The 70th Week Tenet that most students of biblical prophecy adhere to goes something like this…
“There is a future seven-year period, and at the midpoint the Antichrist will be revealed and commit the abomination of desolation, initiating his great tribulation against Israel and the Church.”
Note: Generally speaking, pre-trib adherents do not expect the Church to endure tribulation from the Antichrist and his followers, nor does the mid-trib camp expect the Church to be on earth during the great tribulation.
Regardless of how the resurrection and rapture is viewed within the context of the future tribulation period (i.e. pre-trib, mid-trib, prewrath, or post-trib), there is a consistent expectation for a future seventieth week, and thus a future “seven-year” tribulation period. It is generally accepted that Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy should be interpreted as weeks of years instead of weeks of days. This is what drives the presupposition for a future seven-year tribulation.
Without a doubt, I concur that Scripture teaches a future tribulation period, but is it seven years?
This broadly-accepted interpretation seems matter-of-fact and non-debatable. After careful study, I am confident that it is time to reevaluate this interpretation. The framework of our end-times understanding has major implications. In my book The Day of the Lord and the Coming Kingdom: A New and Biblical Framework for the End Times, I spend twenty-five pages on this important topic. Then, the entirety of my book presents a comprehensive study of the prophetic Scriptures, and explains how majestically, and almost supernaturally, all of the end-times pertinent Scriptures fit together within a newly proposed framework.
I conclude that the currently accepted framework is shaky and unstable, and that it requires an enormous amount of faith in human assumptions. However, I don’t have all of the answers, and iron sharpens iron. I invite and encourage humble students of the Word of God to test and reexamine the framework of our eschatological understanding. The Lord wants us to get it right, especially if the time of His return is near. For the glory of God, it is vital to ensure that we are standing on a solid, biblical footing.
Below are seven points for your prayerful consideration regarding a future seven-year period.
There is no precedent in Scripture where shabua (Strong’s H7620) is equated to a week of years. In every instance, it means a literal week of days. Again, every time. While it is possible to interpret the passage this way (i.e. as 490 years), we are making a biblically unprecedented interpretation. This moves us away from the wise and sound practice of using Scripture to interpret Scripture.
By interpreting the seventy weeks as weeks of years, we are forced to insert a gap between the 69th week and the start of the 70th week when no such hint of any gap exists from the words of the prophecy. Yes, there are several Scriptures that have long time gaps from one verse to the next (such as Isaiah 9:6-7). However, in this case, the prophecy is preceded by a specified time frame. Thus, we should expect what is clearly prophesied to take 70 weeks from start to finish will actually occur in 70 weeks. A plain reading of this text gives us no reason to look for a potential pause once the decree goes forth to begin the prophecy.
The Scripture tells us plainly that Antichrist will have power and authority for 42 months, or 3.5 years. Most who hold to the future seven-year tribulation view predict that Antichrist will only truly be revealed at the mid-point of the final seven years (i.e. 70th week). However, this would already be 3.5 years into his tenure as leader of the beast kingdom. How will the Antichrist be unidentifiable at the beginning of the “seven-year period” if he is to enter into a league or covenant at the start of this seven-year period? Does Daniel 7, 8 and 11 indicate that when the little horn/vile person/Antichrist comes onto the scene that he will be an ineffective, powerless bystander for 3.5 years? In my view, the Scriptural evidence does not hint at a 3.5-year ineffective, powerless leader of the beast kingdom, rather, we see the little horn operating with great strength, power and force (Daniel 11:22-25) from the get-go, and this power continues until his death. Thus, this “revealing” at the mid-point of the 70th week appears to be an assumption to fit the future seven-year presupposition. Are you comfortable with the Antichrist reigning for seven years as king of the end-times beast kingdom when Scripture plainly tells us that he will have power and authority for 3.5 years?
Does it seem reasonable that Antichrist would exalt himself as God, blaspheming the Creator before he has an opportunity to prove himself and grow his devout following through the help of the false prophet? Doesn’t the abomination of desolation seem like a crowning achievement that will bring a swift response, rather than an opening salvo without any immediate ramification from the Almighty?
Will there be years of great tribulation or days of great tribulation? Only if we presuppose a 7-year future tribulation would a bible reader try to force-fit a 3.5-year great tribulation into a “those days” context of Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13. This is especially true if we interpret the Olivet Discourse Scriptures through the lens of the Old Testament Scriptures. Let’s briefly look at a few passages from the Old Testament. Using the chart below, I have noted their parallel nature. This general flow of events is depicted in several Scriptures, both in the Old and New Testament. In my view, the passages indicate a very short time period from the end-time gathering around Jerusalem to the day of the Lord. In fact, the immediate context of the fleeing in Jeremiah 4:29 is the great tribulation, the great shaking, and the presence of the Lord! This fleeing in Jeremiah 4:29 is comparable to the fleeing of Luke 21:21. Is it biblically responsible to stretch the days of vengeance into years of vengeance?
As indicated above, the prophets Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah all indicate that this travail of Jacob’s trouble is closely connected to a soon coming day of the Lord. Likewise, the “fleeing” from the city (Jer 4:29) is in context of great tribulation and travail (Jer 4:30-31) and the second coming of Jesus (Jer 4:26) – the actual presence (pânı̂ym – H6440) of Christ. Meaning, the time frame of the fleeing, great tribulation, and the second coming is condensed and near to one another. This is a fleeing that will occur just prior to the day of the Lord, not 3.5 years before the Lord’s return! Unless you are forced to use a 7-year tribulation framework (and thus a 3.5-year great tribulation), a common bible student would never read the above passages at face value and conclude that Jacob’s trouble would go on for a long 3.5 years. The Olivet Discourse is clear, but when coupled with Jeremiah chapter 4, it becomes especially clear that the gathering (Luke 21:20) and the fleeing (i.e. Luke 21:21) are closely connected to the second coming. I believe that we are in need of a new framework—one that provides for the great tribulation (i.e. as with the great travail at the end of a women’s labor) to last but a few days instead of 3.5 long, agonizing years.
There are several historical decrees from which to choose the starting point of a 490-year prophecy of the seventy weeks. Most believe that the correct choice is the decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus. Thus, he is the Persian king usually credited with giving the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and starting the time clock of Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy. However, according to William Struse, author of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks: The Keystone of Bible Prophecy, biblical evidence suggests that Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries of Darius “the Great” Artaxerxes, and not of Artaxerxes Longimanus. This would put the starting point used by Sir Robert Anderson (who developed the current theory of interpretation) nearly sixty years too late in the second temple era. In addition to a debatable starting point, are you comfortable with adding several impactful, man-derived assumptions (leap year adjustment, 360-day “prophetic” year, etc.) to this text in order to come up with an interpretation? To be sure, there are a wide array of techniques and methods used on which to calculate and establish the foundation of a future seven-year tribulation, and a widespread lack of consensus. Are you comfortable with that? I’ll admit, without another viable, biblical alternative to consider, it is tempting to go with the flow and unquestionably assume that someone “got it right” in the past with their interpretation of Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy. It appears that it could be valid. It is a workable framework. However, there are reasonable doubts, especially when it appears the Lord has opened up the door to an alternate interpretation of Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy.
The syntax of Daniel 9:25 implies that an anointed ruler will arrive on the scene seven weeks after the start of the seventy-week prophecy. Are you comfortable ignoring the syntax of Daniel 9:25?
Let’s reexamine this tough, but extremely relevant prophecy. Above are just a few points to consider. In my book, I address some of these weaknesses in much greater detail. In addition, I propose an alternative biblical interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 that is more plain, simple, and straightforward. I strongly believe that we are in need of a new framework—one that marvelously correlates with the Jewish feast days; one that provides a solid biblical foundation to stand on where Scripture interprets Scripture; one that incorporates all of the eschatological time periods mentioned in the Word of God; and one that provides for the great tribulation (i.e. as with the great travail at the end of a women’s labor) to last but a few days.