“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.
“Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble” (Daniel 9:24-25).
Dispensationalists believe, with good reason, that there’s one week of years left to fulfill from the promise the angel Gabriel delivered to Daniel near the end of the Babylonian captivity. We know the prophecy as Daniel’s 70 weeks. Each week in the prophecy represents 7 years. 69 of these weeks (7 plus 62) had passed when the Messiah presented Himself to Israel as their King on the only day in His life that He did so. On our calendar it became known as the first Palm Sunday.
In the prophecy 69 weeks equals 483 years (69 x 7). This is the exact time that had passed since Artaxerxes Longimonus issued his decree giving Nehemiah permission to begin rebuilding Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1-10). (The city had been destroyed when Nebuchadnezzar’s army conquered Judah and took its people captive to Babylon.) Daniel’s prophecy was being fulfilled in specific detail, and Israel’s failure to realize this marked the beginning of the end for them (Luke 19:41-44).
After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed (Daniel 9:26).
The Hebrew word for Anointed One is Messiah. Four days after He presented Himself to them, they executed Him, which is what the Hebrew word translated “cut off” means. Nothing the angel Gabriel had promised to Mary (Luke 1:32-33) had come to pass. Three days after that He rose again, fulfilling a sign He had promised to the religious leaders to prove His authenticity, the sign of the prophet Jonah (Matt. 12:39-40). He gave them 40 days to recognize the most dramatic fulfillment of a prophetic sign in the history of mankind and accept Him as their Messiah, and when they didn’t He ascended into Heaven, fulfilling another prophecy in the process.
Then I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me” (Hosea 5:15)
About 38 years after that the Roman armies destroyed the city and the sanctuary, and for all practical purposes the nation of Israel ceased to exist. But a few years before that happened, the Jewish leadership of the Christian movement called the Church had become divided over the issue of whether Gentiles who were coming into Christianity had to put themselves under the Law first. In other words did a Gentile have to become a Jew before becoming a Christian? The unspoken question that lurked behind it was even more troublesome to them, and that was, “If not, what’s to become of Israel?” They had been taught that the only way to God was through Israel. Was this being changed?
The Council At Jerusalem
They all came together in Jerusalem, where James, the Lord’s half brother and head of the Church in Jerusalem set them straight. Israel is being temporarily set aside, he told them, while the Lord takes out of the Gentiles a people for Himself. After that He will restore Israel to allow the remnant of mankind one more chance to seek Him (Acts 15:13-18). Therefore, Gentiles would not be required to convert to Judaism in the process of becoming Christians.
The Greek word translated “take” in Acts 15:14 means to carry away for one’s own purpose and the one translated “out of” means to remove from a specified time and place. Before restoring Israel to fellowship with Him, the Lord will take a people for Himself out of the time and place of the Gentiles. James was describing the rapture of the Church and saying it will precede Daniel’s 70thWeek.
Paul, who was at the meeting, confirmed this by saying Israel has been blinded in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in. After that Israel will be saved (Romans 11:25). As I’ve indicated in previous studies this is another testimony that the rapture of the church will precede Israel’s restoration and redemption. From these two prophecies we understand that Israel’s rejection of the Messiah did not end the Old Covenant. It merely interrupted its 490 year post exilic duration 7 years short of its allotted time. After the Church is gone this seven years has to be completed.
“He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Daniel 9:27).
The final seven years will begin with a covenant to be signed by the “ruler who will come”, mentioned in Daniel 9:26. Gabriel said this leader will come from the people who would destroy the city and the sanctuary after the Messiah’s execution. In the middle of this last seven years He will put an end to sacrifices and offerings by setting up the Abomination of Desolation which kicks off the 3 ½ year Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:15-21).
Put this all together and you can begin to see why I believe the Rapture of the Church will precede the beginning of Daniel’s missing 70th week. According to these prophecies the church has to be gone before Israel returns to their covenant relationship with the Lord.
And That’s Not All
But my main purpose in reviewing all this with you is to find the answer to one very important question, and here it is. What event will suddenly cause Israel, currently a predominantly secular nation, to officially restore their Old Covenant relationship with God? The study of human nature tells us that while people typically fall away from their beliefs gradually, they don’t come back to them the same way. Usually, some external change or event, often catastrophic in nature, has to take place to snap them back. And so it will be for Israel.
And remember, it has to be a return to the Old Covenant because they’re seven years short of completing the time God allotted to them, and the only reason they will need a Temple is for the purpose of Old Covenant worship. If it was the rapture of the Church that gets their attention they’d be motivated to enter a New Covenant relationship rather than return to the Old Covenant. Something else has to happen . And it will.
An unexpected event that will threaten Israel’s very existence is set to take place soon and God will use it to bring them running as a nation to Him, ending a 2000 year estrangement. This event won’t be a protracted one that causes them to slowly conclude that they’re doomed and drive them to their knees in a desperate plea for help. Rather it will be one orchestrated and executed by God Himself for the specific purpose of opening spiritual eyes that have been blinded since that first Palm sunday. It will happen so fast that they won’t realize what has transpired until it’s all over.
God will cause a coalition of enemy forces to strike with out warning in such numbers that it will seem like a cloud has covered the land, and when they do, He will decimate them with torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulphur. Then He’ll sew such confusion in the ranks that they’ll turn on each other. When it’s over there will be so many dead bodies that it will take Israel seven months just to bury them all.
Of course the event I’m referring to is the Battle of Ezekiel 38-39. Four times during Ezekiel’s prophecy of this battle God’s objective was made clear. Ezekiel 38:23, 39:7, 39:22, 39:28 all tell us His goal is to show His greatness and holiness to Israel and the nations so Israel will know He’s the Lord their God. This is the event that will cause Israel’s national reconciliation with God and kick off the remaining seven years of the Old Covenant.
Today there appears to be a growing desire among some in Israel for a Temple. But if you read between the lines you’ll see it’s a nationalistic movement, not a spiritual one. Advocates are hoping a Temple will underscore their right to the land by demonstrating their historical presence there. But this movement is by no means reflective of the national mind set. Most people realize the danger in such a thing.
But after the Battle of Ezekiel 38, the demand for a Temple will be a spiritual movement that will represent the great majority of people in Israel. They’ll want to worship the God they’ve rediscovered and Old Covenant worship requires a Temple. It won’t be just a monument to their past but a necessity for their future. And with the great victory God will have just handed them, who will dare to deny them? Even the coming world leader will appear to be championing their cause, enforcing a covenant that will allow them to build their Temple. To Israel it will seem like peace has finally come.
One More Time
Sad to say, the Battle of Ezekiel 38 won’t result in a permanent peace for Israel. They’ll discover they’ve been deceived by the very one who they thought to be their champion, bringing about the worst period of persecution the Jewish people have ever known. And this time when foreign nations are mobilized against them, it won’t be just a regional coalition. Zechariah 12:3 says all the nations of the world will line up against Israel. This time Israel will know in advance what their fate will likely be and will come crawling to God for help (Hosea 6:1-2).
This time God won’t just use His signature weapons of rain, hail, earthquakes and fire that He can deliver from afar. Nor will He sow confusion into the enemy’s mind to have them defeat themselves. This time He’ll fill the sky with the armies of heaven, with His own Son at their head. The Son will slay them all with just the Word of His mouth. This time they won’t spend multiple months burying the dead. This time the birds will devour the carcasses (Rev. 19:11-21).
This time will be different because this time it won’t be only the Father they will have recognized. This time it will be the Son as well (Zech 12:10). The reconciliation will finally be complete and the Kingdom Age will begin.