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The Forty-Two Months (Revelation 11:2; 13:5)

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Covenant Reformed News

March 2016  •  Volume XV, Issue 23

The Forty-Two Months


A lot of people wonder about the 42 months spoken of in the book of Revelation (11:2; 13:5). Are they literal or are they symbolic? When do they begin? When do they end?

Chapters 11-13 of Revelation contain five references to various periods of time, which I will quote in the order of their appearance in the inspired text. “But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months” (11:2). “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth” (11:3). “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days” (12:6). “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent” (12:14). “And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months” (13:5).

You will notice that in these three chapters, we have the following three temporal terms: 1,260 days, mentioned twice (11:3; 12:6); 42 months, also mentioned twice (11:2; 13:5); a time, times and half a time, mentioned once (12:14).

Let us look carefully at these three temporal periods. First, if we reckon that there are 30 days in a month, how many days are there in 42 months? The answer is 1,260 days! Second, 42 months are how many years? Since there are 12 months in a year, 42 months are 3 ½ years, which is the equivalent of “a time [1], and times [2], and half a time [½]” (12:14), for 1 + 2 + ½ = 3 ½. Thus these three time periods are the same! The 1,260 days are equivalent to 42 months, which are equivalent to 3 ½ years or times.

Is there any indication in Revelation 11-13 that these three time periods are the same and coextensive? Yes. First, in Revelation 11, the 42 months are mentioned in verse 2 and the very next verse refers to the 1,260 days (3). Second, in Revelation 12, the woman or church in her place in the wilderness is fed for 1,260 days (6) and, in a parallel statement, we are informed that the woman in her place in the wilderness is “nourished for a time, and times, and half at time,” that is, 3 ½ times or 3 ½ years (14).

Having established that the 1,260 days are the 42 months, which are the 3 ½ years or 3 ½ times, we need to find out when they start and when they end.

In Revelation 12, the woman brings forth a male who is to rule the nations, Jesus Christ, who ascends to His throne in heaven (5). What happens the woman upon Christ’s ascension to, and reign from, heaven? “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days” (6). Thus the 1,260 days start upon Christ’s ascension and session at God’s right hand.

Moreover, with Christ’s ascension to His throne, Satan is cast out of heaven (9-10, 13) and persecutes the woman for 3 ½ times or years (13-14). Clearly, the 1,260 days and the 3 ½ years or times start at the same time, namely, with Christ’s enthronement in heaven.

When do the 1,260 days or 3 ½ times or years end? Well, when does the devil cease attacking the woman, the church? When does God no longer need to protect, feed and nourish the woman, His church, from the attacks of Satan? The answer is at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, when the devil will be cast into the lake of fire and the whole catholic or universal church will be glorified!

We see the same truth regarding the end of the 1,260 days or 42 months or 3 ½ times in Revelation 11. The two witnesses give their testimony for 1,260 days (3). After this comes the eternal reign of Christ over all kingdoms in the new heaven and the new earth (15), which follows the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment, including God’s rewarding His saints (18). From a study of the 1,260 days in Revelation 11, again we see that our period ends with the bodily return of the incarnate Son of God.

Putting all this together, when do the 1,260 days or 42 months or 3 ½ times in Revelation 11-13 start? With the Lord’s ascension and session. When does this period end? With Christ’s return, when “the kingdoms of this world [shall] become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever” (11:15).

In Christological terms, the 1,260 days or 42 months or 3 ½ times run from Christ’s session at God’s right hand to His bodily return at the end of the age. In terms of years, this period is from about AD 33 to the present day and onwards, a time of almost 2,000 years so far. In other words, the 1,260 days or 42 months or 3 ½ times are coextensive with the “last days,” another important biblical term for the time between Christ’s enthronement in heaven and His return on the clouds.

Thus we have the answer to the question, Are the 1,260 days or 42 months or 3 ½ times literal or symbolic? Obviously, they are not literal since a lot more time than 42 months have elapsed since Christ ascended to heaven! This period is symbolic, as one would expect in a book which tells us in its very first verse that the truth that it contains is “signified,” that is, presented in sign form (1:1). This is also in keeping with the other symbolic numbers in this last book of the Bible, like the 24 elders, the 7 seals and trumpets and vials, the 144,000 saints, etc. 

Rev. Angus Stewart

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 15
  • Issue: 23
Stewart, Angus

Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)

Ordained - 2001

Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001

Website: www.cprf.co.uk/

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    7 Lislunnan Road
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  • State or Province
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  • Country
    Ireland
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    (01144) 28 25 891851
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