Challenging Covenantalism: Daniel’s Seventieth Week

It is amazing to me how little is ever taught on this crucial section of Scripture. Most pastors simply never address it in their preaching. I can understand how daunting it is. However, it is still in Scripture and foundational to the future history of the world. In order to understand Jesus’ teaching on His return, one must comprehend Daniel 9:24-27 (see Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14). The reader of Jesus’ teaching concerning the future must include a proper comprehension of Daniel 9:24-27, to start with.

The prophet was exiled to Babylon in 605 B.C. in the first of three exiles. King Nebuchadnezzar, recently appointed as king over the newly dominant empire after his father’s death, desired to bring the best of young men from Judah to be his servants in his court. Thus, we have Daniel, and his friends, being taken captive in order to be indoctrinated in Babylonian instruction (Daniel 1:1-7). Being taken captive there around 15 years of age and died in 535 B.C. He was about 85 years old, having lived almost his entire life in Babylon. Tradition indicates that he was buried in Babylon. This was a man given some of the most graphic and specific visions from God. His writings tell us what is happening in the world, and about to happen in the world in great detail.

There is much to be studied from Daniel. However, we want to focus on chapter 9:24-27. Last post I introduced this section. Here, I want to understand specifically what this section means by what it says.  Daniel wrote,

Daniel 9:24–27 (NASB95)

Seventy Weeks and the Messiah

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.

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.

26 “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to 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.

27 “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

Verse 24 states that God has decreed 490 years for the Jews and for Jerusalem. Thus, Israel’s history is to be summed up in 490 years. A collection of 70 Sabbath cycles of years (see Leviticus 25:1-12) is decreed for Israel. These Sabbath cycle of years is the same amount of time indicated by the 70 Sabbaths that Israel broke and landed them in Babylon in the first place. God just did not include the 6 years in the Sabbath cycle, only the 70 Sabbath years of each cycle, thus 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11; cf. 2 Chronicles 36:21; Daniel 9:2). Thus, those years are now decreed by God as the future for Israel. There are six events that form the conclusion to Israel’s history:

  • 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.
  • to anoint the most holy place.

Although these are not possible apart from the death of Jesus Christ, these are not completed with the death of Jesus Christ. For example, we cannot agree that everlasting righteousness has been brought in since the cross. Further, notice that these six things pertain to Israel, not the world. This is the decree that is meant for Israel, national Israel. At the end of 490 years, these things will occur.

Verse 25 tells us that the chronology of 490 years begins at the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. Whose decree? Some say King Cyrus in 538 B.C. Some say King Artaxerxes I in 458 B.C. Others would say King Artaxerxes’ second decree in 445/444 B.C. The facts and figures surrounding this discussion is mind-boggling. However, it would appear that the best answer is King Artaxerxes’ decree given to Nehemiah in 445/444 B.C. From that time (seen in Nehemiah 1:1-2:1-8; cf. Ezra 4:13). It is apparent that Nehemiah’s concern is with the city in which God’s name would dwell (Nehemiah 1:4-10), repeating the promise of God in Leviticus 26 that if Israel would confess their sins and repent, God would bring them back to Jerusalem forever. Thus, Nehemiah confesses on behalf of himself and Israel, and God did indeed bring them back…to some degree (incidentally, Daniel follows the same pattern in Daniel 9). From this decree, given in Nehemiah 2:4-6, to Messiah the Prince will be a total of 69 weeks (i.e. 483 years = 69 x 7 Sabbath cycles of seven years). From 445 B.C. to 483 years later, using a 360-day calendar usual for biblical prophecy (which is the only point of reference given the nature of the context. That is, since Daniel is reckoning not from popular calendars of the day, but from prophetic material in the Law) we arrive at Friday Nisan, 14, or April 3, A.D. 33 as the death of Jesus Christ, and four days earlier the exact date of the end of Daniel’s 483 years (See Matthew 21; Luke 19:41-44).

However, notice that Messiah will be cut off and will have “nothing.” The teaching of Messiah in the OT indicates that He would arrive on the earth and reign (2 Samuel 7:13-16; Isaiah 2; 9:1-7; cf. Genesis 49:10). Yet, when He comes, He will be killed and have nothing. That is, He will die and not inherit the Messianic kingdom as prophesied in the OT. He would not reign on David’s throne. This is precisely why we understand that Jesus is not reigning on David’s throne in heaven.

According to Daniel’s prophecy, there is one more unit of seven years’ Sabbath Cycle left. That is yet future. We know that because that year presents the end of the total of 490 years decreed for Israel by God. Once that 490th year ends, the six accomplishments for Israel will be inaugurated. They are not here at this time and thus we wait, 2,000 years later, for that seventieth week, or 490th year. The Scripture indicates that the week in question is none other than the Tribulation, or Jacob’s distress (Jeremiah 30:7). It is a time of unparalleled pressure upon Israel, and, consequently, the whole world. It is during this final week that the prince who is to come, that is the Anti-Christ (he is one who will set himself up as the christ attempting to fool the world into thinking that he is the messiah) will come and break a covenant of peace which he made with Israel for that entire week (Daniel 9:27). Until then, we are in an age not prophesied of in the OT. We are in the mystery age of the kingdom (Matthew 13). We are the church. We are elect from every tribe, tongue, and nation (including Israel). But we are not Israel. Their day is coming in which they will physically see the One whom they pierced (Zechariah 12:10) and they will repent of their sins once for all and be restored nationally just as God promised (Leviticus 26:40ff).

Covenantal Theology teaches that there is no future for the nation of Israel, for the twelve tribes of Jacob, the collected descendants of Abraham. They, instead, aver that Christ Himself is Israel, true Israel, and thus the church receives the blessings of Israel through Him. That is an apostate position. To deny all that the Scripture clearly teaches on the subject of God’s promises to the nation of Israel and their restoration in the land with the forgiveness of sins, including and especially Daniel’s seventy weeks’ prophecy, is to deny the veracity of Scripture and the integrity of God. Regardless of the hermeneutical justification one adopts, to do this is to commit serious error and, in effect, denies inerrancy. Those who hold this teaching should repent of it (see R. Scott Clark here as a demonstration of this kind of teaching). Paul rightly identified these men as those who

1 Timothy 1:3-7

…teach strange doctrines,

4 [and who] pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.

5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion,

7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

God says,

Ezekiel 37:21–28

21 “Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land;

22 and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms.

23 “They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God.

24 “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them.

25 “They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever.

26 “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever.

27 “My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.

28 “And the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.” ’ ”