Dispensationalism and the one week covenant
When the writing appeared on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast, the wise men of Babylon failed to explain it. None of their theories were successful. Similarly attempts by dispensationalists to explain the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel are defective and unconvincing. Typically, their theories invoke major gaps in a time prophecy, which seems absurd. Time has no gaps! They invoke a gap between the end of the 70 years of exile in Babylon and the start of the 70 weeks, and another one between the 69th and the 70th week. A typical dispensationalist interpretation of the 70 weeks is illustrated in the timeline below.
Dispensationalism denies that the covenant mentioned in Daniel 9:27 is the New Covenant between Christ and his church. They claim that the church era was unknown to the prophets, and forms a “parenthesis.” Yet Paul tells us the church is a temple which has the prophets and apostles as its foundation. [Ephesians 2:20]
Dispensationalists typically insist that the 70 weeks are 490 years, but they divide the prophecy into two parts, separated by a gap so enormous, it dwarfs the entire 490 years of the 70 weeks. The first 69 weeks, they claim, were fulfilled in the 483 year period before the crucifixion. They invoke so-called “prophetic years” of 360 days for this period. It is often claimed that the first 69 weeks are 483 years of 360 days, beginning with a decree in the 20th year of Artaxerxes.
This approach implies a gap between the period of exile and the start of the 70 weeks, which is unsatisfactory since it destroys the continuity of the 70 weeks and Jeremiah’s prophecy of a period of exile lasting 70 years. The continuity of the 70 weeks with the 70 years is suggested by Daniel’s reference to Jeremiah’s prophecy in Daniel 9:4, and also by Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a great image, with a head of gold, breast of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet and toes of iron mixed with clay. Eventually the image is destroyed by a stone cut without hands, which smites the image on the feet of iron and clay, and then grew into a mountain that filled the entire earth. [Daniel 2:31-35]
Jesus referred to the “times of the Gentiles,” a phrase signifying the duration of the reign of man, until Christ’s kingdom comes. There are no gaps in the “times of the Gentiles,” so it would seem there are no gaps in the 70 weeks either, which would fit Jesus’ statement, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” [Luke 21:24] His prophecy precludes gaps.
The 70 years of Jeremiah refer to the desolations of Jerusalem, and similarly the 70 weeks of Daniel 9 are about the duration of the desolation of the holy city, and the temple; not only of the earthly city, but of the heavenly one as well. Thus, Jesus meant the heavenly city would be trodden down of the Gentiles. And Daniel’s prophecy confirms that it would become desolate. But something is to be poured out on the holy city, and the temple, when it is desolate. This temple is the spiritual one, the church.
Since the 70 weeks have been determined for the desolations of the holy city, there can be no gaps in it, as such gaps would require its restoration, and the temporary reconciliation of Israel to God, and the blessings of God to be poured out. That has not happened. Any reconciliation is to be permanent. Thus, the 70 weeks are continuous to the end of the age, and there are no gaps in it as claimed by dispensationalism. The continuity of the 70 weeks is a feature of the interpretation shown the graphic below.
Comparing the second chart with the first, the main difference is that in the second one the 70 weeks are continuous for the entire period from the end of the exile in Babylon, to the end of the age, so the three sections of the 70 weeks can be identified with the last three of four periods of seven times in Leviticus 26. The one week covenant is Christ’s covenant with his church, a holy covenant, identified with the gospel. It includes the promises made to Israel, that Christ inherits. Understanding prophecy is one of them.
The one week covenant is the major issue with the dispensationalist interpretation . The theory says that it refers to a covenant between an individual Antichrist figure, and the Jews, which is similar to an interpretation supported in the apocalyptic prophecies of the Tiburtine Sibyl of the 4th century AD. If the dispensational interpretation is in error, and this covenant actually means the covenant between Christ and the church, then the dispensational teaching tends to undermine the message of the gospel, which says that Jesus is confirming his promises to those who believe on him during the present age. Christ promises to send his Spirit to dwell in believers. He said this Spirit will guide them into all truth. The covenant in effect for the present age is of limited duration as it is consummated by the resurrection at Christ’s coming. The present state is temporary, and the power of the little horn over the saints is limited too.
Those who cannot see that Christ is confirming a covenant with many during the present age are described as blind, in the metaphorical language of the prophets. David compared those without understanding to horses and mules, He wrote: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.” [Psalm 32:8-10]
The prophet Zechariah described horses, mules, asses, and camels that accompany the armies that fight at Jerusalem; they are smitten with a plague that consumes their flesh while they stand on their feet, and their tongue, and their eyes. [Zechariah 14:12, 15] Theories that misinterpret the holy covenant, that Christ is confirming with his saints, are a spiritual plague, or a disease, that affects many. Their tongues consuming away in their mouths represents their words, or the lack of a response. Their eyes consuming away in their holes represents their inability to perceive or comprehend spiritual truth.
Preterists and dispensationalists are among those who are blind to the fact that Christ is confirming his covenant with believers during the divided 70th week, which includes his earthly ministry, the first part, and the whole age of the church is represented by the last half-week, the time, times and a half.