The Significance for Apologetics
Apologetics is the systematic defense of the Christian faith. The oracle of the sixty-nine weeks in Daniel 9:25–26 is important for apologetics because it wonderfully displays the truth of the Bible. It offers no less than four specific prophecies that we can, with stunning historical backing, represent as perfectly fulfilled.
- The oracle says that the rebuilding of the street and conduit under Nehemiah’s direction would last seven weeks. The actual time was either approximately seven weeks or exactly seven weeks, depending on how the fifty-two days were measured.
- The oracle tells exactly when the Messiah would come—that He would come a certain number of days after an event confined to a single day. But available sources date the starting point imprecisely, giving us the month while omitting the day, so that from this information we can only derive the month of the terminal event. Perhaps heaven withheld fuller information for security reasons. Maybe the devil had to be kept in the dark to some extent. Likewise, the day and the hour of Christ’s future coming as a thief must be kept secret so that the owner of the house (that is, Satan, prince of this world) cannot take defensive measures (Matt. 24:36, 43; John 12:31).
Yet the author of the oracle, God, was certainly not unsure about the time of Jesus’ future transfiguration. Apart from divine foresight of the exact day, the following two prophecies could not have been exactly fulfilled.
- The oracle, reckoning from the Transfiguration as the starting point, gives the correct date of Jesus’ indictment by Jewish authorities.
- Reckoning from the Day of Announcements, the oracle gives the correct date of Jesus’ enthronement.
No previous attempt to solve the riddle of the sixty-nine weeks has succeeded in showing even one perfectly fulfilled prophecy, yet the solution presented here shows four. It should be obvious that it would be impossible to contrive a successful solution that God did not intend. Anyone who thinks otherwise should, if he is right, be able to contrive another successful solution. But let him try it. Or let him take any conceivably prophetic words elsewhere in the realm of human literature and invent fulfillments such as we have demonstrated for Daniel 9:25–26. His work in either case will come to results light years distant from ours. He will arrive at fulfillments vastly less improbable by chance, and/or he will twist the meaning of words, and/or he will distort the nature of events.
Just as the convergence we have found between prophecy and history cannot be dismissed as contrivance, so it cannot be dismissed as coincidence. Nowhere in man’s writings apart from the Bible do we find a prophecy that accidentally specifies the nature and timing of unusual events hundreds of years in the future. The degree of foreknowledge evident in Daniel 9:25–26 must therefore be supernatural.
In demonstrating its exact fulfillment, we have not departed from the rules of good exegesis, or tinkered with the meanings of any words, or manufactured any clues, or flubbed any calculations, or garbled any data. Thus, the prophecy of the sixty-nine weeks is in itself enough to establish, first, that the Bible is the Word of God and, second, that the One who came at the appointed time was the promised Messiah.
The Significance for Hermeneutics
Hermeneutics is the attempt to formulate general rules for the interpretation of the Bible. In the current debate between different schools of interpretation, three issues have risen to foremost importance, each concerning whether we can have confidence in what the Bible says if its words are granted their natural and literal meanings. On all three issues, the solution of the sixty-nine weeks that we have demonstrated to be correct upholds the position defending the Bible. It is no accident that this solution affording crucial support for positions we dare not abandon has emerged in a day when they all have come under ferocious attack.
- The first position this solution upholds is belief in a global Flood, a firm tenet of historic Bible-believing Christianity. We said in presenting our solution that prophecy uses a year of 360 days because from God’s perspective, this is the true length of the year. At creation, He trimmed the earth’s year to a number of days that was especially convenient and useful, no doubt primarily for man’s sake. The year attained its present length only after the Flood brought wrenching disruptions to the earth’s system. Apart from the Flood, it is hard to imagine how else a year’s duration could have changed within the time of man’s residence on this planet. Therefore, since our solution of the sixty-nine weeks affirms that 360 days is heaven’s definition of the true year, it supports the Biblical account of the Flood. It helps to refute the scoffers who have arisen in the Last Days and redefined the Flood as a benighted tale rooted in ancient mythology (2 Pet. 4:5–6).
- The second position this solution of the sixty-nine weeks upholds is dispensationalism. We discovered the length of the prophetic year by consulting the Book of Revelation and treating certain intervals we found there as portions of the seventieth week. Yet no one except dispensationalists thinks that the seventieth week is still future. Those in the Reformed tradition, committed to covenant theology, believe that it was consecutive with the previous sixty-nine.
Still a central conviction of many in the Reformed camp is that the church is destined to convert and transform society before Christ returns. One drawback in their vision of the future is that it leaves them ill-prepared to deal with the realities of the present world as it descends into deeper darkness. They cling to the hope of achieving positive change through politics, although recently some have attempted to bring their agenda into line with the fact that the church is growing weaker. But instead of looking up in faith that their "redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28), they are urging believers to prepare to go underground and wage a war of nonviolent resistance, as believers did who were trapped in nations under Nazi or Communist control.
It is unfortunate that many churches and schools rooted in dispensationalism are drifting away from it. Some have decided that Israel has no more place in God’s plans. Others have moved so far away from their heritage that they have given up hope of a rapture which will deliver the church from a world cascading into horrific judgments. They think the church will share the whole experience of mankind, whatever it may be for better or worse, right up to the last moments before Christ’s coming in glory.
Yet of all the solutions of the sixty-nine weeks that have been proposed, the only one demonstrating exact fulfillment of the prophecy is the new solution presented here, and it rests on a foundation of dispensationalism. Since no nondispensationalist has been able to offer a solution that equally honors the truthfulness of the Bible, the success of this new solution strongly vindicates dispensationalism as the right approach to prophecy.
- The third position this solution of the sixty-nine weeks upholds is the orthodox view of Biblical prophecy—that it is a reservoir of supernatural predictions concerning the future, predictions far more precise and accurate than anything mere men could formulate without divine help.
Because no past solution of the sixty-nine weeks survives scrutiny, most Bible scholars and teachers have decided that there is no solution at all. Even among those who claim to accept the authority of Scripture, many have retreated to the view that Scripture is only seeking to give us a general idea of when Jesus would come. But are the prophecies of the Old Testament to be understood as vague and general or as precise and specific? The God we know from the study of math and science is always precise and specific. He is never sloppy in His use of numbers.
Sad to say, some Bible scholars and teachers even within nominally Bible-believing circles have adopted the view of such neo-evangelical writers as D. A. Carson that Daniel is a work of literature in the genre of apocalyptic; hence, that the prophecy of the seventy weeks comes not directly from God, but from a human author with human limitations (1). Some have taken another track of unbelief by denying that Daniel 9:25 refers to Christ. They say it refers to Cyrus (2).
But in protest against all these compromising positions, we have approached the prophecy of the sixty-nine weeks in the same way that the church has always done, accepting that it comes from God, refers to Christ, and sets a date for Christ’s coming. Therefore, in fully recognizing the supernatural character of Daniel 9:25–26, the new solution presented here honors the truthfulness of God’s Word and gives glory to God.