The Two Witnesses and the Seventh Trumpet
- Parenthesis Part II: The Two Witnesses (11:1-14)
- The 7th Trumpet: the Appearing of Christ (11:15-18)
Parenthesis Part II: The Two Witnesses (11:1-14)
The Remnant Distinguished from the Mass (vv.1-2)
¶ And there was given to me a reed like a staff, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship in it. v.1 The Temple. Next John is told to measure the temple, the altar, and its occupants. Those who worship in the temple symbolize those in Israel who are real; the remnant in a priestly character. In scripture, to measure something is to show ownership of it. When God measures something, he is about to take it up for blessing (Zech. 2:2, Ezek. 40-45). Here it shows God’s ownership of those who are faithful to Him. John, a Jew, is told “Rise, and measure”; now he will take an active role.
Tribulation temple. Revelation 11:1 helps us to understand that there will be a temple built, probably before the seventieth week of Daniel begins, but definitely before the middle of the week. The Jews will be returned to the land, although many will be there in unbelief, and will be helped by the “land shadowing with wings, which art beyond the rivers of cush” (Isa.18). Through a covenant of protection with the Revived Roman Empire (Dan. 9:27), they will resume their Jewish sacrifices. Some of them will be faithful to God, and here are identified with this temple. When Antichrist comes forward, at the middle of the week, he will sit in this temple; “so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:4). We sometimes call this “Antichrist’s temple” to distinguish it from the other temples, but in the sense that there are those who seek to worship God in it, it is called “the temple of God”. There are five material temples referred to in the Word of God:
- Solomon’s (1 Kings 7) destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, 588 B.C.
- Zerubbabel’s (Ezra. 3, 6) pillaged and dedicated to the heathen god Jupiter by Antiochus Epiphanes, 168 and 170 B.C.
- Herod’s (John 2:20), reconstructed and enhanced, commenced in 17 B.C. destroyed by Titus the Roman in 70 A.D.
- Antichrist’s (2 Thess. 2:4), to be built by restored Judah, destroyed by King of the North.
- Christ’s millennial temple (Ezek. 40), entirely new, grand and spacious.
2 And the court which is without the temple cast out, and measure it not; because it has been given up to the nations, and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty-two months. v.2 The Court. The “court” of the temple represents the part of the nation of Israel that is apostate; not owned of God. The apostate nation of Israel will be “trampled under foot” (Dan. 7:25, Isa. 18:6) by the Roman Gentile Beast for 42 months (42 / 12 = 3.5 years). This refers to the last 3 and 1/2 years of the seventieth week, after the Beast breaches the terms of the covenant (Daniel 9:27). We need to understand from Daniel 12:11 that all these durations (1260 days, 42 months, etc.) are measured from the middle of the week when the abomination of desolation is set up. “The holy city” refers to historical Jerusalem; see v.8 where in connection with the rejection of Christ it is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt.
The Testimony of the Jewish Remnant (vv.3-6)
3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. v.3 Two Witnesses. Why two witnesses? Two represents an adequate testimony for God and His claims (John 8:17). The term of their witness is 1260 days (1260/30/12 = 3.5 years). This is the same period as v.2, but now God is noticing every day of their testimony, showing His care over them. The witnesses are “clothed in sackcloth”, suited to the sorrowful nature of their work, and to their sorrow over Israel’s condition, as well as their rejection by their brethren (e.g. Psa. 11, 12). We see “twos” in the Gospel of Matthew: two demoniacs (Matt. 8), two blind men (Matt. 9), etc., because it is a question of sufficient testimony to Israel. William Kelly said “it might be two or two hundred”; the number is representative. For example, Jeremiah and Baruch (Jer. 36:26) are like the remnant in Jerusalem, which God hid in the city.
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lamps which stand before the Lord of the earth; v.4 Olive Trees and Lamps. The two witnesses are pictured as two things, and both are alluding to Zechariah 4. First, “olive trees”, because they testify in the power of the Holy Spirit (Zech. 4:6). They bear witness to the blessing of Israel under Messiah, flying in the face of the false claims of Antichrist. In Zechariah, the two olive trees were Joshua (high priestly) and Zerubbabel (kingly), though both were looking on to Christ in the Millennium. In Rev. 11, these answer to (1) those in the temple, and (2) those in the city. The Antichrist is a king (Dan. 11:36) and a priest (Rev. 13:12), at this time imitating the Messiah (he has “two horns, like a lamb”). The witnesses are in Jerusalem for the entire time of the Antichrist’s reign. Second, they are referred to as “candlesticks”, because their testimony is divine light amidst darkness. There are two candlesticks in Rev. 11, but one candlestick in Zech. 4 because there it was the Person of Christ (singular), here it is the Jewish witnesses pointing to Christ. They stand “before the Lord of the earth”, for the subject of their testimony is the claims of the coming Messiah as the rightful Lord of the earth. The Beast wouldn’t have minded if it was “the Lord of heaven” (v.13).
5 and if any one wills to injure them, fire goes out of their mouth, and devours their enemies. And if any one wills to injure them, thus must he be killed. v.5 Invincibility. In the will of God, nothing can touch these two witnesses. “If any one wills to injure them, fire goes out of their mouth, and devours their enemies”. As Christians we are told to turn the other cheek if our enemy hurts us. How could these be Christians? The disciples did not understand their place in history (Luke 9:54).
6 These have power to shut the heaven that no rain may fall during the days of their prophecy; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth as often as they will with every plague. v.6 The Character of Moses and Elijah. The ministry and miracles of these two witnesses have the same character as Moses and Elias – two Old Testament prophets. The condition of Israel then will be similar to that in the days of Moses and Elijah — slavery and apostasy. These witnesses are not Moses and Elijah personally, but they come in the spirit and power of the Moses and Elijah. The spirit and power of Elijah as was true also of John the Baptist (Luke 1:17, Matt. 11:14). Not coincidentally, “the days of their prophecy” are 3 and 1/2 years, the same as Elijah’s drought (James 5:17)!
The Martyrdom of the Jewish Witness by the Beast (vv.7-8)
7 And when they shall have completed their testimony, the beast who comes up out of the abyss shall make war with them, and shall conquer them, and shall kill them: v.7 Martyred by the Beast. The two witnesses are invincible until they complete their testimony. Then the Beast – of which we will read much more of later – will persecute and kill them. This is the first mention of the Beast, which is the revived Roman Empire under the immediate power of Satan. Men, for all their attempts, will never re-organize the Roman empire until God allows Satan to do it. The faithful witness are killed, and this brings the mystery of iniquity to new heights. We shouldn’t get the idea that the witnesses “ultimately lose”. They win all the way through. Their death and resurrection is their final victory.
Origins. Note the following distinctions:
- Historical revival of Rome – “out of the sea” (Rev. 13:1).
- Satanic revival of Rome – “out of the abyss” (Rev. 17:8).
- Antichrist, religious leader of revived Rome –“out of the earth” (Rev. 13:11).
- But Jesus – comes “out of heaven” (Rev. 19:11).
8 and their body shall be on the street of the great city, which is called spiritually Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. v.8 The City. The bodies will lay on the street of Jerusalem, as a testimony to the guilt of the Beast and the apostate Jews who have taken his mark. The street of the city whose name means “new peace” is littered with the evidence of brutal murder. Jerusalem now joins the ranks of the Old Testament types of Satan’s world – Sodom and Egypt (Luke 17:28-30). Egypt is independence from Dod. Sodom is moral corruption. These witnesses share a certain fellowship with Jesus in their manner and place of death, as well as in their resurrection and ascension. Note that it says “body” not “bodies”, perhaps because of their unified testimony.
Scornful Treatment of the Slain Witnesses (vv.9-10)
9 And men of the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations see their body three days and a half, and they do not suffer their bodies to be put into a sepulchre. v.9 A Spectacle. As a spectacle of their short-lived triumph, the people, not of Jerusalem only, but “men of the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations” will not allow the bodies to be buried. As a show of scorn for these witnesses, their bodies will remain on the street for “three days and a half”. As with the other numbers in this chapter, we take these as literal days. This means one day for every year of the witnesses’ testimony. One consequence of this shameful treatment of the bodies is that all the world will see their resurrection as a public display of God’s power!
10 And they that dwell upon the earth rejoice over them, and are full of delight, and shall send gifts one to another, because these, the two prophets, tormented them that dwell upon the earth. v.10 Rejoicing. The earth-dwellers (a special moral class mentioned in Revelation) are so relieved from the pain of conscience, that they will feast their eyes on the corpses, full of delight. It will be a cause of celebration and gift-giving, because the witnesses have been silenced… or so they think.
God’s Public Vindication of the Slain Witnesses (vv.11-14)
11 And after the three days and a half the spirit of life from God came into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon those beholding them. v.11 Raising of the Tribulation Martyrs. While all the world is watching and rejoicing over the slain bodies of the witnesses, the “spirit of life from God came into them, and they stood upon their feet”. What a shock! Men of the earth cannot conceive of the power of resurrection. A God who can raise the dead is a God whose power knows no end. This seems to be a deliberate, and public manifestation. The second installment of the first resurrection is “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52), but this third installment will be seen by the eyes of men. These witnesses will be seen briefly by earth-dwellers before being caught up to heaven. Connecting this with Rev.14:13, it seems that this is the third installment, the moment (just before the Son of Man appears) in which all martyred saints are raised (although the emphasis here is on the Jewish witnesses), bodily ascend, so Christ can come with ALL his saints (1 Thess. 3:13) at His appearing, and are seen together in Rev. 20:4 reigning with Christ in the millennium. Read more…
12 And I heard a great voice out of the heaven saying to them, Come up here; and they went up to the heaven in the cloud, and their enemies beheld them. v.12 Catching up. Once the witnesses are raised, and all the world can see them, the are called up to heaven by “a great voice”. They are caught up in a cloud, and this is the same cloud which encircled the mighty angel; i.e. they are received into the presence of the Lord Jesus. These ones were faithful in their lifetime, and they were mocked and rejected by the world. But, beautiful to see, heaven welcomes them home! These were ones “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:38).
13a And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth of the city fell, and seven thousand names of men were slain in the earthquake. And the remnant were filled with fear, and gave glory to the God of the heaven. v.13 Aftermath. Immediately (“in that hour”) after the witnesses are taken up, a great shaking occurs just prior to the appearing of the Lord. One tenth of Jerusalem crumbles; a tenth is a division according to human responsibility. Seven-thousand men, perhaps a religious sector of Jerusalem (cp. 1 Kings 19:18), are killed. The expression “names of men” may indicate that these are men of great importance. Perhaps the most responsible earth-dwellers in Jerusalem will be instantly killed. Those who are not killed are “filled with fear”. The are forced to recognize that the testimony of the witnesses was true, and that God is real. In this sense they “gave glory to the God of the heaven”. However, they never bowed to the Lord of the earth. Acted upon by transient terror, alarmed by what is near, the worldly man thinks of God afar from himself. But there was no reception of the testimony in faith, and no conversion.
¶ 14 The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe comes quickly. v.14 Warning. A warning is then given that the third woe – the worst of them all – is coming quickly.
The 7th Trumpet: the Appearing of Christ (11:15-18)
Seventh trumpet. With the seventh trumpet, no immediate judgment is announced, similar to seventh seal, but it is a summary of the victorious appearing of Christ. This trumpet is the fulfillment of Psalm 2; please read it. The rightful King taking His place, His inheritance, instantly taking the reigns of government in the earth. In a sense, the undisputed reign of Christ begins at this time; the appearing of Christ. In another sense, some time will pass (two to three months or so) before the kingdom is fully established. See also Daniel 2:44, 7:13-14, 22.
United Heaven Announces the Appearing of Christ (v.15)
¶ 15 And the seventh angel sounded his trumpet: and there were great voices in the heaven, saying, The kingdom (1) of the world (2) of our Lord and (3) of his Christ is come, and he shall reign to the ages of ages. v.15 The Kingdom of Christ. The voices of united heaven are heard announcing and celebrating the kingdom of Christ. It is called “the kingdom of the world“; the only “one-world government” ever. This is the only time this expression occurs in scripture. It is called “the kingdom of … our Lord“; the One whom we own now as having authority in our lives. It is called “the kingdom of … His Christ“; the promised Messiah according to the fulfillment of prophecy. Note that it is “His Christ”; in contrasted with Antichrist. How long will the kingdom of Christ last? He will reign “to the ages of ages”; that is to the eternal state, while there will be no need for government. In this sense the kingdom will never end; it will be instead “delivered up” to God (1 Cor. 15:24).
Doxology of the Elders: Psalm 2 (vv.16-18)
16 And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, v.16 The Elders. This is the first time we have heard of the elders since ch.7. The elders are the heavenly saints. They fell and worshipped at the beginning of the tribulation (Rev. 4 and 5) and now at the close. This is one of the worship “triggers” in Revelation; see Rev. 1:5; 4:9; 5:8; 19:4. Now the twenty-four elders go even lower; “on their faces” compared with “falling down” earlier. Appreciation of Christ will deepen as time rolls on into eternity. Notice that the elders are “on thrones” reigning with Christ; a place of honor, dignity, and co-heirship. Wonderful to realize that in Ephesians, we are said to be already seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus! The elders are found “worshipping God”; certainly this will be our eternal occupation!
17 saying, We give thee thanks, Lord God Almighty, He who is, and who was, that (1) thou hast taken thy great power and hast reigned. 18 And (2) the nations have been full of wrath, and thy wrath is come, and (3) the time of the dead to be judged, and (4) to give the recompense to (a) thy servants the prophets, and to (b) the saints, and to (c) those who fear thy name, small and great; and (5) to destroy those that destroy the earth. vv.17-18 Their Thanksgiving. The elders’ thanks is directed to God in two aspects. As “Lord God Almighty”, the one who has all divine power and authority, and as “He who is, and who was”, who alone existed from a past eternity. “Lord God Almighty” is a name of God that is unique to Revelation, but is similar to how He was known in the Old Testament to the patriarchs; El Shaddai (Gen. 17:1). The elders offer a five-fold subject of thanks. These are five long-awaited events (not chronological) that have finally arrived:
- God has personally intervened in power, and imposed His sovereignty; “thou hast taken thy great power and hast reigned”.
- The nations’ wrath having become full, God’s wrath finally comes; “the nations have been full of wrath, and thy wrath is come”.
- Judgment of the dead at the end of the millennium (see Rev. 20:12); “the time of the dead to be judged”.
- Rewards given by varying degree of responsibility in the kingdom (Matt. 25:14-30)
- “thy servants the prophets”; those who were especially faithful.
- “the saints”; those who were the intelligent, separated people of God.
- “those who fear thy name, small and great”; every true believer, no matter how weak.
- Eternal destruction of the damned (in the lake of fire), see Rev. 19:20 and Rev. 20:15; “to destroy those that destroy the earth”. This specifically refers to the Beast, the Antichrist, and their followers who have corrupted the prophetic earth. Isa. 14:20 identifies the Beast as one who has caused the death of his own people, and the destruction of his own western territory.