The 70th week covenant maker: Christ or antichrist?

The 70 Weeks prophecy of Daniel 9 divides those weeks of years into 62, 7, and 1. During the last week of years, a covenant is made. Since about the mid-point of the last century, most Christians have been taught that the 70th week covenant maker is the one known as antichrist. There is another view that is gaining acceptance today that says Christ is the covenant maker of the 70th week. That sounds impossible to some of us but the view deserves a fair hearing. We might just find ourselves surprised.

The Sign of His Coming

As we look for our blessed hope – the appearing of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13) – we also look expectantly for ‘signs of the times’ heralding His return. We often turn to the Olivet Discourse, where Jesus’ disciples ask Him, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3b)

In response, Jesus first told them of worldwide deception, saying, “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.”

He then tells of wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes, tribulation and martyrdom, falling away and betrayal, more warnings of false prophets, and the love of many growing cold (Matthew 24:7-12).

Jesus then says that the one who endures to the end will be saved, that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a testimony to the nations, “and then, the end will come” (v. 13-14).

Remember Daniel the Prophet

Our Savior continues His warnings for the days before His return with the following statement (v. 15):

Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) . . .

Our Lord tells us to watch for ‘the abomination of desolation,’ which is first found in the Book of Daniel at 11:31 and 12:11. It is here that He directly links the prophecies of Daniel to not only days past or His present day but also the last days.

Daniel 9:27

There is another reference to “abominations” that make “desolate” in the Book of Daniel:

and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate (Daniel 9:27b).

This passage is part of the well-known Seventy Weeks prophecy. Note again that it is seventy (7 x 10) weeks (measures of seven days):

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place (Daniel 9:24).

The first part of Daniel 9:27 holds another potential sign of the times:

And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; (Daniel 9:27a)

Who makes this covenant, the nature of it, and why or how the covenant maker causes sacrifice and offering to cease is the topic of much speculation among Bible scholars, and no small bit of debate from time to time among all who love His appearing.

The biggest divide among the interpretations depends on whether one’s view of the Revelation and all future things is futurist, historicist, preterist, or idealist. This post is only going to look at those within the futurist outlook.

Before exploring the differing views among futurists, let’s look at the entire Seventy Weeks Prophecy.  Here is Daniel 9:24-27:

24 “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.

25 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; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.

26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.

27 And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

Agreement

When it comes to family, agreement is a beautiful thing. In the family of God, there is no real debate among futurists on the first two verses, so let’s begin there.

We are, for the most part, in harmony when it comes to these two verses clearly identifying the mission and ministry of Messiah – “to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place” (v. 24).

The period of time is agreed to be seventy weeks of years divided into three groups of 62 weeks, 7 weeks, and 1 week, with the first 69 weeks of years ending with the advent of ‘Messiah the Prince’ (v. 25).

There is also consensus that the countdown of the 70 years begins with, “the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem . . .  it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress” (v. 24).

The vast majority of futurists are also in one accord that Messiah comes into His ministry at the end of the first 69 weeks. There may be differing opinions on which decree of those issued for reconstruction began the count, but it is still agreed that Messiah comes at the end of the count of those 483 years (69 x 7).

We’re ready to go into areas of contention, but let’s linger another moment where we all agree.

  1. The Seventy Weeks Prophecy is God’s definitely foretelling:
  2. The role and ministry of Messiah.
  3. When Messiah will appear to Israel.
  4. Jerusalem will be rebuilt in Daniel’s day.

Now let’s turn our attention to the two major interpretations of Daniel 9:26-27 in Christian prophecy.

View No. 1 — The 70th week covenant maker is antichrist

One popular conception sees two major characters in the 70 weeks prophecy: Christ and antichrist.

This view sees the 70th week covenant maker of Daniel 9:27 as the one called ‘the antichrist’ (in most prophecy circles) and the seven years of the covenant as the duration of his reign.

In the middle of that time, the 70th week covenant maker breaks the covenant puts an end to sacrifice and offering which, according to this view, means that the covenant is with Israel. This also requires there be a third earthly temple in Jerusalem with a fully reinstated priesthood and sacrificial system under Mosaic law (the Torah).

When the covenant is broken, this antichrist turns on Israel. The Jewish temple sacrifices and offerings are put to a stop and the antichrist begins his program of the mark of the beast with a full-scale persecution of the Jewish people.

The common interpretation of this text at this point says that the severe persecution of Israel lasts the entire three-and-a-half years remaining in the 70th week. This period also corresponds to the ‘time, times, and half a time’ spoken of in Daniel 7:25 and 12:7, and Revelation 12:14, as well as the forty-two months given in Rev. 11:2 and 13:5.

Associated beliefs

The Church

Those holding this view believe that the church age is a period of time set aside in parentheses, so to speak, between God’s former and future dealings with Israel, which also means it requires a stark separation between God’s ways of dealing with and intent for the church and Israel.

Rapture Timing

So that God can resume dealing primarily with Israel in the 70th week, the church must be taken out of the way, or raptured, before that week begins. That is why most who see an antichrist in Daniel 9:27 hold to the pre-tribulation timing of the rapture.

The Temple

According to this view, if sacrifices are going to be cut off, there has to be a temple on the holy mount in Jerusalem. Many of them support this cause with their prayers and finances.

View No. 2 — The 70th week covenant maker is Christ

The other interpretation of the 70 weeks sees only one main character: Christ. We will give a bit more space to this one since it is less familiar to a lot of people than View No. 1 is.

This view sees a chiastic structure or parallelism in Daniel 9:24-27, a form of poetic expression commonly used in the Holy Bible.

A chiasmus is a form of writing where lines within the text parallel one another. There are many forms and those who study the form use letters to identify the correlating lines or passages. Following are some familiar examples from the Scriptures. Note how the lines with the same letters reflect upon one another.

Genesis 2:4 (ABBA)

A             This is the account of the heavens and the earth

B             when they were created,

B             in the day that the Lord God made

            earth and heaven.

Matthew 20:16 also follows the ABBA structure

A             So the last

B             shall be first,

B             and the first

A             last.

Matthew 6:24, following the ABCCBA structure

            No one can serve two masters;

B             for either he will hate the one

C             and love the other,

C             or he will be devoted to one

B             and despise the other.

A             You cannot serve God and wealth.

Isaiah 6:10 is also set in ABCCBA pattern, separating the last line which is distinct, perhaps to bring attention to it

A             Render the hearts of this people insensitive,

B             Their ears dull,

C             And their eyes dim,

C             Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

B             Hear with their ears,

            Understand with their hearts,

X:            And return and be healed.

There are many, many other examples throughout the Word of God. Some are quite long – entire Psalms or chapters given by the Holy Spirit in this form. It’s even been suggested that the entire Book of Job may be a chiasmus.

The 70 weeks prophecy follows a ABCDCBA pattern. Note that the rejection of Messiah is in the center alone, perhaps because it is the moment when God’s covenant people ripped His heart from His chest (figuratively, of course).

A So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until DECREE: Jerusalem rebuilt
B Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; Messiah is foretold
C  it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Jerusalem rebuilt
D Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, Messiah rejected
C and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. Jerusalem destroyed
B And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; Messiah victorious
A and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. DECREE: Jerusalem destroyed

It’s All about Messiah

When you can see v. 27a speaking of Messiah as the 70th week covenant maker, you understand that it is His death that puts a stop to sacrifice and grain offering. Yes, the temple at Jerusalem stood another 40 years  — a Biblical period of testing (ref. Christ, Moses, the wilderness wanderings, et. al.) but at Christ’s death, the veil was torn, showing anyone who would see it that God’s presence had left temples of stone forever.

Not one more sacrifice would be received by God through an earthly temple. The full atonement for man’s sins had been made by Christ Jesus. Disobedient Jews continued to offer the sacrifice but that covenant had ended, stopped, ceased (depending on the translation of the Word you are reading) as far as God is concerned. There is now a new covenant – in the blood of Christ Jesus – and no other remains.

Associated Beliefs

The Church

For those reading the 70 weeks prophecy without a view to the 70th week being set aside for the nation-state of Israel, the Church and Israel together are all God’s people. As the Holy Spirit tells us through Paul in Romans 3:29-30 and again in Romans 10:12-13, there is one God and one faith in Him, with no difference between Jew or gentile. It is not “Israel and the Church” as two separate entities. Nor is it, as some accuse, “the Church replaces Israel.” No, neither of those is true. It is instead, “Israel and the Church are one.” All who placed faith in Messiah on either side of that sole centerpiece of human history — the Cross — are in Christ alone, and He is Israel.

Rapture Timing

Since the Church is recognized as all of God’s people, she is more than a parenthetical period and does not need to be taken out of the way before the antichrist can be revealed and the events of the Revelation begin. She will be spared God’s wrath (the bowl judgements) but endure the Great Tribulation for His glory.

The Temple

To most holding to this view, the thought of a third earthly temple being established and sacrifices offered there is ridiculous. It is something God would not allow for it would be an offense to Him and a mockery of Christ’s atonement.

Dangers in Contrast

So, what’s the danger believing one over the other? When it comes to our salvation, nothing at all, and it is extremely important to know that. When it comes to taking sides, no reason at all to do that — this should never be a matter of division or derision within the church or among believers.

Holders of View No. 1 might risk spending prayers and financial resources on a temple that will never be build and which would be a tremendous offense to God should it be, while holders of View No. 2 might be terribly surprised to be carried off to the third heaven if it is true that the church has to be taken out of the way before the Great Tribulation can begin.

Pre-trib believers in the No. 1 camp might say those in camp No. 2 are missing out on a fantastic evangelistic tool — the imminency of the rapture meaning everyone should get right and stay right ASAP — but that can be countered with the very true fact is that death is imminent for any and all of us in each and every moment, so our evangelistic fervor is real no matter what we believe about rapture timing.

In contrast, those in camp No. 2 that see no evidence of a pre-tribulation rapture timing may suggest that the teaching of it can cause some to postpone decisions for Christ until they see it happen and, if there is no rapture, reject everything said about needing a Savior once it’s clear the latest and most severe of the end times are upon us.

What I will say is that I hope to have presented both views as clearly and concisely as possible in the space given to it here. May God lead many to take the risk of studying what might be the view opposing theirs, to spend time reading His Word and in prayer over it.

I borrow today’s benediction from my big brother Paul:

Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!2 Thess. 3:16

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