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The idea of the seven-year tribulation at the end of this age is founded primarily upon the belief that Daniel's 70th week is yet future. This view is based upon incomplete knowledge of history from the 1800's, set forth by the Dispensationalist teachers. Their views have been disproved by archeologists, but many do not realize this and have continued teaching incorrect theories. For this reason, it is important that we show how Daniel's 70 weeks (70 x 7 = 490 YEARS) have been fulfilled.
Years ago, when I first began studying the timing of Daniel's 70 weeks, I found myself working backward as so many before me had done. I began with my assumed date of Jesus' crucifixion and then went back 490 years to the presumed beginning of the cycle. When I realized what I was doing, I made an abrupt change in my thinking. I decided to search history for the historical answer, and then interpret Scripture according to what actually happened. My beliefs changed.
Jeremiah had prophesied that Jerusalem would remain in captivity to Babylon for seventy years. Jeremiah was prophesying “in part,” as Paul would say in 1 Cor. 13:9. It proved to be only the first phase of a much longer captivity, and it took Daniel to complete the prophecy in the next generation.
Jeremiah had offered a wooden yoke (27:2) to the people of Judah and Jerusalem, if they would agree with God’s judgment and submit to Nebuchadnezzar. He says in 27:11,
11 But the nation which will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let remain on its land, declares the Lord, and they will till it and dwell in it.
However, the people refused to submit to the righteous judgment of God, so they received the yoke of iron instead. The prophet Hananiah was the spokesman for the people in this, and so Jer. 28:10 says,
10 Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke from the neck of Jeremiah the prophet and broke it.
This ensured that the judgment would be heavier and that the people would be sent into exile into a foreign land. This is how the law of tribulation defines the yoke of iron (Deut. 28:48).
Thus, the seventy-year captivity prophesied by Jeremiah was really the time of the iron-yoke captivity. After seventy years, God gave Babylon into the hands of Medo-Persia, whose king allowed the people to return to Judea and Jerusalem, but not as a free people. Judah remained in captivity to the Persians, but their captivity was under the lighter wooden yoke.
It was revealed to Daniel (one of the captives in Babylon) that this captivity was going to be much longer than a mere seventy years. In Daniel 2 we learn from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, which Daniel interpreted, that there would be four distinct empires in succession, who would prolong this captivity to the time when the Kingdom of God would be established.
These empires were: Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. To the Roman phase was added a “little horn,” that is, another power center, which is explained in greater detail by John in Rev. 13. It was an extension of Imperial Rome after its collapse in 476 A.D. It proved to be Religious (papal) Rome, which was to last 1,260 “days” (i.e., years).
Meanwhile, however, Jerusalem’s religious leaders chafed under the prolonged captivity, particularly under Rome. In the first century this discontent erupted into an all-out revolt from 66-73 A.D., resulting in the destruction of the city and the reinstatement of the iron yoke. This resulted in the Jewish diaspora, which scattered the people among all nations.
This is the context of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks. It is the bigger picture within which we must understand the more specific prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.
The Seventy Weeks was to begin with an official decree from the King of Persia “to restore and rebuild Jerusalem,” ending with the Messiah the Prince (Dan. 9:25). Here we encounter our first historical obstacle, for there were THREE decrees which speak into this prophecy.
The first decree was that of Cyrus in 534 B.C., allowing the people to return to the old land and rebuild the Temple under Zerubbabel. The second was that of Artaxerxes in 458 B.C. which was decreed in the seventh year of the king’s reign. This decree sent Ezra to make sacrifices for the people and for the king himself. The decree is recorded in Ezra 7:12-26.
The third decree was issued in the twentieth year of king Artaxerxes in 445 B.C. (Neh. 5:14). This decree sent Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, restoring it to its original condition as a viable, defensible city.
As we will see, all three decrees are important when trying to understand Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.
The people of Judah were allowed to return to their land in 534 B.C. We know this because they began to keep their Sabbath years dating from that year. Three Sabbath years are mentioned in history after this, so it is only a matter of counting back by sevens in order to determine the point of origin.
A Sabbath year is mentioned in 2 Maccabees 6:49 and verse 53, dated as the 150th year on the Seleucid calendar used by the Greeks. By our modern reckoning, this is 163 B.C. Josephus mentions this as well in Antiquities of the Jews, XII, ix, 5,
“But then their provisions failed them; what fruits of the ground they had laid up were spent, and the land being not ploughed that year, continued unsowed, because it was the seventh year, on which, by our laws, we are obliged to let it lie uncultivated.”
He tells us earlier in paragraph 3, “This was in the hundred and fiftieth year of the dominion of the Seleucidae.” Since the first year of the Seleucid calendar was in 312-311 B.C., the 150th year was in 163-162 B.C. Hence, we are shown how to correlate the Seleucid calendar with the Judean Sabbatical cycles.
A Sabbath year is mentioned again in relation to Herod the Great in 37 B.C. in his war against Antigonus for control of Judea. Josephus gives us a full account of the conflict between Antigonus and Herod. Antigonus was the people’s choice, because he was of the priestly lineage from the Maccabees. Herod had the backing of the Roman senate, but he had to fight the Judeans and capture Jerusalem in order to establish his throne. Josephus gives us the timing of this war against Jerusalem in Antiquities of the Jews, XIV, xvi, 4,
“This destruction befell the city of Jerusalem when Marcus Agrippa and Caninius Gallus were consuls at Rome, on the hundred and eighty-fifth Olympiad, on the third month, on the solemnity of the fast [Day of Atonement], as if a periodical revolution of calamities had returned since that which befell the Jews under Pompey; for the Jews were taken by him on the same day, and this after twenty-seven years’ time.
This is well dated, and historians agree that it occurred in 37-36 B.C. Josephus also tells us in par. 2,
“... 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.”
So 37-36 B.C. was a Sabbath Year, as also was 163 B.C. There were 18 Sabbath years between those two dates (18 x 7 = 126 years). If we continue to count by seven-year cycles back to the time of Cyrus, when the people began to keep Sabbath years, we must conclude that the count began in the year 534 B.C.
It is not possible to be merely one or two years off. The only other dates to consider would be in multiples of seven, either 541 or 527 B.C. But all historians agree that 541 is much too early, and 527 is much too late for the Edict of Cyrus. Hence, the only realistic possibility is 534 for Judah’s return from exile. When they returned to the old land, they began to observe their Sabbath years.
This is an important starting point, because Jesus was born 76 Sabbath years later at Rosh Hoshana in 2 B.C. The number 76 speaks of cleansing, and it took precisely 76 x 7 years to prepare the way for Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.
The return of Judah, then, occurred in 534 B.C., and the temple was rebuilt in 515. Yet it was not until 458 B.C. that Daniel’s 70 weeks began with the edict of King Artaxerxes of Persia. His edict was issued in his seventh year (Ezra 7:8). It was also 76 years after the people of Judah were allowed to return in 534 B.C. It was the first of seven periods of 76 years leading to the birth of Jesus.
The siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. also occurred in a Sabbath year (69-70 A.D.). In part, this accounts for the famine in the city during that summer, although part of the problem was that the extremists destroyed much of the food supply.
Knowing which years were Sabbaths helps us in our study of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, which are actually seventy Sabbath Years from 458 B.C. to 33 A.D. This helps us to pinpoint the year of Jesus’ crucifixion, for as we will see, He began His ministry in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week and was crucified at the end of the Seventy Weeks.
The Sabbath years and Jubilees properly began with Moses, although there is no doubt that God had already been working out His Plan according to the Creation Jubilee Calendar. We know this especially in observing the life of Jacob, who was born on a Jubilee and died on a Jubilee at the age of 147. In my book, Secrets of Time, I show that Jacob was born in the year 2108. The 43rd Jubilee was 2107-2108 years from Adam.
His life-changing experience in wrestling with the angel in Genesis 32 occurred in 2206, when he was 98 years old. This was the 45th Jubilee from Adam.
Jacob died at the age of 147 (Gen. 47:28), precisely three Jubilees after he was born. This was the 46th Jubilee from Adam.
The precision of this in the divine plan shows that God kept track of the Jubilee cycles, even if men were ignorant of the Plan. Later, God brought Israel out of Egypt in the year 2448 in order to prepare them to enter the Promised Land at the beginning of the year 2450—which was the 50th Jubilee from Adam.
Here, however, is where it becomes complicated by sin. Israel refused to return to their inheritance on the Jubilee, believing the evil report of the ten spies instead of the good report of Caleb and Joshua. Their national Jubilees and Sabbath-Year cycles were supposed to align with the Creation Jubilee Calendar, and this is what would have occurred if they had entered the land on schedule. But instead, they entered 38 years later (Deut. 2:14) after spending 40 years in the wilderness. And so their national calendar did not align with the Creation Jubilee Calendar.
Their Sabbath years began when they entered the land 38 years late. Because this number is not divisible by seven, neither their Sabbaths nor Jubilees aligned properly with God’s Calendar.
Many centuries later their calendar ended with the Babylonian captivity. When they returned in 534, they re-established their calendar with the Sabbath Year cycles. Even so, they did not keep any Jubilees.
In Secrets of Time, I show how the year 465 B.C. (when Xerxes died and Artaxerxes began to reign) was the 70th Jubilee from Adam. Ezra was sent by decree seven years later in 458, which was the beginning of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks. This new prophetic calendar was just seven years misaligned with the Creation Jubilee Calendar. The Sabbath years were aligned, but there was still a seven-year discrepancy between Jubilee cycles.
Thus, the 80th Jubilee fell in 26 A.D., while the Seventy Weeks (i.e., 10 Jubilees) ended in 33 A.D. The intervening week formed the 70th week of Daniel.
The Creation Jubilee Calendar
There had originally been a 38-year discrepancy between Israel’s calendar and the Creation Jubilee Calendar, caused by Israel’s refusal to enter Canaan on the 50th Jubilee from Adam. But divine judgment reduced this to a mere seven years. God aligned their Sabbath years with His Calendar, but the Jubilees remained misaligned and yet to be resolved.
The Dispensationalist teachers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries did not understand this history, and so they did not comprehend Daniel’s 70th week. If they had understood that it represented the one-week discrepancy between the two calendars in Bible prophecy, they might have interpreted it in a more accurate manner. They assumed that God’s “clock” stopped at the end of the 69th week, and that the 70th week was pushed far into the future. The clock, they said, would begin with the time that they called “The Great Tribulation.”
If they had known history a little better, they would have seen that their view was unsustainable. In 26 A.D. Jesus was only 27 years of age and would not begin His ministry for yet three years. The year of His birth, along with the starting point of His ministry at the age of 30 will be proven in greater detail as we proceed.