Time (!)

By Charles H. Welch

Time must necessarily be a constituent both of the Ages and of Dispensations, and the present article must be considered as a supplement to the two that deal with these great themes. Philosophers divide the subject of time into the Absolute and the Relative. The Scriptures deal only with the Relative. Some teach that with God there is no time, all is an eternal present, but those who thus teach never appear to have any problems or attempt to explain them. Events happen in time and in due succession. God in His wondrous foreknowledge may know what things soever shall come to pass, but that is entirely different from teaching that there is no past, present or future with God. If Christ became incarnate four thousand years after the creation of Adam, then He could not have been incarnate for all eternity. The Scripture knows no such teaching. We read that it was ‘in the fulness of time’ that He was born of a woman, and the dating of Luke 2:1 -3 is not from eternity, but when Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that all the world should be taxed. This was true both for God and man.

The first words of the Bible strike the note of time: ‘In the beginning’ (Gen. 1:1). [The use of these words as a title of Christ in Revelation 3:14 warns us that there may be much more than ‘time’ intended by the phrase ‘In the beginning’.] If creation is not eternal and had a beginning there must have been time before creation, and, when heaven and earth pass away, there will still be time, otherwise we could not say the words ‘before’ and ‘after’. The present world was called into being during a period of six days, and for the present purpose it makes no difference whether these be conceived as days of twenty -four hours or long geological periods; creation and time march together. We anticipate the possible interposition of some reader who will quote from the book of Revelation that ‘time’ shall be ‘no longer’ (Rev. 10:6). Seeing that there must come after this proclamation the thousand years reign of Christ, it is evident that the mighty angel of Revelation 10 is not speaking of the cessation of time as such. We accordingly consult the original and note the occurrences of the word in question.


A 2:21.
‘Space to repent’
See sins detailed in verses 20 and 21, and the threat in 22 and 23.
    B 6:11.
‘A little season’
Souls slain for Word of God and testimony; told to wait.
A 10:6.
‘No longer time’
See statement concerning non-repentance at end of chapter 9, and the judgment that follows.
    B 20:3.
‘A little season’
Souls of beheaded for testimony and Word; now reign.

It will be seen that the passage in 10:6 corresponds with 2:21 and leads us to see that the angel declares that ‘space for repentance shall be no longer’. Awful announcement! Yet who can say that the Lord has not been longsuffering? The very complicated series of slowly increasing judgments are evidences that judgment is His strange act. Now, however, the wrath is come to the uttermost and will be poured out without admixture. Coupled with this, we must read 6:11. There delay is indicated until the martyred host is complete; here the delay is finished, heaven’s King is at hand, and the martyred souls are soon to be liberated to share the reign of the thousand years. John the Baptist, the first forerunner of the King, preached repentance. This angelic forerunner declares that space to repent shall be no longer granted.

It has been inferred from the great name of God ‘I Am’ that time has no relation with Him. This may be so, but it is significant that immediately after this great revelation is made to Moses, it is restated in terms more related to the condition of the hearer.

‘I Am hath sent me unto you’ (Exod. 3:14).

But God said moreover ‘thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel. The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: This is my name for ever (unto the age), and This is My memorial unto all generations’ (Exod. 3:15). The title Lord is in the original the name Jehovah, a title expanded by John in the Revelation as ‘Him, which is, and which was, and which is to come’ (Rev. 1:4,8), and by the apostle when writing to the Hebrews ‘Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever’ (Heb. 13:8). It is the title of the Lord of the Ages, a title connected with time, the Lord of purpose and of redemption. It is a title that is so intimately linked with time and fulfilment that the R.V. of Revelation 11:17 omits the last clause of the title, reading only ‘Which art and which wast’ because the Lord will have then ‘come’ and so fulfilled the meaning of His great name.

Another passage of Scripture brought forward by some teachers, when they seek to prove that time does not exist for God, is 2 Peter 3:8.

‘But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day’.

It must be remembered that the apostle continues ‘The Lord is not slack concerning His promise’. He is not dealing with the philosophy of time but rebutting the charge of ‘slackness’, and so urges his readers to remember how differently a space of time must appear in the eyes of a mortal man whose days are few and passing, and in the eyes of the Eternal and Living God. Ecclesiastes 3 is the great passage that shows the relationship of time with purpose.

‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven’,

and while twenty -eight events fill in the period between the time to be ‘born’ and the time to ‘die’, the same truth applies to the outworking of the purpose of the ages. At one time ‘law’ will be predominant and at another ‘grace’ will reign. At one time ‘Israel’ will be in the ascendant, in another, it will be the times of ‘Gentile’ blessing. Dispensational truth takes note of these changes and acts accordingly. Let us consider the terms used in Scripture under the following headings:

  1. The words employed in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures for ‘time’.

  2. An examination of the cryptic expression ‘time, times and the dividing of time’, and

  3. An examination of the expression ‘seven times’ in Leviticus 26.

  • Eth. This is the Hebrew word ‘time’ found in Ecclesiastes 3:1. It means, essentially, a ‘fitting time’, comparable to the meaning of the word ‘season’.

  • Yom. This word which means ‘day’ is translated ‘time’ sixty -five times, and is probably derived from a word meaning ‘heat’, the day in Bible lands being associated not only with the light of the sun, but with its heat. There are many occurrences in the Prophets, who speak of a great culminating period as ‘that day’ (Isa. 2:11,17,20; 3:18; 4:2 etc.). The expression ‘the process of time’ (Gen. 4:3) is literally, ‘the end of the days’.

  • Moed -- means an appointed time, and is translated, among other ways, by ‘appointed feast’, ‘appointed sign’, ‘due season’ etc. It is also rendered ‘congregation’ from the fact that the people assembled at appointed times. It is this word that is used by Daniel in the cryptic term ‘time, times and the dividing of time’, to which we must return presently.

  • Zeman is a Chaldee word meaning time or season, and is confined to the books of the captivity (Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel).
  • Paam, which means a step or a beat (as on an anvil, Isa. 41:7) is employed when the phrase ‘so -many -times’ is required; ‘he bowed himself to the ground seven times’. ‘Three times a year’ (Exod. 23:17) is literally ‘three beats’ or ‘three feet’.

  • Genea is the Greek word meaning a generation and is translated ‘time’ on some occasions (Acts 14:16;15:21).

  • Hemera is the Greek word ‘day’ (Luke 9:51; 21:37; 23:7; Acts 8:1).

  • Kairos means a season (Eph. 1:10; 1 Tim. 2:6; Rev. 12:14).

  • Chronos means time as duration (Acts 1:6,7,21; 3:21).

  • Hora an hour (1 John 2:18; Rev. 14:15).

Then there are such terms as prothesmia ‘appoint before’ (Gal. 4:2); popote ‘ever yet’ (John 1:18); ekpalai ‘anciently’ (2 Pet. 2:3); eukairos ‘timely’ (Heb. 4:16); pote ‘time past’, once (Eph. 2:2); to mellon ‘what is about to be’ (1 Tim. 6:19) and palai ‘of old’ (Heb. 1:1). It will be observed that Galatians 4:4 speaks of the fulness of ‘time’ whereas Ephesians 1:10 speaks of the fulness of the ‘seasons’.

Let us now examine the expression ‘a time, times and the dividing of time’ (Dan. 7:25). Daniel refers more than once in this way to a peculiar period at the time of the end:

  • ‘A time and times and the dividing of time’ (7:25).
  • ‘A time, times, and an half’ (12:7).
  • ‘Let seven times pass over him’ (4:16).

A consultation of the margin of Daniel 11:13 will show that ‘times’ may be synonymous with ‘years’. If that is so, then a time, times and a half may be a prophetic and cryptic way of describing three -and -a -half years, this being just half of the seven year period indicated in Daniel 9:27. We have, however, clearer evidence of its meaning in the book of the Revelation:

‘A time, and times, and half a time’ (Rev. 12:14).

This is the period during which the woman is nourished in the wilderness. In Revelation 12:6 we read:

‘They should feed her there 1,260 days’.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that 1,260 days, and a time, times, and a half, are periods of the same duration. There is evidence in Scripture of the recognition of a year of 360 days. For example, it is computed that between the seventeenth day of the second month, and the seventeenth day of the seventh month is 150 days (Gen. 7 and 8), a computation which supposes a month of thirty days. Dividing 1,260 by 30 we have 42 months, or three -and -a -half years. Now Scripture speaks of a period of 42 months and places it in such proximity to that of 1,260 days as to remove all doubt as to the length of the prophetic year:

‘The holy city shall they tread under foot 42 months’ (Rev. 11:2).

‘My two witnesses ... shall prophesy 1,260 days’ (Rev. 11:3).

This period of three and a half years corresponds with the prophetic period of Daniel 9:27 ‘the midst of the week’. The following simple analysis may help the reader to visualize these time periods and prophetic associations of the seventh trumpet:

  • The time of the Seventh Trumpet -- 3½ years (Rev. 12:6).
  • A time, times and half a time (12:14).
  • The Beast has power 42 months (13:5).
  • The Seven Vials (Ch. 15 and 16).
  • Babylon falls (14:8).
  • The final 3½ years of Daniel’s 70 weeks (Dan. 9:27).

If the above suggestion is true, then it would appear that the breaking of the covenant in the midst of the week (Dan. 9) is answered by the opening of the temple containing God’s covenant. The giving over of the throne and great authority of Satan to the Beast is answered by the proclamation of Heaven’s King (Rev. 11:15). It is the date also of the catching up of the man child to God and His throne (12:5). The Lord too may descend from heaven to the air immediately after the pouring out of the seventh vial -- for we read ‘and the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air’ and the hope of 1 Thessalonians 4 will be realized. (See the article SEVENTY WEEKS for an exposition of Daniel 9).

One passage in Leviticus has provided a pitfall for many would -be chronologists, especially those who are addicted to the ‘year day theory’. A well -known British -Israel writer tells us that in Leviticus 26:28 ‘seven times’ is an enigmatical expression which requires a key before it can be understood and that students of Prophecy have at length found the key which reveals that ‘seven times’ denoted a period of time some 2,520 years in length. British -Israel teaching is that in Leviticus 26:28, ‘seven times’ consists of ‘seven’ and the noun ‘times’, and that a ‘time’ is a chronological term for a period of 360 years, so that 360 X 7 = 2,520 years. One writer (P. W. Thompson, Israel in Prophecy and History) says:

‘British -Israel truth, without the exposition of the seven times and their literal fulfilment, is Hamlet with the prince of Denmark left out’.

Unfortunately for British -Israel, but fortunately for all lovers of truth, this ‘Prince of Denmark’ must be left out after all. Let an English reader open Young’s Analytical Concordance, and let him turn to the heading ‘time’ or ‘times’ and he will look for Leviticus 26:28 in vain. Should he turn to the word ‘seven’ he will find that word listed. Now either Dr. Young has made a slip and omitted this important reference, or there is no Hebrew for ‘times’. All that we find in Leviticus 26:28 is the Hebrew sheba‘seven’. The same numeral is used to speak of the intensity of the furnace that was heated seven times its wonted heat. When a period of time is intended, the word iddan is added. (This subject has been set out with conviction in a small pamphlet entitled Correspondence with British - Israelites on the meaning of seven times in Leviticus 26, and was issued by E. J. Burnett, 15 King Edward Avenue, Worthing, in 1931. We do not know whether it is still available).

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