Book Excerpt: Revelation: The Way It Happened

Sometimes overlooked in our zeal, two millennia [after Jesus died], is the insistence of early teachings that Jesus would return pronto. John begins the book of Revelation by affirming that the time nears. As David Chilton puts it, “Not once did he imply that his book was written with the twentieth century in mind, and that Christians would be wasting their time attempting to decipher it until the Scofield Reference Bible would become a best-selling novel.” Commentators on Revelation often mention that, unlike other apocalyptic material, John makes no attempt to set a date for his future events, but in truth, John repeatedly promises they will happen now. If you reread the New Testament scriptures, trying to put yourself in the first century, you’ll easily see why Christians believed Jesus would reappear within their lifetimes. The calamitous events of the times surely added weight to this belief, particularly when the Temple fell. Read carefully the prophecy of Daniel:

Daniel 9:25, NLT: Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite the perilous times. After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. The end will come with a flood, and war and its miseries are decreed from that time to the very end.

 Sixty-nine “sets of seven” multiply to 483 years. The Jews did not know exactly when to begin counting this 483 years or perhaps exactly how long it had been since they returned from Babylon to begin the rebuilding process, but they understood it must have already been about the number of years prophesied here, so the end times neared. Indeed, if we do the math, beginning with the decree issued by Artaxerxes for Nehemiah to begin rebuilding in 457 BCE, the first “seven sets of seven” bring us to 408 BCE, by which time the rebuilding of Jerusalem was finished. Then, the next sixty-two sets of seven bring us to the year 26 CE, right about to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as he turned thirty years old. The repeated appearances of would-be Messiahs about this time kept the Jews stirred up into a constant religious fervor. Christians possessed no copyright on the title of Christ.

–Revelation: The Way It Happened, 2010, pp. 21, by Lee Harmon

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