The Expectation of Christ's
Second Coming in Apostolic Times
By Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1979
This article was first written by Dr. Martin in February, 1979. In this "Remember This" we are leaving it without editing the words of the original even though some of the material is dated with some chronological matters not correct because Dr. Martin had not been able to verify them sufficiently at the time he wrote the article. This is simply because the Holy Scriptures tell us "to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18) and Dr. Martin did not understand fully the chronology associated with Christ's birth and death.
For example, he stated in this early article that Christ was crucified in A.D.33. He selected this date because a learned Professor had just brought out a new book on chronology that stated emphatically that Jesus died in A.D.33. Dr. Martin believed him at the time, but it was about a year later that he came to see clearly that Christ was actually crucified and resurrected in A.D.30. Also, in the first edition of his work "The Birth of Christ Recalculated," he thought that Christ's birth was in 2 B.C. About six months after writing this article, he received a communication from Professor William Shea from Andrews University who said the evidence in his book was excellent but the facts really fit 3 B.C. better (and indeed that is the truth). Also, Dr. Martin had just learned how important the year of A.D.63 really was in the history of the New Testament period. Since that time, all future editions of his works have the correct dates.
In spite of these corrections that you should make, there is good material to read in this early work that was produced almost 20 years ago. It will help us at this time (as we approach the 2000th anniversary of Christ's birth on Sunday, September 20th at sundown) to be aware that as long ago as 1979 Dr. Martin was warning people not to be insistent on any date for the fulfillment of prophecy. We hope that you will enjoy (and profit from) reading this early article. Much of it is as true today as it was then. This file is from the archives and is no longer available in print. This article has been scanned and there may be a typo here and there that was not caught (this particularly applies to hyphens). We apologize in advance for this.
by Ernest L. Martin
Some of this information has been given before, but it is now buttressed with new teaching. The year in which expected by the apostles can now be known. Christ was expected by the apostles can now be known.
There was a profound belief in the minds of the apostles that Christ would establish His Messianic kingdom during their lifetimes. "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). And though Christ, after His resurrection, emphasized that "it is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power" (Acts 1:7), the apostles continued to mention Christ's second coming as imminent until the year A.D. 63. But after that crucial year, Paul and Peter began to show that the second coming was in the future way into the future. [For more information on this, read our August, 1977 Commentator.]
Why did the early apostles pick the year A.D. 63? There is little doubt that this was the year of expectancy (give or take a year on either side) because the internal evidence in the apostolic writings is replete on the matter. In this article we hope to show some of the reasons that prompted the apostles to come to this conclusion,
The single most important chronological prophecy anywhere in the Bible is that of the Seventy Weeks [literally: Seventy Sevens] found in Daniel 9:24-27. Daniel first referred to the predictions of Jeremiah that the Jews would remain in a Babylonian captivity for seventy years (Jer. 25:11,12; 29:10; II Chron. 36:21-23). The angel Gabriel informed him that the "seventy years" of Jeremiah were to be changed to or replaced by "seventy sevens" seventy sevens of years (490 years). [That years is meant can be proved by paying attention to the last "week" of Daniel's prophecy. The prophet said this final "week" of seven years was to be divided into two parts. By doing this, two periods of 3 1/2 years (1260 days, or a time, times, and half a time, or forty-two months) become apparent. This fact is illustrated in Daniel 7:25; 12:7 and Revelation 11;2,3; 13:5.]
The overall prophecy of the Seventy Weeks showed that there was a period of 490 years to be reckoned with. Since Daniel wrote the prophecy in the latter part of the 500's B.C., there was a general understanding that the Messiah would establish His kingdom on earth near the first century B.C. or the first century A.D. The historical records reflect this belief. Josephus mentioned that it was found in the "sacred writings that about that time one from their country [Judaea] should become governor of the habitable earth" (Josephus, Wars, VI, 313). The Roman historians of the first century were also aware of the prophecy: "A firm belief had long prevailed through the East that it was destined for the empire of the world at that time to be given to someone who should go forth from Judae"(Suetonius, Vespasian, iv). Tacitus also said: "The majority of the Jewish people were very impressed with the belief that it was contained in ancient writings of the priests that it would come to pass that at that very time, the East would renew its strength and they that should go forth from Judaea should be rulers of the world" (Tacitus, History, v. 13). Even the Roman Emperor Nero was advised by one or two of his court astrologers that it was prudent for him to move his seat of empire to Jerusalem because that city was then destined to become the capital city of the world (Suetonius, Nero, 40).
There is hardly any doubt that the prophecy being referred to by those historians was that of Daniel's Seventy Weeks. And interestingly, Christ Jesus came to earth exactly within the period of expectancy. HE died on the cross in A.D. 33 [the prophecy said that Messiah would be "cut off" that He would die violently]; still, He did not establish at that time the expected world kingdom. But anyone normally looking at the prophecy of Daniel's Seventy Weeks in the first century would have felt that its complete fulfillment would have occurred within that century.
Many Jewish people certainly thought the Seventy Weeks' prophecy would be imminently fulfilled at that time. However, it was not! When the expected period of fulfillment passed, the Jewish people began to modify their interpretation of the prophecy. The historian Josephus probably summed up Jewish opinion near the end of the first century on the relevance of the prophecy. He said it was "an ambiguous oracle" (Wars, VI, 5,4).
Any reasonable person studying the Seventy Weeks' prophecy would have to admit it is difficult to interpret. I do not mean that the prophecy is not true, but there are many variable factors associated with it that no human in the past or even today can say with dogmatism that he precisely comprehends it. Let us look at some problems associated with it.
First, the 490 years of the prophecy were supposed to commence with a command to rebuild the city of Jerusalem (Dan. 9:25). In what year was this command? Was it the "command" uttered by Jeremiah back in 596 B.C. in which he prophesied that Judah would return to Jerusalem? Or, was it the "command" by Cyrus in his first year as king over Babylon (538 B.C.) in which he said that Jerusalem could be rebuilt? (Isa. 44:28; II Chron. 36:22,23). Or, was it the "command" given to Nehemiah in the twentieth year of the Persian king Artaxerxes (Neh. 2:1-8) when the king ordered the rebuilding of Jerusalem? Or, was it the "command" to build the temple in the second year of Darius (Hag. 1:1-15) or the "command" to beautify the temple in the seventh year of Artaxerxes? (Ezra 7:1-11).
The fact is, Daniel did not tell us which one of these or other commands were meant. These "commands" cover a span of nearly 150 years. Which one should we accept? No one really knows. This shows that the beginning date for the prophecy is, as Josephus said, "ambiguous."
Secondly, the Bible does not tell us how each of the 490 years is to be reckoned regarding its length. Is each year of Daniel's prophecy 365 1/4 days long like our ordinary year length? Or is each year a lunar year which has a length of 354 1/3 days? Is Daniel's year a "prophetic" year length of 360 days? Daniel did not tell us. This unknown factor also makes the prophecy "ambiguous."
Thirdly, the Seventy Weeks are broken down into three sections with the last segment [the last "week"] divided in half. Those prophetic sections arc 49 years, 434 years, and 7 years [with the last seven years divided in half: 3 1/2 and 3 1/2]. Daniel said that each of these periods is determined [Hebrew: cut out or severed] by God in order for Him to perform certain events associated with the people of Israel, Jerusalem, the temple, and the role of the anti-Christ. The word "cut out" shows that each time period is separated from the others (they are distinct from each other) and Daniel may mean they are severed out of the normal chronological events of history. This could mean that each section is not intended by God to show continuous or successive historical occurrences. They could be three disjointed sections which have been separated by a number of years from each other. Indeed, even today most Christian commentators separate the last seven years from the previous 483 years by a period of 2000 years or more. If this is allowable in regard to the last "week", why could it not be done between the first section of "seven weeks" and the second of "sixty-two weeks"? No one knows the answers to this. These unknown factors also cause the Seventy Weeks' prophecy to be "ambiguous" to many commentators today.
Fourthly, Daniel said there were to be sixty-nine weeks "unto Messiah the Prince." If these years are to be taken consecutively, then a 483-year period would elapse from a "command" to rebuild Jerusalem until the advent of the Christ. But, a problem arises. Does Daniel mean unto the birth of the Messiah? Or, does he mean when the Messiah would become legally responsible for his actions at 12 years of age? Or, when he becomes old enough to go to war at age 20? Or, when he becomes a full adult at 30? Or, when he would be crowned King which could occur in any year of his life? Again, Daniel does not tell us. And no one today knows for sure what Daniel meant. Again this emphasizes the fact that the prophecy remains "ambiguous."
Fifthly, even the chronology of the Babylonian and Persian periods (in which the prophecy was normally reckoned to have begun) was not well understood by the Jewish authorities in the time of the apostles. This is a fact that hardly anyone will deny. The historical records preserved for us by Jewish historians show great discrepancies in interpretation of the chronological events associated with the time of Daniel. For example, Josephus on one occasion said the first year of Cyrus (when many people wish to commence the Seventy Weeks' prophecy) was in 570 B.C. (Wars, VI, 4, 8). In another place he said the same year was 578 B.C. (Antiquities, XII, 11,1) Besides this, the Jewish historian Demetrius, in the third century B.C., put the first year of Cyrus at 612 B.C. But an early Jewish Chronicle called the Seder Olam, written in the first part of the second century A.D., placed Cyrus' first year as late as 351 B.C. Our modern chronology shows, however, that Cyrus' first year over Babylon was 538 B.C. Everyone of these Jewish dates disagrees with each other and also with the proper time some by scores of years. Since the chronology of Daniel's period was in a state of confusion to the Jewish historical authorities, this is another reason why the Seventy Weeks' prophecy was "ambiguous" to many of the first century.
What does all this mean? Let us understand one point: There is nothing wrong with the prophecy itself. But what it does show is that we today do not have the certain factors available to evaluate the prophecy correctly. Christ certainly came to earth within the general period of expectancy for the Messianic king (and He came on a time schedule ordained of God), but our present understanding of the factors involving the Seventy Weeks' prophecy is defective and does not allow anyone to state the fulfillment of its various segments with dogmatism. Had the apostles known all features precisely, then absolute chronological indications would have been known by them. But even Christ said: "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:7).
The Seventy Weeks' prophecy was too vague to give anyone real confidence in any year for the second coming of Christ. True enough, the prophecy must have figured into the thinking of the apostles, but it had too many variables accompanying it which could not allow complete certainty of interpretation. But there was another prophecy which no doubt intrigued them very much. It was that found in Isaiah chapters 7 to 12. This was the prediction about a virgin who would bear a son and his name would be called Immanuel. It had chronological significance. Let us look at it.
Isaiah and his son Shearjashub went to King Ahaz of Judah and they told him that his enemies (Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria) would be overthrown within 65 years (Isa. 78). Ahaz could hardly believe what he heard, so Isaiah said that God would give him a sign that would prove it. "Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14).
The name "Immanuel" means "God with us." It signified that God Himself was going to be born of a virgin. In association with this birth the Assyrians in the north were destined to come against Pekah and Rezin to take them away into captivity. But after this occurred, the Assyrians would come against Judah into Immanuel's land itself (Isa. 8:7,8). A great light would then come forth from Galilee (Isa. 9:1,2). It would come as a result of the prophesied child. "Unto us a child is given, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom" (Isa. 9:6,7).
This child was to grow up to encounter this Assyrian conqueror when he would march against Jerusalem. This movement against Zion is described in Isaiah 10:28-34. When the Assyrian king, with his armies, would reach the northern hill overlooking Jerusalem, he would then encounter "a Mighty One" (Isa. 10:34). Who is this "Mighty One"? It is the child Immanuel now grown up. "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. And the spirit of the Lord shall rest on him" (Isa. 11:1,2).
This shows that by the time the Assyrian approaches Jerusalem on his way to take over Jerusalem, Immanuel has now reached manhood! Immanuel has now the government on His shoulders! He is now in Jerusalem! Immanuel will then do something unexpected by the people of the world. "With the breath [spirit] of his lips shall he slay the wicked one" (Isa. 11:4). The Assyrian (identified with the anti-Christ in other scriptures) will then be slain. Paul mentioned this very verse in Thessalonians. "And then shall that Wicked One be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit [breath] of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming" (II Thes. 2:8).
What will be the result of this according to Isaiah? "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them" (Isa. 11:6). From that time forward the prophesied Messianic kingdom will then be on earth and Immanuel [God with us] will be here in person. "For great is the Holy One of Israel [God Himself] in the midst of thee [in Jerusalem]" (Isa. 12:6).
The significance of this prophecy was profound in the eyes of the apostles and it ought to be in our eyes as well. Who was this "Immanuel"? It was Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:23). Who was it that would finally come to Galilee as the great light which Isaiah spoke about (Isa. 9:1,2)? It was Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:16). Isaiah also said that this "Immanuel" would become "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to both houses of Israel" (Isa. 8:14). Who was this? The apostles said it was Jesus Christ (Rom. 9:33; I Pet. 2:5) Who was the "stem out of Jesse, and a Branch" spoken of by Isaiah? (Isa. 11:1). It was also Jesus Christ (Acts 13:23). Who was the Immanuel who would slay the wicked one [the Assyrian]? (Isa. 11:4). Paul said it was Jesus Christ (II Thess. 2:8). Who was the Immanuel who would finally bring peace to this earth at last? The apostles knew it to be Jesus Christ (Luke 2:14). But what does the meaning of this prophecy have to do with the year A.D.63? Very much indeed! The main prophecy of Isaiah chapters 7 to 12 began with Isaiah telling Ahaz (who was himself a son of David and king over Judah) that God would send him a sign that his troubles would be over within 65 years (Isa. 7:8). Isaiah then began to tell him that universal righteousness and peace would come from one of Ahaz's sons. This son would be born of a virgin. He would be called Immanuel (God with us?. He would become a Mighty One. He would conquer the Wicked One and eliminate all evil on earth. And He, as God, would finally reign in Jerusalem (Isa. 12:6).
The foes of Ahaz who were destined to be overthrown were Pekah of Israel and Rezin of Syria. It would be the Assyrian king of the prophecy to accomplish this and within 65 years. The sign of the virgin birth would commence this process. This born son of David would grow up to defeat the same Assyrian king when he would come with his armies to Jerusalem for battle. So, the 65 years, the coming of Immanuel, and the defeat of the Assyrian king all figure into the single prophecy.
The apostles were assured (and correctly) that the Immanuel of the virgin birth was Jesus. He had grown into manhood and was crucified (according to prophecy) in A.D.33. Three days later He was resurrected from the dead. He was now a glorified being and ready to take over His role as the King of Israel. The time for the arrival of the Messianic kingdom of Daniel and Isaiah looked very near. Since the apostles were aware that Christ was born in 2 B.C. (and that He was certainly the Immanuel born of the virgin), 65 years from that nativity directed them to A.D.63. [For evidence that Christ was born in 2 B.C., please write us.] Since Isaiah had already said that the length of a king's reign was 70 years (Isa. 23:15) and the Messiah was to be a king the apostles must have thought that within 70 years of Christ's birth (65 years to be exact) the Messianic kingdom would have to arise.
Thus, the 65th year from Immanuel's birth was A.D.63. As this year approached, the apostles in their writings began to tell people about the soon coming of Christ back to this earth to slay "the Wicked One" and to bring in universal righteousness. Indeed, when the Book of Hebrews was written in A.D. 61, the author said: "For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry" (Heb. 10:37). The year A.D.63 seemed important according to Isaiah's prophecy. And to add more certainty, Christ Himself said: "This generation shall not pass, till all things be fulfilled" (Matt. 24:34). The general time for a "generation" was thirty years. John the Baptist began his ministry when he was thirty. Christ also began his preaching at thirty (Luke 3:23). Some have thought that forty years is the span of time which represents "a generation." That is not correct. Forty is a number associated with trial: forty years in the wilderness, forty years for the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon. There were 480 years (12x40) from the Exodus to the building of Solomon's temple. Even concerning days the number forty meant trial. Moses, Elijah, and Christ each fasted for forty days. But thirty years represents a generation.
Look at this point carefully. The normal life span of a human is seventy years (thirty years to reach full adulthood, then forty years of human trial) (See Psalm 90:10). Joseph, on the other hand, was given a double portion of life being the firstborn son of Jacob and Rachel (Gen. 30:22-24). He lived to be 110 years of age (Gen. 50:26) thirty years were given him to reach full adulthood [his generation] and then he lived two forty year periods of trial.
These factors show that "a generation" was reckoned as thirty years. And Christ said: "This generation shall not pass, till all things be fulfilled" (Matt. 24:34). Christ said those words just before His crucifixion in A.D. 33. [There can be no doubt that A.D. 33 is the correct date for Christ's crucifixion. This has been adequately proved by the studies of Professor Hoehuer in his new book Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, Zondervan (1977), Grand Rapids, Michigan.]
Now look at this point. Thirty years (the period of one generation) from the time that Christ gave the Olivet Prophecy in A.D.33, works out precisely to A.D.63! Again, this synchronizes with what the apostles must have interpreted as the end of the 65 years in the prophecy of Isaiah chapters 7 to 12.
There was also another reason why A.D.63 may have had significance to the apostles and to the Jewish people in the first century. If the true years of Nebuchadnezzar's reign were realized, the Jews would have known that the first year of Nebuchadnezzar was 604 B.C. (Jer. 25:1). He was the head of gold mentioned by Daniel (Dan. 2:36-38). The number six (6) came to be associated with Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom. In Daniel 3:1 is described a statue raised up by Nebuchadnezzar. It was sixty cubits high and six cubits wide. Dr. Bullinger stated that all the Hebrew letters of that one verse in Daniel (if added up) total 4662. This is a remarkable number. It is 7x666. The number 666 was also reckoned as the number of the Beast (whom Nebuchadnezzar was a type) and this figure was mentioned as a significant number in the Book of Revelation written about A.D.60 (Rev. 13:17). Now, if one reckons 666 years from the first year of Nebuchadnezzar, one also comes to A.D.63. Did the Jewish people imagine that the successive Gentile kingdoms from the time of Babylon until the emergence of God's Kingdom under the Messiah would last exactly 666 years? - and would end in A.D.63? Perhaps they did. If so, this again focuses on A.D.63 as a possible crucial year for Jewish prophetic interpretation.
There is yet another interesting astronomical feature which was observed by the ancients that could have made A.D.63 a possible year for the intervention of Christ in world affairs. This is the 600-year period known as the Great Year among early astronomers in which they imagined the visible heavenly bodies returning to similar relationships to one another. Josephus reckoned the period as a significant one in the eyes of the ancients (Antiquities, I,3,9) What of this?
When one looks at the prophecies of Isaiah it will be found that King Cyrus of the Persians was very similar to the Messiah of Israel. Indeed, in Isaiah 45:1-19 the prophesied events associated with Cyrus resemble those of Christ so much that both ancient and modern commentators have identified Cyrus as a type of Christ, or Christ as a type of Cyrus. It is this similarity that could have caused prophetic interpreters of the first century to focus in on the Great Year of the astronomers with the supposed return of similar features in the heavens.
The first year of Cyrus over Babylon (the time setting for the prophecy of Isaiah 45) was in 538 B.C. This is when he would "make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass. "What follows looks like the very thing the Messiah will do. And remarkably, one Great Year cycle of 600 years from 538B.C. brought one to A.D. 63. It may have been thought that the true "Cyrus" would fulfill all of Isaiah 45 (and other scriptures associated with Cyrus) in A.D. 63. Of course, no one can know for sure if the Great Year was applied, but it did have interesting features accompanying it. [Noah was exactly 600 years old when the Flood occurred, thereby bringing in a new worldwide civilization. Was this not typical of the Great Year from 538 B.C. to A.D. 63? Some may have thought so in the first century.]
There is another matter that must be mentioned. We have already indicated that the central prophecy that the apostles relied on more than any other to show when the Messianic kingdom would arise was that of Daniel's Seventy Weeks (Dan. 9:24-27). Most of the Jewish people at the time of Christ's Nativity were then expecting the Messiah to emerge in Palestine. They were also looking at Daniel Nine. Indeed, they wondered if the prophesied son of David would not make his appearance in 2 B.C. [This was the exact year in which Jesus was born. See our new book: The Birth of Christ Recalculated (plus Supplement) for the proof.] The main body of the Pharisees 6000 of them (which represented almost the totality) began to preach in the year 3 B.C. that it was now time for Jews to forego obedience to earthly governments because even the "eunuch" would soon be able to have children according to the prophecy of Isaiah 56:1-3 (Josephus, Antiquities, X7V4II,41-45). It would have been no more difficult for a virgin to conceive and bear a son (Isaiah 7:14). Thus, the Pharisees in 3 B.C. began to say the kingdom of the Messiah was then on the horizon. The "birth" was no doubt expected in the year 2/1 B.C. Why this particular year?
We now know that Daniel's time periods referred to in Daniel Nine, were reckoned by the Jews in the first century as being sabbatical periods seven year segments which were concluded by a sabbatical year. Throughout history it was supposed that the most important of men were born at one of these sabbatical years.
Adam, Noah, Abraham, and other patriarchs, were born to coincide with these sabbatical divisional epochs (Wacholder, Interpreter's Dictionary. Supplement, p. 763). Wacholder especially notes that "the last year of the cycle [the sabbatical year] to be the beginning of the messianic age" (ibid.).
What importance is this to the year 2/1 B.C. when Jesus was born? The fact is, that very year was a sabbatical year and the very time that most Jewish interpreters were expecting their Messiah to be revealed. [It has been shown that the years 163/162 B.C.; 135/134 B.C.; 37/36 B.C.; 2/1 B.C.; AD. 41 /42; A.D. 55/56 were all sabbatical years. (Wacholder, ibid.) Note also that the year A.D. 62/63 was also sabbatical! Isn't it interesting that Jesus was born in the very year which began a sabbatical year. Not only that, Jesus was presented in the temple by his mother on the Day of Atonement in 2 B.C. the exact day when the sabbatical year commenced (Lev. 25:8,9). See our new Supplement for more information on this.
The fact that A.D. 62/63 was a sabbatical year gives good reason why the apostles thought it may have been the year that Christ would come back to the earth. After all, it was 30 years (a generation) from the year of Christ's death in A.D. 33.
When one puts all of the parallel dates and time periods together, it is not too difficult to see why the apostles concentrated on particular years from the time of Christ's birth and crucifixion. Indeed, it may be true that Christ will truly come back to this earth within a sabbatical year as the ancients expected. From the information we have given in this Exposition, one can figure out when the next sabbatical years will occur. We, of course, are not setting dates, but it is good to keep one's eyes open to such matters.
The apostles felt that A.D.63 may have been the prophesied time for Christ's intervention in world affairs. However, the year came and went without any of the events of the Old Testament or the Book of Revelation (written about A.D.60) coming to pass. The apostles acknowledged that Christ had told them they did not know the times or the seasons which the Father had put in His own power. After A.D. 63, they began to realize that the second coming of Christ was now far into the future. Paul (about A.D.64) then told those under his charge they should marry and rear up children. "I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house" (I Tim. 5:14). But let us recall that back in A.D.56 (when Paul wrote Corinthians some seven years before the expected end of all things) he thought the Tribulation and the prophesied events associated with Christ's second coming were so near that he advised against marrying at all. "The time is short: it remaineth that both they that have wives be as though they had none for the fashion of this world passeth away (I Cor. 7:29,31). Paul was then recommending the non-married state because our Lord Himself advised against having children near His second coming (Matt. 24:19). But when the year A.D.63 passed without the major expected events occurring, Paul told those under his administration in Europe to go ahead and marry, have children, rear them to adulthood. The apostle Peter also began to say that Christ had really not delayed His coming, as some were beginning to think, but that a thousand years is as one day with the Lord (II Pet. 3:10-13). Peter was then reflecting on the first chapter of Genesis. Thus, it is reasonable to believe that he meant that each day of the creation as referred to in Genesis One - was to be reckoned as a thousand years in the working out of God's plan for the redemption of man. This would indicate a 6000-year period for man to rule and a 1000-year Millennium for the reign of Christ. This would mean that some 2000 years were still left from the time of the apostles (if one followed the chronology of the Hebrew Old Testament) before Christ would come back to the earth with His glorious Messianic kingdom.
Does this mean that God's plan failed in the time of the apostles? Of course not! Our Lord plainly told them that they were not to be graced with a knowledge of the times or the seasons in a precise way (Acts 1:7). Neither have we today been given exact understanding. However, many things are now occurring in the world to make any knowledgeable person keep his eyes open and be aware of the times. God has not abandoned the world nor has He given up His plan. If Christ would have come in A.D.63, you and I (and billions of others who have been born since) would never have had the grace of salvation extended to us. Christ has always known what He is doing. We ought to be thankful for this. I'm sure the original apostles understood the matter perfectly. God wants you and me (and billions of others) in His family as well as His original apostles.
Christ did not return in A.D.63 as the apostles at first expected. He also did not come back in A.D.1844 as many modern Christians thought He would. Nor did he come in A.D.1914 or in 1975. But He is coming! He now knows the exact date even the hour, minute and second. But the time should not be important to those who are in Christ. It is not needful to know the time it is only needful to know Him! In fact, it would be prudent to forget the "times" (because none of us knows them for certain). But let none of us forget Him who made the times and the universe (Dan. 2:21). "But if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to smite his fellow servants the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he is not aware of" (Matt. 24:48,49). "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh" (Matt. 24:44). The lesson God wishes to teach His children is for them to get their minds off of dates and onto Christ. He will redeem us in His time. That is certain!
As mentioned before in the article, the angel Gabriel told Daniel that three periods of time were "cut out" or "severed" from the mainstream of history in order for God to accomplish His task of bringing in the Kingdom of God on earth. Those periods have several factors associated with them and all must be in full evidence before the prophecy can be in force. Let us look at some of them.
The central element of the Seventy Weeks' prophecy was Daniel's people Israel (Dan. 9:24) But they were not the only factor. The holy city (Jerusalem) figures in as well. Also, there was a complete atonement for sins, the establishment of righteousness, the sealing up of vision and prophecy [the fulfillment of all visions and prophecies] and the anointing of the Holy of Holies in the temple. Now, all of these elements must be in evidence and playing their full role for the 49 years, 434 years, and the 3 1/2 and 3 1/2 years (490 years altogether) to be in effect. If even one of these constituents is missing in one's appraisal of its fulfillments, the prophecy cannot be in function.
What can this mean for us today? It clearly indicates that the prophecy cannot be in force and applicable unless the people of Israel are in some way connected with the city of Jerusalem and its construction. Daniel was told that the oracle concerned the "building up" of Jerusalem. If the main body of Israel is not involved in such an effort, the prophecy has to be reckoned as being in abeyance. And what has happened? From the second century until 1967, at least (when modern Israel took over Jerusalem once again), this part of the prophecy was not in evidence. From this point alone, the Seventy Weeks was not in force.
But there are more elements. The prophecy also had to do with the anointing of "the most holy" (the Holy of Holies). This means that the temple is involved as well. Since A.D.70 there has not been a temple in Jerusalem, nor is there one to this day. The prophecy, however, concerns a time when the city of Jerusalem and the temple will once again be destroyed (Dan. 9:26). This will occur at a time when "vision and prophecy" are to be sealed up (verse 24). There can be no doubt that this reference is to all the visions and prophecies which pertain to the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. This signifies that the city of Babylon the Euphrates must be in evidence (Isa. 13:1-22). Assyria must once again be a viable Middle Eastern power (Isa. 14:24-27). Egypt has to become prominent (Isa. 19:1-22).Moab and Ammon who were located East of the Dead Sea need to be revitalized (Isa. 15 and 16).
These are only a few examples of what must take place for the sealing up of "vision and prophecy." These are factors that most people overlook. They are also clear signs that the prophecy could not be in an active stage for the past 1900 years. Indeed, there were even periods of time prior to the first advent of our Lord in which some of them were not effective.
All commentators should be very careful in trying to interpret the Seventy Weeks' prophecy. Of course, there is not one thing wrong with the prophecy itself, but we are not at all capable of knowing all of the essential elements to allow us a sense of certainty. God has "cut out" of the chronological scheme of history His own times for the relevance of the prophecy to have its full force. One's faith that God knows what He is doing is the essential factor.
The trouble with all of is our impatience. We are so selfish, by nature, that we want all His prophesied events to occur in our own time. And indeed, this may happen. But is it not better to express a reasonable amount of humility and let the matter rest with God and His Son? If we do, we can then place our trust in God that He knows what He is doing. All of us, along with the prophets and apostles, are destined to obtain a glorious existence with the Father no matter when Christ decides to come back to earth. As far as I am concerned, let Him come tomorrow, or next year or even the next century. All I want to state (and to mean) is: "Come back Lord Jesus - we need you." Rest assured, He will come back and He will be right on schedule!
Ernest L. Martin
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