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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Revelation 11

 

 

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Verse 1

1. κάλαμος. Ezekiel 40:3; Zechariah 2:1 (σχοινίον γεωμετρικόν).

ὄμοιος ῥάβδῳ, i.e. a walking-staff: probably not so long as the one in Ezek., l.c., but perhaps of six feet:—so that it would naturally, when carried, be grasped near the upper end, like a pilgrim’s staff, or a modern alpenstock.

λέγων. Lit. “There was given unto me a reed … saying,” i.e. it was given me with these words. The gloss καὶ ὁ ἄγγελος εἱστήκει in the Textus Receptus (B.E.) probably goes back to the beginning of the fourth century. The speaker cannot be identified with the mighty angel of the preceding chapter: the language in itself is too vague to be pressed: and in Revelation 11:3 at any rate the speaker is either God (Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 43:12; Isaiah 44:8) or Christ (Acts 1:8, &c.).

τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ. The word used is not that for the whole “Temple-precinct,” but the “Temple” in the narrowest sense—what in the O.T. is called “the house” or “the palace.”

τὸ θυσιαστήριον. Being distinguished from the Temple, we should naturally think of the Altar of Burnt-offering which stood outside it: besides that this was, and the Altar of Incense was not, large enough to be measured by something longer than a foot-rule. But we saw on Revelation 6:9 that the Heavenly Temple apparently has no Altar of Burnt-offering distinct from the Altar of Incense: so the question only becomes important if we suppose the earthly Temple to be meant.

Is it then the heavenly or the earthly Temple that St John is bidden to measure? Probably the latter. Without pressing the argument from Revelation 10:9, that the Seer is now on earth, it is hardly likely that, whereas in Ezekiel, Zechariah, and inf. Revelation 21:15 the measurement, not of the Temple only but of the Holy City, is the work of angels, it should here be ascribed to a man. But what is more decisive is, that the whole of this chapter describes God’s rebukes and correcting judgements on the city, the fate of which is connected with that of the Temple here named. This proves that it is the earthly city of God that is meant—and therefore probably the literal Jerusalem: for the Christian Church, imperfectly as it realises its divine ideal, does not appear to be dissociated from it in Scriptural typology or prophecy: “Jerusalem which is above … is the Mother of us all,” even now, and even now “our citizenship is in Heaven.”

τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας ἐν αὐτῷ. Not ἐν αὐτοίς: probably therefore the mention of “the Altar” is parenthetical, for worship in it could scarcely be spoken of, though worship on it might. But the truth is, neither the Temple (in the narrower sense) nor the Altar was ordinarily a place of spiritual “worship,” but only of the ritual “service of God.” Therefore the meaning of the Temple and Altar must be to some extent spiritualised: even if the prophecy be concerned with God’s judgements on Jerusalem and the Jewish people, we are not to understand that the actual Temple was to be spared (for we know it was not): but, most probably, that the true Israelites would not be cut off from communion with God, even when their city and the earthly splendours of their Temple were destroyed. Ezekiel 11:16 will thus illustrate the sense of the passage, though there does not appear to be a conscious reference to it.


Verses 1-13

Revelation 11:1-13. THE MEASURING ANGEL AND THE TWO WITNESSES


Verses 1-19

Revelation 8:2; Revelation 8:6 to Revelation 11:19. THE SEVEN TRUMPETS


Verse 2

2. τὴν αὐλὴν τὴν ἔξωθεν. The words might be translated “the outer court of the Temple.” It must be remembered that “the courts of the Lord’s House” were the ordinary place for the worshippers to assemble, even before the outer and larger “Court of the Gentiles,” with its magnificent colonnades, was added to Herod’s Temple. Probably the latter is thought of, in its assignment to the Gentiles: but the meaning appears to be, that all the courts shall be profaned, up to the walls of the inmost Sanctuary.

μὴ αὐτὴν μετρήσῃς. See Revelation 10:4.

ἔκβαλε ἔξωθεν. “Cast out outside.” The sense must be “leave out for profanation.” This excludes the hypothesis (otherwise not without plausibility) that the measurement of the Temple is for destruction, not for preservation: see 2 Kings 21:13; Lamentations 2:8,—and for the destruction being regarded as the work of the prophet, cf. Ezekiel 43:3. The variations in the MSS. between “the inner” and “the outer” court, and “casting out outside” aud “casting out inside” shew that the scribes had long been preoccupied with the thought of the removal of the middle wall of partition between the court of Israel and the court of the Gentiles, for Σ and Ξ are not generally confused in the MSS. of this book.

πατήσουσιν. This doubtless refers to the words of the Lord in St Luke 21:24. Hitherto, the correspondences in this book with that Prophecy of our Lord’s have been closest with St Matthew’s version of it. Here the Vision does not go so far as the Prophecy. When the Witnesses have finished their testimony their bodies are cast out in the streets of Jerusalem, which is still standing and hugs her chains. Hence there can be no reference to the Jewish War: it is a vision of profanation, not of destruction.

μῆνας τεσσεράκοντα δύο. So Revelation 13:5. This period is apparently identical with the “1260 days” of the next verse, and Revelation 12:6 : and with the “time, times, and half a time” (i.e. 3½ years) of Revelation 12:14. In Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7 we have this last measure of the period given, and the time indicated by Daniel must be either identical with or typical of that indicated by St John. It is to be noted, that in Daniel 12:11-12, we have the period extended to 1290 and 1335 days.

The key to these prophecies, that speak of definite periods of time, is generally sought in Ezekiel 4:6—it is supposed that each prophetical “day” stands for a year, and by consequence a “week” is equivalent to seven years, a “month” to 30, and a “year” to 360. This gives an approximately satisfactory explanation of the one prophecy of the “70 weeks” in Daniel 9 : they would naturally be understood to extend from B.C. 536 (the decree of Cyrus) to B.C. 5 (the Nativity), A.D. 29–30 (the Crucifixion), and A.D. 70 (the fall of Jerusalem); but the terms in which their beginning and end are described can with a little pressure be applied to B.C. 457 (the decree of Artaxerxes), A.D. 26 (the Baptism of St John), A.D. 29–30, and A.D. 33—possibly the date of the death of St Stephen, and so of the final rejection of the Gospel by the Jews and of the Jewish sacrifices by God. But in no other case has a prophecy been even tolerably interpreted on this principle. If it were admitted in this, we should naturally understand that Jerusalem was to have been restored in A.D. 1330—or at latest 1360 or 1405. Indeed, if the Saracen conquest instead of the Roman were taken as the starting-point, the restoration would not fall due till 1897, and it is humanly speaking quite possible that Palestine may pass into new hands then. But men ought to have learnt by this time to distrust such calculations: as we “know not the day nor the hour,” so we know not the year nor the century. Two or three generations ago a number of independent calculations were made to converge to the year 1866 as the beginning of the end: but in that year nothing considerable happened except the Austrian war—which of all recent wars perhaps had least the character of a war between Christ and Antichrist. It was at worst an instance of the painful and not innocent way in which fallen human nature works out its best desires: the Austrians were technically in the right, while the victory of the Prussians has proved honourable and beneficial to both empires alike.


Verse 3

3. καὶ δώσω τοῖς δυσὶν μάρτυσίν μου, καὶ προφητεύσουσιν. A literal reproduction of Hebrew idiom. The traditional view of the two Witnesses, dating from the second century, is that they are Enoch and Elijah—the two prophets who, having (for a time) finished their work on earth, have left it without death: but who, since “it is appointed for all men once to die,” will, as is here revealed, come on earth again, to prophesy and suffer death in the days of Antichrist.

As to Elijah, there seems to be little doubt that this view is true. The prophecy of Malachi 4:5 has indeed received a fulfilment in the mission of the Baptist (St Luke 1:17). But St Matthew 17:11-12 perhaps implies that this fulfilment is not the final one—especially when compared with St John 1:21. Really the plain sense of these passages seems to be, that Elijah will actually be sent before the second Coming of Christ, as one in his spirit and power was before His first.

But the personality of his colleague is more doubtful. St Victorinus was well-nigh alone in thinking of Jeremiah. Of Enoch we know so little, that internal evidence hardly applies either way: all we can say is, that he was recognised by popular Jewish belief as a seer of apocalypses, and that his character as a prophet and preacher of repentance is recognised by St Jude. This harmonises well enough with his being intended: but the internal evidence of Scripture itself points rather to Moses and Elias being the two witnesses. Their names are coupled in the prophecy of Malachi 4:4-5, as well as in the history of the Transfiguration: and Revelation 11:6 ascribes to these prophets the plague actually inflicted by Moses, as well as that by Elijah. This modification of the traditional view was first suggested by the abbot Joachim, the great mediæval commentator on this book; but it has found wide acceptance in modern times.

ἡμέρας χιλίας διακοσίας ἑξήκοντα. See on Revelation 11:2.

περιβεβλημένοι σάκκους. The well attested reading περιβεβλημένονς might no doubt have arisen from assonance: if not, it must be explained as if καὶ προφ.… ἑξήκοντα were parenthetical and the Seer had written θήσω τοὺς δύο μάρτυρας; if he wrote δώσω τοὺς δ. μ. the accusative was certain to be very early and widely changed to the dative. Perhaps the sackcloth is to be understood as the official dress of prophets (Isaiah 20:2), rather than a sign that the Witnesses are persecuted or mourn for the sin of Jerusalem.


Verse 4

4. αἱ δύο ἐλαῖαι καὶ αἱ δύο λυχνίαι. As in Zechariah 4. the two olive trees or the two Anointed Ones supply the bowl of one golden candlestick with oil, it may be a question whether the reference is directly to Zechariah or to a tradition which grew from his words: the two candlesticks, cf. Psalms 132:17, are clearly known beforehand like the two olive trees: we know from the “Psalms of Solomon,” Revelation 8:12, Revelation 17:6, that there was a widespread feeling that from the time of Epiphanes there had been no lawful kingdom or lawful priesthood, for the Maccabees had usurped both: this would explain a belief founded on Zechariah that a lawful kingdom and priesthood must be restored before the Kingdom of Christ, as there was a belief founded on Malachi that Christ would not come before Elias had appeared. Hence this verse would be an exact parallel to Matthew 11:14, at once a sanction and a correction to existing belief. In Zechariah apparently the “two Anointed Ones” are Zerubbabel and Jeshua, or rather perhaps the ideal King and Priest, conceived as types of Him Who is both: perhaps these two Witnesses similarly typify Him as King (cf. Deuteronomy 33:5) and Prophet.

ἑστῶτες. The masculine is not surprising after οὗτοι; but the position of the participle is as singular here as that of the verb in Revelation 7:2.


Verse 5

5. πῦρ ἐκπορεύεται ἐκ τοῦ στόματος αὐτῶν. Jeremiah 5:14 is a precedent for this image; 2 Kings 1:10, &c. for the sense.

εἵ τις θελήσῃ. The irregularity, so far as there is one, is due to a common tendency of all Greek not consciously moulded on the early classics to use the conjunctive in conditional sentences even after εἰ, Winer, p. 568: hence the irregularity has presumption in its favour, apart from the balance of the authority.


Verse 6

6. κλεῖσαι τὸν οὐρανόν. Like Elias.

τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς προφητείας αὐτῶν. Is this term fixed with conscious reference to the three years and six months for which Elias did shut heaven (Luke 4:25; James 5:17)? The term was no doubt arrived at by adding the dry interval between the spring and autumn rains to the three years for which both failed, as the regular rains were renewed at Elijah’s prayer at the end of the third year.

στρέφειν αὐτὰ εἰς αἷμα. Like Moses.


Verse 7

7. τὸ θηρίον. Here first mentioned: probably that which appears in Revelation 13:1, not in Revelation 13:11 : though neither of them makes his appearance immediately “out of the bottomless pit”: see, however, Revelation 17:8. But perhaps it is worth noticing that “the deep” in Romans 10:7 (the word is the same as “the bottomless pit” here) corresponds to “the sea” of Deuteronomy 30:13.

ποιήσει μετʼ αὐτῶν πόλεμον. Daniel 7:21. We are not to think of the “saints” who rally round the “witnesses” as necessarily holding the holy city against the armies of the beast; in the earliest and best days of the Maccabees the sinners were for the most part at ease in Zion, while the saints were fighting the good fight in the wilderness; the struggle to which the Seer looks forward is the antitype of that.

νικήσει αὐτούς. Martyrs who have only to testify and suffer are always conquerors; but it belongs to the calling of these prophets not only to witness but to strive—and to strive in vain; their testimony is silenced and their work undone.

καὶ ἀποκτενεῖ αὐτούς. After the lost battle.


Verse 8

8. ἐπὶ τῆς πλατείας. For the sing. cf. Revelation 21:21, Revelation 22:2. The word in fact means a broad street, such as the principal street of a city would be. The modern Italian piazza is the same word; but Revelation 22:2 seems to shew that it is a street rather than a square—perhaps most accurately a “boulevard” in the modern sense, only running through the city, not round it.

τῆς πόλεως τῆς μεγάλης. Many commentators suppose this to be the Babylon of Revelation 14:8 and chaps. 17. sqq.—i.e. Rome, whether literally or in an extended sense. But this seems hardly natural. If it were, why is it not called Babylon here, just as in the last verse the beast was called the beast? Besides, here the great majority of the inhabitants repent at God’s judgement: contrast Revelation 16:9. The only other possible view is, that this great city is Jerusalem: and with this everything that is said about it seems to agree.

ἥτις καλεῖται. Here probably we have a comment of the Seer on the words of the Voice, which goes down to the end of the verse.

Σόδομα. Jerusalem is so called in Isaiah 1:10, and is likened to Sodom in Ezekiel 16:46. For the licentiousness of the generation before the fall of Jerusalem, see comm. on Hosea 4:14 : Jos. B. J. IV. ix. 10 suggests a closer likeness.

Αἴγυπτος. Jerusalem, it must be admitted, is never so called in the O.T. Possibly it was called so in the language of New Testament prophecy; certainly New Testament facts made the name appropriate: comparing Acts 2:47; Acts 5:12, &c. with the Epistle to the Galatians, we see how Jerusalem was at first the refuge of the people of God, from which nevertheless they had at last to escape as from a house of bondage.

ὁ κύριος αὐτῶν. This clause seems almost certainly to identify “the great city” as Jerusalem: perhaps St John uses the title, as implying that its old one, “the Holy City,” is forfeited. At the same time, if we do suppose the City meant to be Rome, which might be supported by chap. Revelation 18:24, itself a parallel to Matthew 23:35, these words can be explained, either by the responsibility of Pilate for the Lord’s death, or on the principle of the beautiful legend, Domine, quo vadis?—that the Lord suffered in His Servants.


Verse 9

9. βλέπουσιν. The presents in this verse and the next are pretty consistently translated as futures by the Latin, but the later Greek MSS. alter all the presents but the first: while there is a decided balance of authority for πέμψουσιν. If the presents were uniform we might understand them as a sort of transition to the aorists in 11 seqq.

τὸ πτῶμα αὐτῶντὰ πτώματα αὐτῶν. No reason can be assigned for the change of number.

οὐκ ἀφίουσιν τεθῆναι εἰς μνῆμα. As we are certainly to understand from Revelation 11:11-12 that the Prophets are made like to their Lord in His Resurrection and Ascension, we are probably to understand here that they are not made like to Him in His Burial.


Verse 10

10. πέμψουσιν. Tisch[377] reads πέμπουσιν with א* P.


Verse 11

11. μετὰ τὰς τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ ἥμισυ. The half day lends a certain support to the “year-day” hypothesis—that 3½ years are meant, which might be combined with the theory of St Hippolytus that the time of their testimony corresponds to the first half of the last of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, while the reign of Antichrist occupies the second. But the traditional explanation takes the days literally—they rise, not on the third day like their Lord, but on the fourth—being like Him, though not equal to Him. Whether the periods named are to be taken literally or no, there seems no reason why we should not follow the traditional view, and understand this chapter as foretelling a sign which shall literally come to pass in the last days. The prophets Moses and Elijah (or perhaps Enoch and Elijah) will appear upon earth—or at the least two prophets will arise in their “spirit and power”: the scene of their prophecy will be Jerusalem, which will then be reoccupied by the Jewish nation. Antichrist (under whose patronage, it is believed, the restoration of the Jews will have taken place) will raise persecution against them, and kill them: but they will rise from the dead, and then, and not till then, the heart of Israel will turn to the Lord.


Verse 12

12. ἤκουσαν. Possibly not the two prophets only, but “they that beheld them.”

ἐν τῇ νεφέλῃ. “In the cloud”—the same. perhaps, that received their Lord out of His Disciples’ sight. Any way, “the cloud” is regarded as a permanently recurring phenomenon, like “the rainbow” in Revelation 10:1.


Verse 13

13. τὸ δέκατον τῆς πόλεως. This is the mildest judgement recorded in this book: we are expressly told after the far severer judgements of the Trumpets and the Bowls, that they wrought no repentance but rather blasphemy (Revelation 9:20-21, Revelation 16:9; Revelation 16:21). Here it seems as if Jerusalem by a lighter chastisement was brought, if not to repentance, to some beginning of it. Blindness in part has happened to Israel, but they are still beloved for the fathers’ sake.

ὀνόματα ἀνθρώπων. “Names of men,” as A. V[395] margin: cf. Revelation 3:4, and Acts 1:15 there quoted.

χιλιάδες ἑπτά. Possibly this number is taken as approximately a tenth part of the population of Jerusalem. The city, which can never have extensive suburbs, being surrounded by ravines, can never hold a larger permanent population than 70,000; but in its highest prosperity it may have held as many, and perhaps it may again.

ἔδωκαν δόξαν. Here and in Revelation 14:7, Revelation 16:9 these words seem to imply the confession of sin, as in Joshua 7:19, and probably St John 9:24. It was the predicted work of Elijah to “turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers”: this will be fulfilled by his posthumous success, uniting the original stock of God’s People to the branches that now grow out of it (Romans 11:17, &c.).

τῷ θεῷ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ. This title (combined in Jonah 1:9, Ezra 1:2 with the Name of the LORD) seems to have been the way in which Jews living among heathens (Ezra 5:12, Nehemiah 2:4) or heathens under Jewish influence (Ezra 6:10) spoke of the God of Israel. This accounts for the way in which heathens in later times conceived of their religion. Nil praeter nubes et caeli numen adorant (Juv. XIV. 97).


Verse 14

14. ἡ οὐαὶ ἡ δευτέρα ἀπῆλθεν. Having included the profanation of the Holy City and the plagues inflicted by the two prophets, as well as the invasion of the terrible horsemen, chap. 9.

ἡ οὐαὶ ἡ τρίτη. In what does this consist? Perhaps we are to see the answer in Revelation 12:12 : but at any rate we have an instance of the way that, throughout this book, the last member of each series of signs disappoints us; we think (cf. Revelation 10:7) that the end of all things is come, but instead a new series begins.


Verse 15

15. φωναὶ μεγάλαι. Cf. Revelation 16:17.

ἐγένετο ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ κόσμου τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν καὶ τοῦ Χριστοῦ αὐτοῦ. The only possible translation of the text is “the kingdom of the world is become our Lord’s and His Christ’s”; but the position of ἐγένετο is strange. The phrase “His Christ” is founded on the O.T. phrase “the Lord’s Anointed,” cf. St Luke 2:28.

βασιλεύσει. Who? Our Lord or His Christ? St John probably would have regarded the question as meaningless, though comparing Revelation 11:1 (see note on ἐν αὐτῷ) it is not likely that he used the sing. consciously to imply that Christ and His Father are One, which is implied Revelation 20:6. It would be more to the point to compare “Christ the Lord” in St Luke 2:11 with “the Lord’s Christ” already quoted.


Verses 15-19

Revelation 11:15-19. Revelation 12:7-12. THE SEVENTH TRUMPET


Verse 16

16. οἱ ἐνώπιον. Lach[383] omits οἱ with AB2 1.

οἳ κάθηνται. Lach[384] and Text. Rec[385] read καθήμενοι with Revelation 1; and Cyp[386] enlarged text, in conspectu Dei sedentes.


Verse 17

17. κύριε ὁ θεὸς ὁ παντοκράτωρ. See on Revelation 1:8.

ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἧν. Here and in Revelation 16:5 ὁ ἐρχόμενος is omitted: no reason can be assigned for the curtailment of the full formula of Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:8, Revelation 4:8, and no significance can be attached to it.


Verse 17-18

17, 18. εἵληφαςἧλθεν ἡ ὀργή σου. It is hypercritical in the N.T., and in this book particularly, to attempt to distinguish regularly between perfects and simple preterites: but here it is perhaps worth observing that all the verbs (after the first) are in the same tense: “Thou hast taken Thy great power, and didst reign: and the nations were wroth, and Thy wrath came,” &c.


Verse 18

18. ὁ καιρὸς τῶν νεκρῶν κριθῆναι. The mention of the general Judgement here so long before the end of the book is not really a difficulty if we suppose that the Seven Trumpets form a separate vision, and that each vision carries us up to the End, or at least to the very verge of it.

τοῖς μικροῖς καὶ τοῖς μεγάλοις. See crit. notes: the accusative, which in almost all critical texts comes in somewhere or other after the dative, would be quite natural after a verb like ἀποτῖσαι, which is only once found in N.T., Philemon 1:19, where D2 reads ἀποδώσω as if ἀποτίσω was difficult.

διαφθεῖραι τοὺς διαφθείροντας. Possibly, as A. V[396] margin, we should translate the participle “corrupt,” not “destroy”: there is an inverse change of sense in 1 Corinthians 3:17.


Verse 19

19. ὁ ναὸς τοῦ θεοῦ. See on Revelation 4:6, Revelation 6:9.

τῆς διαθήκης αὐτοῦ. “Of His covenant,” as constantly in O.T. It was a wide-spread belief of the Jews that the miraculous reappearance of the long-lost Ark in the earthly Temple would be the sign of Messiah’s coming to reign.

ἐγένοντο ἀστραπαί. So Revelation 8:5; Revelation 16:18 : in all three places they mark the end of the series of seven signs.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Revelation 11:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/revelation-11.html. 1896.

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