What are the 'Sevens'?
The ‘sevens’ in Daniel 9 are usually understood to mean seven years. Seven ‘sevens’ would be 49 years, 62 ‘sevens’ would be 434 years, etc. We interpret the ‘sevens’ as years because of parallel verses in the Bible that use days or months for the time measurements instead of the mysterious ‘sevens’.
The last verse of the Daniel 9 passage reads, “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”
So, the person in this verse sets up the abomination that causes desolation in the middle of one ‘seven.’
Daniel 12:11 – “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.”
Here, Gabriel explains that the last half of the one ‘seven’ will be 1,290 days, or about three and a half years, three and a half years being half of seven years. The conclusion is that the abomination that causes desolation is set up in the middle of a seven-year period (one ‘seven’).
Revelation 11:2 – “But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.”
Here, we are told that the Gentiles will overrun Jerusalem, the holy city, for 42 months (3.5 years). As we’ll discuss later, this is also the second half of that seven-year period.
Daniel 7:25 – “He will speak against the Most High and oppress His holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time.”
Daniel 12:7 – The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed. ”
The “time, times, and half a time” in these two verses denotes one year (time), two years (times), and half a year (half a time), equaling three and a half years.
Many scholars have tried to fit this prophecy of the seven ‘sevens’ to something that has already happened, whether it be the first coming of Christ or the events leading up to the Maccabean Revolt. Whereas there are some similar happenings in history, there has been no event that perfectly fulfills this prophecy. For instance, Jesus, the Anointed One, did not come 483 years (“seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens’”) after Jerusalem was rebuilt either under Cyrus (538 BC) or the Maccabees (167 BC).
Jerusalem was again destroyed in 70 AD and 135 AD by the Romans, and the return of Christ did not happen 483 years after the city’s rebuilding.
This means that the prophecy of the ‘sevens’ is yet to be fulfilled. Biblically, this is what we can know about future events:
Jerusalem will be rebuilt in times of trouble. The moment the decree is issued to rebuild, there will be sixty-nine ‘sevens’ (483 years), perhaps with something major happening after the first seven ‘sevens’ (49 years) – Daniel 9:25. The time of trouble sounds like a time of war to me, or perhaps during a time when many people do not want Jerusalem to be rebuilt. The Muslim Arab countries come to mind here. I can only imagine that there will be a war in the future between Israel and her enemies and that Jerusalem will be destroyed in the process but that Israel will eventually be given permission to rebuild.
For the sake of a timeline, we’ll say that the rebuild phase starts at LD (Last Days) 0. From that point on, there will be seventy ‘sevens’, or 490 years until the return of Christ.
At some point near the end of those 490 years, we will see the King of the South (a ruler coming from the remains of the Ptolemaic Empire – Egypt) become strong, but one of his commanders will become the King of the North (We will see later that the North is Rome.) - Daniel 11:5.
The North and South (Rome and Egypt) will make an alliance. The daughter of the King of Egypt will go to make an alliance with the King of Rome. She will be betrayed along with the King of Egypt and will die - Daniel 11:6.
The second King of Egypt, a direct descendant of the former daughter, will attack Rome and win, carrying Rome’s gods to Egypt. This Southern (Egyptian) Empire includes Israel. - Daniel 11:7-8. Perhaps this is why Israel was rebuilt in times of trouble, as Egypt is primarily a Muslim nation. My guess is that the Egyptian Empire will conquer Israel, but then, eventually, let it rebuild.
With the defeat of Rome, there will then be a time of peace between the Roman and Egyptian Empires - Daniel 11:8.
But then, Rome will attack Egypt - Daniel 11:9-10.
Egypt will again defeat Rome - Daniel 11:11-12.
Once again, Rome will invade the Egyptian Empire, which includes Israel - Daniel 11:15-16.
This time, many Southerners will rebel against Egypt, even some Jews – Daniel 11:14.
The King of Rome will intimidate the King of Egypt and will give the King of Egypt his daughter in marriage in order to try to take over the Southern Empire and absorb it into his family’s holdings, but it won’t work - Daniel 11:17.
The King of Rome will attack and conquer many of the coastlands, but will be defeated - Daniel 11:18. It is unclear whether the coastlands referred to here are part of the Egyptian Empire or are still independent nations at this point.
The King of Rome will turn back to his own country, but will die on the way - Daniel 11:19.
It will not be in battle or anger – Daniel 11:20. It could, therefore, possibly be from disease, an accident, old age, etc.
The Anti-Christ will then become the King of the Northern (Roman) Empire. He is not royalty and will seize the North through intrigue - Daniel 11:21. It sounds as though there will be some sort of coup – either militarily or political.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 tells us one sign to look for concerning the rise of the Anti-Christ:
Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of His mouth and destroy by the splendor of His coming.
Many have believed that the ‘person’ to be taken out of the way so that the Anti-Christ can come is the Holy Spirit, or the Body of Christ, arguing that the Anti-Christ will only come after the Holy Spirit living in Christians is taken out of the world (Raptured).
From Daniel’s prophecy, however, we see who this passage is referring to. The Anti-Christ comes after this king of Rome dies, or is “taken out of the way” by natural causes. As the supreme authority of that nation, it is his job to enforce order and defend the country against lawlessness. When he is taken out of the way, this usurper has his chance to take over.
This blog post is included in my book, Last Days: A Biblical Guide to the End Times.
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Read the answers to more interesting questions on my Theology 101 - Simple and Surprising Answers to Your Questions! page.