A day for a year

The 'day for a year' principle is a vital key to understanding the prophetic timelines given to us in Daniel and Revelation.

A day for a year principle

Many people are familiar with the beautiful bible poetry which states that, ‘a day is as a thousand years’ (Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8). Perhaps there is more to these statements than just pure poetry but these specific quotations are not our exact topic right now. But also found Scripture is a principle concerning God’s dealings with man whereby He appoints, specifically and prophetically, a ‘day’ to represent a single ‘year’. There are at least two unambiguous occasions where this is stated and at least one instance that, whilst not plainly stated, ALL major schools of interpretation agree that this principle must be applied in order for it to make any sense. Let’s take a look at them…

Plainly Stated

According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.

Numbers 14:34 (NKJV)
As you’ll know, the spies who were sent to Canaan on a forty day mission were faithless and acted rebelliously (except for Joshua and Caleb). God therefore saw fit to chastise the nation by causing them to wander in the wilderness for forty years – a year for each day.

Lie also on your left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it. According to the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their iniquity. For I have laid on you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when you have completed them, lie again on your right side; then you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. I have laid on you a day for each year.

Ezekiel 4:4-6 (NKJV)

Let’s not get sidetracked with this unusual prophetic sign acted out by Ezekiel but simply note again that God used the plainly stated principle of each day representing each year of iniquity.

The above two Scriptures are unequivocal in their usage of the year/day principle. Next we’ll look at a further Scripture which all agree must also be interpreted using this year/day understanding.

Not stated, yet all agree

Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.

Daniel 9:24 (NKJV)

This prophecy, given to Daniel, has a lot more complex and difficult to comprehend statements to follow (a future article will explore this) but for now we just need to note that every major prophetic school of interpretation agrees that these ‘seventy weeks’ – 490 days – must be figurative of 490 years. Regardless of the different variations of dates, divisions and ultimate interpretation of this passage the overwhelming majority of scholars all unanimously agree that this prophecy, although it does not plainly state it, is using the year/day principle. Only by applying the day for a year principle can this timeline prophecy bring us to the time of the Messiah.

Are there other instances?

And so, the question must be asked, is the ‘day for a year’ principle used in other prophetic passages? And the answer is a resounding yes! On multiple occasions. All protestant Christian scholars, teachers, students, pastors etc. knew this and applied this reasoning once upon a time. Commentaries and writings from past centuries are filled to the brim with comments and references to the year/day principle in interpreting biblical prophecy. This especially relates to the books of Daniel and Revelation. I do not know whether this method of interpreting prophetic timescales was passed down through the centuries or if dedicated Bible lovers just tried the key to see if it fits – but fit it most surely does.

In both Daniel and Revelation we read of a time period of, ‘a time, times and half a time’ – meaning, one year + two years + half a year. We also read of a time period of ‘forty two months’ and we read of a time period of ‘one thousand, two hundred and sixty days.’ Based on the calendar system of that time (each month having 30 days) these three time periods are in fact all the same length – 1260 days. In Daniel chapter 12 we are given some other very specific timeline prophecies – ‘1290 days’ and ‘1335 days’. And in the book of Revelation we have yet various other timeline prophecies, including: ’10 days’ (Rev 2:10), ‘5 months’, which is equal to 150 prophetic ‘days’ (Rev 9:10), and the astonishingly specific, ‘an hour, a day, a month and a year’, (Rev 9:15). Historicists apply the year/day principle to all of these passages. In so doing there have been some amazingly accurate predictions made in times past and as we reside now at the latter end of the current era these time periods can be seen in past events.

It is not the aim in this brief summary to delve into any of the specific interpretation of these year/day timeline prophecies, you will discover these as you read through our studies on Daniel (pending) and our Revelation Overview, but it is important to know that the ‘day for a year’ key is vital to all historicist interpretation of these timeline prophecies.

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