This post examines the second crucial, fundamental assumption which underpins much end time theology. It is particularly targeted to Christians with an interest in end times theology. This post examines the basis for concluding that the time, times and half a time in Daniel 7:25, Daniel 12:7 and Revelation 12:14 is 3½ years. It is expected that the conclusions will generate some strong resistance, but I implore you to examine the interpretation very carefully so that we engage in fruitful debate at the deepest level in order to establish the truth.
What is the reason for taking the time, times and half a time (in future abbreviated TT½) in Daniel 7:25, Daniel 12:7 and Revelation 12:14 as 3½ years? We believe that this assumption cannot be adequately supported from the Bible and it is a (perhaps the) primary reason for end time theological confusion.
We discover that it relies on a chain of linked time periods incorporating the 42 months in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5, the 1260 days in Revelation 11:3 and 12:6, the TT½ in Revelation 12:14, the two TT½ in Daniel 7:25 and 12:7 and the first or second half of the final seven in Daniel 9:27. The assumed common identity and literalness of these time periods is used to derive the conclusion that this length is 3½ years. For many, this is also the primary basis through which the prophecies in the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation are linked which leads to specific, crucial time elements being imparted to the book of Revelation.
Since the interpretation of this time chain and its validity is so crucial to a large percentage of end time views, it is vital that it is very carefully and thoroughly checked. From an analysis of most commentaries, this is rarely if ever done and is therefore a major hermeneutical weakness in these works. Usually, the time chain is only cursorily checked and few of the links are thoroughly examined. Many just assume that the work of a previous scholar is valid and consequently they rarely check the assumption thoroughly for themselves.
Let’s draw a diagram of this time chain whose sequence reflects the usual way in which the links are inferred. The biblical references are shown underneath. The abbreviations are D = Daniel, R = Revelation, d = days, m = months, y = years and TT½ is the time, times and half a time.
TT½ -> 1260d -> 1260d –> 42m (=3½y) -> 42m -> TT½ -> TT½ -> 3½y
R12:14-> R12:6-> R11:3-> R11:2-> R13:5-> D7:25-> D12:7-> D9:27
The way this typically works is that firstly, the assumed common identity of Revelation 12:14 and 12:6 is used to establish that the TT½ is 1260 days. Then secondly, it is assumed that the two periods of 1260 days are the same. Then thirdly, the assumed common identity of the 42 months and the 1260 days in Revelation 11:2 and 3 is used to establish that the 1260 days is 3½ years. Fourthly, it is assumed that the 42 months in Revelation 13:5 must be this same period of time as the 42 months in Revelation 11:2 and therefore 3½ years as well. Fifthly, it is assumed that the TT½’s in Revelation and Daniel are all the same period of time which must then be 3½ years in length. Finally, this is equated to the (usually) final 3½ years in the final seven of the seventy sevens prophecy whose length of time was independently asserted from the interpretation of that prophecy (this was examined in Part 1 of this post).
Notice how this chain has 8 nodes and 7 links. If at any point the chain should be broken through an invalid assumption or the chain weakened through an unproven or doubtful assumption, then the overall interpretation will be damaged. In this way, the time chain should be seen to be fragile. Note that not all end time interpretations necessarily require all the 8 nodes.
Let us now examine these assumptions.
Firstly, is the 1260 days in Revelation 12:6 the same period of time as the TT½ in Revelation 12:14?
In Revelation 12:6 the woman flees, but why she flees is not explained and the focus of verse 6 is on the woman being “taken care of”. The Greek word used which occurs eight times focuses on the idea of feeding, nourishing and bringing up, but excludes the thought of protection from an enemy. Thus the focus of the 1260 days is nurture, not protection.
There are important similarities between the description of the woman fleeing into the wilderness to a place prepared for her and being nourished there in Revelation 12:6 and 12:14. For this reason, many scholars take the 1260 days and the TT½ as the same period of time. However, there are also important differences in the second passage reflected in all of Revelation 12;13-16 and these must be taken into account when making this assessment. Overall, it is apparent that the focus of the first passage is on nurture in the wilderness, whereas the focus in the second is protection from the direct attacks of the dragon and the indirect attacks of the serpent.
In Revelation 12:13, the woman is pursued, and by implication persecuted, by the dragon with the clear intention of destroying her. This would explain why she flees in Revelation 12:6. Then we are told in Revelation 12:14 that the woman is given the two wings of a great eagle and so is given help in her flight whereas in Revelation 12:6 no help is identified. Next, in Revelation 12:14 we are informed that she is carried to a place of refuge in the wilderness where she will be taken care of for a period of TT½. An important difference between Revelation 12:6 and Revelation 12:14 is that this place in the wilderness is “out of sight of the serpent”. It is quite curious that the identity of the woman’s aggressor changes from the “dragon” to the “serpent” although the same person is clearly in mind. Then we see that because the woman is out of sight, the serpent has to adopt a different “catch all” strategy to attack the woman as direct attack is not possible. So the serpent pours rivers of water out of his mouth to sweep her away. To understand this we need to recall the rivers of living water that flow from God’s throne as a picture of the work of the Holy Spirit. Here, the serpent’s counterfeit spiritual attack is designed as a catch all strategy to destroy the woman, much like Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus by killing all the babies less than two years old. The reason this attack fails is that “the earth swallowed the river”. We need to consider the vision picture here and we suggest that the reason the attack fails is that the “woman” is scattered over a large region implying that the woman is symbolic of a large group of people not a single individual.
The change of identity of Satan from being a “dragon” to be being a “serpent” reflects the different strategy needed to destroy the woman. As a dragon, the attack is direct and violent; as a serpent, the attack is subtle and deceptive.
So the focus on Revelation 12:13-16 is on Satan’s attempts to destroy the woman and the protection given to save her in the wilderness. This contrasts with Revelation 12:6 where the focus is on nourishing the woman in the wilderness. So what we must observe is that the period of 1260 days is related to the nourishment given to the woman at her location in the wilderness, whereas the TT½ is related to the protection given to the woman in the wilderness. The role of nourishment for 1260 days is replaced by the role of protection for a period of TT½.
When we examine the TT½ in Daniel 7:25 we see that the aggression of the little horn continues right up until the end of the age and so the protection of the woman must continue right up to the end as well. In contrast, when we examine the 1260 days in Revelation 11 it becomes apparent that there are events that follow after the end of the 1260 days before the end of the age. The TT½ must therefore be longer than the 1260 days. Although some may argue that the word translated “taken care of” in Revelation 12:6 and Revelation 12:14 means the same and therefore implies the period of time is the same length, a better explanation is provided if we include the wider context of Revelation 11 and Daniel 7 and recognise that the TT½ starts at the same time, but extends beyond the end of the 1260 days right to the end of the age.
Secondly, why does John make a distinction between the 1260 days and the 42 months?
This question is especially relevant if both are the same period of time. In my recollection, this question has not been examined, but the answer is obvious from the text. The 42 months is a period when Jerusalem is under the authority of her people’s enemies. The 1260 days is a period when the two witnesses are prophesying clothed in sackcloth and the woman has fled into the wilderness and so does not have a home so it has to do with actions of God’s people. Given that the two contexts are different, the onus is on the scholar to prove that they are the same; it cannot be assumed.
This conclusion is further reinforced when we recognise that under the Julian Calendar that was in use in John’s days, 42 months is equivalent to 1279 days if rounded up. If these periods are interpreted literally, they cannot be the same either. To overcome this, it is often taken that the 1260 days is 3½ years of 360 days (sometimes called a prophetic year) which can be shown to be valid in the days of Noah and probably in the days of Moses too. However, by the time of Daniel all countries in Mesopotamia were using calendars that recognised that a year was longer than 360 days. It is therefore highly doubtful that a 360 day year can be used literally although it might be used symbolically.
Thirdly, are the two periods of 1260 days the same?
Since the contexts of the two uses of this period of time are very similar, it is reasonable to assume that they are the same.
Fourthly, are the two periods of 42 months the same?
Since the contexts of the two uses of this period of time are very similar, it is reasonable to assume that they are the same.
Fifthly, is the 1260 days in Revelation 11:3 the same period of time as the 42 months in Revelation 11:2?
Since the descriptions are different, the contexts are different and the numbers expressing the length of time are different, the most natural assumption is to assume they are different. Although the two lengths are nearly the same, they are literally about 19 days different. A full explanation of this difference is necessary to be sure of any conclusion that we arrive at. This has rarely, if ever been done.
Our conviction is that the only possible conclusion that unifies the whole word of God is that these two periods are 3½ years symbolically, but something else literally.
Sixthly, are all the periods of TT½ the same?
If we allow the presence of the same numbers to determine our end time theology, this is like the “tail wagging the dog”. The presence of the same phrase does not prove they are the same period of time especially if the phrase is symbolic and since the context surrounding each use is so different, we need to have solid grounds for saying they are the same. To my knowledge, this has not been done.
The weight of textual evidence using sound interpretation principles strongly suggests that the TT½ in Daniel 12:7 begins at the time Daniel received this final vision, that is in the third year of Cyrus king of Persia which is about 535 BC. The question that is asked in Daniel 12:6 is “How long shall it be until the end of these wonders?”. The normal, natural meaning of this question is that the starting time for the period is Daniel’s now which is the third year of Cyrus, not when the king appears on the scene in Daniel 11:36.
It also strongly suggests that the TT½ in Daniel 7:25 begins when the little horn emerges out of Rome. Whatever interpretation you give to the little horn, the two TT½ cannot be the same. To conclude that the two TT½ are the same the validity of the time chain must be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Seventhly, is the final period of seven in the seventy sevens prophecy a period of seven years so that the events that occur in the middle of that seven split it into two periods of 3½ years?
The argument given in Part 1 of this post strongly suggest that the periods of seven are either symbolic or determined from the context of the interpretation. We cannot without further evidence conclude that the final seven is a period of seven years.
Many other scholars, who interpret Revelation symbolically, still see these time periods as being the same length of time, but frequently interpret the period to be actually the whole or most of the church age. However, these scholars rarely debate the reason why John uses 1260 days in one place, 42 months in another and why Daniel and John use a time, times and half a time. If indeed John has written under the inspiration of the Lord with precision, the failure to explain these differences is a weakness in the interpretation.
In conclusion, it is very doubtful that we can validly conclude from intensive Bible study that the periods of seven in the seventy sevens prophecy are periods of years and the time, times and half a time is 3½ years. This means that substantial components of most end time theologies are in error and most certainly cannot be asserted with any degree of confidence. Accepting this conclusion will most definitely lead to the removal of much confusion and steer us to a much more accurate end time theology.
I do expect some strong emotional reactions to what has been written here. From my perspective what has been written is motivated by a strong desire to know God and a love for the truth reflected in my convictions that the word of God is accurate. I believe the truth is knowable so that the end time confusion reflects the fact that up until now there is so much confusion. Current end time theologies must to some extent be in error, because they neither unify the word of God nor do they bring unity to the world wide church.