When will Jesus Christ return? This has been a much-pondered question since He ascended back to His Father in heaven.
On the Mt. of Olives, 2 days before His crucifixion, Christ was asked when His 2nd Coming would occur.
Evening view of Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives
“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, Tell us, when will these things be (referring to the destruction of Jerusalem)? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and the end of the age (Matt. 24:3)?"
In Acts 1:6, right before His ascension, the disciples again asked about His 2nd Coming.
“Therefore when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?””
Christ let them know it was not their time to understand when His 2nd Coming would be.
“It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority (Acts 1:7).”
Predictions pinpointing the return of Christ are always being made. And these predictions are always wrong, evidenced by the fact Christ is not yet ruling on the earth.
The 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ is the singular event around which much of Bible prophecy centers. It is an event the whole world will see when it happens.
“Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matt. 24:30).”
“Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.”” “Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake and great hail (Rev. 11:15, 19)."
With many Bible prophecies pertaining to Christ’s 2nd Coming, does the Bible actually provide the timing of His return?
Feast of Trumpets and Christ’s return?
The predominant thought within the Church of God today is that Christ will return on the Feast of Trumpets, which occurs in the fall of the year. There is good reason for this line of thinking because God’s late apostle, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, identified a pattern of fulfillment within God’s holy day plan based on actual biblical events.
From his booklet, “Pagan Holidays-or-God’s Holy Days-Which?,” Mr. Armstrong wrote,
“Christ’s direct intervention in world affairs will be the next great event in the plan of redemption.”
“And perhaps the glorious second coming shall occur, in whatever year it may be, on this very day of the Feast of Trumpets—who knows? While we cannot say for certain, yet cannot we see this possibility? The crucifixion was upon the Passover—the very day! The Holy Spirit came, beginning the selecting of the firstfruits of salvation, on the very day of Pentecost.”
Mr. Armstrong was always careful never to set dates concerning the return of Christ, but his speculation on the topic was always biblically based.
“Could it be possible that, unless we are observing the Feast of Trumpets, as the first-century Church of God was observing Pentecost, that we shall not be ready, or caught up to meet Him? We do not—we cannot, of course, say; but we do ask the question. Is it not possible?”
Source: “Pagan Holidays-or God’s Holy Days-Which?,” Herbert W. Armstrong, pg. 39
Mr. Armstrong maintained this pattern of fulfillment in his final sermon on the Feast of Trumpets in 1985.
“So, to start with, the Passover. Then follows seven days putting sin out of our lives. But we can’t do it alone, without the Spirit of God. So then comes the next holy day, the Day of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. And then comes this whole Church age. And the next thing to happen after that, and after this nineteen hundred and some years of the Church age, is the second coming of Christ. He’s coming to take over the government of the earth, and He’s coming to restore government.”
Sermon: Feast of Trumpets, Herbert W. Armstrong, September 16, 1985
The next great event in God’s plan of salvation is the return of Jesus Christ.
There is no doubt why Christ must return, but will this event occur on the Feast of Trumpets?
Does the Bible provide any indication on the timing of when Christ’s return will be?
A misunderstood prophecy
There is a prophecy in God’s Word, which provides a direct connection to the timing of Christ’s 2nd Coming.
It is found at the end of Daniel 9 and is known as the 70 weeks prophecy.
Unfortunately, its meaning is terribly misunderstood within God’s Church today.
Daniel is provided this information because of his humble attitude and repentant spirit (Dan 9:3).
He realizes the 70 years of Babylonian captivity is nearing its end (Dan. 9:2) and wants to know what the future holds for Jerusalem and its people (Dan. 9:19).
God responds to Daniel by sending the archangel Gabriel to provide understanding (Dan. 9:21-22).
Gabriel begins by explaining the purpose of the 70 weeks prophecy in verse 24. It is important, while studying this prophecy to understand days actually equal years (Num. 14:34).
“Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish 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 (place).”
70 weeks equals a total of 490 days (7 days x 70 weeks = 490 days). Using the day for a year principle, this translates into a period of time spanning 490 years.
Gabriel lists 6 elements for the purpose of this prophecy. The first 3 deal with events of Christ’s 1st Coming and His payment for the penalty of sin. The last 3 involve events connected to His 2nd Coming and the establishment of God’s kingdom on the earth.
Verse 25 establishes when the 70 weeks prophecy would begin.
“Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem”
This command to re-build Jerusalem is reference to Ezra’s departure from Babylon in 457 BC. This is the starting point for calculating the 70 weeks prophecy.
“And Ezra came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. On the first day of the first month he began his journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him (Ezra 7:8-9).”
Continuing in verse 25, the time frame to confirm this start is given.
“Until Messiah, the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
From the time of Ezra’s departure to Jerusalem until the year of Jesus Christ’s death, a total of 69 weeks or 483 years would pass.
None of the earlier departures of Jews from Babylon back to Jerusalem fit the time frame given for this prophecy.
Therefore, Ezra’s departure to Jerusalem on the 1st day of the 1st month (in the spring of the year) to the year of Christ’s death 483 years later (also in the spring of the year) fits with the timing of this prophecy.
Verse 25 concludes with reference to Nehemiah’s work of rebuilding a wall around Jerusalem to protect its citizens (Neh. 6:15-16). The works of Ezra and Nehemiah occurred in the first 7 weeks (49 years) of this prophecy.
"The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times."
The next period of 62 weeks (434 years) involved the fall of the Persian Empire, the rise and fall of the Greek Empire and the rise of the Roman Empire into which Jesus Christ was born.
Verse 26 specifically states, after 62 weeks (434 years) were over, Christ would be crucified for the sins of mankind.
“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;”
The phrase “cut off” means to suffer the death penalty.
The conclusion of the 7 weeks (49 years) and 62 weeks (434 years), for a total of 69 weeks (483 years), began and ended in the spring of the year prior to the start of God’s annual spring holy days.
The remainder of verse 26 deals with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. The “prince,” spoken of in this verse is not a reference to Christ, but to the Roman general, Titus. Gabriel provides information beyond the destruction of Jerusalem to include events of the first Jewish rebellion, which ended at Masada.
“And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (2nd temple). The end of it will be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.”
While the destruction of Jerusalem and the 2nd temple did not occur as part of the 70 weeks prophecy, it was a significant event to which Gabriel referred. This historic event occurred after week 69, but long before the start of week 70.
The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD shows the final week of this prophecy does not run consecutively with the previous 69 weeks. There is approximately a 2,000-year gap of time between the end of week 69 and the start of week 70.
Keep in mind also that a resurrected Christ was now seated at the right hand of His Father in heaven when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and could not have participated in its destruction (Heb. 1:1-3).
It is important to understand that as of the year 2019, week 70 has not yet begun.
When this final week does begin, it will start in the spring of the year, picking-up where week 69 ended.
Many in the Church of God believe the first half of this week has already occurred. This error in thinking has resulted because the “he” in verse 27 has been incorrectly identified as Jesus Christ and the first half of week 70 as His 3½ year ministry.
It is mistakenly believed that Christ was cutoff in the middle of week 70. If this were true, it would mean Christ would have been crucified after 62½ weeks, not 62 weeks as Gabriel said.
“Then he shall confirm a covenant (or treaty) with many for one week (7 years);”
The “he” in this verse is the first beast of Revelation 13, who will be destroyed in the lake of fire when Christ takes over rulership of the earth (Rev.19:20).
Verse 27 shows the beast will break this 7-year treaty after 3½ years by setting up the abomination of desolation, within a temple complex, soon to be built in Jerusalem.
“But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,”
Christ said the setting up of the “abomination of desolation” will mark the start of great tribulation.
“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads let him understand), For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be (Matt. 24:15, 21).”
The breaking of this treaty will occur in the fall of the year on the Feast of Trumpets, exactly 3½ years after the start of week 70. The remaining 3½ years will mark the length of time God has established for the great tribulation (Dan. 12:7, Rev. 12:14).
The remainder of the verse clearly identifies the beast’s destruction, once week 70 is over.
“Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate (or desolator).”
Timing out Christ's return
The 70 weeks prophecy began in the spring of the year with Ezra’s departure from Babylon to Jerusalem in 457 BC.
69 (7 weeks + 62 weeks) of the 70 weeks ran consecutively, concluding at the end of 26 AD. This occurred right before Christ was crucified on Passover, in the spring of the year.
Week 70 will begin with the start of a 7-year treaty in the spring of the year. 3½ years later on the Feast of Trumpets, this treaty will be broken and the great tribulation will begin.
Great tribulation will last for 3½ years, completing week 70. Week 70 will be followed by the Day of the Lord, which begins with the sound of the 7th trumpet.
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matt 24:29-31).”
The 70 weeks prophecy clearly shows Christ will not return on the Feast of Trumpets in the fall of the year.
His return will occur in the spring of the year in conjunction with the start of God's spring feasts (Lev. 23:4-8, 15-16).
This is when the Kingdom of God will be established and the Wonderful World Tomorrow will begin.
The wisdom of Mr. Armstrong not to set dates becomes evident now that understanding of this prophecy has been revealed.
“He who has an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”