Daniel’s 70 weeks and the church’s covenant
The 70 weeks prophecy has to do with building the holy city. The start date for the 70 weeks prophecy is the decree of Cyrus, in 538 BC, as that decree initiated the return of the Jews, and the rebuilding of the temple, and the settlement of Jews in Jerusalem again. Beginning the 70 weeks with the decree of Cyrus, leads to a plausible interpretation, and a remarkably accurate prediction of the appearance of Christ, as illustrated in the chart below.
In the interpretation illustrated in the chart above, the first section of the 70 weeks are not weeks of normal years, but they are weeks of leap years, with an extra month. There are seven extra lunar months every 19 years, so seven weeks of leap years would span 133 years. Using leap years as the units for the first section of the 70 weeks, and beginning with the decree of Cyrus in 538, the first two sections end in 28 AD, during the ministry of Jesus, and so the prophecy is accurate.
The decree of Cyrus is the only one that could fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 44:28: “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.”
The 70 weeks prophecy is not merely about rebuilding the earthly city, but also about building the heavenly Jerusalem, which is the church. The first two sections of the 70 weeks, 7 weeks and sixty-two weeks, apply to the earthly city. Half the 70th week, corresponding to the ministry of Jesus, also applies to the earthly city, but the last half of the 70th week applies to the time of the construction of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is Christ’s church, and his bride.
Jesus said to Peter, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” [Matthew 16:18]
Christ has been building his church, throughout the church age. Since it is a spiritual project, the means for building his church are unlike the requirements for an earthly temple. The foundation of the heavenly temple consists of the prophets, and the apostles. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. [Ephesians 2:18-22]
Paul used temple construction as a metaphor depicting the construction of the church. Many ancient temples took centuries to complete, and that is true of the church as well.
The construction of the spiritual temple, and the heavenly city, has required the presence of opposition, and resistance to the truth of the gospel. This is the role of the “little horn” in Daniel’s prophecy of the four beasts, in chapter 7. The little horn opposes the Spirit of Christ, and so is usually identified with the Antichrist. But Daniel’s prophecy is not about a human individual that arises in a literal temple in Jerusalem at the end of the age; according to the prophecy, the horn emerges among the ten horns of the fourth beast, which represents the Roman Empire. The horn, therefore, has existed since the early years of the church, although invisible, as it is a spiritual power, and represents a seducing spirit.
Unless the role of the little horn throughout the church’s history is recognized, the meaning of the “time, times and a half” of Daniel 7:25 is likely to be misunderstood. The phrase applies to the whole age of the church, not a literal three and a half years.
The chart above shows how the numbers provided by Daniel help to illuminate the present age of the church, which is the fourth of the four periods of seven times in Leviticus 26. The final week of Daniel’s 70 weeks is the time when Christ “confirms his covenant with many.” The first half of the week is his earthly ministry, probably three and a half years; the last half-week is symbolic of the whole age of the church, which is the heavenly city, and a temple made “without hands.”
The relative positions of the 1,290 days and the 1,260 days are shown in the chart. The 1,260 days correspond to the time since the Apocalypse was written. The 1,290 days is a little greater time, so it began earlier. In his epistles, John said that many antichrists were already present, and so the abomination of desolation was already present in the first century.
Daniel said the little horn would “speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” [Daniel 7:25] The “times” of Daniel’s prophecy are a target of the little horn, which represents the human viewpoint, that opposes the divine, and the spirit of prophecy. The human point of view prefers to dismiss the message of Daniel’s prophecy, by making the little horn either an individual who lived in the past, such as Antiochus Epiphanes in the 2nd century B.C., or a future human individual who establishes himself in a rebuilt Jewish temple. The latter idea was supported by Jesuit scholars such as Francisco Ribera (1537-1591) and Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621). Their views were taken up by Samuel Roffey Maitland (1792-1866) curate of Christ Church, Gloucester, in the early nineteenth century, and eventually by John N. Darby, founder of dispensationalism.
On the other hand, preterism also denies that the “time, times and a half” applies to the age of the church, and says that the 70th week was fulfilled in the first century, either in about 34 AD, or when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD. Both preterism and dispensationalism tend to obscure the truth of the gospel, that Jesus Christ is “confirming his covenant” throughout the whole age of the church!