Have you ever asked someone for one thing, and instead received something completely different—and better—instead?
Well, this happened to Daniel. He asked God for mercy for Israel, and instead received God’s detailed plan to redeem the world. Let’s look at Daniel 9 to see this amazing prophecy and what it means for us.
In Daniel 9:2, we find Daniel reading from the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah had been written less than a century before, but Daniel already recognized it as Scripture. From Jeremiah’s prophecy, Daniel realized that Israel’s exile would last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11–12). Daniel made this discovery in 539 BC when only three years of captivity remained.
But Daniel also knew that Israel was still wicked. So, in Daniel 9:3–19, he asked God to forgive them so they could return to the land. God did so … and so much more. Let’s look at the amazing promise God gave in response to Daniel’s prayer.
God told Daniel, “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city” (9:24). The word translated “weeks” actually means “sevens.” Literally, God decreed seventy “sevens” for Daniel’s people (the Jews) and city (Jerusalem). So, what does that mean?
Well, 70 x 7 = 490. God had declared 490 “somethings” for Israel. From the context, we can tell that the “somethings” are years. God had decreed 490 years to accomplish His mission.
Specifically, God would accomplish six things (Daniel 9:24):
Finish the transgression. God will end Israel’s unbelief and apostasy.
Make an end of sin. He will end the Jewish sacrificial system.
Make atonement for iniquity. He will pay for sins with the sacrifice of the Messiah.
Bring in everlasting righteousness. He will set up the Messiah’s everlasting kingdom.
Seal up vision and prophecy. He will fulfill all visions and prophecies.
Anoint the most holy place. He will anoint the Messiah to minister from the Temple in Jerusalem.
And God told Daniel when He would begin His 490-year program: “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (9:25).
We know that King Artaxerxes issued that exact decree in 444 BC1 (Nehemiah 2:1–8). It then took seven “weeks” of years (49 years) to rebuild Jerusalem, and then 62 “weeks” of years (434 years) until Messiah the Prince came. That leads to a grand total of 483 years. So, 483 years from 444 BC (using the Hebrew length of years)2 comes to AD 33.
That is the exact year—and time of year—that Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem!
Isn’t that incredible! The fact that Daniel wrote 100 years before the decree was given, and 550 years before Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, displays the supernatural origin of his prophecy.
Mind the Gap
But there’s more. Daniel also foresaw that Israel would reject their Messiah. When that rejection occurred, God pressed “stop” on His prophecy stopwatch. This created an interval of time between the first 483 years, and the final seven years of God’s program for Israel. During this gap, two things would happen (Daniel 9:26):
THE MESSIAH WILL BE CUT OFF
Over 550 years before the fact, Daniel saw that the Messiah—the Son of God—would be killed like a criminal. That happened a few days after Jesus entered Jerusalem.
THE PEOPLE OF THE PRINCE WHO IS TO COME WILL DESTROY THE CITY AND THE SANCTUARY
Who is the Prince to come? The Antichrist. But it will not be he who destroys the city. It will be the people of the Prince. In the previous article, I mentioned how the Antichrist will arise from a revived Roman Empire. Therefore, the people of the Prince who is to come are the Romans. And they destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70—37 years after Jesus was killed.These events created a gap of time. And this gap has now extended to almost 2,000 years.
We are living in the gap, which is sometimes called “The Church Age.” God has taken a break from His dealings with Israel to bring salvation to the Gentiles. This gap will end when God raptures the Church to Heaven. Then, God will press His stop-watch button once more, beginning Israel’s final seven years.
During that final seven years—a period the Bible calls “The Great Tribulation”—God will pour out His wrath upon unbelieving Israel as well as upon the world (9:27). But God’s goal in pouring out His wrath is to bring about repentance.
There are two principles we can learn from Daniel 9:
GOD HAS A PLAN
God has a plan for His people Israel. And that plan is big enough to include their rejection of the Messiah. God also has a plan for you, a plan which is big enough to include your sins.
GOD HAS A TIMETABLE
God established 490 years for Israel. But after 483 years, He hit that pause button … for 2,000 years! But God hasn’t forgotten His promise. At just the right time, He will finish His plan. And He will do the same for you.
1. Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Academic Books, 1977), 138–139. These dates reflect the most recent scholarship. Some older calculations placed the dates of the beginning and ending of this prophecy at 445 BC and AD 32.
2. Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince, (London: Hadler and Staughton, 1881), 107–110, 112–113.