Summary: Gives my understanding of the three-and-one half year period.
TIME FACTORS IN THE DRAMA OF
THE BOOK OF THE REVELATION
I. FACTORS WHlCH MAKE UNDERSTANDlNG DIFFICULT
1. First, we are dealing with visions which are often highly symbolical Let me illustrate.
Suppose l have a dream which lasts a total of seven minutes. In the dream I see one week of my life pictured. When I ask someone what the dream means, he tells me that each day of the picture represents seven years of my life.
Sunday in my dream represents the first seven years of my life. Monday represents the next seven years; and so on. We shall call the seven minutes in which I had the dream sleeping time. The one week of my life we shall call picture time. The forty-nine years of my life we shall call interpreted time. It is my belief that most of the time factors in the Book of Revelation refer to Picture time. These time factors need to be interpreted.
2. A second factor which makes understanding very difficult if one does not detect this factor is the presence in the vision of interludes which give previews and flashbacks. This is a very common dramatic technique. Its importance in the interpretation of the Book of Revelation has not been sufficiently realized. See my printed material on Scenes, Judgment Sequences, and Interludes in the Book of Revelation. Notice that the interludes always occur between the sixth and seventh section of one series, or between the seventh section of one series and the first of the next.
3. Thirdly, we are dealing with the divine and with the human; with time and with eternity; with periods of normal human history and with periods in which time will be relatively unimportant; when time is, when time is suspended, and when time will be no more.
II. MY UNDERSTANDING OF THE THREE-AND-ONE-HALF YEAR PERIOD
I had read the Book of Revelation fifty or more times, had carefully studied it, and had taught it to many Seminary classes. Just a few years ago I came to what I believe was a new understanding of the Book. I was reading the introduction to the very difficult eleventh chapter.
Rev. 11:1-2 Compare Phil. 3:1-3; Rom. 2; Rev. 11:8 and Luke 21:24
I did what most of John’s readers could have done. I compared these verses with what Jesus said about the destruction of Jerusalem which took place in John’s generation,
I then made a hypothesis. I suggested to myself that the forty-two months are picture time and represent in interpreted time the remaining times of the Gentiles. I then tested this hypothesis with all the other occurrences of the phrase or its equivalent in the Book of the Revelation.
As I read verse two I had to ask myself why there were two witnesses. My mind suggested these seven possible answers.
1. These two witnesses represent the spiritual (olive trees Zechariah) and human (candlesticks Zechariah) forces through which the battle for the Gospel is fought.
2. Often champions for a cause are chosen in pairs.
3. The beast and the false prophet are the opposing pair.
4. Two is a symbol of strength and help.
5. Two is a symbol of witness and confirmation of witness.
6. These two have a power greater than the Old Testament champions Moses and Elijah.
7. Jesus sent out His disciples by two.
The two witnesses (vs.3) are the two olive trees (vs.4), Somewhat like the two beasts (Rev. 13) which seem to represent the spiritual forces working in ungodly Gentile nations during the times of the Gentiles, these two witnesses seem to represent the counteracting spiritual forces working in and through the godly during the same period: They have a power (vs.6) greater than the combined powers of Moses and Elijah for they are witnessing during the Gentile age of the dynamite of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Because Christ is Lord, the forces of evil cannot harm those who witness until they have finished their task (vs. 6). Their dead bodies will lie in their graves until the Resurrection and Rapture at the end of the Gentile age (vv.8-15) when the last trumpet will sound (vs. 15).
I was puzzled by the change from the equivalent of three-and-one-half years (vs. 3) to three-and-one-half days (vss. 9-11). However I realized that here we have a change from an earthly view to a heavenly view. For the Christian living on earth the period of witnessing which is beset by severe persecution seems much longer than the same period as viewed by those who have been martyred and are therefore no longer bound to earth’s concept of time.
Here again I saw that this period was characterized by Christian witness and Satanic persecution. Moreover I saw the significance of the use of the phrase three-and-one-half. It represented a short time (verse 12), the short time of Christian persecution.