The prophet Daniel predicted Christ’s coming 500 years before it happened. He saw the unfolding of human history and accurately predicted the fall of the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman Empires that took place in the centuries that followed. The Scriptures tell us that Daniel’s intercession near the end of the seventy year-period of the Babylonian exile played an important part in the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy.
During the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede, the Babylonian king, Daniel learned from reading and studying the Word of God, as revealed by the prophet Jeremiah, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years (see Jeremiah 25:11–12; 29:10).
Daniel realized that this seventy-year period was coming to an end. So what did he do? He turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and fasting for his people (see Daniel 9:1-19). While he was praying, Daniel received a visitation from angel Gabriel. This remarkable encounter is recorded in Daniel 9:20-27
This prophecy has been a subject of different interpretations on the numbers, times, and events and many theories abound about the meaning of verses 26-27. Some believe that this prophecy was fulfilled in the past at the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. However, Daniel is told that seventy sevens are decreed for Israel. The word seven means seven years not a week. So it’s not ‘seventy’ weeks but seventy sevens—which is, 490 years.
The Seventy Weeks of Daniel
The prophecy of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel is one of the most interesting, amazing, profound and detailed prophetic visions ever given to man. It predicted the general time period of the Messiah’s first advent.
The Jewish secular historian Flavius Josephus (c.AD 75) declared that Daniel was one of the greatest of the biblical prophets because he not only predicted future events accurately but also revealed the precise time when these prophecies would come to pass. The Jewish sages believed that only two of the great men in the Bible-Daniel and Jacob were given precise information about the mysterious “time of the end.”
The sages claimed, “These are two men to whom the end was revealed, and afterwards it was hidden from them.” What is meant by the expression “seventy weeks”? Many Bible scholars believe that the time element here has to do with years rather than days of week. If this interpretation is followed, one week would be equivalent to seven years. Therefore the time period in this prophecy would extend through seventy “sevens” of years, amounting to a total of 490 years. The prophecy goes on to say that “after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off”.
Messiah Shall Be Cut Off
The Hebrew word “cut off” is the common word used in Mosaic Law, which simply means “to be killed.” The implication of the term is not just that the Messiah would be killed, but that He would die a penal death by execution.
Rabbi Nehumiah, who lived fifty years before the birth of Jesus, concluded on the basis of Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks that the arrival of the promised Messiah could not be delayed longer than fifty years. The rabbis taught that a teacher should be at least thirty years of age (Numbers 4:3). Therefore, some scholars concluded that the Messiah would likely be born thirty to forty years before the date that Daniel had prophesied for the “cutting off” of the Messiah.
The same verse of chapter 9:26 goes on to tell us the Messiah would be cut off, “but not for Himself”. This means that His death would be substitutionary, i.e. on behalf of others. The Messiah’s death, predicted by Zechariah and Daniel, was confirmed by other prophets of Israel. Isaiah had declared:
By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who among them considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living [stricken to His death] for the transgression of my [Isaiah’s] people, to whom the stroke was due? (Isaiah 53:8 AMP).
This amazing prophecy declared that after ‘7 sevens ‘and ‘62 sevens,’ meaning 483 years, the Messiah would one day come, and when He did, He was going to “be cut off” meaning He will die by crucifixion. A lot of the Jews could not accept a prophecy that foretold the death of the Messiah.
This prophecy of the seventy weeks indicates not only the precise time of Christ’s first coming but also His ministry. The date of the beginning of John the Baptists’ ministry, when he was 30 years according to the Law-(Numbers 4:3), is clearly stated in Luke as being in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar (Luke 3:1-3).
Although, during the last ten years of Caesar Augustus’ reign, Tiberius was a joint ruler (co-regent), he only became Caesar on the death of Augustus in 14 AD. The fifteenth year of his reign would be 29 AD, the year in which Luke states that John the Baptist began his ministry. Jesus began His ministry when He was of age (again at least 30 years according to the Law –Luke 3:23), after being anointed by God. His ministry lasted three and half years from the age of about 30.
As the crucifixion took place at Passover, around April, it means that Christ began His three-and-a-half year ministry in October 29 AD, the year John the Baptist began his ministry. It therefore follows that Christ was crucified in April 33 AD.
We know that a command was given to Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls (Nehemiah 2:1-8) in the twentieth year of the rule of the Persian King Artaxerxes, which was 454 BC. Mathematicians and theologians have done some complicated figuring to calculate the starting event that would lead to the general time period of the Messiah’s arrival.
Counting the prophesied 483 years (69 weeks) from this date, we come to the anointing of Jesus in October 29 AD, and we end up right at the time of Jesus’ death. The prophecy leaves no doubt that only Jesus of Nazareth could be the Messiah the Angel Gabriel was referring to. Jesus arrived precisely on time to fulfill the 70th Week of Daniel’s prophecy.
What about the next verse Daniel 9:27?
There are a number of different theories as how this prophecy of Seventy Weeks may have been fulfilled, or not. Some Hebrew-speaking Messianic Jews seriously question whether the fulfillment of the Seventieth Week lies in the future. Having said that, I have an open mind on whether the fulfillment of Daniel 9:27 has already taken place, or whether it lies in the future. Some believe that Seventieth Week of Daniel was fulfilled by the death of the Messiah and the ratification of the New Covenant.
Herman Goldwag in his Notes on the Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks explains:
The exact timing of Christ’s coming; His mighty ministry to establish the New Covenant; His sending of the Holy Spirit to empower the believers and restrain transgression; His sealing up of sins and bringing in everlasting righteousness by His atonement for iniquity, in offering Himself as a Paschal Lamb; His fulfilling in Himself many prophecies concerning Him, even to His death on the cross, thereby putting a seal (guarantee) on the fulfillment of all the vision and prophecy, and the anointing of the Holy of Holies were all accomplished in His first advent. The foregoing therefore demonstrates how the whole of the 70-week period was fulfilled in one unbroken sequence.
However, it is important to note, though, that there is a broad consensus among Evangelical Christians concerning the first sixty-nine weeks, even though there are differences with regard to the detail of the timetable of its fulfillment. The difficulty arises from the fact that after two thousand years, or more, it is virtually impossible to prove beyond doubt the precise date when some of the key historical events related to this prophecy actually took place.
The Time Gap Interval
There appears to be a gap between the 69th week (verse 25) and the 70th week (verse 27) of the prophecy. Daniel clearly tells us that 69 weeks have already literally been fulfilled. As we seen the first 69 weeks of years with King Artaxerxes’ decree to rebuild Jerusalem, ended with the rejection of Jesus (a period of exactly 483 years).
The last week, or 70th week, is seven years long, which brings us to the full 490 years prophesied by Daniel. However, that 70th week has not taken place yet. We’re now in a gap of time known as the church age, and Daniel’s prophecy had to do with the nation of Israel.” That the 70th week is still future is clear in Daniel 9:27, which we’ve cited above.
This description in the passage is parallel to what 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation says about the future Antichrist, who will make a covenant with Israel for seven years (the unfulfilled seven years of Daniel 9), and he will break that covenant in the middle of that week, or the middle of the Tribulation, and desecrate the Temple (which is the abomination of desolation).
And when you study Daniel 11:36-45, the Antichrist is in view from this point in Daniel’s prophecy to the end of the Chapter 11. The details here do not correspond with the theory of Antiochus Epiphanes.
This is further verified and confirmed by the apostle John in Revelation 13:5: And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months which is three and a half years. This Antichrist that John writes about is similar to the combination of four beasts that Daniel saw centuries earlier in his vision. In chapter 17, John also records a vision of a scarlet beast that had seven heads and ten horns (see Revelation 17:3).
Here is David Pawson’s observation of this passage:
There are details about chapter 9 of Daniel that we need to explore. Although he predicts the exact time for the coming of Christ, Daniel was told it would be a long time until the end of the sixty-ninth seven, when the king would come. But crucially, he left the seventieth ‘week’ out of these events. I believe that in the seventieth week he was looking right past the first coming, to the second coming.
So there was a huge gap in time between the sixty-ninth seven and the seventieth seven. Thus this ‘week’ equals a seven-year period that has not yet taken place, when the Antichrist will appear. According to the text, a pact will be enforced and a treaty with Israel will be under threat. During this time persecution will be especially fierce. Sacrifices will cease and the temple will be desecrated in the same manner as at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, which implies that it must have been rebuilt at some point.
When the Antichrist confirms a seven year peace covenant with the nation of Israel, that’s what will begin the final 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy. So what is that gap of time? It’s the Church Age, from Pentecost up to now and until the trumpet of God sounds.
Then those who have departed this life in Christ will rise first. Then we, the living ones who remain on the earth, shall simultaneously be caught up along with [the resurrected dead] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so always (through the eternity of the eternities) we shall be with the Lord! Therefore comfort and encourage one another with these words (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).