Daniel's 70 Weeks: Part 1
Aug 10, 2006
The idea of the seven-year tribulation at the end of this age is founded primarily upon the belief that Daniel's 70th week is yet future. This view, however, is based upon the incomplete knowledge of the 1800's which has since been corrected by archeology. For this reason, it is important that we show how Daniel's 70 weeks (70 x 7 = 490 YEARS) have been fulfilled.
Years ago, when I first began studying the timing of Daniel's 70 weeks, I found myself working backward as I had been taught. I began with my assumed date of Jesus' crucifixion and then went back 490 years to the presumed beginning of the cycle. When I realized what I was doing, I made an abrupt change in my thinking. I decided to search history for the historical answer, and then interpret Scripture according to what actually happened. My beliefs changed.
First of all, the prophecy comes to us from Daniel 9, after the prophet repented on behalf of his people. He had read the writings of Jeremiah saying that God's judgment upon Jerusalem was to last for 70 years (Dan. 9:2). Since those 70 years were coming to an end, Daniel appealed to God to end the Babylonian captivity. At the end of his prayer, Gabriel appeared to the prophet and said,
" (24) Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place."
It took just 70 years to end the sentence for the sin of the people and "to make atonement for (their) iniquity," and this phase of judgment was completed when Daniel made his prayer. But the captivity itself did not really end, for it was already prophesied in Daniel 2 and 7 that it would continue beyond Babylon, the "Head of Gold," and extend through the reigns of Persia, Greece, and Rome.
Thus, the Babylonian captivity was only Phase One of the captivity, and it would take longer time cycles than a mere 70 years to finish the sentence of sin and "make atonement for iniquity." That time is said to be 70 "weeks" of years.
A "week" can be either a seven-day period or a seven-year period, because biblical law had established that every seventh year would be a land-rest (sabbath). Thus, on a higher level, a "week" was seven years. So 70 "weeks" became 490 years, not merely 490 days.
" (25) So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
As we will see, there were two decrees relevant to this prophecy. Babylon was conquered by Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian. The decree of Cyrus in 534 B.C. allowed the people to leave Babylon and return to the old land to re-establish themselves there as a people. His motive was to build a temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:2). But nothing is said about rebuilding Jerusalem itself, nor did the people do so.
A decree 76 years later issued by Artaxerxes in 458 B.C. in the seventh year of his reign (Ezra 7:11) likewise says nothing about rebuilding Jerusalem itself. However the 70-week countdown began with this decree, primarily because the Persian King told Ezra to buy animals to sacrifice, "lest there be wrath against the kingdom of the king and his sons" (Ezra 7:23).
In other words, Ezra was to make sacrifices not only on behalf of his own people, but on behalf of the the king and his kingdom. This sacrifice, then, represented the beginning of the end of sin and the atonement for iniquity. Daniel 9:24 began to be fulfilled at this time. The actual decree to rebuild Jerusalem came 13 years later when Artaxerxes sent Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 2:1-5).
Hence, there are two dates of particular interest to us: Ezra in 458 B.C. and Nehemiah in 445 B.C. These are both valid beginning points for Daniel's 70 weeks. In Bible prophecy we often see more than one beginning point. Prophecy begins in phases and ends in phases. In this case, the end points are 33 A.D. (when Jesus was crucified) and again in 47 A.D. (when Paul was commissioned by the Holy Spirit as a missionary).
Likewise, those two end-points also are the starting points of the next prophetic cycle of 40 Jubilees, as we will see later, ending in 1993 and 2007. This makes it very relevant to us today. All of these time cycles build upon each other with no gaps between them. If our starting dates are incorrect, then the ending dates will also be incorrect. But events of history always prove or disprove the dates in the end, because history is simply fulfilled prophecy.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let us go back to Daniel 9 and read the rest of the prophecy dealing with the end of Daniel's 70 weeks. As we read above, Daniel 9:25 divides the 70 weeks into 7 62 1. He then says that after the 62-week period has passed, then the Messiah would come in the 70th week.
The 70th week of Daniel ran from 26-33 A.D. This is the time frame during which the Messiah came to do His work of ministry.
" (26) Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the Prince who is come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined."
In other words, Messiah the Prince was not to be accepted by the people, but "will be cut off and have nothing." In the New Testament we read that He was crucified by the religious leaders who desired to usurp His throne (Matt. 21:38).
As a result of this, Daniel says, "the people of the Prince" (i.e., the Romans) were to destroy the rebuilt city of Jerusalem, along with the sanctuary by "war." Verse 26 ends with the almost fatalistic words, "desolations are determined." In other words, the desolation of Jerusalem was pre-determined in the plan of God. What I find most striking is that this prophecy is supposed to be about the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but it turns out to be also about the destruction of the rebuilt city!
All of this was prophesied in Jesus' parable of the wedding feast in Matt. 22:1-7, where it is said that those invited to the wedding refused to come. In fact, they killed the messengers! Verse 7 then says,
"But the King was enraged and sent His armies and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire."
The meaning of this is quite obvious. Jesus knew the divine plan, and also understood that the Roman armies were actually the armies of "the King" (God) who had sent out the invitations in the first place. The Romans were "the people of the Prince" in Dan. 9:26, because they were carrying out the divine instructions to destroy Jerusalem. Thus, the war against Jerusalem occurred 40 years after Daniel's 70th week. The 70th week was 26-33; and the war extended from 66-73 A.D. Jerusalem itself was destroyed in 70 A.D.
All of these prophetic cycles are air-tight and fit perfectly with well-established historical events as agreed upon by the vast majority of historians.
The 70th week of Daniel itself played out from 26-33 A.D. with the cutting off of the Messiah. The clock did not stop, nor was the 70th week postponed to the distant future to set the timing of a future tribulation.
There are many details that yet need to be addressed and proven. Bear with me. There is much more to come. Too many details too soon lead only to confusion. An overall view is needed first, to which we can add the details and proofs as we proceed.
This is the first part of a series titled "Daniel's 70 Weeks." To view all parts, click the link below.