9:24-27 is often misunderstood. It is used to justify the belief
that there will be a seven year tribulation, just prior to Christ’s
second coming. Those with this view see the passage as a
description of the activities of the anti-christ. Careful study
will be necessary to clarify its true meaning. Like Matthew 24, it
is really a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem.
Daniel had been praying for his
nation, which was in exile in Babylon. Gabriel who came to give
him insight and understanding, said
Seventy "sevens" are
decreed for your people and your holy city. Dan 9:24
The seventy "sevens"
are seventy weeks of years. The expression describes a period
lasting 490 years (70x7). However the "sevens" or
"weeks" are somewhat indefinite, and so we can expect
that the events described would take place within about 500 years.
The starting point is given in
verse 25. Daniel is told that the seventy "sevens" will
begin "from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild
Jerusalem". This decree was issued by Artaxerxes King of
Persia in the time of Nehemiah (Neh 2:1-9). Artaxerxes instructed
Nehemiah to go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in the twentieth
year of his reign, so the decree would have been issued in about
Six events are decreed for the
seventy "sevens". They were all fulfilled through the
ministry of Jesus. It is generally believed that Jesus was
crucified soon after A.D. 30. Thus Jesus’ ministry falls at the
end of the seventy "sevens". The six events decreed are:
- "to finish the
transgression". The Jews filled up their cup of
iniquity by condemning Jesus to death. The transgressions of
the nation were filled up.
- "to put an end to sin".
Jesus was the lamb of God who took away the sin of the world
- "to atone for
wickedness". Jesus’ death on the cross was an
atonement for wickedness.
- "to bring in
everlasting righteousness". Christ is our
righteousness (1 Cor 1:30), so his people have an eternal
righteousness in him.
- "to seal up vision and
prophecy". With the coming of Jesus the vision and
prophecy of the Old Testament period was brought to
completion. It was sealed up in Jesus.
- "to annoint the most
holy". The word Messiah means "annointed
one", and Jesus was the Messiah who fulfilled this part
of the vision.
The angel was promising Daniel
that the Messiah would come within 500 years of the decree to
restore Jerusalem. The birth and ministry of Jesus fulfilled the
The seventy sevens are divided
into three parts.
There will be seven
"sevens" and sixty-two "sevens". Dan 9:25.
Nothing is specified for the
first seven "sevens", but during the sixty-two
"sevens", Jerusalem will "be rebuilt with streets
and a trench, but in a time of trouble". This is what
happened. Jerusalem was restored as a city by Nehemiah, but right
up to the time of Jesus, it faced continuous troubles.
A number of events are specified
for the last "seven" (Dan 9:26,27). A number of
commentators say that a seven year tribulation just before the
second coming is being described. To support this view, they
put in a gap between sixty-ninth and the seventieth
"week", which coincides with the church age. This allows
them to place the events of the last week thousands of years after
the events of the earlier "weeks". There is no
justification for this. Daniel makes no mention of a gap, and
there is no precedent for one in any other part of the Bible. An
examination of the events described shows that they all occurred
within about 500 years of the decree for the rebuilding of
Jerusalem. This is what we would expect from the statement that
seventy "sevens" were decreed.
Four events are decreed for the
last "seven" (vv.26,27)
- "The Annointed one
will be cut off and will have nothing". This is a
description of the death of Jesus. His life was "cut
off". At his death he was deserted by all his disciples,
and left with nothing.
- "The people of the
ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end will come like a flood: war will continue to the end
and desolations have been decreed". This very vividly
describes the destruction of Jerusalem. The people of the
ruler was the Roman army. They destroyed the city and the
temple. There was war to the end, which came like a flood of
- "He will confirm a
covenant with many for one ‘seven’, but in the middle of
that ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and
offering". The person referred to here is not the
coming ruler, who would destroy the city, but the Messiah
mentioned in verse 26. Jesus established a covenant which has
brought salvation to great numbers of people. During the last
"seven" which covered his whole life, from birth to
ascension, Jesus confirmed a covenant which would last for
ever. The effect of the new covenant is to put an end to
sacrifices and offerings. The perfect sacrifice of Jesus makes
- "and one who causes
desolation will come on the wings of abominations until the
end that is decreed is poured out on the desolate".
This is a more literal translation than is usually given.
Misleading translations have caused a lot of misunderstanding
about this verse. The subject of this verse, the one who makes
desolate, is not the one who made the covenant, but the Roman
ruler, who would destroy Jerusalem. His coming was an
abomination for the Jewish people. The desolation is not
poured out on a person, but on those who are desolate. The
Jews were a desolate people once they had rejected the
Messiah. Jesus was referring to this when he told them that
their house would be left desolate (Matt 23:38).
The vision given to Daniel is a
description of the events surrounding the life of Jesus. He was
told of the salvation that Jesus would bring. And although he may
not have understood it, he was also told that his people would
reject the Messiah and be destroyed. If the Jews had
understood this passage, they would have known the time when the
Messiah would come and what would happen to them. Perhaps Simeon
and Anna did understand this passage and realise that they lived
in the time when the seventy sevens would be complete.
The vision is not a description
of the manoeuvrings of the anti-christ or a tribulation that is
yet to come. It is a description of the ministry of Jesus, his
rejection by the Jews, and their consequent destruction.