Revelation 11:1-10

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

THE TWO WITNESSES

INTRODUCTION:

Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:1-14 is a continuation of the same subject as Revelation of Jesus Christ 10 . It is an interlude or a parenthetical statement and does not advance the narrative of Revelation. In chapters 8-9 we saw the first six trumpet judgments. The seventh trumpet is then sounded in Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:15-19 ; yet, the contents of the seventh trumpet, i.e. the seven bowls or vials, are not discussed until Revelation of Jesus Christ 15-16 .

Revelation of Jesus Christ 11 makes good sense literally and should be interpreted literally.

We see -

I. THE MEASURING ROD OF GOD - 11:1-2

Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:1-2 - (1) And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. (2) But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

There was given me [i.e. to John] a reed like unto a rod.

A reed is a measuring rod inasmuch as the reed was used for measuring.

Like unto a rod is of the same nature as or similar to a staff (or a stick). It was similar to the kind of staff a shepherd would use.

The angel refers to a specific angel. Inasmuch as the last angel mentioned is the mighty angel in chapter 10, this angel may be the mighty angel; but is more likely the angel Christ had sent to signify these things to John (Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:1 ), to show unto his servants things which must shortly be done (Revelation of Jesus Christ 22:6 ), and to testify these things in the churches (Revelation of Jesus Christ 22:16 ).

The tense of stood indicates that the angel had already taken a standing position.

Saying suggests and was saying.

What the angel was saying to John is, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.

Rise is a command whose action is to be undertaken at once. It came to be used as a formula meaning get up! or come!

Measure (or take the dimensions of) likewise indicates an action that is to be undertaken at once.

The act of measuring seems to signify that the area belongs to God in some special way. It is an evaluation of His property.

The temple of God is clearly the one in Jerusalem because of what is said in verse 2. Of course no temple currently exists in Jerusalem; so one will have to be built for this prophecy to be fulfilled. The temple of God refers to the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies rather than to the outer court of the temple. This is made clear by the Greek word used for temple.

This temple in Revelation of Jesus Christ 11 will be in existence during the tribulation. It will be constructed for the worship of the Jews and the renewal of their ancient sacrifices. During the tribulation it will be desecrated and become the home of an idol of the antichrist. We see this in a number of places in the Scriptures.

The desecration of the temple and its becoming the home of an idol of the antichrist is seen in -

II Thessalonians 2:4 - (4) Who (i.e. the man of sin or the antichrist) opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

The desecration of the temple and its becoming the home of an idol of the antichrist is also seen in -

Revelation of Jesus Christ 13:14-15 - (14) And [he, i.e. the false prophet] deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast [i.e. in the sight of the antichrist]; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. (15) And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast [i.e. the image of the antichrist], that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.

The desecration of the temple and its becoming the home of an idol of the antichrist is seen again in -

Daniel 9:27 - (27) And he [i.e. the prince that shall come or the antichrist] shall confirm the covenant with many for one week [i.e. seven years]: and in the midst of the week [the seven years] he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate [i.e. As a result of the abominations the antichrist places in the temple, the antichrist will make the temple desolate.], even until the consummation [i.e. even until the complete destruction], and that [i.e. the end which is] determined [i.e. decreed by God] shall be poured upon the desolate [i.e. upon the antichrist - that the antichrist will continue to persecute the Jews until the end that God has decreed is poured out upon him at the second coming of Christ].

The desecration of the temple and its becoming the home of an idol of the antichrist is seen once more in -

Daniel 12:11 - (11) And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up [i.e. it speaks of the setting up of the image of the antichrist in the temple], there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. [This is the middle of the tribulation, but note that there 1,290 days rather than 1,260 days.]

Why 1,290 days rather than 1,260 days?

Several suggestions have been made, but no one knows for certain (See Believer's Bible Commentary).

1. The 30 days will extend beyond the end of the tribulation, allowing for the judgment of Israel and the judgment of the nations.

2. The extra 30 days will be before the middle of the 70th "seven" of years when the ruler will set up "the abomination that causes desolation."

3. The 1,290 days could begin with an announcement (about the abomination) made 30 days before the abomination is introduced.

These are just suggestions. Nobody really knows why it is 1,290 days rather than 1,260 days.

Back to Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:1

Not only is the temple to be measured, but also the altar is to be measured. The altar is apparently the brazen altar in the newly constructed temple. The orthodox Jews will offer sacrifices according to the Mosaic Law in the first half of the tribulation. The altar indicates the means by which the worshipers approach God and, as was true in the Old Testament, represents the work of Christ on the cross at Calvary.

John was also to measure, i.e. take the dimensions of, them that worship therein, i.e. the ones who are worshiping in the temple. It suggests that he was to size them up spiritually.

That these worshipers are worshiping God is indicated by the presence of the altar; so, they must be worshiping Him before the temple is desecrated at the mid-point in the tribulation when the image of the antichrist is set up in the temple.

Worship means fall down and worship or do obeisance. Who would these worshipers be? Inasmuch as they are to be measured, they would appear to be a remnant of orthodox Jews. This vision must occur before the antichrist sets himself up in the temple and demands that he be worshiped.

This measurement is saying in effect that God is the judge of man's worship and man's character and that all must give an account to Him.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

In verse 2 John is told not to measure the court outside the temple because it is given unto the Gentiles who will tread the holy city under foot for forty-two months.

But introduces a contrast to the measurement of the temple, the altar, and the worshipers in verse 1.

The court which is without the temple (or the court, the one outside the temple) is the outer court.

Leave out means leave out of consideration. It indicates that John is to leave this area unmeasured.

Measure it not indicates that John is not even to begin to take the dimensions of the outer court or that he is never to measure it.

The reason John is not even to begin to measure the outer court is for it is given unto the Gentiles.

For is the word ordinarily translated because and is to be understood in this sense here.

It [i.e. the outer court] is given unto the Gentiles is it was given to the Gentiles but has been translated in a way which emphasizes the result of its action.

And introduces a continuation of the thought of the previous phrase. It may instead be understood in the emphatic sense of indeed or in fact.

The holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.

The holy city is Jerusalem.

They shall . . . tread under foot is predicting something which will actually occur. It means the Gentiles will tread on or will trample and speaks of the undisciplined swarming of a victorious army through a conquered city. It is implied that this action is being done contemptuously. What they will contemptuously tread under foot is the holy city, i.e. Jerusalem.

Forty and two months means throughout a period of forty-two months or three and one-half years. It does not mean that they will do this occasionally for a period lasting forty-two months. It means instead that the Gentiles will be contemptuously trampling under foot the city of Jerusalem nonstop throughout a period of forty-two months. The forty-two months is the last half of the tribulation, i.e. the great tribulation, variously described as time, times, and a half; forty-two months; and 1260 days.

Next, we see -

II. THE PROPHECY OF THE TWO WITNESSES - 11:3-6

Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:3-6 - (3) And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. (4) These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. (5) 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. (6) 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.

In verse 3 God's two witnesses are introduced.

I will give power is predictive of something which will definitely occur in the future. Although the angel mentioned in verse 1 is apparently still speaking, he is speaking as a spokesman for God. I in this verse must refer to God. Power, which means authority, is supplied from verse 6.

Unto my two witnesses is to my two witnesses, which indicates that they are witnessing on behalf of God and will ultimately give their lives in His service.

They shall prophesy means that God's two witnesses will prophesy.

A thousand two hundred and threescore days is the length of time throughout which these two witnesses will prophesy. One thousand two hundred sixty days is the same time period as the forty-two months found in verse 2.

Clothed in sackcloth indicates what these two witnesses were wearing.

Sackcloth is fabric from which sacks are made. It is what people wore when mourning. This symbolizes that these two witnesses are prophets of doom.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.

The two witnesses are described as the two olive trees and as the two candlesticks (or lampstands) who stand before the God of the earth.

This refers to Zechariah 4 , where a lampstand and two olive trees are mentioned and where, in answer to the question, What are these?, the answer is given to Zerubbabel: This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.

It is evident that a similar meaning is intended in the Book of Revelation. The olive oil from the olive trees in Zechariah's image provided fuel for the two lampstands. The two witnesses of that period of Israel's history, namely Joshua (He is not the same Joshua as the one in the book of Joshua.), - Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel were the leaders of Israel in Zechariah's time. This was after the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity. Just as those two witnesses were raised up to be lampstands or witnesses for God and were empowered by olive oil representing the power of the Holy Spirit, so these two witnesses of Revelation of Jesus Christ 11 will likewise execute their prophetic office. Their ministry does not rise in human ability but in the power of God. They are witnesses for God and empowered by God the Holy Spirit.

The identity of the two witnesses is not given. However, it is better to view them as two tribulation believers who are raised up as prophets, who have characteristics like Moses and Elijah, rather than to view them as Moses and Elijah brought back to life again. It is best to admit that we do not know who they are.

Standing before the God of the earth suggests that they had taken up a set position in the very presence of God, the creator of all things including the earth.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:5 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.

According to verse 5, anyone determined to hurt the two witnesses will himself be hurt.

If any man will hurt them is a simple condition which, for sake of discussion, is assumed to be true. Inasmuch as it is not clear whether the condition will actually be fulfilled, if should be understood in the sense of assuming that.

Any man is anyone, anybody, someone, or somebody. Thus, one who would intend to hurt them could be male or female.

The word translated will hurt them suggests wills to hurt the two witnesses in the sense of determines to hurt them or wills to injure them rather than in the sense of wishes (or desires) to hurt them.

If this condition is met, then fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies. This is reminiscent of Moses' experience in Numbers 16:35 .

Numbers 16:35 - And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.

It is also reminiscent of Elijah's experience in II Kings 1:9-18 ,

II Kings 1:9-18 - (9) Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down.

(10) And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.

(11) Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly.

(12) And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.

(13) And he sent again a captain of the third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life, and the life of these fifty thy servants, be precious in thy sight.

(14) Behold, there came fire down from heaven, and burnt up the two captains of the former fifties with their fifties: therefore let my life now be precious in thy sight.

(15) And the angel of the Lord said unto Elijah, Go down with him: be not afraid of him. And he arose, and went down with him unto the king.

(16) And he said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Forasmuch as thou hast sent messengers to inquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron, is it not because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word? therefore thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.

(17) So he died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken. And Jehoram reigned in his stead in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah; because he had no son.

(18) Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?

Although fire came down out of heaven in Elijah's day, the fire coming out of these prophets in Revelation proceedeth out [i.e. comes out or goes out] of their mouth, which indicates the source of the fire. Whether the fire actually comes out of their mouths or out of heaven because of what they say, it is fire which God sends and kills their enemies.

The fire also devoureth their enemies. The tense of devoureth indicates that its action is ongoing and means eats up, devours, or consumes and describes what takes place. The idea is that it totally or thoroughly consumes their enemies.

And if any man will hurt them is another condition which is identical with the previous condition used earlier in this verse. It means assuming that anyone determines to harm (or to injure) the witnesses.

If this condition is met, then he must in this manner be killed, i.e. anyone who determines to hurt them, must . . . be killed. This indicates the necessity of this individual's being killed in this manner. In other words, he will be killed by fire coming out of the mouths of the two witnesses.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:6 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.

Verse 6 indicates that the two witnesses have power to withhold rain in the days of their prophecy, to turn waters into blood, and to smite the earth with plagues.

These have power means that the two witnesses have (or possess) authority.

Their power (or authority) is to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy. Just as Elijah told Ahab that it would not rain until he said so and the rain did not come for three and one-half years, so these two witnesses have power or authority to withhold rain throughout the days of their prophecies.

That is used to show the intended result of their shutting heaven.

That it rain not is literally that rain not wet implying that rain not wet the earth meaning that rain not fall.

In the days of their prophecy is within the days of their prophecy.

James tells us that it did not rain for three years and six months as a result of Elijah's prayer (James 5:17 ). Coincidently, this is also the exact length of the prophecy of these two witnesses in Revelation of Jesus Christ 11 (1,260 days).

These two witnesses also have [i.e. possess] power [or authority] over waters to turn them to blood like Moses did in the plagues in Exodus. The appears before waters in the Greek text in order to indicate that their power or authority is exercised over the sum total of all the waters there are. None are excluded.

To turn them into blood suggests to change them into blood.

Another power or authority these two witnesses have is to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will just as Moses did in Exodus 7-12 .

To smite the earth is to strike (or to hit) the earth.

With all plagues is literally with every plague, which suggests with every plague in existence.

As often as they will is as often as they determine or as often as they wish.

The next thing we see is -

III. THE DEATH OF THE TWO WITNESSES - 11:7-10

Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:7-10 - (7) And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. (8) 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. (9) And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. (10) And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.

When their ministry is finished (but not until their ministry is finished), God permits their enemies to overcome them. According to verse 7, the beast from the bottomless pit (i.e. the antichrist) makes war against them and overcomes them, and kills them.

When they shall have finished their testimony is whenever they finish their testimony, whenever they bring their testimony to an end, or whenever they complete their testimony. Whenever indicates that the time they finish their testimony is indefinite. It is certain that it will happen, but its timing is uncertain.

They and their refer to the two witnesses.

Their testimony suggests their witness. It is the ministry to which the Lord has called these two witnesses.

The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit is the beast, the one that ascends out of the abyss. Although the bottomless pit has been introduced to the reader in the fifth seal in chapter 9, the beast who ascends out of it has not yet been introduced.

Two beasts are introduced in chapter 13, and it is apparent that John introduces the first beast of chapter 13 here by stating that he ascends out of the bottomless pit. He is the antichrist.

Beast is a term meaning wild animal. Here, he is introduced for the first time.

Ascendeth is understood in the sense of ascends, goes up, or comes up.

Out of the bottomless pit implies his Satanic connection.

This beast shall make war against them [i.e. against the two witnesses], and shall overcome them, and kill them.

Shall make war with these two witnesses indicates that he will engage in an armed conflict with them, and shall overcome them means that the beast will prevail against them or will conquer them.

And kill them means that the beast will also take their lives from them.

These things will occur near the end of the great tribulation. The two witnesses are immortal, however, until after they have completed their ministry.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:8 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.

According to verse 8, the corpses of the two witnesses will remain unburied in the street of Jerusalem. Their dead bodies refers to the corpses of the two witnesses. It is a term which is used especially of those who have been killed by violence.

Shall lie in the street of the great city indicates where the dead bodies of the two witnesses will remain. It is an act of great contempt which keeps the dead bodies of the two witnesses in the street of Jerusalem rather than permitting them to be buried.

Which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt describes the great city as being Jerusalem. As Sodom and Egypt have been known for their immorality and spiritual wickedness in the past, so Jerusalem will be known for its spiritual wickedness and immorality during the great tribulation. By referring to Jerusalem as Sodom, reference is made to its immorality. By referring to Jerusalem as Egypt, reference is made to its idolatry.

Where also our Lord was crucified leaves no doubt that this great city is Jerusalem. Also suggests that something else is going to be said about this great city in addition to its being spiritually like Sodom and Egypt. Of course, our Lord is our Lord Jesus Christ; and was crucified speaks of His crucifixion outside the gates of the city of Jerusalem.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.

Apparently great throngs of people come to witness the bodies of the two witnesses whom they feared so greatly.

Apparently, also, the celebration is worldwide. By means of television and the transmission of pictures throughout the world by communication satellites and other means of social media, the entire earth will see graphically the dead bodies of the two witnesses, a symbol of victory for the beast and those who oppose God. They will have merry feasts and send gifts one to another, certain that their fear of God's wrath and power is no longer justified.

According to verse 9, people will see the dead bodies of the two witnesses for three and one-half days and will not permit them to be buried.

They of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations indicates that some from each people, kindred, tongue, and nation will see the dead bodies of the two witnesses. These representatives will be in Jerusalem from all over the world. Some may have already been in Jerusalem because of its cosmopolitan nature, and others may fly in for this momentous celebration. This passage does not mean that every person in the world will actually see these two witnesses in person. One can imagine the media coverage of this event and how the general populace on the earth will be able to see their dead bodies on the street of Jerusalem for three and one-half days through television, the Internet, or some other media.

Shall see indicates something which will definitely happen in the future.

Their dead bodies refers to the corpses of the two witnesses who have been killed.

The length of time that people from the whole world will see the dead bodies of the two witnesses is three days and an half, one day for each year of the great tribulation.

They shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves is literally their dead bodies, they will not permit to be placed into tombs or their corpses, they will not allow to be put into graves.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.

According to verse 10, the unsaved people of the earth will rejoice over the deaths of the two witnesses.

They that dwell upon the earth is the ones who inhabit the earth or the ones who live upon the earth.

They shall rejoice over them is something which will definitely occur and means that the inhabitants of the earth will rejoice over the dead bodies of the two witnesses which are lying in the street of Jerusalem for three and one-half days.

A second thing the inhabitants of the earth will do is make merry, which means that they will be glad, that they will enjoy themselves, or that they will rejoice. It will likewise definitely occur.

Furthermore, they shall send gifts one to another. It is a third event which will definitely occur. The two witnesses, who had apparently thwarted some of the desired activities of the inhabitants of the earth, are dead and will cause them no more problems. The unsaved are elated and will exchange gifts to celebrate the occasion.

Because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth provides the reason for all the excitement and glee at the deaths of the two witnesses.

These two prophets refers to God's two witnesses who have been killed.

Tormented is tortured.

The ones the two witnesses tormented or tortured is made clear by them that dwelt on the earth, i.e. the ones who live upon the earth or the ones who dwell upon the earth.

A righteous prophet is always a torment to a wicked generation. The two witnesses are an obstacle to wickedness, unbelief, and satanic power prevalent in this time of the great tribulation. Their death symbolizes the silencing of the prophets who announce the doom of those who will not believe in God. The Word of God makes it clear that it is often possible to silence a witness to the truth by death, but such action does not destroy the truth that has been announced. The power of God will ultimately be revealed. Since this is at the end of the great tribulation, only a few days remain before Christ comes back in power and great glory.

What happens next? Well, to find out, you'll either have to read ahead in chapter 11 or come back next time!