Johan Malan, Mossel Bay, South Africa, (19th September 2015)
For a number of years now, considerable sensation was stirred up in connection with a book which the great scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, has written three centuries ago on the prophecies of Daniel – particularly the prophecies on the 70 year-weeks in Daniel 9. Modern interpreters have further elaborated on his prophecies, and arrived at a date of 23rd September 2015 for the second coming of Christ. In the process, Isaac Newton is praised as an eminent saint and special prophet of God. But what are the true facts about his faith and prophetic insight?
Because of the possibility of persecution by the Anglican Church and the state, Newton practised his faith in secret. His manuscript on Daniel was only discovered after his death and then published. In a Wikipedia article, the following is said about him:
“Like many contemporaries he lived with the threat of severe punishment if he had been open about his religious beliefs. Heresy was a crime that could have been punishable by the loss of all property and status or even death. Because of his secrecy over his religious beliefs, Newton has been described as a Nicodemite [a secret follower of Jesus, like Nicodemus]. According to most scholars, Newton was Arian, not holding to Trinitarianism. In Newton’s eyes, worshipping Christ as God was idolatry, to him the fundamental sin” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Isaac_Newton). Newton did not recognise Jesus as the Son of God who is equal to and one with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. He therefore rejected the biblical doctrine on the Trinity.
According to the above-mentioned article, Newton devoted much time to the deciphering of hidden messages in the Bible. In his exact, scientific interpretations of prophecies he also arrived at certain dates: “He estimated that the world would end no earlier than 2060. … Newton also had many other possible dates, e.g. 2034.”
The American author, Neill G. Russell, caused a major stir with the new edition of his book, Newton’s Riddle: The Mystery of Daniel’s 70th Week Revealed. In this book he explains the alleged “secret” which Newton discovered, i.e. that the first 7 of these 70 year-weeks apply to the end-time restoration of Israel and Jerusalem. However, Daniel says: “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks [i.e. after 7 plus 62 weeks] Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself” (Dan. 9:25-26).
It is evident that the first 7 year-weeks elapsed during the first stage of this prophecy. At the beginning of the 70 year-weeks, in March 445 BC, the Persian king Artaxerxes gave permission to the Jews in exile to return to their land and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. The initial building work was completed after 7 year-weeks, and during the subsequent 62 year-weeks Jerusalem was inhabited and further expanded during troublesome times. The rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah was the culmination of the first 69 year-weeks (for more information on the 70 year-weeks, see http://www.bibleguidance.co.za/Engarticles/Countdown.htm).
It is contextually completely wrong to apply these seven year-weeks to the second coming of Christ. It is nevertheless done, hence the major expectation focused on 23rd September 2015, for which Newton is at least partially responsible. For various years now, a theory by the “wise” Newton was used as justification to set dates for the second coming, thereby attributing to him hidden knowledge and wrongly assigning to him full status as a prophet of God.
Jim Bramlett, another American author, said: “Sid Roth, a TV evangelist, quotes from Neill Russell’s book where it explains Newton’s calculations of adding 49 years to the June 1967 date. Based on Newton’s Riddle the book says, ‘Messiah’s possible return to earth will be on or before the year 2016.’ However, that is apparently based on using modern (365-day) years in calculation. As I pointed out in my e-mail dated February 20, 2008, if you use exact 49 Jewish (360-day, prophetic) years from the day Israel captured the Temple Mount on June 7, 1967, you get 49 X 360 = 17640 days, which amazingly takes one exactly to September 23rd, 2015, the Day of Atonement 2015.”
The problem is, Isaac Newton did not indicate what the point of departure for the 7 year-weeks during the end-time would be. Initially it was assumed that the restoration of Israel on 14th May 1948 initiated this countdown. Because of this assumption, the idea was entertained that 49 prophetic years of 360 days each since 1948, would expire in 1995. If the Messiah would then come to bring in everlasting righteousness to Israel and the Gentiles, the preceding 70th year-week of Daniel (the tribulation of seven years) should already have commenced in 1988.
However, that did not happen. Subsequently, modern interpreters of Newton’s prophecies decided that the recapturing of biblical Jerusalem (the Old City, or City of David) in June 1967 was the starting-point of the 49 prophetic years. In terms of this view, the Messiah will come in September 2015; consequently, the tribulation of seven years should already have run its course since 2008. At that time a new year-week was indeed introduced in Israel, but it was clearly not the week of the tribulation period.
It is completely irrational and at variance with biblical prophecies to argue that Christ will come on September 23 to conclude the 70 year-weeks, since the 70th week has not even begun! Very recently, during mid-September 2015, a new Jewish year-week was ushered in by Rosh Hashanah, but it was not attended by the fulfilment of any prophecies. Hence, the final seven years have not yet begun as the rapture did not occur – neither was the Antichrist revealed to take charge of world affairs for seven years.
The most likely thing which Newton’s supporters will now do is to again revise the point of departure for the last 49 years, and fix it on August 1980 when Jerusalem was declared to be the eternal capital city of modern Israel (before that, Tel Aviv was the capital). The 49 prophetic years will then expire in 2027, not very far from the date of 2034 which Newton also mentioned!
If we wish to know where we really stand on the prophetic calendar we should only consider the clear and unambiguous biblical prophecies and base our future expectation on them. In terms of these prophecies we know for sure that the 70th year-week of Daniel is still to be fulfilled – and that will be the seven years of the Antichrist’s rule. In the light of Israel’s end-time restoration which formally started in 1948 and already reached an advanced stage, we know that this time is very near. However, we do not know exactly when. We do not even know whether Israel’s present cycle of year-weeks correctly synchronises with biblical year-weeks which were discontinued almost two millennia ago. Neither do we know when the next jubilee will be celebrated – at least we know that it will not be in 2015/16 as the Messiah will only return to Jerusalem after the tribulation period of seven years.
If we wish to be informed Christians who correctly interpret the signs of the times we should refrain from giving credibility to alleged signs of the times which cannot, without wishful thinking, pass a Scriptural test. Among these signs are the so-called blood moons which have no relationship with the blood moons of Joel 2 and Revelation 6, since the real blood moons will only appear during the second half of the tribulation period and will be seen from every place on earth. It will not be part of the recurring eclipses of the moon which have been part of cosmic phenomena for millennia. If these eclipses of the moon bode bad times for Israel, why were there none of them during or shortly before the Holocaust in World War II?
Another alleged sign which is presently being proclaimed to cause panic, relates to a comet or meteor which will collide with the earth during the second half of September 2015, causing an extreme disaster. False allegations of this nature are often associated with NASA in an effort to render them scientifically credible. The following is another example: Last year it was said on the website www.fivedoves.com: “NASA confirms earth will experience 6 days of total darkness in December 2014.”
There are various other manmade scenarios on the end-time, among others that major disasters which strike America all occur during Sabbath years of the Jews, and that they are divinely ordained in response to wrong decisions or harm which the American government has inflicted on Israel. The Jewish author, Jonathan Cahn, boldly predicted that a serious economic collapse would occur in the USA during the Sabbath year which ended on 13th September 2015. America could be very close to such an economic disaster, but it nevertheless did not happen during the prophesied year in 2014/15.
Many people also attach great significance to the pope’s meeting with Obama in September, even assign the title of “Antichrist” to Obama, and openly state that these two leaders will together introduce the new world order of Daniel’s 70th year-week. They conveniently forget that the Antichrist will arise in the Middle East and will be accepted by the Jews as their promised Messiah from the house of David. However, information of this nature does not appear on Obama’s CV. He may be many other things, but he is not the promised Jewish Messiah!
We will urgently have to draw a line between concrete biblical predictions on the one hand, and human suppositions and speculation on the other hand. The Lord Jesus warned us against spiritual deception in the end-time (Matt. 24:4-5), and also the danger of concluding a covenant with a false messiah who is of human origin (John 5:43) – an error which is reminiscent of Newton’s distorted view on a Jesus who is not God. Christ reiterated that there will indeed be false claims with regard to the identity and appearance of the Messiah (Matt. 24:24-26), but cautioned His disciples that these rumours should not be believed and spread further.
Due to ignorance and the entertaining of an unbiblical eschatology, most of the churches are not able to offer sound teaching on the end-time – neither on the rise of an antichristian new world order and the appearance of a personal Antichrist. On the most, they can deny speculative allegations but cannot formulate a pure biblical scenario for the end-time. Consequently, their members visit all kinds of websites but are unable to distinguish facts from fiction. Furthermore, spiritual standards have already been adjusted downwards to such an extent that the definition of a true Christian has been lowered to a level on which it no longer complies with biblical guidelines and principles.
God’s plan for the ages – and particularly also for the end-time – has been clearly exposed. The Lord gave Israel a definite prophetic calendar in the form of seven big festivals which are to be celebrated annually (Lev. 23). In their Old Testament form, all the feasts are only shadows (prophetic promises) which would later become the foundation of the New Testament. In their fulfilled form these feasts are no longer Jewish feasts but Christians feasts which should be celebrated in a different way by all believers on earth. Therefore, during their fulfilment they become the possession of all believers among all nations.
The Lord did not only determine the nature and content of the seven feasts, but also the specific time of the year when each of them should be celebrated. During New Testament times they are still observed in the same sequence.
The Passover was fulfilled by the crucifixion of Christ, after He came as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Because of this, His burial and resurrection from the dead are also important to all believers, hence His command to His disciples: “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). The burial and resurrection of Christ was the fulfilment of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of First-fruits.
The Feast of Pentecost was also fulfilled with clear international implications when the Holy Spirit anointed the disciples to proclaim the gospel in at least 15 different languages.
The above-mentioned four feasts were all celebrated on the specific day which was divinely determined for that purpose. We have every reason to believe that the last three feasts will also be fulfilled on their scheduled times.
The Feast of Trumpets, which coincides with modern Israel’s Rosh Hashanah, will be fulfilled at the rapture. This feast is celebrated every year, but obviously we don’t know in which year it will be fulfilled. Its fulfilment will be followed by the tribulation period of seven years.
The Day of Atonement will be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ after the tribulation, when every eye shall see Him and all nations will mourn because of Him (Rev. 1:7; Matt. 24:29-30). The Feast of Tabernacles will be fulfilled during the institution of Christ’s millennial reign on earth, and all nations will participate in it – also the saved Israel (Isa. 2:2-4; Jer. 3:17; Zech. 8:21-23; 14:16).
For more information on the fulfilment of these seven festivals, as well as the great spiritual and prophetic significance which they have to us, see author’s book, Prophetic Programme in the Seven Feasts of Israel: http://www.bibleguidance.co.za/Librarylists/Bookschaplist/Seven%20Feasts%20of%20Israel.htm
There is a wealth of prophetic references to the end-time in the Bible; therefore, we should disregard doubtful extra-biblical prophecies which are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible. Sensation-seekers will not give us understanding of the truth, and their subjective expectations will never be fulfilled by the Lord.
We are definitely deep into the end-times, and this situation demands much from serious Christians. We will have to watch and pray as never before because the darkness is thickening, the spiritual climate is growing cold, apathetic and even agnostic, the deviations from the way of truth more enticing, the deception more subtle, the temptations more intense, the problems and attacks more severe, while the inclination to shy away from the good fight of faith, becomes stronger. Like never before, we will have to put the hand to the plough and work while it is still day.
Is this an easy way to follow? Definitely not! We should heed the example of the Lord Jesus, and trust Him for perseverance and power to overcome evil and fleshliness: “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Heb. 12:3). “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal. 6:9).
One promise which we should never forget is the assurance which Jesus gave us about His uninterrupted presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit: “… and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20; cf. John 14:23). We are on a path upon which we will never be alone, but then we have to stay closely in touch with the Lord Jesus, pray much more, and guard against situations in which we may grieve His Spirit through our thoughts, words and actions – and also our lukewarmness and lack of fruitfulness. Soon, we will see the Bright and Morning Star rising above a dark horizon. Are you ready to meet Him?