We are well aware that in broaching this point we shall probably evoke the criticism of honored brethren and be charged with |setting a date| for the Return of our Lord. Nevertheless, we feel constrained to set down our honest convictions, only asking our readers to examine in the light of Holy Writ what we now advance tentatively and not dogmatically.
In ancient times it was commonly held by Jewish rabbis before our Lord's first advent, and by many of the most eminent of the church fathers afterwards, that the Creation week of Genesis one defined the limits of earth's history. Before we proceed with our argument we shall first quote from three who lived in the second and third centuries, not that we appeal to them as authorities, but simply to show that the view was commonly held in the century which immediately followed the apostles and before the Blessed Hope was lost.
In the thirteenth chapter of the apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas, written about 150 A.D., we read -- |God made in six days the works of His hands, and He finished them the seventh day, and He rested the seventh day and sanctified it. Consider, my children, what this signifies: He finished them in six days. The meaning of it is this: that in six thousand years the Lord will bring all things to an end. For with Him one day is a thousand years, as Himself testifieth. Therefore, children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years -- Shall all things be accomplished. And what is that He saith, And He rested the seventh day? He meaneth this: that when His Son shall come, and abolish the season of the wicked one, and judge the ungodly, and shall change the sun, moon and stars, then He shall gloriously rest in that seventh day. ** Behold, He will then truly sanctify it with blessed rest, when we (having received the righteous promise, when iniquity shall be no more, all things being renewed by the Lord) shall be able to sanctify it, being ourselves first made holy.|
Next we quote from the writings of the distinguished Irenaeus who was a disciple of Polycarp, who, in turn, was a disciple of John the apostle. It has been said that |for learning, steadfastness and zeal, he was amongst the most renowned of the early fathers.| Consider then his testimony -- |In whatever number of days the world was created, in the same number of thousands of years it will come to its consummation. God, on the sixth day, finished the works which He made; and God rested on the seventh day from all His works. This is a history of the past and a prophecy of the future; for a day with the Lord is as a thousand years.| Similarly, Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, who was martyred in the year 258, wrote -- |In the Divine arrangement of the world, seven days were at first employed, and in them seven thousand years were included.|
It may be objected to the above quotations that they are merely the opinions and speculations of fallible men, and that their views find no warrant in the Word of God. It is true that they were the beliefs of eminent saints, beliefs which were shared by many of God's people in ancient times, and it is also true that this appeal to antiquity is no proof of the authenticity of the view we now advocate; but to say that it is has no warrant in God's Word is more than we are prepared to admit, yea, as we shall seek to show there is not a little in the Scriptures which seems to countenance and confirm it.
First, we would appeal to the Septenary system of the sacred calendar of Israel. Here we cannot do better than quote from the late Dr. Johnson -- |Through the whole Scripture, both of the Old and New Testaments, there is a striking typical representation of some great and important Sabbath, as a great septenary that has not yet taken place, and which evidently appears to be the Millenarian Septenary, as the great Sabbath of the whole earth. God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it. In the Decalogue this peculiar distinguishment of the seventh day, or weekly sabbath, was most solemnly renewed. Every seventh year was appointed a sabbatical year. And the commencement of the year of jubilee which was every fiftieth year, was to be fixed by the running of a septenary of sabbatical years. |Thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years, and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years| (Lev.25:8). The number seven, because used in Scripture to complete all the sacred divisions of times, was regarded by the Jews as the symbol of perfection, and is used in this sense in Scripture. The question then arises, Is it to be supposed that all these events, which are interwoven with the Mosaic dispensation, which was itself symbolical or typical, and which are introduced into the New Testament, and abound so much in the Book of Revelation, have no antetype to correspond to them? -- no great sabbatical septenary to which they all point and in which they all shall be accomplished? Is it not highly probable that they are all typical of the seventh millenary of the earth, which is the great Sabbath?| To which we answer, we certainly believe so.
Second; God is a God of order. In Scripture, in creation and in history, we find innumerable evidences that God works according to a mathematical plan. Numerical design is stamped upon all His handiwork. This fact is so freely recognized that we need not pause to illustrate. What we would now ask is, Is it likely that in His great dispensational plan He has departed from His general rule? We cannot believe it. But we are not left to bare conjecture. That part of God's age plan which is already before us gives plain intimation that He who knows the end from the beginning and has |framed the ages| (Heb.1:2-Greek) has appointed symmetrical lines to the main divisions and the limits of the world's history. From Adam to Abraham there were two thousand years. From Abraham to the Divine incarnation there was another two thousand years. May there not be another two thousands years then between the first and the second advents? We firmly believe there will be. God's ways in the past foreshadow His dealings in the future, for He changeth not. That the proportions of the present dispensation will correspond with the preceding two great divisions of the world's time we shall seek to demonstrate in our next argument.
Third; we would here call attention to a statement made in connection with the resurrection of Lazarus. In John 11:6, 7 we learn that |When He had heard therefore that he (Lazarus) was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was. Then after that saith He to His disciples, Let us go into Judea again.| Why are we told the exact length of time our Lord remained away from Judea after that He received word of Lazarus' sickness? There must be some good reason for the record of this fact. There is nothing superfluous or meaningless in God's Word. We believe that there is a deeper meaning to this than appears on the surface. Before we suggest what this meaning is, let us note another important word in this connection. In John 11:17 we read |Then when Jesus came, He found that he (Lazarus) had lain in the grave four days already.| Again, we ask, Why this information concerning the precise number of days that Lazarus had lain in the grave? Is the answer far to seek? Did not Lazarus typify the condition of man at that time? -- the time of the first advent, the time |when Jesus came.| In what condition did the Son of God find the one who had been made in His own image? He found him dead -- dead in trespasses and sins. And how long had man been in this state? According to God's estimate of time -- a thousand years as a day -- exactly four days, for there can be little doubt that from Adam to Christ was just that length of time. Here then is the key to the |two days| of verse 6. Lazarus not only represented the natural man in his spiritually dead condition, but as the one whom |Jesus loved| he typified the nation of Israel, and just as Christ, after abiding for two days outside the land, said |Let us go into Judea again| and there, and then, raised Lazarus, so after two thousand years absence from the earth, our Lord shall return to Judea and restore Israel to life. |A fanciful supposition| says someone. Not at all, is our reply. Our conclusion is in perfect harmony with the express testimony of Scripture. Listen, |After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight| (Hosea 6:2)!
If further proof be required to show that our Lord will be absent from the earth |two days| (two thousand years) we have another typical hint in John 4:43, 45 -- |Now after two days He departed thence, and went into Galilee. ** Then when He was come into Galilee, the Galileans received Him,| and then follows the record of the healing of the nobleman's son. Who can fail to see in this dispensational picture which will be realized in the millennium! As John 11 presents our Lord's return to Judea after an interval of |two days| which is followed, typically, by the restoration of Israel, so here, in John 4, after |two days| our Lord comes into Galilee |of the Gentiles| which is followed, typically, by their |healing|! The same time-mark is found in John 2:1. It was on the third day| - after |two days| that |there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee,| where the wine (symbol of joy, see Ps.104:15) is provided by Christ -- the |best| kept till |the last| and where He |manifested forth His glory| (vs.11) -- how perfect the type! -- which clearly pictures another millennial scene, and this also is on |the third day| -- the |third| after two days absence from the earth! Still other illustrations might be adduced but these are sufficient. |Four days| from Adam to the first advent, |two days| of absence, making a total of six (6,000 years) and then the Lord returns to usher in the |seventh day,| the Millennium, when the sick will be healed, the dead raised, the wine provided, and the glory of Christ fully manifested.
Fourth; in 2 Pet.3:8 we read, |But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.| Two things here are to be particularly noted. First, the immediate context of these words directly connects them with the second advent of Christ! In verses 3 and 4 the apostle tells us that in the last days |scoffers| should ask, |Where is the promise of His coming?| to which they add, |for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.| The force of this is obvious: men will point to the world around and declare that everything is stable and prosperous, refusing to see any indications of the approaching doom of Christendom. In reply the apostle declares, |For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the Word of God the heavens which were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.| Having silenced the objection of the |scoffers,| the apostle now addresses himself to the saints, saying, |But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.| Thus we see that these words are directly connected with the subject of our Lord's return. In the second place, observe the words, |But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing.| The |be not ignorant| is in apposition to the |this they (the |scoffers|) willingly are ignorant of| (vs.5). The |this one thing| calls attention to the importance of what he was about to say. God forbid that His people today should be |willingly ignorant of| what He has been pleased to make known to us. If, then, Scripture distinctly tells us that |one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,| are we not fully justified in concluding that the six days' work of Genesis one foreshadowed six thousand years of human toil and labor, and that the seventh day, the Sabbath, which God |blessed| and |sanctified| and on which He |rested from all His work| typified that dispensation of blessing which shall follow the six thousand years of human effort, a dispensation over which the Prince of Peace shall preside, and a dispensation which will last exactly |a thousand years|!
Fifth; as we have pointed out in an earlier chapter, the Transfiguration upon the holy mount was a seventh day scene. Matthew says, |And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them| (Matt.17:1, 2). Luke says, |And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings. He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His rainment was white and glistering| (Luke 9:28, 29). Why these time-marks? The |transfiguration| was a spectacular setting forth of the leading features and characteristics of the millennial kingdom, and the fact that the Gospels present this as a seventh day scene certainly seems to add weight to the conclusion that the Millennium will follow six thousand years (six days) of human toil and labor, and thus be the antitypical fulfillment of the seventh day of Gen.2:3.
Sixth; the Millennium is distinctly termed |a Sabbath-keeping| -- Heb.4:9.
Seventh, whatever may be thought of what we have advanced above, personally, we know of nothing whatever in Scripture which contradicts it. It is true that Acts 1:7 is often appealed to but it is clear from 1 Thess.5:1-7 that it will not bear the construction that is frequently placed upon it. We may be considered |fanciful,| but if so, we are fanciful in company with a goodly and godly number -- |Luther entertained it. Melancthon wrote it on the fly-leaf of his Bible, as a matter not to be disputed. Thousands of divines since his time have received it as part of their faith. And when we come, to place together certain statements of the Scriptures, there seems to me to be a weight of testimony in its favor sufficient to warrant us in regarding it as sacred truth. Look at these sentences: --
|In six days the Lord made heaven and earth.|
|On the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.|
|One day is with the Lord as a thousand years.|
|There remaineth therefore a keeping of Sabbath to the people of God.| (Quoted from |The Last Times| by J. A. Seiss).
What then is the practical value of this computation? This, that it furnishes us with another proof that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. No doubt there is Divine design about the present confusion in human chronology. It is impossible for us to ascertain with certainty the precise year of grace in which we are now living. But it is almost certain, as certain as any human calculation can be, that the year 5900 A.M. was passed considerably more than a decade ago, and therefore less than a century is now required to complete the sixth millennium. The end of the sixth day is nigh at hand, and as we know that the Tribulation period which follows the Rapture will last at least seven years and probably much longer, then the descent of Christ into the air to catch up His saints to Himself is that much nearer still. Let it be distinctly understood that the period of |two days| when our Lord is absent, has to do with His absence from the earth and that His coming back to the earth at the close of the 6000 years to usher in the Millennium follows some years after the first stage of His second advent, so that in no sense are we |fixing a date| for the coming of Christ for His saints -- the date of that event is absolutely |hidden in God.| Yet, as we say, we know that the approximate time this must be very near,because at the close of the present century (and how far this century has progressed we cannot say for certain) the Millennium itself will begin, and before that arrives there is the Tribulation period which may last forty or even seventy years. Consider now --