There are three Bible prophecies that have special importance because they provide a overall framework for end-time prophecy. Understanding these is necessary because only when once the framework is up, we can start to fit the other prophecies into place.
1. Daniel 9:24-27 (Daniel’s Seventy Weeks)
2. Matthew 24 (The Olivet Discourse)
3. The Book of Revelation.
Framework Prophecy 1 - Daniel’s Prophecy of the 70 Weeks.
THE PROPHECY OF THE 70 WEEKS (Daniel 9:24-27) is a major key to prophecy and is the lynch-pin connecting Old and New Testament prophecy, preparing us for the New developments. It is a good example of the GAP principle (Key 8) and establishes the postonement of the Kingdom (crucial to relating Old Testament prophecy and the Church age) It also proves that despite the delay, the Kingdom will be established and Israel will be fully restored. It’s a MASTERPIECE OF PROPHECY. The end-time prophecy of Jesus depends and builds upon it. It gives a countdown to the Kingdom! Before Abraham, was the time (dispensation) of the Gentiles (2000 years). From Abraham was the time of Israel. Now Israel was in dispersion in Babylon and Daniel was praying about the restoration of Israel - her people from sin and her city from desolation (Daniel 9).
24 Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness,
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy.
25 Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.
26 And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.
27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.
God's answer to Daniel comes in v24:
70 Weeks (Sevens) are determined (cut, marked and divided off)
for your people (Israel) and for your holy city (Jerusalem).
God’s answer gives a prophecy giving the timing of the restoration in terms of ‘Weeks’. A Week means a Seven. It can mean a week of days or a week of years. From the context it is generally accepted that Daniel’s 70 Weeks are Weeks of years and so refer to 70 Sevens of years or 490 years. If days had been intended it would be so expressed, as in Daniel 10:3 which literally says three whole weeks of days. Moreover the last Week is divided into two, and the second half is 3 and a half years (Daniel 7:25, 12:7; Revelation 11:2,3).
Now God gives six things that will be accomplished by the end of this time. The first three have to do with sin, the second three with the Kingdom. Before the Kingdom can be established the issue of sin had to be dealt with and provision for man’s righteousness made through the New Covenant:
(1) To finish the transgression
(2) To make an end of sins
(3) To make reconciliation (atonement) for iniquity.
These first three were fulfilled by Christ when he died on the Cross, bearing the judgment for our sins, laying the basis for us to be part of His Kingdom. As Christ declared it is finished - the price is paid in full, He was claiming the fulfillment of this first stage towards establishing the Kingdom.
On the basis of Christ’s death God can establish the Millennial Kingdom:
(4) To bring in everlasting righteousness (or: the age of righteousness)
(5) To seal up vision and prophecy (to bring all old Testament prophecy to fulfillment. This will only be true in the Millennium).
(6) To anoint the Most Holy (the establishing and anointing of the Millennial Temple for the Messianic Kingdom - see Ezekiel 41-46).
These three will only be fulfilled by Christ when He comes again and establishes the Kingdom on earth. Together the six describe God’s whole program to bring Israel into all the blessings promised in the covenants. This includes personal salvation through the new-covenant and the establishment of the Kingdom on earth under the personal rule of the Son of David from Jerusalem. When Israel accepts the work of Christ in fulfilling the first three, Christ can complete God's plan to restore Israel by fulfilling the next three.
This amazing prophecy says that God has set aside 490 years for Israel to be fully restored, for the prophesied Kingdom of God to be established on earth. Thus, Israel has only 490 years left on her clock, to possess the Kingdom.
v25: Know therefore and understand that (This is a hard prophecy that demands an effort on our part to study and understand it, as Jesus confirmed in Matthew 24:15)
...from the going forth of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem...
This gives the starting point - the decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra in 458 BC.
..until MESSIAH THE PRINCE. The 490 years close with the time of Messiah the Prince. The prophecy of restoration is to be fulfilled by the MESSIAH, for He must establish the Kingdom. He first comes and presents himself to Israel as their Prince and when they receive Him, He will become their King. The end-point of the prophecy (490 years from 458BC) is AD 33 - the Cross! Thus Jesus was ready to establish the Kingdom later that year.
Next Daniel gives us a breakdown of the 490 years:
Until MESSIAH THE PRINCE there shall be 7 weeks (7 sevens= 49 years) and 62 weeks (434 years).
The street shall be rebuilt again and the wall even in troublesome times (or the narrow time - this was fulfilled in the first 49 years -see the book of Ezra-Nehemiah).
The time of Messiah’s Presentation to Israel starts after the 49 + 434 = 483 years. Therefore the end of the 483 years (AD 26) is the start of the time of Messiah’s Presentation to Israel. This leaves MESSIAH just seven years to fulfil the prophecy. These seven years began in AD 26 and this is when John the Baptist started preaching! In fact the start of John’s ministry is the most strongly emphasised date of the New Testament: Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea (AD26-36), Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness (Luke3:1,2). This is the key date marking a new phase in God’s plan. Bible Chronology hinges on this date because it marks the close of Daniel’s 69th Week and the opening of the ministry of Messiah when the Kingdom was at hand. Now Tiberius Caesar began ruling as co-emperor with Augustus in AD12 and ruled alone from AD14-37. His 15th year was AD26, since the word used for his reign is hegemonia (rulership or leadership) rather than ‘basileia’ (the common word used for the sole ‘reign’ of a king).
The Gospels all start the story of Christ’s ministry and presentation to Israel with the ministry of John the Baptist (Luke3 for example). John brought in the time of the Messiah (Matthew11:9-13). Jesus said: all the prophets prophesied unto John. John signalled the start of the fulfilment of Messianic prophecy, the Appearance of the Messiah (Isa 40:3-5, Matt 3:3). Starting with his ministry: the Kingdom of God was at hand(Matt3:2). Acts1:21,22 defines the time of Messiah, as the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us (the Ascension). The baptism of John refers to his whole mission (Matt21:25).
The time of Messiah the Prince starts after 483 years and ends after 490 years. Then the Kingdom Age will be the time of Messiah the King. Sometime after the 483 years - after Messiah’s Presentation begins, the Messiah is to be killed for us:
v26 And after the 62 weeks MESSIAH shall be cut off - but not for himself.
We have seen that at the end of the 62 weeks the Messianic ministry would begin. Now we are told that sometime later, at the end of this ministry the Messiah would be killed, not for His own sins but for ours. In fact, we now know that it was after seven years, at the end of the Seventy Weeks in AD 33, that Messiah was killed (as v24 implied). We know from the Feasts and Seasons described in John’s Gospel and from Luke 13:7 that Jesus ministered for three and a half years. So John must have ministered for the three and a half years before that, typified by Elijah’s ministry (James5:17). (This pattern of the 70th Week divided into two halves is confirmed when we see it repeated in the 7-year Tribulation, when the 70th Week is re-run). The prophecy is strangely silent about these seven years of Messiah (Daniel’s 70th Week) after which the Kingdom should have been established. These most important years are left blank except for the mention of Messiah’s substitutionary death at their end. According to v24, by the end of the 70th Week (AD33), Jesus Christ should have died for our sins and established the Kingdom. He did die and establish the New Covenant in His Blood, and He was ready to establish the Kingdom that year and fulfil the prophecy of the 490 years, but something happens to delay this, which is anticipated in the prophecy in v26.
First: Messiah will be cut off but not for himself (KJV) could also be translated: the Anointed One will be cut off and have nothing (NIV) or as the Living Bible puts it: the Anointed One will be killed, His Kingdom still unrealised. For some reason the Kingdom does not come after 490 years! Then as the prophecy in v26 continues, there's another strange development. Instead of Messiah establishing the Kingdom we find: "and the people (the Romans) of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood and until the end of the war desolations are determined" (fulfilled in the war of AD 66-73 when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and scattered Israel to the nations). Something has gone terribly wrong! Such destruction and judgment on Israel could only mean Israel will reject her Messiah! (This couldn't have been said explicitly without spoiling their freedom of choice). So the Kingdom could not come at the end of the 490 years!
But how will God fulfil the prophecy of 490 years as He must?
Praise God Who: changes the times and the seasons (Daniel 2:20-22). God does something special with the last seven years on Israel's Timetable, about which, so far, the prophecy has been silent. Because they rejected their King and Kingdom, He officially cut them off (Luke 13:4-8, Acts 7), stopped their clock and cancelled their last seven years (AD 26-33, the time of Messiah’s Presentation). This is why the seven years, AD 26-33 are blotted out of v26. He will give them a second chance by letting the seven years (Daniel’s 70th Week) run again for Israel at the end of the age, after which Christ returns to establish the Kingdom and is received by a believing Israel. The difference is that these are seven years of Tribulation under antichrist, rather than seven years of Grace under Christ. In the first seven years Christ presented Himself as King, but in the last seven years antichrist will present himself as king. Both seven-year periods divide into two halves, where things that begin in the first half come to their climax in the second half. Thus v24 will still be literally fulfilled, because the Kingdom will be established after 490 years on Israel’s clock. However before the final seven years on Israel’s clock run, the 2000 years or so of the Church-Age are inserted which delay the coming of the Kingdom. So there is a GAP between the two sets of seven years filled by the Church-Age (not mentioned because it is a Mystery).
The precedent and type for this is the dreams of Pharaoh in the time of JOSEPH (Gen 41) where seven lean cows eat seven fat ones and seven thin, blighted heads of grain eat up seven good heads. This referred to seven prosperous years being EATEN UP by seven years of famine and affliction which came after. So the seven blessed years of John and Christ were 'eaten up' (blotted out) on Israel's calendar and replaced by seven years of TRIBULATION by the end of which the Kingdom must be established. Joseph is a type of Christ and his brothers are Israel. The brothers rejected Joseph as their leader and 'killed' him. They did not come to him in the first seven years but in the years of Tribulation (the time of Jacob's trouble - Jeremiah 30:7); they realised their trouble was due to their sin against Joseph and were repentant. After testing them, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers in the seven years of Tribulation and they were reconciled. Likewise, Jesus will reveal Himself to Israel and they will be reconciled and receive Him as their King.
Verses 26,27 describe two consequences of Israel’s rejection of her Prince.
(1) The first judgment came to that generation: the people of the prince who is to come (the Romans) shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it (the city) shall be with a flood (an overwhelming invasion) and until the end of the war desolations are determined (v26). This took place over a 7-year period from AD 66-73.
(2) The second judgment is the coming of a future prince: the prince who is to come, who is of the Roman Empire (for v26 says that his people are the ones who destroy Jerusalem and the Temple). His destructive activities against Jerusalem and the Temple also take place over a 7-year period (the Tribulation - Daniel’s 70th Week). They are described in v27 and identify him as the antichrist. This shows that the antichrist will be the head of a Revived Roman Empire. There is a contrast between two princes (who both aspire to be world-rulers). There is the Jewish ‘Messiah the Prince’ (the Christ) and the Roman ‘prince to come’ (the antichrist). Because Israel rejected her true Messiah-Prince after 7-years of grace, she must endure life under the false Messiah-Prince for the 7-year Tribulation. Thus the cause of the Tribulation is Israel’s rejection of her Messiah and the re-running of Daniel’s 70th Week.
After v26, the prophecy jumps forward to these last seven years for Israel.
After introducing the Roman prince in v26 as an important figure yet to come, v27 tells us more about him:
v27: Then (after an undisclosed period of time) he (this must be the last person mentioned - 'the prince who is to come', the antichrist) shall confirm a covenant (peace-treaty) with the many (the majority in Israel) for ONE WEEK (7 years!). Here we see Daniel’s 70th Week (the last 7-years before the Kingdom comes). It is marked by the activity of the antichrist. The starting point for these seven years of Tribulation is a peace treaty he makes with Israel as part of his rise to world-power. This agreement may promise Israel protection, allowing them to worship in a rebuilt Temple.
But in the middle of the Week (after three and a half years, at Mid-Tribulation)
he will bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
He will break this covenant, invade Jerusalem and stop their Temple worship.
And one who causes desolation (either antichrist or his assistant - the False-prophet, see Rev 13) will place abominations on a wing of the Temple... This is the ‘abomination of desolation’ that Jesus refers to in Matthew 24:15. Antichrist will utterly defile the sanctuary of God by putting an idol of himself on the pinnacle and in the holy-of-holies of the rebuilt Jewish Temple and demand that everyone worship him. This desolation will continue:
...until the end (of the 70th Week) - the time God has set, to pour out judgment on this evil desolator.
This time is limited to three and a half years, after which antichrist and his kingdom will be destroyed. This must be accomplished by the return of the Kingly Messiah, Jesus Christ at the end of the seven years to deliver His people and to establish His Kingdom thus fulfilling the 490-year prophecy. This agrees with prophecies in Daniel 2 and 7.
There are two 7-years judgments on Israel for her 7-year rejection of Christ (AD 26-33).
The first ( v26), was fulfilled in AD 66-73, exactly 40 years later. This was a forerunner of the second (v27) - the future Tribulation. They have interesting parallels. Both increase in severity with time. Both see a Roman invasion of Jerusalem half-way through the 7-years, followed by a desecration or destruction of the Temple. The second-half is a time of great tribulation and by the end of 7-years the nation of Israel is at the point of extinction. In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus basically expounds and expands upon this prophecy of Daniel. In so doing he predicts the invasion of Jerusalem in AD70 (Luke21:20-24, c.f. Dan9:26) and the parallel invasion in the Tribulation (Matt24:15-22, c.f. Dan9:27). In so doing he brings out another similarity- that in both cases a way of escape will be made for believers just before destruction hits. Because of these similarities many think these are identical events but there are also clear differences. The invasion in Luke results in desolation and captivity in the nations for a long period of time (v24). Thus, Jesus predicts an invasion well before the end of the age in line with Dan9:26. On the other hand the invasion in Matthew results in the desecration (not the total destruction) of the Temple and it happens just before Christ’s Return (v22-31). Thus Jesus also predicted a second invasion very near the end, in line with Daniel 9:27.
Between v26 and v27, Daniel’s prophecy jumps 2000 years or so. It is a good example of a Prophetic Gap. The connecting link is Rome and the Roman Prince, identified by the phrase: ‘the people of the prince to come’. At the end of the first run of Daniel’s 70th Week, Israel rejected Christ as their ruler, saying that "Caesar is our King" and the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem soon after (v26). Appropriately, the last seven years open with Israel receiving the antichrist as ruler. v26 describes him as the coming prince whose people destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70. This shows he is head of a Revived Roman Empire. v27 describes the continuing judgment and destruction that will come on Israel through Rome for rejecting Christ and accepting the wrong ruler but at the end of it they will be ready to accept the true Christ (v24).
The re-run of Daniel’s 70th Week (the Tribulation) has many parallels with the 70th Week cancelled by God (AD26-33). One opens with the presentation of Christ to Israel, the other with antichrist. Satan tempts each man with world-power mid-way through the seven years. One rejects, one accepts. At this point both are filled with supernatural power to fulfil their missions - one (possessed) by satan, the other (anointed) by God, launching them to prominance requiring everyone to decide to believe or reject them. At the close of both Weeks Israel has a decision to accept or reject her Messiah. The first time she says ‘no’, but the second time she will say ‘yes’. The first 70th Week ended with the death of Christ (v26), but the second Week finishes with the destruction of anti-christ (v27). The first time the only first 3 points of v24 were fulfilled, the second time the last 3 will be also.
This chronology of Daniel’s prophecy differs from the better known calculation done by Sir Robert Anderson. He takes 445BC (the 20th year of Artaxerxes) as the starting point and uses years of 360 days. He views the 69 Weeks as ending at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem in 32AD, and the 70th Week as postponed because of Israel’s rejection. The effective differences with the interpretation I give (from the insights of Sir Edward Denney) are only subtle.
I have come to see Denney’s view as superior for the following reasons:
(1) It is generally accepted that the Cross was in AD 33 (or perhaps AD30) but not AD32.
(2) The Year-Length in use by Israel at that time was the luni-solar year which approximates to our solar year in average length. It was not the Gentile (Babylonian) Time of 360 days. Israel’s Clock would not be measuring Gentile years.
(3) The death and resurrection of Christ should rightly happen on a Jubilee. In fact at the end of 490 years it happened at the end of a Great Jubilee.
(4) God’s offer of the Kingdom to Israel was genuine. Therefore, had Israel accepted, the Kingdom would have had to have been established later in AD 33 (the year of the Cross), fulfilling the 70 weeks prophecy on time. This requires the 70 Weeks to end in AD33. When Israel failed the 70th Week was cancelled to be rerun as the Tribulation.
(5) The start of Daniel's Seventy Weeks: 'The commandment (‘dabar’ = ‘word from God’) to restore and build Jerusalem.'
There are 4 possibilities but I believe 458 BC is the correct one.
(A) The Decree of Cyrus 536 BC (Ezra1:2-4).
This concerns the Temple alone - it does not mention Jerusalem as such. Now Isaiah 44:28,45:13 seems to include Jerusalem in his decree but actually it is God who speaks his purposes to Cyrus, Jerusalem and the Temple and all four of these decrees are manifestations of this. However the part of it that came through Cyrus clearly concerned the Temple alone.
(B) The Decree of Darius 518 BC (Ezra 6:1-3).
This is just a renewal of the Cyrus Decree for the Temple.
(C) Artaxerxes Decree in his 7th year. 458 BC (Ezra7:11-26).
This clearly had a Divine origin as the word ‘commandment’ implies (v6,27). The later Decree by Artaxerxes in 445BC was in response to Nehemiah’s request rather than a direct ‘word from God.’
Moreover the Bible emphasises this decree by:
(1) having a chapter devoted to it with a detailed copy given which shows it to fit Daniel’s prophecy.
(2) it is central to the book of Ezra-Nehemiah for all its events originate from it.
(3) its date is emphasised strongly (v7-9)
(4) it is the only bit of Ezra in Aramaic not Hebrew.
Now on the surface it seems to emphasise the Temple and thus it not qualify but a closer reading shows clearly that this decree included the rebuilding of city and its administration. It empowered him to ordain laws, set magistrates and judges with authority to punish. So Ezra was authorised to restore the commonwealth and the means were placed at his disposal to enable him to do so. This must be the decree to rebuild and restore Jerusalem and this is seen to be Ezra's understanding of it. Ezra 1-6 describes the rebuilding of the Temple before Ezra, except for a parenthesis in Ezra 4:6-23 where in describing resistance to this work Ezra then also describes the resistance he faced in his time. This section shows that the group that returned with Ezra attempted to restore the walls but this attempt was thwarted by the Samaritans (Ezra 4:11,12,23). This attempt must have been under Ezra in 458 because the decree granted him just such extended powers (7:18, 25; 9:9).
(D) Artaxerxes 445 BC in his 20th year (Nehemiah 2)
This gave Nehemiah permission to rebuild the walls (Nehemiah2). Many believe this to be the decree because it emphasises the walls but as we have seen a previous attempt had been made on the basis of the earlier decree. It was the failure to implement that decree that upset Nehemiah and he gained permission to assist in accomplishing the work undertaken by Ezra which had been retarded. So this was not the originating decree but a renewal of the earlier one.
Therefore Daniel's 70 Weeks start in 458 BC.