In the Bible we find that God has, at different times, given life and death warnings. Moses came to Egypt and had a message from God—”Let My people go.” They rejected the message; and Pharaoh replied, “Who is God that He should tell us that?” As a result, they first lost their cattle, then their crops, and eventually their first born. Finally, they lost their army and Pharaoh himself.
Jeremiah came to Israel with a life and death message, calling them to repent and to return to the true worship of God. They wanted to hear love spoken and thought that his message was too straight; they cast him into a miry pit. Because they rejected Him, God could not protect them; and although they claimed to be worshiping Him, going through the motions of religion, their city was completely destroyed.
Then there was John the Baptist who came with a message of repentance to Israel. They rejected the message, and what happened? Again, Jerusalem was destroyed and lay in ruins for many years. The Jewish people were scattered all over the world.
So at various times, God has had life and death messages that have been given to various groups, individuals, and nations. But twice in this world’s history, He has had a life and death message for the whole world. The first one came through Noah. “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ’I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth. Both man and beast, creeping things, and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’” Genesis 6:5–7. Conditions then must have been something like today. The Bible says that every imagination of man’s heart was evil continually.
God said that it had become unbearable to allow this to go on in the universe, and he decided that He was going to put a check on sin. But God is merciful; He did not do it overnight. “And the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’” Ibid., verse 3. In I Peter 3, we find that this power that pled with men was the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and that was manifested at Pentecost. It was not just human power; it was the power of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that when God sends a warning message the second time, it will again be as in Noah’s time. There will be many scoffers. “Knowing this first, that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the father fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of Creation.’ For this they willfully forget that by the Word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same Word, reserved for fire until the Day of Judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” II Peter 3:3–7. Notice it says that they willfully forget. In other words, they choose to ignore the evidence by which they might have a knowledge of the flood. The world today is being kept in store by this same power; but this time it is not to be destroyed by water but by fire—the fire at Jesus’ Second Coming.
Now there were scoffers in Noah’s day, and there are scoffers today. But scoffers did not change the facts then, nor will they today. God has given evidence by which, if people are interested, they can find that the Bible is true. Even if the whole world disbelieves God’s Word, His Word is still going to come true!
Now, if the judgment has come, and if it is going to be preached, someone must know that it has begun. Somewhere in the Bible there must be a time pointed out as to when the judgment is going to begin. Paul tells us in Acts 17:31, “He has appointed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness.” God has had to put the date for the judgment some place in the Bible, and we want to find it.
Daniel 7 gives us an approximate date for the beginning of the judgment, though it does not give us an exact time. “I watched until thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.”” Daniel 7:9, 10.
Now if you will continue on to verses 11–13, you will see that this is not yet the end of the world. “I watched then [after the court had been seated] because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking.” We find in Revelation that while the horn reigned for 1,260 years, at which time it received a deadly wound, yet it would be healed and all of the world would wonder after the beast. So Daniel hears the horn speaking after the judgment has set.
There is a principle that every prophecy builds on the one before it. The prophecy of Daniel 8 covers much of the same history as Daniel 7. It begins with the rule of Medo-Persia and relates the fall of that kingdom before Alexander the Great. After giving more details about the rule of Greece, it goes over the reign of the little horn power. When it comes to the end of the little horn power, it also goes into the judgment; but this prophecy gives us something a little more specific. “And he said unto me, ‘For two thousand three hundred days then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.’” Daniel 8:14. The Jews knew what that terminology meant. The cleansing of the sanctuary was a term that had reference to the Day of Atonement, which was a period of judgment for the Jews. Because we are dealing with prophetic time, we know this to be a time period of two thousand three hundred literal years. This places the judgment a great distance into the future.
“Now it happened, when I, Daniel, had seen the vision and was seeking the meaning, that suddenly there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said; ‘Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.’ So he came near where I stood, and when he came I was afraid and fell on my face; but he said to me, ‘Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end.’” Verses 15–17. We know that the time period stretches to the time of the end; but without a starting point, this still is not very specific.
Gabriel was told to explain the vision to Daniel, but he was not able to finish because Daniel fainted. Upon his recovery, however, Daniel kept praying and the angel came back. “Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision.’” Daniel 9:20–23.
To what vision is Gabriel referring? The vision in chapter 8! This is the vision which Gabriel started to explain, but Daniel became sick before he finished explaining about the 2,300 days. “Go finish your explanation,” God said. “You did not finish.”
The only part of that vision which had not been explained was the part dealing with time. Naturally, Gabriel does not go back and talk about the powers of Greece and Medo-Persia; he starts right in where he left off, explaining the 2,300 days. “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; . . . . Then He shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.” Verses 24–27.
Now there is an unfortunate mistranslation here. The word determined is from the word chathak. In Hebrew it literally means, cut off. The reason the translators did not translate it that way is because, failing to go back to the previous vision, they could not determine from what it was cut off. Seventy weeks must be cut off from some larger period of time. There is only time period in the vision of the beginning and that is the 2,300 days, or years. Now he said, 70 weeks are cut off from this 2,300-day period. Seventy weeks is 490 literal years. If you cut 490 from 2,300, there are 1,810 years left. In other words, of the 2,300 years, 490 were given especially to the Jewish people.
The 490-day period began with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. This took place in 457 B.C. It then extended until A.D. 34. At that time, Stephen was stoned and persecution broke out in Jerusalem, scattering the followers of Jesus everywhere. It was then that the gospel began to go to the Gentiles. By the way, as 1844 follows 1798, it also fits the prophecy of Daniel 7.
Other than the prophecy in Daniel 8 and 9, there is no prophecy in all of the Bible that reveals a date for the judgment to begin. Daniel 7 gives the approximate date for the judgment to begin, but Daniel 8 is the only one that gives the time.
“As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be also in the days of the Son of Man.” Luke 17:26. In Noah’s day, those who heeded God’s warning, though very few in number, were saved, while those who scoffed at the message were lost. The Bible says that there is coming a judgment. It also tells us that the judgment message will be preached with a loud voice. I believe, according to Bible prophecy, that the judgment has already begun. When it is ended, the destiny of all mankind will have been decided. When the judgment is over, the pronouncement will be made, “He who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still. ‘And behold, I am coming quickly.’” Revelation 22:11, 12.
This has not yet taken place, but the time is rapidly approaching when all decisions relative to salvation will have been irrevocably made. Remember, the flood did not come immediately after Noah entered the ark and the door was closed. There were still seven days, but probation was closed. Everyone had made his final decision. “As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the day before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away.” Matthew 24:37, 39.
When probation closes, no one is going to know on earth; but their destiny will be fixed. People did not know that their destiny had been fixed when Noah entered the ark, but it had been fixed. In Noah’s day, God gave them 120 years. The final judgment message has already been being proclaimed for a longer period than that, but God is still waiting. Do you know why He is waiting? He is waiting for us, because He loves us so much. Not everyone has made a decision yet, and God wants to give us a little more time. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9.
Today, God’s message is going to all the world. Where you and I will be a million years from now depends on what we do with God’s message today. In Noah’s day, every person who was saved had to make a choice to be in the ark. They did not have to make a choice to be outside, as that is where they already were. There is not a man nor woman who has to make a decision to be lost; we are already lost. If you would be saved, however, you have to make a decision to follow God. It is not something that just comes naturally. You have to say, “Lord, I am going to follow You all the way.”