To properly understand this prophecy, it is important to see the bigger picture. God started His project 6,000 years ago with the creation of the world [a beautiful creation instead of a blind evolution] . After mankind became corrupt, God brought about a worldwide flood to make a radical new start. After that event, some 4,500 years ago, the entire world population as we know it today arose out of the three families of Noah [the origin of all nations]. The face of the earth had changed dramatically as a result of the flood, but the hearts of the people remained evil. God intervened again, this time by introducing a language issue and spreading groups of people across the globe [the migration of all nations]. In the midst of all those new nations, God made a fresh start, just a few hundred years later (which from our point of view is about 4,000 years ago). He chose a man, Abraham, who would become the patriarch of a very special nation [The start of a special project]. This people group (Israel) would be given a unique role within God's master plan. Therefore, they were strategically located in the ancient Middle East [God's covenant at the crossroads of superpowers]).
The new focus on Abraham and his descendants did not mean that God had forgotten the rest of the world's population. On the contrary. At the time of Abrahams calling, God says:
“(…) and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).
God's project with the Jewish people has never been an end in itself. That’s important to keep in mind. God has been concerned with every nation, every group, and every tongue from the beginning. Within this broader context, the biological and national people of Israel were assigned a special role. We will take a closer look later on whether this is a temporary or permanent role.
The moment Daniel receives the seventy-week prophecy, the Jewish people are far from home and hearth. This is called the "Babylonian Captivity" because most of the people were deported to Babylon from Canaan (modern Israel). Many prophets in those days emphasized that this was Gods doing. It was divine punishment for a centuries-long period of stubborn resistance and injustice (+/- 1400 BC to 600 BC). Instead of being true to the unique calling on the world stage, Israel violated the covenant. They did not become an example for the other nations but instead wanted to resemble them. Worse, the practices were sometimes more reprehensible than those of the surrounding nations. The people now had to remain in Babylon for 70 years, one year for every 'sabbath year' they had missed during the previous rebellious 490 years.
But after the 70 years of Babylonian rule, they were allowed to go back. The decree of the Persian king Cyrus (538 BC) kicks off this return: a first group hits the road, led by Zerubbabel, and rebuilds the temple in Jerusalem. But rebuilding was not enough to restore the people to a vital and fully functioning government. Sometime later, therefore, there followed another decree of the Persian king Artaxerxes, intended to help the Jewish theocracy back in the saddle. This second decree announced the beginning of a second chance for the people of Israel to be a light to the other nations. Again, it would be a period of 490 years, like before the captivity, symbolized in prophetic weeks:
"Seventy weeks are appointed upon your people and your holy city..." (Daniel 9:24).
There is a great difference of opinion within the church and theology about Daniel's 70-week prophecy. It touches on sensitive topics. The interpretation has an impact on expectations about the future and on the (temporary or permanent) role of Israel within world history. Furthermore, it is controversial from a Jewish point of view because the prophecy provides an exact date for the coming of the Messiah. This unmistakably points to Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, it pays off to do a detailed step-by-step analysis of this very remarkable prophecy. Consistency is the most important criterion here. Does it provide an understandable, credible, and well-substantiated picture? We will follow this plan:
I. Overview of the 70 weeks
II. Overview of the last week (70th)
III. Zoom in on the middle of the last week (the Passover week).
IV. Zoom in on the end of the last week
V. Jerusalem and the temple destroyed by the Romans
IV. Israel's future in world history
The 70-week prophecy is made up of a number of parts. Four parts to be exact. In the visualization below you get a first impression of the structure, including the corresponding years (the substantiation of which will follow).
You can read the prophecy in Daniel chapter 9, verse 20-27. Sidenote, you have to read it in an older translation, such as the (revised) King James Version, because many modern translations have mixed the periods up. It would go too far to go into details about the textual confusion at this point.
The angel Gabriel, who gives the prophecy to Daniel, says that the 70-week period is specifically determined for the nation of Israel. This word determine is a translation of the Hebrew chatak, which means to cut off, to set apart, to allocate. In extra-biblical usage the word chatak is applied to literally cutting off things. Apparently this 70-week period is 'cut off' from somewhere. It appears to be cut off from a 2300-day period, which Daniel explained earlier (in chapter 8). Daniel himself says: “(…) came the man Gabriel, whom I saw in the beginning in the vision…” (9:21). Note that there has been no other vision between the 2300 days and the 70 weeks. Apparently, Gabriel refers to this even longer prophetic period and makes clear that a shorter part of this timeframe specifically relates to the people of Israel. The 490 days are ‘cut off’ from the 2300 days. That gives us two more clues. If the 70 weeks actually represents 490 years, then apparently the period from which it is cut off must also be interpreted as years. Also, you may safely assume that both periods start at the same time. For more information about the period of 2300 years see [2300 years – the beginning of the end].
Although a group of Jews had already returned and the temple had been rebuilt (following the decree of the Persian monarch Cyrus in 538 BC), the people were not yet fully up and running. Even in the time of Nehemiah, decades later, the state of Jerusalem was a wretched state. Another decree would follow that would guarantee self-governance for the Jewish administration. This is ‘the word that goeth forth’ that Daniel speaks of:
"(…) from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times" (9 : 25).
We find ourselves in the year 457 BC, with the decree of the Persian king Artaxerxes. Ezra also refers to this same decree (Ezra 7:25-26). It is a well-documented historical year. In this overview you can locate the decree, among others.
For an in-depth explanation of this date, see for example:
The timing of Artaxerxes' decree is worth mentioning. Ezra recalled that he started is journey on the 1st day of the 1st month (Ezra 7:9). The Jewish civil calendar begins in the fall (in contrast to the religious calendar, which starts in the spring, and we will come across below). It is likely that Ezra, driven as he was to restore Jewish theocracy, sprang into action as soon as the decree went into effect. In other words, we may assume that the decree went forth in the fall of 457 BC. This timing in the fall is a very interesting detail that we'll get back to when discuss the last week of the prophecy. Concluding, the starting point for the 490-year period is the fall of 457 BC.
Nehemiah tells us that the priests were registered during the reign of Darius the Persian (423 – 408 BC). Mapping the lineages in relation to the current generation was an important step in the recovery of the Jewish nation. It apparently took 49 years, since the decree of Artaxerxes, for the Jewish people to be fully functioning again as they were before the exile. During this period, not only physical work was done (such as the rebuilding of Jerusalem), but also administrative and religious work, to get everything back in order. As can be read in the book of Nehemiah, this was a turbulent time, with much opposition from surrounding population groups. The prophecy says: street and wall will be rebuilt, but in troubled times.
After the restoration of the Jewish theocracy follows a second, longer period of 62 weeks, or 434 years:
“(…) until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (Daniel 9:25).
A total of 483 years has passed since its inception in 457 BC. For our calculations, keep in mind that the year '0' doesn't actually count. If you make a continuous line of numbers starting somewhere before the year zero and carry on to a certain year thereafter, you will notice that you run into an abstract issue. If you go from one year prior to zero to one year after zero you’ve suddenly added two in the math (the difference between -1 and + 1). But if you just count one year after the other and go on like that, you will never suddenly insert an abstract zero. Therefore, in a count from before zero to after the year zero, a correction of an extra year must be added by default to correct the calculation. In this case you end up in -457 BC + 483 + 1 = 27 AD). The last week of the prophecy therefore runs from 27 AD – 34 AD.
A prophetic controversy
There is a huge controversy within the theological arena about the 70th week. The so-called futuristic theory states that the last week pertains to future events. In the final years of world history an antichrist will suddenly appear on the scene. He will make a covenant with the Jewish people, but later desecrate the new temple, which by then will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. According to this theory (also known as dispensationalism), there is huge gap between week 69 and week 70. Week 70 is separated from the rest of the prophecy and postponed to a later date.
Within the dispensation-theology, which forms the basis of the futuristic ideas, God has created this gap on purpose. He has inserted an extra dispensation (which is a fancy term for a theological time period). The apostle Paul allegedly received special insight in this gap-mystery, of which Daniel himself was totally unaware. The idea is basically this: God has unexpectedly postponed His plans for the nation of Israel, so that there would be enough time to spread the gospel among the Gentiles first. Once this is finalized, God will pick up His old plans with the Jewish nation again. This doctrine of dispensations has permeated much of the Protestant and Evangelical world, popularized by many films and book series.
The prophecy itself does not give any hint of a supposed gap between week 69 and week 70. In fact, it rather points to the contrary.
In short, the last week simply belongs to the previous 69 weeks, as one continuous period. Because this last week contains a lot of detail, we will look at it in three steps. Let’s start with an overview of the whole week.
The anointed one.
According to the prophecy, 69 weeks from the start brings us in the year 27 AD (-457 + 483 + 1 = 27). In the fall of 27 AD to be exact (Remember that Ezra went on a journey in the fall of 457 BC, when the decree of Artaxerxes came into effect). This is the year and season when John the Baptist comes into action. In the fall of 27 AD, he baptizes Jesus. Immediately afterwards, Jesus speaks in the synagogue of His home village Nazareth:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…” (Luke 4:18).
The Apostle Peter would later refer back to this:
“. . . how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:37-38).
It happened just as Daniel's prophecy foretold. 483 years after the decree of Artaxerxes, the Messiah, the anointed one, publicly appeared.
About thirty years.
Luke tells us that Jesus was "about thirty years old" when He began his ministry (Luke 3:23). This was in keeping with Jewish custom, which went back to the Old Testament. Joseph became viceroy in Egypt when he was thirty (Genesis 41:46), one had to be at least thirty to serve in the Tabernacle (Numbers 4:3) and David became king at his 30th year. But wasn't Jesus 27 in the year 27 AD? As you may know, the Gregorian calendar as we use it today was fixed in the 6th century AD. It is now generally accepted that the monk who did the calculations on Jesus’ birth was wrong by a few years. King Herod, the criminal responsible for the infanticide in Bethlehem, died in the year 4 BC. This means Jesus was born about 3 to 4 years before our era. In the year 27 AD He indeed was around 30 years of age.
References to God's prophetic calendar.
If you pay attention, you will see that the Gospels regularly refer to 'the time'. Here are a few examples:
Jesus and the gospel writers are not referring to just any time. They refer to God's prophetic calendar, as it was given in Daniel's prophecy. In line with this Paul adds: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son…” (Galatians 4:4). This is not just about any time, it’s about the time, which has come to a fulfilment.
Should there be any doubt as to whether Jesus is aware of Daniel's prophecy, then His own reference will suffice: “…which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet” (Matthew 24:15). He clearly relates the 70-week prophecy to His own ministry. It is also striking that during His life Jesus explicitly says that He was 'sent to the house of Israel' (Matthew 15:24). After all, the period of 490 years, which was determined over the people of Israel, was not yet completed. The Messiah, of course, knew the times of God’s prophecy very well.
The 15th year of Tiberias.
There is a difference of opinion about the timing of Jesus' public start. Many people put this in 29 AD. This has to do with a punch line Luke gives: John began his baptismal activities ‘…in the fifteenth year of Emperor Tiberius’ (Luke 3:1). Tiberius began his reign in 14 AD. Simple math, right? But there is one factor that is not considered here. Tiberias was co-regent with Emperor Augustus from about 12 AD. It is not so far-fetched to suppose that Luke, with his great historical interest, also included that period. This count also fits better with Luke's statement that Jesus was about thirty years old when He was baptized. We may confidentially say that our Messiah appeared on the scene in 27 AD.
The prophecy says that the Messiah would be ‘cut off’ in the middle of the last week. In other words, he would be killed. This indeed has happened. Jesus' public appearance lasted 3.5 years, from the fall of 27 AD to the spring of 31 AD.
This dating of Jesus death and resurrection in the year 31 AD requires additional explanation. Many people point to the year 33 AD. Does it take contrivance to fit prophecy into reality? Or is it reasonable to assume that Passover week indeed occurred in the spring of 31? You will get an answer to that question in below section III. about the middle of the last week (the Passover week). There you can also see the chronology of the most important week of our world’s history.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, the period 'determined over the people and over the city' is not yet fully completed. The second half of the last week has yet to be completed. God gives His people another 3.5 years to respond to the coming of the Messiah and His gospel. The period finally ends in the year 34 AD. As far as is known, there is no direct historical evidence of this date. Yet it is highly plausible, for the following reasons:
In Section IV (“The end of the last week”) we take a closer look at this tipping point. But first, let's zoom in on the mid-week events. The year is 31 AD, and we are facing the greatest event the universe has ever seen: the Son of God will lay down His life to save mankind.
According to the prophecy, the death of the Messiah would occur in the midst of the last week. In other words,3.5 years after the start of His public life in the fall of 27 AD. That leads us to the spring of the year 31 AD. The question is whether this timing corresponds to the facts that we know. We are now going to answer that.
“In the beginning God created the universe in six days. And on the seventh day He rested. On the eighth day, Adam looked at Eve and said, “We need a calendar.” ( https://stevemorse.org/hebrewcalendar/hebrewcalendar.htm ).
A calendar is indeed very useful, but over the years various calendars have been developed, not all of which connect seamlessly with each other. The daily schedule is not the same everywhere (for example, in the Jewish count the day ends at sunset and the new day starts at the beginning of the evening). Moon phases are also sometimes used, which means that weekdays can shift. In short: “Establishing the precise date of any ancient event is well known to be extremely difficult As for the synchronization of the Jewish calendar from the 1st century AD with our Gregorian calendar there are additional factors involved. For example, the phase of the moon was determined annually by means of observation. If this was not possible due to weather conditions, the start of the month could be postponed by one day. An extra month could even be added if the harvest was delayed due to bad conditions, because it had to be available during the Feast of the First fruits. So, we can only get a measure of certainty on this point.
De datering van Jezus’ dood en opstanding wordt doorgaans tussen 30 AD en 33 AD geplaatst, waarbij de laatste optie het meest voorkomt. Het belangrijkste uitgangspunt onder deze conclusies is dat Jezus op een vrijdag gestorven moet zijn. Zegt de Bijbel niet dat Jezus’ snel begraven moest worden, omdat er een Sabbat aankwam? Men zoekt daarom naar een jaar waarin Pesach op een vrijdag viel. Dat was in 33 AD (waarschijnlijk) het geval. In het jaar 31 AD zover wij weten niet. En dus valt die optie voor veel mensen af. Die conclusie levert uiteraard wrijving op met de 70-weken profetie, die toch echt duidelijk naar 31 AD wijst. Hebben we dus kunst- en vliegwerk nodig om de feiten aan te laten sluiten op de profetie? Dat is niet nodig. De Bijbel zegt namelijk nergens dat Jezus op een vrijdag is gestorven. Er staat alleen dat de volgende dag een sabbat was.
The dating of Jesus' death and resurrection is usually placed between 30 AD and 33 AD, the latter being the most common. The main premise under these conclusions is that Jesus must have died on a Friday. Doesn't the Bible say that Jesus had to be buried quickly because a Sabbath was coming? One therefore searches for a year in which Passover likely fell on a Friday. That was (probably) the case in 33 AD. In the year 31 AD as far as we know this was not the case. Therefore, the year 31 AD is out of the question for many people. That conclusion obviously creates friction with the 70-week prophecy, which clearly points to 31 AD. So, do we need some ingenuity to align the facts with the prophecy? No. The Bible does not say anywhere that Jesus died on a Friday.
As you may know, the Jews had several kinds of Sabbaths, especially in combination with the annual feasts (see e.g., Colossians 2:16). So, how do we know for sure that Jesus died just before a weekly Sabbath? John adds a remarkable note between the lines:
“(…) Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day)…”, John 19:31.
Could it be that Jesus died on another day after all? At first that is an uncomfortable thought. Most of us grew up with the Good Friday – Easter Sunday schedule from childhood. However, this celebration of Easter on a Sunday is an invention of churchtradition. The Council of Nicaea (325 AD) decided that Easter should fall on a Sunday, on the first full moon on or after March 21. This was a deviation from the Jewish calendar, in which Passover falls on a different day every year. Moreover, the day of the crucifixion (Pesach) was confused with the day of the resurrection, as Sunday now was labeled Passover. So, the (Catholic) tradition misguides us rather than helps in this research.
After a detailed reading of the Gospel accounts, more questions arise. For example, why does Jesus say that he will dwell in the earth "three days and three nights" (Matthew 12:40)? How do you squeeze that into a Friday evening into a Sunday morning? Do the explanations given for this, such as the use of 'inclusive calculations', make sense?
In the visualization below you will find a chronology of the most important week of world history: the Passover week of 31 AD. The purpose of this overview is to show that it is plausible that Jesus died (and rose) in 31 AD, only not on a Friday, but on a Wednesday, in the middle of the week. Various calendars indicate that Passover (Nissan 14) in 31 AD fell on a Wednesday (such as: http://www.cgsf.org/dbeattie/calendar/?roman=31 & https://blogs.bible.org/wp -content/uploads/2021/03/Hebrew-Calendar-31-AD-reduced.pdf ). Other calendars reflect Monday or Tuesday. Since the exact synchronization of old dates can sometimes be difficult, it is not unreasonable to assume a Wednesday, at least if this provides an understandable story. The main principles under the proposed view are as follows.
Look at this week's special events and how it relates to Daniel's prophecy (ENG vs).
We are looking into the most important week in world history, for God has taken on Himself the cost of human sin, through the death of His Son. Thus, He paved the way for the future of humanity. He forgives and restores. For an explanation of Jesus sacrifice and the difference between retaliation, compensation, and forgiveness, go to [Jesus: good news for all nations!]. The prophet Daniel was given information not only about the timing of the week, but also about its meaning:
The 70-week prophecy foretold in a very special way both the moment and the meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection, hundreds of years before it actually happened.
The framework of the prophecy thus gradually becomes clear. God has made it clear that after the Babylonian captivity His people of Israel would have a second chance to be a light to the nations: a new period of 490 years. Jerusalem again became a vital political and religious centre. The Messiah would arise from this people after 69 weeks, in 27 AD. He would lay the foundation for God's new world ('strengthening the covenant') in 31 AD. But now the question arises: what does this imply for the old covenant? Where did the second chance given to the nation of Israel lead to? The answer to these questions become apparent in the closing years of the prophetic period. At the close of this last week an important era in world history comes to an end.
Daniel's prophecy states that 70 weeks are ‘cut off’ (from the 2300 days), specifically for the Jewish people and the holy city. After the 70 weeks, a period is closed. But what exactly is it? To find the answer we have to look closely to the last 3.5 years, following the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Even after the rejection of the Messiah, the period of 490 years has not yet come to an end. In the beginning of Acts, the Jewish nation is still given the opportunity to understand and embrace the prophecy:
“Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).
By the way, notice here the link with the 'Prince', Daniel 9 : 25-26. Gods give another opportunity. Manyindividual Jewish people reacted positively to this call. But the people as a nation remained hard as stone. Jesus Himself had expressed this in deeply moving language:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you! How often have I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings; but you didn't want to! Behold, your house is left to you as a wasteland. For I say unto you, ye shall not see me from now on, until ye say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:37-39).
There’s a limit
Daniel gives a clou for understanding the closure of the period which was 'determined upon the people and the holy city'. He says this period will: “(…) seal up vision and prophecy” (9:24). In other words, the line of prophets God has sent to His people, both in the period for the exile and after the return, is coming to an end. Who had the last vision and who was the last prophet for Israel?
The New Testament is clear about it: that was Stephen. His appearance, trial and death are the turning point in the Bible book of Acts (chapter 7). Before this event the gospel went almost exclusively to the Jews (chapters 1-6), after his execution it goes to Samaria and further into the world (chapters 8-28). Stephen's call is God's final call to His covenant people. Let's see what happens here.
Stephen is summoned before the Sanhedrin (the highest Jewish court). He is given the floor and then tells an exceptionally long story about the history of Israel. That was not for informational purposes. The people to whom he spoke already knew that history from A to Z. So why is Stephen doing this? In the case of a covenant violation, it was the custom, also among surrounding nations, to repeat the history of the good efforts of one side. He does that here too. In the beginning Stephen speaks as a true prophet, including himself:“(…) our father Abraham…” and “our fathers…” (Acts 7 : 2 & 39). But towards the end, he distances himself from the Jewish leadership:
“You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it” (7:51-53).
While all Old Testament prophets always left room for repentance, this is no longer the case here. Unlike all previous prophets God sent to Israel, Stephen no longer calls for repentance. The vision and prophecy for the nation of Israel ends here.
The Sanhedrin's response is shocking. The members of the Sanhedrin literally put their fingers in their ears and rush at Stephen. The Supreme Court, as the most important representation of the nation, cries out for the very last time: no, we don't want this! It doesn't get any clearer than that. God had given the national people of Israel a special role, to carry His light into the world [Gods covenant at the crossroads of superpowers]. But again, and again they refused to do so and now they don’t even want to carry the light of the gospel. It's over.
For completeness’ sake, God is of course not rejecting individual Jewish people here. In fact, almost the entire first congregation was made up of Jewish people. So, this hasn’t anything to do with 'replacement' of Jewish people for the church. But the role Israel had been given as a nation now finally came to an end, in the fall of 34 AD.
Remarkably, during the stoning of Stephen, the key person for God's mission to the Gentiles is immediately present: Saul. It is the later Paul who wrote much of the New Testament.
Paul, himself a Jew, struggled intensely with this change of course. Would God still keep His promises to historic Israel? How does God define 'His people'? Is it a matter of biological descendancy or is it something else? We’ll elaborate on this subject in a bit, in the section 'Israel's future in world history'. But first we have to look at the consequences of the Sanhedrin's drastic choice.
There is a remarkable parallel between Ezekiel's prophecy and Jesus' discourse on the last things (Matthew 24). Ezekiel was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar (king of Babylon) in 605 BC. It was a turbulent time. The Jewish people had been violating God's covenant through their evil practices for many generations. A punishment would come. The first Jewish elite, including Ezekiel, had already been arrested. The threat increased that even Jerusalem and the Temple were at stake. Yet the Jewish leadership was convinced that this would not happen. Were they not God's own people? And Jerusalem was God's city, wasn't it? Nothing would ever happen to that.
At that time, Ezekiel had visions. He sees the throne of God being moved (chapter 1). Later (chapter 11) he sees the Shechinah, the presence of God, leaving the temple. God had made His presence known earlier (in the Tabernacle and the Temple). But now He is leaving. What the Jewish leadership failed to understand is that there was a condition attached to the covenant. At the ‘marriage-ceremony’ at Sinai, God says:
"Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine” (Exodus 19:5).
Note the condition attached to the promise. It is not enough to rely on biological descent. Israel continued to violate this covenant in the centuries that followed after this ceremony (II Chronicles 36:14-16). There is a striking element in Ezekiel's vision. God's Shechinah disappears from the city and…then leaves for the mountain east of the city (Ezekiel 11:22-23). We'll see that happen once again. God had withdrawn His hand from the city. And only because of this, in 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar was able to raze the city and the temple to the ground. This history would later repeat itself.
After the exile, the people were given a second chance. The Persian Cyrus allows the first group of Jews to return, and the temple was rebuilt. The new building was less impressive than Solomon's temple, yet the prophet Haggai foretold that “(…) the glory of this house will be greater than that of the first” (Haggai 2:10). This prophecy was fulfilled with the coming of the Messiah. He was present in the temple, God's own Son. Someone even greater than Solomon (see Matthew 12:42 / Luke 11:31 / John 1:14). But meanwhile the people had not taken their chance to be a light to the other nations of the earth. During the post-exile 490 years it became legalistic, shutting itself off from the Gentiles and expecting for itself a superior position among the Gentiles, under the leadership of the Messiah.
As Jesus enters the temple and sweeps the temple square, He says indignantly:
“And he said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer, ‘but you have made it a ‘den of thieves’” (Matthew 21:13).
In the consecutive chapters (21-23) Jesus teaches in the temple, among other things about the fig tree (an image of national Israel) that bears no fruit. He says,
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (21:43).
And when He finally departs from the temple, He no longer speaks of 'My house', but says:
“Behold, your house is left to you as a desolation.”
So, again, the Shechinah departs from the temple and…stays on the mountain east of the city (the Mount of Olives), just as in Ezekiel's vision. From this place, Jesus foretells the second destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. He explicitly refers to the prophecy of Daniel (24:15). He calls on His followers not to be naive, like the Jewish leadership at the time of Ezekiel, in thinking that the city would be spared. For the people of the Prince (Daniel 9:26 / Luke 11:44) have brought this calamity upon themselves, by rejecting the Messiah and His Kingdom. Jesus warns His people upfront: as soon as the Romans desecrate the ground with their idol symbolism, flee the city, for it will be destroyed. And so it happened. When Cestus approached the city in 66 AD, but then suddenly withdrew, the Christians saw this as the sign to flee in time. In 70 AD, within the timeframe of the generation Jesus referred to (Matthew 24 : 33 / Numbers 14 : 34) Jerusalem received the final blow.
The destruction of Jerusalem, like many other aspect of Israel history, is a type. It’s a type of the end of the world. Again, in Revelation (also given by Jesus) Gods people are urged to leave a city that is on the point of falling:
“Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4).
This city of Babylon is the climax of six thousand years of human endeavor, contrasting the heavenly Jerusalem, which will come from God. At the end of the world people will once again think that their symbolic city is impregnable. But this will turn out not to be the case.
“Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every four spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird” (18:2).
The great pact [a global pact] collapses (18 : 9 & 11). God will once and for all deliver His community, believing Jews, and believing Gentiles, gathered from every nation, tribe, and tongue, and usher in the new world.
The Jews certainly remain a special people group on the world scene. They have preserved God's word throughout the ages and left an impressive legacy in all kinds of ways. Having said this, it is important to note that the role they were given in the political landscape 3400 years ago has changed after the arrival of the Messiah. The New Testament is crystal clear about the fact that biological descent is no guarantee of belonging to God's community. It never has been. Therefore, it is time for a thorough reflection on God's promises and a biblical definition of 'Israel'.
The conclusion that there is not only a beginning, but also an end to the role which the national people of Israel have played in world history is sensitive for several reasons. First of all, history’s inhumane treatment of Jews and the recurring resurgence of anti-Semitism, culminating in World War II, are justifiably evocative of sympathy. Isn’t Christianity responsible for a lot of antisemitic violence? In addition, how should we interpret the promises of the old covenant? If God has promised things 'to Israel', which have not yet come about, then the people still owe these. After all, God cannot be unfaithful to His own promises. Thirdly, the political developments surrounding the League of Nations mandate in 1922 and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 seem to confirm these prophetic expectations. This is certainly Gods work, right? It seems very hard to explain this development in any other way.
However, the matter is much more complicated for a number of reasons.
The debate about Israel and the church is often associated with 'replacement theology'. At first God was engaged with the biological people of Israel, but now 'the church' has laid hold on that preferred place. According to opponents of the replacement theology, Christians should start to recognize that the historical Jewish people are still the only people group who can claim the promise.
So, how should one consider the relationship between the church and Israel? To answer this question, a theory has been developed within theology, which is referred to as 'dispensationalism' [for more info: the great change of course]. The idea is that throughout world history, God takes two separate paths: one with the historical nation of Israel and one with the church. They have different destinations, on earth or in heaven. 2000 years ago God pressed the pause button for the people of Israel, to temporarily create space for the church. At a certain moment in time, the church will disappear from the world stage via a 'secret rapture, and then God will pick up the thread with 'His people' again. Israel will become the literal political and religious center of the world, in line with the promises.
Replacement theology and dispensationalism both miss the mark. The New Testament is absolutely clear that God has only one community, which consists of Jew and Gentile. Since the first church consisted almost entirely of Jewish people, an artificial separation between Israel and the church would immediately lead to problems. For example, what is God's plan for Christian Jews? The idea that God would gather two completely different communities is at odds with the entire Bible. There is one community and one future where everyone and everything comes together. This is expressed in various symbols, among other things. There is only…
…one herd. Jesus said: “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16).
…one tree. Paul speaks in the letter to the Romans (9-11) about a tree that symbolizes the real Israel of God. This tree consists of natural branches (Jewish people who believe in Jesus) and wild branches (Gentiles who believe in Jesus). Biological Jews who reject Jesus are taken off the tree and Gentiles who reject Jesus are not grafted into it. It's one tree.
…one body: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13). And: (…) that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel… ” (Ephesians 3:6).
…one temple: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, have been built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
…one bride: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…” (Ephesians 5:27, see also II Corinthians 11:2 and Revelation 22:17). Or would one dare to say that Christ has two wives, deviating from how He himself created man and woman?
Dispensationalism and the related futurism (God will pick up His old plan with biological Israel in the future) do not fit the Bible. Ironically, this theology even contains elements that are precisely anti-Jewish. It implies that after the alleged 'rapture' of the church, the Jewish people will end up in 'the great tribulation'. Hasn't the Jewish people suffered enough over the years under the tyranny of the (medieval) Catholic Church? Do they also have to go through the 'great tribulation', while the congregation of Jesus is safely in heaven? It is an unbiblical, inconsistent and untenable idea, successfully marketed at the time by Jesuit theologians who wanted to destroy the Reformation [see: 1260 V-dominance].
But still, how do you deal with the fact that God has promised things to His people? Surely God will remain faithful to His promise. Not everything promised in the Old Testament, such as the coming of a time when Jerusalem will become the political center of the world, has yet come to pass. So the biological and national Jewish people still owe something. At least that is the reasoning within much contemporary Protestant-Evangelical theology. Yet it raises questions. Is inheritance of God's promise automatically guaranteed based on biological origin? Isn't this suggestion of automatism vehemently rejected by virtually every Old Testament prophet?
It is striking that God links a condition to the covenant with Israel [God's covenant at the crossroads of superpowers]:
“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine” (Exodus 19:5).
There is a condition attached to the promise. That condition is later repeated in the summary of the 'blessing' and the 'curse' in the Bible book of Deuteronomy (28-30). This little word 'if' has big impact. It means that the covenant can be broken, if Israel does not keep it. Numerous parts of the Tanakh, including in Hosea, show that the people have broken the marital fidelity. In that case, the promise of God does not simply continuousautomatically.
But there is an even more fundamental question to ask. For whom does God consider to be 'His people'? To whom does He promise to be faithful? That is exactly the question that kept the apostle Paul, himself a Jew, awake at night. He experienced daily that his fellow compatriots rejected God's gospel. We will look at his answer to this question step by step, up to the climax of Paul's conclusion in his famous letter to Romans (chapters 9-11).
The apostle Paul himself had been a fanatic champion of Judaism in his early years. The Jewish history, the literal temple, the religious practices and political institutions, the rituals and symbols were sacred to him. He fought tooth and nail to defend that legacy against those pesky followers of Jesus, whom he saw as a threat to Judaism. This appreciation for his biological and religious background changed dramatically after his encounter with the Messiah. He regularly writes about this change in his letters. Thus he says to the congregation in Philippi:
“For we are the circumcision (the circumcision was a physical sign of the literal Jewish people!), who serve God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I also might have confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3 : 3).
Paul explains what he means by the expression 'trusting in the flesh'.
“(…) If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:3-6).
At first his focus was entirely on the protection of Judaism, his own politics, the temple service and Jewish customs. But Jesus opened his eyes to God's Kingdom, putting everything in a different light.
“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ…” (Philippians 3 : 7).
During his defence in Agrippa's courtroom, Paul indicates that his view of the meaning of the Old Testament has been radically revised since his encounter with Jesus:
“(…) Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come – that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles ” (Acts 26:22-23).
Origin no longer matters to Paul, only if you are connected with Christ. Paul was not inventing a newreligion. Countless sayings of the prophets and of Jesus Himself make it clear that no one can boast of his own descent or achievements. Not even the Jewish people. That raises a difficult question. For suppose that there are Jewish people who consciously turn away from God and thereby place themselves outside God's great community, then these Jews have no part in the promise. Do you now have to conclude that God has broken His promise 'to Israel'?
Paul's answer is as simple as it is profound. For God, "Israel" is not defined on the basis of a genetic line, but on the basis of promise. According to God you are not a Jew if you are so by birth, but if you belong to Messiah Jesus. The believing Jew and the believing Gentile together form the one Israel of God. This is the community God will always remain faithful to. Together they are the heirs of the same promise. In plain language, Paul makes it clear time and again:
“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God” (Romans 2:28-29).
“But it is not that the word of God [the promise] has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called”. That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed” (Romans 9:6-8).
“(…) “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).
“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:9-11).
Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, reflects the same position when He says in confrontation with the Jewishrepresentatives of His days:
“(...) if you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39).
In fact, Jesus chose exactly 12 disciples to make it clear that what He was doing is the continuation of the 12 tribes of Israel. Cool, isn't it, you can also be a 'comrade of Gods people' and 'fellow believer' of Abraham!
That believing Jews and Gentiles together form the one and only community of Christ may be clear from Scripture, but it is still the question in what way this will work out. The dispensation doctrine does not give up so easily. At the end of Romans 11, the letter in which Paul discusses this issue most extensively, we find thisfamous statement:
“… and so all Israel willl be saved, as it is written; The deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins” (11:26-26).
All Israel will be saved. But how? According to the dispensation theory, Paul has discovered a secret (see11:25). This secret is that God has 'inserted' a period into world history. There has been a hardening among the Jewish people, creating the opportunity to take the gospel to the Gentiles. We now live in the age of the church, but at the end of times God will pick up the thread again with the biological Jewish people. It is at that time that 'all Israel' will be saved.
But is that really what Paul is saying? If you think about it for a while, that scenario causes major theological problems.
The mystery that Paul is talking about is not that a period has been ‘inserted’ to make way for the church, until the moment God picks up again with ‘His own covenant people’. The true mystery is that the Gentiles must join, because without them 'God's Israel' is not complete! So it is a redefinition of who belongs to Israel, in the eyes of God:
“(...) And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).
Your biological origin does not matter to God, but whether you live according to the promise. The tree on which the Gentiles are grafted is therefore not the biological Jewish people, as is sometimes said. Biological Jews who don't accept the gospel will be cut off. The tree is the Jewish people of the promise, i.e. all Jews who live by faith (Romans 11:20). The tree is not a mixture of genes and faith. It's a faith tree completely. Therefore, Paul in his conclusion Paul does not say ' then all Israel will be saved', but '... so all Israel will be saved' (Romans 11:26). It’s not a statement about timing, but about the way in which Gods community will be completed. Namely, by merging the two. Together all these believing Jews and believing Gentiles form the one true 'Israel' of God.
Having said this, Paul clearly had hopes for a spiritual revival among his fellow men. God's role for the Jewish people as a nation may have been played out, but that certainly did not mean that God had lost sight of Jewish people. They are still, according to descent, the heirs of a long and rich history:
“For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God and the promises, of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God” (Romans 9:4-5).
Paul says: it is so close to them. Jewish people actually have a huge advantage. They have and know the scriptures, the feasts and the history of Gods acts (although often covered). Perhaps that is why they are considered a risk to God's adversary and are so often oppressed and persecuted. It is therefore very special when Jewish people get to know their Messiah. When you listen to Jewish testimonials, you experience a depth and immersion that you rarely encounter. The Jewish organization One-for-Israel has shared dozens of them via YouTube. I would advice: type in One for Israel on Youtube now and listen to a few of them. It’s truly amazing.
“For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29).
The question is how God remained faithful to the historical Israel. After all, He experienced a very long and intense history with them. What Paul is explaining here is that God, after all that happened, first had to take His hands off the people as a nation. The old covenant had been violated countless times. The condition clearly was not fulfilled. The covenant was broken by the Jewish people, certainly after the rejection of the Messiah and the execution of the last prophet, Stephen. However, precisely by taking off His hands, space was again created to show the Jews His endless compassion. Now no longer as a national people, as it always happened in the past, but in the same way as God is dealing with the Gentiles. Gods shows his mercy on all. That is the good news Paul is telling. Yes, the old covenant for the biological people of Israel has come to an end, but in the gospel, God is including all people, including the Jews, one again in His mercy.
“For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all” (Romans 11:32).
That’s a great insight. But still, don’t we see specific promises of the old covenant still unfulfilled? For example, Ezekiel speaks in detail about a new temple, which has not been billed yet. And the Old Testament speaks of a time that the Jewish people will return to Israel and that Jerusalem will become the political centre of the world. It may be true hat God's people consist of both Jew and Gentile, but shouldn’t these old promises to the historical, biological line of Isaac still be fulfilled?
Perhaps a fictional example will help. Suppose there is a man, Mark, who intends to do some good for his loved ones. He would like to build a medical aid station in a poor region and hire twenty people. But that requires money. He talks to an investor. Mark explains his plan and shows that he really wants to go for it. Based on the well-thought-out design and Mark's promise to commit himself one hundred percent to this beautiful project, the investor agrees.
About three years later, the investor comes along. He wants to see what has become of it on the spot. Did Mark succeed? To his surprise, he does not see a medical aid station and neither twenty employees. He sees much more. There is a complete hospital and after counting there appear to be no less than 200 people walking around. They chat over a cup of coffee. What happened?
Mark explains that his idea sparked so much enthusiasm that the original plans were quickly expanded. Doctors, students and volunteers came from all sides and joined. Mark also turned out to be heir to a very wealthy great-aunt. He used the money to get a completely new hospital off the ground.
Impressed by everything he has seen, the investor returns home. What do you think? Will he reclaim his investment? After all, Mark has not, strictly speaking, kept his promise – there is no medical aid station. Or does he write a second check with a smile?
So it is in God's kingdom. God is now building a worldwide temple, His universal community. He saves not just a nation, but all mankind. Jesus does not bring one group of people to a particular country, but gathers all His people together from all over the world. He does not give them a piece of land, but the whole earth. There is no upgrade of the historic city of Jerusalem, but a brand-new heavenly Jerusalem, built by God Himself, descends. In God's covenant 2.0 all promises are included, but on a global scale and in a way no one ever imagined. In this global extend all promised are upgraded.
"For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us" (II Corinthians 1:20).
Not only does God stay true to His promises, but He does much more than that! The Old Testament promises have been stretched to a global scale. What in the old covenant was intended 'for Israel', as a foreshadowing, applies to everyone, Jew and Gentile. God gathers through history one community with whom He wants to live together forever in one common future. To this community He remains faithful to the end. The ultimate final chord of Paul's reflection is therefore:
“…For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).
No wonder Paul turns his cognitive description into a hymn of praise to God. Right through the tangle of human history, God continues unaltered in His way and achieves His goal and much more than that. That makes one silent in awe.
Now we can see that the promises through the Messiah have been stretched to a global scale, it becomes clear that elements of Israel's history have been a foreshadowing to something much greater. To conclude this '490 years' tile, let’s identify some of the types.
To summarize, God will fulfill all His promises. But He does so in a way that is far grander and more comprehensive than anyone could have ever imagined!