The Book of Daniel is a great symphony, with peaks and valley’s of emotion and revelation. We expect to find that the finale lifts us up to Heaven and leaves us there for the rest of eternity, but what happens is exactly the opposite. “Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.” We should want to see a nice neat prophetical package tied together with a pretty red ribbon. The Book of Revelation is more that way. But Daniel just stops rather than concludes. I would like to be able to take the last few verses of this book and make a few bold and dogmatic statements about the end of age, or the end of the Tribulation, but I can’t. In fact my message tonight will be even less forceful than Daniel 12 itself.
I mentioned this morning that some preachers get very dogmatic about the meaning these verses. I’m sure that some of them are so full of pride that it would crush them to have to say, “I don’t know what this means.” Although I have my areas of pride, intellectualism is not among them – for obvious reasons. I don’t mind saying, “I don’t know.” And I don’t mind holding my tongue when there is an argument brewing about some unimportant matter, which I know my friend has entirely misunderstood. If he’s not going to be convinced by what I say, I’ll just let him go on with me being right and him being wrong.
What I’m going to do this evening is take you to a couple of verses here, and then to some of the common commentaries, to show you that dogmatism in these details is difficult. You are never going to convince John Gill that his interpretation is incorrect. The reason is obvious – the man is dead. Well, unfortunately so are the minds of some people who are still living. And the fact of the matter is that we are told in this chapter that it is unlikely that anyone will be able to pin-point all the dates and events of the end of the age, the end of the Tribulation and beginning of the Millennium. The man who tells you that the Tribulation will begin on such and such a date is a heretic – perhaps a well-meaning heretic, but an heretic nevertheless.
I have shared with you my opinion that this time, times and half a time are years – 3½ years to be exact. I believe that they refer to the last 3½ years of the Tribulation. But I can’t point to a calendar and tell you when they will start or end. For your enjoyment and entertainment I’m going to reference several commentaries in regard to this verse.
J.E.H. Thompson was the expositor of Daniel in The Pulpit Commentary – a set that I often use. He says that this time, times and half a time refers to 1,260 days – 3½ Hebrew years. Then he correctly adds, “The divergency of interpretation comes to its height here.” After this he refers to many others who apply these verses to the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, and he shows all the problems that there are in that interpretation. Then he points out that some people understand these times as groups of sevens – 24½ days or years. But then when to do they begin and end? Along with half a dozen other ideas, this man suggests that they end at the end of the Tribulation.
In my “On-line-Bible” computer program there is a commentary by Trapp in which he says, “For a time most certain with God, and by him determined, but to us uncertain and unknown. Broughton thinketh that this term of “three years and a half” showeth the term of Christ’s persecution in the days of his flesh, which was just so many years, But there is more in it than so.” Isn’t that helpful?
One of the major problems with most of the Protestant commentaries is that they confuse Israel and the church. Here is the commentary by Poole – “It shall be for a time, times, and an half; it shall be for a long time, and yet a definite time. Some will have all this to be and end in Antiochus’s time, but we have proved before that this is a great mistake, and the text and this chapter disprove that conceit. When he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished; which reacheth to the calling of the Jews upon the destruction of antichrist, for till he be down the church will suffer and will not be up, which will fall out upon the pouring out the sixth … and the seventh vial, then all is finished. The judgment of Christ will not come till the man of sin come and fall.” This man probably has the right idea, if he could get over his obsession with the Israel as the church.
John Calvin takes an interesting position. He says that the time, times and half a time couldn’t possibly refer to days or years. Rather he spiritualizes them in a unique way. “Its meaning is very simple, time means a long period, times, a longer period, and a half means the end or closing period. The sum of the whole is this’ many years must elapse before God fulfills what his Prophet had declared. Time therefore signifies a long period; times, double this period; as if he had said, While the sons of God are kept in suspense so long without obtaining an answer to their petitions, the time will be prolonged, nay, even doubled. With respect to the half of a time, this is added for the comfort of the pious, to prevent their sinking under the delay, because God does not accomplish their desire.”
It is sad to say that the great Baptist John Gill is rarely to be trusted when it comes to eschatology – prophecy. “It shall be for a time, times, and an half; that it would be so long to the end of these wonderful things; or that the troubles of the church would last so long, and, at the end of that date here fixed, a glorious scene would open, and amazing things appear, to the great joy and comfort of the saints. “Time” signifies a prophetic year, or 360 years; and “times” two prophetic years, or 720 years; and half a time half a prophetic year, or 180 years, in all 1260 years; which is the exact date and duration of the reign of antichrist, of the church’s being in the wilderness, and of the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth, and of the treading under foot the holy city, expressed both by 1260 days, and by forty two months, which are the same.” Gill wants to say that the Tribulation will end 1260 years after the rise of the antichrist, whom he tells us elsewhere is the Roman Catholic Pope. But if the first Pope was Constantine in 333 AD, then we should be well into the Millennium by now. However, it is very likely however that Gill would say that it was one of the later Popes. Sorry, Bro. John, I’m going to have to skip over your comments.
At the middle of the Tribulation, the Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel, and try to establish the worship of himself in the very temple of the Jews. That will precipitate the 3½ years generally called the “Great Tribulation.” The Tribulation will conclude with the physical return of the Messiah and the beginning of His Millennial reign on earth.
I believe that we should use the Hebrew lunar calendar in order to understand Biblical days and months. A lunar month is exactly 30 days, not 28 and 31 depending on the whim of the scholar, and definitely not adding a day every four years. This means that 3½ years means exactly 1,260 days – a number which comes up very often in the Bible. But these verses refer to a few extra days after the Antichrist’s desolation of the Jewish temple – 1,290 days and then 1,335 days. I have to confess that despite all the commentaries at my disposal, I cannot tell you what the extra days signify.
For example, listen to this comment by Clarke in the On-line-Bible. “The abomination that maketh desolate set up I believe, with Bp. Newton, that this is a proverbial phrase; and may be applied to any thing substituted in the place of, or set up in opposition to, the ordinances of God, his worship, his truth, temple, built in the place of God’s temple at Jerusalem, the church of St. Sophia turned into a Mohammedan mosque, may be termed abominations that make desolate. Perhaps Mohammedanism may be the abomination; which sprang up A.D. 612. If we reckon 1,290 years, from that time, it will bring us down to A.D. 1902, when we might presume from this calculation, that the religion of the false prophet will cease to prevail in the world; which from the present year, 1825, is distant only seventy-seven years.” In other words, this man thinks that Islam is the Antichrist. There could very well, be people today swinging back to that interpretation.
In regard to the next verse Clarke says, “And cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. This is seventy-five days more than what is included in the three years and a half, or the time, times, and a half in the seventh verse; and as we have met with so many instances of prophetical days and years, this undoubtedly is another instance; and as a day stands for a year, this must mean a period of one thousand three hundred and thirty-five years, which period is to bring all these wonders to an end. But we are left totally in the dark relative to the time from which these one thousand three hundred and thirty-five years are to be reckoned. If, however, we reckon them from the above epoch, A.D. 612, when Mohammedanism arose, they lead us to A.D. 1947, when the fullness of the Gentiles shall be brought in; and thus a final closure of vision and prophecy be made, as then all the great events relative to the salvation of men shall have taken place. Wars and contentions will probably then cease over the whole world; Jews and Gentiles become one fold, under one Shepherd and Bishop of souls; and the triune God be properly worshipped and glorified, from generation to generation, over the face of the whole earth. But all these conjectures may be founded in darkness. We have not chronological data; and “the times and seasons God has reserved in his own power.” Yes, Mr. Clarke perhaps we should leave this matter in God’s hands.
But John Gill can’t seem to do that – “From the beginning of the reign of antichrist to the end of it are one thousand two hundred and sixty days or years, or forty two months, which is the same. Here thirty days or years are added, which begin where the other end, and is the time allotted for the conversion of the Jews, and other things, making way for the kingdom of Christ; and which the reign of antichrist was an hinderance of, but should now immediately take place.”
In regard to the 1,335 days there is no way that I can listen to this man. “Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the one thousand three hundred five and thirty days. Which is an addition of forty five days or years more, beginning at the end of one thousand two hundred and ninety, and make up this sum; during which time the vials will be poured out upon all the antichristian states, and the Turkish empire be destroyed, and all the enemies of Christ and his church removed, and clear way made for the setting up of his kingdom in the world in a more visible and glorious manner; and therefore happy is the man that will be found waiting for these times, and live to enjoy them. There are various ways taken in the computation and application of these one thousand three hundred and thirty five days by Jews and Christians.
Lipman the Jew makes them to be the same with “time,” and “times,” and “half a time,” “Time” he supposes, designs the space of four hundred and eighty years, from the Israelites going out of Egypt to the building of the first temple; times the space of four hundred and ten years which is as long as that temple stood; and “half a time” half of these two spaces, that is, four hundred and forty five years; all which make up one thousand three hundred and thirty five; but strange it is that time should signify a larger space than “times”.
Much more ingenious is the computation of Jacchiades on the text, who makes the account to describe the space of time from the days of Daniel to the end of the world.
Many Christian interpreters apply it to the times of Antiochus; and reckon them thus, understanding them of days; and not years; from the time of his taking away the daily sacrifice, to the restoration of it by Judas Maccabaeus, were three years and a half and some days, in all one thousand two hundred and ninety, as in the preceding verse; during which time the temple was profaned by idolatrous worship, the altar demolished, and the daily sacrifice ceased, and was a time of great distress with the Jews; and which, though greatly alleviated by the success of Judas, yet their calamities were not over until the death of Antiochus, which happened forty five days after; and these, added to the above number, make one thousand three hundred and thirty five days; at the close of which it was happy times with them, being delivered from so cruel and powerful an enemy; and therefore blessed were they that waited and came to this time.
This passage Mr. Brightman applies to the Turkish empire; and thinks that time, and times, and half a time measure the space of the power of that empire; “time” signifying one hundred years; “times” two hundred years; “half a time,” fifty years; in all three hundred and fifty years; which added to one thousand three hundred, when that empire began, the date ends in one thousand six hundred and fifty, when he supposes, it would begin to decline; to which, if you add forty five days or years, as here, it will bring it down to one thousand six hundred and ninety five, when he thought it would be utterly extinct; but time has shown this to be a mistake.
Mr. Mede thinks these numbers are to be reckoned from the profanation of the temple by Antiochus; and that the first number, one thousand two hundred and ninety, ended in the year of Christ one thousand one hundred and twenty three, when antichrist was come to his height, and was discerned by many to be the person that was prophesied of as such; and the latter number, one thousand three hundred and thirty five ended in the year of Christ one thousand one hundred and sixty eight, when the Waldenses, Albigenses, and others separated from the church of Rome as antichristian, upon which violent persecutions were raised upon them: but then not happy, but miserable times, followed on these; unless this blessedness spoken of is to be applied to the martyrs that died for the sake of Christ, as in Revelation 14:13.
Another learned man was of opinion that these numbers are to be counted from the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus Vespasian, A.D. 71, from whence the first number fell on the year 1361, at which time the school at Prague was founded by Charles king of Bohemia, and the errors and tyranny of antichrist began to be openly opposed by the same; and the second number ended in the year 1406, when the light of the Gospel broke out more clearly; so that the angel here pronounces those blessed who overlived these first seeds of the Gospel being brought to light; but something of great importance and cause of more joy, is here intended.
Wherefore, upon the whole, it seems best to interpret these numbers as at first, of the date of the reign of antichrist, and as showing the full and certain end of it; when there will be blessed times, halcyon days indeed!”
It seems to me that despite what the commentaries say, Daniel is being told not to loose sleep over trying to figure all of these things out. Isn’t he told to write the prophecy down and then seal it up and lay it aside for the people who actually must live through the days of the Antichrist? Aren’t we told elsewhere that we who are alive and remain on the earth prior to the Tribulation, will be translated and not a part of those terrible days and events? It seems to me that we are encouraged to read these prophecies and analyze them to the best of our ability, but then to set them aside for the people who will actually need them.
Perhaps the most important verse of this entire chapter is the last verse – taken from Daniel and applied to ourselves. “But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.”