A CHRISTOTELIC VIEW OF DANIEL 9:24-27
A NECESSARY EXPLANATION
To reiterate, the final ‘seven’ begins with Christ’s earthly ministry and spans the entire New Covenant Age until His glorious return. The first half of the seventieth ‘seven’ corresponds to Christ’s earthly ministry of three and one-half literal years, while the second half symbolizes the entire New Covenant age. One half literal, and one half symbolic? Does not such an interpretation betray an inconsistent hermeneutic? In brief, no. Why? First, nothing in the passage of the Seventy ‘Sevens’ necessitates understanding the sevens as either entirely literal or entirely symbolic. Second, recall that three and one-half symbolizes a limited period of persecution or hardship in the Scriptures, which both Christ’s earthly ministry and the New Covenant age constitute. Third, the Church’s ministry throughout the New Covenant age both parallels and recapitulates (i.e. repeats) Christ’s earthly ministry of three and one-half years in such areas as baptism and suffering. This parallelism serves to highlight the profound connection between the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. Fourth, following the principle of progressive revelation, the Book of Revelation (specifically in Rev 11:3, 9, 11; 12:6, 14; 13:5), not to mention subsequent chapters in the Book of Daniel (12:7, 11-12), explains in far greater detail the time period described in Daniel 9:24-27 as the second half of the Seventieth Week.
The Destruction of Jerusalem
“And the people of the prince who is to come will destroy [or spoil] the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined” (Dan 9:26b). Who is the נָגִיד הַבָּא (nāgîd habā’ – coming prince)? Recall from Chapter 2 that Classical Dispensationalists without exception understand the coming prince to be the final Antichrist. They arrive at such a conclusion from the following line of argumentation. First, this ‘prince’ belongs to the people who will destroy Jerusalem, and the Romans destroyed the city in 70 A.D. Thus, according to them, the ‘coming prince’ must be a Roman prince. Second, Daniel 7:8 seems to identify “the little horn” as a Roman prince, since he emerges from the head of the fourth beast (i.e. Rome). Thus, the ‘coming prince’ (Dan 9:26b), who according to Dispensationalists is a Roman prince, is the final Antichrist. However, this conclusion is not free from problems.
First, the grammatical rule of previous reference highly favors identifying the ‘coming prince’ (nāgîd habā’) as Messiah the Prince (māšîaḥ nāgîd). Virtually all Classical Dispensationalists understand the phrase “Messiah will be cut off” in Daniel 9:26a (to refer to “Messiah the Prince” in Daniel 9:25. Although they interpret Messiah in Daniel 9:26a (where māšîaḥ occurs alone) as referring to “Messiah the Prince” in Daniel 9:25 (where māšîaḥ occurs with nāgîd), they do not identify “the prince who is to come” in Daniel 9:26b (where nāgîd occurs alone) as “Messiah the Prince.” Such an interpretation is grammatically inconsistent. Rather, “the prince who is to come” in Daniel 9:26b (where nāgîd occurs alone) and Messiah in Daniel 9:26a (where māšîaḥ occurs alone) must both refer to “Messiah the Prince” (where nāgîd and māšîaḥ occur together). Peter Gentry writes:
There is no grammatical issue in identifying object and subject in this sentence. The meaning of the sentence is also straightforward. The coming ruler must be the Messiah of v.25 according to the context and normal rules of literature. Therefore, “the people of the coming ruler” are the Jewish people. The statement is telling us that it is the Jewish people who will ruin / spoil the restored city and temple at the arrival of their coming King.
Second, recall that “nāgîd communicates kingship according to God’s plan and standards whereas melek communicates kingship according to the Canaanite model of absolute despotism and self-aggrandizement.” Thus, it is unlikely that the ‘coming ruler’ is the final Antichrist, who will elevate himself “above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God (2 Thess 2:4). Third, other clues throughout the Book of Daniel intimate that the ‘coming ruler’ is the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, Daniel 8:25 describes the Messiah as “the Prince of princes” ( שַׂר־שָׂרִים – śar-śārȋm). Moreover, the prophet identifies Christ as “One like a Son of Man” who “was coming” ( אָתֵה – ’ātēh) “with the clouds of heaven” (Dan 7:13). These two passages and others lend support to the understanding that Christ is the ‘coming prince.’
Yašḥȋt – To Spoil
If the Lord Jesus Christ is the ‘coming prince,’ then the Jewish people are the people who destroyed the city and the sanctuary (Dan 9:26b). The Hebrew word often translated “will destroy” ( יַשְׁחִית – yašḥȋt) is derived from the verb שָׁחַת (šāḥat). Although translated as “destroy” in most English translations, this verb also means “spoil, ruin,” “act ruinously,” and “wipe out.” For reasons that will soon become apparent, Daniel 9:26b would be better translated as follows: “And the people of the coming prince will spoil/ruin the city and the sanctuary.”
Does history confirm that the Jewish people ruined or spoiled Jerusalem and its Temple? Indeed, it does. Josephus describes the Zealots’ defilement of the Temple just prior to Jerusalem’s fiery destruction:
Those men made the temple of God a stronghold for them, and a place whither they might resort, in order to avoid the troubles they feared from the people; the sanctuary was now become a refuge and a shop of tyranny. They also mixed jesting among the miseries they introduced, which was more intolerable than what they did; for, in order to try what surprise the people would be under, and how far their own power extended, they undertook to dispose of the high priesthood by casting lots for it, whereas, as we have said already, it was to descend by succession in a family.
The Jewish historian also records the reaction of Ananus the priest to the “seizing upon the sanctuary…rapine and murders” of the Zealots: “Certainly, it had been good for me to die before I had seen the house of God full of so many abominations, or these sacred places that ought not to be trodden upon at random, filled with the feet of these bloodshedding villains.” Furthermore, the Jews initiated the catastrophic chain of events which resulted in the burning down of the Temple. Josephus writes:
…as for that house [i.e. the Temple], God had for certain long ago doomed it to the fire; and now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of ages; it was the tenth day of the month Lous [Ab], upon which it was formerly burnt by the king of Babylon; although these flames took their rise from the Jews themselves, and were occasioned by them; for upon Titus’ retiring, the seditious lay still for a little while, and then attacked the Romans again, when those that guarded the holy house fought with those that quenched the fire that was burning in the inner [court of the] temple; but these Romans put the Jews to flight, and proceeded as far as the holy house itself. At which time one of the soldiers, without staying for any orders, and without any concern or dread upon him at so great an undertaking, and being hurried on by a certain divine fury, snatched somewhat out of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier, he set fire to a golden window, through which there was a passage to the rooms that were round about the holy house, on the north side of it.
According to Josephus, Titus wished to preserve, not destroy, Jerusalem’s Temple, yet he was unable to prevent its fiery destruction. Gentry rightly concludes: “Although the Roman army actually put the torch to Jerusalem, the destruction of the city was blamed squarely on the Jewish people themselves….Josephus is adequate historical proof that the destruction of Jerusalem was entirely the fault of the Jewish people, just as Dan 9:26b predicts.” Thus, the historical record (through Josephus) confirms that the Jewish people spoiled the city and the sanctuary themselves.
Jesus Foretells Jerusalem’s Judgment
Several days before His crucifixion, Christ declared to the Jews, “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!” (Matt 23:38) in fulfillment of Daniel 9:26b (“desolations are determined”). Because the Jews “did not recognize” the Messiah’s “visitation,” Jesus prophesied against Jerusalem: “For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side, 44and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another” (Luke 19:43-44). Because of “their unbelief” (Rom 11:20), Jesus told the Pharisees and the chief priests, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it” (Matt 21:43). Furthermore, the Apostle Peter testified of Christ, “The Lord God shall raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed in everything He says to you. 23And it shall be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:22-23). In other words, if one rejects Christ, he or she will be destroyed. These prophecies were fulfilled in the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in 70 A.D. Due to her rejection of the Lord Jesus as the Christ, Israel brought about her own destruction. Riddlebarger writes: “God’s people rejected their Messiah, the true temple. God would now reject the earthly temple. This magnificent building would be destroyed: ‘Not one stone here will be left on another’ (Matt. 24:2).” 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 also declares:
For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, 15who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, 16hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.
Thus, the Jews are the people who spoiled their own city and sanctuary (Dan 9:26b).
Confirming the Covenantal Curses
Recall that the parallel verses of Daniel 9:26-27 are arranged covenantally. Whereas the first halves of verses twenty-six and twenty-seven detail the ultimate blessings and fulfillment of the Mosaic Covenant, the second halves detail the covenantal curses of the Mosaic Covenant:
(26–B) And the people of the prince [nāgîd] who is to come will destroy [or spoil] the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
(27–B) 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.
Because of the Jews’ rejection of Christ and their continuing transgression, Yahweh raised up the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem with its Temple. Consider the events of 70 A.D. in light of Deuteronomy 28:49-62:
49The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand, 50a nation of fierce countenance who shall have no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young. 51Moreover, it shall eat the offspring of your herd and the produce of your ground until you are destroyed, who also leaves you no grain, new wine, or oil, nor the increase of your herd or the young of your flock until they have caused you to perish. 52And it shall besiege you in all your towns until your high and fortified walls in which you trusted come down throughout your land, and it shall besiege you in all your towns throughout your land which the LORD your God has given you. 53Then you shall eat the offspring of your own body, the flesh of your sons and of your daughters whom the LORD your God has given you, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy shall oppress you. 54The man who is refined and very delicate among you shall be hostile toward his brother and toward the wife he cherishes and toward the rest of his children who remain, 55so that he will not give even one of them any of the flesh of his children which he shall eat, since he has nothing else left, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy shall oppress you in all your towns. 56The refined and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground for delicateness and refinement, shall be hostile toward the husband she cherishes and toward her son and daughter, 57and toward her afterbirth which issues from between her legs and toward her children whom she bears; for she shall eat them secretly for lack of anything else, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy shall oppress you in your towns. 58If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome name, the LORD your God, 59then the LORD will bring extraordinary plagues on you and your descendants, even severe and lasting plagues, and miserable and chronic sicknesses. 60And He will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt of which you were afraid, and they shall cling to you. 61Also every sickness and every plague which, not written in the book of this law, the LORD will bring on you until you are destroyed. 62Then you shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of heaven for multitude, because you did not obey the LORD your God.
Leviticus 26:30-33 similarly states:
30I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols; for My soul shall abhor you. 31I will lay waste your cities as well, and will make your sanctuaries desolate; and I will not smell your soothing aromas. 32And I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled over it. 33You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste.
Jerusalem’s destruction in 586 B.C. (2 Chr 36:14-19; Jer 34:2-22; 44:6; 52:12-14; Ezek 15:7-8) foreshadowed the events of 70 A.D. Josephus’ horrific depiction of the fall of Jerusalem reads virtually verbatim from Deuteronomy 28:49-62 and Leviticus 26:30-33, passages which relate the covenantal curses of the Mosaic Covenant.
The ‘Flood’ Language of Daniel 9:26
The phrase “and its end will come with a flood” (Dan 9:26b) may sound a bit odd to modern ears. Gabriel is not informing Daniel that Jerusalem will be destroyed by a literal flood of water. Rather, he is comparing the Roman armies which Yahweh would send against Jerusalem to the speed, overpowering, and destructive force of a flood. This particular metaphor is frequently used throughout the Bible to describe events marked by catastrophic destruction (cf. Job 20:28; 27:20; Ps 88:17; 124:4; Dan 11:10; Hos 5:10; Matt 24:38-39). Bruce Waltke notes:
In the New Testament, the motifs of the flood and judgment are concerned to the destruction of Jerusalem and the second temple in AD 70 and the ultimate judgment at Christ’s second coming. [Warren] Gage notes that Christ compares the time of his coming in judgment to the days of Noah and Lot (Matt. 24:37-39; Luke 17:28-32) and to Daniel, who says, “the end [of Jerusalem] will come like a flood” (Dan. 9:26).
Thus, the prophecy states that the Roman armies would quickly surround, overwhelm, and destroy Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
The Abomination of Desolation
Although the term abomination of desolation occurs in Daniel 11:31 and 12:11, it is clearly alluded to in Daniel 9:27b: “on the wing of abominations [ שִׁקּוּצִים – šiqqûsȋm] will come one who makes desolate [ מְשֹׁמֵם – měšômēm], even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” What is the abomination of desolation? In Chapter 2, I noted that Classical Dispensationalists understand this term to refer to an idol that the Antichrist will set up in a rebuilt Jewish Temple. However, is this how the New Testament understands the term? The first New Testament reference to the abomination of desolation can be found in Matthew’s version of the Olivet Discourse:
15Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; 17let him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things out that are in his house; 18and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak. 19But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days! 20But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath; 21for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. 22And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short (Matthew 24:15-22; cf. Mark 13:14-20).
Though it does not use the term, Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse is helpful in identifying what the abomination of desolation is – namely, the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
20But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, 22for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. 23Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. 24They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:20-24).
Notice that Luke 21:20 relates to Matthew 24:15. The encirclement of Jerusalem by Rome’s legions is not itself the abomination of desolation but indicates that Jerusalem’s desolation had come near. Rikk E. Watts understands the abomination to be the “insurrectionist leaders” of Israel:
All agree that Jesus warns of a Daniel-like sacrilege [i.e. the abomination of desolation] in the temple that signals the disciples’ last chance to flee. Exactly what that sacrilege is, is far less clear. Numerous solutions have been proposed (e.g., imperial standards, Caligula’s image, the Zealot’s unqualified high priest, Titus’ entry, a pagan statue, a deified human, imperial coins [cf. 2 Thess. 2:3-4]) All these suggestions fail because the events do not take place, or were too soon or too late, and /or did not result in the temple’s desolation….But perhaps the attempt at an overly precise identification is misguided.….As with all such prophetic language, the concern is the significance of the event, not an exact description….it could…refer to a series of related, idolatrous events involving several persons and actions that effectively amounted to Daniel’s “abomination,” though not necessarily identical in all respects….The Daniel connection arises through an act of reinterpretation….This time it is not Antiochus, but, ironically, Israel’s insurrectionist leaders (whether high priests, elders, and/or Zealots), whose idolatrous blindness leads them to “make war” on God’s people and kill the Son of Man, and whose actions are therefore shockingly likened to the “little horn’s” abominations (cf. Prov. 21:27). That is, the nation’s leaders in rejecting Jesus, unwittingly set the whole sorry affair in motion (cf. the ironic commence in John 11:48).
Waltke also remarks:
Additionally, the abomination of desolation is identified by Jesus with the desecration of the temple by the Roman general Titus, who destroys Jerusalem in AD 70 (Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14). In other words, Israel continues to disobey in spite of the 7 x 70 beating [i.e. the seventy ‘sevens; with “seventy” as a symbol of Yahweh’s judgment against Israel]. They will not repent until Jerusalem is utterly destroyed in AD 70, as Jesus had prophesied, and the kingdom taken away from them and given to another fold, a church made up of Jews and Gentiles without distinction.
Although it is difficult to precisely identify the abomination of desolation, it is clear that it relates to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., not the Antichrist in a future seven-year Tribulation.
See Robert D. Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1954; reprint 1977) 153-4; McClain, Daniel’s Prophecy of the 70 Weeks, 161-2; Anthony T. Evans, Theology You Can Count On (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008), 1233-4; Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (San Antonio, TX: Ariel Press, 1982; reprint 2002),194-5; Frank E. Gaebelein, Daniel – Minor Prophets, vol. 7 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985), 116; John F. MacArthur, The Second Coming: Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 217; J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1964), 249-50; J. Dwight Pentecost, Thy Kingdom Come: Tracing God’s Kingdom Program and Covenant Promises Throughout History (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1995), 304-6; Louis T. Talbot, God’s Plan of the Ages: A Comprehensive View of God’s Great Plan from Eternity to Eternity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1936), 157; and John F. Walvoord, Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times by One of Today’s Premier Prophecy Scholars (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 1999), 256-8.
See Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days, 161-2.
Peter J. Gentry, “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks and the New Exodus,” SBJT 14.1 (2010): 38-39.
A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament [HALOT], ed. William L. Holladay (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971; reprint 1988), 366. See also Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament with An Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic [BDB] (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 1007-08.
Flavius Josephus, Josephus: The Complete Works, trans. William Whiston (Nashville, TN:
Thomas Nelson, 1998), 804.
Ibid. See also Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. I: Apostolic Christianity A.D. 1-100 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1910; reprint 1974), 397.
Gentry, “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks,” 39.
Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker
Publishing Group, 2007), 167
Bruce K. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 301.
Walvoord, Every Prophecy of the Bible, 257-8.
Philip Schaff argues that the abomination of desolation refers to the Roman soldiers offering sacrifices to their military ensigns upon the Jerusalem’s ruins: “The Romans planted their eagles on the shapeless ruins, over against the eastern gate, offered their sacrifices to them, and proclaimed Titus Imperator with the greatest acclamations of joy. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy concerning the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place.” Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. I: Apostolic Christianity A.D. 1-100 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1910; reprint 1974), 398.
Rikk E. Watts, “Mark,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. Gregory K. Beale and Donald A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 224.
Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, 552.