AN INCREDIBLE PROPHECY (WITH A PRECISE TIME-LAPSE FULFILLMENT)
What the book of Revelation is to the New-Testament, the book of Daniel is to the Old Testament. Some of Daniel’s predictions were fulfilled about 360 years later, others 560 years afterwards, and still others await the onset of the Tribulation and glorious return of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
To be sure, there are several other books of both Testaments that are replete with astounding predictions of the future; many have already come to pass, and many more pending fulfillment. The very fact that the Bible boldly forecasts the future (with amazing accuracy), separates it from all other religious writings the world over.
From the Garden of Eden announcement in Genesis of the coming Savior who would conquer the very source of sin and evil, Satan (Genesis 3:15); to a future Prophet like (greater than) Moses, Duet. 18:15); to a Son given to us who will be the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9); to a divine child born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2); to a Messiah who would first be a suffering servant (Isaiah 53); to the Son of Man who would be nailed to a cross, dice thrown for his garments, and all the ugly things that Christ suffered on the cross (Psalms 22); to a Redeemer raised from the dead (Psalms 16:10), and many others.
The books of Daniel and Revelation deliver breath-taking revelations that are similar in scope and detail, particularly disclosures of the Anti-Christ (Daniel 7, 9, 11, alongside of Revelation 13 & 17, including the very identity of this wicked man—see my book Out of the Abyss). Likewise both books provide astonishing before and after information of the four Gentile kingdoms that dominated the world in their time (Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome); as well as Daniel’s precise predictions of the “king of the north” fulfilled hundreds of years later by Antiochus Epiphanies IV. Many are familiar with these prophecies, but not too many are acquainted with or accurately understand a phenomenal prophecy found in Daniel Chapter 9. Let’s read the words given by the angel Gabriel to Daniel:
“A period of seventy sets of seven has been decreed for your people and your holy city to finish their rebellion, to put an end to their sin, to atone for their guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place. Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until a ruler—the Anointed One—comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite the perilous times” (Daniel 9: 24-25).
Many Old Testament prophets speak of the coming Messiah, listing dozens of literal details as to what the Messiah would experience, how and from where he would originate, how he would be received, and what he would accomplish. What, then, makes the Daniel Chapter 9 prophecy so extraordinarily unique? It pinpoints the actual time when Messiah would arrive on the scene of human history!
There are a handful of other prophecies in which God specifies the length of time before the event will take place or how long the event will last. For example, God told Abraham that, “After four generations your descendants will return here to this land…” (Genesis 15:16). As later confirmed, the Israelites spent 400 years in Egypt, before they were delivered by God through Moses, enabling them to return to the Promised Land. Moreover, at that time, a generation was essentially defined and measured (in terms of time) as a hundred years.
Another example is the precise 70-year exile of the Jews in Babylon foretold by Jeremiah before the mighty Babylonian Empire sacked Jerusalem and demolished Solomon’s Temple. The period of captivity began in 586 BC and ended in 516 BC.
Regarding Daniel’s prophecy, he was told that a period of 70 weeks would be needed to, among other things: “finish their rebellion … atone for their guilt … bring in everlasting righteousness…” (Daniel 9:24). One significant Hebrew expression and measurement of time is that of one week equaling seven years, which is certainly the case in this passage. Nearly all Bible scholars agree with this application. Thus, there would be a total of 490 years (70 x 7) to achieve this remarkable transformation for the nation of Israel—one that would accomplish the very purpose for being a people chosen by God (to bring God’s Word and God’s Savior to all of mankind); and one that would ultimately fulfill Israel’s destiny of people and land (complete physical/spiritual restoration of Israel and Messiah ruling the world from Jerusalem).
Then, however, this specific time-lapse prophecy is narrowed down and essentially “split” as noted in the following verse. “…Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass…” (Daniel 9:25). The preciseness of this prophecy is indisputable in terms of the exact period of time needed (483 years) to accomplish an integral, component part of the entire prediction. When will the 483 year count begin, and what will take place at the end of this fixed period of time? We find the answer in the last part of the verse: “…from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until a ruler—the Anointed One—comes…” (Verse 25). Thus, there are two events that signal the beginning of the prophecy and its subsequent fulfillment. Daniel’s vision of these astounding events took place in approximately 539 BC.
First Event: The command to rebuild Jerusalem.
At the outset it is vitally important to distinguish the command to rebuild Jerusalem (starting with the walls of the holy city) from another edict/command issued by a totally different ruler to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. It was the Persian King Cyrus who issued the decree in 538 BC for the Jews to return from their Babylonian captivity and rebuild their holy Temple. In fact restoration of the Temple began a few years later and was completed in 516 BC, 70 years after Israel was conquered and exiled to Babylon, i.e. the 70-year prophesied captivity. Some Bible scholars erroneously selected Cyrus’s edict as the beginning point of Daniel’s 483-year prophecy. They mistakenly assumed that the prophetic words of Daniel’s prophecy (rebuild Jerusalem) also applied to the Temple. But, prophetically and historically we can now clearly see that the rebuilt Temple and rebuilt walls of Jerusalem were two distinct events separated by nearly 100 hundred years.
Let’s read the exact wording of Cyrus’s command, “In the first year of King Cyrus’s reign, a decree was sent out concerning the Temple of God at Jerusalem…” (Ezra 6:3, italics for emphasis). The verse goes on to record exactly what Cyrus ordered, “…Let the Temple be rebuilt on the site where Jews used to offer their sacrifices, using the original foundations. Its height will be ninety feet…” (Italics for emphasis). The crucial point here is that Cyrus is referring ONLY to the Temple itself. Also, there are extensive details of the decree … I’ve quoted just the beginning of those details. The Jewish leader Zerubbabel subsequently led the Jewish exiles back to Israel, and supervised the restoration of Solomon’s Temple.
*Note: In the study of Biblical prophecy it is of paramount importance to examine ALL prophecies that relate directly or indirectly to the specific prophecy you’re looking at. If this is not done, then a student of prophecy is subject to error in the application of the Bible to historical events.
Once again notice that Daniel’s prophecy is referring exclusively to the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The specifics of his prediction came to pass generations later, through another decree; this time given by another Persian King Artaxerxes Longimanus to Nehemiah in 445 BC. The Old Testament book of Nehemiah contains the records/history of the edict and renovation of the walls. As with Cyrus’s decree for the Temple, there are several details in King Artaxerxes’ letter to Nehemiah granting permission to, among other things: “beams for the gates of the Temple fortress, for the city walls, and for a house for myself. And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me” (Nehemiah 2:8, italics for emphasis). *Note: the fortress gates for the Temple was not part of the Temple itself.
Second Event: Until a ruler—the Anointed One—comes.
The Anointed One is none other than the Messiah; in fact, many Bible translations actually use the term Messiah in Daniel 9:25 (Messiah means Anointed or Chosen One). Yet, Messiah Jesus was on this earth for some 33 years, so what aspect (time-frame) of his life do we select as the year/time when he would come (to the earth)? His birth, passing into Jewish adulthood (age 13), beginning of his ministry, his crucifixion, his resurrection? Answer: none of the above. The moment in time to identify the passage of 483 years can be none other than Palm Sunday, a week before his crucifixion. Why? That is the precise time when Jesus allowed others to recognize and worship him as the Messiah, which is the specific fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy. Prior to his heralded ride into Jerusalem, he had discouraged even his disciples from publicly hailing him as Messiah. Why?
It wasn’t the right time yet. The time chosen by God long before was to synchronize and confirm his very identity as Messiah (Son of God) with his ultimate mission of purchasing our redemption through his death, burial, and resurrection. As indicated, Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday occurred in consecutive weeks. Nearly all Bible scholars agree that the accolades from thousands of people given to Christ as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (historically kings would ride into a city on a donkey if the king was coming in peace … a horse if the king was coming to conquer) demonstrated public acknowledgment that he was Messiah.
If you like, read Luke 19 for the progression of events culminating with shouts of, “Blessings on the King, who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38). The very cries of the people recorded in Luke had been prophesied by the prophet Zechariah: “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—riding on a donkey’s colt” (Zechariah 9:9).
If then, Daniel’s phenomenal prediction is accurate, adding 483 years to the proclamation of Artaxerxes in 445 BC should match up with the triumphal entry of Jesus to Jerusalem. So, let’s do the math: 483 years minus 445 years =s 38 AD. Oops, we have a problem! This would be several years after Jesus arose from the dead and returned to heaven. Has Daniel’s prophecy failed?
Sir Robert Anderson
In 1894, a Scotland Yard Detective, Robert Anderson, who was also an ardent student of the Bible, especially prophecy, published his book called, The Coming Prince. Through extensive study and research, he corrected and clarified previous applications of Daniel’s prophecy from such notables as Sir Isaac Newton … one of the greatest scientist of all times, but also a Christian who studied Biblical prophecies extensively. We simply can’t do justice to Sir Robert Anderson’s book in one article; therefore, we will briefly examine the two most important discoveries by him (which are really disclosures and discernment given to him by the Lord).
1. Correct Application of Biblical Years: Simply stated, every Jewish month consists of 30 days (based on the moon’s phases); therefore, every year contains 360 days, not 365 days that we use on the Julian or Roman calendar. Biblical months/years are based on the Jewish calendar. The Roman calendar came along thousands of years after the Jewish calendar. Time doesn’t permit explanation as to why we use the Roman calendar, except to say that Sir Robert Anderson fully realized the necessity of converting Julian years to Jewish years if he or anyone could accurately correlate precise dates in Biblical and secular history …. Days, months, years.
2. Pinpoint Identification of Exact Dates, via Meticulous Investigation of Historical Records: Once again, time/space prohibits extensive review of what he found, so I will highly condense his amazing discovery: Sir Robert Anderson calculated (with partial assistance from the Royal Observatory, Greenwich) the Julian date of King Artaxerxes edict to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem to have been March 14th, 445 BC. Furthermore, the Julian date for Jesus’s magnificent ride into Jerusalem was April 6th, 32 AD. By employing the Hebrew calendar, Sir Robert Anderson tallied 173,880 days had elapsed which is exactly 483 Jewish years!! Absolutely astounding! I repeat for emphasis: Incredible!!
Sir Robert Anderson factored in leap years and the 24 days from March 14th to April 6th. Some mathematicians/scholars determined that Anderson was two days off or so; but whether they’re right or Sir Robert was right, doesn’t matter all that much. The fact is: to calculate within two days, or two weeks, or two months, or even two years is remarkable. When you’re talking about 483 years, even a gap of two years still gives significant validation to the prophecy. Meaning that it’s not the God-given prophecy that’s a little off; rather, it might just be a slight miscalculation of what is a fairly complex system of balancing two calendars over such a long period of time.
Unless God, himself, directly inspires someone (such as the prophet Daniel), there’s absolutely no way for a man or woman to predict either the decree of Artaxerxes (some 95 years after Daniel’s vision) or the coming of the Messiah (some 483 years—Jewish calendar) years later to the year and the very day! Or, for that matter to predict anything, with or without a definitive time-frame of fulfillment, on a error-free, 100% standard of accuracy … or even 10%, which is nothing but pure luck.
There are many features that distinguish Judaism and later, Christianity, from all other world religions and philosophies. One thing is the Bible itself, authored by God, himself. Why can I or anyone make this assertion? Because of two other elements found in Scripture that simply do not exist and cannot be found in other so-called holy texts or records. One is the incredible miracles recorded in both the Old and New Testaments, many of which have been documented through archeology, recorded eye-witness accounts, secular historical records; not the least of which is the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Secondly, the hundreds of fulfilled Biblical prophecies, with equal confirmation by the above described sources.
But the greatest distinction of all is God’s plan of salvation and rescue of the entire human race: God doing for us through his Son’s death on the cross, what we can’t possibly do for ourselves: forgiveness and pardon from our sins and eternal life in Heaven.
Please, tune in next week, and we’ll look at another spectacular prophecy in Scripture, from the 26th Chapter of Leviticus of all places. A prophecy that also contains a specific number of years for its fulfillment, but one that wasn’t discovered until a few years ago. Much like it took over 1800 years for the Lord to give such precise insight to Sir Robert Anderson.
Things to Ponder
– The 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy is a whole different study, but essentially it consists of the Tribulation period that begins with the 7-year treaty orchestrated by the Antichrist, as found in Daniel 9:27.
– These precise prophecies in Daniel Chapter 9 are some of many Messianic prophecies that the Jews missed before the first advent of Jesus Christ to the earth. It is well documented, both in the Bible and historical records, that Israel and the Jews (and a few Gentiles) were anticipating the appearance of the Messiah a relatively short time before and after Jesus came to the earth. The Magi had to have known about Daniel’s prophecy; otherwise they would never have traveled hundreds of miles to bear gifts to the Messiah. Whether the Jewish scribes and religious leaders had figured out Daniel’s prophecy and chose to ignore it, or whether they hadn’t even bothered to look more closely at the prophecy, is anybody’s guess. But had they examined Daniel’s predictions and all Messianic prophecies in more detail, they would have known that Jesus Christ fulfilled every one of them.
– According to Daniel 9:26, the Messiah would appear before the destruction of the Temple, which took place in 70 AD. And that’s exactly what occurred … Jesus birth, death, and resurrection some 40 years before the Romans sacked Jerusalem–which further validates the accuracy of Daniel’s prophecy. But then thousands of Jews and Gentiles witnessed first-hand or heard first-hand from eye-witnesses of Jesus’s many miracles (such as raising Lazarus from the dead), and they still refused to believe that he was Messiah Savior. So what does it take?!