The history of the world is one thing, and the history of the heavenly city, the true church, which God is building in the present age, is another. Hebrews 12:22 says that the Christian has come to the heavenly city, and to mount Zion; yet, it is evident that he still dwells in the world, and has to live under human rule, and the laws of whatever country he is in.
God reigns over all things, in heaven, and in earth; there is no power, or authority, apart from God. Jesus said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." [Matthew 28:18]
The church of God is spiritual, and consists of those who are "in Christ;" Paul said, "Even when we were dead in sins, God hath quickened us together with Christ." Believers are raised up together, and sit together in heavenly places in Christ. [Ephesians 2:5-6]
The visible churches and denominations in the world are not identical to the heavenly city. Revelation 17 describes a "great whore that sitteth upon many waters." The kings of the earth commit fornication with her, and "the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication." [Revelation 17:2-3]
The phrase "the kings of the earth" seems to be employed by John to refer to the saints; Jesus is "the prince of the kings of the earth." [Revelation 1:5] The four beasts, and twenty four elders who are before the throne of God, say in Revelation 5:9-10, "thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth."
The world cannot see the heavenly city, but it sees the visible church, a portion of which prophecy identifies with a great whore. Men wrongly confuse the visible church or churches with the heavenly city, the true church of God. But in the heavenly city, Christ reigns among his saints. The apostle Paul said, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." [2 Timothy 2:19]
In the book of Revelaton there is a contrast between the heavenly city, Jerusalem, and Babylon, which is identified with the whore. John said, "the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." [Revelation 17:18] The city is mystical Babylon. It dominates the saints, as Jesus said, "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." [Luke 21:24] John said, "and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." [Revelation 11:2]
John reported a voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." [Revelation 18:4] While Babylon represents the world, and worldly religion, Jerusalem represents the true church, the heavenly city. It is "the city of the great King." [Matthew 5:35]
It is a mistake to confuse the history of the world, and the worldly church, with the history of the church that Christ is building in the present age; they are different, and they belong in different realms. The times that apply to the world are natural, while times that apply to the heavenly city are figurative, and spiritual.
William Hendriksen wrote, in his commentary "More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation" [Baker Books, 1998. p. 144]:
The expression 'a time, and times, and half a time' occurs first in the book of Daniel 7:25; 12:7. It is the period of the antichrist. John emphasizes the fact that the spirit of the antichrist is in the world already. (I Jn. 4:3). In the Apocalypse this period of three years and a half refers to the entire gospel age. It is followed by the 'three days and a half' during which 'the beast that comes up out of the abyss'-the antichristian world in its final phase-will kill the witnesses and will silence the voice of the gospel (cf. Rev. 11:7 ff.).
Earth days, and months, and years, do not apply to the heavenly city. The 'time, and times, and a half' of Daniel 7:25, 12:6 and Revelation 12:14 is half of seven times. It is the last half of the week in which Christ confirms his covenant, the new covenant he establishes with his church.
The history of the world, and the worldly churches, is written in the history books, but the history of God's church is written in bible prophecy. Isaiah said:
Isaiah 45:11, 13
Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. ... I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the Lord of hosts.
Christ is building his city, and he is making his saints free. He promised: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." [John 8:32]
In Revelation 12 the woman in heaven, clothed with the sun, represents the saints. There is also in heaven a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns. The woman brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; he was caught up unto God, and to his throne. This is none other than Jesus Christ, who ascended to heaven and to God's throne after he rose from the grave.
The dragon threatened the woman, seeking "to devour her child as soon as it was born." In the gospel accounts, an attempt to destroy Christ, at his birth, was made by Herod. Evidently, in those days, the great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, operated through Herod, the Jewish king who rebuilt the temple. Later, John the Baptist was executed, and Jesus was crucified, by rulers of the Jewish kingdom.
In Acts 4, the apostles quoted from the second Psalm and said:
The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ.
For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
All the people of the world, including the people of Israel who rejected Jesus as the Messiah, are opposed to Christ, according to Scripture.
Christ's kingdom is of a heavenly nature. But men try to mix earthly and heavenly things. Some, not believing Jesus has been given all power and all authority, want to bring him back to the earth, to reign in the earthly city of Jerusalem, as if that would be a promotion for him.
Jesus already reigns in the heavenly city, of which the earthly one was a type and a shadow. Why would he wish to reign at a place where he said men will no longer go? Instead, he said, they will worship God in spirit and in truth. [John 4:24]
The significance of Jerusalem, the heavenly city, which contrasts with the world, and mystical Babylon, is often misunderstood. Revelation 11:8 says of the two witnesses, "And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." The Jews would not permit the crucifixion to occur in the city; Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem.
Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
It is a mistake to say John meant Jerusalem, when he referred to "Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." He alludes to mystical Babylon, the world; spiritual language would not have been necessary, if he had wished to say the earthly Jerusalem. The dead bodies of the two witnesses, the Word and Spirit of God, which testify of Jesus [John 5:39; 15:26] are seen throughout the world. Men ridicule the gospel, and they mistake the whore for the church of God.