9:4,5,10 FIVE MONTHS—LITERAL OR PROPHETIC TIME?
“And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God in their foreheads. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented for five months; and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man…And they had tails like scorpions, and there were stings in their tails; and their power was to hurt men five months” (Revelation 9:4,5,10).
What is the significance of five months? In many prophecies a day is equal to a year. For example, in the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel 9 there were to be 70 weeks that would extend from the decree to rebuild
The “day-for-a-year principle” obviously applies to the long time prophecies which extend from the time of the prophet to the time of the end, and this understanding is supported by texts such as Ezekiel 4:6 (“I have laid on you a day for each year”) and Numbers 14:34 (“for each day you shall bear your guilt one year”). But does this apply to time prophecies which take place during the time of the end, such as the "five months" of the fifth trumpet?
There is evidence in Daniel 12 that prophecies within the time of the end use literal time. Daniel 12 is the final portion of the long vision concerning the Kings and the North and South that was summarized above. After focusing on the damage done by the medieval papacy, the vision proceeds to the same end-of-time war that is described in Revelation 9. “At the time of the end… the King of the North shall come against him [the King of the South] like a whirlwind…yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him. At that time Michael shall stand up…and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time, and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine.” (Daniel 11:40-12:2).
After the long narrative concerning the war, two angels talked about the vision and one of them mentioned in verse 7 that the papal oppression (which is a central focus of all of Daniel's visions) would continue “for a time, times and half a time” (1,260 years). But Daniel did not understand what the angel meant, and furthermore he was not as interested in the events of the Middle Ages as he was in the amazing announcements he had heard at the end of the vision: that “Michael [would] stand up,” that Daniel’s “people shall be delivered,” about the resurrection when “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,” and about the glorification of the redeemed who “shall shine” (Daniel 12:1-3). “Although I [Daniel] heard, I did not understand. Then I said, ‘My Lord, what shall be the end of these things?” (v. 8).
The Hebrew word translated “the end” (achariyth) can be translated “after part,” “ latter part,” or “latter time.” Thus we see that Daniel was most interested in the final portion of the prophecy, when his “people shall be delivered.” After telling him that the words “are sealed till the time of the end” (v. 9) the angel informed him,“from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days. But blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days” (v. 11,12).
These time prophecies are given in the context of the “time of the end,” just before “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake” (Daniel 12:2), in other words, the time leading up to the Second Coming of Christ. Although they could have a secondary application to the papal period, there is evidence within the prophecies themselves and in Matthew 24 that they apply primarily to the time of trouble, so they must refer to literal time in order to fit into that relatively short period. See Appendix 10 for a detailed examination of these important prophecies.
We see from this example that it is from the context of the prophecy that it is possible to tell if a time period is literal time or prophetic time, and that literal time is used in at least some time prophecies during the “time of the end.” This is no doubt the case with the “five months” of torment in Revelation 9, which would be 300 years of prophetic time. This would put them into a historical context, and we have already seen that the seven trumpets are end-time events that have not yet taken place (see chapter 8: Trumpets: Past or Future).
The five literal months of torment from the locust army is called the first of three woes: “One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things” (Revelation 9:12). During the first woe Satan and his agents “were not given authority to kill” (v. 5). But Satan's evil angels are released more fully during the second woe, resulting in the most massive slaughter in human history.