant with many for one “seven.”
We understand the “many” to be the nation of Israel. If all this happens soon, if it happens in the next year of two, if the rapture of the church occurs this week, perhaps out of the chaos a ruler will emerge who will sign a peace treaty with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. If not in the very near future, then with one of Mr. Netanyahu’s successors. But the strategy of the antichrist will involve pretending to solve the Middle East crisis.
In the middle of the “seven” he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.
In the middle of the seven-year period, the antichrist will march into Jerusalem and do what Antiochus Epiphanes did, as we saw in a previous study. He will force an end to the sacrificial system. And further more, he will put up his own image in the temple and demand to be worshipped. Look at the last verse of the chapter:
And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.
That final three-and-a-half year period is what we call the Great Tribulation, and it is described in Revelation 6 – 18. The end that is decreed is the Second Coming of Christ.
Conclusion: This timeline is reinforced through all the rest of biblical prophecy.
- Daniel 11:31: His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation.
- Daniel 12:11: From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1290 days – which is approximately three-and-a-half years.
- Matthew 24:14ff: And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. [The end of the church age, which will end with the rapture of the church]. So when you seen standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house… For then there will be great distress [tribulation] unequaled from the beginning of the world—and never to be equaled again.
- Revelation 11:2 says that the holy city will be trampled for 42 months, which is three-and-a-half years.
- Revelation 13:5 says the antichrist will exercise his brutal authority over the whole world for 42 months, which is three-and-a-half years.
Why is all this important? I don’t know if I can tell you all the reasons why it’s important to our souls and to our worldviews to study prophecy. All I know is that Daniel studied the prophecies of Jeremiah; and Jesus studied the prophecies of Daniel; and the book of Revelation says there is a special blessing for those who study its words. Somehow we’re able to make sense of our times and correctly interpret our world if we do so through the lens of prophecy. And when we consider the remarkable way Daniel 9 predicted the exact coming of the Messiah the first time, we realize things are right on schedule today. God wound the clock in Daniel 9, and it’s about to strike today. We’re nearing the Midnight Hour.