Home > Antichrist, Book of Revelation, Literalism, The 3 ½ years > Pierre Jurieu on the 1,260 days

Pierre Jurieu on the 1,260 days

October 20, 2011

Pierre Jurieu (1637–1713) was professor of theology and Hebrew in the Huguenot academy of Sedan in northern France, which was closed down in 1681 by Louis XIV. Jurieu took refuge in Rotterdam, where he became a pastor in the Flemish Walloon Church. While in Rotterdam Jurieu wrote a book in which he applied the prophecies of Revelation to the troubles of the French Protestants.

Pierre Jurieu

Jurieu wrote many works defending the doctrines of Protestantism against the attacks of Antoine Arnauld, Pierre Nicole and Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, and in his book titled The accomplishment of the Scripture prophecies, he argued against the idea that the 1,260 days of Revelation 11 and 12 could refer to a literal three and a half years.

Cardinal Robert Ballarmine (1542-1621), head of the Jesuit College in Rome, and a leader in the counter-Reformation, had sought to nullify the prophetic year-day principle that Protestant interpreters employed to support their theories identifying the papacy with Antichrist. According to Bellarmine, the Antichrist would be a single human individual. He stated, “All Catholics think thus that the Antichrist will be one certain man; but all heretics teach… that Antichrist is expressly declared to be not a single person, but an individual throne or absolute kingdom, and apostate seat of those who rule over the church.” Ballarmine’s interpretations relied on a literal view of the 1,260 days. He said, “Antichrist will not reign except for three years and a half. But the pope has now reigned spiritually in the church more than 1500 years; nor can anyone be pointed out who has been accepted for Antichrist, who has ruled exactly three and one half years; therefore the Pope is not Antichrist. Then Antichrist has not yet come.” [1]

Bellarmine claimed that the Roman Empire had never been divided as described in the prophecy of Daniel 7, and therefore Antichrist could not have come yet; he said the desolation of the Roman Empire must come before the advent of the Antichrist, and that desolation had not happened; his argument implied that a gap or parenthesis exists between the fourth beast and its ten horns.

Bellarmine invoked spurious arguments to discredit Protestant authors. He said, “The Pope is not antichrist since indeed his throne is not in Jerusalem, nor in the temple of Solomon; surely it is credible that from the year 600, no Roman pontiff has even been in Jerusalem.” Bryan W. Ball noted that Bellarmine promoted both futurist and preterist interpretations. Evidently, either approach would have suited his goals. The preterist approach was developed by the Spanish Jesuit Francisco Ribera (1537-1591). Ball wrote: [2] “In addition to championing futurism, Bellarmine also endeavoured to promote preterism, apparently unconcerned that the two views were mutually exclusive.”

Below are Jurieu’s arguments against the notion that the 1260 days signify a literal three and a half years, being a chapter from his book The accomplishment of the Scripture prophecies, or, The approaching deliverance of the church. [3]

The Second Part.

Of the end of the Antichristian Empire; when it must be destroyed; the circumstances of its ruin, and what shall be the Estate of the Church after the ruin of that Empire.


Of the duration of the Kingdom of Antichrist. A refutation of that dream, that it must last but three years and a half. Ten Arguments which demonstrate, that that supposition is false and impossible.

IN the First Part of this Work, we have found Antichrist and the Antichristian Empire; in this we proceed to seek out the time and the circumstances of its end. That we may succeed well in this enquiry, we must do four things. I. We must know, how long the Antichristian Empire must last. II. We must see, where we ought to begin the 1260 days, which the Holy Spirit assigns it. III. Afterwards we shall see, where they must end. IV. And lastly, we shall seek for that which hath not yet been found in the Revelation, that is, the circumstances of the fall of that Antichristian Empire. We shall begin with that question, which we have above laid down as the chiefest one; that is, The time of the duration of that antichristian Empire.

The Roman Church supposeth, that this duration cannot be above three years and a half, i.e. 1260 natural days; and we pretend, this must be understood of 1260 prophetical days, which are 1260 years. ‘Tis so important a matter, that on this all the rest depends. If this supposition of the duration of Antichrist meerly and simply for three years and a half, be false, all that the Roman Church saith of Antichrist, is false. And if we have reason to say, that the Antichristian Empire must endure 1260 years, this Empire must of necessity have begun a long time since; and having begun a long time ago, it must of necessity also be the papism. This is therefore a particular, which we must carefully mind; and in the beginning we must lay down these three indisputable principles.

I. That the duration of the 1260 days, wherein the woman in the 12th Chapt. of the Revelation, must be fed in the desert; which is also called in the same place a time, times, and half a time: The 42 months, during which the Court must be left tor the Gentiles, according to what is said in 11th  Chap. The 1260 days, during which the two witnesses are to prophecy clothed in sackcloth, as ’tis foretold in the same 11th Chapter. And lastly, the 42 months given to the first beast of the 13th Chapter of the Revel. to exercise his power. All these different periods, I say, are one and the same period, and signify the duration of the Antichristian Empire. This can’t be disputed.

The second principle is this, that in that Prophecy, the days, the years, and the months, may be taken for natural days, months, and years; or for prophetical ones, a day for a year. This might signify natural days: for sometimes the Prophets do so speak; they reckon the time as other men do. Jeremy reckoned 70 years for the duration of the captivity; and these years are natural ones. ‘Tis certain also, that in the period of the thousand years, designed for the reign of the Church, after the destruction of Antichrist, the years are taken for natural years.

But it is not less certain, that these days and these years may be taken mystically for prophetical days and years. ‘Tis confest, that the 70 weeks of Daniel signify 70 weeks of years. God said to Ezekiel, Thou shalt sleep on thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it; according to the number of the days that thou shalt lye upon it, thou shalt bear their iniquity. I have appointed thee each day for a year. God said to the Israelites, according to the number of the days in which ye searched the Land, even 40 days, each day for a year, shall you bear your iniquities, even 40 years. This could not be obscure to the Israelites, who were accustom’d to this style; and who knew there were weeks of years in their Calendar, as well as weeks of days; and that a week of years answered to that of days, one year for one day?

The third principle is this, that here the number of three years and a half, 42 months, and 1260 days, cannot signify an indefinite time. As it sometimes happens, that the Holy Spirit by a determinate number means an undetermin’d one. A way that would be extreamly advantagious to the partisans of Rome. For when one shall have demonstrated, that ’tis absolutely impossible, that that which is predicted concerning the Antichristian Empire, can be fulfilled in the compass of three years and a half, it would be very useful for them, if they could say, we must not take this so strictly in the literal sense; that it may signify three times ten, three times twenty, or more, according as the Holy Spirit oftentimes means an indefinite number by a definite one. But here that cannot be. There are certain numbers by which the Prophets use to describe an indefinite time, by reason of a certain priviledge those numbers have. As that of three, because ’tis the first odd number, & the number of the persons of the Trinity; that of seven, because of the seven days of the creation; that of twelve, because of the twelve Patriarchs, the twelve Tribes, and the twelve Apostles; that of 100, and that of 1000, because these are numbers, that according to the custome of men, are often designed to signify a great undetermin’d quantity. But we shall not find any examples of broken numbers, as that of three and a half, of 42, and 1260 taken for indefinite numbers. ‘Tis true, the Revelation speaks of the 144 thousand sealed ones. Now the number of 144, is not less a broken one than that of 42. But ’tis because 144 is the product of that of 12 multiplied by it self. The Holy Spirit takes twelve thousand sealed persons of every Tribe, 12 times 12 make 144. Here a reason can’t be given, why God should choose 1260 days to mark out an indefinite time. There is no middle way therefore; they must be so many years, or so many simple days. So that when we shall have proved, that the course of this Empire is not three years and a half, we shall have proved also that ’tis 1260 years. To prove that ’tis not three years and a half, we need but run through the History of this Empire, according as we find it in the book of the Revelation.

First of all we must know, that according to the greatest part of Interpreters, almost the whole Revelation is spent in fore-telling us, and setting in order the events that must happen to the Church during this reign of Antichrist. At least, it is certain, that ’tis the subject of one half of this book: the 11th 13th 14th 15th 16th 17th 18th and 19th Chapters contain the birth, progress, finishing, ruin, and fall of this Antichristian Kingdom. Let any one judge, if there be any likelyhood, that this only prophetical book, which the Apostles have left us for the time of the N. Testament, moves but upon three years and a half, and hath omitted the events of almost two thousand years. So that the general Idea of this Prophecy, can’t bear this imagination; but let us come to particulars.

Second, The 11th Chapt. begins to speak of this  Antichristian Empire; but because this is but as a general History, and an abridgement, ’tis in this general account, that the vision of the three years and a half is hid, and ’tis from hence it hath been taken. Let us see if this can agree with the places where the Prophet enlargeth this short description. We have in the 13th Chap, a representation of this Empire, under the emblems of two beasts, of which one had seven heads and ten horns, and the other but one head and two horns. We there see in the first place a beast with seven heads and ten horns. It hath been confessed to us, that this is Antichrist. We have proved, that the word beast signifies an Empire, consisting of a founder and his successors. Now see a fine succession, and a very considerable time, that same of three years and a half, to be called an Empire, and to be meant by a beast. Certainly this beast with seven heads and ten horns is the Roman Empire in its whole extent, from its founder Romulus even to Antichrist, who must be according to Bellarmine, the last Roman Emperour, though without the name of a Roman Emperour. And this Roman Empire is brought in anew expressly, for the seventh head with ten horns, which make Antichrist, i. e. the ten Kings his vassals, which give him their power. In truth, three years and a half would they well deserve, that the Holy Spirit should represent them to us, and lay before our eyes afresh, all this great Empire of almost 2000 years duration? For by the confession of our adversaries, the Roman Empire doth yet last, and shall continue even to Antichrist, who shall be the last King of it. Now there is about two thousand four or five hundred years since the first foundation of Rome. Moreover Antichrist is the seventh head of the Roman Empire. This is so evident, that it can’t be gain-sayed. Now must there not be some proportion between the heads and their durations? The head of the Kings lasted near 200 years , that of the Emperors above 500 years: what proportion is there between so long a duration, and this of three years and a half? As for us, we pretend, that the last head must endure as long as the other six. Rome under Kings, Consuls, Decemvirs, Tribunes of the people, perpetual Dictators, and Emperors hath lasted about 1250 years; it must be as long under the Popes. But at least, the head of Antichrist should last at Rome some ages, to have its duration proportionable to that of the other heads. It signifies nothing to us what period is assigned to it, provided it be not that of three natural years and a half.

For we have proved that if it can’t be taken for three natural years and a half, it must necessarily be taken for prophetical years.

Thirdly, In the same Chapter, the same Antichristian Empire appears again under the form of a second beast that hath but one head and two horns. Yet once more, see a great mystery, for a matter that is to endure but three years and a half, in a period of 2000 years. Of the first beast the Prophet saith, that it was given to him to make war with the Saints, and to overcome them; and also to him was given power over every Tribe, Tongue and Nation. And of the second, that he should deceive them that dwell on the Earth, by reason of those miracles, which he had power to do, &c. and that all, both small and great, free and bond should receive his mark in their hand, and in their foreheads. Afterwards ’tis said of this Antichristian Empire, under the emblem of a woman sitting on a beast with seven heads and ten horns, that all the Kings of the Earth have committed whoredom with her, that she made drunk all the Inhabitants of the Earth, with the wine of her whoredoms, and that all the Nations drank of the wine of her whoredom. This signifies two things; one, that this Antichristian Empire must subdue all Nations; the second, that it must seduce them by its signs and false miracles. Now can any one imagine that three years and a half suffice, first to conquer an Empire and overcome all Nations; secondly, to seduce and pervert them, and bring them to deny the Christian Religion. If Antichrist were to use that method that is used in France, and were to use no other but that, it may be in three years and a half, he could make many Kingdoms abjure Christianity, as in six months he hath made the reformation be abjured by more than a million of persons. But ’tis plain, the Antichrist of the Papists is not to use this way. So that one may say, the Clergy of France have outstript their Antichrist, and that there never was a more hellish sort of persecution. It is clear, I say, that Antichrist is to carry away men by seducing them; for otherwise, why should he work signs and miracles? and though he were to pervert the Christians with Dragoons, at least certainly he ought to have conquer’d them by arms before hand, and have overturned every other Empire. Can he conquer all the World in three years? where are the examples of so swift a conquest? Alexander the Great is represented in the vision of the four Beasts, as a Leopard, by reason of the speediness of his conquests. Yet he spent more than three years and a half, and had conquer’d but one part of Asia when he died. Are three years and a half sufficient to reassemble the Jews from all the Countries of the World, to make them masters of the whole Universe, to re-establish the mosaical worship and rebuild the Temple of Solomon? Only the building of the Temple the first time, took up seven years. They labour’d more than 40 years about that of’ Herod; and this of Antichrist , which will apparently be more magnificent, shall be finisht in a few months. If there were therefore nothing else but what were to be done by the violence of Antichrist, according to the very supposition of the popish Doctors, it would be impossible to be done in 30 years. 

How much more impossible is it, that he should attain his end in so short a time, in what he is to do by the means of seducing? His false Prophet must seduce all the inhabitants of the Earth, i.e. all the Subjects of the Roman Empire, according to the style of the Writers in those times, who defined the Roman Empire by the habitable earth. There must be much more time to seduce the Nations than to conquer them. If Antichrist was to establish his Religion by violence only, it might be said that in building up his Empire he would build up his Religion; but it is clearer than the day, that he must persuade and seduce. ‘Tis for this purpose that he worketh Signs. There’s no need of miracles to establish a Religion by arms. The Prophecy saith expressly, that he shall make drunk the Nations of the Earth with the wine of his whoredoms. Which signifies great obstinacy, drunkeness of mind, persuasion. Now behold a strange thing, in less than three years and a half, a seducer utterly destroys the whole Christian Religion, and by the means of persuasion seduces all the Christians, and persuades them to become Jews. 

Fourthly, We have in the 14th Chap, an abridgement of the History of the ruin of spiritual Babylon. She is fallen, she is fallen, Babylon that great City. We have proved before, that Babylon and the Antichristim Empire are the same thing. Now the Prophet in this Chapt. concerning the end of the Antichristim Empire, makes two periods of his last ruin; the first is called the harvest. Then he that sat on the Cloud thrust in his sickle on the Earth, and the Earth was reaped. The second is called the vintage. And the other Angel thrust in his sickle into the Earth, and gathered the Vine of the Earth, and cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God. It is plain, at least, that these two periods must be distant one from the other, as much as ordinarily the harvest is from the vintage. Now ’tis well known, that the prophecies represent in a little, what the events shew in the great; and consequently as the harvest is many days distant from the vintage, it will be necessary that the two parts of the fall of the Antichristian Empire, should be many years distant one from the other. Now if meerly the fall of the Babylonish Empire takes up many years, the flourishing and the strength of this Empire must take up much more time. An Empire so strong, can’t be ruin’d in the twinkling of an eye, and in one months time. Moreover, there must be an interval of rest between the harvest and the vintage. All this necessarily supposeth more than three years and a half.

The 15th and 16th Chapt. contain the vision of  the seven viols of the wrath of God, that must be poured out on the Earth. It is evident that all these seven viols respect the Antichristian Empire. The first plague is an ulcer, that seizes on the men that had the mark of the beast. The 5th viol is cast on the feat of the beast; at the seventh, the great City, which is the same beast, is divided into three parts. And before the viols were given to the seven Angels, they that had obtained victory over the beast, over his image, over his mark, and over his name, are represented as rejoycing in the presence of the seven Angels, that had received the seven plagues. .

Fifthly, All this makes it appear, that these  seven viols are seven periods, included in the duration of Antichrists Empire, under which God must pour out his terrible judgements on that Empire. These seven periods must divide his duration into seven parts, very near equal, even though one should suppose that the seven periods contain this whole duration, every viol and every period would have but six months to last, according to the supposition of the Romish  Doctors. The truth is, that these seven viols are included in the half of the duration of Antichrists Empire, or a little more; For ’tis the History of the fall of that Empire. If it lasts but three years and a half, it is necessary, that, at the least it should be two years a growing; so there will remain no more than eighteen months for these seven viols, and to every period we must assign a little more than two months. This is very plainly absurd. There is no example of the like matter in all the Prophecies. The seven seals, the seven trumpets of the Revelation contain many ages; ’tis ridiculous to suppose that the seven viols contain but some months. We shall see afterward, that every viol extends it self to more than a 100 years.

Sixthly, The 17th Chapt. represents to us the Empire and the Religion of Antichrist, under the emblem of a woman sitting on a beast with seven heads and ten horns. ‘Tis said, this woman must make her self drunk with the blood of the Martyrs. That first of all, the ten Kings must give their power to the beast; that afterwards, they must fight against the Lamb in favour of the beast, and that at last, these very same Kings must change their side and their opinion, Strip the whore, make her desolate, eat her flesh, burn her with fire: can so many changes in mens spirits, and in the world, can so many revolutions happen in three years and a half?

In the fame Chapt. we find a head that lasts a little. The seven heads are seven Kings, five are fallen, the other is not yet come, and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. I once believed, that he that was to come, and was to continue a little time, was Antichrist. But looking more carefully into the Text, with reference to the events, ’tis plain that that can’t be. We must therefore, by him that was to continue a little time, understand the eighth King. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth King. And this King is the second part of the head of the Emperors, which being divided into two, Christian Emperors, and Pagan ones, makes eight heads, or eight Kings, together with the other six. This eighth head, which is that of the Christian Emperors, in truth lasted but a very little while, viz.. from Constantine to Valentinian, who was assassinated by Maximus, about 130 or 140 years. See what the Holy Spirit calls a little time. Judge if the Empire of Antichrist, that must last longer than the eighth head, must last but three years and a half.

Seventhly, The 18th Chap. contains a larger description of the last ruin of this Antichristian Empire. ‘Tis there represented, as a great City called Babylon, rich, merchandizing, puffed up with the concourse of people, and of their riches carried thither for many ages.

Its inhabitants are described, as Merchants grown rich by its commerce. She is described as a City abounding in pleasure, as well as in riches. For all that contributes to pleasure and luxury, enters into this description. Gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, purple, silk, sweet smelling vessels, and most precious wood; brass; iron, marble, cinnamon, perfumes, ointments, incense, wine, oil, musicians, players on the harp, pipers , trumpeters; In conscience, is this the description of an Empire and of a City, that must last but three years and a half; that in that little space of time must be built, raised, enriched, and ruined?

First of all, the Antichristian Empire is called Babylon, because ancient Babylon was its type and figure. That Empire of old Babel lasted many ages; and should these many ages be the type and figure of these three years and a half? Can this be said or thought? It happens well, that the Prophets represent future things that are great, by types that are much less. This is the very nature of types. They are little draughts of that, which the event must produce at large. So days in the types, must naturally represent years. But ’tis absurd to say, that years in the types represent but days in the things signified by the types.

Eighthly, Moreover, doth a City become rich in three years and a half? What kind of commerce then must that of this Antichristian Empire be, that shall make the fortunes of her merchants in so little a time? The H. Spirit borrows these figures from what is done and seen in humane life. ‘Tis seen therein, that Cities become rich and powerful by long commerce. But never were any of them seen to attain to a surprizing greatness, by two or three years commerce.

Lastly. A City and an Empire, that are raised and destroyed in three years and a half, have not time to gather together voluptuous things , and to enjoy them. It must always fight to conquer, to grow greater, or to defend it self. If the Antichristian Empire lasts but three years and a half, this is not too much to establish its greatness by sword and by fire, and to repell that force that must destroy it. Of necessity Antichrist and his adherents must always be in violent motion, in  trouble and in war. Whereas the description of spiritual Babylon imports the possession of a long peace, during which she must heap together both all the riches, and all the pleasures of the World.

The 19th Chapt. is the last, wherein the ruin of this Empire is described to us. We there see him who is the faithful and the true, and the Word of god, i. e. J. Christ, that prepares himself for the combat, that causes the armies of Heaven to follow him, that calls all the birds of Heaven and all the beasts of the Earth to the slaughter, that gives battles, that obtains the victory, that casts the beast and the false Prophet into the lake of fire and brimstone. For this alone, more is necessary, than three years and a half. For an Empire so vast, so large, and so strong as that of Antichrist must be, is not destroyed in a few days.


1. Steven P. Bohr. Steven P. Futurism’s Incredible Journey. Amazing Facts, 2009. p. 45-46.

2. Bryan W. Ball. A great expectation: eschatological thought in English Protestantism to 1660.  p. 75.

3. Pierre Jurieu, The accomplishment of the Scripture prophecies, or, The approaching deliverance of the church. 1687. Part 2. pp. 3-16.