In Daniel’s vision of the reign of the antichrist power, rendered as a rising little horn, in Chapter 7, a time-frame was given indicating the duration of this rule: …time, times and half a time…
Understanding the biblical definitions of such keywords used in ‘prophesy language’ is essential in discerning the meaning. In regards to time, there are biblical definitions for the following keywords:
TIME, TIMES and HALF = 3 ½ YEARS or 1260 PROPHETIC DAYS; according to the ancient linisolar calendar, there are 360 days in a year; and a prophetic day according to Ezekiel 4:6 & Numbers 14:34 is one literal year, so 1260 prophetic days = 1260 LITERAL YEARS
Robert Bellarmine was a Roman Catholic Jesuit Priest who set out to nullify the ‘1 day for a year ‘ principle – for the the purpose of diverting the view publicized by Protestant Reformers which identified the ‘Papal See’ as the antichrist. (More to be said about that toward the end of this article)
The same time frame, variably rendered as 1260 days, 3 1/2 years and 42 months, is referenced in Rev 11:2-3, 12:6 & 14 & 13:5. This period of time is of the most significance, and therefore nearly half the content of future prophesy of St. John’s Revelation pertains to this time frame.
So – 1260 ‘days’ -or- ‘years’?…
The visions of Daniel were written in ‘prophesy style’, otherwise referred to as ‘prophesy language’ – which uses figurative expressions and symbolic keywords & numbers to animate the message with impactful illustrations. Such symbols & metaphors were imparted by the Spirit of God to the prophets of Israel, and many particular expressions were repeated among various prophets to become established genres within prophesy language, each motif carrying a very definite and consistent meaning. To see a thorough presentation of this, refer to An Exposition on The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
The time-frame of the antichrist reign, referred to in Daniel 7:25, is delivered within a sequence of symbolic keywords, such as “beast “, “10 horns”, etc. Since it would be inconsistent from biblical parameters to make a literal interpretation of such symbolic words and descriptions, suddenly making a literal interpretation of ‘ time, times and half ‘ would be an unnatural break from such prophetic language.
Furthermore, most references to prophetic time periods pertain to years, rather than days; such as the “seventy sevens” of Daniel 9, or the ‘one day for a year’ principle of Ezekiel 4:6. References to prophetic time periods rarely designate a literal meaning.
And since prophesy time references usually pertain to years rather than days, it is understandable why the time-frame for the ‘transgression of desolation’ in Daniel 8:14 is referred to as ‘evenings and mornings‘ – so to specify the exception of actual ‘days’ and not years. Even though many translations read as ‘days’ here, the Hebrew word for day, ‘yom‘, is not used; rather ‘ereb‘ for ‘evenings’ and ‘boqer‘ for ‘mornings’ to indicate an actual 24 hour day, so to clarify the exception of this particular time period is not referring to years, but days.
Another important point which indicates the time frame is not literal days, but years – the scope of the prophesies of this period of time are much too extensive to fit into a 3 1/2 year window. Furthermore, such a short duration does not fit the incremental chronology of prophetic history. For more on this, see the discourse on The Revelation
Therefore, considering prophesy language, the day for a year model, the scope of this prophesy, and the overall sequence of prophetic history, it is most reasonable to interpret 1260 prophetic days as 1260 literal years.
Now if we stick to the biblical definitions of the key-prophetic-words as well as following the consistent pattern of prophetic history, we can be sure this time frame is a period of 1260 literal years. So what now? How do we apply this to our understanding of prophesy?.. Where do we place this time period?…
Placement of the time-frame
Since the completion of this time frame marks the return of Christ, we cannot know the exact point when this period begins and ends, for Jesus said of His return, “No one knows the day or hour…” (Mat 24:36). However, recognizing the pattern of prophetic history corresponding to the sequence of prophesies from The Revelation guides God’s elect to recognize the general season of this period:
The prophetic sequence leading up to this 1260 year period brings us to the latter half of the eighth century. Again, refer to the discourse on The Revelation to follow the prophetic chronology of the Seven Seals and the Seven Trumpets. Thus, the sequence of prophetic history leads us to the time of some major developments which set the stage for this prophetic episode.
The first main development during the second half of the eighth century was the rise of Papal temporal power, enabled by events such as the Donation of Pepin in 754, confirmed by Charlemagne in 774, and also the Patrimony of Saint Peter; Both granted lands, estates, territories, and legal power backed by the power of the state and bolstered by numerous papal creeds & canons. Such power & authority was then backed with military support by the second development – that being the revival of the Roman Empire with the crowning of Charlemegne, by Pope Leo III, as Emperor of the “Holy Roman Empire” on December 25 of 800 A.D.
The three previous centuries before Charlemagne was firmly established as Emperor, was a time when the Roman Empire appeared to be extinct as it was splintered into countless factions – until Charlemagne set about his conquest to unite the nations of Europe as overseen by the Papal Authority of the Roman Catholic Church.
Charlemagnes’ Carolingian Dynasty – with the subsequent rise of Papal authority were the two main developments which set in motion the formidable power of the Roman Church, which so thoroughly corresponds with the beast of Revelation. All these considered, I believe the most plausible point in time to place the beginning of this time frame is 800 A.D. – when the power of both Church and State seized the Christian religion in such a way that perfectly aligns with the prophesies of the antichrist power.
Counting the 1260 year time-frame from this date would end in 2060, bringing us to the time of Christ’s return. There are other learned interpreters who have placed the time period a few decades earlier, and some others who have set the time as late as a few centuries after. A little earlier or much later may not be out of the question, but 800 A.D. not only fits perfectly into the incremental chronology of the prophetic sequence, but marks the time of the two foundational developments of Papal Rome.
Such developments within the second half of the 8th century are highly significant because they pertain to both the revival of the Roman Empire (fourth beast) – as well as the rise of the ‘Papal Horn’ – which came to dominate over the other ‘horns’, (or sovereigns of the Roman/European nations). So when aligning history with the revelation of scripture, the general time frame around the latter half of the 8th century seems to be the most plausible approximation to place the starting point of the antichrist rule.
However, I would still be careful not lean on exact dates, as Jesus made it clear that no one can know the day nor hour – only the season. So perhaps the placement of this time-frame cannot be exact because it is not meant to be so. Yet, with all evidence and reason considered, we still may have a plausible approximation of this time-frame beginning close to the end of the 8th century – which would indicate we are now living toward the end of the age dominated by the antichrist system – as we must be ready, in season and out of season, to firmly keep our testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Modern View of the very last 3 1/2 years of the age
Ignoring and discrediting the ‘1 day for a year ‘ principle, accredited to Jesuit Robert Bellarmine (mentioned above), this time-frame is deemed as 1260 literal days (not years), or literally 3 1/2 years – which is set at the very end of the age – preceding the return of Christ. By the 20th century, this became the most popular view which dominates the thinking of today.
While this view is now the most widely excepted, there are extremely serious problems with it: First off, this view known as Futurism, is an alternative doctrine invented and propagated by Roman Catholic Jesuit Priests – for the purpose of diverting the biblical view, firmly understood for many centuries, by those heeding the scriptures, who recognized the power of antichrist fulfilled in the Papacy. This issue is covered in Discerning The Threads of Eschatology. Secondly, the view of Futurism does not square-off with biblical parameters of prophesy language and prophetic history – see Remembering the Lost Art & Science of Interpreting Prophesy Language and Prophetic History. Thirdly, this system of belief consists of interpretation principles which are quite inconsistent & disorderly compared to the Historisist method, which is much more consistent and biblically congruent.
Keeping within the parameters of scripture, we can be sure of the exact duration of this time frame, but placing the time frame may not be so exact. Though the saints of God have much reason to believe the placement of this time-frame is meant to be understood since it is mentioned several times in the revelation of scripture. But again, I would not stress exact dates, but would certainly consider the more plausible approximations – whereby recognizing the era of this time-frame as well as the general season of its fulfillment.
As Jesus spoke of the fulfillment of this time, which is to precede His return, the bottom line He gave is to ‘be ready’. So the aim for the saints is to be ready at all times – to look to the Lord Jesus Christ, that His Kingdom would come, and His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
– Word & Spirit of God, Who Was and Is and Is to come
– Moses Lowman – “Paraphrases and Notes on the Revelation of St. John“
– John Clark Ridpath – ‘Ridpath’s Universal History’
– E H Broadbent– “The Pilgrim Church”
– John Gill – “Gill’s Exposition of the Bible“
– Thomas Newton – “Dissertations of the Prophesies” – Volumes 1-3
– Henry Fliedner – ‘The Martyrdom of a People’ or ‘The Vaudois of Piedmont and Their History‘
– Albert Barnes – “Barnes’ Notes on the Entire Bible
– Theodor Griesinger – ‘The Jesuits: Their Complete History’
– Peter DeRosa – ‘Vicars of Christ: ‘The Dark Side of The Papacy’
– Avro Manhattan – ‘The Vatican Holocaust‘
– Charles Spurgeon – Spurgeon Archive
– Adam Clark– “Clark’s Commentary on the Bible“
– E. Boyd Barrett – ‘The Jesuit Enigma’
– John Cornwall – ‘Hitler’s Pope’
– Ian Paisley – ‘The Pope is the Antichrist‘
– Augustus Toplady – ‘The Road To Rome’
– John Foxe – ‘Foxes Book of Martyrs’
– Joseph Benson – “Benson’s Commentary on Revelation”
– Kenneth Scott Latourette – ‘A History of Christianity’