The Prophecy of the Ages
There is a single prophecy that creates the foundation on which the rest of the Bibles predictions can securely rest. If this particular prophecy is ignored or misunderstood, then the rest will remain an enigma, a confusing collection of separate visions, signs and symbols that make almost no sense. If properly understood, then this prophecy will, if not convince you, then at least show you that there is quite a lot more to Christian expectations of the Apocalypse than just blind faith and irrational devotion.
This prophecy, the single most important prophecy in the entire Bible, was written down by the prophet Daniel over 2500 years ago. Daniel received it from the angel Gabriel, and it was given specifically concerning the Jewish people and the holy city of Jerusalem. This prophecy is commonly referred to as Daniels Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, and can be found in the ninth chapter of Daniel, verses 24 through 27,
"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 vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree 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. After the sixty-two `sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. 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. He will confirm a covenant with many for one `seven.' In the middle of the `seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him." (NIV)
This all-important prophecy made two predictions concerning the promised Messiah: First, it predicted the exact day on which the Messiah would be publicly presented to the nation of Israel and to the city of Jerusalem. Second, it made a further prediction of a final seven-year period at the end of the age that would involve Israel, Jerusalem, a rebuilt Temple, and the abomination of desolation. These final seven years would immediately precede the second coming of the Messiah.
Daniels simple prophecy is given according to the following outline:
I. The Introduction
"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 vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy."
First of all, it must be understood that the Hebrew word that is translated here as "sevens" is the word shebua. This word means a period or unit of seven, similar to the English word score, which refers to a period or unit of twenty. A shebua usually refers to either seven days or seven years. Other Bible translations simply interpret shebua as "week," and that is why this prophecy is most often referred to as the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. In Biblical times the Jews observed a shebua of seven days, resting on the seventh day Sabbath, but they also observed a shebua of seven years, when every seventh year they allowed the fields to lie fallow in order for the ground to regain its nutrients. In the context of this prophecy we can be sure that the "sevens" described here are yearly "sevens" and not daily "sevens," and other Biblical prophecies support this fact. In other words, this prophecy encompasses seventy "weeks" of years, or 490 years.
The first sentence of this prophecy makes it clear that this 490-year
period applies to Daniels people and the holy city, therefore, we know that this
prophecy specifically concerns the Jews and the city of Jerusalem.
The entire prophecy will conclude with six things:
These six things can only be accomplished at the Second Coming of the Messiah, which means that the seventy weeks, or the 490 years of this prophecy, are concluded when Jesus returns.
II. The Date of the Messiahs First Coming
"Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree 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."
In this verse we are told that "the Anointed One, the ruler," will come after a total of sixty-nine weeks from "the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem." The original Hebrew words are meshiach nagid, which is also translated as "the Messiah, the Prince." This verse is most definitely a prediction of the coming of the Messiah.
Daniel was told that the prophecy would begin when the decree to rebuild Jerusalem was given. It would be rebuilt "but in times of trouble." King Artaxerxes of Persia gave this decree years after Daniels time and it was recorded in Nehemiah 2:1-8. Only the command of Artaxerxes fulfills the description predicted by Daniel. The date of this event was given by Nehemiah as being in the month of Nisan in the 20th year of Artaxerxes' reign. King Artaxerxes ascended the throne in July of 465 BC.1 When the day of the month is not given in Jewish chronologies, then scholars generally assume that the first day is meant. The 1st of Nisan, in the 20th year of King Artaxerxes of Persia corresponds to March 14, 445 BC. Daniels prophecy predicted that the Messiah would appear after a total of sixty-nine weeks (seven weeks plus sixty-two weeks), or 483 years, from March 14, 445 BC.
The Bibles prophetic calendar uses a simple formula of 360 days per year. This is shown in the book of Revelation in chapter 12, where the woman flees to the desert for protection for three and a half years, which is also given as 1260 days (1260 divided by 3.5 equals 360). The book of Genesis also uses this calendar: Genesis 7:11 states that Noahs flood began on the seventeenth day of the second month and Genesis 8:4 states that the flood ended on the seventeenth day of the seventh month. This five-month period is also given as 150 days in Genesis 7:24 and 8:3. This is thirty days per month and it gives a year of 360 days. This simple formula is used in the first and the last books of the Bible, and it is the formula that should be used when interpreting Daniels prophecy. 2
From the 360 days per year formula we can calculate that Daniels prophecy predicted that the Messiah would appear exactly 173,880 days (483 multiplied by 360) from when the command to rebuild Jerusalem was given on March 14, 445 BC. The target date of 173,880 days from March 14, 445 BC calculates to the target day of April 6, 32 AD, and this calculation has been verified by a number of sources including the prestigious British Royal Observatory of Greenwich, England. 3
Daniels entire prophecy is focused on the city of Jerusalem, and the first part of this verse mentions the rebuilding of Jerusalem, so it is reasonable to expect that the Messiah would make his predicted appearance to that very city. The prophet Zechariah supports this idea and also predicted the manner in which it would take place when he wrote,
"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." 4
In order to understand how these prophecies were fulfilled we must examine the important dates that surround the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. These dates are debated back and forth by many different scholars, all with different agendas, but there is a relatively simple and factual way to connect an important event in Jesus life with our modern calendar:
According to Luke 3:1, Jesus of Nazareth was baptized in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, who was crowned Emperor on August 19, 14 AD.5 The year from August 19, 28AD to August 19, 29 AD was Tiberius' fifteenth year. Jesus is believed to have been baptized in the fall season, which would have been the fall of 28 AD. Jesus ministry lasted for three and a half years and from this it can be calculated that He was crucified in the spring of 32 AD. The crucifixion took place on the eve of the Jewish Passover holiday, and in 32 AD the Sunday before that Passover fell on April 6, 32 AD. 6 This was the day, Palm Sunday, when Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey claiming to be the Messiah. As Jesus was entering the holy city the crowd cried out, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" 7 They were saying that they believed Jesus was fulfilling Zechariahs prophecy. This was the first time that Jesus publicly claimed to be the Messiah. Previously He had privately revealed this fact to His disciples and He had given a number of unmistakable signs that He was the Messiah, but He refrained from making a public statement of this magnitude until the very day that was predicted in Daniels prophecy. 8
As Jesus approached Jerusalem and the crowd around Him went wild, the Pharisees asked Jesus to tell them to keep quiet. Jesus responded by saying that if everyone became quiet the stones themselves would cry out! 9 Then, prior to entering Jerusalem, Jesus stopped and wept, because He knew what was going to soon happen to His city. He said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peacebut now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you." 10
In this statement Jesus Himself gave evidence that He was fulfilling Daniels prophecy when He referred to a very specific day, a day that, had Israels leaders accepted Him, would have brought them peace. Jesus then predicted the destruction of Jerusalem, saying that it would come as a result of Israels failure to recognize the time of Gods coming. Daniels prophecy of the Seventy Weeks is the only prophecy that predicted the exact time of the coming of the Messiah to Israel and Jerusalem as their leader. Jewish religious scholars, who reject Jesus, have even confirmed this fact in the centuries after the time of Christ. The celebrated 13th Century Jewish Rabbi Maimonides wrote,
"Daniel has elucidated to us the knowledge of the end times. However, since they are secret, the wise have barred the calculation of the days of Messiahs coming so that the untutored populace will not be led astray when they see that the End Times have already come but there is no sign of the Messiah." 11
Rabbi Moses Abraham Levi wrote,
"I have examined and searched all the Holy Scriptures and have not found the time for the coming of Messiah clearly fixed, except in the words of Gabriel to the prophet Daniel, which are written in the 9th chapter of the prophecy of Daniel." 12
In another Jewish commentary on the prophecies that are found within the Hagiographa, a section of Scripture that includes Daniel, Rabbi Jonathan ben Uzziel wrote,
"And the (voice from heaven) came forth and exclaimed, who is he that has revealed my secrets to mankind? He further sought to reveal by a Targum the inner meaning of the Hagiographa, but a voice from heaven went forth and said, Enough! What was the reason? Because the date of the Messiah was foretold in it!" 13
In summary, only Daniel predicted the exact time of the Messiahs coming, and even historys most respected Jewish scholars confirm this fact. Daniels prediction was fulfilled by Jesus Christ to the very day, and Jesus indicated that He knew He was fulfilling this prophecy by the very words He spoke.
III. Events after the Messiahs First Coming
"After the sixty-two sevens, the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. 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."
Remember that the previous verse described two time periods that would precede the coming of the Messiah: a period of seven weeks (or sevens), and then a period of sixty-two weeks, totaling sixty-nine weeks up to the Messiah. This next verse then gives a list of events that would happen after the coming of the Messiah:
First, the Messiah, would be "cut off," meaning killed. Then, the people of a future ruler would destroy the city and the sanctuary. Remember that when Jesus entered Jerusalem He referred to the day of the Messiahs coming to Jerusalem and then He referred to the destruction of Jerusalem that would follow that day. Jesus was confirming what Daniel had prophesied.
Daniel goes on to write that war would continue until the end, and that the end would come like a flood, meaning quickly as in a catastrophe. Jerusalem would be destroyed and then Israel would cease to exist as a nation. After this time the land would be desolate. These terrible events: the death of the Messiah, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the end of Israel as a nation, all took place after the coming of the Messiah to Jerusalem.
Jesus was crucified several days after He appeared to Jerusalem as Messiah and King, and a sign was placed above His cross that was written with the words, "THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS." 14 Less than a generation later in the year 70 AD, the city of Jerusalem and the Temple were both destroyed at the hands of an invading Roman army. In the aftermath Jews were forbidden by Rome to come anywhere near to Jerusalem, and they were forced to flee to safer areas. This effectively put an end to the unified political and religious structure that had held Israel together as a nation.
These events took place after the initial sixty-nine weeks of Daniels prophecy, but prior to the climactic seventieth and final week of Daniels prophecy. The first sixty-nine weeks are ancient history, but the seventieth week holds the key to our future.
IV. The Final Seven Years of the Age
"He will confirm a covenant with many for one `seven.' In the middle of the `seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him."
The "He" of this verse is the same person who was last described in the previous verse. He is the "ruler who will come," whose people destroyed Jerusalem two millennia ago. It was the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD, therefore the "He" of this verse refers to a future Roman ruler.
This future ruler will initiate the final week of Daniels prophecy, the final seven-year period that will immediately precede the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It is commonly known as the 70th Week of Daniel, and it should be remembered well, because this seven-year period is the basis from which the rest of the Bibles end-time prophecies can be properly understood.
The Roman ruler begins this final seven-year period by confirming a "covenant with many." A covenant is a treaty or agreement, and because Israel is the focus of Daniels entire prophecy most scholars assume that this treaty is made with Israel, or at least with "many" of her leaders. The prophet Isaiah referred to this covenant, and he did so in very negative terms. He gives further evidence that Israel is indeed one of the parties to this covenant,
"Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scoffers who rule this people in Jerusalem. You boast, We have entered into a covenant with death, with the grave we have made an agreement. When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by, it cannot touch us, for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place. So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will overflow your hiding place. Your covenant with death will be annulled; your agreement with the grave will not stand. When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by, you will be beaten down by it. As often as it comes it will carry you away; morning after morning, by day and by night, it will sweep through. The understanding of this message will bring sheer terror." 15
The arrogant leaders of Israel will believe that the Roman ruler and the covenant he confirms will offer them protection, but they will be proven wrong. Instead, Israel will be the focus of his anger and Israel will be "beaten down."
Daniels prophecy tells us that after confirming this covenant by either strengthening a pre-existent agreement or creating a new one, the Roman leader will put an end to sacrifice and offering in the middle of this seven-year period, and at the same time he will set up the abomination of desolation in the Jewish Temple. This is evidence that the ancient Jewish Temple will be rebuilt and that offerings and animal sacrifices will be renewed. They must be renewed for the Roman leader to put a stop to them.
In summary, this verse tells us several important things about the final seven years prior to the Second Coming of the Messiah:
- The 70th Week will begin when a Roman ruler "confirms a covenant with many." This covenant will involve the Jews and it will involve, or be associated with, a rebuilt Jewish Temple.
- In the midst of this seven-year period, after three and a half years, the Roman leader will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings that are being offered at the rebuilt Jewish Temple. At this time he will also set up the abomination of desolation within the Temple.
- At the end of the seven-year period the Roman ruler will come to his
end, which is given in other scriptures as death.
In the next chapter we will make a closer examination of several important subjects that relate to Daniels 70th Week. We will identify the future Roman leader, we will show what Daniel was referring to as the abomination of desolation, and we will offer other Biblical evidence for a future rebuilt Temple. The charts below help to simplify the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks as well as the final 70th Week itself.
The Search for Messiah, Mark Eastman, M.D., Chuck Smith, The Word For Today Publishing, 1996
Daniels Prophecy of the 70 Weeks, Alva J. McClain, Zondervan Publishing House, 1969
The 360 Day Prophetic Year of the Bible, by Grant R. Jeffrey, http://www.yfiles.com/360day.html
1. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1990
2. See The 360 Day Prophetic Year of the Bible, by Grant R. Jeffrey, http://www.yfiles.com/360day.html
3. The Search For Messiah, p.107
4. Zechariah 9:9 NIV
5. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1990
6. The Coming Prince, Sir Robert Anderson, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1894
7. Luke 19:38
8. See Chapter 9 for a more exhaustive study and defense of Daniels Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks
9. Luke 19:40
10. Luke 19:42-44 NIV
11. Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, Igeret Teiman, Chapter 3, p.24
12. The Messiah of the Targums, Talmuds and Rabbinical Writers, 1971
13. The Targum of the Prophets, Tractate Megillah 3a
14. Matthew 27:37
15. Isaiah 28:14-19 NIV
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