There are numerous opinions about when and how the Second Coming of Christ will occur. Having a correct understanding of the 70-weeks prophecy in Daniel 9, which told precisely when the First Coming would be, helps eliminate several of these questionable views, especially the ones centered in a tribulation period lasting seven years. We should equip ourselves with the knowledge of this prophecy, so we will be able to share it appropriately with our Protestant friends. (Read the first article in this blog series about the 70-weeks, found at this link: Prophecy 101.)
The reason these alternative views might be dangerous is because if the tribulation comes after the Second Coming, whether a secret event or not, and especially if we are given an opportunity to accept Christ after the rapture as they claim (some even give us a thousand years on earth), then we are likely to either put off our decision to follow God, or will neglect to prepare for the coming plagues and tribulation that will rock the world just before Jesus comes. Satan no doubt gains from either outcome.
It’s important to know the manner of Christ’s Second Coming–that it’s a literal, visible event (Acts 1:11 and Revelation 1:7–hint: all Bible verses are links, so hold your mouse over them or click on them). But, it’s also important to know the signs that lead up to His Coming. Jesus outlined several of them to His disciples in Matthew 24, but the visions in Daniel and Revelation provide us even more details.
Showing us a time period of 1,260 years of persecution that will be similar to what we will experience in the end, when an image to the beast is made, makes the investigation of what happens during that historical time period well worth our study.
The 1,260-days Prophecy in Daniel and Revelation
The length of this historical time for the falling away and intense persecution of God’s saints is mentioned seven times in Daniel and Revelation—sometimes referring to it as “forty-two months”, or “a time, times, and half a time” (the same as saying three-and-a-half years). Each of these periods total 1,260 days, or prophetic years, when using the Hebrew time reckoning of 30 days in a month and 360 days in a year.
We know that beasts represent kingdoms or powers (Daniel 7:27). The first ones Daniel saw in vision represented four great kingdoms of the ancient world: Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece being the first three. The fourth one, he was told, which would be the Roman Empire, would be different from the rest. From it would grow a “little horn” which received its power from pagan Rome. Many of the early Protestant Reformers identified this “little horn” as the papacy.
It was a gradual transformation of pagan Rome to papal Rome, progressing to the point that Justinian passed a decree in 538 A.D. that officially gave power to the pope to be Rome’s leader.
Other kings in Europe were eventually made to follow the pope’s wishes and during the centuries that followed 538, many false doctrines were introduced, and many, many people were martyred who dared to defy the Church’s dogmas.
Counting forward 1,260 years from 538 brings us to the year 1798 A.D., a year that ended the papacy’s civil/religious power. A general of Napoleon, Berthier, took the pope captive, brought him to France where he died in exile, ending the 1,260-year domination and rule of the “little horn” power. Revelation calls the event “a deadly wound” (Revelation 13:3).
One of the main features of this beastly power was that it encompassed both religious and civil authorities to enforce its worship practices. The pagan empires, the first beast powers, did that to a certain extent, with their leaders worshipped as if they were gods. But the beast, which came out of the Roman Empire, was said to be different from its predecessors, because it would now involve the Christian religion.
In these last days, we can expect a similar beastly power to arise, which will be an image to the beast (Revelation 13:14-17). Perhaps this is why one author has warned us about a dangerous union of church and state, claiming in 1858 that…
“The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of spiritualism [the belief that people who die enter a spirit world]; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power [Catholicism]; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience.” Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 588
For more details on this 1,260-days prophecy, see The Teacher’s Notes