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A Jewish Time Table

One of the most important and most amazing prophecy in the entire Bible is recorded in the ninth chapter of Daniel. While in Babylon, Daniel prayed to God that he would show him what was going to happen to Israel after the captivity ended. God sent the angel, Gabriel, to give him an answer. Some prophetic scholars consider this prophecy to be one of the most important ones recorded in the entire Bible.

Daniel had lived in Babylon for nearly seventy years, and he was searching for an answer concerning Israel’s future. While studying the book of Jeremiah, he probably read these words. “‘This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then it will be when seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the Lord, ‘for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it an everlasting desolation”(Jer. 25:11-12, NASB 1995).

In the book of Second Chronicles, we read these words: “He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had made up for its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years” (II Chr. 36:20-21, NASB 1995). It seems that the people had been lax in keeping the required sabbatical years for a period of 490 years. During the captivity, the land would lie fallow for seventy years, one year for each of the sabbatical years not observed.

As Daniel prayed about the future of his nation, God sent the angel Gabriel to provide an answer. God revealed to Daniel, through Gabriel, the chronological timetable for the completion of His program with the Jews. Gabriel states that he was sent to give Daniel skill and understanding concerning Israel’s future – a time, foreknown of God, of Israel’s tribulations and blessings. This time period, with a precise beginning, would covers 490 years, but the last seven years would be separated from the other years. The numbers of years correspond exactly with the time period when the sabbatical years were not observed. The details are so precise, that when viewed with hindsight, they are almost breathtaking.

The late Dr. H.A. Ironside, quoting Sir Edward Denny, a noted prophetic student of the last century, who called this timetable “The backbone of prophecy”. Dr. Ironside goes on to say in his book on Daniel, that if this prophecy is misunderstood, “then an effort will necessarily be made to bend all other prophetic Scriptures into accord with that misinterpretation. But if we have a correct understanding of the teaching of this chapter, we can then see readily how all prophecy, without any forcing, falls right into place, and is intimately linked up with this the greatest of all time prophecies” (Ironside, Daniel, pp 155).

Now let us look at Daniel’s seventy weeks or 490 years as given by the angel Gabriel. “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place” (Dan. 9:24, NASB 1995).

Scholars often disagree on the interpretation of these verses, but most seem to agree that Daniel has reference to a week of years and not a week of days – a Period of 490 prophetic years. The Hebrew word “Shabua”, meaning seven, has been translated into the English word “week”. Thus, Daniel is literally stating a period of seventy times seven or four hundred and ninety years.

Based upon Jewish law and customs, scholars tend to agree that the unit of time is years. We will recall that the Mosaic Law required that the Jews keep both a Sabbath based upon days, and one based upon years. Therefore, we will assume the time period for these future events is 490 years of 360 days or 176,400 days.

We must also understand that these 490 prophetic years must correspond with and run concurrently with “the times of the Gentiles”. The seventy weeks for Israel and “the times of the Gentiles” will both come to an end at the same time. However, we will find that the seventy weeks is not a consecutive time period, and within these future years the nation Israel will be both destroyed and resurrected. Time is measured with a stopwatch and can be turned on and off.

“The times of the Gentiles” began when the Israelites who were living in Jerusalem were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. God gave King Nebuchadnezzar a vision of an image with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass and legs and feet of iron and clay. Each of these metals represented a world power that would rule during the age of the Gentiles.

We showed how the last of those world powers (Rome) is still dominating world government today. The seventy weeks of Daniel must be interpreted in light of “the times of the Gentiles”. Perhaps, it would be helpful to read [click on scripture the second chapter of Daniel ] before you proceed with the study.

Now let us return to the details of Daniel’s seventy weeks. “So, you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy 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. 9:25 26, NASB 1995).

Notice that the seventy years are divided into different periods of time. From the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, there will be 49 years. History has shown that the decree to rebuild the city of Jerusalem was issued to Nehemiah (Neh. 2:1 8) by Artaxerxes in the twentieth year of his reign. Artaxerxes was the Persian king, and the date was probably the month of Nisan (March) 445 BC. Within 7 weeks of years or 49 years the city was rebuilt, the last of the Old Testament prophets had spoken, and God ceased to communicate with his people.

Daniel says that after 7 weeks and 62 weeks or a total of 69 weeks, 483 years, the Messiah will come and will be cut off. Note: that these two time periods, together, cover 69 weeks out of the total of 70 weeks.

For many years, God was silent and then suddenly He began to speak through John the Baptist declaring the kingdom was at hand. God’s chosen people were blinded and did not recognize their own Messiah who was introduced to them by John the Baptist. They nailed Him to the cross and He died for the sins of all. The Jewish Messiah was cut off from His people just as Daniel had prophesied. But it was not the Jews who cut the Messiah off, but the Messiah who cut Himself off from the Jews.

Scholars have calculated the 69 weeks (483 years), beginning with March 14, 445 BC, taking into account leap years, came to a close on April 6, AD 32. It is amazing how close this date corresponds with the date when Jesus died upon the cross. Jesus was crucified by the Roman Empire, and almost 40 years later, the city of Jerusalem was burned to the ground by the Roman General Titus thus fulfilling Daniel’s prophesy. The burning of Jerusalem also brought about complete destruction of the nation Israel.

There remains one week or seven unaccounted years in Daniel’s seventy weeks. God had a surprise for His people. He halted the stopwatch on His program with the Jews and turned to a special “called-out” group that would become “The Church”. For many years, yet to be known, He has revealed Himself through “The Church”. But the day will come when He turns again to His chosen nation, Israel – seven years before He brings “the times of the Gentiles” is to close.

Now let us look at the last week of the timetable, which will last for seven years. “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; 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” (Dan. 9:27, NASB 1995).

After Israel is restored to their land, the Gentile nations will triumph in bringing about a one-world government under a world leader. This new world leader will come from a nation that traces its roots back to the old Roman Empire or perhaps from a restored Islamic Caliphate. He will be disguised as a great humanitarian who promises peace, prosperity, and plenty. To the Gentiles, this man will have, at last, triumphed over the unjust and the evil of the world. The promise will be that man will realize his destiny and find his utopia of peace and goodwill upon the earth.

The Jews will also be deceived and will believe that they will have found the promised Messiah. The prince, as Daniel calls him, will enter into a covenant with Israel and promise them peace and security. Finally, Israel will be allowed to rebuild the temple and restore the sacrifices.  But Daniel says, “in the midst of the week” (three and one-half years) the prince will break his covenant and turn against the Jews. Daniel called it the “abomination of desolations” and Jeremiah called it “a time of Jacob’s troubles”.

The Apostle John was taken up into heaven in a vision and was allowed to see these catastrophic events which are yet to occur, and he recorded his vision in Revelation chapters four through nineteen. Many believe that the Great Tribulation is a New Testament concept, but careful study shows that it is an Old Testament concept that has been more fully developed in the New Testament. Both the Old and New Testament gives the time period of the Great Tribulation as three and one-half years – also given as forty-two months, “a time, times, and half a time” or 1260 days. The prince (known as the infamous Antichrist) referred to in [click on scripture Daniel 9:26-27 ] will become the beast of Revelation chapters thirteen, seventeen and nineteen.