a christian perspective on the world today

The End of the World … Again?

Don’t get too alarmed, but word on the streets is that the world is going to end in 2016. Yes, this very year. Surprised? Well, these things are like dental appointments. They have a way of sneaking up on you.

So how will this change your life? Obviously there’s no point in worrying about presents if the world is going to end before Christmas. And that diet that will help you fit into your swimsuit next summer? You can forget about that too. That’s the good news. 

But some of us may find the idea of an end-time judgement rather sobering, especially after the dastardly things we had to do to get ahead at the office.

The 2016 end-of-the-year prediction is based on a text in the biblical book of Daniel. The prophet, who lived in the third or early second centuries BC, wrote, “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin” (Daniel 9:24, NIV). 

“To put an end to sin.” Doesn’t that sound a lot like God is cancelling the next season of Home and Away? But what exactly are those “sevens?” They sound like weeks, don’t they? That’s how Bible scholars have interpreted Daniel’s prophecy for a long time.

But lately, people studying the Bible have pointed out that the Jews had cycles of “sevens” in their laws that spanned much longer than a week. One, for example, is a command that the Israelites should let their land lie fallow every seventh year (Leviticus 25:3, 4). Just as the fourth commandment gives people a Sabbath rest every seven days, the farmland (and presumably the farmer) gets a Sabbath rest after every six years of productive cultivation.

And there was an even longer span of time that included a cycle of seven of these farming sabbaticals. After 49 years came a special year called the Jubilee. On this year, the land was to rest again. All debts were cancelled. All slaves and prisoners were freed. And all the land was returned to the original families who acquired it when Israel conquered Canaan (verses 8–55).

You may reject the idea of the Jubilee as some crazy left-wing socialist policy, and the Jews apparently agree, because they haven’t observed one in centuries. Still, it’s definitely a unit on the biblical clock. And things get interesting when you apply this measure of time to the prophecy in Daniel 9 about “seventy ‘sevens.’ ”

If you believe the sevens refer to Jubilee cycles, multiply them by 70 and you come out with 3430 years. If the Israelites entered the Promised Land and began the first Jubilee cycle in 1416 BC as some believe, then this span of time ends in 2016 (after adding a year because there’s no year 0 between BC and AD), which means that there’s absolutely no reason to renew your subscription to Golf Digest.

For the numerically inclined, all the maths can be found at www.markbeast.com, and it all sounds pretty convincing. So why is the whole world carrying on as if nothing is going to happen? Maybe we’ve been jaded by all the recent predictions of an apocalypse. Remember the Mayan calendar that indicated the world was going to end in 2012? About the only thing that ended that year was the print edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Another reason there’s no panic in the streets is that most students of Bible prophecy would beg to differ with this interpretation of Daniel 9. For one thing, the passage gives a very specific time for when the “seventy ‘sevens’ ” begins.

“Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens’ ” (Daniel 9:25).

The text states that the “Anointed One” will come after 69 “sevens,” or weeks. That totals 483 days. Next apply the year-for-a-day principle in Bible prophecy (Numbers 14:34*). That makes the time span 483 years. We know that the king of Persia gave the decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 457 BC. So what happened 483 years later? Jesus was baptised and began His ministry. Jesus is the “Anointed One.” That has to be one of the most amazing prophecies in the whole Bible!

But we’re not quite through. The verse in Daniel says that “he will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ ” In the middle of that last week of the 70 weeks, it’s said that the Anointed One will put an end to sacrifice. Three-and-a-half years after Jesus began His ministry, His death did indeed put an end to the need for the temple’s animal sacrifices, for He, the symbolic Lamb, had paid the literal death penalty for the sins of all humanity.

This interpretation of the 70-week prophecy is certainly the most convincing and impressive, unlike the one from www.markbeast.com. This interpretation could possibly be a part of a larger prophecy embracing 70 Jubilee cycles, but how that’s incorporated isn’t so clear. For example, people can’t agree on whether the Jubilee cycles are 49 or 50 years long. One reason for this confusion is the fact mentioned earlier—that nobody has attempted to keep the Jubilee since the prophet Ezekiel was a boy.

It’s also a bit of a leap to say that the prophecy began when the Israelites arrived in Canaan (kicking off the Jubilee cycle) instead of sticking with the literal reading of the text that says it began with the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Even if you’re willing to overlook that problem, you soon discover that no-one is quite sure of when the Jubilee cycle began. Some scholars insist that it began in 1406 BC, which would mean that the world should have ended in 2006 and, as usual, you’re the last to find out.

Well, did anything of note happen in 2006? One sad event was the death of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin. In a way, the world did end for him. But the sorry reality is every day, the world ends for someone.

One of the most interesting as-pects to a prophecy about the world ending in 2016 is how you would change your life if you truly believed it. There are more serious things to consider than whether time will last long enough to see who wins Masterchef

Would your priorities change? Would you spend more time with family and less time at work? Would you clear your conscience by asking forgiveness of people you’ve wronged? Would you make sure you’re right with God?

Maybe we don’t know when time will end for us, but there’s wisdom in being aware that for you and me it could end at any time. Even in 2016.    

* To learn more about the year-for-a-day principle, as well as what the Bible has to say about the prophecy of the end times, go to www.hop.ec/secrets.

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