A phrase used several times in Revelation and Daniel to mark out this
season is “a time, times and half a time”. This phrase and its related
terms is essential for the understanding the Times of the Gentiles. The
interpretation is quite simple.
a time = one year,
times = two years
half a time = half a year
This means that “a time, times and half a time” equals three and a
3½ years = time, times and a half
The apocalyptic books use two other expressions in a similar way. Three
and half years is the same as forty-two months:
12 x 3½ =42
In the Hebrew calendar, a month has thirty days, so three and a half
years consists of 1,260 days.
12 x 30 x 3½ = 1260
The key to interpreting these numeric expressions is to understand that
the New Testament age has two halves. Three and half is half of seven.
Seven represents fullness or perfection, so seven years represent the
entire New Testament age, from the ascension of Jesus to the end of the
age. These seven years can be split into two halves. The various
expressions for “three and half years” in Revelation and Daniel, refer
to the Times of the Gentiles, which is the first half of the New Testament
The following three expressions all refer to the same time period.
In a vision of two lampstands, John was given a rod to measure the
temple of God and count the worshippers.
Exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given
to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months (Rev
The temple was the dwelling place of God. Those who enter the courts of
the temple have access to the presence of God. The Gentiles will have
access to God for forty-two months. During this season, the Jewish people
are shut out from the presence of God (but kept safe by being scattered
among the nations).
The forty-two months represents the first half of the church age, when
the gospel goes out to the gentiles. Most of the Jewish people will be
unable to receive it because their hearts are hardened. They are reluctant
to recognise him as their Messiah, so the church is filled up with
gentiles. The gentile nations dominate the world.
John saw two witnesses, two olive trees and two lampstands.
And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for
1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the
two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth (Rev 11:3-4).
The lampstands and the witnesses represent the church. It is Jesus
witness in the world. The olive trees represent the Holy Spirit. The odd
thing about this vision is that there are only two lampstands. Earlier
John had seen seven lampstands.
The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the
seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the
seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches (Rev
Seven represents perfection or completion. The perfected, completed
church is represented by seven lampstands. A church with only two
lampstands is a truncated church that cannot provide a complete witness
The church is truncated because the Jewish people have hardened their
hearts against Jesus and are missing from his body. A church without the
chosen people is incomplete. With part of the team missing, the church is
This truncated church is active for 1260 days, which is three and a
half years. 1260 days is the Times of the Gentiles. John is explaining
that the church will not reach its full potential during the first half of
its history, because the Jews are missing. That has been the story for the
last two thousand years. Towards the end of this season, the church will
come under extreme pressure from the world, but God will pour out his
spirit in preparation for launching the age of the Kingdom.
The two olive trees represent a constrained Holy Spirit. A perfectly
free Holy Spirit would be represented by seven olive trees. During the
season represented by the 1260 days, the Holy Spirit will be constrained
by lack of faith, and be unable to operate to his full potential. When
this season ends, the Holy Spirit will be able to speak and act
effectively on earth.
This truncated church uses Old Testament methods, because it does not
fully understand the calling of the cross.
If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours
their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die (Rev
This points back to Elijah, who called down fire on the soldiers who
had tracked him down (2 Kings 1:9-15). Elijah attempted to control the
world using spiritual power, but the strategy failed and he had to flee.
Power without suffering always fails.
During the Times of the Gentiles, the church uses spiritual power to
control the political powers, in the same way that Elijah attempted to
control King Ahab. It tries to advance the Kingdom of God by imposing
Christian laws on the rest of society. This strategy fails, because God
intends his church to pursue the cross, not power.
In the latter part of this vision, John warns that the political powers
will persecute the church so severely, that it appears to be dead.
When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from
the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them (Rev 11:7).
The people of the world celebrate joyously, because a minor irritant is
gone, but God has a surprise for them. When the church seems to be dead,
he breathes the life of the Spirit into it and raises it up to victory.
The breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet,
and terror struck those who saw them (Rev 11:11).
A radical church that has survived underground and prepared while not
one has notices will burst onto the world stage, knowing that in Christ,
it is seated at his right hand of the Father in heaven (Rev 11:12). The
people of the world will be shocked when they realise that church is not
dead, just different and far more powerful.
Israel in Exile
John saw a woman being hidden in the desert during the Times of the
The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God,
where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days (Rev 12:6).
The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might
fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken
care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach (Rev
The woman in these verses is Israel. John had seen a women, clothed
with the sun, the moon under her feet, and twelve stars on her head. In
Joseph's dream, the sun, moon and twelve stars represented his father
Jacob (Israel) and his twelve sons, so the woman is the nation of Israel
This woman was pregnant and gave birth to a male child. This is Jesus,
who was born of an Israelite woman in the nation of Israel. John saw the
devil attempt to kill the male child, but he was snatched up to heaven
(Rev 12:3-5). Satan used Herod in an attempt to destroy Jesus at his
birth, but God kept him safe in the desert of Egypt. He also tried to
destroy Jesus on the cross, but he was raised to life, and "snatched
up to God and to his throne".
After failing to destroy Jesus, the devil turned on the Jewish people.
This explains the ferocity of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The
wings of the eagle represent the Roman Empire scattering the Jewish people
to the nations across the earth. For people who loved their land, this was
like being in "a desert", but it is also a safe place. God keeps
his people "out of the serpent's reach" in exile for the
"time, times and half a time" of the Times of the Gentiles.
Powerful Political Power
The Beast of Revelation will be active throughout the Times of the
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to
exercise his authority for forty-two months (Rev 13:5).
A beast symbolises human political power. John saw strong human
governments exercising authority for forty-two months. Forty-two months is
three and half years, so John is referring to the same season. During the
times of the Gentiles, this Beast will be active in the world. Human
political powers will be boastful and confident and claim authority that
belongs to God.
At the beginning of the Times of the Gentiles, this political power was
manifested through the Roman Empire. Towards the end of the season,
political dominance will be established through another empire. Daniel saw
this terrible beast rising out of the sea. The angel explained.
After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones...
He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to
change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him
for a time, times and half a time (Dan 7:25).
A political empire more powerful and more awful than any that has gone
before will emerge among the people of the world. This human government
will change laws with total disregard for God’s law. It will revolt
against God’s plan for history and attempt to accomplish its own goals.
This human government will oppress God’s people for a time, times and
half a time. The beast will be hanging around in some form for the entire