INTRODUCTION. The book of Revelation is the source of almost all of the Bible’s teaching about the 42 months*. (NOTE: The 42 months* is the name that I give to the time period of forty-two months’ duration that falls between the “thousand years” and the Last Day in the Bible’s end times timeline. It is figurative in duration, meaning that the 42 months* lasts approximately three-and-a-half years. The 42 months* appears five times in Revelation 11-13 in three expressions: forty-two months, time and times and half a time, and 1,260 days.) This post explores how to grasp the concept of the 42 months* and thus how to gain a better understanding of Revelation and the flow of the end times.
THE FLOW OF THE LAST DAYS
First, it is necessary to grasp the flow of the last days. (Much of this material is better understood by referring to my book on the end times called The Last Act of the Drama, available from Amazon.) Because of much well-intentioned but incorrect teaching on the end times in general and on the book of Revelation specifically, many (most?) Bible students are confused by both. To remedy that situation takes some work, but that work begins by understanding the general flow of the last days.
The three recognizable components of the last days are the “thousand years,” the 42 months*, and the Last Day, also known as “the day of the LORD” and “that day.” The “thousand years” (Rev. 20:1-6) begins with Christ’s ascension (Acts 1:9) and is the time when Christ’s church is gathered in as the gospel is proclaimed. This “relatively literal” time period (not literally one thousand years, but rather a very long time) ends with the release of Satan from the abyss (Revelation 20:3, 7). This begins the period of the 42 months*, which is a period of intense eschatological activity that prepares the world for the return of Jesus. Whereas the purpose of the “thousand years” was the ingathering of the elect into the church, the purpose of the 42 months* is to purify and cleanse the gathered church by persecution. The duration of the 42 months* is also “relatively literal,” meaning that it is not a long time like a thousand years, but is rather only a few years, probably less than a decade. The 42 months* ends when the forces of wickedness under the leadership of the beast attempt to annihilate the church at Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). This initiates the Last Day. The events of the Last Day are relatively easy to discern from the Scriptures. Once the Resurrection, the return of Christ, and the temporal destruction of all the unrighteous occur, The wicked are then judged finally and forever at the Great White Throne. This ushers in the new heaven and the new earth when time is no more and the righteous are forever with the Lord in heaven (Rev. 7:9).
THE LAST DAY IN SCRIPTURE
The Last Day (“that day”, “the day of the LORD”) is presented literally and figuratively in many places in the Bible, in both Old Testament and New. The final presentation of the Last Day in Revelation (19:11-21, etc.) serves mainly to fill in the final blanks and to put the last threads in the tapestry and to paint the last paint-by-number voids so that the whole effect is felt.
THE “THOUSAND YEARS” IN SCRIPTURE
The “thousand years” is the normal state of most of the time between Christ’s ascension and His Second Coming. This is the long time of the great ingathering of those who have been chosen for salvation (Ephesians 1:4), the time when the church rides out with the bow of the gospel, conquering and to conquer (Rev. 6:1-2). The Great Commission has been issued by the King (Matthew 28:19-20) and Jesus has also defined the church’s task (Acts 1:8), so that the work is clear. Most of the Bible’s instruction is intended for this “thousand years” as the church is built up and sanctified through the ordinary means of grace.
BUT THE 42 MONTHS* . . .
In contrast with the “thousand years” and the Last Day, the 42 months* are rarely mentioned in the Scriptures and when these events do appear, they are often not recognized due to a poor understanding of the teaching about the 42 months* in Revelation. For example, if the believer does not understand Armageddon from Revelation 16, 19, and 20, then he will not perceive that Ezekiel 38 and 39 foreshadow that event. Another example is the beast who rises from the sea in Revelation 13. If you do not understand the events of Revelation 13, then you will not see that the figures presented in Daniel 7, 8, 9, and 11 are types of the beast and thus foreshadow his activity.
So, to repeat, the book of Revelation contains almost all the Bible’s teaching on the 42 months*. But unless the Bible student grasps that the 42 months* exists as a distinct time period of the end times and unless the student has a general idea of the events of the 42 months*, the book of Revelation is likely to be very confusing.
HOW TO GAIN AN ACCURATE VIEW
The question, then, is, “How is the Bible student to gain an accurate understanding of the end times as presented in the Bible?” In my opinion, this involves a two-step process.
The first step is the more difficult and involves setting aside one’s current understanding of end times and of the book of Revelation. Of course, “your current understanding” is the result of years of Bible reading and so is hard to relinquish, but it is flaws in your current understanding that have produced your confusion about these passages. Rather than trying to correct your current view, the easiest thing to do is to set aside the whole thing for the moment and explore an entirely different view.
The second step is easier, but is not easy, and that is to carefully read through my book on the end times, The Last Act of the Drama. Starting with definitions of key end-times concepts, the book establishes a foundation for how to view the flow of the end times and then explores many key passages to show how the pieces fit together and form a beautiful and integrated whole. Special attention is given to the interpretation of Revelation so that the Bible student can confidently explain what the major passages mean and can see the sequence of their occurrence. Thus, the end times events are made clear.
SDG rmb 2/21/2022 #491