The Two Witnesses, 1-14

Rev 11:1 I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshippers there.”

Here we have

  1. The measurement of the temple of God, vv1f
  2. The two witnesses, vv3-6
  3. The silencing of the witnesses, vv7-10
  4. The rising of the witnesses, 11-13

Rev 11:2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.

The language is borrowed from Eze 42:20. The distinction is between those in the sanctuary – God’s own people – and those in the outer court, who are nominal believers.

Rev 11:3 “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”

1,260 days is the same period of times as 42 months, v2. It is also the same as three and a half years, which is the period of time that it did not rain, in response to Elijah’s prayer, Jas 5:17. ‘It all comes together. Elijah’s period out in the wilderness was one of great opposition to the people of God, but it was also a time of immense influence – during which the prophet even had power to shut up the sky. It lasted exactly three and a half years. This is taken in the Revelation as a symbol of our present Christian era. When we pray, we may expect results. When we proclaim the Good News in the power and energy of the Holy Spirit, we may look for things to happen. We are in the testing, but powerful period of the Two Witnesses! Ever since Christ’s first coming, we have seen the spreading of the Church. Adversity and Christian growth walk together.’ (Bewes)

Rev 11:4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.

Rev 11:5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die.

Rev 11:6 These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.

This verse contains clear allusions to Moses and Elijah.

Rev 11:7 Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them.

Apocalyptic writing contains many symbols, some of which became standardised, like the use of this monster of the ocean to denote oppressive political powers, which appears in various guises in Dan. 7 and in Rev 13 and 17.

Rev 11:8 Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.

Rev 11:9 For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial.

Three and a half days – A short period, compared with the three and a half years spoken of elsewhere.

Rev 11:10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.

Rev 11:11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them.

Rev 11:12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.

Rev 11:13 At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

Rev 11:14 The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.

The Seventh Trumpet, 15-19

Rev 11:15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”

The Lord’s reign will be (a) universal; (b) everlasting; (c) righteous.

Rev 11:16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.

Rev 11:18 The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

Rev 11:19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant. And there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm.

‘Let there be no false pity for the unrepentant. The fond hope that God might give them one more chance after death is contrary both to Scripture and to reason. If this life is the time of testing, the opportunities of this life are as complete as any man could wish for, and we have seen to what lengths God will go to warn them. If they hear not Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded though one rise from the dead. If they hear not the first six Trumpets, neither will they repent when Trumpet 7 ushers in eternity. For by that time the bent of their heart is established beyond redemption. ‘He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: he that is filthy, let him be filthy still’ (22:11, AV).’ (Wilcock)

Wilcock adds: ‘God forbid that we should pray for the punishment of particular individuals, of whose standing before God we know little. For all we know, he who seems to us most evil may, like Paul, be intended for a dazzling trophy of grace (1 Tim. 1:15 f.), and he who seems set for heaven may be an emissary of hell (2 Cor. 11:13 f.). But as we ought to pray that where there is a real work of grace in the heart it should be fostered, so we ought to cry to God that where there is irredeemable wickedness it should not go unpunished…We must pray for justice to be done. And it will be done: the maximum of justice, with the maximum of mercy: for in the plan of God righteousness and peace have kissed each other (Ps. 85:10)’