“Seventy ‘sevens'” (or “seventy weeks” as in other translations) refers to seventy periods of seven years, or 490 years. These years are broken into three periods. The first, “seven ‘sevens'” or forty-nine years would begin at the moment the command to rebuild the temple would be given (Daniel 9:25; Ezra 1:1-4) and last throughout the duration of construction (Ezra 6:14-15). The second, “sixty-two ‘sevens'” or 434 years was the time from the completion of the temple to the arrival of the “Anointed One”—Jesus the Messiah. Verse 26 explains that after the sixty-two sevens, the Anointed One will be put to death, and the people of the ruler (identified earlier in Daniel and interpreted as Rome) will destroy the city and the sanctuary, which occurred in AD 70.
This is an account given to Daniel about his people, the Jews. Although we can certainly learn from it, the words were not specifically given for those of us in the church age. Because of that, Gabriel had no reason to refer to the church. There is no detailed description of what was to occur between the sixty-ninth seven and the seventieth seven. This leaves one ‘seven’—or one seven-year period—as yet unaccounted for. Verse 27 identifies the beginning of that last period: “He [presumably the Antichrist from Daniel 7:8-26] will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.'” When a world leader from the West (Daniel 8:1-14) initiates a comprehensive treaty between Israel and its surrounding nations, the tribulation will have begun.
The fact that the tribulation is also called the “time of distress for Jacob” (Jeremiah 30:7) indicates that although the entire world will be involved, the purpose of the tribulation primarily relates to Israel. Daniel 9:24 (NIV) gives the reasons for the 490-year period: “to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.” The first three—”to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness”—were accomplished with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, but have not yet been applied to Israel as a people. The last three have not occurred at all, so we know the seventieth “seven” is yet to come. At the end of the tribulation, all prophecy will be fulfilled, and Israel as a nation will have come to accept Jesus as their Messiah. In addition, the tribulation will be God’s tool in holding all the nations of the world accountable for their rejection of Him (Jeremiah 25:30-32; 2 Thessalonians 2:12; Revelation 6:15).