Of all the events surrounding the second coming of Christ, the most hotly contested is the event commonly referred as “the rapture.” It is not the rapture as a so called event that is disputed, but the timing–when the rapture occurs. It is my opinion that much misconception could be cleared up if people were more disciplined in adhering to information provided in the scriptures for developing definitions of critical words, terms and phrases used in the discussion of end time events. Think about this: a primary way in which we communicate is by using words, whether written or verbal. Words and phrases carry meaning and definition. As long as we agree on the meanings and definitions of those words and phrases, we have the potential of meaningful communication. But real problems arise when we don’t share the same definitions, or when inaccurate or erroneous definitions are ascribed to words or phrases. Not only is this a concern when we are trying to communicate, but perhaps the biggest issue is, OUR VOCABULARY SHAPES OUR THINKING! In a very real sense, our thinking is limited to the vocabulary we have at our disposal, and the accuracy of our thinking can be limited by the “correctness” of the meanings/definitions that we ascribe to words and phrases. This is the reason I promote having a section devoted to important vocabulary words and the definitions I ascribe to them. Some terms are of such importance that a more thorough development and explanation must be undertaken, and these are included in the Glossary.
As this chapter is designed for orientation, the first major term we need to be clear on is brought out by looking at Revelation 20:1-7. One of the difficulties of any study that involves a group of people is that there are many different versions of the Bible. I favor the New American Standard Bible most of the time. Many people today use the King James or the New International Version, which is fine by me.Rev. 20:1-7 vs. 1 “And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. vs. 2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, vs. 3 and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time. vs. 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. vs. 6 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years. vs. 7 And when the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, (NASB)
Did you notice a two word phrase which occurred six times in this passage? The answer of course is, “thousand years”. This passage refers mainly to the time of the Kingly rule of Christ on earth, and is the only passage that explicitly states this being a thousand year period. The common term identifying this period is “Millennial Kingdom”. There are three major theological positions surrounding the Millennial Kingdom as relating to the second coming of Christ.
Amillennialism: Proponents of this position use the Allegorical method to interpret prophetic passages, teaching that there will be no physical earthly second coming of Christ and no literal thousand year reign of Christ on earth, that Christ rules only within the hearts of His true believers.
Postmillennialism: A view teaching that after mankind initiates a thousand year period of peace on earth, then Christ will return at the end of that period of peace.
Premillennialism: Asserts that at some time prior to the thousand year kingdom, Christ will literally, physically return to earth.
The big debate is when, prior to his kingdom, Christ comes. This is a critical issue! Your theological position, or lack of one, affects huge amounts of scripture and often influences your perspective of how you live your life.
There are other vocabulary terms commonly used in discussions surrounding the second coming of Christ that one needs to be familiar with to communicate intelligently as well as discern the true teaching of the inspired Word vs. the teaching of well meaning men and women. These are presented in the glossary and express my understanding and definitions. Examining the definitions I ascribe to these important words or terms will help provide you with a clearer understanding of what I am trying to communicate and the position I have come to uphold as the most accurate biblical interpretation. My observation is, one may be able to detect the personal bias of others, when the other reveals their definitions of key vocabulary terms related to the subject under discussion. Some construct definitions or fabricate terms (consciously or unconsciously), in an effort to direct the thought process to draw conclusions agreeing with their personal position on the subject. I wish to be transparent in this regard, allowing you to evaluate my definitions to determine if those definitions are true and accurate. As such, please refer to the Glossary of Eschatological Terms.
Reading through the list of Eschatological Terms (the study of “last things” or “end times”), you likely noticed that most prophetic events associated with the second coming of Christ seem to cluster around and within a seven year period referred to as Daniel’s 70th Week (or Seven) of Years. Christ referred to a major event occurring in this seven year period when answering the apostles questions regarding His second coming. The prophetic book of Daniel records among other things, certain details of several visions, dreams and even encounters he had with God’s messengers, which occurred over several years time. Certain pieces of information which were revealed through subsequent dreams and visions were related to and helped augment and supplement information provided in previous dreams. The lack of a proper understanding of this has caused the book of Daniel to be a bigger mystery than necessary in the eyes of many readers.
Because this period of seventy weeks of years is so foundational to the context of our study we need to investigate briefly to see how the scriptures put this together. If anyone was a little confused by unfamiliar information as presented in the glossary, this should help. The major text to investigate is Daniel chapter 9. In the first half of the chapter Daniel is earnestly pleading with God. We would say he is making supplication to, and petitioning God. Look at verses 7 and 11 of this powerful and moving chapter.
Daniel 9vs. 7 “Righteousness belongs to Thee, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day-to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and all Israel, to those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which Thou hast driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against Thee.” vs. 11 “Indeed all Israel has transgressed Thy law and turned aside, not obeying Thy voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him.” (NASB)
Who is Daniel making supplication for? The nation of Israel. What has happened to the Jews as a nation, as a people group at this point? They were disobedient to God and the “curse” has been poured out. This is actually the fulfillment of a prophecy by Moses that can be checked out in Deuteronomy 28: 15, 64-65. At this point in their history the Jewish nation is under severe national divine discipline. Daniel is making supplication to God for relief and restoration, and in answer to his prayer God sends Gabriel to give Daniel instruction and understanding regarding a vision he had received.
vs. 24 “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.” (NASB)
Regardless of which Bible you use, the better literal Hebrew translation of “Seventy weeks” is, “Seventy sevens”. In Hebrew, the “sevens” can refer to days, weeks, months or years, depending on the context or additional information. In this case there is additional information provided in Daniel 12:7, 11-12 cf. Rev. 11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5.
The message from Gabriel is that seventy sevens of YEARS (total of 490 years) have been decreed for “your people” referring to the nation of Israel or natural Israel i.e., not spiritual Israel, not just the believing remnant. The “holy city” is a reference to Jerusalem, which is specifically included in this message to Daniel as God had made several overt, tangible, physical-type promises of blessing to the Jews as long as they as a nation of people remained faithful to Him. Part of those blessings involved the land of Palestine. The city of Jerusalem represented the hub of Jewish society. That’s where the temple was and every year every faithful Jew would make the journey to Jerusalem at least once to offer sacrifices. As apostasy prevailed upon the nation as a whole God’s judgments would intensify, eventually culminating in Israel losing her national identity and being physically removed from the land. We often see in scripture how God deals with both the land and its inhabitants. This discourages the student of the Word from spiritualizing passages, as we can see the literal fulfillment by looking at history. Thus, Gabriel’s message to Daniel helped put God’s divine discipline in perspective for several generations of Israelites. It was going to be a while before God’s hand of discipline accomplished all its intended purposes.
An important issue to remember is back then the Jews had a different calendar system than what we use today. Their normal year had twelve, 30 day months totaling only 360 days–not the customary 365 of our times. About every 6th year they would add an extra month; we add an extra day to February every 4th year to reconcile time. Most Christian scholars tell us that when prophets spoke prophetically in terms of years it always referred to a 360 day year. So why didn’t the angel Gabriel cut to the chase and plainly tell Daniel 490 years were decreed against Israel? Was he trying to be tricky or mysterious? No, it was because God had ordained every seventh year as a Sabbath Year for Israel, which had several specific features associated with it. The Jews had ignored those specific ordinances and commandments for many years, therefore God was tailoring His divine discipline accordingly. Basically, what’s being decreed here are 70 Sabbath years. This grouping of seventy sevens of years also allows for additional tailoring of the overall time period, such as interjecting events or conditions upon which the progression of this time was contingent upon. Now look at verse 25 where a phenomenal revelation of prophecy is presented.
vs. 25 “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.” (NASB)
Did you catch the revelation that after a decree is given to rebuild Jerusalem it would be 483 years until Christ’s first advent? One of the things I find fascinating is the fact that the Jews were already experiencing God’s discipline through this Babylonian captivity, being disbursed throughout the land, yet this announcement of additional discipline wouldn’t even begin until there was a decree issued to rebuild Jerusalem- which didn’t occur until several years later. In Nehemiah we read of King Artaxerxes granting Nehemiah’s request to rebuild Jerusalem in 445 B.C. It is claimed that some time ago certain scholars determined that it was 483 years later–to the day, when Christ made His entrance into the city of Jerusalem on what we refer to as Palm Sunday; offering Himself as the Messiah! Is our God interested in His people having knowledge and discernment? Sure! He shows us through what is revealed right in this verse. The Jews of Christ’s day were without excuse for “missing” their own Messiah, though not everyone missed this key revelation. I think of Luke chapter 2 where Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus to the temple where Simeon was “looking for the consolation of Israel” and Anna the prophetess, after seeing the Christ child “continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem”.
vs. 26 “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. (NASB)
What is the meaning behind the statement “Messiah will be cut off and have nothing”? Jesus Christ came over two thousand years ago to be the ultimate sacrificial lamb that would propitiate (satisfy) the Father and redeem mankind from the slave market of sin. While we need to realize there are many additional points that can be made about the Lord’s appearance on the stage of world history at that time, we would have to be very careful about addressing the possibility of Him becoming the physical king of Israel at that time. I wish to avoid discussing this topic here and innocently mention He was crucified and rejected by His own people and therefore would not be establishing His physical kingdom on earth at that time. Some hold that had the great majority of Jews, particularly the religious leaders, embraced Him as their personal Messiah He could and/or would have established the physical kingdom on earth about that time (perhaps after the final 7 years though). God knew otherwise, hence the numerous prophecies given indicating the rejection of Messiah. So now, 69 of the 70 sevens of years are accounted for, being identifiable by certain key events. That leaves how many of the original 490 years left? The answer is of course, seven years.
vs. 27 “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” (NASB)
In verse 27 we find critical information regarding Daniel’s 70th week of years. It is referred to as Daniel’s 70th week of years because Daniel is the prophet that received and recorded the message from Gabriel. Let’s key in on three important points brought out in this verse. The first point is that the 70th seven of years does not begin until a specific 7 year covenant is made firm. This could be a new covenant or it could be an existing covenant that has been violated; the passage allows for either one. Second, 3 1/2 years after the firming of this covenant, the covenant is violated by an event that is commonly referred to as, “The Abomination of Desolation.” Third, God has decreed that at some point, though we are not told when, a complete destruction will be poured out on the person who commits this Abomination of Desolation. I would also like to make a couple of observations: Many conservative evangelical scholars/authors believe the person that commits this Abomination is the dictator beast of the 8th beast empire, the person commonly referred to as the Antichrist. Another observation is many of these scholars/authors would agree that there exists a “time gap” separating the first 483 years and the last 7 years of this 490 year period of divine discipline. There is an interval between the 69 weeks of years and the 70th week of years. Personally, I feel it is very significant that there is given an extremely discernible sign that denotes the end of the 69 weeks of years and then, this very discernible sign that denotes the start of the 70th week of years.
There are passages of scripture that seem to lend support for and illumination of this issue of a time gap. A careful reading of Leviticus 26:14-46 reveals the LORD’S warning of impending discipline against the nation of Israel for disobedience. Romans chapters 9, 10 and 11 contain Paul’s marvelous explanation of how Israel’s past role in God’s plan, various consequences of subsequent unbelief and disobedience, as well as Israel’s future restoration, comprise a beautiful tapestry of human history revealing God’s glory, love, mercy and grace. Your immediate assignment is to read those two long passages, as they are very important! It will provide the necessary frame of reference needed to look closer at this “time gap” since it does present a bit of a problem in terms of Bible prophecy, at least as far as I am concerned. Please complete this assignment before continuing our journey together as that is too much copyrighted material to include here. Take your time. Don’t hurry the reading just to get through it.
Now some questions for you. I have a quiz based upon the reading assignment! The first question is, how would you summarize the principles brought out in Leviticus 26:14-46 using only a couple of statements? The second question is, what is the most important point Paul makes regarding the Israelites in Romans 9, in your opinion? The third question is, in chapter 10 Paul quotes Old Testament prophets revealing God’s attitude toward His dealings with the Israelites. Summarize the nature of God’s attitude in this chapter using one or two statements. The fourth question is, what is the “mystery” that Paul wants us to be informed of in chapter 11? The fifth (and final) question is, what happens after the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in”? I hope you read the assignment and are not just skipping to the next paragraph of our journey. Having the accurate answer to question five is essential. We are on a journey to discover truth; important clues are contained in the reading assignment.
It’s important to keep a proper perspective concerning this “gap”. The “time gap” within the vision and revelation given to Daniel exists for very specific purposes and reading the passages in Leviticus and Romans hopefully have provided you with insight. However, three verses which I believe encapsulate the purpose of the “time gap” are Romans chapter 11, verses 1, 11 and 25. The following is my view on how it fits together.
While it is true there was a nice crowd of people on hand during that first Palm Sunday when Christ rode the colt into Jerusalem, the fact is the majority of the Jews, especially the religious rulers and leaders of the day, rejected Him as their Messiah. Because they rejected Messiah, the One who is the very heart of the Old Testament scriptures, the One the entire history of the world revolves around, God temporarily rejected the Jewish people. He disciplined them a nation, as an organization if you please, by removing their stewardship responsibilities and giving them to a new organization that we know as the Church. Let me explain what I mean by the term “stewardship responsibilities.” Because they failed to truly repent of their sins and cry out like Daniel did nearly five hundred years prior, no longer would the Jewish nation be the recipients of revelation from God. No longer would they be responsible to disseminate the gospel to the heathen. No longer would God use them as his selected “agents” in the devil’s world. All this would be given to a new agency–the Church. All the unconditional promises God made still applied but the Jews would experience a new level of divine discipline that, so far, has lasted nearly two thousand years! They still have a huge part to play in biblical prophecy but they are no longer the active agents that God is working through at present. He is currently working through the Church and will continue to do so until the entire course of divine discipline has been completed, accomplishing all the intended results mentioned in Daniel chapter 9.
Now, I want you to be sure to understand that the event that completes 69 of the 70 weeks of years issued in this revelation is Messiah being “cut off (and) having nothing” (as in no earthly, physical kingdom), and, the event that initiates the final 7 weeks of years is the “he” (the Antichrist, the dictator beast) making a “firm covenant with the many”, particularly the Jews as a nation and possibly other entities as well. This is a tremendous revelation that Daniel receives and records but there is a lot of information that is lacking which is later supplied to us through additional writers of scripture as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit of Truth. This is why it is imperative to consult the whole Council of God when studying a biblical subject.
I hope you enjoyed this part of the orientation process. We only briefly covered several important issues that could have included more details, but I hope it was sufficient for those that would consider themselves as newer students of the Word, without being tedious to those who are more seasoned veterans. Shall we journey forth together to the next section of orientation?