God's "Holey" Calendar
Daniel 9:24-27 is God’s holy calendar, a sort of timetable of coming events. Premillennialists insist that the last of these events have not yet occurred, that we are presently in a gap or parenthesis period, and that God will one day [soon] resume His predicted sequence. This theory turns the passage into a “holey” calendar.
When God gave Israel the land of Canaan, He warned that if they were unfaithful He would remove them from it. Captivity was not an arbitrary punishment. The land was God’s land, and He decreed that it was to have a sabbath rest. Every seven years, no farming was to be done (Leviticus 25:1-4). Every seventh sabbath year, or every forty-nine years, was a double sabbath year, the jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-55). It was a year of liberty, of divine deliverance and rest. These provisions reminded Israel of their unique relationship to God.
Israel was not faithful. Therefore, God decreed a punishment of seventy years of captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 25:11). Why seventy years? Did God arbitrarily choose that, or was it special in some way? Interestingly, it was seven, the sabbath number, times ten, a number of completeness. Captivity was to last a full number of sabbaths, “until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths” (2 Chronicles 36:21).
Daniel says he had been reading in Jeremiah that the desolation of Jerusalem was to be seventy years. That period was nearly complete, and Babylon had fallen. Therefore, he prayed God to fulfill His promise of restoration (Daniel 9:1-19).
God sent Gabriel with an answer. A new period was about to begin, one which would ironically result in both the true deliverance of God’s people and the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. The new period was to be seventy weeks, the counterpart of the previous seventy-year period of captivity.
The Seventy Weeks
Six things were to be accomplished within the new period (v. 24): 1) finishing or restraining the transgression; 2) making an end of or sealing up sin; 3) making an atonement for iniquity; 4) bringing in an everlasting righteousness; 5) sealing up vision and prophecy; 6) anointing of the most holy, either the most holy one or perhaps the most holy place.
The weeks are divided into seven + sixty-two + one. During the first sixty-nine Jerusalem would be rebuilt. After the first sixty-nine, Messiah would appear and be cut off, the city and the temple would be cut off, the city would be destroyed, sacrifice and grain offerings would cease, and a covenant would be confirmed.
Any attempt to correlate these seventy weeks (often viewed as weeks of years, hence 490 years) to an exact chronology is doomed to failure. Just as seventy years only approximated the duration of Babylonian captivity—it was actually a little less (605-539), the seventy weeks only approximates the time frame of these events. The point is ultimate deliverance and rest in Messiah, symbolized by the sabbath provisions. It would be the tenth jubilee!
The first seven “weeks” [of years] are broken out, evidently to denote one jubilee, pointing to restoration to the promised land which began with Cyrus’ decree (cf. vv. 23, 25). Nothing is recorded concerning the next sixty-two. The final “week” is the focal point: Messiah will be cut off and the city and sanctuary destroyed, a complete destruction.
Is that not exactly what happened? Jesus made an end to transgression by making atonement for it. In so doing He brought in everlasting righteousness. He sealed up prophecy by fulfilling it, and was anointed by God. Nevertheless, He was cut off by His own people, a rejection which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. It was a complete destruction of national Israel and its institutions as God’s arrangements. It was a finish or an end to Israel’s transgressions in another way too—through judgment. And when Jesus’ new covenant of righteousness was revealed, prophecy was sealed up in the sense that it ceased. Everything Gabriel said would happen, did happen.
Premillennialism puts a hole in God’s calendar after week sixty-nine. It ignores the stated starting point; it does considerable mathematical gymnastics trying to make a symbolic calendar literal; it disconnects God’s answer to the context and Daniel’s request; and it ignores the New Testament fulfillment of all objectives for the period.