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Isaac Watts on Daniel’s 70 weeks

March 27, 2011

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) wrote an account of biblical history, viewed as a succession of ages, or dispensations. However, Watts was not a dispensationalist, and the dispensational views of John N. Darby (1800-1882) did not depend upon or reflect the views of Watts. Darby rejected covenant theology, but Watts did not.

The succession of ages outlined by Watts included six dispensations, plus one millennium, which is yet future. It was this outline which C. I. Scofield (1843-1921) used in his Scofield Reference Bible. Scofield’s scheme did not reflect the views of Watts entirely, but imported or borrowed features from Darby, one of which was the idea of a “gap” in the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel.

This post demonstrates that Isaac Watts saw no gap in the 70 weeks, but he viewed them as completely fulfilled already. In a section headed: Of the Prophecies which relate to Jesus Christ our Saviour, and their Accomplishment; or, a Prophetical Connection between the Old and New Testament, Watts wrote the following about the 70 weeks: [1]

18 Q. What were the prophecies of Daniel concerning Christ ?

A. Daniel describes him, as the Son of Man who came with the clouds of Heaven; and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people and nations should serve him; and his dominion is an everlasting dominion, Dan. vii. 13, 14. Now our blessed Saviour is continually called the Son of Man in the History of the Gospel; and is said to come in the clouds of Heaven, Matt. xxiv. 30. and xxvi. 64. and universal dominion is given him, Matt, xxviii. 18.

There is also another very remarkable account of Jesus Christ, or the Messiah, given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel, Dan. ix. 24, &c. that before the full end of seventy weeks, that is seventy times seven days, which, in prophetical language, are four hundred and ninety years, after the commission to Nehemiah to restore Jerusalem, and the church of the Jews, the Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself; that this term of years is appointed to finish transgression, to make an end of sin, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up the vision and prophecy, and anoint the most holy. And after this the people of the prince that shall come, that is, the Romans shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. All which were fulfilled in their proper seasons, by the death of Christ, his atonement for sin, and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple some time after.

Another reference to the 70 weeks occurs in his discourse on “Death and heaven; or, the last enemy conquered, and separate spirits made perfect: with an account of the rich variety of their employments and pleasures: attempted in two funeral discourses, in memory of Sir John Hartopp and his lady.”

Watts imagined the departed saints, such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in heaven, contemplating the events surrounding the death of Christ, and his ascent to heaven that followed. He thought Daniel would be among the saints in heaven who watched as events immediately following the crucifixion fulfilled his prophecy; at which time, he said, “The seventy weeks are all fulfilled, and the work is done.” Watts made no allowance for the last half-week of the 70th week. Watts wrote: [2]

When our blessed Lord had fulfilled his state of sorrows and sufferings on earth, and ascended into heaven in his glorified human nature, with all the scars of honor, and the ensigns of victory about him; when the Lamb appeared in the midst of the throne with the marks of slaughter and death upon him, and presented himself before God in the midst of angels and ancient patriarchs, with the accomplishment of all the types and promises about him written in letters of blood; did not those blessed angels, did not the spirits of those patriarchs, learn something more of the mysteries of our redemption, and the wondrous glories of the Redeemer, than what they were acquainted with before? And did not this new glorious scene spread new ideas, new joys and wonders through all the heavenly world? Can the principalities and powers in heavenly places gain by the church on earth any farther discoveries of the manifold wisdom of God? Eph. iii. 10. And can we believe that when Christ, the head of the church, entered into heaven in so illustrious a manner, that these powers, principalities, and blessed spirits, got no brighter discoveries of divine wisdom? To what purpose do they look and pry into these things, 1 Pet. i. 12, if after all their searches they make no advances in knowledge? And must angels be the only proficients in these sublime sciences, while human spirits make no improvement? Can it be supposed that those ancient fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom the promises were made, that all the nations should be blessed in their seed, had no transporting pleasures when they first beheld that promised seed crowned with all his glory; when they saw their Son Jesus ascending on high, and leading captivity captive, and the chariots of God that attended him were twenty thousand, even an innumerable company of angels; Psalm lxviii. 17, 18.

If upon this occasion we may talk in the language of mortals, may we not suppose those ancient fathers raising themselves on high, and overlooking the walls of paradise, to gaze downward upon this ascending triumph? May we not imagine them speaking thus to each other in the holy transport: “And is this our great descendant? Is this our long-expected offspring? How divine his aspect! Flow godlike his air! How glorious and adorable all the graces of his countenance! Is this, saith holy David, my Son and my Lord? the king of glory, for whose admission I called the gates of heaven to be lifted up, and opened the everlasting doors for him in an ancient song? Is this the man whose hands and whose feet they pierced on earth, as I once foretold by the spirit of prophecy? I see those blessed scars of honor; how they adorn his glorified limbs! I acknowledge and adore my God and my Saviour. I begun his triumph once on my harp in a lower strain, and I behold him now ascending on high: Awake my glory, he comes, he comes, with the sound of a trumpet, and with the pomp of shouting angels; sing praises, all ye saints, unto our God, sing praises, unto our king, sing praises. Is this, saith Isaiah, the child born of whom I spoke? Is this the Son given of whom I prophesied? I adore him as the mighty God, the Father of ages, and the Prince of peace. I see the righteous branch, adds the prophet Jeremy, the righteous branch from the stem of David, from the root of Jesse. This is the king whom I foretold should reign in righteousness: The Lord my righteousness is his name, I rejoice at his appearance, tho throne of heaven is made ready for him. This, saith Daniel, is the Messiah, the Prince, who was cut off, but not for himself: The seventy weeks are all fulfilled, and the work is done. He hath finished transgression, and made an end of sin, and hath brought in everlasting righteousness for all his people. But was this the person, saith Zachary the prophet, whom they sold for thirty pieces of silver? Vile indignity and impious madness! Behold he now appears like the man who is fellow, or companion to the Lord of hosts. It is he, saith Malachi, it is he, the messenger of the covenant, who came suddenly to his own temple. There I held him in my withered arms, saith aged Simeon, and rapture and prophecy came upon me at once, and I expired in joy and praises.

As colorful, and imaginative as the scene described here may appear, it is contrary to the scriptures, as the apostle Peter said, “David is not ascended into the heavens.” [Acts 2:34] Daniel foretold a resurrection to occur at the end of time, which both he and David still await. [Daniel 12:2] Daniel was told, “But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.” [Daniel 12:13]

References

1. Isaac Watts. A short view of the whole scripture history: with a continuation of the Jewish affairs, from the Old Testament till the time of Christ: and an account of the chief prophecies that relate to Him: represented in a way of question and answer. Longman, Orme, and Co., 1838. (223-241) p. 235.

2. Isaac Watts. The life and choice works of Isaac Watts. Derby, 1857.

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