The prophecies of Daniel were sealed up, so they would not be understood until the end of the age, according to Daniel 8:17, and Daniel 12:4, 9.
In Daniel 8:17, an angel says to Daniel, “Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.”
In verse 27, Daniel says of the vision described in that chapter, “I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.”
In Daniel 12:4 an angel said, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end.” In verse 9 he said, “Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”
The vision of chapter 8, and other prophecies in the book, were to remain sealed till the end time.
Several of the incidents described in Daniel illustrate that the Spirit given to Daniel enabled him to explain dreams and visions that had stumped the wise men of Babylon. They were unable to explain Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2, or the writing that appeared on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast in chapter 5. One of the purposes of the 70 weeks prophecy was to seal up the vision and prophecy. [Daniel 9:24] The 70 weeks prophecy has certainly been one of the most controversial prophecies in the Bible.
Daniel’s prophecies were written in such a way that only the wise would understand them.
Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.
The 70 weeks prophecy seals up other prophecies in various ways. It consists of three sections: 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and 1 week. Almost all commentators have assumed that the units in all sections are the same. They insist that the 70 weeks are weeks of years, for a total of 490 years. But that assumption is simplistic, and seems inconsistent with the role of the seventy weeks prophecy, as one that seals up other prophecies, and one that would be understood only by the wise.
Assuming that the weeks in all sections of the prophecy have the same units, and that the weeks are weeks of years, the period spanned by the first two sections of the 70 weeks does not fit the time from the decree of Cyrus to the Messiah. It is not even close. Either it ends too soon, or another decree must be found to begin the prophecy. Expositors usually select one of several minor rulings, or letters of permission, by kings that followed Cyrus, that were intended to implement some portion of the objectives of the original decree given by Cyrus. The scripture mentions several of these.
In the nineteenth century Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918), an ultradispensationalist, and a detective at Scotland Yard, resorted to “prophetic years” of 360 days, to obtain an exact fit for the first two sections of the 70 weeks, between the 20th year of Artaxerxes Longimanus in 445 BC and the alleged year of the crucifixion of Christ. Anderson claimed Nehemiah had received an edict from Artaxerxes on March 14, 445 BC, and 173,880 days later, which was 483 prophetic years of 360 days, was 10 Nisan 32 AD. He claimed this was shortly before Christ was crucified. But other evidence indicates Christ was likely crucified in 30 AD, not 32 AD.
Anderson claimed that the 70th week is yet future, which removes the crucifixion of Jesus, his resurrection, the coming of the Spirit, the end of oblations and sacrifices, the destruction of the temple, and the entire church age from the scope of the 70 weeks. But Daniel 9:27 says, “he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” This plainly says that the termination of sacrifices and oblations was to occur in the midst of the final week. A critique of Anderson’s work by Bob Pickle has exposed several flaws.
Preterists also have difficulty understanding the prophecy. They say the entire 70 weeks were fulfilled in the first century. If so, it must have happened without the knowledge of the apostles! None of them acknowledged that it had been fulfilled, in their writings of the New Testament. But that is unlikely to be true, since Daniel’s prophecies were not meant to be understood till the end time.
Preterists disagree about when the 70th week was fulfilled. Some say it began with the ministry of Jesus, and ended seven years later. Others invoke a gap, and say it ended at the destruction of Jerusalem. Yet the 70 weeks were about the duration of the desolations of Jerusalem, and so their fulfillment ought to bring peace and joy to Jerusalem, not desolation! Obviously the preterist interpretations of the 70 weeks prophecy are flawed.
If the units in the three sections of the prophecy differ, what might they be? The first two sections span the time from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, to the appearance of the Messiah. This decree was given by Cyrus in the first year of his reign, which is believed to be the year 538 BC. The prophet Isaiah said the Cyrus would be the one to give the word to build Jerusalem and the temple. [Isaiah 44:23-28]
If the units in the first seven weeks are taken to be leap years, the first section consisting of 49 leap years would be 133 years. Leap years, in the ancient Hebrew and Babylonian calendars, were years of 13 months. These occurred about every second or third year, and seven leap years occurred in 19 years. Taking the units in the second section to be sabbatical cycles, the second section is 62×7, or 434 years. Thus the first two sections together span 567 years, which fits the time from the decree of Cyrus to the coming of Christ in 28 AD precisely. But this simple solution has eluded the attention of the Bible scholars.
Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy has indeed sealed up prophecy, since although it has been scrutinized for centuries, it has not been fully understood. In particular, the 70th week has been misunderstood. It is the week when Christ confirms his covenant with his saints. This covenant is the New Covenant of the gospel. The 70th week is not a literal seven years, but it corresponds to “seven times.”
The interpretation of the 70 weeks requires that we consider the four periods of “seven times” mentioned in Leviticus 26. Daniel stated in his prayer of confession which is the prelude to the 70 weeks prophecy that the curse of the law of Moses had been poured out upon Israel. The exile must have fulfilled the first of the four periods of seven times, which was poured out on the Jews during their captivity in Babylon. The three sections in the prophecy of the 70 weeks correspond to the other three periods of “seven times” mentioned in Leviticus 26. In the last of these, God had promised to remember his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel would become reconciled to God. This promise that God would remember his covenant with Abraham is mentioned in a prophecy given by John’s father Zacharias, when his son was born. [Luke 1:72]
The 70th week corresponds to the last of the four periods of “seven times” of Leviticus 26.
The 70th week is when Christ “confirms the covenant with many.” Paul identified God’s promises to Abraham with the gospel in Galatians 3:8. The week when Christ confirms the covenant began when he was baptized by John the Baptist.
We can be confident that there can be no gaps in the 70 weeks, such as the one proposed by dispensationalists, since the four periods of “seven times” in Leviticus 26 correspond to the duration of the curse, and in Daniel, they can be viewed as an extension of the 70 years of Jeremiah’s prophecy. Thus they correspond to the duration of the desolations of Jerusalem. Any gap would imply a lapse in the curse, and would also require that God was temporarily reconciled to his people. But that has not happened; any reconciliation between God and his people must be permanent.
Daniel 9:27 shows that the abolition of sacrifices and oblations would happen “in the midst of the week.” It occurred as a result of the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. But the last half-week continues, as Christ still confirms his covenant with us. The final half of the 70th week is the “time, times, and a half,” and is symbolic, and includes the entire time of the church, in which the gospel goes to the world. It is the duration of the age in which we are now.
Other prophecies in the Bible refer to the “time, times, and a half.” It is mentioned in Revelation 12:14, where the woman, who represents the church, flees to the wilderness for that period of time.
The same chapter refers to a period of 1,260 days, which is also mentioned in Revelation 11:3. And the references to 42 months in Revelation 11:2, and 13:5, seem to apply to the same prophetic time period.
In Daniel 12:11-12, Daniel mentions two time periods, of 1,290 days, and 1,335 days. The 1,290 days is associated with the duration of the abomination of desolation. When we compare these to the 1,260 days mentioned by John, there is obviously a progression, as if the remaining time was decreasing. Such is the nature of time. John’s 1,260 days is the smallest, and in Revelation 11:9 and 11 he even speaks of three days and a half, indicating a period very close to the end of the age.
All of these numbers have units of days, and they apply to the remaining time of the church. There is a contrast between these numbers, and those given in units of months, which apply to the forces of evil; the time that Gentiles trample the holy city, and the time that the beast persecutes the saints. These are of the night, rather than the day, and so their times are given in months, which are associated with the moon.
The reason the time periods related to the church are given in days can be seen from Paul’s statement, “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” [1 Thessalonians 5:5]
Also, there may be an allusion to the story of Jacob and Rachel. [Genesis 29:20] Jacob’s seven years of labor “seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.” The seven years were a pattern or type of the week for which Christ confirms his covenant with his church, which is his bride.
The intermediate period of 1,290 days is the time remaining after the abomination of desolation is set up. This must have been after the final half-week had begun, when Jesus ascended to heaven. It must also occur before the beginning of the 1,260 days, which is the time of the ministry of the two witnesses, and the time the church flees to the wilderness. The antichrist spirit, mentioned in John’s epistles, which was established in the church before John wrote the Apocalypse, corresponds to the abomination of desolation. These are some of the ways that Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks seals prophecy. Properly understanding the 70 weeks opens up other prophecies which were previously obscure.
Copyright © 2011, 2013 by Douglas E. Cox
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