The Triumphal Entry
In their attempts to solve the sixty-nine weeks, many writers have said the event marking the official coming of Christ was His Triumphal Entry (1). Matthew's account of this event does in fact stress that it 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.
Yet there are two problems in identifying the Triumphal Entry as the fulfillment of the sixty-nine weeks.
- When defining the fulfillment, the original prophecy in Daniel 9:25 says nothing about Messiah coming to Jerusalem. It merely says that there would be sixty-nine weeks until Messiah the Prince. The wording suggests that the weeks would terminate at His first appearance in His princely role. Neither prophecy nor the Gospels give us any reason to think that Jesus became King at the time of His Triumphal Entry. In fact, Zechariah's prophecy of the Triumphal Entry (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.
- Scripture clearly marks another event as Christ's first appearance as King. That event was 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.
- It was seen by only some of the disciples—specifically, by only three.
- 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 which Jesus said would come soon, during the natural lifetimes of those disciples who would see it.
Manifold considerations support viewing the Transfiguration as the official coming of Christ.
- What the disciples saw was Christ's "coming in his kingdom" (Matt. 16:28).
- Any doubt that this phrase 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.
- 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
- 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 did not need to name it, for his readers would surely know which one he was referring to.
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 vision could be. But for several reasons, the alternative sense must be Peter's intent (5).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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
Manifold evidence also establishes that the Transfiguration was the first appearance of Christ as the King, thereby fulfilling the prophecy that sixty-nine weeks would usher in Messiah "the Prince".
- Jesus' exact prediction a few days before the Transfiguration was that they 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).
- After returning from the mountain, Jesus' first miracle was to heal a boy possessed by a demon. Luke says that this miracle displayed His "mighty power" (Luke 9:43), a single Greek word that in his Gospel he uses only here. It also means "majesty" (7).
- 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 had refused to receive Jesus as royalty (Luke 9:51-56).
- When Peter looked back on the Transfiguration, he remembered that they "were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Pet. 1:16). The word "majesty" here is the same as "mighty power" in Luke 9:43 (8).
What then was the Transfiguration? It was the coronation of Christ. According to the writer of Hebrews, He had to be crowned with glory and honor before He could taste death for every man.
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.
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.
The Offices of Christ
Christ has three offices altogether.
- 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.
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.
- He is a priest after the order of Melchisedec.
Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
- 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.
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.
If the Transfiguration brought Jesus into His kingly office, did other ceremonies bring Him into His offices of prophet and priest? The Father spoke to Jesus in an audible voice from heaven on three occasions: 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,
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.
On the premise that Jesus received one of His offices on each occasion when the Father spoke to Him, Pink conjectured 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 voice from heaven (9). But with respect to the last two occasions, Pink has transposed their proper interpretations. In fact, Christ became a king at the Transfiguration, and He became 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 priests had always performed their service to the Lord.
Conversation Signaling the Start of the Terminal Month
If we are correct in identifying the Transfiguration as the fulfillment of Daniel 9:25, it must have occurred in the month following December 8/9, AD 31. How can we prove this? The Gospels must furnish certain information. First, they must report an incident that we can set on the momentous date we have just calculated, December 8/9, AD 31. Second, they must tell us how long afterward the Transfiguration took place. According to prophecy, the interval must be less than a month. Third, once we have computed the date of the Transfiguration, Scripture must provide some way of verifying it.
The preface to the prophecy in Daniel 9:25 commands us to know and understand it. So, if we are on the track of the right solution, we should find the information we need. But if we are not on the right track, if we are forcing Scripture to fit a solution we have contrived but God did not intend, it is impossible that we would find such information. If it is there, it is there for only one reason—to enable us to solve the riddle.
Do the Gospels in fact relate an event that marks the arrival of December 8/9, AD 31? Yes, the prediction we have just been considering—Jesus' prediction in Matthew 16:28 that some of His disciples would soon see Him coming in His kingdom. Why did Jesus announce the Transfiguration several days ahead of time, and why do the Gospels record His announcement? To show us that the month at the end of the sixty-nine weeks had now arrived. Thus, the time had come for Jesus to reveal Himself as Messiah the Prince.
This announcement is actually the last in a series of earth-shaking announcements that He made in a single conversation with His disciples. The whole series points to the imminent close of the sixty-nine weeks. The fullest report of the conversation appears in Matthew 16.
13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.
21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
To compute the date of Christ's coming, we need not assume that the whole conversation took place on one day. Yet the assumption is critical for one way of verifying our solution. Support for this assumption comes from the other Gospels that cover events leading up to the Transfiguration. The fullest coverage outside of Matthew is in Luke.
18 And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
19 They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again.
20 He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.
21 And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing;
22 Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.
23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
25 For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
26 For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father's, and of the holy angels.
27 But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.
28 And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.
Luke says that the Transfiguration took place a certain number of days "after these sayings" (v. 28). The expression "these sayings" seems to encompass everything back to verse 18, giving Jesus' question, "Whom say the people that I am?" We find a narrative break at the beginning of verse 18, which starts with an expression marking the passage of time, "And it came to pass." But afterward, there is no clear break until verse 28. Although a possible break occurs in verse 23, where it says that Jesus left off teaching His disciples and addressed a crowd, Mark indicates that when the crowd came to hear Him, the disciples had not departed, but were still present (Mark 8:34). We conclude that the sayings in Luke 9:18-28, which correspond to the conversation recorded in Matthew 16:13-28, fell within the confines of a single day. If these sayings indeed show that the final month of the divine schedule of weeks had arrived, that day was December 8/9, AD 31.
During the far-reaching conversation on that day, Jesus affirmed three astounding truths that previously had been veiled in mystery. Each truth was connected in some fashion with the completion of the sixty-nine weeks. In effect, the new teaching was an announcement that Daniel's prophecy was about to be fulfilled. The three truths newly revealed were as follows:
- In asking His disciples who He was, Jesus phrased the question so as to prompt the right answer (v. 13). He identified Himself as the Son of man, a title drawn from the Book of Daniel (Dan. 7:13). The answer Peter gave was, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16). "Christ" is the Greek equivalent of "Messiah" (10),a title Jesus bears in the prophecy of the sixty-nine weeks (Dan. 9:25). Jesus' assent to this answer (Matt. 16:17) marks the first time in His recorded ministry that He openly acknowledged His identity to His disciples. What Jesus said on this occasion was, in essence, "Yes, I am the One whose coming at the end of sixty-nine weeks is prophesied in Daniel 9:25."
- Jesus revealed His intention to found the church (v. 18). No earlier reference to the church, by that name, appears in the Gospels. To understand why this was the right moment to make His intention known, we must consider the significance of the seventy weeks. When they began in Nehemiah's day, they represented the remaining time of God's special dealings with the Jewish nation. The first sixty-nine lasted until the life of Christ. The seventieth is still future. Between them, as we have often said, lies the long period of history known as the Church Age. The conversation in Matthew 16 was the appropriate time for Jesus to reveal the church because the sixty-nine weeks were just then coming to an end. The next phases in God's program for human history were the redemptive work of Christ for the whole world and the founding of the church. There would soon be a change in dispensations—from the dispensation of law to the dispensation of grace, from the Mosaic system to the church, from the times of preparation to the Church Age.
- Jesus began to teach His disciples that He must suffer and die (v. 21). He chose this occasion to reveal His coming ordeal because, on the prophetic timetable, the cutting off of the Messiah was the next event after completion of the sixty-nine weeks (Dan. 9:26).
Date of the Transfiguration
Do the Gospels tell us when the Transfiguration took place in relation to the conversation in Matthew 16? Very seldom do they specify the amount of time between consecutive events, yet each of the Synoptics gives us the desired data. According to Matthew and Mark, Jesus and three disciples departed for the mountain "after six days" (Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2). Luke says "about an eight days after" (Luke 9:28), but he is using a rounded number. By inclusive reckoning, the interval between two times a week apart is eight days, because the sum embraces the days at both ends. Thus, we infer that Luke is saying "about a week later." We may assume that the exact count, "after six days," is also based on inclusive reckoning. This is remarkable information. It is not random information, but information for a purpose—to enable us to date the Transfiguration.
We have shown that the opening day of the month during which, according to prophecy, Messiah the Prince would come was December 8/9, AD 31. We have argued that this was the day when Jesus elicited Peter's confession, announced the church, first warned of the Messiah's coming ordeal in Jerusalem, and foretold that some of the disciples would soon behold His kingly glory. If He and His little band of witnesses then departed after six days, the date was December 13/14, AD 31.
The fourteenth was a Friday (11). On that day, "Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart" (Matt. 17:1). By his mention of no day other than the day of departure, the narrator implies that it was still Friday when they came to the place of prayer. Then, "Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him" (Luke 9:32). The revelation of Jesus' glory seemingly came after nightfall.
It appears, then, that the Transfiguration took place on the night of December 14/15, AD 31, in either the late hours of Friday or the early hours of Saturday. Among the Jews, the day was the Sabbath. (The Sabbath begins on Friday evening.) On what other day could the King be crowned who will bring a Sabbath rest to the whole world?
The date of the event terminating the sixty-nine weeks unveils the date of the opening event: the heavenly commandment issued as soon as Nehemiah began to pray. The date of the opening event was November 23/24, 446 BC, also a Sabbath.
Can we verify that Jesus indeed entered His kingly office on December 14/15, AD 31? Yes, in three ways. All three view the date of the Transfiguration in relation to the date of the Crucifixion. Our next task therefore is to prove that Jesus died on April 3, AD 33, a Friday. On the Jewish calendar it was Nisan the fourteenth, the same day as Passover. In the light of presently available evidence, this date critical to our solution of the sixty-nine weeks can be rated as nearly certain.