Sunday, July 27, 2008

Reflections on Ethan's Birth Day

It is July 27, 2008. Tomorrow morning is when my daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, is going to be born. I’m currently sitting in the terminal at Baltimore-Washington International and my flight is delayed to thunderstorms here and at home in Atlanta. My experience today reminded me of when my first child, Ethan, was born.

The time was February of 2004 and we were living in Florence, Kentucky where I was a First Officer with Atlantic Coast Airlines/ Delta Connection flying from the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). Debi and I had been going to frequent ultrasounds, and a couple of days after one of them, we received a call from the doctor’s office telling us that they thought that the most recent ultrasound showed a birth defect on the baby. We were instructed to come in for another ultrasound with a specialist at a neighboring hospital two days later and about a month prior to the due date.

I was off work when for the ultrasound, but was scheduled to work the following day. At the time, I was a reserve pilot at the airline, which meant that, even though I was on duty, I might fly and I might not. As it turned out, the company called and assigned me a trip for the day after the ultrasound. I was to leave CVG and fly through Boston to an overnight in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

We reported for the ultrasound together with our pastor, Steve, who came for moral and spiritual support. The technician started looking at the baby, making notes, and not saying a whole lot. Finally, the medical gurus told us that they were concerned because Debi’s amniotic fluid was low. For some reason, this reminded me of Lewis Grizzard’s book, If Love Were Oil I’d Be a Quart Low. Unfortunately, their solution was not to add a quart, they wanted to keep Debi in the hospital overnight and give her an IV to bring up her fluid level.

This caused a problem. I had a limited number of sick days. I had applied for FMLA for when the baby was born, but I was a regional airline FO. Regional First Officers are poor and FMLA is unpaid leave if you run out of sick time. I could not afford to be out of work long and I might have to miss more work days after the baby was born.

We talked it over and finally decided that since Debi would be going home in the morning, I should go on to work. I felt uneasy at the prospect of leaving my pregnant wife in the hospital, alone and eight hours away from both of our families. As I was about to leave to go home and pack my bag for Canada, a nurse nonchalantly told me, “You might want to wait. I think you are going to have a baby in the morning.”

My reaction was basically, “huh?” This was quickly followed by the slightly more verbose, “are you serious?” She was.

I’m not sure who was more shocked: Steve or me.

I still really have no idea when or exactly why the doctor decided to induce labor. At the time, it really didn’t occur to me to ask. The next few hours are a blur of calling our parents and telling them that their grandson would be born the next morning, not a month from now, and, no, I wasn’t kidding. My parents had non-revenue/standby travel benefits from my company so I booked them on a flight to CVG. Debi’s parents set out on the eight-hour drive as quickly as they could pack.

The new plan was to have Debi spend the night in the hospital where they would monitor her and the baby throughout the night. They would induce labor with Poticin in the morning, then we would go home with a happy, if slightly smaller than expected, baby boy.

That afternoon, I went to pick my parents up at the airport and pick up Debi’s suitcase, which, she had already packed, thank goodness! Our carefully laid plans were all falling apart. We were having the baby a month early and in a completely different hospital than what we had planned. We had recently completed the nursery, but Debi had a baby shower scheduled at our church the following weekend. She had actually joked about not being able to go if the baby came early. Only now it didn’t seem very funny!

I spend that night at the hospital with Debi while my parent stayed in our apartment. Debi’s parents spent the night on the road between north Georgia and northern Kentucky. Ironically, Debi’s sister was also pregnant. She had set up a c-section for February 17, so Debi’s parents thought that they would have plenty of time between births. Now they were dealing with having two grandchildren within days of each other.

I remember the night of February 11, 2004 as being one of the longest nights of my life. On top of the anxiety of becoming a parent the next morning, Debi was trying to sleep with a fetal monitor across her stomach. She would get comfortable, then Ethan would move. The nurses would immediately realize that they were no longer monitoring the baby and come in to readjust the monitor, which would wake us up. I don’t know exactly how many times this happened throughout the night, but I’m sure it was at least a million.

Finally, morning came. With it came the nurses with Debi’s dose of Potocin at around seven o’clock. Not long after, Debi’s parents arrived just in time. About the same time, the medicine kicked in and Debi started having contractions. We were going to have a baby!

It wasn’t long after that that the doctors and nurses started looking worried again. Ethan’s vital signs were erratic whenever Debi had a contraction. He was going into fetal distress. The doctor thought that the umbilical cord was probably wrapped around his neck, which could cause major problems as the birth proceeded. Someone mentioned the possibility of sending Debi to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, but my sweet, southern wife put her foot down: “I don’t want no yankee baby!”

The next thing that I knew, they were suiting me up in scrubs for an emergency c-section. It is probably a good thing that I had no idea this was coming; otherwise I would have been more nervous than I actually was. As it is, I was more numb than nervous.

In much less time than you would think, they had Debi in an operating room. When they had her settled, they brought me in and gave me a seat by her head. As I sat down, alarms started going off and the nurses and doctors looked up in alarm! They quickly determined that everything was all right; I had just sat on a cord going to the monitoring equipment. They told me to move. Stat!

The actual c-section was uneventful. It was a little bit surreal looking my wife’s organs being moved about by doctors. In no time at all, they pulled forth from her a baby boy.

The nurse asked if I would like to see my baby. I felt torn between staying beside Debi and going to Ethan, but she indicated that I should go. I don’t remember holding him then, but I went to the table where the nurses were examining him.

I remember hearing that babies often looked pasty at birth. Not Ethan. He was born looking as if he had a tan. I remember his head full of black hair and his blue eyes, as well as his really pronounced lips. I put my finger in his tiny hand and he grabbed it.

The nurses said that he was perfectly healthy. There was no sign of a birth defect.

Shortly after that, we were back into Debi’s hospital room with a new baby in her arms. Our parents said that we left so suddenly that they didn’t know where we went. You can imagine their shock when we showed up with Ethan in hand.

We did take the opportunity to play a practical joke on the grandparents. We (I) had toyed with several potential names, as all parents do. We considered Andrew Taylor, a nod to Debi’s maiden name and the Andy Griffith Show. I kept saying that we should name him Ezekiel and call him “Zeke.” Since his birthday, February 12, was Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, we told the assembled crowd in the hospital room that we had decided to name him “Abraham Ezekiel.” There were more than a few forced smiles in the room at that point.

An additional item that will be good blackmail material when Ethan starts dating came before we left the hospital. The name card on his basinet read in big blue letters: “I’M A BREASTFED BOY.” We definitely got a picture of that.

The story after that is routine. Ethan went home with us three days later. He was healthy in spite of being born a month early. At five pounds one point four ounces, he had virtually no body fat, so he ended up spending a night in the incubator after a checkup the following week.

A memorable moment was the first time I changed a diaper… ever. There in the hospital nursery, in front of doctors, nurses, and everyone, my newborn son peed on me. After that I learned to treat a little boy like a loaded weapon. Don’t point it at anything you don’t want to get shot and keep it holstered as much as possible.

And, oh yeah, the baby shower that Debi missed? The church people brought it to her after she and Ethan had returned home. It's a rare thing for a baby to be the guest of honor at his own shower!

So here I am four years later. Ethan is about to be a big brother. Debi is again wondering if I’ll be there for the big moment. The family is assembled and I’m just waiting on Air Tran to let me know when I’ll get there. All I can say is that if the eve of Sarah’s birthday is any indication, it will be an interesting experience.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cord Blood Banking

In recent years, the prospect of medical advances from the use of stem cells have been the subject of celebration and controversy. The use of embryonic stem cells to cure numerous diseases has also led to the creation of services that allow parents to store the blood from the umbilical cord, which contains embryonic stem cells from your baby.

According to proponents, embryonic stem cells are likely to provide treatments for a multitude of diseases in the future. Stem cells are cells that have the ability to develop into different types of cells in the body. Because they have the ability to transform into a variety of different cells, many scientists believe that they have the potential to create replacement cells and provide cures for diseases. The use of embryonic stem cells has been controversial because much of the research involving them involves the destruction of embryos, resulting in the death of the baby.

One advantage of banking cord blood is that it does not result in the death of the baby. Blood in the umbilical cord, which is normally discarded along with the cord and placenta, contains stem cells that might one day be valuable to your child’s health. The cord blood registry companies charge an initial fee of approximately $1,500 to $2,000 dollars initially, plus an annual fee of about $150, to store your child’s cord blood. Advocates state that these stem cells might help not only your child, but other members of your family as well.

Before you decide whether to make this rather substantial investment, there are a few things that you should consider. One is that although stem cells are currently used in the treatment of over seventy diseases, none of these treatments require the use of embryonic stem cells. All stem cell treatments currently in use are a product of adult stem cells.

A second consideration is that new research indicates that is possible to create stem cells from ordinary cells. Researchers have used human eggs and skin cells to create cells that act like stem cells. Creation of these pseudo-stem cells also does not harm human embryos. Therefore, if embryonic stem cells used to create a treatment in the future, banked cord blood might not be necessary to take advantage of it.

A further consideration is that cord blood is needed by some transplant patients. Patients with leukemia and lymphoma, as well other diseases, frequently need donated blood cells, although not stem cells, to aid their bodies in accepting transplanted organs. A sibling normally provides the best match for compatible tissue.

As the birth of my daughter approached, we discussed the possibility of using a cord blood bank with our doctor. The doctor said that, in his opinion, the decision bank cord blood relied on two main factors. One factor is how much of a financial hardship the fees would be. Cord blood banking is expensive, especially when you consider that the expense is coming at a time of other major expenses such as the medical costs of pregnancy and delivery and the costs associated with outfitting your home with the necessary paraphernalia that a baby needs.

A second factor is the likelihood of needing the cord blood in the near future. If you believe that your child has a high probability of a serious medical problem, such as cancer, then cord blood banking might be a good idea. Similarly, since these blood cells often match siblings, banking might help your other children who are ill. There is also a chance that the cells could match other family members as well.

The doctor also pointed out that advances in medical technology, such as the ability to replicate stem cells, might well render the need for cord blood cells unnecessary in the near future. In some cases, even if blood cells or stem cells are needed, they can be obtained from other sources, such as a sibling or bone marrow. Very few people who bank cord blood ever need to use it. He also noted that he did not choose to bank his own child’s cord blood.

In the end, we decided not to bank our daughter’s cord blood. In our opinion, the large cost and the low probability of using the blood in the future made it seem to be an unnecessary expense to us. Instead, we are considering donating the cord blood to a public blood bank. There is a much higher probability that a stranger will need our daughter’s blood cells to help survive a transplant. Maybe the life we created can help give life to someone else.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ga Ga for Geocaching

Sneaking a peak at something in his hand, the stranger walks up to the bus stop and sits on the bench. He casually looks around and, when he sees no one is watching him, reaches under the bench. He pulls a small object from under the bench. He examines the object, opens it, and pulls out a piece of paper. He unrolls the paper, makes a note on it, and replaces it in the object. He then replaces the object under the bench, and strolls away.

The stranger is not a spy or drug dealer engaging in nefarious deeds. He is a geocacher, who has just logged another find.

I became aware of geocaching several years ago through coworkers and acquaintances that were involved in the sport. I recently received a GPS for Father’s Day and decided to try searching for a cache. My frequent business trips give me the opportunity to geocacher around the country, although at this point, I am still a novice.

Geocaching (pronounced “cashing”) is a relatively new sport that revolves around the availability of handheld GPS (global positioning system) units. Geocaching is essentially a high-tech scavenger hunt in which cachers look up the coordinates of caches on the internet, and then use their GPS units to find them. When they find a cache, they log their find on the internet. Some caches are only large enough to hold a piece of paper for cachers to sign. Others are large enough for cachers to swap small trinkets and coins. Still others are virtual caches that are simply logged on the internet.

GPS is a satellite navigation system that first became operational in the early 1990s. In the early days, it was primarily a military system. Civilian GPS receivers had only a limited ability to decode the GPS signals, and so were not as accurate as military units. That changed on May 1, 2000 when the Department of Defense turned off selective-availability, which greatly improved the accuracy of civilian units. Geocaching got its start a few days later on when Dave Ulmer of Oregon placed a cache, which was found twice in the next few days.

Today, GPS accuracy is much improved by the addition of more satellites to the GPS constellation. However, a civilian GPS still does not have pinpoint accuracy. Most GPS units can find a position within 30-40 feet. When searching for a cache, this means that your GPS will get you close, but you still have to do some looking.

To start geocaching, visit The site is the grand central station of the geocaching world. It includes a section on how to get started and has links to websites that will help you select a GPS unit. You can purchase a GPS for approximately $150. Registration on is free for basic services. You can become a premium member for $30 per year.

Once you have your GPS, the next step is to find a cache. On, you can search for a cache in several different ways, including near an address and by ZIP code. On my trips, I usually search for caches using the address of my hotel. In most areas, there are a multitude of caches within one mile of the hotel.

Caches are listed with a name, code, and distance. There is also a rating on how difficult the cache is to find and how difficult the terrain around the cache is. A novice geocacher would probably want to look for 1s in both areas. Icons tell the type of cache as well as identifying caches that contain special items such as travel bugs and geocoins.

A travel bug is a tag that is attached to an item. You then place the bug in a cache and track it as cachers move it from cache to cache. Geocoins are promotional coins with unique IDs that are tracked like travel bugs.

An important item to note about the cache page is its size. Caches range from micro, about the size of a film canister, to large ammunition cans and watertight plastic containers. Micro caches are more common in urban areas because they are easier to conceal. Larger caches may require camouflage to prevent passersby from finding them.

People not in on the geocaching game are referred to as mugglers. Mugglers sometimes muggle, or remove, caches. Geocachers should try to avoid mugglers to ensure that caches are not muggled.

An assortment of tricks and camouflage are used to prevent muggling. Micro caches can be concealed in nooks and crannies. Magnetic key holders could hold a micro cache. Larger caches can be hidden under leaves, rocks, bricks or other debris. Fake rocks can also camouflage a larger cache. Cache creators can be very creative.

Geocaching has become a popular family activity. Adults and kids alike enjoy getting out and searching for a cache. Kids enjoy swapping items, such as small toys, from the “treasure chest.” Kids sometimes seem to have an easier time finding caches than the adults.

Geocaching can be whatever you want it to be. Whether you want to drive directly to the cache site or go on a hike, you can find caches to suit your preference. Many of the caches that I have found were in urban areas where my feet never left the pavement. With 620,132 caches currently listed on, the odds are that you can find a suitable cache near you, no matter where in the world you are.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Book Review: The Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker

Thomas Hunter is man caught between two worlds. After hitting his head, he wakes up in an alternate future Earth separated into areas of good and evil. When Hunter sleeps in the alternate world, he wakes in our Earth, and vice versa. This is the premise of Ted Dekker’s masterful Circle Trilogy.

The Circle Trilogy is composed of the books, Black, Red, and White. The books are a science-fiction/fantasy epic as well as a spiritual allegory. In a true Alpha and Omega story, Dekker provides a synopsis of the Bible from the Garden of Eden through the resurrection of Jesus to the birth of the Christian church.

The first book in the series, Black, begins as Hunter discovers his predicament and begins to learn about the future world. An encounter with the demonic Teeleh reveals to Hunter that a deadly virus is about to be unleashed in the 21st century Earth. When he sleeps in the future and wakes in the present, Hunter begins a quest to convince authorities of the danger and stop the virus, which according to the Histories, leads to the Great Deception, a Tribulation-like era.

The future world seems to be representative of both the future Millennial Reign of Christ as well humanity’s past in the Garden of Eden. We are specifically told that it is a future Earth and this is confirmed in Red and White as we learn more about the Books of the Histories, volumes that contain details of the Earth’s history. Some books of the Bible, including the Gospel of John, are included in the Books of the Histories.

Hunter’s future Earth is also symbolic of the Garden of Eden. Even though there is a large society, rather than a single couple, the good side of the future Earth is a beautiful and innocent place characterized by a lush rainbow forest where God, Elyon, and man exist together. The inhabitants of the rainbow forest are protected from the demonic bats, inhabitants of the dark forest, by a river that separates the two forests. The river is bridged, but the bats cannot cross. Unfortunately, the paradise that is the rainbow forest is vulnerable to rebellion and the bats are only too willing to deceive the humans with their forbidden water, which Teeleh claims will give knowledge.

Red is the fall of man. The bats are unleashed from the dark forest and wreak havoc on the rainbow forest. A disease is unleashed in both worlds. The deadly virus is unleashed by terrorists in our world, while the destruction of the rainbow forests leads to a degenerative skin disease in the future. The skin disease can be treated by obeying a set of rules handed down by Elyon, including bathing in protected lakes. The Forest People, as they are now called, have added to these rules over the years to create a complex code called the Great Romance, which is akin to the Talmud. The priest who oversees the new religion is Ciphus.

The Forest People are in a state of constant war with the Horde, the remnants of the rainbow forest dwellers who are victims of the skin disease. Hunter is now leader of the Forest Guard, a legend among friend and foe alike. Meanwhile, in the present day, Hunter leads a desperate effort to find an anti-virus to save the world from a horrible death.

The title of the book refers to the blood shed by a former member of the Forest Guard who tries to make peace between the Horde and the Forest People. Instead, he is betrayed and executed in an obvious allusion to Jesus Christ. His sacrifice leads to a method of permanently curing the skin disease by being “baptized” in a pool of red water.

The series concludes with White. The final installment deals with last-ditch attempts to forestall the virus. In the future, Hunter tries to gain access to the Books of the Histories while engaging in covert operations in the present day. White also deals with the persecution by the Horde of the new sect called the Circle. The volume is an allegory of the love of Elyon for His people, whom He considers His bride.

The Circle Trilogy is entertaining and spiritually enlightening on many levels. It can be read as a dramatic supernatural thriller in the vein of Stephen King or it can be viewed as parable of the Gospel. The fast-paced plot, as unlikely as it is, draws the reader in and makes the books difficult to put down. By transporting the story of Christ from the distant past to the distant future, Dekker deepens our understanding of why Jesus offered Himself for us, and what it must have been like for the people of Christ’s time who watched the world shattering events at close range.

In addition to traditional novels, the Circle Trilogy is also available as a series of graphic novels. The comic-style picture novels bring the story of Thomas Hunter to younger readers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why Soaking the Rich is a Bad Idea

I am a pilot for a fractional jet company. My company supplies private jet shares to the rich and famous. The public perception is that these airplanes are toys that the rich buy so that they won’t have to rub shoulders with the masses. Liberals believe that the government should increase taxes on the rich, such as my company’s customers. The idea of taxing the rich is a tempting one, but in reality it is counter productive.

When taxes are increased on the rich, the rich obviously have less money to spend on items like shares of our corporate jets. Perhaps, they will put more of their money into tax shelters or foreign investments where tax laws are more favorable.

If a rich businessman doesn’t get to buy his jet, who is hurt? The most obvious answer is my company and its employees. If my company doesn’t sell a jet share, then the salesman does not get a commission, additional pilots are not hired, and jobs for support employees such as dispatchers, schedulers, maintenance coordinators, and administrative workers are not created.

Equally obvious is the loss to the aircraft manufacturer. Manufacturing jobs may be lost as aircraft orders dwindle. This also applies to subcontractors who work sheet metal, electricians who build avionics, craftsmen who work wood and leather for aircraft interiors, and the manufacturers of the thousands of parts that are assembled together to create a working airplane.

The damage does not stop there, however. The rich guy will not fly his jet around the country. When he does not visit local airports, local businesses called Fixed Base Operators (FBOs) don’t sell him fuel. Local businesses do not sell him catered food for his trips. Local aircraft mechanics miss out on the opportunity to work on the airplane. Local and state governments lose tax revenue from the lost fuel sales and airport fees.

Because the non-owner may never visit many places that he would otherwise see, other local businesses will also lose revenue. Cars will not be rented or hired, hotel rooms will not be rented, and restaurants will not be patronized. Tourism will suffer as museums and other tourist attractions are not visited.

Because many trips on private jets are business trips and not pleasure trips, investment in local businesses may suffer also, especially in areas not served by airlines. A deal that would be made in person may not be consummated over the telephone. Difficulty in obtaining outside investment may cause local businesses to stagnate and not create new jobs, causing small towns to go into further decline.

The jobs that are lost or are never created are not the end. As each person loses his job or cannot find a new one, their troubles spread to others. As one person runs out of money, his inability to pay his bills or buy new products affects other people and businesses down the line. Businesses are forced to write off bad debt that they could have collected from an employed person. Sales fall because unemployed workers have less money to spend, causing businesses to cut back and hire fewer workers.

Ironically, as the economy slows in the aftermath of tax increases, the government takes in less tax revenue. This is because the slowing economy is shrinking. Revenues for businesses and incomes for individuals are falling, so a tax, even at a higher percentage, yields a smaller total revenue.

The good news is that, as we learn from the past, the opposite is also true. If we reduce taxes, then the economy grows and businesses thrive. When business thrives, jobs are created and incomes rise. This, in turn, leads to higher tax revenues for the government in spite of the fact that the government takes a smaller percentage of each American’s paycheck. This process has worked four times in the past hundred years during the 1920s (under Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon), the 1960s (President Kennedy), the 1980s (President Reagan), and the 2000s (President George W. Bush).

Additionally, President Bush’s tax cuts had the effect of shifting more of the tax burden to upper income taxpayers. The top one percent of income earners currently pays about 33% of all income taxes versus 32% before. This is because the tax rates were lowered for Americans of all tax brackets with lower income tax payers realizing a larger percentage decrease than higher income taxpayers. The top 50% of income earners pay 96% of income taxes. On the other hand, the bottom 50% of income earners pay only about 3% of income taxes.

As President John F. Kennedy said, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Tax increases, even on only one segment of the country, slow the economy and take money out the pockets of all Americans, even those not taxed directly. On the other hand, a tax code that allows Americans to keep more of what they earn helps us all.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Seventy Sevens of Daniel

24 "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.
25 "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. 26 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. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him."
-Daniel 9:24-27

This passage is a part of the message the angel Gabriel brought to Daniel during the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede. Daniel was mourning the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 BC.

The message that Gabriel brings is a prophecy of the restoration of Jerusalem and the coming of the Jewish Messiah, the “Anointed One.” The Jews were exiled from their homeland and forcibly assimilated into Babylonian culture. They looked to the promised Messiah as a political and military leader who would restore Israel as a nation.

One of the primary rules of prophecy is to read it literally when possible. The term “sevens” is obviously symbolic of a period of time. Days and months do not leave time for the fulfillment of the prophecy so they can be eliminated. There are a total of seventy sevens. There are seven sevens and sixty-two sevens (totaling sixty-nine sevens) between the order to restore Jerusalem and the coming of the Messiah (v. 25). An additional seven makes up the covenant between the ruler who destroys the city and sanctuary and the “many” (v. 27). This makes a total of seventy sevens.

If we assume that a “seven” is a seven-year period, then we have a total of 490 years (seventy times seven) for the prophecy to be fulfilled. This is remarkably close to the time that elapsed between the command to rebuild Jerusalem in 445 BC until the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in AD 32. Gabriel specifically mentioned three separate periods of sevens rather than a single period of seventy sevens.

The seven sevens (49 years) points to Cyrus, the Persian king who ended the Jewish captivity in 538 BC. Forty-nine years elapsed between the fall of Jerusalem (586 BC) and Cyrus’ decree (587-49=538). Interestingly, God calls Cyrus his “anointed” even though he did not acknowledge God (Isaiah 45:1-4).

The sixty-two sevens is equivalent to 434 years. Some scholars theorize that there is a gap between the seven sevens and sixty-two sevens. A logical starting point for this period would be 440 BC, when Nehemiah went to Babylon to start the period of rebuilding the city walls of Jerusalem. 434 years after 440 BC points at 6 BC. 6 BC is a reasonable time for the birth of Jesus, since Herod is widely believed to have died in 4 BC.

A second possible interpretation points at the death and resurrection of Jesus. When combined, the period of seven sevens plus sixty-two sevens equals a total of 483 years. This 483-year period occurs between the order to rebuild Jerusalem and arrival of the Anointed One. Artaxerxes issued a decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 444 BC, which started the clock on this 483-year period (Nehemiah 2:1-8).

Before we go to the next step, we must apply a conversion to account for differences in the ancient Jewish calendar and our own. Historians believe that ancient Jews used a calendar of 360 days and fixed months of 30 days each. They would apply an extra five days at some point during the year.

483 years multiplied by 360 days per year gives us a total of 173,880 days. Our modern calendar uses 365.25 days per year, so to find a meaningful number of years for the prophecy, we must divide 173,880 days by 365.25 days per year. The result is 476 modern years.

If we start with 443 BC, the year following the decree, and add 476 years according to our modern calendar, we arrive at AD 33. In that year, Jesus Christ, Yeshua Messiah, was crucified, “cut off,” and, according to the Gospels, rose from the dead and ascended to Heaven.

Josh McDowell makes the point that Jesus was reported to have ridden into Jerusalem prior to his execution on a donkey. Another messianic prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 foretells that the king will one day ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus fulfills this prophecy in Matthew 21:5, Mark 11:6-7, Luke 19:30-35, and John 12:14-15.

The remainder of the seventy sevens has not yet occurred. The single seven that is the duration of a covenant between a destructive ruler and “the many.” The identity of the ruler is linked to the people who destroyed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70, the Romans.

This ruler is seemingly linked with the “little horn” of Daniel 7:25 through the term “time, times, and half a time.” This points to a time period equivalent to “middle of the seven” in verse 27. It is also equivalent to the 42 months granted to the “beast from the sea” in Revelation 13:5. All three verses refer to a three and one half year period. All three verses also are commonly understood to refer to the demonic ruler commonly known as the Antichrist.

The belief that the ruler is the Antichrist is further supported by the fact that Gabriel tells Daniel that the ruler will end sacrifice in the Temple and set up an “abomination that causes desolation” in the Temple. This prophecy is partly understood through Antiochus Epiphanes, a Syrian king who occupied Jerusalem in 168 BC. He entered the Temple’s Holy of Holies, defiled the altar, plundered the Temple’s treasures, and rededicated the Temple itself to the Roman god, Jupiter.

Antiochus Epiphanes cannot be the ruler foretold in Daniel, though, because he did not make and violate a treaty with “the many,” Israel. We can, however, expect the latter-day ruler to take blasphemous actions similar to those of Antiochus. Both Jesus (Matthew 24) and Paul (2 Thessalonians 2) point to this abomination as a sign of the approaching end times. The final seven is commonly referred to as the Tribulation Period.