Clarifying a Prophecy of the End-Time (Daniel 9:26, 27)
A remarkable prophecy was given to Daniel in Daniel 9:26, 27. Its purpose is to throw light on the extraordinary struggle between good and evil destined to convulse the world before the return of Christ to rule in his Kingdom. Daniel 9:26 speaks of the Messiah being cut off - a reference which has been generally taken to mean Jesus' death for the sins of the world. Isaiah 53:8 likewise speaks of the suffering Messiah being cut off from the land of life. The meaning is apparently that Jesus was put to death and thus deprived of life in the land of promise - Israel. By being cut off Jesus did not receive his Kingdom, the inheritance of the Messiah. The prophecy reads that he will "have nothing" (NASV). Keil (Commentary, p. 362) understands this to mean that as a result of Jesus' death he did not immediately possess what belonged to the Messiah - the Kingdom.
There is a change of subject in the second statement made in Daniel 9:26. "A prince who is to come" is introduced in connection with the overthrow (cp. the same Hebrew word used of the destruction of Sodom, Gen. 19:13ff.) of the city and the sanctuary. The order of the words in Hebrew is important: "The city and the sanctuary will be destroyed by the prince who is to come."
Keil (Commentary, p. 362) points out that the word "coming" is associated in Daniel with a hostile invasion. In Daniel 1:1 Nebuchadnezzar comes to besiege Jerusalem. In 11:10, 13, 15, forces of the king of the North "keep on coming" (NASV) and "cast up a siege mound and capture a well-fortified city." In the case of the "prince who is to come," however, the idea is that he is a personage whose arrival to destroy the city is well known. Such a hostile invader has already appeared in Daniel, chapters 7 and 8. As Keil says, it is natural that we should think of the Antichrist.
The NASV translates the next phrase: "Its end will come with a flood." The sense would be that the city will be overwhelmed. A more natural translation, however, is supplied by the NASV margin and persuasively argued by Keil: "In the following clause, 'and his end [will come] with the flood,' the suffix [his] refers simply to the hostile prince, whose end is here emphatically described in contrast to his coming" (Commentary, p. 363).
Why is this an important point of interpretation? Those who find here a reference to Titus destroying Jerusalem in AD 70 cannot apply the suffix "his" to the hostile invader. The fact is that Titus did not come to his end in the war on Jerusalem. There are compelling reasons to agree with Keil's translation. The word order of the preceding sentence ("the city and the sanctuary will be destroyed by the prince who is destined to come") leaves the prince as the last idea. In the words immediately following, "his" or "its" end refers most naturally to the prince just mentioned. The evil prince in this prophecy comes to "his end" (cp. 11:45 where the Antichrist, the king of the North, "comes to his end"). The prince's end is in "the flood." What events are described here? Not the invasion by Titus in AD 70, because Titus did not come to his end at the time of that invasion. Since interpreters have wished to find Titus and the events of AD 70 here, they have avoided the translation "his end." As Keil says, "preconceived views as to the historical interpretation of the prophecy lie at the foundation of all other [translations than 'his end']." A reference to the end of the city or the sanctuary is forced because city is feminine in Hebrew, and a different ending would be needed for "end." A reference to the sanctuary only is awkward because city and sanctuary are mentioned together. Keil concludes: "There remains nothing else than to apply the suffix ['his'] to the prince. 'End' can accordingly only denote the destruction of the prince" (Commentary, p. 363). Titus, in AD 70, therefore cannot be meant.
What is "the flood" in which the invader comes to his end? The definite article indicates that a well-known "overflowing" is in mind. "Flood" is elsewhere used as the symbol of an overwhelming divine judgment. For example, in Isaiah 8:8 the invasion of Judah by the king of Assyria will sweep on into Judah; "it will overflow and pass through." In Nahum 1:8, the Lord "with an overflowing flood" will make a complete end of Nineveh's site and "pursue His enemies into darkness." Daniel informs us that Antichrist's end will come in "the flood" of God's end-time judgment. We are presented in this prophecy with a "prince who is to come who will find his destruction in the flood." Daniel 11:45 describes the destruction of the final king of the North who will "come to his end" just before the resurrection (Dan. 12:2).
Verse 26 contains yet another piece of information: "And until the end there will be war." The end referred to here is simply the end of the "period in progress" (Keil). The meaning is that war will continue to the end of the seventieth "week." Trouble is to be expected until the completion of the final "week."
Our verse ends with an additional comment on the nature of the judgment. "Desolation is divinely decreed" as punishment. A comparison with three other passages is illuminating. In Daniel 11:36 the end of the career of the final king of the North is inevitable: "What is decreed will take place." Further light on the decreed punishment of the invader of Israel at the end of the age is supplied by Isaiah 10:23. "For a complete destruction, one that is decreed, the Lord God of hosts will execute in the midst of the whole land." For this reason Israel should not fear "the Assyrian who strikes you with the rod" (Isa. 10:24). "In a very little while, My indignation against you [Israel] will be spent, and My anger will be directed to their [Assyria's] destruction" (Isa. 10:25). There is another reference to the decreed punishment of God's (and Israel's) enemy of the end-time. In Isaiah 28:17b and following, "the hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters [cp. flood] will overthrow the secret place, and your [Israel's] covenant with death will be canceled." Then in verses 21 and 22, "the Lord will rise up to perform His unusual task and to work His work, His extraordinary work...For I have heard from the Lord God of hosts of a decisive destruction on all the earth."
Again the words are reminiscent of Daniel 9:26. There is coming a decisive annihilation of Satan's final tool to destroy Israel. The city and sanctuary will indeed be overthrown by the coming invader. War will be a feature of the last "week." Yet the peace of God's Kingdom will follow when Christ returns to destroy the Antichrist, resurrect the dead, and grant the Kingdom to the faithful (Luke 22:28-30; Matt. 19:28; 1 Cor. 6:2; II Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26; 3:21; 5:10; 20:4-6). Just before that time, "desolations are irrevocably determined by God" (Keil, Commentary, p. 365).
We can summarize the announcement provided by Daniel 9:26 with the following translation based on the Hebrew and in conjunction with Keil's exegesis (Commentary, p. 373):
After the sixty-two "weeks" the Messiah will be cut off, so that he does not have the Kingdom which belongs to him, and the city, together with the sanctuary, will be destroyed by the people of a prince who will come, who shall come to his end in the flood. War will continue to the end [of the seventieth "week"], since destruction is irrevocably decreed.
We proceed to verse 27, which completes the prophecy, supplying further detail about the events of the seventieth "week." Verse 27 opens with a statement about the prince just mentioned. He will confirm a covenant. The compelling reason for making the prince of verse 26 the subject of the sentence is given by Keil:
The connection indicates that the prince is the subject of "will confirm," since the prince who was to come is named last and is also the subject in the suffix of "his end," the last clause of verse 26 having only the significance of an explanatory subordinate clause (Commentary, p. 366).
Keil makes three other points: 1) "The taking away of the daily sacrifice combines itself in a natural way with the destruction (verse 26) of the city and the temple brought about by the coming prince." 2) The one represented as "causing the sacrifice and oblation to cease" is obviously identical with him who changes (7:25) the times and usages of worship. 3) "The reference of 'he shall confirm' to the ungodly leader of an army is therefore according to the context and the parallel passages of this book which have been mentioned, as well as in harmony with natural grammatical arrangement of the passage. But, by 'prince' [v. 26], Titus cannot naturally be understood."
The prince imposes a covenant on the great mass of the people, in contrast with the few who remain faithful. The contract forced on the majority by the evil prince reminds us of Matthew 24:12: "The love of the many grows cold."
The next clause gives us information about the second half of the final "week." Keil argues that the proper translation is: "He will cause the sacrifice and grain offering (bloody and unbloody sacrifice) to cease for half the week." Associated with this interruption of the temple service, the prince "comes desolating on the wings of abomination." Just as the true God "bowed the heavens and came down with thick darkness under His feet, and He rode on a cherub and flew on the wings of the wind" (Ps. 18:9), so here the wicked prince is seen "desolating, borne upon the wings of abominable things." Keil cites the interpretation of another German commentator: "The powerful heathen enemy of God is here conceived of as carried upon the wings of the idol abomination, just as the God of the Theocracy is borne on the wings of the clouds and on cherubim, who are His servants (cp. Psalm 18:9, 10; 104:3)."
The picture suggests a counterfeit Parousia (i.e., coming) staged by the power of Satan. Paul reflects the same idea in II Thessalonians 2:9, where Antichrist's Parousia is in accordance with the energy of Satan. The final sentence of Daniel's prophecy tells us that this desolating rule of the wicked prince will continue "until the end, and the decreed judgment of God will pour down on the desolator." The verb "pour down" once again suggests the flood of verse 26, in which the wicked prince comes to his end. Since no flood of judgment fell on Titus in AD 70, the reference of this whole passage is to the future Antichrist and his temporary reign at the end of this age.
It will be appropriate to state again the message of Daniel 9:26, 27 with reference to Keil's most helpful translation:
After the sixty-two "weeks" the Messiah will be cut off, so that he does not have the Kingdom which belongs to him, and the city, together with the sanctuary, will be destroyed by the people of a prince who will come, who shall come to his end in the flood. War will continue to the end [of the seventieth "week"], since desolation is irrevocably decreed. And he [the prince] will impose a covenant on the many for one "week," and during half of the "week" he will cause the service of sacrifice to stop and, borne on the wings of idol abominations, he will carry on a desolating rule; and this will go on until the end when the firmly decreed judgment will be poured out on him as one desolated (Commentary, p. 373).
Jesus' Interest in This Prophecy
Jesus was most interested in this prophecy of Daniel. He referred to the "abomination of desolation" as a key feature of the time just prior to his return. In Matthew 24:15 the appearance of the abomination of desolation in the Temple is the cue for believers in Judea to flee to the mountains (Jesus did not expect them to be removed from the earth).
The expression used by Jesus corresponds most closely to Daniel's other references to the abomination of desolation in 11:31 and 12:11. The first passage tells us that the final king of the North will send forces against the sanctuary fortress, do away with the regular sacrifice and set up the desolating abomination. The connection with Daniel 9:27 is clear. The evil prince comes desolating on the wings of an idol-abomination and in Daniel 11:31 a desolating abomination is placed in the Temple. This could be the Antichrist himself. Mark uses a masculine participle to describe the abomination in Mark 13:14, suggesting a human person in the Temple.
The abomination of desolation will trigger the time of suffering which Jesus calls the great tribulation (Matt. 24:15, 21). Immediately after that tribulation Jesus will appear in glory (Matt. 24:29). It is important to note that these are not events already past. Jesus obviously did not reappear immediately after the tribulation of AD 70.
Daniel 12:11 completes the network of prophetic information about the abomination. From the moment when the abomination of desolation is set up in the Temple, a period of 1290 days will elapse. This appears to be slightly longer than the "time, times and half a time" of chapter seven. This period takes us to the end of these "amazing wonders" (12:6). All the prophetic events will be complete 1290 days after the appearance of the abomination and the cessation of sacrifice. The time for the resurrection and the Kingdom of God on earth will have arrived.
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