Category Archives: Theology

End Time Uncertainty

An emerging debate in the world wide church concerns the history that will unfold leading up to the return of Jesus. There is no debate within the church about the fact of His return.

Many Christians are expecting an acceleration of God’s work around the world and there is much evidence that this is happening. Some are looking forward to a coming revival. It is very exciting to be living now! I am firmly convinced as a Christian, that I can live victoriously with Jesus and that churches that follow God intimately are and will live victoriously too. There is no room for “doom and gloom” thinking when we have such wonderful and certain expectation of the hope that lies before us in God’s coming kingdom.

What concerns us in this post is the widely divergent understanding within the church of how this will happen. In some respects, the different views are opposite to each other. How can this be when we all love God, love His word and regard it as totally accurate and an authoritative guide?

I would suggest the reason is obvious. We are basing our end time theology on portions of the Bible which have many different and controversial interpretations and on basic assumptions that are not verified. The main ones are (1) the seventy sevens prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27, (2) the interpretation of “this generation” in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 24, (3) the understanding about the time, times and half a time and the 3½ and 7 years and (4) the assumption that literal interpretation of a passage implies that what is described will occur in the chronological order in which it is written.

Because of this, it is my guess that the vast majority of end time theologies are of the order of only 50-70% correct.

In summary form, the major viewpoints are as follows.

1. On one side there are those Christians who see the church growing so that most nations become largely Christian enabling God’s kingdom to be set up on earth before Jesus returns. In theological terms, these usually hold to a “preterist” or “partial preterist” view, are usually “post-millennial” and may adopt some form of “dominion” theology. The number who hold to this view seems to be growing.

2. On the other side are those who see the church entering into an end time revival followed by the rise of the antichrist, world wide persecution of the church and a world wide time of trouble before Jesus returns. After Jesus returns, His kingdom is set up on earth and He will reign for 1,000 years – the millennium. Some of these believe that true Christians will be removed from the earth seven years, 3.5 years or just before Jesus comes back. In recent times, there is an emerging, growing group of Christians who see the kingdom of the antichrist as being Islamic rather than emerging from within Europe (the revived Roman Empire). Overall, I get the impression that the number in this group is declining as they shift to the opposite view reflected in 1.

3. There is then a third group who adopt a “safer” interpretive approach so that their understanding of the end times is less assertive and less specific. Only general conclusions are made which calls into question why much of the relevant passages were ever written especially as they seem to provide a lot of detail, but the interpretation is unable to say what it means other than in general terms. Some of these have partially overcome this by adopting parts of views 1 and 2.

4. Then there are a huge number of Christians who are confused and don’t know or who avoid looking closely because the uncertainty is unedifying and a waste of time for them.

I believe most of us would agree that this is a most unsatisfactory situation, because God intends that we will be prepared for what is coming on the world. Currently, this uncertainty results from the last major area of unresolved Biblical theology, perhaps representing 20% of what the Bible teaches.

In my view, there are many plausible interpretations especially for apocalyptic literature, but we have to find the best one. The best interpretation will meet the criteria of unifying the whole Bible, cause passages which were previously ambiguous to become clear, explain previously obscure passages and not be founded upon passages whose interpretation is controversial and unclear. To achieve this, the end time theology must not only explain all relevant passages, but it must also show why the alternative interpretations are less suitable or incorrect. Very few existing works, if any, do this.

My own view is closest to the second viewpoint above, but has many differences. I believe we are already in the final revival and have been for more than 100 years, but that there is an acceleration of the outpouring of God’s power. The antichrist will be Islamic and will emerge soon in a world in deep distress because of huge economic decline, water and food security problems and the impact of global warming. The whole church will come under persecution and will be refined and forced underground. We will see amazing things and experience the glory of God and have all things in common like the early church.

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Peace in the Middle East? Part 1

Over the last few years, it appears that from time to time tension mounts in the Middle East and war involving many nations seems very likely. Then the protagonists appear to back off. Such a war between many would also be significant since there has not been a major war with such a large number of nations directly involved since World War 2 or perhaps the Korean War.

The current civil war in Syria is, as we all know, a humanitarian disaster. It is also most extraordinary because there are many nations who have aligned their support behind one side or the other in Syria and have therefore succeeded in prolonging the conflict. At the same time, although not directly at war, these nations are fighting their political battles behind the scenes without direct military conflict, but through providing supplies and training and perhaps advisors on the ground. Some want Assad to remain in power others desire a more democratic government to be put in place. Underlying all this is the dark shadow of the world economic crisis, the threat to water security and climate change. Our inference would be that nations are far more reluctant to enter direct conflict because it is so expensive in money as well as life and the outcome very uncertain. To a certain extent, the U.S. seems to be exhausted by its many wars and reluctant to be caught up in another. Iran also seems reluctant although threatening war, probably because they know they are not yet strong enough.

To illustrate, around August 2012, reports suggested that there was a substantial military build up by the major powers and that many of the Middle Eastern countries were preparing for war. Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia very definitely were. Saudi Arabia especially was (and still is) very concerned with war against Iran, at least in part because their oil production would be severely threatened by the huge economic impact that would result. The U.S. reportedly positioned 4 aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and France was sending one there too. There was also a build up in the Eastern Mediterranean with Russia positioning substantial forces there in part to prevent intervention by the West in Syria. The UK and Greece and probably other nations were also involved as well as the US, Israel and Turkey. Then the tension eased.

Thus, the threat of many nations at war rises and falls. In recent days, bolstered by the military support it has received, Assad seems to have recovered somewhat leading to the situation that the internal war could drag on for much longer. So it is heartening to read that now it seems that the U.S. and Russia, who are on opposite sides, are talking of coming together with many nations and seeking to find a treaty solution to stop the disaster. At the same time, Russia seems to be strongly backing Assad, whereas the U.S. clearly wants to see a democratic government without Assad. Surely, in all this mess, a solution which brings peace to Syria would be best. But perhaps, it is oil and gas supply, lack of trust and fear of economic collapse that underlies everything.

At the same time, the antagonism of many nations against Israel never seems to abate. Israel’s political stance is always motivated by long term survival; that of the world to stop fighting now in the quest for peace. So any kind of military intervention by Israel always leads to strong protests from many nations just wanting to stop immediate conflict without giving Israel the security that it seeks. Since Israel has returned to the land of Abraham in the last century, the many attempts to stop their return or to expel them from this territory have failed. And they have failed catastrophically with huge loss of life and great pain. Hamas, who control Gaza, continue to maintain their charter to destroy Israel and so continue to be technically at war with her. By Hamas refusing to back off from their aggressive stance, the people living in Gaza suffer tremendously and have attracted the sympathy of the world. Recent history reveals the fact that all nations that have attacked Israel have suffered far more and continue to live in relative economic poverty.

When we study the Bible, we discover that it paints a picture of the approach to the end times where all nations who oppose Israel will suffer tremendously. That is exactly what we are seeing unfolding before our eyes.

My personal alignment in this is towards God and towards all the nations. God loves the world and by His grace I am working towards more love for the world as well. Although I am tremendously grateful to the descendants of Abraham, because they have given us the knowledge of God and Jesus, I also recognise that all nations have given us wonderful leaders and terrible ones too and many in between. But the Bible is very clear, God will vindicate His name to the world and He will be utterly faithful to His promises. It would be far better if we would fear God more than our neighbour; that would be the beginning of wisdom. It would also be better if our loyalty was to the world first and our nation second rather than the other way around. Then our commitment would flow with God’s desire.

Our Energy Future

There is growing, world wide debate and research about energy supply and cost, its impact on climate change, food supply and water security and the world’s economy. Underlying all these outcomes is the world’s burgeoning population, currently over 7 billion, which published research such as the annual “Living Planet Report” now suggests it is at least 1.5 times the population that our planet earth can sustain. Currently, we are managing to support this population, but primarily because of high technology which depends critically on energy supply and cost.

There is growing evidence that we are rapidly approaching the “Limits to Growth” projected in 1972 according to that books business as usual scenario. Our human ingenuity is enabling us to maintain our current prosperity levels and may continue to succeed in this for a number of years, but our conviction is that the limit will soon be reached which will precipitate a world wide crisis. It may be very soon or a number of years away, but we do believe that it is inevitable.

If we took action now, the pundits suggest we could still prepare for and learn to manage the lifestyle changes which are inevitable. However, the world authorities cannot help taking decisions along the lines of what will sustain or cause growth in their own nations now, because immediate demands and potential financial gains override the potential long term future pains. I’m still impressed by the title of James Hansen’s book on climate change, “Storms of my grandchildren” where he makes a powerful plea for strong action now against global warming to avoid creating a world of great difficulty for our future generations.

As we see it, our sinful human nature is fundamentally selfish and greedy and ignores God’s clear guidance to us and so we are inevitably destroying our future. For inevitably we will use wealth and resources we discover to improve our own house first before we will use it to help others.That same selfishness and greed is evident in our nations today as it has been throughout history as we prioritise their own nations welfare above that of other nations. In contrast, the Biblical standard is to love our neighbour as ourself which is a fundamentally different principle. History is repeating itself today for if we examine the past (research has looked into this closely), all previous civilisations have eventually collapsed, even the most powerful. So we believe that unless we change our fundamental character and self-preservation priorities, the current civilisation must eventually collapse. We see that the evidence of impending collapse is all around us.

The problem, is that although some of our experts continue to suggest rightly and wisely what we need to do, the fundamental nature of our modern, world wide national leaderships, does not have the inner power and philosophy to motivate and instigate those changes. As a well known writer penned many years ago, fundamentally “the love of money is the root of all evil” accurately reflects are human mindset from the beginning of history. To change our deep inner motivations requires a dramatic, fundamental religious change that only some are prepared to make.

We need to listen to the modern voices of such people as Richard Heinberg, Gail Tverberg, Lester Brown, Janes Hansen and many others who see the writing on the wall for the world of today. We should also visit web sites such as the Post-Carbon Institute and Peak Prosperity and others who are sounding powerful warnings and constructive suggestions about our future. Yes, there are many other voices that differ from these, but a study of their backgrounds suggest that many of them have a vested interest in the present which exceeds their longer term interest in the future.

I came to investigate all these things, because I first saw them in the Bible and wished to verify what I felt it was saying. I was stunned to find that the picture the Bible presents of the approach to the end times matches very well what we see unfolding today. Most end time theologies anticipate some of the things we see happening in the Middle East, but are far from seeing a picture of our modern civilisation and its collapse due to economic decline, food and water supply and global warming.

Energy supply and cost is a key factor. Our modern civilisation is founded on energy supply from fossil fuels, primarily coal, oil and natural gas. We have been extracting the fossil fuels at an ever increasing rate and as we do so, they have become harder to extract and increasingly expensive. In a general, big picture sense, this had made industrial production and farming and pretty much everything we do increasingly expensive and less profitable. There is still large resources available, but they are approaching the point where the cost of extraction is closing in on the financial return from the investment. So developed nations which rely more on industry are coming into increasing debt which they are finding increasingly difficult to reduce.

Enormous effort is now bring made to keep the good things going. Huge gains in efficiency have been made, but at the cost of making our world systems increasingly interdependent and tightly coupled. What we are doing is holding off collapse, but at the price that when it does happen it will be increasingly catastrophic in its impact the longer we continue this route. We are doing this in order to try to preserve the current glory, but at the price of long term pain rather than implementing some pain now to preserve a less glorious, but less painful future.

My perspective on all of this that what we are seeing unfold is heading towards the end time picture that the Bible presents which leads to a climax when Jesus returns. I see that it is not reasonably possible for there to be another global civilisation as long as we continue to live with a “me first” philosophy. We have lived contrary to God’s direction and are now reaping the consequences of our free will choices. God is not to blame for the current crisis and enormous suffering. We are. God has given us all we need and then some. We just haven’t listened.

References

The Living Planet Report, WWF, http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/2012_lpr/

Limits to Growth, The 30-Year Update, Meadows, Randers and Meadows, Earthscan, 2005.

Storms of my Grandchildren, James Hansen, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2009

Richard Heinberg is a well known author of books such as “The Party’s Over” and “The End of Growth”.

Gail Tverberg has a web site “Our Finite Planet” and is well respected for the continuous stream of quality articles she writes.

World on the Edge, Lester Brown, Earthscan, 2011

Shaking the Foundations

This is another post written for Christians who are interested in the end times. If you accept what is written here it will revolutionise your end time convictions.

For all published end time theologies up until now, perhaps the most crucial foundation comes from the interpretation of the seventy sevens prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27. Since 2006 I have had the conviction that this is incorrect; instead the key that unlocks our end time theology is in Daniel’s final vision from Daniel 11:36-12:13, the passage that has been a mystery to us all throughout the church age.

I suggest that if we think big picture, we will see that the seventy sevens prophecy cannot fulfil the foundational role that has been given to it and will continue to cause confusion as long as we try to give it this role. The Hebrew text of Daniel 9:24-27 is arguably one of the most ambiguous (if not the most ambiguous) passages in the Bible. This ambiguity is reflected in the differences in our English translations and in the huge number of different interpretations it has been given which correlate with the huge number of end time theologies. Most extraordinary is the extent to which each of us have held onto our particular view so strongly given the rather obvious ambiguity that is present.

Related to this and just as notable are the large number of commentaries on the book of Revelation which say little about their interpretation of the book of Daniel even though the bonding between these two books is so critical and the interpretation given is so tightly coupled to it.

Having said this, let’s now consider Daniel’s final vision to see why it can fulfil the role that the seventy sevens prophecy never could.

Firstly, it is written as a prophetic, historical narrative which is so accurate that many scholars believe it was written after the events described. It is therefore not written in hard to interpret symbolic, apocalyptic language and there are only small variations of interpretation right up until Daniel 11:35. This vision is not open to many plausible interpretations depending on interpretation principles as is the case with the other visions in Daniel and most of Revelation.

Second we note that the man in linen “came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come” (see Daniel 10:14). It is written so Daniel can understand what will happen to his people in the future. We should be able to as well and especially because we live after most of the history has already occurred.

Third, we note that it quickly surveys the period of the Persian Empire and then up to verse 35 covers in greater detail the period of the Greek Empire describing the various Ptolemaic kings (kings of the south) and Seleucid kings (kings of the north) which impacted Daniel’s people up until the Jews regained authority over Jerusalem by defeating the armies of Antiochus IV in 164 BC.

So in line with the purpose of this vision and the flow of the continuation of history our natural expectation of the next passage, Daniel 11:36-12:13, is that it would describe the rise and fall of the next empire to occupy Jerusalem, that is Rome. And that is precisely what it does. After searching through many books on Daniel, I was totally amazed that this option has never even been considered in the modern era and very rarely before that.

The criteria that we have applied to test this interpretation is that it must match history at least as well as the earlier description of the Greek Empire. This it does very well. The full detail of this is in a file available for download, but to give you a taste of this note the following

1. The king in Daniel 11:36 is the government of Rome. Daniel 11:36-39 describes the character of Rome in a remarkably elegant and precisely accurate way.

2. The rise and fall of the Empire is covered in Daniel 11:40-45. It is Jerusalem centric and only describes the history of Rome in Daniel’s known world which extends West to East from Greece to Persia and North to South from Turkey to the Sudan.

3. The history begins with Rome’s entry into the region with its war with the Seleucid Empire under Antiochus III. We can identify it with confidence because Antiochus III was the only major force outside of Rome which had a large navy and they engaged Rome in battle with navy and army from 192-188 BC. History tells us that Ptolemy V, the king of the south at that time, called to Rome for help against the king if the north because he was trying to capture land in the Aegean belonging to the Ptolemaic Kingdom. To accept this interpretation we have to realise that our English translators did not know the conflict that was being described and so assumed that the “king” fought against the “king of the south”, however the Hebrew text only says that the king engaged in battle with him which could equally be translated to mean that they fought on the same side against the king of the north.

4. With this interpretation of Daniel 11:40, Daniel’s perspective is that the “time of the end” starts with the Roman Empire. We must understand the book of Daniel from Daniel’s perspective for which these events are far in the future, not from our perspective today.

5. History tells us that after capturing Jerusalem in 63 BC, the Romans advanced against Petra, the capital of the Nabateans who were an Arab people who now occupied the region previously comprising Edom, Moab and Ammon in Daniel’s time. Rome accepted a bribe of 300 talents to withdraw from their attack and so fulfilled the prophecy in Daniel 11:41 precisely.

6. Daniel 11:44 describes in a very brief way the many battles Rome had to defend its Eastern and Northern provinces until it was eventually defeated by the northern tribes.

7. Daniel 12:1-4 gives us a description of the Jews persecution under Rome which is described as the worst until then. In allusion to these verses, Jesus says that the persecution of the Jews just before His return will be the worst until then, but will never be repeated (Matthew 24:21). There is a clue here that Jesus would have understood Daniel 12:1-4 as persecution by Rome, not at the end of the age.

These seven points give a taste of why this interpretation is so strong. In fact, every phrase can be shown to match history very well. Now let us see how this enables us to compute the length of the time, times and half a time.

Daniel 12:6-7 NIV
6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?”
7 The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, lifted his right hand and his left hand toward heaven, and I heard him swear by him who lives forever, saying, “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.”

The question asked by the angel assumes that the start time for the period is Daniel’s now, that is the third year of Cyrus, about 535 BC. That would be the natural way to understand the question; why many assume it starts with the king in Daniel 11:36 makes little sense. The end point is when the power of the Jews is finally broken. In the context of this prophecy, this occurred when the Jews were scattered all over the Empire and lost control of Jerusalem. History reveals that after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD they made about 10 attempts to rebuild it. The last one was in cooperation with the Muslims about 638 AD when they captured Jerusalem. The final “nail in the coffin” which eliminated all possibility of rebuilding the temple was the construction of the “Dome of the Rock” on the Temple Mount which began in 688 AD. This matches the end of the prophecy described in Daniel 12:11. Thus the prophecies of the book of Daniel, whose first was given to Nebuchadnezzar in his second year of reign (603 BC) ends in 688 AD after 1290 years. The time, times and half a time which begins in 535 BC ends in 688 BC after 1222 years. This is very different from the 3½ years normally assumed, but is far more robust in its derivation.

It is but a short step from here to arrive at the conclusion that the little horn in Daniel 7 must be Muhammed, the founder and prophet of Islam.

If we know the book of Daniel, we will quickly make a connection between the time, times and half a time in Daniel 12:7 with the one in Daniel 7:25. The results are even more dramatic. If the king in Daniel 11:36 is Rome, we can be sure that the four empires described in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2 and the vision in Daniel 7 are the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman Empires. Since the little horn in Daniel 7:8 who emerges from the Roman Empire also lasts for a time, times and half a time (TT½) as explained in Daniel 7:25 it cannot be the same period of time, it must be contiguous with the one in Daniel 12:7 and follow after it. When joined together they make a single longer period of seven, starting in 535 BC and still continuing today and with an abomination that causes desolation in the middle (Daniel 12:11-12).

The total period of time from these two TT½ must exceed 2,500 years as the end of the age has not yet come.

The astute student of the word of God will also see that the two TT½’s matches the final seven in Daniel 9:26-27. It contains two contiguous three and one halves with an “abomination that causes desolation” in the middle. However, this is not seven years, but more than 2,500 years.

All of Daniel’s visions focus on God’s people and centre on Jerusalem. The four empires he describes in Daniel 2 and 7 are all empires which had authority over Jerusalem and interestingly each of the founders of these empires is explicitly identified. So the question must be asked, which empire has controlled Jerusalem for most of the time after the Roman Empire and who was its founder?. The answer is clear, the Islamic kingdom. The little horn in Daniel 7 must therefore be Muhammad, the prophet and founder of the Islamic kingdom.

The revived Roman Empire promoted by some must be the Islamic Kingdom

The Three and a Half Years Part 2

This post examines the second crucial, fundamental assumption which underpins much end time theology. It is particularly targeted to Christians with an interest in end times theology. This post examines the basis for concluding that the time, times and half a time in Daniel 7:25, Daniel 12:7 and Revelation 12:14 is 3½ years. It is expected that the conclusions will generate some strong resistance, but I implore you to examine the interpretation very carefully so that we engage in fruitful debate at the deepest level in order to establish the truth.

What is the reason for taking the time, times and half a time (in future abbreviated TT½) in Daniel 7:25, Daniel 12:7 and Revelation 12:14 as 3½ years? We believe that this assumption cannot be adequately supported from the Bible and it is a (perhaps the) primary reason for end time theological confusion.

We discover that it relies on a chain of linked time periods incorporating the 42 months in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5, the 1260 days in Revelation 11:3 and 12:6, the TT½ in Revelation 12:14, the two TT½ in Daniel 7:25 and 12:7 and the first or second half of the final seven in Daniel 9:27. The assumed common identity and literalness of these time periods is used to derive the conclusion that this length is 3½ years. For many, this is also the primary basis through which the prophecies in the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation are linked which leads to specific, crucial time elements being imparted to the book of Revelation.

Since the interpretation of this time chain and its validity is so crucial to a large percentage of end time views, it is vital that it is very carefully and thoroughly checked. From an analysis of most commentaries, this is rarely if ever done and is therefore a major hermeneutical weakness in these works. Usually, the time chain is only cursorily checked and few of the links are thoroughly examined. Many just assume that the work of a previous scholar is valid and consequently they rarely check the assumption thoroughly for themselves.

Let’s draw a diagram of this time chain whose sequence reflects the usual way in which the links are inferred. The biblical references are shown underneath. The abbreviations are D = Daniel, R = Revelation, d = days, m = months, y = years and TT½ is the time, times and half a time.

TT½ -> 1260d -> 1260d –> 42m (=3½y) -> 42m -> TT½ -> TT½ -> 3½y
R12:14-> R12:6-> R11:3-> R11:2-> R13:5-> D7:25-> D12:7-> D9:27

The way this typically works is that firstly, the assumed common identity of Revelation 12:14 and 12:6 is used to establish that the TT½ is 1260 days. Then secondly, it is assumed that the two periods of 1260 days are the same. Then thirdly, the assumed common identity of the 42 months and the 1260 days in Revelation 11:2 and 3 is used to establish that the 1260 days is 3½ years. Fourthly, it is assumed that the 42 months in Revelation 13:5 must be this same period of time as the 42 months in Revelation 11:2 and therefore 3½ years as well. Fifthly, it is assumed that the TT½’s in Revelation and Daniel are all the same period of time which must then be 3½ years in length. Finally, this is equated to the (usually) final 3½ years in the final seven of the seventy sevens prophecy whose length of time was independently asserted from the interpretation of that prophecy (this was examined in Part 1 of this post).

Notice how this chain has 8 nodes and 7 links. If at any point the chain should be broken through an invalid assumption or the chain weakened through an unproven or doubtful assumption, then the overall interpretation will be damaged. In this way, the time chain should be seen to be fragile. Note that not all end time interpretations necessarily require all the 8 nodes.

Let us now examine these assumptions.

Firstly, is the 1260 days in Revelation 12:6 the same period of time as the TT½ in Revelation 12:14?

In Revelation 12:6 the woman flees, but why she flees is not explained and the focus of verse 6 is on the woman being “taken care of”. The Greek word used which occurs eight times focuses on the idea of feeding, nourishing and bringing up, but excludes the thought of protection from an enemy. Thus the focus of the 1260 days is nurture, not protection.

There are important similarities between the description of the woman fleeing into the wilderness to a place prepared for her and being nourished there in Revelation 12:6 and 12:14. For this reason, many scholars take the 1260 days and the TT½ as the same period of time. However, there are also important differences in the second passage reflected in all of Revelation 12;13-16 and these must be taken into account when making this assessment. Overall, it is apparent that the focus of the first passage is on nurture in the wilderness, whereas the focus in the second is protection from the direct attacks of the dragon and the indirect attacks of the serpent.

In Revelation 12:13, the woman is pursued, and by implication persecuted, by the dragon with the clear intention of destroying her. This would explain why she flees in Revelation 12:6. Then we are told in Revelation 12:14 that the woman is given the two wings of a great eagle and so is given help in her flight whereas in Revelation 12:6 no help is identified. Next, in Revelation 12:14 we are informed that she is carried to a place of refuge in the wilderness where she will be taken care of for a period of TT½. An important difference between Revelation 12:6 and Revelation 12:14 is that this place in the wilderness is “out of sight of the serpent”. It is quite curious that the identity of the woman’s aggressor changes from the “dragon” to the “serpent” although the same person is clearly in mind. Then we see that because the woman is out of sight, the serpent has to adopt a different “catch all” strategy to attack the woman as direct attack is not possible. So the serpent pours rivers of water out of his mouth to sweep her away. To understand this we need to recall the rivers of living water that flow from God’s throne as a picture of the work of the Holy Spirit. Here, the serpent’s counterfeit spiritual attack is designed as a catch all strategy to destroy the woman, much like Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus by killing all the babies less than two years old. The reason this attack fails is that “the earth swallowed the river”. We need to consider the vision picture here and we suggest that the reason the attack fails is that the “woman” is scattered over a large region implying that the woman is symbolic of a large group of people not a single individual.

The change of identity of Satan from being a “dragon” to be being a “serpent” reflects the different strategy needed to destroy the woman. As a dragon, the attack is direct and violent; as a serpent, the attack is subtle and deceptive.

So the focus on Revelation 12:13-16 is on Satan’s attempts to destroy the woman and the protection given to save her in the wilderness. This contrasts with Revelation 12:6 where the focus is on nourishing the woman in the wilderness. So what we must observe is that the period of 1260 days is related to the nourishment given to the woman at her location in the wilderness, whereas the TT½ is related to the protection given to the woman in the wilderness. The role of nourishment for 1260 days is replaced by the role of protection for a period of TT½.

When we examine the TT½ in Daniel 7:25 we see that the aggression of the little horn continues right up until the end of the age and so the protection of the woman must continue right up to the end as well. In contrast, when we examine the 1260 days in Revelation 11 it becomes apparent that there are events that follow after the end of the 1260 days before the end of the age. The TT½ must therefore be longer than the 1260 days. Although some may argue that the word translated “taken care of” in Revelation 12:6 and Revelation 12:14 means the same and therefore implies the period of time is the same length, a better explanation is provided if we include the wider context of Revelation 11 and Daniel 7 and recognise that the TT½ starts at the same time, but extends beyond the end of the 1260 days right to the end of the age.

Secondly, why does John make a distinction between the 1260 days and the 42 months?

This question is especially relevant if both are the same period of time. In my recollection, this question has not been examined, but the answer is obvious from the text. The 42 months is a period when Jerusalem is under the authority of her people’s enemies. The 1260 days is a period when the two witnesses are prophesying clothed in sackcloth and the woman has fled into the wilderness and so does not have a home so it has to do with actions of God’s people. Given that the two contexts are different, the onus is on the scholar to prove that they are the same; it cannot be assumed.

This conclusion is further reinforced when we recognise that under the Julian Calendar that was in use in John’s days, 42 months is equivalent to 1279 days if rounded up. If these periods are interpreted literally, they cannot be the same either. To overcome this, it is often taken that the 1260 days is 3½ years of 360 days (sometimes called a prophetic year) which can be shown to be valid in the days of Noah and probably in the days of Moses too. However, by the time of Daniel all countries in Mesopotamia were using calendars that recognised that a year was longer than 360 days. It is therefore highly doubtful that a 360 day year can be used literally although it might be used symbolically.

Thirdly, are the two periods of 1260 days the same?

Since the contexts of the two uses of this period of time are very similar, it is reasonable to assume that they are the same.

Fourthly, are the two periods of 42 months the same?

Since the contexts of the two uses of this period of time are very similar, it is reasonable to assume that they are the same.

Fifthly, is the 1260 days in Revelation 11:3 the same period of time as the 42 months in Revelation 11:2?

Since the descriptions are different, the contexts are different and the numbers expressing the length of time are different, the most natural assumption is to assume they are different. Although the two lengths are nearly the same, they are literally about 19 days different. A full explanation of this difference is necessary to be sure of any conclusion that we arrive at. This has rarely, if ever been done.

Our conviction is that the only possible conclusion that unifies the whole word of God is that these two periods are 3½ years symbolically, but something else literally.

Sixthly, are all the periods of TT½ the same?

If we allow the presence of the same numbers to determine our end time theology, this is like the “tail wagging the dog”. The presence of the same phrase does not prove they are the same period of time especially if the phrase is symbolic and since the context surrounding each use is so different, we need to have solid grounds for saying they are the same. To my knowledge, this has not been done.

The weight of textual evidence using sound interpretation principles strongly suggests that the TT½ in Daniel 12:7 begins at the time Daniel received this final vision, that is in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia which is about 535 BC. The question that is asked in Daniel 12:6 is “How long shall it be until the end of these wonders?”. The normal, natural meaning of this question is that the starting time for the period is Daniel’s now which is the third year of Cyrus, not when the king appears on the scene in Daniel 11:36.

It also strongly suggests that the TT½ in Daniel 7:25 begins when the little horn emerges out of Rome. Whatever interpretation you give to the little horn, the two TT½ cannot be the same. To conclude that the two TT½ are the same the validity of the time chain must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Seventhly, is the final period of seven in the seventy sevens prophecy a period of seven years so that the events that occur in the middle of that seven split it into two periods of 3½ years?

The argument given in Part 1 of this post strongly suggest that the periods of seven are either symbolic or determined from the context of the interpretation. We cannot without further evidence conclude that the final seven is a period of seven years.

Many other scholars, who interpret Revelation symbolically, still see these time periods as being the same length of time, but frequently interpret the period to be actually the whole or most of the church age. However, these scholars rarely debate the reason why John uses 1260 days in one place, 42 months in another and why Daniel and John use a time, times and half a time. If indeed John has written under the inspiration of the Lord with precision, the failure to explain these differences is a weakness in the interpretation.

In conclusion, it is very doubtful that we can validly conclude from intensive Bible study that the periods of seven in the seventy sevens prophecy are periods of years and the time, times and half a time is 3½ years. This means that substantial components of most end time theologies are in error and most certainly cannot be asserted with any degree of confidence. Accepting this conclusion will most definitely lead to the removal of much confusion and steer us to a much more accurate end time theology.

I do expect some strong emotional reactions to what has been written here. From my perspective what has been written is motivated by a strong desire to know God and a love for the truth reflected in my convictions that the word of God is accurate. I believe the truth is knowable so that the end time confusion reflects the fact that up until now there is so much confusion. Current end time theologies must to some extent be in error, because they neither unify the word of God nor do they bring unity to the world wide church.

The Big Picture to Watch

The granularity of Bible prophecy is an important factor we must understand if we are to interpret the Bible correctly. We have to be very careful when seeing events in the world as fulfilling Bible prophecy. They need to be carefully tested as frequently a specific event does not have adequate significance to match the big picture presentation of Bible prophecy. We can gain some perspective of this from the book of Daniel because we can identify the exact fulfilment of some of the things that are written. The same granularity must carried over to all other Bible prophecy.

In this post we want to examine two key passages in the book of Joel. The first is the very well known passage in Joel 2:28-32 where God foretells the outpouring of God’s Spirit on all flesh. This prophecy is picked up by Peter when the Holy Spirit first came on the Day of Pentecost. On that day, Peter quoted from this passage saying that Joel’s prophecy was beginning to be fulfilled and that this was the beginning of the “last days”.

At this point we come up against a major challenge in Biblical interpretation. Many Christians see that Joel’s prophecy will be fulfilled in the last few years before Jesus returns in an extraordinary end time revival and that what happened on the Day of Pentecost foreshadowed a much greater outpouring that will occur in the end times in the generation that will see the return of Jesus. The alternative interpretation is that Joel’s prophecy began with Pentecost and then extends throughout the church age which is equivalent to the “last days” and so has so far lasted nearly 2,000 years. In our view the Biblical evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of this alternative interpretation.

Crucial to making this choice is the time element. Many see most Biblical last days prophecy being fulfilled in the generation that will see Jesus return or the last 3.5 or 7 years before His return. These will inevitably interpret the outpouring of God’s Spirit as primarily being fulfilled during this end time period. However, if the last days extends throughout the church age then so must the outpouring of God’s Spirit.

To see this more clearly, let’s unpack Joel 2:28-32, for the Hebrew text reflects a typical Hebrew structure which can only be partially discerned in our modern English translations. In the Hebrew Bible these five verses are a separate chapter, chapter 3. Our chapter 3 is the Hebrew chapter 4. This passage divides into three sections.

A. The outpouring of God’s Spirit (v 28-29).
B. Final signs (v 30-31)
A’. The salvation for all who respond (v 32)

Sections A and A’ have similar structure

Section A

And it will be (one Hebrew word which implies more than just “and”)
A time phrase (afterward)
An action (I will pour out my Spirit)
An outcome (prophesying, declaring God’s word)
A time phrase (“in those days”, in the Hebrew text this comes before the next phrase)
The same action (I will pour out my Spirit)

Section A’

And it will be (the same Hebrew word as begins section A implying the same time period)
The time phrase is omitted as it is implied and not needed
An action (Every one who calls on name of the Lord)
An outcome (salvation in Mt Zion and in Jerusalem)
The time phrase is omitted as it is implied and not needed
A similar, reverse action (Whom The Lord calls)

Note how the outpouring of God’s Spirit and the prophesying in section A lead to people calling out to God and God calling so that there is salvation in section A’. The two sections are parallel and are fulfilled concurrently. All will experience the outpouring of God’s Spirit, but only those that call on the Lord will experience salvation. That is what Peter saw on the Day of Pentecost; the beginning of the fulfilment of this prophecy as section A and A’ were seen. According to Acts 1 and 2, those that respond to the Spirit and accept God’s call are empowered by His Spirit to be His witnesses and these witnesses prophesy. Together with the Spirit, the prophetic witness is passed on so that more and more people respond and shine the light of the glory of the gospel to those around them. This is also the prophetic witness described by John in a concurrently parallel passage in Revelation 11:1-6 in his allusion to Joel in Revelation 11:3-4. This understanding of Revelation 11 is explained in the book “The Time is Near” available for download on this web site.

Peter also quoted Joel 2:30 describing wonders seen in the heavens and on earth blood, fire and smoke which was clearly not being fulfilled. This verse and similar words are here and elsewhere described as occurring just before the Day of The Lord and associated with the second coming of Jesus. Interestingly, this verse is sandwiched between section A and A’. I suggest the reason is obvious; section B marks the end of the period of time which begins with the outpouring of God’s Spirit and the opportunity of all flesh to respond to God’s initiative. Conclusion, this prophecy must span the whole church age. It is not just about a final end time revival which we have yet to see.

When we examine the statistics of church growth throughout the church age, history supports our conclusion. The outpouring of God’s Spirit has been occurring throughout the church age and also there has been an acceleration of growth and the manifestation of God’s power too.

Note that when Peter quotes from Joel in Acts 2:17-21, he omits the last part of Joel 2:32, the final verse. In that part, those on whom the Lord calls are specified rather than those that call on the Lord. Curious. This relates to those who respond to God’s final call, especially the faithful remnant of Jews and others who have not heard the gospel. See also Revelation 11:12 and those that respond when the earthquake comes and Revelation 14:6-7.

So the locust invasion and the mighty army invasion in Joel 1 and 2 identify the beginning and on going attacks against people which lead up to the Day of The Lord which ends them. Joel 3 describes that final end.

When we come to Joel 3:1, we see that the time of its fulfilment is “in those days” which is the same phrase used for the period of the outpouring of God’s Spirit in Joel 2:28-29 and, in addition, the time when God has restored the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem. If, as we believe, “in those days” refers to the church age, then the only time in history when the second condition could be concurrently fulfilled is in recent times when Israel became a nation in 1948 and the subsequent history which saw Israel win some extraordinary military victories and enjoy incredible success in the face of enormous opposition. At that time, Joel 3:2 says that God would gather all the nations to a place of reckoning and enter into judgment against them based on the way they treated His chosen people.

In a big picture sense, that is what we are seeing occurring today. This gathering is not something occurring in an instant of time, but rather the result of activity spanning the decades since the Second World War. It is the overall outcome of multiple events. In our view it is significant that all the nations geographically surrounding and near Israel are Islamic and that most of them are hostile or at best unfriendly. A few of them, notably Iran and Hamas have publicly stated their goal is to destroy Israel and technically are at war although not in practice. The alignment of other nations further away seems to vary continuously, but is primarily based on political and economical factors. Only the US and a few other nations have remained as faithful allies.

In quite a notable way, the description in Joel 3:4-8 corresponds well with the condition of Lebanon (the region of Tyre and Sidon) and that of the Palestinians (the regions of Philistia) mentioned in Joel 3:4. Although written in words corresponding to the geography and language contextualised to Joel’s era, the description of these people being sold to Judah who then in turn sell them to the Arabs (the Sabeans) is vivid and in a big picture sense an accurate picture of the current situation. This all suggests that Joel 3:1-8 is a picture of our “now”.

If this is correct then the next thing that occurs from Joel 3:9 and onwards is preparation for war. I would suggest that this is already happening. Therefore, we must watch and pray in order that we can be prepared and not be surprised or dismayed as tragic and threatening events continue to unfold.