The Seventy Weeks of Daniel - Part 9
By Thomas Ice
Our study of Daniel's seventy weeks prophecy now moves to the final verse in the passage, which also deals with the final week of years.
And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. (Daniel 9:27)
In this installment I will provide further reasons for a time-gap between the sixty-nine and seventieth weeks and note features from the text that support the interpretation that this seven-year period is the yet to come tribulation period.
Antichrist or Christ?
Right off the bat, the first question that arises in verse 27 is to whom does the pronoun "he" refer to? I believe that "he" must refer to "the prince who is to come" in verse 26. However, opponents of literal interpretation disagree. Preterist, Dr. Kenneth Gentry says, "[T]he indefinite pronoun 'he' does not refer back to 'the prince who is to come' of verse 26." Fellow preterist, Gary DeMar, insists "it is Jesus who 'will make a firm covenant with the many,' not the antichrist." Yet, such an errant interpretation violates the grammar and syntax of the Hebrew text.
In Hebrew grammar, as with most languages, a pronoun would refer to the nearest antecedent, unless there was a contextual reason to think otherwise. In this instance, the nearest antecedent in agreement with "he" is "the prince who is to come" in verse 26. This is recognized by a majority of scholars, including a number of amillennialists such as Kiel and Leupold. Only a priori theological bias could lead a trained interpreter of Scripture to any other conclusion. Robert Culver explains the correct meaning of this text as follows:
The ordinary rules of grammar establish that the leading actor of this verse is the Antichrist, the great evil man of the end time. . . . If the pronoun "he" were present in the Hebrew, a case might possibly be made for the introduction of an entirely new personality into the story at this point. However, there is no pronoun; only the third masculine singular form of the verb indicates that an antecedent is to be sought, and that of necessity in the preceding context. Usually, the last preceding noun that agrees in gender and number and agrees with the sense is the antecedent. This is unquestionably . . . "the coming prince" of verse 26. He is a "coming" prince, that is, one whom the reader would already know as a prince to come, because he is the same as the "little horn" on the fourth beast of chapter 7.
Leon Wood provides a list of further reasons for taking the "he" in verse 27 as a reference to "the prince who is to come" of verse 26.
Second, as noted above, the unusual manner of mention in verse twenty-six regarding that prince calls for just such a further reference as this. There is no reason for the earlier notice unless something further is to be said regarding him, for he does nothing nor plays any part in activities there described. Third, several matters show that what is now said regarding the one in reference does not suit if that reference is to Christ. (a) This person makes a "firm covenant" with people, but Christ made no covenant. God made a Covenant of Grace with people, and Christ fulfilled requirements under it, but this is quite different from Christ's making a covenant. (b) Even if Christ had made a covenant with people during His lifetime, the idea of mentioning it only here in the overall thought of the passage would be unusual, when the subjects of His death and even the destruction of Jerusalem have already been set forth. (c) The idea of the seventieth week, here closely associated with this one, does not fit the life or ministry of Christ, as will be shown presently. (d) The idea that this one causes "sacrifice and offering to cease" does not fit in reference to Christ in this context. The amillennial view holds that these words refer to Christ's supreme sacrifice in death, which made all other sacrifices and offerings of no further use, thus making them to cease in principle. But, if so, what would be the reason for such a statement (true as it is) in view of the purpose of the overall prediction? One could understand a direct statement concerning Christ's providing atonement for sin—though its placing at this point in the general thought order the passage would be strange—because that would be important to sin-bondaged Israelites. But why, if that is the basic thought, should it be expressed so indirectly, in terms of sacrificing and offering being made to cease?
It is safe to conclude that the immediate context of this passage and the book as a whole supports our understanding of this matter. This interpretation would also support a futurist understanding of verse 27.
The Making of a Covenant
What is it that "he" will do? The antichrist will "make a firm covenant with the many for one week," that is seven years. Non-literal interpreters of Daniel's seventy-week prophecy usually attempt to make this covenant a reference to Christ's covenant to save His people, usually known as the covenant of grace. "This, then, is a confirming of a covenant already extant, i.e., the covenant of God's redemptive grace that Christ confirms (Rom. 15:8)," claims Dr. Gentry. Dr. Gentry and those advocating a similar view, must resort to a non-textual, theological interpretation at this point since there was no seven-year covenant made by Christ with the Jewish people at the time of His first coming. They must back off from the specifics of the text in verse 27 and import in a theological interpretation, thus providing us with a classic example of spiritualization or allegorical interpretation.
If this is supposed to be a reference to the covenant of grace, then "it may be observed first that this would be a strange way to express such a thought," notes Dr. Wood. Christ's salvation covenant is not limited to seven years rather it is an eternal covenant. Daniel 9:27 says the covenant is to be made with "the many." This term always refers in some way to Israel throughout the book of Daniel (Daniel 11:33, 39; 12:3). Thus it is a narrow term, used in a specific context. It is not a broad term, synonymous with the language of global salvation. Further, "it is evident that the covenant is subsequent to the cutting off of Messiah and the destruction of the City and the Sanctuary, in the twenty-sixth verse; therefore, it could not have been confirmed at the First Advent," says G. H. Pember. Such an interpretation does not fit this text and it does not account for the seven years that Gabriel says this covenant will be in place. Dr. Wood further explains:
Since the word for "covenant" . . . does not carry the article (contrary to the kjv translation), this covenant likely is made at this time for the first time (not a reaffirmation of an old one, then) and probably will concern some type of nonaggression treaty, recognizing mutual rights. Israel's interest in such a treaty is easy to understand in the light of her desire today for allies to help withstand foes such as Russia and the Arab bloc of nations.
Since a covenant as described in verse 27 has not yet taken place in reference to the nation of Israel, it must therefore follow that this will be a yet to occur future event. This then, demands a postponement of the seventieth week with a gap of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of years.
For One Week
This passage clearly says that the length of the covenant that "he" will make will be for one week or seven years. I suppose that this could mean either that the covenant will be predetermined to last seven years or that it does not specify a length of time when made, but as it turns out, is only in existence for seven years. Many of those who believe that the entire prophecy of the seventy weeks has already been fulfilled around the time of Christ's first coming teach that the first half of the seventieth week was fulfilled by Christ's ministry. "We know Christ's three-and-one-half-year ministry," says Dr. Gentry, "was decidedly focused on the Jews in the first half of the seventieth week (Matt. 10:5b; cf. Matt. 15:24)." G. H. Pember objects to such a view with the following:
if the Messiah could be the subject, and the time that of the First Advent, we should then be plunged into the greatest perplexity; for the Lord did none of the things that are mentioned in the twenty-seventh verse. To fulfil that part of the prophecy, He must have made a covenant with the majority of the Jewish people for seven years, neither more nor less. But there is no hint of such a covenant in the Gospels. And, indeed, one of the prophets has intimated to us, that the Lord, just before His death, suspended all His relations with the Jews, and through them with the whole of the Twelve Tribes. This exactly corresponds to the suspension of His dealings with the Jews at the close of the Four Hundred and Eighty-third Year, and to the facts of history. Still further, the very next verse of Zechariah carries us over the interval, and brings us face to face with the Prince that shall come, the Anti-christ, who will make the seven years' covenant on pretence of being the Shepherd of Israel. Lastly, Christ did not cause sacrifice and offering to cease, when He suffered without the gate: the Temple-services were carried on for nearly forty years longer.
Once again we have seen in this installment on the seventy weeks that the text of this passage supports a gap of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the seventieth week is still future to the time in which we now live. "Israel has now been reestablished as a nation (1948), suggesting that the seventieth seven may soon begin." Maranatha!