Over the past 50 years, a significant number of conservative Christians have promoted the idea that God has called America to support Israel at all costs, even if it means invading nations who might threaten Israel and effectively waging perpetual war in the Mid-East for the sake of weapons industry profits.
These Evangelicals, led by Pastor John Hagee, promote interpretations of biblical prophecy that predict an unfolding of events in the Middle East which includes the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and a 7-year tribulation. According to them, if we don’t defend Israel and help this temple-building process along, we are somehow working against God’s will. Here’s the main passage eschatological Christians cite as proof of a coming 7-year tribulation:
Daniel 9: 25-27, “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven “sevens” and sixty-two “sevens.” It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two “sevens” the Anointed One will be cut off and have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one seven. In the middle of the seven he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And one who causes desolation will come upon the pinnacle of the abominable temple until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolate city.”
Most theologians will tell you that the first 69 “sevens” (called “weeks” in some translations) are the 69 seven year periods (483 years) that passed between the decree to rebuild Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile and the arrival of Christ. It’s the final “one seven” that conservative Evangelicals will tell you represents a future 7-year tribulation in which there will be suffering throughout our world like never before. I believe they are wrong. And here’s why:
This seven year period already happened – a long time ago – from A.D. 67 through A.D 73. After a Jewish revolt in A.D. 66, Roman Emperor Nero appointed Vespasian around the beginning of A.D. 67 to destroy the Jews. He wasn’t just fighting off a rebellion, like his predecessor Gallus; he was utterly defeating them. I believe Vespasian’s agreement with the Romans to do so was the “covenant with many for one seven (conservatives think “the many” are the Jews, but the Bible never says that),” because his campaign to defeat the Jews lasted approximately 7 years. It started in early 67 and ended with the fall of Masada in late 73. Right smack-dab in the middle of this period, in July of A.D. 70, the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, thus fulfilling the prophecy that the Temple would be destroyed 3 ½ years into the 7-year period.
To me this is about as obvious a fulfillment of this prophecy as there can be. Therefore, we don’t need to rebuild the Temple again so it can be destroyed again for the sake of fulfilling this prophecy. It has already been fulfilled. It’s not about us.
Another indication that this prophecy is about Vespasian’s conquest is this passage (along with several other passages that say similar things):
Daniel 7:21-22: “I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell – the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. As I watched this horn waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the most high, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom [This last line likely refers to Israel becoming a nation in 1948].” And then verse 24 interprets this as, “The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones, and he will subdue three kings.”
While Vespasian was a general when he embarked on his quest to defeat the Jews, he became emperor of all of Rome in the summer of A.D. 69. That didn’t halt his campaign. He simply placed his son in charge of the military operation. What’s remarkable about Vespasian is that he was Rome’s 4th emperor to take the throne that year. The three emperors who preceded him died in the first half of A.D. 69. Two of them were murdered and one committed suicide. Whether Vespasian’s supporters had anything to do with these deaths will never be known for sure. But this passage I just shared, as well as several others in Daniel, speak of a king who replaced three other kings, and it’s that king who defeats the Jews.
What throws a lot of Christians off track in understanding these passages is references to “the end.” They suppose it refers to the end of the world, but the Bible never says that. In this case it appears to mean the end of the Jewish nation and the Temple.
Another thing that throws Christians off track is the self-absorbed insistence that the Bible’s prophesies have to be fulfilled in our lifetimes, as if all others who have read the Scriptures over the centuries, including those who read them first, really don’t matter to God as much as we modern American Christians do; God really wrote the Bible for us.
While many Christians will be upset by my bursting of their prophetic bubble, they shouldn’t be. The Dead Sea Scrolls, along with other archaeological evidence, all but prove Daniel to have been written at least a couple hundred years before the destruction of the Temple, if not sooner. There’s little that strengthens the faith of a Christian more than some convincing evidence of a Bible prophecy having been fulfilled, especially in an age where skeptical attacks against the validity of the Bible are more numerous than ever.
The only bad news here is for those who long for American invasions in the Mid-East, because they have had one of their biggest justifications debunked. This is also bad news for ministries that use end-times prophecy to distract Christians from studying the biblical teachings that actually make a positive difference in this world. They just might have to repent of that.