Daniel

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.” ’ ”

Challenging Covenantalism: The Future Of Israel According To Daniel.

We have been considering the false claims of Covenant Theology. The assertions are summarized as follows:

  • God made a covenant with Adam.
  • God made a covenant with the elect.
  • God made a covenant with Christ.
  • Israel, as a national entity, is subsumed by the church, the true Israel.
  • All of history will be consummated into the eternal state apart from a Millennial Reign of Christ.
  • All of Scripture, but primarily the prophetic portions, are subject to a “type and shadows” hermeneutic.
  • The actual covenants of Scripture, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New mostly, are simply expressions of the asserted Covenant of Redemption and, therefore, are of lesser importance.

These assertions, as demonstrated beforehand, are false. The assertions are based primarily upon a contrived philosophical belief system using passages of Scripture shaped the way they want. I am glad that Covenantalists support the dire need for sound hermeneutics. I just wish they would extend that to these issues.

At this point, I want to take a bit of a break and work on a subject that will be helpful to our discussion concerning the future of Israel. It also ties the covenants discussed beforehand together. Further, this discussion will demonstrate for us a hermeneutic that is sound and supported by the Lord Himself.

We are going to discuss Daniel’s Seventy Weeks’ vision as interpreted to him by Gabriel. The passage is found in Daniel 9:24-27. This little section is so very intense in its information and intense in its implications, that it deserves treatment in this discussion. It concerns God’s timetable for Daniel’s “people and [his] holy city” (Daniel 9:24).

Daniel 9:24-27

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.”

Daniel is in Babylon. He has been there since the first deportation to Babylon in 605 B.C (Daniel 1:1). Daniel was approximately 15 years old when deported. He would go on to become learned in the literature and language of the Chaldeans (1:4) along with his friends. After three years of education in the Babylonian culture, they would become personal servants to the King Nebuchadnezzar (1:5).

In the first year of King Darius’ reign, Daniel had the Torah and other portions of the OT writings before him, including the writings of Jeremiah, who prophesied just prior to and during the initial years of the siege of Babylon (see Jeremiah 25:3; 32:24ff) against Jerusalem. Daniel, being broken over the condition of his people and his city, goes back to the books of the Law in order to understand what will happen with Israel. He notices in Jeremiah that the judgment of God is for seventy years-one year for each Sabbath-year they refused to follow (Daniel 9:2; cf. Jeremiah 25:11,12; 34:12-17). Calculating from the original siege 70 years, he realizes that framework of time is coming to an end. The year of Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege was 605 B.C. Seventy years from that arrives at 535 B.C. Daniel wrote this prophecy in 539 B.C. (see 9:1-2). Thus, he was nearing the end of the seventy years’ exile to Babylon. It is also historically accepted that Daniel died just before the return of the exiles. Thus, he prays to God concerning his sins and those of his people Israel. They have sinned, committed iniquity, and acted wickedly (9:5). He asks that God forgive them and consider their desolate condition (9:16-18). For His name’s sake, Daniel begs that God take action for the restoration of His people and His city (9:19). In the midst of his prayer, Gabriel attends to Daniel and teaches him what God will do with His people and His holy city.

This prophecy gives us the comprehensive picture of the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. It is vast, detailed, and accurate. Gabriel says, “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city.” Remember, Daniel’s prayer was concerning God’s people and holy city (9:19). So, in response to that concern of this saint, God gives him understanding about the decree. This decree is about Israel, the nation, and the holy city, Jerusalem. It is not related to the Gentiles specifically. However, as we determined with the covenants, what happens to the nation of Israel alters the entire planet.

One note here concerning hermeneutics of this passage. Just like Daniel could read the prophet Jeremiah and understand “seventy years” as “seventy years” and not seventy ages of time or some indeterminable amount of time, so we too must see these numbers in Daniel 9:24-27 as exactly what the natural reading of the text demands-literal, plain, precise, non-figurative language.

Israel is in exile because they refused to keep the Sabbath Year. It was a part of the Law that Israel would take a year off from farming every seven years in order to refresh the land (Leviticus 25:1-8). Israel refused to do this at least 70 times during their 860 years of existence (Exodus from Egypt, 1446 B.C. to Babylonian captivity/destruction of Jerusalem, 586 B.C.). Because of this, Israel would be in exile to make up for the 70 years that they worked instead of resting from their labors (Jeremiah 34:12-17). The issue was the Sabbath-Year rest. That same motif is used in verses 24-27 as well. Before the exile, the cycle of Sabbath-Year rest was used for calculating their punishment. Post-exile, the Sabbath-Year rest would also be used to communicate their future. So, seventy “sevens,” or “periods of sevens” is in view here. Specifically, seventy periods of seven-year cycles corroborating with the Sabbath-Year rest of the Law. Further, the use of the Sabbath-Year rest as a judgment was spoken of in the Law of Moses. Moses taught in Leviticus 26:34-35

34 ‘Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths.

35 ‘All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it.

 

Thus, it is completely natural to consider these as seventy cycles of seven-year periods of the Sabbath-Year instruction.

Further, at the end of the 490 years, six things will happen:

  • “To finish the transgression”: to complete the ordained transgressions of Israel.
  • “To make and end of sin”: to stop sin.
  • “To make atonement for iniquity”: to ultimately atone for Israel’s iniquity.
  • “To bring in everlasting righteousness”: to introduce the righteousness of eternity.
  • “To seal up vision and prophecy”: to end these components of God’s plan.
  • “To anoint the most holy place”: to install the most holy permanently.

Thus, the seventy sevens equaling 490 years will exist from the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. At the end of such time, all six of these magnificent actions will be introduced. Obviously, that has not happened yet. We are still waiting.

Next time, we will discover more specifics about the starting point of this 490 year period and what will happen during.

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