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Two witnesses (11:1-14)
In Daniel 9:24-27 there is a prophecy that the enemies of the Jews would corrupt their city and their temple for three and a half years (which is the same as forty-two months, or 1260 days). This happened in 167-164 BC, when the ruler of the Syrian sector of the Greek Empire, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, conquered Jerusalem, killed Jews by the thousand and tried by every means to destroy their religion. His supreme expression of hate for God’s people was to set up a Greek idol in their temple, build an altar, then take animals that the Jews considered unclean and sacrifice them to the Greek gods.
This event is now used as an illustration. Just as the Gentiles trampled the holy city and its temple for three and a half years, so for a time the ungodly world is allowed to trample the church. There is, however, a limit to the extent it can go. God’s people in the world (compared in the vision to those in the outer courts of the temple) are persecuted and even killed; but from God’s viewpoint they are eternally secure in his presence (compared in the vision to those worshipping within the temple). The message is one of encouragement to persecuted Christians. The church’s task is difficult, but its triumph is certain. There may be martyrs, but God’s church will not be destroyed (11:1-2).
Two messengers of God symbolize the church’s powerful witness during this troubled period (3). This witness is likened to that of Zerubbabel and Joshua, who stood firm for God’s truth in reestablishing the worship of God in Israel after the captivity in Babylon (4; cf. Zechariah 4:1-14). It is likened also to the witness of Moses and Elijah, to whom God gave his special power. As in the time of Moses, God saves his people from being destroyed by hostile rulers. As in the time of Elijah, he saves them from being destroyed by the corruption of false religion (5-6; cf. Exodus 4:9; Exodus 7:1-51; 1 Kings 18:1-46; 1 Kings 18:1-46; 1 Kings 19:1-21; 2 Kings 1:7-12; 2 Kings 1:7-12).
But the more powerful the witness, the greater the opposition. Satanic power increases and large numbers of Christians are martyred (7). The world that killed Jesus Christ is now killing his followers. It is likened to a great city that is characterized by the wickedness of Sodom and the cruelty of Egypt (cf. Genesis 19:1-24; Exodus 1:9-16; Exodus 3:7). People rejoice when they get rid of those who expose their sin, and do all they can to bring the greatest possible shame upon the Christians (8-10).
The persecutors’ apparent victory does not last long. They are filled with terror when they see that the church has not been destroyed but has received new life. The victory of Christ guarantees not only victory for believers, but also judgment for their opponents (11-12; cf. Philippians 1:28). In John’s vision the judgment is symbolized by an earthquake that brings extensive destruction upon the city and its citizens. The enemies of God at last give some recognition to his supreme authority and power (13; cf. 9:20-21). The third woe (i.e. the seventh trumpet) will now follow (14).
Seventh trumpet (11:15-19)
Having had an interval to consider the triumph of God’s people, the revelation returns to the series of trumpet judgments. The climax of those judgments, announced by the blowing of the seventh trumpet, is the abolition of all human government and the establishment of God’s everlasting kingdom under the rule of Jesus Christ (15). This brings with it the divinely appointed day of judgment for all people, when God rewards his servants and punishes sinners (16-18; cf. Acts 17:31; 2 Timothy 4:1; 2 Timothy 4:1).
In a dramatic revelation, God then opens his heavenly temple and displays the ark, symbol of his covenant faithfulness. The significance of this is that through all his people’s sufferings and trials, God has never forgotten them. The symbol of his faithfulness to them has always been before him in his heavenly sanctuary (19).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Revelation 11". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13