- One of the most remarkable prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures points to the coming of the Messiah to the city of Jerusalem to the very day.
Have you ever sung the chorus, “This is the day that the Lord has made,/We will rejoice and be glad in it”? Or perhaps you have recited it in church or have read it in the Bible?
We sing , speak, or read it and apply it to the day we are having. That is fine, but when it was written, the Holy Spirit had another day in mind. A day that was yet to come, but one which David and the righteous inhabitants of Jerusalem were looking forward to.
That chorus about the day that the Lord has made is taken from Psalm 118. Even today it is part of what is sung as the Passover Praise or Hallel, Psalms 113 through 118. It is reasonable to assume that when Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn after the Passover meal (Mark 14:26), the hymn was one or all of these praise Psalms. Long before Jesus’ ministry they were associated with Passover in the minds of the Jewish people.
Let’s review part of what Psalm 118 says:
I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death. Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks for you have answered me; you have become my salvation.
The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. (Psalm 118:17-27)
That is where the clause “This is the day that the Lord has made” came from. What does it mean? Jesus Himself gives us a clue.
There is one time when Jesus refers to these verses. Jesus was teaching and debating in the Temple during Passover preparation the day after Palm Sunday. He had told a parable about the owner of a vineyard who let his tenants run the vineyard. They persecuted the owner’s servants and, finally, killed his son. Then Jesus said:
Have you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, it is marvelous in our eyes”? (Matthew 21:42).
Jesus had this verse in mind. Certainly He is applying it to Himself, to the son whom the tenants kill, to the stone rejected by the builders. He emphasizes that the Lord has done it, and it is marvelous, amazing.
It would be most appropriate for Jesus to refer to this passage considering the events of the day before. Jesus had entered Jerusalem on a donkey, and crowds greeted him, spreading branches on the road and crying out, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:8,9).
Look at what the people said. Precisely the words of Psalm 118, verse 26. Those verses were understood to refer to the Messiah. They were not meant for anyone else, since he alone was the “righteous” who “may enter.” They were also repeating the words to Psalm 118 in their shout, “Hosanna!” Hosanna is the Aramaic for the Hebrew hosahanna. The words, which would have been familiar to any Jew because they are part of the Hallel, the first words of verse 25 of Psalm 118. They mean, “Save us,” or “Please save us.” (If the crowd were saying the Hebrew word, hosanna could also be the New Testament Greek rendering, as the Greek pronunciation or transliteration is always a bit different from the original.)
So the people of Jerusalem were calling out to Jesus as he entered. They were recognizing him as the righteous one who could enter in the name of the Lord. And, using the language of Psalm 118, they were asking Him to save them. Only God’s Messiah could save.
Looking back to Psalm 118, we can begin to see that Psalm 118 is prophetically significant. Jesus was blessed by the people “out of the house of Lord,” as we are told He was acclaimed right into the Temple (Matthew 21:15). So Psalm 118 describes a procession, a triumphal procession, where the Messiah, the King, the Son of David is recognized.
Note one other thing in Psalm 118. The procession described in the Psalm is joyful. The people are glad and full of praise. But the procession ends at the altar. The procession ends at the Temple, yes, but it is, in reality, like Passover, a sacrificial celebration. “With boughs in hand, join the festal procession up to horns of the altar.”
Yes, the boughs are in hand. The one who saves is coming. But the procession ends at the horns of the altar. The procession ends in sacrifice. The one being acclaimed is the King, but he is also the victim, the bound Lamb slain on the altar.
That is amazing. That is something only the Lord could do. It is marvelous. Palm Sunday was Jesus’ “triumphal entry,” but only Jesus seemed to know that it would end his sacrificial death. Yet, that is precisely what the Psalmist was describing.
We are told in Luke that the procession began on the Mount of Olives which is to the east of Jerusalem. Jesus rode down the Mount, across the brook Kidron, and into one of the city gates which leads to the Temple (presumably the Golden Gate which has been closed now for centuries).
As He looked upon the city from the Mount, He wept. He wept for Jerusalem “because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:44) The King James Version says “the day of the Lord’s visitation.”
What did He mean by that? Jesus had come to Jerusalem may times before. Why was this particular day “the time of God’s coming”?
In John’s account of the triumphal entry, he reminds us that this was a fulfillment of what the prophet Zechariah had written.
Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written:
Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt. (John 12:14,15; Zechariah 9:9)
The prophet had seen Zion’s king coming on a donkey. Here was the fulfillment. In Zechariah 9:9 we have the added words, “Your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation.” He is the Messiah, the King. He is righteous. He has salvation. It is right to say Hosanna to Him. The crowd shouting “Hosanna” and Psalm 118 understood this.
Zechariah continues in a vein similar to Psalm 118. “As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit” (Zechariah 9:11). Just as the context of Psalm 118 includes sacrifice, so Zechariah tells us that the Lord’s covenant includes blood. Zechariah also emphasizes that the salvation of Messiah is not just for Jews or Jerusalem:
He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to ends of the earth. (Zechariah 9:10)
So, yes, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem was described prophetically in at least two different places, the Psalms and Zechariah. This was certainly a day that the Lord wanted His people to recognize and remember.
We should also note that when Jesus entered the Temple, he threw down the tables of the moneychangers (Matthew 21:12,13). This is often called “the cleansing of the Temple.” That would be most appropriate for a procession which would end at the horns of the altar. Before a sacrifice could be made, the altar had to be cleansed. The Temple had become corrupt. It had to be purged in spirit before the perfect sacrifice could be made.
Jesus’ discussions and debates in the Temple area from Palm Sunday to His arrest point to His ministry that week even more. One other Psalm Jesus quoted besides Psalm 118 was Psalm 110. It was the Scripture that silenced his opponents.
Jesus was reminding his opponents that He was the Son of David, as the crowds had proclaimed. He then went on:
“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
“The son of David,” they replied.
He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”‘ If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Matthew 22:42-46).
Jesus is clearly claiming that Messiah, whoever He may be, is God. But he is also saying that He is the One because He is the Son of David who has fulfilled prophecy. But that Psalm He quoted also makes another claim about Messiah.
Like the passage from Zechariah, the Psalm emphasizes Messiah’s rule, but it also tells us:
The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are priest forever, in the order of Melchizidek.” (Psalm 110:4)
So the Messiah will be a priest. Not a priest in the line of Aaron, but in the order of Melchizedek. So part of Jesus’ ministry is that of priest, where He would have to come to the Temple. By His sacrificial death on the Cross, He also interceded for us. He brought salvation as the prophet said.
Melchizedek was a different priest, though. We read about him in a few verses in Genesis where we are told two things about who he was.
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram. (Genesis 14:18,19)
He was priest. He was also king. And not just any king, but the king of Salem, or Jerusalem. (The prefix “Jeru-” just means “city.” Salem was probably not a yet city in Abram’s day.) So Messiah would be a priest, but also king of Jerusalem.
Who was the next king of Jerusalem we read about after Melchizedek? David, of course. And Jesus was the heir to David. So Jesus was declaring not only His religious authority, but His right to Judah, and even more specifically to Jerusalem. Yet Jerusalem, He had said, did not recognize when her king was coming.
It is also worth pointing out that in all the opposition to Jesus, no one is recorded who seriously disputed His ancestry. Earlier in His ministry some people questioned this in John 7:42. But the issue was not brought up again. Indeed, Temple records would have shown both Jesus’ ancestry and his birthplace. He was a descendant of David. No one rebuked His followers for saying that.
There is one more very specific prophecy concerning the Anointed king coming to Jerusalem. It sheds light on Psalm 118 and Zechariah 9. It also is a solid demonstration of the accuracy of Bible prophecy.
Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. (Daniel 9:25,26)
This prophecy is remarkable for several reasons. It tells us that the Anointed One, the Messiah, will be “cut off” or killed. It also tells us that He will come before the city and the Temple are destroyed. This means the Messiah had to have come before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. It also tells us Messiah would not only die, but be killed. The only way He could still be a “priest forever” would be if there is a resurrection.
In addition, the prophecy sets a date for the coming of the Anointed One to Jerusalem comes as ruler and savior. The “sevens” or, in some translations, “weeks”, (the Hebrew is the same) mean here “seven years.” If it is 62+7, or 69, times seven years from the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem till Messiah’s coming, we should be able to figure out the date He would appear to the city.
This is complicated slightly because it appears that whenever the Scripture uses years for computing, it uses 360-day or “lunar” years. We see this from the Book of Genesis (7:11,24; 8:3,4) where five months is 150 days to the Book of Revelation (12:6,14; 13:5) where 1260 days equal three and a half years. This means that the 69 times 7, or 483, are lunar years. Converting 483 lunar years to the 365.24-day solar years which we use today, we get 476 years, 25 days, and about six hours.
The order to rebuild and restore which specifically mentioned Jerusalem’s streets and defenses was issued in 444 B.C. This was in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes of Persia who gave the order to Nehemiah (see Nehemiah 2:1 and 2:7-10). The walls were clearly built in “distressing times” because much of the Book of Nehemiah tells of the opposition he encountered, and that even the construction workers had to wear swords.
We can even date the exact date of the order to rebuild because common Jewish practice was to date official orders from the first of the of the year. The order was given in the month of Nisan according to Nehemiah 2:1. Nisan is the beginning of spring, the month of Passover, and corresponds to our March or early April. This is the first month of the year according to Numbers 28:16.
The months in the Jewish calendar begin on the day of the New Moon. From astronomical calculations of the phases of the moon, we know that Nisan 1 in 444 B.C. was March 4 in our calendar. 476 solar years and 25 days from the fourth of March 444 B.C. comes out to Sunday, March 29, A.D. 33. That was the Sunday before Passover in the year 33–the likeliest date for the triumphal entry.1
The prophecy of Daniel computed Messiah’s entry to the very day!
Not only was Jesus “the Lamb slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), but God had foretold the very day in which He would come as King to present Himself to the city for sacrifice. No wonder Jesus could emphatically call that day as Jerusalem’s day of visitation. No wonder Jesus could say to those who told Him to tell His followers to be quiet: “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)
That was the day of Messiah’s coming. That was the day the people of the city recognized Him as King and Savior. That was the day that branches were cut down in a procession which led to the Temple, and, ultimately to the altar of sacrifice. That day had been designated to the very day centuries before. That was the day that the Lord had made!
This is an example of remarkable dating of events from the Bible. There are others, and they all point to the uniqueness of Bible prophecy. This shows us a few things about what we can and cannot do about date-setting, especially end-times date-setting.
First, it is important to understand that as far as we can tell, no contemporary of Jesus, other than Jesus Himself, was using the prophecy of Daniel to count the years very specifically. The Bible does give us a sense that some Jews were aware that they might be living in Messianic times. The prophet Simeon, who prophesied over the infant Jesus, was one such person. The Talmud tells us that certain events in Judea, especially the complete Roman takeover of the government in A.D. 6, made some Jews mourn that Messiah had not come in spite of the loss of Jewish sovereignty. John the Baptist certainly attracted a following with his message of repentance and the coming of the Kingdom.
However, there is nothing to indicate that any of these would have been counting days or years from Daniel. Daniel himself, we are told, was apparently the one Jew who recognized that the seventy years of exile prophesied by Jeremiah were coming to a close. Clearly, this did not matter to a majority of Jews, as most of them stayed in Babylon. A minority of probably fewer than ten percent resettled the Holy Land. Since Daniel is described as a leader of the Persian wise men, it is certainly a possibility that the Magi who came from the East were familiar with Daniel’s writings. That could explain why they sought the King of the Jews, but the Bible is silent on that.
Jesus tells us to be ready at all times because we do not know when the Lord will return. He emphasized in Acts 1:6 and 7 that it is not for us to know:
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”
And he said unto them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.”
As we have seen, Jesus said that even He did not know:
But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matthew 24:36)
It would not be surprising that in the future heavenly kingdom, the Lord might show various prophecies which point specifically to the timing of the Day of the Lord. But, like the prophecy of the weeks of Daniel, or those prophecies concerning Messiah’s origins, we really will not understand them until they come to pass.
Second, God is precise. There are certain things that will happen as the end approaches. The Bible gives us a lot of indications. A number of passages have the phrase, “In the latter days,” or “In the last days,” or “In the day of the Lord.” We can look for patterns and expect certain signs.
Since certain passages in Revelation speak precisely of 1290 days and three and a half years, whenever those events come to pass, it may be possible for alert believers to come close to understanding when those days will be over. There have been a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction, which purport to set scenarios for those last years. There is so much symbolism, and so many similar but not identical prophecies, that I believe it is impossible to predict much now. As they come to pass, that may change.
Third, God is in control. He has shown things to his servants the prophets. (Hebrews 1:1) The flow of history has God behind it. How much is human will and how much is God’s permission, I am at a loss to say. However, God can see the beginning from the end. He knows what will happen.
Fourth, the church can be strong because the God of the Bible is true. We can have confidence in what the Bible foretells. It may be delayed. It may not make complete sense to us until after the fact, but the world has a destined meeting time with Jesus. As the time draws near and we become more aware of the tribulation around us, we can be excited. Those who are not submitted to the Lordship of Jesus have time to do so before it is too late. The Lord will return for a vigorous church. People will see and know the difference between what God promises and what “the world” promises.
1 There are a number of reasons why A.D. 33 is the likeliest year apart from this prophecy. Passover began that year on a Thursday evening. We are told that Jesus was approximately 30 years old when He began His public ministry, and he ministered publicly for about three to four years. When Dionysus (or Dennis) Exiguus computed the birth year of Jesus in the year 535, he assumed Jesus was 33 at the time of His crucifixion. This is why the year A.D. 1 was set when it was. Some external evidence today suggests Dennis may have missed the birth date by a few years, but he was working backwards from the death date. (This is mostly from the assumed death date of Herod the Great, but a recent study showed that the oldest printed version of Josephus contained a copyist’s error when compared to all manuscripts, and Josephus’s record gives us that date.) A.D. 33 also corresponds well with the various political events mentioned in the Gospels – Tiberius as Emperor, Herod and Herodias, John the Baptist, Pilate as a beleaguered governor, among others. It also has been noted that during the Passover in A.D. 33 there was a total lunar eclipse (perhaps the “blood moon” referred to in Acts 2:20) which actually began at 3:00 p.m. Friday. In Jerusalem the rising moon was already in eclipse.
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Hoehner, Harold. Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ. Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan, 1977. Print.
Jones, Floyed Nolen. Chronology of the Old Testament. 16th Ed. Green Forest AR: Master Books, 2005. Print.
Larson, Frederick A.The Star of Bethlehem. 2015. Web. 12 December 2006. <http://www.bethlehemstar.com/>.
McDowell, Josh. Daniel in the Critics’ Den. San Bernardino CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1979. Print.
Copyright©1999 James Bair, All rights reserved.