The Last Three and One-Half Years...
More space is devoted to the last three and one-half years of this age in the Book of Revelation than to all the rest of the church age combined. It is described in terms of 42 months, 1260 days, and as a “time, times and half a time” --- as if we are being constrained to understand it as a literal three and one-half years. With such extensive coverage, something significant must be in view.
Jesus’ time of public ministry was also three and one-half years. There are significant parallels between His public ministry and that of the saints during the last three and one-half years of the age. It is the Father’s eternal plan in Christ Jesus --- and the reason for which He created all things --- to demonstrate His wisdom through the Church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:8-12), and much of that demonstration seems to be concentrated into the last three and one-half years of the age. 1 Corinthians 1 defines the wisdom of God as the wisdom of the cross of Jesus Christ. It seems that the Father is going to demonstrate the wisdom of the cross through the corporate body of His Son at the end of this age even as He demonstrated it through His Son as an individual two thousand years ago.
The parallels begin with empowerment. Even as Jesus received power at the beginning of His ministry when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him at His baptism, so does Revelation 12:10 describe another coming of the Holy Spirit at the beginning of the last three and one-half years of the age, seemingly another day of Pentecost: “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night.”(NAS) And we read in Revelation 11:3:“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”(NAS)
Where does this authority and power come to? Who is here on earth to receive it but the saints? And why are they receiving it but to confront the authority of satan in the form of his antichrist? In other words, fully authorized good and evil will come head to head on the earth during the last three and one-half years of the age. We know good will win. But do we understand the full implication of the victory being won by the wisdom of the cross?
Regarding the last three and one-half years of the age, Daniel is told: “And I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed.” Dan 12:7 (NAS)
The fulfillment of the events of the last three and one-half years of the age awaits the shattering of the power of the holy people. Daniel didn’t understand how victory could come after a process of such seeming defeat. Do we? How is it that the two witnesses, who are given the very authority of Jesus, are allowed to be overcome by the forces of evil at the end of their three and one-half year period of testimony? Did they fall into sin at the last minute? Were their bodies turned over to satan so that their spirits could be delivered? Or did they lay down their lives in redemptive purpose in demonstration of the wisdom of the cross? No greater demonstration of this wisdom can be given than by the love revealed by the laying down of one’s life for his brother. Hence we see the saints victorious over satan by the Blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and by loving not their lives unto death.
If the beginning of the final three and one-half years is indeed another literal day of Pentecost --- a day of great outpouring of the Holy Spirit --- then we should not be surprised to see a manchild snatched up to heaven, as the the day of Pentecost is also the day of First Fruits. We can identify this manchild again at the beginning of Revelation Chapter 14, in heaven, and identified as the first fruits of the harvest to follow.
The saints on earth during this time will pass through the great tribulation to the extent needed to purify them as a bride without spot or wrinkle. Hence we see a great multitude emerging from great tribulation (Rev 7:14) having washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.
A lot of things happen on earth during these last three and one-half years of the age. The saints are being purified in the crucible of tribulation. Many of them are receiving the martyrs’ crown for redemptive purposes in the Father’s plan to restore His creation. The gospel is finally being preached to the entire world in the power and authority of Jesus Christ. The sick are being healed; the dead are being raised; food is being multiplied in spite of the inability of the saints to buy or sell. Satan is being overcome by the demonstration of the wisdom of the cross. Daniel 12:3 indicates that there will be those saints who will understand and lead many to righteousness during these times. Perhaps now we can understand why the Book of Revelation has so much to say about these last few years of the age. The final lap of the Church’s relay race against evil will be run during these years. A Church brought to full stature in Jesus Christ will crush satan underfoot by the wisdom of the cross.
If I were the enemy of the saints, I would not want them to have such vision. I would want them to think they are not even going to be on earth during this period of time. And when these times do overtake them, I would want them to be confused and think that they were encountering God’s wrath instead of His loving discipline in the form of birthpains intended to birth them as sons of God. I would not want them to understand that they are in the midst of a process also designed to overcome me and have me thrown in the lake of fire by the seeming foolishness of the wisdom of the cross.