There has been much speculation in recent months that a great calamity will take place with the onset of the new millenium. Some have looked to potential earthly disasters caused by lazy computer programmers while others have looked for support for their dooms-day scenarios in the Scripture. Indeed, the Hebrew Scripture speaks of a period that will be accompanied by great disaster to be followed by a great redemption. This period has become known in popular parlance as "The Messianic Era" (Yemei HaMashiach) although the Hebrew Bible itself refers to it variously as "The End of Days", "The Great and Terrible Day of YHWH", or simply as "At that time" (BaYom HaHu; BaEit HaHi, etc.).
What is the "End of Days"
The term "End of Days" (Hebrew "Aharit HaYamim"), which has also been variously translated as "The Latter Days" and "The Last Days", has the meaning in Hebrew of "a long time from now" and there is no implication that the world will come to an end. On the contrary we read in Isa 66,22 that the heaven and earth will be renewed and that despite great change the covenant with Israel will continue in this future epoch:
"For as the renewed heavens and the renewed earth, which I create, stand before me, says YHWH, so will your seed and your name stand before me."
Indeed, after the initial upheavals, the End of Days will be a period of peace and universal obedience to YHWH as we read in Isa 2,2-3:
"And it will be in the end of days, the mountain of the House of YHWH will be established at the head of the mountains, and higher than the hills, and all the nations shall stream unto it. And many peoples shall go and say 'Let us go and ascend to the mountain of YHWH, to the House of the God of Jacob that he teach us from his ways and that we may go in his paths, for the Torah goes forth out of Zion and the word of YHWH from Jerusalem.' And he will judge between many nations and rebuke many peoples. And they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. And nation shall not lift up sword against nation and they shall no longer learn war."
The theme of all mankind worshipping YHWH is repeated in Jeremiah 31,30.33 [KJV 31,31.34]:
"Behold days are coming, says YHWH, and I will make with the House of Israel and the House of Judah a renewed covenant... And no longer shall a person teach his fellow and a man his brother saying 'Know YHWH!' for they will all know me from the littlest one to the greatest, says YHWH..."
Unless CNN has missed the scoop of the Millenium this era of peace and knowledge of YHWH by all mankind has not commenced. We can only conclude from this that the "End Time", accompanied by profound changes in the way we live and think, has yet to begin.
When will the "End of Days" Begin?
In the book of Daniel we see a number of prophecies which describe with varying degrees of detail the chronology of the End of Days. However, the prophet himself does not understand to what historical events this chronology refers. In his vision Daniel protests to the angel that appears to him:
"And I heard but did not understand and I said, 'Master, what is the End (Aharit) of all these things?' (Dan 12,9)
The angel explains to Daniel that the meaning of the visions will remain undecipherable until the events of the End of Days itself:
"And he said, 'Go Daniel, for the things are closed up and sealed until the end time." (Dan 12,10)
Although the exact year of the End of Days can not be learned from the Book of Daniel, there is no secret in the Hebrew Bible about when the End of Days will take place. In fact, the timing of the End of Days is spelled out explicitly in the Torah. In Dt 28-30 God lays down the terms of his covenant with Israel: If Israel keeps the covenant they will be blessed with abundance and peace but if they violate the covenant they will be harshly punished with a curse. In Dt 29,25-27 the people of Israel are warned that if they continue to sin the ultimate curse will be exile from the Land of Israel. Dt 30,1ff. then describes the final redemption:
"And it will be when all the these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, and you will return with your heart in all the nations wherein YHWH your God has cast you. And you will return to YHWH your God and obey his voice according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, with all your heart and all your soul. And YHWH will return your captivity and have mercy upon you and he will again gather you in from all the nations wherein YHWH your God has scattered you. If your dispersed ones be at the end of the heavens, from there will YHWH your God gather you and from there will he take you. And YHWH your God will bring you to the land that your fathers inherited and you will inherit it; And he will do good to you and make you multiply more than your fathers. And YHWH your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your seed to love YHWH your God with all your heart and with all your soul in order that you will live."
We see from the above passage in Deuteronomy that after Israel repents YHWH will return their exile to Israel (a second time!) and will cut his covenant into the hearts of the people. Returning to Jeremiah 31,32 we see that the end of days is described as period in which the covenant of YHWH is written on the hearts of the people:
"For this is the covenant which I will make with the House of Israel after those days, says YHWH; I will place my Torah in their inner parts and I will write it upon their hearts and I will be to them God and they will be to me a people."
The End of Days of Jeremiah and the Redemption of Dt 30 are one and the same event. In Dt 4,30 we are told explicitly that the End of Days will be brought on by the repentance of Israel:
"...in the End of Days you will return to YHWH your God and obey his voice... And he will not forget the covenant which he swore to your fathers..." (see the broader context in Dt 4,25-31 from which it is clear that this refers to the exact same sequence of events as Dt 30,1ff.).
Thus there is no secret as to when the End of Days will take place. As can be gleaned from Dt 4 and 30, as soon as Israel repents and returns to YHWH, the exile will end and the period of the renewed covenant will begin. With the great majority of the People of Israel still in the exile, and those in the Land of Israel following the path of iniquity, this time seems far off. We can only pray that the People of Israel repent and fulfill their duty to be a guide to the nations. Until that day it is the duty of every human being, both from Israel and the Nations, to keep the commandments of YHWH in his holy Torah so that the time will come when:
"no longer shall a person teach his fellow and a man his brother saying 'Know YHWH!' for they will all know me from the littlest one to the greatest, says YHWH ". (Jer 31,33 [KJV 31,34])
A Final Note on Daniel
Even if we could decipher the chronology of the prophecies of Daniel (which Dan 12,10 indicates we can not do!) this would not necessarily give us a precise date for the End of Days. We learn in Dan 9 that a predicted end time can be delayed if Israel sins. At the beginning of Dan 9, the prophet looks into the Book of Jeremiah and discovers that the Babylonian exile is to end after 70 years. Daniel proceeds to pray to YHWH to forgive the people of Israel and to bring them back from exile. Was this a vein prayer since the fate of Israel was determined beforehand by the prophecy of Jeremiah? Why did Daniel see a need to ask for forgiveness when the time of the redemption of Israel was set in advance? If we look at Daniel's prayer we see the reason for his trepidation. Daniel calls to YHWH:
"Master hear! Master forgive! Master Listen and Do, Do not delay!" (v.19)
Daniel realizes that if YHWH does not forgive his people for their sins the end of the 70 years would be "delayed", perhaps indefinitely. This is an important lesson when trying to decipher the chronology of the end time in the Book of Daniel. Even if we can figure out what periods are referred to in Daniel's prophecies we must realize that if there is not repentance then the date of the Redemption will be delayed, as Daniel himself teaches us in his prayer.