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The Two Witnesses
Revelation 10:1-11 and Revelation 11:1-19
By way of introduction to the study of the eleventh chapter of Revelation we wish to say a word about the tenth chapter.
1. The mighty angel which came down from Heaven. The angel described in Revelation 10:1 came down with a cloud, a rainbow was round about his head; his face was as the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire. The angel had in his hand a little book that was open. His right foot was set upon the sea, and his left upon the earth.
This is a graphic picture. The angel himself was either our Lord Jesus, or one of the mighty ones corning as his plenipotentiary. It will be interesting to watch this striking figure as he cries and the seven thunders utter their voices. Here are his words. "And the angel * * lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by Him that liveth for ever and ever, who created Heaven and the things that therein are; and the earth, and the things that therein are; and the sea, and the things that therein are; * * that there should be time no longer: but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God shall be finished, as He hath declared to His servants the prophets."
As we think of this majestic scene we must remember the statements of Psalm two, where the kings of the earth and its rulers take counsel together against the Lord. They are saying that they will break asunder the bands of the Lord. That they will cast His cords away from them. Thus do the nations make boasts that Christ will never take His throne. The Holy Spirit, however, by the psalmist, says that God will laugh at them, He will hold them in derision, He will mock them in His sore displeasure.
Then we read, "Yet have I set My king upon the holy hill of Zion." There is nothing under Heaven that can keep Jesus Christ away from His kingdom. The majestic angel of chapter ten swears by the living God that the time is come, and shall not be delayed, when Christ shall rule.
2. The little book which was in the angel's hand. As the angel, with uplifted hand, took his oath, a voice was heard out of Heaven, which said unto John, "Go and take the little, book which is open in the hand of the angel." So he went and took the book, and the angel said unto him, "Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey." John took the book and ate it up.
There is no doubt but what that book held the final judgments which were about to take place, and through which the kingdoms of the world were to become the kingdoms of the Lord and His Christ.
This was sweet, certainly, to the taste. What news could be better and more wholesome? However, as John digested the book's deeper meanings, he saw the tremendous travail and sorrow which must befall the earth, and particularly the Children of Israel, ere the Lord took His throne. This was bitter to his inward heart.
After John had eaten the book, the angel said unto him, "Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." These last words are most significant. Do you remember, when Christ told Peter by what method he should die, that Peter said to Christ, concerning John, "And what shall this man do?" The Lord responded, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"
The Lord knew that John was to stand on the earth during the tribulation period, and testify. This is included in the expression, "What is that to thee?" The Spirit gives us truth just as rapidly as He wants us to have it. Personally, we have no doubt that John will be again upon the earth, to testify even as God hath said.
I. THE MEASURING ROD (Revelation 11:1-2 )
1. The command, "Rise, and measure the temple of God." As a reed, like unto a rod, was placed in the hand of John, he was commanded to measure the inner temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. This presupposes that there will be a temple of God builded during these last days of trouble and tribulation.
The temple, however, was to be measured, apart from the outer court, because the outer court was to be given under the Gentiles; and the Holy City (including the outer court) they were to tread under foot for forty-two months. These things are deep, and yet who is there that does not want to know what our heavenly Father has purposed and planned in behalf of His people?
Even as we are writing, Jerusalem and all Palestine is under great throes of trouble. The Arabs and the Jews are watching one another with jealous eyes. Both groups are seeking to dominate the land which God gave unto His own people, Israel.
At this hour the Jews have a stronger grip upon the Holy Land, than they have had for twenty centuries. We need not be surprised if at any time the temple should again be builded unto the Lord, We saw the Mosque of Omar, as it stood there with its great dome, seeming to cry defiance against the living God. The Jews, though blinded in part, and set against the Lord Jesus Christ, still worship God, and if they could they would build Him a house.
2. The command to rise and measure, suggests that the Gentiles are still under control. Both the outer court and the temple were to be trodden down by the feet of Gentiles. Thus there shall be no surcease of Gentile domination, even though Israel is, even now, returning in such numbers to the chosen land.
The forty-two months, spoken of in verse two, covers a period of three years and a half. That period covers the latter half of the period of the Great Tribulation. During those days the enmity between Jew and Gentile, will be at white heat. The Gentiles, under the rule and reign of the antichrist, will put forth all the power they possess against the chosen people. We will see, however, that God will not leave them alone during these strenuous seasons.
Out of the turmoil and strife of those days a remnant will be preserved. The bush which Moses saw was never consumed, neither will Israel ever be consumed. The three Hebrew children came forth from the fiery furnace, so shall Israel come forth. Daniel, in the lions' den, could not be destroyed; neither will Israel in the den of the Gentiles, be destroyed.
II. THE LORD'S TWO WITNESSES (Revelation 11:3-7 )
1. The personnel of the two witnesses. For many years Bible students have tried to name these witnesses. That one of them is Elijah, we are all assured. The Old Testament closes with the prophecy of the coming of Elijah. John the Baptist came in the power and spirit of Elijah. Our Lord said that Elijah must come. The epistles of John speak of his coming.
Yes. Elijah must be one of the witnesses. But, who is the second one? Chapter ten and verse eleven speaks of John, the beloved disciple, giving the testimony upon the earth. We would not say, however, that he is one of these two. The two witnesses are described in chapter eleven, as working miracles, just like Elijah and Moses worked miracles. But we would not attempt to say, therefore, that Moses is the second witness. There will be two, this we know.
2. The time in which the witnesses prophesy. Verse three says, "They shall prophesy one thousand, two hundred, and threescore days; that is three years and a half. The time, in days, parallels the forty-two months, during which the outer court is trodden under foot. The days and the months, certainly, cover the same period, the last half of the Tribulation.
3. The raiment with which the witnesses are clothed. Verse three says, "They shall prophesy * * clothed in sack cloth." Sack cloth is worn as a mark of sorrow and grief. It will suggest extreme bitterness of soul, while the gay clothing worn by the Gentiles will suggest ignorant pride against God's judgments. It will be a somber sight to behold the two witnesses robed in black, while everybody is preaching peace and prosperity, the glories of the antichrist, and the sweep and the sway of his kingdom.
God's two men, robed in black, will be prophesying the terrors of the Lord. They will be telling of judgments about to fall. They will be warning the people to flee unto the Lord for help. They will stand forth, as a shield, between the hated and persecuted Jews and the ravages of the Gentiles.
4. God's description of the two witnesses. Verse four says emphatically, "These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks, standing before the God of the earth." Of course, one cannot but immediately think of Zechariah, chapter four. It is there that God definitely describes the two olive trees. Elijah is not seen there, at all, but Zerubbabel is there. If you will pause a moment and go back to verse two, of Zechariah, you have the discussion of the building of the temple. Then, immediately, in verse three, there appears the two witnesses.
In the book of Ezra and also of Haggai, Zerubbabel stood with Ezra in the rebuilding of the temple. That temple was built in most troublous times. It was built with tyrannic and titanic opposition against the builders. God, in speaking of Zerubbabel in those days, said, "Be strong, O Zerubbabel; * * and be strong, O Joshua, [Joshua was the high priest] * * for I am with you saith the Lord of hosts."
Then God began to tell Zerubbabel, "Yet once, it is a little while and I will shake the Heavens and the earth." And He goes on to speak of the building of the temple. The twelfth chapter of Hebrews, in its concluding verses links Haggai's statement, to the days of the Great Tribulation, We aver, therefore, that one of the two witnesses will be Zerubbabel. We do not mean, necessarily, that it will be the same Zerubbabel of the days of Ezra and Haggai, and Zechariah. It may be him, however, for he was faithful to God in his day; and, if we suffer for Him, we will reign with Him. If God found Zerubbabel faithful. under circumstances that are so similar to the darker days of the Tribulation, He may want to put him back on earth, the same as Elijah. However, we do assert that these two witnesses, at the least, are similar in position, in conflict, and in service, as the two witnesses in Zechariah, known as the two olive trees, that, stand before God.
III. THE PROTECTIVE JUDGMENTS OF THE TWO WITNESSES (Revelation 11:5-6 )
1. The fire that proceedeth out of their mouth. If any man desires to hurt the two witnesses, God has given them this protection, they may devour their enemies by the fire of their mouth, and in this manner shall their enemies be killed.
The picture before us is that of consummate hatred against true witnesses. During the tribulation period we must remember that the world will be following after the antichrist. Every one will be bearing his image and his marks. These two witnesses, of course, stand forth in the limelight against everything which the Man of Sin, does against the Lord. No wonder they are hated, no wonder their lives are sought. Yet, for three years and a half God protects them.
2. The power to work miracles. Verse six tells us that the two witnesses have power to shut Heaven that it rain not in the days of their prophecy; they also have power, that is authority from God, over waters to turn them to blood; and they smite the earth with plagues as often as they will. Certainly they are men to be feared, and they walk with God, and know His will.
Some may argue that it is cruel to bring famine, to turn water to blood, to bring frogs and all other terrible catastrophies, upon men, God has done these same things in the days past, through Moses and Aaron. God has, always, sent judgment on occasion, as it was necessary. God has chastened His own people, Israel, whom He loved. During many centuries they have been wanderers upon the earth. God, also, chastens backsliding and disobedient Christians of today. It will be nothing new, therefore, in the days of the Great Tribulation, for God to once more send judgments against those who spurn His love, and deny His power.
We must remember, withal, that God in wrath always remembers mercy. During these very judgments, many will be led to turn away from the antichrist and to pay the price of their new-found faith, by their martyrdom.
IV. THE MARTYRDOM OF THE TWO WITNESSES (Revelation 11:7-10 )
1. The two witnesses are invulnerable until their testimony is finished. We read in verse seven, "When they shall have finished their testimony." We believe that God's servants are always invulnerable against every onslaught of the enemy until their work is done. Think you that Satan can undo the purposes and the plans of God in the preachments of His faithful witnesses? That is impossible.
2. Satan's great war. Verse seven says that the beast, which ascendeth out of the abyss, shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
Do not think for one moment that God could not have withstood the beast. You remember how Syria sent soldiers against the prophet, to take him, but they went to no avail. God, more than once, sent forth His angels to slay the armies of them. Why then, was Satan now victorious? It was because the testimony of the witnesses was finished.
Why did God not translate them, if their work was done? We suggest two reasons:
(1) God desired to give them the martyr's crown.
(2) God desired to set forth the villainy of earth's people. God knew what was in men, but He wanted us to know. Verse eight tells us that that great city, where the two witnesses were slain, was spiritually called Sodom and Egypt. Think, if you can, of Jerusalem where the Lord was crucified, being thus described.
You will understand it all, when you read in verse nine about the dead bodies lying in the streets of Jerusalem and the people, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations of the earth viewing them there for three days and a hall They would not suffer their dead bodies to be put into graves. They that dwell upon the earth wanted to rejoice over them.
Verse ten tells us that they made merry, and sent gifts one to another, because the two prophets who tormented them were dead. Thus was revealed the heart of sin, and its utter rejection of God and His messengers.
V. THE RAPTURE AND RESURRECTION OF THE TWO WITNESSES (Revelation 11:11-13 )
1. "After three days and a half the Spirit of life from God entered into them." They died, their bodies lay in the streets, but they came back to life. Immediately, we see that, in their death, God first of all portrayed the villainy of the people. But in their resurrection to life, God both vindicated His servants, and manifested His glory. God, moreover, showed that no work against Him can prosper. He stressed the utter futility of fighting against the Almighty.
To us, it seems that God also vindicated the resurrection of His Son. A mob also crucified the Lord, but God raised Him up; thus in the death of the two witnesses and in their new life. God seemed to be placing His yea and amen upon the Lord Jesus, whom their forefathers had crucified and slain.
2. "And great fear fell upon them which saw them." Think of it! During the three days and an half, exposed to the heat of the sun and the elements, the dead bodies were already decaying. Putrefaction was already setting in. Then, suddenly, and without warning, they stood upon their feet. Do you marvel that a great fear fell upon men?
3. "Come up hither." As the two witnesses stood before their foes, 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." We wondered, a moment ago, why God did not take them up without dying. I think we will agree now that they went up with added glory, after having died.
4. "And the same hour was there a great earthquake." The people stood gloating over the death of the two, the newspapers were full of it, the supremacy of the antichrist and his victory over the prophet, was heralded around the world. A gala day was on earth, as the people made merry, and sent gifts unto one another.
Then, suddenly, the two witnesses stood alive upon their feet. The people began to tremble, as, with amazed and marveling countenances they gazed upon them. Suddenly the two disappeared in the clouds, before their very eyes.
That same hour a great earthquake came, and a tenth part of the city fell. In that earthquake seven thousand men were slain, and the remnant became affrighted, and gave glory to the God of Heaven. Where now, was the victory of the antichrist? God was conqueror.
VI. THE SOUNDING OF THE SEVENTH TRUMPET (Revelation 11:15-18 )
In Revelation 10:7 , we read, "In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as He hath declared to His servants the prophets." Now, therefore, we stand as it were on tiptoe, for the angel is about to sound, the seventh trumpet is about to be blown. We understand, therefore, the impact of the words which accompany the sounding of this trumpet in verse fifteen, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord; * * and He shall reign for ever and ever."
You understand that this follows hot upon the rapture of the two witnesses into heaven. If there are any who vainly imagine that the kingdoms of the world will never become the kingdoms of our Lord, let them ponder this Verse. If any one doubts that His kingdom shall be forever and ever, let them also study this verse.
It is vital, withal, to remember that the kingdoms of this world do not become the kingdoms of our Lord, through the church, and the gradual growth of the Gospel. It occurs only after the twelve hundred and sixty days of the prophecies of the two witnesses are past.
When the voice in Heaven had spoken, we read that the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their thrones, fell upon their faces and worshipped God. And this was the word of their praise: "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." All of this came to pass as stated in verse eighteen, when the nations were angered. They certainly have not been converted.
The reign of Christ is established by the coming of the Son of Man, when His arrows are hot in the heart of the King's enemies. The reign of Christ follows hard upon the day of His wrath. It is preceded immediately by the judging of, and rewards which shall be given unto His servants, and to the prophets, and to them that fear His name.
Let us not get things mixed up, lest we think that the church is steadily marching on to conquest. To the contrary, the church, which is His body, is marching on toward its rapture, And the earth and its people, are marching on to their undoing, and utter destruction.
VII. THE TEMPLE OF GOD OPEN IN HEAVEN (Revelation 11:19 )
As John saw the seventh angel about to sound, and the four and twenty elders giving praises to God, he also saw the inner temple of God, opened in Heaven. As he looked in the temple, he saw the Ark of the Covenant or Testament, as it is called here.
"What did this inner view of glory mean? It certainly means that God has not forgotten His covenant which He made unto Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. Having had none greater by which to sware, He had sworn by Himself, and His. covenant is sure. Beloved, as the end of the tribulation shall hasten toward its close, God will let us see the fulfillment of every word He ever promised.
His covenant to Israel, His covenant to the church, will all be proved as yea, and amen. Every prophecy of the prophets will be fulfilled just as God willed. God will be vindicated in every promise He ever made. It will be shown that God's Word was indeed forever settled in Heaven and fulfilled upon the earth. In that day, mid the throes of travail among the people, and mid the cataclysms and catastrophes upon the physical earth, it will be proved openly before the eyes of God's people that though Heaven and earth shall pass His Word shall never pass away.
Following John's vision of the open Heaven, and the ark of the covenant, there came lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. All of this was in anticipation of those final judgments, which, under the sounding of the seventh angel, should bring in the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Revelation 11". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12