Although theologians have not reached a consensus on the exact timing of the 70 weeks mentioned in Daniel 9, we can draw a number of conclusions from this enigmatic prophecy.
What are the Seventy Weeks?
The angel Gabriel approaches Daniel in the latter half of the ninth chapter after Daniel prays for Israel. Gabriel mentions “seventy sevens” will take place before God will put an end to sin and bring everlasting righteousness (Daniel 9:24).
Scholars agree that the "sevens" appear to mean "years." Therefore, 70 X 7 = 490 years. Although Christians typically refer to the period of God bringing everlasting righteousness as 70 weeks, they really mean 70 X 7 years.
The prophecy divides up these 490 years in a handful of ways.
- 49 years (7 X 7): The time it takes to rebuild Jerusalem since the time the Babylonians had destroyed it (Daniel 9:25), which occurs in the Book of Nehemiah.
- 434 years (62 X 7): A time designated for waiting for the Anointed One to come (Daniel 9:26). The Anointed One appears to mean Jesus, here.
- After those 434 years: They put the Anointed One to death and destroy the city. The first half of this alludes to Jesus’ death on the cross. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., including the temple, which had been rebuilt in Nehemiah.
- The last year (1 X 7): Usually referred to the tribulation period, which transpires in Revelation, when the antichrist comes, persecutes Christians, and Jesus returns for His second coming. Theologians dispute whether this has already taken place or whether we have yet to see its fulfillment as we wait in the 69-70-year gap. This article assumes we have not yet reached the 70th week.
Why Do the 70 Weeks Matter?
Theologians have added up the dates for the first 69 weeks. According to the timeline of Jewish calendars, the 69th week would lead up to Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, followed by his death and resurrection soon after.
This means a prophecy given to Daniel back in the third or second early century B.C. came to fruition in 30 A.D., hundreds of years later. The mathematical possibilities of just one prophecy of this nature alone coming true would take an impossibly small probability to happen in reality. Therefore, the first 69 weeks strengthen the reason to believe in Christ’s death, resurrection, and plan of salvation for our lives. He fulfilled the impossible.
But the weeks also matter historically. Daniel, and his people, had endured a great deal of tribulation, leading up to and after Jesus’ death and resurrection on the cross. Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem and taken many people captive. The Seleucid Empire attempted to force the Israelites to conform to Hellenistic culture, which lead to the Maccabean revolt (celebrated in the holiday of Hanukah). Romans overtook Israel and, later, destroyed the temple and scattered the Jewish people in an event known as the diaspora.
They needed something to hope in. They knew when they reached the end of the 70 weeks that everlasting righteousness was in sight (Daniel 9:24).
It matters for Christians today, too. When the tribulation period comes, we will need to rest in the fact that Jesus will restore all things at the end of the seventy weeks.
What to Expect When the 70th Week Starts?
Daniel gives a number of clues as to what will happen during that tribulation period of seven years:
1. Wars will take place (Daniel 9:26).
2. The antichrist will come and make a covenant with the Jewish people. He has a description here.
3. The antichrist, known as the abomination of desolation in Daniel, will put an end to sacrifices and offerings in the temple.*
4. Jesus returns sometime before or after the 70th week. Theologians have not reached a consensus as to when.
*Some theologians have attributed the title of the abomination of desolation to Antiochus Epiphanes IV, who entered the temple, stopped sacrifices, and put an altar to Zeus in the temple, an abomination in Jewish culture.
Revelation details more of the antichrist’s modus operandi. For instance, he will try to change laws and times, to prevent prophecies from being fulfilled. He will try to take the place of God, and he will persecute the saints of God severely.
When the 70th week approaches, be prepared for a great deal of persecution and martyrdom than Christian history has ever seen before.
But also be prepared for God’s restoration of all things, at the conclusion of the 70th week, where He will bring about righteousness and renewal for all eternity.
What Did Jesus Say about the End Times?
Jesus says no one will know the hour in which He will return (Matthew 24:36). He says we should be prepared for it to come at any moment, but no one truly knowns when the moment will arrive (Mark 13:32-33).
Often Christians can face the temptation to calculate when this 70th week will arrive, but Scripture warns us not to calculate when the second coming will, well, come (Luke 21:8-9).
Instead, we need to prepare ourselves for it to arrive at any moment, but we also need to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to as many souls as possible so they, too, can have a chance to come into a relationship with Him before the end times.
Photo Credit: GettyImages/Anatoly Tushentsov