The Precision of Prophecy

On Sunday’s we have been studying verse-by-verse through the Gospel of Mark, and have just reached chapter 11.

Up to this point Mark has provided overwhelming evidence, from eyewitness accounts that Jesus really is the Messiah, but if that hasn’t been enough for some, Chapter 11 seals it!

As Jesus arrived on the outskirts of Jerusalem, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples on ahead to get a young donkey and bring it to Him; the owners willingly let it go. This wasn’t a ‘spur of the moment’ thing, Jesus was intentionally fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9;  “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.”. (see also John 12:14-15)

Mark records:  “And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples, And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither. And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him. And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest (Mark 11:1-10)

For three and a half years Jesus had all but refused to receive praise and recognition, particularly from the crowd; now He not only receives it, He has actually planned the whole event!

What makes this even more incredible is that the crowd are singing Psalm 118 – the very Psalm that would be sung when the Messiah arrived! “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.” (Psalm 118:22-26)

Just in case we miss the intensity of the situation, the Pharisees come to the rescue and underline exactly what is going on. Luke records: And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples”.  (Luke 19:39)

To the Pharisees this was blasphemy; the crowd were declaring that Jesus was the Messiah, the King of Israel; but instead of silencing the crowd as He had done in the past, Jesus answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

When Jesus finally arrived at Jerusalem “He beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. (Luke 19:41-44)

Whilst this crowd and His disciples had recognised who He was, Jerusalem at large lay blissfully unaware of what was happening outside, and exactly what day this was.

Later that day, In John 12 we read: “Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is comethat the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.”  (John 12:23-27)

This day was no ordinary day, nor were these events random – Jesus had planned every detail in advance, to happen on this very day. All of His ministry He had urged people not to make Him known; He had walked away when the people had wanted to make Him King. He had repeatedly said that His time had not yet come. Now it had.

So why this particular day? What was so special about it? And why was it such a disaster that the Jews did not recognise what was happening before their eyes?

Our answer is found in a prophecy recorded by the prophet Daniel over 500 years before, at a time when the city of Jerusalem lay in ruins and the people had just come to the end of their Babylonian captivity.

Daniel was just a teenager when he was taken away captive from his home in Israel to Babylon; however, by the time we get to chapter 9 of his book, the first period of  70 years, known as the ‘servitude of the nation’, as prophesied by Jeremiah had now ended. Therefore, having seen that God’s promise regarding the people had been fulfilled literally, (God says what He means and means what He says!) Daniel set his heart to pray for the city of Jerusalem which still lay in ruins (and would do so for a further 19 years – until the 2nd period of 70 years, ‘the desolations of Jerusalem’ was complete).

In answer to Daniel’s twofold prayer for the future of his people the city of Jerusalem, God sent the angel Gabriel to give Daniel possibly the most amazing prophecy in the entire Bible:

“Seventy 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. Know 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. And 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.   (Dan 9:24-27)

The whole prophecy is of vital importance in understanding not only the future of Israel, but also in understanding the order and timing of events that will take place at the end of this current age leading up to Christ’s Second Coming. Jesus Himself confirmed this in Matthew 24 when His disciples asked Him to explain when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (Matt 24:3). Jesus pointed them to this prophecy in Daniel as being the key to understanding these things. It is, however, the first half of the prophecy that is of incredible significance to our study.

The prophecy starts with the scope of the whole prophecy and to whom it refers: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city” Although ‘seventy weeks’ is a strange term to us, it was not to the Jews. There are several Hebrew words that are all translated as ‘week’ in the English. There is a week of days (i.e. 7 days), a week of weeks (i.e. 7 weeks), a week of months (i.e. 7 months), and a week of years (i.e. 7 years).  The word here is  ‘shawbooah’ which is a week of years. The same word is used in Genesis 29:27 when Jacob worked for 7 years to marry Rachel, only to find that he had married Leah by ‘mistake’! Jacob protested because he had already served 7 years for Rachel, so Laban told him to fulfil Leah’s ‘week’. This was a ‘double meaning’ for Jacob was to complete the wedding ceremony that was to last for seven days, but also work for another 7 years to pay for Leah, and he could have Rachel too. So in effect Daniel was told that seventy 7-year periods (= 490 years) were determined on his people, the Jews, and on his holy city which was of course, Jerusalem. Gabriel then told Daniel what would be accomplished during the time of this prophecy:

……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”.  By the end of the seventy 7-year periods (490 years / 70 ‘weeks’), all of these things will be done. The final 7-years (70th ‘week’) of this prophecy are yet future and still to be completed; the first 483 years (69 ‘weeks’) however, are now a matter of history, that portion of the prophecy having already been fulfilled.

 “Know 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.”

Daniel is told that starting with a command to restore and to build Jerusalem, there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks which give us a total of sixty-nine weeks, after which the Messiah will come. During that period the city of Jerusalem would be rebuilt, albeit in difficult circumstances. We know that from history this command was given on the 1st Nisan 445 BC by the Persian king Artaxerxes Longimanus to Nehemiah; this is recorded in Nehemiah 2:1-6. In our calendar this was the 14th March 445 BC19. From that point, Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem, and amidst much opposition, rebuilt the city.

If we now do the maths, from the time the command was given there were to be sixty-nine weeks unto Messiah the King

As we have mentioned, the Hebrew word translated ‘weeks’ means a week of years, i.e. 7 years. Therefore we have 69 x 7 = 483 years. We also need to be aware that in the Bible, when we are dealing with prophecy, a year is always reckoned to be 360 days in length. (See Rev 11:2-3)

As an aside there is good evidence to suggest that the earth used to be on a 360 day orbit up until 701 BC, at which point all the ancient calendars were for some reason changed. Almost all of the ancient cultures used to work on a 360 day year, and, as noted by Sir Isaac Newton, this is from where we get 360  in a circle etc.

If we now take our 483 years and multiply them by 360 days per year we find that the exact length of the prophecy was to be a period of 173,880 days from the giving of the command until the Messiah would make Himself know to Israel.

Taking our start date of 14th March 445 BC and counting forward an interval of 173,880 days we come to the 6th April 32 AD, or in the Jewish calendar Sunday 10th Nisan 32 AD – the very day that Jesus presented Himself to Israel as Messiah the King, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey!

This prophecy was written down over 500 years before the event and is undeniable proof that Jesus is the Messiah. This is why Jesus wept over Jerusalem and held them accountable for knowing what day it was. It was written down in their beloved ‘T’Nach’ – the Hebrew Old Testament, they had no excuse for not knowing. As a result of this, national blindness was pronounced upon Israel:

“He beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes…. because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation(Luke 19:42)

According to the apostle Paul in the book of Romans, this spiritual blindness will last ‘until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in’  (Romans 11:25), at which point (during the tribulation) Israel will finally realise that Jesus is the promised Messiah and repent, calling out to Him to deliver them in their darkest hour. (See Hosea 5:15 – 6:3 / Joel 2:12-15 / Zechariah 12:10).

We have spoken much about models and anticipatory types in the Old Testament; now we begin to see the whole picture and start to marvel at God’s design.

As we read earlier in Exodus 12:3-6, God said to Moses: Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb…..Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year……….And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it [between] the evening[s].”

On the 10th of Nisan Jesus was taken, He was a lamb without blemish in whom was no sin. Then on the 14th Nisan, between the evenings, the ‘whole congregation’ of Israel shouted ‘Crucify’ and watched their Messiah die.

This was God’s plan all along. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  (Matt 20:28)

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things….But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,” (1

Peter 1:18-20)

“………..the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”  (Rev 13:8)


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