by Wendy Wippel
Brian McLaren, grandfather of the emergent church, calls Bible prophecy an ”eschatology of abandonment” of the church’s real purpose (in his mind, creation care and social justice). The reality? About 2/3 of Scripture is prophecy. God told us to study prophecy. And the Jews paid a pretty hefty price for misunderstanding prophecy being fulfilled.
We get that story in Luke 19, the record of a momentous Sunday morning when Jesus sent His disciples to fetch a certain donkey, climbed aboard, and headed for Jerusalem.
We all know this story:
“as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying:“ ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:37-38 NKJV)
The promised Messiah was finally coming to His people, and His disciples recognized the magnitude of the event. How do we know that? They repeat the welcome of the Messiah; “blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord”, recognized as a forecast of His coming and recorded in Psalm 118. His disciples, whose Spirit had recognized the voice of their Savior, knew what this day meant and rejoiced in it.
Predictably, the Jewish Leaders did not. Their response to the joy of the disciples was to tell them to shut up.
Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees, however, confirms the singularity that the moment represents: On this day (and only on this day), He tells them that if His disciples kept quiet, the stones themselves would cry out. But the nation as a whole (and the blind guides that led them) completely missed it.
And that had some pretty dire consequences, poignantly revealed in what Jesus said next:
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44)
Several dire consequences are listed in these verses, actually:
1) The truth was now to be hidden from them.
2) Their enemies would lay siege to Jerusalem.
3) The city would be leveled.
4) The temple would be destroyed.
Why such a seemingly harsh punishment? We are told clearly why in verse 44 above: because they did not know the time of their visitation (by the promised Messiah). And why should they have known?
One word: Prophecy.
God, through Zechariah, had told them how to expect the Messiah when He came:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Jesus entered Jerusalem that morning exactly how the children of Abraham had been told to expect Him. And what really sealed the deal was that He entered Jerusalem that morning exactly when the children of Abraham had been told to expect Him. In Scripture.
There are a lot of pieces to put together, but they all start in a prophecy by Daniel in Daniel 9:25;
Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem. Until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.
At the point that Daniel received this prophecy, Jerusalem had been destroyed, and God promises Israel, through him that a future edict would issue orders to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, and that, counting from that edict, there would be 69 “weeks” (or sets of seven time periods), until the Messiah would arrive.
What time period “the sets of seven” refers to is undefined, but the sets of seven as time periods was routinely used in the context of the seven “weeks” of years associated with the Sabbaths of the land, so when the term “weeks” or “sevens” was used as time period, it was understood as years. In the context of Daniel 9 (describing a Messiah being born, growing, up and being killed) seconds, minutes, hours, days, and weeks don’t make much sense.
So what the prophecy is saying is that between the decree to restore Jerusalem and the arrival of the Messiah there would be 483 years. (Years, in scripture, are consistently defined as 360 days: one example being Esther 1:4, which says that Xerxes 6-month feast, was 180 days.)
So when Daniel says that between the relevant edict and the arrival of the Messiah there would be 483 years, he is saying that the Messiah will arrive 173,880 days after the prophesied edict to restore Jerusalem is issued.
The starting point, then is the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.
And as it happens, there are four different decrees that were issued with regard to Israel’s rebuilding after the Babylonian captivity.
1) The Persian King Cyrus issued an edict in Ezra 1:2-4 in 537 BC
2) The Persian King Darius issued an edict in Ezra 6:1-5, 8, 12 date unknown
3) The Persian King Artaxerxes issued a decree in Ezra 7:11-26 given 458 BC
4) The Persian King Artaxerxes issued a decree in Nehemiah 2:5-8, 17, 18 given 445 BC
Fortunately, it doesn’t matter that we don’t know the data of Darius’ edict because his, as well as Cyrus’ edict, and the first edict of Artaxerxes, only authorize a rebuilding of the temple. Rebuilding the temple, however, didn’t make much sense as long as the walls of Jerusalem lay destroyed. So finally, in 445 BC, Artaxexes (at the request of Nehemiah) issued a decree to restore the walls of Jerusalem itself.
And since the Greek historian Herodotus, (dubbed the “father of History” by Cicero had taken up residence in the Persian courts (they were the haute culture place to be at the time) we actually know specifically from Herodotus when that decree was issued: March 14: 445 BC.
The calculations are kind of convoluted because Julian, and then Gregory, changed the calendars, but if you make the necessary calendar adjustments, then start at March 14, 445 and move forward in time 173,880 days, the Jews should have been looking for their Messiah on April 6, 32 AD.
Which is a very interesting date because from a read- through of the Gospels you can tell that Jesus’ ministry spanned four Passovers. In Luke 3:1 it says that Jesus’ ministry began in the fifteenth year of Tiberius.
Tiberius came into power in 14 AD, so the fifteenth year would have been 29 AD. That makes the fourth Passover in 32 AD. The entry into Jerusalem would have been the 10th of Nisan, counting back from when we know Passover was that year, the tenth of Nisan in our calendar would have been April 6, 32 AD.
So Jesus rode into Jerusalem, on a colt, the foal of a donkey, on April 6, 32 AD exactly 173,880 days after the edict to restore Jerusalem. On the exact day predicted. Just as prophesied.
(But that’s coincidence) (And the Bible’s about social justice and inequality.)
Actually Revelation tells us that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). In other words, prophecy is all about revealing Jesus: His nature as God, His mission as a human, our present salvation through His name, and our future with Him in the mansion He has prepared for us.
Which would kind of require an evacuation, wouldn’t it?
I don’t see anything about a focus on ecology or inequality in there. But I’m guessing McLaren doesn’t spend much time in Revelation. Which is too bad, because prophecy is nothing but watching God keep His promises.
And that sounds good to me.