Previous article in this series: February 1, 2017, p. 203.
As I pointed out in the preceding article in this series, the vision of the seventy weeks inis of the greatest importance to dispensational premillennialism. The Daniel passage is as important to premillennialism as Revelation 20. Wholly and exclusively a prophecy about the nation of Israel, not at all about the church, the passage is explained by premillennialism as forecasting the return of the captive Jews to Jerusalem and their rebuilding the city of Jerusalem.
Explaining the weeks as weeks of years, premillennialism understands the sixty-nine weeks of verse 25 as 483 years between some decree or other commanding the Jews to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and some time or other in the ministry of Jesus the Messiah. The period consisting of seven weeks and of sixty-two weeks of verse 25 culminates in the first coming of the Messiah, Jesus.
In a stunning piece of exegetical legerdemain, premillennialism then separates the last, seventieth week of the vision from the preceding sixty-nine weeks by the entire time of the present age—already more than two thousand years. These years are the time of the gathering of the church. The seventieth year is yet in the future in AD 2017. There is, of course, absolutely nothing of this in the text itself. Premillennialism sucks this separation between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth weeks out of its dispensational thumb.
During the seventieth week, which is still future, Antichrist will arrive on the scene. For half of the week, that is, according to the (non-literal) interpretation of the week of premillennialism, three and a half years, Antichrist will make a friendly covenant with the Jews, who will have returned to their ancient homeland in Palestine. In the middle of the week, he will turn against national Israel, persecuting, killing, and exerting himself to destroy Israel.
At the very beginning of this seventieth week, Jesus will return part way to the earth in order to rapture the church out of the world into the air, so that the church does not get in the way of God’s all-important dealings once again with national Israel, the Jews. The seventieth week belongs to Israel.
At the end of the seventieth week, so runs the premillennial fantasy, Jesus returns to the earth in order to deliver Israel from Antichrist and in order to establish on earth an earthly kingdom of and for earthly Israel—the kingdom of God in earthly splendor and power. This Jewish kingdom will last for a thousand years—the millennium.
The preceding article began the Reformed critique of this fanciful, arbitrary explanation of Daniel 9, calling attention to Herman Bavinck’s searing criticism of the premillennial exposition of the vision of the seventy weeks.
This critique now continues.
Basic Criticism of the Premillennial Explanation of Daniel 9
Viewing the premillennial explanation of Daniel 9 as a whole, there are three basic objections to the explanation. First, premillennialism can offer no proof that the weeks of the vision are definite periods of seven years each. That the weeks are weeks of years is mere assertion on the part of the premillennial theologians. They are dogmatic about this, but the contention is mere assumption. For this assumption they lack any biblical proof. Nowhere in the Bible does the term “week” mean ‘seven years.’
The second objection to the premillennial explanation of Daniel 9 is even more devastating. The passage does not indicate in any way that the seventieth week is separated from the preceding sixty-nine by a huge span of time—at least, some two thousand years. This gap between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth week is essential to the premillennial use of the passage. The gap allows for the delayed appearance of Antichrist and for the parenthetical salvation of the church. But the insertion of the gap is nothing but a very bold bit of “eisegesis,” that is, reading into a passage something that is not there. The seventieth week follows the sixty-ninth week, but at once, as one year ordinarily follows another. As are the sixty-nine weeks of the prophecy, so also is the seventieth week past history in relation to AD 2017.
The third objection concerns premillennialism’s flagrantly erroneous interpretation of verse 27. Premillennialism identifies the “he” of the text as the coming Antichrist. It explains the “covenant” that “he” makes with many as Antichrist’s earthly covenant with the nation of Israel. And it would have Christians to suppose that the sacrifice and oblation to which Antichrist puts an end are the animal sacrifices that God once again will permit and approve on the part of the restored earthly kingdom of Israel. To this grievous error on the part of premillennialism I return in my positive explanation of the passage.
The Reformed Explanation of the Vision of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9
The angel, Gabriel, made known to the prophet one period of seventy weeks. Literally, the angel spoke of seventy “sevens,” “sevens” being the Hebrew word for “week.”
Seventy is a symbolical number in the Bible. Seven is the number of the covenant of God with His people in the Messiah, Jesus. Ten is the number of fullness. The number seventy, therefore, symbolizes the fulfillment of the covenant of Jehovah God, the covenant of Jehovah with Abraham and his seed.
The premillennialist will object to explaining the number symbolically. He will insist that it be explained literally, as a definite period of time. Our response to the premillennialist is, “Do that! Take “seventy weeks” literally! Then you have a period of 490 days.” This, the premillennialist refuses to do. He himself does not want a literal explanation of the seventy weeks. A literal explanation of the seventy weeks yields 490 days. With 490 days, the premillennialist can do nothing for his premillennial theology. He wants to understand the seventy weeks as seventy weeks of years. But interpreting weeks as weeks of years is a non-literal interpretation. Interpreting the seventy weeks as seventy years is neither biblically symbolical nor biblically literal. It is arbitrarily and falsely premillennial.
The seventy weeks are, in fact, the period of time from the command to rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of Jesus the Christ, as the period of the fulfillment of the covenant of God with His people. In this period, the covenant (symbolized by the number seven) will be fulfilled (symbolized by the number ten).
Understanding the seventy weeks is not a matter of computing dates and numbers. The Reformed Christian is fundamentally uninterested in juggling dates and calculating calendar years. That the actual time in view inwas between 500 and 600 years is irrelevant to the prophecy.
This one period of seventy weeks ends in an event in which six things are realized, according to verse 24: finishing the transgression; making an end of sins; making reconciliation for iniquity; bringing in everlasting righteousness; sealing up the vision and prophecy; and anointing the most Holy.
All of these spiritual acts were accomplished by Jesus Christ at His first coming, from the incarnation through the resurrection, ascension, and outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The seventy weeks of Daniel 9 terminate in that first coming of Christ, so that the entire period symbolized by the seventy weeks is, from the standpoint of the beginning of the twenty-first century AD, past history. Nothing of the seventy weeks, particularly the seventieth week, is still in the future.
…to be continued.