From the Decree to the Messiah
When we study Daniel 9:24, it can be seen quite clearly that the purpose of this time frame is to bring us to Christ’s work that was accomplished on the cross. This might be extended to the Day of Pentecost as well, especially if we consider this to be the day that the “most holy place” of the New Temple was to be anointed.
This is the New Covenant Temple made of living stones. It stands in direct contrast to the old temple in Jerusalem, which God abandoned in the same manner as with Shiloh (Jer. 7:14). When God abandoned Shiloh, the newly-born child was named Ichabod, “the glory has departed.” So also Ezekiel saw the glory depart from Jerusalem (Ezekiel 11:23).
The glory of God never returned to Shiloh, and so also it will never return to Jerusalem. This is why the glory of God never filled the second temple, even though it was built according to divine instructions. Neither did that temple house the Ark of the Covenant, for the Ark had disappeared, and only a stone pillar stood in its place in the Most Holy Place in the second temple.
There was no mercy seat for the high priest to sprinkle every year on the Day of Atonement. What he did with the blood is anyone’s guess. The real temple of God was to be greater than Solomon’s temple (Hag. 2:9), but the second temple was only a dim reflection of the glory of Solomon’s temple. Most important, however, was that there is no record that the second temple was filled with the glory of God in the way that Moses’ tabernacle and Solomon’s temple had been filled.
God has now changed His dwelling place from houses made by hands to a New Temple built without human hands. It is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20). Even Solomon admitted that his temple, with all its glory, was yet inadequate (1 Kings 8:27), signifying that a greater temple would have to be built later out of “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5).
This is the temple that God will inhabit forever and will never declare it to be Ichabod. Neither will He forsake it to go back to an earthly temple in Jerusalem that proved to be inadequate in times past.
This truth is vital to know in order to prevent misunderstanding of the prophecy of the seventy weeks. Likewise, we must understand that if the seventy weeks culminated with Christ’s accomplishments on the cross—as described in Dan. 9:24—then this means there is no “gap” between the 69th week and the 70th week. In other words, the entire structure of Dispensationalist thought, which recently arose in the mid-1800’s, is based on faulty eschatology.
As we will see, the seventy weeks of years began around the time of Passover in 458 B.C. and ended at Passover when Jesus was crucified in 33 A.D. This is precisely 490 years to the very month.
The Beginning and End of the Seventy Weeks
Daniel 9:25 says,
25 So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
While this revelation contains some very specific prophecies, uncertainties are also inherent in it. The starting point is “the issuing of a decree.” The end point is “until Messiah the Prince.” The problem is that there were two or three decrees to study as possibilities for the beginning point. The end point brings us to the Messiah, but it does not tell us at what point in the Messiah’s life the end will come. The full seventy weeks were to bring us to the cross, where He made an end of sin and iniquity. But what is the event that occurs a “week” earlier after 7 + 62 weeks?
The Decree of Cyrus and the Sabbath Years
The fall of Babylon occurred in 537 B.C., and Darius the Mede was appointed by Cyrus to rule for a while and to reorganize the empire. This took a few years to accomplish, after which time Cyrus formally took the throne, while Darius returned to Media. So we read in Ezra 1:1 that “in the first year of Cyrus” the king issued a “proclamation” (decree) that allowed the exiles of Judah to return to their land.
This decree was not issued in 537-536, for this was but the first year of Darius the Mede. The decree was made in 534. When the first wave of immigrants returned, they re-established their system of Sabbath rest years for the land. Every seventh year thereafter, the authorities called for a rest year, dividing time into sevens. This makes it easier to establish the date of Cyrus’ decree, for it would have occurred in the first month (April), and the following year (September of 534 to 533 B.C.) was the first of their Sabbatical cycles.
The first historically-recorded Sabbath (after the Babylonian captivity) is the one occurring from September of 164-163 B.C. It is mentioned in 1 Maccabees 6:48-53,
48 Then the king’s army went up to Jerusalem to meet them, and the king pitched his tents against Judea, and against mount Sion. 49 But with them that were in Bethsura he made peace: for they came out of the city, because they had no victuals there to endure the siege, it being a year of rest to the land…. 53 Yet at the last, their vessels being without victuals (for that it was the seventh year, and they in Judea that were delivered from the Gentiles, had eaten up the residue of the store…
Earlier, in verse 20, this is dated “in the hundred and fiftieth year” of the Greek calendar. The first year of the Seleucid calendar was in 312-311, so the 150th year was 163-162 B.C. This Sabbath is recorded at the beginning of Jerusalem’s independence from Syria after Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated the temple.
Judea was then ruled by the Hasmonean priests, and their rule ended when King Herod took Jerusalem and imprisoned Antigonus in 37 B.C. Three years later Antigonus was executed, and so began the half-Edomite dynasty of the Herods. Adam Rutherford tells us,
Josephus informs us that the Hasmonean rulers continued for 126 years (Antiq. XIV, xvi, 4). According to the data in the Book I of the Maccabees this Hasmonean rulership began with Judas Maccabees after the death of the high priest Menelaus in 163 B.C. and 126 years thereafter brings us to 37 B.C. the date of the captivity of Antigonus and accession of Herod the Great. (Bible Chronology, p. 426)
The second historic Sabbath Year, recorded by Josephus, occurred in 37-36 B.C. while Herod was laying siege to Jerusalem. Josephus tells us,
“… and this they did while a mighty army lay round about them, and while they were distressed by famine and the want of necessaries, for this happened to be a Sabbatic Year” (Antiquities of the Jews, XIV, xvi, 2).
A Third Sabbath Year occurred in 68-69 A.D. just before Jerusalem was destroyed. And 278 Sabbath Years later brings us to 2014-2015.
In regard to the end of Daniel’s seventy weeks, we see that the Sabbath Years fell on 26-27 A.D. and again on 33-34 A.D. But keep in mind that the Sabbath Years are dated from Tishri to Tishri (September), while the actual decree of Cyrus was issued some months earlier in Abib (April).
The 69th week, then, ended in April of 26 A.D., and the Sabbath Year began a few months later in September.
Likewise, Jesus was crucified on April 3, 33 A.D., which was the preparation day for Passover, while the lambs were being killed.
The point of this history of Sabbath Years is to show that there is a consistent historical record of Sabbath Years going back to Judah’s return from exile in 534 B.C. Their Sabbaths began to be reckoned in September of 534. Fifty-Three Sabbaths later the Hasmonean Dynasty began to rule Judah in 163 B.C. Eighteen Sabbaths later King Herod took Jerusalem in 37 B.C. Five Sabbaths later Jesus was born in 2 B.C.
The 70th week of Daniel was from April of 26 to April of 33 A.D., but the actual Sabbath Years actually began in September of those years.
However, the seventy weeks do not date from Cyrus’ decree in 534 B.C., but to a later decree from King Artaxerxes in 458 B.C. and a second decree in 445 B.C.
A Disproven Theory
A century ago, some Bible teachers put forth an alternate theory of chronology, saying that the decree of Cyrus was the one that started the seventy-week countdown. They argued that Cyrus actually lived in the 450’s B.C., rather than in the 530’s. To “prove” their theory, they postulated that some of the kings in the Persian king list were actually the same king going by different names or titles. Hence, they pulled history forward close to 80 years.
Unfortunately, Dr. Bullinger was influenced by this alternate view of history, making his chronology in Appendix 51 of The Companion Bible largely unreliable. That view was fully discredited in the 1930’s when archeologists, led by Ernst Herzfeld and Erich Schmidt, excavated Persepolis, the capital of Persia. They discovered the palaces, tombs, and even inscriptions listing each of the kings of Persia separately. In other words, the kings that were said to be different titles for the same king, were proven to be separate kings in their own right, each ruling Persia for a certain number of years.
In chapter 8 of my book, Secrets of Time, I quoted some of their historical findings. I also showed how the Persian kings were dated by astronomy, particularly King Darius I of Persia (not the Mede), under whose reign the second temple was finished. The temple was completed in the seventh year of this Darius (March 15, 515 B.C.). History dates his reign by two lunar eclipses, one that occurred in his 20th year (Nov. 19, 502 B.C.) and the other in his 31st year (April 25, 491 B.C.).
Since Cyrus was the first king of Persia to rule Babylon, and the Persian King Darius I reigned some years after his death, it is obvious that Cyrus must have ruled prior to the first year of Darius (521 B.C.). It is not possible that Cyrus could have ruled decades later in 450-460 B.C.
It is important to understand this, because some have been influenced by those prophecy teachers a century ago, not knowing that their chronological theory was disproven in the 1930’s.