While surfing around the internet it has come to my attention that some folks are teaching that the tribulation will last 3.5 years instead of the seven years commonly accepted, and this is done by assigning the first 3.5 years of Daniel’s seventieth week to the ministry of Jesus.
The prophecy regarding the length of the time period is found in Dan 9:24-27: "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. 25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."
Daniel had been studying and understood from the book of Jeremiah that Jerusalem would be desolate for seventy years, and his response was to repent for his own sins and the sins of the people, and to ask the Lord to fulfill the prophecy of the deliverance (vs. 3-19). It is interesting that Daniel was not asking for visions or other supernatural phenomenon, he was acknowledging the national and personal sins of Israel, and based on his knowledge of the word of God, he requested the fulfillment of prophecies given previously to the people of God.
Daniel’s prayer was interrupted by a visitor, identified as the angel Gabriel, who proceeded to deliver a prophecy of events that would begin at a certain point, would be concluded in the endtimes, and which would occur over a specific period of time, which he referenced as ‘seventy weeks’. A week is normally understood to mean seven days, but as found in the account of Jacob, Laban, Leah and Rachel (Gen 29:16-28), a week can also mean a period of seven years.
Gabriel told Daniel (Dan. 9:24) that seventy weeks are determined upon (1) thy people - the Jews, and (2) upon thy holy city - Jerusalem. We see here that the prophecy is specifically Jewish and has nothing to do with the New Testament church.
Gabriel went on to tell Daniel that six things would be accomplished during this seventy weeks:
The first three items were completed at the crucifixion (and resurrection) of Jesus and the last three will be accomplished at the second advent when he returns to rule and reign on earth.
Gabriel then gives a breakdown of the seventy weeks: "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times." (Dan. 9:25)
The seventy weeks would be divided as follows:
As seen in the chart above, the total elapsed time in the first two segments of the seventy weeks are seven years less than the total 490 years time period prophesied. Daniel specifically states that Messiah would be ‘cut off’ after the sixty-two weeks (which follows the seven weeks). There is no mention of 65.5 weeks which would be necessary if the first half of the final seven years was completed during the earthly ministry of Jesus.
The first 483 years would conclude when Messiah the Prince finished the transgression, made an end to sins, and made reconciliation for iniquity. This happened at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, when Messiah was ‘cut off, but not for himself’, not at the opening of his ministry when he changed the water into wine at the marriage in Cana (John 2:1-11). Therefore, even though Jesus’ earthly ministry did cover a period of 3.5 years, those years did not overlap or fulfill in any way the final week of seven years of Daniel’s prophecy, they were the last 3.5 years of the first 483 years. In fact, the first sixty-nine weeks were concluded on the very day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the first ‘Palm Sunday’. Click here for an in depth study regarding the first 483 years of Daniel’s prophecy and their fulfillment, to the day, by Jesus.
Gabriel then says (Dan 9:26), "And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself." In other words, after the sixty-two weeks, which followed the first seven weeks, i.e. at the end of the total of the first sixty-nine weeks, Messiah would be cut off, but not for himself, which is exactly what happened. He died, not for his own sins (because he didn’t have any - he was the spotless lamb of God), but for the sins of humanity.
Continuing, "And the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." The use of the word ‘prince’ in this phrase appears to be the root of the teaching that Jesus’ ministry covered the first half of Daniel’s seventieth week. When Daniel wrote the prophecy, the coming of the ‘prince’ was future, as was the coming of Messiah. The passage had just been discussing Messiah the Prince, and some believe that he remains the subject of the verse as referenced by the identifying word ‘prince’. However, the prophecy speaks of Messiah being ‘cut off’ and does not include a prophecy of his resurrection, so this ‘prince who shall come’ is not Jesus. Further, in order for this second ‘prince’ to be Jesus, his people (Jews) or his followers (Christians) would have been the ones responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem, when in fact Jerusalem was destroyed by Rome, which was neither Christian nor Jewish.
Further, if Jesus were ‘the prince that shall come’, he would have also fulfilled vs. 27 (which occurs at the middle of the seven years), and for the purpose of the overspreading of abominations he would ‘make it desolate’, defined as stun, devastate or stupefy. This is a reference to people being stunned or stupefied because of the events that will occur in a building, and it does not fit with the character and works of Jesus, which is to seek and to save that which is lost. It does, however, fit with the total spiritual blindness and damnation that will come upon those who receive the mark of the beast which, coincidentally, begins at that same time.
It is also alleged that the ‘prince’ is the Roman general Titus who led the Roman army against Jerusalem. Vespasian (the father of Titus) served as emperor from 69-79 A.D., but he was not born royal, he was elected to the position. Titus did serve about twenty-six months as emperor, but in order to Titus to be the ‘prince that shall come,’ he would have had to fulfill the prophecy in the following verse (Dan. 9:27) and the consummation, including the anointing of the most holy, would have occurred in 70 A.D. That did not happen, therefore Titus could not have been the prophesied prince. (Click here to see historical information about Titus.)
Instead, the verse says ‘the people of the prince who shall come’ shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The ‘prince who shall come’ is the one who in vs. 27 will confirm the covenant AND cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease AND make it (the temple) desolate at the middle of the final seven years of the prophecy. The prince could not have been Jesus because, in a discussion of the endtimes in Matt. 24:15, Jesus referenced the prophecy but he gave no indication that he would fulfill it himself. Notice, the verse says ‘the people of the prince who shall come’ - the people who do the destruction precede the prince who shall come. Because we know it was Rome who destroyed Jerusalem, we can confidently believe that the final world government system under the leadership of the ‘prince who shall come’ will be a revival of the Roman Empire. As a side note, some believe that due to the rise of Islam in our time the antichrist government system could be Islamic. I believe Dan. 9:26 rules out that idea. The facts on the ground may change, but the word of God is settled forever.
Verse 26 concludes with, "And the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." The war referenced is the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. While it might appear that this could be part of the second advent judgments, Armageddon occurs in a different location, and at that time Jerusalem and the Jewish people will be restored, not destroyed. In the final analysis, Jesus did not return at that time.
"27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."
Here is what the prince mentioned in vs. 26 will do: he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week. The word translated as confirm is the Hebrew word gabar (OT:1396) and is defined as: a primitive root; to be strong; by implication, to prevail, act insolently; and alternate translations of the word are: exceed, confirm, be great, be mighty, prevail, put to more [strength], strengthen, be stronger, be valiant. These words (except ‘insolently’) definitely describe Jesus at his death and resurrection when he was the lamb of God who was sacrificed for the sins of the world, but in his first advent his warfare was primarily spiritual - he opened the way of salvation for all who would come, resulting in a ‘new’ or ‘better’ covenant (Heb. 7:22; 12:24). At his second advent he will be revealed to all as the Lion of the tribe of Judah and he will judge and destroy evildoers.
Some teach that the ‘covenant’ is the Abrahamic covenant or the Old Testament law, but those covenants were not with ‘many’, they were with the Jewish people. If Jesus did confirm the covenant at the beginning of his ministry, that covenant being the promises to the family of Abraham or alternatively the Mosaic law, then the promises of God to Israel through Messiah are only in force for a total of seven years, and 3.5 of those years concluded at the crucifixion. Further, rather than being a time of judgment and destruction, the last 3.5 years of the tribulation would be a time of extraordinary blessing to the people of God because they would have to include the fulfillment of the blessings promised to Abraham. And at the end of those 3.5 years, then what? We are expecting a millennium, but if the confirmation of the Abrahamic covenant has only a seven-years duration, at the end of that time it would no longer be ‘confirmed’ and we could only expect destruction.
The Abrahamic covenant is still in force, and Jesus did not ‘confirm’ the Old Testament (Old Covenant), he fulfilled it and established a better covenant based on better promises (Heb. 8:6-13). The "he" that shall confirm the covenant refers back to the last individual referenced, which is the ‘prince that shall come’ - the antichrist, and the covenant that will be confirmed (and later disannulled) is the covenant with hell and death as prophesied in Isa. 28:15-18.
The book of Daniel contains at least four references to the taking away of the daily sacrifice and the abomination of desolation, but they prophesy different events. The first reference, Dan. 8:11-13, prophesies the abomination committed by Antiochus Epiphanes during the intertestamental period (between Malachi and Matthew). The second reference is Dan. 9:27, which is the passage under discussion in this article. Dan. 11:31 is the third reference and it is a companion verse to Dan 9:27 which clearly states that the abomination of desolation would occur at the middle of the final seven years. This was the verse referenced by Jesus in Matt. 24.
The fourth reference is Dan 12:11 "And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days." This verse indicates a period of 1290 days between the taking away of the daily sacrifice and the setting up of the abomination of desolation. It is immediately followed by a verse stating a blessing for those who wait and come to the end of 1335 days.
I believe that Dan. 12:11-12 gives us the count of days for the last seven years of the prophecy given in Dan. 9, with the first half lasting 1290 days and the last half lasting 1335 days. The gap of almost two thousand years between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth week was unknown at the time the prophecy was given, and even at the time of Jesus. The ancients would have seen the entire 490 years as contiguous, with year 484 immediately following year 483. At the crucifixion of Jesus, God himself took away the daily sacrifice because it was no longer needed, and he illustrated the event by tearing the veil in the temple in half from the top to the bottom (Matt. 27:51). God’s will and purpose for this was not for the ‘overspreading of abominations’, but to open the way of salvation to all people, and he did not place an abomination of desolation in the temple some 3.5 years later. At the beginning of the seventieth week the count of days will begin as though there had not been an intervening two thousand years, and 1290 days after the beginning of the final seven years of the prophecy, the antichrist will desecrate the temple (which means the temple must be rebuilt and the sacrificial system reinstated by that time). This 1290 days does damage to the idea of God using a 360-days prophetic or Jewish year (which is incorrect), but it fits beautifully with the actual Hebrew calendar that has been in use by the Jewish people since at least the time of Daniel, and probably much earlier.
Further, I believe the 1335 days of Dan. 12:12 end, not at the second advent of Jesus, but at the time of the anointing of the most holy as prophesied in Dan. 9:24. If so, and if the final seven years begins in the fall of the year, then that 1335 days could very easily end at Hanukah, the festival of lights, in the year of the second advent, allowing time for the various judgments that will occur when Jesus returns to earth.
Scripture indicates that after 3.5 years of public ministry Jesus was presented to Israel as Messiah and he was rejected and died at the end of the sixty-ninth week. Antichrist gets the same 3.5 years which must be the first half of the final seven years because the total of the sixty-nine weeks were concluded at the death and resurrection of Jesus. At the end of that future 3.5 years antichrist will present himself as God. Many will accept him (but the Jews will not), and rather than being killed, he will become the greatest human murderer of all time.