In this episode, we explore one of the most talked about prophecies in Scripture: the “seventy weeks” described in the ninth chapter of Daniel. Examining this important prophecy, we seek to answer three questions: when will the seventy weeks begin and end? What are the signs this prophecy is coming true? And what will be the end of the age when this prophecy is fulfilled? Using Matthew 24 as a help, we conclude that the abomination of desolation is coming and will take mankind by surprise.
We looked at the new earth and what’s going to come in terms of what’s going to replace this earth. We had a question of what happens between here and now, and what can we know about the sequence.
Last time we were together, I talked about a few of the things I think are definitive about the sequence that’s going to happen. Most things, I would say, we have clues, but they’re not definitive.
I’ve made the point that the Pharisees really knew the Bible backwards and forward. They memorized the thing. They had, in large part, discerned that there were two messiahs, and a lot of things that were true. The idea that there was a sequence with the same Messiah that came and then had a big gap and then came again, that was something that they really never ferreted out. The idea that the messiah was actually God become man, they totally missed. Even though the clues are there.
I think we can look at clues. We can build models. We can look at what’s definitive. We just mostly want to take the lessons that are clear when we talk about prophecy, which there are some definitely.
Let’s start back in Daniel 9. Last time we looked at Daniel 2, and we looked at the statue. The statue has very definite sequence, and it has the whole history of the world in there, and the history of the world as outlined in Daniel 2 has kingdoms, five kingdoms.
We started with Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian kingdom. It was replaced by the Persian kingdom, the silver breastplate. That was replaced by Alexander the Great, and his conquered world, the Greek conquered world that split into four kingdoms, two of which became very dominant, which were the Ptolemys in Egypt and the Seleucids in Syria. That was then swallowed up with Rome.
Then the fifth kingdom is the kingdom of God, a stone not cut with hands comes down and destroys the statue, and the kingdom of God fills the earth. That one’s yet to come.
We have the Roman era that we’re in. We talked about all the similarities that we have with Rome and how we think like Romans and how we have a Roman world that keeps fragmenting and breaking into pieces, but is tough as iron. This statue is still a good summary of the way the world works.
What’s ahead of us today, we’re going to talk about from Daniel 9.
The 70th week
We talked about the 70 weeks of Daniel, the 70 seven years, and we read about how 69 of the years will come, and then Messiah will be cut off, transgression will be taken care of, iniquities taken care of, and so forth.
Then it says, well, we’ll just look at verse 26.
“And after the sixty-two weeks—there were seven, then 62, so we get to 69.
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—that’d be Rome.
The end of it shall be with a flood,
And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week—This is the 70th 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.”
This is the week that’s ahead of us. We’ve seen the 69 weeks. This was 70 weeks are determined for your people. This is for the people of Israel. You get 69 weeks, Messiah’s rejected, the people are cut off, and then you have this long interlude of this Roman period, and the 70th week is the last part of the sequence.
Let’s go to Matthew 24, and most of the rest of our lesson here will be going through Matthew 24. Let me start in 23:37. These chapters are not inspired, and so this thought continues on here.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem—Jesus says—the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.
And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives—The Mount of Olives is just east of the city of Jerusalem. If you see anybody’s picture from having visited Israel, it’s likely they’ll have a picture from the time of the Mount of Olives looking over the city. You get this real grand panorama of the city. The temple’s just across the valley there.
Question 1: When?
They’re on the Mount of Olives and, the disciples came to Him privately—and they have three questions. This is Matthew 24:3. Three questions, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be?
Question number one is, what? When. When is that going to happen? What these things are they talking about? When what? What’s the context of the when? The temple’s going to be destroyed; that’s what he just got through saying. What else? You’re not going to see me anymore until you say this blessed is he.
We’re really talking about the destruction of Jerusalem, immediate context here, the destruction of Jerusalem and the return of Jesus, which they don’t really understand yet. They still haven’t gotten it that Jesus is actually going to go back to heaven and then come back again. They didn’t really understand that until after the resurrection.
The first question is tell us, when are these things going to be?
Question 2: What are the signs?
Second question is what? What are the signs? When is it going to happen, what signs will we see that let us know it’s coming?
Question 3: What will be the end of the age?
The third thing is, what will be the end of the age? When is this going to happen? What are the signs? What’s the end of the age?
Jesus spends the next good long while answering these three questions. Let’s look and see which question he answers first.
Answer to Question 3
And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.
For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
Which question is he answering first? The last one. This chiastic thinking is all through the scripture. You kind of go A, B, C, C, B, A. Even in our culture, if you ask somebody three questions, they’ll answer the one they heard last first, and then what will they say? Now what were the first two questions?
Jesus doesn’t say, now, what were the first two questions, but he answers the most recent one last. He says, the end is not yet. You’re going to hear wars, you’re going to hear rumors of wars. He just got through telling them of this big destruction of the temple, right? There’s going to be all kinds of wars, but that’s not the end.
Verse 7. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.
These are not the end. What are they? The beginning of sorrows, or in some of the translations, these are birth pangs. You see birth pangs, they start, they get intense, they end, they start, they get intense, they end. They keep getting every more intense until finally you have a delivery.
We’re going to have this cycle that’s going to happen.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.
And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and they will hate one another.
What’s he telling them? One clue here about when the end’s going to come. They’re getting a clue it’s going to be after their death because he says they’re going to kill you and then all this other stuff’s going to happen.
Verse 10. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.
Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
To the end of what? The age.
Endures what? All the stuff that just happened here. The main thing that we have to endure is our love growing cold. Isn’t that interesting? Because when things are lawless and there’s a lot of iniquity around, it’s easy to get kind of jaded and hardened and have your love grow cold. It’s not an easy thing to keep that.
He’s talking here about the end of an age. We can take this as an application since there are these birth pangs. We’re going to go through these cycles. We can take this as an application that as you’re mistreated, as you are confronted with people that don’t tell the truth, people that pervert the scriptures, people that hate, people that perpetrate violence, injustice—and we see this locally, we see this nationally, we see this all over the world—it’s easy to just get hardened.
What we want to do is continue to love all the way to the end of our lives.
In this particular context, he’s talking about being saved from persevering until the end of the age.
Verse 14. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
There’s your answer to the third question, what will be the end of the age? It’s going to come after these birth pangs, after all these troubles. The end of the age will be this: When the gospel of the kingdom’s preached throughout the whole world.
Answer to Question 2
He starts to answer the second question in the next verse, which is, what will the signs be?
Then he says, “Therefore—they’re all connected—when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand),
“then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
Here’s your big sign. Let’s go back to Daniel real quick. Daniel 9:27
Then he—this is the antichrist. We’ll see more about this when we get to Revelation here in a minute—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,
There’s your abomination of desolations spoken of in Daniel. This is what Jesus refers to here. When you see this happen, then you know that you need to flee.
He has more signs here:
Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.
And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.
But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!
And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.
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.
There are a lot of people that interpret all these verses to refer specifically to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. You know, there’s some support for that. You’ve got Jesus saying that this temple’s going to be torn down stone by stone. It was in 70 A.D. It was a really horrific event. Something like half a million Jews killed.
It wasn’t something that had never been seen before. It was not that different from what happened when Nebuchadnezzar came in and knocked down Jerusalem. It was very similar. It was not a world-wide event, but it was a birth pang.
Titus—although he did come in and desecrate the temple in terms of taking all the stuff back and selling it to build the coliseum. The Roman Coliseum was financed with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem—I don’t think he stood in the temple after three and a half years and declared himself God, like Antiochus Epiphanes did. We talked about him last time.
Look at verse 24. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
See, I have told you beforehand.
“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.
For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.
What he’s saying here is when you see the abomination of desolation, you need to get out of here. That’s the big sign. When I come back, it’s not going to be something that you have to really debate. When I come back everybody’s going to know it. It’s going to be like lightning that goes all the way from the east to the west.
I’ve actually never seen lightning that goes all the way from the east to the west. But, you know, I’ve seen some of these phenomenal lightning storms, and it’s not something you just ignore. I mean, they are big and loud; and you can’t really overlook them.
Well, this is one that’s so huge nobody’s going to overlook this.
There are the signs.
The end of the age is going to be after the gospel of the kingdom is preached to all the earth. The sign’s going to be that you’ve got the abomination of desolation and then Jesus returns in a way that’s going to make no mistake.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
I don’t know if this is the second rapture or a third rapture or exactly how this gathering happens. Clearly there’s a gathering that takes place at the end of the period as well as at the beginning. We’ll look at that again in a second.
Answer to Question 1
“Now learn this parable from the fig tree:
Now he’s answering the question of when.
When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near.
When you see the things happening, then you know that a result’s about to take place.
So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!
Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. The generation he’s talking about is the generation that sees the signs.
Verse 36. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
He tells us about the end of the age. He tells us about the signs. But the when, he says, what? Nobody knows. Nobody knows.
Now he goes on and does something very interesting here because he told us the abomination of desolations is a sign. He says there’s other signs: birth pang signs, sun and moon darken, and other things. He tells us the gospel of the kingdom will be preached all throughout the earth.
The gospel of the kingdom, by the way, is a technical term that is way more than just conversion of belief, interestingly enough. I would be very interested to know what that entails.
Then he answers the question when by saying, nobody knows.
Verse 37, he says this. But as the days of Noah were, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
It’s going to come, and people are going to be unaware.
This is taken two different ways that I know of. One is that there’ll be some aware, some unaware. Noah was aware. He knew it was coming, and God told him, “Go get in the ark.” Just like Jesus said, “When you see this abomination of desolation, run away!”
And then the other people were just taken unaware.
Then, the other way it’s taken is that there’s an imminent return of Jesus even though he told us the signs have to come before he returns. This is the path I take because I think what Jesus is telling us here is even though we can’t know when, we can know that these signs are going to happen before the end of the age takes place.
Remember Paul talked about this in 2 Thessalonians. Let’s just look there real quick.
2 Thessalonians 2:1. Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you,
not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.
They were thinking, “Oh! We missed it! It’s already happened.”
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,
who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?
This, again, I think is the abomination of desolation.
Paul is saying, look, don’t think that the end of the world happened, and you missed it until this sign of this abomination of desolation, this man of sin standing in the temple declaring himself God takes place. That’s not the end. Don’t let anybody deceive you about this. At the same time we’re told the return of Jesus is imminent.