Review of 'Witnessing the End' by Christian Widener

I have just read "Witnessing the end" by Christian Widener, published in 2023, and watched several of his recent videos on his blog, endtimesberean.com.

Widener presents a startling and compelling new theory relating to Daniel's prophecy of 70 weeks.

Let's first read the prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27):

“24 Seventy weeks have been determined concerning your people and your holy city to put an end to rebellion, to bring sin to completion, to atone for iniquity, to bring in perpetual righteousness, to seal up the prophetic vision, and to anoint a most holy place.
25 So know and understand: From the issuing of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince arrives, there will be a period of seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It will again be built, with plaza and moat, but in distressful times.
26 Now after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one will be cut off and have nothing. As for the city and the sanctuary, the people of the coming prince will destroy them. But his end will come speedily like a flood. Until the end of the war that has been decreed there will be destruction.
27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one week. But in the middle of that week he will bring sacrifices and offerings to a halt. On the wing of abominations will come one who destroys, until the decreed end is poured out on the one who destroys.”

Widener suggests that the prophecy has a dual-fulfilment. Its first fulfilment began with the decree by Artaxerxes I in 458 BC (Ezra 7:12-26). Jesus, the anointed one, came 69 sevens (483 years) later, starting his ministry in 26 AD. Widener suggests that Jesus had a seven year ministry before his death in 33 AD when he was 'cut off' as prophesied by Daniel, and the first fulfilment of 70 sevens was completed. Then in 70 AD, Jerusalem and the temple (the city and the sanctuary were destroyed).

The common understanding is that Jesus completed only the first 69 sevens, and that there is an indefinite gap between the 69th and the 70th sevens.

However, Widener reveals that in 1537 AD, the Ottoman Sultan, Suleyman the Magnificent, issued a new decree for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and subsequently restored many parts of the city. This included restoration and paving of the temple mount (the plaza), and also of the fortified moat around the Tower of David near the Jaffa Gate. His decree is carved in Arabic and is set in stone on the temple mount, which is visible today for all to see. His decree is also carved in stone on the side of the moat. This latter carving was buried in 1898 during expansion of the city, but a photograph of it was taken first. The decree translates as, "The order to construct this tower for protection of the Islamic walls by his power and duration of his reign, and to dispose of the favouring idols by his force and strength, the one that did Allah especially elected to rule the necks of the kings in the world, the possessor in chain of the throne of Caliphate, Sultan son of Sultan, son of Sultan, son of Sultan, Suleyman." Daniel 9:25 says, "It will again be built, with plaza and moat, but in distressful times." Does the word 'again' imply a second decree, a second rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the start of a second period of seventy sevens? Are the 'distressful times' those of the Ottoman Empire when Jews were still in exile and Jerusalem under Islamic rule? If so, 69 sevens starting in 1537 would be completed in 2020, and 70 sevens in 2027. Widener points out that in September 2020, Israel did in fact sign an international peace treaty, known as 'The Abraham Accords', with several Arab nations. They were signed first with the UAE and Bahrain, and then Morocco and Sudan followed.

If the 70th seven began in September of 2020, we would expect the abomination of desolation approximately three and a half years later. I say 'approximately' because Daniel 9:27 simply says that it would occur 'in the middle' of the 70th seven, but that doesn't necessarily mean exactly in the middle. Based on the first fulfilment of the abomination of desolation by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 BC (as prophesied in Daniel 11:31), and on Jesus's prophecy of its future fulfilment in Matthew 24:15, it is commonly expected to be another statue that will be set up on the Temple Mount, or even in a rebuilt third temple. However, Daniel's description of the future abomination in Daniel 9:27 is literally, "On the wing of abominations [will come] one who destroys". Widener quotes Proverbs 6:16-19 which says, "There are six things that the Lord hates, even seven things that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift to run to evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who spreads discord among family members." And he suggests that the atrocities committed by Hamas in their attack on Israel on 7 October 2023 fit well with this description. It is also noteworthy that on 14 January 2024, in a speech commemorating 100 days since the attack of 7 October, Hamas's military spokesman, Abu Ubeidah, cited Israel bringing red heifers from America in preparation for ritual sacrifice (see Numbers 19:1-10) as a key reason for them launching their attack when they did. And so the abominations committed on that day were intended to put a stop to planned Jewish sacrifices, just as Daniel prophesied, "But in the middle of that week he will bring sacrifices and offerings to a halt" (v27). Up until now, most prophecy scholars have assumed that the temple would first have to be rebuilt, and the sacrificial system reinstated, before that could be fulfilled. But Hamas launched their attack to put a stop to Jewish sacrifices before they had even started! Furthermore, Hamas called their attack 'The Al-Aqsa Flood'. Al-Aqsa is what Muslims call the Temple Mount, so the declared purpose of their attack was to protect the Islamic sanctity of the Temple Mount. And they called it a 'flood', just as Daniel prophesied 2,500 years ago when he said, "But [the] end will come [speedily] like a flood" (v26). All in all, these multiple factors combine to make a compelling case for the attack of 7 October being the fulfilment of the abominations that Daniel prophesied.

In Matthew 24:15-20, Jesus said, "So when you see the abomination of desolation – spoken about by Daniel the prophet – standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. The one on the roof must not come down to take anything out of his house, and the one in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath." Following the attack of 7 October, it is estimated that 200,000 Israelis were displaced internally within Israel. According to Jewishinsider.com, "30,000 residents of the kibbutzim and moshavim were quickly evacuated from their homes by the Israeli military after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks targeting their communities. In the days that followed, the Israeli government formally evacuated an additional 100,000 people, starting with the 20,000 residents of the southern city of Sderot and then a further 60,000 people from the north when Iranian-backed Shiite militia Hezbollah began firing rockets and mortars from Lebanon. In addition, the government estimates that a further 100,000 people evacuated themselves from homes that sit slightly beyond what is now an active military zone."

Jesus continues in verse 21, "For then there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen." The suffering, particularly of the young women who were attacked, raped, tortured, killed and mutilated, or dragged away to Gaza as hostages, and the depravity of their attackers, is graphically described in the documentary film, 'Screams Before Silence', directed by Anat Stalinsky.

It has generally been assumed that the confirmation of the seven year treaty would reveal (or strongly suggest) the identity of the Antichrist, and that the abomination in the middle of the 70th week would confirm it. However, the end of verse 27 says, "On the wing of abominations will come one who destroys, until the decreed end is poured out on the one who destroys." This actually implies that the Antichrist's identity is not revealed until some time soon after the abominations. In that case, who is the "He" at the beginning of the verse who confirms the covenant? In Daniel and Revelation, kings and their empires are portrayed metaphorically as beasts. So the "He" who confirms the covenant could be his empire, rather than the Antichrist himself as an individual. In a sense, it was the Islamic Empire (or parts of the re-emerging Islamic Empire) who confirmed the covenant in 2020, and it was another part of the same re-emerging Islamic Empire that broke the covenant and committed the abominations in October 2023. In that case, we should expect that in the very near future, a leader will emerge to unite this re-emerging Islamic Empire. This is the one "who destroys", that is the Antichrist (1 John 2:18), the man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3), the eleventh horn (Daniel 7:8), and most likely Gog (Ezekiel 38-39).

It is generally assumed by premillennialist scholars who take a futurist view of Revelation, that the seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowl judgments act as a kind of timeline of events that take place within Daniel's 70th week. If Widener's theory that the 70th week of Daniel, since the decree by Suleyman the Magnificent in 1537, began in 2020, then we should expect to see some kind of fulfilment of the Revelation timeline. The timeline begins with the opening of the first seal, when a rider on a white horse, carrying a bow, is given a crown, and rides forth as a conqueror bent on conquest (Revelation 6:2). Widener points out that the latin word for crown is 'corona', and he suggests that the coronavirus pandemic was in fact a fulfilment of this prophecy. It is common to equate this rider with the Antichrist, riding on a white horse as a counterfeit of Christ who arrives at Armageddon on a white horse (Revelation 19:11), but it is also reasonable to interpret the four horsemen of Revelation 6 in a more figurative way. This rider carries a bow but with no mention of arrows, suggesting the threat of impending death more than its reality. The coronavirus pandemic had a global impact, with countries around the world imposing forced lockdowns, but as of May 2024 the total death toll from covid is estimated at approximately 7 million, which is only about 0.1 percent of the world's population. When the second seal is opened, a rider on a red horse is given permission to take peace from the earth so that people kill each other, and he is given a huge sword (Revelation 6:4). In February 2022, Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine. When the third seal is opened, a rider comes on a black horse, holding a scale, and John hears a voice saying, "A quart of wheat will cost a day's pay and three quarts of barley will cost a day's pay. But do not damage the olive oil and the wine!" This proclamation denotes inflation of basic food prices that particularly affects the poor, while luxuries are still available for the rich who can afford them. The combined effect of the coronavirus pandemic, followed by Putin's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, caused a worldwide cost-of-living crisis with high inflation and increased interests rates that most affected the poor. According to such observations, it is reasonable to suggest that the first three seals have been opened. That means that we should now anticipate the opening of the fourth seal. This releases a rider on a pale horse. John tells us, "The name of the one who rode it was Death, and Hades followed right behind. They were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill its population with the sword, famine, and disease, and by the wild animals of the earth." (Revelation 6:8). Whether this relates to a fourth of the 'land' and is perhaps limited to the Middle East region, or whether it should be understood as a fourth of the 'earth' in a global sense, is debatable. The coronavirus pandemic was global. The Ukraine war is more regional. The cost-of-living crisis was global. Even if the fourth seal is more regional in effect, the implied death toll still makes it the most ominous of the four seals.

But hold on, what about the rapture? If we are now in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, shouldn't the Church have been raptured by now? Since the 1830's when John Darby re-populised the premillennial view, it has been common for premillennial scholars to assume that Darby was also correct in placing the rapture at the beginning of the seven year tribulation. However, during the first few centuries of the early church when historic premillennialism was the mainstream view, Christians expected that they would have to endure the trials, persecutions, and martyrdoms of the Great Tribulation, and that deliverance and rapture would come at Christ's parousia as per Matthew 24:31. The timing of the rapture is a matter of debate, with some Christians adopting a pre-trib view, others a mid-trib view, others a post-trip view, and some like myself adopting a post-mid-trib view. It has long been my expectation that the rapture would occur at the last of the seven trumpets (1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Revelation 11:15), and that we would be spared the coming wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10) of the seven bowl judgments (Revelation 16). Widener also takes a post-mid-trib view but instead of opting for the 7th trumpet, he presents a convincing case for the rapture occurring after the 6th seal is opened. After the 5th seal is opened John is shown the heavenly altar, and under it he sees the souls of Christians who have been martyred. They cry out, "How long, Sovereign Master, holy and true, before you judge those who live on the earth and avenge our blood?" In response, they are told to wait a little longer until the full number of martyrs has been reached (Revelation 6:9-11). This implies are period of delay. When the 6th seal is opened, John says, "Then I looked when the Lamb opened the sixth seal, and a huge earthquake took place; the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the full moon became blood red; and the stars in the sky fell to the earth like a fig tree dropping its unripe figs when shaken by a fierce wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the very important people, the generals, the rich, the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to withstand it?” (Revelation 6:12-17). Widener equates these events with those of Matthew 24:29-30, in which Jesus said, "Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." I do have to agree with Widener that the correlation between these two passages appears strong. It is then that Jesus says in verse 31, "And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." So yes, Widener's position that the rapture follows the 6th seal is pretty compelling!

As I write this, today is May 18, 2024. If the above analysis is correct, it would appear that the first three seals have passed, and that we should expect the fourth seal to open any day now (if it hasn't already been opened). So we should imminently expect events that cause a high death toll, possibly limited to the Middle East, but possibly global. Revelation 6: 8 says, "They (Death and Hades) were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill its population with the sword, famine, and disease, and by the wild animals (beasts) of the earth". Death by sword, famine and disease are the normal results of war. Since 'beasts' generally represent kingdoms or empires in Daniel and Revelation, the wild beasts of the earth is probably a metaphor for rogue nations, most likely those of Gog and his allies as described in Ezekiel 38 (Turkey, Iran, Lybia, Sudan, and as well as others that might include Lebanon, Syria, Russia, Caucasus nations and others). With the ongoing Israel-Gaza war, the Middle East is currently a tinder box that could explode at any moment, and likely will. From Ezekiel 38 it is pretty clear that Turkey will be the key player. Above, I have already considered the great suffering that Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24:21, and related it to the events of October 7. But in verse 22, Jesus continues, "And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short." This suggests an ongoing period of suffering that continues after the abominations take place, and that it threatens to potentially become a war of total destruction with no survivors. The abominations mark the beginning of that suffering, but if the Ezekiel 38 invasion of Israel is about to start, then that suffering is by no means over yet. In verses 23-26, Jesus indicates that the events which follow cause people to wake up and realise that we are in the end times., "Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!' or ‘There he is!' do not believe him. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Remember, I have told you ahead of time. So then, if someone says to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe him." These verses relate well to the period of delay that is implied in the 5th seal of Revelation, when intense persecution of believers breaks out and the souls of the martyrs cry out "How long?"

It is possible that the huge death toll implied by the fourth seal extends throughout the rest of the tribulation period, rather than it being completed in a short period of time before the persecution and martyrdom of believers begins as indicated by the 5th seal. And then the rapture occurs after the 6th seal. But just how long of a delay might Christians have to endure first? In Daniel 12:11-12, the angel says, "From the time that the daily sacrifice is removed and the abomination that causes desolation is set in place, there are 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits and attains to the 1,335 days." If it is correct to identify 7 October 2023 as the day when the sacrifice was removed or stopped, and the abominations were committed or set in place, then 1,290 days after that takes us to 19 April 2027, and 1,335 days takes us to 3 June 2027. The angel does not explain to Daniel the exact significance of these time periods, but the implication seems to be that believers are required to endure up until the 1,335 days. Does this period of endurance relate to both Christians and Jews, or are Christians raptured first, with Jews having to wait until the end of the great tribulation for their deliverance by Jesus?

Zechariah 14 is a significant passage that must be considered in relation to Daniel's 70th week. Verses 1-2 say, "A day of the LORD is about to come when your possessions will be divided as plunder in your midst. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to wage war; the city will be taken, its houses plundered, and the women raped. Then half of the city will go into exile, but the remainder of the people will not be taken away." Its introduction relating it to the 'day of the Lord' identifies it as an end-time prophecy, and personally I understand this invasion of Jerusalem to be the same as the yet-future invasion by Gog and his allies that is described in Ezekiel 38. Widener points out that verse 2 had a literal fulfilment in the 1948-49 Arab Israeli War. He writes, "…arguably the fiercest battle in the war was fought with Jordan over Jerusalem. At the end of it, the armistice line divided the city in half between the Old City and the New City. When the Jewish Quarter in the Old City fell, many were killed, others were taken into Jordanian captivity, and the rest were deported to the New City. Their homes were pillaged and set ablaze, and the synagogues were destroyed. And as one might expect, some of the women taken captive were also ravaged. When peace was finally made under the 1949 Armistice Agreement, Jerusalem was divided in half for the first time in its four-thousand-year history." That is certainly true. Verse 3 which says, "Then the LORD will go to battle and fight against those nations, just as he fought battles in ancient days" might also be considered to have been fulfilled at that time. Militarily, the Arabs had the advantage, and yet against all odds, the Israelis won. Israel's survival and victory, not only in that war but also in 1967 and 1973 appears to have been quite miraculous. However, verses 4-5 say, "On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which lies to the east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in half from east to west, leaving a great valley. Half the mountain will move northward and the other half southward. Then you will escape through my mountain valley, for the mountains will extend to Azal. Indeed, you will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come with all his holy ones with him." This was certainly not fulfilled in 1948-49. In that case, surely the fall of Jerusalem described in verse 2 is ultimately a yet-future event. And if it coincides with Jesus setting his feet on the Mount of Olives, and providing an escape route for Jews fleeing Jerusalem, might this coming also be the occasion on which he raptures his church? Revelation 12:5-6 says, "…Her child (i.e. Jesus) was suddenly caught up to God and to his throne, and she (i.e. the people of Israel) fled into the wilderness where a place had been prepared for her by God, so she could be taken care of for 1,260 days." If Jesus is caught back up to heaven at this time, is the Church caught up to heaven with him? And when Jesus returns with 'all his saints' (1 Thessalonians 3:13), does the raptured Church return with him at the end of the 1,260 days to help him deliver Israel? This would equate to a mid-trib view of the rapture, and imply that Jesus has different plans for the Church and for Israel during the second half of the Great Tribulation.

Or is a post-mid-trib view correct, such that the rapture occurs after the midpoint? Widener points out that at Christ's first coming he fulfilled the four Spring feasts in Israel's religious calendar, namely Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of First-fruits, and Pentecost. He suggests that at his second coming, Jesus will likely fulfil the Fall feasts, namely the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Booths. These all occur in the Jewish month of Tishri. Given the rapture's association with the last trumpet (Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:52, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16), and especially if it occurs at the 6th seal and not at the seventh trumpet in Revelation, then it would make sense for it to occur during the Feast of Trumpets. The Feast of Trumpets is at Rosh Hashanah, on 1 or 2 Tishri, which in 2024 is October 3 or 4. Widener points out that no one knows the day or hour of the Feast of Trumpets because its timing depends on observation of the new moon. Could October 3 or 4, 2024 be the day of the rapture? Possibly. The bible simply does not make it clear at what point the rapture occurs within the 70th week.

However, it does seem clear that a portion of the people of Israel will spend 1,260 days in the wilderness before the end of the 70th week. This is the same period of 42 months during which Revelation 11:2-3 says that the Gentiles will trample upon the holy city of Jerusalem, and the two witnesses will prophecy. In 2027, the Feast of Booths, which is the last of the Fall feasts, ends on Tishri 22, which is October 23, 2027. Counting backwards 1,260 days takes us to May 11, 2024, which as I write passed a week ago. So it does seem that events are already behind schedule for the 70th week to end by the Fall feasts of 2027. And for it to end by December 31, 2027, the 1,260 days would have to begin by July 19, 2024. Widener never points to December 31, 2027 as a significant date (he understands that God works according to the Jewish calendar), but what I am saying is that if Daniel's 70th week is to end in 2027, Antichrist has to invade Jerusalem by July 19, 2024.

That leaves 2 months, as I write, for us to wait and see!