“Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” Acts 2:23 (NKJV)
Every parent understands the concept of a “due date.” It is the date a doctor gives to an excited couple who is asking for the date their baby will be born. Every parent also understands that this “due date” is, at best, a guess, an estimate. Research proves that this is true as reports indicate that less than 5% of babies are ever born on their actual due date. That does not stop doctors from giving due dates, and it does not stop expectant couples from hoping in them.
How far before or beyond your due date were your child(ren) born?
Imagine something with me for a moment. What if, on your twentieth birthday, you were given a very old diary. In that diary, you see written the date, time, and place of your birth. Below that, you find your full name, your hair color, eye color, birth weight, and birth length. As you turn the page, you see the names and descriptions of your parents and siblings. Another page turn tells about the things you did as a baby, then as a toddler, and then as a child. Another turn reminds you of key moments in your life; places you have been, cities in which you have lived, and people you have known. Another page describes in detail your character, the person you are. It tells of the things you have said and done as a teenager. Then, you notice something interesting; the diary does not stop at your present age. There are more pages. It describes where you will go to school, who you will marry, and where you will work. It is not generalities; it is specific. It is written as though it had already happened. In wonder, you read of each of your children, their names, their personalities, who they marry, their children, and their homes. Then finally you read of how you will pass into eternity.
Surprise, you find out that the whole diary was written 700 years before you were ever born!
What would this mean?
Who could have written such a diary about your life?
If the details of your life up to this point, written 700 years before, were accurate down to the smallest details, what would that mean for all that is written after it?
This is what the coming of Jesus Christ was. His birth date, time (Malachi 3:1), place (Micah 5:2; Hosea 11:1), and circumstances (virgin birth - Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14) were all written out in incredible detail, hundreds of years before He came. The specifics of His life were spelled out, not in generalities, but as though they had already occurred. Hundreds of years before He arrived, we read of “who” He would be (Genesis 12:3) and what He would do (Jeremiah 23:5). We read of His life and ministry (Zechariah 9:9). We read of His suffering and death (Jeremiah 31:15; Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12; Daniel 9:26; Isaiah 53; Psalm 22:1, 8, 18; Exodus 12:46). We read of His resurrection and life forever (Psalm 16:8-11; Isaiah 53:10-11; Psalm 68:18; Psalm 110:1). We also read of why He came and what it means for us. All of this was written out for us, hundreds of years before He came, in a diary, if you will, called the Bible.
The biblical term for this is called “prophecy,” and it is the special ability of God alone. Man has tried to predict the future over and over and has failed miserably. People like Nostradamus are often cited as “prophets,” but when you examine their “prophesies,” you find that they are nothing more than “due date” guesses. Their “prophesies” are general and obscure rather than detailed and clear. It is only the Bible, indeed the God of the Bible, who operates outside of time and space, who writes out the details of events and times with clarity and mind-blowing specificity.
One such occasion is found in a prophecy given to Daniel, the prophet of God. In the ninth chapter of his book, he writes these incredible words:
“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; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.” Daniel 9:25-26 (NKJV)
Maybe you have read this before; maybe you have not. If you have read it, maybe it made sense, maybe it did not. Maybe you thought someone was speaking a different language and just moved on to the next verses? This passage is incredibly important. It is a prophecy. It is a “due date” if you will. It tells when the Messiah, the Savior of the world would come. Let us look at it a little deeper.
The first thing we have to understand is that at the time this prophecy was given, Jerusalem was in ruins. Most of God’s people (the Hebrews) were in the nation of Babylon. They had been carried off captive from Israel to Babylon during three waves of capture. Daniel was among the first group taken to Babylon. The prophecy says that a “command” will be given, by someone in authority, to “rebuild Jerusalem” (again currently in ruins). The prophecy says that when that “command” is given it begins a countdown. This countdown would end with the coming of the promised Savior, the Messiah of God. The coming of the One who would finally crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15) and restore what had been lost through sin.
So it says, that from the giving of the “command to restore and build Jerusalem” until the coming of “Messiah the Prince” there will be “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.” What does that mean? A “week” here refers to not seven days, but seven years. So, one week would be seven years. So we see 62 weeks (62 x 7 years = 434 years) and seven weeks (7 x 7 years = 49 years) for a total of 69 weeks or 483 total years. Have I lost you yet? Great! To put it simply, from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah comes will be 483 years. That is pretty specific is it not? Nothing vague or fuzzy about it. There would be 483 years until the long-awaited promised Savior comes.
The promise continues in a few years. On March 5, 444 B.C. Persian ruler Artaxerxes Longimanus issued a decree allowing the Jews to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. It was a command given from the Persian king protecting the Hebrew people, allowing them to finally rebuild their beloved city. From that moment the clock began to tick. The countdown began. Now, I am sure all the math wizards reading this already have it figured. For those of us that were not so gifted, when you add 483 years to March 5, 444 B.C. and you take into account that the Hebrew calendar (Gregorian calendar) consisted of 360 days (rather than 365) it brings you down to March 30, A.D. 33. It is the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to the shouts and singing of the multitudes saying “Hosanna! Save us now!” Although it would be just a couple of days until He would die on that cross for our sins, this moment, this joyful moment, was what Daniel foretold. “Messiah the Prince” had come. The Savior of the world had come, just as God said He would and at “just the right time.” His “due date” was perfectly accurate and He arrived “on time.”