We have been looking at the symbolic time spans in vision and prophecy, especially at the phrase "a time, times, and half a time" and the three-and-a-half symbol. We showed that the three expressions, “time”, “times” and “half a time” all represent one and the same thing (our time of tribulation) but from different perspectives. The “half-a-time” symbol represents the providence of God in lessening our suffering.
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".
"God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear" (1Corinthians 10:13). What may seem like two times or even ten times too much trouble to us, is only half what we'd get if God did not bind the hand of Satan even as he did in ancient times for Job.
A time of tribulation, or even doubled tribulation, can seem as but half a time, when we look toward our future in heaven. Paul stated it like this: "I consider the sufferings of this present time not worthy of comparison with the glory that will be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18). Christ himself suffered double trouble even unto death, but God did not abandon his holy one, and raised him up (Acts 2:22-36).
Peter says, "To the degree that you partake of the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing..." (1Peter 4:12-19). When our sufferings test our faith, then our faith gives meaning to our sufferings because we can view our sufferings as Satan reviling us even as he reviled Christ who suffered for us. We therefore become partakers or sharers in Christ's sufferings, which also followed the three-and-a-half pattern. This understanding of troubled times halves our burden of distress and helps us to bear it with dignity.
The three-and-a-half symbol in the Bible has the activity of antichrist in focus. Antichrist persecutes the disciples of Christ and brings tribulation and suffering upon them.
The particular antichrist expected by the early Christians was connected with the Roman empire. John makes it clear, however, that even before that antichrist had come, there were already "many antichrists" rising up (1John 2:18 2John 1:7).
John sees the antichrist as "the spirit of error" (1John 4:2-6) rather than simply as a particular person. What was characteristic of a particular Roman Caesar at one time in history was "already in the world" (1John 4:3) before him, and certainly remained in the world after him. The spirit of antichrist is with us today, and will be in the world after we are gone.
The spirit of antichrist denies the love of God in giving and accepting the flesh and blood of Christ his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. It therefore reviles the Son of Man, and reviles those who believe him to be the Son of God and follow him.
The spirit of antichrist works to inflict suffering upon us, or if not on us then on our brethren so that we suffer with them. But we are given into his hands for no more than "a time, times, and half a time".
God is in control. Though we suffer much, we shall not suffer for ever, nor is our suffering pointless.