At Issue Index   Table of Contents   Previous   Next

Questions On Doctrine


The Seventieth Week of Daniel 9 and the Gap Theory



Why do Adventists hold that the seventieth week of years of Daniel 9 follows immediately upon the close of the sixty-ninth week of years? Did not Hippolytus and Apollinaris, back in the third and fourth centuries, introduce a break, or gap? On what basis do you differ with those present-day fundamentalists who hold that the seventieth week is separated by a vast gap of over nineteen centuries and will not be fulfilled until the end of the age, and that it pertains to the acts of antichrist rather than to those of Christ? Are you not practically alone in your view?


Answering the last question first, we are by no means alone. While Seventh-day Adventists differ on this point with many (but by no means all) fundamentalists of today, we are in accord with the outstanding scholars of the centuries—early church, medieval Catholic and Jewish, Protestant Reformation, and post-Reformation. And until the upsurge of dispensationalism in the past few decades, most conservative modern


scholars* held, as we still hold, to the seventy weeks of years as an uninterrupted, continuous unit. But to return to the first three questions. A satisfactory answer to these queries would require us to go into many aspects of Bible prophecy, and into the whole philosophy with which we approach the predictive portions of the Scriptures. It would require us to show what we believe to be the weaknesses and fallacies of the gap theory, as well as its concomitant basic philosophy—the futurist interpretation of prophecy, of which it is a part. There is not space within the assigned limits of this question to deal with all these ramifications.

We should explain that we have accepted the historical school interpretation of prophecy, believing it to be the philosophy of prophecy set forth in the Scriptures. Therefore we cannot accept the theories of a separated week, a long gap during which prophecy does not apply, and a future antichrist at the end of the age. These theories are based on principles of interpretation that

*Those who accept this interpretation that connects the seventieth week with the Messiah include: Early Church Fathers.—Tertullian, Eusebius, Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Polychronius, and Augustine.

Medieval Christian writers.—The Venerable Bede, Thomas Aquinas, and Arnold of Villanova.

Pre-Reformation leaders.—Wycliffe and Brute, together with such Reformers as Luther, Melanchthon, Funck, Selnecker, Nigrinus, and Heinrich Bullinger. Post-Reformation scholars.—Joseph Mede, Sir Isaac Newton, William Whiston, Johann Bengel, Humphrey Prideaux, John Blair, and James Ferguson. Nineteenth-century Old World exegetes.—Jean de la Flechere, William Hales, George Faber, Thomas Scott, Adam Clarke, Thomas Horne, Archibald Mason, John Brown, John Fry, Thomas White, Edward Cooper, Thomas Keyworth. Alfred Addis, William Pym, Daniel Wilson, Alexander Keith, Matthew Habershon, Edward Bickersteth, and Louis Gaussen, as well as the later Havernick, Hengstenberg, and Pusey.

Nineteenth-century American expositors.—Elias Boudinot, William Davis, Moderator Joshua Wilson, Samuel McCorkle, Robert Reid, Alexander Campbell, Jose de Rozas (Mexico), Adam Burwell (Canada), Robert Scott, Stephen Tyng, Isaac Hinton, Richard Shimeall, James Shannon, and John Robinson.

And in more recent times we might add C. H. H. Wright, R. D. Wilson, Boutflower, and others too numerous to mention. Adventists therefore have a host of illustrious predecessors for their position.


we reject as unscriptural. In the interests of brevity we shall confine our answer to the first two points mentioned in the questions.

1. The Seventieth Week of Years Follows the Sixty-ninth Week.—We believe, in common with the great group of godly scholars mentioned in the footnote, that the 70-weeks prophecy climaxes with the manifestation of Jesus Christ as the true Messiah, and then seals the inerrancy of the outline with a portrayal of the atoning death of Christ. All this was outlined by inspiration five hundred years prior to those tremendous transactions that changed the entire course of human history. And this is most conclusive in proving Jesus Christ to be the true and only Messiah, and in setting forth the wondrous provisions of complete redemption in and through Him.

The 70 "sevens" of years "determined," or measured out and set apart in the councils of heaven, for this prophecy, had a specified starting point. (See Question 25, p. 278). These 70 hebdomads were divided into three groups—of 7, 62, and 1—totaling 490 years. "Know therefore and understand" (Dan. 9:25), was the admonition of the prophecy, that 69 hebdomads, or units of 7 years, were to pass between the "commandment" and the manifestation of Messiah the Prince—that is, 7 plus 62 weeks of years, or 483 years. The 69 weeks therefore simply constitute the time that must elapse from a designated point. While the passing years of the 69 hebdomads are important, it is the seventieth hebdomad that is all-important. The 69 weeks of years constitute the precise length of time to the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah, as seen in


Question 25. It is therefore logical that the seventieth week refers to the 7 years following the 69th, that is, to the period in which the Messiah's ministry took place. The wording of the text in no way indicates a break or gap.

Most of the older expositors, who make the baptism of Jesus the terminus of the 69 weeks of years, recognize the "one week" of years as following immediately, without a break—the crucifixion taking place 3½ years later, in the "midst" of the seventieth week of years. Such scholars recognized the remaining 3½ years of the last week as pertaining to the founding of Christianity through the preaching of the disciples. Since neither wording nor logic indicates a gap, the burden of proof rests on those who would break the continuity of the period.

God's designated measuring line for this 70-weeks prophecy is of "determined" or allotted length, to be measured from a clearly established historical landmark. And the obvious purpose of the prophecy is to foretell the time of the occurrence of certain matters of supreme moment—things to occur in the last, or seventieth, hebdomad of the series. Hence, to postpone that final week of years and project it far into the future is in reality to obscure the time element, one of the main points of the entire prophecy, and thus do violence to its obvious intent.

To insert into a 490-year period a "gap" of two thousand years, four times longer than the entire 70 weeks itself, constitutes unwarranted manipulation. It changes the prophetic measuring line into an elastic band. Those who follow such a procedure have abandoned a measuring line of "determined" length for one


of wholly indeterminate length, and have made it a vast nondescript period totally foreign to this specific prophecy.

Those holding the gap theory, who make the separated last week the period of final crisis at the end of the age, must perforce add a hiatus of two thousand years. This is a form of exegesis without a precedent* in all prophetic exposition.

Since 7 plus 62 weeks lead to the Messiah, we should logically conclude that Christ's public ministry, as Messiah, lay beyond the sixty-ninth week—yet within the seventieth week, as numbered consecutively. This has been the predominant view of Christian scholarship through the centuries.

With relatively few exceptions, expositors have taken the two separately mentioned periods of the 7 weeks and the 62 (together making 69 weeks of years, or 483 years) without inserting any gap between them. But the gap advocates say that the seventieth week of years, numbered from the starting point, was not the seventieth week of prophecy in sequence. That is clearly the crux of the issue.

It is not Seventh-day Adventists who, in these latter times, have departed from the historic view of the centuries on the seventy weeks of years. We continue to
*The argument is sometimes advanced that, according to Luke 4:16-21, when Christ, at the outset of His ministry, was reading in the synagogue from the prophecy of Isaiah concerning His own designated work, He stopped reading in the midst of the passage, and did not include the "day of vengeance" to come in the future at the end of the age. That is true; but the case is totally different. Isaiah was not setting forth a measure of time, which is the issue to the prophecy of the 70 weeks. Jesus simply declared that that part of the prophecy He had just read was even then being fulfilled. He was dealing only with the present, which was being accomplished before their eyes. That was all. The rest was indeed future, for Isaiah had recorded a sweeping outline of events that covers the entire age, extending to the great consummation.


hold the centuries-old, orthodox position of Protestantism, but we do not base our belief on historical precedent. We recognize that the gap theory, which applies this prophecy to a future antichrist, is an unwitting outgrowth of the counter-Reformation of the sixteenth century. It is our profound conviction that the system based on the separated week is an unwarranted innovation.

We believe that it is incumbent upon us to adhere undeviatingly to sound, unimpeachable principles of prophetic interpretation. To us there appears to be no valid reason, or defensible ground, for separating the seventieth week from the 69. The 7 weeks and the 62 weeks run on continuously without a break. And we find no justifiable basis, exegetical or otherwise, for separating the seventieth week from the sixty-ninth and arbitrarily placing it down at the end of the age. There is assuredly no precedent for it in paralleling prophetic interpretation. Neither is there anything in the Hebrew text of Daniel to warrant it, or in the Greek LXX.

It seems abundantly clear to us that the specifications of the prophecy find exact and complete fulfillment in the life, ministry, and death of Christ, and in the subsequent desolation of the Jewish nation as a result of their rejection of the promised Messiah.

When we reckon from the decree of Artaxerxes I, given to Ezra (457 B.C.), to the end of 69 weeks of years (A.D. 27), with the ministry of Christ beginning with His "anointing" at His baptism, and His death taking place in the midst of the seventieth week (which ends the 490 years, in A.D. 34), there is perfect harmony  between the prophetic specifications and the historical fulfillments.


The sixfold specifications of the prophecy that were to be accomplished within the 70 weeks were completely fulfilled in the work of Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross. These all actually took place in the week of years immediately following A.D. 27. They have been discussed at length in the answer to Question 25, and will not be repeated here.

The desolation of the Jewish nation, though delayed by divine mercy for some years after the close of the 490-year period allotted to the Jews, exactly fulfilled the specifications of the prophecy when the Roman armies destroyed the Temple and the city of Jerusalem and dispersed the Jews in A.D. 70.

The entire 70-weeks prophecy finds fulfillment in the ministry, rejection, and death of the Messiah, in the ending of the period allotted to the Jews, in the confirmation of the covenant by the blood of Christ, and in the inauguration of the heavenly ministry for all believers, both Jew and Gentile, under the new covenant. In view of the perfect fulfillment of all the prophetic specifications in the period of the 70 consecutive weeks of years, we find no reason whatever for cutting off the last week and relating it to the end of the age.

2. Basic Fallacy of Appeal to Early Church Progenitors.—The appeal by modern adherents of the gap theory to such writers as Hippolytus of Portus Romanus (third century) or Apollinaris of Laodicea (fourth century) necessitates an inquiry into the basis of this contention.


In the first place, these two expositors (whose views were not those of the majority in the early church) had in their 70-weeks interpretation obviously divergent elements that are admittedly not followed by those who look to them as progenitors of the present futurist views. Take Hippolytus, for example: In projecting a gap into the 70 hebdomads, he construed the first 69 units, or weeks of years, as reaching from the first year of Cyrus (or of Darius the Mede) to the incarnation of Christ—a chronological impossibility without elongating the period. Of course those who cite Hippolytus for the gap interpretation do not follow the details of his theory, such as his erroneous elongation of the 69 weeks, any more than they accept his expectation of the Second Advent about A.D. 500. But they appeal to Hippolytus and others in support of an early-church origin of their futurist theory of the 70 weeks. However, to base futurism, as the word is understood today, on the views of the early church is to make an unsound use of historical precedent; to employ such "historical foundations" is to build it on shifting, sinking sands. The early Christian view of eschatology was not truly futurism. The historicists have the better claim to kinship with the primitive church.

The belief of the early Christians that most of the prophecies were yet unfulfilled in their day does not make them futurists in the ordinarily understood meaning of the word. Futurism is the view, not that most of the prophecies were in the future at the beginning of the Christian Era, but that they will still be in the future at the end of the Christian Era. Historicists believe that there was necessarily a time when the bulk


of the prophecies were yet unfulfilled, and that eventually there will be a time when they will all be fulfilled. The difference is that the historicist looks for the fulfillment as progressively unfolding in history until the end, while the futurist makes the Christian age "parenthesis," or a gap, in prophetic fulfillment and postpones further fulfillment to a comparatively brief time in the end, beginning with the coming of Christ for His saints. There are many variations among futurists, but we may summarize their characteristic views.

a. That the greater part of the prophecies (including Daniel's fourth kingdom and seventieth week, and all of Revelation except the letters to the seven churches) await fulfillment in the time after Christ's coming to resurrect and translate the saints.

b That the entire "church age" is a gap during which the prophetic clock has stopped ticking.

c. That all time prophecies are in literal time (the year-day principle is denied).

d. That "Israel" throughout the Bible always refers to literal Jews.

e. That the Old Testament prophecies and promises of the glorious rule of God's people must be fulfilled unconditionally and literally to the restored Jews, who are expected to reign over the unconverted and untransformed nations during the millennium.

f. That the antichrist is a future person, a God-opposing tyrant, who will oppress the Jews and bring upon the world (the returned Jews, the Gentile nations, and apostate Christendom) a 3½-year tribulation during the latter half of a delayed seventieth hebdomad, after the second advent.


g. That before this tribulation the "rapture," or resurrection and translation of the saints, will remove the church from the earth (secretly, as most believe).

h. That the Jews will be, even during the millennium, completely separate from the Christian church.

i. That not only the bulk of prophecy but other considerable portions of the Bible, including the largest part of the Gospels, belong to other ages and not to the church. (This is part of an elaborate system of "dispensations" prominent in futurist writings.) 

Without examining the correctness or incorrectness of these points, let us examine the early church views on these subjects. The early church was premillennialist, but premillennialism is not necessarily equivalent to futurism, as so many—both futurists and their opponents—assume today.

a. The early Christians did indeed place a considerable proportion of the prophecies in the future (for the obvious reason that the infant church, standing at the threshold of the book of Revelation, lived in the very beginning of fulfillment). And they placed most of the future fulfillments in the last days, because they expected the last days very soon. But they did not put the fourth kingdom, the beasts of Revelation, the antichrist, and the great tribulation after the return of Christ and the first resurrection.

b. They did not see the "church age" as a parenthesis in prophecy or as an interruption of a Jewish age that was to be resumed and completed without the church in the future. They found themselves in the midst of prophetic fulfillments—under the fourth kingdom, which they expected to be followed by the


breakup of the Roman Empire and the rise of antichrist, all of which would lead to the second advent and the kingdom. They saw continuity in prophecy and history from the Old Testament times down to the end.

c. It is true that they took such prophetic periods as the 1260 days, et cetera, as literal time. This was natural, since they did not expect the world to last 1260 years.

d. They considered literal Israel as no longer entitled to the kingdom that she had rejected along with her Messiah, and believed that the true Israel was henceforth spiritual Israel, the church.

e. They pictured an earthly rule over the unregenerate nations during the millennium—this, embellished with details of plenty and prosperity, they had inherited from the Jewish apocalypticists—but they differed from both the Jewish apocalypticists and the modern futurists in that the kingdom was to be that of the Christian saints, not of the Jews.

f. They agreed with the Jewish apocalyptic (and also the futurist) view of antichrist as an individual tyrant in power for 3½ years. Some of them applied the time of antichrist to the second half of a delayed seventieth week, but this was not the majority view; many expositors ended the 70 weeks at or near the close of Christ's life on earth. It should be remembered that those who had a "gap" in the 70 weeks had quite a different concept from the present futurists, for they expected only a short interval until the end; they never dreamed of such an anomaly as a 490-year period with a 2,000-year break in it.


g. They placed the great tribulation (under the antichrist-beast-little-horn) before the first resurrection, and consequently they expected the church to be on earth during that period. They saw it as the next development in history following the expected breakup of the then-present Roman Empire, and thus preceding the coming of Christ.

h. They believed that Christ was to rule the earth during the millennium through the church—the redeemed saints from among both Jews and Gentiles—not through the Jews as a separate chosen people outside the church.

i. They did not separate the Scriptures into dispensational compartments that assigned the epistles to the church, the bulk of the Gospels to the Jewish age, et cetera. They claimed the Gospels as foundational and saw their own tribulations in the book of Revelation. 

To what extent, then, were those early-church views inherited by the futurists? Out of nine points there is complete agreement only on c, and incomplete on f. We may include partial agreement on two more: on a in so far as the early church placed more prophecies near the end of time, since they expected the end shortly, and on e in so far as they expected a literal, earthly millennial kingdom. But a and e must be listed also as points of major difference, since there is a great cleavage between mere future fulfillments and a cessation of fulfillment until after the coming of Jesus and the resurrection; also between a reign of the regenerate saints and that of the Jewish nation. In addition we find clear disagreement on b, d, g, h, and i. These findings are decidedly against calling the early church futurist or regarding the futurist views as derived from early premillennialism.


How, then, shall we classify the view of the early Christians? It was the so-called "continuous-historical," or historicist. Having already applied some of Daniel's prophecies historically, the believers naturally continued to apply further prophetic events in the same way. Living under the fourth empire, they awaited Rome's division; already they saw the working of the approaching falling away that was to lead to antichrist. Thus they saw prophecy developing step by step in history—though not in long-term historical development, since they did not expect a long history of the world. But aside from the length of the process, their method was exactly that of the historicist interpretation—the interpretation that finds in prophecy an outline of history, in the New Testament the continuation and fulfillment of the Old Testament, and in the Christian church the heir of the promises and prophecies of both Testaments.

We believe that the early church had the right method; their errors lay in the chiliastic misconception of the kingdom and their tyrant-antichrist notions, both inherited from Jewish apocalypticism, and in their short-range view of the time element. These were errors of the age, and their correction, as time went on, required no basic shift in approach. The early church laid down the principles of historicist premillennialism.

At Issue Index   Table of Contents   Previous   Next