DISPENSATIONALISM AND DANIEL’S “GAP” (Part 1)

PMT 2013-030 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Broken clockDispensationalism interposes this gap or parenthesis between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth weeks; it spans the entire Church Age from the Triumphal Entry to the Rapture.1 The dispensational arguments for a gap of undetermined length between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks are not convincing. Let us consider the leading arguments for this gap. I will state the argument briefly with some documentation and then respond.

First, the peculiar phraseology in Daniel: Daniel places the cutting off of the Messiah “after the 62 ‘sevens,’ not in the 70th ‘seven.’” 2 This allows for a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. If the cutting off does not occur in the sixty-ninth or the seventieth weeks, there must be a gap wherein it does occur.

In response, it is obvious that seventy occurs after sixty-nine and thus fits the requirements of the statement. Consequently, such an argument does not prove that “after” requires a gap. Besides, Daniel only mentions seventy weeks, and he most certainly does not say “after sixty-nine weeks, but not in the seventieth.” 3 The dispensational gap is a gratuitous assumption.

Daniel has yet to deal with the seventieth week, though he does deal with the preceding sixty-nine weeks (v. 25). Thus, it is quite natural to assume this cutting off of the Messiah must be within the seven year period covered by the remaining week, the seventieth. The seventy weeks prophecy is the major, over-arching time-frame of the prophecy. The cutting off of the Messiah is an event of unsurpassing prophetic and redemptive significance in general, and is fundamental to explaining the goal of the seventy weeks stated in verse 24 in particular.

Second, the burden of Daniel’s prophecy: The “six actions [of verse 24] pertain to Daniel’s ‛people’ (Israel) and his ‛Holy City’ (Jerusalem), not the church.” 4 McClain says “the fulfillment of the tremendous events in verse 24 cannot be found anywhere in known history.” 5 These have yet to occur for Israel; the events must be future.

As I show above, the leading idea of the seventy weeks prophecy is Messianic redemption. The Messiah is “the Most Holy” who brings in “reconciliation” and effects “eternal redemption” (v. 24). He does this for Israel and everyone else. He actually effects this eternal redemption by his death (v. 24), which seems clear enough in his being “cut off” (v. 26). As a matter of historical record, his death occurs within seven years of his baptismal anointing — three-and-one-half years, to be exact. What is to force us outside this unified seventy weeks time-frame?

Third, a fatal admission: “Historically the destruction of Jerusalem occurred in A.D. 70 almost forty years after the death of Christ.” 6 Since this is given in Daniel’s prophecy and is to occur within the seventy weeks, “the continuous fulfillment theory [is] left without any explanation adequate for interposing an event as occurring after the sixty-ninth seven by some thirty-eight years.” 7

Above I explain the relation of the seventy weeks to the Temple’s A.D. 70 destruction. It is important to remember that the goal of the seventy weeks is not the A.D. 70 destruction of the Temple — verse 24 does not even mention it. That destruction is a later consequence of certain events brought to fulfillment within the seventy weeks. The actual act of God’s sealing or reserving judgment (v. 24) occurs within the seventy weeks; the later fulfillment of that reserved judgment does not. There is no necessity at all for a gap.

Fourth, the general tendency in prophecy: “Nothing should be plainer to one reading the Old Testament than that the foreview therein provided did not describe the period of time between the two advents. This very fact confused even the prophets (cf. 1 Pet. 1:10-12).” 8 The dispensationalist argues that Old Testament prophecy often merges the First and Second Advents into one scene, though separated by thousands of years. Consequently, we have biblical warrant for understanding the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks as merged into one scene, although separated by a gap of thousands of years.

This argument is wholly without merit. Clearly the seventy weeks compose a unit, though sub-divided into three unequal parts: (1) It is one period of seventy weeks anticipating the events mentioned; the parts make up a unified whole. Three separate periods of weeks are not the major chronology in the revelation; these three periods (7+62+1) make up the over-arching time-frame of seventy weeks of years. The plural “seventy weeks” is followed by a singular verb “is decreed” which indicates the unity of the time period. Dispensationalists even argue vigorously against allowing a gap in the midst of the seventieth week because “the week is one.” 9 Why do they not allow that the seventy weeks “is” one?


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(2) An overriding concern of the prophecy, in distinction to all other Messianic prophecies, is that it is specifically designed to be a measuring time-frame. The very first words in the prophecy emphatically point to this fact: “seventy weeks.” If there were gaps between the units, the whole idea of measurement in the “seventy weeks” would vanish. An elastic yardstick is a worthless measure. None of the other prophecies brought forward as illustrations of a gap claim to be a measure of time. 10

(3) All agree that the first two units in the period (seven weeks and sixty-two weeks) follow consecutively. Why should not the final period of seven weeks? Strangely, Walvoord — a gap theorist 11 — criticizes Mauro for allowing the last week to be an indefinite period of time: “In view of the precision of the seventy years of the captivity, however, mentioned in the same chapter, the context indicates the probability of a more literal intention in the revelation.” 12 Mauro allows the seventieth week to last forty years as an extension of God’s gracious longsuffering to Israel. Walvoord allows a gap almost 2000 years long, wholly destroying the possibility of temporal measurement. How is Walvoord “more literal”? Mauro’s view measures more closely than does Walvoord’s — at least the events of this precisely measured time-frame are in the same century. Walvoord’s are separated by millennia — so far.

(4) If the dispensational gap theory is true, then the gap separating the seventieth from the sixty-ninth week is almost 2000 years long. This is four times the whole period of the seventy weeks or 490 years. How can the dispensationalist credibly argue for the exact fulfillment of the first seventy weeks to the day, 13 when they allow an interruption of millennia between two of the weeks? Thomas Ice even computes Daniel’s time-frame in exacting fractions of a day to come up with the proper dispensational conclusions: “476 years x 365.2421989 days = 173,855 days.” 14 Ryrie even chides amillennialists for dating the decree of Daniel 9:24 in 538 B.C., because “this has the effect of allowing the seventy sevens to be imprecise in duration.” Ryrie’s later argument totally voids this complaint: “there is an interval of undetermined length between the first sixty-nine weeks of seven years each and the last or seventieth week of seven years.” 15

Fifth, the order within the prophecy: “In the record of the prophecy, the destruction of the city [v. 26b] is placed before the last week [v. 27a].” 16 Since this occurs in A.D. 70, we must allow a gap to account for it.

This argument overlooks the peculiarities of Hebrew poetic style. Oriental expression often confounds the Occidental concern for chronological succession; the Western framework may not be foisted upon the passage. This “revelational pattern” 17 allows a parallel rehearsal and expansion of the topic without requiring actual succession in time. Even classic dispensationalists understand that some prophetic passages do not flow chronologically. 18 A better understanding of the relation between verses 26 and 27 is given above.

Sixth, the interpretation by Christ: “The testimony of our Lord Himself [in Matt. 24:15] shows that the Seventieth Week is still future.” 19

This problem is already answered in the exposition of the passage above and in the response given to argument Five. The Lord cites from the portion of Daniel’s passage that lies outside the concern of the seventy weeks themselves. There is no need for a gap in Daniel 9 to explain Christ’s use of it in Matthew 24.


Notes

  1. Walvoord, Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, 256-257. Ryrie, Basic Theology, 465. Pentecost, “Daniel,” Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, 1:161.
  2. Pentecost, “Daniel,” Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, 1364
  3. Hans K. LaRondelle, The Israel of God in Prophecy (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews University, 1983), 173.
  4. Pentecost, “Daniel,” Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, 1364.
  5. McClain, Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, 35.
  6. Walvoord, Daniel, 230.
  7. Walvoord, Daniel, 230.
  8. Walvoord, The Rapture Question, 25.
  9. Pentecost, Things to Come, 198.
  10. Besides this, dispensationalists put asunder what God has joined together. That is, passages such as Isaiah 9:6-7 merge the earthly ministry of Christ with his kingship because they both begin their fulfillment in the first century.
  11. Walvoord, Daniel, 230-231.
  12. Walvoord, Daniel, 218.
  13. Harold Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, 139: “The terminus ad quem of the sixty-ninth week was on the day of Christ’s triumphal entry on March 30, A.D. 33.”
  14. Thomas D. Ice and Timothy Demy, The Truth About the Tribulation (Eugene, Ore.: Harvest, 1996).
  15. Ryrie, Basic Theology, 448, 465.
  16. McClain, Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, 35.
  17. J. B. Payne, “Goal of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks,” 109.
  18. Regarding certain verses in 2 Thessalonians 2, Constable writes: “These are not necessarily given in strict chronological order.” Thomas L. Constable, “2 Thessalonians,” in John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, eds., Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor, 1983), 718.
  19. McClain, Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, 39.

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3 thoughts on “DISPENSATIONALISM AND DANIEL’S “GAP” (Part 1)

  1. Harold November 22, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    “his argument overlooks the peculiarities of Hebrew poetic style. Oriental expression often confounds the Occidental concern for chronological succession;”

    I think this is the crux of the issue. As Western Christians, we are more steeped in the categories of the Greek and Roman thought than the Near East Hebrew. Few even try to think like a Hebrew living in captivity during the Babylonian captivity. This is probably why we are so fragmented on this issue.

  2. Patricia Watkins December 25, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    I am also an adherent of the no-gap position. You’re right; the 70 week yardstick is not made of elastic – it’s composed of solid titanium. Question: Do you believe Mark 1:14-15 is a direct reference to the beginning of this seventieth week when Christ says “…The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel” ? Can “the acceptable year of the Lord” that Christ was reading about in the synagogue in Nazareth also be identified as the beginning year of this 70 th week?

  3. Kenneth Gentry December 26, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Yes, on both counts.

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