Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The 70th Week of Daniel's Prophecy: Daniel 9:24-27 and the Traditional Messianic Interpretation


The dispensational understanding of Daniel 9:24-27 is fundamental to the establishment of the Bible Presbyterian’s end-time schema. The seven year tribulation period which follows the pretribulation rapture, according to Far Eastern Bible College, is the fulfillment of the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy. The 70th week of Daniel begins with the Antichrist’s signing of a peace treaty with national Israel. This roughly coincides with the secret rapture of Christians.

The Antichrist will impose his cruel, despotic rule during the second half of the seven years tribulation period, also known as the Great Tribulation. All converts to Christianity will be fiercely persecuted during these three and a half years. At the end of the 70th week of Daniel, Christ will return visibly with His saints to execute judgment upon the ungodly. Instead of hovering in midair as in the secret rapture, Christ will now touch down upon terra firma.[1] A majority of Israelites will now turn to Christ in repentance and faith. Satan will be bound, and Christ begins His Davidic, earthly reign for one millennium.

For Dispensationalists and Bible Presbyterians, “probably no single prophetic utterance is more crucial in the fields of Biblical Interpretation, Apologetics, and Eschatology” than the seventy-weeks prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27.[2] In fact, the dispensational exposition of Daniel 9:24-27 “is often appealed to as the conspicuous proof that the entire Church age is a parenthesis in the prophetic program which is to be discovered between vss. 26 and 27 of Dan. ix.”[3] The most striking characteristic of the dispensational understanding is the placement of a time gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel’s prophecy. Kenneth Gentry writes,

“Dispensationalism incorporates a gap or parenthesis between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. This gap spans the entirety of the Church Age from the Triumphal Entry to the rapture.”[4]

The first 69 weeks of Daniel 9:24-27 are understood to be chronologically sequential, and therefore, fulfilled consecutively. However, Bible Presbyterians, following their Dispensational brethren, impose an indeterminable time gap between the last two weeks of Daniel’s prophecy. This time gap is also known as the church age.

It is well known amongst exegetes that the exposition of Daniel 9:24-27 is notoriously controversial and difficult. Montgomery laments that “the history of the exegesis of the 70 Weeks is the Dismal Swamp of O.T. criticism. . . . [T]he trackless wilderness of assumptions and theories in the efforts to obtain an exact chronology fitting into the history of Salvation, after these 2,000 years of infinitely varied interpretations, would seem to preclude any use of the 70 Weeks for the determination of a definite prophetic chronology.”[5]

Gentry concurs that,

“This “extremely important prophecy” [of Daniel 9:24-27] is the most difficult for dispensationalists to make credible to those outside of their system. Even dispensationalist Robert Culver admits: “The difficulty of the verses that now lie before us is evident.” “Premillennial writers of two or three generations ago were very far apart on the details. Much of the same diversity appears in premillennial contemporary writers.” In fact, Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy leads dispensationalism into one of its most strained peculiarities: The doctrine of the gap theory of the Church Age.”[6]

Despite the exegetical difficulty, the entire end-time schema of dispensationalism depends upon an accurate and sound exegesis of Daniel 9:24-27. The dispensational understanding of Daniel’s seventy weeks forms an indispensable foundation for Bible Presbyterian eschatology. According to Gentry:

“The chronology provided in Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (Dan. 9:24-27) is a linchpin in the dispensational system, although it is not crucial to any of the other millennial systems. Walvoord comments that the “interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 is of major importance to premillennialism as well as pretribulationism.” Being such, it is the “key” to prophecy and, consequently, “one of the most important prophecies of the bible.” Surely [Oswald] Allis is correct when he observes that “the im­portance of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks in Dispensational teaching can hardly be exaggerated.’”[7]

Both Bible Presbyterians and Dispensationalists agree that Daniel’s prophecy of seventy-weeks is an indispensable key to the interpretation of New Testament prophecy. It provides an interpretive grid for Dispensationalists to understand essential prophetic passages such as the Olivet Discourse and the Book of Revelation. In fact, this is a good illustration of how Dispensationalists and Bible Presbyterians interpret the New Testament in the light of Old Testament prophecies, instead of vice versa. This methodology goes against the Reformed principle of progressive revelation.

Since Daniel 9:24-27 forms an integral part of the dispensational, hermeneutical foundation, the entire Bible Presbyterian eschaton will collapse if we can demonstrate the exegetical weaknesses of their interpretation of Daniel’s seventy-weeks. Before we critique the dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 - also known as the Parenthesis interpretation - we shall first proceed to understand the Traditional Messianic interpretation of this passage.[8]

The Traditional Messianic Interpretation Versus the Parenthesis Interpretation

“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And 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, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate (Dan. 9:24-27).”

The traditional messianic interpretation is in many ways similar to the parenthesis interpretation of dispensationalists. As Oswald Allis has pointed out, the points of agreement are as follows:

(1) The seventy weeks represent weeks of years, a total of 490 years.

(2) Only one period of weeks is described, as is proved by the fact that the subdivisions (7+62+1) when added together give a total of 70.

(3) The “anointed one, the prince” (vs. 25) and the “anointed one” (vs. 26) are we same person, the Messiah.

(4) The first 69 weeks or 483 years had their terminus in the period of the first advent; their fulfillment is long past.[9]

Both interpretations agree that the seventy weeks of Daniel’s prophecy consist of 490 years in human history. Dispensationalists and Bible Presbyterians, likewise, concur that the prophecy is Messianic in nature, and that “the Messiah the Prince” in verse 25 and “Messiah” in verse 26 refer to Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the first 69 weeks of prophecy is fulfilled within Christ’s First Advent. Both the parenthesis and the traditional messianic interpretation, therefore, stand in opposition to various anti-messianic interpretations that have been proposed.

However, it is the differences between these two interpretations that result in at least two diametrically antagonistic eschatological grids. The points of difference centre about these questions:

(1) Have the great events described in vs. 24 been fulfilled, or is their accomplishment still future?

(2) Is the 70th week past, or is it still to come?[10]

Dispensationalists and Bible Presbyterians, of course, take a futurist approach to these two questions. They both believe that the events of verse 24 have yet to be completely fulfilled, and they both hold to the position that the 70th week is a future occurrence.

The Traditional Messianic Interpretation of Daniel 9:24

According to the traditional interpretation, “all of the great transactions referred to in vs. 24 are to be regarded as having been fulfilled at the first advent and, more specifically, in what is to be regarded as the climactic event of the prophecy, the redemption at Calvary, which is referred to literally in vs. 26 and figuratively in vs. 27.”[11]

Readers will be able to recognize that these transactions of verse 24 speak about the active and passive obedience of Christ. Young understands the 70 weeks as being decreed to accomplish six results or transactions, and he categorizes these six results into two groups of three members each.[12]

The negative results are referred to as: “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity (verse 24).” Indeed, the Messiah’s passive obedience – his atoning sacrifice – encompasses the work of breaking the power of sin over God’s elect (Rom. 6:1-2, 14), the removal of the condemnation of sin (Rom. 5:12-19; 6:23), and the atoning for iniquity (Rom. 3:21-26). Christ’s death on the cross of Calvary, indeed, took away all the eternal consequences of the curse.

Young writes:

“To sum up; sin is here pictured as transgression, sins and iniquity. These three words well represent in its fullness the nature of that curse which has separated man from God. The first stated purpose of the decreeing of the period of 70 sevens is to abolish this curse. It is to be restrained, so shut up by God, that it may no longer be regarded as existing; it is to be brought to an end, that it may no longer be present to enslave; it is also to be done away, because the guilt which it involves has been expiated. How is this to be accomplished? The text does not say, but who, in the light of the NT revelation, can read these words without coming face to face with that one perfect Sacrifice which was offered by Him, who “appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26b)?”[13]

Young refers to the last three results as being positive. These three positive results are spoken of by Daniel in verse 24b, “to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” In this group of positive transactions, all the three offices of Christ are alluded to: prophet, priest, and king.

By His perfect obedience as the final priest (Rom. 5:19), Christ brings in “everlasting righteousness.” This righteousness is the imputed righteousness of the Savior. It is by His righteousness that we can stand righteous before the judgment seat of Christ. “It is the righteousness of God which comes from God. More specifically, it is that state of rightness or right relationship with God which comes to the sinner through faith in Jesus Christ. It is the blessed condition of “being right” with God.”[14]

Jesus Christ is the Prophet of whom the Old Testament prophets had prophesized. As a prophet, Christ sealed up “vision and prophecy.” This sealing does not mean “to accredit,” but rather, “to seal up” so that prophecy no longer appears. The purpose and function of prophecy is finished, and is no longer needed in the new dispensation.

Young comments,

“The two words, vision and prophet, therefore, serve to designate the prophetic revelation of the OT period. This revelation was of a temporary, preparatory, typical nature. It pointed forward to the coming of Him who was the great Prophet (Deut 18:15). . . . When sin is brought to an end by the appearance of the Messiah, so prophecy, which had predicted His coming and His saving work, is no longer needed. It has fulfilled its task and is therefore sealed up.”[15]

According to Allis, “The “anointing of a most holy” may refer either to a person or to a place. If to a person, the reference may be to the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus to fit Him for His Messianic work (Lk. iii. 22, iv. 18); if to a place, it may refer to the entrance of the risen Christ into heaven itself, when “through his own blood he entered once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. ix. 12) for all His elect.”[16] Both Gentry and Young argue that the anointing in verse 24 “speaks of the Christ’s baptismal anointing.”[17]

Gentry reasons that Daniel 9:24-27 is primarily a Messianic prophecy. The Messiah (mashiyach, “Christ,” “Anointed One”) is specifically mentioned twice in verses 25 and 26. Furthermore, the phrase “Most Holy” rightly describes the Messiah, “that holy thing which shall be born (Luke 1:35).”[18]

Isaiah prophesized about Christ, the Redeemer, who will usher in the ultimate redemptive Jubilee (Isa. 61:1-2a; cf. Luke 4:17-21). It was also at His baptismal anointing that the Holy Spirit came upon Him (Mark 1:9-11), which marks the beginning of His earthly ministry (Mark 1:14-15). Ultimately, “Christ is pre-eminently the Anointed One.”[19]

The six transactions or results of verse 24 are, therefore, Messianic in nature, and are to be understood as having complete fulfillment in Christ’s First Advent, and especially, in His Passion. “In a word, we have in vs. 24 the prophecy of the “satisfaction of Christ,” of His obedience and sufferings, by virtue of which the sinner obtains forgiveness and acceptance with God.”[20]

Determining the Terminus Ad Quem of the Seventy Weeks

The traditional Messianic interpretation understands the death of the Messiah as occurring within the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy. “For the period of the 70th seven the Messiah causes a covenant to prevail for many, and in the half of this seven by His death He causes the Jewish sacrifices and oblation to cease. His death is thus seen to belong within the 70th seven [or week]. Consequent upon this causing the sacrifices and oblation to cease is the appearance of a desolator over the pinnacle of the Temple, which has now become an abomination. Upon the ruins a determined full end pours out. This event, the destruction of the city [of Jerusalem], does not, therefore, take place within the 70 sevens, but follows as a consequent upon the cutting off of the Messiah in the 70th seven.”[21]

Thus, the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 does not fall within the time frame of the 70 weeks. Gentry concurs that “the destruction of the city and the sanctuary with war and desolation (vv. 26b, 27b) are the consequences of the cutting off of the Messiah and do not necessarily occur in the seventy weeks time frame. They are an addendum to the fulfillment of the focus of the prophecy, which is stated in verse 24.”[22]

From Daniel 9:25, the terminus ad quem of the 69 sevens is fairly clear. According to Gentry, Allis, and Philip Mauro, the terminus of the second period of sixty-two weeks is at the baptism of Christ when He begins His public ministry (A.D. 26).[23] This marks the terminus ad quem of the first sixty-nine weeks, and the terminus a quo of the seventieth week. It should be noted that this is the interpretation widely agreed upon by most conservative scholars, excluding Bible Presbyterians and Dispensationalists who place the terminus a quo of the seventieth week at yet a future date.

“After threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off (Daniel 9:26a).” This would imply that Christ is crucified after the first sixty-nine weeks of Daniel’s prophecy. This climactic event is further referred to in Daniel 9:27, “in the midst of the week he [the Messiah] shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” Christ, by His atoning death, put an end to the Jewish cult of blood sacrifices. As the author of Hebrews writes:

“Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified (Heb. 10:9-14).”

Therefore, it is Christ who confirms (higbir) the covenant with many for one week (the 70th week), and His crucifixion takes place in the middle (“the midst”) of the 70th week. Allis comments that,

“If “in the midst” is taken in its natural sense, a half-week, or three and a half years, remains to be accounted for after the crucifixion. Many interpreters regard this as referring to the period of the founding of the Church and the preaching of the gospel exclusively to the Jews, a period ending with or about the time of the martyrdom of Stephen. Others hold that the period of three and a half years was graciously extended to some 35 years, to the date of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, a reference to which is found in vs. 26. Both of these explanations may be regarded as possible.”[24]

How should we, therefore, interpret the terminus ad quem of the 70th week - the last three and half years? Applying the analogy of faith, we ought to interpret Old Testament prophecies with the light of New Testament revelation. I concur with Meredith Kline who understands that in the Apocalypse of John, the apostle reinterprets the last three and half years of the 70th week as “a time, and times, and half a time (Rev. 12:14).” Kline explains his position:

“It appears that the last half of the seventieth week [of Daniel] is the age of the community of the new covenant, disengaged from the old covenant order with whose closing days its own beginnings overlapped for a generation. In the imagery of the New Testament Apocalypse, the last half week is the age of the church in the wilderness of the nations for a time, and times, and half a time (Rev. 12:14). Since the seventy weeks are ten jubilee eras that issue in the last jubilee, the seventieth week closes with the angelic trumpeting of the earth’s redemption and the glorious liberty of the children of God. The acceptable year of the Lord which came with Christ will then have fully come. Then the new Jerusalem whose temple is the Lord and the Lamb will descend from heaven (Rev. 21:10, 22) and the ark of the covenant will be seen (Rev. 11:19), the covenant the Lamb has made to prevail and the Lord has remembered.”[25]

Edward Young, however, restrains himself from drawing a dogmatic conclusion with regard to the timing of the seventieth week’s terminus. The difficulty in determining the terminus ad quem of the seventy weeks should not be misconstrued as weakness of the traditional messianic school of interpretation. Young points out that all schools of interpretation are, in fact, faced with this difficulty. Young writes:

“The question naturally arises, What marks the termination of the 70 sevens? In answer it should be noted that the text does not say a word about the termination. The terminus ad quem of the 69 sevens is clearly stated, namely, an anointed one, a prince. No such terminus ad quem, however, is given for the 70 sevens themselves. It would seem, therefore, that the terminus ad quem was not regarded as possessing particular importance or significance. No important event is singled out as marking the termination. All schools of interpretation, therefore, are faced with the difficulty of determining what marked the close of the 70 sevens.”[26]

In summary, we recall that seventy weeks of years are determined to fulfill six great transactions as indicated by Daniel 9:24. According to the traditional interpretation, these messianic transactions had been fulfilled during the First Advent of Jesus Christ. The terminus ad quem of the seventy weeks will not affect our understanding of the messianic fulfillments of Daniel’s prophecy. However, the placement of the terminus a quo of the seventieth week will determine whether the events of Daniel 9:24 have been fulfilled. If, according to Dispensationalists and Bible Presbyterians, the seventieth week has yet to begin, it might become necessary to deny the complete fulfillment of the transactions of Daniel 9:24.


[1] Cf. the dispensational understanding of Zech. 14:4-5.
[2] Alva J. McClain, Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, 6th ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1940), 9.
[3] Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 111-112.
[4] Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992), 331. Gentry is a postmillennialist, and a Christian Reconstructionist. We shall discuss the gap theory in detail later in this chapter.
[5] J. A. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Edinburgh: T.& T. Clark, 1927), 400–401.
[6] Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, 320-321, quoting Robert Duncan Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days, 2nd ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1977), 144.
[7] Ibid., 319-320, quoting John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1957), 24; John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), 201, 216; O. T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church, (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1945), 111.
[8] See Edward J. Young, Daniel (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1949), 192-195 for the various interpretations of Daniel 9:24-27. The two most popular interpretations of Daniel 9:24-27 are 1) the Traditional Messianic Interpretation; and 2) the Parenthesis Interpretation.
[9] Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 112. It is not within the scope of this book to provide a detailed exegesis of Daniel 9:24-27. The reader is advised to refer to Edward Young’s excellent commentary, Daniel. Also see Meredith Kline, “The Covenant of the Seventieth Week”, in The Law and the Prophets: Old Testament Studies prepared in Honor of Oswald Thompson Allis, ed. John H. Skilton (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co, 1974), 452-469.
[10] Ibid., 112.
[11] Ibid., 113.
[12] Young, Daniel, 197.
[13] Ibid., 199.
[14] Ibid., 200.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 113-114.
[17] Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, 326. Also see Young, Daniel, 200-201.
[18] Cf. 4:34, 41. See also: Mark 1:24; Acts 3:14; 4:27, 30; 1 John 2:20; Rev. 3:7; He is also called the “anointed one” (Psa. 2:2; lsa. 42:1; Acts 10:38).
[19] Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, 327.
[20] Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 114.
[21] Young, Daniel, 220.
[22] Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, 330.
[23] See Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, 323; Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 114. Also see Philip Mauro, The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation: A Study of the Last Two Visions of Daniel, and of the Olivet Discourse of the Lord Jesus Christ, Rev. ed. (Swengel, PA: Reiner Publishers, 1975; reprint, Dahlonega, Georgia: Crown Rights Book Co, 1998), 55-69. Mauro furnishes us with an excellent treatise on this subject matter.
[24] Allis, Prophecy and the Church, 114-115.
[25] Kline, “The Covenant of the Seventieth Week”, 468-469. According to Leviticus 25:1-22, the first seven weeks of years of Daniel’s prophecy are comprised of seven sabbatical years, which is forty-nine years in all. These forty-nine years constitute the Jubilee, in which “seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years (Leviticus 25:8).” This precedes the fiftieth year, which is the Year of Jubilee, when liberty is proclaimed “throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof (Lev 25:10).” Mark Rooker writes, “In addition to allowing the land to lie fallow every seventh year, the year after the seventh sabbatical year, the fiftieth year, was to be the Year of Jubilee, during which each person was to return to his personal property. Thus when a series of seven years went through seven cycles (25:8), the following year, the fiftieth year called for a special celebration. The Year of Jubilee began with a trumpet blast on the Day of Atonement (25:9), thereby proclaiming liberty to all the inhabitants of the land (25:10).” See Mark F. Rooker, Leviticus: The New American Commentary (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press, 2000), 303. The total period of four hundred and ninety years (seventy weeks) in Daniel’s prophecy, therefore, constitutes ten jubilee eras. The emphasis is upon the ultimate Year of Jubilee, which follows the seventy weeks of prophecy.
[26] Young, Daniel, 220-221.

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