Daniel’s 70 Weeks

If you adhere to the literalist-premillennialist interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy of 70 weeks (Dan. 9:24–27), here is what you believe: The 70th “week” (seven-year period, also known as the Tribulation) still remains unfulfilled. At its conclusion, Christ will return and reign over Earth for a literal 1,000 years (a millennium), after which the Kingdom is handed up to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24) and “eternity” begins. Although many people interpret the prophecy differently, the literal-premillennial view is preferred on several counts.

First, it honors the prophecy’s unmistakably Jewish character. All nonpremillennial interpretations construe the prophecy as speaking of the provision of salvation for all men, with no special focus on the Jewish people. But the angel Gabriel, who delivered the prophecy to Daniel, said specifically that it concerns Daniel’s people (the Jews) and Daniel’s holy city (Jerusalem, 9:24). Furthermore, it is in the section of the book penned in Hebrew for a Hebrew audience, and it was given in response to a Hebrew prayer uttered by a Hebrew prophet in entirely Hebrew terms.

Second, the literal-premillennial view makes this passage fit perfectly in the developing argument of the book. In Daniel 2, Daniel received an overview of the Gentile nations destined to dominate Israel until the coming of the Messiah and His Kingdom. Chapter 7 focuses on the final Gentile ruler (Antichrist) and his role in the horrific drama that will culminate in a divine Kingdom in which a redeemed Israel will honor its Messiah. Given a literal-premillennial understanding, the 70-week prophecy provides the precise chronological framework within which that drama will unfold. On the other hand, to divorce it from all that and make it a cryptic foretelling of an abstract, non-Jewish kingdom is to divorce it entirely from the argument being made in the book.

Third, it understands all of the elements of the prophecy simply and coherently, especially the key chronological details. Nonpremillennial interpretations are almost always crippled by two commitments:

  1. They cannot, as does the literalist, allow a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks because, by their reading, the “cutting off” of Messiah in 9:26 and the “confirming” of a covenant in verse 27 both refer to Calvary. But the grammar is explicit: the two events of 9:26 (Messiah’s death and the destruction of the city and sanctuary) happen after the 69 weeks (seven weeks plus 62, v. 25) but before the 70th (v. 27).
  2. They refuse to take the 70th week literally. One nonpremillennial expositor takes the first seven weeks as 560 years, the 62 weeks as 1900 years, and the final week to be a period of undefined length. Another has the 70th week extending to A.D. 70 when the Temple was destroyed. The variations on the theme are endless, but common to all of them is the insistence that the final 70th week is not future and is not a literal period of seven years. The premillennial interpretation, however, is consistent and can allow the passage to say what it is saying.

Finally, the premillennial interpretation makes the passage entirely consistent with all other eschatological passages, especially with Jesus’ words in His Olivet Discourse. There He explicitly said the “‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet” (Mt. 24:15; cf. Dan. 9:27) will be a sign of the immediate end of the age—just as it is understood only by a pre-millennial reading of the 70-weeks prophecy.

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