If you have read Bibles with dates as chapter headings, it is likely that they correspond to the calculations of a 17th-century Irish bishop named James Ussher. Based on a very painstaking research effort, Archbishop Ussher calculated that Creation Week took place in the year 4004 BC. He utilized the Bible’s own accounts as well as connections between biblical events and known dates in the secular histories of the world to arrive at that conclusion. His calculations occurred prior to the permeation of evolutionary theories into the scientific community. In recent years, Ussher’s calculations have been largely rejected by a skeptical world and some have even ridiculed his calculations. This post is intended to introduce new evidence into discussions about his chronology, and to point out what is possibly a very important ramification of his dating system for modern prophetic expectations.
To place Ussher’s calculations into an overall context, I think it is needful to point out they were made long before modern scientific dating and observation methods existed. Ussher had no knowledge of such things as the “redshift of light” as applied to the distant starlight from other galaxies. He also knew nothing about radiocarbon dating, developed theories about the fossilized bones of dinosaurs, etc. At the time he wrote, Archbishop Ussher assumed that the entire observable Universe was created during the Creation Week account in Genesis chapter 1. Today, we know that the “redshift” of light from distant galaxies indicates that the physical Universe is billions of years old. If Ussher lived today with modern scientific knowledge, he would have known that the creation of the entire observable Universe does not date to the Creation Week account. Indeed, Ussher made an understandable mistake in his assumption about the age of the observable Universe. To learn more about how Ussher made his calculations, please read the two links cited below.
The Creation Week account does not begin until Genesis 1:3 when God begins to create order and new life upon what had become a flooded and darkened earth, but it needs to be stressed that Genesis 1:1-3 shows the earth and its oceans had already been in existence for an indeterminate period of time prior to God beginning to create anything during the Creation Week account. Genesis 1:1 asserts a Creator God was the originator of the entire creation in all the observable Universe, but it does not tell us how long the earth had been in existence prior to Creation Week. Other scriptures do tell us something about the earth’s history prior to Creation week as well as the global chaos and destruction which was extant on earth prior to Creation week. This is far too broad a subject to address in a post, but I have written an article which examines the scriptures about earth’s pre-Creation Week history as well as some of the events that occurred on earth long before Creation Week occurred. What I do want to stress is that the Bible does not teach that the earth itself is 6,000 years old. Indeed, the Bible agrees with modern scientific observations that the earth and the entire physical Universe is far older than 6,000 years. For some surprising revelations about the earth’s prehistoric history, please read my article, Is the Earth 6,000 Years Old? This article will reconcile the Bible’s narratives and teachings with the scientific awareness that we have about the earth’s prehistory.
I have no doubt that Archbishop Ussher made a very diligent effort to ascertain the exact year during which Creation Week occurred. Even more specifically, his dating system was based on human chronologies back to the time of the first humans–Adam and Eve. Therefore, his calculations were entirely focused on determining the exact year when Adam and Eve were created on the earth at the conclusion of Creation Week. I doubt if Ussher ever considered the age of distant stars and galaxies a matter of concern. Indeed, I doubt he realized that distant galaxies of innumerable stars even existed. What can be stated is that Archbishop Ussher was a very skilled and dedicated researcher who tried to pinpoint the year when the human race was created on our planet. The above-cited article will address the harmony that actually exists between the Bible’s narratives about our planet’s prehistory and the findings of modern science.
Let us reconsider Archbishop Ussher’s calculations in light of latter-day prophecies to try and gain an insight into how many years might yet remain in our age prior to the dawning of a period of divine rule on the earth referred to as “the Millennium,” “The Messianic Age” or “The Kingdom of God.” I do not know if Ussher’s determination of the year 4004 BC for the creation of Adam and Eve is correct, but for the sake of discussion, let us assume he was right and consider where this leads us. I think you will be surprised at what might be possible.
Both the Old and New Testaments make an assertion that there is a biblical principle that “one day equals a thousand years.” David made that observation in Psalm 90:4 in a worshipful poetic commentary about the agelessness of an eternal God. The Apostle Peter specifically applies this principle to the fulfillment of prophetic timetables in II Peter 3:1-8. Verse 3 applies this principle to the “latter days” when there will be “scoffers” about when biblical prophecies will come to pass. Peter writes that these scoffers are ignorant of how the “one day equals a thousand years” principle applies to calculate the length (and end) of our current age. Consider that God labored in the acts of creation for six days and then rested on the seventh day (Genesis 1:3-2:3). This is the origin of the seven-day week. If we apply the principle of “one day equals a thousands years” to Creation Week to determine an approximation of when our age might conclude, a number of church writers have concluded that mankind has been allotted 6,000 years to “labor” under sin before experiencing a one-thousand-year “Sabbath rest” during the Millennium that will be ruled by Jesus Christ and his saints (Revelation 20:4). I concur with that viewpoint. Typically, such calculations arrive at the year 1996 AD for this age to end if calculations begin at the year 4004 BC (I’m not going to address the debate that can occur about a possible “year zero” when one switches from “BC” years to “AD” years). I can recall decades ago when Christians were excited about this possible date for the end of the age when the year 1996 was drawing nearer. Obviously, the end of the age did not occur in 1996 AD, and expectations based on Ussher’s calculations quickly faded away. I think we need to reconsider his calculations due to a very important fact which is almost always omitted when considering them.
Christian assumptions about the end of the age being 1996 AD based on Ussher’s calculations overlooked one critical fact. It was assumed that we should start counting from the creation date of 4004 BC in beginning the count of 6000 years for mankind to “labor” under sin before the Millennium would arrive. However, Adam and Eve were sinless when they were created and they remained sinless for an unrevealed period of time before “The Fall” occurred. Since mankind did not begin to “labor under sin” until the Fall occurred, the beginning of the 6,000 years of laboring under sin cannot begin until the year of The Fall as sin had no hold on mankind until that event occurred. So the key question becomes: “In what year did The Fall occur?” How many years went by before God allowed the serpent to tempt Eve and Adam with the forbidden fruit? The Bible does not tell us the answer, but it does give us a very strong hint. It does make sense that God would allow a reasonable span of maturational time to pass to allow Adam and Eve to gain a measure of maturity for any test of the devil to be a fair test. Adam and Eve were created with mature bodies, but they had the minds of innocent children at their creation. To be a fair test, Adam and Eve had to mature for a time before being tested by the devil/serpent. Let’s now examine the biblical hint regarding what age they were when this happened.
In I Corinthians 15: the Apostle Paul makes a direct comparison between Adam and Jesus Christ in which he refers to Jesus as “the last Adam” while the original man created in Eden is referred to as “the first man Adam.” (see verses 22 and 45). The “first Adam” fell to the tempter but the “last Adam” did not fall to the tempter as Matthew 4 and Luke 4 relate. Given this direct parallel made in I Corinthians 15 between Adam and Jesus Christ, how old was Jesus Christ when he was tempted by the devil/serpent? Luke 3:23 tells us Jesus was “about thirty years of age” when his great temptation occurred. This is consistent with a commandment in Numbers 4 that Levites could not be fully admitted into the priesthood until they attained the age of thirty. Is it not logical that if God did not feel humans had sufficient maturity to enter the full priesthood until age 30 and Jesus (the “last Adam”) was not allowed by God to be tempted by the devil until he was age thirty, that God also did not allow Adam and Eve to be tempted by the devil/serpent until they had attained the age of thirty as well? Such a conclusion would make the Bible internally consistent. Now let’s apply that possibility to calculations about when the end of our age is due.
If the Creation Week when Adam and Eve were created did occur in 4004 BC, and The Fall did not occur until thirty years later, it means The Fall occurred in the year 3974 BC. If that is the year when mankind began to “labor” under sin, then the 6000 year period of prophetic time must begin at that date. If Archbishop Ussher’s calculation is accurate, it leads us to a calculation that the end of our current age would be due in the year 2026 AD. Many Christians expect a climactic seven-year period to occur at the end of this age before Jesus Christ returns. Some expect a seven-year tribulation period. Jesus mentions a Great Tribulation period in Matthew 24:21-22, but he does not give it a specific length of time. Revelation 13:1-5 tells us the reign of a final “beast” figure will be 42 months–three and a half years. Revelation 11:1-6 foretells that God’s Two Witnesses at the end of our age will prophesy and plague the earth for 1260 days (very close to 3 and 1/2 years since the Bible calculates months as lunar months, not 30-day months). Again, if Archbishop Ussher’s calculation of 4004 BC for the Creation of Adam and Eve is correct, and if Adam and Eve fell at age 30 to the serpent’s temptation, it means the year 2026 is the likely year for the end of our age and the final seven-year period of time would begin in the year 2019 AD (our current year). This makes these calculations very personal to us, doesn’t it?
Keep in mind that Jesus Christ also prophesied that his return would be at a time when periods of prophetic days would have to be cut short in order to save mankind from extinction (Matthew 24:22) so one cannot predict the exact year for Jesus Christ’s return. It is also possible Archbishop Ussher’s original calculation was off by a few years and that would also adjust the endpoint for our current 6000-year age. However, the above possibilities should make us look seriously at the times we live in. This age’s 6000-year allotted period of time could almost be at its end. If so, it means that major prophetic fulfillments (the fall of Babylon the Great’s global insider-based system, the ministry of the Two Witnesses and the emergence of the Beast at the head of a new global system of human government) could be taking place within a few years.
I hope the discussion of the above possibilities has challenged your mind to consider how close we may be to the end of this age, even though we cannot state with certainty in what year it will come to its prophesied climax.