A case for the 42 months being a literal period of time

POST OVERVIEW. A refresher on the 42 months from Revelation 11-13, reviewing what the Scripture says about this end-times concept. Related to post #641, 4/16/2023, on the “thousand years.”

I have written before at length about the end times, both on numerous posts on this site and in my book, “The Last Act of the Drama: a guide to the end times,” but lately I have felt that it might be beneficial to give some refreshers.


One of the most important interpretive decisions that the student of Revelation makes is how he understands the timing of the major end times events and time periods in the book. In my view of Revelation, the events of the last days (the time period between Jesus’ ascension and great white throne judgment) fit into three named periods: the “thousand years,” the 42 months, and the last day. In a recent post (#641, 4/16/2023), I reviewed the events of the “thousand years” and placed the “thousand years” chronologically on a timeline. In this post, my main objective, but not my only objective, is to demonstrate that “the 42 months” of Revelation 11-13 should be understood as a literal time period.

REVIEW OF THOUSAND YEARS. Looking back to Post #641, we saw that, rather than a precise measurement of exactly one thousand 365-day years, the “thousand years” (Rev. 20:1-6) was simply a figurative expression for a long period of time. That is, since “thousand” in Revelation most often simply means a very large number, the “thousand years” simply means a very long, non-specific period of time. In my previous post, I also explained from Revelation and other Scriptures that the “thousand years” begins during the ascension of Jesus to heaven between Acts 1:9 and Rev. 5:6. Then, according to Rev. 20:3 and 20:7, the “thousand years” ends when Satan (the dragon) is released from the abyss. Thus, the period of the 42 months begins with Satan’s release.


There are seven occurrences of the “42 months” in the Scriptures: Daniel 7:25 and 12:7; and Revelation 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; and 13:5. The first thing we want to consider as we interpret these occurrences of the 42 months is whether this is a literal time period of three-and-a-half years or whether the expression “42 months” is to be understood figuratively as just a relatively short period of time. When I was studying end-times passages for my book on the end times two years ago, my position on the 42 months (or the “time and times and half a time” or the 1,260 days) was that this expression was “relatively literal,” in that it figuratively meant a short period of time compared to the long period of the thousand years. This position was not based on in-depth exegesis or on a clear principle, so this idea of “relatively literal” was weak. But since that time, as I have continued to study these things, my position on the meaning of the 42 months has changed. I am now persuaded that the “42 months” is a literal time period of 42 calendar months in duration. I have come to this conclusion for three reasons:

  1. John mentions this period of time five times in Revelation in three different ways; “42 months” (Rev. 11:2; 13:5); “1,260 days” (Rev. 11:3; 12:6); and “time and times and half a time” (Rev. 12:14). It would be very odd for him to mention a figurative period of time in three different ways.
  2. None of these expressions of 42 months has any figurative significance that I can discern, so it is unlikely that the time span is figurative.
  3. There are two other expressions of the 42 months which are located in Daniel (“time, times, and half a time” in 7:25 and 12:7), bringing to seven the total number of times that the 42 months is mentioned in an end-times passage in the Scriptures. Seven mentions of the same time period is very significant and is strong evidence for a literal understanding.  

These three reasons taken together make a very persuasive case that the 42 months is a literal time period.


According to my view of the last days, the “thousand years” is a time of relative peace where the primary end-times activity consists of the faithful church riding out to conquer the nations with the bow of the gospel (Rev. 6:1-2). Satan is locked in the abyss (Rev. 20:3) so that he will not thwart the work of the church to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20).

But at a point in time known only to the Lord, Satan “must be released for a short time” (Rev. 20:3). This “short time” is the period of the 42 months. With the release of Satan from the abyss, the time period of the 42 months begins and world history takes a dramatic turn toward the end of the age. The following are comments about the 42 months.

  1. There are three main purposes for the 42 months.
    • Lawlessness increases so that the rebellious world is prepared for judgment.
    • The church gathered during the “thousand years” is purified by persecution.
    • Final warnings and calls for repentance are issued for the unrighteous.
  2. The 42 months begins with Satan’s release from the abyss (Rev. 20:3, 7) and ends on the cusp of the last day as the nations are gathered for Armageddon (Rev. 16:13-16; 19:19; 20:8-9) and the destruction of the church.
  3. With a couple of exceptions, the events of the 42 months are given only in Revelation. Since there is not a biblical cross-reference for these events, care must be taken as the student pieces these events together.
  4. A proposed flow of events of 42 months. Satan’s release begins the 42 months. Satan makes war in heaven (Rev. 12:7-8) but he is defeated and thrown to earth (Rev. 12:9ff). This event is parallel with Rev. 8:10 and the great star from heaven (Satan). This “star” opens “the shaft of the abyss” (9:1) and releases demonic forces on the earth. These are part of the trumpet warnings for the unrighteous to repent. In 12:12, Satan’s wrath will result in woe on the earth. The church is purified through persecution (Rev. 6:9-11; 11:3-10, esp. 7; 13:7, 10, 15), the rise of the antichrist in the person of the beast (Rev. 13:1-10); the rise of the false prophet (“another beast,” Rev. 13:11-17), and the gathering of the kings of the earth and the forces of wickedness against the faithful church for the annihilation of the church (Rev. 16:13-16; 19:19; 20:8-9). The conclusion of the 42 months prepares the world for the cataclysmic events of the last day.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 4/17/2023                   #642

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