Author: Ron Graham

Book of Revelation

Three and a Half
—Times and Seasons in Prophecy

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 is the three-and-a-half symbol. This is expressed in several forms, including 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 half a time" to mean "one time, two times, and half a time". They take “times” to mean “two times”. This is a reasonable assumption, because it fits the three-and-a-half symbol as in the following examples.

1 Three-and-a-half days

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).

2 Three-and-a-half months

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 are 30 days left, or one month. Take 1260 days from the 1335 days, and there are 75 days left, or two-and-a-half months. The remainders of days, 30 and 75, add up to three-and-a-half months.

3 Three-and-a-half years

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 12:5). Dividing by 12, the 42 symbolic months become three-and-a-half symbolic years.

Symbols Remain Symbols

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.

A Time, Times, and Half a Time

We continue to study the three-and-a-half symbol in Revelation (and also in Daniel), by now relating it to the expression, "a time, times, and half a time" (Revelation 12:14).

The expression "a time, times, and a half a time" is not a code for the three-and-a-half symbol, but rather an explanation of that symbol, showing its internal structure and meaning.

If you say, "A time, times, and dividing of time means three-and-a-half years", you have missed the point entirely, and got the whole matter backwards. Three-and-a-half is not an insight into the expression "a time, times, and a half a time". Quite the reverse, the expression "a time, times, and a half a time" is an insight into the three-and-a-half symbol.

The Meaning of Three-and-a-half

Take special note The three-and-a-half symbol is shown to have a structure of one, two, and a half. Whatever the "one time" represents, 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.

We are not supposed to see the one, two, and the half as pieces of a puzzle to be joined together to get three-and-a-half as the solution. Rather, three-and-a-half is the puzzle and we solve it by seeing it as comprising these three parts, each part symbolic of the same thing differently measured. Now consider these three parts...

1 A time

The "one time" represents a period of trouble, danger, struggle, and testing. Faith is tested in many ways. God's people are not immune from tribulations of various kinds. Even at the best of times, our Christian life is quite a struggle because we are involved in a battle between good and evil. Paul encourages us to "Be strong in the Lord... Put on the whole armour of God... For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against... spiritual forces of wickedness". (Ephesians 6:10-18).

2 Times

The "two times" represent "double trouble", pain upon pain. Sometimes suffering and hardship can be very intense, or prolonged with no end in sight. Peter speaks of "the fiery trial which is to try you" (1Peter 4:12). In even the most terrible tribulation, however, we are never forsaken by God or separated from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39)

3 Half a time

The "half a time" represents the same thing as the "one time" or the "two times" but puts it in a different light. It represents a time of tribulation from God's point of view. There are three tribulation principles that in a sense shorten, or reduce our troubles or cut them in half. These are outlined below...

When God's people undergo painful trials, it can feel as though God does not notice or care. However God is certainly there. When we look at our troubles as God looks at them, then what appeared to us as "two times" is seen to be but "half a time".

Was John a Copycat?

Many interpreters of John’s Revelation take the view that John borrowed some of his material from Daniel. For example, they would say that John borrowed the expression, "a time, times, and half a time" (Revelation 12:14) from Daniel (Daniel 7:25, Daniel 12:7).

This view has John making up the book of Revelation from his own researches and reading. That contradicts John’s own claim that he recorded visions seen by him personally and given to him by an angel who received them from from Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1-2).

The similarities we may find between Daniel and John are explained by their having the same spirit of prophecy. John didn't borrow anything from Daniel. John got his stuff directly from the Lord, the same Lord that Daniel got his stuff from. That's why there are similarities and even identical expressions in the books of Daniel and John.

John was no copycat or plaglarizer. He bore a true and original testimony of what he saw and was told by the angel of God.

tab  What Were John’s Sources?