If other time periods mentioned in the book of Revelation are figurative or symbolic of something else, then we might have precedent to interpret the thousand years as symbolic of something else besides a thousand years. Let us look at the other time periods mentioned to see if they symbolize something other than the literal meaning.
“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
Is this symbolic of something? It could be a generic time period meant to give hope to anyone going through persecution to give perspective to the brevity of it. But in light of the fact that the seven churches unanimously stand in the shadow of the immanency of Christ’s return, I see this as prophetic to the great tribulation itself. If someone does not deny Christ, they will be cast into prison receiving persecution for ten days. If they don’t recant Christ and are faithful to the death penalty they will be given a crown of life and cannot be hurt by the second death. If it was meant to be symbolic of a brief period in time, why didn’t Jesus say, “You will have tribulation for only a short time.”?
“And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.”
Heaven seems to exist within the realm of time. For the literal reading, we would say that the Day of the LORD begins with one half hour of silence in order for seven angels to prepare to bring seven plagues upon the earth, for the prayers of the saints (for vengeance, Rev. 6:9-11) to come up before God, and for the angel with the censer to cast fire from the altar into the earth itself. What would the symbolic view consist of? Symbolism is always explained in the Bible. There is no attempt here for the symbolism of a half hour of silence in heaven to be explained as meaning something else.
Revelation 9:5, 10
The five months of torment against mankind at the hand of the horde from the bottomless pit should be considered a literal five months first. If there were symbolism employed, it would be explained. There is no explanation for the five months of torture that is so bad that death would be preferred, although death will flee from them.
But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
Prophecy students who understand the background of Daniel’s seventieth week with the abomination of desolation occurring at the midpoint completely understand the literal nature of this time period of 42 months. The treading down of the holy city by the Gentiles begins in conjunction with the abomination of desolation. At the end of Daniel’s seventieth week, the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of Christ, therefore the holy city will be redeemed. The controversy of Zion will be over. Chapter 11 as a whole addresses this theme. Is there any suggestion in the text that this is a symbolic number?
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
Given the fact that 42 months equals 1260 days, it would seem that either we have God giving John the time period in two different methods to avoid symbolic interpretations, or we must interpret the symbolism in different ways and arrive at the same conclusion. The 42 months would have to symbolize 42 “somethingelses” and the 1260 days would have to symbolize 1260 “whatchacallits”; but both would have to equal the same amount of time. Since the treading down of Jerusalem begins at the same time that the two witnesses begin prophesying since they are announced together, and they both end at the same time (the seventh trumpet), both the 42 months and the 1260 days are the exact same time period. There is no attempt in the passage to say that either time period is symbolic of something else. It also harmonizes the passages to see them speak of a 3 ½ year period.
And after three days and an half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
What would 3 ½ days be symbolic of? We already have a literal interpretation of 1260 days for the entire length of the prophecy of the two witnesses. 3 ½ days would be included either one of two ways. Either they prophesy for 1260 days, then are killed, lie dead for 3 ½ days, then are resurrected and immediately ascend into heaven; or they prophesy for some portion of time slightly less than 1260 days, then are killed, lie dead for 3 ½ days, then are resurrected and give testimony to those around them until the remainder of the 1260 days are fulfilled, then ascend into heaven. Either way, since days are days with the 1260 days, days must be days for the 3 ½ days as well. Otherwise your hermeneutic would be inconsistent.
And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.
Here is a highly symbolic passage. Everything that is meant to be a symbol should have some apparent explanation. If the 1260 days is symbolic of something, then what does it symbolize? We already have one instance earlier which mentioned this exact same time frame. The simplest explanation would be that more details concerning this 3 ½ year period are being revealed to us. Later in chapter 13, we have another mention of 42 months in conjunction with persecution. This gives us good reason to believe that we are reading about the same 3 ½ year period with deeper insight added to it.
And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
Here we must have symbolism of some kind. No one goes around saying they are going to be on vacation “for time, and times, and half a time”. The comparison to the previous reference can not be overlooked. Since the same woman is mentioned, the same type of persecution is mentioned by the same entity, and the same activity of feeding or nourishing is occurring during this period in time, we must be reading about the same event with different details. This would make the symbolism of “time, and times, and half a time” find its interpretation in the equivalent of 1260 days. This would also agree with the prophet Daniel who saw the persecution of the little horn against the saints to last for “a time and times and the dividing of time”, Daniel 7:25. So we do have a symbolic time period in Revelation, but it is interpreted in the same chapter by a literal reading of 1260 days.
And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
These 42 months of power by the beast match up with the 1260 days of persecution against the saints. Unless there is some clear mention in scripture concerning what these 42 months symbolize, the simplest meaning is that it is referring to a 3 ½ year period. Again, the parallel passage from Daniel 7 speaking of a ten horned beast with an evil king persecuting the saints testifies to the unity of scripture. “Time and times and the dividing of time” is shown to be 42 months, or 3 ½ years.
And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
Here is where a literal reading would not make sense. The beast rises out of the sea with ten horns. Then the beast wages war against the saints for 3 ½ years which ends in his demise. From our perspective of kingdoms, 3 ½ years is a very short time for an empire to rule. So to refer to this time period as “one hour” in a metaphoric way for a short period of time would be quite appropriate. The ten kings must be in power long enough to hate the prostitute and destroy her with fire. This metaphor of “one hour” as a short period of time is repeated in reference to the destruction of the prostitute, Rev. 18: 10,17, 19; but in 17:8 it states that it happened in “one day”. “One day” and “one hour” are clearly symbolic language used to describe vast destruction in a very brief period of time.
We then arrive at the description of the thousand years. Here the beast is cast into the lake of fire to show that we are at the end of the 3 ½ year period. The mention of the thousand years is to show what time frame is next on God’s calendar. The 3 ½ years of Daniel’s seventieth week are over. The 42 months of the holy city being trampled by Gentiles are over. The 1260 days of the two witnesses are over. The 1260 days of persecution against the woman by Satan are over. The 42 months of power granted to the beast are over. What is next?
One thousand years are next. Why would we switch to a symbolic interpretation when the book of Revelation has been consistently literal concerning the fulfillment of the prophetic timetable at the end of the age? There have been some symbolic time markers, but it has been clear where there is symbolism. It has also been clear that the 3 ½ years which closes this age is literal. It should also be clear that the thousand years directly follows that. If it is referring to an ideal time period, it is still a time period with a beginning and an ending. Does anyone remember what the original question was? Here is my ONE FRIENDS Jim with his comment again.
Why is the 1,000 year reign of Christ a literal 1,000 years. It would be in the only place in all of Scripture that the word "thousand" meant a literal and exact 1,000. Again, no amillenialist takes issue with whether Christ will reign (or, i guess, is reigning). The issue is with the literal 1,000 years.
So why does the thousand years have to be literal thousand year? I don’t necessarily think they have to be. This could be symbolic for a kingdom that will last for some ideal length in time before the final rebellion of Satan. The best interpretation seems to be that it is a literal thousand years. We are living in the last days of this age right now. Since the 3 ½ years will be the final days of the last days, the thousand years will be like the beginning of the beginning of the age to come. It will be the kingdom come, but only the beginning stage. When He comes, He must reign until all enemies are under His feet. Then He will deliver up the kingdom to God so that He Himself will be subject to the kingdom so that God may be all in all, I Corinthians 15:20-28.
I hope that answers the question, Jim.
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