(Published March, 2015; revised June, 2019)
(Scriptures quoted are from the NKJV Bible, unless noted otherwise)
70 Weeks Finish at Christ’s Second Coming
(from Post VI-3 )
For generations, scholars have wondered how to understand the intriguing “70 weeks” prophecy (*) in the Book of Daniel, chapter 9, about the future of Daniel’s “people” and “city” of Jerusalem. In particular, the 70th “week”, has given rise to many conflicting interpretations. There has been much speculation, especially, about its timing: has that “week” already passed, or is it meant for the future? In an attempt to clear up the confusion (and hopefully, not add to it), the following study will investigate the “70 weeks” prediction and try to clarify what these prophetic words from ancient times were meant to convey to us in our present day. It will draw relevant portions from other posts on this site – portions that focus particularly on the issue of whether the “70th week” is past or future.
(*) “70 weeks” means “70 sevens” and is properly understood as a time span of 490 years. For more information, see Post VI-3.
Seventy weeks are determined
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness,
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy.
After introducing himself to the prophet Daniel in verses 20-23 of this chapter 9, the angel Gabriel goes on to explain the glorious outcome that will be ushered into the world of mankind at the completion of this “70 weeks” time span:
1) “Finish the transgression.” It was the “transgression” of the Jews, their departure from God’s ways that led to the loss of God’s blessing of protection and the consequent invasion by Nebuchadnezzar, followed by their captivity in Babylon. Although this was probably the starting point, Gabriel’s message does not have the same narrow focus of Daniel who, quite naturally, was thinking only of the fate of his Jewish brethren; he was concerned in his prayer about the sins of His own people which had brought on them the “curse” of the Babylonian Captivity. But the angel has a far wider viewpoint in mind, and his words – not just here, but in the rest of the prophecy – go far beyond the local situation that Daniel was embroiled in; they encompass “transgression” in general, the transgression of all mankind that began all the way back in the Garden of Eden – and the eventual liberation of mankind from their “captivity” in that transgression. This universal application becomes all the more evident as the message continues. For the 70 weeks will also. . .
2) “Make an end of sins.” Jesus once said, “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” He said this to some who said, “We. . . have never been in bondage to anyone.” (John 8:33-34) So, what the angel Gabriel is trying to do here is steer Daniel’s attention away from the minor matter of the Jews’ physical bondage – minor in God’s way of looking at things – to the far more serious issue of spiritual bondage. In essence, the prophecy here becomes like a springboard, catapulting us from the physical captivity in Babylon that the Jews were longing to be freed from to the spiritual captivity in sin out of which all mankind so desperately needs deliverance.
3) “Make reconciliation for iniquity.” Or to pardon or make atonement for wrongdoing. This is probably the most important step in the process of finishing and making an end of wrongdoing. If it were only a matter of judgment and justice and accountability without any mercy or forgiveness, there would be lacking that most vital component: the inspiration and desire in the heart of mankind to want to change and live righteously.
So there are three words here: “transgression, sins, iniquity”, which cover the various levels of “wrongdoing” that are to be forgiven and, in the Age to come, not allowed to function or thrive as they are nowadays. Does that mean a perpetual “wet blanket” is going to descend on the world? No, hardly. God has created us to enjoy life, and the Age to come will be full of pleasures, excitements, fulfillment, freedom, and thrills that we can barely imagine right now.
It will be a world where the rule of Love will reign supreme. And that really is the antidote for wrongdoing. After all, what are the sins, transgressions, or iniquities spoken of here but the various attitudes, words, and deeds that violate the rule of Love? A lack of love for God and lack of concern for others is the fundamental cause of the hurt that we bring upon our fellow man.
The first three phrases – “finish the transgression. . . make an end of sins. . . make reconciliation for iniquity” – seem to dwell on the negative side, the business of corralling and getting rid of the world’s corruption and wickedness. This process got started when Jesus first came to introduce the Law of Love, then made the ultimate sacrifice of Himself on the Cross. This could be understood as “reconciliation for iniquity”, or atonement for iniquity. By His sacrifice He has offered forgiveness, once and for all, for sin. But that hasn’t stopped the world from engaging in wrongdoing; obviously, there is plenty of evil and wickedness still going on.
To truly “finish the transgression, and make an end of sins” will require the forceful intervention of Christ. His return will bring great change in how the world is governed. Right now, it is dominated by ruthless and unprincipled rulers, and there is much war, bloodshed, injustice, poverty, and pollution in the earth as a result. But that great event of the Second Coming will see the forces of spiritual Darkness cast into prison and the rule of Christ established on earth, along with the principles of love, truth, and justice. Then, “the meek shall inherit the earth.” (Psalm 37:11, Matthew 5:12) Then we truly will see “everlasting righteousness”.
“When Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9) “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9)
The return of Christ will also “seal up vision and prophecy”. To “seal up” usually means to keep something secret or hidden. But here the meaning is slightly different. “Vision and prophecy” will be sealed because they will be finished – just as one would close a book when one is finished reading it. What the prophets, including Daniel especially, saw in “vision” or heard in “prophecy” about the “day of the Lord” was unsealed – mysteries that were open to be studied and examined. But at the close of the “seventy weeks”, “vision and prophecy” would finally find their fulfillments. With the mysteries thus solved, it will be “case closed”, and it will be time then for “vision and prophecy” to be sealed. They can, of course, be “opened” for the sake of our curiosity or investigation, but as far as the fulfillment is concerned, they will have been finished (or “sealed”) at the end of the “70 weeks”.
And then “to anoint the Most Holy”: Is this talking about Christ the Messiah? Yes, it would certainly seem so. “Messiah the Prince” is mentioned twice in the next verses 25-26. He is the key figure, and the prophecy obviously was given with the intent of predicting the time of His first coming. And the Second Coming? When Christ returns, He will take on His full anointing as “the Most Holy” – a great, powerful, and supernatural Being who will conquer the earth and re-claim it for the Kingdom of God.
Regarding this anointing of the “Most Holy”, the process actually began during Christ’s first coming amongst the Israeli people. “Christ” is the Greek word for “Messiah” in Hebrew, and “Messiah” means “anointed one”. Jesus received this anointing in part during His first coming into the earth. He Himself said once, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me because He has anointed Me. . .” (Luke 4:18) In the Old Testament, an anointing ceremony was done for persons when they were to take on the role of becoming king over the nation.
At Christ’s second coming, the world “will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”. (Matt 24:30) When Christ adopts fully His role as King over planet Earth at this time, then certainly this prophecy about the “Most Holy” being anointed will be fulfilled completely. It marks the big turning point, the end of Satan’s rule in the Earth and the ushering in of a whole new era of God’s Kingdom.
Up to this time everything has gone mostly the Devil’s way; “the power of the holy people has been completely shattered,” according to Daniel 12:7. But then suddenly, “the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven”, and that marks the beginning of the end for the Devil and his kingdom on earth. (Matthew 24:30) And it also marks the end of the “captivity” of God’s people in the world system, and for that matter, the end of all mankind’s captivity in the bondage of sin.
And of course, it marks the end of the 70-weeks time span declared by the angel Gabriel as the length of time that will pass before this great final moment in mankind’s history arrives.
Prediction about the Date of Christ’s First Coming: 69 Weeks Ends before Crucifixion
(from Post VI-4 )
Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the wall,
Even in troublesome times.
And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off. . .
These words contain one of the more interesting and amazing time predictions in the Bible, which we will now look into in more detail since it is a sort of foundation for the next time prediction about the Second Coming. We have already looked at the phrase, “the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem”, the starting point of the prediction, which is thought to have taken place in the year 444 B.C. (For more information see Post VI-4.)
Then comes the phrase “until Messiah the Prince.” This need not be seen as a single event but could refer to any point of time between Jesus’ proclamation at the start of His ministry in Luke 4:18 of Himself as the “Anointed One” to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, three years later (A.D. 33), when the throngs of Jerusalemites proclaimed Him as the Messiah. (Matthew 21:8-9) This latter event (known as Palm Sunday), which happened five days before the Crucifixion (known as Good Friday) when “Messiah shall be cut off”, is usually considered the ideal ending date for the 69 (7 + 62) weeks.
Regarding the date of A.D. 33 for the Crucifixion, this would require some explanation. There are various theories as to when it took place. For some information on why the A.D. 33 date has been selected for this study, see Appendix: Date of the Crucifixion.
Now, let’s do the math, keeping in mind the fact that the years mentioned in the Bible are Jewish years (or lunar years), which are only 360 days long; also, in reckoning years from B.C. to A.D., one year must be omitted. (To move from 1 B.C. to A.D. 1 takes only one year, not two.) Thus, from the “going forth of the command. . . until Messiah the Prince” could be expressed like this: 444 + 33 – 1 = 476 solar years (but not Jewish lunar years).
The important result of these calculations and the thing to remember is this: the time span that we can gather from the actual chronicles of secular history (measured in terms of 365¼-day solar years*) matches accurately with the angel Gabriel’s prediction (measured in terms of 360-day Jewish years). In simple terms, 476 solar years = 483 Jewish years. (See math table below.) (*In our calendar system every fourth year, or leap year, one day is added, meaning that the years are actually 365¼ days in length.)
How remarkable! An accurate prediction of the passage of time that would elapse between the date of Artaxerxes’ proclamation and the date of Jesus’ Messiahship! This truly attests to the marvelous foresight and unseen hand of the Almighty working behind the scenes on the stage of world history.
Even the number of days in 483 Jewish years is almost the same as the number of days in 476 solar years – only 21 days’ difference. Who knows? There are certain other factors not taken into account, such as the exact day of the month Nisan when the commandment went forth, which is not known with any great certainty, and certain small discrepancies in the Julian calendar regarding leap years and some other inaccuracies.
Some scholars claim to have taken all these factors into account and come up, through a painstaking study of Biblical and secular history, with the exact same number of 173,880 days (69 Jewish years) for the historical time span between “the going forth of the commandment” and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Well, it wouldn’t be surprising. God is quite capable of engineering his timetables to pinpoint accuracy if He wants to.
However, the prophecy about the 69 weeks doesn’t seem to demand such total accuracy. It merely says that once the time span of 69 weeks has been reached, then “Messiah the Prince” will have come: This doesn’t have to land us right at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem (although that is considered the ideal time since that was Jesus’ most obvious proclamation of Himself as the Messiah).
The end of the 69 weeks could land us at any time during His public ministry. Then some time after the end of that 69 weeks He was to be killed. The next verse 26 states, “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off.” If by chance then the 444 B.C. date for the command to restore Jerusalem is incorrect (and there is some debate as to the possibility that the date should be one year earlier in 445 B.C.), then that date would fit also; it would simply mean that the 70 weeks had finished at some time during Jesus’ public ministry.
In older teachings on this subject, the date of the “going forth of the command” (the beginning of the “seventy weeks”) was thought to have occurred in 454 B.C., nine or ten years earlier than 444 or 445 B.C. This former way of reckoning went along with the chronology worked out by Irish Bishop James Ussher in A.D. 1650. His calculations work out fairly closely, but only if the lengthier solar year of 365¼ days and a date for the Crucifixion of 30 A.D. are used.
However, since historians do have a better knowledge now of the true dates, it is better to go by their updated information. And as we have seen, using the shorter Jewish year of 360 days makes the calculation of this time span astonishingly precise – for that time between the “going forth of the command” (from the Jewish month of Nisan in 444 B.C.) to “Messiah the Prince” and His triumphal entry into Jerusalem followed by His crucifixion five days later (again in the month of Nisan, in A.D. 33).
The former belief that 454 B.C. was the date for the “going forth of the command” may have given some impetus to theories that the final week of the “70 weeks” came to pass at the time of Christ; such a date might allow room for that final 7 years to take place back then. However, even if that date were true, there are other reasons (already mentioned and some more that will be mentioned later) that show it is better to understand the final “week” as the time period prior to Christ’s Second Coming (and would have nothing to do with His first coming).
As for why it is preferable not to employ the 365¼-day year, there are specific examples in the Scriptures to show that the 360-day year (of 30-day months) was the standard way of measuring time spans:
1) The duration of what is known as the Great Tribulation (a period of time that comes at the very End, right before the Return of Christ) spans 1,260 days according to two Scriptures (Revelation 11:3, 12:6,). The same period of time is also said to span 42 months according to two other Scriptures (Revelation 11:2, 13:5). Mathematically, 1,260 days works out to 42 months of 30 days each. And lastly, this time span is also said to span 3½ years. (Daniel 7:25, 12:7, Revelation 12:14) If the 360-day Jewish year is used, then it all works out very nicely: Three and a half years works out to exactly 1,260 days, or exactly 42 months (of 30 days each).
2) During the Great Flood of Noah’s time, Noah recorded the dates from the time that the Flood began (“the 2nd month, the 17th day of the month”) until the Ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat (“the 7th month, the 17th day of the month”). (Genesis 7:11, 8:4) That’s exactly 5 months. It was recorded also as a time span of “one hundred and fifty days” (5 x 30). (Genesis 7:24, 8:3) So again we see that the months were 30 days long and the years would have been 360 days.
“All nations, before the just length of the solar year was known, reckoned months by the course of the moon, and years by the return of winter and summer, spring and autumn; and in making calendars for their festivals, they reckoned thirty days to a lunar month, and twelve lunar months to a year, taking the nearest round numbers, whence came the division of the ecliptic [path of the sun’s annual rotation] into 360 degrees” (quote from Sir Isaac Newton, 1642-1727, found in The Coming Prince, 1894, by Robert Anderson, page 68).
To be consistent then with how time and years were measured in other parts of the Bible, it would be better to assume that the “seventy weeks” should also be measured in 360-day years. And it could be, as some scholars claim, the 360-day measure for years works out perfectly, giving a time span accurate to the exact day – right “from the going forth of the command” all the way to Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
It is easy to get lost in all the details of the years, days, calendars, etc. and lose sight of the overall picture. In trying to figure out some of these historical dates, there are about five calendar systems that have to be coordinated: the Roman calendar starting from the founding of Rome around 750 B.C., the Julian calendar (which corrected the Roman calendar by introducing the leap year), the Jewish calendar dating from the Creation, the Persian calendar, and the one we use now called the Gregorian calendar, which is based on the Julian calendar. Each of these has its own peculiar means of measuring the progress of time, and it is a daunting task to try to properly line up all the dates and facts and figures.
Well, we don’t want to get bogged down in too much scheming and calculating about these dates. So, to keep it simple, we need only remember that the main point here was the accurate prediction of when Jesus, during His lifetime on Earth, would reveal Himself as the Messiah, which time came to an end at the Crucifixion.
The amazingly accurate prediction of the death of the Messiah contained in Daniel 9 is powerful evidence for the supernatural character of Scripture. (John Lennox, Against the Flow, 2015, pg. 300).
God’s foreknowledge of events is truly amazing. And, of course, if God can know so far ahead of time those future events, then the rest of the time prophecy about the last seven years of world history (the final 70th “week”) must be accurate as well.
A point to keep in mind: the first part of the prophecy (covering the era of 7 weeks and 62 weeks) was geared more for the people of those ancient times prior to Jesus’ first coming. This was information they needed to know. In fact, there is some indication that the people, including perhaps the “wise men from the East” (Matthew 2:1), were expecting the Messiah because of this prophecy:
Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and eager to know whether or not John was He. This was the question of the hour and was being discussed everywhere. (Luke 3:15 – The Living Bible)
Because of their familiarity with their own calendar system and the Persian calendar and dates of those kings’ reigns, the understanding of the prophecy’s timing presented less difficulty for people back then. For us however, it is much more difficult to wend our way through the labyrinth of dates and calendars and uncertainties of events that transpired 2,000 and more years ago.
Of course, this first part of the 70-weeks prophecy is a great inspiration to our faith, knowing that God’s Word did predict Jesus’ first coming so accurately (even if it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact dates). But it is this second part of the prophecy that really pertains to us. This is the information in the prophecy that we in our day need to understand fully. And this is also the point at which people nowadays are most curious. . . When is the “end of the age”? When will we see the Second Coming of Christ?
As we get closer to the End, God is getting His people ready in various ways. One of those preparations is just to have a better understanding of what His ancient words in the Bible have to say about the near future. During those desperate days of confusion and perplexity, there will be a great spiritual famine, a desperate desire to find out what is going on, to know what God has to say about the future of the world that everyone will see crumbling around them. Undoubtedly, these words in the Book of Daniel will play a key role in providing believers with that much-needed guidance and reassurance.
Messiah’s Crucifixion and Jerusalem’s Destruction
(from Post VI-5)
And after the sixty-two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;
And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end of it shall be with a flood,
And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off.”
The previous verse 25 mentioned the appearance of Messiah the Prince. This marked the end of the first period of 69 weeks (“seven weeks and sixty-two weeks”); and now in this verse 26 comes the beginning of a long interlude, or break, in the 70 weeks’ time span. The first main event in this long interlude was Jesus’ execution, followed by the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple (followed by a couple thousand more years of history); then finally, the 70 weeks resumes once more (in the next verse 27) with the start of its 70th week, the soon-coming last seven years of our present age of history.
But that does sound strange, and one may wonder why this interruption? How are we to understand this “70 weeks” time prediction as a two-stage era with such a lengthy interval between its two stages? As we continue our study, this perplexing issue should resolve itself.
Although the prophecy doesn’t say so, we know from the many other Scriptures on the subject that it is by Christ’s coming that “an end of sins. . . everlasting righteousness” and all such wonderful changes to come will be introduced into the world. But it would almost seem that an abortive attempt along these lines has already happened, but it came to an abrupt end at the Crucifixion of Christ.
Perhaps “abortive” is the wrong word; Christ’s crucifixion was the expected, predicted outcome, and it was not abortive as such. At any rate verse 26 tells us that “Messiah shall be cut off”, referring to the Crucifixion and His own people’s rejection of Him. This betrayal of their own Messiah led to the Jews falling into the hands of a rival “prince”, one who brought great devastation to Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (as this verse 26 will go on to explain).
“Messiah shall be cut off.”
During the Babylonian Captivity the Jewish people tended to think that their Messiah would come in great supernatural power to deliver them from the Babylonians. Well, the Lord did use a powerful and benevolent king, Cyrus, to throw off the Babylonian yoke, but he wasn’t the Messiah. Nevertheless, the expectation remained that the Messiah would come and establish the Jewish nation as a great and powerful empire.
This phrase in Daniel’s “70 weeks” prophecy about Messiah being “cut off” helps then to set the record straight about their Messiah’s first coming: it would not result in some kind of great political deliverance. There was much more to it than that, and the “70 weeks” prophecy elaborates on what the process of deliverance really meant: not just deliverance from captivity in a strange land, but also deliverance from sin and this present evil world. And to bring about this “everlasting righteousness” (and all the other things mentioned in verse 24) would require the death of the Messiah as a sacrificial offering for sin:“Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself.” And the deliverance and beneficiaries of Messiah’s sacrificial offering were to extend far beyond the boundaries of the Israeli nation.
And here is where a little fine-tuning of this passage might be helpful. In several Bible versions (NIV, NASU, RSV, NAS, ASV, ESV), the following translation is used: “Messiah will be cut off and have nothing” – which is closer to the original Hebrew wording apparently. Two other versions give the following translations: “the people that shall deny him shall not be His.” (Douay-Rheims) “The Anointed One will be killed, His kingdom still unrealized.” (The Living Bible) “The Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing.” (New Living Translation)
The general idea here seems to be this: the crucifixion when Messiah was “cut off” not only brought an end to Jesus’ earthly life, but it also meant the great Messianic “kingdom” – at least from Daniel and the Jewish people’s point of view – would be “cut off”, or unrealized. That is, Jesus was “cut off” from being a Messiah to the Jewish nation. Instead He became the Messiah for the whole world – and, of course, also to those Jews who would honor and receive Him.
In other words, Gabriel was telling Daniel that the “70 weeks” had a much wider application than what he was probably thinking. In order for their Jewish Messiah to become the Savior of the whole world, there would have to be a sort of “cutting-off” process to distance Him from the Jewish kingdom so that His spiritual Kingdom could extend worldwide.
This shift towards including non-Jews under Messiah’s dominion signified a huge extension of His range of influence that, of course, would require extra time to implement and prepare for. There followed then a sort of “intermission” in the 70 weeks – a time when the Israeli nation would be shunted out of the mainstream of history.
During this rather lengthy postponement, known as the Gospel Age, the “gospel of the kingdom” was to be “preached in all the world”, as Jesus had predicted in Matthew 24:14. And once this had happened, “then the end will come,” He said. Once the Good News had reached every nation, once “the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24), only then would the time be right to make the transition from a worldwide spiritual kingdom to an actual physical Kingdom of Heaven on Earth – what Daniel and the Jewish people were always hoping for – the fulfillment of what Daniel’s “70 weeks” prophecy had foretold so long ago.
So once the time becomes ripe for Jesus’ Second Coming, only then will Israel be brought back into the mainstream of history; and only then can the “70 weeks” prophecy start up again and be completed in the events of its last 70th “week” – events which must needs center once more around the city of Jerusalem, just as they had many centuries before.
The first coming of Christ brought on the creation of the New Testament, a document which, among many other things, re-wrote the guidelines given in the Old Testament. In particular, it introduced a whole new set of principles about what it meant to be a citizen in God’s Kingdom. (See especially the “Sermon on the Mount”, Matthew 5-7.)
Such citizenship would be based, not on flesh-and-blood ancestry, but on spiritual values – righteousness, concern for others, and, of course, willingness to submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Being a descendant of Abraham might grant citizenship in the earthly Jewish kingdom, but it had very little to do with belonging to God’s Heavenly Kingdom. God’s purpose then for the Gospel Age has been to seek out those in every nation who wish to be His representatives on earth now and future citizens in His Heavenly Kingdom.
“The people of the prince who is to come.”
In the previous 25th verse where it mentions “Messiah the Prince”, the word “Prince” was capitalized because it was referring to Jesus the Messiah, but here in verse 26 the same word is not capitalized, nor is the title of “Messiah” used. That is because now the passage is referring to a different “prince” – the Roman emperor Vespasian who sent his armies (led by his general Titus) to march into Israel and destroyed “the city and the sanctuary”.
Even without the capitalization, it is fairly obvious that the“prince” who came to“destroy the city and the sanctuary” could not have been the “Prince” who is identified as the “Messiah”. As we know from secular history, it was the Romans who descended on Israel, and this was the obvious fulfillment of what this verse was predicting would happen after Messiah’s execution.
Because they had rejected the true “Prince”, the Jews lost the blessing of God’s protection, and another “prince” came along with an entirely different agenda to that of their now vanished “Prince of Peace”. Jesus even referred to this invasion some 40 years before it happened:
“As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.’” (Luke 19:41-44, NIV)
This verse 26 about the invasion of the Romans to “destroy the city and the sanctuary”, this section is not actually part of the 70-week time span, coming as it does “after the sixty-two weeks” and before the “one week” which starts with an event known as the confirming of “a covenant”. (verse 27)
However, it does pre-figure very well what the Antichrist will do in the more distant future. And thus, it seems to overlap with the following verse 27 about the modern invasion of Jerusalem. For instance, “the prince that shall come” in this verse 26 carries on as the same subject of the next verse 27 – “Then he shall confirm etc.” – the events of which actually take place some 2,000 years later.
So in this verse 26, and the next verse 27, we are getting a sort of economical presentation of future history (future to Daniel’s time, that is), a composite picture of two separate historical events: the invasion in 70 A.D. by the Romans and, some 2,000 years later, a similar invasion by the modern Antichrist from Russia. (Regarding this latter invasion, the outstanding prophetic message in Ezekiel 38-39 predicts with uncanny clarity Russia’s role on the End Time stage, a study of which may be found in the post “Ezekiel 38-39: Ancient Prophet Glimpses Modern History!”.)
What we have here could be compared to a double exposure in photography. That is, the prophecy is referring to two different armies and two different “antichrists” from two different time periods, and the two “snapshots” have been superimposed on one another. This may sound a little odd, but this way of looking at future history had already cropped up in two previous revelations that Daniel had:
For example, in Daniel 2:40-41 mention is made of the “fourth kingdom”, and in Daniel 7:7-8, 19-25 of the “fourth beast”. In both chapters it is obvious that this “fourth kingdom/beast” actually symbolizes two kingdoms – the ancient Roman empire and the modern Antichrist empire. But, like a double exposure in photography, they are merged into one “fourth kingdom” / “fourth beast”.
Both the Roman and later Antichrist kingdoms were rather distant from Daniel’s time. We could compare this to how mountain ranges, from a distance, can appear to the observer as a single range. Likewise, these revelations about the distant future appeared in the visions as one “range”, that is, as one “fourth kingdom”, or one “fourth beast”. But in reality, they were two separate ranges, two separate empires. (These points are covered more thoroughly in Post III-4A.)
Although the two empires are very different – the Roman Caesar and the Russian demagogue invade Israel from two different geographical locations and in two very different time periods (ancient and modern) – yet in many ways they are quite similar. For example,
1) Both ancient and modern leaders cause the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (the “city and the sanctuary”). That the Roman armies did this is historical fact; as for the Antichrist of the future, certain prophetic Scriptures indicate the same more or less: “And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.” (Revelation 11:2) “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near.” (Luke 21:20)
2) The Romans also carried out a great slaughter and persecution of the Jewish people. And as we can gather from certain Scriptures, it looks like the Antichrist will do so as well. (See Ezekiel 38:8-17.)
3) In addition, both the Roman Caesar and the Antichrist demagogue are objects of worship to the world and stand in opposition to the true worship of God. In Roman times Caesar-worship was practiced throughout the empire; as for the future Antichrist, there are several Scriptures that indicate he will be worshiped also – in the modern guise of secular adulation. (Daniel 11:36-37, Revelation 13:3,4,8,15, and others)
4) And finally, both “princes” represent empires that were rather different from the empires that had preceded Rome: for example, both feature republican government without hereditary kingship; both carry on organized persecution against Christians; and both belong to the Last Days – the Christian era.
But, of course, there are some differences between the two “antichrists” and their invasions, which we will look into as we study more closely the wording in these verses 26-27. At any rate it seems the closer we get to the End Time, the easier it becomes to differentiate the mountain ranges. What looked like one mountain range to Daniel easily separates into two ranges: the ancient invasion of Israel by the Romans and the modern one by the Antichrist from Russia.
“The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.”
During the Jewish Wars (rebellions that began in 66 AD), the Romans were kicked out of Jerusualem – an event that infuriated the Roman high command. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before the might of Rome’s legions descended upon Israel. During the horrific war that followed, untold numbers of Jewish people died from starvation, disease, or slaughter. Whoever survived the Roman onslaught was driven out of Israel in what became known as the great Diaspora, the dispersion of the Jews throughout the empire. Israel ceased to exist as a political nation.
From Wikipedia, “Seige of Jerusalem”:
Josephus had acted as a mediator for the Romans and, when negotiations failed, witnessed the siege and aftermath. He wrote:
“Now as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be done), [Titus] Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and Temple. . . all the rest of the wall [surrounding Jerusalem], it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it [Jerusalem] had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.”
(Flavius Josephus. The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem. Containing The Interval Of About Three Years. From The Taking Of Jerusalem By Titus To The Sedition At Cyrene. Book VII. Chapter 1.1)
“And truly, the very view itself was a melancholy thing; for those places which were adorned with trees and pleasant gardens, were now become desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down. Nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judaea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change. For the war had laid all signs of beauty quite waste. Nor had anyone who had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again. But though he [a foreigner] were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it.”
(Flavius Josephus. The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem. Containing The Interval Of About One Month. From The Great Extremity To Which The Jews Were Reduced To The Taking Of Jerusalem By Titus. Book VI. Chapter 1.1)
Just as Gabriel’s message had foretold, the end of Jerusalem came “with a flood”. Great “desolations” befell the city “till the end of the war”. Whether that was supposed to mean the end of the war with the Romans or not, isn’t too clear. In a sense the “war” has continued: Jerusalem has seen plenty of trouble since then under various rulers – the Muslim caliphates, the Crusaders, the Ottoman Turks – but certainly nothing as dreadful as what took place at that time when the Romans reacted in fury against Israel’s rebellion (or what will take place in the future).
End of the Age Predicted (Christ’s Second Coming)
(from Post VI-6)
Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.
Gabriel’s prophecy to Daniel began by specifying that “your people and. . . your holy city” – the Jewish nation and Jerusalem – would be in existence during the course of the “70 weeks”. At the start of this time span Jerusalem had been destroyed and in the very End of it Jerusalem will again lie in ruins. There was another destruction in 70 A.D., but that lay outside the limits set by the “70 weeks”, coming between the 69th and 70th week. Nevertheless, that destruction pre-figured what is to come in the future, as we’ll find out in this verse 27.
Incidentally, it is obvious that this last 70th week is still future; it hasn’t begun yet (much less finished), because some of the other conditions – “everlasting righteousness” especially – have not arrived. Although the process for bringing in “everlasting righteousness” began with Jesus’ sacrifice at His first coming (when “Messiah the Prince” was “cut off” ), the world on its own, under Satan’s influence, will never reach that kind of paradise-like state. It will take nothing less than the Second Coming of Christ – His forceful intervention into the affairs of mankind and the ensuing imprisonment of the forces of Darkness – “to finish the transgression” and “to make an end of sins” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness”.
Jesus Christ’s example, teachings, and sacrificial offering of Himself started the process towards those goals. In a sense, what He did was the biggest, most difficult stage in that process and has laid the groundwork and foundation for the soon-coming Kingdom of God on Earth. But for now it exists in our hearts, which is why Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) But physically, in the world system it hasn’t arrived yet, obviously.
Since the end of the 69 weeks and Christ’s first coming, conditions in the world haven’t improved very much – and certainly not enough to prevent it from stumbling eventually into total calamity. . . as many forecasters have predicted:
The whole thing is coming to a head soon, Hell-bent on a crash course to catastrophe and the end of man’s foolish, wasteful, wanton, destructive rule on Earth! . . . listen to what just a few of the World’s many non-religious secular humanists have to say – some of the highest-ranking members of this planet’s managerial class, who have the weight of scientific data and statistics to back them up:
“I think human life is now threatened as never before in the history of this planet! Not just by one peril, but by many perils that are all working together and coming to a head at the same time. And that time lies very close to the year 2000. I am one of those scientists who find it hard to see how the human race is to bring itself much past the year 2000.” — Dr. George Wald, Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Harvard University.
“We are aboard a train which is gathering speed, racing down a track in which there is an unknown number of switches leading to unknown destinations. No single scientist is in the engine cab and there may be demons at the switch! Most of society is in the caboose – looking backward!” — Scientist member of the prestigious “Club of Rome” socio-economic group.
Kurt Waldheim, while Secretary General of the U.N., said, “I do not wish to seem overdramatic, but I can only conclude from the information that is available to me as Secretary General that the members of the United Nations have perhaps 10 years left in which to subordinate their ancient quarrels and launch a global partnership to curb the arms race, to improve the human environment, to diffuse the population explosion, and to supply the required momentum to World development efforts. The alternative is a situation beyond our capacity to control!”
(published by The Family International, April/1983)
The present state of our world is a far cry from the “everlasting righteousness” that is destined to come. In fact, the world seems headed in the opposite direction as foreseen by the perceptive gentlemen quoted above. The situation on planet Earth is getting desperate. Fortunately, Gabriel’s prophecy tells us there is only one more “week” to go. So when that last seven years begins, then we shall know that mankind’s rescue is not far away.
The great event of Christ’s return will save mankind from destroying himself and will bring in true “everlasting righteousness”. That cataclysmic event of the Second Coming will bring the dramatic reversal of the dire problems and perils that plague present human society. The world will at last see the promises that Gabriel’s ancient prophecy to Daniel had said would come at the end of the “70 weeks”.
As we’ve learned, the “seventy weeks” prophecy can be divided into two main time periods: the first period, outlined in verses 25-26, is the longer era of 69 weeks, or 483 years; it starts with “the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem” and ends with “Messiah the Prince”. The second time period is the 70th week, only seven years: “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week.”
The first time period, starting after the Jews’ first return (from their captivity in Babylon), leads up to Jesus’ first coming; and the second period in modern times, starting at some point after their second return (from the many lands to where they had been scattered by the Romans), leads up to His Second Coming.
And between these, there is, we might say, a third time period: an interruption in the 70-week span of time – a rather lengthy interlude, in fact, of some 2,000 years when Daniel’s “people” were dispersed and the “holy city” lay destroyed or inhabited by other people. This “interlude” of the Jews’ Diaspora, or scatteration, by the Romans, could be compared to the former era of their “Babylonian captivity”.
Now that the second re-gathering of the Jewish people has taken place, we have a surprising duplication, as it were, of the former scenario. So, despite the wide historical gap between these two time periods, the uncanny similarity in the historical situations, ancient and modern, does seem to bridge the gap quite well.
It is as if the historical scene from the past has mysteriously re-surfaced: Israel has again become a nation with the same race of people living there – a very peculiar thing to happen after 2,000 years’ time. No nation, once it had been dismantled and dispersed, ever re-gathered itself back into its old territory, especially not after such a long time. Only Israel has done so. . . by the will and plan of God, no doubt.
So that’s a good indicator that the conditions are ripe for the “70 weeks” prophecy to start up again. After a long “intermission”, the “movie” is about to continue once more, this time towards its climactic grand finale. And just as Christ made His first appearance in the Earth after the first re-gathering of the Jewish people from Babylon, so we can expect His Second Coming now after their second modern day re-gathering into the land of Israel.
By considering these parallel events between ancient and modern history, we find a clue to answer the question: who is the “he” referred to at the beginning of verse 27? In ancient Hebrew (and in most languages), the pronoun normally refers to the last person mentioned. So the “he” should refer back to the “prince” in the previous verse 26 – the Roman “antichrist” who came to “destroy the city and the sanctuary” back in A.D. 70.
It doesn’t seem possible that this “he” should be identified as the Messiah, as some interpreters teach. Jesus did predict the invasion of Jerusalem, it is true, but it was the Roman “prince”, or the “people of the prince” (his armies and followers presumably), who actually did it.
Interestingly, this “he” was called the “prince who is to come”, which suggests that the Roman “prince” (of the near future, A.D. 70) should be differentiated from “Messiah the Prince” who had already come, having exited the world stage at His Crucifixion a few years earlier in A.D. 33. This “who is to come” phrase also suggests that the reach of this “prince” extends beyond the ancient Roman Caesar to include the modern Antichrist.
In 9:27 the angel does not tell us much about the “he” who confirms the covenant. . . because he doesn’t need to. This person appeared already in a previous revelation to Daniel (given by the same angel Gabriel). And there we are given a description of him – a description which clearly earmarks him as the anti-Messiah, the Antichrist leader of the End Time:
“He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host, and. . . he cast truth down to the ground. . . who understands sinister schemes. . . shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people. . . cause deceit to prosper under his rule. . . exalt himself in his heart. . . He shall even rise against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without human means [by Christ in the Battle of Armageddon].” (8:11-12,23-25)
Obviously, this passage is not talking about the Messiah.
This figure in chapter 8 links to the one in chapter 9 by the phrase, “by him the daily sacrifices were taken away. . . an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices.” (Daniel 8:11-12) This corresponds with the wording in 9:27 – “he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.”
It seems clear enough that the two revelations are talking about the same person. The same angel Gabriel is speaking in both revelations, and naturally, he did not feel it was necessary to repeat himself; it is expected that we would tie the two passages together. And just to make sure that we make the connection, there is the repetition of the phrase about the “daily sacrifices”.
And if chapter 8 isn’t enough (with its “king of fierce countenance” coming, obviously, in the End Time – 8:23, KJV), there is further corroboration in Daniel’s next revelation: “And forces shall be mustered by him (the antichrist “king of the North”). . . they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.” (11:31)
Again there is no doubt that this person who “shall take away the daily sacrifices” can be none other than the End Time Antichrist. . . for a couple reasons: 1) “The time of the end” phrase appears in 11:35 and 40. 2) Christ spoke of the arrival of the same “abomination of desolation” as something that would happen just before His Second Coming in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14. More on this subject can be found in Part 3 of the study on Daniel 10-12: Gabriel’s Telescope Zooms out into the Distant Future.
As for the personages mentioned in 9:26-27, the distinction to make here is this: the “he” in 9:27 is the modern version of the former Roman “prince” of 9:26. In a sense he is the same figure, transported as it were into modern times. He is the final Antichrist who will inherit the mantle of the ancient Roman “antichrist”. Like the ancient Caesar, who was worshiped by the unbelieving world of that era and engaged in heavy-handed harassment of the Israeli nation, we can expect these same features to carry on (in a modern guise) with the future Antichrist.
“Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week”
Whereas in the previous verse 26, the term “prince” (about the ancient Roman Caesar) seemed to foreshadow the activities of the future Antichrist demagogue, it is clear in this verse 27 that the focus has narrowed and dwells exclusively on the Antichrist “prince” of the End Time. How do we know this? Perhaps the biggest clue lies in this phrase “on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate”. It is easy to understand this as a cryptic allusion to the peculiar type of warfare that modern technology has enabled mankind to practice nowadays. To go into more detail on this subject would be a whole separate study in itself, which may be found in the post “Unraveling the Mystery of the Abomination”.
However, a brief explanation here may suffice: the word “wing” is a figurative term for “military invasion”. So by means of a military invasion of “abominations”, the Antichrist “makes desolate”. The KJV translation here seems to say it more clearly: “For the overspreading (military invasion) of abominations he (the Antichrist) will make it (Jerusalem) desolate.”
It is not hard to see this as an allusion – using terminology from an ancient time – to the type of remote control warfare that is possible nowadays. Anyone from an ancient era, if he could time-travel himself into our modern times, would say that the warmongers of today have gained the most remarkable capability: they are able to invade a whole region without sending in a single soldier on the ground to do it.
Instead, they can launch a great variety of death-dealing “abominations” that are stashed away in their arsenals: whether it is by launching heat-seeking missiles, or by flying over head in bomb-dropping planes, or in very recent times, by sending various types of remote-controlled UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles). On the ground too, soldiers can invade a territory by riding in those desolating abominations known as war tanks.
Such means of destruction were completely unknown to those who waged war in the days of yesteryear. And that is the reality that the phrases in this verse 27 about abominations making desolate are trying to convey – in terms that may seem, to our minds at least, rather cryptic. But that was the best Gabriel could do in an ancient language and with Daniel’s total lack of understanding about future technology.
Another major distinction from the ancient scenario: the future Antichrist will not destroy the temple completely. (This we can gather from certain verses like Revelation 11:2 and 2Thessalonians 2:4.) And then, of course, there is also the one “week (7-year) covenant” – a peculiar feature in this End Time period of history that did not happen in Roman times.
Also called the “holy covenant” (Daniel 11:28,30), this agreement probably has something to do with allowing religious freedom. And if the Antichrist gives that freedom to the Jews, he has to give it to everybody, including the Christians. Probably that won’t sit too well, neither with him nor his backers, those who belong to the domain of the False Prophet, the arch-enemy of all the true worshipers of God.
The wording here says that “he will confirm a covenant”. Whether he is behind it all the way, or if he just goes along with it, perhaps for the sake of some political expediency, we don’t know. But one thing does seem clear: this “covenant” could not happen without his approval. The agreement also takes place “with many”, meaning probably that there is a wide consensus amongst the various influential people, leaders, and nations involved.
As a rising world leader himself, it sounds as though the Antichrist will have become highly respected by this time and succeeded where many have failed in the past – perhaps bringing about a workable solution in the Mideast to the never-ending struggles there amongst Arabs, Jews, and Palestinians.
Well, these are mostly speculations, and it is difficult right now to know with any great certainty exactly how things will turn out in the future until this prediction about the covenant has come to pass.
“But in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering”
This phrase about “sacrifice and offering” confirms the idea that the “covenant” will have something to do with religious freedom, which up to this point – “in the middle of the week”- the Antichrist had been willing to tolerate. But then, something happens to get him upset and break the agreement: “he shall be grieved… against the holy covenant”; “he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering”. (Daniel 11:30, 9:27)
One thing that is implied here, but not mentioned, is the fact that there should be a temple, a place where the Jewish priests can make their sacrifices and offerings. There is reference to this in Daniel 8:11,13, 11:31 as the “sanctuary”; in Matthew 24:15 as a “holy place”; and in 2Thessalonians 2:4 as a “temple”. Right now, however, this is a missing piece in the historical puzzle that yet needs to show up: the rebuilding of the temple – perhaps during this 70th week.
Apparently, preparations for a re-built temple have been in the works for some time now: review of the ancient rituals; architectural designs for the temple building; and even, according to some sources, building materials ready and set aside for construction whenever the auspicious time arrives. So it seems this temple building project has been on the verge of getting started for a number of years.
The main obstacle at the moment is the fact that the Muslim Dome of the Rock mosque – third holiest shrine in Islam – happens to stand right where the Israelis would like to build their temple. This is an extraordinarily sensitive region – sacred to both Jews and Muslims – and how the Israelis will ever build on, or even near, that site is a mystery right now.
But the predictions are there in the Sacred Book, so we shouldn’t be too surprised some day to see it happen – the appearance of the Jewish temple. And this would be certainly a major sign that the End is not far away. But how it will happen we don’t know right now. Maybe this is one of those complex issues that will take the genius of the Antichrist to sort out.
When the temple will get re-built is not known; at any rate it will have to be ready before the “middle of the week”. Whether that means before the last seven years starts, or afterwards, is not too clear right now. To be sure, once the temple is there, we can know that the End can’t be too far away.
But to get more definite about the question of the time left before the “end of the age” or the Second Coming, we will know that only when this Covenant gets confirmed; then the countdown can begin – the last 7 years. (Matthew 24:3) Or if that starting date is not too clear for some reason, then when the Antichrist breaks the covenant by desecrating the temple with the “abomination of desolation”, that will signify the start of the last 3½ years (42 months or 1,260 days) till the End. (Daniel 11:31, Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14)
This will be a fairly obvious marker, the one that will kick off the time of Great Tribulation, an era that Jesus Himself foretold: “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place. . . For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24:15, 21) This entrance of the “abomination of desolation” is the event that causes or coincides with what Daniel 9:27 is talking about: the breaking of the covenant “in the middle of the week” and bringing “an end to sacrifice and offering”.
That event triggers the Great Tribulation: a great military invasion of Israel, this time by the Russians, and perhaps for reasons similar to why the Romans came down so heavily on the Jews in that former era. (In ancient times Jewish rebels had succeeded in gaining Israel’s independence from Rome, and their example threatened the stability of the Roman empire.)
What the Jews will do in the future to upset the Antichrist and his empire we don’t know, but because of their strong-willed nature and powerful influence, we can be sure that they won’t be easy for the Antichrist to have to rule over. Perhaps, rather than try to continue haggling over the new agreement of the “covenant”, the Antichrist will decide to opt for the simpler, heavy-handed solution of military action to just squash it altogether.
This event of the abomination’s entry into the “holy place” could be compared to something like the assassination of the Austrian Duke Ferdinand in 1914, an incident that became known as the “shot that was heard around the world”. Because of the complex alliances and tensions already existing in Europe at that time, it took only one provocative little spark in that “Balkan powder keg” to light the conflagration of World War I. Likewise, World War III will likely start from this provocative incident of the abomination of desolation’s desecration of the Jews’ “holy place”. . . in the midst of the Mid East powder keg.
The Book of Daniel describes this last half of the 70th week as “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time.” (12:1) But the next sentence states, “And at that time your people shall be delivered.” The Second Coming of Christ will be the intervention into mankind’s affairs that will bring deliverance to all God-fearing people and save planet Earth from total desolation.
“Even until the consummation”
In other words, because the Antichrist continues to “make desolate” right to the End, Jerusalem, and much of the rest of the world as well, will have to suffer much devastation. There could be a similarity here with Hitler’s scorched-earth policy near the end of World War 2. He remarked once, “If we cannot win, then we shall drag half the world into the abyss with us.”
“Which is determined”
The phrase is similar to what was said in the previous verse: “unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” The idea seems to be that of getting across the unwelcome news that there will be destruction, and plenty of it, not unlike what happened to Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
“Poured out on the desolate”
As the 70 weeks began (with Jerusalem in ruins in the 6th century B.C.), so it ends with the same scene of desolation. As Jerusalem was destroyed in times past by the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar and then again by the Romans, so it will be in a future time when the Antichrist invades from Russia.
There is some question regarding this phrase as to whether the translation should imply that all these troubles are to be dumped on the Jewish people or upon the Antichrist, whether the translation should say “poured out on the desolate” or “on the desolator”. To be sure, the Antichrist is going to receive his punishment in the “lake of fire” according to Revelation 19:20 and 20:9.
But in this war on Jerusalem, the original Hebrew wording here seems to support more this meaning of “the desolate” as referring to “that which is desolate” rather than “the one who causes desolation”. And that is more consistent with the phrase in the previous verse, “till the end of the war desolations are determined [on the city of Jerusalem]”. The two verses are like parallel descriptions, speaking of the same thing more or less.
We in modern times are living on the verge of a very special time in history – those years preceding the start of the final “week” of the angel Gabriel’s remarkable prediction to Daniel about the “70 weeks” time span of future history. The first part of his prediction has already seen fulfillment in Christ’s first appearance in ancient Israel.
And the second part – about Christ’s Second Coming? We are already seeing the build-up: the astonishing return once more of the Jews and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and nation of Israel. So the conditions are ripe and ready: the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem are again in position; the needed conditions are there for the last “one week” countdown, the last seven years of the prophecy, to finish its course.
The last 7 years will begin with the confirming of “a covenant”, followed by the desecration of the covenant in the middle of it, followed by a 3½ year period known as the Great Tribulation which, presumably, will include the destruction of Jerusalem, and will end with ”the consummation” at the end of the 7 years.
Regarding Jerusalem, this verse 27 explains, “on the wing of abominations” the Antichrist “makes desolate”, which, as foreshadowed in verse 26, refers to the destruction of Jerusalem. Luke 21:20 brings this out as well: “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.” Then finally, with the second coming of Christ and the end of the 70th week, will come the “consummation”, the complete fulfillment of the wonderful promises that were given at the beginning of this outstanding prophetic message.
So it’s the same basic scenario of an invasion of Israel happening all over again, but in a different time period, involving a different empire. And another important difference: the modern period will feature a 7-year “covenant”, which never happened in ancient times; there will also be this peculiar “wing [military invasion] of abominations” by which the Antichrist “makes desolate”, alluding to the peculiar type of warfare that is practiced nowadays. Another difference: The temple will get destroyed, but not completely as it was during the Roman invasion. (See Daniel 11:31, 2Thessalonians 2:4, Revelation 11:2.)
These features about the 70th week are helpful indicators, showing that this last seven years did not happen in ancient times but are yet to come. They point to the modern character and timing of this crucial ending period of man’s history.
And then finally, when the “70 weeks” have finished their course, human society will at last enter into that glorious and wonderful era known as the Millenium, the golden Age of Peace on earth, when there truly will be an “end of sins” and “everlasting righteousness” – just as the angel Gabriel, in this most profound prophecy about mankind’s future history, had predicted would eventually come to pass.
[About three years later, Gabriel appeared again to Daniel and continued to reveal to him what would be the fate, both short-term and long-term, of his people. Their remarkable conversation is recorded in the Book of Daniel, chapters 10 to 12. Again the subject of the “covenant” comes up – in chapter 11, verses 21-32.]
“Vile Person” Arrives on the Scene (11:21-23)
(from Post VII-3A)
After predicting the rise of Persia and Greece in verses 2-4, the angel Gabriel continues on with a lengthy description (verses 5-20) of wars that would arise between the two Greek dynasties who ruled ancient Syria and Egypt. This struggle between the kings of the north and south, as they are called, leads up to the arrival of “a vile person” here in verse 21.
Verses 21-23 And in his place shall arise a vile person, to whom they will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue.
With the force of a flood they shall be swept away from before him and be broken, and also the prince of the covenant.
And after the league is made with him he shall act deceitfully, for he shall come up and become strong with a small number of people.
In the chronology of history, we would assume this “vile person” to have been the next Syrian king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes – a historical figure who fit the role of a “vile person” quite well. But as we shall see, Gabriel is at the same time referring to someone else. This “someone else” is the Antichrist figure of the End Time.
How do we know this? In the very next verse we are told, “and also the prince of the covenant.” Or, to translate it more accurately: “and [he is] also the prince of the covenant.” This peculiar statement serves to identify and link the “vile person” to the previous revelation in Daniel 9:27 about a “prince” who confirms a “covenant” in the time of the End.
Now most commentaries on these particular Scriptures (from verse 21 on to 35) emphasize more the activities of the ancient king as having fulfilled the predictions given in them. On the surface there may be some reason for thinking this way. But a close, in-depth study of this passage will reveal how and why it is actually set in modern times and describes the activities of the “vile person” who is to come in the End Time, who is also known as the Antichrist.
Significant along these lines is the fact that up to this point (verse 20) the events mentioned in Gabriel’s message can be matched easily with the events of recorded history; but from here on the historical events don’t match very well.
Studying the various conflicting interpretations and commentaries, one gets the impression that much scholastic effort has been spent on trying to force the historical evidence to fit into a mold – with the intent of applying these Scriptures to ancient history as if they had already been fulfilled long ago in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes when the reality is that they were meant to apply to a future age, the era of the Antichrist.
Since the approach of applying this passage (verses 21-35) to the modern era and the Antichrist is not the standard or generally accepted approach, it will take some extra, in-depth analysis to see how it is better to apply the passage to distant future events rather than to the past.
Indeed, it would seem quite a mismatch if the revelation, having had such a grand introduction with the appearance of the Christ in His supernatural glory (10:4-9), should dwell so much on predictions about an obscure ancient ruler, and not dwell more on the events leading up to the grand climax of human history – what Jesus’ disciples were so curious about and referred to as the “end of the age”. (Matthew 24:3)
Having just said that, however, it should be conceded that the angel Gabriel very likely was trying to draw attention to this ancient ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes. As a model of the Antichrist, he fits the role quite well, and his example can help us understand a few things about the future Antichrist and his reign.
For instance, Antiochus IV was the first pagan monarch to exploit the Jews for their faith, rather than for their territory or wealth or work-force as previous conquerors had done. And he even went so far as to desecrate the ancient Jewish temple, sacrificing a pig on the altar and then later erecting a statue to the Roman god Jupiter.
The Scriptures foretell that the Antichrist, in like fashion, will be quite obsessed about the faith in God of not only the Jews but of the Christian world, and probably the Islamic world as well, and any other religions that refuse to accept his rule. Furthermore, he also will desecrate a Jewish “holy place” (with his modern-style “abomination of desolation”).
And another feature about the ancient ruler: His last name Epiphanes means “the Manifest [god]”. Like many ancient emperors, he had no qualms about exalting himself into the status of a divine being. In like fashion, the Antichrist also will pursue a similar (but modernized) version of the ancient pagan practice of emperor worship: “Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”. (2 Thessalonians 2:4) “He shall exalt and magnify himself above every god”. (Daniel 11:36)
◊ . . . The war of these two kingdoms [ancient “king of the North” versus ancient Israel]. . . typically characterizes and portrays the relation of the world-kingdom to the kingdom of God. This war arose under the Seleucidan Antiochus Epiphanes to such a height, that it formed a prelude of the war of the time of the end. The undertaking of this king to root out the worship of the living God and destroy the Jewish religion, shows in type the great war which the world-power in the last phases of its development shall undertake against the kingdom of God, by exalting itself above every god, to hasten on its own destruction and the consummation of the kingdom of God. (from Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, 1866: New Updated Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)
For a further discussion on this subject regarding other examples in the Book of Daniel of historical figures who were meant to foreshadow the future Antichrist, see “Appendix 1: Forerunners of the Antichrist” at the end of Post IX-3A.
Antiochus IV Epiphanes and his persecution of the Jewish people
So, although the spotlight shifts here from the “one who imposes taxes” in verse 20 (Seleucus IV Philopater) on to the “vile person” of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, this is not the whole story. For at this point the spotlight suddenly turns into a telescope and peers many centuries into the future onto another “vile person”. This person is like a spiritual descendant, in the modern age, of the ancient king, and he will carry on the same sort of religious repression as did his ancient ancestor.
In the very next verse we are told, “Yea, also the prince of the covenant” (from KJV translation). This peculiar statement is often misunderstood and probably should have been translated, “Yea, [he is] also the prince of the covenant.” Through this statement, Gabriel is simply reminding Daniel about the previous revelation (in chapter 9, verse 27) about the Antichrist “prince” who “shall confirm a covenant with many” at the end of the “70 weeks”; he is linking his former message to this new one in chapter 11.
In the former message, Gabriel had said that, after confirming the covenant, the “prince” later turns against it. (This violent repudiation of the covenant, by the way, is the last great signpost before the End, that provocative deed which will thrust the world into its last period of history known as the Great Tribulation.)
This chapter 11 pictures the same scenario – with different wording and in more detail: first is the identification of the “king of the North” in verse 22 as the same “prince of the covenant” from the previous revelation (in chapter 9); then there is mention of the “league [covenant] made with him” in verse 23; this is followed by his repudiation of it when he “defiles the sanctuary” (in verse 31). The “covenant” is mentioned five times in this chapter (verses 23, 28, 30, 32), and it is fairly obvious from the “time appointed” and “time of the end” phrases that this “covenant” is meant to take place at the tail end of history, not somewhere back in ancient times.
So to be consistent with the rest of the passage, it should be safe to assume that when Gabriel is referring to the “prince of the covenant” here in verse 22, he means by that the “prince” who would “confirm a covenant with many for one week” – the same one whom he had already mentioned some three years earlier (in Daniel 9:27). And as will become clearer as we go on, that “prince” (the Antichrist) and the “covenant” belong in the End Time period of human history.
Chapter 11 enlarges on what Gabriel told Daniel 3-4 years earlier (in chapter 9) about the “prince” who would “confirm the covenant” and then break it
Now at first glance it might be easy to think that the passage is saying that the “vile person” is going to kill the “prince of the covenant”: “He (the vile person) shall. . . seize the kingdom. . . they shall be swept away from before him and be broken, and also the prince of the covenant.” Judging by the way the passage was translated, this would be a logical conclusion. At this point, however, it will help to dig into some of the nuts and bolts of ancient Hebrew and how it gets translated.
The following discussion may seem rather technical, a little tedious perhaps, but probably necessary towards the purpose of determining what this ancient prophecy is really getting at. In times past, doing this kind of exercise on these verses was not so essential, but now that we are entering the era that the prophecy focuses on, it is imperative to clarify and understand more precisely what this ancient message is really saying. To begin this exercise, the following quote from a lively lecture on the subject might make a good introduction:
◊ I have always taught that the prince of the covenant is the Antichrist!. . . Now it says, “Yea, also the prince of the covenant!” Now, listen, because this is one of those places in which, if you don’t watch out, you’re going to get overthrown. . .! Don’t stop here and don’t link it too closely with what has just been read, because originally the Bible was not even divided into chapters and verses, neither was it even punctuated! The Old Testament in the Hebrew doesn’t have any punctuation, so you can make a mistake and divide things where they shouldn’t be divided, and run them together where they shouldn’t be run together. There is kind of a pause here, and it looks almost like the translator has linked it together: “Yea, also the Prince of the Covenant.” Now, this sounds like, if you. . . punctuate it and run it together the way the translator did here that put these verses together, it sounds like, “Oh! The Prince of the Covenant got run over too! He too got broken, right?” But what it is saying here is: “Yea”— and if the translator had only thought to add one more little word here it would’ve made it clear: “Yea, (he’s) also the prince of the covenant!” This is literally what this passage means. It does not mean, “Yea, also the Prince of the Covenant” is broken. I’ll grant you, that’s what at first sight it might look like and sound like, if you don’t really know your Bible and all the rest of the passages. . . (excerpt from lecture by David Berg – May, 1979)
Since there were no periods, commas, or verse divisions in the original Hebrew (typical of languages in their early stages of development), then it should be no problem to adjust verses 22-23 as follows with a period and verse division after the word “broken”:
Verse 22: With the force of a flood they shall be swept away from before him and be broken.
Verse 23: And yea, he is also the prince of the covenant; and after the league is made with him, he shall act deceitfully, for he shall come up and become strong with a small nation.
◊ A Note on Hebrew Parallelism:
Commonly used in ancient Hebrew was the literary device known as parallel structure. For example, in Psalm 19:1 we read, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Then in the second part of the verse the same idea is repeated more or less: “and the firmament [expanse of heaven] shows His handiwork.” The words “heavens” and “firmament” both mean pretty much the same thing. And there are countless examples of this literary technique to be found throughout the Old Testament. It was a way of adding some variety to literary expression and some extra information. For example the word “handiwork” gets across an additional point about God as the Creator.
In Daniel 11 it appears that Gabriel was trying to use the same technique in his discourse with Daniel. In verses 22 and 23 we find the words “covenant” and “league”. And in verses 23 and 24 the words “small number of people” (or “small nation”) and “province”.
It helps to understand this point since, otherwise, it might be easy to think that these words are referring to different things when it was only a matter of using different terminology for the same thing (and thereby adding variety and color to literary expression).
And if we assume a parallel structure here, so that the “covenant” in verse 22 is the same as the “league” in verse 23, then it must be that the “prince of the covenant” in verse 22 is the same person in verse 23 with whom the “league is made”. All that to say, it would not make sense for the “prince of the covenant” in verse 22 to have been “broken” or killed; otherwise, how could he carry on his activities in the next verse, and right on to the end of the chapter?
Another factor to consider, in ancient Hebrew key words were sometimes omitted (usually the words for “is” or “are”), and thus, translators had difficulty knowing when to insert an extra word and when not to. These “nominal sentences”, as Hebrew scholars call them, were used extensively in the ancient language. All through the Old Testament, we can find such examples; to differentiate them, these words are printed in italics in most Bibles.
In the Book of Daniel (NKJV translation) we can find the italicized words “it is” in several places – 2:11, 3:14, 6:15, 9:7,9:13, 9:15, 11:35; “there was” in 1:4; “there is only” in 2:9; “is the case” in 3:17; “is the one” in 6:26; “was there any” in 8:4; “they are” in 8:20; “it refers” in 8: 26; “there shall be” in 9:25, 12:11; “it shall be” in 12:7. And here is a random selection from the Book of Proverbs (7:12, 8:32, 9:13 from the KJV translation) – “is she, are they, she is”. Words were written in italics like this just to show that they were not there in the original Hebrew manuscripts but were added by the translators so that, in the English language, the passages would be easier to understand.
In the case of Daniel 11:22, the italicized words “he is” should have been added so the passage would make better sense. Otherwise, it sounds as if the “vile person” is going to kill the “prince of the covenant”. That would make no sense since that means he would be destroying himself.
Many commentaries, however, have suggested that the “vile person” and the “prince of the covenant” were two different persons – namely, the Seleucid emperor Antiochus Epiphanes and the Jewish high priest who was murdered around that time. This idea assumes that the word “covenant” refers to the covenant between God and man; therefore, the “prince of the covenant” would refer to the high priest of God’s people of that era, the Jews.
As noted above, the “covenant” is also expressed as a “league” (in verse 23). The word “covenant” (berith) often (but not always) refers to covenants between God and man, whereas “league” (chabar) is used for agreements made between groups and individuals, between human beings. As a parallel structure, the words “league” and “covenant” are supposed to refer to the same thing. Thus, the use of the word “league” serves the purpose of fine-tuning our understanding of what kind of “covenant” the “prince of the covenant” is presiding over. It is a political agreement between him and other human beings..
Furthermore, reading ahead to verse 31, we learn more about the activities of the “vile person” (who is the “king of the North”) that his forces “shall defile the sanctuary” and “take away the daily sacrifices”; and this all happens in the “time of the end” (verse 35). This is exactly the same as what Gabriel told Daniel three years earlier (9:27) – about the “prince” who would “confirm a covenant” but then would “bring an end to sacrifice and offering”.
It seems straightforward enough. Verse 31 makes it clear that this “vile person”, this “king of the north”, should be identified with the same “prince who confirms the covenant” of the previous revelation in Daniel 9:27. And if that is the case, then it seems natural to understand the “prince of the covenant” phrase in verse 22 of this chapter 11 as a sort of junction point where the passage makes a switch (or telescopes) from the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes to that of the future Antichrist. So, all that to say, it seems out-of-sync with the rest of Gabriel’s discussion to assign some ancient Jewish high priest into the role of “prince of the covenant”.
That phrase, “yea, [he is] also the prince of the covenant”, is nothing more than a proclamation to identify who the “vile person” is; and a guidepost – to direct us out of the ancient past into the distant-future. It was nothing more than Gabriel’s way of linking the present discussion to his former discussion with Daniel from chapter 9.
It seems more reasonable to understand that the angel, in his reference to the “prince of the covenant”, is merely trying to maintain a link with the previous message. And he is using that link – about the prince who breaks the covenant – to re-direct the flow of his message in chapter 11. We could say that he is adjusting the telescope; it is being extended from the “vile person” of Antiochus Epiphanes to the final “vile person” – the Antichrist of modern times who is called here “the prince of the covenant”.
It is as if Gabriel is saying, “The leader or ‘prince’, mentioned in the previous revelation (Daniel 9), who had much to do with the formation of the 7-year ‘covenant’, is coming back into the picture, and from here on his activities will be the main subject of discussion.”
But rather than saying it in so many words, the angel simply gives some extra emphasis to the “prince of the covenant” phrase (by using the Hebrew word gam, translated by the words “yea” and “also” in the KJV translation). Some definitions of the Hebrew word gam :
Not infrequently [gam] is used as an intensitive. . . It often only serves to make a sentence emphatic, and sometimes may be rendered yea, indeed, truly, or else it shows that the next word, takes a considerable emphasis. [from Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament; English translation from German originally published 1846]
This little word gam serves then to transform the phrase – “yea, [he is] also the prince of the covenant” – into a sort of proclamation; it was a way of drawing attention to the fact that, although the prophecy had been dwelling on ancient times and the rule of the Seleucids, and now Antiochus Epiphanes, at this point it is shifting to a different character in a different era (but at least someone who will resemble in many ways the ancient king, the ancient “vile person”).
And in the mind of the angel who is speaking to Daniel, it connects his present discussion with the previous revelation in Daniel 9:27 about a “prince” who would “confirm a covenant with many for one week”. It’s also the angel’s way of saying that he’s going to elaborate on the sketchy bit of information given three or four years earlier in Daniel 9:27 about this mysterious “covenant” and the “prince” who confirms it.
And as far as the actual ancient history is concerned, there is no real basis for the general tendency in scholastic circles to relegate this “prince of the covenant” phrase into the ancient past. (See quotes on this subject in “Appendix 2” at the end of Post VI-3A.)
The historical facts simply do not support the view that the “prince of the covenant” phrase has something to do with ancient historical events. And indeed, it would make little sense to suppose that the angel who, three or four years earlier (in Daniel 9:27), had delivered the message about a “prince” who would “confirm a covenant”, should suddenly start talking about an entirely different “covenant” and an entirely different “prince”.
In the mind of Gabriel the previous message he had given Daniel was still current. (In the Celestial Domain time is experienced in a different way to how we experience it.) And it would have been natural for Gabriel to refer back to what he had said before and try to connect the two messages. For him this new message wasn’t so new; it was more like a continuation of his previous message from chapter 9; he was just building on it and filling in more details.
Like a rudder, this “prince of the covenant” phrase redirects the flow of the prophetic message. Or, we could say, like a marker or signpost it shows us where we are and where we’re headed. And so at this point the prophecy telescopes from the ancient Seleucid kingdom into the modern era (or near future). This is not as unusual as one might think; this peculiar sort of catapulting from an ancient historical era to the modern era pops up in all the other revelations Daniel had about the distant future.
For example, in the “70 weeks” prophecy there is a shift from ancient Roman times (in verse 26) straight into modern times (verse 27). There are similar shifts elsewhere: in chapter 2 about the vision of the “image”, the iron legs of Rome shift to the iron-clay feet of the End Time kingdom; in chapter 7, the “fourth beast” is symbolic of both ancient Rome and the modern Antichrist kingdom; in chapter 8 the revelation about the ancient Greek kingdom’s rise to power switches suddenly into the End Time; there the clue was the phrase “in the latter time of their kingdom”. (8:23)
All these predictions in the Book of Daniel concern the nation of Israel. But for almost 2,000 years there was no Israel. So of course, there has to be a “jump” – from the ancient time to the distant future, a day when Israel would be restored as a nation (as it was in recent times in 1948). And like the other passages about the future, the passage in Daniel 11 also “jumps” abruptly out of the ancient Greek empire of the Seleucid king into the far distant future.
And the signal for that “jump” comes here with this phrase, “yea [he is] also the prince of the covenant”. Up until verse 21, the “road” was leading towards Antiochus Epiphanes, but then in verse 22, a key signpost appears, directing us off that road, and we turn onto another road, the one that travels straight into modern times and the Antichrist. Again, it will help to remember that time is measured differently in the Celestial Realm; what may stretch into centuries by earthly reckoning, in that Realm may seem nothing more than a few days. (Psalm 90:4)
Up to this point in Daniel 11, the prophecy had been talking about the ancient struggles between Syria and Egypt, but now the angel switches to a different time and a different “king of the North”. The Syrian dynasty came to a close soon after the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. So it was needful to re-assign the “king of the North’s” identity to that of the “prince of the covenant”, the Antichrist ruler of the End Time, whose reign would in some ways resemble that of the ancient dynasty.
In chapter 9 this “prince” was pictured making war on Jerusalem in the 70th “week”, the last seven years of history. So we know, by this mention of the “prince of the covenant”, that we’re in the End Time. And this is confirmed for us later on in verses 35 and 40 where the phrase “time of the end” is used. So with this phrase in Daniel 11:22, it is as if Gabriel were saying, “By the way, in case you’re wondering, this ‘vile person’ happens to be the same one that I was talking about before, the ‘prince’ who confirms then violates the ‘covenant’ in Daniel 9:27.”
◊ What about the possibility that verses 11:22 and 9:27 refer to the same Endtime “covenant” but to different people?
Could it be that the“prince of the covenant” in 11:22 is the author of the covenant while the“prince” in 9:27 is a different person who only“confirms the covenant”? Could the phrase in 11:22 refer to the person who authored the“covenant” but gets“broken” by the Antichrist who, although he once confirmed the covenant, now turns against it?
Maybe, but this does seem to over-complicate the scenario, and it doesn’t seem likely that such fine or added shades of meaning can be squeezed out of the simple and rough structure of the ancient Hebrew language. Although the art of Biblical interpretation demands that we do not gloss over but understand fully what passages of Scripture are saying, at the same time it also demands that we avoid the pitfall of reading more into the ancient text than what is really there.
It seems too much of a departure from the overall text to view this “prince of the covenant” phrase as anything more than a link and a signpost: a helpful link to the previous revelation in Daniel 9:27, and a signpost to re-direct the flow of Gabriel’s prophetic message into the future – not unlike how Daniel’s previous revelations “jumped” suddenly from ancient events into the distant future.
Now, although the passage signals here that it is veering into the End Time, this doesn’t have to mean that Antiochus Epiphanes has been completely forgotten. Verse 22 states, “Yea [he is] also the prince of the covenant”, which suggests that the message can include both personages, ancient and modern. History always seems to repeat itself in different forms and under different technologies. So this section (verses 21-35) can almost be read on two levels – like a double image in photography where two pictures appear on one frame.
This is like so many of the prophecies and visions that God gave in the Old Testament, which were designed with this in mind – to illustrate future realities. Perhaps a certain event was taking place back in the ancient time (or about to take place), and this event served as a springboard to catapult the prophet into a future age (the End Time) when events similar to what was going on back then would be taking place.
Because the angel seems to draw some attention to the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes (as a sort of preview of what the Antichrist’s reign will be like), many scholars have tried to interpret verses 21-35 as already fulfilled in past events, with perhaps a faint echo of reference to the future Antichrist of the End Time. In actuality, it should be the other way around: the events of antiquity are a faint echo of the future events to which the prophecy is directly referring.
In short, the Bible scholars of the past generally wanted to make the prophecy fit in with the events of ancient history, not realizing that this portion of the prophecy is supposed to be about the future rather than about the past. It was not an already-fulfilled prophecy, as many of them thought.
And, of course, that thinking affected the way that verse 22 was translated – in such a way that the link to the “prince of the covenant” of Daniel 9:27 was obscured.
Remembering that this is the archangel Gabriel talking, it shouldn’t seem unusual that he would have been capable of seeing the future, and where there is overlap or similarity of events from two periods of time, he might even be capable of referring to both at once (as he seems to do here in verses 21-22). As an angel, we could imagine that his mind was capable of working on several levels at once and that he could visualize the near future and the distant future simultaneously.
In the mind of Gabriel, it seems that these two widely time-separated eras of history are being visualized at the same time. Or to say it in another way, the angel pointed briefly towards Antiochus Epiphanes because he knew his example from ancient times would foreshadow the Antichrist’s persecution of the people of God in modern times.
Gabriel uses this two-persons-in-one method of explaining future events. In his previous revelation to Daniel (9:26-27), as we learned earlier, he speaks of the ancient Roman Caesar and the future Antichrist as if they were the same person. In that case, the invasion and destruction of Jerusalem was the common factor between the ancient and modern personages. And in the case of Antiochus Epiphanes, the obsession with religious persecution is the common factor.
Gabriel uses these former antichrist-type personages from ancient times as a sort of backdrop or illustration that makes it easier to understand the distant future activities of the final Antichrist.
But that doesn’t mean that the events described after verse 21 in chapter 11 are describing events of the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. Since the ancient events do not match properly with Gabriel’s message, they may at best be understood as a secondary shadowy fulfillment. The primary fulfillment is yet to come. . . in the very End Time. We are on the exciting threshold of seeing these events happen – the ultimate fulfillment of these words from long ago!
Unfortunately, the predominant view in Biblical scholarship sees Gabriel’s message from verses 21 to 30 or 35 mostly in terms of ancient history. Why has this happened, we may wonder? Well, it is quite understandable. In former times Bible scholars did not have the benefit of the kind of historical hindsight that we have today.
In particular, they had not witnessed the return of the Jewish people to Israel. So it was natural to think that the “70 weeks” time span in Daniel 9 could have run its course long ago or that the king of the North’s wars and activities against the Jews and the temple in Daniel 11:21-35 were fulfilled by the exploits of Antiochus Epiphanes. Since the nation of Israel had been dismantled and no longer existed, it was difficult to see how these Scriptures could be fulfilled other than by assuming that they had been fulfilled in the time of ancient Israel.
Furthermore, it is a natural human tendency to want to “explain” everything rather than to admit there are some prophetic messages whose time has not yet come to be explained except in the vaguest of terms. But now, since Israel has returned to existence in the modern world, it is needful to re-calibrate and to understand these Scriptures in the light of modern historical conditions.
Although the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes bears some resemblance to Gabriel’s message, there are also plenty of differences. Trying to view Antiochus Epiphanes as the primary fulfillment of this passage seems to be more an exercise in trying to force the historical evidence to fit into a preconceived mold. If one pounds hard enough, the evidence may appear to fit. But probably it is a wiser approach to understand that, from this point on, the historical evidence that fits nicely with Gabriel’s message has yet to appear on the world scene.
By the way, there are several other clues pointing to the fact that the prophecy has veered into modern times, the End Time: we have seen already the phrase “prince of the covenant” – first clue. There are others that will be considered as we go along. Then after verse 35 the prophecy swings completely out of any hint of similarity to past events. Up till that point some passing reference will be made to ancient events, for interest’s sake, and even for the purpose of throwing some light on how to interpret the prophecy as it applies to our present day and the near future.
In the next verse 23, there is mention of a “league”; this continues the train of thought about the “covenant” from the previous verse and fine-tunes our understanding about it and about the “prince” who confirms it. As mentioned earlier, the two words are an example of the common Hebrew literary device of parallelism; they are two words for the same thing, and the second word may add some extra information.
In this case, the word “league” clarifies that this is not the kind of sacred covenant between God and man that appears often in the Old Testament. Rather, this “covenant” is a very down-to-earth “league” – like a political agreement made with certain groups of people. As far as the “vile person” of verse 21 is concerned, this “league” is little more than a ploy that he uses to buy some time during which he can “act deceitfully” and “become strong with a small number of people”.
He is certainly no high priest or religious leader or anything like that. He’s just a political ruler, a “vile person” who agrees with other nations to allow religious and political freedom in Israel for a time but with little intention of actually keeping the agreement.
And this agrees with what Daniel 9:27 says about the Antichrist that he would “confirm a covenant with many” and then later “in the middle of the week” would violate the terms of that agreement – which is about the same thing that verse 23 here says about the “vile person” that “he shall act deceitfully after the league is made with him”.
Regarding the question of whether or not this passage about the “league” and about becoming “strong with a small number of people [or ‘small nation‘*]” should be relegated to the past, here again the historical facts do not match with the events of ancient history: there is no record of any such “league” or “covenant” made by Antiochus Epiphanes in ancient times, nor was there any “small people” whom he used to make himself strong. Ancient Syria did have dealings with Egypt and was trying to conquer it, but Egypt could hardly be called a “small number of people”, certainly not in ancient times. (*The most common translation for the Hebrew word goi used here for “people” is “nation”.)
So this is describing something that has not happened yet, which should clue us in even more to the fact that the prophecy has switched into the End Time and is dealing with events pertaining to the modern day Antichrist.
Antichrist Turns Against the Covenant
(from Post VII-3E )
11:28 While returning to his land with great riches, his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant; so he shall do damage and return to his own land.
“With great riches.”
It seems the peace agreement (see verse 27) will have paid off in giving the “king of the North” access to great storehouses of wealth. This we could infer has something to do with gaining access to Mid East oil.
A passage in Ezekiel 38 also mentions this acquisition of wealth: “Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions will say to you [“Gog” the Antichrist], ‘Have you come to take plunder? Have you gathered your army to take booty, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to take great plunder?’” (38:13)
Without getting into all the details, that passage seems to say that the area of Saudi Arabia and surrounding oil-wealthy states and the Western powers of the U.S. and Britain will protest against what they suspect are the Antichrist Gog’s motives for entering the Mideast – namely, “to take great plunder” (of oil wealth). (See Post II-5 about Ezekiel 38-39 for more information.) So what we read here in verse 28 of Daniel 11 shows us that, indeed, the taking of “great plunder” was a motive for the king of the North’s Mid East meddling and conflict with the “king of the South”.
Because these two chapters are closely linked in various ways, the “Gog” figure in Ezekiel 38 (who is clearly from Russia) can be identified with the “king of the North” figure in this chapter of Daniel 11. (See Post VII-3C for more information.) And so, we may conclude that, as Gabriel’s prophecy telescopes into the End Time, the “king of the North” term refers, not to the Syrian kingdom only, but can be expanded to include the northern “king” from Russia.
And who knows? The two nations may in the future become such strong allies that they could more easily be categorized as one power known as the “king of the North”.
“The holy covenant.”
The “covenant” is again mentioned. The angel is talking as if Daniel (and we readers) already know about it – since it was mentioned previously in verse 22 (and in 23 as the “league”), and in his message to Daniel three or four years earlier: “he (the Antichrist) shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate.” (9:27-KJV) Gabriel is about to elaborate on his previous revelation.
The use of the word “holy” here (and in verse 30) serves to fine-tune our understanding about the “covenant”; it easily links us back to the “covenant” described in Daniel 9:27, which appears to be an agreement to allow the Israelis to carry on with their religious worship (the “sacrifice and offering” mentioned in that verse); and presumably, this “covenant with many” involves other nations of the world who agree to allow this religious freedom in Israel.
Although it is an agreement between nations and groups of people and not between God and man, nevertheless, because it dwells on the issue of allowing religious freedom in Israel, therefore it is called “the holy covenant”. (And by extension, if the Antichrist allows religious freedom for the Jews, then he is obliged to allow it to other faiths throughout the world as well.)
In those future days it would appear that “religion” will have become a major political issue. We can see the seeds of it being sown nowadays, unwittingly, by religious organizations themselves – whether it be terrorism by Islamic fanatics, Judaism’s oppression of its nation’s minorities, belligerence of Christian fundamentalists, mob fury of Hindu extremism. Very likely, the Antichrist will capitalize on these foolish antics of certain religious groups as he campaigns to stamp out the true worship of God in the Earth. We can guess that things will head in this direction by certain Scriptures:
“That horn [symbolic of the Antichrist]. . . spoke pompous words. . . and the same horn was making war against the saints. . . He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High.” (Daniel 7:20-21, 25)
“And he [the“beast” symbolic of the Antichrist] was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies. . . Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. . . the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.” (Revelation 13:5-7, 15)
“Religion” will have become a major issue in tomorrow’s world: should religious practices be allowed to continue, or should the secular worldview be allowed to prevail? The Antichrist will argue forcibly in favor of ridding the world of “religion”, on which he will try to blame all the world’s troubles. Of course, he will ignore all the good works and benefits brought to society by men and women of faith.
Throughout the ages conscientious people have greatly benefited the world of mankind. Their reverence for God prompted them to introduce useful inventions, charitable organizations for the poor, educational institutions, wise governance, peacemaking in politics, and the list could on and on. But it seems that, at this point in future history, all that will be forgotten. There will be a great need then to stem the tide of anti-religious feeling that the False Prophet and Antichrist will try to stir up.
Against this kind of cultural background, the “holy covenant” is brought before the world and before the “king of the North”, this anti-Christ Gog figure, as a way to protect those who wish to practice their faith from those who would outlaw all forms of religion.
So this “holy covenant”, although technically an earthly agreement between groups of people, nevertheless, because it does involve those who are seen as God’s representatives on Earth (however tarnished they may be in some ways), then it will have transformed into an agreement between the secular world and the Kingdom of God. The “holy covenant” may well be the last restraining force to prevent the forces of Darkness from unleashing their desired destruction upon the Earth and its inhabitants.
Covenant: In the Time of the End?
A question that may come to mind: how can we be sure that the “covenant” happens in the Time of the End, and not in the distant past – a view held by some Bible commentators? This question was addressed to some extent earlier, but here are some other pertinent facts to consider:
The “covenant” ties in with the “abomination of desolation”: this is an obvious clue. The appearance of the “abomination. . . spoken of by Daniel the prophet” was a specific sign Jesus gave as an event that would happen in the days just prior to His Second Coming. (Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14) And here in verses 28 and 30, we read about the “king of the North” hardening his heart against the “covenant”, which leads to that climactic historical event when the “covenant” is broken: “and forces shall. . . defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.” (verse 31)
This “abomination of desolation” is exactly what Christ was referring to as the key event that would signal the beginning of the Great Tribulation and the soon-coming “end of the age” and His Second Coming. And if the “covenant” also occurs at this time (which it plainly does according to the passages we have just studied), then the “covenant” and the “70th week” must also be events of the End Time, not the ancient past – since they, along with the “abomination of desolation” are part and parcel of the same events preceding Christ’s Second Coming. It is hard to understand how anyone could think otherwise.
If the “abomination of desolation” is what causes the “covenant” to be shattered – as is obvious in verses 28-31 in Daniel 11 (and verse 27 in Daniel 9) – then what other “covenant” could it be possibly be referring to other than the one that is to take place in the Time of the very End, that time when the “abomination of desolation” will “defile the sanctuary” – that ominous event which Jesus pointed out would be a sign to look for just before His Second Coming?
In Daniel 9:27 (KJV) the phrase “overspreading of abominations” (or “military invasion of abominations”) by which the Antichrist “shall make desolate (violently)” is a way of describing in the ancient language the practice of modern warfare. The “abominations” are the vehicles and weapons of war that are so prevalent in modern warfare. (Again this is a big subject covered more thoroughly in the post, “Unraveling the Mystery of the Abomination ”.) So here we have another small clue that should help us to understand that this “covenant” (made near the time when these peculiar desolating abominations will be attacking Jerusalem) is not an event of the distant past, but is a modern one.
Clearly then, the context of these verses 28-30, and the linkages with other verses in the New Testament, point to them as describing End Time events – namely, the Antichrist’s dissatisfaction with the “holy covenant” and the run-up process to the breaking of the covenant with the “abomination of desolation”. . . in modern times, not ancient times.
As a little side-note here, context is very important in understanding ancient Hebrew. Ancient languages, with their smaller vocabularies, naturally lack the precision of more developed modern ones, so to gauge the meaning of a word or phrase or sentence or group of sentences, context and comparison with other passages often has to be the deciding factor.
Without giving consideration to the context, it becomes very easy to “make” the interpretation/translation fit with or say whatever seems most convenient to one’s own particular slant, theory, or preconceived notion. It is a pitfall that scholars sometimes fall into – to get “obsessed with disputes and arguments over words,” regarding which Paul advises, “Withdraw yourself.” (1Timothy 6:4-5)
Judging then by the context and linkages with other passages, it should be clear enough that these references in Daniel 9 and 11 about the “covenant” do not deal with past ancient events – such as the bargaining that went on between Antiochus Epiphanes and the Egyptian king Ptolemy. That was a strictly political agreement and had nothing to do with religious matters or the state of Israel, which is what the term “holy covenant” is surely referring to.
The only link to the past is the historical fact that Antiochus Epiphanes persecuted the Jews for their religion; and Gabriel seems to have used this ancient king as his jumping off point into the End Time – mainly because his reign of terror served to highlight, as far as God’s people are concerned, an important feature of the final Antichrist’s reign – religious persecution. As it was for Antiochus Epiphanes, so for the Antichrist the big issue will be “religion”; and therefore, the “holy covenant” must have something to do with that issue.
Another idea held by some scholars is that the last seven years happened during Christ’s earthly ministry, which included the bringing in of the “new covenant”, or New Testament. The weaknesses with this point of view stem from the following:
1) The covenant, as described in Daniel 9 and 11, sounds more like a political/religious agreement amongst people in the earthly plane; it doesn’t sound like the kind of covenant that is an agreement on the spiritual plane between God and man. 2) There is no clear record of any such 7-year covenant in Biblical or secular history. 3) As outlined already, the “abomination of desolation” is depicted as the instrument that the Antichrist uses to break the covenant and is something that Jesus Himself said would happen shortly before His Second Coming – not in ancient times nor at the end of His first coming.
Well, as we can see, there exists much confusion about what the “covenant” means as they are interpreted in study Bibles and commentaries of the past, which generally interpret them in the context of ancient history. Unfortunately, these viewpoints have carried over into the Bibles and commentaries of the present. These old viewpoints were made originally because certain events of ancient history did seem to fit (to some extent) what these verses are describing. Well, that should not be too surprising. History does repeat itself. But these ancient events should be understood as secondary fulfillments of the words of Gabriel.
And these “secondary fulfillments” were rather dramatic events in ancient history: persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes, his desecration of the Jewish temple, the Jews’ fierce and bold struggle against the anti-Christ ruler of that period in ancient history, and the rise of the Roman superpower. These events are worth our consideration as they serve as a sort of backdrop to what will happen in modern times; they can shed some light on how to understand the prophecy’s primary application to the soon-coming events of the future.
It should be noted that Gabriel’s words here in verses 28-31 focus quite a bit on this future event, the breaking of the covenant. For it is no small thing – that calamitous event which will kick off the last period of persecution and the final period of our present age of history just prior to the return of Christ to rescue His people and the world from total destruction.
Now, to provide some more background to the religious aspect of the “holy covenant”, some recent events seem to confirm that, besides politics, religion will play a pivotal role in future Mid East agreements, as brought out in the following news excerpt:
Vatican Hails U.N. Palestine Vote, Wants Guarantees for Jerusalem
November 30, 2012
“The Holy See welcomes with favor the decision of the General Assembly by which Palestine has become a Non-member Observer State of the United Nations,” a statement said. . .
Thursday’s statement called for “an internationally guaranteed special statute” for Jerusalem, aimed at “safeguarding the freedom of religion and of conscience, the identity and sacred character of Jerusalem as a Holy City, (and) respect for, and freedom of, access to its holy places.”
The Vatican’s re-stating of its position on Jerusalem, which has remained mostly dormant for years, was bound to irk Israel. . .
It has been some time since the Vatican re-stated its position on the city so forcefully, and Thursday’s statement was bound to be received negatively by Israel. . .
(To read the article in full, see “Appendix 1” at the end of Post VII-3E)
From the above article, we learn that the plan to internationalize Jerusalem has been around for some time and has received new impetus now as a result of the UN vote and the Vatican’s recent statements; both Israel and Palestine want Jerusalem for their capital, and the best solution to break the deadlock is to give it to neither side. Instead, Jerusalem can be put under UN supervision as a sacred site where the three religions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism may have their guarantee of freedom to worship. Since it is referred to as a “holy covenant” (in verses 28 and 30), then very likely, it will have a great deal to do with the kind of arrangements in the city of Jerusalem that the Vatican has been trying to promote for many years.
So that’s the religious angle. Now it might help to look again at the situation from the political angle. Very likely, the covenant will be designed in such a way as to guarantee protection for Israel against the military advances of the “king of the North”.
It could very well be that, by the time the “covenant” is made, the Antichrist will have already established a formidable presence in the Mid East region – which could be why Daniel 9:27 states that he “shall confirm a covenant”. That is, his position and authority, and the world’s respect for him, have advanced to the point where the “covenant” cannot be drafted without his consent, and probably his input as well.
And so, a major purpose for the “covenant” will be simply to protect Israel from the Antichrist. Of course Israel will have to make concessions, which may well include internationalizing Jerusalem, guaranteeing religious freedom for all faiths to worship there, and returning land to the Palestinians. And as mentioned before, probably another major purpose for the “covenant” will be to protect the world from the ominous threat of nuclear war.
But “his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant”. What has caused the “king of the North” to have this change of heart, we are not told. Perhaps the peace conference in verse 27 has upset him in some way. Both sides “shall be bent on evil” and will have spoken “lies at the same table”; so neither side is going to be happy about the promises made by the other side. Even though he is “returning to his land with great riches”, yet somehow he is not satisfied.
One guess might be that the Israelis will not be cooperating or abiding by the terms in the “covenant”. In very recent events we have caught a glimpse of how intransigent the Israelis can be in their land disputes with the Palestinians. If this pattern continues and if they keep on in defiance of world opinion, it would be just the kind of provocative behavior that will cause the Antichrist “king of the North” to “be moved against the holy covenant”. Perhaps something along these lines will take place to provide the excuse needed to break the covenant; or it may be some other incident, or series of incidents.
Whatever the case will be, it might help to review what happened recently when the United Nations voted to recognize Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member state with observer status. The following news excerpts could provide a useful jumping off point for us to project what may happen in the future. (To see the news articles in full, go to “Appendix 2” at the end of Post VII-3E.)
In historic vote, Palestine becomes non-member UN state with observer status Nov 30, 2012
In a historic session of the United Nations in New York Thursday, exactly 65 years after passing the Partition Plan for Palestine, the General Assembly voted by a huge majority to recognize Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member state with observer status in the organization. . .
The Palestinian Authority chairman said “The moment has arrived for the world to say clearly: Enough of aggression, settlements and occupation. . .
“The world is being asked today to undertake a significant step in the process of rectifying the unprecedented historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people since Al-Nakba of 1948.
“The General Assembly is called upon today to issue a birth certificate of the reality of the State of Palestine,” Abbas said. He concluded his speech to a standing ovation.
PM: UN can’t force Israel to compromise on security
Nov 29, 2012
[Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel stated] “It does not matter how many will vote against us, there is no force in the world that will cause me to compromise on Israeli security and there is no force in the world able to sever the thousands year connection between the people of Israel and the Land of Israel.”
Israel Pushing Controversial Settlements After U.N. Vote
Nov 30, 2012
JERUSALEM — Israel is moving forward with development of Jewish settlements in a contentious area east of Jerusalem, defying the United States by advancing a project that has long been condemned by international leaders as effectively dooming any prospect of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. . .
. . .Israel also authorized the construction of 3,000 new housing units in parts of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The timing of the twin actions seemed aimed at punishing the Palestinians for their United Nations bid, and appeared to demonstrate that hard-liners in the government had prevailed after days of debate over how to respond. . .
. . .Saab Erekat, the Palestinians’ chief negotiator, said in a statement. “At a moment where the Palestinian leadership is doing every single effort to save the two-state solution, the Israeli government does everything possible to destroy it.”
Much of the world considers settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank to be illegal under international law, and the United States has vigorously opposed development of E1 for nearly two decades. . .
While Israel has frequently announced settlement expansions at delicate political moments, often to its detriment, the E1 move came as a shock, after a week in which both Israelis and Palestinians toned down their rhetoric about day-after responses to the United Nations bid. . .
. . .The settlement of E1, a 4.6-square-mile expanse of hilly parkland where some Bedouins have camps and a police station was opened in 2008, could further increase Israel’s international isolation.
. . .Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama have all strenuously objected to any settlement there, and it is internationally known as the third rail for the peace process. Dani Seidemann, a Jerusalem lawyer and peace activist, described E1 as “the fatal heart attack of the two-state solution” and said Mr. Netanyahu was wielding “the doomsday weapon.”
. . .“We’re going to stop this,” he said. “If Netanyahu decides to pursue E1, Henny Penny the sky will fall on him. If he pursues this, Israel is going to find itself isolated in a non-wartime situation as we have never been before.”
Clearly, Palestine’s 2012 landslide victory in the U.N. to grant it observer status as a non-member state shows that the vast majority of the world favors the creation of a Palestinian state and the end of Israel’s occupation of what is supposed to belong to Palestine. Originally, the UN formally sanctioned the creation of separate Israeli and Palestinian states way back in 1948 (Resolution 181). This resulted in a civil war and the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank by Egypt and Jordan respectively who wanted to safeguard the rights of the Palestinians. In the 1967 Six Day War, Israel drove out the Egyptians and Jordanians.
Again a UN Resolution (282) was passed the same year, calling on Israel to withdraw and grant sovereignty to the Palestinians. Since then however, the Israelis have acted as if the land belongs only to them and are doing everything in their power to make life difficult for their Palestinian neighbors. The world community sees what is going on and knows that the proper and fair solution is simply to grant nationhood to the people of Palestine.
However, Israel’s intransigence and defiance of the UN (Netanyahu’s sanctioning of the E1 settlements immediately after the U.N. vote) irritated the international community, including even present and former U.S. Presidents. (See news article in “Appendix 3” at the end of Post VII-3E about how the climate of world opinion has changed even more in the wake of Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza.)
So if someone who is less committed than the U.S.A. to protecting the Jewish people – like the Antichrist from Russia, as well as many other nations of the world – should decide finally to do something about the situation (with the UN’s blessing or even a UN mandate), there won’t be much the U.S. can do to prevent it. Presumably, the international agreement of the “covenant” will be the solution brought up that will be aimed at balancing the Mideast equation with fair boundaries and just political arrangements in the land of Israel.
But it seems, judging by the phrase, “his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant”, that as far as the Antichrist is concerned, the covenant has become an obstacle to his own plans. For him it may have been nothing more than an appeasement to the Israelis that he felt coerced into, or perhaps a delaying tactic that he doesn’t need anymore, or a guarantee of protection for religious freedom that he no longer wishes to honor – or a combination of these.
That he did not, even in the beginning, take the covenant very seriously seems evident from verse 23: “and after the league is made with him he shall work deceitfully”. At any rate, since the events have not happened yet, right now it is mostly a matter of guesswork as to how these Scriptures will manifest in historical reality.
Regarding the situation with the UN and the Palestinians, it does appear that Israel is living in its own world, oblivious to international concerns. And part of the cause for such blinkered vision is the mistaken belief that their actions are sanctioned by God. It may be true that God did seek to bless the Jewish people after their suffering in World War II and allow them to return to Israel.
But the conditions for their return are stated clearly in the Book of Ezekiel:
“It shall be that you will divide it (the land) by lot as an inheritance for yourselves, and for the strangers who dwell among you and who bear children among you. They shall be to you as native-born among the tribes of Israel. And it shall be that in whatever tribe the stranger dwells, there you shall give him his inheritance, says the Lord God.” (47:22-23)
Clearly, the Israeli nation is not yet ready to live up to God’s standards for a wise and benevolent ruling power; it will take the heavy hand of Antichrist persecution to bring about such a change, and the return of Christ, at which time it seems that Israel will have forsaken the arrogance that has marred her present regimes; and then finally, she will be allowed to expand her borders, as suggested by verses 15-20 in Ezekiel 47.
But Israel’s present day approach cannot be tolerated for too much longer, and so all that Israel can expect now is international condemnation. Inevitably, this will grow beyond words and diplomatic protests (which is the stage where things are at now); eventually, we might foresee Israel will find herself under strict enforcement of UN guidelines.
And so the recent news events mentioned above could mark a rather important shift in the struggle of the Palestinians. It is as if the ball has been tossed out of the Israeli-Palestinian court into the international court. Sadly for Israel, she seems rather oblivious to how the winds of change have been shifting against her.
But it is not all a matter of politics. Getting back to the religious aspect of the “covenant”, we understand, of course, that the Dark Forces will be working hard to influence the Antichrist to turn away from allowing religious freedom; the False Prophet, the one who “causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast (the Antichrist)” will certainly be trying to influence the course of events, and the Antichrist, in that direction. . . and towards the worship of Materialism, his religion that’s against religion. And so the False Prophet may capitalize on the policy blunders of the Israelis and other religious groups and use them to turn the Antichrist’s heart against “religion”, and consequently, against the “holy covenant”.
The descriptive word “holy” in these last two references to the “covenant” in verses 28 and 30 were not used in previous references to the “covenant”. We might guess that Gabriel’s use of the word here was meant to emphasize the fact that the religious aspect will have become a much bigger issue and major obsession with the Antichrist.
It is not enough for him to have gained great wealth and power, but in addition to military and economic dominance, he and the False Prophet wish to achieve spiritual dominance in the world. So for them at this point the “holy covenant” is just getting in the way of their plans that they (and the powers of Darkness) are actually aiming for. And. . .
“So he shall do damage.”
In the original Hebrew the word “damage” is not there. It might have been the correct word to use anyway. But strictly speaking, the passage just says, “so shall he do”, as if to say “he shall do accordingly”, or “his actions will be guided accordingly”. How the Antichrist’s change of heart will manifest at this point we don’t know. It could result in “damage” in the form of military strikes, or it could mean he will work intensely behind the scenes to undermine the covenant. Right now we don’t really know.
A little side-note: The translation in the NKJV, “while returning”, suggests that on his way back home the “king of the North” will do his “damage”. Probably the passage was translated this way so as to fit it in with certain ancient historical events: Antiochus Epiphanes, on his way back to Syria after meeting with the Egyptian king, got upset with the Israelis and caused a great deal of havoc in Israel.
Most translations, however, merely say, “and he shall return” or “then he shall return”. More likely these versions are correct: it would certainly fit better the modern situation. In the old days a king, traveling by ship or by land with his troops, might easily stop on his way to attack a city; but nowadays, traveling by air, that wouldn’t be so easy.
Verse 29 “At the appointed time he shall return and go toward the south; but it shall not be like the former or the latter.”
“At the appointed time.”
A good question to ask might be, who is making this appointment of “time” spoken of here? Knowing that the angel Gabriel is speaking directly to the prophet Daniel, we probably should conclude that the angel has in mind an “appointed time” of some celestial decree that has been, or will be, decided in the Courts of Heaven.
In line with the other “at the appointed time” phrases, this likely refers to the time appointed for the working out of God’s Plan to bring about the Time of the very End. For what is about to come will set in motion events that will culminate in the breaking of the covenant, followed by the Great Tribulation, and finally the return of Christ.
These pivotal points in history, foretold as they were from so long ago, hardly fall into the category of mere happenstance but will come to pass, ultimately, according to God’s direction. The kings of the north and south may think that they are operating by their own designs, but the fact is, they cannot operate outside of or beyond the plan of God.
It would seem that the “king of the North”, after his great victory over the “king of the South” (in verses 25-26),would like to extend his already broad reach to make a full conquest over the Middle East. Probably then, this will be his motive for returning “toward the south”. The main thing standing in his way at this point is the “holy covenant” – which the western powers, especially the U.S. and Britain, will insist on upholding. So besides the religious aspect of the “holy covenant”, there will also be these political considerations; and this may be why it is described as a “league” in verse 23.
“But it shall not be like the former.”
This “former” return to the south could be referring back to ancient times and the victorious conquest of the “king of the North”, Antiochus III the Great, against Egypt by which ancient Syria gained possession of the Holy Land (Battle of Panium in 198 B.C.). “He. . . shall do according to his own will. . . He shall stand in the Glorious Land.” (verse 16) Or just as likely, it could refer to the modern king of the North and his victory against the king of the South (the war mentioned in verses 25-26).
“It shall not be like. . . the latter.”
This probably refers to the final great conquest over the “king of the South” when the “king of the North. . . shall do according to his own will” and “shall also enter the Glorious Land. . . and the land of Egypt shall not escape”. (verses 36, 41-42)
But at this point in time the Antichrist is not able to “do according to his own will”, and instead of some glorious victory, he suffers some kind of humiliating defeat and has to make a temporary retreat. His planned invasion is thwarted, as we learn in the next verse. It doesn’t pan out, unlike the triumphant former and latter conquests described in verse 25 (or verses 15-16) and verses 41-42.
Verse 30 For ships from Cyprus shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage. So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant.
In this section of the prophecy, verses 30-35, the signpost to tell us where we are is clear – “even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.” (verse 35)
Nevertheless, history repeats itself, not just in forward time, but in this case, if we go backward in time, history repeats itself. What these verses say about the near future finds an echo in ancient events – in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. Back in 168 B.C., when Antiochus tried for the last time to invade Egypt, he suffered, after his previous victories, a humiliating setback; he was not able to “do according to his own will”. Instead he was compelled to retire by the Roman envoy, C. Popillius Laenas.
It was an historic scene: the Roman drew a circle in the sand about the king and demanded, before he stepped out of it, his answer to their question: would he withdraw from Egypt? This humiliating experience aroused Antiochus’ fury, which he took out on the Jewish people. Not surprisingly, most commentaries on this verse interpret it as having been fulfilled in this particular ancient historical event.
Truly enough, it was a rather outstanding incident and does seem to fit into what this verse says (except for the fact that the “ships” come from Cyprus, not Rome). But recent historical developments seem to point towards a more complete fulfillment coming in events of the near future. And these modern developments fit rather well the details of this Scripture. And, of course, we shouldn’t forget that, according to the overall context of these verses, only future events (of the End Time) can fit as the primary fulfillment of them.
So although this incident from ancient times appears in some ways to fulfill this Scripture, it should be kept in mind that the ancient event is more like a backdrop or setting for what is to come; mainly, it serves to point us towards understanding that the “king of the North” will suffer some sort of humiliating defeat that will arouse his anger against the “holy covenant”. In the ancient time that confrontation came in the form of a diplomatic mission; but the phrase “ships from Cyprus shall come against him” suggests that what is about to happen in the future is actually a military confrontation.
How then might we apply this verse to the near future? It would seem that, at some point during his campaign to renew and finish off the war with the “king of the south” and/or with Israel, he will be forced to back off when “ships from Cyprus shall come against him”. These “ships” could include “air ships” or warplanes, as well as modern destroyers, submarines, and aircraft carriers.
On the island of Cyprus are stationed nowadays two huge military bases (that occupy 3% of its land area). Because of their strategic importance, the British held on to these bases despite the end of Britain’s colonial empire, and despite Cyprus’ entrance into the European Union. Not surprisingly, the U.S. has pretty much free access to these bases, which were used by her during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars of recent history.
The U.N. also maintains a strong presence there – with its “buffer zone” between the Greek and Turkish divisions of the island. Likely, U.N. forces too will engage in this intervention against the “king of the North”. Since probably it has played a major role in brokering the “covenant”, then this international government of the U.N. will feel responsible to uphold it.
And of course, the American superpower will be more than happy to find whatever good reason it can for the opportunity to curb the rising power and popularity of the Russian “king of the North” and to protect its main ally in the Middle East, Israel.
In a wider sense, as some Bible scholars have thought, “Cyprus” could be understood as including the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. Although this was usually thought to be symbolic of ancient Rome, this could just as easily be understood as representing the military power proceeding from some of America’s Mediterranean naval bases – of which there are three (two in Italy and one near Gibraltar, Spain); there are also three air force bases, not far from Cyprus (in Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in SE Turkey).
Although this expedition of “the ships of Cyprus” will appear to succeed in putting a halt to the Antichrist’s rise to supremacy in the Middle East, in actual fact it will have the opposite effect. For this humiliating experience will be the spark that ignites the Antichrist’s fury.
Prior to this, his heart was only “moved against the covenant”. (verse 28) Now he is grieved” and wants to “return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage”. Although the word “damage” was not there in the original Hebrew, nevertheless it was probably right to use it in the translation, for in the next verse we learn about the king of the North’s brutal desecration of the “sanctuary fortress” (or “holy place” as Jesus called it in Matthew 24:15).
“So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant.”
There will be plenty of power-brokers who will dislike the “holy covenant” and all that it stands for – especially the False Prophet and all those associated with him. To these wealthy, powerful, and secular individuals, the religious aspect of the covenant will mean nothing.
These people could be compared to the Hellenizers in ancient Israel who were attracted to Greek paganism and culture. Like many secularists and skeptics today, their open-mindedness (a virtue in some situations) eventually brought no end of trouble; it carried them to the extreme of rejecting faith in the true God, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And so, thinking the Syrians were their friends, they began to subvert the regime of their Ptolemaic Egyptian rulers. This paved the way for the Syrian regime, with its strong Hellenization program, to take over. But then, what the Jewish Hellenizers thought was a good thing, some kind of step of progress, soon backfired and turned into a campaign of brutal repression under Antiochus Epiphanes.
Similar to how Antiochus Epiphanes tried to change the world with his Hellenization program, the Antichrist, with the help of his friend the False Prophet, will also set out to paganize the world – but in the modern fashion – turning it away from the true God into worship of the new gods of materialism and demagoguery. In the end, he also will invade the “holy place” in Jerusalem and desecrate it with his “abomination of desolation” (as we know from verse 31).
Looking again at the “covenant” from the political viewpoint, to the Antichrist and False Prophet’s way of thinking, the covenant may seem little more than a tool that America and Israel are using to hold on to power in the Middle East – a continuation of the pattern that America has pursued for many years already of supporting and protecting Israel regardless of all other concerns.
In the beginning the covenant may have been useful for the Antichrist and False Prophet, a compromise that helped to propel them into a position of greater authority in the world, a sort of continuation of their coming-in-peaceably strategy (of verses 21 and 24). ◊ But at this point, as far as the new rising power of the Antichrist-False Prophet combine is concerned, the covenant is just getting in the way of their plans for achieving supremacy in the world.
“Show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant.”
In verse 26 we learned how subversive elements worked to undermine the “king of the South” on his home ground in that first major war against the “king of the North”. And it would not be surprising if some of the same people are among “those who forsake the holy covenant”, who have secretly switched sides and are again colluding with the Antichrist forces. Later in verse 32, mention is made once more of these people, this time in more drastic terms, as “those who do wickedly against the covenant”.
We can see then the steady downward spiral: it started with acting “deceitfully”, then being “moved against the holy covenant”, then being “grieved” with and having “rage against” it, then forsaking the covenant, and finally it ends with doing “wickedly against” it – by invading the temple sanctuary with the “abomination of desolation”. (11:23,28,30-32)
◊ Regarding this idea of the covenant as a “compromise” that will help to catapult the Antichrist and False Prophet into a position of greater power, there is an interesting historical example that can shed some light on this question. In the 1930s the British statesman, Winston Churchill, had become a political outcast. This situation had arisen as the result of his outspoken opposition against the Zionist quest to establish a Jewish homeland. Because of their influence – in media circles mainly – Jewish powerbrokers were able to engineer this downward spiral in Churchill’s political career.
Finally in 1939, Churchill made a “compromise” and spoke out in favor of the Zionist cause. The resulting favorable media coverage gave Churchill the backing he needed for his political re-birth. It may be argued as to who outfoxed whom in this political sidestep of Churchill’s. At any rate the incident does reveal how important it can be – for those who wish to gain prominence on the stage of world politics – that they join, or appear to join, the side of those promoting Israel’s cause.
The Great Tribulation
(from Post VII-3F)
And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.
After being attacked and apparently suffering a setback by the “ships of Cyprus”, the Antichrist “king of the North” will be filled with “rage against the holy covenant”. And here in this verse 31 we see the result: the invasion of the Jewish temple sanctuary with the “abomination of desolation”.
If we flashback to the ancient time, there was a similarity of events worth noting: After his humiliation before the Roman envoy, Antiochus Epiphanes vented his anger by storming into Israel and desecrating the temple. He sacrificed a pig on the altar and set up an idol of the Greek god Zeus in the temple. This was certainly an appropriate abomination for an ancient time. Verse 31, of course, is set in modern times, and the “abomination” spoken of here will be something quite different to what happened back then. What the two events, ancient and modern, have in common, though, is the fact that they both are desecrations of a “holy place”.
The meaning of this phrase “abomination of desolation”, or “abomination that maketh desolate” (as the KJV puts it) is a whole subject in itself. In brief, the wording suggests that it is not an idol at all but is something that destroys violently, something very different to what existed in ancient times. A modern vehicle of war that storms its way into the Jewish sanctuary and partially destroys it would be an accurate fulfillment of this peculiar phrase. A mechanical monstrosity like this would serve, both as an abomination desecrating a religious sanctuary, and also as something that has the ability to cause violent destruction.
(This, basically, covers what is meant in the ancient Hebrew by the phrase“abomination that maketh desolate”. It is a subject, though, that may require considerably more explanation, beyond the scope of this study. However, the reader can refer to a post devoted entirely to that topic, called “Unraveling the Mystery of the Abomination”.)
Anyway, as mentioned before, the primary fulfillment of these passages, since verse 21, was set to come to pass in modern times. And the phrase “abomination that maketh desolate”, when properly understood, presents an important clue to reveal the modern character of what these words of Gabriel were referring to. The phrase cannot apply in any direct way to what happened in ancient times.
However, the phrase does fit well to what we could easily envision will happen in the near future and in our present day society with its advanced military technology. And, of course, Jesus Himself pinpointed this “abomination of desolation standing in the “holy place” as an event that would happen in the future (not the past), a time just prior to His Second Coming.
“The sanctuary fortress.”
Now that Israel has been re-gathered as a nation, the expectation is high amongst the Jewish people to get on with the job of re-building their temple and of renewing the worship system that had to be discontinued many centuries ago during the Roman invasion and dismantling of their nation. The plans for this temple and worship service are well known in Israel, and probably it is only a matter of time, of waiting for the right window of opportunity to come along. (And this may well have a lot to do with the “holy covenant”.)
Ancient Past or Near Future?
Because of the heavy weight of well-meaning scholarly opinion, which has relegated so much of this chapter 11 into ancient times, it may be helpful at this point to inject a bit more antidote to remedy the preconceptions of the past. (Former scholars did not have the benefit of enough historical hindsight and thus were unable to accurately pinpoint the full meaning of Gabriel’s message.)
Following is a summary of reasons why the primary fulfillment of this portion of Gabriel’s prophetic message should be understood as coming in the near future. . . that brief, tumultuous era prior to Christ’s return:
1) First of all, given the impressive introduction in chapter 10 – the appearance of Christ in His heavenly glory – it would seem quite a letdown and mismatch if the following revelation dealt mostly with the exploits of an obscure ancient king. Gabriel told Daniel, “I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.” (10:14) It would seem more consistent with that statement if Gabriel’s following message dealt with a “many days yet to come” scenario – the historical events just prior to Christ’s Second Coming in the “latter days”. (More information in Post VII-1B)
2) “Not give the honor of royalty” (11:21) is a phrase that would seem to apply well to modern forms of non-monarchical, republican government.
3) The phrases “come in peaceably” (verse 21) and “enter peaceably” (verse 24) are more characteristic of modern means of gaining power – through voting or through media and financial manipulation – which do not require the use of military force.
4) The use of “flatteries” (meaning smooth, slippery persuasiveness) in verse 21 is another commonly used tactic of modern political leaders who, using the media, can fool the people with false promises just long enough to get themselves voted into power. (“Flatteries” is the preferred translation and is found in the KJV, ASV, RSV, TLB, ESV, NLT.) (Points 2-4 are covered in Post VII-3A and Post VII-3B.)
5) The existence of the “holy covenant”: In Daniel 9 there is mention of a “covenant” which is to mark the last seven years of history. That “covenant” obviously had much to do with religious issues (“sacrifice and offering”) and desolating “abominations”; Gabriel’s next message three or four years later (in Daniel 11) speaks again of the same “covenant”, the breaking of which requires use of the “abomination of desolation”.
Jesus later spoke of this “abomination” as an important sign that would come just before His Second Coming, that is, in modern times. There should be little doubt then that Gabriel, in Daniel 9 and 11, is speaking of an End Time (not ancient) “covenant”; and consequently, the 7-year time span of this covenant (the final “week”) also comes in the End Time.
Back in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes’ reign, there was no record of a 7-year covenant made, much less one that dealt with religious issues. (In verses 28 and 30 it is termed a “holy covenant“.) Nor was there any such covenant made in the years after Christ’s execution.
6) The nominal sentence in verse 22 – “yea, [he is] also the prince of the covenant” – links us back to Daniel 9:27 about the same “prince” who “shall confirm a covenant” but then “shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering”. After checking the original Hebrew wording, it seems best to understand this“prince of the covenant” phrase as a sort of link to Gabriel’s previous message in chapter 9 and also as a signpost to direct us forward from the ancient time into the modern era of End Time events.
This serves also to maintain the continuity between the two messages (in chapter 9 and chapter 11). And we would expect a certain amount of continuity since, judging by the introductions and context of them, both messages were delivered by the same angel Gabriel.
7) The phrase “fathers. . . forefathers” in verse 24 does not appear in that part of the message that dealt with ancient history. It was a way of saying that the events being described after verse 21 would occur in a distant future age.8) The use of special, complex, computerized “devices” in warfare (verses 24-25) is a feature peculiar to modern times. (Points 7-8 are covered in Post VII-3B)
9) The phrases “at the appointed time” and “time of the end” (verses 27, 29, 35, 40) are referring to that momentous event of Christ’s return. It is the fixed destination of human history, over which the other events taking place around that time in history are “appointed” and will have no power either to hasten or delay. These phrases should indicate clearly enough that the passages where they are found are not dealing with past events, but with events that are meant to happen just prior to Christ’s return.
10) The “ships of Cyprus” phrase applies very specifically to the modern situation. The Antichrist will be confronted in war by these battleships (and “air ships” too most likely). In ancient times Antiochus Epiphanes was confronted by the Roman envoy, whose ships could have passed through Cyprus; however, it was only a personal confrontation, not a war engagement.
11) The “abomination that maketh desolate” does not refer to some ancient form of idol worship, but a thorough study of this phrase brings to light its hidden meaning as a cryptic reference, in the ancient language, to a modern vehicle of war that enters the “sanctuary”. (Refer to the post “Unraveling the Mystery of the Abomination” for more information.)