By Lynette Schaefer
It is really important to understand God’s thinking in His wonderful design and plan for mankind as outlined in the Bible. In our studies of the Bible, we often read its history or study its lessons with an emphasis on how it generally applies to us. While that is certainly not a bad thing and it should be encouraged, I daresay we overlook the importance of chronology in the Bible because it directly relates to Bible prophecy and God’s plan and purpose with the earth. The Jews always believed genealogy and chronology was extremely important, and it was included in the Bible for our learning. Also, in studying chronology, one can get a sense of when various events took place, or when key people lived.
Also, the Bible is chock full of types and ante types, and the number “seven” is highly significant in terms of Biblical times. The number “7”, “70”, or “70 times 7” is seen throughout the Scriptures and it is used in connection with prophecy or is representative of a week. Another point is that the Bible uses the term “day” for a thousand years (2 Pet. 3:8); thus, the correlation between the “week” and the seven thousand years plan. I’ve outlined below the main highlights of the six millennia of the history of mankind, broken down into three groups of two thousand years each. As you go through and look at each block of two thousand years’ history, they will build on each other until we get down to the last millennia (the seventh thousand years). The seventh thousand years is the culmination of all the millennia of mankind in which he has lived and toiled. It represents the final time when God will usher in peace and rest, patterned after the creation week of six days (man) and one day of rest (Sabbath). You will also note the role that Israel has played throughout history…it is central! The nation of Israel began with Abraham, and God promised to Abraham to make of Him a nation and to give them an everlasting covenant. (1Chron. 16:17)
As you go through the unfolding of the history of mankind, I want you to bear two things in mind:
- This is not an attempt to date-set the Rapture, because that date is known only to God. It is simply an outline of God’s Seven Thousand Year Plan for the earth and to show where we generally are on the timeline of history. This outline has been laid out to give you a more in-depth understanding of the whole plan of the Bible in its chronology, not a specific date for any one event.
- The calculations of historic events as set forth below are only approximate. Various scholars and experts arrive at different dates for these events, so there is no way to really know exact dates or times in many cases.
- Adam to Abram (Abraham). It is easy to figure out by simple mathematical calculation that there is about a two thousand year span of history between these two men. In Genesis Chapters 5-11 is a long list of the genealogies of Adam’s descendants, listing each successive father and son by name and how old each of the fathers were when they begat their sons. So you start with the first man, Adam (created in the year 0) and add 130 (the age he was when he begat Seth), all the way down to Teran who is 29 when he begets Nahor, Abram’s father. The year you come to is 1879 BC. Some scholars believe that Nahor was 70 when he begat Abram (Gen. 11:26), while others date him at 130 years (Gen. 5:32; 10:1; 9:24). In any case, the timeline of this section of history is approximately two thousand years by general consensus. Events like the Flood occurred around 2348 BC, according to one source. The Tower of Babel happened around 2188 BC (Gen. 10-11). The event of Sodom and Gomorrah is reported to have happened about 1868 BC.
- Abraham to Jesus. We now have another approximate two thousand year span of time, which covers the history of the Jewish people. It is broken down into many parts, as follows:
- 2100 BC (4100 years ago) (Gen. 17:4-5)
God promises Abraham many descendants
Abraham lived around 2100 BC in what is now Iraq. God told him to move to Canaan, which later became Israel. Unlike many people, Abraham believed in the one true God. God rewarded Abraham’s faith, making him the father of a great nation (Israel).
- 2000 BC (4000 years ago) (Gen. 25:24)
Jacob (Israel) is born
Jacob, the son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham, is born in Canaan, which later becomes Israel. Jacob’s name is changed to Israel. He has 12 sons, for whom the 12 Tribes of Israel are named.
- 1910 BC (3910 years ago) (Gen. 37:28)
Joseph sold into slavery
Joseph’s brothers are jealous of Joseph, so they sell him into slavery. Joseph ends up in Egypt, where he rises to power as a trusted assistant of a pharaoh. His father and his brothers later leave Canaan, because of a famine, and move to Egypt.
- 1446 BC (3446 years ago) (Ex. 13:1-22)
After being enslaved for 400 years, the Jews, led by Moses, leave Egypt and head toward the land of Canaan, which later becomes Israel. Moses and his fellow Jews wander the desert for 40 years before reaching the border of Canaan.
- 1406 BC (3406 years ago) (Josh. 1:1-9)
Israel begins establishing itself as a country
After Moses dies, Joshua leads the Jews into Canaan and begins conquering the land, establishing the Jewish nation of Israel for the first time in history.
- 1400 BC (3400 years ago) (Jud. 2:16-18)
Israel is ruled by judges, not kings
From about 1400 BC to about 1050 BC, Israel was not ruled by kings. The people think of God as their King. Instead of an earthly king, Israel is lead by judges who settled disputes.
- 1050 BC (3050 years ago) (1 Sam. 11:15; 1Sam. 15:11)
Saul becomes Israel’s first king
After about 350 years of being ruled by judges, the people of Israel demand to have a king, like the neighboring countries. By demanding a king, the people are turning away from their faith in God as their king. Saul become king and reigns about 40 years.
- 1010 BC (3010 years ago) (1Chron. 10:14)
David becomes King of Israel
David becomes king of Israel in about 1010 BC and reigns for 40 years. David, unlike Saul, follows the commands of God. He makes mistakes, but repents for them. He seeks to please God. He expands the size of Israel and rules over surrounding territory.
- 970 BC (2970 years ago) (1Ki 1:34-37; 1Ki 6:1-10)
Solomon becomes king, builds Temple
Solomon, son of David, becomes king in about 970 BC. He too reigns for about 40 years. Solomon builds the Temple in honor of God. The work is completed in about 960 BC. But, Solomon eventually turns away from God and worships false gods.
- 926 BC (2926 years ago) (1Ki 11:31-36)
Israel becomes a divided kingdom
Shortly after the reign of Solomon, Israel becomes a divided kingdom. The southern kingdom, called Judah, included the city of Jerusalem and the Temple. The northern kingdom continued to be called Israel. The two often war with each other.
- 721 BC (2721 years ago) (2Ki 18:13)
Assyrians conquer northern kingdom of Israel
The Assyrian Empire conquers the northern kingdom of Israel in about 721 BC. The Assyrians torture and decapitate many. They force many Jews (10 of the 12 Tribes of Israel) out of Israel and bring in foreigners. History loses track of these 10 tribes.
- 612 BC (2612 years ago) (Zeph. 2:13)
Babylon conquers Nineveh (Assyrian Empire)
The Assyrian Empire’s capital city – Nineveh – is attacked by coalition of Babylonians, Scynthians and Medes. As explained by the prophet Nahum in the Bible, Nineveh was to be destroyed because of the Assyrian Empire’s treatment of Jews and other people.
- 605 BC (2605 years ago) (Jer. 27:20)
Babylon exerts influence over Judah
The neo-Babylonian Empire, under the reign of king Nebuchadnezzar, seeks to expand its size and begins forcing Judah into submission. Nebuchadnezzar takes many Jews as captives to Babylon to ensure Judah’s obedience.
- 597 BC (2597 years ago) (2Chron. 36:20)
Babylon attacks Judah
Babylonian army attacks Judah and takes more Jews as captives to Babylon. Ezekiel, one of the captives, becomes a prophet of God. Ezekiel explains that God is allowing Babylon to punish Judah because the people have been unfaithful to God.
- 586 BC (2586 years ago) (2Chron. 36:11-21)
Babylon destroys Jerusalem and Temple
Babylon attacks Judah again. This time, the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and the Temple that Solomon had built. More Jews are taken as captives to Babylon.
- 586 BC to 573 BC (2586 years ago) (Is. 23:15)
Babylon king Nebuchadnezzar attacks Tyre mainland
Babylon begins a 13-year siege of the mainland of the Phoenician city of Tyre.
- 539 BC (2539 years ago) (Ezra 5:12-14)
Cyrus the Great conquers Babylon
After the death of Nebuchadnezzar, Neo-Babylonian Empire begins to lose power. It was conquered in about 539 BC by Cyrus the Great. Cyrus was king of the Medo-Persian Empire.
- 538 BC (2538 years ago) (Ezra 1;1-4)
Cyrus releases Jews from Babylonian Captivity
Cyrus offers the Jews their freedom to leave Babylon and return to Judah. Cyrus’ kingdom rules over Judah and many other parts of the Middle East, but Cyrus allows people more cultural and religious freedom than did the Neo-Babylonian Empire.
- 536 BC (2536 years ago) (Ne. 1-2)
Work begins to rebuild Temple
Some of the Jews in Babylon return to Judah and begin work in about 536 BC to rebuild the Temple, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC.
- 516 BC (2516 years ago) (Ne. 12:27)
Second Temple is dedicated
The Temple is consecrated for worship, 70 years after the Babylonians had destroyed it in 586 BC. For the first time in 70 years, the Jews are able to acknowledge God as their ultimate ruler in a way they had been unable to do.
- 333 BC (2333 years ago) (Dan. 2:31-40)
Greeks begin rule over land of Israel
The Greeks, under the leadership of Alexander the Great, defeat Persian armies in Macedonia in 333 BC. This marks the end of the Persian Empire; the Grecian Empire expands.
- 331 BC (2331 years ago)
Alexander conquers Tyre (Phoenician Empire)
Alexander wars against the island fortress of the Phoenician city of Tyre. He takes rubble from the mainland of Tyre and builds a walkway to the island. Alexander’s forces then conquer the island fortress, bringing an end to the Phoenician Empire.
- 250 BC (2250 years ago)
The Old Testament is translated into Greek
A Greek ruler has the Jews translate the first five books of the Old Testament into the Greek language. (Some scholars say this translation included other books from the Old Testament, not just the first five). The translation is called the Septuagint.
- 175 BC (2175 years ago)
Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes torments the Jews
Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes rules Syria from about 175 BC to about 164 BC. He reigns over Judah and tries to destroy the Jewish religion and copies the Torah (the first five books of the modern Bible). He also defiles the Temple.
- 166 BC to 63 BC (2166 years ago)
Jews have independence during Hasmonean Period
Maccabean revolt opens way for Jewish independence in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. The revolt is led by Mattathias and his five sons, Judas (Maccabeus), Jonathan, Simon, John and Eleazar. The era of independence runs from about 166-63 BC.
- 63 BC (2063 years ago) (Dan 2:31-40)
Romans take over land of Israel
After the death of Alexander the Great, his empire was divided up among four generals. This weakens the empire. Meanwhile, the Roman Empire is becoming increasingly powerful. The Roman general named Pompey takes control of Jerusalem.
- about 5 BC (2005 years ago) (Mt. 1:18)
Jesus is born in Bethlehem
Jesus is born in the town of Bethlehem. The Apostle Matthew later points out that Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem fulfilled a prophecy delivered by the prophet Micah, about 700 years beforehand. (see Micah 5:2).
- about 25 AD (1975 years ago) (John 2:11)
Jesus begins His ministry
Jesus begins His ministry. He is about 30 years old. He probably began preaching around 25 AD.
- 2100 BC (4100 years ago) (Gen. 17:4-5)
- Jesus’ crucifixion to present day. A third span of approximately two thousand years:
- about 28 AD (1972 years ago) (Matt. 27:35)
Jesus is crucified
Jesus is falsely accused of being an anti-government rebel. He is sent to Pontius Pilate, the Roman ruler of the land of the Jews, to be crucified.
- 70 AD (1930 years ago) (Matt. 24:2)
Romans destroy Jerusalem and Temple
In 70 AD, the Roman Army, under Titus, destroys Jerusalem and the Temple, to suppress an uprising of the Jews. According to the historian Josephus, about 1.1 million Jews were killed. Others were taken as slaves.
- 135 AD (1865 years ago) (Matt. 23:37)
Romans destroy and plow Jerusalem
In 135 AD, the Romans, under Hadrian, kill an estimated 580,000 Jews to suppress the Bar Kochva uprising. The Romans ran a plow over Jerusalem to completely destroy the Holy City. The Romans ban the Jews from living in Jerusalem.
- 1291 (Ez. 26:3)
Tyre attacked and destroyed, again
Tyre again is attacked and destroyed, this time by the Arabs. The once-great city never recovers its former greatness. This fulfills a prophecy from Ezekiel that Tyre would be attacked by many nations, never to rise again to prominence.
- late 1800s
Zionist Movement begins
The Zionist movement gains momentum in late 1800s among Jews living in Europe. They begin a quest to re-establish an independent Israel.
Jews begin returning to homeland
Jews begin returning to their ancient homeland of Israel, which at the time was called Palestine. Many Jews are returning from various Middle East countries.
“The Jewish State” is published, Zionism grows
Theodor Herzl, a journalist from Vienna, Austria, writes “The Jewish State.” He calls for the creation of a Jewish nation as a solution to the Diaspora (the scattering of Jews worldwide) and to anti-Semitism.
Jews unite in effort to regain homeland Israel
Theodor Herzl organizes the first World Zionist Congress, unifying diverse Zionist groups into one movement. The meeting helped establish Zionist organizations in many countries that had large Jewish populations.
The British gain control of Palestine (Israel)
During World War I, British forces defeat the Turks in Palestine and govern the area via a League of Nations mandate from 1923. Until then, the land had been controlled by the Turks (Ottoman Empire) for about 400 years.
- 1933 – 1944 (La. 3:43)
6 million Jews murdered by Nazis
During the 1930s and 1940s, Jews are persecuted by Hitler. Many move to Palestine. The Holocaust – the Nazi’s genocide of 6 million Jews – increases international sympathy for the Zionist quest to re-establish a Jewish homeland.
- 1948, May 14 (Jer. 29:14)
Jews declare independence of Israel
On May 14, 1948, the Jews declare independence for Israel. This is the first time in 2900 years that Israel is both independent and united. (Israel became a divided country about 2900 years ago, and lost its independence about 2600 years ago).
- 1948, May 15
Surrounding countries invade Israel
Within hours of Israel’s declaration of independence, the surrounding Arab countries launch an invasion of Israel.
Israel prevails in first Arab-Israeli war
Israel prevails in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948-9. Israeli forces recapture more of the ancient Jewish homeland, expanding the size of Israel by about 50 percent.
Six-Day War: Jews capture holy city of Jerusalem
During the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel takes control of Jerusalem and other ancient-Jewish territories.
Hebrew becomes official language of Israel
Hebrew was the language of the Jewish people in Biblical times, and most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. The language dies out over time but is revived in the 1900s. In 1982, it becomes Israel’s official language.
- about 28 AD (1972 years ago) (Matt. 27:35)
Israel and the Palestinians
Israel has a very long history of conflict between them and the Palestinians. These people are descendants of Esau (twin of Jacob/Israel), or the Philistines. Now, because of immense pressure put on Israel by the Quartet of nations (US, EU, Russia, UN) to adhere to a so-called “Roadmap” peace plan, she is currently being forced to give up her lands to allow the Palestinians their own state by encroaching on Israel’s covenant lands. We know this will never work because they want to completely take over Israel in order to annihilate them. God won’t allow Israel to disintegrate as a nation; He has made an everlasting covenant with them even though they have a long history of war with other nations. (Gen. 17:7) In the end, He will not make a full end of the Jews but will bring them back again to be His people. (Jer. 30:11)
We are at the time in history where we are about at the end of the six thousand years. If you’ve been doing your calculations all along, you can readily see it. At this juncture we need to be keeping a very watchful eye on the things going on in the world, especially Israel and the Quartet of nations (above), because somewhere in this time frame Jesus will call His Church home in the Rapture, known as an immanent event. After the Rapture will follow a seven year period called The Tribulation, which will be the darkest time in the history of mankind. It will be headed by a man of Roman descent who will confirm a seven year counterfeit peace treaty with many (Dan. 9:27), known as the Antichrist. This man will turn out to be extremely evil, and by him the majority of the earth’s population will be killed, and they will die horrible deaths. These people who are “left behind” will be unsaved, wicked people; and there will be a one-world false religion. There will be people who do come to Christ and be saved, but it will be extremely difficult for them to survive all the terrible hardships. This will be a time of great judgments and wrath from Almighty God, who will cleanse the earth of its sin.
- The Thousand Year Millennium. After all six periods of man’s history, sin, and various judgments of mankind (including the 7 year Tribulation and Armageddon), Jesus and His Saints will return from heaven to usher in a thousand year period of peace and will rule from Zion (Jerusalem) (Is. 2:3). This will be the seventh thousand years of God and man; but this time, it’s totally different than previously because the earth has been cleansed of all the sin, disease and depravity. Those who come out of the Tribulation alive who were saved will enter into the Millennium and they will live long and good lives. It’s now a time of rest. Satan will be bound into the Abyss for the duration, so he will not be able to walk up and down in the earth causing havoc in people’s lives. People will still be mortal and will be able to marry and have children. Many of those children will reject Christ during that time and some will be saved, as there will always be Free Will. At the end of the Millennium the devil (after he has been released for a short time from the abyss and rises up to rebel once again) will finally be thrown into the Lake of Fire, along with all the unsaved from all time who appear at the Great White Throne judgment. (Rev. 20:10-15) After that, God will make a new heaven and a new earth, wherein He will dwell with His people for all eternity. (Rev. 21: 1-5)
We can see from looking at the total span of mankind on the earth that God brings His people full circle. From Adam’s fall in the Garden, which started the separation of man from God (Gen. 3:16-19), all the way down to the end where man is ultimately again reconciled back to God forever (Rev. 22:1-5). What an awesome Plan God has for us, and we have so many wonderful things to look forward to!
You will notice that Biblical history is dominated by the Jewish people as they have been around and survived for four thousand years when they should have been annihilated by other nations many times over! Pretty amazing, isn’t it? I would say that God still has Israel in His plan and has not abandoned His covenant with them, nor will He ever! (Gen. 17:7)
Now, can anyone look at the panoramic view of the history of mankind and say that man has been here for much longer than six thousand years, or will be on this earth for another several thousand years before we even get to the Rapture? I don’t think so, according to what the Bible says! Don’t allow yourself to be fooled by school professors, television programs, books, the Internet or what other people say about the duration of mankind’s history. God created the heavens and the earth in a total of six (6) literal days and the seventh day of rest, then He patterned mankind’s span of civilization for seven thousand years in the same way.