Christian Churches of God
The Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple
(Edition 1.2 19940402-19980822) Audio
The Sign of Jonah was to be the only sign given the ministry of Messiah. The sign relates to the reconstruction of the Temple and that of the seventy weeks of years. The Sign extends on to and has relevance for our days. The prophecy is still in operation and ends in the near future. The understanding of the correct timing of the reconstruction of the temple is vital.
Christian Churches of God
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(Copyright ã 1994, 1998 Wade Cox)
(Summary by John Pierce Ed. Wade Cox)
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The Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple
There are three versions concerning the reconstruction of the Temple:-- the first being the Bible, the second, the Apocrypha at 1 Esdras and the third by Josephus in The Antiquities of the Jews at Book XI Chapters I to IV.
All are agreed that Cyrus delivered up the artefacts of the Temple to Sheshbazzar the Prince (Ezra 1:8) or Governor (Ezra 5:15 or 1 Esdras) of Judea for safekeeping until the construction of the Temple was effected. They were then carried back with the returning exiles.
The altar of the Lord was built in the seventh month of the first year of their return. Most of the exiles went to their towns and not to Jerusalem (Ezra 3:1-3). The foundation of the Temple was not yet laid (Ezra 3:6). Work was begun in the second year with the foundation laid (Ezra 3:10). From this time onward, the Jews were frustrated in their attempts by the inhabitants of the area, the latter day Samaritans. They were not Israelites but Cutheans and Medes, who were resettled in Israel after the ten tribes were taken away, as a deliberate policy by Esarhaddon, King of Assryia.
Josephus has Zerubbabel returning immediately after the decree of Cyrus. The letter to Ahasuerus is the letter to Cambyses and construction is completed in the reign of Darius I. Ezra and Nehemiah return in that reign and the prophets Haggai and Zechariah are raised up in the second year of that reign also. Construction according to him would be completed in 516 BCE. 519-516 BCE was the very earliest time that was allowed for in the prophecy of seventy years made by Jeremiah and repeated by Daniel giving the time for which Jerusalem would be desolate.
Non Biblical Evidence
A most telling corroboration of the biblical narrative comes from Aramaic Letters, translated by H.L. Ginsberg and published in The Ancient Near East: An anthology of texts and pictures (ed. James B. Pritchard, Princeton, 1958, pp. 278-282), which were letters to and from the Jews at the Fortress of Elephantine. This fortress had been manned by Jews and other non-Jewish Semites since the days of the Egyptian kingdom preceding the invasion of the Medo-Persians. An impressive Temple had been built there and was long standing when Cambyses invaded Egypt.
During the reign of Cyrus Macrocheir or Artaxerxes I, the Athenian invasion of Egypt was put down in 454 BCE. The Satrap left in charge was a Medo-Persian named Arsames who reigned as Satrap from 455/4 BCE to at least 407 BCE.
During at least some of that time the leader of the Jews of the garrison was a Jew named Yedoniah. In the fifth year of Darius II, i.e. 420/419 BCE, Hananiah, a Jewish scribe to Arsames wrote to Yedoniah at Elephantine. The letter informed him that Darius had sent word to Arsames authorising a festival of Unleavened Bread for the Jewish garrison. It also gave details of the days of the calculation of the feast commencing with 14 Nisan.
This celebration by order of Darius in the fifth year of his reign is that Passover celebration referred to in Ezra 6:13-22. This celebration took place on the dedication of the Temple, which from the letters at Elephantine would have occurred in 419/8 BCE.
The letter reveals that this Temple was the only one left standing from Cambyses’ invasion. It also revealed that when the disaster occurred a letter was sent to the high priest in Jerusalem named Johanan (410 BCE). This establishes beyond doubt that Darius the Persian referred to at Nehemiah 12:22 was Darius the Second.
The destruction of the Temple at Elephantine was the start of a series of anti-Semitic Egyptian uprisings. This commenced in 410 BCE and continued until the reign of Artaxerxes II who faced an Egyptian rebellion on his ascension in 404 BCE. In 402 BCE he lost Egypt. In 401 BCE he fought a civil war in Persia when the Jews remained loyal and received favourable treatment.
The Myth of the Decree of Artaxerxes
The Bible at no stage mentions any decree by Artaxerxes that was related to the construction of the Temple except to cease construction, as related in Ezra 4:23. When the provisioning decree was issued, the Temple had already been constructed regardless of whether it was issued by Xerxes I or Artaxerxes I or II. In no version known to ancient history, either biblical or non-biblical, is Artaxerxes I credited with any decree favourable to the construction of the Temple or provisioning the Levites. This is a more modern invention.
Theologians who make claim for Artaxerxes I, especially in relation to the 2,300 days or to the seventy weeks of years at Daniel 9 are in error. Where the Bible differs from historical sources it is consistently being proved more correct as knowledge increases.
Seventy Weeks of Years
The prophecy of the seventy weeks of years at Daniel 9:25-27 when taken from the decree of Darius II, ends in 70 CE. It commenced from the surrounding of Jerusalem by Titus’ army on 1 Nisan and continued to the destruction of the temple in 70 CE. The matter ends with the closure of the Temple at Leontopolis in Egypt (see below).
The first Anointed One is Nehemiah who re-established the Temple priesthood by 372 BCE (7 weeks of years) and cleanses the Sabbaths and re-institutes the tithe. He completed the walls of the fortress of the Temple and the walls of the city and reorganised Jerusalem.
The second Anointed One is of Messiah's ministry. But the prophecy refers to Jerusalem and to the function of the Temple, not to the times of Messiah's ministry. Atonement for sin and everlasting righteousness could not be deemed to have been brought in or completed while the ceremonial law was still being enacted. The completion of the prophecy, therefore, was dependent upon removal or elimination of the place of sacrifice.
While sacrifice still continued in the Temple, the Messiah’s sacrifice could not be said to have truly eliminated the daily sacrifice even though it was effected by his death. This prophecy has still not ended, but not as a split week as some claim, but in the fact that the decreed end has not yet been poured out upon the desolator, i.e. the Roman system. This will be, as Revelation reveals, when the city is destroyed and the seventh/eighth empire of ten kings is finally destroyed.
If the decree was taken from 516 BCE from the reign of Darius 1 to follow on directly from the 70 weeks of years then the end of the prophecy was in 26 BCE, which seems to relate to nothing. Modern Christians try to tie the matter to 27 CE and assert Christ’s ministry began then which it did not. Josephus is clearly wrong regarding the commencement and his extensions of the Chaldean dynasty seems to be aimed at extending their reigns to extend dates of the Persian kings to give the prophecy of 70 weeks of years some meaning from Cyrus.
The alteration of the construction of the Temple from Darius II to Darius I appears to be a post-Christian contrivance (adapted by Josephus). It attempts to undermine the significance of the prophecy of the 70 weeks of years and is probably the intention of the apocryphal 1 Esdras, which is in error.
The 70 weeks of years did not commence from the reign of Darius I or from a non-existent decree of Artaxerxes I, but rather from Darius II. It is the positive proof of the Messiahship of Christ and does not require non-scriptural juggling of three and a half or uncompleted seven year periods.
The Sign of Jonah
The Sign of Jonah is the most significant aspect of Messiah’s ministry (cf. Matt 12:39-40). This was repeated at Luke 11:29-32. The Sign of Jonah was not only that he was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, but he also entered Nineveh, which was three days journey across. After one day's journey into the city, he prophesied to Nineveh, which repented after being given 40 days to do so (Jonah 3:3-10).
From Christ’s baptism we see the trial of Satan over the 40 days in the wilderness, prior to Passover of 28 CE and the commencement of Christ’s ministry. The trial of Satan over 40 days in the wilderness was in its own way analogous to the period given to Nineveh, and Satan was judged.
As positive proof of Christ’s ministry, Jerusalem was given a year for a day compared to Nineveh. The third stage of 40 days was, for Judah, 40 years, ending with the total destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, 40 years from Christ's death. Unlike Nineveh they did not repent even though a greater sign was given to them than Jonah at Nineveh.
The major significance of Jonah's mission was that it was to the Gentiles and that he alone amongst the Hebrew prophets effected repentance of the Gentiles. This was a prototype of the role of the Messiah as was indicated by Isaiah 53.
If the Pharisees and Sadducees accepted that the Temple construction occurred into the reign of Darius II, then it was inevitable that they stood condemned and so they contrived erroneous and distorted sequences. Modern Christian distortions of the 70 weeks of years around Artaxerxes I are totally contrary to Ezra and Nehemiah, and because of this are dismissed by Judaism. The 70 weeks of years ended exactly at the completion of the 40 year period given for repentance to Judah and Jerusalem commencing from 1 Nisan 70 CE to 1 Nisan 71 CE, by which time the Temple had been destroyed. Christ’s reference to Nineveh and to Solomon demonstrates the significance of the duration of the Temple and the cessation of the sacrifice. Jerusalem was surrounded on 1 Nisan and it was sacked and the Temple destroyed at Atonement 70 CE. There was still part of the sequence uncompleted.
The 70 Weeks of Years started in the first year of a new Jubilee. That was also in the second year of the reign Darius II. At the end of the Jubilee we see the Restoration of Ezra and Nehemiah (see the paper Reading the Law with Ezra and Nehemiah (No. 250)).
What is not generally understood is that the sacrifice still continued in Judah after the destruction of the Temple in completion of a prophecy in Isaiah 19:19.
It is understood that a Temple had been built at Elephantine and the sacrifice had continued there while the Temple at Jerusalem lay in ruins from the sack of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. This Temple continued in full operation until it was sacked after the Jerusalem Temple had been reconstructed in the reign of Darius II. Jerusalem then continued as the centre of Temple worship for almost two centuries until the second century BCE. Isaiah had prophesied that a Temple would be built in Egypt. This prophecy related to Messiah (Isa. 19:20) who would deliver Egypt. They were under Roman power at the time and Messiah was indeed sent to Egypt for safety as a child. This was to fulfil this prophecy and that in Hosea, so that he might be called out of Egypt as son of God and the first of Israel.
The sacrifice had been continued at Elephantine during the period that the first Temple lay in ruins. God did not allow this Temple to survive after the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem. This time, the new Temple would be made of living stones and the authority had passed from Judah to the Church in the wilderness. This phase of the Sign of Jonah was to judge the nations over 40 Jubilees. The sacrifice was to cease over this entire period of 40 Jubilees. Anyone who attempted to reintroduce the sacrifice has been killed or destroyed.
This completed the 70 weeks of years, which was the allotted duration of the second Temple. The Sign of Jonah was likewise completed and the third Temple from this date was removed from Jerusalem and scattered.
The third Temple, or fourth tabernacle, was to be built of individual blocks of Spirit begotten Sons of God (Zech 3:8-10 and Zech 4). From the advent of Christ, who is to "remove the iniquity of that land in one day", we see the development through Zechariah 4:1-3 of the seven eras of the Church and the two olive trees. These two olive trees are the two Anointed Ones and apply the oil out of themselves through two golden pipes (Zech. 4:12). Thus the third Temple is of the Spirit of God and is to accomplish all things from the oil of the Spirit of God. For grace is given unto it (Zech. 4:7). From Zechariah 4:6 we see that all things are accomplished from that time onwards "not by might, not by power, but my spirit says the Lord of Hosts."
Because of this, the second Temple, or third tabernacle, was limited in time. It had to give way to the third and spiritual Temple, the fourth tabernacle, of the seven lamp stands, which are, the seven eras of the Church (cf. Rev. 2 and 3). These eras were named for areas separate from Jerusalem and commenced from Ephesus as the Ephesian era.
From 70 CE Judah's heart was hardened so that they did not understand the significance of it. It is equally possible that the rabbinical authorities of the time saw the full significance of the prophecy and that they stood condemned by it. From then, the fabrication of the story of construction in the reign of Darius I began to obscure the significance of the matter.
The last sequence of the Sign of Jonah was to involve forty Jubilees. We see from the life of Moses the third and final stage was typified by the forty years in the wilderness of Israel before it took up its inheritance. These forty years were the prototype of the forty Jubilees. The first Jubilee was to involve the birth of Christ and the lead up to his ministry. John the Baptist commenced his ministry in the Jubilee year of 27 CE, which, being the fifteenth year of Tiberias, must therefore have been in October. Hence the significance here was that he commenced when the Jubilee was blown.
As we have seen the symbolism of the restoration of Josiah was in the first year of the new Jubilee. This is exactly what Christ did. He commenced his ministry in 28 CE after the Passover. Thus, the forty Jubilees take the Sign of Jonah up to the establishment of the Millennium in the first year of the new Jubilee in March/April 2028 CE. The sequence of the thirty years is between 1997 and 2027.
The Wrong Track
The pre-occupation of Protestant theologians with the decree of Artaxerxes stems from attempts to relate the prophecy to a mistranslation of Daniel 9:25 in the King James Version. In the late 1830s William Miller chose this for the commencement date of the prophecy of 2,300 days. Why he and others should have made this error is puzzling.
The commencement of the prophecy is stated in Daniel as being from the time when the sanctuary is trampled underfoot and the continual burnt offering in the Temple is taken away. This period did not happen from, or coincide with, any of the construction decrees or the provisioning decree.
Relating the Prophecy of 2,300 Days
The earliest time from which the prophecy can date was the invasion of Jerusalem and desecration of the Temple by Ptolemy (Soter) at the end of 302 BCE. This places the completion of the prophecy, at its earliest date, at the end of 1998. Being the most probable date, this means that all will be accomplished from 1999. Some relate the cessation of the daily sacrifice to Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 BCE, which could place the completion at 2133 or 2134 but this would not coincide with Daniel 12 or Revelation. Similarly, a 197 BCE date would produce a date of 2108.
In 197 BCE, Judea became a province of the Seleucid Empire, the Eastern successors to Alexander from which Antiochus Epiphanes came.
End of the 70 Weeks of Years
The end of the prophecy of the 70 weeks of years and the details surrounding the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE require detailed examination to ensure proper understanding.
Jewish jurisdiction over the Temple was recognised and endorsed by the Romans. The prohibitions against Gentiles entering the inner courtyards of the Temple was endorsed by the Romans and the punishment was death, even if he were a Roman citizen. The Romans confirmed Jewish capital jurisdiction even over non-Jews. It was for this reason that Paul had to appeal to the Emperor (Acts 25:9-12) and only this prevented Festus from dealing with Paul in accordance with Jewish law.
Jews were also exempted from military service to prevent conflict with the feasts and Sabbaths. Judah remained until 70 CE an administrative unit with its own provincial government.
The Roman army in Caesarea, up until the outbreak of the Jewish War in 66 CE, consisted mostly of Syrian Caesarean and Sebastene troops.
The last construction on the Temple was of a wall on the highest part of the building belonging to the inner court on the western side to prevent Agrippa's view of the inner court during the ceremonies (Schurer, Vol. I, p. 475). The destruction of this wall was prevented by appeal to Nero and on intercession of Poppea, Nero's wife. At this time the high priesthood, being appointed by Agrippa, commenced to seize the tithes and the poorer priests died of starvation (ibid., p. 465, pp. 468-470).
By 62 CE this last construction on the Temple was completed and the removal of the tithes established as the norm by Agrippa's nominees, commencing with Ananus.
From 62 CE under the high priest, Ananus, Agrippa's nominee, many of the priesthood were executed. The high priest of the fourth tabernacle or the third Temple, James, Bishop of Jerusalem, the brother of Jesus Christ, was executed (ibid., p. 468). This signified the end of the priesthood of the Temple in Jerusalem and the end of the 62 weeks of years. The new procurator, Albinus, (62-64 CE) was extremely evil, plundering both public and private moneys, including the treasury.
From this time onward, the high priesthood was a refuge for scoundrels. In 64 CE Nero declared the persecution of Christians in Rome, and tradition has it that Peter and Paul were martyred. The "Pact with many" against Jew and Christian was widespread. In 68 CE the monastery at Qumran was destroyed, and also Nero was deposed.
The revolutionaries developed the practice of kidnapping the priesthood for exchange of prisoners. By 66 CE the authorities with the Syrians et al. commenced the action, which became the Jewish War.
From 1 Nisan 70 CE Jerusalem was surrrounded. On the Day of Atonement 70 CE the Temple was destroyed and from Atonement 70 CE there was no Temple or sacrifice and oblation until the final end of the war in 73 CE with the fall of Masada. This period is that referred to by Daniel 9:27.
For a week of years, the main body of the people ceased to practice their religion, i.e. from 63 CE to 70 CE because of the pollution of the Temple and the thefts of the tithe and the deaths of the priesthood. The term for half of that time sacrifice and offering shall cease is generally taken to refer to half of the week of years, but it probably refers to the time after the destruction from 70-73 CE when the nation fought on but without the Temple or sacrifice.
Thus, the 70 weeks of years is clearly a fulfilled prophecy. After the death of James and prior to the destruction in 70 CE, the Church fled Jerusalem to Pella (ibid., p. 498 & note 65). They knew from prophecy that the end of this period was to occur and the next Temple of the seven churches, the fourth of Ezekiel's covering cherubs (Ezek. 1:15), was to commence. From Ecclesiastes 6:6, Solomon had indicated that it may last two thousand years. The Sign of Jonah then went into its next and little understood phase, the time of the Gentiles. This was to last for forty Jubilees until the return of the Messiah and the start of the Millennium referred to at Revelation 20:4.
The Church under Symon nephew of Messiah returned to Jerusalem around 72 CE and established the churches of the Desposyni or those belonging to the Lord. They provided bishops to the churches of Asia and Egypt for many decades until Rome replaced them with Greeks.
One might well ask the question: What would have happened had the Jews repented? The answer is provided by the reference to Israel in the wilderness where the spies or witnesses were sent to spy out the promised land. They refused to take up their inheritance witnessing against the productivity of their inheritance. Not one person over twenty who grumbled against God was allowed to enter the promised land except Joshua and Caleb (Num. 14:6-7). The children were given forty years in the wilderness as wandering shepherds paying the penalty of their unfaithfulness. This represented Judah and Levi at the time of Messiah.
The forty days of witness became the forty years of the Sign of Jonah from Messiah to the destruction of the Temple. The forty years in the wilderness became the forty Jubilees of the wanderings until the second coming.
Judah could have repented and we would have been brought in under their leadership. They did not repent, and God knew they would not repent. We were then called out under different circumstances. Judah will be given repentance soon.
The end of the period, for a week of years, the main body of the people would cease to practice their religion and, for half of that time, sacrifice and offering shall cease.
A study of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple shows that this prophecy was completed in 70 CE.
Some teach that the decreed end will be poured out on the desolator for 3½ years, i.e. the period of the plagues of the wrath of God at Revelation. Whilst the 3½ year period will occur, attempting to relate them to this prophecy is a very dubious argument. Others teach that the period of a week of years is reserved for the time of the end. There is definitely no support for any such contention.