Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 3 – The Restoration of Israel
by Gerald R. Thompson
“Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” Ezek. 37:28. When the kingdom of Christ comes, the restoration of the nation of Israel will play a central role. What, you think it will all be about rewarding the Church? Again I say, the Christian hope is pinned to very Jewish prophecies.
“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”
A fair number of commentators view this portion of Daniel 9 as providing a long-term view of end times prophecy from Daniel’s time (6th century B.C.) until the end of the Tribulation. For the reasons stated below, I do not think this is correct. Nor does it correlate with events in the first century A.D., or with the history of Israel past. Yes, the prophecy probably concerns the Tribulation period, but as I see it, only a very short period of 490 literal days, for reasons I will explain in a moment.
I have already suggested that Dan. 9:24 is a key to understanding the end times in general, in that it describes the overall purposes God will accomplish. But that does not mean the prophecy was intended to describe events occurring soon after Daniel’s lifetime, key events in the first century A.D., nor that the prophecy spans the entire Church age.
What Dan. 9 really tells us is that God will use the nation of Israel in a powerful way in the end times, and in particular, the events that will immediately precede (or inaugurate) the ultimate restoration of Israel. In fact, Dan. 9 gives us a crucial piece of information found nowhere else – the events that will get the Tribulation period started.
This is a very difficult text to understand, mainly because in many ways it seems to relate to past events (the crucifixion of Christ in 30 A.D., and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.). However, those events do not fulfill the stated purposes of the text if taken at face value (i.e., “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”). Nor do past events fulfill the stated chronology of 70 weeks (either 490 days or 490 years).
Yes, the death and resurrection of Christ made atonement for iniquity and inaugurated His spiritual kingdom. But while the ministry of Christ negated some of the effects of sin (eternal death), it did not actually end sin, because sin is still very much with us. Neither did it seal up vision and prophecy (the book of Revelation came after the death of Christ, and quite possibly followed the destruction of Jerusalem), nor anointed any place as being “most holy.” Those are things which clearly have not yet been fulfilled.
This leads many to adopt a “double fulfillment” theory, i.e., that this text applies both to the past and to the future. I believe “double fulfillment” is a fairly common theme in biblical prophecy, but it is hard to credit Dan. 9:24-27 with any kind of past fulfillment at all, since no one has ever explained an historical 490-day or 490-year sequence which tracks with the events described in the text.
At most, Christ’s death and Jerusalem’s destruction are a foreshadowing (or a type) of events yet to happen, insofar as Dan. 9:24-27 is concerned. There has most certainly never been a 7 year peace treaty with Israel which was broken halfway through that has ever occurred in the past. So the possibility of an actual past fulfillment is out of the question – a foreshadowing is the most we’re going to get from Christ’s death and Jerusalem’s destruction. Of course, this exact situation has led many people to adopt a “split theory” concerning Daniel’s 70 weeks, i.e., that most of the prophecy has been fulfilled, but the last week is still in the future, with a gap of at least 1900 years in between.
The “Day-Year” Theory
Virtually all Bible commentators assume that because this text uses a word for “weeks” which means “sevens,” therefore the 70 weeks are really 490 years (i.e., not literal weeks). Let me suggest that what is driving this interpretation is the assumption, not the text.
In Dan. 9, “weeks” is in fact the normal, regular Hebrew word for weeks. It’s true, the word means a heptad, which is just a series or group of seven, but that’s what a week is. A week is a series of seven days. It always has been. There is absolutely no textual evidence that a week equals seven years.
There seem to be two basic factors driving this common assumption: 1) people cannot believe the events described could happen in so short a time as 490 literal days; and/or 2) people are expecting an interpretation which has a past fulfillment. In fact, I will put it stronger than that – many people have a deep-seated personal need to show that they have a basis for predicting when the Tribulation will come. And the key to prediction is the ability to find some key anchor points in the past that the prediction can be measured from. Which requires some identifiable past fulfillment events.
This objective is usually attempted by taking all the day-based prophetic time periods in the book of Daniel and converting them to years. Thus, the 2,300 days from Dan. 8:13-14, the 1,290 days from Dan. 12:11, and the 1,335 days from Dan. 12:12, all become 2,300 years, 1,290 years and 1,335 years. I can’t help thinking that people are trying to dig out secret knowledge and hidden truths – as though they could ever discover what God has truly kept hidden.
However, it is quite evident to me that God never intended to tell us (before the fact) when the Tribulation will begin – only how to recognize it when it actually arrives. Thus, all efforts to calculate when the Tribulation will begin are in vain. Plus, all predictive models are to be avoided, as are all interpretive methods supporting them. I have therefore unbounded myself from these expectations.
The Gap Theory
Immediately upon making the (unfounded) assumption that Daniel’s 70 Weeks are really 490 years, you are faced with the reality that: 1) the Tribulation has neither started nor finished yet; and 2) there is therefore no possible series of past events which can fulfill the entire 490 years. Ok, yes, this is the starting assumption for premills and many amills.
Obviously, if the 490 years have been entirely fulfilled at any point in history, then the Tribulation must also be in the past, not the future. Preterists and many postmills believe this exact thing. Because this possibility involves a lot of historical analysis, I will address this belief separately, under Troubling Inconsistencies and The 70th Week, below.
I suppose, theoretically, we could be somewhere in the middle of the 490 years at this moment, but I’ve never even heard of anyone who thinks that way. If that were true, then we ought to be able to look back and mark the date when the 490 years began to run, right? But we cannot.
Which leaves only two other possibilities. First, the entire 490 years is still future (which no one wants to believe, because I mean, well, we have to be closer to the end than that, don’t we?).
Second, the 490 years was partially fulfilled in the past, but the completion of it is still future. Necessarily, any such partial fulfillment scenario also assumes the time clock for the 490 years isn’t running at the moment. In other words, there is a gap (of indeterminate length) between the earlier partial fulfillment and the final fulfillment. Which means we are in the gap period now.
The gap theory is popular with dispensationalists, because their whole viewpoint regards the present Church age as a form of unintended or parenthetical gap in God’s master timeline between the first and second comings of Christ. Sorry, but I just cannot postulate that God did not intend for the Church age to occur or that it is merely a parenthesis in His master plan, as though God was not fully aware of how events would play out. Everything God does has a specific purpose and He knows all things in advance. In fact, the gap theory is plainly contraindicated by Hos. 6:1-2, which we will examine later.
But the main problem is the gap theory – for dispensationalists – means that God offered the kingdom (meaning Christ’s earthly kingdom) to Israel at the time of Jesus’ First Advent. (No, the scriptures never actually say God did this. It is derived solely from interpretational inferences and assumptions.) Then God supposedly waited to see what Israel’s response would be, and decided to withhold the kingdom from them until the end of the Church Age. As if the prophetic program of God, or the effectuation of His will, depends at any time on man’s response.
So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isa. 55:11).
But if God is truly omniscient (and He is), then He knew what Israel’s response would be long before the kingdom was offered to them, and God would have planned for that rejection long in advance. There are no contingencies in God’s plan, no hypothetical situations, and He never needs a Plan B. God never needs to interrupt what He is doing, or suspend any of His planned actions. Everything God does is right on schedule – a schedule set from the beginning of the world.
Besides, whenever scripture indicates a time period, I am not aware of any instances when a “gap” is included. Gaps are what you get when men can’t figure out how God did, or will do, things. Objectively, the text makes no mention of a gap – how can we presume one?
Granted, there are plenty of instances when prophetic scriptures jump from past or present to the future without so much as a textual whisper that many years are being leapt from one phrase to the next. I have covered many of those scriptures in this book, such as the visions of Daniel 7 and 8, and essentially all of the visions of past world empires (usually described as beasts of one sort or another) which are given to us as a means of describing the future Antichrist.
However, none of these leaps of many years – what may be called a “gap” – occur within the confines of a stated period of time. For example, the vision of Daniel 7 refers to a time period of three and a half times, but the entire stated period occurs after the implied gap between the third and fourth beasts. There is no gap within the three and a half times. Similarly, Daniel 8 refers to 2300 days, but again this entire time period occurs after any implied gap and there is no gap within the 2300 days. So if there is a gap within the 70 weeks of Daniel 9, it would be a unique instance in scripture which is out of character with all other prophetic time periods in the Bible.
But hey, if you like gaps, I’ve got one over here that’s a doozy – and it’s on sale! In fact, you can stretch this gap to be as long as you like, even millions of years. Guaranteed to make creationists and evolutionists both happy! It’s the unstated and non-existent gap between Gen. 1:1 and Gen. 1:2, and it won’t be available for long, so act now! Another fine product of Specious Interpretations, Inc.
Weeks of Years
Also, there are instances in the Bible when a prophetic day equals a year, but when these occur, God specifically says, “one day equals one year.” For example, in Num. 14:34 God tells Israel they will spend 40 years in the wilderness according to the number of days they spied out the land of Canaan, “a year for each day.”
In Ezek. 4:5-6, God tells Ezekiel He will punish Israel the same number of years as the number of days He has Ezekiel lie on his side. “For I assign to you a number of days, 390 days, equal to the number of the years of their punishment.” So when a prophetic day equals an actual year, God doesn’t leave it to implication, inference, innuendo or interpretation. He just comes right out and says it.
God is perfectly capable of telling us when a prophetic day equals a year if He wants to. What reason is there for assuming a day-year theory when God has not said so? Nothing in the text of either Num. 14 or Ezek. 4 suggests an intention to state a general rule that a prophetic day always equals a literal year. Rather, the fact that these are the only two instances of day/year equivalence in all of biblical prophecy suggests they are in fact the exception to the rule that a prophetic day is a literal day.
There is exactly one place in the Bible which makes an explicit reference to weeks of years – Lev. 25:8 – which is a non-prophetic scripture. This text defines the year of Jubilee as seven weeks of years, or 49 years. “You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years.” See how plain and unambiguous that is? There is no need for interpretation.
Don’t read the seventy weeks of Dan. 9:24 as if the verse says, “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people. You shall count seventy weeks of years, seventy times seven years, so that the time of the seventy weeks of years shall give you four hundred ninety years.” The verse doesn’t say that. Nor does it mean that.
Is there any reason to suppose that Dan. 9:24 and Lev. 25:8 should be read and interpreted similarly? No. Neither the context nor the subject matter of these verses are similar. You might as well draw a parallel between Dan. 9 and Mat. 18:22 (“seventy times seven”), which also has no similarity of context or subject matter, simply because both texts can be multiplied to get 490 of something. But that’s just absurd.
If you want to draw a parallel between Dan. 9:24 and any other scriptural text, I would suggest Gen. 1. In Gen. 1, we are presented with the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth in six days. Some people would have you believe these cannot possibly be literal 24-hour days – each “day” must be hundreds or thousands of years long. But look at the text. Gen 1:5 – “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Gen. 1:8 – “And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.” This phrase is repeated for every single one of the six days of creation.
In other words, the text of Gen. 1 is telling us exactly how long each day was – one evening and one morning. It is here that God defines what a day is, and it has only ever been 24 hours long since. What – you think God forgot how long a day is by the time Daniel was born? What kind of God do you believe in, who says day=centuries in Gen. 1, and day=year in Dan. 9 – who says one thing and means another? What kind of God do you believe in, who can’t tell time, or who can’t find the right words to tell us what He really means?
Days of Future Past (Troubling Inconsistencies)
To understand the full extent of the sloppiness (and folly) of any interpretation of Daniel’s 70 Weeks which places its fulfillment in the past, we need to lay out in detail the time line of the prophecy. Here is the essential time line:
1) The time line begins with the issuance of a word or decree to restore and (re)build Jerusalem.
2) Seven weeks later, a person chosen by God (an anointed one) will respond to the decree for the purpose of doing the restoration work.
3) For sixty-two weeks after his arrival, this person will begin work on “squares and moat,” that is, the moat and some building foundations.
4) At the end of the sixty-two weeks, the people of the prince to come (i.e., the Antichrist) will destroy Jerusalem and “the sanctuary.” The result will be that the restoration is stopped, and effectively amount to nothing (“cut off and have nothing”).
5) The Antichrist will make a covenant “with many” for one week – most likely a cease-fire, possibly a treaty.
6) But midway through this last week, regular (daily) sacrifices are stopped by the Antichrist. This completes the seventy weeks.
7) Notice that the Abomination of Desolation is “decreed” to follow these events, but the text does not say when.
Now, if we are to use a consistent and rigorous method of interpretation, all the days in the above time line must correspond to years. Not just in the aggregate, but with each of the particulars. That is to say,
1) The work to restore Jerusalem will not begin until 7 weeks of years (49 years) after the decree to rebuild is issued. That’s a long time to wait for a response.
2) The person chosen by God to restore Jerusalem will work on the project for 62 weeks of years (434 years). It’s not simply that 434 years will transpire between when the rebuilding begins and the anointed one is cut off. First, the work itself must continue for the entire 434 years. Second, the person who starts the rebuilding is presumably the same guy who is cut off – those are not two different anointed ones. So you need to find an anointed one who lives for almost 500 years.
3) When the anointed one is “cut off,” it could mean that he is killed, or it could just mean that the building project is stopped. But in either event, it means that after the total rebuilding period, nothing gets built except for the laying of a few foundations. Be reasonable – Does it actually take 434 years to dig a moat and pour some foundations?
4) Everybody (it seems) is looking for a future seven-year peace treaty. But what that really means is the Jews will regain control over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and will begin offering sacrifices. They may or may not get the Temple rebuilt, but they will at least have a functioning sanctuary. And then we are supposed to believe the enemies of Israel are going to wait a full 3½ years before doing something about it? Yeah, right.
5) Some people understand the Abomination of Desolation to occur at the midpoint of the 70th week, but this is plainly contradicted by Dan. 12:11. “From the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days.” In other words, if a seven-year Tribulation period is assumed, then the Abomination of Desolation occurs at the end, not the middle. But do you see the problem?
6) If Daniel’s prophetic days are really years, then that means (per Dan. 12:11) it will be 1,290 years from the middle of the 70th week until the end of the 70th week. Either that, or you end up with an inconsistent interpretation – taking some days as literal days while taking other days as actual years, both of which come from the same book and the same prophet. Don’t be sloppy! Tsk, tsk.
Now, how do people try to fit Daniel’s 70 Weeks to historical events? By being extremely sloppy. Let’s start with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. Nehemiah, it is usually asserted, is the guy who responds to the call to rebuild. When was the decree issued? By King Cyrus, we are often told, who issued a decree to rebuild in Ezra 1:1-4, around 515 BC (that is, according to bishop Ussher’s chronology). Nehemiah began to rebuild in 454 BC, and from 454 BC until the crucifixion of Christ in 30 AD is 483 years (or 69 weeks of 7 years). Presto, zappo, the time line fits!
Let’s itemize some of the glaring defects of this scheme, any one of which arguably renders the whole scenario void for not fitting Daniel’s prophecy.
1) The decree of Cyrus was to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, not the city. So his decree can’t possibly be referred to in Dan. 9.
2) Besides, the decree of Cyrus fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah, not Daniel. Ezra 1:1.
3) The decree of Cyrus was also answered by Ezra, not Nehemiah. Ezra neither waited 49 years to respond to Cyrus’ decree, nor did he rebuild the city of Jerusalem. Plus, using Cyrus’ decree pushes the time line out too far (see below).
4) It was 61 years between Cyrus’ decree and the time when Nehemiah started to build, not 49 years.
5) According to Daniel’s prophecy, the 7 weeks (supposedly 49 years) following the decree are part of the overall 70 weeks (490 years). But to make the historical time line “fit,” most people count the 490 years as beginning with Nehemiah’s response, so the 49 (actual 61) years from Cyrus to Nehemiah are outside of (in addition to) the 490 years. Which makes the actual time line from Cyrus to Christ 544 years, not 483 years. And that, of course, no longer fits Dan. 9.
6) Nehemiah responded to the decree of King Artaxerxes, not Cyrus.
7) Granted, the decree of Artaxerxes was approximately 483 years before Christ, but now we have completely eliminated any possible 49 year response period. That is, Nehemiah’s response to Artaxerxes was immediate – he did not wait for 49 years.
8) Also, this interpretation eradicates any distinction between the first 7 weeks and the next 62 weeks. Instead of having a 62 week (434 year) building period following a 7 week (49 year) response period, we have a 483 year building period with an effective response period of zero. That isn’t what Daniel’s prophecy says.
9) Of course, neither Nehemiah nor his building project actually lasted either 434 or 483 years. According to Neh. 6:15, Nehemiah’s restoration of the walls took only 52 days (literal days – not years)! How can that in any way be consistent with either 62 weeks or 69 weeks?
10) Nehemiah’s efforts were not limited to squares and moat, either. He actually finished rebuilding the city walls. (Neh. 6:15). Granted, what the ESV translates as squares and moat, the KJV translates as street and wall, and the NASB renders as plaza and moat. But do any of these translations support an interpretation of Nehemiah’s efforts as being cut short and coming to nothing?
11) Most past fulfillment scenarios consider Christ to be the anointed one who is cut off with nothing. Yet, the ESV, KJV and NASB all use identical language to identify the special person who responds to the call to rebuild Jerusalem and the person who is cut off, treating them as one individual. Yet, no one argues that Jesus was involved with the rebuilding of Jerusalem at any point, or that he responded in any way to the decrees of Cyrus or Artaxerxes. Nor can anyone argue that Nehemiah lived until the time of Christ.
12) Dan. 9:26 suggests that the anointed one will be cut off and Jerusalem destroyed at the same time – “And after the sixty-two weeks [i.e., the 69th week], an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” All of this happens before the 70th week begins. But in history (if Jesus is the anointed one), these were 40 years apart (Messiah cut off – 30 A.D. vs. Jerusalem and the Jewish temple destroyed – 70 A.D.).
It’s one thing to suggest a gap between the 69th week and 70th week in Daniel 9. But to suggest a 40 year gap is built into the consummation of the 69th week in its own right is not even remotely plausible. Nothing in the text or any standard method of textual interpretation can support such a reading. To do so completely destroys the meaning of a week. Indeed, such a reading suggests that while all the other 69 weeks of Daniel 9 are literally seven years long, the 69th week is 7 + 40 = 47 years long. That, my friend, is a fatal inconsistency.
And if you want to be historically accurate, there are other problems to contend with. First, the decree of Cyrus is dated by modern historians (remember, bishop Ussher lived 400 years ago) at around 538 BC, not 515 BC. Second, the rebuilding of Jerusalem by Nehemiah is now commonly dated at around 445 BC, not 454 BC. This means the time from Cyrus’ decree to the death of Christ was 567 years, not 483 years. The time from Cyrus’ decree to Nehemiah’s response was 93 years, not 49 years. And the time from Nehemiah until Christ was 474 years, not 483 years.
Is accuracy important to God, and therefore to us? Well, this is the same God who measured the time from the giving of the promises to Abraham until the Exodus from Egypt as 430 years, to the very day. (Exo. 12:40-41). So yes, I would say accuracy is important to God, and therefore to us as well.
Plus, I find it strange that the moment of Jesus’ greatest triumph (his death and resurrection) should be referred to prophetically as being cut off and shall have nothing (Dan. 9:26), as though He was prevented from accomplishing His goal. Nothing could be further from the truth. In what possible sense could this statement ever be applied to Jesus? Granted, Isa. 53:8, referring to the Messiah, predicted that He would be “cut off out of the land of the living.” So yes, cut off arguably means killed. But the real issue is whether Jesus could ever be said to have nothing for his efforts after having been killed. The anointed one of Daniel? Sure, he will die a failure, not being able to complete rebuilding Jerusalem. But in no sense was the death of Jesus a failure.
And no, I do not subscribe to the outlandish theory that because Christ was rejected by the Jews at his First Advent, he therefore was denied his earthly kingdom at that time, and in that sense it can be said he came away with nothing. Jesus said right from the outset that his kingdom was not of this world (Jn. 18:36). He was denied nothing, and he had no unfulfilled expectations.
I also urge you to consider the translation of the Hebrew word mashiach in Dan. 9:25-26. Everybody knows mashiach means Messiah, right? Not exactly. Mashiach is used 39 times in the entire Old Testament. The ESV renders it in English as anointed or anointed one all 39 times. Both the KJV and NASB translate mashiach as anointed or anointed one 37 times, and as Messiah only twice. Both of those translations appear in Dan. 9:25-26 and nowhere else in scripture. Given the prophetic and highly symbolic context of Dan. 9:24-27, it is hard to avoid concluding that translating the word mashiach as Messiah in those instances is mostly driven by interpretive assumptions, not the text.
Let’s not forget that virtually all past fulfillment scenarios assume the anointed one in Dan. 9:25-26 is Jesus. If the assumption that it refers to Jesus is wrong (and I believe it is wrong), all past fulfillment scenarios fail. Commentators tend to be snobby here, holding that a Christological interpretation (i.e., that the anointed one must be Jesus) is best, as if all prophecy must relate to Jesus and such interpretations are automatically preferred over any non-Christological approach.
However, nothing in the text demands that the anointed one must be Jesus. Certainly, there are other people in the Bible who are anointed ones (such as Saul and David, and in prophecy, the two witnesses of Rev. 11). Remember when we discussed the Two Witnesses and I told you to remember that they were anointed ones? I hate to say it, but preferring a Christological interpretation of Dan. 9 is just one more example of reading assumptions into the text, rather than deriving an interpretation from the text.
So, believe what you want to, as far as whether the 70 weeks of Dan. 9 have been partially fulfilled (to the extent of 69 weeks) in the past. But according to objective facts, and any consistent hermeneutic, no past chronology fits the prophecy. Unless you simply ignore all the verses that prove inconvenient to the theory, of course. But ask yourself – why are so many people so heavily invested in an historical interpretation that doesn’t square with history? Is their interpretation controlling the narrative, or is the narrative controlling the interpretation? Exegesis, or eisegesis?
The 70th Week
So far, our inspection of the day-year theory of Dan. 9 has been limited to past partial fulfillment. Partial fulfillment advocates usually also believe that the so-called 70th week (i.e., a 7 year Tribulation period) is still in the future. Yet, there are some (i.e., Preterists) who believe the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation were all completely fulfilled by 70 AD.
It’s easy to understand why people might have held to these beliefs in the early part of the Christian era. There were 600 years (roughly) between Daniel and Christ, so it is possible that some or all of Daniel’s prophecies were fulfilled in that time. And in fact several of Daniel’s prophecies concerning the empires of Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome actually were fulfilled by the time of Christ. This is not in dispute. However, nothing requires all of Daniel’s prophecies to have been fulfilled during that time, just because some of them were.
Making the same kinds of arguments regarding Revelation are tougher, simply because we have much less possible fulfillment time to work with – two or three decades, at most. That is, if the prophecies of Revelation were fulfilled in 70 AD, it doesn’t leave much time between when the book was written and when it was fulfilled – if indeed there was any. Many scholars believe that Revelation was written around 95-96 AD. If that is true, then none of the prophecies of Revelation could have been fulfilled in 70 AD, and still be regarded as prophecies.
On the other hand, if Revelation was written before 70 AD, then fulfillment at that time could have been possible – theoretically. But our perspective on when and how prophecy is fulfilled changes according to our place in history. If I try to put myself into the shoes of someone who lived a thousand years ago, it might seem pretty convincing that Israel was dead as a nation. I might be tempted to accept the idea that the atrocities and devastation Israel had already suffered were as bad as anything could ever get.
But with the Holocaust, followed by the re-emergence of Israel as a nation in 1948, Israel is no longer dead as a nation, and the recent atrocities seem every bit as bad as the old ones. In short, it is no longer plausible that Mat. 24:21 was fulfilled in 70 AD. “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.” How can anyone argue that what happened in 70 AD was the worst possible period of turmoil the world has ever seen – or ever will see? It’s just not a credible claim.
The question is always whether the proposed fulfillment scenario fits the prophecies exactly. Vague similarities and spiritual types are not enough. The prophecies of both Daniel and Revelation contain some pretty specific time periods. Either a proposed fulfillment fits the time periods exactly, or it isn’t a fulfillment. Yes, I recognize that spiritual types and double-fulfillment scenarios do exist. But if someone claims that an historical event is the final and complete fulfillment of a prophecy, it better be an exact fit. No sloppiness is allowed. God is exact and precise, and He never guesses.
Obviously, if Dan. 9 has been completely fulfilled, then all of the events taking place in the 70th week must already have happened. Specifically, that a holy place, or sanctuary, will exist in Jerusalem, that daily or regular sacrifices (presumed to be in progress) will be stopped, and the Antichrist will desecrate (make desolate) and destroy the sanctuary and the city. Could these prophecies already have been fulfilled? And if so, wouldn’t it be patently obvious to everyone?
Preterists often point out that in fact, the temple was rebuilt after Daniel’s lifetime, which temple (the Second Temple, or Herod’s Temple) was desecrated by Antiochus IV Epiphanes and eventually destroyed by Emperor Titus. Do we have a credible fulfillment scenario here? Go back and re-read Dan. 9:24-27 carefully. The prophesied destruction of Jerusalem and the sanctuary are described as coming at the close of the 69th week. The stopping of daily sacrifices doesn’t occur until midway through the 70th week. The Abomination of Desolation occurs sometime after that (1,290 days later, according to Dan. 12:11).
In other words, the most natural reading of the prophecy is that the destruction of the city and sanctuary come first, the daily sacrifices are stopped later, and the Abomination of Desolation comes last.
So the initial problem is that the desecration of the temple by Antiochus IV happened in 167 B.C., and the destruction of the same temple by Titus occurred in 70 AD. In other words, they happened in reverse order from what Daniel foretold – the supposed Abomination of Desolation comes first, instead of last.
A second problem is that at no point in the past was there a 7-day cease fire or 7-year peace treaty which was broken halfway through, and daily sacrifices stopped. That is a necessary element in fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy. Thirdly, none of the historical events line up with an interlude of either 1,290 days or 1,290 years as required by Daniel.
No matter how much ambiguity you may find in Dan. 9, once you assume all the events have already occurred, it should be straightforward and relatively simple to show how all the aspects of the prophecy have been fulfilled as predicted. But you can’t do it based on historical events so far. I can’t do it. No one can. Past events simply do not fit the prophecy.
Don’t be suckered into thinking that just because someone at some point slaughtered a pig in the Jewish temple, it must be the prophesied Abomination of Desolation. Remember, Jesus spoke of the Abomination of Desolation “spoken of by the prophet Daniel” as being still future in 30 AD. (Mat. 24:15). So how can what happened in 167 BC already have fulfilled Daniel’s prophecy when Jesus made that remark? It can’t.
For many Christians and Muslims alike, tradition holds that the Antichrist will make a seven year peace treaty with Israel that will be broken mid-way through, thus identifying a Tribulation (first 3½ years) and a Great Tribulation (second 3½ years). However, tradition is not scripture. The brutal and honest truth is that nowhere in the Bible is a seven-year Tribulation period or a seven-year peace treaty actually (that is, literally) mentioned.
If, in fact, there is to be any 7 year peace treaty, Dan. 9:27 is the sole scriptural basis for such a thing, and it requires making a lot of unfounded assumptions. Namely,
1) that the anointed one in Dan. 9:24-27 actually refers to two people, not one, the second of which is Christ;
2) that the 483 years preceding the crucifixion fulfilled the chronology of the first 69 weeks (when clearly they do not);
3) that when God specifies a time period it may include an un-expressed and undefined interlude of thousands of years (the gap between weeks 69 and 70); and
4) even though God has expressly said when a day is to be taken as representing a prophetic year in other instances, in Daniel’s prophecy He leaves it completely unstated and to be derived solely by supposition.
Yikes! And people actually anchor their view of the entire end times on this belief!? Why would anyone build an entire eschatology on such a shaky foundation? It is madness, I say. If indeed the Tribulation is to be seven years long, then there ought to be at least one other reference to that fact somewhere in the Bible. But, no.
Revelation only ever refers to 42 months, 1260 days, or 3½ times. There are no seven year periods in Revelation. Further, there are exactly three mentions of “seven years” in all of biblical prophecy:
1) Gen. 41, concerning Pharaoh’s dream of the seven good years followed by the seven years of famine;
2) Elisha’s prophecy of seven years of famine in 2Ki. 8; and
3) Ezek. 39:9, to the effect that people will burn the weapons of the defeated armies of the Antichrist for seven years after Armageddon.
The Bible never explicitly mentions a seven year Tribulation or a seven year peace treaty. Ever. When people talk about these things as though they are facts, it is based purely on fabrications, er, I mean, assumptions. Eisegesis, not exegesis.
The Beginning Of The End Time
I suggest that Dan. 9:24-27 may actually refer to 490 literal days yet in the future. They clearly tie into the Tribulation because of the Abomination of Desolation (see also Mat. 24:15), but the 490 days mentioned here most likely immediately precede the Tribulation or consist of the first part of that period.
I see no textual basis for rejecting a 490 day chronology (70 literal weeks). Practically, if the Empire State Building could be built in 410 days, why couldn’t the groundwork for the rebuilding of Jerusalem (literally, just the “squares and moat”) be substantially in progress in 434 days? I take squares and moat to essentially mean that excavations have been made and perhaps that foundations have been poured, but that’s all. (Apparently, Jerusalem does have a moat near the Jaffa gate.)
The text never says rebuilding will be complete or that anything more than the excavations will have been made when the prince who is to come destroys the city. In fact, the text says the effort to rebuild will come to nothing, which suggests that no structures will actually be erected. So what is it exactly about a 434 day excavation project that makes it an unreasonable interpretation?
A close look at v. 27 also reveals that the last sentence is not directly stated to be completed within the 70th week. That is, the “wing of abominations” and the “one who makes desolate” are not said to be consummated in the 70th week. The use of the word “wing” suggests being carried away, and with speed. Thus, the “wing of abominations” infers it will follow the 70th week quickly, or perhaps begin in the 70th week, but nothing says it will be completed in that week. Stopping the sacrifices after 486½ days could simply start the running of the 1290 day period of Dan. 12:11. See Appendix C in this regard.
So I see Dan. 9:24-27 being interpreted something like this:
70 weeks are given to Israel and Jerusalem to wrap up some big things in God’s plan (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). 7 weeks after an order is given to rebuild Jerusalem, a righteous leader will appear. He will work to rebuild the city in troubled times for 62 weeks, only digging the moat and the city foundations, but in the end his efforts will come to nothing. The followers of the Antichrist will destroy Jerusalem and the temple at that time. War will come suddenly, and the invaders will desecrate the city. The Antichrist will make a multilateral pact to cease hostilities for a week, and for half that time Jewish sacrifices and offerings will be stopped. Then, hating the holy things of God and acting quickly, the Antichrist will desecrate Jerusalem and set up the Abomination of Desolation until he is finally conquered.
Many people look for the inauguration of a seven year peace treaty with Israel as the reference point by which they will know the end times have begun – others think the Rapture will be the sign. For me, I look for two things as the key indicators that the end times have begun: 1) an event which triggers an order to rebuild Jerusalem (such as a destruction of the mosques currently on the Temple Mount, or a military attack on the city); and 2) the formation of the beast kingdom of ten nations (see the discussion of the beast kingdom later on).
The mere fact the events in Dan. 9 are so clearly made prominent in prophecy leads me to believe the issuance of an order to rebuild Jerusalem is when people will be able to look each other in the eye and say, “The end times are here.” Actually, the main time marker used to compute dates in scripture is the stopping of the sacrifices, but that is the end of the beginning. The beginning of the beginning comes when the decree to rebuild is issued.
The beast kingdom will likely take a while to fully develop, and its arrival will precede the arrival of the Antichrist, as he will come up afterwards and replace three of the initial rulers. So this may be in progress well in advance of the rebuilding project and may be the first thing we will see. But at the time, when this occurs, people are likely to chalk it up to politics as usual and shrug off its importance. Nonetheless, from God’s perspective, and to those who are perceptive, such events will be obvious birth pangs. Mat. 24:8.
The order to rebuild Jerusalem will be the inauguration of the end times. The event triggering a rebuilding is likely to come quite suddenly, and when it comes it will be unmistakable. It will also start the running of the end times clock in a way the gradual formation of the beast kingdom will not, because it is attached to a specific time period. The other major time marker for prophetic purposes is the Second Coming. And to speak in terms of the birth pangs analogy, the Second Coming is when the baby will be born.
* Ver. 8.0. Copyright © 2013-2020 Gerald R. Thompson. All rights reserved. Used by permission. All Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version.