Author: Ron Graham
Times of Tribulation (Revelation 6-11) >Seven Seals >Excursus on time and suffering (7)
We continue to hark back to the benediction (Revelation 1:3), and its final five words, "because the time is near".
Remember that the first and last chapters of Revelation, have other similar statements: "These things must shortly take place... Surely I am coming quickly..."
One important time element in prophecy conveys this shortness. That element is the three-and-a-half symbol. It occurs in vision and prophecy as either three-and-a-half days, or three-and-a-half months, or three-and-a-half years of symbolic time.
This symbol is also couched in the expression "a time, times, and half a time" which appears twice in Daniel (Daniel 7:25 Daniel 12:7) and once more in Revelation (Revelation 12:14).
Most interpreters take "a time, times, and a dividing of time" to mean "one time, two times, and half a time". This is a reasonable assumption, because it fits the three-and-a-half symbol as in the examples mentioned in this lesson..
The three-and-a-half symbol has a structure of one, two, and a half. What the "one time" represents (a period of tribulation), the "two times" also represents except that there is a doubling, intensifying or prolonging. Likewise the "half a time" represents the same thing again, but there is a limiting or cutting short.
Our next lesson will talk in detail about the significance of "three-and-a-half" itself, and its connection with "a time, times, and half a time".
But now, in this lesson, we consider the significance of the "days", "months", and "years" connected with the "three-and-a-half".
The three-and-a-half symbol occurs in vision and prophecy as three-and-a-half days (Revelation 11:9,11).
In the famous seventy weeks of Daniel 9, the 70th week has events occurring "in the middle of the week" suggesting that this final symbolic week is divided into two parts of three-and-a-half days each (Daniel 9:27).
The significance of "days" in these prophecies is stated in the benediction at the beginning of the book: "the time is near" (Revelation 1:3). It is also stated in the last words of Jesus at the end of the book: "I am coming soon!" (Revelation 22:20).
Our tribulations in this world at the hand of Satan will not last long because our lives do not last long. Soon we will find ourselves face to face with Jesus and those who trouble us will be banished. "The sufferings of this present time cannot be compared to the glory that will be" (Romans 8:18).
In the numbers of days at the end of Daniel (Daniel 12:7-23) we find the three-and-a-half symbol as three-and-a-half months combined with three-and-a-half years.
Using the symbolic calendar, we proceed as follows: Take 1260 days (three-and-a-half years) from the 1290 days and there is a burden of 30 days, or one month. Take 1260 days from the 1335 days, and there is a burden of 75 days, or two-and-a-half months. The total burden of days is 105 (30+75). Divide this by 30 and you have three-and-a-half months.
This burden of three-and-a-half months on top of three-and-a-half years signifies one of the main ideas in the visions of Revelation.
While world history rolls on for a long time, history’s time is still finite. It will come to an end. Anyway, you don't live through history or in the future. You live but now, and for a very short time. History is not the point. Your own little lifespan is what matters most.
World history is symbolically represented as 1260 days or a time, times and half a time in symbolic years. Our own personal lifetime is symbolically represented as 105 days or a time, times and half a time in symbolic months.
In our lifetime, as a child of God, we will suffer for "a time" —the one month. It may even be that we suffer double trouble —the two months. However, joined to that is the promise that God helps us along the way. He makes our times of trouble seem like "half a time" —the half month.
As we have just seen in passing, the three-and-a-half symbol is also found as three-and-a-half symbolic years. Another example, is the 1260 days of Revelation 12:6. Dividing the 1260 days by 360 yields three-and-a-half symbolic years.
The same is true of 42 months (Revelation 11:2, 13:5). Dividing by 12, the 42 symbolic months become three-and-a-half symbolic years.
Tribulation and the battle against good and evil will go on for all of history until the end of the world. We have been emphasising that history is not the point. Your own little lifespan is what matters most. However that doesn't mean you can ignore the world and its history and live in a bubble.
Jesus says, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15-16). At the end of the book of Revelation "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come!' " (Revelation 22:17). But notice it also says, "Let the hearer say, 'Come!' " That's you.
To be sure you must get your own life in order "Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book" (Revelation 22:7).
But you must not keep those words to yourself. "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book" (Revelation 22:10).
Live your three-and-a-half days, your own short life. Endure your three-and-a-half months, your times of tribulation. But also live your three-and-a-half years, your obligation to the world and its future generations. Live the prophecy, but also teach it to others that they may live it too.
A great multitude will be saved (Revelation 7:9). You must first and foremost ensure that you are among that throng. But also you must lead others into it.
And those who are wise
shall shine like the sun
like the brightness
of the sky above.
And those who lead
many to righteousness
will shine like the stars
for ever and ever.
It's a simple primary school principle that you divide 1260 kangaroos by 360, you get three-and-a-half kangaroos, not three-and-a-half giraffes.
Likewise, if you divide 1260 symbolic days by 360 you get three-and-a-half symbolic years not literal or actual years. The three-and-a-half years remain as symbolic as the days they are derived from.
When we discover the three-and-a-half element within symbolic times, we have done no more than to relate symbols one to another and to see "a time, times, and a half a time" within various symbolic numbers of days, months, and years.
We have not turned a symbol into actual or literal time somewhere in history or the future.