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Accurate Radar: The Timeline to the Messiah and Beyond

April 10, 2009

How reliable is the Bible’s picture of the future? Since the early days of Christianity, one powerful and detailed prophecy has received considerable attention. This prophecy contains multiple predictions that have been fulfilled specifically, and it also contains predictions that await fulfillment. Since it has proven to be accurate in minute detail, it is worth our attention.

The prophecy

This revelation was given by an angel to the prophet Daniel as he prayed in exile on behalf of the Jewish people and their homeland:

Daniel 9:24-27: 24

24Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

25Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

26And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

27And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

The character of Messiah’s coming

First, it is worth observing that the details in verse 24—“to make an end of sins [or sin offerings],” “to make reconciliation for iniquity,” “to bring in everlasting righteousness”—very clearly correspond to what Jesus and the New Testament writers claimed was Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth.  However, what usually grabs readers’ attention in this prophecy is the timeline for the coming of Messiah as detailed in verse 25.

The timing of Messiah’s coming

Point A

In verse 25, we are given a “Point A” (the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem), a “Point B” (Messiah the Prince) and a length of time between (seven weeks and threescore and two weeks—or 69 weeks altogether).

Point A occurs in Nehemiah 2:1-8 when Nehemiah is given letters from the Persian king authorizing him to return to Judah to build “the city.” Given Nehemiah’s own date in 2:1 (the twentieth year of Artaxerxes Longimanus), Point A can be affixed at 444/445 BC, a date which is “considered firm” by scholars (Bromiley, 1982)—whether liberal or conservative (Walvoord, 1989).

Time period

The time period of 69 “weeks” is considered to be 483 years by most interpreters (490 years for all 70 “weeks”). Here is why: The Hebrew word translated “weeks” means merely “sevens.” In the context (9:2), Daniel is considering an earlier prophecy by Jeremiah (Jer. 25:11-12) of a 70-year servitude to Babylon. That 70-year period was for a specific reason. The Jewish people had Sabbatic years (Lev. 25:8), and had ignored God’s commands regarding their weeks of years (letting the land rest every seventh year). Thus, as God had warned them (Lev. 26:33-35), Israel was scattered among the nations for their disobedience, and during that time the land rested for all the “sabbaths” that were missed from a 490-year period (II Chron. 36:21). In this context, the “sevens” make best sense as seven-year periods. The conclusion is this: Daniel’s 69 “sevens” are 483 years (69 x 7).

Following the lunisolar Jewish calendar, these 483 years equal 173,880 days (483 x 360).  (The 360-day year is also the length of year used in the prophecies of Revelation; see the parallel 3 ½ years and 42 months and 1,260 days.)  Daniel’s 69 “sevens” thus come to a few days more than 476 years on the calendar we use (173,880 days divided by 365.24).

Point B: Fulfillment

Dating from either 444 or 445 BC (Point A of Daniel’s prophecy), and accounting for the “missing year” between 1 BC and AD 1 (there was no year 0), Daniel’s 69 “sevens” thus bring us exactly to the spring of either 32 or 33 AD. There are strong evidences for both 32 AD and 33 AD as the spring in which Jesus was crucified. (For the secular evidence for Jesus, read here.)

Since this prophecy is thus far so verifiable, I have no trouble believing some careful scholars who have used various detailed evidences to show very convincingly that it is exact to the very day of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem a few days before His crucifixion. This seems confirmed by the words of Jesus after riding into Jerusalem on a donkey:  He lamented that Jerusalem did not know “at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace” (Luke 19:42, emphasis added). Indeed, in Zechariah 9:9 Jerusalem was foretold to expect “thy King”—like Daniel’s “Messiah the Prince (literally ‘ruler’)”—riding on a donkey. I do not feel I have the technical expertise or time to present such a detailed case, but some readers might be interested to do further study.

Events after Messiah’s coming

But the prophecy does not end here. The prophecies of Daniel 9:26 predict that after 69 “sevens” Messiah would be “cut off” and that the “city and the sanctuary” would be destroyed. Both the crucifixion of Jesus Christ under Pontius Pilate and the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 AD are overwhelmingly accepted as historical facts.

The proof for skeptics

As a quick note for any skeptics, who might be tempted as a way out of the evidence to date the prophecy after its fulfillment—this is impossible. Daniel 9:25 is clearly referred to (Martinez, 1996 and VanderKam, 2004) by a scroll fragment found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and dated well before Christ’s birth (Stokl Ben Ezra, 2003).

Conclusions

Based on this remarkable prophecy, my faith is strengthened to believe the Bible not only for how it has changed me and how I have met Christ through it, but for the very evidence’s sake. A book that displays God’s power in that kind of specific prophecy fulfillment can not be taken lightly.

Further, I would urge my readers to carefully consider the implications of Daniel’s 70 “sevens.” With the fulfillment of the 69 “sevens” in 70 AD, there remains yet a 70th “seven” (Daniel 9:27). What is next on the prophetic agenda as seen by Daniel? Not “another testament of Jesus Christ,” not a “restoration” of the church, not a prophet to bring about the restoration—no, the next thing on Daniel’s already-proven timeline is a 7-year period marked by a ruler who commits the “abomination of desolation” also spoken of by Christ and Paul. Indeed, Daniel’s prophecy covers events from 444/445 BC until the very “consummation” after the Antichrist—without any hint or place for a major “restoration” of the type claimed by Joseph Smith. Such claims seem to be totally off Daniel’s proven radar. To prevent our confusion and deception, the Messiah’s person and work (as well as that of the Antichrist) were specifically prophesied in detail long before their comings. What comparable prophecies are there in the Bible—or what detailed, independently verifiable, fulfilled prophecies exist in other LDS scriptures—to back up the huge departure from biblical Christianity that marks the LDS Church?

References

Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (1982). International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. II. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Martinez, F. G. (1996). The Dead Sea Scrolls translated: The Qumran texts in English, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Stokl Ben Ezra, D. (2003). The impact of Yom Kippur on early Christianity. (Revision of doctoral dissertation, Hebrew University). Tuebingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck.

VanderKam, J. and P. Flint. (2004). The meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: HarperCollins.

Walvoord, J. (1989). Daniel: The key to prophetic revelation. Chicago: Moody Press.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2009 7:11 pm

    Amen!

    I am constantly amazed at how the prohecies made in the Bible have come to pass over and over again — thus pointing to it’s truthfullness! I am also very excited about those prophecies that are yet to come!

    The kids and I just finished reading the book of revelation! Wow – what an awesome book!

    I was taught as an LDS that the bible was not reliable, this simply is not true. The bible is not mistranslated or unreliable. It is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path!

    Gloria

  2. April 14, 2009 8:58 pm

    Hmm. Good point. I am aware of no passages in the Bible that are considered by the LDS church to be prophecies of the restoration.

    The “Stick of Judah/Stick of Joseph” verse from Ezekiel comes to mind, but as claimed in LDS materials this verse is said to prophesy the coming of the Book of Mormon, but not the restoration of “the church”.

  3. MadChemist permalink
    April 26, 2009 4:16 pm

    This post reminds me of something I’ve read recently.

    Let me give an example of the difference my changed perspective could have for understanding the Bible. When I was at Moody Bible Institute, one of the most popular books on campus was Hal Lindsay’s apocalyptic blueprint for our future, The Late Great Planet Earth. Lindsay’s book was popular not only at Moody; It was, in fact, the best-selling work of non-fiction … in the English language. In the 1970’s. Lindsay, like those of us at Moody, believed that the Bible was absolutely inerrant in its very words, to the extent that you could read the New Testament and know not only how God wanted you to live and what he wanted you to believe, but also what God himself was planning to do in the future and how he was going to do it. The world was heading for an apocalyptic crisis of catastrophic proportions, and the inerrant words of scripture could be read to show what, how, and when it would all happen.
    I was particularly struck by the “when.” Lindsay pointed to Jesus’s parable of the fig tree as an indication of when we could expect the future Armageddon. Jesus’s disciples want to know when the “end” will come, and Jesus replies: From the fig tree learn this parable When its branch becomes tender and it puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near So also you, when you see all these things you know that he [the Son of Man] is Near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away before all these things take place. (Matt. 24.32-34)
    13
    What does this parable mean? Lindsay, thinking that it is an inerrant word from God himself, unpacks its message by pointing out that in the Bible the “fig tree” is often used as an image of the nation of Israel.
    What would it mean for it to put forth its leaves? It would mean that the nation, after lying dormant for a season (the winter), would come back to life. And when did Israel come back to life? In 1948, when Israel once again became a Sovereign nation. Jesus indicates that the end will come within the very generation that this was to occur. And how long is a generation in the Bible? Forty years. Hence the divinely inspired teaching, straight from the lips of Jesus: the end of the world will come sometime before 1988, forty years after the reemergence of Israel.
    This message proved completely compelling to us. It may seem odd now-given the circumstance that 1988 has come and no Armageddon- But on the, other hand, there are millions of Christians who still believe that the Bible can be read literally as completely inspired In its predictions of what is soon to happen to bring history as we know it to a close. Witness the current craze for the Timothy LeHaye and Philip Jenkins series Left Behind, another apocalyptic vision of our future based on a literalistic reading of the Bible, a series that has sold more than sixty million copies in our own day.

    Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus Pages 12 and 13.

    The problem isn’t with the Bible, the problem is with how you interpret it. I’d hope all the Evangelicals here could learn to recognize that Mormons can accept the Bible and reject your personal interpretations of it without rejecting the Bible.
    I don’t agree fully with Ehrman, because he obviously doesn’t trust the Bible at all, and that’s just not right. But we do have to be careful with it. It can be twisted in all ways, it has been, and it will continue to be twisted, until we ALL recognize that the truth isn’t in the scholar, it isn’t the magical words of the text that can’t be mistranslated, but rather the revelation that occurs between God and mankind, both institutionally, and personally.

    I found out yesterday that part of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy also claims that all translations of the Bible are inerrant. I just don’t see see how you guys can square that with the historical record of changes and falsifications to the texts (most illustrated by the Johanine comma). Perhaps, Jessica, we could work through the CSoBI like we did that one creed. Let’s see what percentage of it Mormons can agree with and what percentage they can’t. Heck, I’d really like to see you guys get out of that statement about translations being infallible as well.

  4. NChristine permalink
    April 26, 2009 11:10 pm

    Hi MadChemist,

    Thanks for the comments. Here are both some comments and questions for you in response.

    Based on previous comments you have made, I don’t think you would disagree (correct me if I am wrong) in the fulfillment of many biblical prophecies. You responded to the topic of this particular prophecy by making generalizations regarding inerrancy. I would urge you rather to wrestle with the actual data and its potential consequences. Daniel 9 is stunning in its accuracy—what have you to say to this? Should this (along with many other fulfilled prophecies) have no ramifications on our view of the Bible’s reliability? Should it not also give us pause that no one seems able to provide anything remotely close to such self-verifying prophecies in the Book of Mormon?

  5. MadChemist permalink
    April 26, 2009 11:34 pm

    NChristine: I fear my response would require more nuance than I can explain right now. Let me just say, God doesn’t have to prophecy of something before He does it. I believe a spiritual confirmation more than makes up for that. Besides, there’s always chiasmus. BTW, todays scholars tend to read anything as self-verifying as pseudopigraphal. That is, the parts of Isaiah that have a history-prophecy true were really written after the fact. The Book of Mormon disputs that fact. So depending on how “literalist” and “inerrant” about the bible you want to be, you may find the Book of Mormon supporting belief of the Bible.

    thrillmysoul.
    Many Latter-day Saints do feel that they find prophecies in the Old Testament and the New Testament about a restoration. The problem is, they take those verses out of context, just like New Testament writers took the Old Testament out of context. By today’s biblical studies standards, New Testament writers were dishonest. I’m not willing to go that far. I’d rather say there’s something wrong with our standards than our Bible. In fairness, I have to view LDS who take the OT out of context to read BoM prophecy in are no more out of line than perhaps Matthew quoting Zecharia, “Out of Egypt have I called my Son. Too much nuance?

  6. NChristine permalink
    April 27, 2009 1:53 am

    Hi MC,

    todays scholars tend to read anything as self-verifying as pseudopigraphal.

    Yes—absolutely. In order to “explain” Isaiah’s 800 BC naming of Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28, 45:1), the second and third Isaiahs were birthed—despite the fact that neither “Isaiah” has left a shred of evidence for his own existence. The same has occurred with the book of Daniel. Though it presents itself as written by a Jew in the 6th century BC, its authorship is often dated to the 2nd century BC (despite evidences to the contrary) simply because the book provides such detailed prophecies regarding the Greek empire and the Maccabean era. That is precisely why the prophecies of Daniel 9 are so interesting: they utterly defy these post-dating attempts. It is impossible to move the authorship of Daniel up further than scholars have already attempted to do (hard copies, for one thing!). The fulfillments (precise timing and nature of Christ’s first coming, as well as the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD) verifiably occurred well after any possible date of authorship that might be proposed. This series of fulfilled prophecies not only stands as an eloquent witness to the power and reliability of the Bible, but also casts grave doubt on the late dating of biblical books simply because of their specific prophecies.

    So—permit me to ask again—what comparable evidence arises in the Mormon scriptures (other than the Bible)? Chiasms in the BoM seem to mean little—Joseph Smith was obviously steeped in the language of the Bible (though changed much of its literal meaning), and as you know, the D&C contains examples of chiasmus which were clearly authored by JS himself. It seems that if the BoM were truly the Word of God, it would display something remotely comparable to the Bible’s power and validity such as demonstrated in Daniel 9 and many other fulfilled prophecies.

  7. MadChemist permalink
    April 27, 2009 2:24 am

    Seems? To me it seems if you’re going to expect something from God, He should have at least promised it. The Bible places no expectation for such “prophecies” why should you get to?

    I am curious though, what hard copies place Daniel firmly in the 6th century? While I’m highly reticent to accept the scholars interpretations, they usually aren’t dishonest in withholding data (such as hard copy evidence).? I haven’t studied Daniel myself, so I don’t know much about this, but any references you have would be appreciated.

  8. NChristine permalink
    April 27, 2009 3:37 am

    MC, regarding the hard copies of Daniel—I am sorry for not being clearer. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls there are eight Daniel scrolls which range in date from 125 BC to AD 50 [1], with Daniel 9:25 itself (the central point of the prophecies described above) clearly referred to in a nonbiblical scroll [2, 3] dated about 50 BC, plus or minus 25 years [4]. This does not in itself prove a 6th century date for Daniel (there are other arguments that could be summoned to support that). However, this does prove that Daniel was written before the fulfillment of the intricate Daniel 9 prophecies. (I was merely extrapolating from that to point out that dating Daniel to the 2nd century in order to “explain” fulfilled prophecy is foolish when some of the prophecies cannot be explained away even with a 2nd century date.) Whatever your position on biblical reliability, honesty requires grappling with this prophecy fulfillment and other similar data.

    The Bible places no expectation for such “prophecies” why should you get to?

    Indeed, the Bible’s predictions of the future are extremely far from anticipating any LDS-type restoration or new revelation. Please see the last paragraph of the post above—how do LDS claims fit in with Daniel’s proven timeline of the past and future? Thanks for your questions and clarifications.

    Works Cited

    1. Abegg, M., Flint, P., & Ulrich, E. (1999). The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The oldest known Bible translated for the first time into English. SanFrancisco: HarperSanFrancisco.
    2. Martinez, F. G. (1996). The Dead Sea Scrolls translated: The Qumran texts in English, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
    3. VanderKam, J. and P. Flint. (2004). The meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: HarperCollins.
    4. Stokl Ben Ezra, D. (2003). The impact of Yom Kippur on early Christianity. (Revision of doctoral dissertation, Hebrew University). Tuebingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck.

  9. Tom permalink
    April 27, 2009 2:42 pm

    Responding to this post is like reading a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book that always ends badly. If we choose a Biblical prophecy, you will say our interpretation is not what the writer was prophesying. If we choose a Book of Mormon prophecy, you’ll say that anyone could have “prophesied” the event (or that Joseph was familiar enough with the Bible to make a similar prophecy). The problem is, you’re building up a bunch of “pre-qualifiers” for something to be the Word of God, but only God decides how to reveal His word, so I view it as rather presumptuous for people to say “If the Book of Mormon were the Word of God, it would contain X, Y, and Z.” How do they know? Who made you (or any mortal) the authority on what is and isn’t God’s word, and the one to whom all other mortals should defer on deciding what is the word of God? We can ONLY defer to God on that one.

    The Book of Mormon has almost no apocalyptic content. While there is some, the apocalypse wasn’t a concern of Book of Mormon writers. Nephi specifically says that God instructed Him NOT to include apocalyptic content because it would be written by John the Revelator (1 Ne 13).

    So what is the purpose of the Book of Mormon?

    “to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations” (Book of Mormon Title Page)

    Read it. It definitely accomplishes those 2 purposes.

    And that’s all I have to say on this topic. The end.

  10. John Martial King permalink
    April 12, 2010 8:49 pm

    Read PSALMS CODE:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/24346955/Psalms-Code

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