Re: Timing of the Events of Jesus' Crucifixion & Resurrection
Excerpts from Chapters 14-16 of the book "How Close are We?" by Dave Hunt
Scanned and OCR'd from the book. There may be some OCR-related errors on this page
FOUR HUNDRED AND NINETY YEARS ONCE AGAIN (p149)
While Daniel is praying, God sends the angel Gabriel to inform him of something that he could not have known from Jeremiah's prophecy: Divine judgment upon Israel will not be complete at the end of the 70 years. The 490 years of disobe- dience will be paid for in an additional way. That length of time must be endured once more by Israel before the Messiah will set up His kingdom.
Another period of precisely 490 years (70 weeks of years) lies ahead for the people of Israel and for Jerusalem before Messiah will ascend to David's throne. It will include "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7), the climax of God's judg- ment upon Israel immediately preceding the Second Coming. Thus an understanding of these 70 weeks of years is essential if we are to gain insight into the timing for the Rapture and the Second Coming.
To interpret this prophecy correctly, we must not forget that the 70 weeks of years are specifically stated to be "determined upon thy people [Israel] and upon thy holy city [Jerusalem]." To attempt to apply this 490-year period in any other way than that which is so plainly stated-to the Church, for example- would do offense both to the Bible and common sense.
The Church did not come into existence until 483 of the 490 years had already passed. Thus this period of time and this prophecy could not possibly have applied to the Church. The end of the 490-year period would have come a mere seven years into the Church's history had the last week run its course immediately following completion of the 69 weeks which ended with Christ's prophesied crucifixion. By that reckoning, the 490 years ended more than 1900 years ago and could have no more significance for Israel today than for the Church. The mathematics seem quite simple. Yet Christ did not ascend to David's throne at His first advent, nor has He returned to do so. Nor did the next seven years following Christ's ascension to heaven see the culmination of the prophecies that were to be completed in the last week.
The 490 years could not possibly have ended without the Messiah establishing His millennial kingdom. If it has ended, then a major part of Bible prophecy has been proved false. No Christian can accept that for a moment; not because our faith in the Bible is blind, but because we have carefully examined it and know it to be the infallible Word of God. There can be no mistakes or failed prophecies. We must, therefore, seek another interpretation.
Inasmuch as the relevant prophecies have not been fulfilled,
we can only conclude that the 490 years (70 weeks of years), for
some reason, have not yet ended. Clearly this important pro-
phetic period was interrupted after Christ's death so that the
last week (of years) has yet to run its course. In fact, Daniel
does divide the 70 weeks into segments: "From the command-
ment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the
Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks
... and after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut
off." The last week of the 70 is left hanging.
So the 70 weeks are divided as follows: 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and 1 week. Why? The first 7 weeks of years (49) is most likely distinguished from the rest because it was that exact period of time (from the beginning of the 70 weeks) until Malachi, in 397 B.C., penned the last of the Old Testament. To understand the 62 weeks (which added to the 7 makes 69) and the one week remaining, it is necessary to go back to the time when these 70 weeks began.
Daniel is very specific. The 70 weeks (490 years) was to be measured "from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem." So this period begins, not with the rebuilding of the temple under Zerubbabel, but from the later authorization Nehemiah received to rebuild Jerusa- lem. The Bible itself establishes for us with exactitude this most important date.
Nehemiah was in the service of King Artaxerxes in the winter palace of the Persian monarchs at Shushan. This was the same place where Daniel received one of his most impor- tant visions (8:2). The reconstruction of the temple had been completed about 70 years before, yet nothing had been done to rebuild the city. The people living in its ruins were poor and few in number. Concerned for his homeland, Nehemiah asked some friends who had just returned from Jerusalem how the Jews were faring there. We pick up the story in his own words:
For the investigation of the facts pertaining to both dates
and for the calculations of the time elapsing between them we
are indebted to Sir Robert Anderson. The data is given in detail
in his book, The Coming Prince. As head of the criminal
investigation division of Scotland Yard, Anderson was cer-
tainly a man well-qualified to conduct an accurate investi-
gation into this prophecy.
The day and year of Christ's crucifixion is of the utmost importance. It is not a matter of speculation. The precise date and time as well as the manner of His death had to be exactly as prophesied. Let us go back to take another look at how it occurred.
The rabbis had been plotting to take him for months. As the Passover drew near, however, they agreed among themselves to do nothing until the high holidays of the Feast of Unleavened Bread came to an end. In spite of their decision to the contrary, Christ would be taken on the feast day when the Passover was prepared, for so the prophets had declared.
The rabbis had to be extremely careful, because the people were solidly with Jesus. The raising of Lazarus from the dead a few days earlier had excited Jerusalem. That undeniable mir- acle was one of the major reasons so many had lined the approach to the holy city and hailed Jesus as the Messiah (John 12:17-19). The mob would not tolerate any threatening move against Him. It would have been particularly dangerous to attempt to apprehend Him during the holidays when Jerusalem was packed with pilgrims and religious feelings were running high. So the council had wisely decided to delay His arrest: "Not on the feast day [passover], lest there be an uproar among the people" (Matthew 26:5), had been the verdict.
Yet He must be crucified on that very feast day, and in this
specific year, A.D. 32, for prophecy to be fulfilled. And
so it would be. Though He had for some time been avoiding Je-
rusalem, now Christ, oddly enough, as we have noted, was
presenting Himself there daily. Here was a rare chance, and
Judas, who had been hoping for such an opportunity, exploited
it. The rabbis had been only too willing to change their mind
when the traitor explained his strategy of taking Jesus in ar
isolated area late at night in the absence of the admiring
crowds that surrounded Him during the day.
Here was the order of events. Wednesday at sunset began Nisan 14. This entire 24-hour period ending the following day, Thursday, at sunset, was traditionally also called the first day of unleavened bread. This was the day the Passover lamb was to be slain. That important event had to occur "in the evening" of Nisan 14, which was a short time before sunset on Thursday. The Passover meal itself would follow that night, the begin- ning of Nisan 15, which also began the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The first day and last day of that annual feast were high sabbaths during which no work could be done.
Shortly after sunset at the beginning of Nisan 14, the dis- ciples had begun to prepare the upper room for the Passover to be eaten there thefollowing night. It would only be natural for them, while preparing this room, to eat their pre-Passover supper there as well. In fact, it turned out to be the "last supper" with their Lord, though they did not suspect it would be at the time. The next night, when the disciples had thought they would be taking the Passover together in that same room, Christ's body would be in the grave.
Then why did Christ, when they sat down together that Wednesday night, say, "I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15)? The disciples no doubt thought He was referring to the following night, when the preparations would have been completed and the Passover actually celebrated. In fact, Jesus was introducing a new "Passover feast" which would be celebrated weekly instead of annually-and not looking back to the exodus from Egypt but in remembrance of His sacrifice upon the cross.
Thereafter, each Sunday, the day of His resurrection, the disciples would take bread and break and eat it (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2) as a symbol of His body, and share the cup as a symbol of His blood. This they would do in remembrance of the sacrifice of His body and blood for the sins of the world. Today, we, too, continue with this remembrance "until he come" (I Corinthians 11:26).
Jesus had reasons for beginning the Passover celebration the
night before-reasons which the disciples couldn't under-
stand. As we have already noted, to fulfill both Old Testament
type and prophecy, Christ's crucifixion had to take place at the
very time when the paschal lamb was being killed by house-
holds throughout Israel and roasted for eating at the Passover
celebration that night. In fact, that was exactly when He died,
committing His Spirit into His Father's hands.
As it began to dawn toward the first day of the week... there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord ... rolled back the stone from the door [of the sepulcher] and sat upon it (Matthew 28:1,2).
The verses above need some explanation. For example, "evening" sometimes means late afternoon and at other times it means early night. And as we have already mentioned and explain later in more detail, although the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on Nisan 15 when the Passover lamb was eaten, Nisan 14, when the Passover was prepared and the lamb slain was also a time of unleavened bread.
Verses which are not clear need to be
understood in har- mony with those which are clear. And we do have many
very plain statements that the Passover lambs were slain the after- noon
following the "last supper," and at the time of the crucifixion. All of
the Gospels agree in this regard.
Mark says, "Now when the even [i.e., sunset was approach- ing] was come [after Christ had died], because it was the preparation [of the Passover lamb], that is, the day before the sabbath [the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which began at sunset after the Passover lamb had been slain], Joseph of Arimathaea ... went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus" (15:42,43). Luke agrees: "And that day was the preparation, and the [special] sabbath drew on" (23:54). John gives even more detail:
While the other gospels refer to "the sabbath" drawing nigh, John alone explains that the sabbath which began at sunset the day Christ was crucified "was a high day." In other words, it was not the ordinary weekly sabbath which always began Friday at sunset. It was, in fact, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (the fifteenth of Nisan), of which the first and last days were special sabbaths during which no work was to be done (Exodus 12:14-16).
John also clarifies the fact that the "last supper" was not the Passover: "Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come ... supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot. . . to betray him." So the "last supper" actually took place the night before the Passover. How could it have taken place both "the first day of unleavened bread" and "before the feast of the Passover"?
Although technically the Feast of Unleavened Bread began with the fifteenth of Nisan after sunset of the fourteenth (the Passover lamb was slain just before sunset, roasted, and eaten that night), the days of unleavened bread were also counted from the fourteenth of Nisan because the eating of unleavened bread began "on the fourteenth day of the month at evening" (Exodus 12:18). Though they were two separate feasts, the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were treated as one inasmuch as they overlapped. The Passover lamb, though "prepared" (i.e., slain and the roasting process begun) just before sunset on the fourteenth, was not eaten until that night, which was then the fifteenth.
What day of the week was Nisan 14? While we refer to Nisan 10 as Sunday, it began on Saturday after sunset when the sabbath ended. Remember, the Jewish day begins at sunset. Thus Nisan 11 began at sunset Sunday, the twelfth Monday, the thirteenth Tuesday, and Nisan 14, the day of preparation, began Wednesday at sunset. The "last supper," then, took place Wednesday night, the beginning of Nisan 14, which was called the day of preparation. The following afternoon, in the "evening" of Nisan 14, the Passover lambs were slain shortly before sunset. Christ was on the cross and "gave up the ghost" at the same time that Thursday afternoon.
Thursday? Not "Good Friday"? Indeed not. A
Friday cruci- fixion doesn't fit the facts. Not only the prophecies but
the Old Testament types as well had to be fulfilled. One of those types
was known as "the sign of the prophet Jonas [Jonah]." It required Jesus
to be in the grave "three days and three nights."
Obviously, had Christ been crucified on Friday, He couldn't possibly have spent three days and three nights in the grave by Sunday morning. The verification of that fact is simple. What was left of Friday afternoon can be counted as day one. All day Saturday is day two. Friday and Saturday nights until dawn Sunday total two nights. The period comes up short by one day and one night.
Even counting a few minutes of Sunday morning as the third day would not suffice. There would still be one night missing. Furthermore, no part of the day on Sunday may be counted because we are distinctly told that the angel rolled away the stone "as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week" (Matthew 28: 1). The tomb was already empty at that point, so Christ must have risen from the dead sometime prior to dawn. How long before we are not told.
Had the Scriptures simply said "three days," then a Friday crucifixion could have qualified by counting any part of a day as the whole. If Christ were crucified before sunset Friday, then that would be part of the day which began Thursday at sunset and ended Friday at sunset. The second day went from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, and the third day, which began at sunset Saturday, would be counted as well.
The Bible, however, is precise in its language and quite specific about "three days and three nights." The specifica- tions derive from Jonah's experience: "And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights" (Jonah 1:17). Jesus Himself declared: "For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth [i.e. in that part of Hades known as Abraham's bosom]" (Matthew 12:39,40; Luke 16:22). That specific requirement cannot be met by a Friday crucifixion.
In spite of the undeniable error, the Roman Catholic Church persists in the myth of a "Good Friday" crucifixion. Indeed, Rome has built much of its ritual and dogma upon that obvious falsehood. It is too late for her to change her story now. In this fact alone we have sufficient evidence of the Roman Catholic Church's manufacture and official endorsement of untruth to cast doubt upon everything else it affirms with equal dogma- tism, And what can be said for the Protestants by the millions who go along with this lie so willingly in their "Good Friday" special worship services each year?
Does it really matter? Yes! Aren't we just splitting hairs?
No, we are not. The day of our Lord's crucifixion is of the utmost
importance. Christ said He would be three days and three nights in the
grave. If He did not spend that time there, then He lied. Nor is this
all. As we've already seen, in fulfill- ment of numerous prophecies,
Christ had to die at the very time when the Passover lambs were being
slain all over Is- rael-and He did. That necessity determined the day of
Some scholars claim Christ was crucified on Wednesday. Since it was late afternoon when He died, they don't count that day. So Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights give the three nights; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday give the three complete days. It is thus concluded that He must have risen from the dead at motze shabbat, the end of the sabbath just before sunset on Saturday. That theory won't work for several reasons.
First of all, the Scripture is clear that the angel rolled away the stone to expose the empty tomb "very early in the morning [Sunday] ... at the rising of the sun" (Mark 16:2). Why would this heavenly messenger wait so long if Jesus had resurrected the previous afternoon? Why didn't he roll away the stone before sunset Saturday to reveal that the tomb was empty then-if indeed it was?
And why were the Roman soldiers still there guarding the tomb when the angel rolled away the stone Sunday morning? If the three days ended the previous afternoon, Jesus having been dead since Wednesday afternoon, why continue to guard the grave? In fact, they would not. The soldiers had specific orders to guard the grave "until the [end of the] third day" (Matthew 27:64), the period within which Jesus had said He would rise from the dead. When that had expired, let the disciples steal the body if they wanted to. It wouldn't matter any more.
Even if the soldiers had stayed on for one more night, they surely would have sworn that the body had disappeared only after the three-day time limit-too late to claim a "resurrec- tion." Yet no such report was made, as we've already noted. We can only conclude that the three-day period had not elapsed until dawn Sunday,
There are more questions. If Jesus was placed in the tomb Wednesday afternoon, why did the two Marys wait until Sun- day morning to come with spices to anoint His body (Matthew 28:1)? In that case, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the sabbath it brought would have begun at sunset Wednesday. Between the Wednesday sunset to Thursday sunset special sabbath (the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread) and the regular Saturday sabbath there would have been a normal work day, Friday, in which to anoint the body. No time would have been wasted to finish that necessary task before the corpse had begun to deteriorate. Time was of the essence, so why wait, as they did, until Sunday morning? It doesn't fit.
Only if He was crucified on Thursday would there have been two sabbaths together (the special sabbath of the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread from Thursday evening until Friday evening, followed by the regular sabbath from Friday evening until Saturday evening), thus preventing the women from going to the grave until Sunday morning.
It was very likely failure to recognize that there were two sabbaths together that caused the Roman Catholic Church to declare a Friday crucifixion. It was no doubt assumed that the sabbath which followed Christ's death was the normal Satur- day sabbath, when in fact it was the sabbath of the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was then followed by the Saturday sabbath. It was a natural mistake and one which could easily be made without a full investigation of the facts. That is no excuse, however, for a church which boasts of its infallibility and requires its members to accept its dogmas without question.
Joseph of Arimathaea had time on the day of crucifixion before the special sabbath began at sunset Thursday to go out and buy the "fine linen" (Mark 15:46) with which he wrapped the body of Jesus when he put Him in the tomb. The women also had time to purchase the spices they needed and to prepare them before the special sabbath. So they would have been ready to go to the tomb immediately after the two contiguous sabbaths ended. Either they were unaware of the fact that Nicodemus brought 100 pounds of spices which he and Joseph of Arimathaea placed on the body as they wrapped it (John 19:39,40), or they thought more was needed. Here is the testimony of Luke:
THE TESTIMONY OF ASTRONOMY (p174)
In his investigation of the prophecy of Daniel's 70 weeks, Sir Robert Anderson consulted the Astronomer Royal at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England. That expert's astronomical calculations determined that in A.D. 32, Nisan 14 was from Wednesday sunset to Thursday sunset. We have already noted, of course, that it had to be on that day in order to conform to the biblical account.
Everything hangs together as it must. It is agreed that Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a Sunday. For the Old Testament type to be fulfilled, that had to be Nisan 10 as we have noted, the day that the Passover lambs were taken for observation. Four more days brings us to the fourteenth, when the Passover lambs were slain, which works out to be a Thurs- day. For this and the other reasons given above, we can only conclude that Christ was nailed to the cross on Thursday about noon and died shortly after 3 Pm.
The assembly of the congregation of Israel had indeed slain their Messiah and Passover lamb without knowing what they had done. In love and mercy, Christ had prayed while on the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).
Let us count again the days and nights that He was "in the heart of the earth," now that we know from type, prophecy, and astronomical calculations precisely when Christ laid down His life. On Thursday, the nearly three hours left after His death until sundown are counted as day one. Friday and Satur- day account for days two and three. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights number three. After these three days and three nights in the grave, Christ rose from the dead some time before dawn Sunday morning. No doubt it was shortly, if not immediately, thereafter that the angel rolled the stone back to show that the tomb was empty.
What does all this have to do with the Rapture and the Second
Coming? It provides further evidence of the impor- tance of prophecy and
the precision with which it is fulfilled. If such has been the case in
the past, then we may be certain that future events connected with the
coming of Christ will provide an equally precise fulfillment of prophecy
down to the last detail.
There is a further value in tracing the timing of events with great care. The day of Christ's resurrection is of enormous importance in our understanding of Scripture. It makes con- siderable difference whether He rose from the dead on Satur- day or Sunday.
Seventh-day Adventists, for example, insist that Saturday is the day on which we should gather to worship Christ because it was the Jewish sabbath instituted by God. Those who claim a Wednesday crucifixion and a motze shabbat resurrection late Saturday afternoon believe in worshiping on that day as well. We have seen, however, that He actually arose from the dead early Sunday morning, which is why Christians worship on that day.
It is commonly argued that the Roman Catholic Church changed the sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, thus initiating Sunday worship. The fact is that Rome did not "invent Sunday worship." The early Christians, from the very beginning, met to worship Christ on Sunday. This observance was an estab- lished custom centuries before any decrees about worship were issued from a central headquarters after the bishops of Rome began to claim supremacy over the church.
Luke writes: "On the first day of the week when the dis- ciples met together to break bread" (Acts 20:7). This "break- ing of bread" did not merely involve taking a meal. That it was a special meal, which included the communion service in memorium of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection as Paul discusses it in I Corinthians 11, is clear.
Surely the Christians didn't all come together at every meal; nor did they eat only on the first day of the week. Neither of these possibilities is plausible. On this special "breaking of bread" in remembrance of Christ, the congregation of be- lievers was assembled and Paul preached to them all night. That they gathered together on the first day of the week is reinforced by the fact that Paul instructed the believers to set aside an offering on that day each week (I Corinthians 16:2). How so, unless the Christians gathered together for worship on that day?
Whatever Rome may have decreed for
those in its fold is beside the point. Christians outside Roman
Catholicism meet on Sunday for biblical reasons. Not for a moment do
they imagine that the sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sun- day.
Saturday is still the sabbath, but Christians don't keep it for several
First of all, the sabbath was for the Jews only. It was part of that special covenant, to which we've already referred, be- tween God and Israel involving the land and their relationship with Him. All mankind is, of course, under God's moral law, but not under the Mosaic law. Romans 2:14,15 reminds us that God's moral law, as we all know, has been written in every conscience, including those of Gentiles. Were the sabbath also for Gentiles, then all mankind would have a conscience about keeping it. That sabbath keeping is not written in anyone's conscience is proof enough that it was not intended for anyone outside of Israel.
The sabbath is commemorated as the day on which God rested from His labor in creating the universe. That universe, however, will be destroyed, as 2 Peter 3:10-12 tells us. As Christians, we "look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). It was Christ's death for our sins and His resurrection for ourjustification that made possible the creation of a new universe to come. There- fore, we celebrate the day of His resurrection. It marks the beginning of God's new creation and points us forward to the new heavens and new earth which we as new creatures in Christ will yet inhabit. We are not of this old world.
Again we see how important the precise timing of proph- esied events is. Saturday, which is associated with the old creation, is the last day of the week. It would have been inappropriate for Christ to rise from the dead on that day. He rose from the grave on Sunday, the first day of a new week. He is called "the firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18), and "the last Adam" (I Corinthians 15:45), the progenitor of a race of "new creatures" (2 Corinthians 5:17), "born-again" people who are "his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:10). Only these new creatures in Christ will inhabit the new universe.
Christ was born "when the fullness of time was come [ie., at the time God had foreordained]" (Galatians 4:4). His Sec- ond Coming will also take place at the exact time God has decreed. Returning to Daniel, we will discover that he tells us when that will occur as well.