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  Secrets of the Sevens - A Study  

Acts 17. 16 to 34

God hath appointed a day in which He shall judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance to all men, in that He hath raised him from the dead.

That’s not Billy Graham saying that, that’s not a Jehovah’s Witness saying that, that’s not a 7th Day Adventist saying that, that’s the apostle Paul at a place called Mars Hill making a statement that God had appointed a day in which He will judge men. I was blessed by finding myself in a café at the foot of Mars Hill five years ago, and I was with some friends , and I was trying to quote them from memory what this chapter said. One has the feeling, a sort of futility that you can make people understand in a short time what went on there. It is as though you’re recounting some fairy tale or some fiction. What brought the truth of that home to me is that when I got up from the café and looked out on the street , that the street was named Dionysius Street. The street was named after that man whose name appeared in the 34th verse of the 17th chapter of Acts, a Greek, an Areopagite, one of few who believed what Paul had to say. And the Greeks believed that happened there almost 2,000 years ago, and named a street after this man.

Jesus said, in the familiar passage in the 25th chapter of Matthew,

Then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, (v 34).

And when is he going to say that? He said,

When the son of man shall come in his glory and all his holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory(v. 31).

We’re talking about a real day, is my point. And one shouldn’t feel, in the world in which we find ourselves where people are suffering and dying of all kinds of horrible things, and it’s easy to say to oneself, ‘Well, what am I doing with a Bible in my hand trying to figure out what day this is going to happen when all the world about me is falling to pieces? But what could be of more interest than to seek out the signs that tell us of that coming day? Indeed, we are admonished to do so. The Bible is full of prophetic works. We’re admonished not to ignore them. In the 21st chapter of Luke Jesus spoke a parable in which he said,

Behold the fig tree and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.

So it’s clear that we’re supposed to be observing that which goes on around us and comparing it to the prophetic books, and it’s appropriate to try to discern this appointed day, or the approximation of that appointed day. Jesus said of himself that his coming in Mark 1. 15 was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The Ethiopian eunuch was in his chariot trying to figure out what the 53rd chapter of Isaiah meant when Phillip came upon him. Simeon, in Jerusalem, at the time of Jesus birth, was there, waiting for the consolation of Israel, because it was something that he thought was going to happen based upon his study of the Old Testament prophets.

I remember being astonished , by a statement by my math teacher who said ‘there’s no such thing as time’. And when you think about it, if there is really something called ‘infinity’, a concept of infinity, there is indeed no such thing as time. Because there isn’t any end and there isn’t any beginning, so there’s no framework within which to mark off periods of time.. But don’t be deceived. For you and me, time is a reality. Threescore years and ten is our entitlement to life, unless we be strong and then perhaps it’s fourscore years. Right off the bat in the first chapter of Genesis we read, (14 - 19 verses) :

Let there be lights in the firmament. Of the heaven to divide the light from the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and for years; And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

So we find right off in the book of Genesis that we’re given two lights: a major light and a lesser light and from them we are to discern times and seasons. Indeed, men have done that all through the ages, and so we have the Jewish calendar based on lunations (revolutions of the moon), and the Gregorian calendar (modern calendar) based on revolutions of the earth around the sun. The point I’m trying to make is that today, so much about the end, even though it’s in the creeds of the churches been spiritualized; that the end, if indeed there is an end and the creeds say there is an end, it’s still remote and so far off into the future as to be irrelevant to the events around us. But that’s not the Bible message. Peter in his 2nd epistle says that God is not slack concerning his promises, and that this order in which we find ourselves will be removed and replaced by a new order. This creation of time that I just talked about in the 1st chapter of Genesis, is found in the context of the creation of the earth, vegetation and man. You will recall the creation took six days. And on the 7th day, God rested. In the 2nd chapter of Genesis we read,

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them . And on the 7th day God ended His work which He had made; and He rested on the 7th day from all His work e had made. And God blessed the 7th day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which God created and made.

(Vs 1 - 3).

And the fact of God’s creation in six days with the 7th day of rest has been memorialized through the law of Moses for all time for the Jews. Thus, we read right off the bat in the 2oth chapter of Exodus, when Moses received the ten commandments, one of those commandments was :

Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.. Six days shall you labor, and do all your work, but the 7th day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God keep it holy. In it you shall not do any work: you, or your son nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor the stranger that is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the seas and all that in them is, and rested the 7th day; wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

Not enough to create just a Sabbath of days, but under the law of Moses the Jews were admonished to observe a Sabbath of years. And so we find in the 25th chapter of Leviticus , Moses receiving the word of the Lord on Mt Sinai said, When you come into the land, that is to say the Promised Land to which they were journeying at the time,

Then shall the Land keep a Sabbath unto the Lord. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, six years thou shalt prune thy viineyards, but the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of rest unto the land. A Sabbath for the Lord. Thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard, but that which groweth of its own of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed,; for it is a year of rest unto the land.

Certain benefits accrued to the Jews as a result of observing these Sabbaths. In Deuteronomy 15. 1, 2, speaking about these Sabbatical years, that is the 7th year in a series of 7 years,

At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor that lendeth unto his neighbor shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbor, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord’s release.

The other benefit accorded to the Hebrew people as a result of the Sabbath of years is like this:

If thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years,; then in the 7th year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty; thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock and out of thy floor and out of thy winepress of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give it unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a slave in the land of Egypt; and the Lord thy God redeemed thee; therefore I command thee this thing today.

So in the 7th year he is free of his debts; if you were a slave you were free from your slavery. And to emphasize this week of creation, God admonished the children of Israel to a Sabbath of Sabbath years. 7 X 7 = 49 years, the 50th year being called a Jubilee year. And that’s described in Leviticus 25.8 - 13 :

And thou shalt number 7 Sabbaths of years unto thee,
seven times seven years;
and the space of the seven Sabbaths of years
shall be unto thee 49 years.
Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the Jubilee
to sound on the 10th day of the 7th month.
In the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound
throughout all your land.
And ye shall hallow the 50th year,
and proclaim liberty throughout all the land
unto all the inhabitants thereof;
it shall be a jubilee unto you
and ye shall return every man unto his possession,
and ye shall return every man unto his family.
A jubilee shall that 50th year be unto you;
ye shall not sow, neither reap
that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it
of thy vine undressed.
For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy unto you;
ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field.
In the year of this Jubilee ye shall return every man
unto his possession.

If a man has sold his land, or mortgaged it and lost it, he got his land back in the Jubilee year. Well, all this celebration of Sabbaths–Sabbaths of days, Sabbaths of years, Sabbaths of 7 years times 7 years, is it only of special interest to the Jews? Does it simply allow them to remember that God is the Creator? That He created the earth and all it’s works in six days, and on the 7th day He rested? Is it, as we read a little while ago , only a memorial of the fact that the Jews were slaves in Egypt, as we read that’s one of the reasons we observe the Sabbath. And that they were made free and entered into the land ? Or is it more than that?

Jesus, in the gospel of Luke quoted from the prophet Isaiah, and said this,

And there was delivered unto him, that is to Jesus, the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he opened the book he found the place where it was written that the spirit of the Lord is upon me because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted , to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (Luke 4. 17 - 21).

This is Jesus description of what happened in the Jubilee year. He said,

deliverance is preached to the captives’, those who are slaves are set free, and this happens in the acceptable year of the Lord, or the Jubilee year. And it’s clear he was talking not only about the fact that he had come, and that was a fulfillment , if you will, of the Jubilee year. But the ultimate fulfillment of the Jubilee year was , as we’ve already read in the 25th chapter of Matthew, when the king, when-- Jesus says, ‘Come ye, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’. But is Jesus talking about the Sabbath, the Sabbath Rest, the Jubilee year, or am I just making that up–because it fits? The writer to the Hebrews says that he was talking about the Kingdom, which is typified in the Sabbath, by the 7th day or the 7th year, or the 50th year of the 49-year-cycle, because in that chapter we read starting at the 4th verse of the 4th chapter,

For he, that is to say Moses, spoke in a certain place of the 7th day, on this wise. And God did rest on the 7th day from all his works. And in this place again, if ye shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief; you recall that some of the children of Israel did not enter into the Promised Land because they were unbelieving. Again, he limited a certain day, saying in David, today, after so long a time; as it is said, today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then he would not afterward have spoken of another day.

The word there in some translations is Jesus. If you look in the Emphatic Diaglot and follow along word for word, you’ll see they’re talking (the translator of the Diaglot) thinks that this is Jesus who said, ‘Look. The first rest, the rest typified under the law of Moses–the day of rest, the Sabbath day, is not the day. It’s not an end in itself. That typifies another day, which is what the 8th verse of the 4th chapter says.

There remains therefore,9th verse, a rest to the people of God. For he that has entered into his rest, he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from His.

My point is this: the kingdom was typified in the law of Moses by the celebration of the Sabbath Day. We learn more about that Sabbath Day, that is to say the kingdom, in the 20th chapter of Revelation starting at the 4th verse, John speaking,

I, John, saw thrones, and they that sat upon them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had nor worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (6th verse). Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

And so that’s where they get the idea of the millennium. The thousand year reign of Christ, the millennium is the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath Day is a thousand years long according to the 20th chapter of Revelation. Well, if the 7th day is a thousand years long then is it appropriate to say that the first six days were each a thousand years long? Or am I just making that up? Is it a coincidence that in the 3rd chapter of 2Peter, Jesus–Peter said,

Beloved, be not ignorant, speaking now of the fact that there’s gonna be an end to the dispensation in which we find ourselves. It’s now lasted for nearly two thousand years, and he said that God is not slack in His promises. But just remember this, he said, Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. Students of chronology have not been able to gainsay the calculations made by Bishop Usshur who dates the Bible story at the commencement of 4004 BC. But if that chronology is correct then what year do we find ourselves in now? 4004 + 1990 is 5, 994 or maybe 95, depending on a mix up on the last day of AD and the first day of BC. But 5,994 is, as we say, close enough for government work. Can it be that the kingdom is only 6 years removed? Isaac Newton thought so. He thought the kingdom was coming sometime before 2000. Pretty smart fellow, Isaac Newton, and a student of Bible prophecy. Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire talks about the early church thinking that the Adamic dispensation was 6 thousand years, and looked for the millennial reign in the 7,000 year period. The Jewish calendar, however, dates today, this year, as 5750. But not much credence is given by biblical scholars to the modern Jewish calendar.

You recall in starting these remarks I read from the 21st chapter of Luke about watching the fig tree and see if it’s blossoming. What was the event that we were supposed to be watching for? Well, it says, starting at the 24th verse, talking about the destruction that’s going to come to Jerusalem,

They (the Jews) shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive to all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

And then we find following that, almost immediately, the passage with respect to the fig tree. Jerusalem had been trodden down or was trodden down from about 600 years before Christ until 1967, when the Jews freed Jerusalem. First time, if you would believe the prophecy of the 26th chapter of Leviticus in 2520 years that Jerusalem had been free. And Jesus said, when you see Jerusalem free, look at the fig tree–because it’s gonna blossom.

So we have talked about the first secret of the sevens. There are lots more of the secrets of the sevens; you can’t learn all the secrets of the sevens in 25 minutes on a hot Sunday morning. There are other secrets we’ll talk about next time: the secret of the 7 Gentile times, the secret of the 7 times of persecution of the Jews.

What is a time? Why do we think of a time as a year? Why do we think it’s a year of 360 days rather than 365 1/4 days? Why are we at liberty–if we are–to assume that in prophecy one can treat the use of a day being symbolic of a year? What is the scriptural warrant for those things? Why does the Bible speak about 3 ½ years , 3 ½ weeks, 3 ½ days? They are all ½ of 7–why half of 7? What’s the other half of 7? There’s a lifetime of information in the study of the secrets of the sevens.

How do we find ourselves today? In the 13th chapter of ICorinthians, Paul says , starting at he 9th verse,

We know in part and we prophesy in part. The New English Bible says , we know now, but we only partially know.

That’s us. We only partially know what the future holds. As Paul says in the 12th verse, we see through a glass darkly. One day we’re gonna be face to face; now we know in part but then we shall know in full. In the meantime, the exhortation is , continue to peer through that glass, however dark it may be, and you’ll strengthen yourself in those virtues which he admonishes us to seek with faith, hope and love.