One of the most enigmatic verses in the Bible is Matthew 24:22. Jesus is in the middle of answering the Disciple’s questions about the end of the age and the signs of His coming. He gives an answer that addresses two periods in history; the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the period known by Evangelicals as “The Great Tribulation.” Jesus says in verse 15, “When ye see therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains. Then there will be “great tribulation that has not been seen since the beginning of the world.” Then, speaking of the ‘Great Tribulation,’ He says unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved.
Question: What does, “unless those days were shortened” mean? You won’t get a lot of help searching commentaries for an answer, there aren’t any. Most commentaries, if they try to address the problem, put in qualifiers like, “there are several answers on this,” or present a response as “speculation.” So, is there an answer to that question or will we have to wait until events happen to find out what Jesus meant? I think that the answer is a simple answer, but first we need to look at how we view our calendar.
Sir Isaac Newton stated, “All nations, before the just length of the solar year was known, reckoned months by the course of the moon, and years by the return of winter and summer, spring and autumn; and in making calendars for their festivals, they reckoned thirty days to a lunar month, and twelve lunar months to years, taking the nearest round numbers, whence came the division of the ecliptic into 360 degrees.” (The Coming Prince, Robert Anderson.)
The ancient Jewish calendar, was given to them by Moses, who received it from God. (Exodus 12:2). It consisted of twelve 30-day months for a 360-day year. Sir Isaac Newton’s statement of the nations taking the calculations to the nearest round number could not apply to God, or to Israel. God was not weak in math or astronomy and Israel was obsessive compulsive about everything they did and their use of the calendar would not be an exception.
Their calendar, which consisted of a 360-day year, would be only 5 days off every year. But in time, this error would mount up. 5 days off in the first year would be 30 days off in six years and 180 days off in 36 years. In a normal person’s lifetime, the seasons would be reversed and the Spring Festival of Passover would soon be celebrated in the dead of winter. This ‘error’ went on until the reign on King Hezekiah, seven and a half centuries later, when King Hezekiah instituted a calendar reform?
But an error in the Lunar year would be detected even sooner. A Jewish month always started on the New Moon. This is attested to by the fact that the new-moon festivals were of great importance in the days of Judges and Kings. Twelve lunar months is 354 days; thus, the first day of the second 360-day year of Moses, would be 7 days past the new moon. Since a lunar month ranges from 29.15 days to 29.93 days, 7 days past the new moon would result in a quarter moon on day one of year two. Day one of year three would result in a Half moon to start the first month. Yet we are led to believe that this error went undetected for seven and a half centuries. Each month started on a new moon, regardless of the amount of the moon showing in the sky for seven and a half centuries until the reign of King Hezekiah. This would indicate that the Jewish calendar of 360 days was based on a literal 360-day solar year.
Our modern calendar is based on the solar cycle, and consists of 365.25 days. The modern Jewish calendar is calculated according to both the lunar and solar cycles. Their twelve months are currently calculated as containing 354 days, which leaves their year eleven-and-one-fourth days short of the true solar year. This is corrected by adding a “leap month,” known as Ve-Adar, seven times during a nineteen-year cycle.
This calendar was instituted by King Hezekiah sometime between 696 and 690 BC, just a few years after the shadow of the sun traveled backwards on the sun dial. (II Kings 20:8-11; Isaiah 38:1-8) This is a HUGE clue. The shadow of the sun travels backward on the sundial and then it is necessary to revise the Jewish calendar, which had served Israel for seven and a half centuries without apparent problems.
In Daniel and Revelation, the last three and a half years of the Tribulation are given in three denominations; years, months and days. Daniel 7:25 and Revelation 12:14 says the period will last for a time and times and half a time or three- and one-half years. Revelation 13:5 gives the period as 42 months. Three- and one-half years, times the number of months in a year, equals 42 months. Revelation 12:6 gives the number of days as 1260. That number of days is based on a 360-day year. The number of years (3 ½) times a 365-day year is 1278 days. The number of years (3 ½) times 360-day year equals 1260 days. Is the difference between 1278 and 1260 the days that Jesus spoke of as being are shortened? In the book ‘The Coming Prince,’ this discrepancy is dismissed as being a ‘prophetic year.’ However, there is no explanation as to why a prophetic year is different from a natural year.
In the account of King Hezekiah’s illness, Bible commentators state that the sign of the shadow of the sun going backwards on the sun dial was a sign that Hezekiah would recover from his illness. But, the statement of Jesus that there would be signs in the heaven just prior to His return and the very exact figures for the length of a year hint that there is more to glean from these passages of Scripture. Was the shadow of the sun going backwards on the sun dial and the length of a year a sign of the beginning of the times of the Gentiles?
Does the return of the Jews to Israel signify the end of the times of the Gentiles and a soon return of the heavens to a calendar that was instituted by Moses as God separated them to Himself and drew them out of Egypt? Will the heavens return to the same configuration as a sign that GOD is with the Nation of Israel? As Isaiah said, “It shall come to pass in that day that the LORD will punish on high the host of the exalted ones and on earth the kings of the earth.” (Is 24:21) see context.