DETAILS OF THE SEVENTY WEEKS
Having made sure of the true starting point, we can now proceed with confidence to an examination of the details of the prophecy. But it will be needful, as we go on, to test every conclusion by the Scriptures, and to exercise care that we accept nothing that is not supported by ample proof.
The prophetic part of the angel's message begins at verse 24, which, in our A. V. reads as follows:
"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy (place)."
Here are six distinct things which were to happen within a definitely marked off period of seventy sevens of years (490 years). These six specified things are closely related one to the other, for they are all connected by the conjunction "and."
This verse, which is a prophecy complete in itself, gives no information in regard to either the starting point of the 490 years, or the means whereby the predicted events were to be accomplished. That information, however, is given in the verses which follow. From them we learn that the prophetic period was to begin to run "from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem"; also that sixty-nine weeks (seven plus sixty-two) would reach "unto Messiah, the Prince"; and further that "after the three-score and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off." It was by the cutting off of the Messiah that the six predictions of verse 24 were to be fulfilled. This should be carefully noted.
Thus we before us a prophecy of transcendent interest, a predicted stretch of time from the rebeginning of the Jewish nation and the rebuilding of the holy city, down to the culminating event of all history, and of all the ages of time the crucifixion of the Divine Redeemer. These are things which the angels desire to look into (1 Pet. 1:12); and surely our hearts should move us to inquire into them, not in a spirit of carnal curiosity, and not with any purpose to uphold a favorite scheme of prophetic interpretation, but with the reverent desire to learn all that God has been pleased to reveal touching this most important and most sacred matter.
Verses 25-27 also foretell the overwhelming and exterminating judgments - the "desolations" that were to fall upon the people and the city, and which were to last throughout this entire dispensation.
The first words of verse 25, "Know therefore," show that what follows is explanatory of the prophecy contained in verse 24 This too should be carefully noted.
It is essential to a right understanding of the prophecy to observe, and to keep in mind, that the six things of verse 24 were to be fulfilled (and now have been fulfilled) by Christ being "cut off," and by what followed immediately thereafter, namely, His resurrection from the dead, and His ascension into heaven. With that simple fact in mind it will be easy to "understand" all the main points of the prophecy.
These are the six predicted items:
1. To finish the transgression. The "transgression" of Israel had long been the burden of the messages of God's prophets. It was for their "transgression" that they had been sent into captivity, and that their land and city had been made a "desolation" for seventy years.
Daniel himself had confessed this, saying, "Yea, all Israel have transgressed Thy law. even by departing that they might not obey Thy voice. Therefore the curse is poured upon us" (ver. 11). But the angel revealed to him the distressing news that the full measure of Israel's "transgression" was yet to be completed; that the children were yet to fill up the iniquity of their fathers; and that, as a consequence, God would bring upon them a far greater "desolation" than that which had been wrought by Nebuchadnezzar. For "to finish the transgression" could mean nothing less or other than the betrayal and crucifixion of their promised and expected Messiah.
We would call particular attention at this point to the words of the Lord Jesus spoken to the leaders of the people shortly before His betrayal; for there is in them a striking similarity to the words of the prophecy of Gabriel. He said: "Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers . . . that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth" (Matt. 23:32). In these words of Christ we find first, a declaration that the hour had come for them "to finish the transgression"; and second, a strong intimation that the predicted desolations were to come, as a judgment, upon that generation, as appears by the words "that upon you may come."
Our Lord's concluding words at that time have great significance when considered in the light of this prophecy.. He said, "Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation"; and then, as the awful doom of the beloved city pressed upon His heart, He burst into the lamentation, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem," ending with the significant words, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate."
The terrible and unparalleled character of the judgments which were poured out upon Jerusalem at the time of its destruction in A. D. 70 has been lost sight of in our day. But if we would learn how great an event it was in the eyes of God, we have only to consider our Lord's anguish of soul as He thought upon it. Even when on the way to the Cross it was more to Him than His own approaching sufferings (Luk. 21:28-30).
The apostle Paul also speaks in similar terms of the transgressions of that generation of Jews, who not only crucified the Lord Jesus, and then rejected the gospel preached to them in His Name, but also forbade that He be preached to the Gentiles. Wherefore the apostle said that they "fill up their sins always; for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost" (1 Thess. 2:15, 16). For they were indeed about to undergo God's wrath "to the uttermost" in the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, and in the scattering of the people among all the nations of the world, to suffer extreme miseries at their hands. These Scriptures are of much importance in connection with our present study, and we shall have occasion to refer to them again.
It is not difficult to discern why the list of the six great things comprised in this prophecy was headed by the finishing of the transgression; for the same act, which constituted the crowning sin of Israel, also served for the putting away of sin (Heb. 9:26), and the accomplishing of eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12). They did indeed take Him, and with wicked hands crucified and slew Him; but it was done "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). The powers and authorities of Judea and of Rome, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were indeed gathered together against Him; but it was to do what God's own hand and counsel had determined before to be done (Acts 4 :26-28). There is nothing more wonderful in all that has been made known to us, than that the people and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor the voices of their own prophets which were read every Sabbath day, should have fulfilled them in condemning Him (Acts 13:27). Therefore, among the many prophecies that were then "fulfilled," a promise be given to that which forms the subject of our present study.
2. To make an end of sins. On this item we need not dwell at length; for we have already called attention to the marvelous workings of God's wisdom in causing that the extreme sin of man should serve to accomplish eternal redemption, and so provide a complete remedy for sin For the crucifixion of Christ, though it was truly a deed of diabolical wickedness on the part of man, was on His own part the offering of Himself without spot to God as a sacrifice for sins (Heb. 9 :14). It was thus that He "offered the one Sacrifice for sins forever" (Heb. 10:12).
We understand that the sense in which the death of Christ made "an end of sins" was that thereby He made a perfect atonement for sins, as written in Hebrews 1:3, "when He had by Himself purged our sins" and in many like passages. It is to be noted however, that the Hebrew word for "sins" in this passage means not only the sin itself, but also the sacrifice therefore. Hence it is thought by some that what the angel here foretold was the making an end of the sin-offering required by the law. That was, indeed, an incidental result, and it is mentioned expressly in verse 27. But the word used in that verse is not the word found in verse 24, which means sin or sin- offering It is a different word, meaning sacrifice. We conclude, therefore, that the words, "to make an end of sins," should be taken in their most obvious sense.
3. To make reconciliation for iniquity The word here translated "reconciliation" is usually rendered "atone"- but according to Strong's Concordance it expresses also the thought of appeasing or reconciling. We shall, therefore, assume that our translators had good reason for using the word "reconciliation." If, however, it be taken that "atonement" is the better rendering, the conclusion would not be affected; for both atonement and reconciliation were made by the death of Christ upon the cross.
The need of reconciliation arises from the fact that man is by nature not only a sinner, but also an enemy of God (Rom.. 5:8, 10). Moreover, it is because he is a sinner that he is also an enemy. As a sinner he needs to be justified; and as an enemy he needs to be reconciled. The death of Christ as an atoning sacrifice accomplishes both in the case of all who believe in Him. In Romans 5:8-10 these two distinct, but closely related, things are clearly set forth. For we there read, first, that "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us," and second, that "when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son."
Reconciliation has to do directly with the kingdom of God, in that it signifies the bringing back of those who were rebels and enemies into willing and loyal submission to God. In this connection attention should be given to the great passage in Colossians 1:12-22, which shows that, as the result of the death of Christ, those who have "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (v. 14), are also translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son (v. 13), Christ "having made peace for them through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself "; and the apostle adds, "And you, who were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh, through death" (vv. 20-22).
It is certain, therefore, that, when Christ Jesus died and rose again, atonement for sin and reconciliation for the enemies of God were fully and finally accomplished as a matter of historic fact. It is important, and indeed essential, to a right interpretation of this prophecy, to keep in mind that atonement and reconciliation were to be accomplished, and actually were accomplished, within the measure of seventy weeks from the going forth of the decree of King Cyrus.
It is thus seen that the prophecy has to do with the great and eternal purpose of God to establish His king- and to bring pardoned and reconciled sinners into it as willing and loyal subjects of Christ, the King. And when the time drew near the kingdom was proclaimed by the Lord and by His forerunner as "at hand." The Lord's own words, when taken in connection with the prophecy of Gabriel, are very significant. He said: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mk.. 1:15). The time whereof He spoke was that declared in this great prophecy; which is the only prophecy which gives the time of His coming. Hence His words were really the announcement of His approaching death, resurrection and enthronement in heaven, as the heavenly King of God's heavenly kingdom.
4. To bring in everlasting righteousness Righteousness is the most prominent feature of the kingdom of God. To show this we need only cite those familiar passages: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and a11 his righteousness" (Matt. 6:33); "the kingdom of God is righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 14:17). One characteristic of God's righteousness, which He was "to bring in" through the sacrifice of Christ (Rom.. 3:21-26), is that it endures forever; and this is what is emphasized in the prophecy. A work was to be done, and now has been done, which would bring in everlasting righteousness - everlasting because based upon the Cross, as foretold also through Isaiah, "My righteousness shall be forever" (Isa. 51:8). Jesus Christ has now been made unto US "righteous- (1 Cor. 1:30); and this is in fulfillment of another great promise: "behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise Unto David a righteous Branch, and a King reign and prosper And this is His Name whereby He shall be called "JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jer. 23 :5, 6).
5. To seal up vision and prophecy. This we take to mean the sealing up of God's word of prophecy to the Israelites, as part of the punishment they brought upon themselves. The word "seal up" sometimes means, in a secondary sense, to make secure, since what is tightly sealed up is made safe against being tampered with. Hence some have understood by this item merely that vision and prophecy were to be fulfilled. But we are not aware that the word "sealed up" is used in that sense in the Scriptures. For when the fulfillment of prophecy is meant, the word "to fulfill" is used. We think the word should be taken here in its primary meaning; for it was distinctly foretold, as a prominent feature of Israel's punishment that both vision and prophet - i.. e., both eye and ear - were to be closed up, so that seeing they would see not, and hearing they would hear not (Isa. 6:10).
Moreover, this very sealing up of vision and prophecy as a part of the chastening of Israel was foretold by Isaiah in that great passage where he speaks of Christ as the Foundation Stone (Isa. 28:16). Following this is a prediction of "woe" to the city where David dwelt (29:1). So we have here a prophecy which is parallel to that of Gabriel. The latter spoke of the cutting off of Messiah to be followed by the destruction of Jerusalem; and Isaiah also spoke of Christ as God's Foundation Stone, laid in Zion (resurrection) and then of the overthrow of the earthly Zion. As to this overthrow God speaks through Isaiah very definitely saying, "And I will camp against thee round about and will lay siege against thee with a mount, and raise a fort against thee, and thou shalt be brought down" (Isa. 29:1-4). Then the prophet speaks of a coming storm and tempest and devouring fire and also of the multitude of the nations that were to fight against the city (vv. 6-9). And then come these significant words: "For the Lord God hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes, the prophets' and your rulers, the seers, hath He covered. And the vision of all is be- unto you as the words of a book that is sealed" (vv. 10, 11). This manifestly corresponds with Gabriel's words "to seal up vision and prophet." Moreover, the word "sealed," in Isaiah 29:11, is the same as in Daniel 9:24. These words of Isaiah also give a remarkably accurate description of the spiritual blindness of the people and their rulers in Christ's day, who, though they read the prophets every Sabbath day, yet because they knew not their voices, fulfilled them in condemning Him (Acts 13 :27).
The fulfillment of Isaiah 6 also comes in here. For the Lord Himself declared that, in His day, was fulfilled the word "Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed" (Isa. 6:9, 10; Matt. 13:14, 15). John also quotes this prophecy and applies it to the Jews of his day (John 12:39-41); and Paul does the same (Acts 28:25-27).
Hence we should note with deep interest the question which this sentence of judgment prompted Isaiah to ask, and the answer he received. Evidently the prophet understood that the judgment pronounced in the words quoted above was to be one of terrible severity, for he at once inquired anxiously, "How long" the period of judicial blindness was to last. The answer was, "Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, and the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land" (Isa. 6:11, 12).
Here we have a clear prediction of that which Christ Himself prophesied when the desolation of Judea, and the scattering of the Jews among all nations (Lu. 21:24).
6. To anoint the most holy place. When these papers were first written and published in serial form, we were of opinion that this prediction had its fulfillment in the entrance of the Lord Jesus Christ into the heavenly sanctuary (Heb. 9 :23, 24). But subsequently a copy of Dr. Pusey's work on Daniel the Prophet came into our hands, and we were much impressed by the exposition of this passage given by that great Hebrew scholar, who so ably defended the Book of Daniel from the assaults of the destructive critics. He pointed out that the word anoint had acquired a settled spiritual meaning, citing the words of Isaiah 61:1, 2, which our Lord applied to Himself as He Whom God had "anointed." Dr. Pusey also pointed out that, inasmuch as the same word is used in the very next verse of Daniel "unto the Anointed, the Prince" it is to be assumed that words so closely united must be used with the same meaning. This gives the idea of an "anointing of an All Holy place" by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit thereon. Dr. Pusey cites much evidence in support of this idea; but without going into the discussion of the matter at length, we will simply state that we were led thereby to the conclusion that the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ, on the day of Pentecost, thereby anointing (see 2 Cor. 1:21) a spiritual temple "the temple of the living God" (2 Cor. 6:16), furnishes a fulfillment of this detail of the prophecy, a fulfillment which is not only in keeping with the other five items, but which brings the whole series to a worthy climax.
These six predicted events, which we have now considered in detail, were, according to the words of God by Gabriel, to be accomplished within the "determined" (or limited, or "marked off") period of seventy sevens of years; and we have shown - indeed it is SO clear as hardly to be open to dispute - that all six items were completely fulfilled at the first coming of Christ, and in the "week" of His crucifixion. For when our Lord ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit descended, there remained not one of the six items of Daniel 9:24 that was not dully accomplished.
Furthermore, by running our eye rapidly over verses 25, 26 we see that the coming of Christ and His being "cut off" are announced as the means whereby the prophecy was to be fulfilled; and that there is added the foretelling of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus the Roman "prince," and the "desolations" of Jerusalem, and the wars that were to continue through this entire age "unto the end."
We do not speak at this point of verse 27. That part of the prophecy will require a particularly careful examination which we purpose to give it later on.
Prophetic events are often described in veiled language and highly figurative terms, so that it is a matter of much difficulty to identify the fulfillment of them. But in this instance it seems to us we have the exceptional c case of a prophecy whose terms arc plain and the identifying marks are numerous. If it were possible to fix with certainty only one of the six predictions of Daniel 9:24, that would suffice to locate the entire series. But the indications given to us enable us to identify five of the six with certainty, and the other with a high degree of probability. We have no doubt then that the entire prophecy of verve 24 was fulfilled in the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the coming of the Holy from heaven. And the settlement of the fulfillment of verse 24 carries with it the location of the seventieth week, which is referred to specifically in verse 27. This will be shown later on.