by Jefferson David Tant
God has not left himself without witnesses. In every age and in many ways, God has revealed his existence to man. Paul declares this in the words that followed the healing of the lame man in Acts 14:16-17: “In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness."
Paul further declares that we are without excuse if we refuse to acknowledge the existence of God.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” (Romans 1:18-21)
One of the strongest areas of evidence is that of prophecy and fulfillment. As we strengthen our faith and equip ourselves to meet the arguments of others, we want to look at a fascinating passage from Daniel. This is one of the Messianic Prophecies.
Critics try to counter the force of Messianic prophecy by claiming that Christ arranged to fulfill prophecies so he could claim to be the Messiah. This might be a bit difficult when we analyze the prophecies and see many were beyond his control or “manipulation.” It would be hard to determine your ancestry and the city of your birth before you were born. Most of the prophecies about Christ were beyond the ability of Christ to “arrange” fulfillment.
When Would the Messiah Come?
Consider the removal of the scepter. One of the prophecies is given in Genesis 49:10: “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes…” In any of the Jewish writings, “Shiloh” is another title for the Messiah. So neither the scepter nor the ruler’s staff will depart until Messiah comes. But after he comes the scepter will depart from Judah. The scepter is a “tribal staff” This and “the ruler’s staff” indicate the lawmaking power of Judah (mainly here to pass the death penalty), which will not depart until the Messiah has come, and then it will depart.
Now, let’s trace this through history. The 70-year Jewish exile in Babylon, spoken of by Daniel, was started by Nabopolassar and continued by his son, Nebuchadnezzar. Judah lost its national sovereignty but did not lose its tribal staff, its tribal identity, or the right to exercise its own laws and pass the death penalty.
Herod the Great, who was not of Jewish blood, came to the Jewish throne, following the Maccabean princes who were the last Jewish kings to reign in Israel. The legal power of the Sanhedrin was restricted 23 years before the trial of Jesus. Dr. McGaff, in his book, Jesus Before the Sanhedrin, points out that the Jewish Supreme Court (and there were actually two of them, one of 71 members, and one of 23) started to have their power restricted.
This was actually started by Archelaus, who was the son and successor of Herod the Great, in 11 A.D. Josephus records this in his Antiquities, Book 17, ch. 13. The Roman historian, Tacitus, states that “The Romans reserved to themselves the right of the sword,” and thus took power away from the Jews. The Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds both bear this out. These were Jewish commentaries, and are named for the cities in which they were written. The Jewish Talmud states: “A little more than 40 years before the destruction of the Temple (which would be 30 A.D., as the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.—jdt), the power of pronouncing capital sentences was taken away from the Jews.” Remember, this was 30 A.D.
This had a profound impact on the Jewish court. Rabbi Rachman says, “When the members of the Sanhedrin found themselves deprived of the right over life and death, the judicial power of the scepter, a general consternation took possession of them. They covered their heads with ashes and their bodies with sackcloth exclaiming, ‘Woe unto us, for the scepter has departed Judah and the Messiah has not come.’”
But wait a minute! Who was walking in their midst in 30 A.D.? Jesus Christ! And the prophecy said that the Messiah had to come before the scepter departed, and the scepter departed by 30 A.D. Thus the Messiah had to be in their presence.
A man named Albinus appealed to the Roman authorities because the High Priest acted illegally in assembling the Sanhedrin without Roman authority, and they had passed the death sentence. Albinus appealed to the Romans because his authority had not been respected. Judah had lost its royal and legal power. The Babylonian Talmud quoted the words of Rabbi Rachman: “Woe unto us, for the scepter has departed Judah and the Messiah has not come.”
Do you see why a study of this should be exciting? They were walking about in sackcloth and ashes moaning about the fact that the Messiah had not come, and he was walking in their midst.
The Scriptures point out that the Temple would still be standing when the Messiah came. When was the Temple destroyed? 70 A.D. Prophecies state the Messiah had to come before that happened.
Another consideration is that when the Temple was destroyed, all birth records were destroyed. And for the Messiah to come, they had to be able to trace his ancestry right back to the right tribe and family, which required accurate birth records. These were all destroyed in 70, which is why he had to come before 70. There is not a Jew on earth today who could prove his tribal lineage.
Daniel's Seventy Weeks
One of the most detailed prophecies ever given is in Daniel 9:20-27.
“Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God, while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering. He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, "O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding. At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision. Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate."
Consider a breakdown of the prophecy. It says that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of the Messiah would be 69 weeks of two periods — 7 weeks and then 62 weeks. Then after that time the Messiah would be crucified or cut off. Following this, the Temple will be destroyed. Next in the time sequence is the coming of the Prince (the conqueror), who will make a pact with Israel for one week and tell them they have a right to the land of Israel. But in the middle of the week, the Prince will set himself as a god for the rest of the week.
The time sequence of the prophecy shows 7 weeks and 62, which is 69, then the Messiah is cut off, the Temple destroyed, and then the 70th week. Remember, this is a 70-week prophecy — 7, 62 and 1.
Now, what’s the time sequence here, and what happened in history? First of all, how much time is actually involved? When it says “weeks,” we immediately think of weeks of days, but that is not what Daniel is talking about. He is dealing with a week of years. The Hebrew word is “shabua,” and all it says is “seven” — seven 7s, sixty-two 7s, and one 7. Thus there would be seventy 7s involved, and the Jew would think of a 7 being not a week of days, but of years, a “shabua” of years.
They had been taken into exile for 70 shabuas, 70 years. This happened because for 490 years that had not acknowledged or honored the Sabbath year, where for one year the land was to be idle and not plowed or planted. “You shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove” (Ex. 23:10-11). So for 70 Sabbath years (490 calendar years), they had been disobedient, thus God took them into exile for 70 years.
When the wording referred to “days,” they would use the phrase “of days.” For example, Daniel 10:2, 3 mentions three weeks, and it literally says “three sevens of days.” “In those days, I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks. I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all until the entire three weeks were completed.” As Daniel used the word “days” in writing, the reader would know it was a shabua of days, not of years.
Now, how many years? I repeat, so we can get this fixed in our minds. The text says 7 weeks of years, and then 62 weeks of years, which equals 69 years. Then we multiply 7 for a shabua and we get 483 years.
The Prophetic Calendar
The 483 Year Period
It says from the going forth of the commandment to rebuild to the coming of the Messiah presented as the king would be 483 years. In fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, Christ rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and was hailed as the Messiah, the king, at the end of the 483 years. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Then we multiply to see how many days are involved. But we have to take into consideration that prophetic years are not 365 days, but 360. And how do we arrive at that conclusion?
Revelation 13:4-5 mentions 42 months — 3½ years. “they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?’ There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.” Then in Revelation12:13-14, it says “a time and times and a half a time.” “And when the dragon saw that he was thrown down to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” A “time” was a year, so we have a year, then “times” (two years), and “half a time” — 3½ years.
The details of Revelation 12:6 show that the 3½ year period of 42 months was exactly 1,260 days.
“Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” If you take 1,260 days and divide that by 3½, it comes to 360 days per year. Now, the 70th week was 7 years, but it says that something is going to take place 3½ days into the week, which would be 1,260 days.
Therefore, we take the 483 years and multiply by the number of days in the prophetic year and we have 173,880 days which would transpire from the going forth of the commandment to rebuild, to restore Jerusalem, until the coming of the Messiah.
The Detailed Fulfillment
Let’s follow through on this prophecy. When did the commandment to rebuild go forth? Historical evidence shows that on March 5, 444 B.C. the decree was given by Artaxerxes in Nehemiah 2:1-8:
“And it came about in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, that wine was before him, and I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. So the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.’ Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, ‘Let the king live forever. Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?’ Then the king said to me, ‘What would you request?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven. I said to the king, ‘If it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it.’ Then the king said to me, the queen sitting beside him, ‘How long will your journey be, and when will you return?’ So it pleased the king to send me, and I gave him a definite time. And I said to the king, ‘If it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the provinces beyond the River, that they may allow me to pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress which is by the temple, for the wall of the city and for the house to which I will go.’ And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me.”
Now, if we go back to our calendar and work back from the time Christ rode into Jerusalem on the back of the donkey, that works out to March 30, A.D. 33. (I am aware that our calendar has been adjusted in more recent times, but we are dealing with dates as they would be commonly accepted then.) This is a fulfillment of Luke 19:30, 35-38: "Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here… They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord; peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" We remember the words in Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Question: How many days expired between March 5, 444 B.C. and March 30, 33 A.D.? That is 173,880 days, so this takes care of the first 69 weeks of the 70-year prophecy. The last week comes after the Messiah is cut off, the temple is destroyed, and then a seven-year military pact is made between the enemy prince and the Jews, saying they have a right to the land of Palestine. And then that week is broken up into two periods of 3½ years.
Now, what is the exact time breakdown? From 444 B.C., when the commandment went forth, to 33 A.D. is 476 years. We make a mistake if we add 444 to 33 and get 477 years, for from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D. is only one year, not two. There is no year “zero.”
Then we must multiply this by the number of days. These are not prophetic days, for we are dealing with the real calendar now. But we can’t simply multiply this by 365 days, for years are a bit longer than that — 365¼, or 365.24219879 days to be exact. And then we figure in the leap years. This then comes to 173,855 days, but the Bible says 173,880 days from the going forth of the commandment to the coming of the Messiah. But remember that the decree went forth on March 5, and Christ rode in on March 30, so we add 25 days and end up with 173,880. Thus we have the exact fulfillment of the prophecy from the going forth of the commandment to rebuild to its fulfillment. One man who has spent much time working on this is Dr. Harold Hoehner at Dallas Theological Seminary in Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. Josh McDowell has also done much research on this matter.
Continuing with the prophecy, we note that after the Messiah rode into town on the back of a donkey, two things would take place before the 70th week of years was finished. One, the Messiah would be cut off. Second, the Temple would be destroyed. Now, this pinpoints who the Messiah is. When was the Temple destroyed? 70 A.D. When did Jesus ride into Jerusalem? March 30, 33 A.D. When did the Messiah have to come, according to prophecy? Between March 30, 33 A.D. and 70 A.D. when the Temple was destroyed. Between these two dates, who was crucified? Jesus Christ!
No wonder Jesus constantly appealed to Messianic prophecy to substantiate his claims to be the Messiah. “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He appointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recover of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:18-21) I wonder about the emotion that his hearers must have felt as he uttered those words. In the end, just before his ascension, Christ again referred to prophecy. “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’” (Luke 24:44)
Some have counted 333 prophecies about Christ. There are approximately 60 major prophecies, with 270 ramifications of them. The last of the Old Testament prophecies were written some 400 years before he was born, and he fulfilled every one of them, down to the smallest detail. “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18).
What does all this mean to us? That God exists. That Jesus is the Son of God. That all that is said about him is true. That he will therefore judge us one day. “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48). We, therefore, need to listen to him and obey him. There is no escape—he will either be your savior or your judge.
Which shall it be? If you have not accepted him in obedience to his will, his words are very clear as to beginning a new life in him and having all sins taken away. "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16).