Four years. Perhaps even less. That’s all the time the world may have left before the ultimate series of prophesied catastrophes are unleashed upon the world. Most of those you know are walking straight into a trap that could have been easily avoided. There’s been no shortage of voices pointing to these next four years — and not just of late, but going back 50, 60, even 70 years. This coming period of time is well-attested by researchers, religious scholars, and students of Bible prophecy; and moreover, the building crescendo of evidence in the form of signs — signs on the earth and signs in the sky — unfolding before our very eyes right here, right now, is proof positive that these next several years have always been the prophetic ground zero. But why these four? Here are three big reasons:
1. Seven years after one of these next four years will definitely be the precise 2,000-year mark from Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven. The end of the age, the next global catastrophe, isn’t something that happens all at once as portrayed by Hollywood, but is rather a series of events stretched out over a period of seven years culminating with Jesus’ bodily return to earth (Acts 1:9–12; Zech. 14:1–9). Given the expected 2,000 years between Jesus’ leaving and returning, we would expect the seven-year catastrophe, called the Tribulation, to commence seven years prior to that 2,000-year mark. This Tribulation is not one, two, or 3.5 years in length, but seven.
Scholars are in near-universal agreement that Jesus was crucified in 30, 31, 32, or 33 AD. Exactly 2,000 years later, less the seven years of Tribulation, brings us to 2023, 2024, 2025, or 2026 — our prospective “final four.” The year of Jesus’ crucifixion can be definitively narrowed to one of the years in the range of 30–33 AD based on known evidence: the years Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea (26–36 AD), Jesus beginning His ministry at about the age of 30 (Lk. 3:23), mere months after John’s ministry began, which initiated in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar (Lk. 3:1; sometime in 26–29 AD), and the 14 years of the Apostle Paul’s ministry up to his second journey to Jerusalem which can be precisely reconstructed using the book of Acts (cf. Gal. 1:11–2:1).
But why the 2,000 years? The answer is threefold: pattern, parable, and prophecy.
The pattern is called The Day-Age Principle, not to be confused with Day-Age Creationism. Up until the advent of allegorical eschatology and the popularization of amillennialism in the 4th and 5th centuries, it was fairly standard thought in both Jewish and Christian circles that God had patterned history on the days of the week. Just as God created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh, so too He has orchestrated history over six millennia of labor and mankind’s sinful rebellion to be followed by a millennial rest — the 1,000-year Messianic “Sabbath.” This final millennial period is mentioned no less than six times in the 20th chapter of Revelation.
Pull any Bible off your shelf and 99 times out of 100 it will be based on what is called the Masoretic Text — the Hebrew basis for the Old Testament — that contains a precise chronology in Genesis chapters 5 and 11 placing the creation of the world approximately 4,000 years before Jesus ascended. These 4,000 years would equate to the first four millennial “days” of history. The 1,000-year reign of Christ in Revelation 20 equates to the Sabbath. 2,000 years are missing — the 2,000 years between Jesus’ ascension and His return.
2 Peter 3:8 offers clear Scriptural support for the Day-Age Principle:
And do not let this one thing be concealed from you, beloved, that one day with the LORD [is] as one thousand years and one thousand years as one day . . .
Furthermore, the apocryphal Book of Jubilees, composed sometime in the last three centuries before Christ, uses the Day-Age Principle to explain how God’s promise to Adam that he would surely die in the day he ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was fulfilled:
. . . [Adam] was the first to be buried in the ground. He lacked seventy years of one thousand years, for a thousand years are one day in the testimony of heaven. Therefore it is written about the tree of knowledge: “For on the day you eat from it, you shall die.” Therefore he did not complete the years of this day because he died during it. (Jubilees 4:30)
In other words, God promised Adam he would die the very day he ate the forbidden fruit and then return to dust. Surely Adam died spiritually the very moment he ate the fruit, but his body did not immediately return to dust. He lived on — for hundreds and hundreds of years, in fact. But he never saw his 1,000th birthday. He died during the first millennial day of history.
A parable is simply an allegory. The relevant allegory is found in John chapter 4 where Jesus is invited by the Samaritans to stay with them and He stays two days (Jn. 4:40). The account itself was a real event, not merely allegory, but it was analagous to the 2,000-year Church Age, the Age of Grace: first, because the Samaritans were half-Gentile; they represented both Jew and Gentile — the Church; second, because the Samaritans were kept out of the commonwealth of Israel and were despised by the Jews, just as the Church was persecuted by the Jewish authorities and cast out; the Samaritans were thought to be foolish Gentiles, fitting the Deuteronomy 32:21 pattern where God prophesies choosing the Church — a predominantly Gentile people — before He restores Israel’s fortunes; and third, because the two days that Jesus stayed with the Samaritans reflects, according to the Day-Age Principle, the 2,000 years of Jesus’ ministry to the world via the Church, rather than a primary ministry to Israel.
The prophecy is found in Hosea chapter 6
Come, and we turn back to YHWH, || For He has torn, and He heals us, || He strikes, and He binds us up. He revives us after two days, || In the third day He raises us up, || And we live before Him. (Hos. 6:1–2, LSV)
The Prophet Hosea speaks to and for his fellow Israelites here, pleading with them to return to the LORD. According to the prophecy given in Deuteronomy 32, called The Song of Moses, Israel’s revival and restoration will only occur at the latter end, in the end times. Acts 15 confirms that God will restore Israel’s fortunes only after He takes a Gentile people to Himself (Acts 15:14–18). Hosea 6 provides the Day-Age framework: Israel will be revived after the proverbial “two days” (2,000 years); in the third day — the Millennial Sabbath — Israel will be raised up. Surely this being raised up includes both the post-Tribulation physical resurrection of Israelites described in Ezekiel 37’s Valley of Dry Bones, as well as Israel’s national ascension to be the head of the nations and not the tail (Deut. 28:13). “And we live before Him”: the Israelites will only live in the manifest presence of God during the Millennial Kingdom when their true Messiah Jesus is reigning from the throne of David.
2. The prophetic signs have precisely converged. It would be one thing if we were nearing the 2,000-year mark blindly with nothing to show for it except the Day-Age pattern, parable, and prophecy described above, but to the contrary: it just so happens that as we’ve neared the final four, a flood of signs has been poured out into every conceivable area you might look. Whether it be the reestablishment of Israel, the technology foreseen in the end times, specific signs in the heavens, or the lawlessness the Apostle Paul twice warned would surge at the end, the signs are unique to the very generation we’re living in. The articles below aptly demonstrate the point:
3. The Parable of the Fig Tree. Jesus told a parable regarding a fig tree in His discourse on the end times (Mt. 24; i.e., Mt. 24:29–35). The fig tree is unambiguously a symbol of Israel that Jesus’ disciples would have immediately recognized (see here and here). In the parable, Jesus describes how the fig tree’s growth cycle indicates that summer is near; likewise, all the signs of the end times will indicate that the end of the age and His return are near. Most importantly, Jesus said “this generation will not pass away untill all these things come to pass” — “this generation” being the fig tree generation. The reestablishment of Israel in 1948 was the ultimate end-times sign and it started the countdown. This generation is now nearing its end, right in line with the final four and the subsequent seven years of tribulation.
In light of the general evidence for the final four above, can greater weight be given to any particular year among the four? That’s harder to say, but perhaps some speculation is entailed.
Back in August I did a systematic study looking into the historical evidence for when the Shmita cycles were kept. The Shmita cycles were seven-year periods described in Leviticus 25, the book of Numbers, and elsewhere that the Israelites would observe beginning with their entrance into the Promised Land. My analysis showed that the Shmita cycles that Jews observe in Israel today are actually correct, or off by one year at most, at least in terms of how the Shmita cycles were kept in the Second Temple period (roughly 500 BC and on). While Jews slightly favor the cycle they keep today, scholars slightly favor the cycle being one year later, such that the seventh year in a cycle didn’t just end, but actually just began. This means the next seven-year period would run from the fall of 2023 to the fall of 2030. I addressed this in several videos and articles on the subject.
Now given the seven-year length of the Tribulation and the seven-year length of the Shmita cycles, it has seemed to be a somewhat natural assumption that the Tribulation would run alongside a Shmita cycle. This may still prove to be the case.
When calculating the Shmita cycles, it’s important to reconcile the Jubilee year, as well. According to Leviticus 25 the Jubilee year is the 50th year after a period of seven Shmita cycles. An exclusive, Western reckoning of time would tend to regard this 50th year as intercalary, and that could very well be correct. Many (though not all) Jewish treatises on the subject have also regarded it as intercalary (the Jubilee was unobserved; it was apparently never kept in the Second Temple period; perhaps not even kept before that). However, just two chapters prior to Leviticus 25 we see an inclusive count from First Fruits to Pentecost, such that counting seven full weeks (49 days) is regarded as 50 (Lev. 23:15–16); this is because the day the count is initiated (the day after the Sabbath) is reckoned among the days. It’s counted as the first day, rather than a proverbial “Day Zero.” Given that the Shmita cycle is patterned on the days of the week and the Jubilee is the day after the Sabbath year, just as the count to Pentecost begins the day after the Sabbath, there is some surprisingly strong Scriptural weight for regarding Jubilee cycles as 49 years in length, rather than 50, and the Shmita cycles as a repeating, unbroken chain of sevens. The Jubilee year would be the 50th year in a cycle, but also the first year in a new cycle of 50.
If this reckoning of the Jubilee cycle is correct and if the scholars are right regarding the Shmita cycles, immense weight can be given to 2023–2030. However, if Jubilee cycles are in fact 50 years long where the 50th year does not double as the first year in the next cycle, and if the assumption that the Tribulation should coincide with a Shmita cycle is also mistaken, I’ve found that 2023–2030 still holds weight, but for other reasons.
We know that, according to Leviticus 25, the Israelites were commanded to count off the Shmitas and Jubilees when they entered the land. We also know that the Israelites failed to do this and historically these counts have been “recalibrated” from time to time. Surmise if you will that God’s count began as intended according to Leviticus 25, but never stopped. In other words, even though the Israelites failed to keep the count, God didn’t. In fact, God apparently reckoned the years of the exile as payback for missed Shmitas (2 Chron. 36:21). It should also be noted that the Jews have been expelled twice, but never entirely. There has always been at least some Jewish remnant in the land. For instance, after the siege of 70 AD and the Bar Kokhba revolt decades later, a number of Jewish communities still remained in the Galilee region. That means never has there been a technicality such that the Leviticus 25 prescribed counting should have stopped.
This is all the more interesting because Scripture hints at perhaps two historic Jubilees: first, at the time of Ezekiel’s vision (Ezek. 40:1), and second, when Jesus initiated His ministry (Lk. 4). When putting together any sort of macroscale Shmita and Jubilee timeline, these have to somehow be reconciled. Moreover, they have to be reconciled with the Exodus and the entrance into the Promised Land. This is no easy task.
1. The Exodus. The traditional date is 1446 BC +/- 3 years. This date is very well-attested (e.g., Thiele’s chronology).
2. Entrance into the Promised Land as the start of counting the Shmitas and Jubilees (see Lev. 25). This would be 40 years after #1. The challenge is that the entrance into the Promised Land needs to be Year #1 of the first Shmita cycle.
3. Construction of the First Temple in Solomon’s fourth year as king (968 BC +/- 2 years). This is also a very well-attested date. It is said to be 480 years after the Exodus (1 Kgs. 6:1).
4. Ezekiel’s Jubilee Vision (Ezek. 40:1). This is given as the 25th year of his exile and the 14th year since the Temple and city were destroyed. This forces 575 BC +/- 1 year. Very little wiggle room. It’s a well-attested date.
5. Jesus’ Jubilee in Luke 4:17–19. While Jesus doesn’t explicitly state he was announcing a Jubilee, it’s strongly implied. 26–29 AD; scholars now favor 26 or 27 AD.
Using 50-year cycles, we can actually reconcile all five of the above dates. The next Jubilee would fall in 2026–2027, in the middle of the Tribulation. The first half of the Tribulation would be the last three years of a Shmita cycle and the first half of the Jubilee year and the last half of the Tribulation would be the last half of the Jubilee year and the first three years of a Shmita cycle. Aligning mid-Tribulation events with the Jubilee might be defensible if we understand Revelation 11:15 as Jubilee language regarding the return of God’s property rights. And though the Tribulation wouldn’t be a Shmita cycle, it would still form a clear symmetrical pattern involving the Shmita cycles.
And the seventh messenger sounded the trumpet, and there came great voices in Heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of the world became [those] of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign through the ages of the ages!” (Rev. 11:15, LSV)
To summarize: if Jubilee cycles are 49 years in length then it’s reasonable to assume a 2023–2030 Tribulation. If Jubilee cycles are 50 years in length then 2023–2030 or 2024–2031 could fit. Either way, 2023–2030 fits well. 2024–2031 does not fit with a 49-year cycle, but it does fit with a 50-year cycle. 2025–2032 and 2026–2033 do not fit with either the historical Second Temple-era Shmita cycles or with the 50-year Jubilee cycles in a way that would reconcile Ezekiel’s Jubilee (Ezek. 40:1) or Jesus’ Jubilee (Lk. 4).
However, 2025 and 2026 are not entirely ruled out. If we regard Israel’s reestablishment as what should commence a new count of Shmitas, then the next Shmita year would fall in either 2024–2025 or 2025–2026 and the Tribulation might begin in the fall of either 2025 or 2026 (the beginning of a new seven-year period). I think this reckoning is unlikely though: Jews were already in the land counting Shmitas long before Israel’s reestablishment; furthermore, God’s commandment in Leviticus 25 doesn’t seem to predicate any counting on the establishment of the nation.
Finally, we must wrestle with which of the possible Crucifixion years is best supported. I was myself a proponent of 33 AD when I first started writing for Unsealed. In the past several years the preponderance of evidence led me to 31 AD. I always think it’s important to check and recheck assumptions, especially on these “non-essential” issues. Exploring this further, apparently scholars now favor April of 30 AD as far and away the most likely time of the Crucifixion. In fact, it’s now favored two or even three to one in scholarly circles — that “one” represents all other purported Crucifixion dates combined. 33 AD is a distant second. A 30 AD Crucifixion date also makes the start of Jesus’ ministry in 26 or 27 AD very likely. These are also the dates heavily favored in professional scholarship. More importantly, 26 or 27 AD allows for a simple reckoning of the first 69 weeks of years in Daniel’s prophecy (483 years) as commencing from Artaxerses first decree in 457 AD and ending with Jesus being anointed Messiah by the Spirit.
If I were to summarize my thinking on the matter, which is certainly human and never above reproach, I would have to say that the likelihood we are entering the final four years of our rapture watch is extreme. Should I put a number on it? Probably not wise, but I’m all in. And of these looming four years, I see 2023 as the most likely, followed closely by 2024. 2025 and 2026 are a distant third and fourth.
Revisiting the Fig Tree Parable
As I conclude this study, I wanted to briefly revisit Jesus’ Parable of the Fig Tree. If Israel is the fig tree (true). Then might the “putting forth of leaves” be something distinct from the replanting? A couple months ago I conjectured the end of the Israeli War of Independence (March 10, 1949), but a reader has offered a possibly better alternative. “Possibly” is not really a sufficient word. Their conjecture is altogether the best alternative start date for the fig tree generation I’ve ever come across and I’m amazed I never spotted it before. It’s the Law of Return which was passed on July 5th of 1950 formally allowing Jewish immigration back to the homeland. In other words, it’s the very law that enabled Israel to grow. The Law of Return is what allowed Israel to grow from roughly 800 thousand Jews at its founding to some seven million today. Israel is the fig tree and the Law of Return is the putting forth of lots and lots of leaves. No wonder then that as we reach the end of this generation, the incoming Israeli governing coalition is seeking to amend the Law of Return in such a way that will greatly reduce the influx of Jewish immigration, stifling the fig tree’s growth.
According to Jeremiah 24, which is one of many passages equating Israel to the fig tree, the good figs represent the exiles from Judah and the bad figs represent the rebellious company of Zedekiah. Perhaps then in a modern context the leaves that Jesus describes in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 represent the modern Israelites who have yet to bear fruit but will. With 1950 as our starting point, simple arithmetic points us to 2030 as the terminus ad quem or 2031 as the terminus ante quem:
1950 + 70 = 2020
1950 + 80 = 2030
1950 + (81 years minus 1 day) = July 4, 2031
M – A – R – A – N – A – T – H – A