The Prophetic Date


Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred
and five and thirty days.—Daniel 12:12


Merely mention the date 1874, and brethren worldwide know that one is speaking of the return of Christ. That date is computed from the prophecy of Daniel 12:12. This prophetic period of 1,335 days is fulfilled in 1,335 years, a day for a year, as is customary in time prophecy. This period is one of three which begin from the same point in time, 539 A.D. All three of these time periods—1,260, 1,290, and 1,335 years in duration—are mentioned in the 12th chapter of Daniel. We will explore each of these time prophecies which point in progressive steps to the introduction of the second presence, the parousia of Christ, in the year 1874.


The first of the three prophetic periods appears in Daniel 12:7. It is a period of persecution of the saints by one Paul later termed “The Man of Sin” (2 Thessalonians 2:3)—Papacy, the Roman Catholic Church, the Antichrist system which even the early church knew would come (1 John 2:18).

When Paul discussed the Man of Sin, he drew from three parts of Daniel, chapters 11, 8, and 7.

1. The term “Man of Sin” is drawn from Daniel 11:36, which speaks of a rebellious, strong-willed “king” who “shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god.” Compare this description of Daniel to Paul’s in 2 Thessalonians 2:4, “Who … exalteth himself above all that is called God.”

2. That this abomination takes place “in the temple of God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4) may be inferred from Daniel 8:11-13 where the sanctuary [temple] is polluted, dominated, and a host of worshipers oppressed. These defilements would linger until the conclusion of the 2,300 years in the 1840s. By then the reform movements of four centuries, culminating in the Miller Movement, had identified and publicized the major errors.

3. That this abomination would be “consume[d] and destroy[ed] … unto the end” (Daniel 7:26) is referred to by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:8, “Whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth [truth], and shall destroy with the brightness of his [parousia].”

“Time, Times, and a Half”

The period Papacy was permitted to rule the Christian world was 1,260 years. But this time span was expressed cryptically, to hide the matter from all but the Lord’s saints, and even from them until the due time, as the Lord’s wisdom saw best.

The prophet said this domination “shall be for a time, times, and a half; and when they have made an end of breaking in pieces the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished” (Daniel 12:7, ASV). The same period is mentioned in Daniel 7:25. “He [Papacy, the horn which sprang from Rome] shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.”

If one assumes “times” refers to two times (there is no reason for a greater number), then these texts describe three and one-half “times.” Revelation 13:5 refers to the same period as forty two months, and indeed in three and one-half “times” or “years” there would be forty two months—a congruence which affirms this long-revered approach. Revelation 11:2 describes the persecution of the “holy city” (the church) during the same forty two months.

If we use an even thirty days per month, forty two months is 1,260 days. This is the express duration for this period in Revelation 11:3 and 12:6. Revelation 12:14 completes the circle of reference by again describing the period as “time, and times, and half a time,” as in Daniel. The context of each passage shows all seven references are to the same period. The three separate descriptions of this period give a solid foundation for understanding them as 1,260 prophetic “days.”

Christians and Jews have long known from the seventy-week prophecy of Daniel chapter 9 that a day in prophetic time is fulfilled as a full natural year—consistent with the principle explicitly mentioned in Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6. This supports the well-founded and time-honored view that these texts point to 1,260 years of Papal domination.

The Beginning Point

If one examines the prophecy of Daniel 12 for a beginning date marker for this period, one must go back to chapter 11 (it is all one connected prophecy), back to the rise of Papacy in Daniel 11:31. “Arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.” Israel’s “daily sacrifice” was a burnt offering of a lamb every morning and every evening, which symbolized the coming of Christ, the “lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In the spiritual temple of the Gospel age, this “daily sacrifice” refers to the ransom.

The papal doctrine of the mass effectively set aside the ever-efficacious ransom by requiring a fresh sacrifice of Christ on each occasion of sin. This doctrine was incorporated into the Catholic faith by the year 381. “Romanists claim that the Mass was instituted by Christ and the apostles; but the earliest mention of it we have been able to find was at the Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381” (Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 3, p. 103).

But Daniel 11:31 speaks of the time when the force of arms would be used to establish in power the institution which sponsored this doctrine of “abomination.” The 1,260 years begin to count from this point. There Papacy received jurisdiction over political matters which allowed it, in course of time, to mightily oppress the Lord’s saints.

The date for this setting up, when “arms shall stand on his part,” is 539 A.D. (Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 3, Study 3). In 533 A.D. the Emperor Justinian decreed the bishop of Rome (the Pope) to be the head of all Christian churches, but not until five years later in 538 was the Pope (Vigilius, 537-555) committed the jurisdiction of the city of Rome by Justinian’s general Belisarius, who through force of arms overcame the siege of Rome by the Goths (eastern Goths, thus “Ostrogoths”). In the following year, 539, the Gothic stronghold Ravenna was taken, their king Vitiges killed, and the threat to papal authority (at least temporarily) laid to rest. By 540 Belisarius returned victorious to a hero’s welcome in Constantinople.

1,260 years later, in the year 1799, Pope Pius VI died as a prisoner in France, having been taken prisoner at Rome by the French General Berthier the previous year. By the time the Pope died Napoleon had secured the rulership of France and refused to allow the election of a successor Pope. Papacy was broken. This marked the lowest ebb of papal fortunes in modern times. A History of the Popes, by Nicolas Cheetham, marks the year 1799 as one of its divides in chronicling the history of Papacy. A few months later a new Pope was elected, but never again did Papacy rule the powers of Europe. Her “time, times and a half” had expired.


That Daniel 11:31 is the correct beginning point for the second time prophecy, the 1,290 days, is expressly affirmed in Daniel 12:11. “From the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be 1,290 days.” 1,290 years from 539 A.D. take us to 1829. According to Daniel 12:9-11, the 1,290 days mark a point significant to the saints in understanding these very prophecies. “The words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end … none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.”

About this time the Miller Movement in America, and others abroad, based upon the time prophecies of Daniel, began arousing the Christian world to the approaching advent of Christ. As early as 1818, Miller himself had privately concluded that Christ would return about the spring of 1843. “He hesitated to present his message to anyone as yet. After all, he could be in error. That thought … drove him into another five years (1818-1823) of study as he sought to raise and answer every possible biblical objection to his theory” (Millennial Fever, George Knight, p. 42).

He then began speaking privately with some neighbors, and even some ministers, hoping that one of them might embrace the burden of awakening others. He had little success. He continued his Bible studies, but this only increased his anxiety. “When I was about my business,” he penned, “it was continually ringing in my ears, ‘Go and tell the world of their danger’ … For another eight years (1823-1831) the reluctant prophet continued to resist what he believed to be the unction of the Holy Spirit, even though he claimed to have had a dream on November 4, 1826, in which God had indicated that he would bless him if he would be faithful in warning the world. On January 14, 1829, however, Miller gave some indication of his future direction … though he was moving infinitesimally slowly when one considers that he believed Christ would come in a mere fourteen years. On that January date, he made his first entry in a small book in which he noted important remarks on Sunday sermons. At times he provided lengthy outlines of those sermons. Whether he realized it or not, he had begun a practical course in sermon preparation” (ibid., ppg. 42, 43).

In the meantime Miller continued seeking a preacher to take his burden. He penned “A Few Evidences of the Time of the 2nd Coming of Christ to Elder Andrus” on February 15, 1831, and held interviews with “Elder Truman Hendryx and other ministers” in the summer of 1831. He prepared a series of articles under the name “W.M.” which were accepted for publication in sixteen numbers of a Baptist paper “Vermont Telegraph,” beginning on May 15, 1832. To his chagrin, it became known that he was the author and he was “flooded with letters of inquiry respecting my views; and visitors flocked to converse with me on the subject” (ibid., p. 44).

In the summer of 1831 before these articles were published, the pressure of his views urged him to “a solemn covenant with God, that if he would open the way, I would go and perform my duty to the world.” As he pondered in his mind how such an “opening” might appear, “Why, said I, if I should have an invitation to speak publicly in any place, I will go and tell them what I find in the Bible about the Lord’s coming.” Having never in his life received such an invitation, his mind was at peace, his burden eased. “In about a half-hour, he had his first-ever invitation to present his beliefs regarding the second coming … ‘I was … immediately angry with myself for having made the covenant … I rebelled at once … and determined not to go. I left the boy [who delivered the request] without giving him any answer, and retired in great distress to a grove near by. There I struggled with the Lord for about an hour, endeavoring to release myself from the covenant I had made with him; but I could get no relief. It was impressed upon my conscience, Will you make a covenant with God and break it so soon? and the exceeding sinfulness of thus doing overwhelmed me … I would go, trusting …’ The following day Miller preached his first sermon on the second advent at Dresden, sixteen miles from his home. ‘As soon as I commenced speaking, all my diffidence and embarrassment were gone, and I felt impressed only with the greatness of the subject, which by the providence of God, I was enabled to present’ ” (ibid., ppg. 45, 46).

It was a resounding success. The Dresden congregation requested his lecture the following week, on returning home he had an invitation from the Poultney congregation for a similar series of lectures. “Those invitations were the beginning of an unbroken stream of requests that would continue for the rest of his active life” (ibid., p. 45).

Meanwhile, in England

In these years England was alive with prophetic studies, which were highly productive in moving the “wise” to understand the prophecies of Daniel.

Sir Henry Drummond, a banker and member of the House of Commons, assembled at Albury, a village ten hours distant from London, a group of men, well-known and competent theologians, for the examination of prophecy. In the years of 1825 to 1829 each summer about fifty gentlemen gathered for a week of conference. The chairman was Hugh Mac Neill, a clergyman of Albury. They assembled each day three times, in the morning from 9 to 11, in the afternoon from 1 to 3, and in the evening from 7 to 11. In the morning sessions one of the participants, invited for the purpose, made a presentation. Until 3 or 4 in the afternoon there was exchange of opinion about the presentation, and in the evening the result was formed into some conclusions.

The host, Sir Drummond, reproduced the entire talks again in minutes, which grew to weighty tomes published in three volumes in the years 1827 to 1829, titled Dialogues on Prophecy. This was followed by a quarterly publication, The Morning Watch, in 1829. The conclusions of these Albury conferences include the following points:

1. Christianity will not gradually fade by a universal preaching of the gospel into the Thousand Year Kingdom, but will find her end by verdicts … that the visible church and state are destroyed, as once the Jewish state has been destroyed.

2. At the time when these verdicts will come over Christianity the Jews will be restored in their country.

3. These verdicts will probably … come … most heavily over that part of the church of God that has been blessed mostly, and therefore bears the greatest responsibility.

4. After these verdicts the Thousand Year Kingdom commences for the entire human race, even for the unwitting creation.

5. The Return of the Messiah takes place before the beginning of this Thousand Year Kingdom.

6. Our blessed Lord will return soon.

Clearly the Spirit of the Lord was working upon the “wise,” who were coming to know some of the deep things of God.


But when, exactly, would the blessed Return of Christ occur? Daniel 12:12 concludes with a final time prophecy to point to the crescendo: “Blessed is he that waiteth and cometh to the 1,335 days.” Going forward 1,335 years from 539 takes us to 1874. The mention of the waiting reminds us of our Lord’s words: “Ye yourselves [be] like unto men that wait for their Lord” (Luke 12:36). The resulting blessedness of those who wait is the same result promised by Jesus: “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them” (Luke 12:37).

That feast of truth has been clearly evident to all who have refreshed themselves on it. The “Divine Plan of the Ages” has been provided through a devoted servant raised to assemble and distribute it (Revelation 3:14). The ministry of Pastor Russell is thus properly renowned and esteemed by all who through it have been introduced to the blessed harmony of the truth.

Daniel 12:12 is but a brief phrase, by which it has pleased God to give us the foundation date for the second advent of Christ. But in the message to the church of Laodicea, Christ reiterates the lesson of this prophecy and its connection to the second advent through the Luke texts mentioned above. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.” Luke 12:36 mentions the same knock: “Wait … that, when he cometh, and knocketh, [you] may open unto him immediately.” The church of Laodicea, the seventh stage of the church, is the church of the parousia of Christ. Do we hear the knock of prophecy? Have we opened the door of our hearts and minds to receive the welcome returnee? Have we feasted upon the truths now richly provided? “If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20)—exactly what was promised of the return of Christ in Luke 12:37.

To church four Jesus said, “Hold fast till I come.” To church five, “I will come … as a thief.” To church six, “Behold, I come quickly!” But to us now, during the harvest, he is no longer “coming.” He is present and knocking. It is our blessed privilege to be lifted up as it were into the Chariot of our Lord (2 Kings 10:15), be in mental accord with his righteous program, separated from the hosts of Christendom now feeling the judgments of God (Revelation 3:16; 14:7), and to feast upon the bounties of God’s plan such as the saints have never before seen in its rich fullness.

Chronologically, we have been in the blessed time of the Lord’s parousia since 1874.

Michael Stands Up

Daniel 12:1 opens with the prediction, “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince that standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.”

The term “stand up” in this prophecy means to take power as a regent—so it is used in Daniel 11:2,3,4,7,20,21. In Daniel 12:1 it points to the time of Christ’s assumption of regal authority in establishing his kingdom. This is one evidence that “Michael” does refer to Christ, for the right to rule the kingdom is vested in Christ, not to a lower subordinate.

What follows this exercise of power is a time of trouble, and a deliverance of the Lord’s people. Verse 2 describes the resurrection of the dead, and verse 3 the blessed influence of the righteous during the kingdom. “This kingdom has already come into executive authority, although … it has not yet come into full control of earthly dominion” (Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 3, p. 22). One by one, as the Lord’s saints are called home, they augment the reigning ones beyond the veil, preparatory to their priestly work of a thousand years still impending (Revelation 20:6).

Daniel 12:1 is an Old Testament parallel to what John later describes in the sounding of the Seventh Trump: “The seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom [singular, Diaglott] of this world has become [Diaglott] the kingdom of our Lord [Jehovah] and of his Christ [Jesus]; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). What follows in Revelation is a time of trouble unlike any preceding, and the raising of the Lord’s saints (holy ones) and Gospel age prophets (spokesmen).

These items are all included in the prophecy of Daniel 12. This seventh trumpet period is evidently synchronous with the seventh church period, and began in 1874. It introduces the harvest, and its work closes with the end of the harvest. The predicted “time of trouble,” we hold, began in 1914 with World War I, continued through World War II, and will not abate until Armageddon and the residue of the seventh plague has run its course. Not until then will Christ command “peace, be still,” and the raging tempests yield to the peaceable instruction of the kingdom (Mark 4:39; 1 Kings 19:12).

A Common Starting Point

The 1,260, 1,290, and 1,335 years all began at 539 A.D., when Papacy was set up in political authority and the Ostrogothic Kingdom which had ruled Italy was subdued. These Goths were (nominally) Christian, but were Arian in persuasion, as were the Lombards originally, who impinged upon Papacy in subsequent years.

This view, that the three prophecies share a common starting point, is essentially universal among the Bible Student movement today—and well that it is. The 1,290 and 1,335 days clearly begin with Daniel 11:31 (see Daniel 12:11). The same text describes the setting up of Papacy by force of arms which began its 1,260 years of domination.

But it was not so during the Miller Movement. Bro. Miller supposed that the 1,260 days began in 538 A.D., but began the 1,290 and 1,335 days 30 years earlier, in 508 A.D., so that the 1,260 and 1,290 would terminate at the same point. This may seem odd to brethren today, but of course he had a sensible reason for his belief.

Bro. Miller observed that the 2,300 years of Daniel 8 began with the 70 weeks of Daniel 9. The latter he ended in 33 A.D., which means the full 2,300 would expire in the year 1843. Supposing the cleansing of the sanctuary thus marked in 1843 would mean the return of Christ, he had little option but to terminate the 1,335 years at the same point, and thus begin them and the 1,290 years in 508 A.D. Bro. Miller concluded that 2,520 years of Gentile Times, the Jubilee Cycles, and 6,000 years from Adam co-terminated in the year 1843 also.

Yet Papacy’s power of 1,260 years did not end until the Pope’s arrest in 1798, which means the 1,260 years could not have begun in 508. For this Bro. Miller used the date 538, when the Pope was granted authority in Rome by General Belisarius, as he left the city to chase the Goths and eventually defeat them at Ravenna. By this means the 1,260 and 1,290 years ended together, which seemed feasible to Bro. Miller (and thousands of others).

The package seemed very tight, with mutually correlating and intertwining prophecies. At the core of it, two prophecies were essentially correct—the 2,300 days, and the 1,260 days—and thus his expectations did have a proper foundation. But expecting the prophecies to climax at one momentous occasion, he was induced to focus most of the prophetic testimony on a single date, 1843.

In the disappointment following 1843, cause was found by some of his associates to reset the date a year and a half later, to the autumn of 1844 (specifically, October 21, 1844). The further disappointment was intense. As one might suppose, many abandoned the prophecies. But many others properly persisted in their study to locate the imprecision. Bro. Nelson Barbour was among these. A few years later, during a review of the prophecies on a sea voyage from Australia to England, he perceived the flaw, moved up the 1,290 and 1,335 years to begin coincident with the 1,260, and this brought the end of the 1,335 years to 1873—a date which is mentioned from time to time in the early Watchtowers. Bro. Barbour readjusted the various strands of prophecy to the new conclusion, adjusted the date to 1874, allowed for a period of parousia rather than a moment, added a fresh thought on parallel dispensations, and this constituted the prophetic package he shared with Bro. Russell in the summer of 1876.

Which Year?

Note that the original dates for the 1,260-year span were actually from 538 to 1798. These are still the dates used by the Seventh Day Adventists, and are also found in The Three Worlds, written by Bro. Barbour, published jointly with Bro. Russell. (See chapter 16 of that work, “The Resurrection.”) This differs by one from the dates common among the brethren, 539 to 1799. It may seem a small matter, but is it possible to clarify precisely between these two options?

In Studies in the Scriptures, Bro. Russell identifies Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt as a defining key to the proper date. However, this campaign lapped over from 1798 to 1799, which augments the ambiguity. “This event is shown to be Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, which covered a period of a year and nearly five months. He sailed May 1798 and, returning, landed in France October 9, 1799” (Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 3, p. 44).

Verse 41 (of Daniel 11) may be helpful. “He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many [“countries” should not be supplied here] shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.” The “glorious land” is certainly the land of Israel which Napoleon passed through after his conquest of Egypt, traveling northward, contemplating a confrontation with the Ottoman Turks. Napoleon did not venture much eastward on this journey, thus the lands of Edom, Moab, and Ammon did not fall to him—as they had once fallen to the Ottomans, and would later to the British.

This expedition through the land of Israel is highlighted in the prophecy, as it appears also in verse 45: “And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas [Mediterranean and Dead Sea] in the glorious holy mountain [Jerusalem, cf. Isaiah 27:13; Zechariah 8:3; 1 Maccabees 11:37]. This trek through Palestine was in the year 1799, whereas the conquest of Egypt (verses 42,43) occurred in the year 1798.

Time Parallels

If these three prophecies do terminate in 1799, 1829, and 1874 respectively, there are meaningful prophetic markers to each of these prophecies 1845 years earlier. The parallel dates, in the second column below, would be:

1799            47 B.C.
1829            17 B.C.
1874            29 A.D.

The last of these is familiar to the brethren. 29 A.D. was the date of Jesus’ baptism marking the beginning of his career as Messiah, which means “anointed.” He was anointed with the holy spirit at Jordan, represented by the dove which John the Baptist saw lighting upon Jesus as he rose from the water. But what happened in 47 B.C.? or 17 B.C.?

These are less familiar, but evidently very meaningful. The prophecy in Daniel 11:41-45 which describes Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt and journey northward through the land of Israel leads naturally to the next prophetic guidepost of Daniel 12:1, the second advent of Christ. However, the same prophecy was fulfilled by Julius Caesar as many years before the first advent of Christ as Napoleon’s journey through Israel was before the second advent of Christ.

As Napoleon came to Egypt in 1798, Julius Caesar came to Egypt 1845 years earlier in 48 B.C., pursuing Pompey. Caesar narrowly subdued a rebellion against him in Egypt, then in 47 B.C. departed northward through the land of Israel, passing “between the seas” and by the “glorious mountain,” but evidently did not venture eastward to the lands of Edom, Moab, and Ammon—just like Napoleon 1845 years later in 1799. As Napoleon in 1799 then returned to France and assumed power, Julius Caesar in 47 B.C. returned to Rome and assumed power.

What of 17 B.C.? This date is from a reference in John 2:20. The occasion was the first passover of Jesus’ ministry (John 2:13). When Jesus was asked a sign of his authority, he said “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”—speaking of his resurrection. The Jews of course did not understand, and remarked “forty and six years was this temple in building” (John 2:20). Counting back 46 years from the spring of 30 A.D. leads to 17 B.C.—the year Herod began the reconstruction of the temple.

The temple represents the church (1 Corinthians 3:16). The remodeling and expansion of the temple marked in John 2:20 is a fitting parallel to the redevelopment of the spiritual temple in 1829, when the wise according to the spirit began to see the treasures of prophecy more clearly.

Noting that the terminus of each prophecy—1,260, 1,290, 1,335 years—has a parallel 1,845 years earlier, gives added strength to the conclusion that the dates 1799, 1829, and 1874 are indeed the intended fulfillments of these prophecies, for only this set of dates produces a legitimate set of parallel dates.

The Broad Sweep

Daniel 12, which culminates in the time prophecy pointing to our Lord’s return in 1874, is part of a three-chapter narrative beginning in chapter 10. Chapter 11 begins a broad sweep of history from Daniel’s day forward, through Persia to Greece, through the Egyptian and Syrian branches of the Greek Empire as it affected Israel, to the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem by the Roman armies. This last desecration forms in itself a picture of the Papal Roman power which sullied, dominated, and persecuted the spiritual temple during a period of 1,260 years.

Those years closed by 1799. Within another thirty years, by 1829, the prophecies of Daniel had opened remarkably and the spiritually wise came to anticipate the near approach of Christ’s return. Another forty-five years brought us to the close of the third prophetic span in 1874, marking the return of Christ, the opening of the harvest, and the blessed bounty of truth which has been our privilege and heritage.