Forty-two months stands for another period that is set by God, which will have a start and stop, but is not necessarily to be interpreted using exact numbers or dates – the same as all the rest of the time signs. This is the only number that occurs in all of these prophecies, although it is stated or accounted three different ways. We noted earlier that 42 months (“time, times and half a time, etc. etc.), is the actual time it took the Roman legions to subdue Judaea. As stated previously: The math never changes in this book.
All interpretations of numerological signs are based upon extra-Biblical sources and have no life beyond a decoding table found somewhere far outside of the Scriptures. That is not stated to allow that we might ignore the repeated use of certain numbers and thereby their relationships through usage. However, any serious student ought to ignore all but the internal use in the interpretations of the signs in this or in any other book within the Holy Scriptures. The numbers should be interpreted in the same fashion as all of the rest of the signs – indicative of full quantities of recognizable size and conditions each dependent upon the immediate context and other usage of the same numbers.
The purpose of this new narrative which began with V. 1 seems to be to fill in details about events which will have already taken place prior to the time of the seventh trumpet sounding. The narrative has two distinct parts: the first with the instructions to measure the temple, in v.1, 2: the second with the story of the two witnesses, beginning with v.3. In the measuring of the temple the importance lies in the worshippers at the temple who are set apart or reserved by God. It is the remainder of the city that must fear of the Gentiles who “will tread the holy city underfoot forty-two months.” If we do not understand that this passage as prophesying concerning the approaching or pending destruction of Jerusalem, and concerning the spread of Christianity throughout the Mediterranean world and elsewhere which followed. Then (once again) we have missed the elephant in the corner.
The instruction in this next section concerns the two witnesses, who were given “power…and they will prophesy.” They are likened to two olive trees and lampstands; signifying these are the chosen of the Lord and carry the word of the Lord and the source of life and “light” and is a clear reference to and a fulfillment of Zechariah 4. There is a defined period for the testimony of the witnesses of God. The time frame given is the same period for the measuring of the temple, and the treading down of the Holy City. As noted earlier, in all visions the duration (whether stated as forty-two months, one thousand two hundred sixty days, and later “time, times, and half a time” from 12:6 and 14), is identical. The witnesses are likened to Elijah and Moses, in that they are the embodiment of the full power and authority of God. Question (one more time): How long was the siege of Jerusalem?
I suggest the vision indicates the Apostolic witness who had gone out to both the Jews and Gentiles, as some of the more conservative teachers and scholars have noted. Or, to put it another way: we can view the two as representing the leader of the Apostles, the Apostle to the Jews, with the second best-known apostolic witness – the Apostle to the nations. That would be the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul. The legal force of witness was to be established through two or more testimonies, as is stated both in the Old Testament and the New. It works that way in jurisprudence too. Well, here it is. The representative Apostolic witnesses are overcome by the beast that ascends from the bottomless pit and they are killed. So, I suggest this represents the time from the beginnings of the church to just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. Indeed, all twelve of the Apostles were likely killed either by the Jews or the agent governments of Rome or by the Roman authorities themselves, even though Catholic history and folklore would have us to believe otherwise. We know conclusively (scripturally), of none of their deaths save that of James, son of Zebedee, and brother of John. James was killed by the agents of Rome through the diligent work of the Jews. Yet the historians likely got it right with the Apostle to the Hebrews, and the Apostle to the Gentiles – both of whom were likely lost just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem as we noted previously in the historical section.
All of this leads us into the events recorded in the next chapter. The record says the testimony these witnesses give is completed before they are overcome (v.7). No one can stop the testimony until it is completed – this by command of God. When complete, the testimony is ended, and the enemies of God rejoice (v.10). Yet the rejoicing is short lived, as the testimony (the Bible – the Word?), and some eyewitnesses to the disciples and Apostles remain. The two witnesses ascend just as Christ had and are glorified in heaven and on earth (v. 11–13). The testimony remains in place as is signified by the resurrection of the two witnesses (v.11). The Bible is the Word of God and the New Testament is our only source for salvation today. It is the witness of Christ.
The seventh trumpet sounds following the death and ascension of the witnesses. There is nothing mentioned which could be classified as a great woe when the trumpet sounds. This herald has sounded to note the conclusion of the events. What does take place is not so much an event as it is a recounting of the things that had already taken place. The woe is that unless men are in the Kingdom of God, now firmly and irrevocably in place, they will be on the wrong end of things when God “should reward his servants the prophets and saints, and those who fear his name small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
The seventh sounding gives us a clue that the things that have been spoken have taken place in conjunction with the beginning of the Kingdom of Heaven (which is one and the same as the church, according to the words of Christ in Matthew 16:18, and to anyone paying strict attention), now firmly in place and continuing from that point. Note the seal is opened and there are voices in heaven saying, “the kingdoms of this world have become (the kingdom) of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever.” Then follows v.19 where the covenant is seen, or present in God’s Temple in heaven.
The reference to the covenant means one thing — the new covenant has fully supplanted the old and the Law of Moses. The Kingdom of God — the church, has been established forever. The Kingdom is with men until Judgment. Nothing new here: but the intent is to note that the Jewish system and the Law of Moses had been put away at the cross and fulfilled. It is irretrievably and irrevocably taken away as the Holy City has now been given over to the Gentile nations, with the Jewish state disassembled (whether you like it or not) forevermore. Rome does not stand a chance either, or any others that have arisen since or will ever rise up against God and Christ this side of Judgment.
This is the purpose of God for the ages. The avenging of the apostles and prophets is complete in this instance concerning the destruction of Jerusalem: “…Because you have taken your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged. And that you should reward your servants the prophets and saints.”
So ends the outpouring of the purpose of God for his servants. This is a clear reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and to the end of Jerusalem. It has been given into “the hands” of the nations. The mystery must now be finished because God said it would be finished when the seventh trumpet sounded.
At this point the narrative turns from predicting the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and to figures representing the Roman Empire, its nature, its persecutions, and its pending repayment for killing the saints crying out from under the altar in Heaven. All of this leads to the Empire’s downfall and eventual destruction by God.