A Millennial Sabbath?

Perhaps you're familiar with the concept of a millennial Sabbath. The concept is based on the Sabbath God declared as a day of rest. As early as Genesis 2:2-3, God declared:

 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

This seven day period has been designated a week. The Old Testament teaches it as six days of labor followed by a day of rest – a week of days.

The December issue of Personal Update, the News Journal of Koinonia House (volume 9, No. 12, December 1999) contains an articled titled “The 7th Millennium.” In it several other uses of “weeks” in Scripture are recited:

There is also a “Week of Weeks,” the “Counting of the Omer,” between the Feast of First Fruits and the Feast of Weeks, in Hebrew, Hag HaShavuot. This turns out to also be the interval between our First Fruits (the Resurrection) and the birth of the church, on what we call (from the Greek) the Feast of Pentecost.

We also observe that there is a “Week of Months,” in the institution of the religious calendar at the Passover in the Exodus, between the month of Nisan, and the civil calendar which begins in Tishri, at Rosh Hashannah.

Just as there is a Sabbath for man – a day of rest in seven – God also ordained a Sabbath for the land, in which, after six years of cultivation, they were to allow it to lie fallow for a year of rest: a Sabbatical year. It was their failure to observe this ordinance that resulted in the 70 years of captivity in Babylon.

If there are “weeks” (groups of seven) of days, weeks, months, and years, what about millennia? The inference that perhaps all of history will also be patterned after this haptadic structure is recorded in the earliest rabbinical speculations. As early as Nachmonides (1194-1270) we find the conjecture of a Sabbatical Millennium: 6,000 years of man's attempts to govern himself, followed by 1,000 years of God's perfect rule, for a total of 7,000.

The early church also regarded this possibility. We find it highlighted in the Epistle of Barnabas and subsequently embraced by Augustine and others.

The earth has just celebrated entering a new millennium – the year 2000. Actually it will not be the start of the next millennium until January 1, 2001, but the concept remains the same. This is the time measured from when Jesus was on earth. It is not measured accurately, as best scholars can tell, from either his actual birth or the time of his death. But it is stated in that fashion: B.C., before Christ; A.D., anno Domini. 

Using the timing that can be obtained from the genealogies in Scripture, it is believed that earth is likely very close to 6000 years old. Could there be a 1000 year period of time which would be a millennium of rest for the earth?

Scripture teaches in The Revelation, chapter 20, vs. 1-7, that there will be a 1000-year reign of Christ on earth. Beginning that period (see verses 2-3), Satan will be bound and locked in the Abyss until the thousand-year reign of Christ has ended. A great deal of Old Testament prophecy deals with the thousand-year reign of Jesus on the earth. 

One thing that has caused difficulty with the concept of an imminent millennial Sabbath is that the Jewish calendar (the Heptadic Calendar) implies that we are approaching 5761 years since the creation of Adam, not 6,000. 

But some scholars have cast doubt on the accuracy of the traditional Jewish calendar. The Personal Update article continues:

Some scholars have suggested that two principal errors appear to have occurred from the Hebrew sages of the past:

1)     From a misunderstanding of Daniel 9, their erroneous assumption that there were 490 years between the destruction of the First and Second Temples, rather than 656, introduced a 166-year error.

2)     A copyist error in the Septuagint text of the genealogies of Genesis 5 appears to have introduced another 73 years.

These errors would imply a total discrepancy of 239 years. Therefore, the year 5761 should possibly be rendered the year 6000. The Jewish year of 5761 begins on September 30, 2000.

Will the specific date of September 30, 2000 be prophetically relevant? Likely not. There are many prophecies yet to be fulfilled which pertain to the tribulation period that will precede the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ for his millennial rule.

Should we consider this as a sign of his soon return? Perhaps yes! Many Christians (and even non-Christians) believe we are in “the last days.” There are many signs that should lead us to believe that, including that the nation of Israel again exists and is again in the land God gave Israel. 

Should we be concerned about the time of the second coming of the Lord Jesus? Didn't the Apostle Paul say, “Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3)?

Yes, he did say that and I find many Christians quote that today. Few seem to realize that Paul went on to say:

“But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5).

Paul expected us to know the signs of the times so we will not be surprised at the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Perhaps the end of the sixth millennium is just such a sign. Let us watch with interest and anticipate our Lord's soon return.

Scriptures quotations have been taken from The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

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