Occasionally, I receive unsolicited papers from people requesting that I read their work and evaluate what they wrote. Most of these papers present exoteric interpretations of the Bible, that at times, border on the bizarre. One paper I read was a defense of polygamy. Most papers, however, deal with the second coming of Christ and events related to the last days.
Many of these papers deal, one way or another, with the prophecies of Daniel. The numbers found in the prophecies of Daniel are intriguing and invite fertile minds to try to solve the mystery behind the numbers.
Biblical numerology fascinates people. Those who study biblical numerology believe that numbers in Scripture show a design that reveals the work of God in the world. The way certain numbers are used in the Bible suggests that their use has a deeper meaning that calls for understanding.
In 1987, I received a paper from a gentleman from Philadelphia (I will not mention his name because he may still be alive today) who did a comprehensive study of the numbers in Daniel. His paper, “What the Bible Predicts for the Year 2000,” was an attempt at demonstrating that God has prepared a comprehensive program of events that will culminate with the coming of Christ.
According to the paper, hidden in the seventy weeks of Daniel was “a blueprint of the disposition of the nations and a prophetic time clock which tells us when specific events will take place in the future.”
In order to study this blueprint, the writer of the paper decoded the mystery of the seventy weeks. This process of decoding the numbers in Daniel is complicated because he took the 490 years of Daniel 9 and changed them to days and then he related the days in Daniel 9 to the 1150 days of Daniel 8:14, the 1290 days of Daniel 12:11, and the 1335 days of Daniel 12:12.
He also worked with the 2 days of Hosea 6:2, years of 360 days and years of 365 days. Don’t ask me to explain; it is just too complicated. After calculating the day Christ was born (February 23, 4 B.C.) and the day of his crucifixion (April 7, 30 A.D.), the author related these dates to the dates in the book of Daniel and came with the following conclusions:
1. The seven-year tribulation will begin on June 16, 1989.
2. The tribulation will end on August 30, 1996.
3. From 1996 to 2000 the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem.
4. On April 21, 2000 the first Passover of the millennium will be celebrated in the new temple.
After I read this paper, I felt I should provide some kind of answer to the writer. But, what should I say? I decided to write a detailed evaluation of the paper, showing the writer where he was wrong and where he misinterpreted the text. My response was long and comprehensive. At the end of my response, I reminded him of the words of Christ.
In Matthew 24:36 Jesus said: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” I also reminded him of Jesus’ words to his disciples: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). The fact is, that Jesus never revealed the events of the last days to his disciples nor did he reveal them to us.
There are scores of books on prophecies in stores today that attempt to provide new insights on the books of Daniel and Revelation. These modern-day prophets claim fresh revelation from God and a supernatural wisdom that allows them to understand the prophetic meaning of the numbers in the book of Daniel.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses have set several dates for the end of this age. Using the numbers in the book of Daniel, they have arrived at the precise year when the end would come. In a book titled The Time Is At Hand, published in 1902, they wrote (p. 99): “In view of this strong Bible evidence concerning the Times of the Gentiles, we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the kingdom of God, will be accomplished by the end of A.D. 1914.”
In another article published in the Watchtower on November 1, 1914, they wrote (p. 325): “Studying God’s Word, we have measured the 2520 years, the seven symbolic times, from the year 606 B.C. and have found that it reached down to October, 1914.”
When the events of 1914 did not materialize, the Jehovah’s Witnesses set another date for the end of the present era. Writing in a book titled Millions Now Living Will Never Die, written in 1920, they wrote (p. 88): “Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old, particularly those named by the Apostle in Hebrews 11, to the condition of human perfection.”
Those who claim new visions and a hidden knowledge about future events should remember the words of the Lord in Deuteronomy: “But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak– that prophet shall die. You may say to yourself, ‘How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken?’ If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it” (Deuteronomy 18:20-22).
People do not stone false prophets anymore, although they have spoken presumptuously. But we all know that theirs is a message which the Lord has not spoken.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary