31 A.D., Fact or Fiction?
Does June 4, 2017 mark the establishment of God’s Church, 1,986 years ago?
God’s late apostle, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong taught God’s Church began in 31 A.D., on the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).
In his final book, “Mystery of the Ages,” Mr. Armstrong wrote, “The Church started on the day of Firstfruits called Pentecost, in June of A.D. 31.” (pg. 275)
This date was established by identifying the year in which Christ died. Christ’s death and the establishment of God’s Church occurred 53 days apart, in the spring of the same year.
The biblical basis Mr. Armstrong used for determining 31 A.D., came from his understanding of the 70 weeks prophecy found in Daniel 9, which he explained in his booklet, “The Resurrection Was Not on Sunday.”
“It is significant that in Daniel’s prophecy of the “seventy weeks” (Dan. 9:24-27), Jesus was to be cut off “in the midst of the week.” While this prophecy has the application of a day for a year, so that this 70th week became a literal seven years, Christ being “cut off” after three-and-a-half years’ ministry, as He was, yet it is significant that He was also “cut off” on the middle day of a literal week.” (pg. 12)
This prophecy was given to Daniel by the archangel Gabriel at the end of Judah’s 70 years of punishment (Dan. 9:1-2, 21). It contained information about the future of Jerusalem, which was to begin after the Jews began returning from captivity in Babylon. It is important to realize this prophecy has not yet been completely fulfilled.
It is a mistake to mark the start of this prophecy based on Ezra's arrival in Jerusalem (Ezra 7:8). Gabriel specifically said the prophecy would begin at “the going forth of the command” (Dan. 9:25a). Ezra’s departure from Babylon to Jerusalem, marked the start of the 70 weeks prophecy, in the spring of the year.
This prophecy is divided into 3 time periods of 7 weeks, 62 weeks and 1 week (Dan. 9:25b, 27a) for a total of 70 weeks or 490 years, using the day for a year principle. The timing for these 3 time periods is key for understanding the information Gabriel gave to Daniel.
The next 62 weeks or 434 years encompassed events affecting Jerusalem following the lives of Ezra and Nehemiah through the death of Jesus Christ (Dan. 9:25).
The 7 weeks and 62 weeks are consecutive to each other. These 2 time periods mark an uninterrupted period of time totaling 69 weeks or 483 years.
The 70th week, consists of 7 years, and will mark the fulfillment of this prophecy, which culminates in the return of Jesus Christ. It is important to realize nearly 2,000 years exist between the end of week 69 and the start of week 70.
Was 31 A.D. correct?
Mr. Armstrong understood and taught that Christ’s ministry began at the end of the 62 weeks. From this point, Christ’s ministry was 3 ½ years in length, comprising the 1st half of the 70th week.
In his booklet, “The Crucifixion Was Not on Friday,” Dr. Herman Hoeh reiterates Mr. Armstrong’s understanding of the 70 weeks prophecy.
“Jesus, according to Daniel’s prophecy, was anointed the Messiah in 27 A.D., which was 483 years after the decree of Artaxerxes to restore Jerusalem. Jesus was about thirty years old when He began His ministry in the autumn of 27 A.D. The prophet Daniel foretold that the length of Christ’s ministry at His first coming—to confirm the new covenant—would be one half of a prophetic week of seven years” (pgs. 25, 28, 31).
Note: The end of 62 weeks and 69 weeks are a synonymous point in time. These time periods have different starting points, but the same ending point.
Does the end of 62 weeks mark the beginning of Christ’s ministry or something entirely different?
Notice exactly what Gabriel tells Daniel would happen at the end of 62 weeks.
“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; . . .” (Dan. 9:26a).
Gabriel is specific that “after” 62 weeks are complete, “Messiah shall be cut off.” This is a direct reference to the death of Jesus Christ (Isa. 53:4-6). Gabriel is not speaking about the start of Christ’s ministry, but the end of His physical life.
The historic record confirms 457 B.C. marked the seventh year of Artaxerxes’ reign, thus the starting point for the 70 weeks prophecy (Ezra 7:7-9). Going forward 7 weeks (49 years) plus 62 weeks (434 years) puts the 69 weeks (483 years) concluding at the end of 26 A.D., using the Hebrew calendar.
God’s Word is clear! Jesus Christ was not crucified in the spring of 31 A.D., but in the spring of 27 A.D., after the 62 weeks were complete. This also confirms the establishment of God's Church occurred in 27 A.D. too.
The Bible reveals Christ’s crucifixion occurred on the 4th day of the week (Wednesday). It must be noted that Passover in 31 A.D. occurred on a Monday, not a Wednesday as previously understood. Dr. Hoeh’s calculations for Passover in 31 A.D. are incorrect and not consistent with the start of the Hebrew calendar (Exod. 12:1-2).
The table below provides Julian calendar dates for the Passover from 27 A.D. through 33 A.D. This table verifies Dr. Hoeh’s dates for Passover in the years, 29, 30, 32 & 33 A.D., located on pg. 20 of his booklet. However, it does not confirm a Wednesday Passover in 31 A.D.
Note: Passover always occurs on the 14th day of the 1st month, using the Hebrew calendar (Lev. 23:5).
Only 2 possible Passovers (27 A.D. & 30 A.D.) out of these 7 dates show Passover occurring on a Wednesday. Of these 2 Passovers, only 27 A.D. coincides with the day of Christ’s death and the end of the 62 weeks.
Why the mistake?
A fair question to ask at this point is, “How could Mr. Armstrong make such a mistake?”
The answer can be found in his understanding of Daniel 9:27. Notice who Mr. Armstrong identifies as “he” from his booklet, “The Resurrection Was Not on Sunday.”
“While this prophecy has the application of a day for a year, so that this 70th week became a literal seven years. Christ being “cut off” after three-and-a-half years’ ministry, as He was, yet it is significant that He was also “cut off” on the middle day of a literal week.” (pg. 12)
Mr. Armstrong believed the individual Gabriel referred to as “he” in verse 27 represented Jesus Christ.
Dr. Hoeh shared this same view on the identity of “he” in his booklet, “The Crucifixion Was Not on Friday.”
“The prophet Daniel foretold that the length of Christ’s ministry at His first coming—to confirm the new covenant—would be one half of a prophetic week of seven years” (pg. 31).
Mr. Armstrong and Dr. Hoeh understood the “he” in verse 27 to represent Jesus Christ. This belief affected their understanding of the timing involved with the 70 weeks prophecy.
The true identity of “he” in verse 27 is the Beast of Revelation 13. This individual will make a future treaty with many peoples over the status of Jerusalem. The implementation of this treaty will mark the start of the 70th week.
At the mid-point of the week (3 ½ years), the beast will break this treaty and set-up an abominable idol on the outer edge of a temple complex soon to be constructed in Jerusalem (Dan. 9:27; Rev. 11:1-2; Matt. 24:15), completing the remainder of the week (3 ½ years). The setting up of this abomination will mark the start of Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21). The completion of this final week will be immediately followed by the sound of the 7th trumpet and the return of Jesus Christ (Dan. 12:7, Matt. 24:29-31). The 70th week is composed of 7 consecutive years.
By incorrectly identifying “he” as Jesus Christ, Mr. Armstrong unknowingly added an additional ½ a week (3 ½ years) to Christ’s physical life. This miscalculation affected his understanding of when Christ’s ministry began, the year of His death and the year in which God established His Church. Based on Mr. Armstrong’s explanation, Christ was “cut off” after 62 ½ weeks, not 62 weeks as Gabriel told Daniel.
Mistakes of 70 weeks prophecy summarized
1) Placing the start of the 70 weeks in the fall of the year, when it actually began in the spring of the year on the 1st day of the 1st month of the Hebrew calendar (Ezra 7:9).
2) Assigning the start of Christ’s ministry at the end of 62 weeks, when Gabriel specifically said, Christ would be crucified at the end of 62 weeks (Dan. 9:26a).
3) Adding an additional ½ a week (3 ½ years) to Christ’s life after His death and resurrection.
The chart below details Mr. Armstrong’s understanding of the 70 weeks prophecy and the establishment of God’s Church from the end of the 62 weeks.
Separating fact from fiction
Fact: The 70 weeks prophecy began in the spring of the year (Ezra 7:9).
Fiction: The 70 weeks prophecy did begin in the fall of the year.
Fact: Jesus Christ was crucified on Wednesday, April 9, 27 A.D.
Fiction: Jesus Christ was not crucified on April 25, 31 A.D. as Dr. Hoeh calculated Passover for that year. Passover in 31 A.D. occurred on Monday, March 26.
Fact: 53 days later, on June 1st, 27 A.D., God established His Church on Pentecost.
Fact: June 4, 2017 marks 1,990 years since the historic events of Acts 2 occurred.
Fact: Mr. Armstrong was a human being prone to mistakes, as all God’s servants are (I Thes. 4:16-17). Yet, God used him to lead the Philadelphia era of His Church (Rev. 3:8), and when he died, the final era of Laodicea began (Rev. 3:14-19).
Fact: In conjunction with his leadership of the Philadelphia era, Mr. Armstrong took the gospel to the world as a witness, thus fulfilling Christ’s prophecy in Matthew 24:14. Those still trying to fulfill Christ’s prophecy are in error and do not fully understand the times they are living in.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 3:22).