We are heading into the most important time of year on the Christian calendar. Our whole faith is centered on the Resurrection of Jesus, the promised Messiah. So as we celebrate Palm Sunday and head into Holy Week I want to take a look at the day Jesus fulfilled one of the most amazing and important prophecies in the Old Testament – because its’ manifestation points to the total sovereignty of God over all things….including time and history.
ACCURATE TO THE DAY
In Daniel chapter 9, written just about 530 years or so before the birth of Christ, the prophet predicts Christ’s entry into his Kingdom to the very day. Check this out. Based on Daniel’s prophecy, 1st century rabbis, those writing when Jesus was alive, – expected the arrival of Messiah right around that time. The Magi arrived seeking Him partially informed by a detailed knowledge of Jewish Scripture which had been gained by Zoroastrian wise men and astrologers since the time of Daniel himself.[i] The Essenes, who produced the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, were another religious community that believed that the prophecy would shortly be fulfilled in first century Palestine.
Here’s the prophecy they were all excited about, Daniel 9:25-26: “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.”
There are a couple of things about this prophecy which needs to be noted. When Daniel wrote this, Jerusalem had been destroyed. At that time there was no reason to believe that it would ever be rebuilt again. Secondly, Daniel predicted not only the rebuilding, but also the fact that this second Temple would again be destroyed. Of course as already noted, this occurred in AD 70 at the hands of the Romans. So in just the broadest sense we see that the prophecy was fulfilled. Coincidence? Perhaps, if the prediction it made was just a general statement. But as we read in Daniel chapter 9, we see it contains a claim of the exact timing of its fulfillment. The Jewish community of course understood the meaning and significance of its reference to the seven ‘weeks’ plus sixty-two ‘weeks.’ And for them it was this specific phrase that led to the widely held expectation of messianic fulfillment around the time of Christ.
Now the prophecy itself may sound confusing, so let’s start breaking it down. Sir Robert Anderson, a former head of Scotland Yard and a Christian scholar first researched the issue back in the 1890’s. He made an amazing discovery. So let’s look at the timing: “from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.”
Here’s what we know: History tells us that King Artaxerxes Longimanus issued a decree to rebuild Jerusalem on the 1st day of the Jewish month of Nisan in the 20th year of his reign. Sir Robert Anderson used the Encyclopedia Britannica to begin his research, finding out just when King Artaxerxes came to the throne. It was simple to calculate that the day the decree was issued was the 1st day of Nisan, 445 BC. That correlates with March 14th of that year.
“There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.” The Hebrew word used here is shabuim,’ which is translated into the English word ‘weeks,’ in this passage. By common custom we know that this word was often used to refer to a ‘week of years,’ or seven years in the Hebrew language. This is the context in which it is used here. Now there are to be sixty-nine weeks of years before the appearance of the Messiah. Sixty-nine weeks of years multiplied by seven gives us 483 years “From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One” comes.
Now the first issue is, these are Hebrew or prophetic years of 360 days each. So Anderson converted the years to days; multiplying the 483 years by the 360 days required by the Jewish calendar. That comes to exactly 173,880 days from the issuing of the decree. Now the critical question becomes, when did the decree go forth? By turning to the 2nd chapter of Nehemiah we begin to get an answer to that question. That passage describes a command by King Artaxerxes Longimanus to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. This happened in the 20th year of his reign on the first day of the month of the Jewish month of Nisan.
The date of Artaxerxes ascension to the throne is even an easier matter. It can be found in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Counting twenty years from that date we find that day of the decree is fixed as the 1st Day of Nisan in the year 445 BC. Working through the astronomical calculations at the end of the 19th century, Sir Robert Anderson confirmed that this date fell on the 14th of March of that year. From that date that we begin counting forward the 173,880 days. What we arrive at is April 6th AD 32.
So counting forward from the 1st of Nissan 445 BC Anderson and the scholars who checked his work all came up with the same answer: The 10th of Nisan, or April 6th, AD 32. So what’s so significant about that day? That’s the first Palm Sunday; – the day that Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey to the affirmation of the praising crowds of Jerusalem. He was coming into His kingdom. We know from the Scripture that Jesus went up to the Temple to celebrate the Feast of Passover. Here’s Sir Robert Anderson in his own words now. “In accordance with the Jewish custom, the Lord went up to Jerusalem on the 8th of Nisan, ‘six days before the Passover’”. Two days later, on the 10th of Nisan, (the date the prophecy indicated), Jesus made His triumphal entry into the Holy City. And Jesus came riding in on a colt, fulfilling the prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9
Now there had been more than one occasion that Jesus had refused the opportunity to be proclaimed King. This was the first and only time that Jesus the Messiah accepted his role of King and it occurred exactly 173,880 days from the day the decree was issued to rebuild Jerusalem; March 14, 445 BC.[ii] [iii] [iv] Confirming evidence is found in the third chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Luke states that Jesus was about 30 years of age when baptized by John. This was the beginning of his ministry and Luke specifically identifies it as the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Luke specifically identifies it as the “fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” (Luke 3:1) That’s an easily traceable time period. Scholars concur that this puts Christ’s baptism in the autumn of 28 AD. That would put the final Passover of Jesus’ three and a half-year ministry on April 10th of AD 32.
The Sunday before that was April 6th. The British Royal Observatory confirmed that date. So traveling this other route, through the history of the gospels, we arrive at the same date that Daniel did in his writings hundreds of years before. More than some vague otherworldly pronouncement, the prophecy in Daniel 9 turns out to be a precisely calculated mathematical prediction, accurate to the very day that Christ presented himself as King and Savior.[v] [vi] [vii] The precision and accuracy of that prophecy given to Daniel is nothing less than breathtaking. By any objective standard, by a preponderance of the evidence, it can only be seen as a remarkably accurate, historically verifiable, confirmation of unambiguous truth.
[i] John MacArthur Study Bible, notes to Matthew 2:1, pg 1,394
[ii] Sir Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince, 1881
[iii] Chuck Missler, Confirming the Prophetic Date of 445 BC, taken from the book: Mark Eastman, M.D. and Chuck Missler, The Creator Beyond Space and Time, 1996, The Word For Today. p.138,140-141
[iv] Dr Mark Eastman, Daniel‟s Prophecy Came True When Yeshua Entered Jerusalem, Messianic Times, April 1996
[v] Chuck Missler, Confirming The Prophetic Date of 445 BC, from Mark Eastman, M.D. and Chuck Missler,
[vi] Sir Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince, 1881
[vii] Dr Mark Eastman, Daniel’s Prophecy Came True When Yeshua Entered Jerusalem, Messianic Times, April 1996