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Originally published in "The Lord's Coming Herald & Wesleyan Bible Prophecy Advocate," January-July 2008

Revelation Chapter Eleven Explained: Part I

    Beginning in Revelation chapter eleven we meet, for the first time in the New Testament, the apocalyptic time-frame expressions of 42 months and 1,260 days.

First, the holy city of Jerusalem is to be trodden down of the Gentiles for 42 months, according to Revelation 11:2.  Then, in Revelation 11:3, we read that the two witnesses prophecy for 1260 days.

Now, to get started, here is our "take" on these two apocalyptic time frame expressions.

First, in a general sense, we believe that they refer to the same over-all period of time, and that period of time is this present age. In this regard, then, they are to be understood as time indicator correspondents to the last half of Daniel's 70th week, which, as you have noted elsewhere in our materials, refers to the entire messianic age now lying between Christ's resurrection in the first Christian century, and His future second advent.

If you are not familiar with this profoundly revolutionary concept of Daniel's 70th week, or if you do not yet fully understand it, then we would suggest that you read many of the other articles of this website that relate to and explain it. We are saying plainly that we believe this "elongated," or "time-unbounded" concept of the last half of Daniel's 70th week provides the unsealed "key" to understanding the expressions for a seeming three-and-a-half year period of time in the Book of Revelation.

Now let's focus on the details of Revelation chapter eleven, so that we can better understand the meaning of the two parables of the gospel age that we find here.

The first parable is found in verses 1-2. It has to do with Judaism, and with Judaism's desolate house, which desolation Jesus pronounced upon the city of Jerusalem in Matthew 24:36-39. This pronouncement of desolation, also referred to in Daniel 9:27, was fulfilled in the events of 70 A.D. Revelation 11:2, then, is talking about the treading down of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D.  This domination of Jerusalem by the Gentiles, the text of Revelation 11:2 says, will last  "42 months," or, as Jesus put it elsewhere, "until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24).

Now let's back up a bit to see what else is in Revelation 1:1-2. Here, at verse one, we have the measuring of the temple of God. The measuring imagery here is reminiscent of a similar activity found in the apocalyptic visions of Ezekiel 40-48. Both that vision in Ezekiel and now here, are referring to the new covenant temple of God, the Christian church. There is both form and definition to the Christian Church--it can be measured. Yes, God keeps track of everything: He knows them that are His (II Tim. 2:19), He walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, which are the seven churches (1:13), and He holds the faithful ministers of the gospel in His own right hand (1:2).

Now in this measuring detail of Revelation 11:1 we see that there is something to be left out of inclusion in the new covenant temple of God with its sacred altar and worshippers. What is left out is called "the outer court."  Now we learn from the Old Testament that in the sanctuary under the old covenant the outer court was the place for the assembly of the people of Israel. It was the place where all the lay people gathered while the priests alone went into the tabernacle, or temple building, itself.

Here, in Revelation 11:2, by contrast, the outer court is reserved, not for the congregation of the Lord, but for the Gentiles, while the priestly class--which is the whole Christian Church according to Revelation 1:6 and 5:10--has entered into the holy of holies through the rending of the veil at Calvary (see Luke 23:45; Heb. 10:19ff.).

The picture here is of the clear differentiation between the old and the new covenant economies. Old covenant Israel is pictured here as still positioned in the outer court, along with the Gentles. In its inclusion among the Gentiles at the outer court of the temple only, we see that a demotion in covenantal relationship for Judaism has occurred. Old covenant Israel is no longer the chosen people of God as they were in former times. The Messiah has come, and by their rejection of the Messiah, all hope of entering the true temple has been lost. The true worshippers of God, are, in this present age, abiding within the sanctuary of God's presence by virtue of their in-filling with the Holy Ghost. The Temple is Christianity--a religion of both Jews and Gentiles alike embracing Jesus as the Messiah. The outer court is Judaism. And it is the outer court, or Judaism, that is to be trodden down of the Gentiles for 42 months.

Now the 42 months here, as we have pointed out numerous times, corresponds to the last half of Daniel’s 70th week, and is a symbol for the present Messianic age now extending between Christ’s resurrection and his second advent. This is the one element of the parable that millions of believers up until the present time have not understood. And the reason they have not understood it is because, according to Daniel 12:4 and 9 the time frame concerns were “sealed” until the end-time should arrive. Now that the end-time has arrived, the unsealing of it is occurring, just as was predicted.

Notice that in Revelation 11:2 we have an equation being clearly made between the times of the Gentiles being fulfilled of Luke 21:24 and “42 months.”  So what is meant by the term “months”?

Well, we know that a month is the largest possible non-progressive measurement of recurring time. Years measure time as well, but they are also progressive. Months are not progressive. They always stay the same. For example, a month--say January, in 1782--is the same length of measuring time as the same month, January, in 1982, although 1782 and 1982 are vastly separate entities.

This leads to the idea that the word “months” used in Revelation 11:2 stands in for “generations.” A generation is the longest possible non-progressive measurement of human existence. The Bible has a lot to say about generations. Matthew says there were 42 generations between Abraham and Christ (Matt. 1:17). Revelation 11:2 is saying, we believe, that there will likewise be 42 generations between the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and the end of the age. In the symmetrical outworking of God's plan of the ages, it is logical to conclude that 42 generations might be allowed for Gentiles of faith under the new covenant, just as they had been allowed for mostly Jew of faith under the old covenant of promise before Messiah.

So how long are each of these  42 generations?

Here is a possible solution and answer to this question.

First, we know that there was basically only one generation that got to experience the earthly manifestation of Jesus the Christ. John the Baptist began to preach the gospel to that generation about the year 25 A.D. And before that generation had passed from the scene, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. (Matthew 24:34). This first generation to experience the Messiah, then, subsisted for a period of 45 years, that is,  from 25 to 70 A. D.

Using 45 years as a benchmark for the length of a generation in this context, we find that 42 such generations equal 1,890 years (42 X 45 = 1,890). Revelation 11:2 places the beginning of the 42 months of Jerusalem being trodden down of the Gentiles at 70 A.D. (see again Luke 21:24). Now 1,290 years after 70 A.D. brings us to the decade of the 1960's, and the Six Day War of 1967, wherein the city of Jerusalem was liberated from nearly 2,000 years of Gentile domination.

So the 42 months of Revelation 11:2 is, in veiled apocalyptic symbolism, a revelation of the actual historical length of the messianic age. This is a mystery that was "sealed" (as per Daniel 12:4 and 9) until the time of its fulfillment had past, which has happened only now, in our present day. Before 1967 this understanding was sealed to all. Since then, it has progressively been being made known. We have been saying it ourselves from about 1989 onward.

If the times of the Gentiles was, indeed, according to this interpretation, brought to a close in the late 1960's, it is likely that now, since then, we are in a final transitional generation reaching unto the second coming of Jesus Christ. Another generation of 45 years added to the above understanding  would mean the end of the world is likely to occur about the year 2012, or shortly thereafter (1967 +45 =2012).

The above  knowledge communicated, we believe, is perhaps the beginning part of the cognitive awakening that was prophesied to come to the Church at the end of time, as described in Matthew 25:6-7. The realm of conscious comprehensiveness, ever expanding within the total ideological integration of this solution, is where the great power of its effect upon our minds now lies. It suggests the conflation of things transcendental and corporal--of prophecy and history--at an approaching concrete event, in yet unrealized time. Thus, from our current time-oriented vantage point, it must still be regarded as tenuous--at least until the receding veil of its unsealing has fully lifted. 

Some things can be seen by some that are not necessarily apparent to others (Hebrews 11:3), especially to those who are not even looking for them in the first place, or to those who may be looking, but in the wrong direction. Some eagerly-gazing, shore-bound eye must, of necessity, be the first to see the ship approaching through the distant ocean fog. Perception, in the nature of the case, is a subjective matter. Biblical prophecy, on the other hand, in the outworking of its historical fulfillment, is rational, objective, and consistent. 

Jesus is coming! That is the rational, objective, and consistent teaching of the Bible.

To those that look for him, He will appear (Hebrews 9:28). The hope of Christ's return is a purifying hope (I John 3:2-3). Are you looking? Are you pure? If not, why not?

He that hath an ear, let him hear, what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Related Article Links

The Key To Interpreting The Book Of Revelation
Revelation Chapter Eleven Explained: Part II