The Fate of the Two Witnesses, 1-14

11:1 Then a measuring rod like a staff was given to me, and I was told, “Get up and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and the ones who worship there. 11:2 But do not measure the outer courtyard of the temple; leave it out, because it has been given to the Gentiles, and they will trample on the holy city for forty-two months. 11:3 And I will grant my two witnesses authority to prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth. 11:4 (These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.) 11:5 If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes out of their mouths and completely consumes their enemies. If anyone wants to harm them, they must be killed this way. 11:6 These two have the power to close up the sky so that it does not rain during the time they are prophesying. They have power to turn the waters to blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague whenever they want.

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

v2 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.

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)

This verse contains clear allusions to Moses and Elijah.

11:7 When they have completed their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss will make war on them and conquer them and kill them. 11:8 Their corpses will lie in the street of the great city that is symbolically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was also crucified. 11:9 For three and a half days those from every people, tribe, nation, and language will look at their corpses, because they will not permit them to be placed in a tomb. 11:10 And those who live on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate, even sending gifts to each other, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. 11:11 But after three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and tremendous fear seized those who were watching 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.

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

11:12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them: “Come up here!” So the two prophets went up to heaven in a cloud while their enemies stared at them. 11:13 Just then a major earthquake took place and a tenth of the city collapsed; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

11:14 The second woe has come and gone; the third is coming quickly.

The Seventh Trumpet, 15-19

11:15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying:
“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.

11:16 Then the twenty-four elders who are seated on their thrones before God threw themselves down with their faces to the ground and worshiped God 11:17 with these words:
“We give you thanks, Lord God, the All-Powerful,
the one who is and who was,
because you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.
11:18 The nations were enraged,
but your wrath has come,
and the time has come for the dead to be judged,
and the time has come to give to your servants,
the prophets, their reward,
as well as to the saints
and to those who revere your name, both small and great,
and the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth.”
11:19 Then the temple of God in heaven was opened and the ark of his covenant was visible within his temple. And there were flashes of lightning, roaring, crashes of thunder, an earthquake, and a great hailstorm.

The temple of God in heaven was opened – ‘expressing the final visibility and openness of the presence of God when he comes.’ (Paul)

The ark of his covenant was visible within his temple – This is ‘not the earthly ark but its heavenly prototype. Its disclosure, taken with the opening of the sanctuary, will show that the way into God’s presence is open wide (cf. Heb. 10:19). In the earthly sanctuary the curtain permanently screened off the ark, thus making it clear that people had no rights of access (cf. Heb. 9:8). But Christ in his work for us has changed all that and now the way is wide open.’ (Morris)

‘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)’