WHEN DOES CHRIST RETURN? PART FIVE
In the Revelation given to apostle John, we find the falling of an entity called Babylon associated with the coming of Jesus Christ. Therefore the identity of Babylon becomes a key factor in our identification of the timing of Christ's return. Who or what is the Babylon spoken of in the Revelation?
THE IDENTIFICATION OF BABYLON
Babylon is mentioned six times in the Revelation. It is described as a great city that is fallen and the mother of harlots. Some believe that Babylon refers to the city and government of Rome. Some believe it refers to a false religious system. Others believe that it is representative of a yet future nation or group of nations who, along with a false religious system, will be involved in the so-called war of Armageddon.
Historically, Babylon was the capitol of the Babylonian Empire. Nebuchadnezzar was its first king. It was located in the area where Iraq stands today. It is referred to hundreds of times in the Old Testament. Peter shows greetings being sent from Babylon. This shows it to be a physical location existing in the first century (1 Peter 5:13). When mentioned in the Old Testament, Babylon is seen as a literal, physical territory of the ancient world that interacts with Israel and other nations. We see God using the Babylonian Empire to punish Israel and later using other nations to punish Babylon. We find in Old Testament Scripture a great deal of prophetic rhetoric involving Babylonian initiatives against Judah and then initiatives of other nations directed at Babylon.
In the Revelation we see Babylon discussed in a figurative sense. It is presented as representative of all that is evil and abominable before God. In ancient times, Babylon, as a literal, physical nation, was viewed as idolatrous and oppressive. This image of idolatry and oppression is used in the Revelation to describe a people whose abominations had reached the breaking point with God.
Revelation 14:8: A second angel followed and said, ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.
Revelation 16:19: The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.
Revelation 17:4-7: The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns.
The beast with the seven heads and ten horns is the Roman Empire of the first century. I briefly substantiate this in the section on Nero. Scripture identifies the women as Babylon. She is riding the beast, which is Rome. Therefore Babylon cannot be Rome. Rome is the beast upon which the women, identified as Babylon, is riding. The woman is called the “mother of prostitutes” and described as being “drunk with the blood of the saints.” She is also called “the great city.” Who in Scriptural history fits this description?
Revelation 11:8: Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.
In Revelation 11:8, we see that the bodies of the two witnesses lie in the street of the city where Christ was crucified. While technically Christ appears to have been crucified outside the gates of the city (Hebrews 13:12), all other events associated with His passion occurred in the city of Jerusalem. Jesus said no prophet can die outside Jerusalem. While Scriptural history shows that some prophets did die outside of Jerusalem, Jesus was a prophet and pictured Himself dying as a result of the influence of Jerusalem and its religious leadership. In Revelation 18, Babylon is pictured as killing the prophets. In Matthew 23, Jesus pictures Jerusalem as killing the prophets.
Revelation 18:24: In her was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.
Matthew 23:37: O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
Luke 13:31-33: At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.’ He replied, ‘Go tell that fox, I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal. In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day, for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
Jerusalem is identified as the city that killed the prophets. Babylon is identified as the city where the blood of the prophets is found. The “great city” called Babylon is identified as the place where Christ was crucified. The crucifixion took place in the environs of Jerusalem in the first century. The above passages of Scripture provide strong evidence for Babylon being Jerusalem. This evidence presents another time and place statement relative to the events described in the Revelation. There is, however, more evidence for this identification.
The city is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt. Egypt had stood in the way of Israel’s being released from physical bondage. Egypt had to experience the plagues facilitated through Moses before it would let Israel go. In Scripture, Moses is looked upon as a type of Christ. In Revelation we see Christ bringing judgment through plagues against Babylon. It would appear that this judgment is brought against Jerusalem in order to facilitate release from the bondage of sin under the Old Covenant. It was through this destruction that the old system was eliminated. This will be elucidated in much greater detail as we proceed with this series of essays.
The woman is said to be the “mother of prostitutes” and “drunk with the blood of the saints and those who bore the testimony to Jesus.” In Matthew 23, we see Christ identifying those responsible for shedding the blood of the saints.
Matthew 23:29-38: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, `If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers! “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation. Look, your house is left to you desolate.
In this passage we see Christ identifying the religious leaders of Israel as responsible for shedding the blood of the saints. He shows that not only did their ancestors do this, but they too would persecute those that He would send in the future. Because of this, judgment would come upon their generation, and their house (temple) would be destroyed. The Jewish religious leaders of the first century spearheaded the persecution against the developing Christian Church. While Rome, during Nero’s reign, had many Christians put to death, it was the Jews that caused the greatest amount of trouble for the Christians as the Scriptures and secular history reveal. It was at the instigation of the Jews that many Christians were put to death by the Roman authorities.
The woman described in Revelation 17 is adorned with precious stones and pearls. She is then identified as being adulterous and a prostitute. In Ezekiel chapter 16, we find an allegory about Jerusalem. Here the writer shows how Jerusalem was adorned with gold and silver and fine clothes and then squandered it all to become a prostitute and enter into adulterous relationships with other nations. The writer goes on to show how Jerusalem would be stripped of her wealth and beauty and the very ones she committed adultery with would turn on her. Jerusalem and the nation of Israel are identified as a prostitute and harlot many times in Scripture.
Jeremiah 2:19-20: Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me,’ declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty. ‘Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, I will not serve you! Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute.’
Isaiah 1:21: See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her but now murderers!
Micah 1:7: All her idols will be broken to pieces; all her temple gifts will be burned with fire; I will destroy all her images. Since she gathered her gifts from the wages of prostitutes, as the wages of prostitutes they will again be used.
In Mark 8:38, Christ refers to those He was speaking to as an adulterous generation. Christ is not speaking of sexual adultery. The whole focus of statements showing Israel as being a harlot, a prostitute and adulterous, have to do with Israel’s failure to be faithful to God. The Scriptures picture God as married to Israel, (see Jeremiah 3). The Scriptures show Israel constantly being unfaithful. Israel was constantly forsaking her covenantal relationship with God. Christ came to abolish the Old Covenant and replace it with the New Covenant. Israel had Christ put to death and for forty years resisted implementation of the new system. That resistance was brought to an end in the Roman-Jewish War. It was at this time that Israel’s cup of wrath became full before God.
Revelation 18:2-8: Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries. Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, `I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.' Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.
The major focus of the Revelation is the destruction of Babylon. All Scriptural evidence points to Jerusalem as the Babylon that John is writing about. This places the events described in the Revelation as occurring in the first century before and during the fall of Jerusalem. These events include the return of Jesus Christ. While much of the Revelation is written in symbolic language, this very language serves to identify Babylon as Jerusalem. When combined with the numerous time statements found at the beginning and end of the Revelation, it becomes very apparent that this writing is dealing with events that occurred nearly two-thousand years ago.
Despite such evidence as presented here for the Revelation being written prior to the destruction of A.D. 70, some current scholarship believes that the book of Revelation was written around A.D. 95 during the reign of Emperor Domitian over the Roman Empire. This belief is based on a variety of considerations and dynamics relating to the first-century Church and the writings of various Church historians. Dr. Kenneth L Gentry Jr., a Presbyterian pastor, did his doctoral dissertation at Whitefield Theological Seminary on the dating of Revelation. This dissertation provides conclusive evidence for a pre-A.D. 70 dating. This dissertation is available in book form under the title, Before Jerusalem Fell – Dating the Book of Revelation.
There is much more evidence that the Revelation was fulfilled in the first century. The reader is encouraged to read Who Is This Babylon by Don K. Preston, The Beast of Revelation, by Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry and The Avenging of the Apostles and Prophets, by Arthur M. Ogden. For a comparison of the past versus future fulfillment view of the Revelation, go to Commentary on the Revelation.
THE SEVENTY WEEKS PROPHECY OF DANIEL:
The seventy weeks prophecy found in Daniel 9 clearly relates to the Olivet Discourse and the Revelation given to John. Therefore, this prophecy is important to establishing the validity of a first century return of Jesus Christ and all related events. Some of this discussion may appear a little complex. It is necessary, however, to thoroughly examine the dynamics of this prophecy in order to show its relevance to first century fulfillment. So let’s begin.
During the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, the Babylonian armies had invaded Judah, destroyed Solomon’s temple and had taken most of the people captive (2 Chronicles 36:15-21). Daniel was among the captives in Babylon. While in captivity, Daniel determined by reading certain Scriptures that the length of the captivity was to be 70 years. After the fulfillment of these 70 years, by Divine intervention, the Jews would be allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple (Daniel 9:1-3; 2 Chronicles, 36:22-23; Jeremiah, 29:1-10; 25:11-12; Isaiah, 45:1-4,13; 44:24,28).
After the death of Nebuchadnezzar, Amel-Marduk, son of Nebuchadnezzar, reigned as king of Babylon a short time. He was followed by Neriglisar, brother-in-law to Amel-Marduk and then Labashi-Marduk, son of Neriglisar.
Nabonidus, an apparent son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar, became the final king of Babylon. Nabonidus had a son named Belshazzar whom Daniel identifies as King in Babylon at the time it was invaded by the Persian armies. Neo-Babylon cuneiform dating from the 12th year of Nabonidus, shows Belshazzar as having equal status with his father. Nabonidus appointed Belshazzar to rule Babylon while he, himself ruled and lived in Tema located in Arabia. After Babylon was invaded by the Persians, Nabonidus was treated well by the Persian king Cyrus.
After the Persians conquered Babylon, a man named Gubaru was commissioned by Cyrus to govern Babylon. Gubaru was given the title name of Darius (See The Expositors Bible Commentary, volume 7, page 76-77). Cyrus gave the initial decree for the Jews to return and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Darius later reinstated this decree.
The general focus of the book of Daniel is the establishment of the Kingdom of God. In Daniel’s visions, recorded in the 2nd and 7th chapters, Daniel speaks of four kingdoms which history reveals to be Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. It is at the time of the fourth kingdom that the Kingdom of God is seen to be established. The seventy weeks prophecy is recorded in the 9th chapter of Daniel.
Daniel 9:24-27 (KJV): Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah (Hebrew mashiyach, which means anointed) the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 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. 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.
Daniel speaks of a period of seventy weeks, which he divides into seven weeks, threescore and two weeks (sixty-two weeks) and one week. Biblical scholarship has shown that Scriptural writers often designate a day for a year in prophetic writing. We see the Scriptural designation of the day for a year principle in Numbers and Ezekiel.
Numbers 14:34: For forty years-one year for each of the forty days you explored the land-you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.
Ezekiel 4:6: After you have finished this, lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the house of Judah. I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year.
In the 70 weeks prophecy, 70 weeks is equal to 490 days, which becomes 490 years according to the day for a year principle. Daniel 9:25 (KJV) says that, “from the going forth of the command to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks.” This would be a total of 69 weeks or 483 years. Scripture shows four decrees relative to the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Isaiah, in quoting God, writes of Cyrus decreeing the rebuilding of the temple many years before Cyrus was born.
Isaiah 44:28: who says of Cyrus, `He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, ‘Let it be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Let its foundations be laid.'
Isaiah 45:13: I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the LORD Almighty.
There are several decrees that were issued by three different kings relative to the rebuilding of the temple and the city of Jerusalem. The actual decree of Cyrus is found in several Scriptures and is historically placed around 538 B.C.
2 Chronicles 36:22-23: In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: ‘This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you-may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.’
Ezra 1:1-3: In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: ‘This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you-may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.’
In 520 B.C. King Darius issued an order that the archives stored in the treasury at Babylon be searched (Ezra 6:1-5). In the search, the written decree of Cyrus, that had ordered the restoration of the temple and the rebuilding of Jerusalem, was found. Darius then reinstated the decree as shown in Ezra 6:6-12. Finally, Artaxerxes made a decree in 458 B.C. giving Ezra authority relative to temple worship and another decree in 445 B.C. directed at Nehemiah, who was commissioned to rebuild Jerusalem.
It is apparent from a reading of all the pertinent Scriptures that relate to the rebuilding of the temple and the city of Jerusalem, that this rebuilding was a process that went on for a number of years, spanning the administrations of three different kings. The temple was completed in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius as Ezra 6:15 records. The city was not completed until later. The question is this: From what decree are we to count the 69 weeks (483 years) that bring us to the Messiah?
The prophecy is separated into three sections. The first period of seven weeks or forty-nine years appears to be the time span that it took to complete the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. The threescore and two weeks (434 years) would then have to take us to Christ. If we count from the decree of Cyrus in 538 B.C., 483 years would take us to 55 B.C. If we count from the decree of Darius in 520 B.C., we come to 37 B.C. Neither of these dates will do, as Christ would not have as yet been born. If we count from the first decree of Artaxerxes in 458 B.C., we arrive at A.D. 26. When adding the year 0 between B.C. and A.D. we come to A.D. 27, which is the year generally felt to be when Christ began His ministry. If we count from the second decree of Artaxerxes in 445 B.C. we come to A.D. 39 (remember year 0), which would take us past the beginning of His ministry and His death.
All the above counting is based on using the solar calendar of 365 days in a year. Some authors, such as Robert Anderson, have argued for using lunar years of 360 days each in arriving at the time of the Messiah. It is felt by these authors that the 445 B.C. decree of Artaxerxes is more probable, as using lunar years in counting would bring us to the approximate time of the crucifixion in A.D. 31 or 33. The 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel, however, speaks in terms of the 69 weeks taking us to the appearance of the Messiah, not His crucifixion. The prophecy speaks of Messiah’s being cut off after the 69 weeks but doesn’t address itself to any specific time frame for the crucifixion after the 69th week.
Looking at the time frame from 458 B.C. to A.D. 27, it appears that the decree that Daniel had in mind was that made by Artaxerxes in 458 B.C. This does take us to A.D. 27 when Christ began His public ministry. The time frame from 458 B.C. to A.D. 27 does encompass the 69 weeks or 483 years. This decree is recorded in Ezra the seventh chapter and addresses temple worship. It is apparent from reading this decree and the entire book of Ezra that the temple had been rebuilt and was functioning as the house of God. It is also apparent from Ezra’s writings that a number of Israelites were living in and around Jerusalem. This decree does not, however, specifically address the rebuilding of Jerusalem, whereas the decree of 445 B.C. does, as clearly shown in Nehemiah the second chapter.
Therefore, in terms of counting solar years to arrive at the appearing of the Messiah, the first decree of Artaxerxes appears the more probable. In terms of better reflecting the words of Daniel in regard to the building of Jerusalem, a counting from the decree in 445 B.C. seems more probable, even though such counting requires using lunar years. In either case, I feel it prudent to view the beginning point for counting the 483 years somewhere during the reign of Artaxerxes. It is specifically the building of Jerusalem, not the temple that Daniel addresses in the 70 weeks prophecy. By the time of Artaxerxes, the temple had been restored. A number of Israelites were already living in the area of the temple. This would indicate that some rebuilding of the city had taken place. It’s apparent from a reading of Nehemiah, however, that the walls and gates had not been rebuilt. Daniel, in the 70 weeks prophecy, speaks of the walls being rebuilt in relation to the decree he had in mind. This again would suggest the 445 B.C. decree as the one under consideration. The prophecy goes on to state:
Daniel 9:26-27: 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. 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 (KJV).
Note that Daniel’s prophecy does not say how long after the end of the 69 weeks the Messiah would be cut off. Neither does it address a time frame for the confirming of the covenant. The prophecy simply says, “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off.” If the 69 weeks (483 years) take us to the approximate time when Christ began his ministry, it is apparent that Christ was cut off three and one-half years after the end of the 69 weeks. We know from the Scriptural record that the ministry lasted three and one-half years and then Christ was crucified. If the lunar counting of the 69 weeks is correct, then the 483 years would take us to the crucifixion. This would mean that the ministry of Christ was accomplished during the 69th week and the crucifixion occurred right at the end of the 69th week. The identification of the 70th week (last seven years) and its associated events will now be our focus.
There are three basic explanations that have been given to the seventy weeks prophecy. Some believe that Christ was cut off in or at the end of the 69th week at which time this prophecy stopped. The prince that shall come is thought to be a wicked prince (“antichrist”) that is still to come in our future to make a covenant with Israel, which will have a rebuilt temple where the sacrificial system will be reestablished. After three and one-half years, this “antichrist” will break the covenant with Israel, cause the sacrifices to cease and precipitate the so-called “war of Armageddon.” This final seven-year period is also seen as the “great tribulation.” This approach proposes a gap of 2,000 years (and counting) between the end of the 69th week and the beginning of the 70th week. A slight variation of this view speaks of a three and one-half year tribulation period after which Christ returns, stops the sacrifices, and confirms the New Covenant for three and one-half years and then the millennium begins.
This view presupposes that the Kingdom has been postponed for 2,000 years and counting. This view teaches that Christ came to restore the Kingdom to Israel in the first century but since Israel rejected Christ, He couldn’t establish the Kingdom at that time. Proponents of this view see the Kingdom in a physical way and the return of Jews to the land of Israel in 1948 as a sign that their restoration is near.
This view is very speculative. There is nothing in Scripture that speaks of a future wicked prince making a covenant with Israel. The Scripture nowhere speaks of the antichrist being a single individual. The Scripture identifies antichrist as anyone who denies that Jesus is the Christ. The apostle John speaks of many antichrists already being present in the first century (See 1 John 2:18, 22, 4:3, and 2 John 7). The Scripture does not speak of a “war of Armageddon.” The word Armageddon appears once in Scripture (Revelation 16:16), and is used to identify a gathering place for kings. There is nothing in this passage about a war. Nowhere does Scripture speak of a rebuilt temple and the reinstatement of sacrifices. Christ died to replace the sacrificial system. The temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. The temple’s destruction eliminated the final symbol of the Old Covenant system. A rebuilt temple would have no significance relative to the New Covenant. The Scriptures show Christ came to establish a spiritual Kingdom not a physical one.
A second view is that the 70th week represents a seven-year ministry of Christ that begins immediately after the 69th week. Therefore, there is no break between the 69th and 70th week. Christ begins His earthly ministry at the end of the 69th week, which is the beginning of the 70th week. After three and one-half years of the 70th week Christ is crucified which is when the sacrifice and oblation cease. The remaining three and one-half years of the 70th week is when the apostles take the gospel message, as Christ’s representatives, exclusively to Israel before it goes to the Gentiles. Thus it is felt that the New Covenant is confirmed with Israel during a seven-year period immediately following the 69th week. The prince that shall come is considered to be the Roman General Titus who led the Roman armies in the war against Jerusalem some 40 years later. Some, who take the view that the 70th week immediately follows on the heels of the 69th week, also believe that the prince that is to come is not Titus, but refers to Christ’s coming against Jerusalem in judgment during the war with Rome.
This second view appears plausible but has several flaws. The sacrifices and oblations did not cease at the crucifixion of Christ. They continued another forty years and were not caused to cease until midway through the Great War. While it could be argued that the death of Christ made the sacrificial system obsolete and therefore caused its end, the fact remains it didn’t cease to operate until the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. It should also be noted that the preaching of the New Covenant to Israel was not limited to seven years.
A third view sees the time of Christ’s ministry and crucifixion as not the important issue in this prophecy. As stated above, both the decree of 458 B.C. and the decree of 445 B.C. are probable, depending on one’s method of counting years. Whether Christ’s ministry or His crucifixion occurred at the conclusion of the 69th week is not important to this third view because this view does not see the 70th week beginning immediately after the end of the 69th week. This third view does not see the 70th week as the beginning of Christ’s ministry. This view does not see the start of the 70th week as a three and one-half year ministry of Christ to confirm the New Covenant with Israel. Neither does this view see another three and one-half years of the Apostles ministry as a seven-year completion of confirming the covenant with Israel. This view associates the 70th week with the Great War of A.D. 66 to 73. This is the view this author takes for the following reasons.
The preaching of the gospel was initially targeted to the Jews. It is difficult to show from Scripture that this targeting covered a period of seven years. Depending on what method of counting is used, the end of the 69th week could signify the beginning of Christ’s ministry or His crucifixion. It is unclear from Scripture how long the gospel was exclusively directed to the Jews. While Paul, because of the Jew’s hostility toward the gospel, spent more of his efforts on preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, he didn’t stop preaching to the Jews. Peter and the other Jerusalem based apostles all continued preaching the New Covenant to the Jews. Let’s briefly look at Paul’s ministry to the Jews and Gentiles. In Acts 18 we find the following recorded:
Acts 18:1-6: After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’
Here we see Paul’s frustration with the lack of Jewish response to the gospel. In exasperation he makes the statement, “from now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Paul had already been preaching to the Gentiles as the previous chapters in Acts clearly show. Was Paul now saying he was going to take the gospel exclusively to the Gentiles? Was Paul going to stop preaching to the Jews? In this same chapter of Acts, we see Paul, several years after his remarks about going to the Gentiles, still preaching to the Jews as well.
Acts 18:18-21: Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila. Before he sailed, he had his hair cut off at Cenchrea because of a vow he had taken. They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. But as he left, he promised, ‘I will come back if it is God's will.’ Then he set sail from Ephesus.
There is nothing in the Scriptures to suggest that the New Covenant was confirmed with Israel for a seven-year period involving the three and one-half year ministry of Christ and a three and one-half year ministry of the apostles. Confirmation of the New Covenant went on for forty years and then the New Covenant was given a final confirmation when the physical means to propagate the old system was removed in the Roman-Jewish War. Confirmation of the covenant was not a single act. It was a continuing act that culminated in the great destruction. The very word “confirm” means to establish, make firm, make strong, etc. This process went on until the consummation at the end of the Old Covenant age.
The New Covenant was preached to Israel for approximately forty years. The Gentiles also had the gospel preached to them for most of this period. During this period of time the Old Covenant was still a force to be reckoned with. Most Jewish converts to Christianity still practiced the requirements of the Old Covenant. Even the apostle Paul kept Old Covenant requirements as seen in the cutting of his hair in response to a vow he had taken. It wasn’t until the destruction of Jerusalem that the old system was completely removed.
Notice at the beginning of the 70 weeks prophecy that the Messiah is called the prince. The prophecy then goes on to say that, “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.” Is Daniel suddenly speaking of a different prince? I submit that he is not. Scripture shows that the people of Israel are the people of the Messiah who was the anointed one to bring salvation to Israel. Scripture shows that salvation is of the Jews.
I submit that the coming prince spoken of by Daniel is Christ, coming in judgment against Jerusalem in the A.D. 66 to 73 war. The Great Revolt did not suddenly end in A.D. 70. It continued for three more years. This war began when Cestius Gallus came up against Jerusalem in October of A.D. 66. The revolt did not end until the last of the Jewish holdouts died at Masada in A.D. 73. Midway through this war, the temple was destroyed. It was during this time that the sacrificial system came to an end. There has been no temple, priesthood or sacrifices since. This is when Christ caused the sacrifice to cease.
When Daniel speaks of the people of the prince that shall come, the people he is referring to are the people of Israel. The people of Israel are the people of the prince who would come. If Daniel were referring to a Roman army, he would have spoke in terms of the prince destroying the city, not the people of the prince. Christ is the Prince who came in judgment against Israel after Israel had desecrated the holy place. The Jews had done much to desecrate the temple and much of the city of Jerusalem before the Romans ever entered the city.
The 70 weeks prophecy says, “The people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” (Daniel 9:26). On the surface this would appear to relate to the Roman destruction of the city and the temple. The Romans did bring a final and complete destruction to the temple and the sanctuary. The Romans did complete the overspreading of abominations.
A reading of the historian Josephus, however, shows that the Jewish Zealots had already done much to destroy the city and the temple. One participant in the Jewish revolt actually took possession of the temple and its adjoining parts and melted down the sacred implements used by the priests. He emptied the vessels of sacred wine and oil, which the priests used to pour on burnt offerings, thus leading to the eventual discontinuance of the daily sacrifice. The Idumeans (descendants of Esau) became involved in the rebellion and killed thousands of Jews. What followed was the development of many factions, all fighting each other in civil war. The high priest Ananus was killed and non-Levitical priests installed. Josephus felt this marked the beginning of the destruction of the city. Discussion of the 70 weeks prophecy will continue in Chapter six.