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but you must absolutely exclude

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the outer court,

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and do not measure it,

because it has been given to the Gentiles.

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The Gentiles

will trample

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the holy city

for forty-two months.


but you must absolutely exclude those who are just pretending to follow God,

do not bother to evaluate their quality,

because they are just as evil as the openly rebellious.

The openly rebellious will

show contempt for

the true people of God

for a short time.


1: “must absolutely exclude"

This is not just the word “exclude” in the sense that English readers are accustomed to; this is a very strong Greek word meaning “to expel, or cast out, or throw away.” Here exclusion is the intent, but since it is a strong word, I have chosen to express is as “must absolutely exclude.”


Here the outer court is used as a negative symbol.


Here Gentiles are used as a picture of those who are contrasted with true believers. We all know that there are followers of Jesus among the nations, and John is writing to many of them, but that is not the point. A contrast is being made using symbolism, and Gentiles is the symbol chosen for the rebellious.


To “trample” meant to show contempt. Contempt is the first step leading toward persecution. The first century Christians knew that John’s picture of contempt meant much more than that, it was another way of saying strong opposition or persecution.


The Hebrew calendar was a lunar calendar, not a solar calendar. Their year was made up of twelve 30 day months, with an extra month added 7 times during 19 years (an average of once every 2.7 years) to make up the difference between their lunar calendar and the more common solar calendar. For them 1260 days was exactly 42 months, or 3.5 years.

The best way to understand their use of the symbol of 3 ½ years is to read about the drought of Elijah’s time. I Kings 18:1 specifically says the confrontation with the prophets of Baal and the subsequent rain happened “during the third year,” as in, two and a half, or two and three quarters years into the drought, but definitely before the third year was complete. However, the only times that the drought of Elijah’s day is mentioned in the New Testament (Lk 4:25 and James 5:17), it is given a length of three and a half years. The Luke 4 passage was Jesus speaking. Said drought was both a demonstration and a punishment. The use of the symbol three and a half meant the drought or punishment would be cut short, not a complete punishment, as a seven-year drought would have represented.

Thus a period of three and a half years is a symbol for a period of time cut short. Forty-two months and 1260 days are different ways of saying half of seven years, or a period of time that is incomplete, cut short.

In these various ways God was sending encouragement to the believers suffering persecution. He was telling them through this vision given to John that the time of their suffering would be cut short, it would be tolerable. So hang in there, you can make it!

What about a seven-year tribulation?

A specific 7 year period of worldwide persecution is not found in Revelation! I base that statement on the following points.

  1. The phrase which is often translated “great tribulation” is used twice in Revelation, Revelation 2:22 and Revelation 7:14. The first is when Jesus is explaining the punishment which will befall those who have entered into idolatry and sexual immorality. So that one does not “count” because it is about the wicked reaping the consequences of their sins. The phrase “great tribulation” is used in 7:14 of the “those who have emerged from great tribulation,” but no length of time is given. Therefore the idea of a “great tribulation” comes from one single verse and that verse does not provide the scope or length of that tribulation.

In fact the uses of 3 ½ years are not even close to 7:14. The context of chapter 7 and that of chapters 11 and 13 are very different. 11:2 says “the gentiles will trample on the Holy city for 42 months.”  13:5 says the beast “was also given authority to act for 42 months” and that he blasphemed against God and against those who “tabernacle in heaven.” It is quite presumptuous to assume that a time frame given in chapters 11 and 13 defines an event mentioned briefly in chapter 7:14, even though 7:14 gives no amount of time.

  1. A period of time 3 ½ years is mentioned four times in revelation, forty-two months is mentioned twice (here in 11:2 & Revelation 13:5), and 1,260 days is mentioned twice (Revelation 11:3 & Revelation 12:6). Notice that a tribulation of 7 years is never specifically mentioned.

Scholars have arrived at a seven-year “Great Tribulation” by adding together the three and a half year periods of time found in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5 (the 3 ½ year period of 12:6 has already happened in the past so it does not figure into the calculations, and the period of time mentioned in 11:3 does not refer to persecution, so they exclude that one as well). 11:2 states that the Gentiles will trample the Holy City for 42 months, meaning that the rebellious will show contempt for the people of God for a short period of time. The passage found in 13:5 tells us that the Beast will be granted the opportunity to act for 42 months. But that is not how a Jew of that day would have communicated a specific 7 year period of time that is different from all other periods of time (and Jesus was a Jew, and He was talking to John who was a Jew). Seven meant “all” or “complete,” half of seven meant “incomplete.” If seven years were meant, they would have said seven years, not half of seven and then the other half of seven! Repeating “half of seven” so that it was said twice did not mean the same thing as saying “seven;” repeating 3 ½ was a way of reinforcing the idea of a period of time cut short. For the Jews of John’s day the symbols of 3 ½ plus 3 ½ would not equal the symbol seven! The images always retained their meaning regardless of how many times they were repeated. Besides that, taking the 3 ½ from 11:2 and the one from 13:5 is not what I would call a clear repetition. Trying to force a seven-year tribulation into this vision requires ignoring the meaning that Jesus’s words had for Jesus, for John, and for the people of John’s day.

  1. The global nature of this 7 year period of persecution is never stated; it is assumed because it is thought to be necessary. Scholars have assumed that the economic stranglehold described in chapter 13 require global control, but the believers at Thyatira were already going through that very thing.

This means there is no specific seven-year period of global tribulation prophesied in Revelation. Instead believers of all times, in all areas of the world, are expected to face and endure strong opposition and persecution. All believers in those situations should find encouragement in this book of the Bible we call Revelation. If you are not encouraged when you read Revelation you are not reading it correctly.

This is one of the most powerful realizations about Revelation that this method of study brings forth. All of the modern “last-days schematics” of the prophecy experts are built in some way around this idea of a seven-year tribulation that is global, terrible, and inescapable.  If there is no seven-year tribulation, their time-table falls apart. This is true for pre-trib, post-trib and mid-trib interpretations. None of them stand if there is no seven-year global persecution.

What about the theory that Jesus will return part way through the “Great Tribulation?” Wouldn’t that require using the numbers 3 ½ and 3 ½?

No, that theory does not hold water for the following reasons:

All the modern futuristic viewpoints are built on a 7-year period of tribulation. Even the Mid-Trib perspective still needs a 7-year tribulation; 3 ½ years must come at the halfway point of something, and that something is (supposedly) a 7 year worldwide tribulation. But no 7-year tribulation is found in Revelation.

In the book of Revelation, what are the 3 ½ year periods of time connected to? Are they clearly connected to a rapture? No! Neither Revelation 11:2 nor Revelation 13:5 are clearly connected to a rapture.

SUMMARY: There will indeed be persecution for the followers of God, but a global persecution is never clearly predicted, and a specific, 7-year period of time is never described. In order to arrive at a specific 7 year period of time that is unique in human history one must use highly questionable methods. This entire schematic is based on speculation!