Summary: Some Christians believe that Daniel 9:27 refers to a future 7 years of tribulation.  This is a misinterpretation of prophetic scripture.  Instead, Daniel 9:27 refers to the end of meaningful sacrifices under the Jewish law and the desolation of Israel and Jerusalem after Messiah’s death.

Explanation: Consider the whole context of Daniel chapter 9. Daniel begins by mournfully praying to God over the destruction of Jerusalem. He asks God to “turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:16-19).  God answers Daniel’s prayer by sending the angel Gabriel to give Daniel a vision (Daniel 9:20-27).  Based on the context of Daniel chapter 9, the prophecy directly deals with Israel and first advent of Messiah.

Daniel 9:24 foretells that seventy weeks will accomplish the following:

  1. “to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness” – Jesus accomplished this at his first advent – “he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrew 9:26, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, Hebrews 2:17).
  2. “to seal up the vision and the prophecy” – as shown in the scriptures cited, Jesus fulfilled this specific prophecy at his first advent.
  3. “to anoint the most holy” – with his death, Jesus opened a new and living way and anointed his followers with the holy spirit (Hebrews 10:19-20, John 14:26, John 16:7)

The seventy weeks of Daniel 9:24 – represent a prophetic 490 years.  By substituting a year for a day, seventy weeks equals 490 years. The prophecy refers to one continuous set of time with a clear beginning and end that totals 490 years. Daniel 9:25 places the beginning of the prophecy with the decree for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The 69th week (483 years) ends with the arrival of the Messiah.

Artaxerxes’ gave the decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 454 BC (we believe that this was the 20th year he directly governed Israel and the10th year of his reign as the “Great King”). By adding 490 years to 454 BC, we arrive at 36 AD. With this dating, the end of the 69th week would correspond directly with Jesus ministry beginning in 29 AD, Daniel 9:27, “…he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week…”  The middle of the 70th week would correspond to Jesus’ death in 33 AD. Daniel 9:27, “…in the midst (middle) of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.”

Some believe the 70th week (or 7 prophetic years) is still future and consider it 7 years of tribulation. However, the prophecy refers to the final years of Jesus’ life when the sacrifices of bulls and goats by the Israelites was rendered meaningless. Why?  Because Jesus offered his life as a sacrifice that was greater than any sacrifice under the law (Hebrews 10:1-12).  The second part of Daniel 9:27 refers to the destruction and desolation that Israel would receive as a nation after the death of Jesus. “…for (because of) the overspreading of abominations he (Jesus) shall make it (Israel) desolate, even until the consummation (completion), and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate (Israel-represented by the Jews in Jerusalem).  Jesus declared Israel’s desolation in Matthew 23:37-38, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”