The Prophets Foresee the End of the World After 6000 Years
As I mentioned in a previous article, there were two things about Justin Martyr’s remarks in Dialog With Trypho (Chapter LXXXI) that I liked a lot. I wrote about Justin Martyr’s translation of Isa 65:20 that resolves the conflict between Isa 65:20 in the Masoretic Text and Rev 21:4. However, in Justin Martyr’s remarks, his translation of Isa 65:20 was a prelude to another interesting remark. In Chapter LXXXI in his letter to Trypho he was trying to show the Jew Trypho that the earth was only going to last 6000 years. Justin used Isa 65:22 to introduce another point. He translates Isa 65:22 thusly, “For according to the days of the tree of life shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound” and then adds these remarks,
“Now we have understood that the expression used among these words, ‘According to the days of the tree [of life] shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound’ obscurely predicts a thousand years. For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, ‘The day of the Lord is as a thousand years’ (Ps. xc. 4; 2 Pet. iii. 8) is connected with this subject.”
Beliefs of church fathers
By these remarks and others Justin Martyr shows that he was one of the vast majority in the very early church that accepted the view that the earth must endure 6000 years and be followed by a Sabbath of rest. Justin Martyr was not even the earliest. Barnabas (AD 75) wrote, “in six thousand years the Lord shall bring all things to an end; for the day with Him signifyeth a thousand years” (Epistle of Barnabas 15:4). Eusebius quotes Papias (ca. AD 110—Papias was a disciple of John and Polycarp) as believing in the 6 days/6000 years of the earth being followed by a day of rest.
The majority of the church fathers believed and taught that the earth would endure for 6000 years down to the days of Jerome (AD 347-420). The list of believers includes all of the earliest of the church fathers, e.g. Barnabus, Clement, Hermas, Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias, Justin Martyr, Tatian, Melito, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian ranging from AD 70 to about 192. Fathers such as Lactantius (AD 240-320), Methodius, Epiphanius, Gregory of Nyssia, Paulinius, Victorinius, Apollinarius, and others, follow these (George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus, Vol 1, Funk and Wagnalls, NY, p451, 1884). Important advocates of the 6000 years of the earth in the AD 350-450 timeframe were Augustine, Origin, and Jerome (George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus, Vol II, George N. H. Peters, Funk and Wagnalls, NY, p451, 1884).
At one time in the days of Noah, every person on earth was a believer in God. Some of these went into paganism in the days of Nimrod and Abraham, but even among these apostates, some of the early prophecies were incorporated into pagan belief in a modified form, but germs of truth remained. During the time of this apostasy, God sent the Gentiles prophets for a time (Num 22:9, Ex 18:1, 12, 19) until they no longer desired to hear from Him and He gave them up (Rom 1:24, 26). In the present day there is great excitement over the end of the grand cycle of precession in the Mayan calendar ending on December 21, 2012, and it is possible the Mayans had some germ of truth preserved from the days after the flood. I do not lend much credence, however, to the hysteria that the Mayan calendar marks the end of the earth, because there should be 7 really good years before the beginning of the seven years of the tribulation (cp. the type of Gen 41:17-32), and one could hardly call 2008 a good year. However, it is interesting to note in regard to the 6000 years marking the return of the Lord and the restitution of all things (Acts 3:21) that the Mayans predict that the completion of the Precession in 2012 brings regeneration of Earth, offering awakening to all open, willing hearts (http://www.adishakti.org/mayan_end_times_prophecy_12-21-2012.htm). It is also interesting that the current 5,125 year Mayan astronomical cycle began during the time (3113 BC) that the angels that sinned (II Pet 2:4) came down to earth (Jude 1:6) and mingled with the daughters of men (Gen 6:1) that brought about the destruction on the ancient world. These angels are scheduled to return at the end of the present age (Rev 9:14, En 56:5) to engage in a last great battle with God (Rev 16:16, 19:19).
Beliefs of Jews before Christ
The Jews before Christ also believed in the 6000 years of the earth. Rabbi Elias (ca 200 BC) wrote; “The world endures six thousand years: two thousand years before the law, two thousand years under the law, and two thousand years under Messiah’s (grace) ” (“Millennium,” Adama Books, 1986, p.263). In the Jewish Talmud, Tanna debe Eliyyahu teaches: “The world is to exist 6,000 years. In the first 2,000, there was desolation (no Torah, from Adam to Abraham . . .), 2,000 years the Torah flourished, and the next 2,000 years is the Messianic era (He should have come within that period . . . He should have come at the beginning of the last 2,000 years; the delay is due to our sins)”. Likewise II Enoch 33:1 says, “And I appointed the eighth day also, that the eighth day should be the first-created after my work, and that the first seven revolve in the form of the seventh thousand, and that at the beginning of the eighth thousand there should be a time of not-counting, endless, with neither years nor months nor weeks nor days nor hours.”
The Dead Sea Scrolls reveal that the book of Enoch was highly regarded among the Jews before the first advent of Christ. There is a prophetic parable in the Book of Enoch regarding 70 shepherds from the days of the kings to the end of the world, and among these are what Enoch calls “twelve last shepherds” (En 90:19). The current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is the 12th shepherd of Israel that has ruled in Israel since the nation (horn) was reestablished in 1948 and would thus be the last of the shepherds. Enoch’s prophecy is that during the time of these 12 last shepherds, the nations around Israel keep tearing the people of Israel and swooping down upon them and devouring them (En 90:11). The people of Israel remained silent, but the leaders of Israel lamented and cried out. And those nations fought and battled with Israel and sought to lay low the state of Israel, but they had no power over it. Then all the Iranians and Syrians and Palestinians and Jordanians were gathered together, and there came with them all the people of their countries, yea, they all came together, and helped each other to break the state of Israel. 19 And I saw till a great sword [the sword of the Deliverer proceeding out of Zion AFTER the time of the Gentiles is complete–Rom 11:26?] was given to the people of Israel, and the people of Israel proceeded against all the nations that attacked them to slay them, and all the people of the nations that attacked them fled before their face [En 90:11-19 paraphrase substituting modern names for the names of the animals]. The passage in En 90:11-19 appears to describe the Day of Jacob’s trouble (cp. Isa 17, Jer 30) in which Israel is almost destroyed, but with God’s help gains a stunning victory over all its enemies and occupies their lands. The next episode in Enoch’s parable after the peace Israel gains on the day of Jacob’s trouble is a prophecy of the Lord’s return when He comes and destroys all of Israel’s enemies by sending them to hell (En 90:19). If all goes according to this scenario in the next few months, then these 12 last shepherds end just before the end of 6000 years of the earth and will mark the last great event in Enoch’s parable before the Antichrist and the coming of the Lord.
Beliefs of the Roman Church
The Roman Church teaches that in AD 1139 an Irish bishop, St. Malachy, was summoned to Rome, and as he approached the city, he fell into a trance wherein he uttered a series of 112 short prophecies that appear to predict the last 112 popes. These prophecies have aligned closely with attributes of the various popes since Celestine II in AD 1143. The last pope, Peter the Roman, is to rule in extreme persecution and feed the sheep through many tribulations [there will be 4 global catastrophes before the emergence of the Man of Sin, Rev 8:7-12]. When these tribulations are over, the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the fearsome judge will judge His people. The next to the last pope in Malachy’s list is now ruling in Rome, and he is in his late 80s.
Malachy’s prophecy of the last pope is very similar to the Roman Church’s Third Secret of Fatima. The third secret was purportedly revealed in 1917 to three children in Fatima, Portugal. In that vision they saw a Bishop dressed in white that the children thought was “the Holy Father”. Other Bishops, Priests, Religious men and women [were] going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins [Rome being destroyed] and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, Religious men and women, and various lay people of different ranks and positions.”
Revelation 17 and 18 describe the destruction of Rome by the Beast/Man of Sin and predict that the city will never be rebuilt or inhabited. The eternal destruction of Rome is also foreseen in the Sibylline Oracles (Lactantius, Institutes, XV). The Roman Church’s prophecy is that the eternal destruction of Rome should happen during the reign of the next pope. That pope will rule at the end of 6000 years.
OT Types and Figures
Noting that the OT historical figures served as types of things to come (Col 2:17), there is an interesting correlation between the end of the world and the days of Noah found in Mt 24:37. There it says, “But as the days [600 years—Gen 7:6] of Noe [were], so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Likewise, Isaac, a type of Christ, was 40 (Gen 25:20) when He married and was 60 (Gen 25:26) before he had any children.
The OT prophet Hosea (750-700 BC) also appears to use the 1000 years as a day construction in one of his prophecies. Hosea 6:1-2 says, “Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn us and he will heal us; he hath smitten us, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and then we shall live in his sight.” Hosea was a prophet of Judah, and his remarks here do not seem at all applicable to the Babylonian captivity, but rather fit the history of Judah from Hosea’s day forward, if you use the 1000 years is a day construction. Viewed from the aspect that Hosea’s “two days” are 2000 years, the Jewish people are going to go through hard, tearing, difficult times for 2000 years. Viewed from Hosea’s day, the end of the second day would be around AD 1300. That is time of the expiration of the 1260 days that Israel would be exiled from Jerusalem. But on the third day (AD 1300-2300), the day of resurrection, (and that day that includes AD 2030, the presumed 6000th year from creation) Israel will be revived. The Lord will come to Israel (and by extension, to all those that love God) “as the morning” and “as the rain” (Hos 6:3), but it will be in the 3rd day from Hosea’s time which includes the 6000th year of the earth.
There is also a great expectation of the end of the world based upon the budding of the fig tree (Israel). While the majority of the CoC believes in the replacement theory where God placed the church instead of Israel as the object of all of His promises, the prophets will not admit of a complete abandonment of Israel (e.g. Isa 17:7-9, Jer 30:7-11, Hos 1:10-11, Isa 49:14-16, etc.). Jesus identifies the fig tree in a parable in which He prophetically portrayed God’s displeasure with Israel and clearly identifies Israel as the fig tree (Lk 13:6-9). In Mt 24:32 the sign of the fig tree, Israel, is associated with the end of the world. Mt 24:32 says, “Now from the fig tree learn her parable: when her branch is now become tender, and putteth forth its leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh; even so ye also, when ye see all these things, know ye that he is nigh, [even] at the doors.” Since Israel is clearly the fig tree (Joel 1:7, Hos 9:10, Lk 13:6-9), many view Jesus’ statement as applying to the generation (Mt 24:34 “this generation”) that was alive when the “fig tree” first budded again in 1948. By this interpretation, Christ should come before everyone that was alive in 1948 dies and the last of that generation will die just at the end of 6000 years.
History of belief in the 6000 years
The early church used the Septuagint version of the Bible and it differed from the Masoretic text. The Septuagint ages of the patriarchs are larger than they are in the Masoretic text. The Septuagint increased the age of the partriarchs at the births of their firstborn sons by 100 years or more for each of the patriarchs. The Septuagint also has an additional patriarch between Arphaxad and Salah by the name of Cainan. Based on the Septuagint, the fathers derived different dates for the creation [Eusebius (5198 BC), Africanus (5499 BC) and the Byzantine date (5508 BC)] based on the Septuagint. Because the early church used the Septuagint, there was great consternation at various times from AD 500-1000 because many believed that the sixth day of the earth was ending and Christ would return. Since the adoption of the Masoretic text of the Old Testament as the Christian canon, the creation was placed at 4004 BC by Bishop Usher, a date much later than those derived from the Septuagint (5198-5508 BC). Usher’s 4004 BC date for creation allows for a future coming of Christ at the end of the 6th millennium, even in our own time.
An interesting prophecy from Sibyls
There is another prophecy that I recently encountered in the Sibylline Oracles that supports the view that the earth will end around 6000 years. The Sibylline Oracles are not much used today, but they were widely used by Jews (Josephus) and writers in the very early church (Theophilos, ca.180, Bishop of Antioch; Clement of Alexandria, ca. 200; Lactantius, ca. 305; Augustine, ca. 400; etc. Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, 14 vols., 1887). These early church fathers frequently quoted prophecy from the Sibyls in support of Christian doctrine. For example, Justin Martyr (ca. 150) quotes from the Sibyls to prove that the present world will end (ANF, Justin Martyr, First Apology, XX, p170, 1887) and there is only one God (ANF, Justin Martyr, Hortatory Address to the Greeks, XVI).
The passage I found in the Sibyls refers to the Phoenix, a bird that supposedly appeared in Egypt every 500 years and built a nest from which it produced a single offspring and then died. The new Phoenix would arise, and when its strength was sufficient would immolate the body of the old bird with fire and rise from the ashes to be seen again only at the expiration of the 500 years. There is actually a historical reference to the fourth appearance of the Phoenix in Tacitus who reports that the fourth appearance of the Phoenix was an occasion for much discussion among the learned men of Egypt and Greece. Tactitus says,
“That it is a creature sacred to the sun, differing from all other birds in its beak and in the tints of its plumage, is held unanimously by those who have described its nature. As to the number of years it lives, there are various accounts. The general tradition says five hundred years. Some maintain that it is seen at intervals of fourteen hundred and sixty-one years, and that the former birds flew into the city called Heliopolis successively in the reigns of Sesostris, Amasis, and Ptolemy, the third king of the Macedonian dynasty, with a multitude of companion birds marvelling at the novelty of the appearance. But all antiquity is of course obscure. From Ptolemy to Tiberius [AD 14-37] was a period of less than five hundred years [there is a problem with the accepted Egyptian chronology—JRJ]. Consequently some have supposed that this was a spurious phoenix, not from the regions of Arabia, and with none of the instincts which ancient tradition has attributed to the bird. For when the number of years is completed and death is near, the phoenix, it is said, builds a nest in the land of its birth and infuses into it a germ of life from which an offspring arises, whose first care, when fledged, is to bury its father. This is not rashly done, but taking up a load of myrrh and having tried its strength by a long flight, as soon as it is equal to the burden and to the journey, it carries its father’s body, bears it to the altar of the Sun, and leaves it to the flames. All this is full of doubt and legendary exaggeration. Still, there is no question that the bird is occasionally seen in Egypt.” (Tacitus, The Annals, Book VI)
Tacitus says that the Phoenix appeared in the reign of Tiberius (AD 14-37) and lists three previous appearances, thus making the appearance in Tiberius’ day the fourth. Now, consider the quote regarding the Phoenix from the Sibyls (brackets enclose my comments):
Thereafter when the limit of the time
Of the Phenix [the limit of all the Phoenixes, the end of the 7th] shall come round, there shall a race
185 Of peoples come to plunder [the Kings of the East led by Little Horn], tribes confused [by deception of Man of Sin, 2 Thes 2:9-10],
Enemy of the Hebrews [Persians]. Then shall Ares [war]
Go plundering Ares [Rome, the origin of and victor in so many wars]; and he [Ares/war] shall himself
Destroy the haughty threatening of the Romans.
Milton Terry’s Note on the above lines:
184. Phenix–Fabulous Egyptian bird, said to appear once in, five hundred years. See Herodotus, ii, 73; Pliny, Nat. Hist., x, 2; Clem. Rom., 1 Cor., xxv [G., 1, 261-276], According to Tacitus (Annal., vi, 28), the fourth appearance, of the Phenix occurred in the reign of Tiberius.
Sibylline Oracles, Trans. Milton S. Terry, Book 10.
The fourth Phoenix appeared somewhere around AD 33, the year our Lord rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. The fifth Phoenix would have then appeared in AD 533, the sixth in AD 1033, and the seventh in 1533. That seventh Phoenix would reach its limit of 500 years in 2033 at which time the Man of Sin and the end of the world should arrive. So, the Sibyl in agreement with so many others also sees the end of the world at the end of the 6th thousands of years.