Of the Two Witnesses and the Sounding of the Seventh Trumpet.
Measuring the temple of God:
v. 1. And there was given me a reed like unto a rod; and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
v. 2. But the court which is without the temple leave out and measure it not, for it is given unto the Gentiles; and the Holy City shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
v. 3. And I will give power unto My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
v. 4. These are the two olive-trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
This is an interlude which is full of comfort for all Christians, and prepares them for the coming of the last woe. Only the first thought is one that still belongs to the preceding vision in its contents: And there was given to me a reed like a rod, with the words, Up, and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those that worship there; and the outer court of the temple exclude and do not measure it, because it has been given over to the Gentiles, and they will trample upon the Holy City forty-two months. The Temple of Jerusalem, of which the temple here described is a picture, or type, had a number of sections, the Court of the Gentiles, the Court of the Women, the Court of Israel, and the Court of the Priests. The outer court, in this case, is described as being given over to the heathen, to the enemies of the Lord. The inner Temple, the Temple proper, then, is the true Church, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; while the outer Temple seems to represent the so-called visible Church, which has often been torn apart and trampled upon by heretics and antichrists. Forty-two months, three and one-half years, or 1,260 days: that is the symbolical length of the period in which the last woe would exert its power upon men. It is a long time, and yet it is limited by the power of the Lord. None of the powers of evil are permitted to go beyond the time permitted them by the Lord; His Christians may not be tempted beyond that they are able.
To this fact there is added another assurance: And I shall grant to My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed with sackcloth; these are the two olive-trees and the two lamp stands that are standing before the Lord of the earth. In the midst of the general apostasy the Lord still has His witnesses, faithful preachers and teachers, who during the reign of Anti-Christ would lift up their voices and testify of the Savior and of the true Gospel. Their garments, indeed, would be made of black hair-cloth, the appropriate dress of humiliation, for there would be reason enough for repentance, also in the midst of the Church. The reference seems to be to men who, like Moses and Elijah, would lift up their voice in warning to stem the tide of anti-Christian doctrine and practice which threatened to engulf the Church. Two olive-trees or two lamp-stands these two faithful witnesses were, providing the oil for the light of God's grace and Spirit in the Church. Through their witness and through their suffering the servants of the Lord become lights in the world and of the world.
The fate of the two witnesses:
v. 5. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth and devoureth their enemies; and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
v. 6. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy, and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues as often as they will.
v. 7. And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
v. 8. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
v. 9. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
v. 10. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another, because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
The first part of this description again reminds us of Moses and Elijah, Exo_7:1-25; Exo_8:1-32; Exo_9:1-35; Exo_10:1-29; 1Ki_17:1; 2Ki_1:1-18; And if anyone wants to injure them, fire issues out of their mouth and consumes their enemies; and if any should want to injure them, in this manner must he be killed. These have power to shut up the sky, that no rain map fall during the days of their prophecy, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with all manner of plagues as often as they choose. To prevent rain from falling was a punishment for iniquity as was the turning of water into blood. The entire description points to a divine power in the witness of the two prophets. All those that despise the true preachers of the Gospel and reject their message are doomed to eternal death, which is in a manner foreshadowed by the temporal plagues that occur on the earth from time to time, such as war, pestilence, and famine.
The temporary triumph of Anti-Christ's power: And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the abyss will wage war with them, and will conquer them, and will kill them. When they have finished their testimony, when they have done their work as commanded them by the Lord, and not before, will Anti-Christ succeed in carrying out the purpose of his hatred. For the beast out of the abyss is no one but the man of sin, the abomination of desolation, the false Messiah, the Roman Anti-Christ, personified in the Pope of the Roman Church. God's witnesses having performed their work, the enemy is given permission to slay them. With the power of hell Anti-Christ makes war upon the faithful servants of God, overcomes them, and finally puts them to death. That was the experience of all the teachers who, in the darkness of the Middle Ages, when the temporal and ecclesiastical power of popery was at its height, dared to bear witness to the truth.
All this caused great rejoicing in the kingdom of darkness: And their corpses will lie on the streets of the great city, which is allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified; and men of the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will see their corpses three days and one half, and will not permit their corpses to be placed into sepulchers; and they that dwell upon the earth will rejoice over them and be very glad, and will send one another presents, because these two prophets tormented those that lived upon the earth. Sodom, to the Jews, was the essence of abominations, and Egypt was the country where their fathers had been kept in shameful slavery; both names therefore stood for the lowest and meanest on earth. The great city to which these names are applied is none other than the Church of Anti-Christ, a Sodom, on account of the sins that are committed under the mantle of holiness, and an Egypt on account of the suppression of the pure Gospel that is practiced in its midst. No political criminals were ever treated with such cruelty as the confessors of the Gospel that suffered martyrdom in the Church of Anti-Christ. Even after the true witnesses had been slain, they were often not permitted to rest in their graves, their very bones being made the object of fanatical attacks, as in the case of Wycliffe. And whenever a faithful servant of Christ had been put to death, it was a cause for great rejoicing in the ranks of Christ's enemies, who congratulated one another and even went to the extent of having medals struck to commemorate the event, as in the case of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew.
The passing of the second woe:
v. 11. And after three days and an half the Spirit of Life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
v. 12. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
v. 13. And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand; and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
v. 14. The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.
The enemies of the Lord, as in many cases since, rejoiced too soon: And after the three and one-half days the Spirit of Life from God came into them, and they stood upon their feet, and a great fear fell upon those that saw them. That has always been the experience of the Church under the guidance of God: the blood of the martyrs was its seed; Huss was burned at Constance, but Luther took his place in Germany. And by the grace of God such events always have a good effect, at least to some extent; they impress at least some of the souls that have been held in captivity by Anti-Christ, and cause them to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Other miracles attended this remarkable event: And they heard a great voice out of heaven saying to them, Ascend hither; and they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them; and in that hour there happened a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and there were killed in the earthquake seven thousand souls, and the rest became terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. Many of those very witnesses for Christ whom the minions of Anti-Christ slew are now properly reckoned with the saints whom the Lord has taken up to heaven. The enemies themselves, in many cases, were obliged to acknowledge their excellence. The Reformation finally shook the Church like a great earthquake, and many that held to the old, anti-Christian order of things were swept down to eternal destruction in the ruin which threatened the very foundations of Anti-Christ's kingdom. And as for the rest, great numbers were gained for the truth, while others were at least terrified to the extent that they insisted upon, and finally effected, at least a partial external removal of the many abuses that had openly been tolerated in the Church. Having this vision, the seer calls out: The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is coming quickly. Everything that had been described till now was only of a preparatory nature before the last great and terrible woe.
The sounding of the seventh trumpet:
v. 15. And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever.
v. 16. And the four and twenty elders which sat before God on their seats fell upon their faces and worshiped God,
v. 17. saying, we give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come, because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned.
v. 18. And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants, the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
v. 19. And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in His temple the Ark of His testament; and there were lightnings and voices and thunderings and an earthquake and great hail.
Now comes the beginning of the destruction which would take away all power from the destroyer. The announcement is made in a solemn manner: And the seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there occurred loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom of the earth has become that of our Lord and His Christ, and He will be King forever and ever. It is an exultant song of praise in honor of God and Christ, sung by all the angels and saints in heaven. When the end comes, Christ will not only reign in the midst of His enemies, but, being exalted above all heavens, He will deliver all kingdoms and rules and authorities and powers to God, even the Father, and He, being one with the Father, will rule with Him forever and ever, throughout all eternity.
This hymn is taken up and enlarged upon by the circle about the throne: And the twenty-four elders that were before God, that sat upon their seats, fell upon their faces and worshiped God, saying, We praise Thee, Lord God the Almighty, who is and who was, because Thou hast received Thy great power and hast reigned, and the heathen were enraged, and Thine anger was come and the time for the dead to be judged, and to give a reward to Thy servants, the prophets, and to the saints and to those that fear Thy name, the small and the great, and to destroy the destroyers of the earth. Here the Church, represented by the twenty-four elders, praises and worships Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, the exalted Son of Man. They praise the revelation of the wonderful power of Jehovah, which formerly was considered weakness and foolishness by the world. The form of the servant, in which Christ chose to appear while performing His work in the world is now no longer in evidence. He not only possesses almighty power, but uses this power in ruling heaven and earth. The heathen, including all the antichristian powers, were filled with rage, but it avails them nothing. For now, after so long a time of patience and mercy, the Lord's wrath is poured out upon the earth. All the dead had to appear before the Lord for judgment, and the righteous anger of the Lord struck the destroyers of the earth, in whatever guise they were found, while those that had been faithful to the end, the prophets, the saints, those that feared His name, received a wonderful reward of mercy, everlasting life with all its bliss. Thus this vision of the end of time serves for the comfort of all Christians, especially in view of the fact that the last woe is yet to be described.
And another source of comfort for all believers is this: And the temple of God in heaven was opened, and there was seen the Ark of His covenant in the temple, and there occurred lightnings and voices and thunders and an earthquake and great hail. That is the revelation of the Kingdom of Glory as it will appear to us on the last day. The Ark of the Jewish people was taken to Babylon and never returned to its accustomed place in the second and third Temple, but the covenant of the New Testament is an eternal covenant, namely, the promise that we are His people, His children by faith in Christ Jesus, and shall live and reign with Him forever and ever, in the temple of heaven. God is faithful; He can and will keep that which we have committed to Him against that day. Meanwhile His enlightening and powerfully sounding voice goes forth in the earth in spite of Mohammed and Anti-Christ, to deliver those that are His from all floods of tribulation, but to visit His enemies with His judgments, as earthquakes and hail-storms devastate the land.
The seer records a vision full of comfort to the believers, showing that the Word of God was proclaimed by at least a few faithful witnesses in the midst of antichristian heresy, and that their witness, even after their death, did not remain without fruit; he records a scene from the end of time to show that the Lord will finally deliver those that are His from every evil work and translate them into His heavenly kingdom.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Revelation 11". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany