Times and Seasons in Jehovah’s Hands
“It does not belong to you to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.”—ACTS 1:7.
1. How did Jesus answer his apostles’ time-oriented questions?
WHAT could be more natural for those “sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done” in Christendom and throughout the earth than to wonder when this wicked system will end and be replaced by God’s righteous new world? (Ezekiel 9:4; 2 Peter 3:13) Jesus’ apostles asked him time-oriented questions just before his death and after his resurrection. (Matthew 24:3; Acts 1:6) In reply, however, Jesus did not give them a means of calculating dates. In one case he gave them a composite sign, and in the other he said that ‘it did not belong to them to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father had placed in his own jurisdiction.’—Acts 1:7.
2. Why can it be said that Jesus has not always known his Father’s timing of events due to occur during the time of the end?
2 Although Jesus is Jehovah’s only-begotten Son, he himself has not always known his Father’s timetable for events. In his prophecy regarding the last days, Jesus humbly acknowledged: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36) Jesus was willing to wait patiently for his Father to reveal to him the exact time for destructive action to be taken against this wicked system of things.*
3. What can we learn from Jesus’ answers to questions regarding God’s purpose?
3 Two things can be deduced from the way Jesus answered questions relating to when things would occur in fulfillment of God’s purpose. First, that Jehovah has a timetable; and second, that he alone fixes it, and his servants cannot expect to be given precise advance information of his times or seasons.
Jehovah’s Times and Seasons
4. What are the meanings of the Greek words translated “times” and “seasons” at Acts 1:7?
4 What is meant by “times” and “seasons”? Jesus’ statement recorded at Acts 1:7 contains two aspects of time. The Greek word rendered “times” means “time in the sense of duration,” a space of time (long or short). “Seasons” is the translation of a word referring to a fixed or an appointed time, a particular season, or period, marked by certain features. Regarding these two original words, W. E. Vine states: “In Acts 1:7, ‘the Father has set within His own authority’ both the times (chronos), the lengths of the periods, and the seasons (kairos), epochs characterized by certain events.”
5. When did Jehovah inform Noah of His purpose to destroy the corrupt world, and what dual mission did Noah perform?
5 Before the Flood, God fixed a 120-year time limit for the corrupt world that humans and rebellious materialized angels had brought about. (Genesis 6:1-3) Godly Noah was 480 years old at that point. (Genesis 7:6) He was childless and remained so for another 20 years. (Genesis 5:32) Much later, only after Noah’s sons had reached adulthood and had married, God informed Noah of His purpose to remove wickedness from the earth. (Genesis 6:9-13, 18) Even then, though Noah was entrusted with the dual commission of building the ark and preaching to his contemporaries, Jehovah did not reveal his time schedule to him.—Genesis 6:14; 2 Peter 2:5.
6. (a) How did Noah show that he left time factors in Jehovah’s hands? (b) How can we follow Noah’s example?
6 For decades—perhaps half a century—“Noah proceeded to do according to all that God had commanded him.” Noah did so “by faith,” without knowing a precise date. (Genesis 6:22; Hebrews 11:7) Jehovah left him uninformed about the exact timing of events until one week before the Deluge was due to begin. (Genesis 7:1-5) Noah’s implicit trust and faith in Jehovah enabled him to leave time factors in God’s hands. And how grateful Noah must have been when he felt Jehovah’s protection during the Flood and later stepped out of the ark onto a cleansed earth! With a similar hope of deliverance in view, should we not exercise such faith in God?
7, 8. (a) How did nations and world powers come into existence? (b) In what way did Jehovah ‘decree the appointed times and the set limits of the dwelling of men’?
7 After the Flood, most of Noah’s descendants abandoned the true worship of Jehovah. With the aim of remaining in one place, they began to build a city and a tower for false worship. Jehovah determined that it was time to intervene. He confused their language and “scattered them from [Babel] over all the surface of the earth.” (Genesis 11:4, 8, 9) Later, the language groups developed into nations, some of which absorbed other nations and became regional powers, and even world powers.—Genesis 10:32.
8 In line with the outworking of his purpose, occasionally God determined national frontiers and at what point in time a certain nation would predominate locally or as a world power. (Genesis 15:13, 14, 18-21; Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 2:17-22; Daniel 8:5-7, 20, 21) The apostle Paul referred to this aspect of Jehovah’s times and seasons when he told Greek intellectuals in Athens: “The God that made the world and all the things in it . . . made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth, and he decreed the appointed times and the set limits of the dwelling of men.”—Acts 17:24, 26.
9. How has Jehovah ‘changed times and seasons’ respecting kings?
9 This does not mean that Jehovah is responsible for all the political conquests and changes among the nations. Yet, he can intervene when he chooses to do so in order to accomplish his purpose. Thus, the prophet Daniel, who was to witness the demise of the Babylonian World Power and its replacement by Medo-Persia, said of Jehovah: “He is changing times and seasons, removing kings and setting up kings, giving wisdom to the wise ones and knowledge to those knowing discernment.”—Daniel 2:21; Isaiah 44:24–45:7.
“The Time Was Approaching”
10, 11. (a) How long in advance did Jehovah set the time when he would deliver Abraham’s descendants from bondage? (b) What suggests that the Israelites did not know exactly when they were going to be delivered?
10 Over four centuries in advance, Jehovah set the precise year when he would humiliate the king of the Egyptian World Power and liberate Abraham’s descendants from slavery. Revealing his purpose to Abraham, God promised: “You may know for sure that your seed will become an alien resident in a land not theirs, and they will have to serve them, and these will certainly afflict them for four hundred years. But the nation that they will serve I am judging, and after that they will go out with many goods.” (Genesis 15:13, 14) In his overview of Israel’s history, given before the Sanhedrin, Stephen referred to this 400-year period and stated: “Just as the time was approaching for fulfillment of the promise that God had openly declared to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, until there rose a different king over Egypt, who did not know of Joseph.”—Acts 7:6, 17, 18.
11 This new Pharaoh reduced the Israelites to slavery. The book of Genesis had not yet been written by Moses, although it is likely that Jehovah’s promises to Abraham had been handed down in either oral or written form. Even so, it appears that the information the Israelites possessed did not allow them to calculate the precise date of their deliverance from oppression. God knew when he was going to deliver them, but apparently the suffering Israelites were not informed. We read: “It came about during those many days that the king of Egypt finally died, but the sons of Israel continued to sigh because of the slavery and to cry out in complaint, and their cry for help kept going up to the true God because of the slavery. In time God heard their groaning and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So God looked on the sons of Israel and God took notice.”—Exodus 2:23-25.
12. How did Stephen show that Moses acted in advance of Jehovah’s time?
12 This lack of knowledge about the exact time of Israel’s deliverance can also be deduced from Stephen’s synopsis. Speaking of Moses, he said: “When the time of his fortieth year was being fulfilled, it came into his heart to make an inspection of his brothers, the sons of Israel. And when he caught sight of a certain one being unjustly treated, he defended him and executed vengeance for the one being abused by striking the Egyptian down. He was supposing his brothers would grasp that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not grasp it.” (Acts 7:23-25) Moses here acted 40 years in advance of God’s time. Stephen pointed out that Moses had to wait another 40 years before God ‘gave the Israelites salvation by his hand.’—Acts 7:30-36.
13. How is our situation similar to that of the Israelites before their deliverance from Egypt?
13 Although “the time was approaching for fulfillment of the promise” and that precise year had been fixed by God, Moses and all Israel had to exercise faith. They had to wait for Jehovah’s appointed time, apparently without being able to calculate it in advance. We too are convinced that our deliverance from the present wicked system of things is approaching. We know that we are living in “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) So should we not be willing to display our faith and await Jehovah’s due time for his great day? (2 Peter 3:11-13) Then, like Moses and the Israelites, we may well sing a glorious song of deliverance, to Jehovah’s praise.—Exodus 15:1-19.
‘When the Time Arrived’
14, 15. How do we know that God had set a time for his Son to come to earth, and for what did prophets and even angels keep on the watch?
14 Jehovah had set a fixed time for his only-begotten Son to come to the earth as the Messiah. Paul wrote: “When the full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, who came to be out of a woman and who came to be under law.” (Galatians 4:4) This was in fulfillment of God’s promise to send a Seed—‘Shiloh, to whom the obedience of the peoples would belong.’—Genesis 3:15; 49:10.
15 God’s prophets—even angels—kept on the watch for the “season” when the Messiah would appear on earth and salvation would be made possible for sinful mankind. “Concerning this very salvation,” said Peter, “a diligent inquiry and a careful search were made by the prophets who prophesied about the undeserved kindness meant for you. They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of season the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these. . . . Into these very things angels are desiring to peer.”—1 Peter 1:1-5, 10-12.
16, 17. (a) By means of what prophecy did Jehovah help first-century Jews to be in expectation of the Messiah? (b) How did Daniel’s prophecy affect Jewish expectation of the Messiah?
16 By means of his prophet Daniel—a man of unwavering faith—Jehovah had given a prophecy involving “seventy weeks.” That prophecy would enable first-century Jews to know that the appearance of the promised Messiah was approaching. In part, the prophecy stated: “From the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Leader, there will be seven weeks, also sixty-two weeks.” (Daniel 9:24, 25) Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant scholars generally agree that the “weeks” mentioned here mean weeks of years. The 69 “weeks” (483 years) of Daniel 9:25 began in 455 B.C.E., when Persian King Artaxerxes authorized Nehemiah “to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem.” (Nehemiah 2:1-8) They ended 483 years later—in 29 C.E., when Jesus was baptized and anointed with holy spirit, thus becoming the Messiah, or Christ.—Matthew 3:13-17.
17 Whether first-century Jews knew precisely when the 483 years began is open to question. But when John the Baptizer began his ministry, “the people were in expectation and all were reasoning in their hearts about John: ‘May he perhaps be the Christ?’” (Luke 3:15) Some Bible scholars link this expectation to Daniel’s prophecy. In commenting on this verse, Matthew Henry wrote: “We are here told . . . how the people took occasion, from the ministry and baptism of John, to think of the Messiah, and to think of him as at the door. . . . Daniel’s seventy weeks were now expiring.” The French Manuel Biblique, by Vigouroux, Bacuez, and Brassac states: “People knew that the seventy weeks of years fixed by Daniel were drawing to a close; nobody was surprised to hear John the Baptist announce that the kingdom of God had drawn near.” Jewish scholar Abba Hillel Silver wrote that according to “the popular chronology” of the day, “the Messiah was expected around the second quarter of the first century C.E.”
Events—Not Time Calculations
18. While Daniel’s prophecy helped the Jews to identify the time when the Messiah could be expected to appear, what was the most convincing evidence of Jesus’ Messiahship?
18 Although chronology apparently helped the Jewish people to have a general idea of when the Messiah was due to appear, subsequent events show that it did not help to convince most of them of Jesus’ Messiahship. Less than a year before his death, Jesus asked his disciples: “Who are the crowds saying that I am?” They replied: “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah, and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has risen.” (Luke 9:18, 19) We have no record that Jesus ever quoted the prophecy of the symbolic weeks to prove that he was the Messiah. But on one occasion, he said: “I have the witness greater than that of John, for the very works that my Father assigned me to accomplish, the works themselves that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father dispatched me.” (John 5:36) Rather than any revealed chronology, Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, and the events surrounding his death (the miraculous darkness, the rending of the temple curtain, and the earthquake) testified that he was the Messiah sent by God.—Matthew 27:45, 51, 54; John 7:31; Acts 2:22.
19. (a) How would Christians know that Jerusalem’s destruction was near? (b) Why did the early Christians who fled from Jerusalem still need much faith?
19 Similarly, after the death of Jesus, the early Christians were given no means to calculate the coming end of the Jewish system of things. True, Daniel’s prophecy of the symbolic weeks mentioned the destruction of that system. (Daniel 9:26b, 27b) But this would occur after the end of the “seventy weeks” (455 B.C.E.–36 C.E.). In other words, after the first Gentiles became Jesus’ followers in 36 C.E., Christians were beyond the chronological milestones of Daniel chapter 9. For them, events, not chronology, would indicate that the Jewish system must shortly end. Those events, foretold by Jesus, began to come to a climax from 66 C.E., when Roman legions attacked Jerusalem and then withdrew. This gave faithful, attentive Christians in Jerusalem and Judea the opportunity to ‘flee to the mountains.’ (Luke 21:20-22) Having no chronological signposts, those early Christians did not know when the destruction of Jerusalem would come about. What faith it took for them to leave their homes, farms, and workshops and to stay out of Jerusalem for some four years until the Roman army returned in 70 C.E. and exterminated the Jewish system!—Luke 19:41-44.
20. (a) How can we benefit from the examples of Noah, Moses, and first-century Christians in Judea? (b) What will we discuss in the following article?
20 Like Noah, Moses, and first-century Christians in Judea, we today can confidently leave the times and seasons in Jehovah’s hands. Our conviction that we are living in the time of the end and that our deliverance is drawing near depends, not merely on chronological computation, but on real-life events in fulfillment of Bible prophecies. Furthermore, although we are living during Christ’s presence, we are not relieved of the need to exercise faith and to keep on the watch. We must continue to live in eager expectation of the exciting events foretold in the Scriptures. This will be the subject of the following article.
By Way of Review
□ As regards Jehovah’s times and seasons, what did Jesus tell his apostles?
□ How long in advance did Noah know when the Flood was due to begin?
□ What indicates that Moses and the Israelites did not know exactly when they were going to be delivered from Egypt?
□ How can we benefit from Bible examples involving Jehovah’s times and seasons?
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Noah’s faith enabled him to leave time factors in Jehovah’s hands