“. . . And they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will give to my two witnesses even that they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, dressed in sackcloth.” Rev 11:2-3.
Australia's first convicted terrorist was a man named Jack Roche. He was convicted of planning to bomb the Israeli embassy in Canberra in the year 2000. It is reported that he had links with Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah (an islamic terrorist group in Indonesia). He apparently was in contact with representatives of both groups as he was developing his attack plot. His trial was front-page news throughout Australia. He was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Perth court.
The unusual thing about this trial is that Jack Roche did not actually carry out his bombing plan. The trial gave a glimpse of what might have been, but in actuality no buildings were blown up or damaged, nobody was killed or injured. Yet at his trial he faced a maximum prison sentence equal to the one he would have been liable for had he actually carried out his plan. In this particular trial one could say that the conviction was based on a prophecy. Given Roche's capabilities, his accomplices, and the quality of his planning, the court came to the conclusion that mere planning needed to be heavily penalized.
The intent of this verdict was to send out a signal to other would-be terrorists in Australia that they could fail twice. They could fail to achieve the political goals of their action and at the same time they could fail to retain their accustomed lifestyle. This raised the personal stakes in terrorist action and made it less attractive to people like Roche.1
The events of Revelation 11 build on the close of chapter ten. John is told that he must prophesy again to "many peoples, nations, languages and kings" (Rev 10:11). God gives him a glimpse into the future. While the message of the gospel is sweet, many traumatic events would occur before the End would come.
The time periods of 42 months and 1260 days recall Daniel's time prophecies (Dan 7:25; 12:7). During that time the people of God will suffer at the hands of many enemies. At the end of the period the two witnesses are killed by the beast from the Abyss. But things do not end badly. The two witnesses are raised after three and a half days and ascend to heaven.(Rev 11:7-13).
Many aspects of these passages are difficult to understand. But the basic message is clear. God knows the end from the beginning even better than the Australian court system. God knows the thoughts of those who oppose Him and His people. He scans the future course of history and sees the consequences of evil action. He assures us in advance that He can deal with it. God too has a plan, and the outcome is sure.