Daniel's 490 Year Prophecy
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God told the Israelites that they would go into exile for 70 years in Babylon, as punishment for their sin. The prophet Daniel was aware of this prophecy, knowing that the Jewish exile was about to come to an end. As a result, he prayed to God for forgiveness for himself and his people.
The 70 Weeks Prophecy
Because of his prayer, an angel visited Daniel. He gave him the famous “70 weeks” prophecy. He told Daniel that the city of Jerusalem would be rebuilt. However, he went on to tell Daniel several important events that would take place after the exile was over. Furthermore, he was very specific on when these events would take place relative to each other, and sometimes gave the exact amount of years between them. The prophecy is so extraordinary, that it even tells when Jesus would come the first time.
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.
A “week” is one group of seven. Therefore, 70 weeks (or sevens) adds up to 490. As will become very clear from context, these are weeks of years, not days. Therefore, this prophecy for the Jews and Jerusalem is for 490 years.
Six objectives must be completed for the Jews and Jerusalem by the end of the 490 years:
“Finish the transgression”
“Make an and of sin”
“Make atonement for iniquity”
“Bring in everlasting righteousness”
“Seal up vision and prophecy”
“Anoint the most holy place”
But what do these mean? The Daniel section of the Bible Knowledge Commentary, written by J. Dwight Pentecost, helps us understand what this means. (2)
1. Finish the transgression
This means that Israel will stop sinning. This will happen at the return of Christ. Zechariah talks about the time that this will happen. After the Second Coming, Jesus will militarily defeat Israel’s enemies. After this, they will realize who is saving them, and repent with great mourning. At this time, they will be cleansed from their sins.
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. […] On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness. (Zechariah 12:10;13:1 ESV) (3)
2. Make an and of sin
The alternate translation of this is to “seal up sins,” footnoted in the NASB. The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains this further:
Here the thought is sealing up something with a view to punishment. (cf. Deut. 32:34; Job 14:17). This emphasized that Israel’s sin which had gone unpunished would be punished-in or through Jesus Christ, her Substitute, he would bear the sins of the world on the cross. Then at Christ’s second Coming He will remove Israel’s sin (Ezek. 37:23; Rom. 11:20-27). – Bible Knowledge Commentary (2)
Therefore, this objective relates heavily to the death of Christ on the cross to pay for the sins of Israel and the world. However, as hinted at in the Zechariah passage above, this doesn’t take full effect until Christ returns and removes Israel’s sin.
3. Make atonement for iniquity
This is a reference to Jesus’ payment for sins on the cross, as a sacrifice for sins. Pentecost notes that this world for atonement relates directly to Israel’s annual Day of Atonement. Every year, they would make a sacrifice for their sins. However, the book of Hebrews tells us that God was never satisfied with the blood of animals.
10 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. – Hebrews 10:1-4 ESV
For sins to be dealt with once and for all, it required the sacrifice of Christ.
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ[b] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Hebrews 10:11-14 ESV
Therefore, the death of Christ is necessary to accomplish this objective of the 70 weeks prophecy.
4. Bring in everlasting righteousness
This refers to the establishment of the Millenial, when Jesus Christ will set up his kingdom on earth.
4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (Revelation 20: 4-6 ESV)
In Isaiah 9:6-7 we see the everlasting righteousness tied most clearly to the Messianic reign of Christ:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. -(Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV)
Pentecost provides other good cross-references:
5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’ (Jeremiah 23:5-6 ESV)
When God brings in everlasting righteousness, it will be through Jesus reigning on the throne of David. This is only possible at the establishment of the Millennium, after the Second Coming of Christ.
5. Seal up vision and prophecy
This refers to the completion of the covenant promises to Israel made throughout the Bible. At the end of the 70 weeks, all of these will meet their full realization. As Pentecost says:
God will seal up vision and prophecy. All that God through the prophets said He would do in fulfilling His covenant with Israel will be fully realized in the millennial kingdom. Until they are fulfilled, prophecies are “unsealed.” (2)
6. “Anoint the most holy place”
In the Hebrew, the word “place” is not present. Therefore, this objective will be completed when the “most holy” will be anointed. Pentecost notes that this has two possible meanings. First, it may refer to the dedication of the Messianic temple in the Millenial reign of Christ. Alternatively, it refers to the enthronement of Christ himself. Either way, this is a prophecy that must take place after the Second Coming of Christ.
To summarize, for the 70 weeks prophecy to be fulfilled, Jesus must die for sins and usher in his eternal kingdom of righteousness on earth. However, this prophecy also tells us the exact number of years until the Messiah would come the first time. We will explore this in the next article.
Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation. As found in the https://www.biblegateway.com/
Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. CO Springs, CO: Victor, an Imprint of Cook Communications Ministries, 2004. Old Testament Edition
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”