How do you reconcile Matt. 24: 36 with the fact that the last week of Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks (Daniel 9: 24–27) commences with the rapture of the Church?
After learning that the captivity of Jerusalem was to be for 70 years (see Dan. 9: 2), it is revealed to Daniel that a further 490 years (that is, seven weeks of years multiplied by 70) is apportioned to Israel and Jerusalem before the “righteousness of the ages” (v24) is brought in . This period commenced with the “going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem”, the building of which took seven weeks (or 49 years), followed by 62 weeks (or 434 years) until the Messiah was “cut off” in death (v25, 26). Others have shown that this prophecy has proven historically accurate down even to the day.
This leaves one final week of seven years yet to be accounted for, as nothing in history matches it. The beast or “the prince that shall come” (Dan. 9: 26; see Dan. 7: 23–25; Rev. 13: 1–10) shall “confirm a covenant” with the Jews for one week, but in the middle of that period (that is, after three and half years), he shall renege on this treaty (see Dan. 9: 27) and “make war with the saints” (Rev. 13: 7). The final week is therefore divided into two, with the last half taken up with the great tribulation (see Jer. 30: 7; Matt. 24: 21; Rev. 7: 14).
With regard to the length of the latter half of the week, Scripture gives us three different but equal time measures. The Jewish remnant’s preservation in the wilderness during this period is to last 1260 days (see Rev. 12: 6), and the beast will seek to persecute them for “a time and times and a half time” (Dan. 7: 25), having authority “to pursue its career forty–two months” (Rev. 13: 5). Once it is realised that the Jewish month was originally 30 days long, it can be seen that three and a half years is meant throughout.
How do these events relate to the rapture of the Church? The seventy weeks belong to “thy people” (Israel) and the “holy city” (Dan. 9: 24), and thus bear no direct relationship to the rapture. In the prophecy, the final week begins with the beast confirming a covenant with the Jewish nation (see v27), and it is from that incident (not the rapture) that the chronology must be dated. In fact, there is a precedent for the two events not to be synonymous: after 69 of the 70 weeks of years, the Messiah was cut off (see v26), but there was then a hiatus of 50 days before the Church was formed on the day of Pentecost.
Now as we have seen, in the midst of the 70th week the beast shall renege on his treaty with Israel, the abomination of desolation will be set up in the temple (see Matt. 24: 15), and the nation “shall be given into his hand” for three and a half years (Dan. 7: 25). We therefore have precision as to the starting point of the final half of the week, and also its length. On the face of it, this implies that the Jewish believing remnant ought to be able to calculate when the Messiah would return to take up His kingdom. This, of course, contradicts Matt. 24: 36: “of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of the heavens, but [my] Father alone”. Not only that, but it also assumes that Christ comes to deliver His earthly people precisely when the three and a half years expire. Not true, for when the period finishes the scene is set for the bringing in of “the righteousness of the ages” (Dan. 9: 24)—not exactly the Lord’s return. Again, the two witnesses prophesy for the 1260 days of the last half week, are killed and then resurrected by God on day 1263 or 1264 (see Rev. 11: 2, 3, 7–11)—and though imminent (see v15), the Lord has still not, at this point, returned. He Himself tells us that “immediately after the tribulation” there will be signs in the heavens, “then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven”, after which (this is implied) “they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 24: 29, 30 my emphasis). Indeed, neither of the two very precise periods of 1260 days (see Rev. 11: 3; 12: 6) are directly connected with the Lord’s return. Daniel 7: 22 does speak of the coming of the Ancient of Days, but the “time and times and half a time” or three and a half years in v25 are not connected with that event, but to the subjugation of Israel. Finally, the beast is given “authority to pursue its career” for 42 months (Rev. 13: 5), but Rev. 19: 19, 20 seems to imply a delay between him becoming cognisant that the Lord is coming, and his being taken. However, clearly all resistance to Christ must be over within 1290 days (see Dan. 12: 11) for that takes us to 43 months—beyond the 42 months allocated to the beast.
Thus the Jewish remnant will be able to accurately calculate the year of the Lord’s return, and possibly even the month or week (of days). They will not, however, be able to calculate the “day and hour” (Matt. 24: 36), for those matters are reserved for the Father alone. Scripture, as ever, is absolutely precise in what it says.