One of the most emotionally charged passages on the last half of the tribulation is found in Daniel 9:26-27. While part of what is written here by Daniel is quite clear, there are thoughts by the prophet Daniel that are elusive. Since all Scripture is inspired by God, we know the verses are from His inspiration and revelation to Daniel. This does not make all of the Bible easy to understand. There are still sections that we grapple with. The reason is that (1) often we do not see everything about a passage we should see because of something lacking in our base of knowledge, and (2) sometimes a prophecy will become clearer as we approach its fulfillment. Both factors may be true about these verses.
Daniel’s Seventy weeks is a much-disputed prediction. “We could call this the heart of Daniel’s prophecy as well as the backbone of all predictions. It is the unanimous opinion of all students of prophecy that whoever does not understand these verse cannot possibly obtain a clear concept of unfulfilled predictions.” (Bultema)
It is not the purpose of this article to completely explain the Seventy weeks of Daniel (Dan. 9:24-27) that are determined upon the nation of Israel. It is suffice to say that this calculates out to the 490 years of the Lord’s timetable determined in His working with the nation of Israel. The clock starts ticking with the degree of Artaxerxes Longimanus to restore and rebuild Israel which began in 444 B.C. 483 years comes out to the week that Christ was rejected and crucified in Jerusalem. Therefore there are now 7 years left in God’s specific and directed working with Israel—this is the seven years of tribulation that unfolds in such detail in the book of Revelation.
What are the 490 years [the Seventy Weeks] about?
The 490 years “are decreed for [Daniel’s] people and your holy city” (v. 24a). During this period the Lord is going “to finish the transgression, [and] make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place” (v. 24b). God is going to clean house with His own people, remove their sins, soften their stubborn hearts. And the holy place (the temple) will be made holy again.
Coming up to the final months of the 483 years, the Messiah, the Prince will be “cut off” (vv. 25b-26a) and the “people (the Romans) of the prince (the antichrist) will come and destroy the sanctuary (the temple)” (v. 26b). On this Walvoord summarizes:
This seems to be a general reference to the fact that from the time of the destruction of the city of Jerusalem (70 AD), trouble, war, and desolation [would] be the normal experience of the people of Israel. … History has certainly corroborated this prophecy, for not only was Jerusalem destroyed but the entire civilization of the Jews in Palestine ceased to exist soon after the end of the sixty-ninth seven, and that desolation continued until recent times. (Daniel Commentary, p. 231)
But what happens next? The answer brings us up to this puzzling and profound passage, verse 27. The “prince” of the people (the Romans) who destroyed the city and the sanctuary (v. 26) will then “make a firm covenant with the many [people who will be back in the Land] for one week,” or for seven years (v. 27)! The Jewish rabbis in their commentaries say “the many” is probably a reference to “the great ones,” the chief leaders of the people! The leadership will be fooled by the antichrist, thinking that he is the promised Messiah! But he is not! The antecedent “prince” goes back to the prince of verse 26 who is part of the Roman peoples! Daniel did not know of the gap between verses 26 and 27. God during that intervening period stopped the clock in His divine work with Israel. The clock will start ticking again with the beginning of the seven year tribulation, and that is marked by the signing of or the making of a peace covenant between this prince and the Jewish people. It seems clear that with the signing of the covenant, the antichrist gives permission for the Jews to build again another temple. Peace will be established between the Jews and the Arabs. The antichrist, the prince, is an international hero! More on the antichrist and the temple is predicted in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12.
[With superb scholarship, Hoehner places the start of the Seventy week prophecy on March 5, 444 BC, with the cutting off of the Messiah in Jerusalem during the week of March 30, AD 33. See his The Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ]
The Difficult Passage
Daniel now deals with the final seven year period, the one week, the final period of God’s working with the nation of Israel. This seven years will be a judgment on the wayward nations and a spiritual purging on the Jewish people. Following this seven years the Messiah will return to earth and begin His Davidic millennial reign, the one thousand year rule of peace! But before He comes, this seven year time of wrath and judgment will come. It is described in a very emotionally charged way in verse 27b.
“In the middle (three and a half years) of the (seven year)week he (the prince, the antichrist) will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering (in the temple); and
on the wing of abomination will come one who makes makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
From the Hebrew text I translate the passage another way: And upon the wing of detestable [idolatrous] things (by doing terrible things), he (the prince, the antichrist) shall be causing a holocaust, that is, until the annihilation gushes forth, that is, the determined end, upon the horrifying scene.
On the wing of abomination: “This is one of the most difficult passages in Daniel,” if not in the entire Bible. (Rabbinical commentaries) “The clause contains an obscure word (“abomination”) which is further complicated by an unintelligible syntax” in the Hebrew. (Daniel, Montgomery, p. 386) Remember that Daniel is elderly, and in his old age, he is overcome by emotion by what he sees and what he is told! He writes in emotional spurts and bursts!
Some have suggested the “wing” is the top part of a roof, the topmost point, or the pinnacle. The term can mean the structural wing of a building, the most prominent and obvious visual location. If this is so, many, many scholars surmise, this could be the pinnacle of the rebuilt temple on which some kind of pagan symbol is made visible! Some rabbis say it refers to an elevated position somehow related to the temple. Further, “The Jewish commentators take ‘wing’ as a figure of speech signifying an ‘elevated position’ and render: ‘upon an elevated position among detestable things (will be placed) an image which causes appallment.’” (Soncino Rabbinical Commentary)]
Van der Palm gives one of the most accepted free translations of the passage:
And on the pinnacle (of the temple) will stand the destroying abomination until everything is demolished and irreparable destruction has been poured on the destroyer.
“We may suppose a heathen image or emblem.” (Montgomery) This would be the emblem of the antichrist who is setting himself above God and all the gods of the world (2 Thess. 2:4). Or, another view: “It is more reasonable to understand ‘wing’ as a figure for the vulturelike role of the Antichrist as he swoops down on his beleaguered victims for the purposes of oppression and despoliation.” (Gaebelein)
Price basically concurs but with some differences:
The term “wing” (Hebrew, k’naf) has a direct association with the abomination of desolation and most likely describes the ‘place’ where it will occur in relation to the temple. This ‘wing’ may be understood metaphorically, has been the subject of extensive controversy and fanciful interpretation in both ancient and modern commentaries. It is possible that k’naf suggests the place where the abomination of desolation is placed: in the Holy of Holies in the place of the Ark of the Covenant, which was topped by winged cherubim.(The Popular Bible Prophecy Commentary, p. 256)
The abomination … makes desolate refer to the Desolator [who will come]. (Unger, p. 1670) “As the text stands it can be literally translated only as follows: “and upon the wing of abominations is a desolator.” (Ellicott) The Desolator of course is the person who causes the desolations mentioned in verse 26. That the Desolator will be doomed, nothing is said here. But “the prince” (the antichrist/desolator) appears merely as the instrument pre-ordained by God, by whose people both city and sanctuary are to be destroyed.” (Ellicott) “The word would be more properly rendered in this passage desolator, referring to some one who would produce desolation.” (Barnes)
In Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 Jesus refers to the “abomination of desolation” as something (or this someone) standing in the holy place, the sanctuary. He is prophetically speaking of the antichrist who will desecrate the temple itself. Again, Paul says this about this evil one, the lawless one, the antichrist. The apostle writes that he will “oppose and exalt himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thess. 2:4).
Until a complete destruction: “Right up to the end that causes desolation.” Christ had this in mind when He predicted in His Olivet Discourse (cf. Matt. 24:15) the final horrors of the Tribulation. It is important to observe that this reference to “the abomination that causes desolation,” or “of desolation” conclusively proves that Jesus Himself regarded the fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel as yet future.” (Gaebelein)
Or the passage could read: “The dictator will hold sway till the wrath of God is poured out in fury on the God-defying world of the Beast (little horn or ruler).” (Gaebelein)
As for the “desolator” himself, it is simplest to take him to be the world dictator of the last days, who will resort to violence to carry through his ruthless policy of despotism. The account in Revelation 13 indicates that the eschatological little horn will remain in control of world affairs down to the End, enforcing his will by violent means till the final conflict of Armageddon. (Gaebelein)
Is poured out on the one who makes desolate: This refers to the final pouring out that climaxes at Armageddon, when the blasphemous world ruler will be crushed by the full weight of God’s judgment.
After three and a half years the antichrist will break his alliance, cast off his mask, and turn against the apostate nation of Israel with all his demonic fury. He will cause the sacrifices of the temple service in the rebuilt temple to cease and reveal himself as a terrible destroyer. He will set himself up in the temple and pretend to be God.
The wording of the last part of verse 27 is very mysterious. Two things are clear, however. In the second part of the still future year-week the antichrist will destroy Israel in a terrible manner, and reciprocally at the end of the week divinely appointed destruction will be poured out on her. (Bultema)
Walvoord notes: “The fulfillment of this prophecy necessarily involves the reactivation of the Mosaic sacrificial system in a temple in Judea. The present occupation of Jerusalem [and the establishment of the new nation] by Israel [is] a preparatory step to the reestablishment of the Mosaic system of sacrifices. Obviously, sacrifices cannot be stopped and a temple cannot be desecrated unless both are in operation.” (Commentary, p. 235)
The antichrist will cause sacrifice and offering to cease and, in their place, erect, even unto the end of causing an overspreading influence, a detestable statue (or altar) in the temple, desolating in effect, says Wood.
Look for some peace process where the Arabs and the Jews co-inhabit the temple mount. The antichrist will bring in the miracle of peace. The world will say “peace and safety.” But the temple desecrated will bring a violent response from God Almighty, not only upon Israel and her rebellion, but on the world as a whole. The temple is a key component in understanding what happens the last of the tribulation.