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Saturday, June 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 11

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-19

Revelation 11:1 . There was given me a reed like unto a rod to measure the temple of God, the new-testament church. The prophet of old had a similar vision, and all the prophets spake of the enlargement of Christ’s kingdom. Ezekiel 40:2-5. Micah 4:1-2. John also was to measure the altar which stood in the inner court; and the altar here is figuratively understood, as in the epistles of Ignatius, who considered a separation from the altar as an exclusion from the church. The altar is a commemoration of the death of Christ, and he who eats the sacramental bread, eats the food of immortality. Those, and those only who worship before this throne, and worship in Spirit and in truth, are the true church, the living temple of the living God.

Revelation 11:2 . But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not. What an awful charge is this; a charge which excludes all nominal christians, like the foolish virgins, from the kingdom of God. Oh Nicodemus, how learned soever you may be as a doctor of the law, you must be born again. It has been justly remarked by Mr. Fletcher, that Luther cleared away the rubbish, but still the sanctuary wanted adorning with revivals of pure religion. These courts, according to Daniel 12:7, and repeated here by John, must be profaned for forty two months, that is, as the jews themselves allow, 1260 years: and this period, whose commencement is known with certainty to God alone, may notwithstanding be safely reckoned from the gradual decay of the old empire to the rise of the ten kingdoms. Our hope is, that the time for God’s afflicted witnesses to prophesy in sackcloth is now about gradually to expire, when Christ’s dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. Zechariah 9:10.

Revelation 11:3 . I will give power to my two witnesses, the number required by the law. Deuteronomy 19:15. The christian fathers remark, that God has often raised up a right-hand man, as a support to a faithful witness, Aaron went with Moses. Elijah prepared and trained up Elisha. Zerubbabel and Joshua were the ancient olive trees who caused the lamps to burn anew in the sanctuary. Our Saviour also sent the apostles out two and two. This evidence chiefly regards the testimony of our Lord’s resurrection, as stated in Revelation 2:13, in reference to Antipas the faithful martyr. In addition to which, Ignatius, when writing to the church of Smyrna, and when going to fight with beasts, says, “I know that Christ, after his resurrection, was in the flesh, and I believe that he is so still. For when he came to those who were with Peter, he said to them, take, handle me, and see that I am not an incorporeal dæmon. They then handled him, and believed, being alike convinced by his flesh, and by his spirit. For this cause they despised death, and were found invincible to its fears.” Sect, 3. But the ark is called the testimony, and the christian scriptures the new testament; many therefore call these God’s two witnesses.

The time of the two witnesses to prophesy in sackcloth is fixed to the period of 1260 years, in Daniel, and in John; and is associated with four distinctive departments of the antichristian oppression of the saints.

1. The outward court of the church, neglected and unmeasured, lies in ruins for forty two months: Revelation 11:2.

2. The witnesses prophesy in sackcloth during the same period, mourning, like Daniel, for the desolations of the sanctuary.

3. The woman flees into the wilderness, to the retreats and places which God had prepared for her: Revelation 12:6. This period is repeated in Revelation 11:14. To the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time, (a year) and times, (two years) and a half time, (six months) or 1260 years, designated by 1260 prophetic days. The earth helped the woman. The two great wings, the eastern and western empires, sheltered her from Satan’s rage.

4. Power was given to the beast to make war with the saints forty and two months: Revelation 13:5-7. These four periods are coëval, and understood to commence and terminate at the same time.

Revelation 11:5 . If any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth. Herod, after killing James, was smitten by an angel. Eusebius describes the deaths and troubles of the emperors who had persecuted the church, and Lactantius has left us a small book on the death of persecutors. The hand of heaven pursued with blood the men who had shed the blood of the saints.

In later times, John Fox, pp. 2109-2112, translates cases from the French martyrology. Anno Domino 1558, when Henry 2. had filled the prisons of Paris with saints, and stained the streets with their blood, he would distinguish himself at a tournament with Montgomery; and having broken five spears, being still eager for more praise, on galloping the sixth round, the end of the broken spear went into the king’s eye, and so he perished adjacent to the prison where the saints were confined. His two sons presently perished, after the murder of the admiral of France.

Ponchet, archbishop of Tours, having established a court called La chambre ardente, the court for burning heretics, was seized with such a burning in his feet that one member after another was amputated till he died.

John Ruse, councillor in parliament, as he was returning from impeaching the saints, was seized with a burning heat in his bowels, which communicated to his secret parts, so that he died miserably.

The emperor Sigismund, after burning John Huss, and Jerome of Prague, was defeated in a succession of battles with the Turks, and all his family were cut off in that age.

Our bloody Mary was cut off in six years. A volume of the like visitations might be adduced, to swell the catalogue. Thus the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men.

Revelation 11:6 . These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not. Facts are here more forcible than words. The drought in Elijah’s time was noticed by the heathens. 1 Kings 18:0. Certainly the jewish affairs never prospered after killing the prophets; certainly the Romans had visitations for the blood of the saints; certainly in Mary’s time, the nation was running to ruin; whereas in the reign of Elizabeth, the great Armada of Spain was defeated by a tempest, and destroyed by a small fleet. Afterwards, naval strength, agriculture, commerce, population and literature flourished as vernal beauties after a severe winter.

Revelation 11:7 . When they have finished their testimony, the beast shall kill them. On a comprehensive view of the martyrology of the church, the more illustrious martyrs had mostly attained to grey hairs. The apostles, and Ignatius, were spared to tell the third and fourth generation, that they had seen Christ in the flesh. Huss and Jerome were aged men; so were our five bishops who suffered for the truth’s sake. The Lord spared them to do their work, before they received the reward.

Revelation 11:8 . Their dead bodies shall lie in the street of Sodom and Egypt, names dictated by prudence. It would not have been wise to say Rome, Paris, and Lyons; lest the rage of the rulers should have been kindled against the bible and the saints. St. Paul uses similar caution in distinguishing the Roman power by the epithet, “He that now letteth.” 2 Thessalonians 2:7. Sodom is figuratively put for Rome, because of her abominations. Ezekiel 16:0. Egypt, because of her pride; and Jerusalem, because of her wickedness. In the massacre of Paris, thirty thousand lay in the streets. A.D. 1572.

Revelation 11:9 . The people, the kindreds, and nations, and tongues shall see their dead bodies. Oh yes. The whole christian world shall see the martyrs; it was not possible to bury them. Like so many Abels, their lives, their writings, their victories, still speak to us. Their deaths so glorious give life to the world.

Revelation 11:10 . They that dwell on the earth shall rejoice over them, and sing Te Deums in all their churches. But transient and frantic are their joys; the witnesses shall revive, and the beast and his followers must soon go into the abyss, to weep and wail without one ray of hope. Job 26:4.

Revelation 11:13 . In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell. Peter Jurieu and the French protestants are agreed that France is this tenth part of the city. The commencement of the fall was a revolt of the nation from superstition to infidelity. On the revolution of 1789, there were slain of the ονοματα , names of men, seven thousand. The nobility, male and female, amounted to nearly half a million, and all who adhered to the crown lost their titles, and their lands; and the immense church property was in like manner sold by auction. An order passed, that the pope should make no decrees respecting France, unless it was first approved by the National assembly; and Napoleon Bonaparte deprived the pope of his power to appoint the French bishops. Thus in one hour, by a great political earthquake, the tenth part of the city fell from the antichristian beast. He could no longer speak great swelling words.

Revelation 11:15 . The seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven, and joyful voices, which sing the victories of the witnesses, who won over and gained the kingdoms of this world to be the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ. And his kingdom, as Daniel had said, shall not be left to other people, to be subdued by conquest and by war; he shall reign for ever and ever. Zion, after weeping, and bearing precious seed in the fields of labour, now returns with sheaves of joy.

Revelation 11:18 . The nations were angry, to see the true God worshipped and adored, and themselves about to be dragged to the judgment-seat. Oh what a defeat to the wicked, what a mortification to Jews, Turks, and the whole infidel race of Gog and Magog. Ezekiel 38:0. Their anger against God and his people was without a cause, but now his anger is justly excited by their infidelity, and by their having shed the blood of his saints.

Our hope is, that all these revivals of religion at home, connected with the most brilliant institutions of religious charities, and the collective labours of the missionaries abroad, will finally effectuate the conversion of the world to God.

Revelation 11:19 . And the temple of God was opened in heaven, giving demonstrations that the church above and the church below is one church. A flood of glory and righteousness is poured down from above, grace, grace, upon Zion. Then her pastors shall be divines; her eye shall see her teachers, they shall not be hid in a corner any more. “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” Coruscations of glory shall sparkle from the altar; the voices shall create echoes of thunder, and the earth shall be shaken with the power of our God, and of his Christ. The Lord will hasten it in his time.


Some understand by the inner court, the purer ages of christianity; and by the outer court, trodden down of the gentiles, the later and corrupt state of the church. But as Joseph Mede very justly remarks, the forty and two months for treading down the outer court, cannot be literally understood, as the fathers say, and as the papists still contend, because the ten kingdoms were to be founded at the same hour with the kingdom of the beast, which was to make war with the saints, and to overcome them. The harlot church, riding on this beast, is to make all nations drink of the wine of her fornication, or mix in her idolatrous worship, and the merchants or secular priests are to grow rich by trading with her. Moreover, were we to take these days literally, the time of the two witnesses would only be three days and a half. But this period is four times repeated in this book, that the witnesses are to prophesy 1260 days. The power of the beast is also to continue for the same period, as likewise the banishment of the true church into the wilderness.

The two witnesses are understood by some to be, and with the greatest probability, the churches of the Waldenses and Albigenses, and others who suffered the severest persecution from the church of Rome. Reference seems to be had to the crusades against these faithful people in the south of France, reproachfully called Hugonots, in the year 1685. The pontificate rejoiced over the extermination of the reputed heretics, but they could not bury these martyrs. Their cause still lived, and their spirit shall be revived in a succession of faithful witnesses to the truth.

We hope that the time is near when tyranny shall no longer exist in the church, when the world shall be filled with bibles, when the churches shall be adorned with evangelical men, when the infidels shall be affrighted, and when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ. The church stands on tip-toe for the dawn of the latter day glory, and the twenty four elders are all waiting for the new song on the sounding of the seventh trumpet. The promise is sure: “I the Lord will hasten it in its time.”

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 11". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/revelation-11.html. 1835.
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