The Triumphal Entry


In their attempt to solve the riddle of the sixty-nine weeks, Anderson and many others have said the event marking the official coming of Christ was His Triumphal Entry (1). Matthew's account does in fact stress that this event was a statement of His kingship.

4 All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,

5 Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.

Matthew 21:4-5

Yet there are four flaws in identifying the Triumphal Entry as the fulfillment of the sixty-nine weeks.

  1. When defining the fulfillment, the original prophecy in Daniel 9:25 says nothing about the Messiah entering Jerusalem.
  2. No account of the Triumphal Entry speaks of it as the coming of Christ, or as the fulfillment of Daniel 9:25.
  3. Even if we understand the prophecy as pointing to Jesus’ first appearance as the Prince, we find no evidence in the Gospels that He assumed His Princely role at the time of the Triumphal Entry. In fact, Zechariah's prophecy (the prophecy quoted by Matthew) seems to say that He would be King already before He came to Jerusalem.

    Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

    Zechariah 9:9

    Also, we find no evidence in the Gospels that Jesus had not previously manifested Himself as the Prince. His disciples had for some time been debating which of them should be greatest in His kingdom (Mark 9:33–34; Luke 9:46).
  4. Viewing the Triumphal Entry as the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy fails to follow the clues. Like the other wrong identifications, this also arises from a human perspective. As men ourselves, we naturally assume that Christ's official coming was when other men acclaimed Jesus as Messiah the Prince. But from a heavenly perspective, it was when God the Father recognized Jesus as the rightful possessor of this exalted title.

When we search sacred history, we find two events of the right character. The first was the Transfiguration, which Scripture clearly marks as Jesus' entrance to His kingly office. It was then that the Father crowned the Son. The second event was the triumphant occasion when the risen Jesus sat down at the Father’s right hand. We will show that both Jesus' coronation and His enthronement provided exact fulfillments of Daniel's prophecy.


The Transfiguration


A few days before the Transfiguration, Jesus presented His disciples with a rich feast of new teaching (Matt. 16:13-28). His last saying was, "There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (Matt. 16:28). A casual reader might suppose that Jesus was predicting His second coming. But His coming with great power and glory would not occur until all His disciples had tasted death. Many expositors—William Kelly, J. C. Ryle, A. C. Gaebelein, H. A. Ironside, John F. Walvoord, and J. Dwight Pentecost, to name a few (2)—have decided that Jesus was speaking of the Transfiguration. This event fits the description. The witnesses were limited to only some of the disciples—specifically, three—and they saw it before they died.

The writers of the Synoptic Gospels could hardly make it more obvious that the Transfiguration was the predicted event. Not only do they place the Transfiguration next in the narrative (the Greek originals contain no chapter divisions), but also they introduce the Transfiguration with the comment that it took place shortly, within a few days, after the prediction. The clear implication is that the Transfiguration was the event Jesus had just placed in the near future, during the natural lifetimes of those disciples who saw it.


The Coming of Christ


Much evidence establishes that the Transfiguration was the official coming of Christ.

  1. What the disciples saw was indeed Christ's "coming" (Matt. 16:28).
  2. Any doubt that this term designates His official coming is dispelled by the question which the three disciples asked the next day as they accompanied Jesus down the mountain. They said, "Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?" (Matt. 17:10). Their puzzlement had no basis unless they believed that they had just witnessed the coming of Christ.
  3. In later years, Peter also referred to the Transfiguration as Christ's coming, saying,

    16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

    17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

    18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.

    2 Peter 1:16-18

  4. Peter went on to say that the Transfiguration was a fulfillment of prophecy, evidently a particular prophecy of such salient and singular importance that he need not identify it, for his readers would surely know which one he meant.

    We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

    2 Peter 1:19

    A literal translation of the opening words gives, "And we have more sure the prophetic word" (3). The sense conveyed by the KJV is grammatically possible, but so also is another sense: "And we have as more sure the prophetic word" (4), implying that the Transfiguration certifies the truthfulness of prophecy. Many expositors opt for the KJV's slant on Peter's statement, arguing that Scripture never sees itself as in need of vindication. They take Peter to mean that the written Word of God is a more reliable guide to truth than any personal experience could be. But for several reasons, the alternative sense must be Peter's intent (5).
    1. There are other texts which present the fulfillment of one prophecy as grounds for believing another (Isa. 38:1-8) or which say that the predictive accuracy of Scripture substantiates its general reliability (Isa. 46:8-13).
    2. Peter includes himself among those who have a surer word. He says "we." He cannot be expressing any doubt or reservation of his own as to the validity of his experience on the mountain. Quite the contrary. The passage is infused with confidence that in fact he beheld divine glory invested in Christ.
    3. Scripture cannot be saying of itself that it is more sure than the Transfiguration, since Scripture also says that the Transfiguration really happened.

The Coronation of Christ


Much evidence establishes that the Transfiguration was also the first appearance of Christ as the King, thereby fulfilling the prophecy that sixty-nine weeks would usher in Messiah "the Prince".

  1. Jesus' exact prediction a few days before the Transfiguration was that some disciples would see Him "coming in his kingdom" (Matt. 16:28). He meant that they would see Him come as the King. In other words, He would, before the eyes of some of His disciples, be inducted into His kingly office. The Transfiguration was therefore both His coming and His coronation (6).
  2. After returning from the mountain, Jesus' first miracle was to heal a boy possessed by a demon. This miracle displayed His "mighty power" (Luke 9:43), a single Greek word that in Luke's Gospel occurs only here. It also means "majesty" (7).
  3. That the three disciples themselves looked upon the event as Jesus' coronation is evident from their behavior afterward. Immediately, "there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest" (Luke 9:46); that is, the greatest in His kingdom (Matt. 18:1). Then James and John wanted God to rain fire upon the Samaritan cities that refused to receive Jesus as royalty (Luke 9:51-56).
  4. When Peter looked back on the Transfiguration, he remembered that they "were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Pet. 1:16). "Majesty" is the same Greek word that is translated "mighty power" in Luke 9:43 (8).
  5. The Father's first words from the overshadowing cloud were, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 17:5). Here we detect an unmistakable echo of Psalm 2, the psalmist's vision of a future conversation between the Father and the Son, when the Father would say, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (Ps. 2:7). The prophecy had two fulfillments: at Jesus' baptism, which we will discuss later, and at His transfiguration. When the Father descended to the mountain and bestowed royal dignity upon His Son, He directed our thoughts to Psalm 2 because it emphasizes the Son's kingship.

    6 Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

    7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

    8 Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

    Psalm 2:6-8

  6. The Father's last words on the mountain were addressed to the three disciples who stood there in the place of all humanity. He demanded, "Hear ye him" (Matt. 17:5). This was the Father's delegation of authority to the Son, His elevation of the Son to royal sovereignty. In consequence, all humanity is now obliged to hear and obey King Jesus.

What then was the Transfiguration? It was the coronation of Christ.

7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:

8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.

9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Hebrews 2:9

The writer is not speaking of crowning in any figurative sense, for the word refers to an event simultaneous with Jesus’ elevation to sovereignty (vv. 7–8). This crowning took place before Jesus’ death, while He was still lower than the angels (v. 9). No later time would have been appropriate because He had to be crowned with glory and honor before He could taste death for every man. In other words, before He could suffer and die as man’s substitute, He had to take Adam’s place as king (or federal head) of the human race.

Peter's remembrance that Jesus "received from God the Father honour and glory" at the Transfiguration makes it plain that this was the occasion of His crowning (2 Pet. 1:17). Like a physical crown, glory and honor were tokens of His exalted position. He was glorified by being transfigured with light, and He was honored by the Father's words.

1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

Matthew 17:1-5

The Offices of Christ


Christ has three offices altogether.

  1. He is a prophet like unto Moses.

    For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.

    Acts 3:22

    The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.

    Deuteronomy 18:15

  2. He is a priest after the order of Melchisedec.

    Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.

    Hebrews 5:10

    The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

    Psalm 110:4

  3. He is a king in the line of David.

    Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.

    Romans 1:3

    I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the off-spring of David, and the bright and morning star.

    Revelation 22:16

If the Transfiguration brought Jesus into His kingly office, did other ceremonies bring Him into His offices of prophet and priest? The Father spoke in an audible voice from heaven on three occasions during Jesus' ministry: at His baptism, at His transfiguration, and during one of His last visits to the Temple before His death. The third occasion is remembered only in the Gospel of John. As Jesus stood in the midst of a crowd gathered to hear His teaching, He prayed to the Father, and the Father replied in a voice like thunder.

28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

29 The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.

30 Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.

31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.

John 12:28-33

Arthur W. Pink, a well-known writer of Bible studies in the early part of the twentieth century, suggested that Jesus received one of His offices on each occasion when the Father spoke from heaven; specifically, that He became a prophet at His baptism, a priest at His transfiguration, and a king on that day during Passion Week when His audience in the Temple heard the Father’s voice (9).


Jesus' Assumption of His Prophetic Office


Linking the Baptism with Jesus' installation as prophet makes good sense, because His submission to this rite marked the beginning of His prophetic ministry to the nation. Immediately afterward He began serving as a herald of divine truth.

The Father's words from heaven on that occasion were the same as His words at the Transfiguration, except for omission of the command to hear Jesus. The heavenly voice resounded, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17). Again, the allusion was to Psalm 2, but now it was relevant for a different reason. The opening verses were precisely suitable to prepare Jesus for His prophetic ministry.

1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying,

3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

5 Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

Psalm 2:1-5

The Father was warning Jesus that He would be rebuffed as a prophet. Even the most powerful men of His nation would conspire against Him. But the Father sitting on His transcendent throne would have them all in derision. He would bring His Son to triumph over His enemies.


Jesus' Assumption of His High Priestly Office


Pink's understanding of the Baptism was correct, but with respect to the Transfiguration and the heavenly voice heard in the Temple, he transposed their proper interpretations. In fact, as we have shown, Christ became a king at the Transfiguration. It remains then that He must have become a priest on that day shortly before He offered up His own body as a sacrifice for sins.

It was fitting that He should receive the priestly office as He stood in the place where the Levitical priests had always performed their duties. The time had come for Him to enter the priesthood because, after His triumphal entry, the Jewish leaders not only failed to revoke their recent indictment of Jesus (recorded in John 11:47-57), but hardened their hearts against Him, setting in motion the judicial machinery that would end His life.

The theme of Jesus' sayings right before and after the Father spoke is the priestly role He would soon perform.

23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

27 Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. . . .

31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.

John 12:23-27, 31-33

He announced that He would die like a seed in order to bring forth much fruit (v. 24). Yet after this act of sacrifice on behalf of others, He would be glorified (v. 23). Scripture teaches that He was glorified in both His person and His station, for He assumed a radiant body (Rev. 1:12–16) and sat down at the Father’s right hand (Ps. 110:1; John 17:5); also, that the joy set before Him gave Him strength to endure the Cross (Heb. 12:2). But as we learn here in John 12, His fundamental motivation was not to gain anything for Himself, but to glorify the Father's name (v. 28), the same motivation that should control every one of Jesus' followers (1 Cor. 10:31).

The Father responded to Jesus by declaring, "I have both glorified it [my name], and will glorify it again" (v. 28). We cannot be dogmatic concerning which past and future events He intended, but it is possible that He was referring to law and grace. He glorified His name when He gave Moses the commandments revealing Himself as a holy God, and He would glorify His name again when He offered mankind a remedy for sin through the completed high priestly work of Christ.

Footnotes

  1. Sir Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince, 10th ed. (repr., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1984), 125-127; Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1977), 139. The other writers who have also identified the Triumphal Entry as the fulfillment of the sixty-nine weeks are a multitude too great to enumerate here. Many have taken their cue from Anderson.
  2. William Kelly, An Exposition of the Gospel of Luke, 3d ed. (repr., Sunbury, Pa.: Believers Bookshelf, 1971), 144; J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. Mark (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., n.d.), 174; A. C. Gaebelein, The Gospel of Matthew: An Exposition, 2 vols. combined (New York: Publication Office, Our Hope, 1910), 2:59; H. A. Ironside, Expository Notes on the Gospel of Matthew (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Bros., 1948), 209; John F. Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 126; J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ: A Study of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), 255.
  3. George Ricker Berry, Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (n.p., 1897; repr., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1981), 828.
  4. D. Edmond Hiebert, Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary (Greenville, S.C.: Unusual Publications, 1989), 77.
  5. To say that Scripture has no need of vindication has an air of piety about it, but is irrelevant. The point is that God vindicates Scripture as a concession to our miserable ignorance and unbelief. One could say as plausibly that the claims of Jesus had no need of vindication.
  6. G. H. Pember, The Great Prophecies of the Centuries Concerning the Church (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1909; repr., Miami Springs, Fla.: Conley & Schoettle Publishing Co., 1984), 392-399; Francis J. Lamb, Miracle and Science: Bible Miracles Examined by the Methods, Rules, and Tests of the Science of Jurisprudence as Administered Today in Courts of Justice (Oberlin, Ohio: Bibliotheca Sacra Co., 1909), 245-252.
  7. Marvin Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, 4 vols., 2d ed. (n.p.: [c. 1888]; repr., McLean, Va.: MacDonald Publishing Co., n.d.), 1:347, 685.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 1 vol. ed. (Swengel, Pa.: I. C. Herendeen, 1945; repr., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975), 680.