Jesus said we are to forgive up to seventy times seven times. Does this cryptic phrase actually refer to the 70 Weeks Prophecy? If so what does it mean?
Peter asked Jesus about how often one is to forgive. He suggested that perhaps we are to forgive seven times. I have heard this passage taught a number of times from the pulpit. It is an iconic teaching of Jesus. I think everyone gets the primary point correct – that we are to forgive and forgive and forgive – that there isn’t a point where we are to stop forgiving during this life.
However, I think there are nuances of understanding that almost everyone has missed about this passage – ones which dramatically affect our understanding of prophecy. The reason is that the numbers used by Peter and Jesus ( “7” and “70 Times 7“) are not random numbers, but are references to the Old Testament scriptures.
In fact, this phrase that Jesus used has become the title of my new book, 70 Times 7.
In addition to looking at this topic, the book also examines and challenges traditional thinking in multiple areas of our eschatological theories.
- What if the Prince who is to come is NOT the Antichrist?
- What if the Covenant with the Many is NOT an Antichrist peace treaty?
- What if the people of the Prince who is to come are NOT Romans?
- What if the solution to the 69 Week countdown to the Messiah was NOT Sir Robert Anderson’s 360-day years?
- What if the phrase “the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing” does NOT mean “but not for himself” as we’ve been taught?
From this small sample of topics, you can see why this book may be my most important book, and the may be the most controversial and revolutionary eschatology book in the last ten years.
So I am happy to announce the Publication of 70 Times 7: Daniel’s Mysterious Countdown and the Church’s Heroic Future
Context of 70 Times 7
Let’s begin today’s blog by looking at the context of this teaching. It appears earlier that day, Jesus had explained what we now know as “church discipline” with the disciples. How a person first goes to the one who has offended privately. And how if they don’t repent, you are to then go with two persons and then as an assembly of believers.
It was at this point that Peter asked Jesus a logical question, “How often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?” Peter was asking in essence, “How many times do I have to go through this process?” And he offered Jesus a suggestion, “Up to seven times?”
Why did Peter choose this number? We don’t know. But in Israel in that day, debts were forgiven during the final year or sabbatical year of a seven-year-long “Week of Years” which they called a Shabua. On that final, seventh year, all financial debts were forgiven. Might Peter have been thinking along those terms? Was he thinking that sin debts would be forgiven as well as financial debts? We simply don’t know. But – and this is very important – we know Jesus was thinking of Shabuim (plural of Shabua) when he answered Peter.
I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matt. 18:22)
This is a very, very unusual phrase, 70 Times 7. Nearly every pastor and teacher who has discussed this passage has assumed that Jesus simply meant “a very long time” – essentially forgive for the rest of your life. And this is the passage’s surface meaning.
However, in Daniel 9:24, the BIble uses an approximation of this identical phrase. In the middle of the most famous and important prophecy in all of Scripture, the angel Gabriel had this to say to Daniel:
Seventy weeks (Heb: shabuim, meaning “sevens”) have been decreed for your people and your holy city. (Dan. 9:24)
Seventy “sevens” and seventy times seven are obviously the same thing (490).
Jesus then told the disciples the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. In this familiar parable, the king (Jesus) forgives an enormous debt of 10,000 talents. Most bible scholars equate this huge debt with our sin debt to God that Jesus paid for on the cross.
However, immediately after being forgiven his enormous debt, the unmerciful servant refused to forgive even a small amount another servant owed him. In this way, Jesus was explaining to Peter and the other disciples how God views us when we don’t forgive and the hypocrisy of unforgiveness.
What Everyone Has Missed
What nearly everyone has missed, however, is how this is related to Dan. 9:24-27 and the 70 Weeks Prophecy. Let’s look at Jesus’s statement one more time:
I do not say to you, up to seven times, but UP TO seventy times seven. (Matt. 18:22)
Notice, Jesus told his disciples (and us) that forgiveness is to be offered UP TO seventy times seven. He although we look at this phrase as “unlimited forgiveness,” it actually isn’t – it is the limit of forgiveness. The Greek word translated “up to” is heos which means “as far as” or “up until.” This means we are to forgive until the completion of the time period, seventy times seven, but not after.
If this truly is the time period in Daniel’s seventy sevens (weeks) prophecy, this makes sense. God has set a limit on man’s rebellion. There will come a day when God says “enough” and he will descend from heaven and bring his Wrath upon the inhabitants of the world who have not repented.
This has profound impact on the interpretation of prophecy. There are a very significant number of biblical scholars (historicists and preterists) who believe the 70 Weeks prophecy was fulfilled in the first century. The teaching in this article proves that their theory is absolutely impossible!
These scholars postulate that the 70th Week of Daniel depicted in Dan. 9:27 is not a future seven year period but was fulfilled in the first century. But if forgiveness is to be offered UP UNTIL the end of the seventy sevens, and if we aren’t to forgive after the end of the 70 Weeks, then it can’t have ended in the first century as we are still to forgive right NOW. Forgiveness hasn’t ended yet!
This is so significant, it deserves to be restated:
If forgiveness of sins ends after “seventy times seven,’ then this can ONLY be upon the return of Jesus and the end of this age. Period. The 70th Week of Daniel must be in the future.
The argument between futurists (who believe the 70th Week of Daniel is future) and historicists has raged for centuries. Have we now uncovered a single, simple proof that proves the historicist and preterist positons impossible? I believe we have.