Today, the 11th day of the 9th month, is the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that shocked the world. As a result, news outlets across the globe are running stories marking the anniversary, remembering the victims, reflecting on the changes of the last 20 years, many commenting on the lack of progress. As political leaders pay tribute to those who died, everyone who remembers thinks back to where they were on that day.
For me, I was on my honeymoon. My wife and I had married just three days before and we were honeymooning in Majorca. We had no smart phones then, there was no social media – certainly we weren’t aware of it! We sat one afternoon in a café and as my new wife chatted with me I became distracted by a small TV mounted on a bracket on the wall above her head. I couldn’t fathom if the TV was running a movie or if this was actually the news. Before too long the reality set in.
When we headed back to our hotel, many of the guests were huddled around a TV set in the lobby area. American families were crying. In an instant the world had changed.
Apocalypse - New York. September 11, 2001.
As a Christadelphian I wondered what these things meant. Headlines across the world ran stories like this from the Daily Mail. For many of us it really did feel like the end of the age.
Surely this extraordinary event, just a little after the turn of the millennium, marked the time of the end. For Bible believers we wondered in earnest whether this event was part of the big picture unfolding that would quickly see the Lord Jesus Christ return to the earth.
Was this momentous apocalyptic event one of the final fulfilments of the prophecy Jesus gave on the Mount of Olives some 2000 years ago?
“There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:25-27)
Surely this would be amongst the very last signs.
And yet, 20 years on and we’re still here. The Lord has not yet come. Since that time we’ve seen many more extraordinary signs and still the Lord is not here. What do we do? Do we stop looking? Do we give up?
We never stop looking. The Bible makes it clear that no one knows the day or the hour when the Lord will come. “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” (Mark 13:32)
The disciples were told by the Lord Jesus of the end of the Jewish age. “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:).” (Matthew 24:15).
The Lord challenged them – who reads, let him understand. You can imagine how quickly they would have recollected the words of Daniel’s prophecy. How they would have poured over the scrolls to read and understand.
Daniel's 70 week prophecy.
The prophecy speaking of the abomination of desolation is recorded in Daniel’s 9th chapter. It lays out a remarkable prophecy showing when the end of the Jewish age would come. The prophecy is called the 70 week prophecy. It gives a time period of 70 weeks or 490 days. We use the prophetic key given to us in Ezekiel to take a day for year. Therefore the prophecy was for 490 years.
Daniel gives a very clear time starter: “from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.” (Daniel 9:25) Most scholars reckon this year to be something like BC 457. This was the year recorded in history that the Jewish people were allowed to return from exile in Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the city.
The prophecy is divided into three sections. 7 weeks (49 days so 49 years), 62 weeks (434 days so 434 years), 1 week (7 days so 7 years).
The last section we are told that in the middle of the week the need for believers to make sacrifices for their sins would finish. In fact it would be in the middle of the last week. This would finish as God would provide a sacrifice to deal with the problem of sin and death.
Incredible when we look carefully at the prophecy the middle of the last week was the exact time that Jesus was crucified. The one who was sent to be the sacrifice to take away the problem of sin and death once and for all.
Daniel’s prophecy stated: “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate.” (Daniel 9:27).
The ancient Seleucid Empire.
Do you recognise the language of the abomination that makes desolate, spoken of by Jesus so many years after this prophecy was given? That abomination that makes desolate was speaking of the Roman Army who would burn down the Jewish temple and bring an end to the age.
Here though is the point. For so many they saw the prophecy being fulfilled in the middle of the last week. Jesus was the sacrifice. They then expected the end of the age in the next three and a half years. Yet it took until AD70 when finally the Roman army swept into Jerusalem and the historical events took place which burnt the city to the ground and the words of Jesus came true as ‘the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet” stood “in the holy place”.
Tragically for so many the time delay made them give up. They stopped watching.
For us, the turn of the millennium and the events of 9/11 may have seemed like the end of the age. The reality is we have all been given more time. More time than the prophecies may initially seem to suggest. More time for us to work out our own salvation. We keep watching the signs of the times.
In Daniel’s 11th chapter he prophecies of a King of the North at the time of the end who would occupy a territory similar to the ancient Seleucid Empire.
Russia positioning itself as a reliable global parter after the caotic US withdrawl.
America and her allies have now exited Afghanistan leaving a vacuum already being filled by Russia. This is Biblical prophecy being fulfilled.
We reflect on these events and we don’t lose heart. We don’t stop watching. We watch all the more. We need to adopt a mindset that sees the time we’re given as an extra day, an extra week, an extra year to prepare our hearts and our minds for the coming of the Lord. The prophecies make clear that the day is near. We may not know that day, or that year – we do know though that the Lord will come. The apostle Peter was inspired to write:
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.” (2 Peter 3:9-10)
So, as the world around us reflects on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, what should we do. Reflect also. Where were you on that day? What have you done with your life since then? How have you used the last 20 years?
Reflect also that if that day seemed to bring the world to its knees. It was nothing. The day of the Lord’s return will bring the world crashing down, as the age of the Gentiles is brought to a close and a new age is ushered in. If you want to be there, today is the day to do something about it.
- Pete Owen