One of the most beautiful prophecies in Scripture is the seventy-week prophecy found in the book of Daniel. These awesome verses lay out the entire schedule and plan of redemption, about 500 years before the actual events would take place. We will see how this prophecy is fulfilled to the letter and confirms the credibility of the Bible and Jesus as Messiah.
70 weeks cut off
In Daniel 9:20-27 we find an angel explaining the 70 week time prophecy to Daniel. The angel tells Daniel that these 70 weeks are cut off (‘chathak’, 2852. Daniel 9:24). To understand this prophecy, we must first ask the logical question, ‘cut off of what?’. In the blog post about the 2300 years we discovered that the angels’ explanation in Daniel 9 is the continuation of the explanation this same angel needed to disrupt in the end of Daniel 8. The vision that Daniel received is about the longest time prophecy recorded in the Bible, ‘the 2300 years’. Since there has not been given any other time prophecy and this explanation is part of that same vision, the 70 weeks must logically be cut off from the 2300 years.
The starting date
When dealing with prophetic times, a day is used symbolically for a year (Numbers 14:34, Ezekiel 4:6). This principle is widely accepted and used by for example the reformers, sir Isaac Newton, Matthew Henry and many others. How many days are in a week? Seven. We have seventy weeks, thus we multiply that by seven and we get to 490 days. Then we apply the day-for-year principle and get to 490 years. What now? Do we just randomly start the 490 years and see if all works out? We do not need to guess or speculate, as God has made sure we can know exactly when this prophecy starts. The angel gives us not a date, but an event as indicator for when to start counting (Daniel 9:25). We can read about this command in Ezra 7, and based on specifically Ezra 7:7, we know that this event took place in 457 BC (read more about that here).
The angel tells Daniel that there will be seven weeks plus threescore and two weeks (Daniel 9:25). One score is twenty, so this makes for a total of 69 weeks, or 483 days (69 weeks x 7 days in a week). Applying the day-for-year principle gives us 483 years. There is something you need to know when counting from BC to AD, and that is that there is no year zero. The timeline goes from -1 BC to 1 AD. For example, if you count from -3 and add 5, you come to 2. Now if we do the same math solution on the timeline and cross from BC into AD, you come to 3. Why? Because you do not count the year zero. This means, when counting from BC to AD, you count as normal and then simply add 1. So, when we count from -457 and add 483 we end up at 26, and because we go from BC to AD we add 1 and come to 27 AD. These are the dates for the 69 weeks, but there is one prophetic week (seven real years) left of the 70 weeks (Daniel 9:27). So, when we add seven years, it brings us to the year 34 AD. Then we find one last time related note, and that is that in the middle of this last week the sacrifice would be made to cease. This would then be in 31 AD.
The 69 weeks
The angel tells us there will be 69 weeks until Messiah the Prince and that the street and the walls would be built again. The 69 weeks were ‘split’ into two parts, 7 weeks (49 years) and threescore and two weeks (434 years). The city was restored and the temple rebuilt in the year 408 BC, exactly 49 years after the decree. In the book of Nehemiah we can read about the troublous times that they went through. That was the first part of the 69 weeks fulfilled, now let’s look at the second part.
Did you know that Messiah and Christ both mean anointed one? When was it that Jesus got anointed? Luke tells us that Jesus was anointed when He received the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). When did Jesus receive the Holy Spirit? All the gospels record that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus at His baptism (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:9-10, Luke 3:21-22, John 1:32-33). Then the question is, when did Jesus get baptized and therefore anointed? We can thank Luke for recording many details about which governor officials reigned and in which year of their reign it was, so that we can know the year without a shadow of a doubt, 27 AD (Luke 3:1). Jesus was anointed exactly the time that the prophecy foretold Messiah to be.
The remaining week
We have read in Daniel 9:25 that Jesus was referred to as Messiah the Prince. When we continue to read the next verse (Daniel 9:26) again the two words Messiah and prince show up. Let’s immediately clear something up here. You will probably hear some say that the prince in verse 26 does not refer to Jesus, but to either Titus (who with the Romans destroyed the temple) or some future individual. However, there is no reason to believe that the prince referred to here would not be the same prince as in the verse before, especially as they are both brought in connection with the word Messiah. Not only would it be very unreasonable, neither of these alternative interpretations fit the description that we will get to in a bit. On top of that, people who believe either those two alternatives, miss the core of the beauty of the redemption plan. We will see that this prince must refer to Jesus, not only because it makes most sense given the fact that He was referred to as Prince in one verse earlier, but also as we shall see that the rest of the prophecy is perfectly fulfilled with this interpretation.
To be cut off
We have read in Daniel 9:25 that Jesus was referred to as Messiah the Prince. When we continue to read the next verse (Daniel 9:26) again the two words Messiah and prince show up. Let’s immediately clear something up here. You will probably hear some say that the prince in verse 26 does not refer to Jesus, but to either Titus (who with the Romans destroyed the temple) or some future individual. However, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that the prince would not be the same prince as in the verse before, especially as they are both brought in connection with the word Messiah. Not only would it be very unreasonable, neither of these alternative interpretations fit the description that we will get to in a bit. On top of that, people who believe either those two alternatives, miss the core of the beauty of the redemption plan. We will see that this prince must refer to Jesus, not only because it makes most sense given the fact that He was referred to as Prince in one verse earlier, but also as we shall see that the rest of the prophecy is perfectly fulfilled with this interpretation.
Making sacrifices to cease
What happened immediately when Jesus died in 31 AD, in the middle of the last week? The veil in the temple between the Holy and the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45). What does that mean? Because Jesus was the lamb that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29, Hebrews 7:27), He made an end to the sacrificial system that had been pointing forward to His sacrifice. He was cut off, it happened in the middle of the week, and it put an end to the sacrificial system.
The destruction of the city
If Jesus is indeed referred to as the prince, it means that ‘the people of the prince’ would be the Jews (Daniel 9:26). This would mean that the Jews would destroy their own city and sanctuary. Oh, oh, do we have a problem here? It is because on the surface this sounds absurd, that people think that then the prince cannot refer to Jesus. But before we draw any drastic conclusions like that, let’s go back in time a little bit to see what happened the first time when Jerusalem was destroyed. The Bible tells us that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city and the temple (2 Chronicles 36:17-20), but did he really? When we again dig a little deeper we find that actually God destroyed the city through Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 9:14, Jeremiah 27:6). And why did this happen? Because of the sins of Israel (Daniel 9:11; 9:14-15). So, who caused the city to be destroyed? We don’t need to guess; the Bible tells us plainly that it was Israel (Jeremiah 38:23; 38:17-18). They brought it upon themselves (Hosea 13:9). Nebuchadnezzar was the instrument to bring about the destruction that the Israelites themselves had brought. In the same way, we know that the Romans under the rule of Titus were the ones setting the actual fire to the city, but it was the Jews who were the ones causing it. By rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, they themselves brought destruction upon the city and the sanctuary. Without knowing it, they made history to repeat itself again.
The covenant confirmed by Jesus
In Daniel 8:27 we read about the covenant being confirmed. The first question here is, what covenant? All throughout the entire Bible (for example in Genesis 19) we can read that God made a covenant with Abraham. At its core this covenant meant, ‘I will be your God and you and your descendants will be my people’. Israel would be God’s people, if they obeyed God’s word. When the angel explains that these 70 weeks are cut off for ‘thy people’ (Daniel 9:24), it is talking about this covenant in which the Israelites as a nation were God’s people. The covenant made with them, would be confirmed for one more week. It means, they had one more chance to be God’s people.
Jesus Himself makes this exceedingly clear in the parable about the vineyard (Matthew 21:33-45). In the parable the landowner (God) lends out his land to husbandmen (Israel), expecting fruits. When the owner sent servants (prophets) to the field to collect the fruits, the husbandmen killed the servants. When the son of the owner (Jesus) comes himself, the husbandmen kill even the son. What is the result? The husbandmen are destroyed and the land will be lent out to other husbandmen (Gentiles). It cannot be made clearer than verse 43 “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” Even those Jews knew that Jesus was talking about them (Matthew 21:45). God expected fruits of Israel, but when He sent His prophets and even His Son, they killed them. Therefore the kingdom will be taken from them and given to another who will produce fruit.
The covenant confirmed by the disciples
Now Jesus confirmed this covenant during His ministry, but He died and went to heaven after three and a half year, leaving a three and a half year gap for the covenant to need to be confirmed. What about that time? The author of Hebrews gives us the answer. In the first three and a half years Jesus confirmed the covenant in His physical being, and after this time He confirmed the covenant for three and a half years more, through His disciples (Hebrews 2:3). Can we double check this? Absolutely.
Jesus focused on the Israelites during His ministry (Matthew 15:26) and instructed His disciples to do the same (Matthew 10:5). But just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He gave His disciples some further instructions. He instructed them to witness in Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria and the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). Make a mental note of the order of that instruction, we’ll come back to it.
In the opening chapters of the book of Acts we see that the disciples are preaching the Word and many Jews are being converted and accept Jesus as the Messiah. And then something interesting happens in Acts 7 and 8, when Stephen is taken before the Sanhedrin and they end up stoning him. Guess when this happened? 34 AD. Does that date ring a bell? The end of the 70 week prophecy. You might not have noticed it before, but have you seen the striking similarities between the death of Stephen and of Jesus?
- Both were taken before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:59; Mark 14:55; Acts 6:12, 15)
- Both were accused by false witnesses (Mark 14:55; Acts 6:11, 13-14)
- Both reviewed the history of the Jewish nation. Both spoke about God sending the prophets and finally sending His own son (Matthew 23:32; 21:33-44; Acts 7)
- In both, money was paid as a bribe to the false witnesses (Matthew 26:60; Acts 6:11)
- Both were accused of speaking against Moses and the temple (Matthew 27:40; John 11:50-52, Acts 6:13-14)
- Both accused the Jewish leaders of shutting their ears to the truth about the Messiah (Matthew 23:29- 36;Acts 7:51-54)
- Both prayed for God to forgive the sin of their enemies (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60)
- Both were killed outside the city (Hebrews 13:12; Acts 7:58)
- The innocence of both could be seen on their face (John 19:4, 6; Acts 6:15)
- In both there was a “mob mentality” (Matthew 27:24; Acts 7:57-58)
On top of all these similarities, Stephen’s speech also testifies of it. We find a remarkable shift in the terms that Stephen used in his speech. He changed from speaking about ‘our fathers’ (Acts 7:11, 19, 38, 44, 45) to ‘your fathers’ (Acts 7:51-52). Stephen did not call for repentance, as was generally done by the prophets. His speech seems to form a conclusion, an overview of why the case will now be closed. The response of the Sanhedrin was clear, they once more rejected the Holy Spirit and in one accord rejected the gospel (Acts 7:57). It is sure that this marked the end of the seventy-week prophecy as the theocracy of Israel chose to reject Jesus.
The events that follow confirm the significance of the stoning of Stephen – the first martyr for the gospel – as the end of the 70 weeks. God is so incredible, because just when the door closed for the nation of Israel to be God’s chosen people, He opened another door. The land as in the parable was taken away from the Israelites and given to another. Because who was standing by at the stoning of Stephen? Whose feet did the witnesses lay their garments at? Saul of Tarsus, the one who would be the one to take the gospel to the gentiles (Acts 22:20-21). This means that the Jews, the literal nation of Israel, are no longer God’s people -though individually Jews can of course still be saved when accepting Jesus (Romans 11:1). Now you are no longer part of God’s chosen people through genealogy, but by faith you are a child of God and an heir according to the promise (Galatians 3:29, Romans 9:8, Romans 8:14, Romans 2:28-29, Galatians 6:15, John 1:12). The New Testament witnesses in numerous places, as we have now only mentioned a few, that the door for Israel as a nation to be God’s people has closed, and the door for “whosoever” (John 3:16) has opened to be part of God’s people and His covenant.
Remember that Jesus told them to witness in Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria and the uttermost part of the earth. Guess what? See the exact order of where they witnessed recorded in Acts: Acts 1-6: Jerusalem, Acts 7: Judaea, Acts 8: Samaria, Acts 9: conversion Saul, Acts 10: vision to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, Acts 10-28: the uttermost part of the earth. The way Acts unfolds as the gospel is being preached, fulfils the exact words of Jesus. We can see that every single element of the 70 week prophecy fits on our timeline.
The call to respond
The historic fulfillment of the prophecy written down about 500 years before these events would come to pass, proves that God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Every aspect of this fulfillment shows that the Bible is reliable and that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). More than that, it testifies that Jesus truly is the Messiah. It would be good to learn this prophecy for yourself to more firmly establish the identity of Jesus and in turn to share it with others who do not yet know.