A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
Know and understand this. From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until The Anointed One the ruler comes there will be seven sevens and sixty two sevens. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench but in times of trouble. After the sixty two sevens the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. (Daniel 9:25-26a)
This information was given to Daniel in 538 BC in response to a prayer asking God to release His people from their 70 year captivity in Babylon. The Angel Gabriel visited Daniel with a message that has become known as the 70 weeks of Daniel (Dan 9:24-27). The title is somewhat confusing because the Hebrew word translated as “weeks” in the KJV and “sevens” in the NIV actually describes a period of seven years. So 70 “weeks” is really 490 years, and the seven “sevens” and sixty-two “sevens” referenced above combine to equal 483 years. This passage is the single most important piece of prophecy in all of scripture because it chronicles the coming of the Messiah, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the coming of the anti-christ and the timing and duration of the Great Tribulation. It is nothing less than the key that unlocks our understanding of the end times, and so mastering it is critical for any student of eschatology.
For our purposes today, the 2 verses of Daniel’s prophecy I’ve quoted presents us with a very narrow window of time into which we must fit the birth and death of anyone claiming to be the Messiah. This window of time can be measured in secular history, opening 483 years after the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (issued in March of 445 BC by the Persian Emperor Artaxerxes Longimonus) and closing with the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Do the math and you only have a 38 year span of time. In 6000 years of recorded history with millions of lives beginning and ending, what is the probability of any man being born within this 38-year time frame? Now factor in some of the unique aspects of the Messiah’s life. He had to fulfill over 300 prophecies written about Him hundreds of years before His birth, be recognized as Israel’s Messiah by thousands of people, incur the wrath of His country’s leaders, be falsely accused of a capital crime, make no defense though innocent, and be publicly executed by crucifixion.
Where Was He Born?
To try and assess the odds against of all this happening by chance, let’s review just 3 of these 300 prophecies. How about the place of His birth? 750 years in advance the Prophet Micah learned from God that Israel’s Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) even though it turns out His family was from Nazareth, several days travel away. He also learned that this Messiah would be unusual in that His origins would be “from of old, from ancient times.” Literally translated this means His family descent is from before time and perpetual. In other words He would possess eternal life. Furthermore verse 3, the one that doesn’t make it to your Christmas card, states that because of Him Israel would be abandoned until all His brothers return to join those who’ve accepted Him.
By the way, if you don’t believe the generally accepted dating for these prophecies, consider this. The Old Testament, from which they come, had been translated from Hebrew into Greek beginning in about 275 BC and by 150 BC was substantially complete. Therefore events foretold concerning the life of Jesus were a matter of public record at least 150 years before the fact. How many years prior to their fulfillment must a prophecy be given to have validity? Remember, prophecy is God’s way of authenticating Himself for us, because only someone who exists outside the restrictions of time can describe events before they’ve taken place with 100% accuracy. The fact that sets the life of Jesus apart from all of humanity is not that He performed miracles. It’s that so many details about His life were foretold 100s and even 1000s of years in advance.
What about His betrayal?
In Zechariah 11:12-13 we’re told that the Messiah would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver in the House of the Lord, and that the money would be used to buy a field from a potter. Though Zechariah wrote these things around 520 BC Matt 27:3-8 indicates that’s exactly what happened. Here you see the Lord’s betrayer and His sworn enemies fulfilling prophecies down to the last detail. If you happened to be born at the right time and were trying to force fit yourself into Messianic prophecy, we could understand getting your friends to cooperate, but how do you go about getting your enemies to do so? The fact that He was betrayed by a close friend during a meal was foretold in Psalm 41:9 and confirmed in John 13:18 & 26-27.
How Did He Die?
The Jews were people of the Law and their leaders prided themselves on their merciful application of justice. Yet in the case of Jesus they consciously and maliciously violated their own laws repeatedly. No one could be arrested with out formal charges being filed, yet Jesus was. It took 2 independent witnesses to convict but they couldn’t get this required collaboration, so they convicted Jesus on His own testimony, also forbidden. Trials couldn’t be held at night, but His was. Death sentences required unanimous consent of the Sanhedrin (ruling body) and a “sleep on it” rule wherein they had to come back the next day and vote again. But in His case they didn’t inform the Lord’s advocates among them of the trial thereby eliminating the possibility of a divided vote and then waived the sleep on it rule. Much of this was predicted in Isaiah 53:7-8 750 years before the fact.
Jewish law required death by stoning, but the Jews had lost the right to impose capital punishment, and so appealed to the Romans, whose method of execution was crucifixion. This was a particularly gruesome and painful method first used by the Assyrians in about 800 BC and adopted by the Romans 700 years later. But in Psalm 22, King David described in detail what it feels like to be crucified and then foretold the activities of the Lord’s executioners, down to splitting up his clothing and casting lots for His robe. David wrote this psalm over 1000 years before the fact.
So What’s The Point?
In Jesus we have someone who was born in Bethlehem though His family was not from there, and lived and died within the prescribed 38 years out of 6000. He was widely accepted as Israel’s Messiah but betrayed by a close friend and though innocent of any crime made no defense and was convicted and sentenced to death in an illegal trial. His enemies paid the prophesied amount of money for His betrayal and then when payment was returned to the Temple used it to buy a potter’s field. He was executed by a method foretold before its invention and his executioners split up His belongings just as predicted.
That’s only 4 out of over 300 fulfilled prophecies we could explore. But even with just these 4 the odds against them happening by chance are so astronomically high as to be ridiculous. It’s true, as I stated in last week’s message that these things are no longer taught in our schools, nor sadly even in many of our churches. But if you take it upon yourself to study just a few readily available reference books, you’ll find that you can prove the existence of Jesus, and that He is Who He claims to be, with greater certainty than you can prove that you are who you claim to be. No matter what standard you decide to use, rules of evidence as used by an attorney, statistical probability as used by a mathematician, or forensic logic as used by a debater, you’ll be persuaded beyond reasonable doubt. You can take His word for that: “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13).