We Are Living on Borrowed Time

There is an increasing excitement among many Seventh-day Adventists that some great event is about to take place as the year 2000 A.D. approaches. This is based on the assumption that God has allotted seven thousand years to this world before He destroys and recreates it. God has often used the number seven in the Scriptures to represent completion, such as the seven days of Creation, the seven churches of Revelation, the seven seals, the seven trumpets and the seven beasts of Daniel and Revelation, which cover the time period from the creation to the return of Jesus.

If we carefully study the Bible record, we know that the earth was about four thousand years old when Christ came. We add this figure to the year 2000 A.D., and we discover that the earth is about six thousand years old. Therefore, it must be about time for the Second Coming of Christ, for when He comes, He will usher in the one-thousand-year Millenium of Revelation 20, which makes a total of seven thousand years.

The Age of the Earth

But the big question is this, How old is this earth? Surely inspiration must have something to say about the actual age of this earth, for the Scriptures say that “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7. Let us search to see what God has revealed about the coming of His dear Son, Jesus.

Jesus, speaking about the end of the earth in Matthew 24, said: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with the great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” Matthew 24:29–36. [All emphasis supplied.]

These words of Christ should settle this matter forever. There can be no actual time setting for this event. Yet, there are some, within our church, teaching that Jesus will return at the end of six thousand years, and they place this event in the near future when the earth supposedly reaches the six thousand-year mark.

Now to those who are teaching such beliefs, I have some very startling news. Ellen White wrote, between the years 1869 and 1890, that the earth was already six thousand years old. Look carefully at these quotations. The first is from 1869.

“Creation week was only seven literal days, and the world is now only about six thousand years old.” Lift Him Up, 52.

“He (man) has withstood the accumulation of disease brought upon the race in consequence of perverted habits, and has continued for six thousand years.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 22.

“Ever since he (Satan) succeeded in overcoming our first parents in their beautiful Eden home, he has been engaged in this work. More than six thousand years of continual practice has greatly increased his skill to deceive and allure.” Signs of the Times, September 29, 1887.

“For six thousand years, Satan’s work of rebellion has ‘made the earth to tremble’ . . . For six thousand years his prison house has received God’s people.” The Great Controversy, 659.

Finally, in 1890 she wrote: “The continual transgressions of men for over six thousand years has brought sickness, pain and death as its fruit.” Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 154.

This last statement by Ellen White was written one hundred seventeen years ago. So the earth is already over six thousand one hundred seventeen years old. What has gone wrong? Why has Jesus not returned? The answer can again be found in inspiration. In 1883 Ellen White wrote: “Had Adventists after the great disappointment in 1844, held fast their faith and followed on unitedly in the opening providence of God, . . . Christ would have come ere this to receive His people to their reward . . . It was not the will of God that the coming of Christ should be delayed. God did not design that His people, Israel, should wander forty years in the wilderness. He promised to lead them directly to the land of Canaan, and establish them there a holy, healthy, happy people. But those to whom it was first preached, went not in ‘because of unbelief.’ Their hearts were filled with murmuring, rebellion, and hatred, and He could not fulfill His covenant with them.

“For forty years did unbelief, murmuring, and rebellion shut out ancient Israel from the land of Canaan. The same sins have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. In neither case were the promises of God at fault. It is the unbelief, the worldliness, the unconsecration, and strife among the Lord’s professed people that have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years.” Evangelism, 695, 696.

“If all who had labored unitedly in the work in 1844 had received the Third Angel’s Message, and proclaimed it in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord would have wrought mightily with their efforts. A flood of light would have been shed upon the world. Years ago the inhabitants of the earth would have been warned, the closing work completed, and Christ would have come for the redemption of His people.” Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, 291.

Now that we have the facts before us, all taken from divine inspiration, we are still faced with the remaining question, Why is Christ now waiting to come and put an end to sin? I will tell you the conclusion that I have come to. The Lord sees so many of us who are not ready and in His great mercy He delays His coming that sinners may have the opportunity to heed His warning message and find divine shelter before the wrath of God is poured out. In 1896, Ellen White wrote: “If those who claimed to have a living experience in the things of God had done their appointed work as the Lord ordained, the whole world would have been warned ere this, and the Lord Jesus would have come in power and great glory.” The Review and Herald, October 6, 1896.

“But because the people are disobedient, unthankful, unholy, as were ancient Israel, time is prolonged that all may hear the last message of mercy proclaimed with a loud voice. The Lord’s work has been hindered, the sealing time delayed.” The Faith I Live By, 288.

During the years 1898 to 1903, Ellen White explained the delay. “It is because the work has not been done for the wicked that time delays.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 10, 816.

“Had the Adventists in the early days still trusted to the guiding hand that had been with them in their past experience, they would have seen the salvation of God.” Testimonies, vol.8, 115, 116.

It is plain to see from these quotations that the six thousand years of earth’s history ended before 1890 and that Jesus would have come for His people had they been faithful.

Conditional Promises

As we continue, we will discover that it is absolutely impossible now for anyone on this earth to figure out a time schedule for the coming of Christ. When we compare the signs that pinpoint the time period around the Second Coming in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21 and Revelation 6, we find the actual signs of Christ’s coming. They are the following: the sun was to be darkened; the moon would not give its light and the stars were to fall.

Every Adventist knows that the signs of the sun and moon were fulfilled on May 19, 1780. The falling of the stars occurred on November 13, 1833. Keeping this in mind consider these words by Ellen White: “Those who behold these harbingers of His coming are to know that it is near, even at the doors.” The Great Controversy, 37.

“Christ has given signs of His coming. He declares that we may know when He is near, even at the doors. He says of those who see these signs, ‘This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.’ These signs have appeared. Now we know of a surety that the Lord’s coming is at hand. ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away,’ He says, ‘but my words shall not pass away.’” The Desire of Ages, 632.

So, it is safe to say that the generation that saw the last sign, the falling of the stars in 1833, was to live until Jesus would come in His Second Coming between 1869 and 1890. But that generation perished long ago. And how is this to be explained?

Twelve years after the disappointment of 1844, Ellen White was given a significant vision. She wrote about it in Spiritual Gifts: “A conference was held at Battle Creek in May, 1856 . . . At the conference a very solemn vision was given me. I saw that some of those present would be food for worms, some subjects for the seven last plagues, and some would be translated to heaven at the second coming of Christ, without seeing death.” Spiritual Gifts, 207, 208. This was written one hundred forty years ago. I am reminded of this statement: “The promises and threatenings of God are alike conditional.”

Selected Messages, vol. 1, 67. This answers why Jesus did not come before the last of those present at this conference had died. This prophecy was not fulfilled because Seventh-day Adventists, who were then living, had proved to be unfaithful, thus causing a delay in the Second Coming of Christ.

As late as 1888, Ellen White wrote when some of those at that General Conference held in Battle Creek were still living: “The hour will come; it is not far distant, and some of us who now believe will be alive upon the earth, and shall see the prediction verified, and hear the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God echo from mountain and plain and sea, to the uttermost parts of the earth.” The Review and Herald, July 31, 1888.

The church continued in unfaithfulness and that meant more delay. Ellen White, one of the last remaining in this group, died in 1915. We are over one hundred years past God’s intended time schedule and no one knows the exact time of Christ’s return. Present truth for this hour is the fact that we are living on borrowed time. I have three short quotations that emphatically stress this:

“The prophetic periods reached to 1844 . . .Prophetic time closed in 1844.” Spiritual Gifts, 138, 148.

This means that the twelve hundred sixty, the twelve hundred ninety and the thirteen hundred thirty-five-day prophecies of Daniel 12, all ended in 1844.

I have a photocopy in my files of the prophetic chart used by our pioneers as they preached the Three Angels’ Messages. This chart revealed that all the prophecies of Daniel 12 ended in the year 1844. Ellen White spoke specifically about this chart: “I have seen that the 1843 chart was directed by the hand of the Lord, and that it should not be altered; that the figures were as He wanted them.” Early Writings, 74.

And in this final quotation, Sister White makes it so clear that none can misunderstand:

“Time has not been a test since 1844, and it will never again be a test.” Ibid., 75.

Beware of False Prophets

Now, I am going to give you some names. I do not like to do that, but it is necessary because I do not want you to be caught up in the error that is being presented by these people in the church today. Marian Berry uses the prophecies of Daniel 12 to point out future events, leading to a definite time for Christ to come. Her teachings and charts declare that the prophecies of Daniel 12 are to be understood as literal days instead of prophetic years and that they will meet their fulfillment when the National Sunday Law is enacted.

Such futuristic teachings have been ensnaring thousands within our church during the last fifty years, just as was predicted: “Every phase of fanaticism and erroneous theories, claiming to be the truth, will be brought in among the remnant people of God.” Selected Messages, book 2, 14. And for what purpose? “God will arouse His people; if other means fail, heresies will come in among them, which will sift them, separating the chaff from the wheat.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 707.

Another futuristic “prophet” is Larry Wilson. He states in his paper, The Daystar, of February 1992, “I expect to see these people, the one hundred forty-four thousand, revealed by a powerful Holy Spirit manifestation during the latter part of 1993 or early 1994.” Then in June of 1993, he sent out a chart with this heading, “A survey of the possible timing of the end time events.” For the spring of 1994, the chart had this entry, “Seventy Jubilee cycles end. A hundred forty-four thousand sealed. Two witnesses begin twelve hundred sixty days of preaching.”

Such teachings enabled Wilson to invite his followers to join him at Round Rock, Texas, on March 19, 1994, with the expectation that shortly thereafter, God would use the one hundred forty-four thousand to complete the Three Angels’ Messages in a time period of twelve hundred sixty literal days.

Wilson has publicly stated that he believes some of God’s prophets made mistakes in their prophecies. He further states that Ellen White made similar mistakes in her book, The Great Controversy. For he writes that he does not believe that the United States is the two-horned beast of Revelation 13. This is a very solemn error. I warn you to beware of all who put themselves in the place of God’s inspired prophet!

Questions About Time Setting Answered

For the remainder of this article I would like to let the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy answer some questions about time setting that are being asked by many Adventists today.

Question: Can man fix a definite time for any future event?

“And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth, lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer.” Revelation 10:5, 6.

Question: What is the meaning of the foregoing declaration of this angel?

“This time, which the angel declares with a solemn oath, is not the end of this world’s history, neither of probationary time, but of prophetic time, which should precede the advent of our Lord. That is, that people will not have another message upon definite time. After this period of time, reaching from 1842 to 1844, there can be no definite tracing of the prophetic time. The longest reckoning reaches to the autumn of 1844.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 971.

“And he said unto them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power.’ ” Acts 1:7. “Should we advance in spiritual knowledge, we would see the truth developing and expanding in lines of which we have little dreamed, but it will never develop in any line that will lead us to imagine that we may know the times and the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power. Again and again have I been warned in regard to time setting. There will never again be a message for the people of God that will be based on time.” Ibid., vol. 6, 1052.

Question: Can we fix a definite time for probation to end?

“God has not revealed to us the time when this message will close, or when probation will have an end . . . .

“But there is no command for anyone to search the Scriptures in order to ascertain if possible, when probation will close. God has no such message for any mortal lips. He would have no mortal tongue declare that which He has hidden in His secret councils.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 191, 192.

Question: Can we fix a definite time for the Latter Rain?

“I have no specific time of which to speak when the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will take place—when the mighty angel will come down from heaven, and unite with the third angel in closing up the work of this world; my message is that our only safety is in being ready for the heavenly refreshing, having our lamps trimmed and burning . . . ‘Watch and pray’ is the charge given us by our Redeemer . . . ‘Repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.’” Ibid., 192.

Question: Can we fix a definite time for the judgment of the living to begin?

“The judgment is now passing in the sanctuary above. For many years this work has been in progress. Soon—none know how soon—it will pass to the cases of the living. In the awful presence of God our lives are to come up in review. At this time above all others it behooves every soul to heed the Saviour’s admonition: ‘Watch and pray for ye know not when the time is.’” The Great Controversy, 490.

This does not mean that we are not to give our special attention to the judgment, for our characters are being judged and evaluated daily.

“The names of all those who have once given themselves to God are written in the book of life, and their characters are now passing in review before Him. Angels of God are weighing moral worth. They are watching the development of character in those now living, to see if their names can be retained in the book of life. A probation is granted us in which to wash our robes of character and make them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Historical Sketches, 138.

Question: Can we fix a definite time for the fulfillment of any other future event?

“Let all our brethren and sisters beware of anyone who would set a time for the Lord to fulfill His word in regard to His coming, or in regard to any other promise He has made of special significance.” Testimonies to Ministers, 55.

“The times and the seasons God has put in His own power and why has not God given us this knowledge? —Because we would not make a right use of it if He did. A condition of things would result from this knowledge among our people that would greatly retard the work of God in reparing a people to stand in the great day that is to come. We are not to live upon time excitement. We are not to be engrossed with speculations in regard to the times and the seasons which God has not revealed. Jesus has told His disciples to ‘watch’ but not for a definite time. His followers are to be in the position of those who are listening for the orders of their Captain, they are to watch, wait, pray, and work, as they approach the time for the coming of the Lord; but no one will be able to predict just when that time will come; for ‘of that day and hour knoweth no man.’ You will not be able to say that He will come in one, two, or five years, neither are you to put off His coming by stating that it may not be for ten or twenty years.” Selected Messages, book 1,189.

Time setting disqualifies the person from giving the Three Angels’ Messages. “Satan is ever ready to fill the minds with theories and calculations that will divert men from the present truth, and disqualify them for the giving of the Third Angel’s Message to the world.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1052.

“He [Christ] distinctly states the suddenness of His coming. He does not measure the time lest we should neglect a momentary preparation and in our indolence look ahead to the time when we think He will come and defer the preparation. ‘Watch ye therefore for ye know not.’ ” Testimonies, vol. 2, 191. Satan is continually implanting within many a desire for something startling. We need a change of heart, a transformation of character fitting us to meet Jesus.

” ‘Be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.’ Matthew 24:44. This is our message, the very message that the three angels flying in the midst of heaven are proclaiming.” Selected Messages, book 2, 114.

We should realize that should we die today, our destiny is sealed forever. As far as we are individually concerned, we must live day by day as though it is our last day, for we may not have another day. Our full attention should be given to two major questions. First, How can I be ready to meet Jesus with victory over every sin? And second, How can I faithfully do my part in sharing the Three Angels’ Messages that Jesus may come? This is what is vital for us today.

If we are faithfully doing these things, we will someday know the day of His coming for all that are alive will know the exact day and hour of the return of Christ when God’s people are about to be delivered from the jaws of the battle of Armageddon. “The voice of God is heard from heaven declaring the day and hour of Jesus’ coming, and delivers the everlasting covenant to His people. Like peals of loudest thunder His words roll through the earth. The Israel of God stand listening with their eyes fixed upward. Their countenances are lighted up with His glory, and shine as did the face of Moses when he came down from Sinai. The wicked can not look upon them. And when the blessing is pronounced on those who have honored God by keeping His Sabbath holy, there is a mighty shout of victory.” The Great Controversy, 640.

I want to be among the living saints who hear these words of God. Is that your most earnest desire?