News of natural disasters, wars, world leaders being established or replaced, and false teachers pour out of televisions, newspapers, and radios causing their audience to react in various ways. What brings great fear to one group may bring anger to another. Yet, there are others that cling religiously to both the media and the Bible. And these disasters only bring them assurance. According to them, the news of wars, tsunamis, “evil” world leaders, and false prophets are “the signs of the times.” This idea comes primarily from the Olivet Discourse given by Jesus in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Because of these signs, many believe that a rapture of the church is right around the corner, followed by a tribulation period. And yet, others believe we are in the tribulation period now, only to be raptured later. These are not the only twofuturistic views, but certainly the most popular.
Whatever the particular futuristic view may be, it is quite clear that many professing Christians believe the occurrences encircling our day are clear evidences of what Christ disclosed on the Mount of Olives. Before looking at what Christ had said there, I think it is important to first look at Daniel chapter 9. In this chapter, we find what has commonly been referred to as “Daniel’s 70 Weeks.” Christ references Daniel 9 in his discourse, and so I would like to take “Daniel’s 70 Weeks” apart, that we might clearly understand the context of Christ’s words.
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.
The Final Jubilee
The first thing we read is the term “seventy weeks.” These 70 weeks are 70 sets of 7 years. In Hebrew, it literally reads “seventy sevens.” The terminology “sevens” should draw your attention to Leviticus 25, where God establishes what was known as the the Jubilee Year. The Sabbath Day was a day of rest for people and animals on the seventh day of the week. The Sabbath Year was a day of rest for the land every seven years. The Jubilee Year was every seven Sabbath Years, or 49 years – It was observed on the 50th year. In Leviticus 25, it is described as every “seven sevens” – 49 years. So, on this 50th year, land was returned to its original owner, and slaves were freed. Debts were forgiven. In Israel, if you couldn’t “pay the bills” you could sell parts of your land, or even sell yourself into slavery (this was not the same as American slavery) to make some money. But, every Jubilee Year it was all returned and made new again.
Daniel 9 presents “Seventy sevens” – or ten Jubilees. The number ten is a number of quantitative perfection and completeness in Scripture. Christians are not numerologists, trying to come up with meanings for EVERY number in the Scriptures. But, in the case of the number ten, Scripture does provide us with evidence. Psalm 50:10 reads, “Every creature in the forest, [even] the cattle on a thousand hills, is mine.” 1000 is 10 x 10 x 10. The Lord is not saying that He owns only the cattle on 1,000 hills, but is using 1,000 as a number of quantitative perfection. The Bible is clear that all things everywhere belong to God. Deuteronomy 10:14,“Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.” Job 41:11, “Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.”
Some believe that 69 weeks are in our past, and the 70th week is still in our future. According to these futurists, we are currently in a period of time that is between the 69th and 70th week. When the text is understood properly, we will see that any gap placed between the 69th and 70th week is done so forcefully. Rather, this 70 week prophecy shows that those Jubilee Years pointed to the final and perfect Jubilee, Messianic redemption. This is the time in which slaves are freed, and debts are forgiven!
The Six Accomplishments
After Daniel’s prayer concerning the sins of his people [Jews], Gabriel tells Daniel that 490 years are decreed for his [Daniel] people [Jews] and the holy city [Jerusalem]. Within these 490 years, there will be specific accomplishments. These accomplishments are:
1) To finish transgression.
There would still be a period of 70 weeks in which the transgression of Jerusalem would continue and finish. The “finishing” of their transgression was not cessation of all of their sin, but rather a specific sin – namely, their adulterous rejection of God. They would reach the peak of their wickedness. This was demonstrated in their rejection of the Messiah and consequent rejection of the Father, as the apostle John said, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.” (1 John 2:23)
Christ places the bloodguilt from Abel to Zechariah upon the Jewish generation of his day (Matthew 23:35). They believed themselves to be better than their fathers, in that they would never murder prophets as their fathers had (Matthew 23:30). They were wrong, and Christ pointed this out to them. He told them that they will kill those He sends them. Of course, they also took the responsibility of killing the Son of God, telling Pontius Pilate that Christ’s blood would be upon them and their children (Matthew 27:25).
When Christ was on trial before the Jewish people, Pontius Pilate had doubts about condemning Christ. They exclaimed that they “had no king but Caesar,” and even told Pontius Pilate that if he released Jesus, then he was no friend of Caesar (John 19:15; John 19:12). Their adulteries had met the brim of God’s cup of wrath. Christ told the generation of His day, “Then finish what your ancestors started!” (Matthew 23:32).
2) To make an end of sin.
ולהתם חטאות – “to make an end of sin-offerings.” In the death of Christ, the sin offerings were no longer acceptable before God, although they were still offered years after Christ’s death – blasphemously so. “for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). The sin offerings were temple practices that served as “shadows” in whose substance was Christ. In other words, they were practices that pointed to the sacrifice of Christ (Colossians 2:17).
3) To make atonement for iniquity.
The reason that Christ’s offering of Himself ended the effectiveness of sin offerings in the temple, was that He was the final and perfect sacrifice. He was the “substance” of the “shadows” (Colossians 2:17). The sin offerings could never perfect or take away sin, and so they needed to be repeated (Hebrews 10:11). Christ’s sacrifice needed not to be repeated. He atoned once and for all the sins of His people and sat at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 10:12).
4) To bring in everlasting righteousness.
Those to whom the righteousness of Christ’s life and death are counted experience this everlasting righteousness by His atoning work. Our eternal life does not begin upon physical death, but upon rebirth.
“and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—” (Philippians 3:9).
5) To seal up vision and prophecy.
The gospel, that is, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ was the fulfillment of the prophets.
“And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27).
“Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44).
6) To anoint the most holy.
Some translations say “holy place” although “place” will be italicized: “the most holy place.” This indicated that it is not in the Hebrew text. This anointing of the most holy was the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry upon His baptism. Messiah also means “Anointed One.”(Luke 4:18)
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;” Isaiah 61:6
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,” Luke 4:18
“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.
From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to Messiah the Prince, would be 7 weeks (49 years) and 62 weeks (434 years).
- The decree to rebuild Jerusalem was given in 457 BC, during the month of Nisan, and the 20th year of King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2, Ezra 7:1-27).
- 457 BC + 49 years = 408 BC
- 408 BC = Streets and walls rebuilt in troubled times, as the Jews had difficulty from others rebuilding (Ezra 4:4).
“This is evident from the history of the Maccabees, as well as from the testimony of the evangelist John; and we may collect the same conclusion from the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, as the building of the Temple was interrupted during forty-six years. Cyrus permitted the people to build the Temple; the foundations were laid when Cyrus went out to the war in Scythia; the Jews were then compelled to cease their labors, and his successor Cambyses was hostile to this people. Hence the Jews say, (John 2:20,) Forty-six years was this Temple in building, and wilt thou build it in three days? They strive to deride Christ because he had said, Destroy this Temple, and I will rebuild it in future days, as it was then a common expression, and had been handed down by their fathers, that the Temple had occupied this period in its construction. If you add the three years during which the foundations were laid, we shall then have forty-nine years, or seven weeks.” – John Calvin, concerning the initial 7 weeks (49 years).
- 408 BC + 434 years = 26 AD
- 26 AD = The time of Jesus’ baptism (anointing the Most holy) and the beginning of His earthly ministry
- Jesus was 30 years old when He began His earthly ministry (Luke 3:23)
“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.”
After the 62 weeks, that is, the 62 weeks that came after the 7 weeks – the 69 weeks. After the 69 weeks would be the 70th week.
So, in the 70th week, the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and sanctuary. And its end (city and sanctuary) will come with a flood, there will be war to the end, and desolations are determined.
This refers to Christ’s crucifixion in the 70th week, upon which the people of the prince who is to come will destroy Jerusalem.
1.) One view concerning “the people of the prince” is that they are the Jews, and that they destroyed Jerusalem. How could the Jews destroy Jerusalem, when the Romans clearly destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD? Although Rome ultimately destroyed Jerusalem, it was because of the adultery of the Jewish people, namely the leadership (Matthew 23). Their wickedness brought God’s wrath upon Jerusalem, and their house was left to them desolate (Matthew 23:38). The book of Hebrews constantly warned Jewish believers to stop sacrificing in the temple. It was blasphemous in nature since Christ had already been the fulfillment of such practices. Therefore, reverting to animal sacrifice was deplorable in the face of God. These things were ineffective and soon to pass away (Hebrews 8:13).
2.) Another view concerning “the people of the prince” is that they are the Roman armies. The Romans literally did destroy Jerusalem. The “prince to come” would be Titus, the son of the Emperor Vespasian under whose rule Jerusalem was destroyed. In Matthew 22, Christ tells a parable of a wedding feast. In the parable, when those invited to the feast would not come to the feast, the king sent armies to destroy them and their city (Matthew 22:7). In fact, Matthew 24 speaks directly of the destruction of Jerusalem and mentions the “abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel.” Let’s consider Matthew’s account of the abomination of desolation. It is apparent that, the way that the gospel of Matthew is written, speaks to a Jewish audience. And so, his very reference to the abomination of desolation and Daniel show this fact.
“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” Matthew 24:15-16
Now, let’s consider Luke’s account of the same event. He is not speaking to an audience that would necessarily understand Jewish references, and so he explains what the abomination of desolation is. We see that he often explains what would otherwise be understood by a Jewish audience.
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it,” Luke 21:20-21
Luke tells us this “holy place” is Jerusalem. Now, let’s consider the gospel of Mark’s account:
“But when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. Mark 13:14
Certainly, the Roman armies stood where they didn’t belong. This was an abominable nation that sought the desolation of Jerusalem. They were the abomination that makes desolate. It is plain to see that both Christ and Daniel are speaking of the Roman armies.
“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 9:27 is still speaking of the last week. We aren’t told “80 weeks” – we are given 70 weeks.
We’ve already seen that Christ is anointed at the end of the 69th week.
He made a firm covenant (or confirm a covenant) with the many for this week through His atoning work.
For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,” (Romans 15:8)
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of theeternal covenant,” (Hebrews 13:20)
“even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
Christ’s death (Messiah cut off) in the middle of the 70th week (3 ½ years or 30 AD) causes sacrifices and grain offerings to be useless. He “put a stop to them,” although they were still offered, they were useless. To stress this further, consider the following Talmudic account:
“Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white; nor did the westernmost light shine; and the doors of the Hekal [Temple] would open by themselves, until R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: Hekal, Hekal, why wilt thou be the alarmer thyself? I know about thee that thou wilt be destroyed, for Zechariah ben Ido has already prophesied concerning thee: Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars. – Talmud, Yoma, 39b
During the last forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem (30 AD – 70 AD) various things did not happen.
- The Temple lot did not come up in the right hand In Leviticus 16, guidelines for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) were given. Two identical male goats were used for both the removal and forgiveness of sin. A “scapegoat” was used for the removal of sin. The sins of the people were placed upon the head of the scapegoat. It was then released out into the wilderness, and pushed off of a cliff. The other goat was sacrificed for the forgiveness of sin.Lots were cast to see which goat would be used as the scapegoat and the sacrifice. A white stone represented the sacrificial goat, and a black stone represented the scapegoat. So, for 40 years, the black stone always came up in the right hand. This was understood by the Jewish leaders as God rejecting the ritual of Yom Kippur.For you nerds, the probability of getting the black stone consecutively for 40 years is 240 = 1,099,511,627,776 or about 1 in 1.1 trillion!
- The crimson strap did not become white When the scapegoat was chosen, the priest would lay his hands on its head and confess the sins of the people. The people would prostrate themselves and pronounces the name of God, commonly referred to as the tetragrammaton. The priest would make a general confession as the people would confess privately.A red ribbon was then tied to the head of the goat. As the goat was pushed off the edge of the cliff (to ensure that it would not return to them), the ribbon would turn white, signifying God’s acceptance of the offer. If it was not accepted, the ribbon would stay red (Isaiah 1:18)
- The westernmost light did not shine This “light” is in reference to the westernmost lamp of the Menorah. It was left burning all day, and served to light all the other lamps. It contained a “half log” measure of oil (1 log contains the liquid of 6 eggs). In other words, it didn’t contain much, and yet miraculously would always burn until the following night. This “miracle” ended after the death of Simeon the Righteous, a high priest 40 years before the destruction of Jerusalem.To the rabbis, this light symbolized God’s presence in Israel.
- The temple doors would not stay shut This gate was the “Beautiful Gate” of Acts 3:1-10. It was said to have opened every night for the last 40 years of the temple’s existence. The Jewish historian Josephus recalls that20 men had difficulty closing the gate. This was an enormous gate.“At the same festival (Passover)… the Eastern gate of the inner court of the Temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a base armered with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of it’s own accord about the sixth our of the night.”– Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 6.5.3Interestingly, R. Johanan b. Zakkai in the Talmudic text above, quotes Zechariah’s Old Testament prophecy (Zechariah 11:1-3) concerning the destruction of the Temple. He believed the opening of the doors to be a prophetic sign that the Temple’s destruction was near.
continuing with Daniel 9:27…
“On the wings of abominations” – that is, the abominable sacrifices and temple practices of the Jews. It also refers to the ensigns and paganism that the Romans brought to the Temple.
“Will come one who makes desolate” – the Roman armies. As a result of the apostasy of the Jews, God destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD by the hand of the Romans.
The final 3 ½ years after Christ’s death are the years leading up to the stoning of Stephen. Most scholarship dates his death around 34-36 AD. Caiaphas was high priest (Acts 7:1) at the stoning of Stephen, and Jonathan would be the new high priest (Acts 9:1) in 36 AD. The stoning of Stephen was the final rejection of the gospel by the Jewish people, as this was the first Christian persecution. It was at this point that Christ’s words to the Jewish leaders in Matthew 23 were fulfilled.
This fulfillment and “sealing of transgression” led to the destruction that was decreed for the abominable sacrifices the Jews continued with after Christ’s finished work on the cross – the destruction of Jerusalem 70 AD.