This is a most outstanding and unique prophecy in the Bible-unique, because it does not come from the pen of an inspired writer, but from the mouth of the angel Gabriel; unique because it concerns a great stretch of time; unique because it points to an exact date. Indeed it stands in vivid contrast to the second coming of our Lord, of which we are told no man, neither the angels, nor the Son, know the day and hour when it will occur, whilst Gabriel’s prophecy tells us the time when the Lord Jesus should die-"be cut off, but not for Himself" (Daniel 9:26).
It is no wonder that higher critics and atheists, generally unconverted men, should strive to prove that the book of Daniel was written after the events. But only the blind, and often the wilfully blind, can be deceived by their sophistries; Sir Robert Anderson has replied vigorously, and pulverised their attack in his book, bearing the felicitous title, "Daniel in the Critics Den." Certainly Daniel had the best of it in the lion’s den in his day, and his critics were devoured, when they were thrown into the den into which their devilish machinations had thrown Daniel. It reminds us of another incident occurring about that time, when Haman erected gallows, fifty cubits high, on which to hang Mordecai, who had excited his anger, but in result was hanged on it himself.
This notable prophecy of Gabriel’s tells us when the prophecy dates from, "the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem" (Daniel 9:25). Here we have a date which we are able to fix with certainty. This is stated in Nehemiah 2:1 as occurring in the month Nisan, corresponding to our April/May, in the 20th year of King Artaxerxes. Then we have indicated the date of the years of King Artaxerxes. Then we have indicated the date when Messiah should be cut off, but not for Himself, after sixty nine weeks from the date of the commandment to rebuild the city.
It is evident the seventy weeks are not literal weeks when one considers all that is to happen within them, "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" (v. 24). Also we have one striking instance in Scripture where a day stands for a year. See Ezekiel 4:5-6: "I have appointed thee each day for a year."
Treating Gabriel’s prophecy in this way, we find sixty-nine weeks have to elapse between the building of the wall in Jerusalem and the death of our Lord. Counting a year for a day, 69 weeks = 483 years. The prophetic year is made up of 360 days, so 483 years x 360 = 173,880 days, and that answers to the 10th day of the month Nisan in the 18th year of Tiberius Caesar, the Roman Emperor, and is the very day when our Lord rode into Jerusalem on an ass’s colt, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9.
So it was possible for a godly Jew to anticipate the approximate time when our Lord should be born, and still more accurately when He should die. Isaiah 8 indicates His dying in early years when the question is asked, "Who shall declare His generation? for He was cut off out of the land of the living"; and in Psalm 102:24 in the cry, "O My God, take Me not away in the midst of My days." We know that the riding into Jerusalem occurred very few days before our Lord’s death by crucifixion.
This accounts for sixty-nine out of the seventy weeks of Gabriel’s prophecy. Why should the seventy weeks be broken up into sixty-nine weeks and then the seventieth week by itself?
Let us follow up the prophecy, and see what it tells us. It was under the Roman power that our Lord was crucified. So the prophecy tells us "the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary." When Jerusalem should be destroyed the prince should not have arrived, but it should be his people, that is the Roman people, who would do this.
Our Lord Himself most vividly prophesied the same event, which was to be God’s judgment on His ancient people for the cutting off of their Messiah, the rejection of His beloved Son. This is very significantly set forth in our Lord’s parable of the householder and his winepress, how the husbandmen stoning and killing his servants, he last of all sent his son, saying, "They will reverence my son," and how when that occurred "they caught him and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him," and how nothing was left but to "miserably destroy those wicked men," and "let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen." This was all fulfilled when Titus, the son of the Emperor Vespasian (A.D. 70), marched against Jerusalem, besieged it, destroying "the city and the sanctuary" and in time scattering the residue of the Jews among the nations.
But according to Daniel 9:27 we have to wait for the advent of "the prince that shall come." He is to "confirm the covenant for one week," that is seven years, and in the midst of the week break his covenant with the Jews, treat it as "a scrap of paper," causing the sacrifice to cease, and setting up "the abomination of desolation" in the Temple to which our Lord refers in Matthew 24:15 as "spoken of by Daniel the prophet." When that takes place the "great tribulation," the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7) will occur.
So the angel Gabriel gives us, firstly, the start of the seventy weeks, the going forth of the commandment to build the wall of Jerusalem; secondly the termination of the sixty-nine weeks as the time of the crucifixion of our Lord; thirdly, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (A.D. 70); fourthly, the beginning of the 70th week, that is, when the head of the revived Roman Empire will make a treaty with the Jew in the land, with the Antichrist, the second beast of the revelation-the first being the head of the Revived Roman Empire; fifthly, the breaking of this treaty, and the outbreak of the Great Tribulation, bringing things in the end, when our Lord shall appear, putting down all opposition; and, sixthly, setting up His glorious Kingdom on the earth.
Finally we have often heard it said there must be at the most seven years between the Rapture of the saints, and the Appearing-the coming of the Lord for His people, and His coming with them to set up His Kingdom on earth. This, however, if dogmatically stated, rests on a misunderstanding of Gabriel’s prophecy. The prophecy tells us that the last "week," ending in the coming of the Lord to reign upon the earth, will not begin till the covenant is made between the Head of the Roman Empire and the Jews in the land. Have we any light when this will take place? We read in Revelation 16:16 that the gathering together in view of the battle of Armageddon will take place under the sixth vial-the description of which is given in Revelation 19:11-21. So we gather that the seven seals, providential judgment on the earth, must first run their course, and the most of the trumpets and vials, for it is only when we come to the sixth trumpet that we find the preparation for a great battle, the number of the horsemen being the staggering number of 200,000,000; and in the sixth vial when "the way of the Kings of the east might be prepared."
When the predicted covenant for seven years is made, then and not till then will the godly Jew be able to know how long it will be before the longed for deliverance will arrive, though even then the day and hour will not be known.