Question: Revelation 11:3 speaks of the two prophets and the 1,260 days that they will be prophesying, and Rev. 12:6, 14 speaks of the woman having the child and after giving birth God sends her to the desert for 1,260 days. Does the 1,260 days refer to both events taking place at the same time?
It is likely that both passages refer to events happening during the last 31/2 years of the Antichrist’s reign. 1,260 days equals 31/2 years, according to the Jewish calendar of NT times, which contained twelve months of thirty days each. Let’s begin with Revelation 11:3.
The context tells us that the two witnesses of verse 3 carry out their ministry after the temple has been rebuilt in Jerusalem (v. 1), and specifically after the Gentiles have taken over the temple (v. 2). According to Daniel 9:27, this refers to the Antichrist outlawing the Jewish sacrifices and setting up a statue of himself in the temple to be worshiped. Jesus refers to Daniel’s prophecy:
When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains (Mark 13:14; see also Dan. 11:31; 12:11; Matt. 24:15).
The two witnesses of Revelation 11:3 are most likely Moses and Elijah. The miracles they perform (Rev. 11:6) are identical to those performed through Moses and Elijah in the OT. Elijah is mentioned in this regard by the prophet Malachi:
See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers… (Mal. 4:5-6).
Malachi’s prophecy places Elijah in Jerusalem, just before the Day of the Lord (Mal. 4:5), which means at the end of the last 31/2 years of the Antichrist’s reign.
In a preview of His Second Coming, when Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John, appearing with Him were Moses and Elijah (Mk. 9:1-4).
Turning to Revelation12: 6, 14, and 13:4-18, we see Israel under the control of the Antichrist, yet protected from annihilation (12:6), during the last 31/2 years of his reign. Indeed, the influence of the Antichrist will be world-wide:
All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world (Rev. 13:8).
This is the period Jesus calls the Great Tribulation (“Great Distress,” NIV, Matt. 24:15-29). As we saw earlier from Daniel 9:27, The Antichrist will have established an agreement with the nations, an agreement he will break halfway into his 7 year reign:
He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him (Dan. 9:27).
Though the reign of the Antichrist will last seven years, the Great Tribulation will be cut short as far as the persecuted church of Jesus Christ is concerned when Jesus returns to for His Church and pours out the wrath of God upon the Antichrist and an unbelieving world:
For then there will be great distress [Tribulation], unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened (Matt. 24:21-22). And—
Immediately after the distress [Tribulation] of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other (Matt. 24:29-31).