Although we regard the collapse of our modern civilization as inevitable, it is most likely impossible to determine when that will occur and what it will look like. Our modern world system is hugely complex and tightly coupled and the unfolding of events is very dependent on human decisions especially by key people. However, we may be able to set some date boundaries around future events if (1) the Bible is the word of God and if (2) it lays out a prophetic word picture of God’s plan, and if (3) we can interpret it correctly. Up until now the third point has been singularly unsuccessful especially when it comes to the timing of future events.
Perhaps the most serious example of difficulty in using the Bible to predict future events is seen in the huge diversity of ways the seventy sevens prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 has been used to calculate events in Jesus’ first coming. Careful examination of these calculations shows their methodology to be highly suspect. In particular they often assume what they are trying to prove and try to adjust the beginning and end points to fit this assumption. This arises because the anointed person in Daniel 9:25 and 26 is translated “Messiah” (=Jesus) in some English translations when the Hebrew word is less specific and so it needs to be proved that it is Jesus (it cannot be legitimately assumed). In one well known case, a calculation was made predicting Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem to the very day and for many years this was touted as the most amazing prophecy in the Bible until it was discovered that there was a simple oversight in the calculation arising because of confusion over the use of Julian and Gregorian calendars resulting in a 3 day predictive error.
As my just published book, “The Time is Near Volume 1” seeks to show among other things, the whole basis for Preterist and Futurist end time theologies is seriously to be questioned because of the way the Seventy Sevens prophecy is used as a foundation framework in those theologies. In my opinion, the root assumptions in these theologies, that so often go unquestioned, are seriously flawed and that is why future prophesies are so often wrong.
Aside from this, in my view the real situation is not as bad as it seems and we have to continue to search why specific events linked to periods of time are recorded in the Bible. We also have to recognize that Daniel did precisely predict the rise of key leaders, notably Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great, Antiochus the Great and others and he did predict significant details of emerging empires 100’s of years before they happened. Most encouraging is that research in the last 50 years continues to improve our understanding and knowledge of past events including their timing. In reality, today we are in a better position than ever, to interpret what the Bible says providing we are careful and rigorous in our approach.
To assist us in this we can learn from the attempts to match events in the Bible with extra-Biblical sources (synchronism’s) in order to accurately fix dates. Perhaps the oldest of these which has a large measure of concurrence is the lunar eclipse recorded by Ptolemy and the Babylonian Chronicles in the fifth year of Nabopolassor king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar’s father, which computer calculations can pinpoint accurately to 621 BC. Both the Canon of Ptolemy and the Babylonian Chronicles record that he reigned for 21 years which enables us to pinpoint the Battle of Carchemish to 605 BC (probably May or June) and the exact day of Nebuchadnezzar’s accession to the throne (30 August, 605 BC). Since Jeremiah 25:1 says that this was the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, a synchronism between the Bible and history can be made with a high degree of confidence. All significant historical events later than this are usually known accurately to within a year or two. Bible chronologists can work backwards from this date using numerical details in the Bible such as the lengths of the reigns of kings to pinpoint when earlier events occurred..
Most chronology recorded in our modern Bibles for the kings of Judah and Israel, is based on the work of Thiele which starts the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son in 931/930 BC. however, research continues to question his work especially the accuracy of the synchronism’s he made with the Assyrian records and his inference that the Southern kingdom dated the accession of most of their kings from the seventh month of the Hebrew year rather than the first. This can lead to the date of Rehoboam’s reign starting up to 45 years earlier in 975 BC, so that dates of Rehoboam’s reign near 975 BC are probably more accurate and the dates of the kings in many Bible Study notes could be in error by up to at least 30 years. Still, to date the reign of a king 3,000 years ago within 45 years is not bad. We can also date Abraham pretty accurately too. Here we should seriously question the skepticism of many about the Bible. In reality, it gives us a remarkably accurate, honest and relatively detailed history of a nation whose existence began some 4,000 years ago. No other ancient literature comes close to this achievement.
Moving forward from the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s accession to the throne in 605 BC we can be confident that Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC (some say 587 BC). Jeremiah’s prophecies in chapter 25 and 29 also tell us that after 70 years the servitude of the nations to Babylon would end and the exiled Jews would return to their land and start to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. History pinpoints the fall of Babylon to Cyrus the Great in 539 BC and the commencement of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem to about 535 BC, 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar came to the throne.
The book of Daniel gives us some remarkable prophetic detail of key events that will impact the Jews. In particular it speaks of Alexander the Great and the subsequent Ptolemaic and Seleucid kings whose campaigns trampled over the Promised Land until the Seleucid king Antiochus IV sought to destroy the Jews (we know about 164 BC). The subsequent uprising by the Jews which led to their survival is then briefly mentioned. This is then followed in Daniel 11:36 and onward with a description of the rise and fall of Rome beginning with the major military conflict of Antiochus III with Rome (Daniel 11:40) which history dates as occurring from 192-188 BC. It then gives details of the advance of Rome leading to the fall of Jerusalem (we know this occurred in 63 BC) and Egypt becoming a major resource of wealth for the Roman Empire (Daniel 11:43, dated 30 BC) among other things. Rome’s character is also accurately described in the military prowess of their infantry especially in siege warfare (Daniel 11:38) and their soldiers worship of a Persian god (see Daniel 11:39). The persecution of the Jews which led to their eventual scattering and total loss of control over Jerusalem (which we know finally occurred when the Muslims captured Jerusalem in 638 AD) is then described (Daniel 12:1 and 7). From these descriptions we get a sense of the degree of significance of historical events impacting Israel which lead to them being mentioned in the Bible. This gives us major clues as to events in recent history concerning the Jews whose significance might lead us to expect some entry in the Bible.
This has led us to conclude that in the modern era, there are three very important synchronism’s about which we can have a reasonable degree of confidence These are
1. The end of the 1260 days in Revelation 11:3 and 12:6 which equates to the end of the period of time when the Jews were without a home and scattered all over the world and during which God’s people mourned and fasted for Jerusalem. We suggest this equates to the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948.
2. The end of the 42 months (which computes to 1279 days if converted to days and rounded up using the Julian Calendar in use by the Roman Empire) in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5. This equates to the period of time when Jerusalem was under the authority of non-Jewish people’s which ended historically in 1967 with the outcome of the famous six day war.
3. Is it then coincidence that if you regard the days as years, both these periods of time begin in the same year and that year is 688 AD when the “Dome of the Rock” was bring constructed in Jerusalem and probably the year when that construction began? For those that question there is substantial evidence in the Bible of equating the Hebrew word for day with years. There are no less than 6 explicit examples when this is being done.
In further support of these synchronism’s we can provide extensive subjective reasons based on the correspondence between many Biblical prophecies with the current situation in the Middle East. It is beyond the scope of this post to go into that here. Just let me say that the ongoing pressure on the nation of Israel and negotiations that focus on the nation of Israel returning to its 1967 borders highlights the huge significance of the outcome of the six day war in modern Jewish history. In my opinion, when compared with significant events of Jewish history in Daniel, it has sufficient stature so that it is very likely to be included in Biblical prophecies. Both Jesus in Luke 21:24 and John in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5 pointed to a specific time when full governmental authority over Jerusalem would be restored to the Jews.
Let me also add that it is most unreasonable for literal interpretations of the 1260 days and 42 months to claim they are the same length of time. Their use in Revelation has very distinct contexts and a 360 day year had been replaced by a more accurate calendar by all nations by the time of Daniel all of which point to a year of around 365 days.
If this analysis is correct, then we can pinpoint where we are today with respect to prophecies in the book of Revelation. I would suggest somewhere in Revelation 11:3-6 since we are after the end of the 42 months, but the witness of the church has not finished. Somewhere approaching Revelation 12:13-16, because Satan is still trying to destroy the Jews. Somewhere around Revelation 13:6-7a, because this is after the end of the 42 months and the opposition to the church is increasing.
If you accept these synchronism’s then it sheds a very different light on the chronology of Revelation than most scholars promote, while retaining a very literal interpretation. This is very evident in Revelation 11. Firstly, the two witnesses can no longer be individuals for the period of their prophetic ministry exceeds 1,000 years. Secondly, there is an unspecified period of time between the end of the 1,260 days and the completion of the prophetic ministry of the two witnesses referred to in Revelation 11:7.