The Crucifixion of Christ was the next topic the angel discussed with Jeff. We all have a somewhat romanticized view of the crucifixion – at least compared to the real thing. We are all familiar with crosses – they are everywhere in Christian churches. Some of these crosses have the body of Christ nailed to the crossbeam – but they still are inadequately displaying the horror of the event.
They do not portray the true horror of what a Roman crucifixion entailed – particular this one. Christ was beaten and tortured by the Roman guard prior to the actual crucifixion. Jewish law prevented any more than 40 lashes for an offense that did not merit capital punishment.
Typically, only 39 lashes were administered in case of a miscount. Roman guards were not under any such prohibition; they could administer as many as they sought fit. Lashing would literally tear the flesh into shreds – particularly when the lashing overlapped over wounds.
Scripture also notes guards beat Christ in the head multiple times and tore out his beard. The guards knew they could not kill Christ with their pre-crucifixion torture or else they would themselves be punished. This torture prior to his execution was the reason he could not carry his own cross to the execution site.
Physical Rehabilitation Returns
Jeff was doing well in physical rehabilitation. They were taking extra good care of him trying to prevent another fall like during his prior admission.
He had regained the ability to walk and was getting increased strength in his arms as well. I could see his spirits were better; he did not have that depressed, beaten down look that characterized his face before. He was beginning to see that he would recover from his injuries, and would eventually escape from the prison of enforced medical care soon.
He seemed glad to see me again. I was one of his very few friends who kept in touch with him during his illness. Jeff’s friends from his prior hedonistic life seemed to have forgotten him; they seemed only interested in good times, and seeing a friend suffer through a grave illness was not their idea of pleasure. Jeff even called a few, asking them to come to see him where they might “have a few laughs.” Of course, they all agreed to carve out a few hours from their schedules – but none ever followed through.
The Anointed One and The Crucifixion
“So Jeff, how have you been?” I asked him as I put my hand out to grasp his still tremulous hand.
“Better. No, much better. I’m gradually getting stronger, but it’s a real drag. I mean, everything is difficult. Getting up to go to the bathroom is hard, even picking up a glass of water is challenging. My hand is shaking so much I end up spilling as much water on my shirt as I get into my mouth!” He looked at me, gave a nervous laugh, and asked how I was. After a few perfunctory questions were asked and answered, he came back to what he had called me for.
“Dave, the angel came back again. In a way, I wish he would stop, that he would leave me alone and let me rest at night. I mean, his constant lecturing, even preaching at times, gets tiresome. But what he changed his topic, moved onto something else which kind of floored me.”
“What was it?”
“You know, I felt like the Bible was just a bunch of loosely connected stories and myths about ancient people who eventually became scattered around the world. But a lot of it tries to predict the future – or at least what was to them the future. Like, well, what the angel talked about last night.”
“OK, just what the heck are you talking about?”
“Well, have you ever wondered why the people in Christ’s time were looking for a Messiah?
“I guess because they were under Roman control and wanted a Jewish king to free them from bondage – kind of what Moses did to the Egyptians.”
“Well, that would explain why they might look for a Messiah in general. But they were looking especially hard during the time of Christ. I mean, the Jews had been under Babylonian rule, Persian rule, Greek rule, then became briefly free again, then fell under Roman rule; so why did they suddenly start looking in earnest for a Messiah when they did at the beginning of the first century?”
“No, why?” I must admit I was surprised at some of his knowledge; I mean, he was becoming a regular Biblical scholar. But I was also curious at exactly what Jeff was getting at.
“Well, it was because they knew the Messiah had to be coming soon because of ancient predictions by one of their greatest prophets, Daniel.”
“You mean, Daniel of the Book of Daniel – the one who was thrown in the ‘lion’s den?”
Daniel and the Crucifixion Prophecy
“Yes, that’s the one! The angel had to tell me a few things about Daniel because – well, my Biblical literacy of the Old Testament was rather fragmentary. Daniel was a youngster when he was captured by the Babylonians in 605 BC and brought to their capital city. The angel noted that Daniel would never see Jerusalem again and is buried in Susa – a city in current Iran. He found favor with the Babylonian king and brought into the palace to become one of his advisers. Daniel was a very righteous man and prayed several times a day facing Jerusalem as was the custom of the day. He prayed for the restoration of Jerusalem and for his people who were living in captivity in Babylon. The Bible reports that during one of these prayers, he was given a vision regarding the future of Israel including the future Messiah,
Know and understand this: From the issuance of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, until the Messiah, the Prince, there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks, the Messiah will be cut off and will have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
“The word “Christ” means “Anointed One” and it is for this reason that most Biblical scholars – as well as the ancient Jewish rabbis – believed the vision is about the Messiah. Furthermore, Bible scholars believe that a “time” is a Jewish year, and therefore it would be seven sevens and sixty-two sevens or 483 Jewish years until the Messiah would be “cut off” of die. Using this information, it is possible to determine the predicted time of Christ’s death.”
“OK, Jeff, I followed you until the very last sentence; how is it possible from what you just said to determine Christ’s death date?”
“I asked the angel the same thing. I mean, this stuff about a ‘decree’ to rebuild and restore Jerusalem, Jewish years, “times,” it all seemed so confusing. But the angel was – at least this time – rather patient with me because he could see I was struggling to learn and seemed sincere to understand.”
“OK Jeff, so I want to know too; tell me how this all ties together.”
“So, do you know when the decree was given to return to Jerusalem and rebuilt and restore Jerusalem?”
“No, of course not.”
The Decrees from Persia
“There were many decrees given regarding the Jews and their city of Jerusalem. The first such decree was one issued by King Cyrus in 538 BC allowing the Israelites to leave captivity and rebuild the Temple that was destroyed by Babylon soldiers in 586 BC as recorded in Ezra 1:1-4, 5:13. The second decree was by King Darius issued in 520 BC that was essentially a confirmation of Cyrus’ decree (Ezra 6:1 and Ezra 6:6-12). Both of these decrees authorized the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s Temple but not rebuilding of the city or its walls so neither of them could be considered the decree to which Daniel referred.
The third decree was issued by King Artaxerxes Longimanus in 457 BC (Ezra 7:11-26) which related to financial concerns regarding the daily sacrifices at the Temple and not to the rebuilding of the city. However, the second decree issued by King Artaxerxes did relate to rebuilding the Temple and Jerusalem including the walls and occurred on March 5, 444 BC., (Interestingly, the King was called “Longimanus” or “long-arm” because his right hand was longer than his left possibly due to neurofibromatosis – an inherited disease). You might remember Artaxerxes as being the son of Xerxes, the Persian King who invaded Greece as portrayed in the movie ‘300’”
“Oh, I remember him; he was the guy who thought he was a god.”
“Yes, that’s the one. So now with this information, it is possible to determine when Daniel thought Christ was to be revealed in “sixty-two weeks plus seven weeks”, or 69 weeks, giving a total of 69 X 7 weeks or 483 weeks or years in total.” Here we are equating one week as seven years – this can be derived from Biblical references.
“OK, so just how do you propose to get that information, angel?” I asked rather incredulously.
“As you remember, Son of Earth, the Jewish as well as the Babylonian calendar were 360 days in duration. So, the number of days in 483 years is 483 years times 360 days (in a Jewish year) or 173,880 days in total.”
“I guess I will have to take your word for it, angel, because – well, I don’t have access to a calculator right now!”
“So now, Son of Earth, we have to get that number of days into Gregorian years for your calendar. This requires a bit more calculation as follows: We now know that the precise number of days in a solar year is 365.24219879 days, then converting the Jewish years to solar years is as follows:
173,880 / 365.24219879 = 476.06766, or 476 years with 0.06766 year remaining.
“Again angel, I guess I will just have to believe you.”
“Believe it is correct. So when you multiply 0.06766 years (the remainder) by 365.24219879 days/year, you get a remainder of 24.7 days, so I round up to 25 days, so this conversion places us at 476 years and 25 days. Now, if you add 476 years to 444 BC, you come up with 33 AD remembering there is no year zero.”
“OK, I guess I can see that.”
“Now, if you add 25 days to March 5th or the day the Artaxerxes decree was given, you will get March 30th in 33 AD; this was the exact day Christ rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey which historically corresponds to Nissan 10, 33 AD, corresponding to our modern Palm Sunday. Christ was then killed a few days later on April 3, 33 AD (or Nissan 14 – the date of every Jewish Passover which in that year occurred on Friday), dying at 3 PM. Daniel pinned his prophecy to two dates; the date of the Artaxerxes decree (March 5, 444 BC), and the date the Anointed One (Messiah meaning ‘Anointed One’) would ‘come’ to the people and proclaim himself as Messiah (March 30, 33 AD) and then be killed; those two dates were exactly 483 years apart.”
I sank back into my chair with what Jeff was telling me. Daniel lived centuries before Christ was born, and yet he got the exact date of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem where he proclaimed himself the Messiah or ‘Anointed One’ exactly correct – at least that’s what the angel was saying. Of course, this calculation relied upon the two dates being correct but there seemed to be good scholarship concerning both of these dates – certainly as good as any other date. But I wondered if there were any way to know in which year Christ died; I mean, that’s really important for the validity of these calculations.
“Did you know, Son of Earth,” the angel continued, “the ancient prophet Zechariah foretold this very event hundreds of years before it occurred? He said, “Rejoice greatly! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah even predicted the exact name of the Messiah!”
“Luke refers to this event as well, “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king (Christ) who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’
“Angel, why is this entry into Jerusalem so important that it would be specifically referred to hundreds of years before?”
“Because, Son of Earth, of what happened next. During the time of Passover, the male Passover lamb is kept in the house of a family who can then inspect the lamb for any imperfections. Similarly, Christ was “inspected” by the Jewish rulers for four days. This was the time when Christ is announced as a King – it was “his time” – the time of his “visitation.” Christ later weeps over Israel because they failed to recognize him as their Messiah – as their leader who would bless them beyond measure. Instead, they killed him during Passover – just like the Jewish had done with the traditional Passover lamb for hundreds of years up to this point.”
“But the Jews weren’t looking for somebody riding into Jerusalem on a donkey; they were looking for a revolutionary who would lead them in revolt against Rome; isn’t it natural they would have missed this carpenter claiming to the Messiah?”
“But Son of Earth, that is why the Daniel prophecy is so important. Everybody at the time was looking for a Messiah because they knew his time was coming soon. They likely did not have the prophesy down to a day as we can do now, but they knew the approximate time the decree was gen and they were expecting the Messiah 483 Jewish years later.“
“But angel, really, the Daniel prophecy could be pointing to anybody – not just the Messiah! It could be referring to a national leader, for example.”
“Ah, Son of Earth, the identity of this ‘Anointed One’ is clearly given in plain sight giving the codes we talked about earlier. Right there in Daniel 9:26 is encoded the personal name of Christ, Yeshua thereby identifying the future leader who would be ‘cut off.’ Right in the very passage talking about the Anointed One who would be killed is the name of that One – Yeshua.”
“But angel, how do we know that Christ was killed in 33 AD – there’s no good evidence of that date. I know many say he was crucified in 31 AD, or any of a number of other years. I mean, we don’t even know the year he was born; and what about that whole story of a Star of Bethlehem. It makes a cute kids story and a nice Christmas carol but there is no independent source outside the Bible that even talks about such a thing. It has also been shown some of the historical narratives in the gospel is unreliable, and what about the moon turning red, darkness throughout the land, earthquakes – that’s all just fiction.”
“Son of Man, my time with you tonight is about done. I have shown you a great mystery; how Daniel – a prophet who was brought into captivity hundreds of years before Christ, and whose graveside is now in the modern city of Iran or ancient Persia, predicted the exact day when Christ would present himself. That absolute precision is what the Bible is all about.
“Son of Man, we will discuss how we can derive the date of Christ’s death during a later dream.”
“Yea, well …”
“I know you are hardhearted and difficult to convince, Son of Earth. Your heart covets riches and things of this earth rather than the things of God and you wish to continue in that lifestyle. Your time to decide for God is diminishing every day. Still I will try to be patient with you due to your mother’s faithfulness, and will back in your dreams at another date.”
“Why hasn’t everybody heard more about this Daniel prophecy if it is so great? I mean, really, this is one of the most interesting feats of predictive prophecy I have heard?”
“Son of Earth, not everything in Scripture is to be understood by all peoples throughout time. Understanding Scripture is hard work and may require Biblical scholars many generations to unravel. Furthermore, some understanding is held back from mankind until the time is right for people to have that knowledge. God tells Daniel, for example, that much of his work will not be understood by his contemporaries or even his descendants until “the time of the end.” It has only been recently after the establishment of Israel that these difficult passages have made any sense.”
“You are now at the ‘time of the end’ getting very close to the return of Christ. One of the biggest signals of the end of time is the return of Israel.”
“And with that, Dave, the angel again slowly faded from sight and I found myself alone in a dark room. It sure gave me some pause for reflection. I mean, there was a very quantitative prophecy predicting an important event concerning the Messiah. What does it all mean?”
Prediction of Christ’s Crucifixion Date Centuries Before
“So, what do you think it means?” I was curious to see what Jeff made out of what the angel said.
“Well, I don’t know. Sure, it’s interesting; I mean, how could it not be. But whether that proves anything – no, I don’t think so. I mean first, how do we know there even was a ‘Christ’ and if so, how do we know he was crucified? And then, rise from the dead! I mean, how ridiculous is that! No one comes back alive again if they really were dead. I’m sorry Dave, but I think this whole thing could just be a fortuitous chance of events, just numbers pulled out of the Bible where he got lucky. I’m afraid I am going to need evidence.”
“So, Jeff, I’ve been meaning to ask you; what would it take for you to believe the Christian narrative; that there is a God, and that he so loved the world that he died for us. What evidence exactly would it take. We can’t exactly go back in time to see everything firsthand, so we have to rely on evidence from the past – circumstantial evidence. But you know, in a court of law, circumstantial evidence is enough to convict a murderer and send him to jail for life.”
“Well, let me think; I’ve never been asked that before. It’s hard to be an atheist because to be intellectually honest you have to be able to prove in the lack of existence of God; that is difficult at best – I mean, how can you prove that something cannot exist? To be an agnostic is easy; you just say ‘I don’t know.” That way, you don’t really commit yourself one way or the other and you can pretty much live your life any way you want! But to prove the existence of the Christian God would be just as difficult I think than proving the lack of the existence of God.”
“I think that’s exactly the challenge faced by Christ; I mean, how would someone who for the sake of argument prove that he was God?”
“Well, if I remember correctly from my Sunday School days, the way Christ tried to do that in the Bible – just for the sake of argument mind you – was to do miracles, predict the future, and of course the resurrection. But all of those are difficult to prove.”
“What do you mean, Jeff?”
“Well, let’s take miracles for example. Any good magician in Las Vegas can do some pretty amazing illusions and tricks – how do we know the ignorant people living in Israel were just fooled by a trickster? Or, how do we know that the whole gospel account is just made up – the whole thing just a story to keep people in line?”
“OK, so what would it take to convince you that was not the case?”
“Let me continue. And about foretelling the future – didn’t other’s do the same thing – like Nostradamus for example. He wrote Latin poetry in quatrains that was vague enough to be applied to any future event – just like the Bible. Oh sure, sometimes the Bible gets lucky – but so did Nostradamus! Foretelling the future is perfect for a fraudulent preacher, because the future never comes; fulfillment of prophecy might just be around the corner!”
“And Dave, even if you were to actually see something with your own eyes, how do you know you’re not seeing an illusion; something you want to see but didn’t really happen. Like, the resurrection. Maybe the ancient disciples wanted too much to see their Master come back to life that they just believed it happened – or worse, invented the whole thing so their lives weren’t a waste. Can you imagine spending years with somebody who turns out to be a fraud; how do you explain that one to your friends and family?”
“So, it seems like what you’re telling me is that there is nothing that could convince you about Christianity. Even if you were there at Calvary you still wouldn’t have believed your eyes if Christ came back to life, or raised Lazarus from the dead, or fed five thousand people with a few fishes? What could convince you? I guess the better question would be, what might convince you about anything that happened many centuries ago?”
“I guess the only thing would the totality of the evidence. Just like circumstantial evidence in a court, if all the evidence supported the guilt of a man then he could be convicted of the most serious of crimes. Similarly, if the totality of the evidence supports the existence of God or Christ, then I would have to consider the evidence more closely. But so far, I see little of that.”
“But what about the hidden codes, the prediction of the actual date of Christ’s death, prophecies about the crucifixion of Christ, prediction of historical details of important Jewish saves of the last one thousand years – that doesn’t account for anything?”
“Well, yeah, I guess that’s something. But, what about creation of the universe in only six days six thousand years ago, all the inconsistencies in Scripture, the fact that there is no evidence for Moses and millions of Jews being enslaved in Egypt, or going through a desert, the worldwide flood of Noah, that everybody came from Adam and Eve; there are just too many historical mistakes that it is impossible to accept as written by God. Also, what about all those other books of Scripture the church has been hiding from us – I heard about them on Discovery Channel. You know, like the Book of Thomas, the Book of Judas, the Book of Mary – all of those that have stuff in them that contradict what is in the Bible – that’s why the church has banned them.”
“Organized religion bans these books because they challenge conventional Christian theology. Discovery Channel even had theologians who didn’t believe in the Christian God; how do I know you are right and they are wrong – what academic theology credentials do you have? We live in a pluralistic, multicultural society today; why should I believe Christianity is better than all the other religious traditions – or even no religion. That has been the struggle of modern man; to rid himself of superstition, to finally get rid of religion so we could all live in peace”
“Jeff, that’s all well and good, but to believe what you just said – that there is no God and that there should be no religion, you have to refute what the angel has been telling you for the past several months; to be intellectually honest, you have to find an alternative explanation.”
“Well, yeah, I guess that’s true. But the angel has to explain to me how to reconcile all the contradictions in the Bible; and why I should believe such myths as Moses leaving Egypt, or striking a rock with his staff producing enough water for millions of Jewish people in the desert. How is that possible? No, I think it is the angel – or whatever it is that I’m seeing in my dreams – to come up with good explanations for these myths before I consider changing my beliefs.”
“I have a feeling the angel will be having more to say to you about all that stuff; we’ll have to see if he gives you any further insight – or gives up as it seems you are a hopeless case?”
“Yea, and what about all that Christmas stuff; you know, the star of Bethlehem, the Magi coming to give gifts, the whole Herod thing killing baby boys, you know, all that nonsense. Also, aren’t there a bunch of historical contradictions in the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth? I think the whole thing is just a fable put together by his followers to try to give him some legitimacy.”
We would not have to wait too long for an answer to these questions posed by Jeff. He was a hard skeptic – one who would rather not make a decision that would require a choice. Choosing Christianity means choosing another worldview and all that goes with that worldview. But if Jeff were going to be intellectually honest, he needed to carefully consider the evidence – just like a jury; consider the totality of information before coming to a decision.
But would Jeff make such a decision, or would he just put it off until – well, until it was too late? If Jeff waited too long, his decision would be made for him.
We would soon be going back to Jerusalem – back to Christ’s time to find out some facts that have only recently been discovered. Gradually, over the centuries, but more rapidly recently, the story of Christ’s birth has been unraveled. This would the angel’s next topic.