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CHAPTER V

UNDERSTANDING THE BOOK OF REVELATION

Written By
S.R. Shearer

The last thing one must do in coming to a meaningful understanding of the prophetic Scriptures is to apprehend the course and character of the Seventieth Week and the "time element" at play in the Scripture. We begin by outlining the Book of Revelation.

The Apocalypse or the Revelation can be divided into four distinct parts as follows:

  1. Part one (chapters 1-3): introduction and the letters to the Seven Churches.
  2. Part two (chapters 4-5): the disclosure of God's glory and authority.
  3. Part three (chapters 6-19): the prophecy itself.
    1. The Seven Seals* (chapter 6): the first half of the Seventieth Week.
    2. The Seven Trumpets* (chapter 8): the second half of the Seventieth Week.
    3. The Seven Vials* (chapters 15-16): the wrath of God.

* It is important to note that these events are enfolded in each other; that is to say, the Seven Vials proceed out from the Seventh Trumpet; and the Seven Trumpets proceed out from the Seventh Seal. The remaining or intervening chapters (chapters 7, 9-14, and 17-19) fill in the details glossed-over by the chapters cited above, i.e., chapters 6, 8, and 15-16.

[Click here to see chart #1]

  1. Part four (chapters 20-22): the conclusion, which itself consists of three parts:
    1. The Judgment (chapter 20).
    2. The Millennium (chapter 20).
    3. Eternity and New Jerusalem (chapters 21-22).

THE SEVENTY WEEKS

Having outlined the Apocalypse, it is now necessary to apprehend - at least to some degree - the time elements at play in the "Last Days." To do so, however, it is essential to go back to the prophecy of Daniel where the chronology of God's program with regard to BOTH Israel and the Church is sketched-out.

THE SEVENTY WEEKS IN GOD'S
PROGRAM OF REVEALING
HIS GLORY AND AUTHORITY
IN BOTH ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH

To reiterate quickly what we have already said, God has a program for both the heavens and the earth, the purpose of which is to ultimately manifest His glory and authority in both spheres. Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder and first president of Dallas Theological Seminary, writes:

"... throughout the ages God is pursuing two distinct purposes: one related to the earth with earthly people and earthly objectives [Israel] ... while the other is related to heaven with heavenly people and heavenly objectives [the Church]..." 1

At the heart of God's program, then, is the aim of establishing His authority in:

  1. The earth through Israel 2 and
  2. The heavens through the Church. 3

[If you haven't already, we urge you to read Chapter 3 of the Antipas Papers which elaborates on God's "Plan and Purpose" in both Israel and the Church.]

To accomplish this purpose, God has labored over a space of some 4,000 years, beginning first with Israel, and ending finally with the Church. In each time frame, God dealt primarily with only one entity: first Israel, and then the Church. For the first 2,000 years, from Abraham to Christ, God labored with Israel, building it up and shaping it as a corporate entity; then He seemingly put Israel on the Shelf, and concentrated on the Church [from Pentecost to the present].

THE VISION OF THE SEVENTY WEEKS

The vision of the Seventy Weeks essentially outlines this course of events, defining the date when, in the providence of God, Israel was to be set aside temporarily while God began His good work with the Church, and fixing the one event which would bring to a close God's labor with the Church and the time wherein God would, like some great master-craftsman, finish His work, put down His tools, and - for the first time - raise them BOTH up together.

The vision of the Seventy Weeks is contained in the Book of Daniel, chapter nine. Daniel had a vision of Seventy Weeks that was determined on his people to finish their transgressions, make an end of their sins and bring in everlasting righteousness.

The expression, Seventy Weeks, should really be read seventy sevens. Whether these sevens are days, weeks, or years is to be determined by the context in which they are used. The period of the Seventy Weeks is essentially divided into two parts by the prophet: the first sixty-nine weeks [or sevens (which itself is also divided into two parts - from the decree of the king to the restoration of Jerusalem (seven weeks); and from the restoration (verse 25b-27a) to Messiah, (sixty-two weeks)] and then the final Seventieth Week.

THE FIRST SIXTY-NINE WEEKS

Daniel had been studying the prophecy of Jeremiah and had learned from it that the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity were drawing to a close [the captivity had begun in B.C. 606, and sixty-eight years had elapsed since then]. This discovery thrilled Daniel and he set his face towards God and poured out his soul in one of the most wonderful prayers recorded in the Scriptures. His prayer was interrupted by the appearance of the angel Gabriel, who had been sent at the commencement of the prayer to give Daniel understanding in the matter. Daniel was told that sixty-nine weeks [sevens] would pass from the going forth of the commandment to "restore and build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince" [Christ].

The date of the commandment is given in Nehemiah 2:1 as the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, the king, which was the fourteenth day of March, B.C. 445. The day when Jesus rode in triumphal entry into Jerusalem as Messiah the Prince was Palm Sunday, April 6, A.D. 32. But the time between March 14, B.C. 445 and April 6, A.D. 32 is much more than sixty-nine literal weeks. What explanation is there to this?

We are confronted with a cipher, a puzzle.

It is clear to every careful student of the Word of God that there is a "time element" in the Scriptures. We come across such expressions of time as hours, days, weeks, months, years [all of which are used in cipher-like contexts], and finally, such exotic expressions as "time, times, and the dividing of time." To be intelligible and to avoid confusion, they must all be interpreted on the same scale. What is that scale? It is given in Numbers 14:34:

"After the number of the days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years."

The Lord's scale, then, is that a day stands for a year.

Also, we must not forget that there are years of different lengths. The Lunar Year has 354 days. The Calendar Year has 360 days. The Solar Year has 365 days. The Julian Year has 365-1/4 days. Which of these years shall we use in our calculations?

The key is once again found in the Word of God. In Genesis 8:3 [in the account of the Flood], we find that the five months from the 17th day of the second month until the 17th day of the seventh month was reckoned as 150 days, or thirty days to a month or 360 days to a year. So a "Prophetic Year" is 360 days.

No more careful study has been made of the problem of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel than that by Sir Robert Anderson in the Coming Prince. Anderson reckons the chronology of the Sixty-Nine weeks thus:

"From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks." An era therefore of sixty-nine "weeks," or 483 prophetic years reckoned from the 14th of March, B.C. 445, should close with some event to satisfy the words, 'unto the Messiah the Prince'. "No student of the gospel narrative can fail to see that the Lord's last visit to Jerusalem was not only in fact, but in the purpose of it, the crisis of His ministry ... now the twofold testimony of His words and His works had been fully rendered, and His entry into the Holy City was to proclaim His Messiahship and to receive His Doom ... "And the date of it can be ascertained. In accordance with the Jewish custom, the Lord went up to Jerusalem upon the 8th Nisan, 'six days before the Passover'. But as the 14th, on which the Paschal Supper was eaten, fell that year upon Thursday, the 8th was the preceding Friday. He must have spent the Sabbath, therefore, at Bethany; and on the evening of the 9th, after the Sabbath had ended, the Supper took place in Martha's house. Upon the following day, the 10th Nisan, He entered Jerusalem as recorded in the Gospels. "The Julian date of that 10th Nisan was Sunday the 6th April, A.D. 32. What then was the length of the period intervening between the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the public advent of 'Messiah the Prince' - between the 14th March, B.C. 445, and the 6th April, A.D. 32? THE INTERVAL CONTAINED EXACTLY AND TO THE VERY DAY 173,880 DAYS, OR SEVEN TIMES SIXTY-NINE PROPHETIC YEARS OF 360 DAYS, the first sixty-nine weeks of Gabriel's prophecy." 4

Anderson arrives at his figures as follows:

"The 1st Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes [the edict to rebuild Jerusalem] was 14 March, B.C. 445. "The 10th Nisan in Passion Week [Christ's entry into Jerusalem] was 6th April, A.D. 32. "The intervening period was 476 years and 24 days [the days being reckoned inclusively, as required by the language of the prophecy, and in accordance with the Jewish practice].5

"476 x 36 = 173,740 days
"Add [14 March to 6th
April, both inclusive
24 days
"Add for leap years 116 days
173,880

"And 69 weeks of prophetic years of

360 days [or 69 x 7 x 360] = 173,880 days."6

Thus, as Pentecost suggests,

"... Anderson shows us that the sixty-nine weeks began with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and terminated at the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday of the week of the Lord's death. The corrected reading of Luke 19:42, spoken as our Lord came into Jerusalem on that day is most significant: "if thou also hadst known, even on this day, the things which belong to thy [Jerusalem's] peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes." The accuracy of Daniel's prophecy is observed in that he states 'after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off' (Dan. 9:26)." 7

THE INTERVAL BETWEEN
THE SIXTY-NINTH WEEK
AND THE SEVENTIETH WEEK

Then the Scriptures indicate that there was to be a break in God's program with Israel which would occur between the Sixty-Ninth and the Seventieth Weeks, and that this break would continue to a war yet distant in the future. why? So that God could "build-up" the Church. The span of time would be ended by a war through which Israel would once again be restored back into the mainstream of God's purpose. The Seventieth Week itself would commence with a "covenant that is made with many for one week," or for seven years. [This subject is covered in the chapter 6 dealing with Gog/Magog War.]

THE PROPHECY OF THE SEVENTIETH WEEK

The Seventieth Week, which will be of a seven year duration, can be divided into two periods, each of a three and a half year duration [1,260 days, 42 months, "time (1 year), times (2 years) and half a time (one half year)"], the first half being known commonly as the "Beginning of Sorrows" (Matt. 24:8), and the second half as the "Great Tribulation" (Rev. 7:14).

[Click here to see chart#2.]
(Large file-66.3k)

THE THREE SIGNPOSTS OF THE SEVENTIETH WEEK

Thus, we have a course of events which spans a period of seven years and which is marked off into two distinct periods by three well defined events. These events are as follows:

  1. The beginning: THE TREATY WITH DEATH AND HELL through which Anti-christ, as "King of Babylon," will guarantee Israel's security in a defense pact against the Northern Powers; this treaty will provoke the events of the Gog/Magog War and the first half of the Seventieth Week.
  2. The middle: the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION.
  3. The End: the BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON.

[Click here to see chart#3.]
(Large file-114.6k)

THE SEVEN SEALS,
THE SEVEN TRUMPETS,
AND THE SEVEN VIALS

The character of the first half of the Seventieth Week will be defined by the Seven Seals; that of the second half by the Seven Trumpets; and the end [the Judgment, which will actually occur immediately AFTER the Seventieth Week] by the Seven Vials. Throughout the length of this entire period, two themes or "currents of action" are carefully interwoven or interlaced into the course of events - one earthly and the other heavenly, one physical and the other spiritual.

THE COURSE AND CHARACTER
OF THE SEVENTIETH WEEK

The entire course and character of the Seventieth Week are outlined in Matthew chapter twenty-four:

THE EVENTS OF THE
SEVENTIETH WEEK

INTRODUCTION

"And as he (Christ) sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

"And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you

THE SEVEN SEALS
[1st half of 70th Week i.e., the Tribulation)]


"For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ: and shall deceive man.

"AND YE SHALL HEAR OF WARS AND RUMOURS OF WARS: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

"FOR NATIONS SHALL RISE AGAINST NATION, AND KINGDOM AGAINST KINGDOM: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

"ALL THESE THINGS ARE THE BEGINNING OF SORROWS.

"Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.

"And then shall many (who have merely professed to be Christians) be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

"And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

"And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

"But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come.

MID-POINT (Abomination of Desolation)

"WHEN YE THEREFORE SHALL SEE THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION SPOKEN OF BY DANIEL THE PROPHET STAND IN THE HOLY PLACE (WHOSO READETH, LET HIM UNDERSTAND)

"Then let them ... flee ...

THE SEVEN TRUMPETS [2nd half of the 70th Week (i.e., the Tribulation)]

"For then shall be GREAT TRIBULATION (the second half of the Seventieth Week) such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be (again).
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST [Resurrection & Rapture of the Saints]

"Immediately after the tribulation of those days (the second half of the Seventieth Week) shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

"And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,

"And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet (the trumpet spoken of in I Thess. 4:16-17: 'For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with ... the TRUMP of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air."), and they shall gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matt. 24:3-16, 21, 29-31).

THE SEVEN VIALS [The Judgments]

 

FOOTNOTES

  1. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology. Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947, p. 107.
  2. Ibid., pg. 107.
  3. Ibid., pg. 107.
  4. Sir Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1909. pg. 121-123.
  5. Ibid., pg. 128.
  6. Ibid., pg. 128.
  7. Pentecost, op. cit., pg. 246.
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