Most know Sir Isaac Newton as the father of modern science. Newton who died in 1727 is considered among the world’s most influential scientists. He formulated the law of gravity and the law of motion thereby explaining the movement of the planets, moons and stars due to gravitational pull of larger bodies. It radically transformed man’s approach to astronomy.
But Newton was also an ardent Christian and had a tremendous interest in end-times theology. He spent hours researching the Bible on the second coming of Jesus Christ.
This curious side of Newton was unveiled in a display of Newton’s writings at the University of Jerusalem entitled “Newton’s Secrets.” It was an odd combination — Hebrew scholars analyzing Christian prophecy.
A truckload of Newton’s writings and letters — located in the house of the Earl of Portsmouth one of Newton’s heirs — was auctioned off in 1936. English economist John Maynard Keynes purchased the document and then willed them to King’s college in England and to Abraham Shalom Yahuda, a Jewish Oriental studies scholar.
The later bequeathed them to the state of Israel.
Newton predicts end of world
The Hebrew researchers estimate Newton wrote over 1 million words related to his Biblical study. But perhaps the most telling statement was a marginal note in a letter he wrote in 1704 where Newton predicted the world would end in 2060 AD.
Newton came to this conclusion after an intensive study of the Book of Daniel, particularly chapter 12 verse 7:
“I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times and half a time; and as soon as they finished shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed.”
It was the phrase “times, times and a half a time,” that caught Newton’s attention. He interpreted it to mean three and half years or 1,260 days (also referenced in Daniel 7:25, Revelation 11:3, 12:6 and 13:5). But he made a slight adjustment, he interpreted days to mean years – 1,260 years — which marked the countdown to the end of the world and return of Christ.
Of course, Newton also required a start date for this countdown. For that, Newton used the establishment of the Holy Roman Empire in 800 AD by Charlemagne. This signaled the merging of the Pope’s religious primacy with Charlemagne’s political supremacy.
Consequently, the 2060 date was simply calculated by adding 1,260 years to 800 AD.
End time prophecy was popular in the protestant movement during Newton’s day. The Protestants, who had just broken free from the Roman Catholic Church, suffered severe persecution from the Catholic Church. Early Protestant leaders, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, regaled the papacy as the antichrist. The 144,000 elect who were preserved by God were considered the Protestants. The great apostasy involved those still in the Roman Catholic Church.
Newton believed that 800 AD marked the earliest start date for the countdown, but added that it could be later, stating:
“[It] did not commence before the year 800 in which the pope’s supremacy commenced,” Newton said. He later added, “It may end later, but I see no reason for it ending sooner.”
“This I mention,” Newton added, “not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail.”
In the New Testament, Jesus said we would not know the exact day or hour of His return (Mathew 24:36). In fact, Jesus admitted even He did not know the specific date adding that only the Heavenly Father knew the exact time. But there would be a number of indicators, signalling Jesus’ return was near. One of those signs was the restoration of the nation of Israel.
The restoration of Israel
In Newton’s day, the nation of Israel did not exist. Nevertheless as Newton studied end-time prophecy, he realized Israel’s restoration as a nation was a critical sign post to the end of the world.
In his commentary on the Book of Revelation, Newton wrote, “the ruin of the wicked nations, the end of weeping and of all troubles, the return of the Jews (from) captivity and their setting up of a flourishing and everlasting kingdom.”
“At that time is also predicted the end of the king of the North, the fall of the great Apostacy, the return of the Jewish captivity and the great tribulation…” he added.
The other end-times writers of Newton’s day also believed Israel needed to be restored, but predicted it would happen within the 17th or 18th century. Newton based on his study said it would not happen until much later.
Newton’s prediction, of course, proved true and the Jews were restored to the Promised Land two centuries later with the setting up of the nation of Israel on May 14, 1948.