The thousand years, the forty-two months, and Satan (Part 1)

SUMMARY. This short study of “the thousand years” and the “forty-two months” comes from the book of Revelation and serves as a refresher for understanding the flow of the events which occur at the end of the age. In this study we also see how the devil fits into the timing of these events. (See my book, “The Last Act of the Drama” (Amazon, 2021) for a more detailed treatment.)

MINI-SERIES OVERVIEW. A good understanding of the book of Revelation is needed to have a proper grasp of the end times. The problem is that it is very difficult to understand the book of Revelation and especially to follow the flow of events in the section of the book from chapter 4 through chapter 20. This series of posts serves as a teaching session to define the events that take place and to explain the order in which they occur. We will also see that Satan appears in the flow of events in Revelation.

THE LOCATION OF THE DEVIL IN HISTORY. Most people would say that the devil spends most of redemptive history on earth, but the Bible tells a slightly different story. The book of Job is one of the oldest books in the Bible, and in Job, Satan presents himself before the LORD (Job 1:6). This must mean that Satan is in heaven, for “the LORD is in His holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven” (Psalm 11:4). Thus it seems that, during the Old Testament period, in some sense, Satan is in heaven.

When we jump forward to the time just before the Incarnation, in Revelation 12:3 we see the devil as the red dragon in heaven ready to devour the Messiah (12:3-4). Thus, just before Christ’s Incarnation, again we see that Satan is in heaven.

Revelation 12:5 describes the Incarnation and the Ascension of Jesus but is silent about what is happening with the devil during this time. To find out what happens with the devil next, we need to turn over to Revelation 20 and see how Satan is removed from heaven.


AN OVERVIEW OF THE FLOW OF REVELATION. It is necessary to pause here and turn aside to supply key information about what is happening in Revelation. Therefore, we will take a moment, first, to give an overview of how the pieces fit together and then how the events flow through the chapters of Revelation.

FITTING THE PIECES TOGETHER. First, then, we will address how the pieces or components fit together. Chapters 4 through 20 of the book of Revelation describe three distinct periods of time: “the thousand years,” the “forty-two months,” and the last day.

THE THOUSAND YEARS. “The thousand years” is the name or the label for the period of time in redemptive history that occurs between the binding of Satan in the abyss (Rev. 20:1-3) and the release of Satan from the abyss (Rev. 20:3, 7). It will shown that “the thousand years” begins during the ascension of Jesus from earth to heaven following His resurrection. Thus, “the thousand years” was inaugurated around AD 30. The term “a thousand years” in Revelation 20 is a figurative expression for the duration of the period of time named “the thousand years.” In Revelation, a thousand of anything does not communicate an exact number but tells of a very large number too big to count. Thus, a thousand years is a really long period of time. So, “the thousand years” began with the binding of Satan in the abyss in about AD 30 and will continue for a really long period of time until the release of Satan from the abyss.

THE FORTY-TWO MONTHS. The period of “the thousand years” is followed immediately by the period of the “forty-two months.” “Forty-two months” (Rev. 11:2; 13:5), “one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Rev. 11:3; 12:6), and “a time and times and half a time” (Rev. 12:14) are names or labels for this relatively short period of intense eschatological activity that occurs between Satan’s release from the abyss (Rev. 20:3, 7) and the beginning of the last day. As a thousand years was a figurative expression for the duration of “the thousand years,” so “forty-two months” is a figurative expression for the duration of this period. While “thousand years” conveys the idea of a very long, indefinite period of time, “forty-two months” conveys the idea of a much shorter, more defined period of time, not literally forty-months, but a brief time, like less than a decade.

THE LAST DAY. Although this series of blog posts will not touch on the last day, we will define it here. The expression “the last day” is to be understood literally, meaning it is literally the last day of human existence on the fallen earth. You may ask, “If ‘thousand years’ and ‘forty-two months’ are figurative, why do you claim that ‘the last day’ is literal?” The expressions “thousand years” and “forty-two months” are unique to the book of Revelation, both in actual textual appearance and in concept. Since these two concepts are unique to Revelation, they must be understood within the context of the book of Revelation. It is apparent in reading Revelation that these expressions are not required to be literal, nor are they intended to be taken as literal. It is clear from the text that these expressions are conveying a concept, not a precise period of time. By contrast, the concept and expression of “the last day” have been part of redemptive history since the very beginning. For example, in the gospel of John, Jesus speaks of the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54). In the Old Testament prophets, we read often of “that day.” Ever since the fall of man in Eden, there has been a coming day of recompense when the unrighteous will be judged. As we examine this biblical concept of a last day, it is also evident that the last day is literally the last day. That is, all of biblical revelation presents the last day or “that day” as a regular, literal day. Since throughout God’s inspired word, the last day is presented as literal, we assume that the book of Revelation presents it the same way.

SUMMARY. So far, we have fit some of the pieces together. According to our understanding of these components, then, “the thousand years” began around AD 30 with the dragon (Satan, the devil, the serpent of old) being bond in the abyss. The end of “the thousand years” is marked by Satan’s release from the abyss, which simultaneously inaugurates “the forty-two months.” Once the events of “the forty-months” are completed, the final events of the last day occur, which closes human history.

Where are we in our study, then? Remember that, in the Overview section above, we stated that we were first going to see how the pieces fit together and then were going to consider how the events flow through the chapters of Revelation.

So, now that we see how the pieces fit together, the next post will explore how “the thousand years” and “forty-two months” appear in the text of Revelation so that we can see how Satan journeys from heaven just before the Incarnation (Rev. 12:3-4) to the lake of fire on the last day (Rev. 20:10).            

SDG                 rmb                 7/13/2022                   #553

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