There are many passages in the Old Testament which speak of a tremendous victory for God's cause (e.g. Micah 4:1-5). Up to the present time, these prophecies have not been fulfilled. We have not seen the victory of the Kingdom that is promised in the book of Revelation. The reason is that history has two stages; the times of the Gentiles and the times of the Kingdom. At present we are living in the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). During this time the kingdom of God rises and declines. It has some tremendous victories, but does not reach the fulfilment that is promised in the Old Testament.

During the times of the Gentiles, the majority of Jews are absent from the Kingdom, because their nation has rejected the Messiah and lost the protection of God. This is one reason why the Kingdom does not reach fulfilment. The Kingdom of God cannot be complete when one of the nations is excluded from it. The Kingdom cannot come to fulfilment until Israel's hardness of heart is complete.

When Jesus died upon the cross, the devil was totally and fully defeated. He was cast out of heaven (Rev 12:13) and can only continue to function on earth if he can deceive people into rejecting the gospel. However, he does have one last legal right on earth. Because Jews are have lost God's blessing and protection (Matt 23:39), Satan has had the ability to execute evil that will affect them.

Furthermore, because the Jews were scattered among the nations, he has been able to work in all the nations. Whenever Satan wanted to do great evil in a nation, he incited it to attack the Jews and then he has a greater authority to do his work. For example, Satan stirred up both Hitler and Stalin to attack the Jews. This enabled him to do great evil through them. We can expect the rise and decline of the Kingdom of God to continue until the times of the Gentiles are finished.

The times of the Gentiles come to an end when the rebellion of the Jews is complete. When the Jewish hardness of heart comes to an end, Satan's power last legal authority on earth will be gone. His power to do evil will be severely curtailed. We will see a rapid decline in evil and an equally rapid advance of the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom will be able to come to completion because every nation in the world can have a place in it. Satan will have lost the right that he had to work in the world. God will then be free to pour out his Spirit and bring the Kingdom to its promised fulfilment. The Jews will then be called into the Kingdom in a fuller way. The times of the Kingdom will then begin.

Christians often say that God is doing a new thing. We need to be careful about making this kind of statement. A new thing will not happen on earth unless something changes in the spiritual dimension. The ascension of Jesus changed things in heaven, so it resulted in a new thing on earth (Pentecost). Since then, God has mostly been doing the same thing. However, the end of the rebellion of Israel does represent a change in the spiritual dimension (Dan 7:26), so it will result in a "new thing" on earth.

Time, Times and Half a Time

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 half years:

3½ years = time, times and a half

The apocalyptic books use two other expressions in a similar way. Three and a 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 a 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 age.

The following three expressions all refer to the same time period.

Two Lampstands

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 11:2).

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.

Truncated Church

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 1:20).

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 for Jesus.

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 ineffective.

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.

Political Power

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 11:5).

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 Gentiles.

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 12:14).

The woman in these verses is Israel. John had seen a woman, 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 (Gen 37:9,10).

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 Gentiles too.

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 a 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 season.

Too Long

During the Times of the Gentiles

The Times of the Gentiles go on much longer than God intended, because: When the Times of the Gentiles end, Satan's last legal authority on earth will be gone. His power to do evil will be severely curtailed, opening the way for a rapid advance of the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately, it will take a Time of Distress to end this season

Return to Times and Seasons.