Time-Based Bible Prophecy

Question

Should We Be Time Setting?

Short Answer

The short answer is "no"! As you will find in the Scriptures below, and articles that are linked, we have not been told when things will happen in the future—for example, the second coming, the close of probation—nor will we be given such information in the future. 

Many statements are made that we should not be time setting, that time setting only weakens the faith of God's people. However, we know that God's coming is near and we should be personally preparing for Christ's coming and encouraging others to do the same.

Here is one of the very clear Spirit of Prophecy statements regarding time setting:

"Again and again have I been warned in regard to time setting. There will never again be a message for the people of God that will be based on time. We are not to know the definite time either for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit or for the coming of Christ." {1SM 188.1}

In developing this page I am not throwing stones or questioning anyone's sincerity. But I Desire that my friends in other parts of the world may read for themselves what is written on the subject.—Dan

Biblical Answer

Matthew 24:34 "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."

Acts 1:6 "When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power."

Mark 13:24 "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, 25 And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. 26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. 27 And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven. 28 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: 29 So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors."

Just as the disciples were not told when Christ would set up His Kingdom in their day, so we cannot know in our day. This lack of knowledge, instead of being bad for us, is really for our good! Read the linked articles and you will quickly see that for yourself. However, the lack of information means we should be constantly getting ready and urging others to become ready.—Dan

Inspired Answer

Has God ever included a time element in Bible prophecy?

"The preaching of a definite time for the judgment, in the giving of the first message, was ordered of God. The computation of the prophetic periods on which that message was based, placing the close of the 2300 days in the autumn of 1844, stands without impeachment."—The Great Controversy, 457. {CIHS 115.1}

Yes! God has given some messages with a definite time, and the people of God were blessed in receiving them. But we have been clearly told there will be no more time-based messages, as you will find below.—Dan

Ellen White Falsely Accused Of Making Time Setting Statements

Ellen White was accused of making time setting statements in the early days of her ministry and responded to those accusations in the Testimonies, Vol. 1. Here is a portion of her response. You can read additional paragraphs from the testimony by clicking on the link. 

"Some ministers claiming to be well acquainted with me, state that I have set time after time for the Lord to come, and those times have passed, therefore my visions are false. No doubt these false statements are received by many as truth; but none who are acquainted with me or with my labors can in candor make such report. This is the testimony I have ever borne since the passing of the time in 1844: “Time after time will be set by different ones, and will pass by; and the influence of this time setting will tend to destroy the faith of God’s people.” (Read the rest of the paragraphs.)

The Negative Results Of Time Setting

She responded to the time setting question again in Testimonies Vol. 4, stating those who are setting time are playing into the devil's hands:

"Many who have called themselves Adventists have been time setters. Time after time has been set for Christ to come, but repeated failures have been the result. The definite time of our Lord’s coming is declared to be beyond the ken of mortals. Even the angels who minister unto those who shall be heirs of salvation know not the day nor the hour. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” Because the times repeatedly set have passed, the world is in a more decided state of unbelief than before in regard to the near advent of Christ. They look upon the failures of the time setters with disgust; and because men have been so deceived, they turn from the truth substantiated by the word of God that the end of all things is at hand." (Read further from the chapter in Testimonies, Vol. 4).

Warned In Regard To Time Setting

In Selected Messages, Vol. 1, portions of a variety of Review and other articles were gathered together in which she speaks to the time setting question. Here is a portion of that Compilation :

"The times and the seasons God has put in His own power. And why has not God given us this knowledge?—Because we would not make a right use of it if He did. A condition of things would result from this knowledge among our people that would greatly retard the work of God in preparing a people to stand in the great day that is to come. We are not to live upon time excitement. We are not to be engrossed with speculations in regard to the times and the seasons which God has not revealed." (Read all of the chapter from Selected Messages, Vol. 1.)

What About The Close Of Probation?

Should We Set A Time For The Close Of Probation?

A young woman named Anna claimed to have visions showing the close of probation would come in 1884. In responding, Ellen White said the following:

"They claimed to have great light that probation would close in October, 1884. {2SM 73.2} I there stated in public that the Lord had been pleased to show me that there would be no definite time in the message given of God since 1844; and that I knew that this message, which four or five were engaged in advocating with great zeal, was heresy. The visions of this poor child were not of God. This light came not from heaven. Time was short; but the end was not yet. A great work was to be accomplished to prepare a people to be sealed with the seal of the living God." (Read more of the communication between Ellen White and the father of Anna.)

No Message On The Close Of Probation

"The opportune time for us to work is now, just now, while the day lasts. But there is no command for any one to search the Scripture in order to ascertain, if possible, when probation will close. God has no such message for any mortal lips. He would have no mortal tongue declare that which he has hidden in his secret councils." {RH October 9, 1894, par. 11}

Further Quotes On No Time Setting

No Other Message On Definite Time

"This time, which the Angel declares with a solemn oath, is not the end of this world’s history, neither of probationary time, but of prophetic time, which should precede the advent of our Lord. That is, the people will not have another message upon definite time. After this period of time, reaching from 1842 to 1844, there can be no definite tracing of the prophetic time. The longest reckoning reaches to the autumn of 1844." {Ms59-1900.24}

Not Another Definite Time

"I was a firm believer in definite time in 1844, but this prophetic time was not shown me in vision for it was some months [weeks] after the passing of this period of time before the first vision was given me. There were many proclaiming a new time after this, but I was shown that we should not have another definite time to proclaim to the people. All who are acquainted with me and my work will testify that I have borne but one testimony in regard to the setting of the time." {Lt38-1888.11}

Time Setting Leads To Neglecting The Duties Of The Day

"Why was the caution given that “in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh”? [Matthew 24:44.] The people have been, in their finite minds, hunting up the reckoning that will bring the period of Christ’s coming almost to a certainty and a definite time set for that event. But did He come? No; and we did not expect that He would. No one knows the time, and therefore the caution is, “Watch.” [Verse 42.] What is the matter? You get your mind fixed on a definite point of time, and what are you doing? What influence does it have upon you? You are led to neglect the very duties of the day. It is the very little, small duties, that appear small to you at the present time, that you omit although they are of great importance. That is the reason the matter is left in uncertainty. {Ms9-1891.15} God wants you to be ready today. It is only today that is yours. Tomorrow is not yours at all. When tomorrow comes, if God spares your life for tomorrow, you have the day before you. What then? Don’t think of next week or next month, but what shall I do today? Difficulties will rush into your mind, but it is to have submission for the day. Then when the evils come, the grace of God will help you to bear them. If you do this, you will see that nine-tenths of all your difficulties will disappear." {Ms9-1891.16}

Oft-repeated Message of Definite Time Was Exactly What The Enemy Wanted

"The time-setters have pronounced the curse of the Lord upon me as an unbeliever who said, My Lord delayeth His coming. But I have told them that the books of heaven would not make my record thus, for the Lord knows that I loved and longed for the appearing of Christ. But their oft-repeated message of definite time was exactly what the enemy wanted, and it served his purpose well to unsettle the faith in the first proclamation of time that was of heavenly origin. {Lt38-1888.15} The world placed all time proclamation on the same level and called it a delusion, fanaticism, and heresy. Ever since 1844 I have borne my testimony that we were now in a period of time in which we are to take heed to ourselves lest our hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon us unawares. Our position has been one of waiting and watching, with no time proclamation to intervene between the close of the prophetic periods in 1844 and the time of our Lord’s coming. We do not know the day nor the hour, or when the definite time is, and yet the prophetic reckoning shows us that Christ is at the door." {Lt38-1888.16}

We Cannot Know

"But when your finite minds are seeking to settle upon some definite point at which Christ will come, beware, be careful! Why? Because if you set a time, that time will pass. We know that time will pass. And when that time passes, there will be a shaking always. “There!” you say, “there! there must be an error. I thought I was perfectly right; I thought the Spirit of God was moving upon me. I thought I saw great light; but now I cannot tell where I am.” No, we must live by the moment; and every moment we are to watch. How does any one of us know when the hour will come for our probation to close and our work be done, and we can lay our armor off? How can we know? How can we tell? We cannot tell." {Ms9-1891.27}

Have We Been Warned About Time Setting?

Time setting brings deception and erratic movements. Note the following:

"In this view of the final gathering together unto Christ, there would be erratic movements and a danger of deception. Paul would have the church looking for Christ’s appearing, and preparing for that day when He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather His elect together from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. God’s people must not only be waiting and watching, they must be diligently working as well. There will always be false and fanatical movements made by persons in the church who claim to be led of God—those who will run before they are sent, and will give day and date for the occurrence of unfulfilled prophecy. The enemy is pleased to have them do this, for their successive failure and leading into false lines cause confusion and unbelief. There is enough revealed and substantiated by the Word of God to show the lines upon which they can work. The labor performed in harmony with the mind of Christ will produce most healthful impressions and a genuine experience. {Lt28-1897.15} The secret things which belong to God are to be left with Him; but the things which He has revealed are for us and for our children. We are not now back in Paul’s time. We are nearing the great day of God. The signs are fulfilling. And yet we have no message to tell us of the day and hour of Christ’s appearing. {Lt28-1897.16}

Thoughts From Other Authors

Present Position And Work - James White

James White wrote a chapter on our present duty that speaks to the dangers of time setting. Note the following: "Throughout this entire period of the patience of the saints, the only safe position is to keep the coming of Christ ever before us, and to regulate all our acts in full view of the terrible realities of the Judgment. To put off the coming of the Lord, and view that event in the distance, and enter into the spirit of the world, would be dangerous in the extreme." (Read all of the excerpt)

Final Observations

The Scriptures and articles/chapters linked make it abundantly clear that we are not to be time setting in our day—for the second coming, probation, or any other event. Such efforts distract us from the work we have been called to, create an unhealthy excitement that later leads to backsliding and a turning away from the faith, and causes disgust among non-believers. We know, however, that the coming of Jesus is near. In light of that general knowledge, we should be busily preparing for Jesus to come and urging others to to do the same.—Dan