Hi my name is Dean Smith and in this podcast we ask the question, why did Sir Isaac Newton predict the world would end around 2060 AD?
If you were driving through the US in 2011, a strange thing was taking place. Billboards were popping up around the country broadcasting that the rapture of Christ was going to take place on May 21, 2011 and that would be judgment day for everyone else.
It was part of an elaborate campaign with an estimated budget of around $5 million undertaken by Family Radio, a popular Christian ministry based in California. It was broadcasting the prediction of its founder Harold Camping.
When the event did not take place, an embarrassed Camping readjusted his date, stating that May 21 was the spiritual judgment and that the actual judgment would now take place a few months later on October 21.
Of course, it didn’t happen then either.
After his predictions fell apart, the atheists and secularists used it to mock Christianity. Time Magazine joined in and included Camping among its top ten failed predictions.
Christian Bible teachers were equally shocked by Camping’s rash predictions and quickly pointed to Matthew 20:36, where Jesus told His disciples that we would not know the day or hour of the Lord’s return and added that even He didn’t know.
The Greek word ‘hemera’ used in this verse means a literal, 24 hour day. So if we interpret this literaly, it means we would not know the exact day that Christ would return and Camping’s prediction flew in the face of Christ’s warning.
Camping would later admit his mistake and even called his attempt to predict the day of Christ’s return as sinful.
Though the Bible says we can not know the exact day of Christ’s return, Jesus and other Biblical writers spoke of signs that would indicate the day of Christ’s return was near – this included earthquakes, volcanoes, asteroids hitting the earth and oceans, plagues, famines and wars.
Yet despite Christ’s warning that we cannot predict the exact day, there have been a rash of predictions and these actually led one of the world’s greatest scientists to come up with his own prediction.
That man was Sir Isaac Newton. He died in 1727 and is best known for his apple story. As the story goes an apple apparently fell on his head which led to the discovery of gravity. In fact, it did not fall on his head, Newton was in a garden and saw an apple fall from a tree and wondered why it fell downward instead of flying sideways.
This led to his development of the theory of gravitation that the earth was exerting a force known as gravity. Other large planets and suns also exerted a similar force that was powerful enough to affect the orbits of planets, moons and comets and this resulted in a radical transformation of how they understood astronomy.
But sadly Newton was also a key player in the development of calculus. Though many claim it has uses in science, we all know that it was primarily intended to punish students in high school for bad things they were never caught doing.
Basically, Newton was one of the leading thinkers of his day.
But what many people don’t know is that Sir Isaac Newton was also a Christian and spent hours studying the Bible and he was particularly keen on studying the end times and the second coming of Christ.
He wrote books and compiled thousands of pages of notes and oddly his notes, that involved over one million words, were eventually donated to the nation of Israel and put in the care of the University of Jerusalem.
As the Jewish researches poured through Newton’s papers, they stumbled upon a letter written in 1704 and in its margin Newton wrote that Christ’s second coming would take place around 2060 AD. In other words, during our century.
So why did Newton do this?
Well the best explanation is that Newton lived in interesting times. The rampant corruption in the Roman Catholic church in that day led to the formation of the protestant church after Martin Luther pounded his 95 theses on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg Germany in 1517.
In the century that followed, the Roman Catholic church aggressively persecuted the protestants. who began looking upon the Pope as the antichrist and the Roman Catholic church as Babylon referred to in the Book of Revelation. Babylon for those who don’t know is considered the mother of evil in the end times. I am not sure Newton would hold the same opinion of the Catholic Church if he were alive today, but back them it was bad.
Of course along with this many started delving into the date when Christ would return and according to Newton’s note, he started studying end times theology to end this nonsense.
“This I mention 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 their predictions fail.”
So what did Newton have to say about the end times?
First though modern Israel did not exist in Newton’s day, from his study of Scripture, Newton realized that Israel needed to be restored as a nation before Christ’s second coming.
He wrote in his commentary on the Book of Revelation:
“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.”
Other Bible teachers in Newton’s day agreed that Israel needed to be restored before Christ returned, but they predicted it was imminent and said Israel would be restored in the 17th or 18th century.
However, Newton did not agree. He did not believe it would take place until much later.
So how did Newton arrive at 2060 AD?
In several places in the Bible it refers to a period of 1260 days or 42 months where the church would be protected from Satanic attack. At the end of this period Satan would briefly make a play to control the world through the Anti-Christ. But in the end, Jesus would return and the world would be judged:
6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she *had a place prepared by God, so that there [a]she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days. (Revelation 12:6 NASV)
But instead of looking upon these as actual days, Newton believed it was a reference to 1260 years. Though he now had the length of time, Newton still needed 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.
By adding his 1260 years to a 800 AD start date, he arrived at 2060 AD. Though Newton did not believe Christ’s return would take place before 2060 AD, he added that it could take place later than that date.
“[It] did not commence before the year 800 in which the pope’s supremacy commenced. It may end later, but I see no reason for it ending sooner.”
Now whether you agree with Newton’s conclusions or not, this is how he arrived at 2060 AD.
We need to understand this was a ballpark prediction and not the exact day that Jesus warned against.
So are there any other Bible passage that might support Newton’s 2060 AD predction?
Many believe that the restoration of Israel as a nation on May 14, 1948 is a key marker for Christ’s return and believe that Jesus will return within a generation of Israel’s restoration based on Mark 13:30, though others may disagree with that interpretation.
So how long is generation?
There have been several numbers thrown out, 30 years, 40 years and 70 years. However, in Genesis 6:20 we read that as part of the flood judgment, God also limited man’s lifespan to 120 years. If this is a generation from God’s perspective, when we add 120 years to 1948, that brings it to no later than 2068.
But again, this is only speculation as only the Father in heaven knows the exact day of Christ’s return.
- University of Jerusalem (http://www.jnul.huji.ac.il/) /
- http://www.newtonproject/.sussex. ac.uk / Father of modern Science calculated:
- World to end in 2060 by Ofri Ilani (http://www.haaretz.com/) / The world will end in 2060, according to Newton (thisislondon.co.uk)
Lead image credit: Painting of Sir Isaac Newton by Godfrey Kneller, 1689 and photo of the Milky Way by the European Space Agency/Wikipedia