"... a thousand two hundred and threescore days" (Revelation 12:6).
"... ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 25:13).

 

2

Will Believers Know the Day?

Have you ever put a puzzle together and almost finished it, but found some pieces were missing? Do you remember how you felt about that gaping hole right in the middle of your beautiful picture? If you could only find those missing pieces (maybe they're still in the box or under the table, or worse yet, mixed in with another puzzle), then you would have a complete picture at last.

I would like to give you a missing piece. Not a piece to your table puzzle, of course, but this chapter will give you a missing piece in the pre-post controversy.

You see, in the back of my brain there has always been one little question that has bothered me. Ever since that first day when my brother walked into the living room and shared his post-trib arguments and I asked him this question, I have never yet found a satisfactory answer from any post-trib. As long as this question remains unanswered, it leaves a gaping hole right in the middle of the picture.

My question is this: Can believers living during the tribulation know the day Christ will return? Think about it. If the tribulation is seven years long, and if Christ will return at the end of the tribulation, then what prevents believers from knowing when Christ will return?

Some readers will have a ready answer for me. They will respond immediately, "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 25:13). If the day and hour cannot be known, doesn't that contradict any idea that believers during the tribulation can know the day? Well, maybe and maybe not. Let us examine all the evidence first before we jump to any conclusions.

Would it surprise you if I told you that other Scriptures indicate that tribulation saints can know the day? Where are these missing pieces to the puzzle? How do they fit into the picture? Let's find out.

 

MISSING PIECES IN THE PUZZLE

I peek under the table and the first piece I spot is Daniel 9:27:

And he shall confirm the covenant [or more correctly, "a" covenant] with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (Italics are added in Scripture verses throughout this work to emphasize points.)

 

Week of Years. Some terms in this verse need defining. "Week" is agreed by many Bible scholars to mean "week of years" rather than a week of days. How do they know this? The Hebrew word translated "week" simply means "seven." It could refer to seven days, seven years, or seven anything. The word is simply "seven." Now Genesis 29:27 is a case were the word obviously refers to seven years, because Jacob served one "week" or seven years for Rachel. Likewise, in Daniel 9:27 the meaning "seven years" best fits the context. I won't go into all the reasons for that here since other writers have already done that. Many post-tribs agree that this means seven years; so I think we can go on to define our next term.

 

"Abomination of Desolation." What is this? Jesus describes it more fully: "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand)" (Matthew 24:15). Paul gives even a fuller account of this event: "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4).

According to these passages the abomination of desolation involves a desecration of the temple by the man of sin. At the time of this writing the Jews have no temple, but they will build one again someday in Jerusalem. Into this temple will strut the man of sin, acting as if he owned the place, and he will try to usurp God's position by broadcasting to the world that he is God. This abomination climaxes all abominations.

Perhaps the abomination of desolation also includes an image set up in the temple, because Daniel says it is "set up" and Jesus says it is "standing" in the holy place. Certainly that would be an abomination almost as great as the man of sin entering the temple in person.

We don't need to know every little thing that is going to happen at the abomination of desolation. All we need to know is what the Bible tells us. At least we know this. We know that it is a prominent and pivotal incident. The minute it occurs any believer can spot it for what it is.

 

"In the Midst of the Week." Now that we have defined these terms, let us reread Daniel 9:27:

And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

I want you to notice one thing. The abomination of desolation splits the seven years in half. In other words, it occurs at the three-and-one-half year point, three and one-half years before Christ returns to earth.

Diagram of 7 years and 3 years

Think about it now. Doesn't this tell us the time? If your lover went overseas and was scheduled to return in three and one-half years, wouldn't you have the date circled in red on your calendar? Likewise, if I were on earth during the tribulation, and if I spotted the abomination of desolation, I would immediately count three and one-half years and I would know the time of Christ's return Simple isn't it? What prevents me from doing that?

 

"Forty-two Months." Well, three and one-half years is only approximate, you say. That still doesn't give away the exact day.

Is it only approximate? Or did God really mean three and one-half years exactly?

Before we shove everything back under the table again, I think I see another missing piece peeking out at me. Ah, look at this one. Revelation 13:5 says:

And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.

Forty-two months! How long is that? Exactly three and one-half years.

 

"Twelve Hundred Sixty Days." Oh, but forty-two months still doesn't tell us much, you say. Some months have thirty days, some thirty-one, one has twenty-eight; so that still doesn't reveal the exact day.

Don't give up yet. Look! I spy another missing piece. Revelation 12:6 says:

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.

"A Thousand Two Hundred and Threescore Days." Oh, the beauty and harmony of God's Word! How long is 1260 days? Precisely 42 months or 3½ years. The Biblical month, therefore, is thirty days long. (See also Genesis 7:11 and 8:3–4 where 150 days are five months.)

When God said three and one-half years, He meant it after all, right down to the very day.

 

SUCH HARMONY!

Isn't it beautiful how the Word of God harmonizes? God expresses the same period of time in three different ways: 3½ years, 42 months, and 1260 days.

Diagram of 1260 days, 42 months, 3 years

If He repeats the same thing over and over again He must be trying to make it clear enough to erase all doubt. It must be that He wants us to know precisely how long this period of time is.

But maybe I'm assuming too much. Maybe all these verses do not refer to the same time period. Maybe I'm pretending harmony when there really isn't.

Let's check it out.

 

The Last Three and One-half Years. When we check out these time periods, we will discover that they all refer to the last three and one-half years before Christ returns. Going back to our first verse, Daniel 9:27, remember that seven years are sliced in half, giving us three and one-half years for the last half of the tribulation. To make this doubly clear, let us reinforce this with another verse from Daniel. Daniel 12:7 says:

And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.

What is "a time, times, and an half"? We can dream up all kinds of interpretations for this, but the Bible itself gives the correct interpretation. This mysterious phrase comes to light in Revelation 12:6 and 14:

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

From these verses we see that "a time, times, and an half" equals 1260 days. "Time" means one year, "times" means two years, and "an half a time" means one-half year. So "a time, times, and an half" is just another way of saying three and one-half years. (Daniel puts the time obscurely, but Revelation clears it up for us. Why? Daniel was temporarily sealed, Daniel 12:4, but Revelation is unsealed, Revelation 22:10.)

Now to the main point. This three and one-half years, according to Daniel 12:6, is "unto the end." This reinforces our conviction that this is the last three and one-half years of the tribulation.

 

The Last Forty-two Months. We previously mentioned the man of sin who will desecrate the temple with the abomination of desolation. This evil character is called by several other names in Scripture. He is called the "beast" in Revelation 13 and "antichrist" in 1 John 4:3.

It doesn't matter to me what your favorite terminology happens to be for this man, but let me ask you one question. When will he be destroyed? When? I know that some people try to say that antichrist has already lived in past history, but my Bible clearly states that he will be destroyed at the coming of Christ. (Revelation 19:11–21; 2 Thessalonians 2:8).

May we use some simple logic? If the beast has power for forty-two months, and if the beast is destroyed at Christ's coming, then the forty-two month period has to be the last forty-two months before Christ's return. (Revelation 13 mentions two beasts, but both share the identical forty-two-month duration. Both beasts may be alluded to in 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4 and 8–10.)

 

The Last Twelve Hundred Sixty Days. Why is the woman nourished for only 1260 days? Why not longer? Maybe God will nourish her for only 1260 days and then allow her to go hungry after that. No, I don't think so. I believe Christ returns at the end of the 1260th day, and that explains why protection is no longer needed. So this is the last 1260 days before Christ returns.

 

WHEN DOES THE COUNTDOWN BEGIN?

So far we have seen that the 3½ years, the 42 months, and the 1260 days all refer to the same period of time, that last period immediately before Christ returns to earth. With this information believers during the tribulation can calculate the exact day of Christ's return.

But wait a minute. How will these tribulation saints know when to start counting? How will they recognize Day One of the 1260 days?

Very simple. The abomination of desolation.

 

The Three-and-One-Half-Year Countdown. Let's reread Daniel 9:27:

And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

You see, it is the abomination of desolation in the midst of the week that begins the three-and-one-half-year countdown.

 

The Forty-two-Month Countdown. Does the abomination of desolation also begin the forty-two-month countdown? No one verse gives the answer for this, but two passages combined provide more insight. First let us read Revelation 13:5–7:

And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.

This passage does not pinpoint the beginning of the forty-two-month countdown. It does tell us something else, though. It spells out the powers that God will allow the beast to have. Two of these powers especially I want you to notice. First, he is given power to speak great things against God. We'll call this "mouth power." Second, he is given power to war against the saints. We'll call this "persecution power."

If you're thinking ahead about his mouth power and persecution power, then you know already what I'm getting at. If you don't know what I'm getting at, then 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4 should give it away:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

When does the beast's mouth power begin? This passage connects it with the abomination of desolation. What we couldn't find in one passage alone, we discovered by comparing two passages. Revelation 13:5 gives the timespan and 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4 gives the beginning point.

Let us examine 2 Thessalonians 2 more carefully to see if the context supports our interpretation. Paul's whole purpose is to prove to the Thessalonians that the day of the Lord is not at hand yet, and to prove his point he appeals to one observable sign. Imagine a stairway with only two steps. These two steps represent Paul's steps of logic in this passage. On step number one is the question, "How can we tell when the day of the Lord is at hand?" The answer, "We know the day of the Lord is at hand when the man of sin is revealed."

That's fine, but how do we know when the man of sin is revealed? If Paul were standing in front of me, I would say to him, "Paul, it still seems nebulous. How in the world can anyone tell when the man of sin is revealed? Some think he has already been revealed in past history. Others think he might now be on the scene. Still others insist that his revelation is yet future. It looks like a lot of guesswork to me. That is why I'm glad you did not stop at step number one. I'm glad you gave step number two."

On step number two is the next question, "How can we tell when the man of sin is revealed?" The answer, "We know he is revealed when he sits in the temple boasting to be God." In other words, this momentous event is a signpost. Thank you, Paul. Without this signpost we would have no way of recognizing if the man of sin were revealed or not, and we would never know when to say, "The day of the Lord is at hand."

 

How to recognize the man of sin

 

Paul is saying, "You have a signpost. You all can easily identify it. It is obvious that this momentous event has not yet occurred, and so we know that the man of sin has not yet been revealed, and therefore, it is premature to say, "The day of the Lord is at hand."

Even today some people try to say that the tribulation is past, and so the day of the Lord could come at any moment. I think 2 Thessalonians 2 was made to order for this view.

After going through all the logic in this passage, I want you to notice one thing. Notice that the abomination of desolation, that momentous event when the man of sin sits in the temple claiming to be God, marks the grand entrance of the man of sin onto the scene. How else can we know him? This is how he reveals himself. For the first time he unmasks, and he is revealed for what he is. Perhaps he has been a prominent political figure for some time, but never before has he spoken such blasphemies against God as he does at the abomination of desolation. God allows him this "mouth power" for only forty-two months, and the abomination of desolation is our signpost at the beginning of this forty-two-month countdown.

 

The Twelve-Hundred-Sixty-Day Countdown. It fascinates me to watch Scripture harmonize. For quite awhile, even after being convinced that tribulation believers can know the day of Christ's return, I had not discovered this next pair of verses that I want to show you. But they were there all the time. Now they are the clearest and most convincing evidence, at least to me, that tribulation saints can calculate the exact day.

Recall from Revelation 13:5–7 two powers given to the beast. One was "mouth power" which we just finished talking about. Now let's talk about the other, "persecution power." This next pair of passages deals with his persecution power and its forty-to-month duration.

So far we have seen that it is the abomination of desolation which begins the three and one-half years, and it is the abomination which begins the forty-two months. But what about the twelve hundred sixty days? Does the abomination begin that too?

Revelation 12:6 does not reveal the occasion of fleeing for safety for the twelve hundred sixty days. But if you are thinking ahead, you know already what I'm getting at. If not, Matthew 24:15–16 will give it away.

When he therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains.

Amazing, isn't it? Jesus pinpoints the moment of fleeing for safety, namely, the abomination of desolation.

Revelation 12 and Matthew 24 make a great team. Matthew 24 names the event ("abomination of desolation") while Revelation 12 dates the event (1260 days).

Yes, if I were going through the tribulation and spotted the abomination, you can be sure I would calculate the twelve hundred sixty days very carefully on my calendar or on the wall of my cave.

Let's summarize our findings with a diagram. You don't have to be a great theologian to figure this out. Or even a great mathematician. All you have to do is read the Scriptures and accept them for what they say. No fancy interpretation is needed. It's so simple.

 

Tribulation saints can know the day

 

If any area seems hazy or doubtful, why not just look up the passages in the above diagram and read them slowly. See if anything but the abomination of desolation begins this period. See if anything but the return of Christ ends this period. And see if God didn't express the identical period of time in three different ways in order to remove all doubt as to how long this period of time is.

 

HOW DO THE PIECES FIT?

The missing pieces we found under the table fit together very nicely, didn't they? The Scriptures harmonized beautifully. But how do the missing pieces fit into the larger puzzle? How am I going to use this to prove the timing of the rapture?

It took us a long time to get here. But we have finally arrived at the big point of this chapter. On the one hand we have all these passages which reveal the exact day. On the other hand, we have passages like, "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh" (Matthew 25:13). In short, Scripture presents a known day and an unknown day.

 

Unknown day versus known day

 

Is this a contradiction? You well know that the Bible never contradicts itself. My point is this: two different days must be in view. Christ comes, not once, but twice. This is the only way I know of to harmonize the pieces of the puzzle without any contradiction. With two different days, we get a picture that looks something like this:

 

Tribulation comes between unknown day and known day

 

The unknown day refers to Christ's coming before the tribulation while the known day refers to Christ's coming after the tribulation. These are two different days. Herein lies our first evidence against a post-tribulation rapture.

 

ANSWERING OBJECTIONS

Post-tribulationism tries to harmonize the known day and unknown day into one day. The two are totally irreconcilable. They are as opposite as Christ's suffering and glory.

We have seen the positive side of this question. We have gone directly to Scripture and looked at the evidence of the known day and the unknown day, evidence that points to Christ's return on two different days. We will try to anticipate any questions or objections that might be brought up.

 

Objection Number 1: The Context of Matthew 24. Some may raise an objection because of the context of Matthew 24. I can hear them saying: It is impossible for believers during the tribulation to know the day because Matthew 24:36 clearly says, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." And furthermore, this is talking about the coming after the tribulation, not some coming before the tribulation. Doesn't Matthew 24:29 plainly say "after the tribulation"? Therefore, to take the unknown day and apply it to a pre-tribulational coming is to jerk it out of context.

I appreciate this objection because I struggled with the context of Matthew 24 for quite some time myself. I felt the force of the context saying to me: The unknown day has to be after the tribulation. On the other hand I felt the force of the other Scriptures saying: The end of the tribulation can be known. I was in a dilemma. What was I to do?

Anyone can come along and pick the Scriptures on one side and sweep the others under the rug. But my conscience wouldn't let me do that. I couldn't just pick and choose the parts I liked and ignore the rest. I had to account for all the facts. Whenever I put a puzzle together, I don't like to leave any missing pieces under the rug; I want to have the complete picture, don't you?

So what is the solution to the context of Matthew 24? After I discovered the answer it was so simple that I laughed at myself for not knowing it all along. I won't take space to fully explain it now, but at the end of the book we dedicate an entire chapter to Matthew 24. I guarantee you one thing, you will see that nothing in the explanation is strained, twisted, or distorted at all. It all will fit as naturally as a baby in a cradle.

You'd be surprised. Would you believe it if I told you that evidence for the known day lies in Matthew 24 itself? It's true. I won't explain all the details now, but I will give you a one-word clue to the interpretation of Matthew 24: double-reference. Instead of being a thorn in my side, Matthew 24 is the icing on the cake for my whole argument.

 

Objection Number 2: The Day is Unknown to Unbelievers Only. Some may object: A known day and an unknown day does not necessarily mean there are two different days. It may merely mean two different groups of people, namely believers and unbelievers. Believers will know, and unbelievers will not know.

It is true that believers will know and unbelievers will not know at the end of the tribulation. But there is more to it. There remains a day unknown to believers. Read it for yourself: "Watch therefore: for ye know not ... in such an hour as ye think not ... for ye know neither the day nor the hour ..." (Matthew 24:42, 44; 25:13).

Jesus addressed the disciples and said you ... believers ... know not the day.

The conclusion is unavoidable. Since Scripture tells of a known day and an unknown day for believers, then there must be two different days.

 

Objection Number 3: What About the 1290 Days? Some may object because Daniel 12:11 says, "And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and [from] the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days."

Why do I say 1260 days when Daniel 12:11 says 1290 days? Why the thirty-day discrepancy? Where do the extra thirty days come in? Here are two possible solutions:

 

The 1260 days and 1290 days

 

One solution puts the extra thirty days before the return of Christ. This is incorrect as we shall see later. The correct solution puts the extra thirty days after the return of Christ.

Actually Daniel 12 gives not just one nor two dates, but three dates. They diagram out this way:

 

Daniel's three dates

 

The important thing to remember about these three dates is that they all are counted from the abomination. Daniel 12:11 makes the abomination the beginning point for the 1290 days. This implies that the other two dates share the same beginning point. They begin at the same point, but they end at different points. On day 1260 Christ returns. On day 1290 something else happens. On day 1335 something else happens. What happens? Scripture doesn't spell it out, but we can make some good guesses. This, however, will have to wait until a later chapter.

Right now, though, I want to show from Scripture that it cannot be 1290 days from the abomination to the return of Christ. Just for a minute let's suppose that there are not 1260, but 1290 days from the abomination of desolation to the return of Christ. Remember, at the abomination of desolation the man of sin sports a blasphemous mouth against God (2 Thessalonians 2:4) and believers immediately flee for their lives (Matthew 24:15–21). Got the picture?

Now, how does this fit the time frame? Revelation 13:5 says the beast is given "persecution power" for only forty-two months! Then why are the saints fleeing persecution thirty days prematurely? They can't spare five minutes to go back into their house, but the persecution doesn't begin until 30 days later? It doesn't fit. Revelation 13:5 also times the beast's "mouth power" for only forty-two months. How can the beast be exercising his "mouth power" thirty days prematurely? Impossible! You see, the abomination cannot come thirty days early. The time-span from the abomination until the return of Christ cannot be one day longer than 1260 days.

 

Objection Number 4: The Time Is "Rounded Off." Some may evade the precise day by supposing the time is rounded off. Can this be so?

If all we had to go on was "three and one-half years," I might believe it was rounded off. If all we had to go on was "forty-two months," I might believe it. But when the Bible gives the exact day, I can't believe it.

The number 1260 is not a rounded off figure. For rounding off we would expect 1000 or 2000. Even 1250 would be better if rounding off were intended. But the number 1260 itself shows that exactness is intended. (This fits in with Daniel's 1290 and 1335 which also are not rounded-off-looking numbers.)

By the way, Sir Robert Anderson, in The Coming Prince, calculated the very day which ended Daniel's 69 weeks (see Daniel 9:24–27 and Luke 19:41–44). If so for the first 69 weeks, we would expect the end of the 70th week to be no less precise.

 

Objection Number 5: The Days Are "Shortened." Some may ask a question about Matthew 24:22, "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." Does this mean that the three-and-one-half years predicted by Daniel will not run their full course? Does this mean that Jesus shortened Daniel's prophecy cutting it to less than three-and-one-half years? Does this explain why the day is unknown?

Whatever Jesus meant, I am sure that He did not mean to change prophecy. Even God cannot change God's Word. Jesus said,

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (Matthew 5:17–18).

By the way, reducing the 1260 days would also reduce the 1290 days and the 1335 days. That is quite a few jots and tittles to erase from our Bibles.

How can we be sure that Jesus did not reduce the number of days? Because Revelation confirms Daniel. About sixty years after Jesus spoke of shortening the days, the apostle John wrote of this same period of time. According to him the full 1260 days or 3½ years or 42 months is still intact (Revelation 12:6, 14; 13:5). Any interpretation of Matthew 24:22 which ignores these verses in Revelation is like trying to put a puzzle together with only one piece while ignoring the rest of the pieces still in the box.

If Jesus did not mean to reduce the number of days in Matthew 24:22, then what did Jesus mean? The Bible does not say much about this, but it does give us some possible clues. Amos 8:9 says:

And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.

If the sun goes down at noon, what do you have? You have a pretty short day, don't you?

There's more. Revelation 8:12 says:

And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.

From this passage we notice an astonishing thing. If the day is shorter we would expect the night to be longer. Not so here. The day is shorter and the night is shorter too! In other words, instead of a twenty-four-hour day we have a sixteen-hour day. Could this be what Jesus meant when He said, "And except those days be shortened..."?

Can the word "shortened" really take on this interpretation? Of course it can. We can test this by applying it to a different time measure. Suppose I were a mighty king and went about to change the calendar, and suppose I said, "I have shortened the months." Most naturally it would mean that I decreased the number of days in each month rather than changing the calendar from twelve to eleven months.

Suppose I am holding a bunch of candles in my hand and I say to you, "I have shortened these candles." Naturally you would understand me to mean that I chopped off the candles to make each one shorter rather than reducing the number of candles by throwing some away. Even if I chopped off the candles collectively--with a sharp knife taking one swift slice through the whole bunch-the result is that each candle is shortened individually.

Yes, the word "shortened" easily and naturally expresses shorter days. "Shortened" in the original language has the connotation of "amputated." "Amputated days" expresses the idea perfectly. In other Greek literature the word is used of "mutilated stones." (Does this mean fewer stones? No.) A related word is used of "short-horned" animals. (Does this mean fewer horns? No.) Also, "a spear broken off short." (Does this mean fewer spears? No.) Another related word means "an undervest with shortened sleeves." (Does this mean fewer sleeves? No.) Another related word means "dwarf." (Do ten "dwarfs" equal nine men? No. "Dwarf" does not reduce the number. It merely reduces the size.) Another related word means "the stumpfingered." (Does this mean fewer fingers? No, each finger is shorter, precisely the interpretation we suggest for "shortened days.") These examples show that I am not suggesting anything different than what normal language would suggest.

One might object that the days collectively are shortened, not individually. The time is shortened, but the days are not. In response to this, let's ponder a similar phrase in 1 Corinthians 7:29, "the time has been shortened." Another word for "shortened" is used here, but the meaning is the same as some propose for our troublesome phrase in Matthew 24. Now in Matthew 24:22, the Holy Spirit could easily have written the word "time" just as He did in 1 Corinthians 7:29. If He meant "time," why did He not say so? "Time" is general, but "days" is specific. He did not say the "time" is shortened, or the "years" or the "months," but He did say the "days" were shortened. All the evidence of normal language leads me to believe that the object of shortening is the days.

Let's review. Evidence abounds that believers in the tribulation can know the day of Christ's return. Against this Matthew 24:22 is only one little problem passage. In light of the evidence that the day is known, all I need to do is to demonstrate the possibility of the "shorter-days" interpretation in order to keep intact the consistency of the total system. Hard evidence has demonstrated not only its possibility, but its probability. It doesn't need it, but the shorter-days interpretation certainly enjoys the preponderance of the evidence.

In the court of logic, if I am holding forth a possibility, the burden of proof rests on the other side to disprove the possibility. Unless such proof arises, no one can rest on one little obscure phrase to overthrow a host of other Scriptures that clearly reveal the known day. It's not sound exegesis, is it? At least one interpretation is possible because it harmonizes with Scripture; whereas the other interpretation is impossible because it contradicts Scripture.

What if the "shorter-days" possibility is wrong? If you prefer, consider an alternate possibility. As another has expressed it, the days are "shorter than they normally would have been in terms of the purpose and power of the oppressors." In other words, if Satan and antichrist had their way, they would remain in power indefinitely. But God intervenes to cut their plans short and to keep the human race from annihilating itself. This interpretation reduces Satan's days but not God's days.

If the "shorter-days" possibility is correct, we see the mercy and judgment of God mingled together. Mercy, because if each day is one-third shorter, then men have one-third better chance of surviving each terrible day. "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved."

Not only mercy, but judgment. If you have a scientific mind, perhaps you have noticed a problem. If each day is shortened, then the earth has to rotate faster. If the earth rotates faster, then it would have more rotations each time it revolves around the sun. The result would be more days in a year. How can this be when God has decreed that 1260 days still come out to three and one-half years? Well, if God can change the rotation of the earth, He can surely change the orbit of the earth also in order to make the number of days in each year remain the same. A shorter orbit would compensate for a shorter day. A passage in Revelation suggests such a change in the relation of the earth and the sun. This is where judgment comes in:

And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory (Revelation 16:8, 9).

Comparing this passage with the one previously quoted, Revelation 8:12, shows the involvement in both cases of a fourth angel. This forms additional confirmation that there is some relationship between the length of the day and the heat of the day.

Judgment and mercy mingled. The time will come when God will vent His judgment, no longer mingled with mercy. "For he shall have judgment without mercy" (James 2:13). "The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb" (Revelation 14:10). If you are not saved, then believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and His shed blood today, while there is still mercy.

 

Objection Number 6: Is the Abomination a Datable Event? Some may object: Perhaps the abomination of desolation is not such a clear-cut event as you make it out to be. How do you know it is so noticeable that everyone will be aware of it? What about people on the other side of the world? How will they hear of it? Maybe the abomination isn't a one-day incident either. Perhaps it is an episode spread over several days or more. All these things would fuzzy the picture and make it difficult to date the return of Christ.

I reply: The abomination is a sharply-defined one-day crisis that everyone can easily recognize. It is a natural signpost from which to date the return of Christ. How do I know this? I know it from reading Matthew 24:15–18:

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whose readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.

By the way, some teach that Christ returns in the middle of the tribulation. However, believers flee into the mountains at this point (and are preserved there for 1260 days) instead of meeting Christ in the air.

Now, if you were out in the field, as this passage says, how long would it take you to run into your house and grab your coat? Two or three minutes? If you were on the top of your house, how long would it take you to dash inside and snatch a loaf of bread? Sixty seconds? The abomination is a quite sharply defined crisis, I'd say.

If I didn't know it from Matthew 24:15–18, I'd know it from 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4. In this passage Paul describes the abomination because it is the signpost marking the grand entrance of the man of sin onto the world's scene. If Paul's purpose is to give a recognizable signpost, would he give something fuzzy? No, a fuzzy signpost would make Paul's whole argument meaningless in 2 Thessalonians 2. Remember, this is the only sign he gives us by which we can tell whether the day of the Lord is at hand or not.

Now let us read Paul's signpost in 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

How long will it take the man to sit down in the temple? If he sits very slowly it might take about five seconds. Yes, I'd say the abomination is quite sharply defined.

(Matthew 24:15 talks about the abomination "standing" instead of "sitting." Here are three possible explanations for this. When the man of sin walks into the temple he obviously has to stand before he sits. This standing may be what Jesus refers to. Or "standing" may refer to the sitting itself. In Greek "stand" does not necessarily mean "to stand upright." It could also mean "to be set in place." The third possibility is an image standing in the holy place.)

If I didn't know it from Matthew 24 or from 2 Thessalonians 2, I'd still know it from Daniel 12:11. In this verse God expressly pinpoints the abomination as the beginning of the countdown.

And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.

If believers can use the abomination to count 1290 days, then they can easily use it to count 1260 days also.

The date of the abomination of desolation is not so fuzzy after all. It is God's appointed signpost so that anyone can tell the time. So what if the abomination lasts several days or has a prolonged effect? Even if this were true it would not destroy God's signpost at the first day of the episode. Extended action does not rule out a precise beginning. So what if some people don't hear about it right away? Sooner or later everybody will know about it, and when they learn of it they will also learn on what day it occurred. I suppose that even a president's assassination slips by the notice of some people. But when they finally grasp the news of it I am sure the day of occurrence is included in the news.

My point is this. The abomination of desolation is a dead giveaway. Once you know its date, you know the date of Christ's return.

 

Objection Number 7: The Abomination Is Past. Some may be thinking: The abomination is not a future event. It has already occurred in past history. Therefore, we cannot use it to date the return of Christ.

It is true that precursory fulfillments have already occurred, but when Jesus places the abomination in connection with the tribulation immediately preceding His coming (Matthew 24), then we know there remains a future and final fulfillment.

But for the sake of argument, let's throw the abomination out the window altogether. Can we throw the abomination out the window and still date the return of Christ?

As we mentioned, the man of sin reveals himself by sitting in the temple claiming to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:3–4). Call this event what you may. Instead of "abomination" call it a "carnation." The fact remains, if you link 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4 with Revelation 13:5, then you can count 42 months. It is 42 months from the time the man of sin sits in the temple until the time he is cast into the lake of fire.

 

Objection Number 8: A Gap Before the Tribulation. Some may theorize this way: The date is unknown because there is a gap before the tribulation. In other words, Christ comes sometime before the tribulation, but the seven-year tribulation does not begin immediately. There is a gap of unknown duration between Christ's coming and the onset of the tribulation. So if you don't know how long the gap is, then you won't know when the seven-year tribulation begins, and then you won't be able to calculate the date of Christ's return at the end of the tribulation.

If you have been reading this chapter, then you know that this objection misses my point altogether. My point is not a seven-year countdown, but a three-and-one-half-year countdown. A person can be completely oblivious to the beginning of the seven years, but he can still catch God's signpost at the beginning of the three-and-one-half years.

By the way, I suspect that you can calculate Christ's return seven years ahead of time, but since the Bible does not say much about this, I do not stress it. Personally, I do not happen to believe in the gap theory, since it would serve no purpose and since Scripture gives no hint of it.

 

Objection Number 9: A Gap After the Tribulation. Others may try to get around the possibility of knowing the day with a gap on the other end of the tribulation by saying: After the tribulation Christ does not return immediately. A gap of unknown duration follows the end of the tribulation before the return of Christ. This unknown gap makes it impossible to predict the return of Christ.

I find this theory unworkable because Matthew 24:29–30 puts His coming "immediately after the tribulation." Also, if Christ does not return on schedule to terminate the forty-two-month power of the beast, then who is the one casting the beast into the lake of fire in Revelation 19? If a certain group of people is nourished for only 1260 days according to Revelation 12:6 and 14, then do they go hungry afterwards for an indefinite time awaiting the return of Christ? No, this delayed-return theory just doesn't fit. Christ has to return on schedule in order to fulfill Scripture.

 

Objection Number 10: They Can But Won't. Some may ask this question: It is one thing to prove that tribulation saints can know the day, but it is another thing to prove that they will know. How do you know they will be counting the days? In the turbulent tribulation times, and in the confusion of fleeing for their lives, who will have the presence of mind to mark their calendars?

This objection assumes that God reveals the day and then turns right around and says you can't know it. What He gives with one hand He takes away with the other. Well, you can count on one thing, if I were going through the tribulation, here's one person who would be counting the days, along with my wife and children.

Now the Biblical evidence, not only that they can, but that they actually will know the day of Christ's return. The angel said to Daniel, "The wise shall understand" (Daniel 12:10). Understand what? What was the very thing Daniel was asking the angel about? The time. It's in the context. Read it for yourself:

How long shall it be to the end of these wonders? ... a time, times, and an half ... And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end ... but the wise shall understand (verses 6–10).

Of course, the wise shall understand other things too, but the time is prominent in this context. Yes, believers not only can, but they will understand the time.

In addition to Daniel we can go to the words of Jesus. Jesus said:

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) (Matthew 24:15).

Understand what? Understand what Daniel says about the abomination. If they do what Jesus commands, and if they study all that Daniel writes about the abomination, can they avoid knowing the time? When Daniel talks about the abomination, he gives the time. Therefore, obeying the words of Jesus results in knowing the time. Out of all possible things, the one Jesus commanded understanding about was God's three-and-one-half-year signpost. Yes, they will know.

They will know not only by reading Daniel, but also by reading Revelation. Maybe Jesus commanded them to understand Daniel, but how do I know that anyone will read and understand Revelation during that time? Well, if Revelation is a prophecy of that time period, what Christian wouldn't be reading it? Some will read and understand Revelation because Revelation 13:18 is written for those during that time:

Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

Anyone wise enough to understand the number of the beast would most likely be wise enough to perceive his duration of power also, because both facts are revealed in the same chapter in Revelation. For a wise student of Revelation, or at least a person who reads the entire thirteenth chapter, to know the number of the beast is to know also when his number is up.

 

"Only 1260 Days to Go." Now for a minute, put yourself in the shoes of a believer during the tribulation. As a tribulation saint, you are fleeing for your very life from that dreadful beast, the blasphemous antichrist. He has killed many already. What are you thinking now? You want to know how soon this will end. So you rivet your attention on those passages of Scripture which reveal the time. As you eagerly search the Scriptures you find not just one or two, but several passages, all pointing to one day.

You see that Day One is the abomination and you start counting from that. "And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up ..." (Daniel 12:11). "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet ..." (Matthew 24:15).

As the suspense of day-to-day existence continues you find comfort and hope in those passages that reveal the time in several different ways so that there is no mistaking it. "In the midst of the week" (Daniel 9:27). "A time, times, and an half" (Daniel 12:7). "A thousand two hundred and threescore days" (Revelation 12:6). "Forty and two months" (Revelation 13:5).

As you watch many of your loved ones beheaded at the hands of the cruel beast, you begin to wonder, "Is the revealed day really correct? Will Christ really come on the appointed day?" You reread the passages to assure yourself. Yes, He cannot delay His coming past the 1260th day. Neither can He come before the 1260 days are up. It's true after all, and you have hope.

Put yourself in their shoes. If in these days some have tried to calculate the time of Christ's pre-trib return from one or two verses and with skimpy evidence, how much more will you, a tribulation saint, with a whole fistful of plain and solid verses be anxious to calculate the day of relief from persecution. This is not idle eschatological curiosity; you are counting the days dearly as if your life depended on it. Judging from the Scriptures God has put into your hand, I cannot blame you for pinning your life hopes on one day. After God gave you these Scriptures and after allowing you to get your hopes up, how cruel it would be if He would let you down and not come on that day. Such a debacle would be more than an honest misinterpretation of Scripture, it would be an outright deception by God, and that is impossible. What He has put into print He means to fulfill in actuality.

Put yourself into their shoes. How would you feel?

I believe the battle cry of believers during that time will be, "Only 1260 days to go. Keep the faith .... Only 1259 days to go. Stand fast in the Lord .... Only 1258 days to go. Be patient ...."

They can know.

They will know.

 

THE UMBRELLA

I believe this chapter presents an airtight case, but if anyone suspects a leak in the above evidence, I also believe there is an umbrella to cover even that. We have been talking about the difference between the known day and the unknown day. Church saints do not know the day but tribulation saints will know the day. Several Scriptures line up on both sides showing the difference. This difference acutely comes to focus in our umbrella verse, Matthew 24:44, "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh."

 

Be Ready Now. All possible objections and arguments come under this umbrella, for even the best possible objection must admit a general time period when Christ must return, somewhere in the neighborhood of seven years after the tribulation begins. Anyone who reads Revelation 16 and 19 knows that certain events converge at the end of the tribulation. The armies of the world, led by the beast, gather at Armageddon. When you see these events coming to a point, you just know the end is near. It's so obvious. Ask a post-trib how much time expires between the gathering of the armies and the gathering of the saints. Is it enough time to create the unexpectancy of Matthew 24:44? Not hardly. Once the final events start whirling down the vortex, no one will even have time to write a book about it.

This general expectation is a far cry from our umbrella verse, "In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." The force of Matthew 24:44 is even stronger in the original Greek because of the progressive present tense which implies, "When you are not thinking or expecting Him to come, He will." This carries the issue beyond a certain day, for it militates against even an approximate period of expectation. The whole point that Jesus is trying to get across in this passage is the total surprise for those involved.

The entire tone of surprise in Matthew 24:44 is incompatible with what transpires toward the end of the tribulation when saints are commanded, "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28). The one requires looking that is perpetual and unconditional, but the other is postponed and conditional. The difference is expectancy versus unexpectancy, awareness versus surprise. The one needs only momentary looking, but the other demands continual looking. There is a difference. Forget the 1260 days if you want to. We still have the quandary of general expectation versus total surprise. This difference is why I conclude that there are two aspects of His coming. For His coming after the tribulation believers will know the time; for His coming before the tribulation believers will not know the time.

Christ's next coming will be when we least expect it. Are you ready? Will His coming be a pleasant surprise or an unpleasant surprise? You can be ready by getting your heart right with God. Do it now before it is too late.

You cannot get ready by your own efforts. That's not good enough. God will not accept your own efforts. He will only accept the blood of Christ shed on your behalf. Admit before God that you are sinful and unworthy, and trust in Christ as your only means of salvation.

Surrender your life to God. Then trust Him every day and every hour.

 

Don't Throw Up Your Hands. Maybe you have no special question or objection like the ten we have listed, but maybe you are thinking: Theologians have debated this topic for years and they haven't come to an agreement yet. If scholars can't solve the problem, then how can I ever expect to know what's right? I give up even trying to understand. I'll just wait and see if Christ returns before the tribulation or not; then we'll know.

To you I say: Don't throw up your hands. You can know. Yes, you can. God wrote the Bible for you, not just for scholars.

Let's talk about this for a minute. How can you know what is right? When you read one theologian and he says one thing, and you read another and he says a different thing, how do you decide between the two? Here's how. You let the Bible decide between the two. You can read the Bible just as well as they can. Maybe you don't know Greek, but if you are Christ's you have the Holy Spirit to help you understand it. Don't let a few mere men take the Bible out of your hands.

Scrutinize the argument given by men. See if they square with Scripture. See if they explain some verses but leave other unexplained. See if they put part of the puzzle together but leave gaping holes. The one who puts together the most pieces is the one with the most beautiful picture. That is how you can tell.

I am sure that other interpreters have done their best to harmonize the picture for you, just as I am doing my best. I think we can help each other as we work together. If you see any gaping holes in my picture, please point them out to me. You won't be the first to do me that favor. But whatever you do, don't throw up your hands.

 

Icing on the Cake. Let's return to the main point of this chapter. Scripture presents a known day and an unknown day. However I slice it, dice it, dissect it, bisect it, I keep coming up with only one conclusion: two different days. This definitely rules out only one coming.

But how can that be? I still hear some questioning. Doesn't Matthew 24 place the unknown day after the tribulation? I mentioned earlier that Matthew 24 is the icing on the cake to my whole argument. But I want you to enjoy the rest of the meal before I serve you dessert.