By Michael J. Vlach (Twitter: @mikevlach)
Daniel 9:24-27 is one of the most important prophetic passages in the Bible. These four verses which concern “your people [Israel] and your holy city [Jerusalem]” are packed with important information concerning many things, most of which we cannot cover here. But with this entry I want to highlight three phases of the Jerusalem temple as predicted in Daniel 9:24-27.
At the time of the prophecy of Daniel 9 the temple built under Solomon had been destroyed for several decades. The Babylonians destroyed it in 586 B.C. But the temple is not done in God’s plans. With Daniel 9:24-27 we will see the Jerusalem temple anointed, destroyed, and desolated (although not in this order).
1. The Temple Anointing (Daniel 9:24)
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.
Daniel 9:24 describes a 490-year period (seventy sevens) in which six important things will occur, all of which must be fulfilled as a result of this 490-year period.
The sixth thing mentioned is the anointing of the “most holy place” (lit. “holy of holies”). This refers to an anointing of the Jerusalem temple, something that is discussed in further detail in Ezekiel 40-48. This is a positive development. Note that this anointing and restoration of the Jerusalem temple comes as a result of this 490-year period and thus occurs after the temple destruction and desolation that are discussed below. The completion of the seventy weeks (490 years) means an anointed and restored temple.
2. The Temple Destroyed (Daniel 9:26a)
Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
Daniel 9:26a refers to a destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the “sanctuary” [i.e. temple]. Note that this destruction occurs well into the seventy week program. It occurs “after” a period of “sixty-two” weeks, which is really sixty-nine weeks since this assumes a previous seven weeks that already occurred (9:25). Most scholars believe this 69-week period is 483 years (69 x 7 years). In short, after 483 years, which most believe expired in the 30s A.D., two things will occur: (1) the cutting off (killing) of the Messiah; and (2) the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the people of a coming evil prince. Thus, after 483 years the Messiah (Jesus) will be killed and Jerusalem and its temple will be destroyed. Both of these events happened after the first sixty-nine weeks (483 years) expired. The temple destruction referred to here was accomplished in A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed both Jerusalem and the temple. The next verse will discuss what the “prince who is to come” will do to a coming temple.
3. The Temple Desolated (Daniel 9:27a)
Daniel 9:27 then predicts a desolation of the Jerusalem temple in the final week (7-year period) of the seventy weeks:
And he [evil prince] will make a firm covenant with the many [Israel] for one week [7 years], but in the middle of the week [3.5 years] he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate. . .
Note that previously Daniel 9:26a discussed a complete destruction of the Jerusalem temple after the first sixty-nine weeks. This did not occur at the end of the sixty-ninth week or in the seventieth week, but it happened in-between—after the sixty-nine weeks but before the seventieth week. This shows the destruction event of 9:26a is different from the desolating event in 9:27.
When the time for the seventieth week of Daniel comes around there is a Jerusalem temple again, which means it must have been rebuilt. But this time the temple is desolated by an evil figure—“but in the middle of the week he [evil prince; antichrist] will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate.” This refers to a violent stopping of the temple system. This evil person is related to the people who destroyed the temple in A.D. 70, making him connected with the Romans. Back at the time of A.D. 70 he was a prince “who is to come.” But now with Daniel 9:27 he is on the scene for this desolation act.
Daniel 9:27 describes a desolation of the temple that involves the stopping of worship in it. Jesus referred to this event as “the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (Matt. 24:15). Paul explains that this abomination involves “the man of lawlessness . . . the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4). So the presence of this evil person in the temple of God is the abomination event of Daniel 9:27.
Putting it All Together
Put together in chronological order, we see the following three phases of the Jerusalem temple from Daniel 9:24-27:
1. A destroyed Jerusalem temple after the sixty-ninth week but before the seventieth week of Daniel. This was fulfilled when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70. (Dan. 9:26)
2. A desolation of the Jerusalem temple during the still future seventieth week of Daniel by an evil prince (i.e. antichrist). (Dan. 9:27)
3. An anointed temple in Jerusalem as a result of the completion of the seventy weeks during Messiah’s coming kingdom. (Dan. 9:24)
Jesus and the Temple
Some believe we should not be literal when it comes temples in prophecy since Jesus is the true temple. Some have even claimed that the anointing of the holy place of Daniel 9:24 is really a reference to Jesus since Jesus is the Christ and “Christ” means “anointed one.” While certainly the concept of temple is applied to Jesus in the New Testament (see John 2:19) and Jesus is the Christ, this does not mean that Jerusalem temples are now irrelevant or that the Daniel 9:24 “holy place” is Jesus. Four reasons support this.
First, Jesus the Messiah is a person while the end of Daniel 9:24 speaks of an object—“to anoint the most holy place.” The “holy place” (or holy of holies) concerns the temple and is not a person. To confuse a person (Jesus) with an object (temple) does not work, especially when both are mentioned in Daniel 9 as discussed below.
Second, Daniel 9:26 explicitly distinguishes the Messiah we now know as Jesus and the temple:
after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary [i.e. temple].
So here Jesus the Messiah is mentioned and the temple is mentioned in the same verse. They are not the same.
Third we have explicit biblical evidence that the Messiah will build a coming temple. According to Zechariah 6:9-15, the Messiah is the One who builds a coming Jerusalem temple—“Behold, a man whose name is Branch [Messiah], for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord” (Zech. 6:12).
Fourth, even with the coming of Jesus in the New Testament several passages predict the significance of the temple and Jerusalem, including Matthew 24:15; Luke 21:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; and Revelation 11:1-2. So even in the New Testament, Jerusalem and the temple still have future significance.