One of the most interesting, difficult and critical Bible texts related to end-times fascination is Daniel 9:24-27, the so-called ‘Seventy Weeks Prophecy’. Any belief in an Antichrist making a seven-year peace treaty with Israel and then breaking it to herald a Great Tribulation is derived almost exclusively from this passage. However, this is just one interpretation and there are actually others. It is naturally convenient to project difficult details onto unspecified future events, especially when these are imminent enough to heighten anxieties and pique curiosity (as well as to promote book sales!)
Surely no-one can dogmatically assert the intent of any such passage, anyway, when it is fairly obscure. Perhaps it is possible that this is an intended literary device permitting it to apply to multiple scenarios and therefore to multiple generations. That idea could be a cop-out, though, so here’s one possible alternative view that has been harmonised with the biblical book of Revelation in a way that allows biblical prophecy to be more of a comment on the past than the future, even though it in no way detracts from the idea that Christ will return to Earth again.
The seventy weeks (or seventy sevens) represent seventy periods of seven years each, that is, 490 years. This application is seen in Leviticus 25:8. Also, Jeremiah 25:11 and 29:10 refer to a seventy year captivity, but project a full 490 years toward Christ’s redemption if accepting the idea of a seven-fold retribution for sin in accordance with Leviticus 26:18, as possibly hinted by Daniel 9:24. Some suggest that these are symbolic years, due to the prophetic nature of the book (a little like the Millennial ‘thousand’ of Revelation 20:1-6 being an imprecise and symbolic representation of a lengthy time – perhaps the church age). However, the specific nature of prophetic fulfilment in Daniel allows the 490 years to be a literal period.
In verse 25, Messiah is connected with the fulfilment explicitly, but there is a three-fold division of 49 years, 434 years and 7 years. These all date back to a command to rebuild Jerusalem which came with the 444 B.C. decree of Artaxerxes in Nehemiah 2:5-8, but this was an extension of an earlier decree in 457 B.C. So, 457 to 408 B.C. gives forty-nine years, possibly indicating the full completion of the building of Jerusalem and/or the close of the Old Testament canon. The separately-mentioned 434 years of verse 25 coincides with the silent intertestamental years until the inauguration of Jesus’s earthly ministry in A.D. 27 (noting that there is no year ‘0’). This makes Jesus around thirty years of age at the time, as required, placing His birth just before the 4 B.C. death of Herod in His infancy, as suggested by Matthew 2. This all gives a not un-Daniel-like piece of prophetic precision.