Author: Ron Graham
A Time, Times, and Half a Time
—Times and Seasons in Prophecy
Times of Tribulation (Revelation 6-11) >Seven Seals >Excursus on time and suffering (7)
We continue to think about times and seasons in prophecy especially with regard to our tribulations in life.
We look at 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). We observe what this symbol tells us about our tribulations.
It is a reasonable assumption that "a time, times, and a dividing of time" means "one time, two times, and half a time". This adds up to three and a half times and so fits the three-and-a-half symbol that we discussed in our previous lesson (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
The "one time" represents a period of tribulation. The "two times" also represents that period, except that there is a doubling, intensifying, or prolonging of the tribulation. Likewise the "half a time" represents the same period again, but the tribulation is limited or cut 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).
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...
- Firstly, God actively binds Satan. "God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear" (1Corinthians 10:13)
- Secondly, God gives us glorious hope. "I consider the sufferings of this present time not worthy of comparison with the glory that will be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18).
- Thirdly, through much tribulation we share in Christ’s sufferings. "To the degree that you partake of the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing..." (1Peter 4:12-19).
This understanding of troubled times halves our burden of distress and helps us to bear it with dignity.
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.