THE WORLD TODAY SERIES #36

The Prophecy of Israel’s Final Seven Years Embedded in Daniel’s Prophecy of Jesus’ First Coming

The Seventieth Week of Israel, also known as the Seven-year Tribulation immediately preceding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, is given in the four information-packed verses of Daniel 9:24-27. This prophecy is famous for its supernatural revelation of the precise time of Jesus’ first coming:

“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy.

70 weeks would be allotted to the Jews from the start of a period to the appearance of Messiah as Ruler over earth. A general rule is commonly applied to prophecies involving years: such “years” are of 360 days’ duration. It is also generally acknowledged that the term “week” denotes groups of seven in the same way that the term “score” denotes groups of twenty. In the context of this prophecy, the prophetic events obviously require more time than weeks of days; the “weeks” refer instead to groups of seven prophetic years. Therefore, the 70 weeks of Daniel 9:24 is generally interpreted to refer to a period of 490 years of 360 days per year.

“Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah, the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

There has been some confusion in the past regarding the commandment itself, however. After Babylon was conquered by the Medes and the Persians, the Persian king Cyrus gave the decree to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. This commandment was made famous by the passage in Isaiah 44:28, in which Cyrus was named over a hundred years before his birth. This decree and the fulfillment in the rebuilding of the temple is described in the Book of Ezra.

Cyrus’ decree, however, is not the one that Daniel referred to in the above prophecy, and a careful reading of it reveals why: the commandment was to rebuild the city, not the temple. This decree that starts the entire prophecy was issued by the Persian king Artaxerxes Longimanus in 445 B.C., and is described in detail in the Book of Nehemiah. Consistent with the interpretation of the 70 weeks, the seven weeks refer to 49 years, which is the time involved in the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Adding these 7 weeks to the 62 weeks that follow gives a duration of 69 weeks until the appearance of Messiah.

A prophetic duration of 69 weeks is equivalent to 69 x 7 x 360, or 173,880 days. Precisely 173,880 days after Artaxerxes issued the decree in 445 B.C. – to the very day – Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem riding upon an ass, just as His forebear Solomon did, according to 1 Kings 1:33, upon being crowned King of Israel.

“And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary, and the end of it shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

Shortly after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, He was put to death, and indeed His death was not for Himself, but rather for the sake of every person on earth.

The general interpretation of “the prince that shall come” is that it refers to the antichrist. We know that the city and the sanctuary were destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Roman General Titus. From this association eschatologists have interpreted “the people of the prince that shall come” to be Romans or at least closely linked to Rome. This has fuelled the speculation that the antichrist will come out of a degenerate, end-time apostate Roman church.

Recently, however, some scholars of Scripture have noted that another interpretation altogether is possible regarding these people, and consequently of the “prince” himself. These later eschatologists claim that the Roman Legions of that area were conscripted from among the indigent Arab people, and that therefore the prince to come may well be of Arab descent, and perhaps might even be a Muslim.

“And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

This final passage of the prophecy is commonly interpreted to identify the antichrist as the person who will guarantee peace for Israel, confirming her right to exist in the land promised to her by God in Genesis 15. This final week is often referred to as “the 70th week of Daniel”, or the seven years’ Tribulation of the Book of Revelation which ends at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to earth to reign over the nations with a rod of iron. The hiatus of almost two millennia between the 69th and the 70th weeks of Daniel are thought to be due to the interruption of the Church Age, or the Age of Grace, or the “times of the Gentiles”. The abomination noted in this verse is spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24, commonly called The Olivet Discourse. There was a short-term fulfillment of the abomination, covered in detail by the astonishingly accurate prophetic picture of Daniel 11 by Antiochus Epiphanes, who ruled over Judea in the years 171-164 B.C. This cretin sacrificed a pig, an unclean animal, on the alter of the temple. Since Jesus gave His Olivet Discourse after this event, the abomination to which He referred is yet in the future.

A review of Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24 and Revelation adds some important information regarding the final three and one half years of the Tribulation. This shorter period is often called “The Great Tribulation”. In Matthew 24:15, Jesus directly refers to the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel. The corresponding passage in Daniel is Daniel 9:26, where the prophet speaks of the antichrist putting a halt to the temple sacrifices, concluding, while apparently still referring to the temple, that the antichrist will commit abominations that make it desolate. According to that same verse, this will happen at the beginning of the latter half of Israel’s seventieth week. This short but terrible reign of the antichrist is also noted in Revelation 13:4-10:

“And they worshiped the dragon who gave power to the beast; and the worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”

Daniel embellishes upon the evil nature of the antichrist in Chapter 11:36-39, painting a portrait very similar to that of Revelation 13:

“And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper until the indignation shall be accomplished; for that which is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall magnify himself above all. But in his estate shall he honor the god of forces; and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things.”

Immediately following this description of the antichrist’s character, verses 11:40-45 describe difficulties with which the antichrist must contend during his reign, revealing that despite his power, his control is not absolute:

“And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him; and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown, but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon. He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps. But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him; therefore, he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many. And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.”

One of the key features of the prophecy in Daniel Chapter Nine is the implied promise of the 70th week that Israel eventually would be restored as a nation. The prophet Hosea is more specific regarding this promise. Ezekiel is more specific yet about Israel’s restoration. His timing accuracy, like that of Daniel, lifts Scripture unequivocally into the realm of the supernatural. He describes, in Chapters 36 and 37, what many Bible scholars interpret as an amazing revival of Israel after the Holocaust of Hitler’s Germany. A significant quality of this restoration is that in it, the kingdoms of Judah and Israel will no longer be separate, but the nation of Israel will be one.

But it is in an earlier chapter that Ezekiel’s prophecy regarding Israel’s restoration is truly amazing, for in it the prophet, like his contemporary Daniel, predicts a date for a future event that was fulfilled to the day. In the discussion of Israel’s dilemma, we will describe the details of this specific prophecy, along with Hosea’s more general prophecy. We gratefully acknowledge the Bible scholar, the late Grant Jeffrey’s contribution to this understanding of Ezekiel’s prophecy.

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