The reader is advised to read Daniel 9 before proceeding with this post. While the emphasis of this series is on the end times, this prophecy is complex and needs proper analysis before one can safely draw the necessary inferences used to construct an end times chronology.
The Seventy Weeks or Seventy Sevens
This prophecy is thoroughly Israel-centric, focussed on Jerusalem and the Temple, although it has ramifications for the world as a whole. The end-point of the prophecy is to bring in everlasting righteousness for Israel – i.e. for Israel to be walking corporately in right relationship with God. Although there are messianic congregations among the Jews, we know from Romans 11 and sundry other texts in the New Testament that this purpose was not achieved in the first century.
By considering other Old Testament prophecies, we can see that this purpose is not achieved until the end times as the descriptions of Israel living in right relationship with God contain miraculous elements, not consonant with our own time, but best situated in the period of Christ’s kingdom (what John in Revelation will call the Millennium), following the defeat of the Antichrist. These considerations allow us to draw the conclusion that the end of the Seventy Weeks is the return of Christ, which will be important for our subsequent reasoning.
The next point to address is the meaning of the term “week” or “seven” in this passage. While the term can mean a period of seven days, it is best understood here as a period of seven years, analogous to our term “decade”, meaning a period of ten years. We know this is correct for a few reasons.
(1) By comparing various passages in Scripture we can situate the Great Tribulation in the second half of the final, or seventieth, week. We know from comparing Daniel, Revelation, the Olivet Discourse, that this period lasts 42 months or 1260 days or “time, times, and half a time”. This works out at 3.5 years (where a year is defined as 360 days or 12 months of 30-day duration). 3.5 years would be the same as half a week where a week is defined as 7 years. The specificity of these numbers for the period of tribulation makes them highly unlikely to be symbolic (although 7 is obviously a number with great symbolic value in Scripture). Furthermore, if they were symbolic of a much longer, ill-defined period, they would not be a source of comfort to God’s people. Knowing that this period of unprecedented tribulation cannot last longer than 3.5 years is comforting, as intended.
(2) The period of persecution under Antiochus until the Temple was recaptured, cleansed, and re-dedicated was approximately 3.5 years. No one disputes this. Therefore, given that the historical type of the Abomination and Great Tribulation was 3.5 years, it seems probable that the anti-type (i.e. fulfilment) in the end times should be the same length.
(3) The preceding 69 weeks (assuming they run consecutively without an internal gap) works if the weeks are defined as a periods of 7 years. This covers span from the command to rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem under the Persians to the crucifixion of Jesus or fall of the Temple in AD 70, depending on how one understands “the anointed one shall be cut off”. There is fine-tuning to be done as Persian chronology and Judean chronology have some issues for this period, but on a rough analysis a period of 483 years is about right. By comparison, 483 days or a period much longer than 483 years does not make sense for this as the starting point is clear, and the end of the 69 weeks can only be either the crucifixion of Jesus or the fall of the Temple in AD 70.
Two Temples in view
I mentioned in earlier posts that Jesus’ Disciples seem not to have understood that the Temple would be rebuilt (i.e. that it would be destroyed in their generation and the Abomination of Desolation would take place in a Third Temple, built some time further ahead). St Paul may not have understood this either. Jesus does not address this point in the Olivet Discourse – perhaps he felt that it would overcomplicate matters and detract from the structure of His teaching.
However, we can see from Daniel 9 that there are two Temples, which provides independent confirmation of our hypothesis, which was derived from the conviction that the Abomination of Desolation did not happen in AD 70. Verse 26 tells us that the Temple will be destroyed after the 69th week. This is a reference to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.
(Chris White thinks that “the anointed one shall be cut off” is also a reference to that event. He thinks it should be translated “anointed place”, as the Temple and its artefacts were anointed according to the Law of Moses. My thoughts on this can be found here, which contains a link to his own material. His is very much a minority view. Most commentators view this as a reference either to the crucifixion of Jesus or the assassination of Onias III, one of the High Priests in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. Admittedly, “cut off” is rather mysterious and not as forthright as we might desire. There might be divine reasons for this, however. The term probably means more than mere execution. In the Torah, cutting off is often used to mean casting a person out of the congregation of the Israelites. This could therefore be a cryptic reference to the fact that Jesus was rejected by the Jewish leadership and much – but not all – of Israel.)
However, the seventieth week presupposes the existence of a Temple, since that is where the sacrifices take place that Antichrist will stop, and that is where he places abominations. That (and Jerusalem generally) is what he makes desolate of righteous people. The inference is clear: the Temple will be destroyed (we know in hindsight by the Roman armies and their allies) but will be rebuilt.
The “peace treaty”
Verse 27 is the source of ideas about a Middle East peace treaty in prophecy circles. I stated in an earlier post that St Paul’s reference to “peace and safety” is most likely not a reference to the covenant of verse 27. There are a few reasons for this.
(1) St Paul has the return of Christ in view. As this occurs towards the end of the seventieth week, but the covenant is at the beginning, the covenant is most likely not in view, being 7 years prior (or there abouts).
(2) While textual references and allusions take many forms, one would still expect St Paul to be more explicit if he had the covenant in mind. There are no words in this passage that directly suggest a covenant such as διαθηκη, συνθηκη, ομονοια, σπονδη, συλλυσις, συνθεσια, or similar.
(3) Paul does not refer to the framework of the seventy weeks prophecy or the seventieth week specifically.
Notably, Christ Himself does not refer to the covenant that commences the seventieth week in His Olivet Discourse. Indeed, there is no clear reference to it in the New Testament (though the First Seal in Revelation might be a reference – if so, it is not certain). The first clear sign that Christ provides is the Abomination of Desolation, which occurs in the middle of the seventieth week.
As Alan Kurschner has observed, this may mean that the covenant is not easily recognisable at the time. Perhaps it will be secret, or perhaps, although significant, people will not distinguish it easily from other peace treaties occurring at the time.
Given the fact that the Temple has not existed since AD 70 and that its desecration is mentioned in the same verse as this covenant or treaty, it is quite likely that the treaty will specifically provide for the rebuilding of the Temple or at least open the way for it. It is also likely that work on rebuilding the Temple and/or resumption of Mosaic sacrifices will occur around the same time as this treaty.
Also noteworthy is the fact that although it is the Antichrist who confirms the treaty, St Paul does not say that the treaty is the means whereby we will recognise him. Rather, it is the Abomination of Desolation that reveals who he is. This suggests that various prominent political and religious figures will play roles in the end times and it is only through fulfilling that particular prophecy that we can be certain which person is the Antichrist. No doubt, we shall then see in hindsight how he fulfilled other prophecies involving the Antichrist.
This is where I should say a few words about the Abraham Accords. These Accords are important prophetically, though I do not think verse 27 has been fulfilled yet. They are significant because they open the door to Jewish worship on the Temple Mount, which has been forbidden to-date by the Waqf. This in turn could open the way for sacrifices and some form of Temple structure on the Temple Mount (a Tabernacle would be sufficient, as Alan Kurschner has pointed out: the Torah does not require a Temple of stone).
As for President Trump being the Antichrist, this idea is misconceived for several reasons.
(1) The Antichrist rules and comes from the Middle East, not The United States of America.
(2) President Trump does not display (even in moments of passion) any of the hatred of Israel and Christians that characterises the Antichrist. Quite the opposite: the President has consistently supported Jews and Christians. While these Accords are misconceived in their attempt to divide the land of Israel, President Trump in no way resembles Antiochus Epiphanes, the Pharaoh of the Oppression, Nero, Nebuchadnezzar, Hitler, or any of the tyrants of history that have served as types of the Antichrist.
(3) The President is the instigator of these Accords. The verse speaks of the Antichrist as confirming the covenant, not creating it. Assuming these Accords are in fact the covenant that will be confirmed (and that is far from certain), the northern nations of Turkey, Syria, and Iran are not currently part of them. Based on other biblical passages we would expect the Antichrist to emerge from that region and to perhaps be involved in brining those nations into the Accords, if indeed the Accords are the covenant. We are still too early in the process and we might reasonably expect to see explicit provision for a Temple on the Temple Mount, given the sensitivity of the location.
We will add the covenant and rebuilding of the Temple to our chronology, but the reader should take note that:
- it may not be easy to recognise the covenant for what it is at the time; and
- it is not certain how many years intervene between commencement of building the Temple and the Abomination of Desolation. The text does not explicitly say that work on the Temple begins at the same time as the treaty is confirmed.
- Treaty confirmed by the Antichrist, presumably specified to last for 7 years, and rebuilding of the Temple
- Abomination of Desolation
- Great Tribulation
- Darkening of the heavens
- Return of Christ
- Resurrection and rapture of the saints
- Day of the LORD
- Beginning of Christ’s earthly kingdom
Lastly, a word should be said about the assumed gap of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks, while no gap has been assumed between the seventh and eighth weeks. There reason for this gap is as follows.
There is no reason to assume one between the seventh and eighth weeks because no gap is mentioned or implied in verse 25. Furthermore, a gap would make it impossible to predict the timing of the cutting off of Messiah / destruction of the Second Temple, which would defeat the purpose of the 69 weeks portion of the passage.
On the other hand, a gap is almost or actually implied by verse 26. There is no indication that the final week immediately follows the sixty-ninth week and there is no aim in the passage to provide a means of predicting when the final week will commence. The timing of the return of Christ in Scripture is only relative: we know it must be no later than 3.5 years from the Abomination of Desolation – but Scripture gives no advance indication of the calendar years in which the Abomination and return of Christ will occur.
The seventieth week was placed by Christ at a time future to the Olivet Discourse. It therefore does not fit the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. The crucifixion of Christ and destruction of the Temple happened after the sixty-ninth week. If the placing of Roman standards in the Second Temple at the time of its destruction had been the Abomination of Desolation, then Christ would have appeared 3.5 years later and Israel would have been ushered into the promises announced by the angel Gabriel in this passage. That did not occur. Therefore, the best inference is that the seventieth week will commence some time in the future.