The Sign of the Seventh Year
Sane and Sensible Perspectives on the Last Days
Seven is a lovely number in the Hebrew/Biblical way of numbering things. It stands for completion and for rest, because God rested on the seventh day, once He completed His great work of creation. Is it possible that this number also provides a key to understanding the timing of the Last Days? Without getting too deep into the complex world of numerology, is there something simple, yet powerful, that the number seven might reveal to us about the days we are living in? Peter supplies the clues that lead us into this mystery.
8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:8 ESV
One Day and a Thousand Years
In his second letter, Peter establishes a principle of interpretation that we should “not overlook”: Because the Lord marks time differently that we do, for Him a thousand years is “as one day” and one day is “as a thousand years.” Notice that he is not saying, “One day equals a thousand years (and vice versa) every time you see it written in scripture.” This is a simile, not an equality, so we do not have permission to apply it slavishly across the board every time we see “day” written in scripture.
With sensible biblical interpretation, context holds important keys. Peter’s context is the Psalms. In referencing this “fact” Peter is reminding his readers about what had already been written in the scriptures about the way the Lord sees time. Note that the context in Psalm 90 is directly connected to God’s work in creation—the first six days. God is “everlasting.” He existed long before He began creating. Even so, we are given a correspondence between one day and a thousand years for the way in which God views our time.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3 You return man to dust and say, "Return, O children of man!" 4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. Psalm 90:2-4 ESV
This intriguing insight can be extended in several directions. Can we take each Biblical day of creation to signify an actual thousand-year period of earth time? Some creationists take it just that way. Or, can we take this passage as an indication that the Lord limited Adam’s “day” to a thousand years due to the Fall? Adam indeed died just shy of one thousand, at the ripe old age of 930. Or, can we take this correspondence and send it forward? That’s how it becomes our “Sign of the Seventh”!
The Last Day and a Thousand Years
One fascinating aspect of Peter’s principle is that he set it in the context of a teaching on the Last Days. That should be enough to arrest our attention. Considering Peter's closeness to Jesus, he may have had some inside information we aren't privy to. This gives us even more reason to take his analogy seriously. Therefore, it’s well worth looking at the larger passage.
3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:3-9 ESV
Peter, like many in the Early Church, fully expected the Lord to come soon. Nevertheless, he also foresaw that there would likely be a long delay which would give scoffers plenty of fuel for their scoffing. It is therefore, directly in connection to his thoughts about the Last Days that Peter brings out this analogy from Psalm 90 and adds to it. Not only is one day as a thousand years (Psalm 90), but a thousand years can be reckoned as one day (2 Peter). So, with the help of the good Bishop from Ireland, let’s count down the "days" using those thousands!
A Biblical Countdown
Before we start our countdown to the Last Days, we need to review the sabbath principle and pause to meet the scholarly Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, James Ussher, who lived in the early 17th century. Bishop Ussher’s fame rests upon his painstakingly researched chronology of the years from Adam to Christ which gained wide acceptance in the Church. He took 4 BC as the date of Jesus’ birth and worked backwards using every Biblical lineage available to arrive at 4004 BC as the date of Adam’s creation.
This chronology can be debated over details, of course. Both Johannes Kepler and Sir Isaac Newton worked with the same resources and came up with slightly different numbers. Nevertheless, almost all who have studied it, accept this timeline in broad outline. This outline gives us roughly 4000 years from Adam to Christ and now 2000 years to our own day. If we follow Peter’s principle that “a day is as a thousand years” we can look back and count six completed days of redemption from the Fall of man to the present.
Sabbath Law and Our Timeline
If we combine the sabbath principle with Peter’s we see something extraordinary. That principle, repeated often in scripture is that six days of work find their completion in the day of rest which follows. Seven completes the cycle of work and rest. God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) labored six days, then rested. The fourth commandment is that we do the same. Even the land itself required a seventh year of rest, following six years of cultivation. Recall just for a moment the trouble Jesus got into for breaking the Sabbath command in the eyes of the Pharisees.
15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working." John 5:15-17 ESV
We watch with astonishment at how crudely literal the Pharisees were in not even allowing a healing to take place on the day of rest. The part we sometimes overlook is that Jesus disclosed that for Him and for the Father there has been no continuing day of rest. They have both been working “until now.” Since They rested after the work of creation, this can only be in reference to the new work of redemption required of Them, if They were going to rescue us from our Fall. A large part of that work would come at the cross, but from the moment Adam and Eve first sinned, God has been “at work” to rescue us from sin and its terrible consequences throughout our history.
When Will the Lord Rest?
Now, the question becomes, “When can the Lord look forward to resting from His present work of redeeming us?” The answer easily is when He Returns and brings this present age to an end. How long will He be allowed to rest? Again, the answer is easy: during the Millennial Kingdom! For one thousand years, Jesus will be with us reigning as King with absolutely no opposition from the Enemy to work against. That will be His "day" of rest. He will have the whole field to Himself. At the end of the Millennium He will have to “go to work” one last time, when the Enemy is released from prison.
Unfortunately, the numbers for our timeline are inexact. The genealogies in the Bible vary with some of the manuscript streams. The records of the regnal years of the kings of Israel and Judah lack sufficient clarity. Should we take our timeline from Adam’s creation or from his fall? Due to these honest considerations, we cannot name a date for the exact end of the six days of redemption. Even here we can’t set the “day and hour.” We can only say with assurance that there are roughly six thousand years from Adam to now, and that with the Lord “a thousand years is as a day.” This Sign of the Seventh Year points to the very near return of Jesus!
A Sign for Believers
The Sign of the Seventh Year is an elegant, intriguing, even somewhat compelling, sign for believers, but could hardly be accepted by an unbeliever or a skeptic. You have to believe in the Bible and the God of the Bible to give it credence. For unarguable evidence of the Second Coming, we must refer people to the three truly "unprecedented and undeniable" signs--the Jewish, Gospel and Global Signs. The Big Three are signs that any honest unbeliever would have to admit exactly correspond to prophecies written in the Bible thousands of years ago. Still, we who know we are in the Last Days can point them to the Sign of the Seventh Year and wink.