Before the End Times sequence of events leading up to the Second Coming can be determined, it is important to first understand the major turning points or sign posts of history from a Biblical perspective. The primary sign posts of history that have been preordained by the Lord each have served to bring all of creation, and particularly mankind, closer to the ultimate goal of eliminating this current evil system of sin and replacing it with the goodness of the Kingdom of God. The final result also will eliminate the bad influences of Satan and the evil angels that rebelled with him sometime in the distant past. Thus, as time moves forward along the arrow of history, we come closer to the point when perfection and everlasting life will replace corruption and death, and righteousness and goodness will replace sin and evil.
When looking at the chronological sequence of these events from the beginning to the end, an overall Biblical perspective of history becomes apparent. In fact, from the very earliest events at the dawn of creation all the way up to the making of the new heavens and the new earth, the entire Word of God can be seen to have a purpose that is directed at redeeming the creation through Christ from the effects of sin and evil.
The first figure shows a timeline of this overall chronology from a high level view. Although the relative positioning of each event is accurate on the timeline, the dates that each event occurred (or will occur) and the time periods between all of the events are not known. For instance, the date for the creation of the universe cannot be determined precisely, but modern science has revealed that it likely took place a very, very long time ago—some 13-14 billion years into the past. In addition, it is equally impossible to determine exactly when Adam and Eve were created, although we know that it was much closer to our time than to the creation date.
For those that may have trouble with the concept of an ancient universe, it turns out the Bible really isn’t in conflict with the idea of a very old creation. In fact, within Genesis the six “days” of creation can actually be interpreted from the original Hebrew as six “epochs” or “eons” of time. This would imply six time periods of much longer duration than just six 24-hour days. In the creation account, the Hebrew word “yom” is used in each of these six sections, which in the English Bible is translated as “day”. However, the word yom in the Hebrew language can also be interpreted in alternate ways. It is accepted that it can mean 1) a 12-hour time period, 2) a 24-hour time period (or one complete day), or 3) a long, indefinite time but of finite length (in other words, an eon or epoch of time). The proper interpretation for this word is typically determined by the context of the sentence and the meaning derived from the surrounding text.
Even in the English language, the word day can have multiple meanings. We often talk about a long period of time as being a day. For instance, we can refer to the time when the dinosaurs were alive as being during the “day of the dinosaurs”. We don’t mean a 24-hour period, but an epoch of indefinite length that encompassed the time when the dinosaurs were alive and roamed the Earth.
When we look at the creation story, many of these “days” of creation contain events that require much longer periods of time to occur than just a single 24-hour day. This includes the creation of a universe so vast that we can’t possibly comprehend the distances involved between stars and galaxies. In addition, when we understand that the heavier elements that make up our planet and other matter in the universe can only be formed within the enormous energy and pressures of a supernova explosion, it actually demands a creation that is billions of years old, not just a few thousand years old. The iron core of our world, for instance, was exclusively made in the high energy fusion processes at the center of giant stars much larger than our sun. The heavier elements in the universe were fused together from lighter elements when those stars underwent their death cycles and exploded in some of the most energetic explosions in the cosmos. None of these events happened in mere days; they happened over hundreds of millions and even billions of years to seed heavier elements on Earth and make life possible.
The need for longer time periods than just one day also includes the growth of plants to bear fruit and the animals in the seas and on land to be “fruitful and multiply” and fill the Earth. These natural processes of replication and expansion of populations of plants and animals need many years to occur, not single days. What God has revealed through science over the last few centuries actually correlates very well with the creation account in Genesis. With the scientific knowledge that God has given us, it now becomes apparent that the entire creation occurred over much longer time periods than the traditional interpretations allow. Therefore, the translation of “yom” as being limited to one “day” must be incorrect. The six days of creation are really six eons of God’s creative activities.
This is entirely consistent with an infinite God that has no beginning and no ending and is not limited by our simplistic views of time and space. Over the last two centuries knowledge of the universe has increased dramatically, revealing the truth of God’s creation, which was hidden to previous generations. This is just as the prophet Daniel predicted. He said that knowledge would be increased in the Last Days (Dan. 12:4), and so it is.
We now have a much better understanding of the immensity of the universe and thus of the glory of the God that created it. The Lord has revealed to our generation more than any other generation before it. The fundamental properties of the universe are so amazing that it makes God even more glorious than we at first imagined. The unbelievable vastness and wonders of the universe have been illustrated in the many images that advanced telescopes like Hubble have provided in recent decades (for an example, see the NASA web site images). It is hard to deny that the creation itself shows the eternal glory of God and is a powerful proof of his eternal nature and majesty (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:19-20). Even Daniel called Him the Ancient of Days (see Dan. 7:9, 13).
We now know that the observable universe is estimated to be more than 93 billion light years in diameter and contains hundreds of billions of galaxies each having hundreds of billions of stars (note: one light year is the distance that light travels in one year or almost 6 trillion miles!). The size of the universe indicates that God is far beyond our ability to fully comprehend.
The Lord said that he is the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End (Rev. 22:13); therefore, God existed billions of years ago and he will continue to exist billions of years from now. Only such an incredible God could plan the future of mankind and predict events long before they were destined to occur! For those that love him, his Word reveals His plan for the Last Days and His promise of eternal life in the ages to come.
Even from this broad overview of Biblical history, it is relatively easy to see how the events of the end fit into the plan of God and where mankind is headed in the future even beyond the Second Coming. It is also clear that the pivotal points of Biblical history revolve around relatively few events and that most of them would not even be noted by secular historians. Nevertheless they are crucial for a complete understanding of Biblical prophecy and for where the End Times fits into this picture. Therefore, all of history including prophetic events that are still in our future can be broken down into the following defining moments:
1. The creation of the universe and the Earth
2. The creation of life and man
3. The fall of man
4. The Flood
5. The call of Abraham
6. The Exodus of Israel from Egypt
7. The scattering of the Northern Kingdom of Israel
8. The fall of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Southern Kingdom of Judah
9. The First Coming of Christ
10. Destruction of the Temple and Scattering of the Jews throughout the Earth
11. The Rebirth of Israel
12. The Second Coming of Christ
13. The Kingdom of Heaven
14. The Final Judgment, and
15. The New Heavens and New Earth
These 15 events represent the most important turning points in the Lord’s plan for man as described in the Bible. Of course, if we were to look in greater detail at any one of these seminal events, we would discover that there really are many additional details surrounding each one that are also important. For instance, the events surrounding the creation of the universe and the creation of life contain far more details than could fit on a single chart of history—and even far more elements than God reveals in the Bible in terms of the secrets of physics and biology.
In addition, when God’s plan for man is finally complete, the establishment of the nation of Israel in faith will have actually taken place progressively over the course of many thousands of years and involved a rocky road of blessings and cursings before their destiny would finally be realized (see the sections on Israel for more details). Similarly, the sequence of events at the End of the Age includes much more than just the primary events of the Second Coming and the setting up of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Thus, this first timeline doesn’t show a lot of detail about the Last Days, but instead looks upon the overall course of world history at a high level so we can see the major turning points. This timeline doesn’t include any of the finer aspects of End Times prophecy or the chronology of events just before the Second Coming. At this stage, we can only see that the coming of Christ leads into the Millennial (1000-year) Kingdom, but nothing more. In reality, there are many more details that occur just prior to the Return of Christ that are not possible to show in this first chart. In the next section, we will begin to fill in these details, especially related to the nation of Israel.
Next: Israel in the Last Days