Home > Book of Daniel, The 3 ½ years, The Gospel > J. B. Coffman on the time, times and a half

J. B. Coffman on the time, times and a half

November 7, 2012

James Burton Coffman (1905-2006) was a minister at the Central Church of Christ in Houston and Manhattan Church of Christ in New York City. He wrote a 37-volume commentary on the whole Bible, which was completed in 1992. The commentary is available online at: Burton Coffman Commentary on the Whole Bible.

Coffman interpreted the time, times and a half of Daniel 7:25 and 12:7 as symbolic of the whole age of the church, the period from the first advent of Christ to his second coming. On Daniel 7:23-25 he wrote:

Verses 23-25
Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And as for the ten horns, out of this kingdom shall ten kings arise: and another shall arise after them; and he shall be diverse from the former, and he shall put down three kings. And he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and he shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time.

Several very important deductions are made mandatory by these words. Note that the “saints” existed throughout the period of the little horn, itself a part of the fourth beast, having arisen out of it.

Shall be diverse…
This is twice mentioned — in both Dan. 7: 24 and Dan. 7:25. Not all of that diversity is spelled out here; but the New Testament sheds further light upon it. The diversity is seen in that (1) the little horn is a religious kingdom, as indicated by its two horns (of a lamb) (Revelation 13:11); (2) it shall prevail mightily, continuing, even to the end; (3) it will think to change times and law, especially as regards sacred things (changes were made in such things as baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the two central ordinances in the Christian religion); (4) it became a terrible persecuting power of God’s true people; it formed alliances with the kings of the earth, etc., etc.

Time and times and a half a time…
The key fact of what this means is plainly taught in the Book of Revelation; but as far as we have been able to determine, the true meaning is today unknown by practically the whole world of Bible scholars.

The whole dispensation of the kingdom of Christ until the final judgment, embracing all of the time between the First Advent of Christ and the Second Advent of Christ culminating in the Final Judgment of all men, is repeatedly mentioned in Revelation. Here are the references:

1. The Christian martyrs of Rev. 6:10 pleaded with God to tell them, “How long?” it would be before the final judgment at which time they would be avenged upon those who had slain them. From the answer given, it is obvious that that vengeance would come at the final judgment in the end of time, that is, at the end of the whole Christian dispensation. The answer? And it was said unto them that they should rest yet FOR A LITTLE TIME (until all the future martyrs who were yet to die in the faith should join them). Here the whole Christian dispensation is called “a little time.”

2. Rev. 12:12 explains the hatred of Satan for God’s church, a hatred which, of course, exists during every moment of the Christian dispensation. What is the reason? “Satan has great wrath, knowing that he hath but a SHORT TIME. How long is that? It is the total time between the First Advent and the Second Advent of Christ.

3. God promised to nourish his church during her wilderness probation (Revelation 12:14). This period is described as “always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20); but it is also referred to in this passage (Revelation 12:14), as A TIME AND TIMES AND HALF A TIME.

4. This same period when God will nourish his Church in the wilderness, protecting her from Satan’s hatred, is also called in Rev. 12:6 A THOUSAND TWO HUNDRED AND THREE-SCORE DAYS.

5. The authority of the little horn (identified with the fourth beast of Daniel) is stated in Rev. 13:5 to continue for FORTY AND TWO MONTHS. Since both Daniel and Revelation make it clear that this period is actually to last until the end of time, it becomes mandatory to believe that all such time-references in Revelation have exactly the same meaning. Every one of these means “The whole Christian Dispensation.”

6. “They shall live and reign with Christ a THOUSAND YEARS” (Revelation 20:4-6). As long as saints “suffer with Christ,” they also “reign with Him”; and therefore this “THOUSAND YEARS” can be nothing else except the whole dispensation of Christ, lasting all the way from the First Advent through the Second Advent of Christ.

The above understanding of these mysterious time-references in Daniel and Revelation is absolutely necessary to any complete understanding of these prophecies.

In connection with these studies, the Commentary on Revelation should be consulted. Much additional material is available there. (Also see the Excursus on “The Man of Sin” in 2 Thess. 2 in this series.)

A careful coordination of the passages in Revelation, with the revelations in this prophecy (Dan. 2 and Dan. 7), with due respect to other New Testament references to this same phenomenon, namely, that of the Great Apostasy from Christianity which was specifically foretold by the New Testament authors, will fully confirm all of the positions which we have advocated in the interpretations presented here.

On the reference to a time, times, and a half mentioned in Daniel 12:7 Coffman wrote:

Verses 5-7
Then I, Daniel, looked, and, behold, there stood other two, the one on the brink of the river on this side, and the other on the brink of the river on that side. And one said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders? And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and a half; and when they have made an end of breaking in pieces the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.

How long shall it be to the end of these wonders…
(Daniel 12:6). This means, How long shall it be to the end of the world, the general resurrection of the just and the wicked, and the glorification of the saints of God? The answer came back that all of these wonders would come at the end of time, and times, and a half. Fortunately, we know exactly what this means. It is the totality of all the time between the First Advent of Jesus Christ and the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. (See under Dan. 7:25 for an elaboration of this.)

The most dreadful and terrible thing in this little paragraph is the raw prediction that, “THEY SHALL MAKE AN END OF BREAKING IN PIECES THE POWER OF THE HOLY PEOPLE.” That cannot possibly have any reference to Antiochus Epiphanes, for his persecutions in no manner made an end of breaking in pieces the power of the holy people (The Jews). The meaning here comes far beyond the events of the Maccabean period. “The breaking in pieces of the power of the holy people” is a reference to the near-extermination of Christianity which shall occur near the end of the whole dispensation when the time, and times, and a half are about concluded. Rev. 16 develops this very same idea, revealing a future time when the total spiritual environment on the whole earth shall be seriously if not indeed fatally polluted. It was of this period that Christ inquired, “When the Son of Man cometh shall he find faith on the earth” (Luke 18:8).

Note the terminology here, “breaking in pieces the power of the holy people.” What can this be if not indeed the utter fragmentation of Christendom by literally hundreds and hundreds of denominations, sects, cults, fads, etc?

Note in this connection that “the holy people” is by no stretch of the imagination a reference to racial Israel. No! The reference is to God’s TRUE ISRAEL, the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is positively the ONLY ISRAEL God has ever had since the birth of the Son of God

On two periods mentioned in the final part of chapter 12, of 1,290 days and 1,335 days, Coffman wrote:

It is simply a mystery to us as to why these variable time-periods are used here; and our conviction remains that in some general sense, at least, they appear to have reference to the whole Christian dispensation, exactly as does “the time, and times, and a half a time.”

Both of the two numbers Daniel mentions in the final verses of chapter 12 fit the pattern of a time, times and a half where the months are taken as 30 days and years are of two kinds, regular years of 12 months and leap years of 13 months, as in the calendar used in the ancient world.

1,335 days = 12 × 30 + 2 × 13 × 30 + ½ × 13 × 30

1,290 days = 13 × 30 + 2 × 12 × 30 + ½ × 12 × 30

The 1,260 days of Revelation 11:3 and 12:6 also fits this pattern, but all the years are 12 months. None of the numbers correspond to a literal three and a half years, which supports a figurative or symbolic interpretation.  In the graph below each prophetic period, shown as dark grey bars, is plotted against a literal or natural period of three and a half years, in the Jewish calendar, where one year is 13 months, shown as bars of light grey.

An explanation of the numbers is suggested in the following chart.

The church age as a diminishing period

When Daniel’s two time periods are compared with John’s 1,260 days, and the 3½ days of Revelation 11:9, and arranged in decreasing order, they depict a diminishing period of time. They are all components of the time, times and a half, and represent the present age of the church, or a portion of it, as Coffman explained. Near the end of the period, the two witnesses, which represent the scriptures, and the Spirit of Christ, lie as corpses in the street of the great city, spiritually called Sodom and Egypt. The great city is symbolic of the whole world. Elsewhere it is identified with Babylon. The prophecy depicts a time of apostasy and confusion in the church, when the world ridicules the message of prophecy, and the gospel.

The 1,260 days of the ministry of the two witnesses began about the close of the apostolic age, towards the end of the first century, when the New Testament was completed.

The 1,335 days spans the whole time of the church, from the resurrection of Jesus to the end of the age.

The 1,290 days is intermediate, and it marks the setting up of the abomination of desolation, which occurred about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Daniel says “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.” [Dan. 12:11] This connects the abomination of desolation with the period when the daily sacrifices ceased, when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD.

Writing after those events, John reported that “many antichrists” had appeared. [1 John 2:18] Peter also said that false teachers would come, and that “many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. The rise of false teachers is the abomination of desolation; they have not gone away since then.

  1. jerryshugart
    November 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    When we compare these two verses it becomes evident that the phrase “a time and times and the dividing of time” is referring to a time period of 42 months:

    “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time” (Dan.7:25).

    “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months” (Rev.13:5).

    Then when we look at the following two verses we can understand that the phrase “a time, and times, and half a time” must be in regard to a time span covering 1,260 days:

    “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent” (Rev.12:14).

    “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days” (Rev.12:3).

    Therefore we can conclude that the phrase “a time, and times, and half a time” is referring to a period of time covering three and one half years or 42 months. And when we divide 1,260 days by 42 months we come up with “30” days. That is the average amount of days in each month and when we multiply that by the number of days in the year we get 360 days.

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