The Daniel prophecy is one of the few messianic prophecies in which a specific timeframe is attached to the crucifixion of Christ. After being raised from the dead, we find Jesus meeting with His disciples where He explains that all the Old Testament prophecies concerning Him have been fulfilled.
All the prophecies concerning Jesus that we read about in the Old Testament have all been fulfilled. One such prophecy we find in the book of Daniel known as the Daniel prophecy or the seventy-weeks prophecy.
Let’s give some thought to this prophecy and look carefully at the context in which this prophecy is found. We will then give some thought to the meaning behind the prophecy and how it has been fulfilled.
Where are we in history as we read the Daniel prophecy? Let’s answer that question by turning to a passage in the book of Jeremiah.
The nation of Judah was commanded by God to observe not just the Sabbath day, but also the Sabbath year. Every seventh year the nation of Judah was not to plant any seeds or harvest any crops. This would be the year that the land would rest and have a chance to recover the nutrients from the soil that would be lost from years of farming.
Judah had failed to observe this commandment for the last 490 years. God punished Judah by raising up the Babylonian nation to destroy the city of Jerusalem and bring the nation of Judah back to Babylon as slaves.
The duration of this slavery would be equal to the number of years the land was neglected. In 490 years, the nation of Judah failed to observe the Sabbath year 70 times. Thus their captivity would last 70 years. The events recorded in the book of Daniel took place during these 70 years of captivity.
During this captivity, the Babylonian kingdom fell to the alliance of the Medes and Persians. The new Medo-Persian Empire was ruled by King Darius.
When you come to the Daniel prophecy in chapter 9, you read about Daniel as he reflects upon this 70 years spoken of by Jeremiah.
Darius was made king over the Chaldeans. The Babylonians were also known as the Chaldeans. It was during this time that Daniel reflected upon the prophecy of Jeremiah and read that their captivity was to last for seventy years. In this reflection, Daniel calculated that the captivity was almost finished.
In fact, it would be King Darius who would give the order to free the Jews and allow them to go back to Jerusalem. Having realized that the captivity was almost over, Daniel fell down on his knees and offered a prayer to God.
In Daniel 9.4-19 we read the contents of this prayer as Daniel acknowledges the sin of the nation.
As Daniel was praying with heartfelt sorrow and seeking the mercy and forgiveness of God, the angel Gabriel came to Daniel and revealed to him a prophetic vision that we call the Daniel prophecy.
Here is a man who is a captured slave in Babylon. He is mourning over the sin of Israel and pleading to God for forgiveness. He is hoping for the opportunity to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and the temple.
God responds by sending the angel Gabriel who tells Daniel that restoration would come. However, the real hope would not be in the rebuilding of the temple but in the salvation that would come through the Messiah.
Let’s give some thought to the Daniel prophecy itself. Reading this prophetic vision, the angel Gabriel sets before Daniel a chronology of events. These events take place over the course of seventy weeks.
Each day represents a year. That means that seventy weeks is 490 days which translates into 490 years. Seventy weeks works out to be 490 years.
Let's see what God had told His angel Gabriel to reveal to Daniel. What or Who was coming in 490 years?
The angel Gabriel tells Daniel that within the time frame of approximately 490 years something wonderful was going to happen. A system would be put into place where you and I could be cleansed of our sins. It would be seventy weeks to a cleaner you. This is described in six specific ways.
1. To Finish Transgressions.
The concept of transgression means to literally fight against God. Without Jesus, you and I are the enemies of God. Because of our past decisions we have shaken our fist at God in defiance of His laws. Because of Jesus and His sacrifice, the enmity that exists between God and man is put to an end (Rom. 5.10). This is what the Daniel prophecy said was coming.
2. To Make an End of Sins.
The apostle John defines sin as breaking God’s commands (1 John 3.4). God gave man and law to follow. We took that law and broke His commandments. The consequences of our sin is spiritual death. Because of Jesus and the blood that He shed, we can be cleansed of our sin. This is not a prediction of a sin no longer existing, but a prediction that a system would be put in place that would enable our sins to be removed. The Daniel prophecy said this was coming.
3. To Make Reconciliation for Iniquity.
Iniquity carries the idea of being filthy before God. You and I have made bad choices and as a result have become filthy before God. We have been corrupted by our own stubbornness and neglect of God’s laws. This filth has caused our relationship with God to be severed. Because of Jesus and His mercy and grace, the filth can be cleansed and our relationship with God can be reconciled. The Daniel prophecy said this was coming.
4. To Bring In Everlasting Righteousness.
Righteousness is a state in which you and I are right. There would come a time when a system would be put into place that would make us right with God, and enable us to remain in a state of being right with God. That system is Christianity put into effect by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Daniel prophecy revealed by Gabriel told him when mankind can expect the coming of Christ and the spreading of the gospel (Rom. 1.16,17).
5. To Seal Up Vision and Prophecy.
Literally, the idea is that those visions and prophecies concerning Christ would all come to pass. Contained in the Law of Moses, the psalms, and the prophets, are more than 300 prophecies all concerning Jesus Christ. After Jesus is resurrected, He meets with His disciples and explains to them how all the prophecies concerning Him in the Law, the psalms, and prophets have been fulfilled (Luke 24.44,45). The Daniel prophecy tells of a time when all these Old Testament visions and prophecies concerning Christ would be fulfilled, and thus come to an end.
6. To Anoint the Holy One.
The word “Messiah” literally means, “the Anointed One.” There would come a time when Jesus would be born, and as the Messiah, the Anointed One, would free humankind from their sin. Again, the Daniel prophecy points to Jesus.
The angel Gabriel then gives Daniel some time markers to know when these incredible events would take place. He starts by giving them a beginning point for which to determine when Jesus would accomplish all that was mentioned in verse 24.
Now we have a beginning. The clock would start when the command would be given to the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. When you turn to Ezra 1.1-4, you will read of this command given by King Cyrus of the Medo-Persian Empire.
But wait a minute. We have these seventy weeks broken down into three distinct periods. The first two periods are mentioned in the above verse. Look at the verse again…
The first period would be 49 years (7 weeks is 49 days and each day represents a year). It would be during this time that the Jews would go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. Notice that verse 25 says that “the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.” This was in answer to Daniel’s prayer back in Daniel 9.16.
When you turn to the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, you will read about the process of their rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and the many attempts of their enemies to hinder their efforts.
The second period would be 434 years (62 weeks is 434 years). If you add 434 years to the 49 years, you come to the baptism of Christ in which He begins His ministry (Luke 3.21-23). Keep in mind that His ministry was three and a half years. That will come into play in a moment.
If you take the first seven weeks and add the next 62 weeks that gives me a total of 69 weeks. That leaves one more week remaining or more specifically seven more years. But what would happen in that remaining week? Gabriel explains...
If you just read these verses, you probably read right over it. There is an important observation that needs to be made. Notice how the beginning of verse 26 is worded. “And after the sixty two weeks.” Gabriel did not refer to the last week. He phrased in more generally. The idea is that sometime after the 62 weeks, or sometime after 483 years, something was going to happen. What was going to happen? In this Daniel prophecy, Gabriel mentions two specific events.
When would these things take place? It would happen sometime after the 483 years. Do we have anything more specific? Yes!
Remember that the seventy weeks or 490 years was divided into three segments.
It is this last week or last seven years that Gabriel mentions in the last verse of this prophecy.
In the middle of the last week or in three and a half years the Messiah would be cut off. In other words, He would be crucified. In the middle of the last week or in three and a half years, the system of sacrifices under the Law of Moses would be put to an end. How interesting that Paul wrote that the end of sacrifices took place officially at the death of Christ (Col. 2.13).
What about the destruction of Jerusalem? Remember the non-specific language in the Daniel prophecy? Sometime after the 62 weeks, Jesus would be crucified, and the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed. He then gets specific about the crucifixion of Christ. He mentions the middle of the last week which works out to be three and a half years after He begins His ministry.
However, he does not get specific about the destruction of Jerusalem. He does give us a clue. At the end of the verse he mentions the abomination of desolation. This is the same prediction that Jesus made in Matthew 24. History records that when the Romans invaded Jerusalem, they went into the sanctuary, emptied it of the Holy items, and replaced it with their idols. Thus you have what is referred to as the abomination of desolation. This took place in 70 A.D. – after the 62 weeks of Gabriel’s prophecy.
The Bible is precise when it comes to dates and times. The vision that Daniel received from Gabriel was fulfilled in perfect detail as Jesus began His ministry exactly when it was prophesied, and He was put to death three and a half years later. The prophecy is fulfilled.
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