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Bible Commentaries

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT

Revelation 11

Introduction

Chapter 11 is divided into two parts. The first part has a great amount of information about the temple of God and two witnesses are killed but arise again. (1-14) The second section (15-19) is the end of the sixth and the sounding of the seventh trumpet.

Most commentators admit that this is perhaps the most difficult chapter to interpret. There are some similarities to Eze_40:1-49 ; Eze_41:1-26 ; Eze_42:1-20 where the temple is measured before its restoration.

Symbols in this chapter

 Temple

 Holy city

 Two witnesses

 Two olive trees

 Two candlesticks

 Two prophets

All of these symbols are different ways of depicting the church as the people of God who remain faithful in the face of severe persecution. Understanding that these symbols represent the people faithful to God, this chapter can be understood as a short history of the church from the beginning on Pentecost to the time it is taken to heaven to dwell with God for eternity. This is not a detailed history, of course. But, some major points are given in outline form.

Woodruff gives this view on pages 179-180:

v. 3 - God gives his people the power needed in order to spread the gospel during this Christian dispensation.

v. 5, 6 - God provided protection for his people in order that the gospel might be spread throughout the world.

v. 7-10 - Once the gospel was spread throughout the world, forces would arise upon this earth which would destroy the church for a certain period of time.

v. 11 - After this period of time, God again breathed life into his people and the church once again became strong.

v. 12 - At God’s appointed time, the church will be called to heaven to dwell with him eternally.

v. 13 - Those forces which have persecuted the church will be destroyed, and great fear will fall upon those people at Christ’s second coming.

Verse 1

1 Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there.

A. A reed (bamboo rod) is given to John. He is becoming more active and involved in the vision.

B. He is told to measure the temple. Some have argued for the early date (65 AD) because the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. It is argued that this must have taken place before the destruction of the temple.

C. I answer - 1) John was in exile and Patmos. It does not matter if the temple is still standing in Jerusalem or not. It is not possible for him to literally measure it anyway. 2) It is, I believe, not the temple of the Old Testament structure. The temple here represents the hearts of God’s people.

D. This is not a literal measurement. We, Christians, are the temple of God. God does not dwell in a temple made with hands. He dwells in the hearts of the faithful believers.

E. What does it mean to measure the temple? The measuring rod represents the gospel. It is the way to measure those who are Christians and those who are not.

F. The gospel does the measuring. In judgment we will be held up to the standard of the teachings of the New Testament. ( Joh_12:48 )

Verse 2

2 But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.

A. John is not to measure the outer court. Many pretenders could come here and not be true believers and worshippers of God. The TRUE church is included.

B. The pretenders are excluded. Some teach that the court represents the area of unfaithful church members. They were close to the church, once a part of it, but now abandoned their faithfulness to Christ.

C. The point is that the court will tread the holy city (church, God’s faithful people) under foot. The temple is the dwelling place of God.

D. The holy city is the location of the temple. Therefore, throughout Revelation, these symbols are used to represent the same concept, the church of Jesus Christ.

E. The idea of “treading under foot” shows contempt and lack of regard. If something is of no value it is thrown out and walked on. This is an open display of contempt and disdain.

F. Throughout history, the church has been trampled on. Men have sought to stop, silence, kill, destroy and weaken the gospel message. It happened in the first century and it is happening today.

Verse 3

3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”

A. Many different ideas can be found about the two witnesses. Some have suggested - Moses and Elijah. Others suggest the Old and New Testaments. Some believe they are Peter and Paul. Coffman says they are “definitely and undeniably God’s word, and God’s church.” (5, 240)

B. Here is my view - Remember the number two represents strength. I believe the two witnesses represent another symbol for the church. This is close to Coffman because the church is to preach the Word of God. The church, the faithful in God’s family, is to be the witness to a lost and dying world. This is the mission and purpose of the church. ( Eph_2:10 ; Mat_28:18 ; Mar_16:15 ) This is still true today.

C. We, in churches of Christ, often avoid the term “witness” because of the abuse of this term among many denominations. However, it is a proper term, when used as the New Testament uses it. We are to be “faithful and true witnesses” in carrying the gospel to the lost. (1:5; 3:14) Study 1Jn_5:10 in this context. As we live for Christ, we are to be witnesses for Him.

D. These witnesses are also called olive trees and candlesticks in the next verse. We learned in 1:20 that the candlesticks are the churches. While very different images, they all represent the same concept.

E. As to the length of time expressed here - 1,260 days. Most commentators take a view that there are several phrases used to describe the same period of time.

1. 1,260 days - A day represents a year, thus 1,260 years.

2. 42 months - A month Isa_30:1-33 days, thus 42 X 30 = 1,260.

3. 3 ½ times - A “time” = a year, Son_3:1-11 ½ times = 3 and a half years. A typical prophetic year Isaiah 360 days long. 360 X 3.5 = 1,260.

4. Time, times, and half a time - Time = one year; times = two years; half a time = half a year; thus, this phrase is equal to the one above.

F. I am not convinced that we can interpret this number with precision. We are not sure when the counting starts or ends. What event would mark the beginning of the trampling? What event would identify the resurrection of the witnesses?

G. Many have tried. None have been successful with any valid proof. Most commentators here begin playing with their prophetic calculator.

Verse 4

4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.

A. The two witnesses are here described as olive trees and candlesticks.

B. Olive trees were used by Paul in Rom_11:1-36 to describe how God cut off the Jew and grafted in the Gentiles. Here the olive tree represented the church.

C. Candlesticks were used in 1:20 to represent the churches in Asia.

D. I believe that, while the symbols are very different, they are used in other places in the New Testament or in the book of Revelation to represent Christians, the true church.

Verse 5

5 And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner.

A. God is saying, in effect, “You might despise Christians and you might seek to eliminate them from the earth. But, if you hurt one of my family, you will have to deal with Me.”

B. Do not think that delay in retribution means that God is not aware or does not care. He will meet out His wrath in His time.

C. While individual Christian might be killed, the church will not be destroyed. Jesus promised that the gates of Hades would not prevail against the church he would build. ( Mat_16:18 )

Verse 6

6 These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.

A. The church grew rapidly. Christians had great power on the earth.

B. For the first several centuries, the church had great power on the political, social and economic situations in the world.

C. Christians has the power to make it rain or make it stop raining. They could call upon God to come to their aid.

D. The figures used here represent the power exercised by God’s people through prayer. Not only can Christians pray for good things to happen (healing, comfort, and forgiveness) but we can also seek God’s intervention in our troubles.

E. God can inflict punishment on the wicked. This is a prelude to chapters 15 and 16 where God pours out His wrath on the earth.

Verse 7

7 When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.

A. Just when the church is reaching into the entire world and exercising great power and influence, it will seemingly lose a war with Satan. It will seem that Satan has defeated the church.

B. The church will be (almost) non-existent on the earth. It will be invisible. If there are any still faithful, they will be in hiding.

C. The church will not have any power or influence in the world. As far as the world is concerned, the church has been dealt a fatal blow.

D. As noted in the introduction to this chapter, we have here a brief history of the church. It grew to great power. It was sent into the wilderness, in hiding, and seemed to be dead.

E. The beast that kills the two witnesses is the same beast discussed in 17:8 as a beast rising out of the bottomless pit. This is a clear statement that the source of the death of the church is Satan and his angels. (A full discussion of these beasts will be found in chapter 13.)

Verse 8

8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

A. The church would lie in public view, in the street, dead. While some part of the church would remain visible, it would, in reality, be dead.

B. The true church was taken over by an apostate church. This did not happen suddenly. It was a slow gradual process that took over 400 years. Small changes here and there were made. Things were added to the worship. The church developed a hierarchal system. It corrupted, changed, added, and eliminated many parts of the New Testament church. By 600 AD the church that was visible was NOT the church of first century. There was no resemblance between them.

C. The great city, Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified, was now called Sodom (because it was a city filled with sin) and Egypt (because it rejected Jehovah as Lord). Even today, Jerusalem is not a spiritual city. There is today, fighting in the streets. The location of Solomon’s temple is the site of a mosque of the Islam religion.

D. During a period we call the Dark Ages, the church was non-existent. Through this period the church that was visible (in the street) was a dead hulk of corruption and filth (a dead body).

Verse 9

9 Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves.

A. All nations will be aware of the dead body. While all know it is dead, no one wants to sign the death certificate.

B. Study the church at Sardis in Rev_3:1 . This was a church that had a name (visible in appearance) of being alive, but this church was dead. Some churches and dead but no one wants to bury them.

C. Pronouncing a church dead is a difficult thing. It admits our failure.

D. In this case, the visible church, the corrupted and altered church, was still performing weddings and funerals. They baptized babies and said prayers for the dead. There was no life in this body. The Bible, the bread of life, was not read or even available to be read.

E. NOTE: In my mission work in Russia, I have seen the work of a church without power. During the era of communism, the Russian Orthodox Church was just a shell. It had no rights, except to baptize, marry and bury. This is what happened during the Dark Ages. The true church had no power or ability to preach the gospel to a lost world.

F. Here the term 3 ½ days describes the period of time the witnesses lie in the street. As noted above, I am not sure we can assign a specific event to know when to start counting or what event would mark the end of this period. I believe the phrases are related to the same period of time. See the notes about this in verse 3. It seems to me that this period of time represents the era when the church was powerless, dead, and in limbo. Roughly, this would be from the from about 550 or 600 to the early 1800’s when the Restoration Movement of Campbell and Stone began to revive the church to activity and power.

Verse 10

10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

A. The world of evil and wickedness had a party. They thought the church and the idea of Christianity was dead. They rejoiced at what they had accomplished.

B. But, the church was not dead. One cannot kill an idea.

C. The principles of the New Testament remained alive.

D. The power is in the seed. ( Luk_11:8 ) Wherever the seed is planted in open and honest hearts, Christians can be produced. The seed may appear to be dead. But it is dead seed that brings the living organism to life and vitality.

Verse 11

11 Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.

A. Once the Restoration Movement began, it was received with great excitement. It spread across the world rapidly. It started in the northeastern part of America.

B. Within 15 years, it was in all parts of Europe (especially Britain, France, Spain, Scotland), Russia, China, and Australia.

C. It was spreading faster in America than America was settling westward. By 1830 the restored church was all the way to Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and on the west coast of California.

Verse 12

12 And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.

A. The triumphant church is invited to come to heaven, the dwelling place of God. The party suddenly ended.

B. The enemies thought they had killed the church. Now, the church is having the victory party, an eternal celebration of victory.

C. No timetable is given here. From the resurrection (Restoration Movement) to the time the church is delivered up to the Father is an unknown period of time. On God’s timetable, the next event is the second coming and deliverance of the church to God. ( 1Co_15:24 )

Verse 13

13 In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.

A. At the same moment that the church is invited to the victory party, the tenth part of the city will fall.

B. At the second coming of Christ, when time will be no more (10:6), these things will take place. Here is what is described:

1. There will be a great earthquake.

2. The tenth part of the city will fall.

3. 7,000 men will be killed.

4. Those remaining will be frightened.

5. They will (out of their fear) give glory to God.

C. These symbols are difficult to understand. It is clear that God will be victorious. It is clear that those who opposed God will recognize Him as Lord.

D. What is the meaning of the “tenth” part of the city? If the number 10 represents total or complete, then the tenth part would mean that the city was no longer complete. I do not believe this is a destruction of buildings and structures, but the fall of the wickedness of the people.

E. Who were the 7,000 men that were killed? The meaning seems to be that many claimed to be spiritual in nature, but really opposed God and rejoiced when the witnesses were dead. Their hypocrisy will be exposed. They will not escape.

F. God will deal with the apparent killers of the church and the pretenders who hung around Jerusalem and the temple court, but were not true and faithful Christians.

Verse 14

14 The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.

A. Here ends the second woe. Two are gone. One more is coming.

B. And it is coming quickly.

Verse 15

15 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”

A. With the sounding of the seventh trumpet, we move into the time of judgment. Time has ended (10:6).

B. The world has reached the end of things, as we know them. God is taking over. All worldly kingdoms will end. There is now the one kingdom, the kingdom of God. Only the church (the kingdom of God) will remain forever and ever.

C. It is clear in Heb_1:3 that Christ is on the throne, reigning over the kingdom of God. When the end comes, the kingdom will be delivered to the Father.

Verse 16

16 And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God,

A. The 24 elders have seen and endured so much.

B. Now, it is time to rejoice. They worshipped God.

Verse 17

17 saying: “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come , Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.

A. God is praised because:

1. God is Almighty.

2. God is Always. (Was and is)

3. God is in control of all things.

4. God is reigning.

B. The phrase, “and is to come” is omitted from the text here.

C. The reason - Christ has already come. The second coming is over. God is and has always been.

Verse 18

18 The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”

A. All the wicked people of earth are angry. Upon them has come the wrath of God.

B. They are now facing an eternity of dread. They will be judged and given the reward that is due them. Those who were faithful to God will participate in the judgment of the wicked.

Verse 19

19 Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

A. The temple is opened in heaven. This is the dwelling place of God and His people.

B. The Ark of the Covenant is there.

C. There is lightning, booming voices, thunder, an earthquake and large hail.

D. All things come to a crashing, banging, booming conclusion. This is the grand crescendo of all creation.

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Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Revelation 11". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/revelation-11.html. 2021.