For centuries, Daniel 9:27 was believed to be a prophecy about the New Covenant, the covenant that the Lord Jesus wrote in his body and blood. But that has changed in recent years through Dispensational and Christian Zionist teaching, which turns the traditional understanding upside down: it says Daniel 9:27 is about the covenant of the Antichrist.
Below is Daniel 9:26-27 in the 1537 Matthew Bible:
9: 26 After these .lxii.  weeks shall Christ be slain, and they shall have no pleasure in him. Then shall there come a people with the prince, and destroy the city and the Sanctuary: and his end shall come as the water flood. But the desolation shall continue till the end of the battle.
9:27 He shall make a strong bond with many for the space of a week, and when the week is half gone, he shall put down the slain and meat offering. And in the temple there shall be an abominable desolation, till it [has] destroyed all. And it is concluded, that this wasting shall continue unto the end.
Note, the “strong bond” in verse 27 is usually translated “covenant” in other Bible versions.
What do these verses mean? Drawing from Martin Luther, we find that it is quite simple.
Daniel 9:26 is a prophecy that the Messiah would be slain: the Jews would have no pleasure in him, would reject him, and would murder him. Then, in judgement upon that dreadful murder, God would send a people to destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (the temple). This judgement was executed in 70 A.D. when the Romans besieged and sacked the city. The “prince” who led the Romans in this destruction was the emperor Titus. Jerusalem was crowded for the Jewish Passover at the time; the historian Tacitus numbered the people within the walls at over 600,000. Many thousands of Jews were crucified by the Romans, and it is said that the surrounding countryside was stripped of trees, which were used to make battering rams and crosses.
The last sentence of verse 26 says that, after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the desolation would continue to “the end of the battle.” I (Ruth) had always understood this battle to be the Lord’s battle, and that the desolation of Jerusalem would continue until he puts his enemies under his feet – that is, until the end of the world and the age. However, I checked Luther and discovered that he disagreed in part: he understood the battle in question to be Titus’s war on Jerusalem (I presume there is a slight difference in the translation). Otherwise, Luther agreed that after Titus’s battle “there shall remain the appointed desolation,” and Jerusalem and the temple would never be restored to their former position, but would remain abandoned by God.
How would the continuing desolation of Jerusalem appear? It would certainly be of a spiritual nature, due to the Lord’s abandonment. I believe it would also, at least to some extent, be political and geographic: the city would never more thrive, and would therefore stand as an enduring testimony of two things:
- The Lord’s judgement for the murder of his Son. The magnitude of this deed should never be forgotten.
- The putting down, or abolishment, of the Old Covenant, represented by Jerusalem and the temple. In particular, the temple would be destroyed until not one stone was left standing upon another (M’t. 24:2, Mark 13:2).
If I understand correctly, the temple will never be rebuilt – at least, certainly never on the same site. The last sentence of verse 27 confirms the prophecy that the “wasting” in the temple will continue until the end.
What then of verse 27? This is the verse so badly misinterpreted today. As Luther explained, it was a prophecy of Christ and the New Covenant. In particular, it speaks about the period immediately before and after Christ was slain. It is he who makes the “strong bond” or covenant.
Luther explained that the “week” spoken of in Daniel 9:27 is the period of seven years when the gospel went forth in Israel, beginning with Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him. During the first three and a half years, after John the Baptist pronounced Jesus to be the Messiah, Christ himself preached – but only until he was slain “mid-week.” The following half-week referred to in verse 27 is a prophecy of the three and a half years of powerful apostolic preaching that occurred after Christ was slain. During this entire “week” of seven years, Luther explained, the preaching of the New Covenant went forth in its greatest purity and power.
It is widely recognized that the “slain and meat offerings” referred to in verse 27 are the sacrifices of the Old Covenant, but who is the “he” who will put them down? It is Christ himself. He put them down by his own death: his death ended the Mosaic sacrifices because he was the true spotless Lamb. Of course, practically speaking the sacrifices did not end until 70 A.D. and the destruction of the temple; however, after the death of Christ they ceased to have any purpose in the sight of God, because he who had been pre-figured by the sacrifices had now been offered up himself. The true Lamb, the true Dove – the only One whose blood could atone for man’s sin – had come, and he was the holy sin-offering.
The putting down the slain and meat offerings was, therefore, symbolically and spiritually accomplished by the Lord’s death, and visibly ended once and for all by Titus’s attack on Jerusalem. The Lord’s death also put down the Old (Mosaic) Covenant: the animal sacrifices were the heart of the Old Covenant, but the sacrifice of Christ is the heart of the New Covenant, which has abolished and done away with the Old (Heb. 8:13).
How Christian Zionism and modern Bibles reinterpret Daniel 9:27
However, dispensationalism and Christian Zionism (“CZ” for short) have manufactured an entirely new prophecy out of Daniel 9:27. They put past events – prophecies about Jerusalem and the temple that are already fulfilled – in the future. They say city and temple will be rebuilt and then destroyed in the future. They say that the sacrifices the Lord ended by his own death will begin again in a rebuilt temple. They say the evil Antichrist will make and break a covenant with Israel, and will himself put down the slain and meat offering in the future. Thus CZ makes the work of putting down the sacrifices to be Antichrist’s – and this as if it were a bad thing, and not the good accomplishment of Christ. The ultimate error of CZ is that it denies that the strong bond or covenant of verse 27 is the Lord’s own covenant with the Israel that belongs to him (Ga. 6:16); that is, the New Covenant that is with the body of all believers, both Jew and Gentile. Instead, CZ makes the covenant out to be Antichrist’s evil and duplicitous covenant with national Israel. This is what William Tyndale would call “turning the root of the tree upward.”
It is today an ardent hope and frequent prayer of many Christians that Jerusalem and the temple will be rebuilt; however, they do not realize that this is to hope and pray against the judgement of God. They even pray for animal sacrifices to resume, effectively denying the Lord’s own death (though they do not realize it). Revisions to Daniel 9:26-27 after the Reformation, especially in modern Bibles, have contributed to the error. The changes developed slowly over time, until in many modern Bibles it is impossible to derive the traditional understanding, or to see that the covenant of 9:27 could be Christ’s covenant. For example, the Living Bible has the following:
Daniel 9:27, LB This king will make a seven-year treaty with the people, but after half that time, he will break his pledge and stop the Jews from all their sacrifices and their offerings; then, as a climax to all his terrible deeds, the Enemy shall utterly defile the sanctuary of God. But in God’s time and plan, his judgment will be poured out upon this Evil One.
Thus in the Living Bible, Christ who put down the slain and meat offerings by his own death has become an “Evil One” whom God will judge. This is Antichrist’s own deception – a terrible error, and a terrible change to the English Bible. The Contemporary English Version makes verse 27 to be about a “foreigner” who destroys:
Daniel 9:27, CEV For one week this foreigner will make a firm agreement with many people, and halfway through this week, he will end all sacrifices and offerings. Then the “Horrible Thing” that causes destruction will be put there. And it will stay there until the time God has decided to destroy this one who destroys.
To compare, here again is the original translation from the Matthew Bible:
Daniel 9:27, MB He shall make a strong bond with many for the space of a week, and when the week is half gone, he shall put down the slain and meat offering. And in the temple there shall be an abominable desolation, till it [has] destroyed all. And it is concluded, that this wasting shall continue unto the end.
The abominable desolation was the destruction of the temple by Titus. There was further destruction by Muslim invaders, who built the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine, on the site of the old temple, where it sits to this day.
In closing, I wish to comment that I bear no ill will toward the Jews. The Scriptures are clear that we are not to be high-minded, nor to despise them, for the judgements of God are deep and secret (Ro. 11:1). All the things that happened to them were for examples, as warnings to us, who are capable of no more and no less than they have done (1Co. 10:6-11). It is in this spirit that we must understand God’s judgement on Jerusalem and the temple.
 Martin Luther, “Christ Was Born a Jew,” Luther’s Works, Vol. 45, 227. There was never any question about the identity of Titus as the “prince” who destroyed the city and the temple until recent times. “Prince” is Early Modern English for “ruler.”
For more information about the errors of Christian Zionism, and how modern Bibles contribute to these errors, see Ruth’s article posted here on Academia.edu. See also the related blog post, Tribute is not Tax