No book ever written is as enigmatic, yet essential, to unlocking the mysteries of God’s future program for Israel than the book of Daniel. The late seminary president and author Alva J. McClain once declared, “With reference to its importance, I am convinced that in the predictions of [Daniel’s] Seventy Weeks, we have the indispensable chronological key to all New Testament prophecy.”1
Daniel’s great prophecy of the seventy weeks (Dan. 9:24-27) is key to understanding the larger program of future restoration that God has promised to national Israel (Isa. 40-66, Jer. 30-33, Ezek. 33-48).
Daniel received the prophecy near the end of Israel’s captivity in Babylon. Because of disobedience, God had stripped the nation of its homeland and had sent it into exile. When the Persian Empire overthrew the Babylonians in 539 B.C., as prophesied, Daniel realized that the day of Israel’s release was at hand (Isa. 41:25-26; 44:26-45:3; Dan. 5:25-31). He had read the prophecies of his contemporary, Jeremiah, who had said the exile would last for seventy years, and he began to petition God (Jer. 25:11; 29:10, 14; Dan. 9:2). Recognizing that Israel’s restoration depended on her national repentance, Daniel interceded for his nation through a penitent prayer that entreated the Lord to restore Jerusalem and the Temple Mount (Dan. 9:3-19).
Daniel apparently expected immediate and full restoration at the conclusion of the captivity. However, he learned differently. The angel Gabriel arrived and revealed that complete fulfillment of the restoration program would be yet future and progressive. Gabriel revealed this by describing specific divisions of time, each involving specific events designed to prepare Israel for the final fulfillment of God’s restoration program.
Discerning Daniel’s Divisions
Gabriel revealed that it would take seventy weeks to accomplish six goals:
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 (Dan. 9:24).
These “weeks” are weeks of seven years each. According to verses 25 through 27, the 490 years (70 x 7) are divided: There is one period of seven weeks (49 years), one period of sixty-two weeks (434 years), and one remaining week (7 years).
Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah, the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two  weeks … 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 (Dan. 9:25-26).
This passage is widely held to be Messianic, because the death of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans came directly after the 7 + 62 weeks – or at the end of the 69th week (483 years). That leaves one remaining week:
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 (Dan. 9:27).
The last week of seven years will begin when “he shall confirm the covenant.” This has not yet occurred in history. When it does, however, a rebuilt Temple will then be desecrated during the coming Tribulation period.
The Prophetic Plan for Israel
Some commentators argue that God’s goals in Dan. 9:24 were all fulfilled in the First Advent of Messiah. They view the entire seventy weeks as having been fulfilled consecutively, without interruption, within the first century. However, if all seventy weeks have elapsed, then where was the end to Israel’s captivity? This view must find an end to the exile in temporary Jewish revolts, all of which were unsuccessful and ultimately led to the destruction of the city, the Temple, and further exile. This, of course, offers no solution to Daniel’s specific petition for his people’s restoration.
Furthermore, the climax of Gabriel’s promise to Daniel was that the one who will one day desolate the Temple will himself be desolated completely. This did not occur historically with the Roman general Titus, who destroyed the Second Temple. Rather, he and his emperor father, Vespasian, enjoyed the triumph of parading the Temple vessels through the streets of Rome.
On the other hand, a number of factors support the argument that it will require both advents of Messiah to accomplish God’s goals. First, the seventy-weeks prophecy must be fulfilled exclusively with Daniel’s people and city – national Israel and the city of Jerusalem (Dan. 9:24). No universal “salvation history” is being addressed here, but the future history of the Jewish people in their historic land. Because a Jewish remnant did, in fact, return to Judah as a nation and resettled the land and rebuilt Jerusalem, in direct answer to Daniel’s prayer, and because a Jewish Messiah did come to the land of Israel to “make reconciliation for iniquity” (Dan. 9:24), these future goals must also be interpreted literally. They cannot be fulfilled with any people other than the Jewish people. The church does not fulfill them.
Messiah’s Mission to Israel
The first three goals relate to the sins of national Israel; the final three regard her salvation. Thus the period for the fulfillment of all the goals must be seen in conjunction with Messiah’s mission to Israel, which historically encompasses both advents.
Although Cyrus released the Jews from captivity in the year that the seventy-weeks prophecy was given, the remnant that returned to Judah found that idolatry and transgression continued (cf. Ezra 9:1-2; Neh. 9:2). Therefore, the prophetic plan was unfulfilled by Israel’s return at the end of the seventy years and required the coming of Israel’s Messiah to fulfill it in the future. Interestingly, Jewish commentators also held that these goals were not accomplished with the return and restoration under Zerubbabel in 538 B.C. According to the Jewish commentator Abarbanel, the nature of Israel’s sin required not seventy years, but 490. Abarbanel noted that the return to Jerusalem and even the rebuilding of the second Temple did not bring the expected redemption nor atone for past sins, since they were themselves a part of the exile and atonement. He held that the real and complete redemption was still far off in history, and thus not yet fulfilled according to Daniel’s prophecy.
Daniel’s prophecy clearly reveals that Messiah came and accomplished the first part of His mission exactly when predicted in verses Dan. 9:25-26, that is, 483 years into the 490 years. This was precisely when the rabbinical sources expected him to arrive. (See the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Sanhedrin 97a-b.) Furthermore, Daniel 9:26 speaks of Messiah’s death:
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.
Messiah’s “cutting off” must refer to a death that occurred during the same time period as the destruction of “the city [Jerusalem] and the sanctuary [Temple],” that is, in the late second Temple period. Therefore, Messiah’s death was to “make an end [atone] of sins” and “make reconciliation for iniquity,” as stated in verse 24. This act serves as the basis for Israel’s future salvation at the Second Advent (Zech. 12:10; Matt. 24:30-31; Lk. 21:27-28; Rom. 11:26-27).
Messiah died, of course, without inheriting the Messianic Kingdom. This will come later as Jesus Himself declared following His resurrection (Acts 1:6-7). It will occur at the end of the final “week,” when the prerequisite for the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom-the overthrow of the Temple desolator (the Antichrist) – is completed (Dan. 9:27).
Fulfillment of the last set of goals also awaits the time of the end. The phrase “to bring in everlasting righteousness” refers to the predicted millennial restoration, or “age of righteousness,” that will reverse Israel’s national rejection of her Messiah (Isa. 1:26; 11:2-5; 32:17; Jer. 23:5-6; 33:15-18). This future restoration may also “seal up the vision and prophecy.” The final goal, “to anoint the most Holy,” must also look to the future, specifically, to a future dedication of the Temple’s Holy of Holies. Many revered rabbis also interpreted the passage as referring to a future third Temple, maintaining that the last and second Temple (destroyed in 70 AD.) had never been anointed because it had lacked both the Ark of the Covenant and the Shekinah (the Divine Presence). According to rabbinical thinking, the Ark will be revealed by the Messianic King, who will also build the Temple (Zech. 6:12). When Messiah returns in glory, He will build the millennial Temple (Ezek. 40-48); it will be filled with the Divine Presence (Ezek. 43:1-7) and will be consecrated for use throughout the Messianic age (Ezek. 43:11, 18-27; 44:11-28; 45:13–46:15; Isa. 56:6-7; 60:7; Jer. 33:18; Zech. 14:16-21). Therefore, Daniel described Messiah’s mission to Israel beginning with His crucifixion as Israel’s Savior and culminating with His reign as Israel’s King. Thus Daniel’s prayer for an end to exile can only be fulfilled when all of the elements of his petition will be realized, and this can only be accomplished in the coming age of Messiah’s reign.
The Program of the Seventieth Week
Daniel also learned that in the seventieth week, a leader related to the people (the Romans) who were destined to destroy the second Temple will confirm a covenant with the leaders (the “many”) of Israel (Dan. 9:27). While the specific nature of this covenant is unclear, it no doubt relates to the Temple in some way. Dr. Harold Foos has written that “it is the conviction of this writer that the repossession of the Temple site and the rebuilding of the Temple with its renewed worship will be in direct consequence of the covenant that the Antichrist makes with Israel for the ‘one week,’ the seven years of the Tribulation period.”2 First, the second Temple was rebuilt by the permission and power of a Gentile ruler (Cyrus), setting the precedent for the rebuilding of the third Temple. Second, if a political power or leader could guarantee the rebuilding of the Temple, any covenant made with Israel would be expected to include this. Third, a pivotal event marked both the beginning and end of the first sixty-nine weeks and the interval between the end of the sixty-ninth and the beginning of the seventieth (Dan. 9:25-26). Thus it would be reasonable to expect that such an event might also mark the beginning of the seventieth week, particularly since it would signify a revival of God’s direct dealing with the nation. Finally, the Tribulation is meant to prepare Israel for its glorious Millennium restoration, where the Temple will be prominent; yet the Temple suffers with the nation during the Tribulation. Thus it seems extremely plausible that the rebuilding of this structure so important to Judaism may well be connected to the beginning of this painful time known also as “the time of Jacob’s trouble.”
The Temple plays a key role in future events. Jesus announced that its desecration in the middle of the seventieth week will be a signal to Israel that the time of Great Tribulation has begun (Matt. 24:15; Mk. 13:14). The apostle Paul also pointed to the desecration as evidence for the unmistakable rise of the “man of sin” (the Antichrist) and the arrival of the judgments of God (2 Thes. 2:4-12). Eventually Messiah will return to destroy Antichrist and his armies (Rev. 19:20). Then national Israel will repent (Rom. 11:26-27), and the final restoration Daniel sought for the nation will be at hand.
Daniel searched the prophets and prayed for an answer to the mystery that surrounded the desolation of the Temple in his day. The answer he received by divine revelation was that the times of the Gentiles, imposed from the captivity of his day, will not end until the world is brought together in an international empire headed by a coming wicked ruler (Antichrist). Daniel was told this will occur in the end-times, and that the final act of Temple desolation will herald the final judgment of God against the Gentile powers. Then Israel will realize the promises of God.
Randall Price, ISRAEL MY GLORY, February/March, 2000, pp. 19-22.