NOTE: The following essay is an excerpt from my book, The High King of Heaven: Discovering the Master Keys to the Great End Time Debate. It is the first of two central chapters devoted to exploring NT teaching about the Kingdom of God. Here my theme is the nature of the Kingdom; in the sequel, it is the coming of the Kingdom: how the Kingdom enters history, and the stages in which it so enters until the universe, life and man reach the Final State in the World to Come. I hope these essays will enrich your understanding of all that our High King has accomplished for us through his redemptive work, and all that awaits us at His glorious return!


The Good News of the Kingdom

In the gospel according to Mark, the first words out of Jesus’ mouth are these: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). No doubt they fell sweetly upon the ears of all Israel. For centuries their prophets had promised a day when God would send his Messiah, through him launching a sequence of events that would culminate in the redemption and glorification of the whole world. For centuries, Israel had waited for it. And now, said Jesus to his astonished countrymen, the day is “at hand”—very near, and drawing nearer by the moment. The people were to prepare themselves spiritually. The hope of the ages was upon them.

At first, they were with him. Though his teachings—usually couched in parables—were enigmatic, his mighty miracles clearly identified him as a prophet (Luke 7:16). Moreover, he did little to discourage the Messianic speculation and fervor that the miracles aroused (Mt. 9:27, 12:23, John 4:29). And when, on Palm Sunday, he made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he openly to declared to all—to the Jewish people, their leaders, and Rome itself—that he was exactly what his exultant disciples believed him to be: the eschatological Son of David, the blessed Messianic King who comes in the name of the LORD (Luke 19:37-40)!

In the end, however, the nation turned against him (John 1:11). Why? Because he was not the Son of David they expected or wanted. If he had been, he would not have fallen into Pilate’s hands. If he had been, he would have roused the people to war. If he had been, he would have invoked the power of God once again, this time to lead Israel to victory over Rome and to eventual supremacy among the nations. No, the Pharisees had gotten it right after all. Jesus of Nazareth was just another in a long line of false prophets and false Messiah’s. Therefore, as Moses commanded, he must die, and the people must resume their long wait for the true King and the true Kingdom of God.


Jesus’ View of the Kingdom

If only they had understood. Had not Jesus told Nicodemus that without a spiritual rebirth, no one could see the Kingdom of God (John 3:3)? Had he not told the Pharisees that the Kingdom of God does not come with observation (Luke 17:20)? Had he not told Pilate that his Kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36)? And when the multitudes had tried to make him a king by force, had he not withdrawn from them, and later reproved them for a selfish materialism that blinded them to the true nature of his Messianic mission (John 6)?

Yes, Jesus of Nazareth was the Messianic herald of the Kingdom of God. But as all four gospels make painfully clear, his understanding of the Kingdom was different from that of the people to whom he proclaimed it—profoundly different!

What then was his understanding? Having pondered this crucial question for many years, I would argue that in proclaiming, expounding, and manifesting the true character of the Kingdom of God, our Lord always had in mind five main ideas. In the pages ahead, I will briefly examine each one, and then offer a working definition of the Kingdom as I believe Jesus saw it. Later in our journey, we shall discuss many of these ideas in greater depth.

A Direct Reign of God the Father

Above all else, Christ understood the Kingdom to be the direct reign (or rule) of God the Father over his creation. We see this truth on display in the Lord’s Prayer, where he taught his disciples to say, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). Here we have a virtual definition of the Kingdom: It is the sphere where God’s will is being done as it is in heaven. But to understand this saying, we must be clear on two points. First, what exactly does Jesus mean by the Father’s “will”? And secondly, what is the difference, at present, between the way this will is being done in heaven and on earth?

Concerning the first question, it is clear that here Jesus has in mind what theologians call God’s will of precept (or moral will, or will of command). Revealed in Eden, revealed in Christ, and revealed in his Scriptural promises and precepts, it may be defined as that which God expressly desires his creatures to do and to be, so that they, reflecting both the character of their Creator and his benevolent purpose for their lives, may naturally and joyfully bring glory to him.

Up in heaven, God’s will of precept is now being done perfectly. Why? Because up there God rules directly over the spirits of the saints and angels, with the result that their wills and his will are one. This is what makes heaven to be heaven. Since there God conforms all things to his will of precept, all things reflect his glory and partake of his joy. In heaven, the Kingdom of God has come.

However, it has not yet come to the earth; or rather, it has not yet fully come to the earth, as it has to heaven. Importantly, this does not mean that in our fallen world God’s “will” is not being done. For according to the Bible, everything that happens on earth happens according to his will of purpose, that is, according to his eternal decrees. Mysteriously enough, this even includes situations and events that are contrary to his will of precept. Thus, we find Jesus asking, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin, and not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” (Mt. 10:29, John 19:11, Eph. 1:11). No, it is not God’s positive desire—his will of precept—that sparrows should fall to the ground. But yes, for wise reasons it is indeed—for the moment—his will of purpose.

We find, then, that God’s absolute sovereignty over all events does not mean that his Kingdom has (fully) come to the earth. That’s because at present he is largely reigning indirectly. In other words, his sovereign rule over all things is mediated by, or passes through, a judicial curse that he himself has placed upon the creation—a curse that terribly distorts the ideal nature of all things (Gen. 3:15f). When, however, God’s will of purpose for all (redeemed) things has been fulfilled at last, his will of purpose and his will of precept will be one. In that day, his Kingdom will have come to earth, even as it has already to come to heaven.

Our Lord commands his saints to pray—and labor—for this very thing. They are to ask the Father to advance his redemptive purpose in the earth; to lift his hand of judgment and to remove all distortions; to cause his “will of precept” to be done here, even as it is being done among the saints and angels in heaven. In short, they are to pray for the Father to extend his direct reign over all his redeemed creatures. They are to pray for the (complete) coming of the Kingdom of God.

A Sphere of Wholeness and Blessing

Secondly, Christ understood the Kingdom to be a sphere of wholeness and blessing. This only stands to reason, since wherever God reigns directly over his creatures, those creatures must take on the likeness of their Creator. They must reflect, in their own nature, the integrity, beauty, and blessedness of the One who made them.

Over and again we see this important truth vividly reflected in the gospels. Consider, for example, this thought-provoking text from Matthew: “Jesus was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness” (Mt. 9:35; 10:7-8, 12:28). Here, the juxtaposition of Jesus’ saying and doing is profoundly revealing. On the one hand, he is proclaiming that the Kingdom is near; on the other, he is healing all manner of disease and sickness. Surely, then, both he and Matthew mean for us to understand that wherever the Kingdom is present, there God himself also is present to do two things: to rescue from the manifold effects of sin, and to restore to the kind of wholeness and blessedness that he had originally planned for his creatures in the beginning! In other words, wherever the Kingdom is present, God is present to redeem.

Unless we completely understand these three key words—redemption, rescue, and restoration—we cannot understand the Kingdom of God. That’s because the Kingdom, in Jesus’ eyes, was exactly what the prophets of old had promised: a sphere of wholeness and blessing that is the direct result of God’s redemptive activity. It is the direct result of God rescuing his people and his world from the manifold spiritual and physical enemies introduced by Adam at the Fall, and also of his restoring them to the manifold “friends” he originally planned for them at the creation. Again, unless we fully grasp these closely related ideas, we cannot understand the Kingdom. Through God’s redemptive action in history, his people and his world are rescued and restored; through his redemptive action, they are brought under the blessedness of his direct reign; through his redemptive action, the Kingdom of God comes.

It is well worthwhile to illustrate these great truths from our Lord’s earthly ministry, from the works of Christ during the days of his flesh.

As we just saw, through Christ God rescued the blind (Mt. 9:27f, John 9:1-7), the lame (John 5:1f), the leprous (Luke 17:11f), the paralyzed (Mt. 8:5-13), the sick (Mt. 8:14-15, 9:20-22), the mute (Mt. 9:32f), and the deformed (Mt. 12:1-13), and he restored them all—if only temporarily—to perfect health. Here, then, for all with eyes to see, was a sneak preview of the Kingdom of God, when it will come benevolently, redemptively, and definitively upon sinful and broken human flesh.

On more than one occasion, God also worked through Christ to rescue the dead from death itself, restoring them not only to life, but also to their loved ones, and to the pleasures of family and friends that were the traditional scriptural earmarks of the Kingdom (Jer. 33:10-11, Zech. 8:2-5; Mt. 8:11, 9:18-25, 22:1f, Luke 7:11-15, John 11:1-44; Zech. 8:2-5, Mt. 8:11, 22:1f).

Moreover, through Jesus, God seemed even to put his healing touch on inanimate nature itself, “rescuing” the raging waters of the Sea of Galilee from a deadly windstorm, thereby restoring them to peace (Mt. 8:23-27); or rescuing the multitude of his followers from a dangerous lack of food in the wilderness, and restoring them to abundant provision and the satisfaction of a full stomach (Mt. 14:15f, 15:32f).

Through Christ, God also rescued many poor souls tormented by evil spirits, restoring them to soundness of mind and body (Mt. 8:28f, 12:22, 15:21f, 17:14f, Mark 1:23f, Luke 13:11f). Very notably, when the Pharisees accused him of casting out demons by the power of Satan, Jesus vigorously contested their flawed reasoning. Then, in a direct challenge of his own, he concluded his argument by saying, “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then surely the Kingdom of God has come upon you” (Mt. 12:28, Luke 11:20). This powerful text teaches us that it belongs to the very essence of the Kingdom that the Spirit of God should arrive upon the scene, rescue people from every power of evil, and restore them to the mental and physical wholeness that will always characterize life under his direct reign.

Finally, and most importantly, through Christ, God rescued sinners from their terrible burden of guilt and shame, forgiving those who turned to Jesus of their sins, thereby restoring them to the peace, love, joy, gratitude, and hope of eternal life that ever marks the community of the redeemed (Luke 7:36-50, 15:1f, 18:9-14, 19:1f).

We find, then, that Jesus’ miraculous ministry was designed to do something more than confirm his status as a prophet, or as the Messiah, or even as the Son of God. Beyond all these, it was designed to give Israel—and all mankind—a glimpse and foretaste of the Kingdom of God itself; of the redemptive rescue and restoration by which God enables every believer in Christ to experience the blessedness of life beneath his direct rule.

Mediated by the Son of God

This brings us to our third point, namely, that the direct reign of God the Father is always mediated by God the Son. Later we will explore in greater depth the divine rationale for this crucial characteristic of the Kingdom. Here, however, it suffices to say that this important characteristic is on display all throughout Christ’s earthly ministry. How were the people healed? How were they delivered? How were they supplied, or raised, or pardoned, or filled with renewed faith, hope, and love? The answer shines on every page of the gospels: All these things happened when Jesus reached out and touched them; or when they reached out and touched him; or when he taught, or prayed, or a mighty word of command. Yes, in the end it was God the Father who was doing the works. But in the end, it was always through Jesus that he did them!

This is a recurring theme in the most profoundly christological gospel, the Gospel of John. Over and again we hear Christ saying, “Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing by himself, unless it is something he sees the Father doing” (John 5:19, 30, 6:38, 8:28, 12:49, 14:10). But the more we consider the work of God in the gospels, the more we see that the reverse is also true: The Father will do nothing by himself, unless it is something he is pleased to do through his Son! Why? Because he desires that all should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father (John 5:23). For this reason, it is the Father’s good pleasure to rescue and restore his people and their world through Christ; it is his good pleasure to bring in the Kingdom of God through his only-begotten Son.

Jesus himself affirmed this very thing as a matter of principle. Thus, in a midnight conversation with master Nicodemus, he declared, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Now Nicodemus had definitely seen Jesus’ miracles, and he had also seen that God was behind them (John 3:1). Nevertheless, because he was not yet born again, he could neither see—nor enter—the Kingdom of God (John 3:5). Why? Because he could not see the King, or the nature of the Kingdom over which God had placed him! Soon, however, he would be able to. For as Jesus himself intimated that very night, in time he (Christ) would die, rise, and ascend to heaven; and in time he would pour out the Holy Spirit on Nicodemus, renew him inwardly, and open his eyes. Then he would be able to see the King, high and lifted up: not only upon the Cross (John 3:14-16), but also at the right hand of God (Acts 2:33). Then he would be able to see Christ’s deity, and the meaning of his redemptive work on earth. And then, coming to the one Mediator between God and man—the high Prophet, Priest, and King of Heaven—he would be able experience, at long last, the direct rule of God the Father over his whole being. In short, through Christ—and through a Spirit-wrought faith in him—Nicodemus would enter the Kingdom of God.

Later in our study we will explore these crucial themes more deeply. However, as we begin to grapple with the great question of the nature of the Kingdom, let us even now resolve always to remember this: Jesus explicitly taught that the direct reign of God the Father is always mediated by God the Son. Said he, “The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14). And who are “these”? They are all who, like little children, simply come to him (Mt. 11:28f, 18:1-5, 19:14).

Effected by the Holy Spirit

The Lord Jesus consistently portrayed the coming of the Kingdom as a trinitarian event. For him, the direct reign of the Father comes through the Son, and is implemented or effected by the Holy Spirit. The OT prophets had predicted this very thing, closely associating the last days with the gift and outpouring of the Spirit upon all of God’s people (Isaiah 44:3, Ezek. 36:27, 37:14, 39:29, Joel 2:28). In his midnight discourse to Master Nicodemus, Jesus did the same, juxtaposing the coming of the Kingdom with the coming of the Spirit, and the coming of both with his own life, death, and resurrection (John 3:1-12f). Also, we have seen that the Lord explicitly declared that where the Spirit is at work to rescue and restore, there the Kingdom has come upon the creature(s) that the Father is pleased to redeem (Mt. 12:28, Luke 11:20). Moreover, throughout his entire Upper Room discourse, we find him preparing his disciples for the coming of the Spirit, through whom, in due season, they will be able to declare the coming of the Kingdom (John 13-16, Acts 1:4-8, 8:12, 19:8, 20:5, 28:31). So then, in Jesus’ eyes the coming of the Kingdom is a gracious gift and accomplishment of the Holy Trinity. It is the coming of the Father to reign directly through the Son, by the Holy Spirit, over all his redeemed creatures.

A Realm Beneath a Reign

Finally, Jesus not only viewed the Kingdom as a reign, but also as a realm; as the totality of redeemed persons, places, and things that blessedly dwell beneath the direct rule of God.

In the gospels, this idea appears prominently in his explanation of the parable of the wheat and the tares. Speaking of the Judgment that will occur at his Parousia, he says:

The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumblingblocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. — Mt. 13:41-42

Here we catch a glimpse of the realm of the completed Kingdom. At the end of the age, Christ will come again. When he does, he himself will create a perfect world. But in order to do this, he must first remove all stumbling blocks, everything that “scandalizes” or offends against the holiness that will mark the new creation. Therefore, the devil must go, the devil’s followers (the tares) must go, and indeed every mark and vestige of the fallenness of the old order of nature must go. When this occurs, the perfect reign of God will have created a perfected realm of God. And that realm is properly called the Kingdom of God.

As we shall see later, even now, during the present Church era, this realm exists. Even now God is transferring a chosen people from the Domain of Darkness into the Kingdom of his beloved Son (Col. 1:13). Even now, these people are subjects of the High King of Heaven, citizens of the Jerusalem above (Phil. 3:20). Even now they are a Kingdom and priests to his God (Rev. 5:10). So then, the Church on earth is an invisible realm, and outpost of the Kingdom of heaven, dwelling and laboring amidst the kingdom(s) of this present evil world. And again, at his return Christ will perfect this realm—not only his people, but also the physical world that they will ever inhabit—and then deliver it up, as a supreme gift, to his Father (1 Cor. 15:20-28). In that Day, say the Scriptures, all the kingdoms of the earth will have become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; all things will dwell blessedly under his direct reign; all things will belong to his holy realm (Rev. 11:15).

The Essence of the Kingdom

Though much more remains to be said, we are now in a good position to give an extended definition of the nature, or essence, of the Kingdom of God as Jesus revealed it to us. I would frame it as follows:

In essence, the Kingdom of God is the direct reign of God the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit, over his redeemed creatures; creatures who have been rescued from every spiritual and physical enemy, and restored to every spiritual and physical friend that God planned for them in the beginning. Also, the Kingdom is the blessed realm that this redemptive reign creates, and over which it forever rules.  


The Kingdom and the New Covenant

Did Jesus embrace what we earlier called the Representative OT Idea of the Kingdom? That is, did he join with his Jewish contemporaries in thinking of the Kingdom as an ideal Mosaic theocracy? From all we have learned so far, clearly not. Yes, during the days of his flesh the Law was in effect. And yes, for important reasons he obeyed it implicitly. Nevertheless, even a cursory reading of the gospels shows that during Jesus’ earthly ministry God the Father was not performing his redemptive work through any person or ordinance associated with the existing religious system, but simply through his incarnate Son. In other words, the Kingdom was not coming through the Law, but through the One who was in the process of fulfilling the Law: the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:17).

We have already touched on this crucial theme several times. Here, however, in our discussion of the good news of the Kingdom, we must explore it more deeply. Three crucial points may be made.

First, in his teaching ministry, Jesus closely associated the Kingdom of God with a New Covenant. We remember that in OT times Jeremiah had promised one (Jer. 31:31). Throughout the NT we learn that Jesus himself brought it into the world, sealing it with his own blood (Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, Heb. 8:8).

The story here begins with the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7). Ascending as he did to a mountaintop, and there giving his disciples a new (evangelical) law, he is clearly emulating Moses; indeed, he is acting as “a greater than Moses,” as God’s eschatological Moses, as the mediator of a new and eternal covenant, of which the OT Law was a type or picture. Very importantly, in his articulation of this new evangelical Law, Christ repeatedly refers to the Kingdom of God (Mt. 5:3, 10, 19-20, 6:10, 13, 33, 7:21). The implication is clear: The Kingdom he is proclaiming and demonstrating in his earthly ministry will enter the world in conjunction with a new covenant, a covenant expounded (here and elsewhere in his teaching ministry) by the Messianic Prophet, and in the end to be ratified by the blood of the Messianic Priest and Sacrifice (Luke 22:20).

Secondly, Jesus explicitly taught that the Mosaic Law was about to pass away, permanently. Earlier, we discussed the reason why: The Old Covenant must pass away because the New and Eternal Covenant fulfills it (Mt. 5:17). The elements and institutions of the Old Covenant were in the nature of a promise: Mystically, they pointed ahead to the Redeemer, and to the elements and institutions of the New Covenant that he would bring. Now, however, the Redeemer has come. Therefore, the temporary and promissory institutions of the Old Covenant are obsolete. They must forever pass away, in order to make room for those that will remain forever.

Let us hear the Lord himself on this:

No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. – Mt. 9:16-17

The message of these memorable tropes is quite simple: The Old Covenant and the New Covenant are incompatible. The disciples cannot live under both at the same time. Everyday objects and events make this truth clear. If people hope to enjoy the blessings of a new garment or a new wineskin, they must not try to combine the new with the old; that will only make a mess of both. Rather, they must discard the old and completely invest themselves in the new. Similarly, if the disciples hope to enjoy the blessings of the New Covenant, they cannot mingle them with the trappings of the Old. Because the Old is now obsolete, they must let it pass away completely, once and for all.

Jesus spoke of end of the Mosaic Law in other ways, as well. During the last week of his life, when he publicly offered himself to Israel as their Messiah, the spiritually hungry Christ came up to a fig tree, found no fruit on it, and cursed it, saying, “Let no one eat fruit from you again” (Mark 11:14). The tree represented national Israel, destitute of spiritual fruit (Luke 3:8, 13:6f). But more than this, it also represented the Law, which was largely incapable of producing such fruit (Jer. 31:31f). And once Christ fulfills the Law through his life, death, and resurrection, it will become utterly devoid of any vital connection with him, and so completely dead and fruitless. Consigned by God to obsolescence, it will fall like so much religious chaff into the “elementary principles of the (religious) world” (2 Kings 18:4, Gal. 4:3, 9).

Similarly, we remember that when Jesus exited Jerusalem on the afternoon before his crucifixion, the disciples asked him to comment on the grandeur of Herod’s temple. Solemnly, he replied, “Do you not see all these things? Truly, I say to you not one stone shall be left here upon another that shall not be thrown down” (Mt. 24:2). This was a shocking word. The temple was the very heart of the nation, the hub of the Jewish ceremonial Law, the locus of all Israel’s sacrifices, and the destination of her pilgrims on all the high holy days. In effect, its destruction would be the destruction of Judaism, the end of the Mosaic Law. But this is precisely what Jesus declares. God, by his supernatural Power, is about to tear down the veil of the temple at the hand of his Holy Spirit (Mt. 27:51). And God, by his Providence, is about to tear down the temple itself at the hand of Rome. Like the Law itself, neither emblem of the Law will ever rise again.

We conclude, then, that Jesus could not possibly have thought of the Kingdom as an ideal Mosaic theocracy, since he clearly believed that in fulfilling the Mosaic Law he was making it forever obsolete.

Covenant, Kingdom, and Replacement

This brings us to a final and closely related point: Jesus taught that in fulfilling the several institutions of the Mosaic Law, he was replacing them with new ones, once and for all. The anti-type fulfills the type, and so replaces it. The greater fulfills the lesser, and so supplants it. The heavenly body, shaped in eternity past, fulfills the earthly shadow, and so floods the room with a light that expels all shadows (Col. 2:17). There is no going back.

In order to understand this idea of replacement better, let us consider a few examples, drawn more or less exclusively from the teaching of the High King himself.

We have just seen that Jesus presented himself as the supreme Mediator, a greater than Moses, bringing in a new and greater covenant. Christ and his covenant are therefore replacing Moses and his.

Jesus is also the supreme Prophet, a greater than Moses, Elijah, or John the Baptist, and so replaces all former prophets as the authoritative spokesman of God and teacher of his people (Mt. 17:1f, Mt. 23:10, Mark 8:28, John 9:17, Acts 3:22).

He is the supreme Priest, a greater than Levi, and so replaces Levi as the one who intercedes for God’s people (Luke 23:34, John 17), offers sacrifice for their sin (John 10:11, 17:19), and assures the penitent of God’s mercy and forgiveness (Mt. 9:2, Luke 7:48, 24:43, John 20:23).

He is the supreme Sacrifice, a greater than all the animal sacrifices offered under the Law, and so replaces them as the one Lamb of God who gives his life a ransom for many, thereby taking away the sin of the new world for which he died (Mk. 10:45, John 1:29).

He is the true Temple, a greater than Herod’s, and so replaces Herod’s with his own Body, which is the true and eternal Tabernacle of God (Mt. 12:6, John 2:19, John 10:38).

Moreover, because of this, his people no longer worship the Father on earthly Zion, but on the Zion above, in spirit and in truth, whenever they wish and wherever their physical bodies happen to be. In short, NT worship in spirit and truth replaces OT worship in Jerusalem (John 4:21f, 14:20, 17:23, Gal. 4:26, Heb. 12:22, Rev. 14:1f).

He is the true Sabbath, a greater than the Israelite Sabbath, and Lord over it, with authority from God to give his people true spiritual rest, as well as the Spirit-led worship and work that properly arise from it (Mt. 11:28, 12:48, John 6:29, 15:1f, 19:30).

He is the true Passover Lamb—and his death the true Passover sacrifice—so that henceforth the Passover Feast is replaced with the Lord’s Supper, wherein Christ’s people remember, celebrate, and re-appropriate their spiritual rescue from the world, the flesh, and the devil, and their spiritual restoration to God (Mt. 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-23, John 5:24).

Very importantly, his is the true nation (Mt. 21:43), the true flock (John 10:16), the true household (Mark 13:34, Luke 14:23, John 8:35), and the true city (Mt. 5:14) of God, so that henceforth Christ’s Church of called out Jews and Gentiles replaces ethnic Israel (who are still beloved for the sake of the fathers, Romans 11:28) as the true people of God (Mt. 16:18).

And over this nation he rules as the supreme King, a greater than David (Mt. 22:41-46) and Solomon (Mt. 12:24), and so replaces Israel’s many earthly kings with a single heavenly king: the High King of Heaven and Earth, the divine Lord of the “Israel of God” (Mt. 28:18f, Luke 19:12, John 18:36, Gal. 6:16).

Much more could be said on this point, and in their letters to the early Christian churches the apostles say it. However, from what we have seen so far, it is quite clear that the Lord Jesus viewed the institutions of the Mosaic Law as temporary physical “types” pointing forward to the permanent spiritual realities of the New Covenant. Accordingly, his own teaching on these matters completely rules out the notion that the Kingdom of God, in any of its stages, can ever again take on the trappings of a Mosaic theocracy.


In the present chapter we have listened hard to the Herald of the Kingdom, endeavoring to discern from the words and works of Christ the true nature of the Kingdom of God. Thus far we have seen that he viewed it as a direct reign of God the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit; a reign that falls upon redeemed creatures who have been rescued from every spiritual enemy, and restored to every spiritual friend; a reign that creates a realm, the Kingdom of God.

Now if we had learned nothing more than this, we would be strongly inclined to conclude that the Kingdom has little or nothing to do with a Mosaic theocracy. But we did learn more. We learned that Jesus viewed the events and institutions of OT times as temporary physical “types” of permanent spiritual realities that he himself was introducing under the New Covenant. We learned that he saw himself and the New Covenant as fulfilling OT institutions, replacing them, and rendering them forever obsolete.

Obviously, this has important implications for eschatology. In particular, it raises grave doubts about theocratic ideas of the Kingdom. In other words, it raises grave doubts about the various schools of premillennialism, all of which posit a future thousand year revival of OT institutions (e.g., a temple, priests, sacrifices, feasts, etc.) following the New Covenant era and the second coming of Christ.

Nevertheless, despite all we have learned so far, we cannot make a final decision about a future millennial stage of the Kingdom until we take the next logical step in our investigation; until we ascertain what Christ and his apostles taught, not only about the nature of the Kingdom, but also about the coming of the Kingdom.

To get to the bottom of this crucial subject, we must ask ourselves a number of important questions: Did Jesus think of the Kingdom as being present in his earthly ministry? Did he think of it at yet come, say on the Day of Pentecost? If so, did he think of it as coming all at once, or as coming in several stages? If in several stages, how many would there be? And if in several stages, what would the distinctive characteristics of each stage be? In short, we must try to determine Jesus’ exact view as to when and how the promised redemption of the universe, life, and man is to occur.

This is my theme in the second essay in this series, The Coming of the Kingdom (for which, click here). And as you plunge into it, I invite you to pay the closest possible attention. For unless I am very much mistaken, in exploring this subject you will discover once and for all the true winner in the Great End Time Debate!




Note: This essay is extracted from my book on eschatology, The Great End Time Debate: Issues, Options, and Amillennial Answers (Redemption Press, 2022). It appears subsequent to a chapter dealing with the proper interpretation of Old Testament Kingdom Prophecy (OTKP). There are many such prophecies, and Daniel 9:24-27 is among the most difficult and controversial. As a you will see if you read on, I have studied the different views with some care, and have settled on an interpretation that I believe is not only sound, but also inspiring and timely. // In this essay you will also run across the acronym NCH, which stands for New Covenant Hermeneutic. The NCH is the method the apostles used to interpret the OT in general, and OTKPs in particular. The essential idea here is that the OT is, above all, a veiled revelation of Christ and the eternal covenant, with the result that we must interpret it typologically and figuratively in order to arrive at its deepest meaning. (For a closer look at the NCH, please click here.) Also, the acronym DNT stands for Didactic New Testament, and references the distinctively teaching portions of the NT (as opposed, say, to historical narratives in the gospels and the book of Acts, or to the Revelation as a whole). // My hope and prayer is that in this essay you will catch a fresh, exhilarating glimpse of the High King of heaven, his awesome plan for the ages, and the glorious inheritance that he has prepared for his beloved Bride.


The year is 539 B.C. Daniel, still in captivity under Darius the Mede, has been reading the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:11-12, 29:10). He realizes that the 70 years of Jerusalem’s desolation are nearing an end, but also that many captive Jews remain unbroken and impenitent (9:13). They are not spiritually qualified for the great restoration promised decades earlier.

So Daniel prays (9:3-23). First, he rehearses and confesses the sin of God’s covenant-breaking people (9:3-10). Then he acknowledges God’s justice in sending them into captivity (9:11-15). Finally, he makes his petition. Appealing solely to God’s mercy, grace, and zeal for the honor of his Name, he pleads with the LORD to fulfill his promise given through Jeremiah: to restore his City, his Sanctuary, and his Holy Mountain (9:16-19).

His words are not in vain. Even as he is praying, the angel Gabriel arrives and stands before him, declaring to Daniel that God has indeed heard his prayer and answered it. He (Gabriel) has been sent to give Daniel “insight and understanding” about the coming Restoration (9:20-23). In the four long verses that follow, he does (9:24-27)

Are you familiar with this famous OTKP, often referred to as the prophecy of Daniel’s Seventy Sevens (or Weeks)? If so, you know at least one thing for sure: A whole host of commentators have been seeking insight and understanding ever since! In the paragraphs ahead, we will see why.

The Three Main Views of Daniel 9

Close students of this short but complex OTKP know that interpreters differ widely on the exact meaning of dozens of the details found herein. To give but one illustration, Biederwolf cites at least eleven different opinions as to when, historically, the seventy sevens start.1 This is hardly an auspicious beginning! And yet, when we stand back and look at the history of interpretation surrounding this prophecy, we discover something both interesting and encouraging: In the end, the vast majority of conservative commentators espouse one of three main views. My purpose in this section is briefly to introduce them, and to explain why I believe that the Lord is now putting his finger on the one that is true.

1. The Traditional First Advent View (TFAV)

First, we have what I will call the Traditional First Advent View. It has been around from the beginning, and is still popular today. The basic idea here is that the terminus ad quem—the goal or end point—of the seventy weeks is (primarily) the first advent of Christ.

Regarding the seventy sevens, there are differences of opinion. Some say they are 490 consecutive years, a commitment that forces them to look for a viable historical starting point. Others argue that they are symbolic, a commitment that delivers them from unwelcome computations and manipulations. But all agree that the great burden of the prophecy is to unveil the redemptive instrument—the New Covenant, and the Christ of the New Covenant—by which God will make an end of sins, bring in everlasting righteousness, and so create, once and for all, his eschatological City, Sanctuary, and Mountain (24).

How will God do this? Turning to the text itself, proponents of the TFAV reply: He will send a Messiah: an Anointed One, a holy Priest and Sacrifice, who, by God’s fore-ordination, will be cut off for the sins of his people (25, 26). Because of this, he will be able to make a firm covenant with his people—a New Covenant—, and in so doing will bring the Old Covenant sacrifices and burnt offerings to an end (27).

And that is not all that he will bring to an end. For another prince will come—the Roman general Titus—to destroy the former city (Herod’s Jerusalem) and the former sanctuary (Herod’s Temple) (26). This is indeed a divine judgment against the Jews, who rejected their Messiah. But it is also a message from God: Christ’s death has rendered the temple (and it sacrifices) abominable in his sight; therefore, he has decreed its perpetual desolation, a desolation that began with Titus’ assault (27).

There is, however, great good news: When the Messiah comes, and when he makes a New Covenant with his own, then a new City and a new Temple will arise: the Church. As the NT teaches, it is in the Church—and all throughout the Era of Gospel Proclamation—that God will accomplish the great eschatological restoration he promised through Jeremiah, and for which the prophet Daniel so fervently prayed (24).

It is noteworthy that by focusing (more or less) exclusively upon the first coming of Christ, the TFAV view leaves room for, but does not require, a future millennial reign of Christ. Thus, both amillennarians and premillennarians can (and do) embrace the TFAV.

With minor differences among them, E. Hengstenberg, E. Pusey, E. J. Young, K. Riddlebarger, M. Kline, and I. Duguid are all modern proponents of the TFAV.

A Critique of the TFAV

Because of the fluidity—indeed, the ambiguity—of the language of this prophecy, the TFAV seems, at first glance, to open it up quite well. However, upon closer inspection, we encounter some serious problems.

If, for example, the great Restoration envisioned in verse 24 is fulfilled under the New Covenant, why should the terminus ad quem of the prophecy be the first advent of Christ, rather than the second, when that restoration will be complete?

What of the sixty-two sevens referenced in verses 25 and 26: Why do the proponents of the TFAV not pause to consider, with some translators, that the sixty-two sevens might actually follow—and be a consequence of—the coming of Messiah the Prince?

Why do they assert that the “he” of verse 27—the one who will confirm a covenant with many—is Christ, when the person most recently spoken of in the preceding verse (26) is the prince (allegedly Titus) who will destroy the city and the sanctuary?

Why, if the “he” of verse 27 is Christ, does the angel again point to his death here (“He will bring an end to sacrifice and offering”), when in verse 26 he has already spoken of the (alleged) destruction of Herod’s city and sanctuary?

Why, if this is Christ, will he establish a covenant with many only for one week, rather than forever (27)?

Why is the prophecy silent as to what occurs in the last half of the seventieth seven, after Christ brings an end to sacrifice and offering (27)?

And why does it conclude with such a great emphasis upon the destruction of the temple? Is this not an odd way of wrapping up a divine revelation meant to unveil the Messianic restoration of all things!2

Perhaps, then, in light of all these questions, there is a more satisfying interpretation than the one offered in the TFAV.

2. The Dispensational Two-Advent View (DTAV)

The second view is the Dispensational Two-Advent View. Unlike the TFAV, it holds that here Daniel refers not only to Christ’s first advent, but also to his second, when he comes again at the end of a seven year season of tribulation for ethnic Israel. This view has little historic precedent, having arisen in mid-19th century England among the Plymouth Brethren. And yet, for reasons discussed earlier, it has become widely popular in evangelical circles. It is the most complex and controversial of the three interpretations. If, however, we confine ourselves to the basics, it is fairly easy to describe and understand. Let us briefly survey it, verse by verse.

Dispensationalists reckon the seventy sevens of verse 24 as seventy weeks of years; as 490 calendar years. They acknowledge that the six blessings here promised to Daniel’s people are achieved by the earthly work of Christ, and that they will reach their full fruition in the New Heavens and the New Earth. Nevertheless, in a major departure from the TFAV, they do not agree that Daniel’s people and city appear here primarily as OT types of the eschatological People and City of God: the Church. Instead, Dispensationalists insist that Gabriel is speaking primarily of spiritual blessings that God will bestow upon ethnic Israel in the Millennium; in the dispensation of the (earthly, Jewish, and Messianic) Kingdom that is (allegedly) the true theme of all OTKP.

The subject matter of verse 25 is the (events of the) first 69 weeks. These total 483 calendar years. According to (most) dispensationalists, they began in 445 B.C., when king Artaxerxes issued a decree authorizing the restoration of Jerusalem, which was indeed rebuilt in stressful times under the leadership of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:1f). They ended either at the birth of Messiah the Prince or at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Notably, dispensationalists cannot quite make this scheme chronologically viable, and so resort to massaging the numbers involved. Some suggest that Artaxerxes actually issued his decree in 455 BC, while others say that here the Spirit reckons a year as 360 days.3

Along with the proponents of the TFAV, dispensationalists hold that verse 26 speaks of: 1) the rejection and death of Christ, who thereby “has nothing” of his royal prerogatives; 2) the coming of the Roman “prince” Titus; and, 3) the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by Titus’ legions.

However, upon reaching verse 27, dispensationalists diverge sharply from their traditional brethren. Here, they say, the Spirit suddenly lifts us up and carries us ahead to certain dramatic events that must befall ethnic Israel at the close of the present evil age. Obviously, this raises an important question: What in the world happens during the intervening years?

With scant help from the text itself, dispensationalists respond by asserting that throughout this time God is pursuing a different plan for a different people. The plan is the “mystery” of the Dispensation (or Era) of the Church. The people is the Church itself, the Bride of Christ. According to dispensationalists, the OT prophets—including Daniel—did not foresee or speak of either, since their sole concern was to encourage the OT saints with promises of Christ’s millennial Kingdom.

Moreover, they did not foresee still another mystery, one that will bring the Church Era to a close: the Rapture. At the Rapture, God will send the glorified Christ secretly to lift his Bride into the skies above the earth and then carry her to heaven, where she will be safe and secure from the vicissitudes of the seven terrible years now to begin: The Tribulation (Matthew 24:6, 15; 1 Thessalonians 4, 4:13ff; Revelation 7:14).

In sum, dispensationalists hold that God has placed a great “parenthesis”—a huge temporal gulf, now some two millennia long—between the end of verse 26 and the beginning of verse 27. Again, they call this gulf the mystery of the Church Era. When it began, God’s prophetic time clock—his stated plans for ethnic Israel—stopped (26). But as soon the Rapture occurs, it will start to tick again (27)!

What will the seventieth week—the Tribulation era—look like? In reply, dispensationalists take us to verse 27. The “he” with which it begins is not, they say, the prince of verse 26 (i.e., Titus). No, it is the “little horn” of Daniel 7, the Antichrist. This wicked Roman prince will enter into a seven-year covenant with “many” Jews, presumably guaranteeing them certain political and religious prerogatives. However, mid-way into the final week, he will break the covenant by suppressing Jewish ritual worship, “desolating” the (restored) temple with his abominable idolatries, and launching a fierce persecution against Israel. In other words, for three and a half years Israel (along with the persecuting world, as well) will endure what dispensationalists call “the Great Tribulation.” However, Christ himself—at his visible coming again in power and glory—will bring all hostilities to an end. When he appears, he will pour out complete destruction upon the Antichrist (and his followers), after which he will introduce the manifold blessings of the thousand-year Messianic reign upon the earth (v. 24).4

Daniel 9: The Rock of Dispensationalism

Before commenting further, I want very much to emphasize that this text—or rather their interpretation of it—is foundational to the entire dispensational system; that it grounds the dispensational picture of all Salvation History. We can best understand why by considering once again some of the key propositions it involves, propositions that at any number of points put dispensationalism and orthodox Protestantism in opposite corners of the theological ring.

There are at least seven of them: 1) God does not have one eschatological blessing for one new people (i.e., eternal life for Jews and Gentiles, members together of the Body of Christ), but two different blessings for two different peoples (earthly blessings for Israel and heavenly blessings for the Church); 2) the people of God spoken of in OTKP are not spiritual Israel (i.e., the Church), but ethnic Israel; 3) the sphere of fulfillment of OTKP is not a two-staged spiritual kingdom introduced by Christ under the New Covenant, but a future millennial kingdom introduced by Christ under the Davidic Covenant; 4) there will not be one, but (at least) two eschatological comings of Christ: the first for his Church (the Rapture), and the second for ethnic Israel (the Parousia); 5) God has been pleased to use a single OT text (Daniel 9:24-27), rather than a multitude of NT texts, to reveal the true structure of Salvation History; 6) God has been pleased to use a single OT text (Daniel 9:24-27), rather than a multitude of NT texts, to give us the key to the Olivet Discourse, the Revelation, and other major NT prophetic passages; and, 7) God’s Church—both Catholic and Protestant—has more or less completely misunderstood this crucial OT passage, and has therefore misunderstood his Plan of Salvation for some 1850 years!

A Critique of the DTAV

Yes, for dispensationalists like C. I. Scofield, J. Walvoord, L. S. Chafer, D. Pentecost, C. Ryrie, J. McArthur, C. Smith, T. Ice, T. LaHaye, and many more, a very great deal rides upon this distinctive interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27. But is it viable? Our previous study of NT eschatology strongly suggests it is not. Moreover, when we closely examine the text itself, we find a good deal to awaken serious doubts about the soundness of the DTAV. Let us pause again to consider some of the major problems involved.

Is it really the case that the seventy weeks are seventy weeks of years? Do not the particular numbers employed at least hint at a symbolic meaning?

Considering the character, reach, and ultimacy of the blessings promised in verse 24, is it likely that they are reserved more or less exclusively for ethnic Israel and the (physical) Jerusalem below (Galatians 4:25-26)?

Is it exegetically certain that Messiah the Prince appears at the end of the 69 weeks? Could it be that he appears instead at the end of the first seven (25)?

Is it really the case that the people of the prince to come are the soldiers of Titus (26)? Could it be that they are actually the followers of the Antichrist, and that their assault is not against Herod’s (physical) city and temple, but against Christ’s (spiritual) City and Sanctuary: the Church?

By what possible biblical justification can we insert over 2000 years of Church history between verses 26 and 27, especially since the “he” of verse 27 clearly refers either to the Messiah or “the prince to come” of verse 26?

And again, seeing that the Spirit’s central concern in Daniel is to disclose the stages and grand finale of Salvation History, how is it that in verse 27 he takes us, not to the Consummation, but merely to the beginning of the Millennium, during which—and at the end of which—so much more of eschatological interest is (supposed) to occur?

Questions like these cast long shadows of doubt over the DTAV, even as they hint at a far more satisfying interpretation. We will consider it now.

3. The Reformed Two-Advent View (RTAV)

Our third and final interpretation I have called the Reformed Two-Advent View. It is Reformed because it is rooted in the amillennial eschatology of the leaders and creeds of the classic Reformation. It is two-advent because it finds Daniel referring both to the first and second advents of Christ. Like the DTAV, the RTAV is a recent historical development, having arisen in the late 19th century, though in hermeneutical approach it is much like the TFAV. Leading proponents include T. Kliefoth, C. F. Keil, and, in our day, C. H. Leupold. My indebtedness to Leupold’s fine Exposition of Daniel will soon become clear.5

By my lights, the RTAV is easily the most satisfying interpretation of Daniel 9. Unlike the other two schemes, it harmonizes perfectly with the details of the text itself, and also with the majestic purpose and contents of Daniel’s other prophecies. More than this, it abundantly confirms, and is illumined by, NT eschatology. As a result, it not only fills us with confidence as to its truth, but also gives us, as Leupold declares, “ . . . one of the grandest revelations of the course and climax of Salvation History to be found in the prophetic Word.”6

Let us take a moment to examine this view in some detail. My approach will be to go through our text verse by verse, offering interpretations guided by the RTAV. The translation, with slight (and significant) modifications imported from other versions, is that of the very literal New American Standard Bible.

The Seventy Sevens (9:24)   

Seventy sevens have been decreed over your people and over your holy city, to finish (the) transgression, to make an end of sins, and to make atonement for iniquity; to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.

In this verse Daniel gives us the theme of the entire prophecy. It is, as it were, both a heading and a summary, of which all that follows is the detailed elaboration.

What exactly is that theme? Advocates of the RTAV would sum it up as follows: God has decreed a set period of time in which he will fully fulfill his redemptive purpose and plan, a time in which he will bestow all his redemptive promises upon all his redeemed people. In other words, here Gabriel is saying that the prophecy to follow will give us the remainder of all Salvation History, from Daniel’s day to the Parousia of Christ at the end of the present evil age. It will survey all that the LORD will do between now (539 BC) and the Consummation in order to bring his people and their world into the completed Kingdom of God.

This soul-stirring interpretation is confirmed at the very outset. Gabriel declares that seventy sevens are decreed over the people of God and their Holy City. He says nothing of years or weeks of years. Manifestly, the numbers are symbolic. But why were they chosen and what do they mean? Doubtless they allude to the seventy years of Israel’s exile and captivity, and therefore appear here as a way of promising that in the seventy sevens ahead God will fully deliver his people from every form of captivity, and fully restore them to all his covenant promises.

The key word here is “fully.” In the Bible the numbers seven and ten symbolize fullness, perfection, and completeness. Seventy sevens, being 7 x 7 x 10, mystically expresses perfect completeness (cf. Matt. 18:22). Speaking as he did, Gabriel was therefore saying, “God has decreed a set amount of time within which he will fulfill, perfect, and complete his redemptive purposes. I am about to tell you what will happen in that time.”

Leupold expresses this idea as follows: “The seventy heptads is the period in which the divine work of greatest moment is brought to perfection.”7 If he is correct, it means that the terminus ad quem of the prophecy is indeed the Parousia of Christ at the end of the age. This in turn implies that the seventy sevens are not calendar years (as the other views posit), and that henceforth no calculations (or 360-day years, as some dispensationalists posit) are possible or needed. What a relief!

God’s decree concerns Daniel’s people and his Holy City. Who and what are they? Here we must take care. The Jerusalem of verse 25a is indeed the earthly Jerusalem, and the people who rebuilt it were indeed ethnic Jews. But the City of verse 25b, which is identical with the City and Sanctuary of verses 26-27, is different. It appears after the coming of Messiah the Prince (v. 25b). It arises in NT times under the New Covenant. Therefore, according to the NCH, it represents Christ’s Church. Happily, we know from the DNT that Daniel and all his godly OT compatriots are members thereof in excellent standing (John 10:16; Heb. 11:40).

Gabriel now unveils six redemptive blessings that God will bestow upon his “Israel” over the course of the seventy sevens (Gal. 6:16). They appear in two triads: The first three pertain to redemptive rescue from sin, the second three to redemptive restoration to eternal life. While textual peculiarities make the exact translation of some of these words difficult, the NCH enables us to uncover the essential meanings involved.

My best take is as follows: By the end of the seventy sevens—and because of the total redemptive work of Christ, both in his humiliation and exaltation—God will have completely: (1) finished (or possibly restrained) the transgression of his people (i.e., their actual transgressing of his Law); (2) made an end of (or possibly sealed up) their sins (i.e., stopped their actual sinning, or possibly canceled the record of their sins, with its power to condemn them); (4) brought in everlasting righteousness (i.e., imputed and imparted Christ’s perfect righteousness to his people so that they can forever dwell with him in a perfectly righteous world; see 2 Peter 3:13); (5) sealed up vision and prophecy (i.e., caused both visions and prophecies to cease, owing to the fulfillment of all his redemptive purposes and all previous visions and prophecies); and, (6) anointed the Most Holy (i.e., bestowed divine glory and perfect holiness upon his eschatological Sanctuary: the Church, the glorified Body of his Son, Eph. 3:21; Rev. 21:1-22).

These are all Kingdom blessings, introduced by the New Covenant that creates the Kingdom. Therefore, since the one Kingdom enters history in two stages, there is a sense in which Christians already enjoy them; there is a sense (largely forensic) in which they have already taken possession of them. Nevertheless, the accent here clearly falls upon the eschaton. Commenting on the blessings of the completed Kingdom, and indicating Gabriel’s purpose in declaring them to Daniel, Leupold well observes:

In these six statements we have the sum of all the good things that God promised to men, perfectly realized. With this verse we stand at the ultimate goal of the history of the Kingdom of God. What follows will unfold the successive stages by which this goal is realized, and will present the main features to be looked for and borne in mind by the people of God. We have just seen the essentials of God’s program for the ages.8

The Sixty-Nine Sevens (9:25)

So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there will be seven sevens; and for sixty-two sevens it will be built again with open square and moat [or wall], even in troubled times. 

This verse spans the bulk of the remainder of Salvation History: sixty-nine of the seventy sevens. According to the English Standard Version (ESV), the marginal reading of the American Standard Version (ASV), and the advocates of the RTAV, it is properly divided into two distinct parts: the first seven sevens, and the sixty-two sevens that follow. The first seven sevens begin with a decree to restore and rebuild earthly Jerusalem. Most likely this was the decree issued by Cyrus in 538 BC, though the precise date is of little importance since the first seven sevens are not weeks of years, but the fulsome season of Salvation History that ends with the coming of Messiah the Prince. This is, of course, the first advent of Christ, through whose earthly work (i.e., his humiliation) all the blessings of v. 24 were purchased and will thereafter be bestowed.

Now the sixty-two sevens begin. These too symbolize an era, the era in which Christ builds his Church (Matt. 16:18). Here, however, Gabriel uses OT typological language to speak of NT realities, casting the growth of the Church in terms of the growth of the City of God. The reference to its open square (or streets) suggests expansive growth outwards. The reference to a moat or wall suggests divine protection. Pointing to the real but limited success of world evangelization during this time, Leupold therefore paraphrases, “She shall again be built extensively, yet within fixed limits.”9 The growth shall occur “in troubled times,” a phrase echoed in the Revelation, where the Spirit refers to the Era of Proclamation (and indeed to all Salvation History) as “the Great Tribulation.” Yes, God has decreed the rearing up of Christ’s Church, but he has also decreed considerable trouble for the saints who will build it (Acts 14:22; Rom. 5:3; 2 Cor. 1:4; 1 Thess. 3:4; Rev. 7:14). They must prepare themselves.

This division of the sixty-nine sevens into two distinct eras (an OT and a NT) is the distinguishing characteristic of the RTAV, since it places Christ’s first advent at the end of the first seven sevens, and not at the end of the sixty-nine sevens, as in the other two views. The superiority of this approach is so evident that one wonders how we could have missed it for so long. Above all, it immediately helps us to understand why Gabriel did not simply refer to sixty-nine sevens, but instead divided them into two distinct parts. Moreover, as we are about to see, once we accept this framework, it sheds an abundance of fascinating—and eschatologically vital—light on the seventieth seven, spoken of in verses 26-27. We turn to them now.

The Seventieth Seven: Desolations are Decreed (9:26) 

Then after the sixty-two sevens the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its [or his] end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are decreed.                      

This is the first of two verses dealing with the seventieth seven: that is, with the third and final stage of Daniel’s revelation of Salvation History. Again, it is not a season of seven literal years, as repeated exposure to dispensational claims may incline us to believe. No, it is an era of brief but uncertain duration, the era in which God will bring Salvation History to a close in final conflict, final judgment, and final redemption. This interpretation buttresses the RTAV, since it finds Daniel doing here exactly what we would expect, what he has previously done, and what he is about to do once again: give us nothing less than the Consummation of all things, the dramatic closing scenes of God’s plan for the ages.

The theme of verse 26 is the end-time agony of the true spiritual Church of Christ. The close of the present evil age is near. The Great Commission is nearly accomplished. Lawlessness abounds and deep darkness covers the earth. At this point, says the angel, the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing. Obviously this cannot refer to his atoning death, as many interpreters argue. What, then, does it mean? Leupold suggests that the “cutting off” is best illumined by the “having nothing”:

[The having nothing] implies that he shall not have that which normally might be expected to fall to his lot, such as followers, influence, and the like. If that is the case, then the preceding statement must have involved his being “cut off,” in the sense of losing all the influence and prestige that he ever had before men. The season of the successful building of the City and the Sanctuary is at an end. As far as the world is concerned, Messiah shall be a dead issue. His cause will seem to have failed.10

At that time—amidst such widespread apostasy from the Law and Gospel of God—the world-system will act. The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the City and the Sanctuary (2 Thess. 2:1-12). This prince is not Titus, as many assert, but the Antichrist: the very Antichrist whom we meet over and again in Daniel’s visions (Dan. 7:8, 11, 21-22, 24-26; 11:36-45). His people are the eschatological seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15), the “sons of the evil one” (Matt. 13:38), and the followers of the Beast (Rev. 13:1-4). Concerning the City and the Sanctuary, Leupold opines: “These represent the visible institution called the Church. These shall be destroyed, and with them the influence of the Christ that we now still know and feel to be abroad in the earth.”11 Doubtless this destruction will involve a fresh measure of Christian martyrdom. Nevertheless, the primary meaning here is that religious freedom for Christians will be universally denied, and the institutional Church will be driven underground. Daniel has already seen this coming (Dan. 7:21, 25). It is explicitly predicted in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. It also appears in Revelation 11:7-10, where the Spirit represents the end-time Church under the image of two OT witnesses: witnesses whom the Beast kills and leaves for dead on the bloody streets of the City of Man, just as he did their Lord.

Regarding the final sentence of this verse, Leupold contends that it is the Antichrist whose end will come with a flood of divine judgment at Christ’s Parousia: Like Pharaoh and his subservient armies, he will be utterly swept away (2 Thess. 2:8; Rev. 15:1-4). This could be. However, the context seems to favor the idea that the outward, institutional Church is again in view: Her (outward, physical) end will come with a flood of opposition and persecution (Ps. 18:4; Is. 59:19). To the very end of the seventieth seven there will be war against the saints (Rev. 12:15, 17). Desolations—of both the institutional Church and her persecutors—are determined (Rev. 11:1-2). 

The Seventieth Seven: The Desolator Destroyed (9:27)

And he will make a firm covenant with many for one seven, but in the middle of the seven he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction—one that is decreed—is poured out on the desolator.

Here Gabriel further instructs Daniel about key events of the seventieth seven, this time with a concluding emphasis on the destruction of the destroyer: the Antichrist. As this long verse opens we learn that throughout the final seven he (the Antichrist) will cause a strong covenant to prevail over “the many.” Leupold explains as follows:

The idea is that as he seeks to take the place of the Christ, so he shall imitate Him in some way. As the Lord made a covenant with his own to give them strong assurances as to what he would do, so Antichrist will inaugurate a covenant that will prevail; which is to say, compel the masses to accept it and abide by it. It shall not, therefore, be a gracious covenant of love, as are the Lord’s covenants, but a covenant of terror, compulsion, and violence.12

C. F. Keil, an early proponent of the RTAV, concurs. Highlighting the religious dimension of the Antichrist’s “agreement” with the world, he writes, “The ungodly prince shall impose upon the mass of the people a strong covenant that they should follow him and give themselves to him as their God” (Rev. 13:4).13 The interpretation offered by these two outstanding commentators is compelling, seeing that 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 supplies a more or less identical picture of the purpose, character, and career of the Man of Lawlessness. I examine it with some care in chapter 13 of The Great End Time Debate. 

How will the global rule of the Antichrist affect the Church? In a reprise of the message of verse 26, Gabriel answers by declaring that in the middle of the last seven he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. This means that (roughly) halfway through his hegemony the Antichrist will suddenly turn against the Church and suppress her public worship. At this point he will become “one who makes desolate”: a destroyer. With destructive intent he will now come against the Church “upon the wing of abominations.” That is, he will fly into global power and influence—and so to apparent victory over Christ’s little flock—riding upon the persuasive force of detestable idols: a counterfeit gospel (i.e., religion, ideology) and counterfeit signs and wonders that seem to validate it (Matt. 24:23-24; 2 Thess. 2:8-12).

This will indeed be the Church’s darkest hour (Matt. 24:21; Rev. 13:7). It is, however, only an hour, and an hour that her Redeemer himself has triumphantly passed through (John 13:1; 17:1; Rev. 11:8). Accordingly, it is actually an hour of great hope, for just as the Redeemer swiftly overcame and rose to newness of life, so too shall his Church. For no sooner will the counterfeit prince launch his great war against the saints, than the glorified Christ will appear in the skies above the earth to rescue them. Then, in the Judgment that follows, he will pour out complete destruction on all who thought to destroy his own: Apollyon, the Antichrist, and “the many” who so foolishly followed them into the Last Battle (Matt. 24:29-31; 25:31-46; 1 Thess. 4:13-17; 2 Thess. 1:3-10; 2:8, 11-12; Rev. 19:20; 20:10).14

While the accent here falls upon the consummate downfall of evil, the DNT fills in the blanks, telling us that with that downfall comes also the consummate exaltation of all good. In other words, the return of the glorified Christ brings not only the destruction of the Antichrist, his followers, and the spirit(s) behind them, but also the glorification of the Church and the descent of the Bridal City onto the new, glorified earth that will serve as her eternal home (Matt. 13:40-43; 24:29-31; 25:31:-46; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Rev. 21:1-4). Accordingly, the words of Gabriel, uttered at the opening of the prophecy, have now come to pass: The holy People, the holy City, and the holy Temple now stand fully anointed, and the seventy sevens now stand fully complete.


The prophecy of Daniel’s Seventy Sevens—possibly the most difficult in the entire prophetic canon—is a case study in the indispensability of the NCH. Without it, the vision is a maze; a labyrinth from which there is no escape. With it, the way into the open field of truth becomes clear at last.

Our survey of the three main interpretations has made this evident. Because the advocates of the TFAV have indeed grasped the true structure of NT eschatology, as well as the importance of the NCH, they have produced a fairly viable interpretation, one that has understandably remained popular over the years. However, we have seen that upon closer inspection it fails to do justice to the nuances of the text itself, and also to the grand theme and substance of the book as a whole.

Meanwhile, advocates of the DTAV, having largely misunderstood NT eschatology and imposed an alien OT hermeneutic upon it, have given us an exotic interpretation that is exegetically untenable and theologically flawed. The popularity of this view in our day suggests a serious failure on the part of the modern Church to grasp the true structure of NT theology, and the NCH that naturally flows from it. However, dispensationalism in general—and its view of this prophecy in particular—are on the wane. I do not think it can be otherwise, seeing that in the end the Spirit of Truth must (and will) draw Christ’s Church back to the NT, where alone she will receive the keys to OTKP, Daniel 9, and all the eschatological truth she will need to stand strong amidst the rigors of the Consummation.

The NT itself promises this very thing. It tells us that the Lord loves his Bride (John 13:1); that he would prepare her for the Last Battle (John 16:13); and indeed, that one day he will cause her to attain to the unity of the faith, right down to eschatological faith (Eph. 4:11f). When he does, I believe he will draw her to the RTAV of Daniel 9.

The reasons are many. Again, this interpretation includes all the strengths of the other two, while avoiding their weaknesses. It is true to the text, and true to the context: the Book of Daniel as a whole. It harmonizes perfectly with NT eschatology, and draws upon it richly, as it must, for a right understanding. Through its majestic trumpeting of the number of completion (7), it loudly heralds the three remaining stages of Salvation History: sevens sevens to accomplish redemption, 62 sevens to apply redemption (through the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel), and one seven cast out all evil and consummate redemption in eternal glory.

But best of all—to my mind, at least—is the intriguing fact that this Reformed Two-Advent View seems to come to us at just the right time. Somehow, it suits the dark, difficult, and dangerous days into which we are now entering, fittingly reminding us of the sufferings of Christ’s Church and the glories to follow (2 Tim. 3:1f; 1 Peter 1:11). In other words, I think it likely that this interpretation of Daniel’s Seventy Sevens is an eschatological gift from the exalted Lord himself, by which, even now, he is supplying his beloved Bride with just the right mix of tough realism, steadfast hope, and earnest expectation of the soon return of the High King of Heaven.


  1. Wm. Biederwolf, The Millennium Bible (Glad Tidings, 1924), p. 218.
  2. In fairness, it must be noted that some who hold to the TFAV teach that the terminus ad quem of the prophecy is indeed the fullness of New Covenant life in the World to Come, to be introduced by Christ at his return (so Kline, Riddlebarger). On this view, the second half of the seventieth seven—of which Gabriel says nothing—stands for the entire Era of Gospel Proclamation, a claim defended by appeals to the various iterations of 3 1/2 found in the Revelation (and which do indeed symbolize the Era of Gospel Proclamation). Nevertheless, unlike the RTAV (to be discussed below), this view finds in Daniel 9 neither reference nor allusion to the Antichrist, the Last Battle (i.e., the Greatest Tribulation, Matt. 24:21), or the Second Coming of Christ; rather, the focus is almost exclusively on Christ’s first advent, the institution of the New Covenant, and the tumultuous passing of the Old. Therefore, I judge that it is properly categorized as an instance of the TFAV, and does not qualify as a true Two-Advent view.
  3. C. I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Reference Bible (SRB, Oxford, 1967), p. 913.
  4. SRB, p. 913.
  5. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel (Baker, 1969)
  6. Ibid., p. 405.
  7. Ibid., p. 409
  8. Ibid., p. 416.
  9. Ibid., p. 417.
  10. Ibid., p. 427.
  11. Ibid., p. 428
  12. Ibid., p. 432
  13. Cited in Biederwolf, p. 224.
  14. For a close, thought-provoking examination of the many parallels between the character and career of Antiochus Epiphanes (the preeminent OT Antichrist), and the NT Antichrist of Daniel 9:26-27, see Leupold, pp. 437-440.

NOTE: This essay is an appendix from my forthcoming book, The High King of Heaven: Discovering the Master Keys to the Great End Time Debate. For further explanation of the ideas found in the essay, please see the book, and also some of the writings previously posted on this blog.


Many premillennarians confidently assert that the creation of the modern nation of Israel in 1948 was a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Dispensationalist Thomas Ice says it this way:

There are dozens of biblical passages that predict an end-time regathering of Israel back to her land . . . I believe that modern Israel is a divine work and is in the process of fulfilling Bible prophecy. I believe that Israel, as she is constituted today, is a work of God in progress, preparing the nation for the Tribulation, which will lead to her national conversion, the second coming of Christ, and His millennial reign.1

These words invite careful—very careful—reflection. Certainly all Bible believing Christians would agree with Ice that the creation of the modern nation/state of Israel is a “divine work,” since Scripture clearly teaches that God, by his providence, creates every nation of the sons of Adam, having predetermined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation (Acts 17:26). But is it true that dozens of OT Kingdom prophecies predict this latter-day return of the Jews to Palestine? In God’s sight, are these unbelieving Jews (who make up the vast majority of the modern of Israel) still his people, his “Israel”? In God’s sight, is Palestine still their land? And is God really preparing modern Israel for a seven-year Tribulation, national conversion, the second Coming of Christ, and the inauguration of a millennial reign centered in (a supernaturally transformed) Palestine?

In the body of this book, I have addressed these questions at length. Since, however, many Christians believe that the creation of the modern Israeli state lends credence to premillennial scenarios, a brief review is in order.

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This is the thirteenth in a short (!) series of posts dealing with the proper interpretation of Old Testament Kingdom Prophecy (OTKP). If you’re new to this subject (or to my blog), you’ll want to read the essay with which I introduced the series (just click here).

My goal in these eschatological adventures is two-fold.

First, I want to open up something of the Christ-centered truth and beauty of OTKP to my brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Secondly, I want to reason a little with my premillennial brethren. In particular, I want to make the case that we all will best understand, enjoy, and profit from OTKP when we see that its true sphere of fulfillment is: 1) Christ, 2) the New Covenant he instituted by his blood, 3) the two-staged spiritual Kingdom he has already introduced (and will soon consummate), and, 4) the New Covenant community he is creating out of elect Jews and Gentiles: the Church.

In short, I would like my premillennial brothers to reconsider the amillennial approach to the interpretation of OTKP.

Since the end of the age will soon be upon us, it is important that we stand together as much as possible. Seeing eye to eye on eschatology would definitely help. These essays—and the book in progress from which they are extracted—represent my best effort at contributing to that worthy goal.

Ezekiel’s Last Battle (Ezekiel 38-39)

This is a long post. It had to be, because the text it discusses is long, difficult, and very important. Hopefully, you will find it more than worthwhile!

These two controversial chapters describe the Deception, Destruction, and Disposal of Israel’s great eschatological enemies: Gog and his worldwide confederation of evil armies.

In the latter days, by divine decree, they will go up against a people fully restored to the LORD and his covenant blessings. Thinking to annihilate them and seize their homeland, Gog and his armies themselves will be annihilated: Under furious strokes of divine judgment they will fall to their complete and everlasting destruction upon the mountains of Israel.


An Oracle of Good News?

While the prospect of such an attack would surely have been unsettling to devout Jews from Ezekiel’s day onward, it is easy to see how they could also reckon it an Oracle of Good News. Yes, God himself is behind the dreadful assault, so it will surely come to pass. But far from being a judgment against his people, it will actually be final retribution against their remaining enemies. Moreover, on that day Israel herself will not even have to fight, for God, as at the Exodus, will fight for her: with pestilence, blood, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.

In short, the good news is that this battle will indeed be the last battle; the battle in which God supremely “sets his glory among the nations,” manifesting his absolute sovereignty, justice, wrath, power, goodness, grace, mercy, and love—-and then opening up before his grateful people a door into the eternal blessings of the World to Come (38:16, 23, 39:7, 13, 21).

Read More

This is the fifth in a short series of posts dealing with the proper interpretation of Old Testament Kingdom Prophecy (OTKP). If you’re new to this subject (or to my blog), you will want to read the essay with which I introduced the series (just click here). My goal in this eschatological adventure is two-fold. First, I want to open up something of the Christ-centered truth and beauty of OTKP to my brothers and sisters in the Lord. Secondly, I want to reason a little with my premillennial brethren. In particular, I want to make the case that we all will best understand, enjoy, and profit from OTKP when we see that its true sphere of fulfillment is: 1) Christ, 2) the New Covenant he instituted by his blood, 3) the two-staged spiritual Kingdom he has already introduced (and will soon consummate), and, 4) the New Covenant community he is creating out of elect Jews and Gentiles: the Church. In short, I would like my premillennial brothers to reconsider the amillennial approach to the interpretation of OTKP. Since the end of the age will soon be upon us, it is important that we stand together as much as possible. Seeing eye to eye on eschatology would definitely help. These essays—and the book in progress from which they are extracted—represent my best effort at contributing to that worthy goal.

Isaiah 11:1-16

We must examine this OTKP at length, seeing that it is likely the single most popular OT bastion of premillennialism. Scofield asserts, “This chapter is a prophetic picture of the glory of the future kingdom, which will be set up when David’s Son returns in glory.” Walvoord agrees, saying, “Isaiah 11 paints the graphic picture of the reign of Christ on earth, a scene which cannot be confused with the present age, the intermediate state (i.e., heaven), or the eternal state, if interpreted in any normal literal sense.” Grudem advances the same argument, observing, “It does seem, therefore, that (here in Isaiah 11) the eternal state has not begun, yet the reversal of nature far exceeds anything that will happen in this present age. Does this not indicate a future millennial kingdom?” The answer to Grudem’s question is, “Yes, it might indicate a millennial kingdom, if Isaiah had said anything at all about one thousand years; if the NT had given us liberty to interpret this Kingdom prophecy in ‘any normal literal sense;’ and if we were not under strict NT orders to recognize that the true sphere of fulfillment of all OTKP is the New Covenant in Christ, the two-staged Kingdom it introduces, and the Church that it creates. Let us therefore once again take in hand the NCH, and let us see once again how illuminating and uplifting this approach can be for the NT people of God.

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