Return to Rich's Home Page of Reformed Theology
The Seventy Weeks CHAPTER VII
ARE THE SEVENTIETH WEEKS CONSECUTIVE ?
The idea which we have discussed in our last chapter, namely that Daniel 9:27 refers not to Christ but to antichrist is usually coupled with, another, also of a very radical sort, namely, that the 70th week of Gabriel's prophecy does not come where we would naturally expect to find it, that is, immediately after the 69th week, but that it is detached from the other 69, is separated from them by many centuries, is yet in the future, and will be found at the very end of this present age. The extent to which these ideas have found acceptance in our day makes it a matter of importance to inquire very carefully into the reasons that have been given in support thereof.
We do not know just when or how these ideas sprang up. That is not, of course, a reason for rejecting them; for God is pleased from time to time to give new light from His Word. But it is a reason for subjecting them to a rigid scrutiny. This we have sought to do, and the result is we have come to the conclusion that, not only are they destitute of support in the Word of God, but they are directly contrary thereto. This we shall endeavor to make clear.
As regards the idea that verse 27 (Dan. 9) refers to antichrist, little more need be said. If the scriptures which we have cited in a preceding chapter establish that the verse was fulfilled by the Lord Jesus Christ when He died for our sins, His death having occurred "in the midst of the week" (which began with His anointing), then there is no need to show negatively that the passage (does not await a fulfilment by antichrist, or other end-time potentate). Nevertheless the negative arguments are of value by way of corroboration.
We point out, therefore, that in order to make the "he" of Daniel 9:27 refer to antichrist, it is necessary to make "the prince that shall come" of verse 26 to mean a future prince. We think we have already shown that this is absolutely inadmissible. But even if we make the unwarranted assumption that a future "prince" is referred to, still it is a question whether the pronoun "he" of verse 27 refers to him or to Christ. At this point all our previous evidences and arguments would come in to show that the pronoun must in any case be taken as referring to "the Messiah." The fulfilment of the prophecy by Christ proves that the "He" refers to Him.
But beside all this, there are insuperable obstacles in the way of the acceptance of the view we are discussing. For we are bound to reject any and every interpretation which is not supported by the Scriptures. And how is it in this case? There is not one word of proof in support of any one of tile following propositions, each and all of which must be proved to call into dispute the considered matters previously established: (1) that a future Roman prince will make a covenant with many Jews; (2) that the supposed covenant will be for a term of one week; (3) that it will have for its purpose to permit the Jews to resume their ancient and long abolished temple sacrifices; (4) that the supposed prince will break the supposed covenant in the midst of the week, and thus "cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease." We repeat that we are bound to reject the interpretation referred to unless each and all these four propositions (which are involved in it) are established by evidence from the Word of God; and the fact is that there is not one word of proof for any one of them.
Those who advance this interpretation commonly refer in support of it to Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-9; and Revelation 13:3-15. But, without discussing those scriptures, it is quite sufficient for our purpose to say that none of them makes the remotest allusion to any covenant between antichrist (or any other personage) and the Jews. The interpretation we are discussing has no basis whatever in the Scriptures. It is entirely a work of the imagination, resting upon nothing but unprovable assumptions.
We come now to the view, held and taught by many modern expositors of good repute, that the week which came next after the 69th week from the starting point, and which was in fact the 70th actual week, as time is ordinarily reckoned, is not to be taken as the 70th week of tile prophecy; but that the prophetic period is to be regarded as having been interrupted at the end of the 69th week, "tile clock of prophecy having stopped." They hold that some period of seven years yet in the indefinite future is to be taken (when it comes) and added to the 69 weeks now past to make up the complete number of 70. Or, as it is sometimes expressed, this entire age of over 1900 years, comes in as a "parenthesis" between the 69th and the 70th week of the prophetic period. We deem this view to be erroneous, and believe we can show clearly that it is not supported by, but is contrary to, the testimony of Scripture. We maintain that the 70th week of the prophecy occurred just where we would expect to find the 70th number of any series, and that is next after the 69th; or in other words that the 70th actual or historical week was also the 70th prophetic week.
The idea that the 70th week of the prophecy is detached from its companions and is relegated to the distant future, is a necessary corollary of the idea already referred to, namely, that the "he" of verse 27 (Dan. 9) refers, not to Christ, but to a future antichrist. Manifestly those two ideas stand or fall together; for if verse 27 relates to Christ, then the last week. followed immediately after the 69th; but if it relates to antichrist, or a coming Roman prince, then it is yet future.
Therefore, all the facts and reasons we have given in proof that verse 27 speaks of Christ, and all the facts and reasons given to show that the prince that is to come of verse 26 was Titus, avail equally to prove that the 70th week joined directly to the 69th. And conversely, all the facts and reasons we are now about to set forth in proof that the 70th week was indeed one of the "seventy," and not a detached and remote period, avail equally to prove that verse 27 refers to Christ.
We would point out to begin with that the words "Seventy weeks are determined," etc., are words of clear and certain meaning. They are just the words which would be used by one who wished to be understood as saying that, within the measure of 70 weeks, the six things specified in Daniel 9:24 would happen. If the speaker meant something very different, even that the specified things would not occur for more than two thousand years, then manifestly the words used by him could serve only to mislead those who trusted in them.
Therefore again, as in the case of the clause, "the people of the prince that shall come," we appeal first of all to the words themselves, which are the best evidence of their own meaning.
Never since the world began has a described and "determined" measure of time, expressed in the way always used for that purpose (that is, by stating the number of time-units making up the complete measure) been treated according to the view we are now discussing. Never has a specified number of time-units, making up a described stretch of time, been taken to mean anything but continuous or consecutive time-units. The Bible-usage in this regard will be shown presently. If, therefore, the period of the "seventy weeks" be an exception to a rule so universal and so necessary, we should at least require of those who maintain that view such clear and convincing proof as to leave no room for doubt.
But what do we find? There is no proof of any sort in support of the idea referred to; but, on the contrary, the 70th week of the prophecy is tied to the other 69 by at least seven unbreakable bands. Six are found in verse 24, and a seventh in verse 27. This will be shown later on.
We ask careful attention to the following points:
1. Where periods of time are given beforehand in the prophecies of the Bible they always mean that the time-units composing the period named are continuous. This must be so, else the prediction would serve only to deceive those who believed it. We have no other way of describing and limiting a period of time than by stating the number of time-units (hours, days, months, or years) contained therein. It is therefore a necessary law of language that the time- units be understood as being connected together without a break.
As a most pertinent example of this, let us consider the period of seventy years, with which the period of seventy weeks of years is so closely connected. God had foretold to Jeremiah that "after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you, and perform My good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place" (Jer. 29:10). From this word Daniel "understood the number of Years whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet"; and thereupon he set his face to seek the fulfilment of that promise. Have not we exactly the same reason to understand that the "seventy weeks" of years mean what they appear to mean, that Daniel had for understanding that the words "seventy years" were to be taken in accordance with their plain and obvious meaning?
Surely the two instances are exactly alike. Can we even imagine Such a thing as that God, in giving that promise to Jeremiah, intended that the seventieth year of the predicted period -- that in which the captivity of Israel was to be returned -- was to be separated from the other sixty-nine, and postponed for say five hundred years? Would not Daniel, in that case, have been miserably deceived through simply believing the Word of God? For obviously, everything depended upon that seventieth year, without which the period would not be one of "seventy years." Take away the seventieth year, and a plain simple statement becomes utterly devoid of meaning. Have we then any more right or reason to imagine that the last week of the seventy -- that in which the six great things, of Daniel 9:24 were to be accomplished -- is to be separated from the other sixty-nine, and postponed for a score of centuries? We submit to every candid mind that the two cases are exactly parallel, and that the same principle of interpretation must be applied to the seventy weeks of years, as to the seventy years. And the more so are we bound to apply the same principle of interpretation to both because there is manifestly an intended parallel between the seventy years which ended with the decree of Cyrus, and the seven times seventy years which began at that great event. For just as the ending of the captivity of Judah in the seventieth year was necessary "that the word of the Lord might be fulfilled," so likewise the accomplishment of the six things predicted in Daniel 9:24 must take place in the seventieth week of years, else the prophecy would utterly fail, and the word of the Lord would be falsified. That those six things did take place, one and all, in the seventieth consecutive week from the starting point of the prophetic period, is a fact which cannot be disputed. To this we will come later on.
Furthermore, in every other case in Scripture where God has foretold the measure of time within which a specified thing was to happen, the time-measure so indicated was intended to be taken in its plain and ordinary sense. We give some examples:
The 430 years sojournings of Abraham's posterity, whereof God had spoken to him (Gen. 15:13; Ex. 12:40; Gal. 3:17) were accomplished to a day (Ex. 12:41, 42).
The seven years of plenty and seven years of famine, which Joseph foretold, were fulfilled according to the plain meaning of the words (Gen. 45:6).
The forty years wanderings of the Israelites in the wilderness, which God appointed as a punishment for their unbelief (Numb. 14:34), were forty consecutive years.
But let us take a stronger illustration. Our Lord, in foretelling His own death, declared again and again that "the third day," or "in three days," or "after three days," He would rise again. Those expressions all mean one and the same thing, and would never be taken in any sense but one. Suppose, however, that some ingenious person should now come forward with the idea that Christ did not rise f rom the dead on the third consecutive day after His death, but that His resurrection is yet future; and suppose he should endeavor to make the words of Christ agree with this view by saying that the third day, on which He was to rise, did not follow immediately after the other two, but there was an unmentioned "parenthesis" of about two thousand years in between, would he not have for his view no foundation in the words of Scripture as those who would insert a "parenthesis" of two thousand years between the 69th and 70th week of Gabriel's prophecy?
In reply to this argument one might say -- "But we have other proof that the third consecutive day was meant, in that Christ actually arose on the third consecutive day." That fact does indeed help to show the meaning of the words "three days," though it does not impart the meaning to them; and likewise in the case we are considering, the meaning of the words "seventy weeks" is further established by the fact that the six things which were to take place within that period actually happened in the seventieth consecutive week from the starting point.
We are bold, therefore, to lay it down as an absolute rule, admitting of no exceptions, that when a definite measure of time or space is specified by the number of units composing it, within which a certain event is to happen or a certain thing is to be found, the units of time or space which make up that measure are to be understood as running continuously and successively. "Seventy years" would invariably mean seventy continuous years; "seventy weeks' would mean seventy continuous weeks; "seventy miles" would mean seventy continuous miles.
If, for example, one journeying along a road were informed that, within seventy miles from a given point he would come upon certain specified things, as a hill, a tower, a stream, a mill, and the like, there is manifestly but one sense in which he could understand the statement. Suppose in such a case that he should proceed on his way for 69 miles without meeting any of the specified things, would he not confidently expect to find them in the one remaining mile of the 70? Suppose, however, he should traverse that mile without coming upon any of those things, would he not have a right to say he had been grossly and intentionally deceived? And would it set the matter right for the one who made the deceptive statement to say that the 70th mile he had in mind did not join on the 69th, but was two thousand miles further on? We say the deception in such case would, be intentional; for if one uses an expression which has a definite and well-settled meaning, but gives to it in his own mind a very different meaning, which he keeps to himself, he can have had no other purpose than to mislead those who might act upon his words.
2. We have thus far appealed only to the plain and obvious meaning of the words "seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city to finish the transgression," etc. But there is much more in this prophecy to bind the last week of the Seventy firmly to the other sixty-nine. The 69 weeks brought us "unto the Messiah," but not to His death, by which Israel "finished the transgression." In order that there should be not the slightest uncertainty as to this, the prophecy says, "And after the three-score and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off." Thus the 69 weeks are nothing, except years which must elapse -- a blank space of time,- whereas the 70th week is everything to the purpose of fulfilling the six predictions of verse 24. If then, we know when the Messiah was cut off, we know when the six things of verse 24 were accomplished. And we do know, both by the words of the prophecy, and also by the information given in the Gospel according to John, that Christ was crucified within the "week" (seven years) following His anointing and manifestation to Israel. We know, in other words, that he was "cut off" in the seventieth week counting in the ordinary way from the given starting point. And this would be true regardless of what decree be taken as that starting point. This double witness, that of the prophecy itself and that of the Gospel-records, puts the matter beyond all doubt. By means thereof we know to a certainty that none of the six great things foretold in verse 24 happened within the sixty- nine weeks, but that each and all of them came to pass within the week which came next thereafter, that is to say in the seventieth consecutive week from the starting point. Nothing could be better established upon clear scriptural evidence than this.
This matter, however, is important enough to warrant our dwelling a while longer upon it. In view of the facts stated above no one will or can deny that the crucifixion occurred in the 70th week from the starting point of the prophecy. The proof of this is absolute. It only remains then to point out that the crucifixion of Christ accomplished the predictions of verse 24. That also is, we should suppose, a fact which is not reasonably open to dispute. An attempt, however, has been made to escape the force of the evidence of verse 24 by saying that it refers to the time when Israel as a nation will enter into the benefits of the death and resurrection of Christ. But the words of verse 24 will not bear such an interpretation. They plainly declare that, within the measure of 70 weeks of the history of Daniel's people and city, certain things would take place. The verse says not a word about the time when the Jewish nation should enter into the benefit of the atonement. It speaks definitely of the time of the happening of the specified events, quite regardless of whether the Israelites as a nation Should ever enter into the benefits thereof. A new lease of existence was about to be given to the nation and city, and Daniel was informed, to his great distress, that 70 weeks of that renewed existence to people and city were allotted for them "to finish the transgression etc.
Take for instance the words "to make reconciliation (or atonement) for iniquity." There can be no uncertainty as to the meaning of this. To deny that reconciliation (or atonement) was fully and finally completed when Christ died and rose again would be to deny the very foundation of Christianity. Moreover, the true Israel - the believing part of Daniel's people-did enter immediately into the benefits of the atonement. Beyond all question, then, the 70th week of the prophecy was that in which Christ died and rose and ascended into heaven.
3. The case is, however, still further strengthened by the corroborating evidence of Daniel 9:27. We have found a perfect fulfilment of this verse (confirming the covenant with many, and causing the ancient system of offerings to cease) in the atoning death of the Lord Jesus Christ; and we have shown that this was a work supremely great and glorious in the eyes of God. But more than this, the things predicted in verse 27 were the very means whereby those predicted in verse 24 were to be accomplished.
Thus the first and last parts of the prophecy are bound firmly together. It is impossible to detach the 70th week from the other 69 without destroying the prophecy as a whole. For if the 70th consecutive week from the starting point was not the 70th of the prophetic period, then none of the six predicted things came to pass within that period. In that view they all happened in an unmentioned gap between the 69 (which brought us "unto the Messiah") and the 70th which is yet future. Thus, according to this view, the prophecy has been completely falsified.
4. God has given a test whereby His people are to prove the sayings of one who claims to be a prophet of the Lord. For it is written that, if the things predicted by the prophet "follow not nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously" (Deut. 18:21; see also John 14:29). Tested by this rule, the prophecy of the seventy weeks must be interpreted according to its plain and ordinary sense, else those who looked for the fulfilment of it in its time would have been fully justified, in rejecting it as the thing which the Lord had not spoken.
WHY THE SEVENTY WEEKS ARE DIVIDED INTO THREE PARTS
The fact that the last week is mentioned separately is often referred to as if it afforded ground for postponing it to a future era. But that circumstance affords no reason whatever for inserting a period of time, long or short, between the 69 and 70th weeks. The message of the angel also makes separate mention of the first "seven weeks" from the rest. But no one seems to have seen in that circumstance a reason for inserting a few millenniums between those two parts of the seventy weeks. Why then apply a different rule to the last week, the most important of all the seventy, and without which the period would have no significance?
Likewise the Lord Jesus mentioned "the third day" (after His death) separately from the other two. But does that afford any reason for inserting say a century or two between the second day and the third?
Surely, the transcendent importance of the events of that "third day," and of those of the final "week" of the seventy, affords reason enough for their separate mention.
The entire period is laid out in this way: The first portion consisted of seven sevens of "troublous times," within which tile rebuilding of the temple and of the city, with its street and wall, were to be accomplished; then follow sixty-two sevens to the manifestation of Christ to Israel, that is to the time when Jesus of Nazareth was "anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power," and was publicly proclaimed to all the people of Israel by John the Baptist; and then comes the seventieth and last week, "in the midst" of which "Messiah was cut off," thus accomplishing God's great purpose in redemption, and fulfilling all the things predicted in verse 24.
The middle period of sixty-two weeks, within which no prophetic events were to occur, coincides with that silent stretch of years between Malachi and John the Baptist between "the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi" and the day when "the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness" (Lu. 3:2) -- a period during which there was no voice from God to His people, and no happenings in which His hand is seen working in their affairs.
It is sometimes attempted to justify the detaching and postponing of the seventieth week of Daniel by reference to the fact that when, in tile synagogue at Nazareth, the Lord read from Isaiah 61, He stopped in the very midst of a passage (tile next words being, "and the day of vengeance"), and said, "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears," thus implying that the part He did not read was yet future (Lu. 4:16-21). But it needs no great discernment to see that there is a wide difference between the two cases. For, in the first place, Isaiah had not said that the matters foretold by him were to happen within a certain measure of time. He said nothing at all as to that; whereas the time when the specified events were to take place is the very essence of the prophecy of the seventy weeks. But what is equally important, we have the word of the Lord Jesus declaring (or at least implying) that only so much of Isaiah's prophecy as He had read in their ears was fulfilled at that time. But we have no word or hint from Him, or from any source to which we should give heed, to the effect that the seventieth week of Daniel is yet in the future.
THE OVERSPREADING OF ABOMINATIONS (DAN. 9:27)
We come now to the last part of Daniel 9:27, which, as given in our A. V., reads thus: "And for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined, shall be poured upon the desolate" (marg. desolator).
These words are admittedly obscure. Nevertheless, even without help from other translations, it is at least clear that the main prediction here is that the city and temple were to be made a desolation, and that the desolation was to be for a protracted period -- "even until the consummation" (or end). Moreover it is also implied that at the end there should be restoration for the city: and that, at the time of the end, that which had been "determined" was to be "poured upon the desolator." This last prediction points to the outpouring of God's wrath upon the destroying agencies, as foretold in detail in the Book of Revelation (see Rev. 11:18, &c.).
This portion of the prophecy was repeated in substance, and in much plainer language, by the Lord Jesus in His Olivet discourse, as reported in Luke 21. He there speaks of "the days of vengeance" (which corresponds to the words "he shall make it desolate"), and He further declares that "Jerusalem shall be trodden under foot of tile Gentiles, until the times of tile Gentiles be fulfilled" (Lu. 21:22, 24); which corresponds with the words, "even until the consummation" (or end).
We would also call attention to a parallel between verses 26 and 27 (of Dan. 9). The first part of verse 26 foretells that after the threescore and two weeks Messiah shall be cut off; and the first part of verse 27 contains the parallel prediction; "And He shall confirm the covenant with many," "and in the midst of the week He shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease." The second part of each verse speaks of the desolations of the city and sanctuary. This parallel affords further confirmation of the correctness of our reading of the prophecy.
The words "for the overspreading of abominations" are very obscure, and many suggestions as to their meaning have been offered. We shall not discuss these, for the reason that the Septuagint translation gives a clear rendering, and our Lord's adoption of it puts the authoritative stamp of His approval upon it. According to that version "the abomination of desolation" was to be upon (or to come against) the temple, that is, for its destruction. In other words there was to come an agency or force (which God terms an "abomination", which was to make the place a "desolation."
The Lord Jesus Christ used the same expression when, in warning His disciples of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of Titus, He said: "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand), then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountain , " etc,
This reference by our Lord to the last verse of the Seventy Weeks' prophecy is a connecting link between that scripture and His own prophecy on Mt. Olivet. The great value of this connecting link will appear later on.
The word rendered "abomination" means, according to the Hebrew and Greek lexicons, anything that is peculiarly loathsome or detestable. Hence it is sometimes used of an idol. But this is a secondary meaning, and it does not appear to be used in that sense in the New Testament. In Luke 16:15 it is applied to the covetousness of the Pharisees; in Titus 1:16 it is applied to those who deny God in their works; in Rev. 21:8 and 27 it is also applied to persons who do wickedly. Hence there is nothing either in Daniel 9:27 or in Matthew 24:15 to warrant the idea that those prophecies speak of idol-worship being set up in some Jewish temple. Moreover Christ had disowned the temple at Jerusalem (Matt. 23:38) calling it "your house"; and henceforth it is not recognized as the House of God. Much less will recognition be given to a temple such as may be put up by the apostate Zionists. On the other hand, the Word of God makes it quite plain, as we hope to show later on, that the "abomination, which was to make the city and sanctuary a "desolation, was the army of Titus, "the people of the prince that shall come."
We have now completed our examination, clause by clause, of the wonderful prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. We have found-and without going beyond the Scriptures for our proofs -- a clear and satisfactory meaning for every statement, a meaning which is consistent with the scope and design of the prophecy as a whole. That prophecy has to do with the greatest of all subjects, the coming of Christ to Israel, and His rejection and crucifixion by Israel, with the marvellous consequences of His sacrifice for sins, and His victory over death and the grave.
We have based nothing upon conjecture or surmise, and have not found it necessary to appeal to systems of chronology , which are admittedly defective and uncertain nor to rely upon any human authorities.
Moreover, the evidence produced in support of our conclusions is of such a simple sort that "the common people" can easily understand it and appreciate the force thereof.
And finally, inasmuch as the proofs advanced herein are all taken from the Scriptures and the passages are cited, the reader has it in his power to bring all our conclusions to the test of Scripture, and this it is his responsibility to do. On the other hand (and we attach much importance to this) the current. interpretations, which fix the starting point of the Seventy Weeks at a date later than the decree of Cyrus, are each and all based upon some chronological scheme, built up from heathen traditions, obscure historical records, guesses at eclipses, and astronomical calculations, which the ordinary reader has no means whatever for verifying.
THE DECREE OF CYRUS AGAIN
In concluding this part of our study we would again call attention to that great historical landmark, the decree of King Cyrus, which stands, by God's express appointment, between two prophetic eras, and marks the ending of the one and the beginning of tile other. The first era was the seventy years of "desolation," whereby the people were punished for their "transgression" against the law and the prophets. The other was seventy times seven years, within which they were "to finish the transgression" by the rejection of the gospel of the Kingdom, and by crucifying Him who came bringing the good tidings and publishing peace (Isa. 52:7; Acts 10:36).
It was indeed an extraordinary decree. For first it was plainly foretold by Isaiah, by whom also the name of the monarch who was to make it was given; second, when the time was come for "the going forth" thereof, that monarch became the sole ruler of the world; and third, God Himself stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to make the decree, and to send it forth by proclamation throughout all his dominions.
It should be noted in this connection that inasmuch as God had said that the Seventy Weeks were to begin from "the going forth" of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, the inspired record is careful to call our attention to the fact that Cyrus not only gave the word or commandment, but also "made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom" (Ezra 1:1).
These facts all bear witness to the exceptional importance of this epoch-making decree; and they also afford strong assurance that in it we have the true starting point for the prophetic period of seventy weeks. It was indeed a new start -- like a resurrection from the dead -- for Jerusalem and the people of Israel. It was the rebirth of the nation.
Nothing in all the history of the chosen people, with the one exception of the Exodus from Egypt, is made so much of in the Old Testament as the return from Babylon. It was foretold by the prophets, sung by the psalmists, recorded by the historians. It stands out with such prominence upon the page of inspiration that it is a, wonder how any students of Scripture should have failed to grasp its significance, and should have gone groping about for some other decree to serve as a starting point for that divinely given measuring line which was to reach "unto Messiah the Prince."
THE REMAINDER OF THE SEVENTIETH WEEK
At this point in our exposition it appears desirable to notice a question which has arisen in the minds of some in regard to the fraction of the seventieth week remaining after the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ, whereby the predictions of verse 24 (of Daniel 9), as well as those of the first half of verse 27, were fulfilled. To some it seems that our exposition leaves three and a half years not accounted for if, however, we give attention to the terms of the prophecy we will clearly see that it affords no warrant for such a question. Those who ask it have evidently failed to take into consideration the fact that, in this prophecy, the unit of the time measure is a heptad, not a year. If we think of the Seventieth "Week" as a period of seven years, then it would indeed appear as if there were three years and over which were not accounted for by the exposition. But if, on the other hand, we take the. prophecy as it is given, that is to say, in heptads, not years, then it will be clearly seen that all the seventy heptads are accounted for. For our exposition simply follows the terms of the prophecy, which are quite plain, and which locate certain events "in the midst of" the last heptad, but do not locate any events at the end thereof. If, therefore, any part of the determined period is unaccounted for, it is the prophecy itself, and not this writer's exposition thereof, that is chargeable. But the fact is that the prophecy accounts first for sixty-nine heptads (which reached "unto the Messiah") and then it accounts specifically for the one remaining heptad, and for the whole of it, by telling what was to happen in the midst thereof. Thus the prophecy (and the exposition which simply follows it) leaves no part of tile prophetic period unaccounted for.
Those who raise the above question must further assume that some predicted event was to mark the very end of the last "week" of the determined period. But a glance at the prophecy itself will suffice to show that such assumption is contrary to its terms. For by the express terms of the prophecy the climax of the things predicted in it -- that is to say, the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ - - was to take place, not at the end of the last week, but "in the midst of the week" (v. 27).
According to verse 24, which gives the substance of the prophecy in condensed form, six specified things were to happen within a measured period of seventy heptads, starting, as appears by verse 25, from the going forth of the decree to restore and to build Jerusalem), which things required for their accomplishment that Christ should die, should rise again, and should ascend into heaven. From the fact that seventy heptads are mentioned it would be reasonable to infer that the full number (seventy) would be necessary to the complete fulfilment of the prophecy; and this inference is confirmed and made a certainty by what immediately follows; for the next verse disposes of sixty-nine weeks, which reach only "unto the Messiah, leaving all the six predicted things yet to take place. Hence they must needs take place in the seventieth heptad.
But there is nothing so far to indicate in what part of the remaining week those things were to be accomplished. Therefore, had they happened at the beginning thereof, the prophecy thus far would have been perfectly fulfilled, leaving no part of the seventy weeks unaccounted for. For it must be remembered that we have not to do with years but with heptads. But the last verse of the prophecy is more specific. It contains the definite statement that the great events which were to fulfil the predictions of verse 24 would happen "in the midst of" the last heptad. And, in agreement with this, it appears clearly by the Gospel of John that the crucifixion of our Lord took place in the midst of the heptad which began with tile baptism of Christ and His manifestation to Israel (John 1:31), which began, in other words, at the end of the sixty-nine heptads which reached unto the Messiah. Thus the entire period specified in the prophecy is fully accounted for.
It is pertinent in this connection to point out that the Scriptures habitually disregard fractional remainders of a time-unit, whether it be a day, a week, a month, or a year. Thus, if it were foretold that a thing (such as the return out of Babylon) would happen in a certain year, its occurrence in the first month of that year would be a perfect fulfilment of the prediction, and the remaining eleven months would be simply disregarded as being without significance for the purpose of the prophecy.
Or to take another example, our Lord declared to His disciples concerning His approaching death and resurrection that "in three days," and "after three days," He would rise again. If, therefore, He arose the very first hour of the third day, His prediction was fulfilled, the remaining hours of that day being without significance so far as the prediction is concerned. They do not have to be accounted for.
For one can readily see that if a prophecy should call for the happening of a certain event on a specified day, and the thing were to happen about noon of that day, the prophecy would be perfectly fulfilled, and there would be no question at all as to what becomes of the remaining half day. Precisely so it is with the Seventy Weeks, for it obviously makes no difference that the time-unit is in this instance a "week" instead of a day. But the prophecy we are studying is more definite than the supposed illustration, in that it declares specifically that the things foretold would occur in the midst of the last week.
Several able expositors, including Dr. Pusey and Dr. Taylor, to whose works we have already referred, offer the suggestion that the fraction of a "week," which was unexpired at the date of the Crucifixion, measured the time (ending with the martyrdom of Stephen) during which the gospel was preached exclusively to the Jews. But inasmuch as the date of Stephen's death is not known with certainty we can accept the above only as a possibility. In our opinion the prophecy does not call for a specific event to mark the end of the last week, though such there may have been, and quite possibly the death of Stephen was that event.
GOD'S PROPHETIC TIME MEASURE
Because of the great importance of the subject of God's prophetic time-measure, and of all that depends upon it, we return to it again, for the purpose of giving a concise statement of our conclusions in regard thereto, and of the reasons on which they are based.
The message of Gabriel, found in Daniel 9:24-27, differs from all other prophecies in several particulars, and chiefly in that it contains a measuring line of "determined" length, whereby the years were to be measured from a given event (one of the great landmarks in Jewish history) down to the coming of the Messiah and the accomplishment of His work of redemption. The full length of that line was seventy "heptads," i. e., sevens (or "weeks") of years, making a total length of 490 years. The declared purpose of the prophecy (v. 24) was to foretell the exact time of the occurrence of certain things which are of supreme importance to mankind.
The prophecy reveals, moreover, that the last heptad, or "week, " of the seventy was to be the most important era of all time, for that in that "week" the Messiah was to be cut off and have nothing (which act of wickedness by the Jews would "finish the transgression" and bring judgment upon them); and for that in it also the new covenant "with many" was to be confirmed in His blood (Matt. 26:28), the numerous sacrifices and oblations of the law were to be displaced by the "one sacrifice" of Christ (Heb. 10:9), an end was to be made of sins, reconciliation (or atonement) was to be made for iniquity, everlasting righteousness was to be brought in, and the most holy (place) was to be anointed. One has only to read with proper care the plain words of this great prophecy to see that it comes to its climax in the "week" in which the death and resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit were to take place, that is to say, in the last, week of the seventy; and hence that to remove that week from its place in the series, and to "postpone" it to a time far in the future, simply makes havoc of the entire prophecy.
Furthermore, in the light of this sure word of prophecy it is easy to see that, when the Lord Jesus began preaching in Galilee, saying "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the good news" (Mk. 1:14, 15), He was referring to "the time" measured out or "determined" in this prophecy, and that He was calling upon the people of Israel to "repent" and "believe," as the condition of receiving the new birth (John 3:3, 5) and thereby entering into the salvation of the kingdom of God.
True it is that most of the people, and nearly all their leaders, refused to repent and believe the good news; and the reason was that the Messiah they were expecting was to be a temporal prince and a conquering hero, and the kingdom they looked for was to be the restoring of earthly dominion to Israel, and the setting up again of the throne of David at Jerusalem.
It is impossible, however, that, when the Lord said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, " He could have been speaking of the restoration of the kingdom of Israel; for "the time" of that event (assuming, which we do not admit, that it is ever to occur) has not been revealed to anyone, not even to the Son of God Himself (Matt. 24:36). This is proved conclusively by the Lord's reply to the question put to Him by His disciples after His resurrection) "Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" His reply being, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His own power" (Acts 1:6, 7). But it is quite the other way in respect to the kingdom of God, which is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17), or in other words, the day of salvation and the acceptable year of the Lord; for that is an era whose "time" was fixed in the counsels of God, and definitely foretold in the prophecy of the seventy weeks, besides being announced by John the Baptist and the Lord Himself. Or, to state the matter in different terms, the "time" of the first coming of Christ was definitely "determined" and foretold, and therefore it is written that "when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, to redeem them that were under the law" (Gal. 4:4, 5); but the "time" of His second coming is kept secret in the unrevealed counsels of the Father.
It should be specially noted in this connection that one of the most important uses of this prophecy is as a witness against the Jews; for it proves conclusively that Jesus of Nazareth, Who came at the predicted time, and Who accomplished the predicted things- i. e., making atonement for iniquity, bringing in everlasting righteousness, confirming the new covenant, taking away the sacrifices of tile law, &c is the true Messiah. For now that the "determined seventy weeks," within which the Messiah was to come, and to be "cut off" are long past, it is absolutely impossible that one can come and fulfil the prophecy. Hence the time-element is of vital importance.
But this use of the prophecy is completely frustrated by the current idea that God's measuring line is an elastic one, and that it was intended-not to measure seventy weeks of years, as all simple- minded persons have understood, but-to be stretched out to a length of thousands of years, and that the things predicted in verses 24 and 27 are not even yet fulfilled. Inasmuch as the evident purpose of the prophecy was to limit the "time" within which those vital things upon which the salvation of men depends, were to be accomplished, it follows that, to postpone the seventieth week to the distant future, makes shipwreck of the entire prophecy.
The alteration of God's measuring line whereof we are speaking has been effected by the strange expedient of inserting many centuries of time (more than nineteen hundred years thus far) between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth week. And the result is that, instead of a definite and "determined" measuring line of 490 years, we have one which already is over 2400 years in length, and is growing longer every day.
Nothing can be more evident than that the usefulness of a measuring line depends firstly, upon its accuracy, and secondly, upon the user's knowledge of its length. Hence to tamper with and alter the dimensions of a measure or gauge of time or space, or to change the location of any of the markings thereon, is to destroy its usefulness. In the case of the measuring line of Daniel 9:24-27 there are two intermediate markings. One is at the end of seven heptads, which indicates the finishing of the street and wall of the city, and also apparently the ending of Old Testament prophecy in the days of Malachi; the other is at the end of the 69th heptad, which reached "unto the Messiah, the Prince." This subdivision of the entire period of seventy weeks has the (evidently designed) effect of setting apart in a special way the final week; and the obvious reason for this is to concentrate attention upon that particular era of time within the brief limits whereof were to occur the most stupendous events of all the ages, namely, the crucifixion and resurrection of the Divine Redeemer, and the coming of the Holy Ghost. Thus the climax of the prophecy falls within the last week; and it follows that to remove that week out of its proper place is to make havoc of the Scripture. And this is not reasonably open to dispute by any who believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah; for it is certain that, if the Messiah did come at the end of 69 weeks, as foretold in verse 251 then He was "cut off" within the next ensuing week of years, and that in that next ensuing week (the seventieth of actual historic time) He fulfilled all the predictions of verses 21, and 27.
But, not only has God's measuring line been altered as already stated, but it has been changed from a line of determined length to one of indeterminate length. (It would really seem as if the word "determined" had been inserted in the angel's message as a caution and warning against this very mutilation). For, according to the idea we are discussing, the number of years to be inserted between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week is still an unknown quantity. The last week, when thus detached from its 69 companions, does not belong to any known series whatever. This, in our opinion, not only destroys the usefulness of the prophecy, but turns it into an absurdity. For a measure of time or space, even when tampered with, is still a measure of fixed quantity, though deceitful because inaccurate. But a measure which has no limits at all, one which continues to enlarge its dimensions, which, from an original length of 490 years, has already been stretched to 2400, and is still elongating itself, is not a measuring line at all. It is an absurdity.
Finally, it is clear beyond all dispute that the exposition we are discussing detaches the predicted events of verses 24 and 27 entirely from the prophetic seventy weeks, of which they constitute the very soul and essence, and leaves them to happen whenever they may. Indeed, it severs the predictions of verse 27 from Christ altogether, and transfers them to some future antichrist, though of that feature of the case we need not speak at present. It follows that, just as the Jews, having closed their eyes to the coming of Messiah the Prince at the predicted time, and to the complete fulfilment of this and other prophecies in His day (Acts 13:27) by His being "cut off," are vaguely looking for a fulfilment of their expectations at some indefinite time in the future, even so the expositors referred to, having closed their eyes to the complete fulfilment of verses 24 and 27 in the seventieth actual week from the given starting point, are looking vaguely and vainly for some other fulfilment, at an indefinite future time, in the imaginary doings of some antichrist, who they say (but without a word of Scripture to support them) will make a bargain with "many" Jews about renewing their temple-sacrifices, and will break that supposed bargain after three and a half years. The only difference is that, whereas the Jews have thrown the prophecy overboard completely, the expositors referred to are trying to show respect for it, and to make it agree with their interpretation, by the expedient of carrying the last week of the seventy all down the centuries of our era, purposing to find a place for it on the chart of time when their imaginary fulfilment shall come to pass -if ever.
['Return to The Seventy Weeks']