A Dream Reveals How Late It Is
“JEHOVAH is . . . the living God and the King to time indefinite.” (Jeremiah 10:10) At no time has he relinquished control of his universe, a fact that King Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylon failed to recognize. To impress upon that pagan king that “the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind,” God caused him to have a dream and enabled His servant Daniel to interpret its meaning.—Daniel 4:17, 18.
The dream involved an immense tree. Its “height finally reached the heavens, and it was visible to the extremity of the whole earth.” At divine command, the tree was cut down, but its stump was bound with bands of iron and of copper. These were to remain in place until “seven times” had passed over that stump, after which the tree could grow again.—Daniel 4:10-17.
“The tree that you beheld,” Daniel explained, “is you, O king . . . and your rulership.” Nebuchadnezzar was to be cut down. He was to lose his kingdom, yes even his sanity, doomed to roam the fields as a wild beast for “seven times.” Only after the set time period had elapsed were the symbolic bands to be removed, permitting the king to regain both his sanity and his throne.—Daniel 4:20-27.
Just as foretold, “all this befell Nebuchadnezzar the king.” (Daniel 4:28) The Lexicon Linguae Aramaicae Veteris Testamenti says that the “seven times” of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream were seven literal years. Since Nebuchadnezzar reigned for 43 years (624-581 B.C.E.), this is a reasonable conclusion.
Of What Meaning Is This to Us?
Jehovah has always exercised his universal sovereignty as he sees fit. For a time he did this on earth through the nation of Israel, whose earthly rulers were properly said to “sit upon Jehovah’s throne.” (1 Chronicles 29:23) When Israel turned apostate, however, Jehovah allowed its dynasty of kings in the descendants of King David to be overthrown.
How appropriate, then, that shortly thereafter God would give some indication to King Nebuchadnezzar—the very one permitted to destroy His typical kingdom—that this in no way meant that God’s rightful sovereignty had come to an end. How important to impress upon him and upon all the Gentile nations that would afterward trample upon God’s representative kingdom that this state of affairs was only temporary!
Thus, the point of time when the dream was given, the person to whom it was given, and the theme of divine sovereignty that it stressed, argue for a significance far beyond the meaning it had for Nebuchadnezzar. They suggest that like a cut-down tree with bands, divine rulership as had been expressed in Jerusalem, now destroyed, would not be restored until those bands of restraint were removed after “seven times.” At that time, God’s representative Ruler, “the lowliest one of mankind,” a reference to the promised Messiah, would be set up in his Kingdom. As to when God would do this, Jesus’ disciples requested a sign.—Daniel 4:17; Matthew 24:3.
There are also other indications showing this far-reaching application of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to be correct. The prophecy recorded at Daniel 9:24-27 pinpointed the exact year of Messiah’s arrival over 500 years later.* Now if the time of Messiah’s coming as a human was foretold with such precision, is it not reasonable to conclude that the time of his more significant invisible return in Kingdom power would be foretold with equal precision? Who could more appropriately do this than Daniel? Remember, too, that after recording his visions and dream prophecies, including Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about the tree, Daniel was told: “Make secret the words and seal up the book, until the time of the end.” Why until then? Because during that time “true knowledge will become abundant.” If what Daniel wrote was to remain sealed, not understandable, until “the time of the end,” would that not indicate that his writings would be of prophetic importance during that period?—Daniel 12:4.
The “Seven Times”—From When to When?
While giving his sign, Jesus spoke of the “seven times,” calling them “the appointed times of the nations.” He said: “Jerusalem will [continue to] be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) A footnote in the Oxford NIV Scofield Study Bible (1984) tells us that “the ‘times of the Gentiles’ [King James Version rendering of “appointed times of the nations”] began with the captivity of Judah under Nebuchadnezzar. . . . Since that time Jerusalem has been, as Christ said, ‘trampled on by the Gentiles.’”
How long were the “seven times,” or “appointed times of the nations,” to last? Plainly, they would extend much longer than 7 literal years of 360 days each (as Biblical years were calculated), which would amount to 2,520 days. Scriptural precedent indicates that we should substitute one year for each day. (See Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6; compare Revelation 12:6, 14.) Such a calculation would mean that the “seven times” lasted 2,520 years. If they began with Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 B.C.E., they would end in the year 1914 C.E.
For over three decades before 1914, Jehovah’s Witnesses called attention to the significance of this date. Interestingly, however, the book International Crisis, by Eugenia Nomikos and Robert C. North (1976), says that there was “little or no evidence of a steady rise or a ‘snowballing’ of conflicts and tensions leading directly to the outbreak of war.” On the contrary, “by late 1913 and early 1914 . . . relations among the major powers appeared to be more settled than they had been for many years.” Yet today, seven decades later, historians do indeed say that 1914 was a turning point in human history. The German reference work Meyers Enzyklopädisches Lexikon, for example, says that “the effects of World War I were literally revolutionary and struck deep in the lives of almost all peoples, economically as well as socially and politically.”
The political ramifications of the events of 1914 are well known. The social changes it brought about are mentioned in Virginia Cowles’ book 1913: An End and a Beginning. “The year 1913 marked the close of an era,” she writes. As regards economic consequences, Ashby Bladen, a senior vice president of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, writes: “Before 1914 the monetary and the financial systems were compatible. . . . If one takes August 1914 as marking the dividing line between them, the contrasts between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries are striking. In many aspects of human affairs there has been a complete reversal of trend. . . . One major reason was the severance of the linkage between the financial system and money with intrinsic value that began in 1914. . . . The breaking of the linkage was a momentous event. . . . 1914 marked a radical, and in the end catastrophic, transformation of that system.”
How Late Is the Hour?
Evidence that Jesus’ sign is now undergoing fulfillment is as easily available as is newspaper or television news. And it offers conclusive proof that the chronological evidence in support of 1914 as revealed in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is correct. So today, in 1986, this means that we are already 72 years into “the time of the end.” Jesus promised that some members of the generation of people old enough to witness its beginning would still be alive when the great tribulation brought it to its completion.—Matthew 24:34.
What an incentive this should be for us to keep ever alert, our eyes focused on the divine revelation of how late it is! How vital that we avoid becoming impatient, trying to speed up the divine clock, only to suffer disappointment! On the other hand, how important that we guard against becoming complacent, trying to slow it down, only to miss out! Remember, far more is at stake than the danger of missing a bus, train, or plane. The danger is that of missing everlasting life in God’s new system of things. And that will be something simply too good to miss!
For an explanation of this, see the book “Let Your Kingdom Come,” pages 56-63, published in 1981 by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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When Did the “Seven Times” Really End?
Some people argue that even if the “seven times” are prophetic and even if they last 2,520 years, Jehovah’s Witnesses are still mistaken about the significance of 1914 because they use the wrong starting point. Jerusalem, they claim, was destroyed in 587/6 B.C.E., not in 607 B.C.E. If true, this would shift the start of “the time of the end” by some 20 years. However, in 1981 Jehovah’s Witnesses published convincing evidence in support of the 607 B.C.E. date. (“Let Your Kingdom Come,” pages 127-40, 186-9) Besides, can those trying to rob 1914 of its Biblical significance prove that 1934—or any other year for that matter—has had a more profound, more dramatic, and more spectacular impact upon world history than 1914 did?
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Seven “appointed times of Time of the end
the nations” (2,520 years)
607 B.C.E. 33 C.E. 1914 C.E. 1986 C.E.
Earthly “Jerusalem” “Time of the 72 years into
Jerusalem still being end” begins “the time of
destroyed “trampled on” (Daniel 12:4) the end”
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Nebuchadnezzar’s dream has a far-reaching application that affects you!