The second woe and the 1,260 days
Some of the parables of Jesus about the kingdom of heaven provide clues that help us to understand and properly interpret the prophecies in Revelation.
In the parable of the tares, a man sows good seed in his field, and his enemy came afterwards and sowed tares in it. “But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” [Matt. 13:26-30]
Jesus provided a detailed explanation: “Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. [Matt. 13:36-43]
The 144,000 of “the 12 tribes of Israel” who are sealed [Rev. 7:4-8] are the children of the kingdom, that is, faithful Christians, not necessarily ethnic Jews. They are Jews in a spiritual sense; Jews inwardly as Paul said. [Rom. 2:29] John describes them in Rev. 14:1-4 as “virgins,” who are “not defiled with women;” who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes;” “in whose mouth is no guile.”
The statement that there is “no guile” in their mouths contrasts with the fire, smoke, and brimstone that comes from the mouths of the 200 million horses and horsemen. [Rev. 9:17-18]
The righteous seed are referred to in Rev. 12:17; they “keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
In Rev. 20, John refers to the saints as those who have been “beheaded” for the witness of Jesus; they do not worship the beast, and for them, Satan is bound. They are beheaded in a spiritual sense, metaphorically, not necessarily literally. They are blessed and holy, and have a part in the first resurrection, and they reign as kings and priests with Christ.
On the other hand, the 200 million horses and horsemen of the second woe, who have lions’ heads, and serpents for tails, correspond to the tares in Jesus’ parable; the lions’ heads and serpent tails connect them to the devil, like the tares in the parable of Jesus, who are called the “children of the wicked one.”
In the parable of the tares, the “children of the wicked one” are allowed to remain until the harvest. They co-exist with the saints in the church, from the time they first appear, throughout the remaining age of the church, till the harvest at the end of the world. Rev. 11:14 says, “The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.” Since the prophecy of the second woe extends from Rev. 9:13 to Rev. 11:14, it includes the symbolic 1,260 days of the ministry of the two witnesses, which spans the church age. Two things Jesus said would “testify” of him, which are therefore Two Witnesses, are the Spirit, [John 15:26] and the Scriptures. [John 5:39]
The 1,260 days represent the remaining time of the church, from the completion of the New Testament at the end of the first century to the resurrection at the end of the age when Jesus returns in glory. It corresponds to ‘the time, times, and a half’ of Dan. 7:25, the period for which the little horn, the spirit of antichrist, makes war with the saints, and overcomes them. Dan. 12:7 shows that this period extends to the end of the age.
The ‘time, times, and a half’ represents the last half of the 70th week of Daniel’s prophecy. In this week, Jesus confirms his covenant with many. [Dan. 9:27] The first half of the week was his three and a half year ministry. Its units are natural years, those of the second half of the week are not, since Jesus ascended to heaven, where he became king in the heavenly Jerusalem, where earthy units of time and space do not apply. The last half-week is a diminishing symbolic period, represented by three and a half years, that applies to the whole age of the church. The 1,335 days and 1,290 days of Dan. 12:11-12, and the 1,260 days of Rev. 11:3; 12:6, and the three days and a half in Rev. 11:8 each depict the remaining portions of the second half of the 70th week.
The purpose of the last three woes is to bring the knowledge of God to the world, which eventually leads all people to repentance. [Rev. 9:20-21; 15:4] In the third woe, this will be accomplished. When the seventh angel sounds, the saints of previous ages are raised up from their graves, and those who are worthy among the living are changed to immortality, and the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of Christ:
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. [Rev. 11:15-18]
Jesus said, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” [Luke 21:36]