Moses & the Millennial Week

Tim Warner 4windsfellowships

The previous posts demonstrated the pervasiveness of the Millennial Week chronology among the early Christian writers close to the Apostles. The primary passage cited by these writers was Psalm 90:4, “a thousand years in Your sight are as the day,”[1] cited by Peter in 2 Peter 3:8, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day.” The six days plus Sabbath Rest of the creation week set the precedent for the Millennial Week chronology. But is this interpretation suggested by Psalm 90, or was it being forced upon it?

The first observation concerning the 90th Psalm is that it was written by the same Moses who wrote the Genesis account of creation and the fall of mankind. In both the Hebrew and the Greek Septuagint it is titled, “A Prayer of Moses the Man of God.” Moses’ prayer concerns “death” having passed upon Adam (and consequently all mankind), the anticipation of the removal of the curse in the resurrection, and “how long?” until the Lord returns.

It is evident that this Psalm was intended to completely resolve the apparent conundrum raised in Genesis 3. God told Adam that in the very “day” that he ate the forbidden fruit he would surely die. Let’s consider Moses’ commentary on that event verse by verse.

 Psalm 90 (ESV) 1 A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

In these first two verses, Moses referenced the creation week in Genesis 1. He then added:

3 You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!”

This refers to God’s threat to Adam concerning eating the forbidden fruit: “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die,”[2] and after Adam sinned: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”[3] The statement in v. 3 above, “You return man to dust,” refers specifically to the eventual outcome of God’s threat, Adam’s actual death just short of 1,000 years later at the age of 930.

4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.

The LXX has, “Because a thousand years in your sight [are] as the day, yesterday which has past, and as a watch in the night.” This verse resolves the conundrum established between God’s threat to Adam, that he would die the same “day” he sinned, and his eventual death just short of a millennium later.

Contrary to how this verse is usually interpreted as merely a generic statement, Moses was not saying that any one-thousand-year period seems like only 24-hours to God. He was referring specifically and exclusively to the “day” in Genesis 2:17 in God’s threat, “In the day that you eat of it you will surely die.” It was that particular “day” in this threat that God reckoned as a thousand years. It is called “yesterday” that is “past” because that first millennium had gone by when Moses wrote this after the exodus.

Yet Moses added a crucial statement, that this first millennial “Day” was also “as a watch in the night.” When Moses wrote this, long before the Roman occupation of Israel, the 12 hours of night were divided into 3 “watches” of 4 hours each, from 6pm to 10pm, from 10pm to 2am, and from 2am to 6am. (Later, under the Romans, there were 4 watches of 3 hours each).[4] When these three 4-hour periods are extrapolated for the entire 24-hour day, each “watch” was 1/6th of the entire complete period. Therefore, since that first “Day” during which Adam died was a millennium, yet this first millennium was also “as a watch in the night” which was 1/6th of the whole, the complete period of time is six millennia, or “six Days.”

This is exactly parallel to God’s finished work of creation in six literal 24-hour days. “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”[5] Consequently, the very verse most often cited by the earliest Christians in support of the Millennial Week actually implies a complete period of six millennia.

Moses continued, speaking about God’s wrath and judgement upon man which is the death penalty for all mankind, since “the wages of sin is death”:[6]

5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. 7 For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

10 The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.

11 Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?

The above statements regarding man’s days being toil and trouble are a direct reference to the curse. “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread.”

Moses’ then turned to the subject of chronology, which counts from the moment the curse of death was placed on mankind and the ground cursed, until the resurrection of God’s people and the curse is removed from the ground.

12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. 13 Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. 16 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!

At first glance, Moses’ plea to God to “teach us to number our days” may seem like an individual contemplating his own short lifespan in which he personally learns wisdom. Yet, the references to the curse and its eventual end suggest that Moses was referring to calculating the entire duration of time under the curse. In the statement, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom,” the word translated “number” in the LXX is the same word found in Leviticus 25:8 for calculating the Sabbatical and Jubilee years. “And you shall number for yourself seven sabbaths of years, seven times seven years; and they shall be for you seven weeks of years, forty-nine years. … 10 And you shall set apart the fiftieth year, … “[7] Calculating the Sabbatical and Jubilee years is the key to unlocking the chronology of the entire Bible.

Note that the question, “How long?” in verse 13 refers to the duration of the curse until the Lord returns, not the span of one man’s lifetime. The statement “as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil,” refers to the entire time from when Adam sinned and the curse of death was placed upon all mankind until our victory over death in the resurrection. Then the statement, “establish the work of our hands” refers to the removal of the curse upon the ground. God told Adam, “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”[8] Adam and all mankind have toiled in futility against the curse. But in the resurrection, man’s work will no longer be futile[9]. God will “establish the work of our hands.” [10]

Psalm 90 was intended to completely resolve the problem of Adam’s death on the same day he ate the forbidden fruit. This was the ancient Jewish interpretation of this passage. It is articulated in the Jewish apocryphal book called, “Jubilees,” written about 150 years before Christ’s birth.[11]

“… Adam died, and all his sons buried him in the land of his creation, … And he lacked seventy years of one thousand years; for ‘one thousand years are as one day in the testimony of the heavens and therefore was it written concerning the tree of knowledge: ‘On the day that ye eat thereof ye will die.’ For this reason he did not complete the years of this day; for he died during it.”[12]

The earliest Christians shared the same understanding as the Jews — that “the Day” in this passage referred to a millennium based on the same Psalm as the following quotations from both Justin and Irenaeus illustrate.

“For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, ‘The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,’ is connected with this subject. And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem.”[13]

“Thus then, in the day that they did eat, in the same did they die, … for since ‘a day of the Lord is as a thousand years,’ he did not overstep the thousand years, but died within them, thus bearing out the sentence of sin. … [T]hat he [Adam] did not overstep the thousand years, but died within their limit, it follows that, in regard to all these significations, God is indeed true. “[14]

[1] My translation of the Septuagint

[2] Genesis 2:17 ESV

[3] Genesis 3:19 ESV

[4] Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Article: Watches of night. The Jews, like the Greeks and Romans, divided the night into military watches instead of hours, each watch representing the period for which sentinels or pickets remained on duty. The proper Jewish reckoning recognized only three such watches, entitled the first or “beginning of the watches,” ( Lamentations 2:19 ) the middle watch, ( Judges 7:19 ) and the morning watch. ( Exodus 14:24 ; 1 Samuel 11:11 ) These would last respectively from sunset to 10 P.M.; from 10 P.M. to 2 A.M.; and from 2 A.M. to sunrise. After the establishment of the Roman supremacy, the number of watches was increased to four, which were described either according to their numerical order, as in the case of the “fourth watch,” ( Matthew 14:25 ) or by the terms “even,” “midnight,” “cock-crowing” and “morning.” ( Mark 13:35 ) These terminated respectively at 9 P.M., midnight, 3 A.M. and 6 A.M.”

[5] Exodus 20:11 ESV

[6] Romans 6:23

[7] Leviticus 25:8,10 LXX My translation

[8] Genesis 3:17-19 NKJ

[9] Cf. Heb. 4:3 LGV & Rom. 8:18-25

[10] Isaiah 65:12

[11] Machiela, Daniel, The Dead Sea Genesis Apocryphon, p. 16

[12] Book of Jubilees, IV, 29-30

[13] Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, ch. LXXXI

[14] Irenaeus, Against Heresies V, XXIII, 2

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