Author: Ron Graham
In this lesson we continue to look at the symbolic time spans in vision and prophecy, especially at the phrase "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).
I would now like to propose to you that 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.
I must admit I get a little bit bewildered when people say, "A time, times, and dividing of time means three-and-a-half years", and then smile as if somehow they have enlightened me. It seems to me that they may 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, whether in days, months, or years.
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. Let me explain...
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)
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 in our next lesson entitled How God Halves our Suffering”
Attempting to correlate symbolic time with actual time periods is fruitless if one tries to turn symbolic years, months, weeks, and days into numbers of real historic years or to actual dates.
Any attempt to use the symbolic periods as a code for some real number of years leads to confusion. Most of the predictions that Bible interpreters have made, as to the timing of future events, have been based on this misunderstanding of times and seasons in prophecy. That's one reason why their predictions always seem to be wrong. How many times has the date of the second coming been predicted, and the date has passed by with the world still here?
Symbolic times do not signify the date or duration of actual times, but rather that the period, whenever it may be, and whatever it may be in actual years, is within the knowledge and authority of God to determine.
Prophetic days, weeks, months, and years are not a code from which to calculate real time periods, but rather a symbol to stand in place of real time periods which are not for men to know in advance.
A symbolic period such as the 1335 days (Daniel 12:12) indicates that this is a time or season "which the Father has fixed by his own authority" and it is not for us to know (Acts 1:7). The symbol certainly has meaning, nevertheless it is not a code for date setting.