The practice of trying to calculate when the events described in Revelation would happen;
I expressed my thoughts on the subject when I wrote the Index thread (q.v.) to my Revelation series, in the post headed “This product contains no
[Revelation- Project Complete
Now the topic is coming back.
Somebody appeared on one of my threads recently, trying to sell me the idea that the “trumpets and vials” would be completed and Christ would
return on some date at the end of May. This would not have left, as I pointed out, enough time for all the events that were supposed to happen in the
Another poster suggested more recently that I was “implicitly endorsing the 2012 hysteria” by refusing to assign any dates to the events of
So now I return to the theme; where are the date-setters going wrong?
The first and most obvious mistake is ignoring the well-known warning at the beginning of Acts, that the information won’t be made available.
There’s no point in trying to evade this statement; the clear message is that God keeps that kind of knowledge to himself.
The next mistake is putting faith in calculations.
Anyone who tries to fix the “time of the end” by precise calculation is assuming, perhaps unconsciously, that God chose that date by precise
calculation in the first place.
We don’t have any real reason for believing that this is the way God works.
In fact, there’s evidence that points in the opposite direction. In the prophecies of Jeremiah, we find the promise that Babylon would fall seventy
years after the fall of Jerusalem. The dates found in history are 587 B.C. and 539 B.C., and the interval between them is not seventy years. Either
Jeremiah got it wrong, or “seventy years” was not meant to be understood as a precise time interval. This puts in question the assumption, common
to all calculations, that God makes a point of fixing very precise time intervals between events.
Another assumption which many calculators find attractive is that the timing chosen by God will coincide with Jewish religious festivals. This gives
them an excuse to pin their predictions to a specific day in the calendar. Once again, we don’t have any real warrant for this theory. The purpose
of these festival days is to celebrate things that God has done, but we won’t find anything in scripture to support the idea that God will plan
things the other way round. Indeed, the historical victory celebrated by Hanukkah has a separate day of celebration precisely because God did NOT
carefully arrange it to coincide with one of the main festivals.
If there’s no reason to think that God lays out events to fit a carefully calculated pattern, poring over the timeline of history with a spiritual
tape-measure and a year-planner, then there is no point in trying to second-guess his calculations.
I believe there’s a further mistake, more fundamental than these, concerning the purpose of Revelation.
Revelation is not a general, all-purpose, “prediction of the future”. The prophecy in Revelation is not an end in itself, but the means to an
The function of Revelation is to encourage and motivate a persecuted church, in the middle of their tribulation. The prophecy answers the implied
question “How long, O Lord [before we get help]?”, and the gist of the answer is “Soon after the tribulation begins- or at least soon enough
that the church need not despair”.
In the first instance, obviously, it’s addressed to the church of John’s time. Yes, I do believe that he’s also dealing with future events.
I've been reading Revelation on that assunption over more than forty threads in this forum. But if John is addressing a future church, it is a
future church. So Revelation does not become relevant or usable until the church is being persecuted.
It's like having an assurance from the police that they will arrive at your house ten minutes after a burglar breaks in.
Fine and dandy; but it means that you can't predict
when they're going to arrive, because you don't know when the burglars are coming.
In the same way, we cannot predict the year and the month when God will respond to the tribulation of the church, because we don’t know when
tribulation is coming. All we know is that the current world-church is not experiencing anything like what the first-century church would recognise as
My other concern relates to the implications for faith.
On the one hand, date-setting is a faith-killer, because it raises expectations which are then disappointed.
On the other hand, I’m convinced that date-setting, in itself, is a symptom of insufficient faith.
Faith shows itself in patience, a willingness to wait.
That is what Revelation demands- it is “a call for the faith and endurance of the saints”.
Whereas trying to predict a time of arrival is what people do when they’re feeling impatient.
Understandable, perhaps, when people are suffering, but a little premature when the grand suffering of the church hasn’t even started.
The Christian faith expects Christ to return.
But nothing in the Christian faith obliges us or entitles us to expect his return on any predictable date.