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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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DIGRESSION 6: A Possible Chronology Of The Tribulation

We have seen that there is a repeated mention of a three and a half year period of tribulation for natural and spiritual Israel in the last days. This is described as a period of 1260 literal days. A period of 2300 days is also mentioned (Dan. 8:14). Periods of 1290 and 1335 days are mentioned in Dan. 12:11,12. Additionally, the events of the flood are clearly typical of the latter day judgments. Noah entered the ark for 7 days, and the duration of the flood was 5 months, connecting with the five months final tribulation spoken of in Rev. 9:5,10. Significantly, John the Baptist (type of the Elijah prophet) was five months older than Jesus (Lk. 1:24)- hinting that something significant will be happening in the Elijah ministry during this same period? The total period which the flood affected the earth was 339 days- from the rain coming down to the earth being dry, i.e. having totally recovered from the effects of God's judgments. Putting all these things together leads us to an uncanny result: nearly all these time periods will start or finish on a Mosaic feast day. It is not without relevance that the period of the last days is described often as "the day of the Lord"- but "the day of the Lord" is a phrase very commonly used to describe the Jewish feast days. Good cases can be constructed for thinking that the Lord will return on Jewish feast days (1) ; but the whole period of the last days may well be based around significant events which occur on each of the feast days. If this proves nothing else, it shows that it is quite legitimate to view the time periods as literal days. We have shown that in the last days, knowledge of the prophetic word will be greatly increased. We have also shown that in the very last days, the faithful will know for absolute certain when the Lord will come. It seems to me that they will understand from the prophecies a chronology similar in outline terms at least to the kind of thing I offer below. I'm quite aware that what I offer is hopelessly flawed, but I offer it as an example of the sort of thing that may be revealed to the faithful remnant in the very last days.

(i) The total period of downtreading of the "host" of Israel is given as 2300 days in Dan. 8:13. Yet the far more common period is 1260 days, 42 months, time times and a half (three and a half years) etc. It seems that the 2300 is the period from the beginning of the holocaust until the time when the abomination is ended. Perhaps the days of the elect's tribulation are shortened from 2300 to 1260 (Mt. 24:22).

(ii) This point seems to be the start of the abomination that will be in place for 1290 days. 1290 days back from a Passover brings us to half way through Elul, the end (significantly) of the Jewish year, the time when the Jews under Nehemiah were being sorely persecuted by the Arabs (cp. Neh. 6:15).

(iii) Noah entering the ark may be the basis of Is. 26:20: "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors (cp. the ark) about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast". Not only is this verse in a latter day context; "the indignation" frequently describes the Babylonian and Assyrian invasions of Israel, typical as they are of those of the last days (Is. 10:5,25; 13:5; Lam. 2:6; Ez. 22:31; Dan. 8:13; Zech. 1:12). As the faithful remnant were kept safe within Jerusalem at the time of Sennacherib's invasion, so in the last days it seems that the faithful will somehow be taken away. Is. 57:1 in the same Sennacherib context speaks of how the righteous are gathered (Heb.) from the evil that is to come, so that they can lay in peace upon their beds (surely an idiom) in the midst of the tribulation of invasion. According to our suggested chronology, this will happen towards the end of the three and a half year tribulation. This would fit the type of Israel in Egypt: suffering some of the plagues, and then miraculously separated from them.

Tabernacles is very much associated with the idea of "ingathering" and the gathering together of God's people. It may be that some of the faithful are ingathered at this time.

(iv) The end of the 1260 days of tribulation at Purim. Jerusalem no longer trodden down (Rev. 11:2).

(v) The abomination ends after 1290 days. Passover was associated in Jewish thought with the latter rains. James 5:7 speaks of being patient "unto the coming of the Lord", i.e. until the early and latter rains have come. It may be that this is one of those passages which will open up in the very last days; it may be teaching that the Lord's coming will be after that last Passover at the end of the 1290 days, when the abomination ends. Only 45 days later, according to our chronology, Daniel will stand in his lot. And yet James has to warn that last generation not to grumble amd be bitter against each other (AV "grudge") within the ecclesia in these final few days. All the significant events happening but still no second coming may lead some to give up their hope of the Lord's return, at least in their heart, and become bitter with each other. Such is the strength of our tendency towards friction within the ecclesia: even in the very very last few days before the Lord comes, this sort of thing will not only be likely to be going on, but will even be increasing. The parable of the servant beating the fellow-servant on the eve of the Lord's return (and many other such indications) fit in with this all too well.

(vi) Daniel stands in his (priestly) lot- he inherits the priestly "lot" in Israel which was his, but which he never received in his mortal life. The exact timing of Pentecost depends on the state of the harvest- it wasn't therefore exactly 50 days after Passover. There are two feasts of Pentecost or harvest in our chronology- one just before the tribulation begins in earnest and one at the very end. There may be a connection here with the two latter day harvests described in Rev. 14:14-20. It may be that those who don't need to go through the tribulation are taken away, or 'harvested' and somehow the intervening time gap is collapsed for them (see God and time), so that finally all the faithful are judged and immortalized together, at the same moment. Should this happen, it would be a sure sign that the understanding of the remnant was absolutely on the right track.

Once the effects of the latter day judgments will have finally cleared up, the Passover will be kept which will signal the beginning of the Kingdom and the celebration  of the complete victory of God over His enemies.

The Chronology And Structure Of Revelation

I suggest that the key to the interpretation of Revelation is in understanding how its structure is linked to its interpretation. This doesn't mean that interpretations which ignore the structure are wrong; the book is open to multiple fulfilments, as most Bible prophecies are. The New Testament often quotes the Old Testament out of context- phrases and verses are taken up and given an interpretation which can't be extended to the surrounding context of the Old Testament passage. And so it's surely legitimate to likewise interpret Bible prophecy in a similar piecemeal manner. However, this doesn't preclude a hermeneutic [scheme of interpretation] which takes an entire book and seeks to make sense of it from start to finish.

Throughout latter day Bible prophecy, there is mention of a 1260 day / 42 month / three and a half year period of final tribulation. The Jews had a three and a half year reading cycle, similar in principle to the annual Bible Companion, whereby there were specific readings from the Pentateuch and prophets, with a Psalm read every Sabbath. This system was based around the feasts. The book of Revelation is likewise based around the feasts. It should be noted that the Gospel of John, which appears so similar in style to Revelation, was likewise based around the Jewish feasts; and a case can be made that it was intended to be read over a three and a half year cycle along with the Jewish lectionary readings (2). Hence John's account of events seeks to place them all within the period of the various feasts; and his material can be seen as a kind of exposition of the Old Testament 'readings for the day' according to the Jewish triennial reading cycle.

Paul Wyns in an extraordinary article, published online at, has demonstrated at length the connections between the various sections of Revelation and the Jewish feasts. Here's a summary:

5 Passover Rev. 5:6,9 = Ex. 12:13
7 Tabernacles Rev. 7:9,15,16 RV = Ex. 23:16; 34:22; Zech. 14:16-20
8,9 Day Of Atonement Lev. 16:31; more detailed links in Harry Whittaker, Revelation: A Biblical Approach pp. 104,105.
11 Dedication & Purim The Torah readings for these feasts were Num. 7 and Zech. 2- 4 about the dedication of the temple; Rev. 11:10 = Esther 9:19,22. The period from Tabernacles to Purim is exactly 5 months- as mentioned in Rev. 9:5
12 Pentecost & Passover The Jews traditionally ask: "On this Sabbath, shall I reap?"
14 Tabernacles  
15 + 16 Atonement & Passover Lev. 16; Ps. 118 the Hallel Psalm
19 Passover Ps. 113,114 Passover Psalms
21,22 Tabernacles  

Laying out the material chronologically, we have:

Chapter 5: Passover
6 months

Chapter 7: Tabernacles
Chapters 8& 9: Atonement and Tabernacles

1 year
Chapter 11: Dedication 5 months (Rev 9:5)
Chapter 11: Purim
Chapter 12: Passover and Pentecost
Chapter 14: Tabernacles

1 year
Chapter 15: Atonement
Chapter 16 & 19: Passover
Chapter 21 & 22: Tabernacles

1 year

The conclusion would therefore be that we have in the book of Revelation a literal account of the three and a half years tribulation, with the Jewish feasts being the key marker points. And it would appear there will be an especial period of five months tribulation as described between chapters 9 and 11.

Not all prophecy has to be predictive. The Lord Jesus spoke of His future sufferings and commented that once those things happened, the disciples would be able to make sense of them at that time because of His previously spoken words about them (Jn. 8:28; 13:19; 14:29; Acts 11:16). And so it may be futile to try to work out precisely how things will be before they actually happen; but as we pass through the final three and a half years, those who understand will be amazingly encouraged as they see everything falling into place. It will be the most amazing, detailed and practically encouraging fulfilling of prophecy that anyone has ever lived through. And given the whole nature of the tribulation, it will be encouragement that the faithful will sorely need.


(1) John Thomas saw the appropriacy of the Day of Atonement and Pentecost as the time of the second coming: see Eureka Vol. 2 (London: The Dawn Book Supply, 1958 Ed.). Harry Whittaker makes a most convincing case for Passover in Passover (Wigan: Biblia, 1988). Many expositions of Esther see in the story an allegory of Israel's latter day deliverance, perhaps literally on the day of Purim.

(2) Aileen Guilding, The Fourth Gospel And Jewish Worship (Oxford: O.U.P., 1960).