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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 11

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verse 1

John is given a reed which is strong enough to be a rod one might use to measure. He is told to measure the "temple of God." The word used here for temple is not hieron, which describes the buildings courts and porches ( Joh_10:23 ; Mat_24:1-2 ), but naos, which is literally the sanctuary. ( Mat_27:51 ) In the New Testament, the church, or its individual members, are frequently called the sanctuary, or dwelling place, of God. ( 1Co_3:16-17 ; Eph_2:21 ; 1Pe_2:5 ; 1Co_6:16 ; Rev_3:12 ) When one considers earlier references to the Jews as the synagogue of Satan ( Rev_2:9 ; Rev_3:9 ), it is impossible to believe we have here the Jewish temple. Instead, we conclude the Revelation follows the New Testament pattern with the temple being the church. The altar of incense is where the prayers of the saints are offered and the worshipers are faithful members of the church. After referring to Rev_21:15 ; Eze_40:5 ; Eze_42:20 and Zec_2:1 , Hendriksen concludes, "that measuring the sanctuary means to set it apart from that which is profane; in order that, thus separated, it may be perfectly safe and protected from all harm."

Verse 2

The Gentiles would here represent those outside of the church. The marginal reading in the King James is "Cast out," instead of "leave out." This may suggest that some who might be thought of as part of the church, like Jezebel and the Nicolaitans, would be cast out and counted as part of the profane. These profane ones would trample the holy city, which is the church now ( Heb_12:22 ) and later will be heaven. ( Rev_21:2 ; Rev_21:10 ; Rev_22:19 ) While the faithful are measured, or protected, the nominal Christian will turn to worldly thinking and assist in abusing and tearing down all the church stands for. (Compare Luk_8:12-13 ; Heb_6:4-6 ) Forty-two months, or 1260 days, or three and one-half years, is a recurring figure in Revelation. ( Rev_11:2-3 ; Rev_12:6 ; Rev_12:14 ; Rev_13:5 ; also Dan_7:25 ; Dan_12:7 ) God will not allow the church to be trampled forever, so three and one-half years is used to represent a short, or broken, period of time.

Verses 3-4

Hailey notes a number of Biblical instances where two witnesses were needed to confirm a fact. ( Deu_17:6 ; Deu_19:6 ; Num_35:30 ; Heb_10:28 ; Mat_18:16 ; Joh_8:17 ) Summers notes that, "The number (2) in Oriental symbolism carried the idea of strength." Since their testimony continues for the same length of time as the persecution of verse 2, it seems most likely the witnesses would be the word of God and the church, especially as the members' lives testify to the word's power. They prophesy in mourning, as is symbolized by the sackcloth they wear. This may be because of the rejection of their testimony by the world. The two olive trees remind us of Zechariah's vision. ( Zec_4:1-6 ) They, along with seven candlesticks, are identified as the word of the Lord. Perhaps the two candlesticks stand for the faithful church, since only two churches had no criticism from the Lord. (Smyrna and Philadelphia)

Verses 5-6

God gives his message power and providentially supports those who deliver it. God told Jeremiah his word would be like a fire to devour the sinful people. ( Jer_5:14 ; also note 20:9) Elijah had power over the rain and Moses was able to turn the water to blood. ( 2Ki_17:1 ; 2Ki_18:1-37 ; Exo_7:20-25 ) Though we have no New Testament record of those actual happenings, God did, and does, powerfully defend his messengers. ( Act_12:1-25 ; especially 20-23; Luk_18:7-8 )

Verse 7

The beast, which must be Satan, comes out of the abyss and kills the two witnesses. Notice, this did not happen until their message had been delivered. God does not allow Satan to stop his plan. Satan wars with God's children by lying to them, as in Eve's case, persecuting and killing them. He is just as happy to see a church lose its influence for good by turning it inward and causing it to cease delivering the word as he is to see the saints physically put to death.

Verse 8

The "great city" is always Babylon in Revelation. ( Rev_14:8 ; Rev_16:19 ; Rev_17:5 ; Rev_17:18 ; Rev_18:2 ; Rev_18:10 ; Rev_18:16 ; Rev_18:18-19 ; Rev_18:21 ) This is a worldly city full of spiritual adultery, slavery, or tyranny, and one that rejects the truth, thus is said to have crucified the Son of God.

Verses 9-10

Real joy will be expressed by the world over the death of the two witnesses because they had tormented the world with their testimony. The worldly celebrate, even exchanging gifts. Leaving the bodies of the witnesses unburied shows the scornful attitude they had for the truth and its deliverers. Three and a half is half of seven, which represents a broken, short, troublesome space of time. Coffman also suggests it means evil's triumph is never complete.

Verse 11

Every time evil ones believe they have at last killed the church and destroyed the word of God, God revitalizes them. Hailey is reminded, in this verse, of the story of Belshazzar whose merrymaking was turned to fear by the finger of God writing upon the wall. ( Dan_5:1-31 )

Verse 12

God's calling of the faithful into heaven will happen at Christ's second coming and immediately before the end of the world. ( 1Th_4:13-18 ; 1Co_15:23-24 ) The faithless persecutors will view the victorious faithful ascending into heaven.

Verse 13

God now begins his judgment against the worldly city, as is symbolized by the earthquake. One-tenth, or a part, collapses and 7,000 men are killed. This cannot be the destruction of Jerusalem since 1,100,00 men were killed then. When the rest of the evil see God's judgment begin, they worship in fear. There is no indication of repentance on their part, only terrified worship.

Verse 14

Once the righteous have been raised, the end will not be delayed, unlike what Premillennialists would have us to believe.

Verse 15

As noted in verse 12, this will take place at the end of time. The vision has reached the end once to reassure Christians being persecuted. We will view the same span of time from a different perspective in the coming chapters. No matter how hopeless things may seem in that narration, we can rest easy because we have seen the end. The voices here may well be those of the redeemed who have now been taken up into heaven. (Verses 11-12)

Verses 16-17

The 24 elders join in the worship of Christ as the Almighty one who has reigned.

Verse 18

Worldly nations had shown their anger by killing God's messengers and rejoicing at their deaths. The elders here rejoice that, in response to man's wrath, God has brought his wrath and judged all people. The righteous were first rewarded and then the wicked revealed.

Verse 19

Heaven is now opened and the ark of the covenant revealed. The ark was the place where God had promised to meet and commune with the children of Israel. ( Exo_25:21-22 ) It is here used to symbolize the place of God's meeting and communing eternally with the church, heaven.

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Revelation 11". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/revelation-11.html. 2014.
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