Author: Ron Graham
A Time, Times, and Half a Time
—Times and seasons in prophecy
In this lesson we look at the symbolic time spans in vision and prophecy, especially at the phrase "a time, times, and half a time".
1 The Symbolic Calendar
Symbolic times in vision and prophecy are sometimes based on an ideal year of 360 days. There are twelve months each of 30 days.
For example, the 1260 days of Revelation 12:6 is the same as the 42 months of Revelation 13:5. Divide 1260 days by 30 days and you get 42 months.
This nice neat calendar of 360 days, or twelve 30 day months to a year, is most suitable for symbolic purposes. However it would not work in practice, unless a gap of some extra days were allowed between each year to keep the calendar synchronised with the seasons.
Calendars have always suffered from the problem that weeks don't fit exactly into months and years. There are not exactly 52 weeks in a year. This untidy fact drives accountants and paymasters mad.
Even the symbolic calendar mentioned above doesn't fit an exact number of weeks because 360 does not divide evenly by seven. Fortunately this doesn't bother us in our study of prophetic times and seasons, where years and weeks never mix, and where symbolic times do not relate mathematically to actual times.
2 The Three-and-a-Half Symbol
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). Let's examine this symbol in detail.
- Three-and-a-half times. Most interpreters take "a time, times, and half a time" to mean "one time, two times, and half a time" or three-and-a-half times altogether. There is good reason for this. We discover periods of three-and-a-half in various passages of vision and prophecy where times and seasons are mentioned. Consider the following examples.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
3 Symbolic and Actual Time
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. For example, when we see three-and-a-half years in 1260 days, we have not discovered a literal three-and-a-half years somewhere in history or the future.
The three-and-a-half years remain as symbolic as the number they are derived from. You cannot divide symbolic days by 360 and get literal years any more than you can divide Australian cents by 100 and get U.S. dollars.