Picture Credit. Wolfymoza, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
The 7,000 year cycle
The 7,000 Year Cycle
Since the earliest times Christians have believed in a 7,000 year time period which follows the pattern of seven days of creation in the book of Genesis. Six days of work followed by one day of rest. The key to understanding this is in 2 Peter 3:8.
[2Pe 3:8 KJV] 8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
The following are some of the sources for the early church's teaching of this doctrine.
So from a prophetic point of view one day is a thousand years. From the time of Adam there will be 6,000 years followed by 1,000 years of rest. The early church fathers believed this. Irenaeus (ca. 125-202) was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul, which is now Lyons, France. Irenaeus was born in Smyrna in Asia Minor, where he studied under bishop Polycarp who in turn had been a disciple of the Apostle John.
In his work, "Against Heresies" (Book5, Chapter 8, paragraph 3), Irenaeus said the following:
3. For in as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And for this reason the Scripture says: ''Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their adornment. And God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that He had made; and God rested upon the seventh day from all His works''. Genesis 2:2. This is an account of the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come. ''For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years''; 2 Peter 3:8. In six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year.
Another source from which we get the teaching of the 7,000 year cycle is the Epistle of Barnabas. There is much discussion over who wrote this epistle. Some attribute it to the Barnabas of the Book of Acts who was a companion of the Apostle Paul. Others doubt this. However there is general agreement that whoever wrote it, it was written some time between 70 AD and 132 AD. Consequently it demonstrates that the teaching of the 7,000 year cycle was part of church teaching right from the start. In Chapter 15:4-5 the epistle says the following. J.B.Lightfoot translation.
Give heed, children, what this meaneth; He ended in six days. He
meaneth this, that in six thousand years the Lord shall bring all
things to an end; for the day with Him signifyeth a thousand years;
and this He himself beareth me witness, saying; Behold, the day of
the Lord shall be as a thousand years. Therefore, children, in six
days, that is in six thousand years, everything shall come to an end.
And He rested on the seventh day. this He meaneth; when His Son
shall come, and shall abolish the time of the Lawless One, and shall
judge the ungodly, and shall change the sun and the moon and the
stars, then shall he truly rest on the seventh day.
Epistle of Barnabas
Picture credit. Gerhard Haubold, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Hippolytus of Rome was an early Christian theologian who lived between 170 and 235 A.D. His commentary on the Book of Daniel is the oldest surviving Christian commentary on scripture. The following is from Fragment 2 of his commentary on Daniel, paragraph 4.
And 6, 000 years must needs be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day on which God rested from all His works. For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they shall reign with Christ, when He comes from heaven, as John says in his Apocalypse: for a day with the Lord is as a thousand years. Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6, 000 years must be fulfilled. And they are not yet fulfilled, as John says: five are fallen; one is, that is, the sixth; the other is not yet come.
There are several other writers who make the point about six thousand years of history followed by a thousand years of rest. Among them Commodianus, Victorinus, Methodius and Lactanius. I got this list from Ken Johnson's book "The End Times by the Ancient Church Fathers". This would be useful reading if you want to follow this subject up.
Some commentators think there is a relationship between the seven days of creation and the seven thousand years of history. There are many different views about this. The chart below is a comparison of the two cycles.