Forty-Two Months - 1,260 Days

SYNOPSIS – In Revelation, the “forty-two months” and “1,260-days” both refer to the same prophetic period when the saints are persecuted

Hourglass - Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash
In several of its visions, 
Revelation provides a chronological key - a coming period of three and one-half years. However, the period is presented in three different but mathematically equivalent forms – “forty-two months,” “1,260-days,” and “season, seasons, and half a season.” So, is there any rhyme or reason behind this variation, or do the figures point to three separate prophetic periods, each being three and one-half years in length? - [Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash].

In chapter 12, the source of the formula is quite clear. The “woman clothed with the sun” was removed to the “wilderness” to be nourished for a “season, seasons, and half a season from the face of the serpent,” a verbal allusion to the vision of the “little horn” from the book of Daniel:
  • (Daniel 7:21-25) –“The same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall trample and break it in pieces. And as for the ten horns, out of this kingdom shall ten kings arise: and another shall arise after them; and he shall be diverse from the former, and he shall put down three kings. And he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and he shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time.
In the vision of the “woman clothed with the sun,” the period is also enumerated as “1,260-days,” leaving no doubt the two descriptions refer to the SAME period:
  • (Revelation 12:6) – And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that there they may nourish her a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
  • (Revelation 12:14-17) – And there were given to the woman the two wings of the great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness unto her place, where she is nourished for a season, and seasons, and half a season from the face of the serpent…And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus.”
The vision concluded with the enraged “Dragon” waging “war with the rest of her seed…they that have the testimony of Jesus,” another allusion to the passage from Daniel - the “little horn waged war against the saints.” Previously, the figure of “1,260-days” was cited in the vision of the “two witnesses”:
  • (Revelation 11:3-7) – “And I will give unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the Lord of the earth.  And if any man desires to harm them, fire proceeds out of their mouth and devours their enemies; and if any man desires to harm them, in this manner must he be killed…When they have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them.
The “1,260-days” connects this passage to the image of the woman protected in the “wilderness” from the “serpent.” Similarly, the “two witnesses” were protected from “harm” until the completion of their “testimony.” Moreover, the same allusion to Daniel 7:21 occurs again – The “beast from the Abyss will make war” with the “two witnesses.” The SAME “1,260-day” period is in view as in the vision of the “woman” protected in the “wilderness.”

The passage identifies the “two witnesses” as “two lampstands.” Elsewhere in Revelation, “lampstands” represent churches, especially the seven churches of Asia. Note carefully – The “Dragon” made “war” with the “seed of the woman…those who have the testimony of Jesus,” while the “beast from the Abyss” made “war” on the “two witnesses…the two lampstands” - (Revelation 1:20).

Measure - Photo by William Warby on Unsplash
Photo by William Warby on Unsplash

At the end of the “
measuring the sanctuary,” the “holy city” was handed over to the nations and “trampled underfoot for forty-two months.” Forty-two months is the functional equivalent of 1,260 days.

Trampled underfoot” alludes to the “little horn” in Daniel. The “fourth beast” that spawned it “trampled and broke in pieces.” Further, it challenged the “host of heaven and the stars, and cast them down to the ground, and trampled upon them.” The literary link means the “forty-months” and the “1,260-days” refer to one and the same period – (Daniel 7:21-25, 8:9-14).

What John “measured” was the “sanctuary,” the “altar,” and those who were “rendering divine service” in the “sanctuary,” that is, a company of priests. Previously, Revelation declared that, by his blood, Jesus constituted the redeemed as “priests.” What was “handed over to the nations” and “trampled underfoot” was the “holy city” in which the “sanctuary,” “altar,” and the priests were located. The “holy city” cannot be old Jerusalem since it is called “holy,” whereas, the old city “spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified,” and the very place where the “two witnesses” were slain and their bodies left lying in the street – (Revelation 1:4-6, 5:9-11, 11:8).

The period of “forty-two months” appears again in the vision of the “beast ascending from the sea.” Its “ascent from the sea” is equivalent to the “ascent of the beast from the Abyss” – The same “beast” and “ascent” are in view. Just as the “beast from the Abyss” waged “war” against the “two witnesses…and overcame them,” so the “beast from the sea” waged “war on the saints and overcame them.” Just as the “holy city” and its “sanctuary” were handed over to be “trampled underfoot,” so the “beast from the sea” attacked the “tabernacle, those who are tabernacling in heaven.”

In each case, the same “war against the saints” is in view, though seen with different aspects. Likewise, whether delimited as “forty-two months,” “1,260-days,” or “season, seasons, half a season,” the same prophetic period is in view. And throughout, Revelation keeps the verbal connections to the passage from Daniel with its war against the “saints” in play.

The citation of the “season, seasons, half a season” makes the connection to the passage in Daniel clear. The two different formulas - “forty-two months” and “1,260-days” - are not for stylistic purposes. While they do refer to the same period, the “forty-two months” links the visions of the “measured sanctuary” and the “beast from the sea” more closely; likewise, the “1,260-days” with the visions of the “two witnesses” and the “woman” preserved from harm for “1,260-days.”

Whether the figure of “forty-two months” or “1,260-days” is literal or symbolic, it evokes the story of the “little horn” and its persecution of the “saints” for a “time, times, and half a time.” Whatever the contents of each related vision in Revelation, the events depicted occurred during this same period.


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