LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

Home   About Us   Holiness Library   Bible Prophecy   Listen to Sermons  History of the Holiness Movement   Early English Bibles   Bible Studies   Links

 

 

 

 

THE SEVENTY WEEKS, PART 4

 

THE SEVENTY WEEKS

 

 

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. (Daniel 9:25–27)

 

Now that we have an understanding of what Messiah would do in Jerusalem at the end of the seventy sabbatical weeks, or 490 years, it is now incumbent upon us to trace out the 490 years in history.

Gabriel gives us the starting point as “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.” The reckoning of the 490 years is fairly straight-forward. What is amazing is how exact and to the point the reckoning is. We have seen the coming of Messiah prophesied in each of the preceding prophecies in the Book of Daniel: First during the time of the Roman Empire and then coming toward the very end of the reign of Herod the Great in Judea. Those prophecies gave us an approximate time of Messiah’s coming but the prophecy of the 70 weeks gives us the exact time of His coming and the duration of His ministry on earth.

The Christian Church did little teaching on this prophecy until after the Protestant Reformation. In the early centuries of the Christian Era the church concentrated on preaching the gospel and evangelizing as much of the world as it could reach. This was also a time of persecution, and examining prophecies, such as in the Book of Daniel, was a luxury for which the early church had no time. After the Council of Nicea in 325 a.d. the church was engaged in battling heresies concerning Christ and the Trinity during the next several centuries. During the Middle Ages the Church was under the bondage of Papalism. The study of Scripture was considered of far less importance than the ritualism of the Church, which was seen as the originator and sustainer of personal salvation. After the Reformation, the study of Scripture was highly esteemed and a curious interest in prophecy was born.

Some of the earliest reflections on the 70 weeks of Daniel are found in the works of two Seventeenth Century churchmen. Humphrey Prideaux (1648–17) was Dean of Norwich Cathedral in Norwich, England. He wrote a work titled The Old and New Testament Connected in the History of the Jews and Neighboring Nations in which he makes reference to the prophecy  weeks of the Book of Daniel. Adam Clarke quotes from this work in his commentary on the Book of Daniel. Matthew Henry (1662–1714) was a Welsh clergyman who wrote concerning the 70 weeks in his famous Commentary on the Whole Bible.

In modern times, Daniel Warner, a prominent minister in the Church of God Reformation Movement that came into being in 1880 wrote on the 70 weeks of Daniel in his book The Cleansing of the Sanctuary, published in 1903. Warner passed away in 1895 and the book was completed by Herbert Riggle. The details of the 70 weeks are recorded in the very first chapter, “The First Covenant Sanctuary.” The book contains a very good chart drawn by Riggle that illustrates the time-line of the 70 weeks. The Movement was more interested in studying the biblical trace of the Church and consequently the 70 weeks prophecy was largely ignored in favor of adaptions of other of Daniel’s prophecies that seemed to give credibility to the prophetic teaching of the Movement and its identification with the biblical church.

 

THE MATTER OF ROYAL DECREES

 

The nation of Israel was held in Babylonian captivity from 606 b.c. to 536 b.c. Daniel received the prophecy of the 70 weeks in the first year of Darius, king of the Medes, in 839 b.c. According to the angel Gabriel, the command to restore Jerusalem set the beginning of the 70 weeks. For the sake of historical accuracy, it must be understood that there were actually four royal commands given concerning the restoration of the Jews to Jerusalem.

The first decree was given in 536 b.c. by Cyrus, king of Persia. Under this decree 42,360 Jews returned to Jerusalem to start rebuilding the temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel. (Ezra 6:3–11).

The second decree was given in 519 b.c. by Darius, king of Persia. This Darius is not to be confused with Darius, king of the Medes mentioned at the beginning of Daniel chapter nine. This decree was given to finish the work on the temple that had come to a stop. This event is mentioned in the Book of Haggai.

 

In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel . . . Thus speaks the Lord of hosts, saying: This people says, The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built. . . . and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, in the second year of King Darius (Haggai 1:1-2, 14–15).

 

The third decree was given under Artaxerxes in 457 b.c., who empowered Ezra to ordain laws, set magistrates and judges, set up systems of prisons and punishment in Israel. This decree was actually the formal reinstatement of the Jewish state.  This document is recorded in Ezra 7:12–26.

 

Artaxerxes, king of kings, To Ezra the priest, a scribe of the Law of the God of heaven: Perfect peace, and so forth.  I issue a decree that all those of the people of Israel and the priests and Levites in my realm, who volunteer to go up to Jerusalem, may go with you. And whereas you are being sent by the king and his seven counselors to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, with regard to the Law of your God which is in your hand; and whereas you are to carry the silver and gold which the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem; and whereas all the silver and gold that you may find in all the province of Babylon, along with the freewill offering of the people and the priests, are to be freely offered for the house of their God in Jerusalem—now therefore, be careful to buy with this money bulls, rams, and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them on the altar of the house of your God in Jerusalem. And whatever seems good to you and your brethren to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, do it according to the will of your God. Also the articles that are given to you for the service of the house of your God, deliver in full before the God of Jerusalem. And whatever more may be needed for the house of your God, which you may have occasion to provide, pay for it from the king's treasury. And I, even I, Artaxerxes the king, issue a decree to all the treasurers who are in the region beyond the River, that whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, may require of you, let it be done diligently, up to one hundred talents of silver, one hundred kors of wheat, one hundred baths of wine, one hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribed limit. Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it diligently be done for the house of the God of heaven. For why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons? Also we inform you that it shall not be lawful to impose tax, tribute, or custom on any of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, Nethinim, or servants of this house of God. And you, Ezra, according to your God-given wisdom, set magistrates and judges who may judge all the people who are in the region beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God; and teach those who do not know them. Whoever will not observe the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily on him, whether it be death, or banishment, or confiscation of goods, or imprisonment.

 

The fourth decree was given, again by Artaxerxes, in 445 b.c. in which Nehemiah was authorized to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. The event and various decrees issued to Nehemiah can be found in the Book of Nehemiah.

So, which of the royal commands is the one mentioned by Gabriel: to restore and to build Jerusalem? It cannot be the very first command given by Cyrus in 536 b.c. as that command was for the purpose of rebuilding the temple, not the city of Jerusalem. It is not the second decree given in 519 b.c. by Darius as that decree was to finish the work on the temple.

The command mentioned by Gabriel is actually the third decree given under Artaxerxes in 457 b.c. This command meant the reestablishment of the Jewish state along with the rebuilding of its capital city of Jerusalem.

 

TIMELINE OF THE 70 WEEKS

 

The 70 weeks, or 490 years, begin in 457 b.c. with the command to restore and build Jerusalem. Gabriel subdivides the 70 weeks into three divisions: 7 weeks, or 49 years; 62 weeks, or 434 years; and, 1 week in which Messiah confirms a covenant.

The first subdivision of 7 weeks takes the timeline from 457 b.c. to 408 b.c. Gabriel says the streets and wall will be built in troublesome times. This is the amount of time it took to restore the Jewish state with all its laws and to establish the orthodox worship of God. It was during this time that the city of Jerusalem was rebuilt and the wall constructed. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah give ample record of the troublesome times as between them they were opposed by petty politicians in the area and accused of treason against Artaxerxes.

The closing year of the 7 weeks, 408 b.c., results from the arithmetic of subtracting 49 years from 457 b.c. Historically it is not an easy matter to demonstrate that the city was completely rebuilt by 408 b.c.; it may have happened earlier or it may have happened later; nevertheless, it is reasonable to accept this as a probable date since it came from one of God’s angels. Matthew Henry says of the subdivision of the 70 weeks: “Concerning the division of them into seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks, and one week; and the reason of this is as hard to account for as any thing else. In the first seven weeks, or forty-nine years, the temple and city were built . . .” Harry Ironside in his book Lectures on Daniel the Prophet simply states, “The 49 years are distinguished from the rest because in them the city and the wall were rebuilt.”

The second subdivision of 62 weeks, or 434 years, is from 408 b.c. to 26 a.d. It is during this 62 weeks that the Persian and Greek empires come and go and the Roman Empire comes into power over the land of the Jews. The year 26 a.d. is significant because it marks the beginning of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Herod the Great died in 4 b.c. and Jesus was born about two months prior to his death. It is thirty years from 4 b.c. to 26 a.d. and we are told in the New Testament that Jesus was about thirty years of age when His ministry began. (Luke 3:23). Nothing could be more precise than announcing in 539 b.c. that Messiah would begin His public ministry exactly sixty-nine sabbatical weeks in the future!

 

MESSIAH CUT OFF

 

. . . he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. (Daniel 9:27)

 

After the 62 weeks that followed the rebuilding of Jerusalem, or the 69 weeks after the “going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem,” comes the one week of Messiah in which He is cut off. This week of seven years extends from 26 a.d. to 33 a.d.; however, Messiah is cut off in the middle of the week, or after 3½ years, which leads to 30 a.d., the year of the crucifixion of Christ. It is during this last sabbatical week that Christ fulfills the six things Gabriel mentioned in verse 24 and, as its said in verse 27, He confirms the covenant. Matthew Henry explains the confirming of the covenant:

 

He must confirm the covenant with many. He shall introduce a new covenant between God and man, a covenant of grace, since it had become impossible for us to be saved by a covenant of innocence. This covenant he shall confirm by his doctrine and miracles, by his death and resurrection, by the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper, which are the seals of the New Testament, assuring us that God is willing to accept us upon gospel-terms. His death made his testament of force, and enabled us to claim what is bequeathed by it. He confirmed it to the many, to the common people; the poor were evangelized, when the rulers and Pharisees believed not on him. Or, he confirmed it with many, with the Gentile world. The New Testament was not (like the Old) confined to the Jewish church, but was committed to all nations. Christ gave his life a ransom for many.

 

In the middle of the week, or in 30 a.d., Messiah will “bring an end to sacrifice and offering.” This was explained in the discussion of the six things Gabriel said about Messiah in verse 24. Matthew Henry reiterates what this means:

 

He must cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease. By offering himself a sacrifice once for all he shall put an end to all the Levitical sacrifices, shall supercede them and set them aside; when the substance comes the shadows shall be done away. He causes all the peace-offerings to cease when he has made peace by the blood of his cross, and by it confirmed the covenant of peace and reconciliation. By the preaching of his gospel to the world, with which the apostles were entrusted, he took men off from expecting remission by the blood of bulls and goats, and so caused the sacrifice and oblation to cease. The apostle in his epistle to the Hebrews shows what a better priesthood, altar, and sacrifice, we have now than they had under the law, as a reason why we should hold fast our profession.

 

THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM AND THE SANCTUARY

 

The prophecy of the 70 weeks closes with a dire prediction of destruction: “And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” We are not given a precise date, only that the destruction is to take place some time after Messiah is cut off. It is said to come on the “wing of abominations that make desolate.”

The people of the prince who is to come are the Romans, that prince being the Roman Emperor Nero. The Jews rebelled against Rome beginning in 66 a.d. After an amazing victory of the Jews over the Roman army at Masada all Judea and Galilee were involved in the revolt. Nero sent Vespasian, a decorated general, to put down the opposition in Galilee. After subduing Galilee, he subdued Transjordan and Idumea and came to Jerusalem. At this time, Vespasian became the Emperor and appointed his son Titus to conduct the Jewish war. The website Christianitytoday.com briefly describes the destruction as prophesied in the 70 weeks:

 

By now, Jerusalem was isolated from the rest of the nation, and factions within the city fought over strategies of defense. As the siege wore on, people began dying from starvation and plague. The high priest’s wife, who once basked in luxury, scavenged for crumbs in the streets.

Meanwhile the Romans employed new war machines to hurl boulders against the city walls. Battering rams assaulted the fortifications. Jewish defenders fought all day and struggled to rebuild the walls at night. Eventually the Romans broke through the outer wall, then the second wall, and finally the third wall. Still the Jews fought, scurrying to the temple as their last line of defense.

That was the end for the valiant Jewish defenders and for the temple. Historian Josephus claimed that Titus wanted to preserve the temple, but his soldiers were so angry at their resilient opponents that they burned it. The remaining Jews were slaughtered or sold as slaves.

The Zealot band that took Masada held it for at least three more years. When the Romans finally built their siege ramp and invaded the mountain fortress, they found the defenders dead—they had committed suicide to avoid being captured by foreigners.

 

The Jewish revolt marked the end of the Jewish state until modern times. Jesus reminded His disciples of this prophecy when He spoke with them on the Mount of Olvies just prior to the Last Supper. He said in Matthew 24:15, “‘Therefore when you see the “abomination of desolation,” spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place’ (whoever reads, let him understand).” Adam Clarke writes concerning this abomination of desolation:

 

This abomination of desolation, St. Luke, (Luke 21:20, 21), refers to the Roman army; and this abomination standing in the holy place is the Roman army besieging Jerusalem; this, our Lord says, is what was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, in the ninth and eleventh chapters of his prophecy; and so let every one who reads these prophecies understand them; and in reference to this very event they are understood by the rabbins. The Roman army is called an abomination, for its ensigns and images, which were so to the Jews. Josephus says, (War, b. vi. chap. 6), the Romans brought their ensigns into the temple, and placed them over against the eastern gate, and sacrificed to them there. The Roman army is therefore fitly called the abomination, and the abomination which maketh desolate, as it was to desolate and lay waste Jerusalem; and this army besieging Jerusalem is called by St. Mark, 13:14, standing where it ought not, that is, as in the text here, the holy place; as not only the city, but a considerable compass of ground about it, was deemed holy, and consequently no profane persons should stand on it.

 

Gabriel said this will be the final desolation of Jerusalem and the temple. Now that Messiah had come, confirmed the covenant, and put an end to sacrifice and oblation, the temple is no longer needed because Christ has become the temple. In Revelation 21:22, speaking of the heavenly Jerusalem, John the Apostle writes, “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.”

Gabriel said this desolation endures to the consummation. The word consummation is the Hebrew word law-law, meaning a completion, which can be understood in this context to mean the end of time. While Jerusalem was eventually rebuilt and the nation of Israel has reemerged, there will never be another temple. God’s involvement with mankind through the temple and the Old Testament sacrifices came to an end once-for-all and it will never be reinstated. Christ, Messiah, is our Savior. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, there no need for another sacrifice because He has put an end to sins—to sin and its consequence—through salvation by grace through faith in the atonement in Christ.