Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Do the periods in Revelation refer to the same period of 3 and 1/2 years, multiple periods of 3 1/2 years, two halves of a 7 year period, or something else?

Is there anything in the text to suggest the multiple references are NOT to a single 3 and 1/2 year period?

The references are:

  • 42 Months - Rev 11:2, Rev 13:5
  • 1260 days - Rev 11:3, Rev 12:6
  • time, times and half a time - Rev 12:14 (also Dan 7:25, Dan 12:7)

I am interested foremost in any clues in Revelation, and secondarily other references as they may relate to Revelation.

I am familiar with the arguments regarding the 70th week of Daniel in Daniel 9, but is there anything else to suggest a period other than 3 1/2 years?

I am trying to avoid the typical arguments that flow from a Darbyian/Dispensational view applied as a hermeneutic and discover what the text implies on its own. I am fairly familiar with this view, but would be appreciate any arguments based on the text itself.

Note: I see that my question was biased toward a view, namely that the period was a single period. I have edited in order to remove initial bias and open the question up to more input.

share|improve this question
    
Are you also looking for anywhere else in Scripture (besides in Revelation and Daniel) when a 3-1/2 year stretch of time is mentioned, in those ways or any other? –  John Martin Apr 1 at 17:26
    
I haven't, but if there is reason to believe the period in Revelation is a reference to something else, or something else in scripture sheds light on the period in Revelation, I'm interested. I know Revelation uses the OT a great deal, so this makes sense to me. Of course, there is the "seven" that permeates all of the OT, but I'd prefer to entertain arguments that are more specific rather than general. The "time, times, and half a time" is such a specific construction it seems likely to me this is the reference the apostle is pointing to. –  DonJewett Apr 1 at 17:41
    
I don't know if this is the type of answer you're looking for, so here's a comment for now. These 3-1/2 years could be references to the 3-1/2 years of drought Elijah had, shown via Luke 4:25 "But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;" and also with James 5:17 "17 Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.". –  John Martin Apr 1 at 18:15
    
@John Martin - That is interesting. Worth looking into. Thanks. –  DonJewett Apr 1 at 18:37
    
@DonJewett-Based on your additional comments I will delete my post. I'm not "Dispensational", but I do believe the text must be translated literally when the Context is literal. My caution to you is if you are trying to extract 'meaning' outside of context, you will find it-but it will lead you nowhere. The numbers have been translated; the task is to make "God's sense" out of them. My suggestion is this: understand the overall purpose God has for using them, and you will understand how they are to be used. –  user2479 Apr 3 at 2:53

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

There is Evidence for Two Periods without Reference to Dan 9

Introductory Comments

  • A Commitment: To abide by the parameters you have set (at least as I understand them), specifically avoiding in the main argument reference to Daniel 9 and the 70th week. Of course, it is always dangerous to purposefully "exclude" any part of God's Revelation in coming to understand the meaning of texts. That exclusion may hold the one key to a correct interpretation. However, I believe in this case your question can be answered without it (just perhaps not in full detail).
  • A Disclaimer: I am a Dispensationalist.
  • A Clarification: The “Darbian/Dispensational view” is not itself “applied as a hermeneutic,” but rather is a theology that derives from a grammatical-historical hermeneutic, a theology that works very diligently to have conclusions “based on the text itself.” I hope to demonstrate some of that here, as such is the hermeneutic that I will be following.
  • Some Assumptions: We will assume here (as you have, and I think rightly) that the “time and times and half a time” are a reference to 3 1/2 years just as the other numerical references are, and that such numbers are to be taken literally (there are hermeneutics that do not take numbers literally). Additionally, it is assumed here that the trumpet soundings of Revelation are sequential, one following the other (not all hold to this either)—this is actually demonstrated by other factors in the argument below, but to avoid need of proving it more fully, it will be assumed. Finally, the view taken here is a futurist view, that the events are describing things not only future at the time of their being prophesied, but still future as of the posting of this answer (other hermeneutics will derive a different conclusion on this as well).
  • Of the translation: All quoted text is from NKJV (unless otherwise noted), and emphasized text or summarized concepts is deemed more relevant to the question at hand.

The Argument

Daniel 7

Summary of Critical Points to the Question

The fourth beast (Dan 7:7) was the fourth and final kingdom (7:23) prophesied to Daniel. From within this fourth kingdom were 10 horns (7:8) which were kings (7:24), 3 of which are removed or subdued before a little horn (king) who rises (7:8, 20, 24). This little horn is most characterized by the fact that he has “a mouth speaking pompous words” (7:8; cf. v.11, 20, 25). It is also this little horn that “was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them,” (7:21) for a period of “a time and times and half a time” (7:25), which prevailing lasts only “until the Ancient of Days came” (7:22).

Commentary on Timing

This information locates the 3 1/2 years as the final time up to the coming of the Ancient of Days, a period in which the saints are losing the battle here on earth. This then is the final 3 1/2 years before God takes direct rule back.


Daniel 11-12

Summary of Critical Points to the Question

The position of “king of the North” changes hands twice rapidly in Dan 11:19-21, the second time being taken by “a vile person” (11:21), who then goes against the long time foe of the (position of the) king of the North, “the king of the South,” and the North prevails (11:25). Of this new vile person that is now the king of the North it is said that “his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant” (11:28-29) and favor those who forsake it (11:30, 32), and he defiles the sanctuary, stops sacrifices, and places the abomination of desolation there (11:31), and those “who know their God … shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering” (11:33), all of which “until the time of the end,” so only for “the appointed time” (11:35). During this time this king “shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished” (11:36). Forsaking God, exalting self, but honoring a new unknown god (11:37-38). When it is time for this king’s end (11:45), “At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your [Daniel’s] people … and at that time your people shall be delivered” (12:1), but immediately before Michael’s standing and delivering, even up “to that time” is “a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation” (12:1), which refers back to that period of their falling before the end (11:33-35). One asks how long is this period of trouble until the time Michael stands at the end (12:6), to which the reply is “a time, times, and half a time.” The trouble only finishing once it is true that “the power of the holy people has been completely shattered” (12:7).

[NOTE: Two other time measures are given following these verses: (1) “from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up” is “one thousand two hundred and ninety days” (12:11), and (2) “Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days” (12:12). Answering the relation of these times to the 3 1/2 years is outside the scope of this question, but it is obvious that they are not referring to the exact same 1260 days, though overlap is certainly occurring.]

Commentary on Timing

[Brief Excursus: It seems quite likely to me that this vile person who has the two previous kings of the North die before his ascension, and the one king of the South he takes out himself, are the 3 kings that fall because of him. Of course only the final of the three is flatly stated to be subdued by this vile person, but the rather oblique language used for the fall of the first king of the North, along with the short reign of the second who also has his death rather obliquely referred to could well relate to the “intrigue” of how the vile person seizes the kingdom (11:19-21).]

The identification of these three fallen kings in Dan 11 with those of Dan 7 need not be correct to still recognize that the identity of this new king of the North, the vile person, is the same as the “little horn” from Dan 7, for it is this king that has the same pompous spirit and words as that which so characterized the “little horn” king of Dan 7. Before the time of this vile person's end when Michael is standing to deliver Daniel’s people is this great time of trouble, that spans from the abomination of desolation (11:31) to the end (11:35, 45). A period we are told is this 3 1/2 years (12:7).

This information locates the 3 1/2 years of trouble being from the abomination of desolation up to the end time of the standing of Michael the great prince, a period in which those who know their God are losing the battle here on earth. This is then the same time as Dan 7 refers to, the time right before God takes direct rule back.


Revelation 11:1-14 (some notations back to 9)

Summary of Critical Points to the Question

The temple of God is present, with altar, and some are worshiping there, but the city itself is overrun by Gentiles, for the time of “forty-two months” (11:1-2), and two witnesses of God “prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (11:3). It is not until “they finish their testimony” that “the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them” (11:7). After they rise again in 3 1/2 days (11:9, 11), ascend to heaven (v.12), and an earthquake destroys part of the city (v.13), the second woe is said to be past, and the third coming soon (v.14).

Commentary on Timing

This information locates the 3 1/2 years during a time when the temple of God still exists and worshipers of God are gathering therein (i.e. the abomination of desolation is not set up), and in which the war against God’s people is not yet occurring, only beginning at the end of it. This is then NOT the same 3 1/2 year time as that right before God is taking direct rule back. Note that a confirmatory contextual clue to this is that these events are occurring within the 6th trumpet sounding, with one trumpet sounding to follow where other events are noted.


Revelation 11:15-12:13

Summary of Critical Points to the Question

During the 7th trumpet sounding (11:15), sometime after a woman’s child destined to rule all nations is “caught up to God and His throne,” (12:5) something compels the woman to flee “into the wilderness,” where God has made preparations for her sustenance that will last “o*ne thousand two hundred and sixty days*” (12:6), or “a time and times and half” (12:14). This time, however, does not occur until after the dragon who sought the child (12:4) had been cast out from heaven and down to the earth (12:9). This casting to earth is a “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea!” (12:12), and having been cast down to the earth, in his wrath he persecutes the woman (12:12-13). It is then that the woman takes her flight (12:6, 14). The dragon attempts to get her, but cannot, and instead goes “to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (12:17).

Commentary on Timing

This information locates the beginning of the 3 1/2 years in conjunction with a time of persecution for the woman, from which she flees, but her offspring are instead made war with during this same time she is away in the wilderness. It is also located in the 7th trumpet sounding, after the events of Rev 11:1-14. This is then the same time as that right before God is taking direct rule back as Dan 7 and 11-12.


Revelation 13

Summary of Critical Points to the Question

The dragon gives power to a beast (13:1-2), one with “a blasphemous name” (v.1). A miraculous healing occurs to this beast, and many follow him because of it (13:3), worshiping both him and the dragon (13:4). This beast “was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies” and also “given authority to continue for forty-two months” (13:5). His blasphemies were “against God … His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven” (13:6). The authority included “to make war with the saints and to overcome them” (13:7).

Commentary on Timing

This information locates the 3 1/2 years in conjunction with the beast’s speaking of blasphemies against God and making war against the saints, to the point of overcoming them. This is the same language of Dan 7 and 11-12, and Rev 12, and thus is then the same time as that right before God is taking direct rule back.

The Conclusion: An Answer to Your Questions Exists

Yes, there is evidence derived from the context of the specified texts you noted which points to two separate periods, and thus there is something “in the text to suggest the multiple references are NOT to a single 3 and 1/2 year period.”

First 3 1/2 Years: Based on circumstances of Rev 11:1-14, the 3 1/2 years there (11:2, 3) precedes the abomination of the temple, and the making of war against the saints.

Second 3 1/2 Years: All other references (Dan 7:25; 12:7; Rev 12:6, 14; 13:5) are to a period of 3 1/2 years after the abomination, during which time the "little horn/vile person king of the North/beast empowered by the dragon" person speaks blasphemy and pompous words while making war with the saints.

The evidence noted does indicate the first period is not separated from the second period by much (if any), but does not clearly indicate (that I can tell) an immediate succession from one period to the next. So from the above argument your questions answer out as:

  • “Do the periods in Revelation refer to the same period of 3 and 1/2 years?” No
  • “Multiple periods of 3 1/2 years?” Yes
  • “Two halves of a 7 year period?” Possibly
  • “Or something else?” Not likely
  • “Is there anything in the text to suggest the multiple references are NOT to a single 3 and 1/2 year period?” Yes
share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for your careful answer! I can see that it will take me a bit to work through and digest. Also, mention of your starting assumptions is greatly appreciated. –  DonJewett Apr 9 at 18:31
    
Very detailed - thanks. Grammatical nuance also appears in Revelation 8:1 (please click here) to indicate the apparent midpoint of the seven year period. –  Joseph Apr 15 at 16:39
    
@Joseph: Thanks. That is assuming there is a grammatical nuance there at all. As the OP in that question notes, "some manuscripts have ὅτε," except it just so happens that the "some" is the "majority," so while the OP dismissed the fact that it could be ὅτε in all seven places, I would not be quick at all to dismiss such. For the record, I generally hold with the minority of (modern) scholars that the majority text is the correct reading. If such is the correct reading, then nothing is indicated at 8:1 for the 7th different from the other six. –  ScottS Apr 15 at 17:00

I feel the best way to answer your question is by "keeping the answer simple".I am a futurist so this question is answered from a futurist view My understanding is that the book of Revelation speaks of the last seven years of planet earth

I have taken all quotes from NIV bible.

How did i arrive at this conclusion ?

In Revelation 11 we read,

I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. 2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. 3 And I will appoint my two witnesses,and they will prophesy for 1,260 days,clothed in sackcloth.”

When we look at the above two periods we see that each equal three and a half years.

They will trample on the holy city for 42 months = Three and a half years

The two witnesses will prophesy for 1,260 days = Three and a half years

When we add these two periods of Three and a half years we get = Seven years

The trampling of the holy city must take place after the "two witnesses" have given their testimony which leaves one to conclude that when the two witnesses give their testimony, that the times are more peaceful.This is the first half of the seven.

Now this Seven is the seven that is mentioned in chapter nine in the book of Daniel,

24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place. “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One,the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.

How do we understand the covenant he will confirm for one seven ?

After the the two witnesses have finished giving their testimony we read in Revelation 11:7,

Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. 8 Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. Please click here to read my answer about the two witnesses.

It is very important that the reader understands that the bodies of the two witnesses lie in the street of the city for three and a half days,and that this three and a half days really mean three and a half years or a time,times and half a time.The days have been shortened from 1260 days to three and a half days.This is evident in the words of Jesus,for it is written in Matthew 24:15-22,

15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. 22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

Time,times and half a time = 1 day,2 days and half a day = Three and one half days that is in relation to the days being shortened,meaning the times have been shortened as referenced in Matthew 24:15-22

In relation to the holy city being trampled for 42 months or 1260 days or a time,times and half a time-the meaning here would be Three and one half years.

I will expand this further to enable the reader to fully understand the meaning of the times, months and days as written in Revelation.In Rev:17-12 we read,

12 “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast.

One hour is a unit of time.The Kings receive authority along with the beast for one time to make war against the people of God.

One hour to make war is not a lot of time, but when we view the one hour as one time,the interpretation reads,

The kings receive authority with the beast for One year = 1 time ** which seems more credible than **1 hour

I use this interpretation to understand Revelation 8:1 where we read,

8 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

The seventh seal being opened is the timing for the Kings and the beast to make war which is for one year, and during this "war campaign" there is silence from Heaven for, Not half an hour ** - **but for half a year.

The text would now read,

12 “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for One Year will receive authority as kings along with the beast.

And when the seventh seal is opened,the text would read,

8 When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about Half a Year

As we have read,it is a terrible time for the people of God when the beast is released from the abyss.Before this there was a great outpouring of the spirit in the first half of the seven, here but we know that the beast will be destroyed for it is written in Revelation 17:8,

The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.

Conclusion: The periods in Revelation consist of 2 periods of three and a half years. The Ruler made a covenant for one seven with the people of God.This covenant is probably what we know as a "laying down of weapons of war". There is a great out-pouring of the spirit of God at this time (the first half of the seven), and many people begin to worship God and follow Jesus.In the middle of the seven the ruler breaks his word and again embarks on his "war campaign" and many people will be put to the sword at this time . Because of this "war campaign" against Gods'people we are reminded from scripture- The times,months, days will be shortened. Matthew 24:22

And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks for your input! However: You state the trampling must come after the witness give their testimony, but I don't see a substantive argument for it. This is the crux of my question. How do we know the trampling period and the witnessing period are not the same 3 1/2 years? Also, I specifically asked for answers without reference to Daniel 9. I'm suspicious of an interpretation which requires a 2000+ year gap to make it work. –  DonJewett Aug 1 at 18:59
    
@DonJewett- My view is that when Satan is locked in the abyss for one thousand years Rev 20:1-3, that this is a figurative period of time.Also this is the time when the 'two witnesses' give their testimony and they are NOT attacked and killed until the beast is released from the abyss Rev 11:7 (you must understand that the beast is Satan)There is a time of calm when the beast is locked in the abyss but when he is released "All Hell breaks loose" and this is when the trampling of Gods' people begins-the last three and one half years.It starts with the ending of God's testimony (cont) –  Bagpipes Aug 2 at 10:08
    
@DonJewett- which is the killing of the "two witnesses" meaning the testimony of Jesus is dead ! (Two = Testimony).In short the first three and a half years is the time when the beast is in the abyss.There is no trampling at this time and this is evident because the two witnesses are still alive.Once the beast is released, the two witnesses are killed and the next period begins which is the trampling of Gods' people. –  Bagpipes Aug 2 at 10:20
    
@DonJewett- it is worthwhile considering this question hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/6010/… Remember we are told of the "second coming of Christ" and this so called thousand year reign would mean that Christ comes back three times.Christ came once to earth and he will return once more-Not three times. –  Bagpipes Aug 2 at 10:59

The respective descriptions of time sequences (forty-two months, 1,260 days, and Time, Times & Half) appear to be synonymous. That is, parallels seem to appear when the end time is "rolled out," which appears to be Daniel's scroll that had been sealed until the end time (Daniel 12:9). The end time of Revelation is therefore one scroll - please click here.

The diagram, below, attempts to illustrate these parallels, which appear upon the plain and normal reading of the text. The references in red have no known placement because of lack of specificity in the text, and therefore appear as suggestions (and thus annotated with a question-mark).

Thus the scroll is "rolled out" and depicts various events, but not in chronological order. The appearance of characters (the beast, the Lamb, the woman, etc.) in the narrative provide reference points, which enable the reader to place the parallels in tandem with the time sequences.

In summary, the descriptions of the time sequences (forty-two months, 1,260 days, and Time, Times & Half) therefore appear synonymous in meaning with regard to extent of time. If these times sequences are synonymous in meaning, then the parallelism in the Revelation appears stronger.

In summary, the "end time" before the visible appearance of Jesus Christ to earth appears as a period of seven years comprised of two segments, which are 3.5 years each.

share|improve this answer

There is much in the first answer that I, as a futurist, agree with. There is a departure point; however, regarding Revelation 12. Chapters 4 through 11 are completely sequential AND they portray the entirety of the events from the first rapture to the return of Christ at the sounding of the 7th Trumpet. Rev 10:7 makes this clear. (Please note that I am fully persuaded that the 7 trumpets and the 7 bowls are the very same judgments: the one viewed from heaven; the other viewed from earth).

Revelation 12 is nearly all figurative and it is depicting the same order of events from the time of the first rapture to the time of the revelation of the Man of Sin (Antichrist) as Paul calls him. This is a key chapter in many respects but in regard to your question, there are a couple of things that ought to be noted. Having failed in trying to stop the rapture of the overcomers (12:5) Satan is simultaneously booted out of his strategic position in the heavenly regions by Michael and company. This dethroning to the earth sends him into a rage and he no longer attempts to hide his murderous agenda. He proudly reveals himself as Satan incarnate and he goes after the remaining offspring of the Woman. Note vss. 12:6 and 12:14. They both refer to the very same period of 3 1/2 years where "the Woman will be taken care of". In other words, the saints are protected during this 3 1/2 year period.

Now jump to 13:5 and note the 42 months. This is a different period from the 3 1/2 years mentioned above BUT it is immediately subsequent to it. The first 3 1/2 years in chapter 12 occurs and immediately following are the 3 1/2 years of 13:5. In chapter 12 the saints are protected, in chapter 13 they are conquered (the Holy Spirit is taken "out of the way"). IMO, this second 3 1/2 year period is the very same 3 1/2 years of Daniel 7:25. Therefore, there is a 7 year period from the time of the first rapture to the time of the final persecution of the tribulation saints. This period is NOT Daniel's 70th week.

It is also to be noted that this all occurs within the first 6 seal judgments. The 7th seal is not opened until all the tribulation saints are killed or captured. At the end of the 6th seal, all of these heroes and martyrs are raptured or resurrected into heaven (the first resurrection Ch. 20). THEN, the 7th seal is opened. This remaining seal and it's trumpets are Daniel's 70th week. A period of 7 years with the last 3 1/2 years known as the time of Jacob's Trouble.

If you were able to follow any of this, you will note that there will be a total of 14 years from the time of the first rapture of the overcomers until Jesus returns in power and glory on Mt. Olivet. The 7 year tribulation of the saints is NOT the same as Daniel's 70th week. There will be 7 years of trouble for the church and another 7 years of trouble for the Jews. The two periods are separate but subsequent.

If you are scratching your head about the "first rapture" we can discuss it but it is not entirely germane to your question.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.