Article by: Robert Van Kampen
Once we capture even a small sense of the momentous events through which God Almighty will reclaim His rightful reign over earth, we cannot help but ask, “When will these things take place?” But an even more basic question should be, “When will God reclaim the nation of Israel for Himself, thus completing the citizenship of the spiritual Kingdom of God?”
The answer to this question is the critical piece in God’s prophetic plan for the overthrow of Satan and for the reestablishment of God Almighty’s rightful and sovereign rule over the earth. There is a cause-and-effect relationship here. The cause will be God’s reclaiming all of Israel to Himself. The effect will be God’s reclaiming His rightful rule over earth, thus defeating Satan and his kingdom of darkness. To answer this question, we turn to the Book of Daniel which provides one of the crucial passages in the Bible for understanding God’s prophetic timetable.
In the days of the prophet Daniel, the nation of Israel had lost its independence to Babylon (586 b.c.), one of the beast empires of Satan, because of Israel’s continued disobedience to God. Driven from the Promised Land into Babylonian exile, Israel experienced the direct effects of God’s intensified curses, and she was again coming to recognize that God was indeed a God of His word.
The temple of Solomon had been destroyed, and the Jews began to realize that their great Defender was withdrawing the protection He had so often provided in the past. No one felt the nation’s anguish or saw her guilt more than Daniel, who cried out to God in their behalf. “Indeed all Israel has transgressed Thy law and turned aside, not obeying Thy voice,” Daniel prayed, “so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him” (Dan. 9:11).
Exactly as God had foretold through Moses, the nation had been driven into exile (Deut. 28:36) as the curses of God became progressively worse in light of the nation’s continued disobedience. Seeing the tragic condition of Israel, Daniel poured out his heart in prayer, pleading with God Almighty to forgive and act on behalf of His chosen nation. In response, God sent His angel Gabriel, giving Daniel an answer that is one of the most critical prophetic passages in Scripture.
The Seventy Weeks of Daniel
The message from Gabriel outlines the prophetic future of Israel in terms of “seventy weeks,” which refers here to seventy time periods of seven years each, or a total of 490 prophetic years. Gabriel’s words give startling insight into specific prophetic events, some of which have since been fulfilled with literal precision, and others of which are still yet to come, providing the framework for the end times:
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people [Israel, the natural line of Abraham] and your holy city [Jerusalem], 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.… So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem [destroyed by Babylon] until Messiah the Prince [Christ] there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks [a total of sixty-nine weeks or 483 years]; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off [rejected and crucified] and have nothing, and the people of the prince [Titus] who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary [a.d. 70]. And its [the city’s and the sanctuary’s] end will come with a flood; even to the end [of the age] there will be war; desolations are determined. And he [Antichrist] will make a firm covenant with the many [Israel] for one week [seven years], 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 [Antichrist], even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate [at Armageddon] (Dan. 9:24–27).
Gabriel answers Daniel’s question by telling him that Israel and their holy city, Jerusalem, will have 490 more years of direct Gentile domination before they will have atoned for their sin to God and before everlasting righteousness will be brought to the nation, sealing up prophecy, after which the most Holy One will be anointed. For this reason, these four verses contain the basic truths necessary to form a broad timeline of events, after which Israel, as a nation, will acknowledge her true Redeemer and King, Jesus Christ. Therefore, this small passage, like Genesis 3:15, is one of the most crucial eschatalogical passages in all of Scripture. As we shall see, sixty-nine of those “weeks” are past, and only the seventieth “week” (i.e., the seventieth seven-year period, what we refer to as Daniel’s seventieth week) remains before “everlasting righteousness” can be brought to Israel, and the most Holy One will be anointed, reclaiming the rule over earth from Satan.
I am sometimes asked what right do I have taking this prophecy written in the days of Daniel, and making it applicable to the end times. The answer is simple and it is worth repeating. By comparing Scripture with Scripture, we quickly see that it is Christ who singles out this particular passage as having application in the last days. The Olivet Discourse that Christ gave to His disciples concerning His second coming, refers to, in particular, this prophetic passage taken from Daniel. “Therefore, when you see the Abomination of Desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place…then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall” (Matt. 24:15, 21).
Christ referred to the same time-frame in His prophetic Book of Revelation: “…and they worshiped the dragon [Satan], because he gave his authority to the beast [Antichrist], and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’ And there was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him” (13:5, cf. Dan. 9:27; 2 Thess. 2:3, 4).
As to the forty-two months referred to in the preceding paragraph, forty-two months is three and a half years, one half of the seventieth week of Daniel. “Seventy weeks” is more literally translated as “seventy sevens.” In the Hebrew language, “sevens” can refer to days, weeks, or years, depending on the context, which in this case clearly is years (see Dan. 12:7, 11, 12; cf. Rev. 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5). In other words, a prophetic “week” corresponds to seven years, with each day in the “week” representing one year. Thus, Gabriel revealed to Daniel that there would be a period of sixty-nine seven-year periods (483 years) from the time a decree would be given to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem” until “Messiah the Prince” (Dan. 9:25).
The decree referred to here was actually given in 445 b.c. by Artaxerxes Longimanus (see Neh. 2:5). And in exact fulfillment of this prophecy, the time between the decree and the coming of Christ to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday has been calculated as being exactly 483 prophetic years of 360 days each.1
The events of the final seventieth week, however—before the Israel’s sin of unbelief will be fully atoned for, after which everlasting righteousness will be given to the nation and the most Holy is anointed—still lie in the future. This last “week” (i.e., the last seven-year period) is described in further detail in Daniel 12:11, 12, the Messenger of this prophetic detail of Gabriel’s great prophecy to Daniel, being Christ Himself. Here, in chapter 12 we find the last half of the seventieth week, outlined in terms of days, whereas Christ’s revelation to His bond- servants, quoted earlier (Rev. 13:5), outlines this same time period in terms of months. Thus we see that the last half of the seventieth week of Daniel is three and a half years in length, or 1,260 days (see Rev. 12:6, 14), and that there is an additional interval of seventy-five days (comprised of two time periods, one of thirty days and the one of forty-five days), both of which transpire before the rule of Christ on earth begins:
And from the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished, and the abomination of desolation is set up [at the midpoint of the final seven years], there will be 1290 [1,260 + 30] days. How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 [1,260 + 30 + 45] days (Dan. 12:11, 12).
The sequence of events revealed in Daniel 9:24–27, then, provides a step-by-step outline of God’s prophetic timetable. As we have already seen, the prophecy concerning the decree to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem” was fulfilled in 445 b.c. and the prophecy concerning the coming of “Messiah the Prince” on Palm Sunday was fulfilled exactly 483 years later, just as prophesied. The other events predicted by Gabriel, which had to occur before the final seventieth week would begin in the last days, have been fulfilled with equal precision. Thus the prophecy that the Messiah would be “cut off” was fulfilled in Israel’s rejection of their Messiah and their participation in His crucifixion and death; and the prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the sanctuary was fulfilled in a.d. 70 by the armies of Titus, “the people of the prince who is to come.”
The first 483 years of Daniel’s prophecy are now past. These years, which represent the first sixty-nine “weeks” came to an end on the week Christ made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, just prior to being rejected and crucified. Shortly thereafter Israel (because of her rejection of her Messiah and King) was scattered to the four corners of the earth, without a homeland and without the holy city of Jerusalem, when the armies of Titus “destroy[ed] the city and the sanctuary.”
The seventieth week—the seven remaining years—will transpire in the end times. But before this last “week” could take place, Israel needed to regain control of her Promised Land (which she did in 1948) and then the entire city of Jerusalem (which she did in 1967)—as seen by the fact that Daniel’s prophetic passage concerning the seventy weeks pertains to both “your people [Israel as a nation] and your holy city [Jerusalem]” (Dan. 9:24). However, the nation’s return to the land and her control of Jerusalem once again did not initiate the last seven-year period, but these events had to occur before that final seven-year time-frame could begin, as we will see later in this volume.
With the first sixty-nine weeks of Daniel’s prophecy completed long ago, and with Israel now back in her own homeland, the obvious question is, “When will the seventieth week begin?” In His Olivet Discourse, Christ tells His disciples that “when you see all these things [things associated with the seventieth week], recognize that He [Christ] is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt. 24:33, 34).
“These things” referred to by Christ are the events that will occur during the seventieth week, not before, and they must take place before we can look for the return of Christ. Therefore the seventieth week has tremendous significance to all who are “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).
Why the Long Gap?
After God gave the nation of Israel the choice of receiving His blessings for their obedience or His curses in exchange for their disobedience, in their depravity coupled with the prompting of Satan they quickly chose the latter. They suffered one curse after another, each one becoming progressively worse because of their progressively increasing sin.
As we saw in the previous chapter, God warned the nation of the ultimate curse, telling them through Moses:
“You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste.… But you will perish among the nations, and your enemies’ land will consume you. So those of you who may be left will rot away because of their iniquity in the lands of your enemies; and also because of the iniquities of their forefathers they will rot away with them” (Lev. 26:33, 38, 39).
The divine King of Israel, the very Word of God incarnate, “came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). As already explained in the previous chapter, that rejection triggered Israel’s most terrible curse, the great scattering of her people throughout the world that began in a.d. 70. Most of Israel did not receive their King. Some of the Jewish religious leaders even accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan, “Beelzebul the prince of the devils”—and by that act they committed the unpardonable sin (Matt. 12:24, 31).
Because Israel rejected her Redeemer and King, Jesus Christ, God extended His kingdom to the Gentiles to make the nation of Israel jealous (Rom. 11:11). Therefore, from that time forward in His earthly ministry, Jesus began teaching the multitudes primarily in parables because, as He explained to the Twelve, “while seeing they [Israel] do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt. 13:13).
But God has not forgotten and will never forsake His nation, Israel. God’s gracious plans for the people of His chosen nation are explained beautifully by the Apostle Paul in Romans:
I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! …God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? …I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them [Israel] jealous. Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their [Israel’s] fulfillment be! …Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, and you [Gentile believers] stand only by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches [Israel], neither will He spare you [Gentile believers].… For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree? For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob” (11:1, 2, 11, 12, 20, 21, 24–26).
And so, because of Israel’s rejection of Christ, the interlude or gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks has brought in salvation for the Gentiles, in order to make the nation of Israel jealous and fulfill the promise given to Abraham, that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).
But it will not always be that way. Through Daniel the Lord declared, “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…” (Dan. 9:24). And at the end of the seventy weeks Israel’s estrangement from God will come to an end—when God will bring in “everlasting righteousness,” after “the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:25, 26). Until then, “a partial [spiritual] hardening has happened to Israel.”
Hosea explained to Israel that the Lord has decreed, “I will go away and return to my place until they [Israel] acknowledge their guilt and seek My face. In their affliction [during the seventieth week] they will earnestly seek me” (5:15).
Satan must do all in his power to prevent what God has clearly predicted He will do with Israel—save the entire nation and thus complete the spiritual Kingdom of God. When Israel as a nation comes to her Lord, as the Lord Himself has declared she will, then He alone “will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one” (Zech. 14:9).
As we will see in the following chapters, Satan therefore will use his eighth and final beast empire nation, ruled by his minion Antichrist, in a final but vain attempt to destroy the nation of Israel before she puts her faith in her Messiah and King, thus completing the spiritual Kingdom of God. All of this, then, encompasses what we call the “end times,” a specified period of seven years referred to as Daniel’s seventieth week, referred to by Paul as the “fullness of the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:25) or referred to by Christ as the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24).
The Seventieth Week
It will be during the seventieth week (the final seven years of the Gentile domination of Israel) that Satan will make that final great effort to preserve his domination over the earth. Speaking of that final effort of Satan, which he will carry out through Antichrist, Daniel describes the final beast empire as
…dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts [empires] that were before it, and it had ten horns [kingdoms]. While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one [Antichrist], came up among them, and three of the first horns [kingdoms that will be directly controlled by Antichrist] were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn [Antichrist] possessed eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth uttering great boasts (Dan. 7:7, 8).
And he [Antichrist] will make a firm covenant with the many [Israel] for one week [seven years], 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 [Antichrist, empowered directly by Satan], even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed [at Armageddon], is poured out on the one who makes desolate (Dan. 9:27).
Now at that time [the midpoint of the seventieth week] Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress [the great tribulation by Antichrist] such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time (Dan. 12:1).
Speaking of those same days, Jesus gives the fathers of the church the same warning and promise in His Olivet Discourse:
Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation [Antichrist] which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)…then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect [Jews and Gentiles] those days [of Antichrist’s persecution] shall be cut short (Matt. 24:15, 21, 22).
Because of Israel’s recent return to and rule over her own homeland (including the city of Jerusalem), the present generation of the church is the first since the early church before the Diaspora of a.d. 70–132 that can look with well-founded expectation for the events that will initiate the seventieth week. Those final seven years of Gentile domination could occur practically overnight, as we shall see in the following chapters. But as we shall also see, Antichrist must first establish his eighth beast empire, or at least his three-nation coalition that he will use to drive the eighth and final beast empire of Satan during the seventieth week of Daniel.
As was stated earlier in this paragraph, such a formation could be assembled almost overnight. And when it happens, Israel will make her infamous covenant (Dan. 9:27) or have an existing treaty strengthened, by the powerful ruler of this new empire, hoping to gain his protection but having no idea that he is the Antichrist and that her alliance with him will prove to be a “covenant with death.”* It will be this “covenant with death” that initiates the end times, the seventieth week explained to Daniel by Christ, outlined in the Olivet Discourse of Christ and detailed in Christ’s revelation to John in the Book of Revelation. Only then will “these things” begin to become reality.
“These things” must occur before Israel has atoned for her iniquity, before “everlasting righteousness” can be brought into the natural line of Abraham, hardened because of their rejection of their Messiah and King at His first coming, and before the “anointing of the Most Holy” when the physical rule of Jesus Christ will be established over the millennial Kingdom of God on earth.
Throughout this chapter we have seen an important principle at work: those events prophesied in Daniel that have already been fulfilled (the first sixty-nine weeks or 483 years) were fulfilled with literal precision. Thus we can expect the same to be true of the remaining events of the seventieth week, when they do occur sometime in the future. But more than this, we can expect this same principle to be at work in all of God’s prophetic revelation.
We will now look in greater depth at what God has revealed concerning both the prophetic events that have already been fulfilled and what these mean for the things that are still to come.
* See Glossary.
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