Fall of Jerusalem: Part 2--The 40 Years of Grace
Aug 25, 2007
In Ezekiel 4:5, the prophet was told to lie on his left side for 390 days, a day for a year, to intercede for the House of Israel. Then in verse 6 he was told to lie on his right side for 40 days, a day for a year, to intercede for the House of Judah. These established grace periods for Israel and Judah on very different time lines.
Our present focus is on the 40-year grace period that Ezekiel obtained for the House of Judah. Certainly, there could be more than one fulfillment of this prophetic time period, but the 40-year period leading to the fall of Jerusalem in the first century is relevant to us now.
This 40-year period is bound up in the 70th week of Daniel, which extended from 26-33 A.D. The 70 "weeks" (i.e., Sabbatical cycles of 7 years each) began with the Edict of Artaxerxes I of Persia in the Spring of 458 B.C. Because his Edict came 7 years after the 70th Jubilee from Adam (465 B.C.), the end of the 70 weeks was also 7 years past the 80th Jubilee (26 A.D.).
Daniel's seventieth week extended into the 81st Jubilee cycle from Adam.
In the middle of Daniel's 70th week was September of 29 A.D., when Jesus was baptized by John to begin His ministry. John had begun to minister six months earlier when he turned 30 years of age, according to the law of priesthood (Num. 4:3). John was about six months older than Jesus, their mothers being pregnant at the same time (Luke 1). So when Jesus turned 30 in September of 29 A.D., He came to John for baptism.
A few months after this, John was cast into prison for preaching against Herod's unlawful marriage to his brother's wife (Matt. 14:4). We know that even after Jesus had been baptized, He recognized that He still had to wait for John to complete his ministry, and for this reason, at the marriage feast of Cana, Jesus told them "My hour has not yet come" (John 2:4). It is obvious that Jesus was restrained in His ministry until John was taken out of the way. But Mark 1:14, 15 tells us,
" (14) And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, (15) and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'."
The high priests in those days were appointed by the political authorities and were no longer chosen according to the law of Moses. So while they were legitimate in the eyes of men, they were not necessarily so in the eyes of God. In my view, God recognized John the Baptist as the high priest of the day, for his father Zacharias was a priest (Luke 1:5).
Jesus was destined to become the high priest of a new Order, but He could not fully enter this calling until John's time of ministry had been completed. And so, when John was cast into prison, Jesus came into Galilee to preach the gospel, picking it up where John had left off. Even so, John's imprisonment was a transition into the new dynasty of priesthood (Melchizedek Order). When John died, then was Jesus fully invested with the high priesthood in the sight of God.
John was executed at a Passover. We know this because after his beheading, his disciples came and told Jesus (Matt. 14:12). Jesus immediately took a boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The people followed Him, and there He fed the 5,000, as Matthew 14 tells us. In John's Gospel, we learn that Jesus fed the 5,000 shortly after the Passover (John 6:4), and that he fed them with "barley" (John 6:9). This signifies the day of the first fruits offering of barley on the day after the Sabbath after Passover (Lev. 23:11). Jesus fed the 5,000 with newly-harvested barley to connect the event with His resurrection on that day three years later.
So John was executed at Passover of 30 A.D.
Jesus then was crucified three years later on Passover of 33 A.D. precisely at the end of Daniel's 70 weeks. The nation's 490-year grace period had ended, where God had forgiven the nation once a year on the Day of Atonement a full 490 times, as mandated in Matt. 18:21, 22. Only in 33 A.D. did God's obligation to forgive run out, and then He brought the nation (and the world) into accountability at the cross, paying the penalty Himself (Matt. 18:23). If God had brought them into accountability earlier, He would have violated His own prophetic principle of judgment.
For a full discussion of Daniel's 70 weeks, see last year's web logs dated August 10-16, 2006.
So there are at least four important dates that begin the 40-year grace period for Judah:
1. September of 26 A.D., which was the 80th Jubilee and the beginning of Daniel's 70th week.
2. September of 29 A.D., which was the time of Jesus' baptism on the Day of Atonement.
3. Passover of 30 A.D., which was the time of John's execution.
4. Passover of 33 A.D., which was the time of Jesus' crucifixion.
These beginning points all manifest important end points 40 years later. The first cycle ends in September of 66 A.D. Though Josephus tells us that the beginning of the great revolt began at Passover of 66, the actual outbreak of violence, in terms of war, occurred at the time of the feast of Tabernacles (Sept/Oct). This was when the Judeans actually destroyed Rome's 12th Legion under Cestius Gallus, the Syrian President. This is recorded by Josephus in Wars of the Jews, II, xix.
During that first conflict, the Roman army at first had nearly taken the city of Jerusalem, but some communication problem made them withdraw before claiming victory. It was during the retreat that the Legion was destroyed.
It may be that God caused the Roman Legion to withdraw in order to allow the Christians in Jerusalem to leave the city before Jesus' prophecies about its destruction were fulfilled. All we know is what Eusebius tells us in Ecclesiastical History, III, 5,
"Further, the members of the Jerusalem church, by means of an oracle given by revelation to acceptable persons there, were ordered to leave the City before the war began and settle in a town in Perea called Pella. To Pella, those who believed in Christ migrated from Jerusalem; and as if holy men had utterly abandoned the royal metropolis of the Jews and the entire Jewish land, the judgment of God at last overtook them for their abominable crimes against Christ and His apostles, completely blotting out that wicked generation from among men."
Eusebius did not define what he meant by "before the war began." Was this before the 12th Legion was destroyed? Or was it the inevitable war that came in 67 A.D. when Rome brought retribution to avenge the 12th Legion? Whatever the case, the Jerusalem church remembered Jesus' words, and apparently also received prophetic utterances at the point of danger, which told them not only to leave but also where to go. They went to Perea, which was beyond the Jordan River. In other words, they left Judea altogether. See the map at:
Looking ahead to today, I believe that a similar evacuation will take place among the Christians in the present-day Israeli state who take heed to the prophetic word today. Those who do not do so will probably suffer the fate of the rest of the population when Jerusalem is destroyed again for the final time. When that day arrives, then will the prophecy of Jeremiah 19:11 be fulfilled, and Jerusalem will be destroyed in such a way that it will never again be rebuilt.
There is a clear relationship between 26 A.D. and 66 A.D. Next time we will discuss 29 A.D. and 69 A.D.
This is the second part of a series titled "Fall of Jerusalem." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones