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. NASB
Have been decreed for. This term may reveal more than you think. It could either be translated as “are determined for,” “are decreed for,” or “have been decreed for.” The preposition “for” may also be translated as “upon.” The basic meaning of this verb is “cut” or “divide.” According to Barns, “The meaning would seem to be, that this portion of time—the seventy weeks—was “cut off” from the whole of duration, or cut out of it, as it were, and set by itself for a definite purpose.” Dr. Leon Wood (from Thomas Ice’s commentary) says, “The thought is that God had cut off these 490 years from the rest of history through which to accomplish the deliverances needed for Israel.”
Putting it all together in the context of verse 24, here is the way I see this term. God has a goal for Israel—a purpose: that purpose is that they would be saved, and also that they would be His leaders in His kingdom. With Jesus at the helm, they will bring in everlasting righteousness and will lead the world in worship to God. To accomplish this high goal, of which there must be long preparation, God has decreed (or determined) for them 490 years.
In Wycliffe’s commentary, he suggests that the Hebrew word al should be translated “upon” instead of “for,” which implies the idea of what is burdensome, or is used in a hostile sense. This, he said, is the “true idea” of the Hebrew preposition al. Wycliffe cites Moses Stuart: “The seventy weeks comprise the special burden, the trials, the troubles, through which Israel must pass, before the Great Deliverer will make his appearance, or in the language of the remainder of the verse, before sin will be thoroughly subdued and expiated…”
If this is the idea of this Hebrew preposition, there can be no argument against it with regard to what Israel has and will experience. They certainly have been through their share of suffering, and they will experience plenty more during the last week, which will be seven years of terrible tribulation.
These years (490 yrs.), as I have mentioned, have the designed purpose of Israel’s ultimate salvation and holiness. And as we know from scripture, this will definitely come about. For as Isaiah prophesied (Is. 59:20) and as Paul confirmed in Romans 11:26-27,
And thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 “And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”
Now concerning the time that God has allotted for Israel until their salvation (which will occur, I think, just before, or at Christ’s coming), I suggest that there are two ways that He deals with them, in two different time periods: directly in a known period, and indirectly in an unknown period (unknown to us, that is).
He deals with them directly, as a nation, for an exact period of 490 years—which we are now discussing. This period of time, as we have said, is decreed and cut out; it is a set and planned period of years that God deals with them exclusively—that is, during this time no other group of people are in God’s focus, including the church. In fact, during this 490 year period the church is non-existent. During the first 483 years of this period the church was not formed yet (see diagram), and for the last seven years, which is the Tribulation period (we will discuss later), it will be gone—raptured, snatched up by God into heaven.
But there is also a much longer period of time, in which God deals with Israel indirectly: this is the time period we are in now, the mysterious “gap” period, the period of the church, which began at Pentecost and will end when the church is taken up to heaven. During this time God’s focus is not on Israel, it is on the church. Israel as a nation, at present, is waiting (or has been put aside), while God forms His church, which is His bride. But even though God is not focused on Israel as a nation, He still is calling each and every Jew to Himself, just as He calls everyone. Thus all are now welcome—Jews and Gentiles—to come to Him and be one of His own—that is, to be part of the church and to be His bride.
Therefore, what I am saying is that God is now dealing with Israel not so much as a nation, but individually. He is getting every Jew ready for salvation (as He is also every Gentile). If a Jew is saved now (during this age of the church) he will become a part of the church and will be raptured. But if he is not saved before the rapture he will face seven years of tribulation.
During this time of tribulation the church will be gone, and so God returns His focus on the Jews. This is the final week of the seventy weeks in which God pours out His judgment on the earth. Many will die in their sins without having been saved; but sometime during this period (for most of them it will be right at the end when they see Him. Matt. 24:30), the Jewish nation as a whole will finally wake up from their sleep and turn to God in repentance—they will be saved!
Copyright © 2014 by Stephen Nielsen