On the Futurity of the Seventieth Week

 

Robert H. Gundry

 


 

To those who regard the seventieth week of Daniel as already fulfilled, the debate whether the Church will be raptured before, during, or after the seventieth week seems pointless. They explain Daniel 9:24-27 as follows: the finishing of the transgression, ending of sin, making atonement for iniquity, bringing in of everlasting righteousness, sealing up of vision and prophecy, and anointing of the most holy place (v.24) all refer to Christ and to His redemptive work in the first advent. The sixty-ninth week expired when Jesus was anointed with the Spirit at His baptism (v. 25). The cutting off of the anointed one "after" the sixty-two weeks (added to the first seven, making sixty-nine in toto, v. 26a) refers to Christ's crucifixion and occurred in the middle of the seventieth week. Verse 26b describes the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus in A.D. 70. The end of the seventieth week, being undefined, either expired three and one-half years after the crucifixion or extended by divine grace until A.D. 70. The making of a firm covenant (or confirming or causing to prevail of a covenant, v. 27a) refers to Christ's securing the benefits of the Abrahamic covenant of grace during His earthly ministry. (The subject of the verse according to this view is not "the prince who is to come," but another prince, "the Messiah.") The causing of the sacrifice and oblation to cease (v.27) has to do with the abrogation of animal sacrifices by Christ's self-sacrifice. In verse 27b there appears another reference to the destruction of Jerusalem.

The opposite view regards the seventieth week as a future prelude to the restoration of the kingdom to Israel at Jesus' return. The seventieth week will begin when the Antichrist confirms a covenant with the Jews, a covenant he will later break by stopping sacrifices in the temple and by setting up the abomination of desolation,

The weaknesses in the historical view and the advantages of the futurist view are these:

The seventy weeks have to do with the Jews. We cannot spiritualize the phrase "your people" (v. 24) into a spiritual Israel inclusive of the Gentiles without doing violence to the plain sense of the passage. For example, the destruction of Jerusalem, spoken of prominently in the prophecy, deals with Israel the nation. And yet, since in the seventy weeks the goals listed in verse twenty-four were to be accomplished, the seventy weeks cannot have entirely elapsed, for the finishing of Israel's transgression, the purging of her iniquity, and the bringing in of her everlasting righteousness have not reached completion. Paul writes of these as still in the future for Israel (Rom. 11:25-27).

It is doubtful that "the most holy" which is anointed refers to Christ, for nowhere in the OT does this expression refer to a person––hence the translation, "the most holy place" (NASB).

The extension of the sixty-ninth week to the Messiah does not necessarily fix the termination of the sixty-ninth week at the baptismal anointing of the Messiah.

If the cutting off of the Messiah occurred in the middle of the seventieth week, it is very strange that the cutting off is said to be "after" the sixty-nine weeks (figuring the sum of the seven and the sixty-two weeks). Much more naturally the text would have read "during" or "in the midst of" the seventieth week, as it does in verse twenty-seven concerning the stoppage of the sacrifices. The only adequate explanation for this unusual turn of expression is that the seventieth week did not follow on the heels of the sixty-ninth, but that an interval separates the two. The crucifixion then comes shortly "after" the sixty-ninth but not within the seventieth because of an intervening gap. The possibility of a gap between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth weeks is established by the well-accepted OT phenomenon of prophetic perspective, in which gaps such as that between the first and second advents were not perceived.

For the seventieth week to expire at an indefinite time some years after the culmination has been reached is highly anti-climactic especially in view of the impressive goals laid out. The remaining years after the crucifixion become superfluous, with little intent, purpose, or meaning.

If the alternative of extending the seventieth week to A.D. 70 be taken, it seems far more strained to stretch the week five or six times beyond the usual length of seven years than to retain the normal length with a hiatus between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth weeks.

Christ did not make or confirm a covenant for one week. He established the new covenant forever.

Payne argues that a covenant by the Antichrist with the Jews would be a new––i.e., previously nonexistent––covenant. But the expression "cause to prevail" implies that the covenant already exists and therefore refers to the covenant of grace. "Thus Christ could announce at the last supper, 'This is my blood of the testament,'... For Matthew 26:28 does not say, according to the oldest manuscripts, 'the new testament,'..."[Payne, 150, 151]. Pace Payne, the accounts in Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25 do use the term "new covenant" and the writer to the Hebrews twice quotes Jeremiah 31 (cf. 33) concerning the "new covenant" effected by Christ's sacrificial death. Therefore we cannot accept the argument that the expression "cause to prevail" rules out a covenant made by the Antichrist, because historicists themselves apply the phrase to a previously nonexistent covenant, the one inaugurated by Jesus' death. Besides, it is more natural to understand that a covenant is "put in force" when it is first made.

The redemptive work of Christ rendered the animal sacrifices obsolete, but did not "put a Stop" to them. They did not cease being offered until A.D. 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple under Roman violence (cf. Heb. 8:4).

Jesus speaks of Daniel's abomination of desolation as signalling the great tribulation, "immediately after" which will come heavenly portents and the second advent. The events in A.D. 70 may be percursive, but they cannot constitute the full and final fulfillment, for Christ did not immediately return. Moreover, to place the complete fulfillment of the seventieth week at A.D. 70 or before severs the obvious connection between Daniel 9, Matthew 24, and Revelation. (Compare "in the middle of the week" [Dan. 9:27], forty-two months and 1,260 days [Rev. 11:2; 12:6; 13:5], and time, times, and half a time [Dan. 12:7; 7:25; Rev. 12:14].) Under the historical view, if the relationship between Daniel and Revelation were retained, Revelation, which was written probably a quarter century after the destruction of Jerusalem, would be history instead of the prophecy it purports to be. (On account of this Payne feels forced to adopt a date for the Apocalypse prior to A.D. 70 [p. 173].)

Syntactically, it is at least as good to make the subject of verse twenty-seven the coming prince, who is the nearer possibility, as it is to make the Messiah, previously mentioned, the subject. The entire passage is not Messianic, as historicists often assert,[E.g., Payne, 151] for verse 26b speaks of another prince, Roman, whose people, the Romans, are to destroy the city and the sanctuary. Immediately after mention of this non-Messianic prince and his destroying people and without indication of a shift in reference, we read that "he" will "make a firm covenant with the many for one week." Although the covenant is to be in force for one week, not till the middle of the week does he put a stop to the sacrifice and grain offering. If the reference were to the covenant by the blood of Christ which outmoded the Mossaic sacrifices, the covenant would have come into force three and one-half years before Jesus shed His blood to put that covenant into effect.

Although the lack of certainty regarding the exact dates of our Lord's ministry demands some reserve, the futuristic view rests on a more exact chronology, best and fully set forth in Sir Robert Anderson's The Coming Prince. Very briefly, it is common ground that the seventy sevens are weeks of years. Anderson reckons a year at 360 days from the equation of 1,260 days with forty-two months (Rev. 12:6, 7, 13, 14; 13:4-7), from the equation of five months with 150 days (Gen. 7:11; 8:4; 7:24; 8:3), and from other evidence of unequal value. By calculating from the only known decree to rebuild the city of Jerusalem (Neh. 1:1-11; 2:1-8) sixty-nine weeks of seven 360-day years, we are brought to Palm Sunday, the only time Jesus was publicly acclaimed King, Prince, and Messiah and shortly after which He was cut off.

It is objected that the short years of 360 days with which Anderson works make no provision for leap days and leap years. To make such provision, however, would involve the chronology in abstruse mathematical and astronomical calculations and, more seriously, would push back the beginning of the seventy weeks to a decree regarding the rebuilding of the Temple, not of the city itself. This is a serious difficulty for the historical view. It must take as its point of departure a decree many years prior to the decree for the rebuilding of the city. It is true that the remnant built houses in which to live before Nehemiah's time. But the decree for rebuilding the city with its walls and streets was not issued and the actual reconstruction carried out until the time of Nehemiah, as his midnight ride through rubble and debris gives evidence. It is further objected that the day of the decree in Nehemiah is not given, only the month Nisan. But according to Jewish custom, where the day was not specified, time was reckoned from the first of the month.

The accuracy is so remarkable that the objections seem paltry by comparison. The best answer to the objections is the failure of the historical view to provide an exact and accurate chronology and the resultant substitution of chronologies dealing in wide approximations, with the result that the seventy weeks of years become half-literal and half-symbolic. The futuristic view can be established apart from Anderson's calculations, but they endow the futuristic view with a chronology far superior to chronologies under the historical view.

Finally, the view that the seventieth week will be fulfilled immediately before Jesus' return was held by the early Church, which received its doctrine from the apostles themselves. See the eschatological sections m. Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Lactantius, and others which are noted in the chapter "Historical Confirmation." Payne calls patristic futurists "exceptions."[Pp. 149,150] The fact is that in the early Church these very writers had by far the most to say about eschatology.

 


The Church and the Tribulation. Robert H. Gundry. Zondervan Publishing House. 1973. Pages 188-193.