Is There a Prophetic Gap or Antichrist in Daniel's 70 Weeks?
I’m not sure that there is a more debated prophetic passage in the Bible than that of Daniel 9:24-27, also known as Daniel's 70 weeks. An entire eschetological belief system has been built upon the concept that there is a “prophetic gap” that exists between the 69th and 70th week mentioned in this prophecy and that an antichrist figure will someday establish a peace treaty midway through the 70th week. While the wording of this prophecy is a bit unusual and at times vague, I think that it is important for us to know what it does say and more importantly, that we know what it doesn’t say.
What was the Purpose of this Prophecy?
Daniel was one of the young men that was taken to Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar invaded and conquered Jerusalem. Daniel would end up serving the kings of Babylon in their courts because of his wisdom and was considered to be wiser than all of the wise men of Babylon and gained the trust and respect of the kings of Babylon and Medo-Persia, particularly King Nebuchednezar.
Daniel longed for the return of the Jews to Jerusalem and he was contemplating the prophecy given to stating Jeremiah that Jerusalem would remain desolate for 70 years. Daniel then confesses the unfaithfulness of his people and pleads with God to remember His promise, that they would indeed be returned to Jerusalem. While Daniel was still praying, the archangel Gabriel appears to Daniel to give him insight and understanding, not only does Gabriel assure Daniel that they would return to Jerusalem, but he also tells him of additional events that would cause a seismic shift in the history of Daniel’s people and with God’s covenant with man.
It is my custom to use the NASB when quoting scripture, but in this case, I will use Young’s Literal Translation, primarily because the YLT doesn’t include as many inserted words that end up altering the perception of its meaning. The words that the YLT has inserted for readability in the English language are contained within brackets.
Daniel 9:24 `Seventy weeks are determined for thy people, and for thy holy city, to shut up the transgression, and to seal up sins, and to cover iniquity, and to bring in righteousness age-during, and to seal up vision and prophet, and to anoint the holy of holies.
25 And thou dost know, and dost consider wisely, from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem till Messiah the Leader [is] seven weeks, and sixty and two weeks: the broad place hath been built again, and the rampart, even in the distress of the times.
26 And after the sixty and two weeks, cut off is Messiah, and the city and the holy place are not his, the Leader who hath come doth destroy the people; and its end [is] with a flood, and till the end [is] war, determined [are] desolations.
27 And he hath strengthened a covenant with many -- one week, and [in] the midst of the week he causeth sacrifice and present to cease, and by the wing of abominations he is making desolate, even till the consummation, and that which is determined is poured on the desolate one.'
Understanding the Time-Span of this Prophecy
First off, this is the only prophecy where you will read “weeks” (in some translations) to infer a span of time in prophecy. A better way to understand this is to think of it as a heptad, or a period of seven. So, we can better understand this to literally mean “seventy periods of seven”. In fact, there are a few translations that correctly phrase it in that fashion. From a literal sense, this is 490 (70 x 7) periods of time and could have referred to 490 literal days, weeks, months or years. But, it doesn’t take too much discernment to realize that 490 literal days, weeks or even months would not have been enough time for everything in this prophecy to be accomplished. It is widely understood and accepted that each individual period represents one year.
I have seen some people perform mathematical gymnastics trying to convert 490 years from the 360-day Hebrews calendar to the 365.25-day Gregorian calendar. Please, stop it! If anyone tells you that you must multiply 490 x 360, then divide by 365 to calculate the timespan of this prophecy it only shows that they don’t know enough about the Hebrew calendar to be teaching you about this prophecy, and here is why.
The Jewish calendar has "leap years". A leap year in the Jewish calendar has 13 months and occurs 7 times in a 19-year cycle. In the Hebrew calendar, a leap year is referred to as Shanah Me'uberet, or “pregnant year”. This keeps their lunar calendar in sync with the Gregorian/solar calendar over long periods of time, otherwise events like the Passover would eventually end up in the summer, fall and winter and the harvest-centered Feast of Tabernacles would be out of season most of the time. For more on this topic, please visit this website.
The End of the Old Covenant Foretold
Verse 24 Seventy weeks are determined for thy people, and for thy holy city, to shut up the transgression, and to seal up sins, and to cover iniquity, and to bring in righteousness age-during, and to seal up vision and prophet, and to anoint the holy of holies.
Gabriel is telling Daniel that his people, the Jews, and the city of Jerusalem will have 490 years remaining to fulfill and complete what God had tasked them to do ever since He had made them into a nation. The sanctuary system was a shadow of heavenly things and it was intended to lead the children of Israel to the coming Messiah. The wording in this verse refers to the services that the Levitical priests performed in the sanctuary. The sealing and covering of sins was a reference to symbolic ceremonies that removed and cleansed Israel from their intentional and unintentional sins.
For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. - Hebrew 10:4
The only true sacrifice for sin was to be paid later by none other that the Son of God.
And not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. - Hebrews 9:12
Visions and prophets were also to be sealed up. God sent many prophets to correct and instruct Israel over the years and His word to them came in the form of dreams and visions. This was going to come to an end as the fulfillment of all things was to come.
The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. - Luke 16:16
The Rebuilding of Jerusalem
Verse 25 And thou dost know, and dost consider wisely, from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem till Messiah the Leader [is] seven weeks, and sixty and two weeks: the broad place hath been built again, and the rampart, even in the distress of the times.
A lot of attempts have been made to determine which decree signified the beginning of the seventy weeks, but if the date doesn’t end with the coming of the Messiah at the end of the 69th week (483 years), then the event that they have used to signify the start of the 490 years is wrong. We have come to understand that Jesus was not born in the “zero year”, but was actually born around 4 B.C.. It should be understood that the end of the seven and sixty-two weeks signifies the time that Jesus was baptized and began His earthly ministry. The best that we can tell, Jesus was baptized between the years AD 27-29 which means that the decree to rebuild the city that Gabriel was referring to was most likely 457/458 BC found in Ezra 1.
Instead of Gabriel simply saying sixty and nine weeks, he breaks it into two segments. I believe that this should be understood to signify that the first seven weeks were the amount of time that it took to rebuild the city which was about 50 years. The remaining sixty-two years would have been the amount of time when services were conducted in the temple, with the exception of when Antiochus Epihanes IV had caused them to cease, which resulted in the Maccabean Rebellion for which Hanukkah is celebrated even to this day. This period of time would have encompassed the so-called intertestimental period or “silent years” where we have no record of God sending any prophetic word through prophets.
Foretelling the Death of the Messiah
Verse 26 And after the sixty and two weeks, cut off is Messiah, and the city and the holy place are not his, the Leader who hath come doth destroy the people; and its end [is] with a flood, and till the end [is] war, determined [are] desolations.
Gabriel then tells Daniel that after 483 years that the Messiah would die without having obtained either the city or the temple. This was contrary to what the Jews were hoping for; a Messiah who would be an earthly ruler that would deliver them from Roman control. Jesus was crucified as a common criminal outside of the city walls and the temple which was under the control of the Jewish religious leaders had rejected Him. Verse 25 states that there would be 483 years from the time of the decree until the Messiah would come, therefore the Messiah being cut off could not have occurred at the end of 483 years. We know that there were between three and four years between the time that Christ was baptized and the time that time He died, this will be verified in the next verse.
We then read that there would be a Leader that would come and destroy with a flood. What does this mean? A flood-type destruction is descriptive of being swift and complete and it is determined that this end would be in the form of war and that there were desolations that would be declared. There is only one possible meaning for this part of the prophecy. It was the foretelling that the city and temple that the returning Jews would build would be utterly destroyed and that it would lay desolate. Josephus tells us that Jerusalem was unrecognizable after the Roman siege and that it was plowed like a field following the Roman siege of Jerusalem. The term “flood” as it relates to destruction is found elsewhere in scripture:
But with an overflowing flood He will make a complete end of its site, And will pursue His enemies into darkness. - Nahum 1:8
In Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, the disciples were marveling about how beautiful of the temple was, Jesus then told them that not one stone would be left upon another. After Jerusalem fell, the Jews were prohibited by the Romans from returning to Jerusalem, thus from a Jewish-held city and temple perspective, Jerusalem was laid desolate.
The Covenant and Desolation
Verse 27 And he hath strengthened a covenant with many -- one week, and [in] the midst of the week he causeth sacrifice and present to cease, and by the wing of abominations he is making desolate, even till the consummation, and that which is determined is poured on the desolate one.'
Who is He?
We read that a male (he) will strengthen a covenant. The first question that must be answered is “who is the he” mentioned in this passage? The word he is a pronoun, and when a pronoun is used, it must refer either to the participants in the discourse or to someone or something mentioned elsewhere in the discourse. At this point, there have been only two participants previously mentioned; the Messiah and the Leader who would come and destroy the city, both previously mentioned in verse 26.
As Christians, we believe that the Messiah is none other than Jesus Christ. The identity of the Leader who would come and destroy should be understood to be Titus who led the armies of Rome against Jerusalem.
Did the Leader who came to destroy strengthen a covenant? No, there was no covenant or even a treaty made in the waning days of Jerusalem’s existence. Therefore, the only participant in this prophecy who this could refer to is the Messiah.
Did the Messiah strengthen a covenant when He came? Yes, He did!
And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. - Luke 22:20
Who Are the Many?
While the covenants made in the Old Testament were typically made with individuals or the children of Israel, the new covenant was made with many.
For this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. - Matthew 26:28
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. - John 3:16
What About the Week?
In most Bible translations, you will read “for one week”, and yet, the word “for” does not exist in the Hebrew text. The Young’s Literal Translation correctly reads “strengthened a covenant with many -- one week”. The assumption that many people make about this being a seven-year treaty has been made because of the misplaced word “for” that occurs in most Bible translations. This has allowed for some to take liberty with this passage to claim that this covenant would last for a limited period of one week or seven years when that is actually not the context.
What is actually being said? When you look at the sentence structure of the previous time periods, the action that is to take place is followed by the amount of time in which it would happen.
from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem till Messiah the Leader [is] seven weeks, and sixty and two weeks
And he hath strengthened a covenant with many -- one week
When did the Messiah strengthen this covenant? The passage says “and [in] the midst of the week he causeth sacrifice and present to cease”. It was about 3-1/2 years after He was baptized and began His ministry on earth which would be half-way through or “the midst” of the final and 70th week of this prophecy. The covenant that Christ made was with His own blood and occurred within the timeframe of the final, 70th week.
Did Sacrifice Cease?
In terms of the context of this prophecy, yes. When we in read verse 24 that this prophecy foretold that the old sanctuary sacrificial system that served as a temporary covering of sin would come to an end.
And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. - Matthew 27:51
The veil that stood between the holy and the most holy place in the temple served as a barrier between God and man. Only the high priest could enter into the most holy place and that was but once per year when he atoned for the sins of the nation. When Jesus died and bore the sins of all men for all time upon Himself. The old sacrificial system became obsolete at that very moment.
By a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh. - Hebrews 10:20
What does “by the Wing of Abominations He is Making Desolate” and "consummation" mean?
The phrase “by the wing” is not something that we would say in English, it simply doesn’t make much sense in our vernacular, so it then becomes necessary to examine the Hebrew and check to see how we can better apply this phrase to something that we can understand. The wing is transliterated from kanaph (H3671). The Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance gives the following definition:
an edge or extremity; specifically (of a bird or army) a wing, (of a garment or bed-clothing) a flap, (of the earth) a quarter, (of a building) a pinnacle
I think that we can safely rule out the idea that a literal bird, a garment flap, a quarter of the earth or even the pinnacle of a building would possess the ability to make anything desolate, but the edge or extremity of an army? Absolutely! The Romans actually used the term Ala (Latin for "wing", plural form: alae) to denote military formations. It should also be noted that the eagle was a mascot to all three of the Roman legions that laid siege to Jerusalem.
Were the Romans an abomination? Yes, they were. Not only was the paganism that the Romans practiced an abomination, but for pagans to be within the temple area was also an abomination.
The consummation simply means until until completed or totally consumed. This referred to the utter and complete destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus declared the soon desolation of Jerusalem when He said:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” - Matthew 23:37-39
So, where is the “Prophetic Gap” or “Antichrist” Mentioned?
The honest answer would simply be, they aren’t. This belief is held and promoted primarily by pre-millennial Dispensationalists who believe that the body of Christ is gathered up and taken to heaven before a period of great tribulation for a seven-year wedding feast while the events that take place in Revelation chapters 5 through 19 are going to be experienced by the Jews, the wicked, and by some extreme views, by Christians who don’t believe in the rapture itself. They also believe that the great tribulation lasts for a literal seven-year period that coincides with the wedding feast of the Lamb. After this seven years of feasting and tribulation the body of Christ would then return to earth for a one thousand year reign of Christ. In order to support this belief it becomes necessary to place a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel’s 70-weeks. In order to make everything fit this eschatology; the following must be interpreted or assumed:
- The “he” who establishes a firm covenant with many in Daniel 9:27 is the end-time antichrist. However, when we closely examine this prophecy we learn that there are only two characters introduced here; the prince (Messiah) and the prince whose armies come to destroy the sanctuary and city. While there is no deviation over the interpretation that the first prince mentioned is indeed the Messiah, there is a tendency to deny that the second prince whose armies destroy Jerusalem can be Titus Vespasian, whose father was Vespasian Augustus, Emperor of Rome. Thus it must be assumed that the 70th week of the prophecy has yet to be fulfilled. This also requires one to deny that it was Jesus who put an end to sacrifice in the middle of the 70th week.
That when Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 14 that not one stone would be left one upon another that Jesus did not answer the disciples question as to when this would take place. This requires the reader to ignore Jesus’ words of warning to flee Judea when seeing the armies surrounding Jerusalem in Luke 21. It also forces you to not acknowledge that Daniel was told that the sanctuary and city would be destroyed by these very armies which took place in 70 AD. This would then force the reader to believe that Jesus was talking about a third and future temple in Jerusalem.
That John was being called up in Spirit to the throne room in Revelation 4 represents the church being raptured. This becomes difficult to prove since John only mentions seeing God, the Lamb who was slain, the twenty-four elders, the four living creatures and seven Spirits of God.
The belief that the “Jacob’s time of trouble” found in Jeremiah’s 30:7 should apply to the tribulation that Israel will face during this 70th week while the church is absent. Keep in mind that Jeremiah was a prophet sent to Israel to warn them of what would be the result of their disobedience to God just prior to their Babylonian captivity. When we consider this and read Jeremiah’s words in context we discover that God is telling Jeremiah that Israel and Judah will be delivered out of bondage and that they will no longer be slaves (verses 8 and 9). This should be applied to the distress that Israel faced while being enslaved to Babylon.
That the 144,000 from every tribe of the sons of Israel mentioned in Revelation 7 are literal Jews. This of course requires the reader to neglect what Paul states in Galatians 6:15, 16 that it is those who are a new creation that are called the Israel of God.
- That the wrath of God that is stored up against the ungodly and the tribulation that Jesus warned His followers that they would endure are one-in-the-same. This then becomes inferred that those who follow Christ will never be persecuted for their faith which a mindset that could lead one doubting their relationship with God if indeed they do face trials.
What about the final 3-½ Years?
You might ask “This prophecy is about 70 weeks, not just 69-½ weeks, what about the final 3-½ years?” My answer would be that this prophecy is about the following:
The Jews returning from Babylonian captivity.
The finishing up of the old covenant sacrificial system.
The coming of the Messiah and His death midway through the final week.
The establishing of the new covenant.
The destruction of Jerusalem falls outside of the 70 weeks and is the result of their rejecting the new covenant. The primary context of this prophecy is the timing of when the old covenant would become obsolete and the new covenant would be established.
As it is with many scriptural passages, especially prophecies, there are many ideas that have come about over the years. But, in the case of Daniel’s 70 weeks, I am simply not comfortable with inserting words, context and meaning for the sake of proving a broader belief system. I believe that we should let it say what it says and leave it at that. Anything else will only serve to detract from the fact that this is perhaps the most fascinating Messianic prophecies in all of scripture, maybe that is the very reason why it has come under so much attack.
I find it interesting that Dispensationalists, who insist they they hold to a literal interpretation of scripture, are comfortable with adding people, events and changing the meaning to this amazing Messianic prophecy.
For further study on the book of Daniel: Daniel 8 and the 2,300 Evenings and Mornings
For further studies on Dispensational teachings: What Did the Apostle Paul Mean by "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth"?
Do you believe that Daniel's 70th week is still future?
Do you believe that this prophecy mentions a future antichrist?
© 2020 Tony Muse