The Two Witnesses
11 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.
The Seventh Trumpet
Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.
The nations raged,
but your wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
and those who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
Revelation 11 Commentary
by Hank Workman
In a mere 11 verses, there are incredible twists, populated by fantastic creatures and people with superpowers. This section alone is one of the most difficult chapters to interpret and understand due to its complexity. John is told to measure the temple. 2 witnesses appear and prophesy for 1260 days. Fire comes from their mouths to kill any attackers. They can stop rain and turn rivers into blood. They can release any manner of plague anywhere on the earth.
There is a beast from the bottomless pit that comes and kills the 2 witnesses and the world celebrates. After 3 ½ days, the witnesses return to life and go up to heaven. A massive earthquake destroys 1/10 of the city – 7000 die and the survivors praise God. All of this in 11 verses of Revelation 11.
Let’s unpack a few things knowing that to many of these things there are no clear answers.
John is asked to measure the temple, keep in mind the second Temple in Jerusalem had been laying in ruins for 20 years. Is this an actual third temple or symbolic? If this is a literal temple – this places us in a very politically charged issue. For if this is the case, what happens to the Mosque of Omar, the famous Dome of the Rock that was built over the site of the original temple. Only God knows, but if this is the case, you can only imagine what kind of war will ensue at the building of it again.
Paul does write in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12 that the Antichrist will take his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.
“Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction. 4 He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.
5 Don’t you remember that I told you about all this when I was with you? 6 And you know what is holding him back, for he can be revealed only when his time comes. 7 For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way. 8 Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming.
9 This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. 10 He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. 11 So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies. 12 Then they will be condemned for enjoying evil rather than believing the truth.”2 Thessalonians 2:3-12
Is this symbolic or literal? This is one of the many sticking points with theologians today. For as we know, Paul also writes that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19.
The Temple measurement here in Revelation 11 is a throwback to the Old Testament where Zechariah and Ezekiel both were told to do the same thing. And so John echoes these accounts. What does seem evident is there’s a divine promise of protection for the people of God as it is the outer courts that have been turned over to the nations to trample. So that which John measures for restoration is safe. This also tends to chime in with Revelation 7 in the sealing of God’s people.
In regards to the outer courtyard not to being measured there’s division on this statement as well. The outer courtyard was called the court of the Gentiles. Solomon had 2 courtyards and Herod had 3 (women, Israelites, and priests). An interesting side note is some believe this is this is symbolic of the professing church who follow Balaam and Jezebel (Remember them from the letters?) It is those who have called themselves Believers but have compromised with the world and are not allowed into the inner court. Again, there are quite a bit of questions that go unanswered with these thoughts.
And then we come to the 2 witnesses. Let me tell you, all that people can agree on with this is that there are 2. Everything else is up for grabs and argument. Some believe it’s Zerubbabel and Joshua the High priest spoken of in Zechariah. Some believe it is a representation of the Law and the Prophets in the Old Testament. Some speak of it being Peter and Paul. Others say it is Israel and the Church. Some say it’s Elijah and Enoch because neither experienced death. Most believe if this is literal that it’s Moses and Elijah.
This last aspect has gained the most followers as, according to the Gospels, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus to Peter, James, and John. And yet, that visit is hardly the same as described here. Yet, the prophet Malachi actually spoke of Elijah coming before the great and terrible day of the Lord in the context mentioning Moses.
“Remember to obey the Law of Moses, my servant—all the decrees and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel. 5 “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives.”Malachi 4:4-5
In fact even today among Jewish people, there is an expectation that Elijah will return and announce the coming Messiah. To this day, observant Jews leave a special chair empty during the Passover meal, giving an expression of hope that Elijah will return and announce the Messiah’s coming. Yet, on the other hand, Jesus identified John the Baptist as coming in the spirit and power of Elijah – and in a sense he was. There is no clear-cut answer here. Regardless, it seems that Jerusalem is at the thick or the middle of it. As with many parts of Revelation, no one knows the specific answer until it happens.
These 2 seem invincible until the Beast takes them on and defeats them. It seems ridiculous that at their death, they lay in the streets, which would have been a sign of complete disrespect in the time of John, and the people celebrate by giving gifts.
I read another fascinating take on Revelation 11 that these 2 were a symbol of the witnessing church in the last days before the end of the age. Their appearance was that of miraculous and they were able to stand strong and face the attacks that came against them. They would be protected until their witness was complete.
The allowance of the Beast to take charge momentarily would show they had done all they could. The rejoicing among the peoples of the earth at the destruction of them, and this thought of the followers of Jesus Christ, also gives pause. There is nothing more this world wants than for what they would call religion and faithful followers to have their voices silenced. The city itself is called Sodom and Egypt. Sodom referring to the depths of immorality and Egypt is a symbol of oppression and slavery. And if this is a symbol of the of the witnessing church in the last days – it truly shows the epic struggle between them and the kingdoms of the earth.
Again regardless, what is true in this conflict has also been true in the massacres of history, where brute force seemed to triumph over truth and righteousness.
Yet, these partying peoples’ time of gift giving is cut short as God sends the breath of life into the dead bodies of the witnesses and they stand to their feet. The reveling is comes to a screaming halt, terror strikes the earth as all watch this remarkable event. Then the earthquake hits and 7000 are killed – while everyone else gives glory to the God of heaven. Strange, as this is the only time in the sequence of the seals, the trumpets and the bowl judgments that a positive reaction follows.
The final and 7th trumpet is blown.
And what takes place through the blowing of the final trumpet an angelic choir raises an anthem of praise. Seemingly everything is ready for the grand celebration. The 24 elders state the significance of the moment…
And they said: “We give thanks to you, Lord God, the Almighty, the one who is and who always was, for now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign.”
And as the great doors of the heavenly temple are opened, John catches a glimpse of the Ark of the Covenant resting inside. The reappearance of this Ark at this moment functions as a symbol of God’s faithfulness and His covenant promise to His people. The people of God needed then, and we need now a strong reminder of this in the short run until He does return. For as we have seen through all the terrible outpouring of God’s wrath, the horrific experiences brought through the hand of the Antichrist; the revealing of the Ark holds a hope. For God will indeed bring his own safely to their eternal reward.
This is not the end.
Revelation 11 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
I think a major issue with Revelation 11 is the fact that it relies heavily on Revelation 10 for continuity. It is best to read on and view chapters 10 and 11 as one long event. So, with that in mind, we will look back to the context of chapter 10 as we study here in Revelation 11.
The action John is given here is a reference back to the instructions given to him in the previous chapter. In Revelation 10:11 John was told he must prophesy again and here in Revelation 11:1 he is immediately given a measuring rod and told to measure the temple and the altar. I have lots of unanswered questions here. Why was he asked to prophesy again? Did he actually prophesy before, and if so, when?
Measuring means to establish or preserve. For John, the temple would have been understood as the church. I tend to lean that this is another big-picture interpretation of God preserving his church and protecting them from the demonic onslaught of the Antichrist. Here are my reasons:
- This interpretation here in Revelation 11 is especially relevant considering Revelation 10 speaks to the bitter/sweet nature of the scroll. The bitterness is the suffering they will endure but the sweetness is the promise of redemption through Jesus.
- The measuring of the temple enclosure (but not the outer court) could easily represent the church from two different perspectives.
- The outer court (world) was given to the nations and they will “tread under foot” the city. The temple (church) is represented by the 2 witnesses who will be granted authority by God.
In the OT, we know that a second witness was required for reliable testimony.
“A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.Deuteronomy 19:15 NASB
Jesus also sent out his messengers two by two.
Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come.Luke 10:1 NASB
I don’t read too much into the identity of the two witnesses. I think they present an effective message regardless of if we know exactly who or what they are. The time period of the witnesses’ ministry is the same time period of the city being trampled under foot. Again, think in terms of the seven churches receiving this letter under great persecution. They would be encouraged to know that God has promised to give authority to His people and protect them during immense persecution and suffering.
Finally, we have the 7th trumpet.
Once again what we expect and what John has heard is not what he sees. Based on what was heard in previous chapters we expect a “woe,” but here, John sees the praise and worship of God. This dramatic trumpet will fulfill prophecies.
“In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.Daniel 2:44 NASB
And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.Zechariah 14:9 NASB
The ending of Revelation 11 is an awesome reminder. We serve a mighty God!