The final days of American involvement in the Vietnamese War were hectic. The North Vietnamese Army was about to overrun Saigon, and our nation was quickly evacuating all American personnel before this occurred. Any Americans left behind were certain to be tortured or killed.
What would have been your impression of our military leaders, if they had told the remaining Americans that they could either board the evacuation planes currently there, or they could catch other ones coming later; notwithstanding, that no other evacuation planes had actually been promised by the “Commander and Chief”? You would probably agree that the military leaders had created the false impression that there would be a second chance to escape the coming destruction; thereby having diminished the urgency of the situation, which caused some to procrastinate and eventually be destroyed.
Fortunately, our military leaders did not dispense such misinformation during those climactic days in Vietnam when people’s lives were literally at stake. However, many church leaders are guilty of dispensing similar misinformation concerning the climactic days of earth’s history, which is giving millions the false impression that they will have a second chance to be saved after Jesus has raptured faithful Christians to heaven.
The misinformation I’m referring to is the popular “secret rapture” doctrine being taught by many church leaders. This doctrine has gained worldwide attention due to the phenomenal success of the, “Left Behind”, Christian novel series. Millions are being told that they truly will have a second chance to be saved after Jesus has raptured His Church. Therefore, there is no urgency to surrender your life to Jesus now, because you can catch Him on the rebound.
What do I mean by that? The secret rapture theory presented in the “Left Behind” series, teaches that Jesus will soon be conducting a “secret rapture” of His saints in which they will simply disappear from this world. They will vanish into thin air, and all that will be left is their clothing. If they were driving a car at the moment of their rapture, the car will proceed without a driver, crashing into whatever is in the way. If a Christian was piloting a commercial airplane, the pilot will vanish and the plane full of passengers will crash and burn.
However, according to these books, all of the people who are left behind after this secret rapture will have a second chance to be saved by Jesus after going through a traumatic tribulation period. Many other church leaders, in addition to the authors of the “Left Behind” series, also teach this “second chance” version of the secret rapture doctrine. According to all of these teachers, this secret rapture of the church could literally happen any day.
Where does this “secret rapture” doctrine come from? That’s an intriguing question. There is little or no biblical support for this doctrine. In fact, they have chosen a good name for this teaching, by calling it the secret rapture. Why? Because it is so secret that you can’t even find it in the Bible!
It truly takes a vivid imagination to come up with today’s secret rapture concept based solely upon Scripture. Bible verses are stretched and embellished in an attempt to create a biblical foundation for this teaching.
Proponents of this dogma refer to Revelation 4:1, where the Apostle John is told by God to come up here. John is then allowed to view the throne in heaven where God was seated. How does this text support the disappearance of the Church via a secret rapture during the last days? This verse is addressing the Apostle John to personally “come up here”, so that he can view the things God wants him to write about. This text makes no reference whatsoever to a rapture of all believers.
Probably the main text used by proponents of the secret rapture is Luke 17:30-36, where it says that one will be taken and the other will be left when Jesus returns. Does this text necessarily portray the scenario being presented by modern preachers, where people are vanishing into “thin air” with no one seeing what happened to them? Not at all! It simply says that some will be taken by Jesus, while some will be left. It does not say that the ones left will not be able to see or know what happened to the ones who are taken. And, it certainly does not say that the ones left will get a second chance to be taken later! These verses simply tell us that there will be two types of people when Jesus returns. Some will be ready and will be taken by Him; some will not be ready, and will be left behind to perish. It is also obvious that it will not matter what your job is, what your physical location is or what you’re doing at the time; those who are ready will be taken and those who are not ready will be left, regardless of any of these things. This “favorite” passage, used by secret rapture advocates, actually contradicts their doctrine, which I will biblically prove in this article.
Even more important than the lack of biblical support for this doctrine, is the presence of numerous scriptures that clearly contradict this teaching. Remember, that the secret rapture is presented as being a quiet, invisible, mysterious event to those who are left behind. They will not have seen, heard or understood what happened to all of these missing people, according to this doctrine. The following scriptures will disprove this modern secret rapture scenario, beyond the shadow of a doubt.
When Jesus returns to take His faithful followers home, it will be anything but secret, quiet or invisible. The Bible states that He will return in the same manner in which He ascended to Heaven, which was “visibly” in the clouds; furthermore, it says that all the tribes of the earth, and every eye will see Him return (Acts 1:9-11; Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7). The Bible also declares that His return will be quite audible. It says there will be the “great sound of a trumpet”, a shout and great noise (Matthew 24:29-31; 1st Thessalonians 4:16-17; 2nd Peter 3:9-10). It is interesting to note that Jesus said that His return will be as visible as lightning flashing from the east to west, whereas the “false christs” will appear secretly in the desert or “inner rooms” (Matthew 24:24-27). Therefore, according to Scripture, proponents of the secret rapture theory are unwittingly describing and anticipating the appearance of false christs.
Advocates of the secret rapture will hasten to point out that they espouse two returns of Jesus. They teach that His first return will be the quiet, invisible, secret one to rapture His saints, but that His second return will be the loud and visible one in which He will destroy the wicked.
Unfortunately, their teachings are in direct contradiction of Scripture. The Bible proclaims that Jesus came to earth once to “bear our sins”, and that He will return a second time to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him (Hebrews 9:27-28). However, based on the contemporary secret rapture doctrine, Jesus comes to earth three times, because He came the first time to bear our sins, and will yet return two more times; His return for the secret rapture, and His final, audible, visible return when He destroys the wicked. There is no biblical support for this “triple coming” of Jesus. The Bible speaks of His second coming, but not a third.
Secret rapture proponents also contradict the Bible when they teach that the rapture of the saints and the destruction of the wicked occur during two separate returns of Jesus. The Bible clearly states that the same return of Jesus, which makes all the wicked tribes of the earth mourn by bringing destruction upon them, also gathers the “elect saints” to Jesus and gives them rest as they are caught up to meet the Lord in the air (Matthew 24:29-31; 2nd Thessalonians 1:6-10; 1st Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 5:1-4). Also, in Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus makes it clear that He will simultaneously separate the wicked from the righteous and give them their rewards when He returns with His angels. Once again, the same return of Jesus that punishes the wicked also brings the inheritance of the kingdom to the saints. Furthermore, Luke 17:26-36, which is the “favorite” passage of secret rapture proponents that I referred to earlier, also contradicts their teaching regarding two separate returns of Jesus. This text compares Jesus’ return to the days of Noah when the wicked were destroyed by the flood, and it also compares His return to the days of Lot when, once again, the wicked were not ready and were destroyed by fire and brimstone. In this passage, Jesus clearly states that His return will be just like that, which would mean that the wicked will not be ready and will also be destroyed when Jesus returns, just as in the days of Noah and Lot. Remember, this is the same passage used by secret rapture advocates, which they say represents the rapture of the Church. However, this text also clearly states that the wicked are also destroyed at the time of this rapture. Therefore, their own favorite passage contradicts their doctrine!
As you can see, the secret rapture doctrine is a concoction of men with vivid imaginations who have stretched and manipulated a few Bible verses. The weight of biblical evidence strongly contradicts this teaching.
In fact, even their assertion that the saints are raptured before the appearance of the antichrist and the great tribulation period, is yet another contradiction of scripture. The Bible clearly declares that we will not be gathered together to Jesus until after the antichrist arises with all power, signs and lying wonders (2nd Thessalonians 2:1-10). And, Jesus plainly stated that the sounding of the great trumpet gathering the saints from the earth, happens after the great tribulation events, such as the sun being darkened, the moon not giving light, the stars falling from heaven, the powers of the heavens being shaken, the sea and waves roaring, the distress of nations and men’s hearts failing for fear (Matthew 24:29-33; Luke 21:25-31). So, once again, Scripture exposes the fallacy and error being taught by modern preachers regarding the secret rapture.
Our military leaders would never have told the remaining American personnel in Saigon that they could catch a second evacuation plane, unless the leaders were absolutely certain, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the second plane was coming. Why? It was because the stakes were too high. There are certainly even higher stakes at risk concerning the return of Jesus Christ. Eternal life and eternal death are the stakes! Therefore, it would be wise for today’s preachers who proclaim this secret rapture message, to reconsider what they are preaching. It is even more important for them to be absolutely certain, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that there will indeed be a second chance to be evacuated by Jesus Christ. If there is not such a second chance, and people are eternally lost because they had procrastinated making their decision for Jesus based upon the incorrect information that they had received from these secret rapture preachers, I will not be the one they will have to answer to, but rather to God Himself! They ought to remember that Jesus said that it is better to have a millstone hung around your neck and for you to be thrown into the midst of the sea, rather than to cause someone else to stumble and perish.
Upon examining the evidence regarding the Church’s secret rapture teaching, it is clear that this doctrine is totally unbiblical. As with so many other teachings being proclaimed within the Church, a massive and indisputable amount of biblical evidence is being intentionally ignored and completely disregarded, while today’s theologians teach and exalt manmade theories and opinions.
If secret rapture proponents are correct, then those who are Christian pilots, train engineers and bus drivers, but who refuse to resign from their positions of passenger responsibility and welfare, in spite of their knowledge that they will soon vanish from the controls of their commercial vehicles with multitudes of passengers in their care; then these Christian transit operators will soon be guilty of committing one of the greatest acts of violence in human history, as literally millions of people throughout the world will suffer violent and horrific deaths, as they simultaneously perish in the vacated commercial vehicles of these Christian pilots, engineers and drivers.
If secret rapture adherents truly believe their doctrine, they have a moral responsibility to immediately resign from all positions that place the safety of passengers in their care. That is, of course, unless they don’t really believe their own doctrine. And, if that is the case, why are they embracing and teaching it?
I ask Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, who have become fabulously wealthy from their secret rapture based, “Left Behind”, Christian novel series, if they truly believe in this secret rapture event that they espouse in their books? If so, why haven’t they encouraged all Christian pilots, train engineers and bus drivers to immediately resign from their positions? After all, those millions of passengers who will perish when the driverless planes, trains and busses crash, will not have an opportunity to be saved and to avoid hell during the so-called “second chance” for those who are left behind. Shouldn’t these passengers, who will be doomed to perish and suffer in hell because of these Christian transit operators’ refusal to resign their positions, also have been given that “second chance” opportunity to be saved? If LaHaye and Jenkins truly believe in this secret rapture and left behind scenario, which they have written about and profited from handsomely; then, moral integrity and compassion demand that they issue a statement advising all Christian transit operators to resign immediately before this rapture occurs. The only reason for not making such a statement is if they don’t really believe this secret rapture spiel themselves, and if it has all just been a lucrative money-making scheme. Mr. LaHaye and Mr. Jenkins, I await your response.
It is also the same teachers of the secret rapture who promulgate another unbiblical doctrine associated with the antichrist. They teach that the antichrist will be in power for seven years. However, the Bible clearly states that the reign of antichrist will only be three and a half years (Revelation 13:5; Revelation 11:1-7), not the popularly taught seven years by today’s prophecy teachers. In fact, the idea of a seven-year reign of antichrist was arrived at by manipulating Daniel’s seventy-week prophecy concerning Israel and the Messiah in Daniel 9:24-27. Daniel’s prophecy states that seventy weeks were determined for his people (the Jews) and for Jerusalem to make an end of their sins, to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to anoint the “Most Holy” (the Messiah). The start-date of the prophecy is declared to be when the command was given to restore and build Jerusalem, which, the following paragraphs will prove, was given by the Persian King Artaxerxes in 457 BC. After proving that this 457 BC decree was the “start date” for Daniel’s seventy-week prophecy, we will resume discussion of this seventy-week period, and of how it relates to the biblically incorrect seven-year reign of antichrist being taught by contemporary preachers and theologians.
This 457 BC decree by King Artaxerxes , not only gave help in rebuilding the temple, but also gave Israel the right to self-government, such as setting up their own magistrates and judges to carry out their laws. Now they were recognized as a nation, which was vitally important to the reestablishment of Jerusalem. And, although the majority of the decree deals with the temple, the king additionally authorized Ezra to use his silver and gold for “whatever seemed good to Ezra according to the will of Ezra’s God” (Ezra 7:18). Thus, Ezra was not limited to repairs on the temple, but could spend the king’s money on any other repairs he chose to do in Jerusalem as well. And, it does appear that Israel must have viewed this decree by Artaxerxes as a decree to rebuild Jerusalem, because Israel’s adversaries wrote Artaxerxes following this decree, saying that Israel should not be allowed to rebuild its walls and foundations, which obviously means that Israel had already begun to do so.
This letter from Israel’s adversaries warned the king about Israel’s rebellious history, and encouraged him to research the “book of records”, which would document their previous rebellions and sedition. This letter is found in Ezra 4:7-16. Ezra 4:12 records their accusation that the Jews were “building the city”, “finishing its walls” and “repairing its foundations”. And, this verse says that this was being done by “the Jews who came up from you”, which would mean from Artaxerxes, because this letter was written to him. So, these were Jews who had been sent from some decree by Artaxerxes, himself. This would have to be the decree in 457 BC that I previously mentioned, and which is recorded in Ezra 7:11-26. Ezra 4:17-22 records Artaxerxes’ response to the letter sent by Israel’s enemies, where he commanded that the Jews were to cease their work in Jerusalem because of their past rebellious nature. And, in Ezra 4:21, he specifically commanded them to cease from “building the city”, so they obviously had begun rebuilding Jerusalem after his decree in 457 BC. Apparently, Ezra had indeed exercised the authority that had been given him in that decree to spend the king’s silver and gold on whatever Ezra thought it was God’s will for him to do (Ezra 7:18), which obviously included the rebuilding of Jerusalem in Ezra’s mind. However, the letter from Israel’s adversaries, informing Artaxerxes of Israel’s rebellious history, had sufficiently scared him to the extent that he temporarily stopped the work in Jerusalem, which he had previously authorized in his 457 BC decree.
Why do I say that Artaxerxes “temporarily” stopped the work? Because, in his letter that ordered the Jews to stop the work, he hinted that he might issue a future decree to allow the work in Jerusalem to resume. He said “this city may not be built until the command is given by me”. And, in 444 BC, he did issue a second command authorizing and funding the work in Jerusalem, following Nehemiah’s appeal in Nehemiah 2:1-8.
It is noteworthy that, in the book of Nehemiah, we have additional evidence that Ezra and his associates had begun the “optimistically, expectant plan” of rebuilding Jerusalem following Artaxerxes’ 457 BC decree, and that they had been thwarted. Nehemiah 1:1-3 records that some of the Jews who had survived the Babylonian captivity came from Jerusalem to Nehemiah in the Persian city of Shushan in the 20th year of Artaxerxes, which would be 444 BC. In Nehemiah 1:3, they told Nehemiah that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and its gates were burned with fire, which caused him to sit down, weep and mourn for many days (Nehemiah 1:4). If these Jews, who came to Nehemiah in 444 BC, had survived and been released from the Babylonian captivity, when had they been released? The first and second chapters of Ezra record the release of captives by Cyrus in 538 BC, but Nehemiah’s visitors could not have been among those captives, because that was nearly a hundred years earlier. However, the seventh and eighth chapters of Ezra record the release of captives, including Ezra himself, following Artaxerxes’ decree in 457 BC, which would be just thirteen years prior to the events in the first chapter of Nehemiah. Therefore, it is virtually certain that Nehemiah’s visiting captives would have been among those who had returned to Jerusalem with Ezra in 457 BC. Why is this important? It’s important because that was the group who had begun the “optimistically, expectant plan” of rebuilding Jerusalem, including its walls and foundations, according to Ezra 4:12. But then, Artaxerxes had been frightened by the letter from Israel’s enemies (Ezra 4:7-16), which prompted him to command them to cease their work of “building the city” (Ezra 4:21). And, Ezra 4:23 records that Israel’s adversaries then went up to Jerusalem and made them to cease their work “by force of arms”.
We can only imagine how emotionally devastated these returned captives were. They had gone from optimistically rebuilding their beloved Jerusalem, with the weight of the king’s 457 BC decree behind them, to being forced to cease their work with weapons in their faces, based on a new letter from the king. It is no wonder, that when they bring this sad news to Nehemiah, it causes him to weep and mourn. Their optimistic expectations had been crushed.
It is certainly significant that Nehemiah 1:3-4 states that Nehemiah is caused to weep and mourn by the news that Jerusalem’s wall is broken down and its gates are burned. This has to be a “recent destruction” that causes him to be so sad. The original destruction of Jerusalem’s wall and gates by Nebuchadnezzar had occurred 150 years earlier, and all Jews were well aware that Jerusalem had been laying in ruins ever since Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion. Nehemiah would not be so emotionally devastated by hearing from his visitors that Jerusalem was in the same condition that it had been for the past 150 years. This had to be a “new destruction” that was done to Jerusalem’s wall and gates that Nehemiah was not expecting; a new destruction that crushed his hopes that had been generated by the rebuilding efforts begun by Ezra and his associates following Artaxerxes’ 457 BC decree. Nehemiah had thought that the work was progressing in Jerusalem and its future was optimistic. However, now his visitors crushed him with the news that work had ceased; furthermore, that the progress that had been made on the wall and gates by Ezra and his associates had been reversed, and their work on Jerusalem’s wall and gates had been destroyed. Apparently, when the king ruled in favor of Israel’s enemies, and commanded the Jews’ work on Jerusalem’s walls and foundations to cease, and when these adversaries armed themselves with weapons and forced the Jews to comply (Ezra 4:12; Ezra 4:21-23), Israel’s enemies must have thought that the king’s new letter also allowed them to destroy the work that had been done up to that point by Ezra and his associates. And, apparently they took advantage of the king’s letter to do so. These new and discouraging developments reported by Nehemiah’s visitors, dashed the optimistic expectations he had embraced following Artaxerxes’ decree in 457 BC. All of the Jews’ progress and hopes had been eliminated, and Nehemiah was understandably caused to weep and mourn.
The historical and situational context in chapters four and seven of Ezra, and the first chapter of Nehemiah, certainly endorse the premise that Artaxerxes’ 457 BC decree did allow for, and did in fact result in, the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls and gates; that is, until the letter from Israel’s adversaries caused the king to write another letter commanding them to stop.
Therefore, in view of all of the evidence, 457 BC is indeed the start-date for Daniel’s 70-week prophecy, which we will now resume discussing. Nearly all theologians agree that the 70 weeks equaling 490 days in Daniel’s prophecy, represent 490 years. However, far more important than the consensus of theologians, we do also have a biblical example of God using a day for a year. In Numbers 14:34, God prophesied to Israel that they would spend 40 years wandering in the wilderness, which He said was a year for each day they spent spying the land of Canaan. Therefore, the 490 days in Daniel’s prophecy can be biblically equated to 490 years that were given to the Jews to make an end of their sins, to establish righteousness, and to anoint the “Most Holy” (the Messiah). Daniel’s prophecy states that there would be 7 weeks plus 62 weeks until the coming of “Messiah the Prince”; in other words, 69 weeks equaling 483 days or “years”. Adding 483 years onto the start-date of Artaxerxes’ decree brings us to 27 AD. What happened in 27 AD.? Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and anointed with the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending upon Him (Luke 3:21-22). Luke 3:1 states that this happened in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, which was 27 AD, because he began his co-reign in 12 AD! History and prophetic timing matched perfectly! The conclusion of the 69th week of Daniel’s prophecy brought us exactly to that 27 AD date. However, Daniel said that a total of 70 weeks were determined for Israel to stop their sinning and to establish righteousness. And, Daniel 9:27 states that following the first 69 weeks, “He”, which would in proper context be the Messiah, would still confirm His covenant for one more week, which would have to be the 70th week. And, it states that, in the middle of that 70th week, “He” (the Messiah) would bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
This is where most of today’s prophecy teachers manipulate Scripture, by taking this 70th week and arbitrarily separating it from the previous 69 weeks, and placing it 2000 years in the future, into the 21st century. Furthermore, they change the context, which Daniel had clearly stated to apply to the Messiah, Jesus Christ, by now applying this 70th week to antichrist, in order to fit into their prophetic paradigm.
If we are allowed to split prophetic time prophecies at our own choosing, breaking certain portions of the prophecy off and inserting them hundreds or thousands of years later at our discretion; then, we can pretty much concoct just about any fulfillment of Scripture that pleases us. Likewise, if we are allowed to arbitrarily switch the subject of texts from Christ to antichrist, once again, it allows mere men to manufacture their own personal favorite fulfillment of prophecy. This type of “prophecy manipulation” might be pleasing to those who have made their own personal prophetic desires come true, but it certainly does not constitute faithful, thorough, principled Bible study. If Daniel had wanted the final week of his 70-week prophecy separated by 2000 years, he would have said so. Furthermore, the prophecy finds a remarkably precise fulfillment when leaving the 70 weeks “intact” as Daniel wrote it.
The 70th week, as one would normally expect, immediately follows the 69th week, which ended on 27 AD. This 69th week would then be the week referred to in Daniel 9:27, where it states that “He”, which would in proper context be the Messiah, would still confirm His covenant for one more week. This 70th week of seven days or “years” added onto 27 AD would bring us to 34 AD.
What happened in 34 AD? As stated in the online Wikipedia Encyclopedia and other sources, that is the year when the Jewish leaders stoned Stephen, as recorded in Acts 7:59-60. Immediately following Stephen’s martyrdom, Acts 8:1-5 records that the Jews, through Saul of Tarsus, greatly persecuted the Christian Church and made havoc of it, which resulted in the Church scattering “everywhere” preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Philip even went to the hated Samaritans preaching the gospel, and from then on throughout the book of Acts the message is taken to the gentiles.
It is important to remember that these 70 weeks were also a “probationary” period for Daniel’s people, the Jews, to make an end of their sins, and to establish righteousness. The 70 weeks ended in 34 AD with their continued obstinacy, rebellion and persecution of Christ and His followers, culminating with the stoning of Stephen and the gospel going to the gentiles. They failed to make an end of their sins, but rather increased their guilt by crucifying their Messiah and martyring His messengers after His crucifixion, thus closing their 70-week probation and fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy that God’s kingdom would be taken away from them, and would be given to a new “nation” (Matthew 21:43). Peter then identifies that new “nation” as being Christians, the Christian Church (1st Peter 2:9). The attributes and descriptive titles of God’s people that once belonged to the Jewish nation are now placed upon the “Body of Christ” by Peter. The Body of Christ is now called God’s “holy nation”, “chosen generation”, “royal priesthood” and God’s own special people. The Jewish nation’s total failure during their final 70-week (490 years) probation, culminating a history of persistent rebellion against God throughout many centuries, and climaxed by crucifying their Messiah and martyring His messengers, resulted in their “chosen nation” status being taken from them and given to the new “holy nation” of the Body of Christ (Matthew 21:43; 1st Peter 2:9). You can read my article titled “Israel” on this website to get a more thorough and detailed biblical presentation proving that the nation of Israel was rejected by God and replaced by the Christian Church. The biblical evidence I present in my “Israel” article is overwhelming.
While the historical record of Stephen’s stoning in 34 AD is a remarkable fulfillment of Daniel’s 70-week prophecy, there is one more astounding prophetic fulfillment of Daniel 9:27. Daniel states that, in the middle of that final 70th week, “He”, which in proper context is the Messiah, would bring an end to sacrifice and offering. The middle of the 70th week would be about half-way between 27 AD and 34 AD. That would have to be either 30 or 31 AD. What happened at that time?
Most early church historians date Jesus’ death anywhere from 30 to 33 AD, because it happened during the reign of Pontius Pilate, and because of other historical references. We know from Scripture that Jesus was crucified on a Friday, and that He was crucified on the Passover, which means that there was a “full moon”. It certainly seems to be more than a coincidence that in the year 30 AD, which is in the middle of the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy, astronomical data reveals that there was indeed a full moon on Passover Friday. This must be when Jesus, the true Lamb of God, was offered on the “altar” of the “cross”, which made any future offering of lambs and other animal sacrifices meaningless. They had been mere types and symbols of the true reality, fulfillment and antitype that was to come, Jesus Christ. Therefore, Jesus’ death on the cross, as the true Lamb of God, ended the sacrificial system from God’s standpoint. Jesus had truly brought an end to sacrifice and offering, as Daniel’s prophecy stated. This was graphically demonstrated by God when the veil of the temple was supernaturally torn in two as Jesus died (Matthew 27:50-51), thus indicating that the Jewish temple and its services were now empty and meaningless, for Christ had fulfilled everything represented by them. And, in remarkable fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, it happened in 30 AD, in the middle of the 70th week. (Please note: While it is true that there was also a full moon on Passover Friday in 33 AD, and this date has been made popular as the crucifixion date through “The Star of Bethlehem” DVD and the bethlehemstar.net website, there are serious biblical, historical and chronological problems with the 33 AD date, which I document at the end of this article.)
With such extraordinary fulfillments of Daniel’s prophecy when the 70 weeks are left “intact”, how did theologians come up with the idea of removing the 70th week and placing it 2000 years in the future, and also switching the emphasis from the Messiah, Jesus Christ, to the antichrist? Who originally did this?
It was done in the sixteenth century by a Roman Catholic, Jesuit priest named Francisco Ribera in his 500-page commentary on the book of Revelation titled, “In Sacrum Beati Ioannis Apostoli & Evangelistiae Apocalypsin Commentarij”. Ribera was the first one to separate the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy and to place it in the distant future, which planted the foundation for the whole secret rapture doctrine, as well as the seven-year reign of antichrist instead of the three and a half years clearly taught in Scripture (Revelation 13:5; Revelation 11:1-7).
How or why did this Roman Catholic, Jesuit priest come up with this “futuristic” 70th week doctrine? Quite simply, it was to protect the papacy from the charges of Protestant reformers that the pope himself was the antichrist. In the Council of Trent in the mid-sixteenth century the papacy decided to search for ways to prove that the pope could not be the antichrist. So, two Jesuit priests came to the rescue of the papacy with two new doctrines, which they claimed provided proof that the antichrist was not the pope.
Louis De Alcazar wrote a 900 page commentary titled, “Investigation of the Hidden Sense of the Apocalypse”, in which he put forth the doctrine of “preterism”. Preterism focuses on “past fulfillment” of Revelation’s prophecies, and taught that the Roman emperor Nero had been the antichrist, thus intimating that the antichrist could not be the papacy. I debunk this doctrine in my article titled “Preterism” on this website.
Likewise, as previously mentioned, Francisco Ribera put forth his doctrine of placing Daniel’s 70th week in the distant future, with the antichrist’s reign occurring in that time frame, thus also attempting to prove that the papacy could not be the antichrist. Thus, the foundation of preterism and today’s popular, but unbiblical, secret rapture and seven-year antichrist doctrines were laid by two Roman Catholic, Jesuit priests who were protecting the papacy.
The devil does not care which doctrinal “ditch” of deception people fall into. His only concern is to keep them away from the biblical truth, so that they will not be prepared to recognize and properly respond to the true signs and events taught in Scripture. If people are looking for the “wrong signs”, which are mere concoctions of men, they will swallow the enemy’s deceptions and endanger their souls. Focusing on the physical nation of Israel as the benchmark for determining prophetic “timelines”, the seven-year reign of antichrist, preterism and the secret rapture are four of these deceptions being successfully employed by Satan in end-time prophecy.
It is time to return to the Bible and to abandon unbiblical doctrines, such as the secret rapture, which contradicts so many Bible texts. Also, with the current spiritual lethargy prevailing in our society, the last thing we need to tell people is that they’ll have a “second chance” to accept Jesus after this supposed supernatural secret rapture. Not only is it untrue, but it also encourages even greater procrastination and spiritual lethargy.
Regarding the suggested 33 AD date for Jesus’ crucifixion:
To begin with, advocates of the 33 AD date use 444 BC as the starting point for Daniel’s prophecy, instead of 457 BC. I have already proven that the context of the biblical record favors 457 BC.
The second and far greater problem with the 33 AD theory, is that it uses time reckoning from the “Egyptian calendar” to arrive at its 33 AD date. Only the Egyptians used the 360 day-per-year calendar that the 33 AD advocates use. Neither the Jews, Babylonians or Persians used a 360 day-per-year calendar. Daniel, who wrote the time prophecy regarding the coming of the Messiah, served within Babylonian and Persian systems and governments, but never Egyptian ones. So, why would Daniel’s prophecy utilize an Egyptian calendar?
Furthermore, Daniel’s prophecy was written for the benefit of the Jewish people, giving them a prophetic “time-clock” to count the years till the coming of their Messiah, so that they could be ready to receive Him. And, as I’ve already discussed, it also gave the Jews a specific probationary time period to put an end to their sins and to establish righteousness. Doesn’t it seem reasonable and logical that Daniel would utilize Jewish time reckoning and a Jewish calendar in his “prophetic message” for the Jewish people?
The Jewish year and calendar is based on the lunar cycle, and each month averages 29 and one-half days. The twelve Jewish months are Nisan, Iyyar, Sivan, Tamuz, Ab, Elul, Tishri, Chesvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat and Adar. Six of the months have 30 days, and six months have 29 days, thus averaging 29 and one-half days per month. Therefore, the Jewish year has 354 days, not 360 days. But, that’s only part of the problem for proponents of the 33 AD theory. The Jewish “time system” also has “leap years”. In fact, there are seven leap years in every nineteen year cycle; the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of every nineteen year cycle are leap years. What happens in a Jewish leap year? They add a thirteenth month named Adar 2 (in Roman numerals), which has 30 days, thus increasing the number of days in a Jewish leap year to 384. The net effect of this system averages out to within a couple hours of our “solar-year” based 365-day calendars.
Although the Jewish leap year system is not commanded in the Bible, we know that the Jews have obviously used this system throughout their history. If they hadn’t, their “holy feasts”, which were commanded by God to be held in specific months at specific seasons of the year, which also corresponded with “first fruits” and “harvest” offerings; these feasts would have moved dramatically within just a few years, because of the eleven day difference between a lunar year and a solar year. For example, if they would have omitted their leap years, every eight years Passover would have fallen in January, and the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles would have fallen in July. And, every sixteen years Passover would have fallen in October, and the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles would have fallen in April; thus Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles would have completely switched places with each other every sixteen years. In fact, without the Jewish leap year system, these “holy feasts” would only have been held at the right time of year ten percent of the time, while being at the wrong time of the year ninety percent of the time! Therefore, the appropriate first fruit and harvest offerings commanded by Scripture could not have been offered ninety percent of the time. Obviously this was not the case, and, therefore, it is equally obvious that the Jewish people have always used this leap year system.
This creates a huge and “uncorrectable problem” for proponents of the 33 AD theory. They use 483 years multiplied by 360 days (an Egyptian year) in their calculations to arrive at their 33 AD date. However, Daniel was not an Egyptian; he was not writing to Egyptians; and he was not serving under an Egyptian government. Therefore, the chances of him using Egyptian time reckoning are probably about nil. In fact, it’s a virtual certainty that he would not have used the Egyptian calendar, but rather the Jewish calendar. And, when using the “start date” used by advocates of 33 AD (444 BC), if he included the Jewish leap years, of 384 days, in his time reckoning, it would add about seven years onto the total of his time prophecy, thus bringing us to 40 AD, not 33 AD. In this scenario Jesus would have been at least 42 years old when he died, and He would have had a ministry of about 12 years! On the other hand, if Daniel omitted the leap years, and just used a Jewish “standard” or non-leap-year of 354 days for his time prophecy, then it would deduct about eight years from the total of his prophecy, thus bringing us to 25 AD, not 33 AD. In this scenario Jesus would have died before He was 30, and the Bible says that He first started His ministry when He was about 30 years old. In other words, both scenarios are biblically impossible.
What’s the “bottom line”? If Jewish Daniel, writing to a Jewish audience, did use Jewish time reckoning, the 33 AD date is impossible. Once again, the 33 AD date only works with an Egyptian calendar. And, if you think that Jewish Daniel, serving under Babylonian and Persian governments, writing to a Jewish audience, using a time prophecy that was meant to help Jews be ready to accept their Messiah when He came; if you think that he was using Egyptian time reckoning, then I’ve got some swampland in Florida that I want you to purchase from me for a few million dollars.
Although the 33 AD date has already been debunked, I will provide some additional evidence as “frosting on the cake”. If 33 AD marked the end of the first 69 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy, what happened at the end of the 70th week in 40 AD, which marked the close of the Jewish nation’s probationary period that God had given them to put an end to their sins and to establish righteousness?
With the 457 BC prophecy “start date”, the 27 AD baptism date for Jesus at the end of the 69th week, and the 30 AD crucifixion date that I espouse, there is the stoning of Stephen at the end of the 70th week in 34 AD, which resulted in the disciples going to the Samaritans and the gentiles with the gospel. And, the vast majority of the remainder of the book of Acts, as well as the rest of the New Testament, is focused on the gospel going to the gentiles, rather than the Jews anymore. Therefore, with the 457 BC “start date” that I espouse, there is a striking fulfillment of the close of the Jews probationary period at the end of the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy. However, there is no such fulfillment in 40 AD, which would be the end of the 70th week for those espousing the 33 AD theory.
Furthermore, if 33 AD marked the end of the 69 weeks of the prophecy, what happened in the middle of the 70th week, which would be either 36 or 37 AD, that brought an end to the sacrifices and offerings mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy? Once again, there is nothing that would serve as a fulfillment for this part of Daniel’s prophecy. However, with the “start date” and prophetic timeline that I espouse, there is the crucifixion of Jesus right in the middle of the 70th week in 30 AD, which indeed brought an end to any purpose or meaning of all future animal sacrifices and offerings.
The bottom line, is that the theory that I espouse “works”. It results in historical, chronological and biblical fulfillment of every part of Daniel’s time prophecy. On the other hand, the 33 AD theory does not have any fulfillment for the middle of the 70th week; it does not have any fulfillment for the end of the 70th week; and even the end of the 69th week (33 AD) can only be fulfilled by using an Egyptian calendar! In fact, one of the dangers of this 33 AD theory is that it forces its adherents to adopt the unbiblical seven-year reign of antichrist, and the unbiblical moving of Daniel’s 70th week to 2000 years in the future, in order to try to get some kind of fulfillment for the events at the middle and end of the 70th week. Unsurprisingly, one error produces other errors.
There are still more problems for those advocating the 33 AD date. If 33 AD marked the fulfillment of the end of the 69 weeks in Daniel’s prophecy, then what time prophecy was Jesus talking about after His baptism in 27 AD, when He proclaimed that “the time is fulfilled” (Mark 1:15)? There is no good biblical answer to this question for those espousing the 33 AD date. On the other hand, my “start date” and prophetic timeline result in a striking biblical fulfillment, because Jesus’ baptism in 27 AD is exactly at the end of the first 69 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy, and perfectly fulfills Daniel’s statement that there would be 69 weeks “until” Messiah the Prince came (Daniel 9:25). For, it was at Jesus’ baptism in 27 AD that the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, and God audibly declared Jesus to be His Son. Once more, with this passage in Mark 1:15, my “start date” and prophetic timeline produce biblical fulfillment and harmony, but the 33 AD theory does not.
Another problem with the 33 AD date is that Jesus ends up having at least a five or six year ministry, because Luke 3:23 states that Jesus was about 30 years old when He was baptized and began His ministry, and a five or six year ministry does not agree with the narrative of the Gospels. In an attempt to deal with this problem, advocates of 33 AD try to give Jesus a birth date as late as 2 BC. However, this date is impossible according to the biblical record.
Why is the 2 BC date impossible? We know that Herod died in 1 BC from early historical records; furthermore, we also know that he was still alive for at least two to three years after Jesus was born because of all of the following reasons.
By the time that the wise men from the east got to Jerusalem, after seeing the “star” that marked Jesus’ birth, and then were redirected to Bethlehem, a considerable time of probably “at least” one year had passed since the Baby Jesus was born in the stable in Bethlehem. On what basis do I make this assertion? Joseph and Mary have had time to take Jesus to Jerusalem and dedicate Him after the days of her purification, which was 40 days for male children (Luke 2:22-24). They also have had time to return to Bethlehem and move into their own home, because the “star” guides them to the “house” where Joseph, Mary and Jesus were living. And, by the time Jesus is visited by the wise men, He is now referred to as a “young Child”, and not as a baby. Furthermore, after Herod had inquired of the wise men about when they had seen the special star, he calculated that he needed to kill all the male children two years old and younger in Bethlehem, in order to make sure that He would kill this special Child. All of this evidence indicates that Jesus is probably “at least” one year old at this time. And, Herod may have taken that “probable one-year age” of Jesus, and then created an extra “time cushion” by doubling it to arrive at the two-year age that he used when he massacred all the boys two years old and under.
After the visit of the wise men, Joseph and Mary then moved to Egypt with the “young Child”, and stayed there for an unknown period of time until an angel brought them word that Herod had died. And, we have no idea how long this period of time spent in Egypt was, but it is certain that God would not have had them move all the way to Egypt if Herod’s death was going to take place within a few weeks. After all, because God is omniscient, He knew in advance when Herod would die. For all that we know, Jesus could have spent two or three years in Egypt. However, even if we’re “exceedingly generous” to the 33 AD proponents, and say that this whole Egypt scenario only occupied one year, in which Jesus’ family would have had to have moved to and from Egypt, and also to have lived in Egypt for a period of time; even then, the absolute latest that Jesus could have been born is 3 BC. And, as previously stated, this results in at least a five or six year ministry for Jesus, which is biblically impossible. In fact, even if you use the impossible 2 BC date for Jesus’ birth, He still ends up with at least a four or five year ministry, which still does not agree with the Gospel accounts. Based on the Gospel narratives, Jesus’ ministry was anywhere from two and one-half years to three and one-half years long. Once again, the 33 AD date contradicts the historical, chronological and biblical record.
Why has the 33 AD date become so popular, in spite of all of the problems that I have documented? First of all, most people don’t take the time to thoroughly research the facts that expose these errors. The second reason is because of the phenomenal success of “The Star of Bethlehem” DVD and bethlehemstar.net website, which I mentioned earlier. At this point, I want to say that I do not question the honesty or integrity of those involved in the making of this DVD. Rick Larson, the man who studied the astronomical signs behind this theory, and the one who presents it all over the world, seems to be a very sincere and devout Christian. I am sure that he genuinely believes what he is teaching, and that he is making an honest effort to share what he considers to be the truth. However, having said that, I must also say that I wholeheartedly disagree with him for all of the biblical, chronological and historical reasons that I have presented. As the saying goes, it is possible to be sincere, but also to be sincerely wrong.
I believe that Rick Larson’s basic error in his “Star of Bethlehem” DVD, results from his sincere effort of trying to “explain” God’s miracles, and trying to find, what man considers to be, rational and scientific explanations for them. I believe that he became fixated on trying to find the specific “physical star” that the wise men followed, when the biblical account makes it clear that it was not a “normal star”, but a miraculous one created and used by God. Once he found, what he considered to be, the “right star”, he was then “locked into” specific dates that everything else had to revolve around. Whenever we try to explain God’s supernatural miracles, we’re getting in over our heads. It is better to just realize and accept that God is infinite and that we are finite; moreover, that God can and does do miraculous things that finite man cannot explain astronomically or scientifically.
We serve a God who made the sun miraculously move backwards in the sky in the days of Hezekiah. We serve a God who made the sun miraculously stand still in the sky without moving for a full day in the days of Joshua. We serve a God who miraculously blackened the sun from noon to 3 PM on the day Jesus was crucified. We serve a God who is going to miraculously make the sky recede as a scroll when Jesus returns (Revelation 6:14). We serve a God who miraculously split the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan River. We serve a God who brought forth a torrent of water from a rock to quench the thirst of His people. We serve a God who creates things out of nothing. He does things that man considers to be physically, astronomically, biologically and scientifically impossible. And, the “special star” that led the wise men to Jesus was one of those kinds of miraculous and impossible events. It was a star that moved and stopped at God’s command. It was a star that could shine over one specific house! That’s not a normal star; it’s a miraculous star. We do not and should not have to attempt to find that star and explain it; we just need to accept by faith that God created a “miraculous star” for that “miraculous event” when Almighty God was born into this world as a Man.
In conclusion, the 33 AD date has far too many problems to be considered as an acceptable date for Jesus’ crucifixion. There is, in fact, only one date that “works”. That date is 30 AD.
Please note: In fairness to advocates of the 33 AD date, I must mention that there are two references to a 30-day month, time prophecy in the book of Revelation, where 42 months is mentioned, and it is equated to 1260 days (Revelation 13:5; Revelation 11:2-3). However, this prophecy pertains to the final three and one-half years of earth’s history during the reign of the antichrist. And, by the time John had written this prophetic book, the Messiah had already come 60 years earlier.
Why did the Apostle John use a 30-day month in this time prophecy in Revelation? Because, based on the 365-day Julian calendar used by the Roman Empire at the time John wrote the book of Revelation, when you divide 365 days by 12 months, you come up with 30 days per month when rounding off to the nearest whole number. So, John based his prophecy upon this “solar-year” style of calendar being used throughout the Roman Empire at that time, and which was still to be the basis of the approximate 365-day-per-year time reckoning that we use today. You see, God is wise, and He meets us where we’re at, so that we can be prepared to receive His messages. He had Jewish Daniel, writing to a Jewish audience about the coming of their Messiah, use a Jewish calendar for his time prophecy, which still equates to about 365 days per year when you factor in the Jewish leap years. And, God had the Apostle John, writing during the time when the Roman Empire was using the Julian calendar, and writing to people who would still be using a “solar-year” style of calendar during the time of the fulfillment of John’s time prophecy concerning the antichrist; He had John base his time prophecy upon the solar-year, Julian calendar.
Furthermore, based on John’s relatively short 42-month time prophecy in Revelation, using an average of a 30-day month only produces a variance of a matter of days when compared to an actual solar calendar. Quite to the contrary, however, when 33 AD proponents are working with their 483-year prophecy, there is a huge time variance of 83 months, nearly seven years, which completely throws off their time prophecy, as I documented earlier.