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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 11

Norris' Commentary on the Book of RevelationNorris on Revelation

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Verses 1-2

2. CHAPTER 11:1, 2.

The Second Vision of THE MEASURED SANCTUARY. The question arises--How will God’s church fare in a world on which the judgments of God are falling? The reply is given in the two visions of chapter 11:1-13. In verses 1 and 2 in the vision of the measured sanctuary, IT IS THE POSITION OF THE CHURCH IN THIS PRESENT AGE AND WORLD THAT IS DESCRIBED. "Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there" (The Greek word "Naos" here is used in the New Testament for The spiritual temple which is the Church of Christ, as in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, "you are God’s temple--God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.") Also Ephesians 2:21. Standards are important. John was given "a measuring rod"--The person who with John has eaten God’s book and digested it has a measuring rod by which to measure all worship and service. The church is measured not by false worldly standards but by the Word of God. The main idea of verses 1 and 2 is of the true church as God’s temple and on the other hand a pagan society outside the temple court treading down, desecrating the church during the time from Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47) until the FINAL coming of Christ. During this present age the true church, marked out clearly, (the sanctuary) while the world invades, tramps under foot and oppresses her until Christ returns. We meet here in verse 2 for the first time that period of time variously described as "42 months" that is, "3½ years," "1260 days" (as in the next verse). Also as "a time, two times and half a time," (Daniel 12:6-7) that is, "3½." Revelation 12:14 uses this same expression. All these references amount to the same "3½ years." All these refer to THE SAME PERIOD. The "3½ years," that is "THE BROKEN SEVEN." As 7 is the number of the PERFECT AND ETERNAL "3½" IS THE BROKEN, LIMITED TIME BETWEEN CHRIST’S FIRST AND SECOND ADVENT. The 3½ YEARS IS THE WHOLE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION. John is sure that the desecration of the church by a pagan society is "the time of the Gentiles"--Luke 21:24 will only be for a LIMITED--broken period of this present age. This is the main idea of Revelation 11:1-2 --John’s vision of the measured sanctuary. 2. CHAPTER 11:1, 2 records the vision of THE MEASURED SANCTUARY The question is implied by John as he waits for the seventh trumpet--HOW WILL THE CHURCH FARE IN A WORLD WHERE SUCH JUDGMENTS ARE FALLING? The reply is given in the two visions of chapter 11:1-13. Verses 1 and 2 give us the vision of THE MEASURED SANCTUARY. As stated in the notes on this chapter it is our view that IT IS THE POSITION OF THE CHURCH IN THIS PRESENT AGE THAT IS DESCRIBED HERE. John was given a measuring rod and told to (1) "rise and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship there." (2) "But do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample over the holy city for 42 months." "Rise and measure THE TEMPLE OF GOD" The Greek word for "temple" here is "Naos" and can only mean the inner shrine or sanctuary. The word "Naos" is used in the New Testament for "the spiritual temple," which is the church, as in 1 Corinthians 3:17, or Ephesians 2:21. For the temple buildings as a whole the quite different word "hieron" is used. John is also told to measure "THE ALTAR"--the place of incense (of prayer). The place of burnt offerings of sacrifice. Also John is told to measure THE WORSHIPPERS. As mentioned in our earlier notes STANDARDS ARE IMPORTANT. The person who, with John, has eaten and digested the book has a measuring rod by which to measure all worship and service. The church is not measured by the world’s standards of size of membership, prestige or money but by the Word of God. You will recall that in chapters 2 and 3 each of the 7 churches is measured by "knowing and doing the Word of God." There is the measuring standard. In verse 2 John was told "Do not measure the court outside the temple, leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample over the holy city for 42 months." We repeat that the main idea is of the true church as the sanctuary, the altar, its worshippers on the one hand--and on the other hand the court of the Gentiles OUTSIDE the sanctuary in which a pagan society treads down and desecrates the true church during the time from Acts 2:1-47 until the final coming of Christ. We meet here in verse 2 for the first time that period variously described in John’s Revelation as "42 months," "1260 days, "also as "A time, two times, and half a time"--that is 3½. All refer to the same period the "3½"--that is, the broken "7." As "7" is the symbol of the perfect and eternal in John’s book "3½" is the broken, limited time between Christ’s first coming and His final advent. The 42 months, 1260 days, 3½, years is a reference to this Christian dispensation. John is saying here that the contamination of the church by a pagan society will only be for the limited, broken period of this present age. It is this event of the nations treading down the outer court during this present age to which Jesus referred in Luke 21:24 "And Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." There are two important things for us in these first two verses of chapter 11. (1) As we look at the temple we first see THE SANCTUARY carefully measured, the outer court left out, yet both forming part of the temple buildings. Here is a striking picture of the church as she is today. For the church, the visible church, has two parts--THE TRUE CHURCH--"The blessed company of all faithful Christians." And the outer part--Those who profess and call themselves Christians but who have only "a name to live" the merely nominal church members. The line of demarcation is plain. Only in the sanctuary of the true church is found safety. (2) Second, we look at the ALTAR of INCENSE. We learned in chapter 8 verses 3 and 4, that this is the symbol of the PRAYERS of Christians. It tells that communion with God is the center of the church’s life. The ALTAR of BURNT OFFERING of SACRIFICE, we see as teaching the great fact of the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary as the center of church life. So, we learn that the altar of PRAYER and SACRIFICE must hold place if we are part of the true sanctuary. We need to "present ourselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God" (Romans 12:1). We ask--Is prayer and sacrificial service the center of our life? Is the atoning death of Jesus Christ the center of our faith? Have we "in full and glad surrender" yielded ourselves fully to Jesus Christ as Lord? The church may be trodden down by a pagan world, but only for a LIMITED time. "Our light affliction which is but for a moment worketh for us a more exceeding weight of glory" such is the certain hope created by John’s vision of the measured sanctuary.

Verses 3-13

3. CHAPTER 11:3-13

JOHN’S VISION OF THE TWO WITNESSES. How will the Truth--the Gospel--committed to the church fare during the period of this present age? This vision answers our question. WHO ARE THE TWO WITNESSES? They are the symbolic picture of the church herself in her EVANGELISTIC work. (The 2 Olive trees and the 2 lampstands of verse 4 suggest the church’s "fruit-bearing and light-giving" task on earth--see Zechariah 4:2-3; Zechariah 4:11-14). We are reminded of Acts 1:8 "you shall be my witnesses" THE TWO WITNESSES SYMBOLISE THE CHURCH IN ALL AGES.

Verse 3.

"I will grant my two witnesses POWER to PROPHESY for 1260 days . . . The Lord gives His church POWER. Acts 1:8. He gives to His church THE GREAT COMMISSION. Matthew 28:18-20. "Prophesy" refers to FORTH-TELLING, (not only fore-telling). "1260 days," the same as the "3½ years," or "42 months" of the previous verses--THE WHOLE CHRISTIAN AGE. "Clothed in sackcloth"--the dress indicates mourning over the sins of the world--the church is PENITENTIAL on earth.

Verse 6.

This does not mean that we should expect a LITERAL repetition in our time of the kind of marvels wrought by Moses and Elijah, but there will be marvels, signs of God’s power in His church as men are remade by The Holy Spirit.

Verse 7.

Like Jesus, only when the two witnesses "have finished their testimony" (only WHEN THE CHURCH’S WORK IS FINISHED) will "the BEAST" overcome them and kill them. (The beast comes into sight clearly in 13:1, and is described in 17:8). The BEAST SYMBOLISES THE PAGAN WORLD IN ITS ASPECT OF PERSECUTION AND VIOLENCE. These witnesses are killed and their bodies lie for "3½ days"--that is, A LIMITED SHORT PERIOD, and verses 11, 12 teach that like their Lord they have resurrection and ascension. The "7000" killed after the ascension of the witnesses (verse 13) suggests that God’s judgments are never haphazard.


3. CHAPTER 11:3-13 records John’s vision of THE TWO WITNESSES

We are still in the period between the sixth and seventh trumpets and we are still thinking of the fate of the church amid all these trumpet judgments.


The reply is given in these verses.

It may enable understanding of the vision of the two witnesses if WE FIRST IDENTIFY THESE TWO WITNESSES.


These two witnesses embody in vision the words of Acts 1:8 "You shall be My witnesses." The two witnesses of Revelation 11:3-13 symbolise the church fulfilling this task in all ages. They are TWO in number because they embody the truth expressed by Jesus in John 8:17 "In your law it is written, that the witness of two men is true."--so, the two witnesses of John’s vision symbolise the church fulfilling her task in all ages.

Note that the speaker in Revelation 11:3 is Christ. "I will give unto My witnesses." The idea is that Christ gives the great commission, including the message, the power and all that is needed for the work of witnessing.

"And they shall PROPHESY"--that is, in the true sense of FORTH TELLING and not fore-telling (see also Matthew 26:68) "FOR 1260 DAYS"--the same period as "the 42 months" of verse 2, that is, the period from Acts 2:1-47 until the final coming of Christ.

And the dress of the witnesses "clothed in sackcloth" indicates a church mourning over the sins of the world. The true church’s attitude is penitential rather than judgmental on earth.

In verse 4: The two witnesses are described as "the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before God." So, the church is described as fruit-bearing and light-giving.

The olive trees feed the lampstands with oil--and so is shown the double function of Christ’s witnesses--"to shine as lights in the world," and to be channels of blessing helping others to shine in the place of service.

POWER was given these two witnesses, greater than the powers given to Moses or Elijah.--The implication being that there will be marvellous signs of God’s power in the church when men and women are remade by the Holy Spirit.

The vision of the two witnesses teaches that throughout the period of all the trumpet judgments the church will continue its witnessing work.

The vision reminds Christians of


The privilege of witnessing for our Lord. This is our task. Yet it is often the task we fail to do. We know from Acts 8:1; Acts 8:4 that in the church’s early days EVERY Christian was a witness to the Lord wherever they went. In our day we too often leave the task of witnessing to the paid minister. Witnessing is the privilege of every Christian. When we have such a true MUTUAL ministry then the church will be a greater blessing in our world.


Power is given to the witnesses. The power of the Holy Spirit is given to us. A power far greater than to slay men with fire, or to prevent rain, or to turn water into blood. The power which enables souls to be saved, to fill human hearts and lives with divine love and grace, to turn sinners from death to life. There are no miracles in all the world’s history so great as these. To effect these the power of God is at our disposal today, if only we will fulfil our privilege and claim that power.


The two witnesses were persecuted--and it is still true that Christians will face persecution of various degrees in their work of witnessing. Paul tells us in Acts 14:22 that "Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God" and, as 2 Timothy 3:11-12 states "All who would live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." This vision tells us that we must be prepared to suffer in our task.


"Not until they shall have finished their testimony" does the pagan world silence the two witnesses. The Christian is immortal until his work is done. The church is kept through all trials.

But the last word is the BEST word. Verses 11 and 12 describe the RESURRECTION and ASCENSION of the two witnesses.

Evil never has the LAST word. Evil did not have the last word at Calvary, it never does. A breath from God gives life to the dead witnesses. The fact is that THERE ARE SOME THINGS MAN CANNOT SLAY. The unbelieving world is glad when the church is weakened, but this vision teaches the church that when evil seems to have wiped out goodness God takes such moments to bring His witnesses back to life. Man’s extremity is God’s Opportunity. "Truth, crushed to earth will rise again; belt error, wounded, writhes in pain, and dies among its worshippers."

God never leaves Himself without witnesses on earth. Whenever men and women are needed to witness to the truth, they always appear at the right moment.

The story of earth is completed in heaven. The carnival of evil is followed by the upward look into heaven and the complete victory of goodness. Heaven acted, and, like Stephen in Acts 7:56 the two witnesses cry "Behold, l see the heavens opened."


"The gates of hell shall not prevail against the church of God."

Verses 14-19


This trumpet brings us to the end of the world. The final coming of Christ. Verse 15 announces the victory of Christ "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and HE SHALL REIGN FOREVER."

Notice Christ’s victory is complete "He shall reign forever," At the birth of Jesus Luke 1:33 records "Of His kingdom there shall be no end."

We pray "Thy kingdom come." Do we realize that we have work to do to complete that prayer? How much of our interests are rather centerd on the things of this present world which will pass away. Now that you are sealed by God "The kingdom is already within you" (Luke 17:21)--is that always true of us?

Man has his dreams of Utopia but John tells us that such hopes can only become real as part of the kingdom of God. No earthly Utopia is possible unless and until the will of Christ is done on earth as it is in heaven. John does remind us that the kingdom of God will prevail. And in verse 19, in the vision of final things we are reminded of the Ark of the Covenant in the midst of the temple. God’s ancient promises are not forgotten. But all of God’s promises have moral conditions attached to them, conditions all too often repudiated by men. And so, not only is the Ark of the Covenant seen in the temple, it is surrounded by flashes of lightning and the earthquakes. Here is a reminder that it is the divine covenant which gives the deepest meaning and fullest promise to all human pledges. Let the kingdom of God be coming to us in our hearts and lives now, coming personally and individually, coming in a continual increase if we would be ready for the great day to which Revelation 11:15 refers--Let us share in preparing for that day when "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of God and of His Christ, and HE SHALL REIGN FOREVER--AMEN."

Bibliographical Information
Norris, Harold. "Commentary on Revelation 11". "Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/nor/revelation-11.html. 2021.
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