DID THE CRUCIFIXION DIVIDE
DANIEL'S 70TH WEEK?
OR: PERHAPS THE PRETERISTS MANAGED TO GET ONE THING RIGHT
I realize that there are many who enjoy a Sunday
sermon when the pastor explains the intricacies of the Greek text or the many names of God and their
meanings or that a particular passage can be split into 3 or 7 parts or...well, you get the idea. That sort of
thing simply can't hold my interest and I'm soon nodding off. Unfortunately, there are times when our
knowledge of God's Word needs to be exercised a bit in order to understand the times in which we live. I
hope that you won't give up on me and that you'll stick it through to the end. I promise that you'll end up with
valuable information for the days ahead.
The following is similar to that which you might read on the "sports page":
The annual Michigan/Notre Dame game is over and the student body at that university in South Bend remains disappointed for yet another year. It will be the subject of many a heated conversation over the next 12 months.
Pronouns are very convenient language tools.
Conversation would be very difficult without them. However, when writing some matter...such as
assembly instructions, for instance..., the use of pronouns should be minimized. Consider the "It" in the
last sentence. That's a clumsy bit of sport reporting, but I wrote it that way to prove a point Really, is there
any confusion as to that which is referenced by the pronoun, "it"? Both logically and grammatically, it can
only be the subject of either the first or second sentence half of the compound sentence. The subject of the
first half is a football game and the subject of the
second half is a group of people; namely, the student body. Obviously, the heated conversations will
be with regard to the football game.
Consider the following passage from the book of Daniel:
Daniel 9:26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. Daniel 9:27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
While the Daniel passage is much longer than my sports account, the sentence structure remains essentially the same. The sports account contains a compound sentence. Instead of an "and" to combine them, they could just as easily have been two separate sentences. It could have read:
The annual Michigan/Notre Dame game is over. The student body at that university in South Bend remains disappointed for yet another year. It will be the subject of many a heated conversation over the next 12 months.
The Daniel passage begins with a compound sentence
containing not one, not two, not three, but four "sentences," the separations made, again, by "and." We
shouldn't allow this to confuse us. It's easy enough to find the four subjects. They are "Messiah," "people,"
"end," and "desolations." There are some defining phrases, but only one greatly affects the analysis.
"...of the prince that shall come..." defines the people, just as "...at the university in South Bend..." defines the student body in that sports analogy. It would have been greatly out of place, but that student body could have been described as "...at the high school in Des Moines...." Similarly, were it not the Word of God, the people could have been defined as "...of West Virginia with red hair...." Of course, the fact that this is the Word of God does not affect grammatical principles.
So, to what or to whom does the "he" in Daniel 9:27 refer? Believe it or not, this question has been the basis for a debate which has spanned centuries! But, how can this be? A pronoun starting that last sentence in the Daniel passage would needs be referring to either "Messiah," "people," "end," or "desolations." But, since the pronoun, "he," is singular masculine, it would be extremely difficult to apply this to "people." Yes, "people" is singular, but the application of a masculine pronoun would be difficult to justify. And, of course, it certainly wouldn't apply to "end" or "desolations."
So, what's the problem? The problem arises when certain strongly held beliefs, held by a majority of theologians, are threatened. Understand, the group that accepts the conclusion that "Messiah" is the antecedent for "he" is largely composed of "preterists." "Preterism," taken from the Latin for "past," takes the view that all Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled. In bold contrast, "futurists" believe that the book of Revelation largely describes prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled. Personally, I am strongly futurist. I object, therefore, to the conclusions which have developed from this preterist linking of "he" and "Messiah." No, I don't object to the linking. I simply object to the preterist conclusions.
Daniel writes that "he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease..." While the rest of the sentence is somewhat cryptic, this much is fairly clear. A Daniel "week" is a period of seven years. The preterist points out that, after an earthly ministry of three and a half years, Christ sealed the new covenant with His death on the cross. It would follow, they say, that the crosswork completed the first half of Daniel's seventieth week. Daniel's seventieth week ended, then, exactly three and a half years later.
The futurists have, in the past, concluded that their only defense was to find another antecedent in the Danel passage. But, the only other possibility is "people," and that, obviously, does not "work." Instead, they plucked a noun out of the qualifying phrase, specifically, "prince." This is equivalent, to refer back to my sports analogy, to saying that there would be heated conversatons about the "university." Starting with this strange grammatical construction, they go on to say that the last sentence in the Daniel passage refers to that which would be accomplished by the antichrist.
So, the futurist says that the last sentence refers to the antichrist; the preterist says that it refers to the Christ.
Quite obviously, once the grammatical error of the futurist is accepted, the remainder of his conclusion appears sound. Yes, the antichrist could, conceivably, make a pact with the people for three and a half years, and, yes, he could make a statement which would affect the practice of religion. But, remember, all of this hinges on the acceptance of a highly questionable grammatical understanding.
The preterist assumes that Daniel's Seventy Weeks is a continuous span of 490 years. Before it was revealed to Paul that there would be a time when the thread of prophecy would be broken, temporarily, that it might be recognized that God's promises to the seed of Abraham were to include all who trust in Christ, the preterist belief prevailed. When the futurist understood that the 490 years were not to be continuous, he assumed that the seventieth week would be the "chunk" that was broken off. But, what if that was not the case?
What if, instead, that thread of prophecy was broken after the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord, not to be resumed again until the times described in the book of Revelation? But, futurists commonly believe that the entire seventieth week of Daniel is to be found in the book of Revelation. Is that the case? Personally, I can find nothing that couldn't be included after the revelation of the antichrist (abomination of desolation), which is said to occur at the midpoint of the seventieth week (Daniel 9:27). Timelines which purport to show all of Daniel's seventieth week in Revelation usually place the work of the two witnesses in the first half of the week, but I can find nothing which would prevent this from occurring in the last half and, in fact, the attitude of the people would seem to force it into a time after the body of Christ has been greatly diminished.
But, what of the seals that are opened by our Lord? First Thessalonians 5 assures us that we are not appointed unto wrath, but First Thessalonians 3 assures us that we ARE appointed unto tribulation. Obviously, "wrath" and "tribulation" are not the same. The first four seals carry us through the time immediately preceding the abomination of desolation. The antichrist appears...perhaps secretly..., wars occur, followed by famine, and great loss of life. As I write this, World War 3, with nuclear exchanges between the world's powers, could begin at any instant. Certainly, all that is involved in the first four seals is very possible. The fifth seal takes us quickly through the three and a half years of the antichrist's tribulation. The sixth seal marks the return of Christ and the beginning of a time of God's wrath. Of course, the rapture occurs immediately after the sixth seal.
Consider this, from the letter to the church at Smyrna:
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty,
(but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the
synagogue of Satan.
Today, are there people who call themselves Jews, but
are not? Of course there are! Everyone who calls himself a Jew fits that description. Why? Well, it's a
matter of DNA. Yes, there are those who call themselves Jews AND they look the part, complete with the
"Jewish" nose. But, there are Hasidic Jews, complete with the curly peyes (sideburns), who have freckles
and red hair. Yes, they're all Jews. Or, rather, I should say that none of them are Jews, if you're looking for
one who has retained purity from Shem (one of the three sons of Noah) and Abraham. If you take the
trouble to calculate the ancestral background necessary to retain purity back to the time of the earthly
ministry of Christ, you'll find that the number far exceeds the population of the entire world!
People were willfully straying from the gene pool which surrounded them, there were "accidents," and, of
course, there were those who were unknowingly marrying cousins.
So, when Paul
was given the message that there was neither Jew nor gentile, he was not only giving the declaration of
God, he was also stating a biological fact. All who trust in Christ are a part of the Body of Christ. What of
the 144,000 Jews mentioned in the book of Revelation? Obviously, just as the two witnesses are brought
forward from an earlier time, God will also bring forward the 144,000 who have a pure ancestry.
As I promised and if, as it appears, we are in the last days, all of the above can help us to prepare for the bloodshed, famine, and pestilence which will soon surround us. Many believers are already experiencing tribulation in the world. We can only assume that the situation we presently experience...wherever we are...will certainly not improve. Remember: We are to glory in tribulation. Keep looking up! Our redemption draweth nigh!