Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A Defense of the Doctrine of a Future “70th Week”

In Daniel 9:20-27, we read the following:

While I was speaking, praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my petition before Yahweh my God concerning the holy mountain of my God— while I was praying, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the first vision, came to me in my extreme weariness, about the time of the evening offering. He gave me this explanation: 

“Daniel, I’ve come now to give you understanding. At the beginning of your petitions an answer went out, and I have come to give it, for you are treasured by God. So consider the message and understand the vision:

Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city—to bring the rebellion to an end, to put a stop to sin, to wipe away iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.

Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince will be seven weeks and 62 weeks. It will be rebuilt with a plaza and a moat, but in difficult times.

After those 62 weeks the Messiah will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the coming prince will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come with a flood, and until the end there will be war; desolations are decreed.

He will make a firm covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. And the abomination of desolation will be on a wing of the temple until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator.”

Because the Hebrew noun translated “answer” in v. 23 (dabar) is the same word translated “decree” in v. 25, some students of Scripture believe that Gabriel was referring to this “decree” in v. 23. However, the Hebrew word dabar simply means “word” or “speech,” and the exact nature or content of the “word” or “speech” in view must be determined by the immediate context. In v. 23, the “word” that went forth from Yahweh (and which Gabriel wanted Daniel to understand) is simply the prophecy of which we read in verses 24-27. It was this prophetic word that was spoken by Yahweh to Gabriel, and which Gabriel then brought to Daniel. It should also be noted that King Darius the Mede was ruling over the Babylonian kingdom when Daniel’s prayer was answered (Dan. 9:1; cf. Dan. 6:25-27). Evidently, Cyrus succeeded Darius as king after Darius’ death (Dan. 6:28).

Now, when reading the above prophecy, it must be continually kept in mind by the reader that the entire time period in view is said to have been “decreed” (or “segregated”) for Daniel’s people and their holy city. In other words, all “seventy weeks” of the prophecy concern Israel (whom Daniel referred to as “my people”) and the city of Jerusalem. 

But what did Gabriel mean by “seventy weeks?” It’s my understanding that the “weeks” (literally, “sevens”) referred to in this prophecy are seven-year-long periods of time. That is, each “week” of which the “seventy weeks” are comprised equals seven years. This means that all “seventy weeks” (or “seventy sevens”) referred to in v. 24 will equal a total of 490 years (for 70 x 7 is, of course, 490). Thus, the seventy weeks prophesied in Daniel 9:24 are a single unit of time (with all of the weeks or “sevens” collectively constituting a single period of time lasting 490 years). It is for this reason that the word translated “decreed” (or “segregated”) in v. 24 is singular. But as we'll see, this fact doesn’t mean that there can’t be an interruption or “gap” between the first 69 weeks and the last week. For regardless of whether the 70th week occurs immediately after the 69th week or after an unspecified period of time has elapsed, the 70th week would still be just as much an integral part of the whole 70 weeks as any other week. The 70 weeks would still be 490 years in length (and thus a single whole unit of time) regardless of whether or not there is an interruption between the first 483 years and the last seven years.

There are some who believe that the total number of years in view in this prophecy should be understood as 500 years rather than 490 years. In defense of this view, an appeal is made to the jubilee cycle that we find referred to in Leviticus 25:8-22. However, according to Lev. 25:8, it’s evident that “seven Sabbaths of years” (or “seven times seven years”) equals 49 years. The next year – which is the 50th year – is then the jubilee year (vv. 10-12). Just as one can’t count seven Sabbaths of years as 50 years, one shouldn’t count the “seventy sevens” of Daniel 9:24 as 500 years. Seventy sevens (70 x 7) equals 490, and since each “seven” (or “week”) is a seven-year-long period of time, the total number of years must be 490. Moreover, as will be argued below, the first sixty-nine “weeks” of the seventy weeks prophecy are equal to 483 years, and can be understood as having already been fulfilled. And since these 483 years of Israel’s history continued without any gaps, this period of time necessarily included jubilee years (which would have occurred on the 50th year of each jubilee cycle). And since this 483-year-long period of time in Israel’s history would’ve necessarily included jubilee years, no additional jubilee years need to be added to it. 

Now, in accord with the view that each “week” or “seven” of which the “seventy weeks” are comprised is a period of time equaling seven years, the first division of the seventy weeks (which is said to be “seven weeks”) should be understood as equaling 49 years, while the second division (“62 weeks”) should be understood as equaling 434 years. And since these two specified divisions of the seventy weeks add up to a total of 483 years, what we find being revealed in verse 25 of the prophecy is that there would be 483 years ”from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince.” 

Some students of Scripture believe the “decree” referred to here was that which was issued by Cyrus in 538 BC. Others have argued that it was the decree issued by King Artaxerxes I in 457 BC (Ezra 7:11-25); see the following article for a defense of this viewhttps://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1988/04/establishing-the-date-457-b.cStill others believe it to be the decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah in 445 BC (see Nehemiah 2:6-8; the decree or word of the king concerning the restoration and rebuilding of Jerusalem is implied in v. 8 where we read, “And the king granted me what I asked”). Although I formerly held to the 538 BC view – albeit, tentatively – I've since come to believe (and, I should add, with greater confidence) that the later decree of Artaxerxes (that given to Nehemiah in 445) is that which is prophesied in Daniel 9:25. For a defense of this view, see NEHEMIAH AND THE SEVENTY WEEKS OF DANIEL.

In defense of the Cyrus view, an appeal is commonly made to Isaiah 44:28 and 45:13. Here is how these verses read in the CVOT:

Saying as to Cyrus, `My shepherd,' and `All My desire he will perform.' Saying as to Jerusalem, `It shall be built.' And the temple, `It shall be founded.’”

“I, I rouse him in righteousness, and all his ways am I straightening. He shall build My city, and My deportation he will let go, not for a price, and not for a bribe, says Yahweh of hosts.”

2 Chronicles 36:22-23 (cf. Ezra 1:1-2 and Ezra 6:3) tells us that Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild the temple (interestingly, the completion of the temple-rebuilding work begun under Cyrus was understood by the inspired historian to have been completed under the reign of Artaxerxes, for in Ezra 6:14 we read the following: “Thus they rebuilt and completed the work due to the command of Eloah of Israel and due to a decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia”). Although the rebuilding of the temple could be considered the first step in the process of rebuilding the city of Jerusalem (and to have thus initiated the rebuilding of the city), it’s significant that Cyrus’ decree does not actually mention the city. 

Nor did Cyrus’ decree concerning the temple result in the state of affairs involving the city that we find described at the end of Daniel 9:25. We know that Jerusalem was still in ruins in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh. 1:3; 2:11-17; Ezra 4:7-23)and that the population was so sparse in Nehemiah’s time that “the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns” (Neh. 11:1). This was almost one hundred years after Cyrus’ decree concerning the temple. We also know that the period of rebuilding under Ezra and Nehemiah could, in light of the opposition they faced (see Ezra 4), be described as “difficult times.”

Now, in v. 24, we read of six events for which the seventy weeks are said to be “decreed” for Israel and Jerusalem:

Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city—to bring the rebellion to an end, to put a stop to sin, to wipe away iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.

The clear implication of this verse is that the six events referred to will occur, or begin to occur, when the 70 weeks are accomplished. And based on what we’re told these events are, it’s reasonable to conclude that they will not begin to occur until after Christ has returned to earth at the end of the eon. For it is at this time that the promised new covenant of which Christ was made the Mediator is concluded “with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Heb. 8:6-13), and Israel will enter into her covenant-based expectation. Then, Israel’s transgression will be detained, and sin will come to an end for God’s covenant people. As we read in Romans 11:26-27, “And thus all Israel shall be saved, according as it is written, ‘Arriving out of Zion shall be a Rescuer. He will be turning away irreverence from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them whenever I should be eliminating their sins.’”

Although Christ’s death is undoubtedly the basis for (and secured the future fulfillment of) the occurrence of the blessings referred to in Dan. 9:24, the actual fulfillment of these prophesied blessings can only be future. The six events for which the seventy sevens are said to be “segregated” did not occur when Christ died, or at any time following his death. They will, however, begin to occur when the new covenant comes to be in force at Christ’s return. And insofar as that’s the case, it’s reasonable to conclude that the completion of the seventy weeks is still future as well. And this means that the 70th week that we find first referred to in v. 27 is still future.

Moreover, the way in which the seventy weeks prophecy was presented to Daniel most definitely allows for a chronological gap. Here, again, are verses 26 and 27:

After those 62 weeks the Messiah will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the coming prince will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come with a flood, and until the end there will be war; desolations are decreed. 

He will make a firm covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. And the abomination of desolation will be on a wing of the temple until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator.”

It is in accord with the most natural and straightforward reading of Daniel 9:24-27 to understand the prophesied events referred to in these verses as occurring in chronological order. Here is the sequence of prophesied events as they were revealed to Daniel:

1. The first 69 (7+62) weeks of the seventy weeks prophecy transpire.

2. After these weeks, the Messiah is cut off.

3. The city and the sanctuary are destroyed by “the people of the coming prince.”

4. The “coming prince” (or coming governor/ruler) makes “a firm covenant with many for one week” (which is the 70th week).

5. In the middle of the week, this individual puts a stop to sacrifice and offering, and “the abomination of desolation” (or “desolating abominations”) will be “on a wing of the temple.”  

When we understand the seventy weeks prophecy in a sequential and chronological way, such an interval in time between the 69th and 70th week is both natural and required. In v. 26 we read of “after the 62 weeks,” but nothing is explicitly said concerning the last “week” until verse 27. That is, we have no reason to think that events occurring during the 70th week are in view until we get to v. 27 (where we find the 70th week first mentioned). The order of the prophesied events is such that the 70th week should be understood as beginning sometime after the occurrence of the last-mentioned events of v. 26. Thus, verse 26 is precisely where we would expect a “gap” in time to be present if the prophesied events referred to in verses 26 and 27 occur in chronological/sequential order. And we have no good reason to think that they don’t occur in chronological order.

It is not at all obvious or natural to understand the cutting off of the Messiah as occurring during the 70th week (which isn’t mentioned until v. 27), or to understand the other prophesied event (the destruction of the city and the sanctuary) as occurring after the 70th week has ended. Rather, both the cutting off of the Messiah and the subsequent destruction of the city and sanctuary are referred to in the prophecy as if they occur after the 7 + 62 (or 69) weeks but before the start of the 70th week (when “a firm covenant” will be made “with many”). In contrast, those who believe the seventy weeks were fulfilled 3 ½ years after Christ’s death must “hop back and forth” between events taking place during the 70th week and events that (supposedly) took place after the 70th week was fulfilled.

Significantly, Paul clearly understood there to be a “gap” in God’s prophecy-fulfilling dealings with Israel as a nation. In Romans 11:25-27, Paul prophesied concerning the nation of Israel as follows:

“For I am not willing for you to be ignorant of this secret, brethren, lest you may be passing for prudent among yourselves, that callousness, in part, on Israel has come, until the complement of the nations may be entering. And thus all Israel shall be saved, according as it is written, Arriving out of Zion shall be the Rescuer. He will be turning away irreverence from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them Whenever I should be eliminating their sins.

In other words, the state of affairs that Paul referred to as “callousness, in part, on Israel has come” is to continue until “the complement of the nations may be entering.” But what did Paul have in mind by “callousness, in part” coming on Israel? I believe Paul explained this state of affairs in Romans 11:11-15 as follows:

“What then? What Israel is seeking for, this she did not encounter, yet the chosen encountered it. Now the rest were callousedeven as it is written, God gives them a spirit of stupor, eyes not to be observing, and ears not to be hearing, till this very day.

And David is saying, "Let their table become a trap and a mesh, And a snare and a repayment to them: Darkened be their eyes, not to be observing, And their backs bow together continually.”

I am saying, then, Do they not trip that they should be falling? May it not be coming to that! But in their offense is salvation to the nations, to provoke them to jealousy.

Now if their offense is the world's riches and their discomfiture the nations' riches, how much rather that which fills them! Now to you am I saying, to the nations, in as much as, indeed, then, I am the apostle of the nations, I am glorifying my dispensation, if somehow I should be provoking those of my flesh to jealousy and should be saving some of them. For if their casting away is the conciliation of the world, what will the taking back be if not life from among the dead?"

This passage begins with Paul contrasting Israel as a nation (to which he referred simply as “Israel”) with the “chosen” from among the nation (which, in v. 5, we find referred to as “a remnant according to the choice of grace”). After stating that the chosen encountered what Israel did not, Paul then put the focus on the “calloused” and “blinded” state of Israel as a nation (verses 7-10). From the immediate and larger context, then, it’s evident that the calloused condition of which Paul wrote in Rom. 11:25 is one in which Israel had been made insensitive and unreceptive to the truth concerning Jesus’ identity as the Christ and the Son of God.

Paul went on to refer to this calloused, “non-remnant” group of Israelites with the words “they” and “their” in the next verses, all the way to v. 15. So when Paul wrote of “their casting away” in v. 15, he had in view the “casting away” of the majority of Israelites that constituted the nation of Israel in his day. Thus, by the time Paul wrote to the Romans, the majority of Israelites had been “cast away” by God. And we know from verses 7-9 that the “casting away” of Israel is equivalent to God’s bringing “callousness, in part” on the nation – i.e., God’s giving Israel a “spirit of stupor” so that they cannot believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. God “cast away” the nation of Israel when he gave the majority of Israelites a “spirit of stupor” and made them insensitive and unreceptive to the truth of Jesus’ Messianic identity. And this means that the “taking back” of Israel must refer to God’s removal of this “callousness” and “spirit of stupor” from Israel, so that Israel becomes more sensitive and receptive to the truth.

But when did “callousness, in part,” come on Israel? That is, when did the “casting away” of Israel take place? Based on the words of Christ in Matthew 13:11-17 (cf. Mark 4:10-12; John 12:37-40), we can conclude that the “callousness, in part” of which Paul wrote had come upon Israel at some point prior to when Christ said what he did in this passage. This means that the “casting away” of Israel could very well have taken place at some point near the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry. And as already noted, I believe that the first 69 weeks (or 483 years) of the “seventy weeks” prophecy were fulfilled the year in which Christ was baptized and anointed by God with the holy spirit (circa 27 AD). It is therefore plausible that the “gap” implied in Romans 11:25-27 (which began when Israel was “cast away” by God) began when the first 483 years of the seventy weeks prophecy ended. And if that’s the case, it’s reasonable to conclude that the “taking back” of Israel by God (which will involve the removal of the “callousness” that is presently on the nation) will occur when the “break” in the seventy weeks prophecy ends, and the 70th week begins.

A Response to Objections

Having made a brief case for the view that the 70th week of the “seventy weeks” prophecy is still future – and that there is a gap of unspecified time between the 69th and 70th week – I’m going to spend the remainder of this article responding to objections to this position (which I believe will help further strengthen the case I’ve made for a future 70th week).

Objection: We have no reason to believe that Daniel would’ve understood the seventy weeks prophecy to include a chronological gap.

Response: Daniel’s understanding of whether or not a chronological gap exists in a certain prophecy is simply not relevant to how we ought to understand the prophecy. There is no reason to think that every prophet had a fully accurate understanding of when, exactly, the events of which they prophesied would take place, or how much time would elapse between prophesied events. It’s already been noted that, as revealed to Daniel, the seventy weeks prophecy allows for an interval of time between the 69th week (or 7+62 weeks) and the final 70th week. Moreover, there are a number of prophecies in Scripture where an unspecified chronological gap exists between two or more events that were still future when the prophecy was first given (e.g., Zech. 9:9-10). In fact, there are at least three more prophecies in the book of Daniel in which chronological gaps are arguably present (Daniel 2:39-41, Daniel 8:8-9 [cf. 8:21-23] and Daniel 11-12).

Consider, for example, Daniel 11-12. Although there is disagreement among students of Scripture as to where, exactly, the prophecy shifts from describing events that have already been fulfilled to events that are still future, most students would agree that there is, in fact, a transition from fulfilled to unfulfilled prophecy at some point in these chapters. I believe that this transition occurs in Daniel 11:33-36 (with v. 36 marking the beginning of unfulfilled prophecy), and that the rest of the book of Daniel is focused on events that are yet to occur. However, it must be emphasized that even if one believes that the transition between past and future events occurs earlier (e.g., in Daniel 11:5 or 11:21), it still follows that there is a “gap” of unspecified time between past and future events in Daniel 11. And what’s more, such a gap of time between prophesied events described in Daniel 11-12 is, arguably, far less conspicuous and obvious than the interval of time that I believe to be present within the 70 weeks prophecy (and it’s unlikely that Daniel would’ve been aware of a gap between the prophesied events described in chapters 11-12 when he was given the prophecy).

Thus, any student of Scripture who believes that a chronological gap is present somewhere in Daniel 11-12 – but denies that such a gap could be present in Daniel 9:25-27 – is simply being inconsistent.

Objection: Scripture speaks of a period of great tribulation for Israel that will last 1,260 days (or 3 ½ years), not seven years.

Response: The fact that we find an emphasis placed on the final 3 ½ years of this eon – i.e., the time of “great affliction” for Israel – in Daniel and Revelation doesn’t mean that these final 3 ½ years shouldn’t be understood as the second half of the 70th week prophesied in Daniel 9:27. 3½ years is, of course, exactly half of a 7-year period. Thus, rather than seeing the emphasis on a future 3 ½ year-long period of time as somehow inconsistent with or undermining the position that the prophesied 70th week of Dan. 9:27 is still future, I see it as further confirmation of this view.

Another point that supports this understanding involves the ministry of the two witnesses. As I’ve argued in an earlier article (http://thathappyexpectation.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-timing-of-snatching-away-in_18.html), the view that the ministry of the two witnesses will be taking place during the final 3 ½ years of this eon is simply not tenable. Instead, the more plausible view is that it will be occurring during an earlier 3 ½ year-long period (i.e., the first half of the 70th week). Consider the following:

1. When we understand the prophetic ministry of the two witnesses as the fulfillment of the future prophetic ministry of Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6), we can conclude that the people to whom they will be witnessing will be Israelites. But if Israel is going to be their “target audience” during the 3 ½ years of their prophetic ministry, it wouldn’t make sense for this ministry – which is going to take place in the city of Jerusalem – to cover the last 3.5 years of this eon. When this period of time begins, the Jewish remnant dwelling in Judea (and who are represented by “the woman” in Revelation 12) will – in accord with Christ’s warning in Matt. 24:15-16 – be fleeing the land of Israel for the mountainous region (or “wilderness”) in which they will be supernaturally protected until Christ returns to earth (Rev. 12:6, 13-16). And any Israelites who fail to escape at this time would be unlikely to receive much – if any – benefit from the ministry of the two witnesses during the time of Israel’s “great affliction.” On the other hand, a prophetic ministry spanning the first 3 ½ years of the 70th week would be extremely beneficial to Israel. In addition to providing un-calloused Israel with vital information concerning what they must believe and do in order to be saved, it would serve to prepare them for the coming time of great affliction. 

2. Understanding the prophetic ministry of the two witnesses as spanning the second half of the 70th week implies a scenario that is incompatible with the fact that Christ’s return is going to be taking place immediately after the 70th week ends. If the two witnesses begin their ministry at the beginning of the second half of the 70th week, then their death will be occurring on the last day of the 70th week. But this would mean that the corpses of the two witnesses are going to be lying in the street of Jerusalem for approximately three days after Christ has returned, and that the nations are going to be joyfully celebrating their deaths (even going so far as to be giving gifts to each other) for this same period of time. Such a scenario is clearly absurd and impossible. Not only would such blatant wickedness not be tolerated after Christ’s return, but we know that the man of lawlessness and all who will be aligned with him are going to be destroyed on the day of Christ’s return. Moreover, even if we placed the death of the two witnesses a few weeks or months before the end of the 70th week, we would still run into problems. For we know that the final prophesied calamities that will be occurring during the latter part of the 70th week will also be among the most severe (Rev. 16). And it seems highly implausible that the various calamities associated with the “seven bowls” (or even the last of the trumpet-related calamities) could coincide with the joyful, celebratory behavior of the unbelieving earth-dwellers for the 3 ½ days during which the two witnesses will be dead.

3. At the beginning of the second half of the 70th week, the man of lawlessness will be “given authority to do what it wills forty-two months,” and will be using his authority “to do battle with the saints and to conquer them” (Rev. 13:4-7). This is in accord with Daniel 7:25, where it’s revealed that this future world ruler ”shall wear out the saints of the Most High…and they shall be given into his hand for a season and two seasons and half a season” (i.e., for 3 ½ years). We also know that the satanically-inspired persecution of God’s people during the time of “great affliction” will begin with events taking place in the city of Jerusalem, and that it’s here that the man of lawlessness will begin to “do battle with the saints and to conquer them.” The Jewish saints at this time will either be taken into captivity, killed, or forced to flee. In light of this fact, consider the words of Rev. 11:7: “And whenever they [the two witnesses] should be finishing their testimony, the wild beast which is ascending out of the submerged chaos will be doing battle with them and will be conquering them and killing them.”

The implication here is that, as soon as the “wild beast” does battle with the two witnesses, he will conquer them and kill them. Since we know that he begins to do battle with the saints at the beginning of the second half of the 70th week, we can conclude that the two witnesses will be killed at this time (and may likely be the first saints to be killed when the time of great affliction begins). If, on the other hand, their prophetic ministry were to overlap with any part of the second half of the 70th week, it would create a contradictory situation involving two opposing forces who both have the authority to destroy, and not be destroyed by, the other (with the “wild beast” having authority to “do battle with the saints and to conquer them,” and the two witnesses having the authority to destroy with fire “anyone wanting to injure them”). When we understand the ministry of the two witnesses to take place during a different half of the 70th week than that of the saint-conquering reign of the wild beast, such a contradictory situation is avoided.

Based on the above considerations, I believe the most reasonable view is that the 1,260 days during which the two witnesses will be prophesying will constitute the first half of the 70th week. It will be by means of their prophetic ministry that un-calloused Israel will come to believe the truth concerning Jesus’ Messianic identity (for a more in-depth defense of this position, see the article to which I’ve provided a link above).

Objection: The covenant referred to in Daniel 9:27 is the new covenant, which Christ “confirmed” when he died on the cross. This confirmation of the covenant continued until Stephen’s death.

Response: What we’re actually told in Dan. 9:27 concerning the “covenant with many” will, I believe, lead one to a different view than that expressed in the objection. Here, again, is how Dan. 9:27 reads in the HCSB:

“He will make a firm covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering.”

In the Concordant Version of the Old Testament, the verse reads as follows:

“Then he will be master of a covenant with many for one seven; at half of the seven, he shall cause to cease the sacrifice and the approach present; on a wing of the sanctuary shall be desolating abominations.”

And here is how the verse reads in Young’s Literal Translation:

“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…”

The Hebrew verb translated “make firm,” “be master of” and “strengthened” in these translations is gabar. The only other occurrence of the form of this verb as found in Dan. 9:27 is in Psalm 12:4. And there, the term seems to mean “have mastery” or “prevail.” Thus, the idea being communicated in Dan. 9:27 is that the 70th week “covenant with many” is going to be made to “prevail” by the “ruler” (or “governor”) who is in view (or, if the CVOT is correct, it means that the governor in view is going to become “master of” this covenant).

In some Bibles (such as the KJV, the NIV and the NET), the verb gabar is translated as “confirm.” However, because of the ambiguity inherent in the word “confirm,” I think we need to be careful when using it in reference to the covenant referred to in Dan. 9:27. Insofar as we understand the word “confirm” to mean “strengthened” (which is one definition of “confirm”), this word can be considered an acceptable translation of gabar in Dan. 9:27. However, the English word “confirm” can also mean “verify.” And when the word “confirm” is understood in this sense, it is not consistent with the meaning of the Hebrew term gabar (for, as already noted, the form of the verb gabar used in Dan. 9:27 does not merely communicate the idea that the truth or veracity of the covenant in view is being established). Even in the LXX, the Greek word used to translate the Hebrew term gabar (dunamoo) means “to strengthen” or “make firm” (and not merely to “verify”).

Moreover, the wording of Dan. 9:27 implies that the “covenant” in view will be in effect when the 70th week begins, and that this will be the result of the actions of the “coming governor.” However, the new covenant that we’re told God “shall be covenanting with the house of Israel after those days” (Heb. 8:10) did not go into effect either before or after Christ’s death. We do know that it was through his death that Christ became the “Mediator” of the new covenant (see Hebrews 8:6-13, 9:15-17, 10:15-22, 29 and 12:24). However, this fact did not cease to be the case at any point after Christ’s death (whether at Stephen’s death or any subsequent time). Christ’s status as “Mediator of the covenant” has never been annulled. That which Christ accomplished through his death on behalf of those who will be “obtaining the promise of the eonian enjoyment of the allotment” (Heb. 9:15) has never been undone. The new covenant of which Christ became the Mediator was just as certain to be put into effect AFTER Stephen’s death as it was BEFORE Stephen’s death.

Objection: After the resurrection of Christ, Christ “confirmed” (i.e., he verified) the new covenant with many through signs and wonders for 3.5 years, until Stephen was stoned (at which point this “confirmation” of the new covenant with many through signs and wonders was put on hold until the end-time).

Response: It’s already been noted that the term translated “confirm” in a few translations of Dan. 9:27 (gabar) does not simply mean “verify.” It means, “cause to prevail,” “strengthen” or “make firm.” However, the new covenant was not “caused to prevail,” “strengthened” or “made firm” by Christ “through signs and wonders” during the time prior to Stephen’s death. But let’s assume, just for the sake of argument, that the term gabar can be understood to mean “verify” in Dan. 9:27. Is it true that the new covenant was verified through signs and wonders for a period of 3 ½ years (from the resurrection of Christ until the death of Stephen)? No.

We know that the apostles heralded the evangel of the kingdom to Israelites in Jerusalem prior to the persecution that arose in connection with Stephen’s death (and which led to the ecclesia in Jerusalem – except the apostles – being “scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria”). It’s also evident that signs and wonders were performed among the people of Israel during this time (Acts 2:43, Acts 4:30, Acts 5:12, Acts 6:8). However, it’s equally true that “signs and wonders” were still performed in connection with the ministry of those who heralded the evangel of the kingdom even after Stephen’s death and the subsequent persecution-caused scattering (Acts 8:6-7, 13, 17-18, 39; 9:32-43; 10:44-47 [cf. 11:15-17]; 11:27-28; 12:6-11, 22-24). In Acts 11:19 we read, “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews.” And we know that, as a result of the ministry of those who were scattered, Jews continued to believe and be added to the ecclesia “throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31). Jews continued to be saved through the miracle-working ministry of Peter as well (Acts 9:32-42). And we also know that, both before and after Paul’s ministry among the nations began, he heralded the evangel of the kingdom to Israelites in the synagogues (including in Jerusalem).

So not only did “signs and wonders” not end with Stephen’s death, but the heralding of the evangel of the kingdom to Jews/Israelites didn’t end, either. This simple fact contradicts the theory assumed in the above objection. Moreover, even if the “signs and wonders” of the apostolic era should be understood as having “confirmed the new covenant” (which I don’t think is the case), we would have to conclude that the new covenant was being “confirmed” even after the death of Stephen (which, again, contradicts the theory assumed in the objection). However, we’re never told that the purpose of the signs and wonders that occurred during the apostolic era was to “confirm the new covenant.” Instead, the primary purpose of the signs and wonders that occurred in connection with the ministry of the apostles (including the ministry of Paul) was to authenticate the apostleship and authority of the apostles (for a defense of this view, see the following article: http://thathappyexpectation.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-status-of-body-of-christ-prior-to.html).

Objection: The one referred to as “the prince who is to come” in Dan. 9:26 was the Roman general, Titus. However, the “he” who we’re told would “make a firm covenant with many for one week” and then “put a stop to sacrifice and offering” in “the middle of the week” can’t be a reference to Titus. We thus have good reason to believe that Jesus Christ is in view.

Response: Although this objection is correct in not identifying “the prince who is to come” with Jesus Christ, there is no good reason to understand the “he” of v. 27 as a reference to someone other than “the coming prince” of v. 26. In accord with the ordinary rules of grammar, a pronoun should be understood as referring to the nearest antecedent unless there is a contextual reason to think otherwise. And the nearest antecedent in agreement with “he” in v. 27 is “the prince who is to come” (or “the coming governor”) referred to in v. 26. Thus, the reader is justified in understanding the “he” of Dan. 9:27 as a reference to the previously-mentioned “coming prince” or “governor” of v. 26.

In fact, I have actually understated my case here. On pages 161-162 of his book Daniel and the Latter Days, Robert Culver explains the grammar-based difficulty facing the non-futurist interpretation of Dan. 9:27 as follows:

“…the ordinary rules of grammar establish that the leading actor of this verse is the Antichrist, the great evil man of the end time. “He shall make a firm covenant” (ASV), –thus the verse opens. A more literal reading of [the Hebrew expression] is: “And he shall cause to prevail a covenant.” If the pronoun “he” were present in the Hebrew, a case might possibly be made for the introduction of an entirely new personality into the story at this point. However, there is no pronoun; only the third masculine singular form of the verb indicates that an antecedent is to be sought, and that of necessity in the preceding context. Usually, the last preceding noun that agrees in gender and number and agrees with the sense is the antecedent. This is unquestionably…”the coming prince” of verse 26.”

Since Titus didn’t “make a firm covenant with many for one week” or “put a stop to sacrifice and offering” in the middle of the 70th week, we can reasonably conclude that Titus did not fulfill the prophecy concerning “the prince who is to come.” But what about Christ? It’s already been shown that Christ didn’t “make a firm covenant with many for one week,” and for this reason alone we can rule out any interpretation which understands the “he” of Dan. 9:27 as a reference to Christ. And one could also argue that, since Christ isn’t “the prince who is to come” of v. 26, he can’t be in view in v. 27.

But what about the claim that, in the middle of the 70th week, Christ “put a stop to sacrifice and offering” (or “caused sacrifices and offerings to halt”) when he died on the cross? The clear implication of what we read in Dan. 9:27 is that sacrifice and offering will be caused to cease in the middle of the 70th week. However, we know from history that sacrifice and offering did not cease in the first century until 70 AD (which is forty years too late to fulfill a prophecy that, according to the view expressed in the objection, was fulfilled when Christ died). Some have suggested that sacrifice and offering ceased when the “curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51). However, Scripture doesn’t actually reveal that the tearing of the curtain resulted in a cessation of the daily sacrifice and offering, and it’s unlikely that this event would’ve resulted in a complete cessation of this activity. And even if there was a temporary disruption in the work of the Levitical priests in the temple when the curtain was torn, the simple fact is that it was God – and not Christ – who miraculously caused the curtain to tear. The tearing of the curtain was not Christ’s doing at all.

Some want to understand the expression “put a stop to” (or “cause to cease”) in Dan. 9:27 to mean that Christ’s death de-legitimized or invalidated the sacrificial system, and rendered any further sacrifices unnecessary (and even “abominable” to God). However, the expression translated “put a stop to,” “cause to cease,” “put an end to” (etc.) simply does not mean this. The clear idea being communicated in Dan. 9:27 (especially in light of what we read in Dan. 8:11-14, 11:31 and 12:11) is that, in the middle of the seven-year-long period or “week” in view, the coming “prince” or “governor” in view will cause the actual occurrence of sacrifice and offering to cease/be stopped (such that sacrifice and offering are prevented from occurring for the remainder of the “week”). Moreover, it’s simply not the case that Christ’s death de-legitimized or invalidated Israel’s sacrificial system. Although this belief is deeply entrenched in the hearts and minds of most Christians, it betrays a misunderstanding of both Scripture and of the Jewish sacrificial system itself (for a refutation of this commonly-held Christian position, see the following blog articles: That Happy Expectation: Why I believe there’s going to be a future “abomination of desolation” in a rebuilt Jewish temple and That Happy Expectation: A Defense of Israel’s Expectation, Part One).

Moreover, in the larger context of the book of Daniel, the stopping of sacrifice and offering is associated with an abomination-related desolation taking place, as well as the persecution of the saints (Dan. 7:25; 8:11-14, 24-25; 11:31; 12:1-2, 7, 11-12). In accord with these other prophecies, the clear implication of Dan. 9:27 is that, at the midpoint of the 70th week, certain “desolating abominations” in the temple will coincide with the cessation of sacrifice and offering. When understood in the larger context of Daniel, it’s evident that what we read in Dan. 9:27 concerning a certain governor causing sacrifices to cease (and associated “abominations” to occur) did not take place when Christ died on the cross.

Objection: In Daniel 9:27, desolating abominations (plural) are referred to, whereas in Daniel 12:11 and Matthew 24:15, the singular “abomination” is used. This means that two different events and time periods are in view.

Response: It should first be noted that, while the plural “abominations” is used in Daniel 9:27 in the Hebrew Masoretic text (or MT), the singular “abomination” occurs in the Greek Septuagint (LXX) translation (which reads, “…there shall be an abomination of desolations”). But let’s assume that the MT is more accurate here than the LXX. Does this mean that the event and time period in view in Dan. 9:27 is different from that referred to in Daniel 12:11 and Matt. 24:15? No. Elsewhere in Scripture, the term “abomination” is connected with the false gods and idols of the nations (for example, in 1 Kings 11:5, 7 and 2 Kings 23:13, the false gods of the Ammonites, Moabites and Sidonians are referred to as the abominations of these nations). The idols/images associated with the worship of false gods are also referred to as “abominations” (Deut. 29:17; Jer. 4:1; 7:30; 13:27; 32:34; Eze. 5:11; 7:20; 20:7). We also find the plural “abominations” used to refer to the worship of idols/false gods (Jer. 13:27; Isa. 66:3).

In view of these considerations, the use of the plural “abominations” in Dan. 9:27 can be understood as indicating that both an idol and the worship of the idol are in view here. We know that the abomination of desolation will involve not only an idol being set up in the temple, but also the worship of this idol (Rev. 13:14-15). The fact that the worship of this idol will also be an abomination to God accounts for why Daniel 9:27 would refer to “desolating abominations” as being present in the sanctuary during the second half of the 70th week. Thus, the prophesied “desolating abominations” of Daniel 9:27 and the prophesied “abomination of desolation” of Daniel 12:11 and Matt. 24:15 need not be understood as referring to two different events and time periods.

Another point concerns the clear connection that exists between the desolating abominations and the cessation of sacrifice and offering referred to in Dan. 9:27. In support of this connection, let’s consider the following prophecy in Daniel 11:31: ”Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate.”

Most scholars understand this prophecy to have been fulfilled in 168 BC when the Syrian ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, put an end to the daily sacrifice in the temple and set up an altar to a Greek god (probably Zeus) in the most holy place, thereby polluting the sanctuary (see 1 Maccabees 1:48, 54). This is the view to which I hold as well. However, according to Christ’s prophecy in Matt. 24:15, there is another “abomination of desolation” that is “declared through Daniel the prophet,” and which will be “standing in the holy place” at a yet-future time. And it is this prophesied event that I believe is in view in the remaining verses from Daniel that refer to the “abomination of desolation.” In Daniel 8:11-13, it was revealed that the cessation of the daily sacrifice (or the “continuous ritual”) would coincide with a “desolating transgression” occurring in the temple. In Dan. 9:27, the reference to “desolating abominations” in the sanctuary comes immediately after we’re told that sacrifice and offering will be caused to cease in the middle of the 70th week. And in Dan. 12:11, it’s evident that the setting up of the “abomination of desolation” will coincide with the taking away of “the continuous ritual.”

In all of these verses (including Dan. 11:31), an abominable object and/or event resulting in “desolation” is inseparably connected with the cessation of sacrifice and offering. In fact, the clear implication of each of these verses is that the desolation-causing object and/or event is something that either coincides with or shortly follows the cessation of sacrifice/offering, and that both of these related events will be occurring on the same day (this is especially evident from Daniel 12:11, where it's revealed that the taking away of the regular burnt offering and the setting up of the abomination of desolation will occur 1,290 days before another related event takes place). It’s thus reasonable to conclude that the mid-70th week event referred to in the first part of Dan. 9:27 (the causing of sacrifice and offering to cease) will coincide with the “desolating abominations” that are referred to in the second part of this verse. It’s also reasonable to believe that Daniel would’ve understood the cessation of sacrifice and offerings referred to in Dan. 9:27 as a negative event, and to be directly related to the desolating abominations to which Gabriel referred.

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