When we first read about the three and one-half years and its relevance to the symbolic “woman” of the Apostle John’s vision, we have to admit that John does not place these years in a specific context that allows us to determine exactly when this period of time begins and ends for the peoples of this prophecy.
Causing us then to consider how John had intended to associate this future time period of three and one-half years with the Commonwealth of Israel.
Now, from the context of John’ narrative we find that the initial statement about this three and one-half year period of time is inserted into the text parenthetically between two events that are given relevance to each other by what the disciples learned from Jesus.
For in the narrative of John’s vision we learn that Satan waited for the birth of the child (Jesus) to forever destroy him, but he was not able to do so, and the child became a man and after his resurrection he was taken into heaven (Acts 1:19; 4:33). Noting also that there were many eyewitnesses who confirmed that Jesus was indeed resurrected, and the apostles also confirmed for our sake that Jesus now sits at the right hand of God the Father (Eph. 1:20).
Next, we learn from John’s narrative that after the resurrection of Jesus there was a separating in heaven, and the result was that Satan and the demons were cast out of heaven and their allowable influence became subjugated to this world (Rev. 12:9).
Consequently, we are given a dire warning, and an unusual situation, because according to the prophecy “the devil is come down unto you,” which was not something new to understand about the workings of Satan, but rather after the ascension of Jesus he was cast down having “great wrath” and the foreknowledge of an appointed season, a “short time,” until his influence would be removed at the coming of Jesus.
However, some assume by the way John’s vision was written that it is possible to conclude that the demons and Satan are cast out of heaven and to the earth at some time in the future by God—immediately before or shortly before—the woman flees into a wilderness. Assuming also that Satan will only have a little more than three and one-half years to finish his work, which means that people are also assuming that Satan’s “short time” is related to the time the woman flees into the wilderness.
This is a difficult conclusion to accept in the light of John’s prophecy regarding the “woman” who gave birth to the child who was taken to the throne of God.
This is because there is no reason to assume this casting out of Satan is a future event, and we have no reason to assume that Satan has the ability to muster many nations in a brief period of time just to bring them against the commonwealth peoples in a manner that breaks their political will and power in the world. Especially as we already know that Satan is working even now to shape future geopolitical events that will bring many nations into confrontation with the establishing of the kingdom of God.
Simply, we know from Scripture that Satan is already here on earth having “great wrath,” and he already moves among humanity seeking opportunities to destroy and overturn the will of God (I Pt. 5:8). Therefore, it is not reasonable to assume that Satan is yet to be cast out of heaven, and yet to have “great wrath,” and yet to be aware of his season that will come to an end at some time in the future.
Now, to address the issue of Satan being cast out we must first consider the relevance of the three and one-half years to the Commonwealth of Israel, and in this regard we may associate the woman’s time in the wilderness with another related vision that was given to the Apostle John while he was on the Island of Patmos.
In this vision John was told to measure the temple while excluding the outside court because: “it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days [1,260 days], clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will” (Rev. 11:2-6). (We should not assume that this “god of the earth” is the creator God.) [Author’s emphasis throughout.]
Understandably, this prophecy reflects what Jesus had said to his disciples when he referred to the “abomination of desolation” and the “times of the gentiles” that would precede his coming, and we also see that this prophecy is concerned with the city of Jerusalem and the frightening events that will take place over a period of 1,260 days, and during this time we have two individuals who are standing in opposition to those coming against Jerusalem.
Giving us then two biblically correlated prophecies in the book of Revelation that have a common set of events and timeframes, and these events are determined to be yet future, based on 1) the context of John’s prophecy regarding the two witnesses, and 2) the words of Jesus regarding the times of the gentiles, and 3) the related prophecy regarding the kings of the north and south given to the prophet Daniel (Dan. 7:25, Mk. 13:14; Lk. 21:24).
Allowing us then to place the symbolic “woman” in a wilderness for at least three and one-half years beginning at some time before the return of the Christ.
Now, some might readily agree that the three and one-half years is yet future, and we have every scriptural reason to see it as so, but some might also argue that it begins immediately after or soon after Satan is cast down to the earth, which would mean that Satan has yet to be cast out and removed from having any “place” in heaven.
However, the series of events in this particular vision of the woman in the wilderness does not associate the three and one-half years directly with the casting out of Satan. But it does associate this time period with her actual fleeing into a wilderness as a result of Satan bringing political entities against these peoples before the return of the Christ.
Simply, the three and one-half years is made relevant to the actions of Satan to “persecute the woman” and force her into a wilderness sometime before the return of Jesus (Mt. 28:18). But what we don’t know is how long these represented peoples are persecuted to the extent that they are forced into a disenfranchised state, and so we are not able to directly relate Satan’s loss of place in heaven and his casting out with the beginning of the three and one-half years in a wilderness, which does not have to be a singular place on the earth (Isa. 14:17). (See also, Rev. 11:18.)
Therefore, according to the narrative of John’s vision the time when there is a confrontation in heaven, and when Satan is cast out, is made relevant to the context of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, according to the strict narrative of John’s prophecy (I Pt. 3:22).
The sense of this narrative was also expressed when Jesus said to the disciples: “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment [Gk. krisis, “decision,” “separating”] of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die” (Jn. 12:27-33). (See also, Jn. 14:30, 16:7-11; II Cor. 4:4.)
Thus, when Jesus spoke about the manner of his impending death, he placed it in the context of an inevitable and impending “judgment of this world,” and also the impending moment when “the prince of this world” would be “cast out,” which was understandably after the death, resurrection and glorifying of Jesus (Mt. 28:18). Noting also that when the “accuser” was cast out we have similar concepts being addressed in John’s narrative when a voice from heaven was heard to say: “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ” (Rev. 12:10). (See also, Mk. 1:15.)
Bringing us then to consider that Satan has been and still is an accuser, and we have no reason to think that he has stopped accusing those whom he will, but the sense of John’s narrative is that he no longer accuses before the throne of God in the presence of the Christ because Satan was “cast out” and is no longer accommodated in heaven. And the same could be said of the demons as well, for the Apostle Peter said that: “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment” (II Pt. 2:4).
Remembering also that Satan is now associated with a “place”—a depthless place—as he is referred to as: “the angel of the bottomless pit [abyss], whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon [Gk., Apolluōn, “destroyer”]” (Rev. 9:11). (See also, Jude 1:6; Rev. 11:7, 20:1.)
Perhaps, then, we may sum up this perspective in this way.
That prior to Jesus’ glorification what stood before God and humanity was the “god of this world,” who was an “accuser,” and what we have now that stands between God and humanity is the “son of God,” who is a “mediator,” and when this came about it was possible to say that: “now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of God, and the power of his Christ” (Rev. 12:10). (See also, I Tim. 2:4-6.)
Allowing us then to reasonably conclude that Satan was cast out of heaven with the ascension and glorification of Jesus, but the specific period of three and one-half years is yet to be applied to events in the future, which will expectedly occur shortly before the return of Jesus the Christ.