DISPENSATIONALISM AND DANIEL’S GAP (Part 2)

PMT 2013-031 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Shake handsI am continuing a critique of dispensationalism’s gap theory for Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy. In my last posting I presented four of their arguments with my rebuttals. I will continue now with the fifth and final dispensational argument.

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].” 1 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” 2 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. 3 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.” 4

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. 5 There is no need for a gap in Daniel 9 to explain Christ’s use of it in Matthew 24.

The Covenant of Verse 27

Dispensationalists woefully misunderstand the confirming of the covenant in verse 27. They apply it to a still future, malevolent ruler who makes, then breaks a political covenant with Israel. According to Walvoord “this refers to the coming world ruler at the beginning of the last seven years who is able to gain control over ten countries in the Middle East. He will make a covenant with Israel for a seven-year period. As Daniel 9:27 indicates, in the middle of the seven years he will break the covenant, stop the sacrifices being offered in the temple rebuilt in that period, and become their persecutor instead of their protector, fulfilling the promises of Israel’s day of trouble (Jer. 30:5-7).” 6

Pentecost states: “This covenant will be made with many, that is, with Daniel’s people, the nation Israel. ‘The ruler who will come’ (Dan. 9:26) will be this covenant-maker, for that person is the antecedent of the word he in verse 27. As a yet-future ruler he will be the final head of the fourth empire (the little horn of the fourth beast, 7:8).” 7


Dispensationalism (by Keith L. Mathison)
An important critical evaluation of dispensationalism from a Reformed perspective


Many problems plague this interpretation, several of which I deal with above in other connections:

(1) The covenant here is not made, it is confirmed. The usual word for the initial establishment of a covenant is Wtr]K; (karat), “to cut” 8 — here the word is ryBigh (higbar), “to confirm.” This, then, is a confirming of a covenant already extant, i.e., the covenant of God’s redemptive grace that Christ confirms (Rom. 15:8).

(2) The word “confirmed” (Heb.: higbar) is the emphatic form of gabar. Not only does the root term itself indicate a confirming of covenant, 9 but in its present form it is an expression too strong to apply to a covenant made, then broken by the Antichrist.

(3) As I note above, the term is related to the name of the angel of God who delivers the message to Daniel: “Gabriel” means “God is strong.” The lexical correspondence between the name of God’s strong angel (Heb.: gabriel) and the making strong (Heb., higbar) of the covenant suggests the covenant’s divine nature. In addition, covenantal passages frequently employ related terms when speaking of the strong God of the covenant. 10

(4) The parallelism with verse 26 indicates the death of the Messiah directly relates to the confirming of the covenant. He is “cut off” but “not for himself” (v. 26a), for he “confirms the covenant” for the “many” of Israel (v. 27a). His “cutting off” confirms the covenant, for “without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Heb. 9:22). As Christ puts it: “this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28).

(5) The indefinite pronoun “he” does not refer back to “the prince who is to come” of verse 26. The word “prince” is a subordinate noun; “the people” is the dominant noun. Thus, the “he” refers to the last dominant individual mentioned: the “Messiah” (v. 26a). The Messiah is the leading figure in the whole prophecy, so that even the destruction of the Temple results from His death. In fact, the people who destroy the Temple are providentially “His armies,” according to Christ (Matt. 22:2-7).

(6) It is in the death of Christ that Judaism is legally (covenantally) disestablished, bringing “an end to sacrifice and offering” (Heb. 7:12, 18). The sacrifices are a legal confirmation of the divine covenant with the covenant people Israel: “Gather My saints together to Me, Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice” (Psa. 50:5). 11 An unbreakable connection exists between the death of Christ and the ultimate destruction of the Temple (Luke 20:14-18; 23:28-31) — a connection between legal cause and judicial effect.

Conclusion
A careful study of Daniel’s seventy weeks removes from our future the judgmental devastation in its latter verses. Only hermeneutical gymnastics, a suspension of sound reason, and an a priori commitment to the dispensational system allows the importing of a massive gap into Daniel’s prophecy. Such interrupts the otherwise chronologically exact time-frame. Yet this gap is necessary if we project Daniel’s seventieth week into our future. But as I show above, not only is this difficult to do, but it is wholly unnecessary.

Daniel’s famous prophecy finds fulfillment in the first century of our era. Consequently, the pessimistic expectation of many evangelical Christians rooted in this passage is without warrant.


Notes

  1. Alva J. McClain, Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, 35.
  2. J. B. Payne, “Goal of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks,” 109.
  3. 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.
  4. McClain, Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, 39.
  5. See Matthew 24 discussion elsewhere on this blog site.
  6. Walvoord, Prophecy Knowledge Handbook, 257.
  7. Pentecost, “Daniel,” Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, 1364.
  8. Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, eds., A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Rev. ed.: Oxford: Clarendon, 1972), 503.
  9. Brown, Driver, Briggs, 149.
  10. Gen. 49:24; Deut. 7:21; 10:17; Neh. 1:5; 9:32; Isa. 9:6; Dan. 9:4.
  11. Psa. 50:5. Cf.: Exo. 24:8; Lev. 2:13; Num. 18:19; Zech. 9:11.

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A biblical defense of moderate alcohol consumption


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2 thoughts on “DISPENSATIONALISM AND DANIEL’S GAP (Part 2)

  1. Eric Heil January 10, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Is there a shorter version of this series I can send to my sister? She doesn’t really like to read stuff this long, and we’ve made considerable progress. 🙂

  2. Kenneth Gentry January 10, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Unfortunately, this is the most succinct version I have produced. Give it to her a little at a time.

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