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The Mysterious Period Described in Ecclesiastes 12

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In Ecclesiastes 12, God describes a very mysterious period of time.  The chapter begins with the following verse, Ecclesiastes 12:1:


Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;


In this verse, God tells us to remember Him “in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not.”  The next few verses describe those days.  What are the evil days?   When do they come?


The Evil Days (Verses 2 and 3)


In verse 2, God gives us the first clues about them.  Verse 2 states:


While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:


In other words, God is telling us to remember our Creator – and of course He is our Creator – before the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars are darkened.   So this mysterious period of time comes when these things happen: it is characterized by the darkening of the sun, moon and stars, when something happens to light.


This verse may remind you of something the Lord Jesus once said.   In Matthew 24:29, we read:


Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:


Here, the Lord told His disciples about something that would happen before the end of the world but “after the tribulation.”  Notice how similar the two verses are in the ways they mention the sun, moon and stars.


Many people have understood Matthew 24:29 to mean that something would happen physically to the sun, moon and stars – that there would be tremendous signs in the sky for everyone to see.  However, we now know that the Lord was speaking about a spiritual event that cannot be detected by our senses.  We have to remember that the Lord spoke in parables (Matthew 13:34).  The darkening of the sun and the other bodies refers to a change in the Lord’s salvation plan.


Let’s continue with Ecclesiastes 12:3:


In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,    


This verse tells us about a day of fear.  On that day, the “keepers of the house” tremble; and there are other references to people here.   The verse mentions strong men, grinders and those that look out of the windows.  Who are these people?


First, we need to remember something.  We know that the Bible was written exactly as the Lord dictated it in the original languages.  However, the translations are another matter.   Not every translation is reliable.  Even today, a wealthy person such as Bill Gates could bring together a group of scholars to write a new translation of the Bible; and in a few years we might have the “Gates” Bible.  It probably wouldn’t be a very good translation, but who knows?


Today, many people rely on the King James Version.  Although it is generally a very good translation, sometimes a verse cannot be correctly understood as we find it in our Bibles.  Sometimes we must carefully examine a verse with a concordance to find its original-language words, and then compare that verse with others where those same original words are used.  The use of a concordance is of great help as we try to understand Ecclesiastes 12.


With a concordance, we find that many of the words used in Ecclesiastes 12:3 are also used in verses about the elect.  For example, the word “house” is Strong’s number H1004: bayith.  This is the same word used for “house” in Psalm 23:6:


Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


Therefore, the “keepers of the house” can be the elect.  Next, the word “strong” is used many times in the Bible – though not always in connection with the elect.  However, God definitely emphasizes the need for His people to be strong as they wait for Him, as in 1 Corinthians 16:13:


Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.  


Even though the languages of the New Testament and Old Testament are different, we can still compare similar ideas found in both – like the idea of strength in the phrase “the strong men shall bow themselves.” Continuing with Ecclesiastes 12:3, we find a reference to the “grinders.”  The verse tells us in that day “the grinders cease because they are few.”  What could that possibly mean?


The word used for grinders in Ecclesiastes 12:3 is Strong’s number H2912, “tachan.”  It’s used eight times in the Bible.  Even though it’s translated only once as “grinders” – and that’s in Ecclesiastes 12:3 – it’s always translated as something to do with grinding.  For example, in Numbers 11:8 we read what the children of Israel did to prepare the manna that the Lord gave them: they “ground it in mills.”


So it appears we can safely accept the word “grinders” in Ecclesiastes 12:3 as a good translation.  Next, recall that the Lord attached spiritual meanings to the acts of sowing seeds and gathering a harvest.  We should expect that grinding may also have spiritual importance; and in Matthew 24:41, it appears that the “grinders” are trying to serve the Lord:


Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.


As we see here, not everyone trying to serve the Lord is a child of God.  Only the elect are taken on the last day.  Everyone else is left behind to “pass away” (1 John 2:17) with the earth when it is spoken out of existence immediately after the Rapture.  However, the focus of Ecclesiastes 12:3 seems to be on the elect.


Continuing with that verse, we read that the grinders “cease.”  The word translated as “cease” is Strong’s number H988, “batel.”  It’s used only once in the whole Bible, so we can’t compare it with words in other verses.  It has the idea of being free from work.  We will see that the KJV translation for this word seems to fit the rest of the verse.


The next words in this phrase about the grinders tell us that they are few – they cease “because they are few.”  Why would they cease when they are few?  Of course, certain jobs require a minimum number of people to accomplish, but God’s work isn’t like that.  He can work with only one person.


Strong’s number H4591, “ma’at,” is the word used in the phrase “they are few.”  The word can mean that a group is reduced in number, but it can also mean that the group is diminished or made small in another way.  For example, it’s the word found in Jeremiah 10:24:


O LORD, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.


The word translated “nothing” is the same word used in Ecclesiastes 12:3: Strong’s number H4591.  So we see that a group or a person can be diminished or made small in strength, ability or some other way.


Continuing in the verse, we read about the next group of people: “those that look out of the windows.”   Again, we need to consider these words in the original language.  The word translated “look out” is Strong’s number H7200: “ra’ah.”  It’s used over 1,300 times in the Bible, and more than 800 of those times it’s translated as “see.”  For example, we find it in Proverbs 20:12:


The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.


Many times, the ability to see is associated with true believers.  Next, consider the word “windows.”  It occurs 30 times in the Bible, and there are six different Hebrew words translated “windows” (the plural word doesn’t occur in the New Testament, but the singular occurs twice: in Acts 20:9 and 2 Corinthians 11:33).  In Ecclesiastes 12:3, it’s Strong’s number H699 (“arubbah”) that is used for “windows.”  This Hebrew word is used nine times, and most of the time it’s associated with the windows of heaven.  It’s also found in Isaiah 60:8:


Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?


This verse certainly suggests a beautiful picture of the last day and the Rapture.  So we see that the word “windows” in Ecclesiastes 12:3 also points to the elect.  Also, notice how the elect are compared to birds (as in Psalm 124:7).


However, Ecclesiastes 12:3 tells us that they (“those that look out of the windows”) are “darkened.”  The word used here is H2821 (“chashak”) – the same word found in Ecclesiastes 12:2:


While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:


Elsewhere in the Bible, the children of Israel (who represent the elect) are compared to stars (as in Nehemiah 9:23).  So we see that the darkening of “those that look out of the windows” is consistent with the darkening of the stars in verse 2.



The Evil Days Continue (Verse 4)


This brings us to the next verse, Ecclesiastes 12:4:


And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;


The verse tells us “the doors shall be shut in the streets.”  This happens when “the sound of the grinding is low.”  The word for “sound” is Strong’s number H6963, “qowl.”  Of all the times it’s used, it is translated as “voice” most of the time – and of course a person’s voice has always been the most important way for anyone to share God’s word.


We discover something else too when we use a concordance to check this verse.  The word “low” in the phrase “sound of the grinding is low” is different than the word for “low” used in the phrase “all the daughters of musick shall be brought low.”  When applied to the sound of the grinding, the word used is Strong’s number H8217, “shaphal.”  From its other uses, we find that it can mean low in height (as in Leviticus 14:37).  Therefore it could mean that a sound (as in sound of the grinding) is low in volume.  But it can also mean low in the sense of being humble.  That’s how it’s used in Psalm 16:19, where it is used once (“an humble spirit…”).


When the word “low” is applied to the “daughters of musick,” the original language word is Strong’s number H7817, “shachach.”  It’s only translated as “low” in this one verse.  Every other time it’s translated differently and conveys the idea that someone is bowing down, cast down, humbled, weakened or despairing.   So we can think of this verse as telling us that “all the daughters of musick” are brought low in the sense that they are weakened or humbled or despairing.


The other words in this verse appear to be well translated, so it seems we have a good translation of Ecclesiastes 12:4 in the KJV.   However, we have to admit it is a very strange verse.  What does it mean?


So far, we’ve seen evidence that the various people mentioned in these verses are the elect.  That is certainly the case with “daughters of musick.”  The word translated as “musick” is most often translated as “song.”  That’s how it’s used in Psalm 40:3:


And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.  


Clearly, this verse is telling us about someone who is a child of God, and the “daughters of musick” are certainly the elect.  (See also Zephaniah 3:14, where we find the word “daughter,” which is the same word – Strong’s number 1323, “bath” – found in Ecclesiastes 12:4).


What about the phrase “he shall rise up at the voice of the bird?”   At first, we might think these words are describing someone who is so fearful that he is startled even by a bird sound.  However, there is another possible explanation.  Think about the picture we get from Ecclesiastes 10:20.  It’s the idea of a bird or fowl (a different Strong’s number than the bird of Ecclesiastes 12:4) bringing a message.  So how are we to understand what God is telling us in the words “he shall rise up at the voice of the bird?”


The Lord Jesus told a parable that appears to explain what this means, and we find it in Luke 11:5-13.  It’s a parable about someone who goes to his friend at midnight, asking for three loaves of bread.  The man does get the loaves from his friend, yet the Lord tells us what the answer could be based on the time setting in this parable.  The answer could be  “Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.”


In several places, the Bible tells us that there would come a time when salvation has ended.  We now know that this time precedes the end of the world, when the Lord returns on the last day.   Now think about the time setting for this Luke 11 parable.  We know that it is set at midnight, that the man’s friend is in his house, that the door is shut and that his children are with him in bed.  When we consider all these things together, we see that the parable is set during this time when salvation has ended.


Nevertheless, what do we read?  Luke 11:8 tells us:


I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.


When we examine the context for this parable, we find that the Lord is telling us about God answering the prayers of His children (see Luke 11:2-4, 9-13).  This parable seems to show us how to understand Ecclesiastes 12:4.  It shows us that even after salvation has ended, the Lord will “rise up at the voice of the bird” to answer prayers of those whom He has already saved.



The Evil Days Continue (Verse 5)


The next verse, Ecclesiastes 12:5, also tells us about a time of fear:


Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:  


At the start of the verse we read that “they” shall be afraid of something.   We’ve already seen that the preceding two verses deal with the elect, and this verse also concerns them.  What is it they fear?  They are afraid of that which is “high.”  The word translated “high” is Strong’s number H1364 (gaboahh).  It is mostly used to describe the world’s evils, as in Isaiah 5:15 where it is translated as “lofty” (“the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled”).  However, it is also used in Ecclesiastes 5:8, where it clearly refers to the Lord (“higher than the highest”).  Based on this, we can say that the verse (“they shall be afraid of that which is high”) is telling us about the elect being afraid of the Lord.


Next, the verse states “fears shall be in the way.”  The word translated “fears” is used only this one time in the Bible, but appears to be a good translation because we know the word from which it comes and can see how that word is translated.  The word for “way” is Strong’s number H1870 (“derek”), and it’s translated as “way” hundreds of times.  It can refer to a path or a road (see Ecclesiastes 10:3) or to a way of living (see Ecclesiastes 11:9).  The context, based on the preceding part of the verse, indicates that the elect’s fear of God will be seen in the way they live.


The verse continues by telling us that the “almond tree shall flourish.”  You may have learned that the fig tree represents national Israel in the Bible.  What about the almond tree?


The word translated as “almond tree” is Strong’s number H8247, “shaqed.”  It’s used one time in Ecclesiastes and in only three other places: Genesis 43:11, Numbers 17:8 and Jeremiah 1:11.  (However, this H8247 word is very similar to H8246 – which is also translated as “almonds” and is used to describe the design for the bowl of the candlesticks; e.g., see Exodus 37:20).


In Numbers 17:8, “shaqed” is translated as almonds.  In that verse, it refers to almonds on Aaron’s rod: a dead piece of wood that produced flower buds, blossoms and almonds.  This was an amazing miracle God performed to show that He had chosen Aaron as priest, and not anyone else (see Numbers 16:41-42, and 17:1-4).


In Jeremiah 1:11, the word is translated as “almond tree.”  There, we read about the rod of an almond tree.  This refers to Jeremiah himself (see Jeremiah 1:10 and 1:12).   God was going to “root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant” and to use a rod of the almond tree – Jeremiah – to do it.


Even in Genesis 43:11, where “shaqed” is translated “almonds” and appears to be nothing more than that, its meaning and use are consistent with the other verses.  Notice that Jacob tells his sons to bring of the “best fruits in the land in your vessels” when they return to Egypt.  Almonds are included in the list, and from many other verses we know that a vessel can refer to a person’s body; so even in this verse almonds can represent the elect.  Clearly, this is what God is referring to in Ecclesiastes 12:5 when He tells us “the almond tree shall flourish.”


After the phrase about the almond tree comes “the grasshopper shall be a burden.”  We should expect that “the grasshopper” refers to God’s elect, just like the other references we found so far in verses 3 and 4.  In fact, there is evidence that this is the case.  The word for grasshopper is Strong’s number H2284, “chagab.”  It’s used a total of five times, but none of its verses appear to have anything to do with the elect.  However, H2284 is identical to H2285.  That Strong’s number word, also “chagab,” is used in Ezra 2:46.  There, it’s the name of a head of a family (“Hagab”) who returned from captivity in Babylon.   This is certainly a reference to one of God’s people.


Continuing in Ecclesiastes 12:5, the verse states that the grasshopper “shall be a burden.”  What could that mean?  The word used here for “burden” is Stong’s number H5445, “cabal.”  When we read that phrase, we get the idea that the grasshopper itself is the burden.  However, when we see how “cabal” is used in other verses, we find that its translation in Ecclesiastes 12:5 is questionable.  For example, in Lamentations 5:7 we read:


Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.


Here, the word used for “borne” is “cabal;” so in the second part of this verse the subject (“we”) is bearing the burden and not being a burden to someone else.    Also, if we check some other versions of the Bible we find that their translators had a similar understanding concerning the phrase about the grasshopper of Ecclesiastes 12:5.  For example, the Revised Standard Version translates it as “the grasshopper drags itself along.”  The picture here is that of a grasshopper moving laboriously, as though it is carrying a heavy burden.


In view of this, we can say that the KJV translators did not do their best work on the phrase about the grasshopper.   Rather than being a burden to someone, God appears to be telling us that the grasshopper itself is burdened.  We will see that this way of understanding the verse is consistent with the preceding verses.


Next comes the phrase “and desire shall fail.”  The word translated “desire” is Strong’s number H35 and is used only this one time in the whole Bible.   It is thought to come from H14, which has to do with a person’s will or what a person would do.


“Shall fail” is from Strong’s number H6565, “parar.”  In most of its uses, it’s translated as “break.”  It seems to be used in the sense that something breaks or comes to nothing.


The next part of Ecclesiastes 12:5 tells us “man goeth to his long home.”  With a concordance, we find that the word translated here as “long” is usually translated as “ever” or “everlasting.”  We also find that the word translated as “home” is usually translated as “house” or “household.”  Therefore, a better translation should be “man goeth to his eternal house.”  From many verses in the Bible, we learn that only the elect have an eternal house or home.  The unsaved are destroyed and have no further existence once they die.  On the last day, any of their remains will simply vanish.  It will be as though they had never lived.


The final phrase of Ecclesiastes 12:5 is “and the mourners go about the streets.”  The word for “mourners” here is Strong’s number H5594: “caphad.”  From many verses, we know that mourning is associated with people whom God has saved.  We also see this idea in Zechariah 12:10, where “caphad” is the word used for “mourneth:”


And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.   


The original language word for “streets” in Ecclesiastes 12:5 is always translated as “street” or “streets.”  However, there is something interesting about the word used for “go about.”  That word is Strong’s number H5437: “cahab.”  It’s used about 150 times in the Bible, and it often carries the meaning of “turning about” or “turning back” or “returning.”  In other words, God may be showing us that the mourners return from the streets.



Verse 6: A Big Transition


A great deal can be written about the next verse, Ecclesiastes 12:6:


Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.


God creates four different pictures here to show us something.  If you search for a commentary about this difficult verse, you will find that it has been understood in different ways.  Possibly, God’s intention was that we could understand it in more than one way.  For our purpose, we actually don’t have to understand the different pictures God uses because He tells us what the verse means.  In verse 7, He declares:


Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.  


Clearly, because of verse 7 we know that verse 6 is concerned with physical death.  Therefore, in each of the four pictures God is telling us something about physical death.


Verse 6 is a transition from verses 3, 4 and 5; but in those three verses, God tells us about the elect living in the period after salvation has ended.  In order to better understand this, we should review the timeline developed by Mr. Harold Camping.



Another Look at the Timeline


For about three years before May 21, 2011, Mr. Camping wrote and taught extensively concerning specific dates in God’s end-time salvation plan.  After many years of Bible study, Mr. Camping determined the following dates, shown in a timeline format:


May 22, 33 A.D.          May 21, 1988                 May 21, 2011


September 7, 1994                 October 21, 2011

The timeline’s first date marked the beginning of the church age on Pentecost Day shortly after the Lord Jesus returned to heaven.  The next date marked the end of the church age in 1988, and the beginning of a period when God stopped saving people.  That date was followed in 1994 by the beginning of a period in which God saved a great multitude of people all over the world.  The Bible’s term for that end-time period when many people were saved is the latter rain.


Before May 21, 2011, Mr. Camping’s understanding of the timeline was that the latter rain would end with the Rapture and a global earthquake of enormous devastation.   Then, exactly five months later on October 21, 2011, the world would end.  Because of his misunderstanding about the last two dates, many people now dismiss everything Mr. Camping taught concerning the timeline.  They have made a big mistake in doing this.


When we reevaluate what the Bible reveals about time, we find that his timeline is mostly correct and that the Bible shows us how to revise it.  First of all, the Bible shows us in several places that God’s people remain on earth after salvation has ended (see the article discussing where we are now in God’s salvation plan, entitled “You Are Here”).


One way in which God reveals this is the account of the two witnesses of Revelation 11.  They represent end-time believers (see Revelation 10:11) who bring the true Gospel all over the world in preparation for God to save a great multitude (see Revelation 7:9 and 14).  The two witnesses are overcome and killed after they have “finished their testimony” (Revelation 11:7).  The account then tells us that their dead bodies remain in the street for three and a half days because people will not allow their bodies to be put in graves.   This indicates their shame in the world’s eyes during a period of time when they remain on earth.  Notice that the Rapture follows that period (see verses 11 and 12).


Someone may argue that the message of judgment day and May 21, 2011 did not reach the whole world, and therefore Matthew 24:14 has still not been fulfilled.  Here is Matthew 24:14:


And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.


There is a big problem with that argument.  First of all, evidence indicates the May 21 / Judgment Day message did reach all over the world.  No one can point to any particular part of the world and say with certainty that none of the people there heard it.  Second, while it is true that improving technology will make it easier to reach people in the future, we must ask ourselves what kind of gospel people are now hearing and what will they hear in the future.  They will not hear the true Gospel of salvation by grace alone.   Instead, they will hear what local congregations of Christian churches are now teaching: the false gospel of self-empowerment that anyone can decide to save himself.


In the verses concerning the two witnesses and in several other places in the Bible, God not only shows us that His people remain here after salvation has ended, He also shows us that they have been overcome in some way or even silenced.  Again notice this extremely important verse about the two witnesses, Revelation 11:7:


And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.  


Here we read that the two witnesses finished their testimony.  And what was their testimony?  It was the true Gospel and its message of God’s judgment  – sent out all over the world.  This picture of God’s people being overcome in some way is also found in Revelation 20:9:


And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. 


The “they” in this verse refers to Satan and his army and tells us they “compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city.”  It’s a picture of the enemy surrounding God’s people.  In other words, during the time before the end of the world, God’s people are in some way restrained; they are silenced or overcome in some way.  They are not freely sharing the Gospel.  This picture is consistent with other Bible passages that show us a silencing of the elect when salvation has ended.  Therefore it was incorrect to teach that the Rapture would occur immediately after salvation had ended.


Let’s see what other corrections must be made to the original timeline.  You may know about the annual feasts that God commanded ancient Israel to observe.  They are found in Leviticus 23.  Mr. Camping discovered something amazing about these feasts.  He learned that they picture events in God’s salvation plan.  We know this because events pictured by the feasts occurred during the exact days when the feasts were being observed.


God told Moses about these feasts in 1447 BC (Leviticus 23:1), and there is strong Biblical evidence that about 1,440 years later one of them was fulfilled.  That happened in 7 B.C. when the Lord Jesus was born on the Feast of Atonement.  Then about 35 years later – again, according to Biblical evidence giving us time clues – the Lord Jesus began His ministry in 29 A.D. on the Feast of Trumpets.


It’s not so difficult to see fulfillment of the next annual feasts.  We know that the Lord Jesus was killed on Passover in 33 A.D. after a ministry of about three and a half years (see John 18:39).  Passover was fulfilled then, but it’s also a picture of the Lord’s death before the foundation of the world.  After Passover we have the Days of Unleavened Bread.  These are linked with the Passover and come right after it (see Leviticus 23).  They point to the Lord’s resurrection and time with His disciples before returning to heaven.


We can also see fulfillment of the feast of Pentecost.  That’s found in Acts 2:1-2.  We read there about an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that marked the start of the church age.  It happened on May 22 in 33 A.D. (our timeline’s first date) and was also the fulfillment of John 16:7:


Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.


Soon after the Holy Spirit was poured out, the disciples began to spread the Gospel far beyond Jerusalem.  The Lord Jesus had told His disciples that He would send them out as witnesses.  In Acts 1:8, we read:


But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.


In Revelation 6:2, the rider on a white horse going forth “conquering, and to conquer” is a picture of true believers going out to the world at the start of the church age, in fulfillment of the Lord’s words.  And so we see that Pentecost also points to the Lord Jesus, just as the Feast of Atonement, the Feast of Trumpets, and Passover with the Days of Unleavened Bread point to Him.


When we read about all the annual feasts in Leviticus 23, we find that there is still no event to fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles.  Mr. Camping and many others assumed – very logically – that this feast would be fulfilled in 2011.  One reason for this was the mention of five months in Revelation 9:5.


Mr. Camping realized Revelation 9 reveals that this five-month period begins when salvation ends.  However, he understood it to be a literal period of five months, according to the calendar.   We now know that the numbers and time periods given in the book of Revelation are not to be taken literally.  (This was not known before May 21, 2011 because the book of Daniel, which is similar to Revelation in its end-time visions, does have numbers fitting literally into the timeline of earlier events.)


However, this still does not resolve the question about the Feast of Tabernacles.  Should we be searching the Bible to determine the date when this feast can be fulfilled according to our calendar?  In the book of Zechariah, God helps us understand how the feast will be fulfilled.  In Zechariah 14:12, God tells us about the destruction of all the unsaved at the end of the world.  He then goes on to tell us that the Feast of Tabernacles is kept after that time.  For example, in verse 19, we read:


This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.


The setting of this verse is the new heavens and earth, after the end of this world (see Zechariah 14:16-17).  In other words, the Feast of Tabernacles is fulfilled in the new heavens and new earth.   We will not see it fulfilled in this world according to a predictable date on our calendar.


This brings us to another correction in Mr. Camping’s teaching about the timeline.  Mr. Camping thought the Bible revealed that God’s people would know the date for the end of the world (although he did change his thinking about this matter after October 21, 2011).  What does the Bible really teach concerning that date?



What We Cannot Know


The book of Revelation concerns end-time events, and it has a verse of major importance concerning this subject of whether or not we can know the date when the world will end and the Lord will return.  There, we read that the apostle John was about to write something he had heard.  In Revelation 10:4, we read:


And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.  


The thunders represent the voice of God (John 12:29).  In this verse, God is telling us there are some things He will not reveal.  They were not written down and so they are just not in the Bible.  Therefore, we immediately have to admit the possibility that the day of His return may be one of them.


In fact, right after this verse we read about an angel announcing the end of time (Revelation 10:5-6).  Clearly then, God is showing us that the missing information concerns the end of time.  Remember, there has always been one question asked more than any other about the last day.  Of course, that question is “when will it be?”  Revelation 10:4 is strong evidence that we cannot know.


There are also parables we should keep in mind when we think about this matter of knowing or not knowing the date.  One is a parable (called the parable of the ten virgins) showing the elect (five of the virgins) expecting the Lord’s return on a certain day and going forth to meet Him.  As we read in Matthew 25:1-5, the bridegroom tarried and did not arrive when the virgins expected Him.  Notice the similarity between their situation and that of those who expected the Lord’s return on May 21, 2011!


As we continue with the parable, we find that the virgins did not watch.  When we search the Bible to understand what that means, we find that watching has to do with the way we live, and our relationship with the Lord.  The parable’s point is stated in Matthew 25:13:


Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.   


We cannot insist that the restriction given in this verse – that you know “neither the day nor hour” – applies only to those who were believers in earlier times.  Clearly, this parable applies to end-time believers.  The parable of the ten virgins is all about end-time believers and everything about it applies to them.  It shows us that we cannot know the date of the Lord’s return.


While it is true that the Lord promised He wouldn’t do anything without revealing it to His servants (Amos 3:7) – who are the elect – we must not claim that this verse means we will know the date for the Lord’s return.  God has already revealed in His word that He will destroy this universe and create a new heavens and earth.  Not everyone knows this.   We also know that we are in a time without salvation since 2011; and we know that God’s elect will live with Him for eternity, while the unsaved will not suffer anything after death.  These are all amazing and precious truths we have learned without knowing when the Lord will return.  God has indeed revealed to His servants the things He has done and will do.


If you’re still not convinced about this, think about the multiple times the Lord tells us we will not know when He will return (e.g., Matthew 24:36, 24:44, 25:13).  Here is Matthew 24:44-46:


Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.  Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?  Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.


Notice the words “when he cometh shall find so doing” in the last verse. The “faithful and wise servant” wasn’t expecting the Lord.  This servant didn’t know it was the last day, but he was doing the Lord’s will by providing “meat in due season” to his household.  (Notice that the man is not sowing seed, which is a picture of spreading the Gospel.  Rather, he is feeding his household.  This is another picture of feeding the Lord’s sheep.)  The wording in verse 46, telling us that the lord “finds” the servant providing for his household, is consistent with a surprise and sudden return.



The Corrected Timeline and the Mysterious Period


When we re-examine some of the verses concerning the Feast of Tabernacles and the question of whether or not we can know the date for the Lord’s return, we see how we have misunderstood the last part of the original timeline.  The Feast of Tabernacles never belonged in the timeline, and the date at the timeline’s end – which will be earth’s last day – can never be known.  Therefore, we now have a new, corrected timeline:


May 22, 33 A.D.          May 21, 1988                                 May 21, 2011


September 7, 1994


Notice that this new timeline is very similar to Mr. Camping’s, except at the end.  Let’s compare it with the description of that mysterious period of time described in Ecclesiastes 12.  For reference, here is Ecclesiastes 12:1-5:


Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; 2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: 3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, 4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low; 5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:


These verses perfectly match the new timeline.  The darkening of the sun, moon and stars (verse 2) speaks of the day marking the end of salvation.  This event was a major turning point in God’s salvation plan.


The return of the clouds (also in verse 2) tells us that there is a period of time without the possibility of salvation, continuing until the last day.  This period follows the darkening of the sun, moon and stars.  On the timeline, it matches the period that began on May 21, 2011.


Notice that verse 2 also implies that there was an earlier period of time without salvation, because it tells us that “the clouds return.”   The timeline shows us that this previous period of time began on May 21, 1988 and lasted until September 7, 1994.  That period of time also had “clouds.”


The timeline shows us that after the “clouds” return they continue (that is, there is no salvation) until the end of time.  This might remind you of something in the first chapter of the book of Acts.  Notice that in Acts 1:9, we read about a cloud in connection with the departure of the Lord Jesus:


And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.


And in Acts 1:11 we read that the Lord will “come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”  Therefore, a cloud is also associated with the Lord’s return; so this verse agrees with our understanding of Ecclesiastes 1:2 and the timeline.  It shows that on the last day there will be “clouds,” indicating that salvation had ended.


Next, notice the words “after the rain” in verse 2.  The period from September 7, 1994 until May 21, 2011 has been identified as the latter rain.  It was a time when God saved a great many people all over the world.  The “rain” in Ecclesiastes 12:2 matches the latter rain indicated on the timeline.


Ecclesiastes 12:3 tells us about a time of fear.  This is consistent with our understanding that God saved a great multitude during the period of the latter rain.   You might remember reading that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (see Psalm 111:10 and Proverbs 9:10).  A fear of the Lord is a characteristic of God’s people.


This fear is certainly true of new believers and would apply to the great multitude saved all over the world after the time the Gospel was sent all over the world.  In Revelation 7:9, we read:


After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;  


The apostle John had a vision of this great multitude and was told in Revelation 7:14 that they came out of “the great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14 includes the article “the” in the original Greek).  And so Ecclesiastes 12:3 is consistent with and confirms our understanding of the timeline in this way.


In the next verses of Ecclesiastes, God gives us a picture of His people living and dying.  Notice the words “and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets.” Ecclesiastes 12 is further evidence that any dates predicted for the Lord’s return in 2014 or 2015 are incorrect.  In fact, based on Ecclesiastes 12:5 it appears that the Lord’s return is many years away.


Verses 4 and 5 show us a picture of God’s people living in sorrow and then dying.  In fact, after reading Ecclesiastes 12 we might ask if any true believers will be left when the Lord returns.  We can answer that question with a definite “yes.”  However, it is possible that many believers who were alive on May 21, 2011 will have passed away when the Lord finally does return.  Based on verse 5, it appears that the older ones will no longer be here by then.  This is consistent with something we find in John 21:22:


Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.   


This was the Lord’s reply after Peter had asked what would happen to “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (see John 21:20-21).  We know that this disciple was actually Lazarus (not John, as is almost universally believed; see the article entitled “The Adventures of Lazarus” for more information).   In John 21, God is using Lazarus to represent the true believers who will still be alive when the Lord returns (another representation of the last group of believers is the “little sister” in Song of Solomon 8:8.  These examples are consistent with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).   Therefore, we know that at least some true believers will still be here on the last day.



A Most Amazing Verse


While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:


Ecclesiastes 12:2 might be the most amazing verse in the whole Bible, at least as far as our study of the timeline is concerned.  It compresses over 19 years (and still counting) into two short clauses of only several words each.   Here is a brief review of how this works.  Begin with the second part of the verse.  It warns us that the clouds return, so it’s referring to an earlier period of clouds.  That was a time without salvation, and it ended in September of 1994 when the latter rain began.  The latter rain continued until May of 2011.  That’s when salvation ended – as pictured in the first part of the verse by the darkening of the sun, light, moon and stars.  Then the clouds returned after the rain.  The end of salvation and the time afterwards are “the evil days” we read about in verse 1.


The New Timeline


May 22, 33 A.D.          May 21, 1988                                 May 21, 2011


September 7, 1994


Ecclesiastes 12:2 and the related verses of Ecclesiastes 12 confirm that the new timeline is correct.  Notice also that God is telling us to remember Him before our time runs out in one of two ways.   First, because there will be an end to salvation (verse 1); and secondly, because of death (verses 6-7).  There is no reference to the end of the world.  Yet many people still insist that God will reveal that date.  Think about this.  Why should God reveal that date?  What purpose would it serve?  But the date for the end of salvation: Yes!  God wanted us to know it and to warn the world about it.


There are many more reasons for us to have confidence in this timeline.   When we read Genesis from chapter 1 to the end, we go from Creation to the time of Joseph’s death in Egypt.  The Bible makes it clear that all of this history took place over the course of several thousands of years – not billions.


In developing the original timeline, Mr. Camping discovered that the Creation occurred in 11,013 B.C.  Although our educational system overwhelmingly rejects the idea that earth could be only about 13,000 years old, science – when properly understood – actually supports it.


Modern estimates for the age of the earth (supposedly about five billion years old) and the universe (supposedly about 14 billion years old) are all based on certain assumptions.  Undoubtedly you can use certain equations, plug in some numbers and come out with large numbers like those.  But if your assumptions about initial conditions are wrong, then any answers you get will also be wrong.  It’s a case of garbage in, garbage out!


Those who are vehement in their rejection of the idea that earth is only thousands of years old should remember Alfred Wegener, the scientist who presented the theory of continental drift in 1912.   Most scientists of his day rejected the idea.  He suffered a great deal of hostility and was not even allowed to teach in his native Germany.  Such attacks continued in 1926, when he presented his ideas at a symposium in New York City.  In fact, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that other scientists started to realize that he was correct: there really had been a super-large land mass that broke apart to form the continents we have today.


And what does this have to do with the Bible?  Genesis 10:25 records the name of a man called Peleg.  It tells us that in his days the earth was divided.  That happened about 2,000 years after Noah’s flood.   It’s too bad the scientists of Alfred Wegener’s day didn’t believe the Bible, because God revealed that interesting piece of earth history to mankind over 3,400 years ago.



Three Dates In A Tribulation


Besides the dates for Creation and the flood, Mr. Camping discovered many other key dates for Biblical events.  All of them can be listed on a long timeline covering about 13,000 years – the complete history of the earth and of mankind.  During early church history, other writers also realized that the earth is only several thousand years old.  But their timelines were much too short to be realistic.  Mr. Camping’s timeline, however, satisfies the historical record and answers scientific questions as well.


A major feature of Mr. Camping’s timeline (and our new timeline) is the great tribulation.  The Bible makes it clear that there is an end-time great tribulation, and Revelation 7:14 tells us that a great multitude is saved out of it.  In order to learn about the timing for this tribulation, Mr. Camping examined two earlier periods of great trouble for God’s people.


In Genesis, we read about a great famine that occurred when Joseph was a ruler in Egypt.  The famine was seven years long, and it had already been going on for two years when Joseph’s father Jacob left his home and went to Egypt because there was food there. The second period Mr. Camping examined began before and ended after Jerusalem was captured by Babylon in 587 B.C.  That was a 70-year period of time.  It began in 609 B.C. when Judah’s king Josiah was killed, and it ended in 539 B.C. when Babylon was conquered.


Therefore, we have three significant dates for both periods.  For the famine of Jacob’s day, we have the year the famine began and the year it ended.  In between we have the year that Jacob left his homeland.  And for the end of Judah (all that was left of Solomon’s once great kingdom of Israel) we have the year of Josiah’s death in battle – which was a disastrous blow to the kingdom of Judah – and the year when Babylon was conquered, thereby allowing some Jews to return home.  In between those two dates we have the date when Babylon captured Jerusalem and destroyed the temple, marking the end of Judah.


As Mr. Camping studied those two periods of time and all the related dates, he noticed that there were many patterns connecting them (see chapter 11 of his book Time Has An End.  For example, the famine of Jacob’s day lasted for 84 months; and Judah’s decline, destruction and captivity lasted 840 months: facts that helped him realize that the great tribulation of our day was 8,400 days long).  Those patterns allowed him to know the dates for the end-time tribulation.  We have those dates on our timeline: May 21, 1988; September 7, 1994; and May 21, 2011.


Like the two ancient tribulations recorded in the Bible, the end-time tribulation has only three dates.  This is additional proof that we cannot know the date for the end of the world: the timeline doesn’t allow it.  And that’s why the feast of tabernacles can’t fit into the timeline.  There is no room for it or any other date because the end-time tribulation is completely described by only three dates.



Ecclesiastes 12 Agrees With Revelation


Just as Ecclesiastes 12 confirms the timeline, so does the book of Revelation in its account of the opening of the seven seals of a book that had been sealed.  We know that the four horsemen (which are visions the apostle John saw when the first four seals were unsealed – see Revelation 6:1 and following) are pictures of the church age.  The church age began with the true Gospel being sent out to the world by the elect (on a white horse).  However, almost immediately men began to misuse God’s word (pictured by the rider on a red horse – notice the sword).  In time, truth in church doctrine was so scarce that God compares the situation to a famine (the rider on a black horse, with a set of scales for measuring out small amounts of the truth).  Then comes the last rider.  He’s on a pale horse and brings death to anyone snared by his teaching.


The time setting for these visions of the four horsemen correspond to May 21 of 33 A.D. on the timeline.  Next comes the opening of the fifth seal, which corresponds to the period before God’s judgment on the churches.  The opening of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12) is a vision illustrating God’s anger when He ended salvation in May of 1988.  It is focused on the local congregations, but also includes national Israel (note the 40 years time interval from 1948, the year of Israel’s rebirth).  It marks the end of the church age.


The opening of the seventh seal (Revelation 8:1) records a half hour of silence in heaven.  From our current perspective, it corresponds with an earlier time when no one was being saved – a condition that continued until the latter rain began.  The latter rain is described in Revelation 8:3-4 as the prayers of the saints ascending before God.  However, that is also the time when the first four trumpets sound (Revelation 8:7-12).  These visions are pictures of God’s anger against the churches.   Even when He was saving people all over the world, He still withheld blessing from the local congregations.  The churches would never again be used as an earthly representation of God’s kingdom.


Next comes the sounding of the fifth trumpet.  This marks the end of the latter rain and corresponds with May 21, 2011 on the timeline.  It’s a picture of judgment brought by God’s word when there is no longer any possibility of salvation.  Notice Revelation 9:4 – only those who have already been sealed (that is, saved) are spared.  The strange locusts of this vision are those who continue to bring the Gospel after salvation has ended.


The sixth trumpet vision is a picture of the Rapture and resurrection.  It’s also a judgment against the local congregations, because the people there are confident that they have been saved.  Their anguish will be much greater than that of other unsaved persons when they realize that they have not been saved.  And of course the sounding of the seventh trumpet marks the end of the world.  Therefore, Ecclesiastes 12 is consistent with the visions described in Revelation, from the opening of the sixth seal up to and including the sounding of the fifth trumpet.  So we see that both Ecclesiastes 12 and the visions associated with the opening of the seven seals confirm the timeline, although in different ways.


Undoubtedly there will still be people who insist that salvation continues until the last day; but if they’re going to be honest with themselves, they must answer some difficult questions.  For example, what could God possibly be telling us in Revelation 9:6, if it’s not about the end of salvation?


And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.


Clearly, God is telling us about a time when men continue to seek the atoning death of the Lord Jesus (see Romans 6:3-7), but it is no longer available.  And why would God tell us about a time when a man, who represents God Himself, could say what we read in Luke 11:7:


And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.


This language tells us that salvation has ended.  Also, note the time setting for the parable from which this verse is taken – it’s midnight (Luke 11:5), indicating that the darkening of the sun, moon and stars has already taken place.


Also, if salvation continues to the last day, why is it that in the account of the two witnesses God tells us that their “testimony” was “finished” three and a half days before the Rapture (Revelation 11:7, 11:11-12)?  God is showing us here that the time of preaching the Gospel to the unsaved ends at some time before the last day.  This contradicts the idea that salvation continues right up to the last day.  If it did, then the two witnesses should have continued their testimony right up to the time of the Lord’s return.


Finally, if salvation continues to the end, why is it that God tells us to seek Him while He may be found (Isaiah 55:6)?   And why does Ecclesiastes 12 emphasize that the deadline to remember our Creator is the darkening of the sun, etc. (Ecclesiastes 12:1-2), unless a person were to die before that event occurred (Ecclesiastes 12:6)?  These questions cannot be answered unless we recognize that salvation ends before the last day.



Logical Thinking Leads To This Conclusion


Logic also compels us to admit that salvation has ended once we recognize that the church age is over.  In Matthew 24:15-16, the Lord Jesus told His disciples about a situation that would exist at some time before the end of the world.  In those two verses, the Lord says:


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:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:


Many people have recognized that these verses speak of a time when people must get out of their local congregation.  It is the time when Satan sits “in the temple of God,” as we read in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.  Those verses were definitely written after the church age had begun.  In other epistles, Paul mentions some churches of his day and recorded rules to govern believers in their local congregations (e.g., see Philemon 1:2, 1 Timothy 3:2, and 1 Corinthians 14:34).  But in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul is already warning of the day when Satan would rule in the local congregations of Christian churches.  For Paul, it was something in the distant future (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).


There are those who now believe that the church age has indeed ended, but that salvation continues.  Let’s think about this.  How can anyone know for sure that the church age is over right now?  Yes, we do see great wickedness in many well-known churches, especially in recent years as they have changed their policies.  But in at least some of those cases, a number of congregations broke away from the main group when the church’s governing body made decisions not in accordance with the Bible.  Isn’t it possible that we might find a faithful congregation among one of those that broke away?  Or perhaps someone who has good understanding of the Bible could start a new congregation of his own today.  Isn’t that also a possibility?  Why shouldn’t someone start a new church?


The answer is we really do know that the church age is over.  We shouldn’t spend time looking for a faithful church, and we shouldn’t try to start a new one.  But there is only one way to know that God has finished with the local congregations, and that is from the timeline.  The timeline reveals that the church age ended in 1988.  That’s how we know that the Lord’s command to “flee into the mountains” is in effect today.  Now ask yourself, how can anyone accept the timeline date for the end of the church age, yet reject the other two end-time dates the timeline has given us?   They can’t, because the three dates are locked together.  The date for the end of the church age comes from Mr. Camping’s discovery of dates for the great tribulation, and the great tribulation has three dates.  Therefore, if you think the church age is over, logic compels you to admit that salvation has also ended.





Our new timeline is now complete and accurate, and Ecclesiastes 12:1-6 verifies it.  It shows us that there was a period without salvation (clouds), followed by a time of salvation (rain), followed by the darkening of the sun, light, moon and stars – which marked the final end of salvation and return of the clouds (Ecclesiastes 12:2).


This is exactly what we see in the timeline.  God brought His judgment on the churches and on Israel, ending salvation for a period of time beginning in 1988.  Then, in 1994 He again began saving people and continued until a great multitude was saved.  That all ended in May of 2011.  That marked the end of the great tribulation and beginning of this present period without salvation that continues until the last day.


Ecclesiastes 12 also provides additional insight into the new timeline.  It is clear that we cannot know the date for the Lord’s return; but Ecclesiastes 12 shows us that it will most likely be a long time from now.  Notice the words in verse 1: “nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.”  God is describing the “evil days” as years.


They begin with the darkening of the sun, etc. – just as we read in Matthew 24:29.  But according to Matthew’s account, it seems as if the end of the world comes immediately after the darkening of the sun.  Notice the words “And then” in Matthew 24:30.  This verse can easily lead you to believe that the Lord returns as soon as the sun darkens, even though it doesn’t say that.  However, Ecclesiastes 12 shows us that there is a period of “years” after the darkening of the sun, and that some – and possibly many of God’s elect – will die before the day He returns.  We see this in the words “man goeth to his long home” (Ecclesiastes 12:5).


Luke 18 has another example of a verse implying a long wait for the Lord.  Here it is, Luke 18:8:


I tell you that he will avenge them speedily.  Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?


This verse implies that there may not be too many of the elect alive when the Lord returns.  It also implies that salvation has ended long before then.  After all, if God were saving people right up to the very end of the world, why would the Lord ask if He shall find faith on earth when He comes?


Although this realization will be a great disappointment to everyone who was hoping to see the Lord in 2011 and still expects His return next year, we can take comfort in knowing that He will “rise up at the voice of the bird” (Ecclesiastes 12:4) to answer our prayers during these evil days – for however many years we remain here.


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