The 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 is a bastion of truth concerning God's dealings with the nation Israel and His timetable. It is also a bulwark against the modern errors of Preterism, Covenant theology, Pre Wrath Rapture theology, and even the subtleties of Progressive Dispensationalism.
Taking the prophecy literally and in context -without a bias against futurism- shows beautifully the framework of God's program for the nation of Israel.
What is the meaning of 70 weeks? To begin, it was not 70 periods of 7-day weeks. The word in the original is "heptad" which means a grouping of sevens. In context we find that these are 70 weeks of years and not days/calendar weeks. To miss this is to miss the prophecy. This becomes obvious by the points of reference between the commandment to rebuild and then the future cutting off of Messiah. None of this took place within 483 calendar days (69 weeks x 7 day weeks = 483 days). But strikingly, did take place in the context of heptads of years, telling wonderfully of what took place precisely 483 years from the starting point.
First let us read the pertinent passage in its entirety: Daniel 9:24-27 nkjv
24“Seventy weeks [heptads] are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.
25 “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.
26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. the end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.
27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. and on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”
It would take 49 years to restore/rebuild Jerusalem from the starting point, which was the commandment given in 445 BC. Nehehmiah records it in Neh 2:1 as being in the month "Nisan" in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, March 14, 445 BC. This is the first 7 weeks.
It would take 434 years (62 heptads) after the completion of the walls, until Messiah, This is the 62 weeks. At this point 69 weeks of years are fulfilled.
The remaining 7 weeks has not been fulfilled. Messiah was cut off at the cross. We will examine why the 70th week has not yet come.
An important point of reference here is to notice the language of "the people of the prince who is to come." The Coming Prince's people (not he himself) destroyed the city in 70 AD. This tells is that the Coming Prince's appearance is at a future time and that he is disassociated with what his people did in 70 AD. in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. This Prince himself is yet to come. His people (Roman armies) came, but his arrival has yet to come. By the way, this is not Messiah, the Prince of Peace. The "Coming Prince" is the adversary of Israel, not her Messiah/King. The Coming Prince is yet to come, and his people were the Romans under Titus.
We can find no historical record nor even a remote indication of a covenant made between Titus or any other person with Israel in the years surrounding 70 AD, in which at its mid point this Prince appears to break.
There are other points of reference along these lines of thinking. What we mean here is that futurism is valid in prophecy as opposed to the deadly idea that all was completed in 70 AD and Christ already returned at that time in judgment (herein we refute Preterism)
An example of futurism is seen in Ezekiel 40-48 where there is a future temple, detailed meticulously (not allegorically but specifically), but is not yet built - such detail demands a literal -and future- temple be built. God did not give such detail in 9 chapters for no purpose or for an allegorical one unfathomable. For example, Ezekiel 40:16 says: "there were beveled window frames in the gate chambers and in their intervening archways on the inside of the gateway all around, and likewise in the vestibules. There were windows all around on the inside. And on each gatepost were palm trees." nkjv
This recognition of futurism is important for the fact that the "Coming Prince" will cease sacrifice and offering, asserted by Preterists as happening with finality in 70 AD. This we deny as fulfilling Daniel 9, for several reasons such as what we learn in Revelation and Romans 11 (and more). (ps...we recognize that Ezekiel's Temple is not the precise one in view in Daniel 9, but use this to point out a FUTURE Jewish Temple in Jerusalem is very scriptural, and the presence of such a temple during a future 70th week is equally valid, in which the Coming Prince will cease its sacrificial functions at the mid point of that 70th week)
Another reference is in Revelation (written after 70 AD by the way) and its prophetic use of 3.5 / 7 year periods. This is an astounding tie-in to Daniel 9's 70th week (ie...the last 7 year period). This is the Tribulation, the Great One. It is Daniel's 70th week. To miss this is to willfully miss it. Literal bible interpretation makes this plain. Let us briefly examine this point:
"...“Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city..." No one familiar with prophecy can avoid the implications of this verse. The 70th week is the Great Tribulation and covers the entire 70 weeks (including the full last week which is a 7 year period). Daniel clearly says here that all the weeks are for your people and your holy city. Israel/Jerusalem is in view for the entire 70 weeks - and not the church. This is perhaps the key verse for the entire pretrib argument and it helps us see that the entire 7 year period is related to Israel, it is their 70th "week" and not 3.5 years or a shorter portion. Some may seek to define the great tribulation as a shorter time than the full 7 years, but in doing so run into the bulwark of Daniel 9. The last week relates to Israel, not the Church. She wasn't in the first 69 weeks, and isn't in the 70th.
We also should look at Romans 11:25-27
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”
What we learn here is twofold. 1. Today, national Israel is mostly (there are some believers in Christ, not many) in judicial blindness UNTIL the fullness of the Gentiles comes into the body of Christ (the church, that new thing begun in Acts 2). 2. We find then that at some point all Israel is to be saved. Zechariah tells of this future event in his prophecy, chapters 12-13 where they look upon Him whom they have pierced, and a wonderful fountain is opened up to the nation. This is the capstone and joyful end of the 70th week as it pertains to Israel.
For them that would allegorize the word 'Israel' in Romans 11:26, we refer you to the article in our Downloads page titled "Israel of God -who is it?" where it is shown without question that the world Israel always means ethnic Israel in the New Testament, and not some idea that "Israel" can mean the Church/present age believers. The implication here is a future salvation for ethnic Israel.
Back now to the chronology. If we add together the 7 weeks, (49 years) + the 62 weeks (434 years) we total 483 years from the commandment to rebuild until Messiah is cut off. Sir Robert Anderson in his book "The Coming Prince" as well as other expositors like Larkin & Walvoord, ably show us how this 483 years bring us exactly to the very day in April of the year 30 AD, when Jesus was paraded through the streets of Jerusalem to the cross of Calvary, where He was "cut off." The 69 weeks are completed. The 70th is yet to come, no other interpretation "fits" without allegorizing.
What do we learn from all this in summary:
The 70 weeks prophecy pertains to Israel/Jerusalem and not the church. Thus the error of mid-trib, -late-trib, or post-trib rapture of the church is to misapply the prophecy that relates only to Israel/Jerusalem. It is THEIR 70th week, not ours (the church). (this refutes Rosenthalism-a growing error)
That the 70th week didn't end with Christ's return in AD 70 (Preterism)
That a dual hermeneutic of taking all scripture literally except prophecy (allegorizing) is to mishandle the word of God.
We are reminded that the Church and Israel are different parts of Gods program (His dealings with the Gentiles is yet another aspect, but not part of this study). We learn hereby that efforts to blur the distinction between Israel and the Church (like Progressive Dispensationalism) is to lead people away from the truth. Error starts with small steps.
We learn that there is a Coming Prince that will come from the ruins of the Roman Empire in whatever form it has in the latter days... and that there is a Coming Prince of Peace as well, the former being Israel's enemy, the latter being her Messiah.
We learn the masterful accuracy of scripture, in the 69 weeks chronology.
We learn the mind and ways of God as he deals with Israel and even the nations. And we are reminded that the church has a different origin, a different sphere, a different role, a different place, and a different hope...but the same Lord. We look not for the Coming King, but for our Lord, and Bridegroom.
'Israel' in the New Testament always means ethnic Israel.
We learn the importance of rightly dividing the word of truth, and distinguishing the things that differ. In doing so, all scripture harmonizes wonderfully, to the glory of God.
postscript: Some men falsely claim that this doctrine was never taught before he 1800s. But it was very clearly taught in the very oldest Christian commentary on scripture that has survived to the present day. This was a commentary on Daniel, written by Hyppolytus. It is thought to have been written between 202 and 211 A.D. James Morris.