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Insight #181 — Futurism’s Broken Backbone

March 13, 2009.

The other day, a neighbor-friend lent me a July/August issue of “Israel My Glory.” One item jumped off the page: “The 69 weeks” has been called the “chronological backbone of biblical prophecy.” The author, David Larsen, former department head of an Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois, proceeded to speak of the “70th week yet to come.”

Wait a minute! My Bible says, “Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and upon your holy city… to make an end of sins…” (Dan. 9:24). The “chronological backbone” is built on 70 weeks, not 69. Mr. Larsen’s chronological backbone is broken. He has a gap of about 2,000 years between the 69th and 70th vertebra!

The truth is that 69-weeks-with-an-amputated-70th-week is not the backbone of “biblical prophecy” at all. Rather, it is the backbone of modern dispensationalism, the popular futuristic view of prophecy seen in the “Left Behind” novels. That system says the 70th week is a yet future seven-year Tribulation. However, with such a broken backbone, futurism cannot stand.

As seen in previous Insights [see Tag at bottom], the 70th week of Daniel 9 is at the heart of this great prophecy. This is when the Messiah died for our sins. Using the “day for a year” key (Ezek. 4:6), the 70 weeks become 490 years. Futurists agree. The 69 “weeks” (483 years) are important because it would be 69 weeks “unto the Messiah.” However, this is not a 69-weeks prophecy. We all agree that none of the predictions in Dan. 9:24 took place within the 69 weeks. The 69 weeks are just to get us to the 70th.

Yet, when the most important week arrives, modern futurism amputates it. Modern futurism correctly counts 69 vertebrae (483 years) to the Messiah, but then it inserts 286 vertebrae (286 x 7 = 2000 years) into the backbone before reaching the 70th vertebra. That is quite a backbone! Not to mention a new system of math!

Years ago in Guatemala, as a young man and I were discussing Daniel 9, I asked him: “Julio, what would you think if I asked you to lend me 1,000 quetzals [the national currency]? I promise to pay you back in eight weeks. When seven weeks have passed, I say to you, ‘Julio, there is a little matter I didn’t tell you. Between the 7th and 8th weeks of our agreement, there is a space of 10 years.’ What would you think of me?” Without hesitation Julio said, “You would be a swindler.”

A swindler, indeed! Six things were to happen during the 70 weeks, including making “an end of sins.” Who is not acquainted with John the Baptizer proclaiming, “Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.” It would happen within 70 weeks. Placing 2,000 years between the 69th and 70th weeks is a swindle. Large numbers of believers have been defrauded by deluded “divinity” professors, who have mutilated the backbone of Daniel’s fantastic prophecy. As Mr. Larsen states, we are not just dealing here with a “backbone”; we are dealing with a “chronological backbone.” However, if the 70th week is detached from the 69th, then “chronology” is destroyed.

The sad fact is that popular futurism places Jesus’ death for our sins outside the 70 weeks! Popular futurism makes the prophecy to be all about national Israel, past and future, rather than centered in Israel’s promised Messiah and Savior. “Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and upon your holy city… to make an end of sins.” It is history. Jesus paid it all. Jesus died for your sins and mine. He fulfilled Daniel’s prophecy. The 70-weeks prophecy is a fantastic chronological prophecy. We dare not mutilate that chronology in order to fabricate fantasies. Only by keeping the 70 weeks together can we understand and praise God for the great messages of Daniel 9.