What is meant by the term end time?
The vast majority will answer the time for Jesus’ return, neither more nor less. That is right, but end time is a much broader concept than the last day of the earth’s history. The end time spans an unknown period of time. The end time began when we went from prophetic time to end time in 1844, and the end time will last until Jesus returns, which happens on the last day of this world’s history.
The end time is also linked to another expression, and that is the day of the Lord. The Lord’s day is used for two different things in the Bible, firstly the term the day of the Lord is used for the Sabbath, secondly it is used for the end times. In the Bible, the day of the Lord is used once about the Sabbath (Isaiah 58,13), once without a special explanation (Revelation 1,10), while it is used as many as 22 times in connection with, and about the end times and then as an extended term.
Already the apostles believed they were living in the end times, and they were waiting for Jesus’ return as an imminent event in their day. In Matthew 24 we read that the disciples thought the destruction of the temple would be the same as the end of the world: 1 And Jesus went out and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to [him] for to shew him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what [shall be] the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? Matthew 24,1-3
Here we see that the disciples equate the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem with the return of Jesus (the end of the world). What is worth noting is that Jesus does not correct the disciples, he makes them believe that it is so, and that is probably a good reason why he did not correct them. The gospel of salvation was to be brought into the world, and had Jesus corrected their view and said that the end would not yet come in a couple of thousand years, it is probably possible that the zeal and interest to bring out the good news would have been almost completely absent.
Instead of correcting his disciples, he gives them an answer that covers both events, and tells of signs that will precede certain events both in connection with the destruction of the temple and the end of the world – and most importantly: we must not be deceived by false prophets and christs.
The transition from prophetic time to end time
I claimed when we started with the time prophecies that God always raises a prophet to make known, not only to His people but to the whole world, when He does something new. Moses was raised as a prophet to free Israel from slavery in Egypt. At the time Babylon conquered Judah and led the Jews into captivity, God raised up no less than three prophets to tell about the future and to comfort His people, and to punish them. These were Daniel, Ezekiel and Jeremiah. But what about our time? Amos says that the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. Then the question is whether God will raise up a prophet at the beginning of the end time, and can we with the help of the Bible confirm that this will happen?
In Revelation 10,8-11 we read: And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go [and] take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth. And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take [it], and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. And I took the little book out of the angel’s hand and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
Now a number of questions arise in connection with this text that we must look at.
1) Who is it that stands on the sea and the land? 2) Where are we on the timeline? 3) What does it mean to eat a book? 4) What does it mean that the book was sweet in the mouth? 5) What does it mean that the book shall make thy belly bitter? 6) Who is to prophesy again?
1) Who is it that stands on the sea and the land?
Is it possible finding out who the angel in verse 8 is? We find no clues in these four verses, but if we read the whole chapter from verse 1 we will get the help we need.
Verse 1: another mighty angel – clothed with a cloud – a rainbow was upon his head – his face was as it were the sun – his feet as pillars of fire. Verse 3: and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth.
An angel is a messenger from God, it can also be the leaders of the church. Even Jesus is called an angel: the angel of the Lord. This angel has a rainbow over his head. What is the rainbow? The rainbow is the sign of God’s covenant with mankind, which states that He will never again destroy the earth with a flood. Furthermore, it says that the face was like the sun. Man and nature depend on the sun shining every day. Without the sun, everything and everyone will die. The angel has feet like pillars of fire. This leads us to Exodus 13,21 where it says: And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:. The angel also has a voice like that of a roaring lion. Who is called a lion? It is Christ.
The common denominator in these verses is Jesus Christ. But is the same angel in verse 8 as in these three verses? In verse 2 it says that the angel set his right foot on the sea and the left on the earth, and in verse 8 it says he who stands on the sea and on the earth, and this sentence points back to verse 2. It means that it is the same angel throughout the chapter.
2) Where are we on the timeline?
We are not always going to read prophecies as linear stories, but this chapter must be read like this, from verse 1 to verse 11. This means that the time perspective is the same in all 11 verses. But is it possible to deduce from the text where on the timeline we are? This is what the angel does for us in verse 6. This is where we find the expression there should be time no longer. This means that we stand at the distinction between prophetic time and end time. But this statement alone is not enough to be sure that it is correct.
Is there another indication of the time aspect? Fortunately, God in his wisdom has made it so that we find the explanations for the questions we have in the Bible. Many times even in the same chapter, as here.
We read in verse 2 that the angel has a little open book in his hand. Is there any reason for John to point out that the angel has an open book? And, if so, what does that mean? I am of the opinion that there are no coincidences in the Bible, nor is there a superfluous word there, so there is probably a reason why it is mentioned that the book is open. One of the reasons why this book is mentioned must be to give us the time perspective, for only one book in the Bible has been sealed, and the angel Gabriel told the author to seal the book, and no less than three times. It is the book of Daniel. And what does it say about the book of Daniel?
The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future. (= end time). Daniel 8,26 (NIV 1984) But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, [even] to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. Daniel 12,4 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words [are] closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Daniel 12,9
Daniel was told to seal the book, which is the same as closing the book, until the end time. How does this fit in with how people have viewed the book of Daniel? Of course, there were some who managed to see parts of the message in the book of Daniel before the end times, but the first to gain greater insight into this book was Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1726). The next to study the book of Daniel with a view to fully understanding it was William Miller, and he succeeded in solving the time prophecies. The book had been opened, and that means in clear text that we are exactly in the transition between prophetic time and end time.
3) What does it mean to eat a book?
Jesus talks about spiritual food and drink in the Bible. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God., Matthew 4,4. Eating the book simply means reading and studying it. It means absorbing spiritual nourishment in the form of what is served in the Bible.
In Ezekiel we find the following text: And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, for they [are] most rebellious. But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee. And when I looked, behold, an hand [was] sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book [was] therein; And he spread it before me; and it [was] written within and without: and [there was] written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe. Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat [it]; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness. And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. Ezekiel 2,7 – 3,4
4) What does it mean that the book was sweet in the mouth?
I think we can base this point on two explanations. When we read and study the Bible in prayer and we gain an understanding of the gospel and what God is doing on our behalf to save us, then we can say that the Bible is sweet in the mouth. Understanding the plan of salvation and the gospel makes us rejoice in God. It is in the same way as Ezekiel describes above here. This is one way to understand this. The second way is how Miller experienced it when he studied Daniel chapter 8 and discovered that the sanctuary was to be cleansed at the end of a certain period of time. Miller had eaten the roll.
Miller, who was influenced by his contemporary interpretation that said that the earth was the sanctuary, therefore believed that it was about the earth. He found out that the 2300 evenings and mornings in Daniel 8,14 were 2300 years and calculated until the beginning and end of this prophecy and assumed that the cleansing of the sanctuary was the same as the return of Jesus and the earth cleansed with fire.
Imagine the emotions and the joy Miller felt when he made this discovery. Don’t you think this book was sweet in his mouth? I am sure it was. In 1818 William Miller came to the conclusion that Jesus would return in 25 years, in the year 1843. But in the same way that the disciples were wrong about the events associated with the destruction of the temple, and believed that this would happen at the end of the world, and so as the Jews erred in the first coming of Jesus and expected the Lion of the tribe of Judah, while the Lamb came, in the same way God allowed Miller to make this mistake, because it was God’s intention that the end-time message should be preached at this time. If Miller had not preached Jesus’ imminent return, Ellen Gold Harmon (1827-1915) would probably never have heard this message. Ellen Harmon was in fact without education, because she had to leave school in fourth grade when she was hit by a stone in the face. All the doctors thought she would die before she was 15 years old. This young woman, whom the doctors said would die before she had begun life, and who had no formal education, this woman God raised up as her servant in the end times.
5) What does it mean that the book shall make thy belly bitter?
But Jesus did not return in 1843, nor in 1844. That there are two years is because it had not been taken into account that year zero does not exist when they first calculated the time in Daniel 8,13. This was corrected in 1843, and Jesus’ return was set for the great Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, according to the Old Testament system of temple and sacrificial service. In 1844 Yom Kippur fell on October 22nd. But the day came, and the day passed, and many waited in the fields and places where they could keep an eye on the sky to see Jesus coming in glory on the clouds of the sky, and they waited until the time passed midnight without Jesus returning. For a disappointment they experienced, it must have been a disappointment so great that it is difficult to comprehend for those who have not experienced it. Think of the feeling they had when Jesus did not come on the day they had been preaching for years. The description shall make thy belly bitter is very apt. But the disappointment did not strike out the most wholehearted. These continued with their study of the scriptures, and God showed them almost immediately after the disappointment what they had done wrong. The sanctuary was not the earth, but the heavenly temple.
6) Who is to prophesy again?
Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. Amos 3,7
But what does it mean to prophesy? Simply explained, it can be said that prophesying is mostly seen as receiving visions from God, and then telling about this, and possibly writing it down. But prophesying is more than just receiving visions from God, it is just as much speaking on behalf of God, building up the church, guiding the people and to reprimand disobedience, so this is a multifaceted issue. Since John received this prophecy around the year 96 when he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos, and that this prophecy is about the time when we went from prophetic time to end time, we can rule out that it was John himself who was to prophesy again. What the prophecy refers to is God’s people, God’s faithful remnant in the end times. They are the ones to prophesy.
First, God raised up the young Ellen Harmon in 1844, when she was 17 years old. It was just after the great disappointment of 1844 that she received her first vision, and throughout the rest of her life she received many visions and dreams that have helped the church she co-founded. In the early years, when the brothers had found the way back to one of the old truths that had been forgotten due the events the little horn was behind, she got a vision that confirmed that what the brothers had discovered was really from God, and in that way God confirmed through Ellen that the Advent movement was on the right track. It was not to help design our faith that Ellen got these visions, for they managed well without her interference to find back to these truths, but when they were sure that they had found back to the old truths Ellen could ascertain this through vision and dreams. This woman, who did not even finish fourth grade in elementary school, became a prophet of God, and has written thousands of manuscripts, articles, and letters through her 68-year service to God that has been compiled into dozens of books.
Just as we might expect, God raised up a prophet as we entered the end times to help shape the way the new church should go and what its tasks were, just as Amos 3,7 says God would do.
Secondly, the whole Advent movement is a prophetic movement. We preach the whole gospel together with God’s end-time message, we preach God’s infinite and boundless love, and we preach a health message that was given to us through Ellen White.
An example of the health message Ellen White received is this. In the middle of the 19th century, it was common for doctors to recommend patients with lung disease to smoke tobacco. They thought this had a good impact on health. Ellen White saw that tobacco is harmful. She preached this and was ridiculed in her day. Today we know she was right. The same with alcohol, coffee and excessive makeup use.
To summarize the answers to the six questions, the final answer is as follows:
It is Jesus Christ who stands on the sea and the land with the book of Daniel opened, which symbolizes that we are in the end times in terms of time. He gives the book to the Advent movement which He raises up through William Miller, who is told to study the book = eat the book. The studies the Adventists are doing lead them to an answer that says Jesus is coming soon, and full of joy and anticipation, they preach the return of the Lord until the day they believe it will happen but are disappointed. The disappointment does not overcome them, and after the disappointment, they continue to study to find out what they did wrong, and to move on. Seventh-day Adventists as a prophetic movement were a fact.