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The Two Witnesses
Rev 11:1. Although it is not said in so many words it seems that this chapter tells about the contents of the little book from the previous chapter. The place of activity is Jerusalem with the temple of God. The temple is called “the temple of God”, because God takes into consideration the true worshipers who draw near to Him there. But in reality it is the temple of the antichrist, which was built in unbelief and where the antichrist will place an image of the beast from the sea during the three and a halve years of the great tribulation (Rev 13:14-15; 2Thes 2:4).
It is most likely that this image will be placed in the court of the temple and not in the building itself. The court is also allowed for the people to enter. Because of the image of an idol that is placed there, the court is not measured.
This temple is next to the last temple of all temples that have been built in the course of time on earth. We read in Scripture about five earthly temples:
1. the temple of Solomon (1Kgs 7; was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.);
2. the temple of Zerubbabel (Ezra 3; 6; was robbed later and consecrated to Jupiter by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 and 170 B.C.;
3. the temple that was built by Herod (Jn 2:20; its construction was started in 17 B.C. and it was destroyed by the Romans in 70); this temple is by the way not a completely new temple, but an enlargement of the temple of Zerubbabel;
4. the temple built for the antichrist (2Thes 2:4) and
5. finally the temple of Christ (Eze 40-48).
For the sake of completeness I would like to point out that in the New Testament there is still mention of three spiritual temples: the body of the Lord Jesus (Jn 2:21), the body of the believer (1Cor 6:19), and the church (1Cor 3:16). Finally, we read in Revelation 11 about a temple of God in heaven (Rev 11:19) and in Revelation 21 that God Himself and the Lamb is called the temple of the new Jerusalem (Rev 21:22).
Just like it was with the eating of the little book John has to participate actively in the events. He is ordered to rise and measure some matters. Therefore “a measuring rod like a staff” was given to him. This ‘measuring rod’ is to define the border of what belongs to God; it defines His ownership (cf. Psa 16:6; Zec 2:1-5; Rev 21:15-17). The temple is His, the altar is His and those who worship Him in the temple are His. The measuring rod like a staff represents the support, which faith finds in the thought that God also in times of darkness makes clear what is His and who belong to Him.
Rev 11:2. John is not allowed to measure the court. He even has to reject it. That is, because the court does not belong to God. He has no relation with it, for the nations have got access to it, because the antichrist has made a covenant with them (Dan 9:26-27). With “the holy city” Jerusalem is meant.
During a period of forty-two months (that is three and a half years, the duration of the great tribulation) Jerusalem will be in the hands of these unholy allies. They will trample underfoot and profane the city in such a way that in the (court of the) temple which is built for the antichrist, a gruesome image of the Roman emperor will be placed.
Rev 11:3. Despite the domination of the gentiles and the pressure of the antichrist, God will kindle a powerful testimony in Jerusalem. Many people would have fled from Judea (the region around Jerusalem) to the mountains (Mt 24:16), but in the city itself there will be a remnant of worshipers (Zep 3:12). In the midst of it God will revive two witnesses whom He calls “My two witnesses”. Two represent a sufficient testimony (Deu 19:15; 2Cor 13:1). Many will repent because of their witness (Dan 12:10).
They will pass through the city “clothed in sackcloth”. The sackcloth is a sign of mourning because of the miserable situation the people find themselves in (cf. Joel 1:13; Jer 4:8). It also supports the gravity of the message which is an appeal for repentance. They will warn and point out to the people who want to enter the temple to worship the image of the beast that Christ is coming soon. You also see with John the baptist that his clothing was fitting to the gravity of his preaching (Mt 3:4) and how he finally had to pay with his life for this preaching (Mt 14:5; 10).
The duration of their preaching is indicated in days, probably to make clear and to emphasize that their preaching is heard every day. This indication is also to make clear how valuable each day is to God that a testimony of Him is given on earth. Another thought attached to that is that these twelve hundred and sixty days are again the same period of the great tribulation. Twelve hundred and sixty days is three and a half years. Because the testimony is given under the greatest possible tribulation, the count is indicated in days. God counts the days of His tested and persecuted witnesses. Because He has given power to His two witnesses the enemies cannot do anything until God allows them to.
Rev 11:4. The witnesses are compared with “the two olive trees and the two lampstands” (see Zec 4). As ‘two olive trees’ they show the full power of the Holy Spirit (oil) and as ‘the two lampstands’ they spread Divine light as a testimony in the darkness that will then be reigning. They stand “before the Lord of the earth” (Psa 24:1), which means that their testimony is related to the Lord Who sets His foot on the earth and on the sea and Who will soon claim His right to it.
Rev 11:5. As long as they are to testify, they are unassailable and nobody can harm them. Every attack will be paid with the lives of the attackers. The witnesses actually have the fire of God at their disposal. That fire comes out of their mouth and it consumes every enemy that wants to harm them in order to eliminate them and silence them so that they cannot testify anymore.
This course of action makes clear that this concerns a totally different time than the time in which we now live. Instead of consuming our enemies who want to harm us when we testify of our Lord, we are to bless them. The Lord rebukes John and James when they suggest to Him to command fire to come down from heaven to consume the village of the Samaritans because He is not welcome there (Lk 9:53-56).
Rev 11:6. The witnesses have even more power. As often as they desire they can shut heaven, they can turn water to blood and they can strike the earth with all kinds of plagues. If you know some of the history of the Old Testament, particularly the histories in which Moses and Elijah play a role, you will recognize them in these plagues. These expressions of power you find in particular with these two greatest prophets of the Old Testament. “The power to shut the sky” you find with Elijah (1Kgs 17:1) and the “power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague” you find with Moses (Exodus 7:14-10:29). Elijah testified towards God’s people who had become apostate. Moses testified against the enemy of God’s people, namely Egypt.
Elijah and Moses are more often mentioned together. In that sense you find them both with the Lord on the mountain of transfiguration, where they as it were get a foretaste of the millennial kingdom of peace (Mt 17:3). Also Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, speaks about Moses and Elijah as persons who in the last days will perform once more (Mal 4:4-6; cf. Mt 11:14; Mt 17:11-12; Lk 1:17). It is not much in the sense of their performance in person, but it relates to a performance in which the characteristics of their services are to be seen.
Rev 11:7. When the time of their testimony which was ordained by God, has come to an end, they will be killed. This also happened to the Lord Jesus, Who was delivered only when His time had come, not a single hour earlier. They will be killed by the beast. In chapter 13 you will be more informed about the beast.
It may look strange that the beast will make war with two men, but there are more examples that an army was sent out to take one single man captive. You see that for instance with Elijah who several times was attacked by a small army (2Kgs 1:8-14), with Elisha in Dothan (2Kgs 6:11-14) and even more with the Lord Jesus in Gethsemane (Mt 26:47). The witnesses have shown their power and that makes clear to the beast that he is facing very dangerous persons.
Rev 11:8. When the two witnesses are killed, their dead bodies will lie ”in the street of the great city”. From the addition “where also their Lord was crucified” it becomes clear that it is about Jerusalem. But that name is not mentioned. The names that are mentioned indicate the spiritual decay of the city, where the city spiritually has landed. It has become like Sodom and Egypt. Jerusalem is ‘Sodom’ because of its corruptness and ‘Egypt’ because of its oppressing God’s people. This wickedness altogether has shown its pinnacle in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.
The two witnesses are killed, after they have borne their witness, in the very same place where their Lord had borne His witness and was killed. They suffer His fate and partake in it.
Now read Revelation 11:1-8 again.
Reflection: What does God make His two witnesses perform for?
The Seventh Trumpet
Rev 11:9. Now the two witnesses are killed. The ‘successful’ performance of the beast is shown to the whole world. The dead bodies are shown to the world through the internet, television and satellite connection by the assembled large crowds of journalists. Today you can imagine well how this news will be spread worldwide, while also images are shown of the defeated ‘enemies’. As a matter of fact, the mass media play a major role in the formation of human thinking. Just like somebody said: Today you see a generation growing up that is not raised by parents, but by the media.
The dead bodies of these ‘enemies’ are not worthy of a funeral. He who would want them to be buried will get no permission to (Psa 79:1-3). The dead bodies remain to lie down as a trophy of victory, a remembrance of the victory that the beast has achieved and a proof of his power. This altogether serves for the glory of the dictator who has ‘redeemed’ the world from these people. This is also a warning that this is the fate of everyone who resists the beast.
Rev 11:10. When this very annoying testimony has come to an end the world population will have a celebration as in a euphoria of victory. In order to celebrate the victory they will send gifts to one another (cf. Est 9:19; 22). They will congratulate one another on the death of these miserable prophets who have tortured them so badly. They have not opened themselves for the message of God that was proclaimed by them. The torture that was done to them did not make them to seek God, which was God’s purpose with His two witnesses.
Not only will the unbelieving mass in Israel find joy in their death. Like the Jews and the Gentiles together rejected the Lord Jesus, here also the whole world partakes in the demonic joy of the apostate Jews over the death of the Lord’s witnesses.
Rev 11:11. Their joy will however be of short duration. After three and a half days they will see something that will fill them with great fear. The witnesses will stand on their feet! That is caused by the “the breath of life from God” that “came into them”. But the spectators have no idea of it. Just like the world was a witness of their death, they also are of their resurrection. In this way they have to acknowledge that God is stronger than His enemies.
Rev 11:12. When the two witnesses are standing on their feet they receive the command from heaven to come up. The testimony of their life, death and resurrection is over. They are now called to come up to heaven. Such an enormous strength comes out from that voice that they ascend to heaven in a cloud. It seems that this cloud is the symbol of God’s presence. God draws them into His presence. They have glorified Him and now He glorifies them.
All their enemies “saw” them. The ascension of the Lord Jesus was not seen by unbelievers nor will the rapture of the church be seen by unbelievers. The resurrection and the ascension of the two witnesses differ from that. They are not only seen, but they are ‘viewed’. The spectators are watching these events, which they dismissed as impossible, with complete amazement. They cannot believe what they are seeing. But despite the fact that they cannot deny it and that these miracles are taking place right before their eyes, it has no effect on their conscience towards God.
Rev 11:13. Therefore nothing is left for them than the judgment. After the two witnesses are taken to heaven “a great earthquake” follows. Jerusalem is shaken by a mighty hand which causes that “a tenth of a city” is destroyed that cost the lives “of seven thousand people”. In the Dutch Bible translation it is written “seven thousand names of people”. That means that God knows the names of all those people who were killed. He knows the names of those who have bowed their knees to the beast, just like He knows the names of the seven thousand who in the time of Elijah did not bow their knees to Baal (1Kgs 19:18). God does not count in numbers; He does not care about statistics, but He cares about people.
“The rest”, those who were not struck by the judgment, become afraid. They also gave “glory to the God of heaven”. That does not mean that they repent, but that they acknowledge God’s hand in this event. When the Lord Jesus in mercy was on earth and acted in mercy, God was also honored for that by the people. But then also there was no mention of a real repentance. You may intellectually be convinced that God is in action without being moved in your heart and conscience.
Rev 11:14. With the passing of “the second woe” the parenthesis that runs from chapter 10:1-11:13, has now ended. We are now ready for the seventh and last trumpet of judgment that is also called “the third woe”. The last three trumpets are called ‘woe’, because they are worse than the first four ones. The first ‘woe’ comes from the bottomless pit (Rev 9:1-12), the second ‘woe’ comes from the Euphrates river (Rev 9:13-21) and the third ‘woe’ comes from heaven, from the Lord Jesus Himself.
Rev 11:15. The sounding of the seventh trumpet actually makes it clear that the kingdom is very near indeed, but the time has not come yet that it is established. Still the reality of the kingdom is that close that heaven tells us that it has come. That is what the voices cry out from heaven. But more judgments are still to come. Those are described in the chapters 15-16. However these judgments are of short duration. They together form the seventh trumpet.
The kingdom that is considered as having come, is an undivided kingdom which extends over the whole world. That is only possible because the Lord and His Christ will take over all control. He will reign justly and mercifully. Once He reigns it will never come to an end, as long as sun, moon and earth endure (Psa 72:5; 7; 17). He Who “will reign forever and ever” is the Lord God and He reigns in the Person of His Christ, the Son of Man, Who is God Himself. Our Lord and His Christ are one and the very same Person and still two Persons. This is and remains the miracle of eternity.
Rev 11:16. When this awesome news has sounded, the twenty-four elders respond. Through the Spirit they understand what is happening and what will happen. They are aware of the grandeur of the events and they even more realize the grandeur of Him Who makes all these things come to pass. Therefore they cannot remain seated on their thrones, but fell on their faces and worship God (Rev 4:10; Rev 5:9).
Rev 11:17. While they are worshiping they give thanks to God. They address Him with several names. They call Him first “Lord”, which is Jahweh, the God of the covenant. He does what He Himself has promised to do. They also call Him “God Almighty”. That is God in His creating power, Who as the Almighty maintains and leads to His goal everything that He has created.
They say furthermore of Him that He is the One “who are and who were”. ‘He Who is to come’ is not added. ‘Who are’ indicates His eternal existence and Who were’ indicates His relation to the past. ‘Who is to come’ is not necessary to mention anymore, because He is considered here to have come already and that He has accepted His kingdom.
He did that because He has taken His “great power”. He has always had that great power, but now He is intervening with power in the events of the world. And what He has taken He will absolutely never allow anyone to take it out of His hands. His great power is the guarantee for that.
Rev 11:18. The elders also talk about the wrath of God. They do that in relation to the anger of the nations, which is the whole human race. The nations have always been rebelling against God over the past ages and have been opposed to Him. But it is over now with their anger, because God makes an end to it in His wrath. The play of words shows how meaningless the wrath of man is opposed to the wrath of the almighty God. You also see these two sides in Psalms 2 (Psa 2:1-6), where the distinction between the uproar where the nations are in and how God responds to it, is shown even stronger.
With the coming of the kingdom the time has come that God will judge the dead, although that judgment will only be executed after the millennial kingdom of peace (Rev 20:12). But the time has come to hand out the reward. That reward is for those who as real “servants” in obedience to God and as true “prophets” have spoken His words to those to whom they were sent. That has delivered them rejection and mockery, but now they receive their reward. This reward is given in the millennial kingdom of peace (Rev 22:12). Although it has not come that far yet, it nevertheless can be told like that, because the kingdom lies in the hands of the Lord Jesus.
Also “the saints”, those who have lived separately for His sake in a corrupted world, will now receive their reward. They have lived like that out of respect for His Name and each person according to the extent of his responsibility, which is expressed in “small and great”.
Finally God’s time has also come “to destroy those who destroy the earth”. The three beasts from the chapters 12-13 (the dragon, the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth) and all their followers are meant by that. This is another category than the dead that were mentioned earlier in this verse.
In this way everything is removed that has always stood in the way and those are rewarded who lived by their faith in the Prince of peace and in His coming.
Rev 11:19. With Rev 11:19 a new parenthesis begins, which runs to chapter 15:4. From chapter 15:5 the seven bowl judgments are described. In the parenthesis the Holy Spirit shows the origin of the leading actors of chapters 8-11. There you see: the dragon (that is satan) and the first beast and the second beast. Other leading actors are: the woman (Israel), the Son (Christ), Michael and the great harlot Babylon. In total seven leading persons pass by.
The starting point of the parenthesis is “the temple of God in heaven” and “the ark of His covenant”. The temple is God’s dwelling place in the midst of His people. The ark of the covenant reminds us of God’s faithfulness with regard to His people. It is a sharp contrast to what is taking place in the temple on earth. That temple is profaned in a terrible way by the antichrist. God is deeply displeased by what is happening on earth. The “flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm” express that in a very impressive way.
Now read Revelation 11:9-19 again.
Reflection: Which similarities do you see between the two witnesses and the Lord Jesus? What could you learn from the two witnesses, regarding your own testimony?
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Revelation 11". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19