Author: Ron Graham
History and Daniel’s 70 Weeks
—Times and seasons in Daniel 9
This lesson follows on from our previous lesson about the 70 weeks in Daniel 9.
There is a lot of interest in the times and seasons mentioned in prophecy, including the "seventy weeks" of Daniel.
In this lesson we match the parts of the seventy weeks with the appropriate times and events in history, especially the crucifixion of Christ followed by his ascension into heaven to reign.
This lesson proceeds on the belief that the symbolic times and numbers of prophecy do not correlate to actual numbers of years.
For example Daniel’s 70 weeks don't mean a literal seventy weeks, nor even a period of 490 years (as held by the popular year-for-a-day theory). Related to this, we interpret prophecy on the principle that the pivotal event of both history and prophecy is the cross of Christ.
1 The parts of the seventy weeks
In Daniel 9:24-27, after saying "seventy weeks have been decreed", Gabriel divides the seventy weeks as follows...
- seven weeks
- sixty two weeks
- one week( the 70th) in two halves
The climax of the seventy weeks
In the 70th and final week, the main events occur.
- The Messiah is cut off (in the middle of the week)
- The sanctuary is destroyed, sacrifices cease
- Messiah makes a firm covenant with many
Christ made a perfect once-for-all sacrifice that abolished all other sacrifices. His sacrifice became the basis for the new and final covenant.
2 The History Behind Daniel’s 70 Weeks
As a starting point, let’s correlate the seventy weeks of Daniel with actual historic events.
- Davidic kingdom in decline
- Destruction of Jerusalem
- Cyrus decrees the rebuilding. 70 weeks begin.
- Time of rebuilding and return of the remnant. The "seven weeks".
- The remnant awaits the Messiah. The "sixty two weeks".
- The Messiah comes. The 70th and final week begins.
- Preaching of the gospel begins. Making "a firm covenant with many".
- The crucifixion. The "Messiah cut off". The final half week begins.
- A stop to temple sacrifices in "the midst of the week".
- Destruction of Jerusalem
- Kingdom of Heaven in ascendancy.
Seventy Weeks and Actual Years
Again let me emphasise that the symbolic times and numbers of prophecy do not correlate to actual numbers of years. The number seven (seven days in a week) and its derivations such as seventy (ten times seven) or three and a half (the half of seven) are put in place of actual years because "it is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by his own authority" (Acts 1:7).
It is not difficult with hindsight to match the prophecy with history, but what does not correlate is the spans in real time against the symbolic times in visions.
Thinking of these times as some kind of code to break, so that you can derive a numbers of actual years from them, is not a proper way to interpret them. A lesson on Times and Seasons in Prophecy has more to say about this.
3 The Sixty Nine Weeks
As we learn in the Times of Israel series, the times of Israel consist of twelve periods. The seventy weeks in Gabriel’s prophecy to Daniel cover the last five of those periods as follows:
- The 8th period,
Return of the Remnant (during the Medopersian empire)
answers to the first 7 weeks of the seventy.
- The 9th period,
Prophecy Unfolding (during the Grecian and early Roman empires)
answers to the next 62 weeks of the seventy.
4 The 70th Final Week
The most important week is the seventieth, the final week of climax. It is in this week that the great goal will be accomplished "...to finish the transgression, to make and end of sin, to make an atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy one" (Daniel 9:24).
This seventieth week relates to the last three periods of the Times of Israel.
- The 10th period,
Coming of the Son of God (during the Roman empire)
answers to the first half of the final week of the seventy.
- The 11th and 12th periods,
Dawning of New Israel and Kingdom in All the World
answer to the second half of the final week of the seventy.
In the midst of the 70th week, two events take place relative to sacrifice.
- The first event is the crucifixion itself. On the cross Jesus made one sacrifice for all people for all time. We discussed this in The Last Sin Offering
- The second event is the destruction of the temple. The temple’s destruction caused the old forms of sacrifice to cease because the cross had rendered them no longer appropriate.
In Daniel 9:26 both the crucifixion and the cessation of temple sacrifices seem to happen at once in the midst of the week, when we know these two events were actually separated by about 40 years.
The two events ideally should have happened at once. The temple authorities should have seen the crucifixion for what it was, and made their own end to sacrifices. God gave them that opportunity. God was not going to destroy the temple the instant Christ died.
God would wait until it was clear that those in charge of the temple repudiated Christ and his sacrifice by continuing to offer sacrifices rather than bringing them to a voluntary end. God, at first, merely gave a sign with regard to the temple. On the crucifixion day, the temple was shaken by an earthquake, but was not destroyed.
All God did to the temple that day, was to tear its great curtain from top to bottom. God then allowed 40 years before the temple was actually destroyed just as Jesus predicted it would be (Matthew 24:1-2,15 Matthew 28:50-54).
We should see the crucifixion and the destruction of the temple (the offering of the perfect sacrifice and the abolition of the old sacrifices) as a single event in principle. The 40 year period is not represented by Gabriel, because it has no significance except to show the longsuffering of God.
The seventieth week is also important because during that week God is making "a firm covenant with many" (Daniel 9:27). During the ministry of Jesus, and after his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, the gospel or "firm covenant" was spread as the seed of the kingdom or heavenly Jerusalem. So it was that in the first century the church of Christ sprang up all over the world and this continues into this 21st century.
The focus of the Old Testament prophets is on the time of Christ's death, resurrection, ascension, and accession to the throne.
"As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating as he foretold the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow" (1Peter 1:10-11).
"...to finish the transgression, to make and end of sin, to make an atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy one" (Daniel 9:24).