“The Two Witnesses – Pt. 1” – Revelation 11:1-7
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The Apostle John's apocalyptic vision of the last days given to him by the Lord Jesus continues (Vs. 1:9-19). He has been told to eat "the little book" taken from "the mighty angel's hand."
Then I took the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. But when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter.
At the beginning of this chapter, he is given another task that may seem strange to us, but to students of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, it is clear.
Keep in mind that the Bible's chapter and verse divisions are relatively new, first used in the Geneva Bible, 1560 AD, and didn't always represent units of thought in the text according to our understanding.
Additionally, there are two primary interpretations for this passage:
I believe the literal is most correct, but I can see how the spiritual has value also.
As we go through the text, I will do my best to explain them and make application where possible.
And finally, keep in mind that the Apostle wrote Revelation in about 95 AD, twenty plus years after the temple of God in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman General Titus in 70 AD.
Therefore, the prophecy of the temple in this chapter must be about a future temple of God restored in Jerusalem.
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.
"Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod."
* Old Testament symbology:
"...in the twenty-fifth year of our captivity...God took me into the land of Israel...there was a man...he had a measuring rod in his hand...the man said to me, look...and hear...and fix your mind on everything I show you...declare to the house of Israel everything you see."
* The metaphor of "measuring" a city is not about its size. It is a symbol of God's ownership, preservation or destruction:
- Zechariah saw a man measuring Jerusalem which was symbolic of divine protection. (Zech. 2:1-5)
- Ezekiel's vision was symbolic that God would make Jerusalem again the true city of God (Eze. 40-43).
- Elsewhere in the O.T., measuring is symbolic of God's judgment and destruction (2 Kgs. 21:10-13, Isa. 34:11, Lam. 2:8).
- John's vision of measuring was symbolic of the preservation and protection of the temple (Vs. 2).
The Apostle John was given much the same command, only he was to measure then "declare" all he saw to us -- "spiritual Israel" - the church.
"...Rise and measure the temple of God..."
* "The temple" - A new, rebuilt temple of God.
* Temple - Naos (Gk.) - A shrine or sanctuary. In this passage it designates the temple building proper, not the outer "court" (Vs. 2). (Strong's 3485)
"...measure the altar..."
* The "altar" was in the Court of the Priests, closest to the temple.
* To measure “the altar” was to “measure” the priests, ministers and workers in the temple, as well as their religious practice.
"...measure...those who worship there."
* If the "temple" is symbolic of the church and the true dwelling place of God in our hearts:
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
(1 Cor. 3:16-17)
And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
(2 Cor. 6:16)
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord...
This then refers to God protecting His church through the "great tribulation" of the last days (Matt. 24:21-28).
It also speaks of the Lord "measuring" us today, our faithfulness, obedience and worship, as He did in the past:
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.
"...it has been given to the Gentiles."
* The temple and inner courts are separated from the outer court, "the Court of the Gentiles" - which is not protected, but together with the "Holy City" - Jerusalem, is to be "tread underfoot" (trampled) by the Gentiles.
And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
"...for forty-two months..."
* 1,260 days or 3.5 years by the Jewish 30 days a month calendar.
* Or -"time, times, and a half of a time." (Dan. 9:27, 11:31, 12:7, 11)
The forty-two months begin at the midpoint of the tribulation period:
"Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand)...
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
This "forty-two months" is the oppression of the "holy city" (Vs. 11:2), during which will be the mission of the "two witnesses" (Vs. 11:3), the preservation of the church in the wilderness (Vs. 12:6, 14), and the period of the "beast's" (Antichrists') authority (Vs. 13:5-8) until Christ's triumphant return (Vs. 19:11-21).
All that God's people have suffered throughout the ages is simply a preview of this final oppression of Antichrist during the "forty-two months" of his authority.
"And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth."
"And I will give power to my two witnesses..."
* "Power" - Exousia (Gk.) - Authority, to do as one pleases, the right to exercise power as given by the highest authority. (Strong's 1849)
"...and they will prophesy..."
* "Prophesy" - Propheteuo (Gk.) - To speak under divine inspiration, to exercise prophetic office. The primary meaning of telling forth the divine counsels of God and His Word (Strong's 4395). Not Prohetes (Gk.) - Foretelling of future events, the purpose of God in the future. (Strong’s 4396)
"...one thousand two hundred and sixty days..."
* The second half of the tribulation period (3.5 years) separated by the "Abomination that causes desolation - the great tribulation"(Matt. 24:15-21).
"...clothed in sackcloth."
* The usual attire of prophets. (2 Kgs. 1:8, Isa. 20:2, Zech. 13:4)
* Also signifies mourning and self-humiliation, often the mourning of repentance.
Even though Jerusalem, the Holy City, is to be trodden upon by the nations (Gentiles) for forty-two months, God will not abandon His people - the church. He sends two witnesses to prophesy the Word of God, the Gospel of salvation in Christ by simple belief and repentance.
The detailed description of the "two witnesses" in this verse and the next three that follow, convinces me that the Apostle John conceived of these "two witnesses" as actual historical eschatological men.
So, who are they?
Let the Scripture tell us!
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.
"...olive trees and...lampstands..."
* This is a direct reference to the prophet Zechariah's vision of the two witnesses (Joshua, the High Priest and Zerubbabel, the Governor) who stood before God during the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple after the Babylonian destruction and exile. (Zech. 3, 4)
Zechariah 3:1, 3, 7-8, 4:1-6, 11-14
The symbolism of Zechariah's vision is used by John to affirm the divine authorization of the "two witnesses," and the power, (the Holy Spirit of God, Zech. 4:6b) that is the source of their prophecy.
It is clear the "two witnesses" are Christian prophets because of verse 8:
Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified.
The great sin of Israel was the rejection of Jesus as their Messiah and Lord. These prophets bear witness of the Law (Moses the lawgiver), and the prophets (Elijah, the greatest prophet) to the Lordship of Jesus as Messiah, and hence to the great sin of Israel in rejecting Him.
In the next two verses, we will see the identity of the "two witnesses."
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.
"And if anyone wants to harm them..."
* Many will, but until their witness is completed, they are protected by God, and the power He's given them.
"...fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies."
Elijah's prophetic ministry was proven by the destructive fire of God:
2 Kings 1:8-14
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.
"...power to shut up heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy."
* Again Elijah (1 Kgs. 17:1, 45)
Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
"...power over the waters to turn them to blood..."
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, "Say to Aaron, 'Take your rod and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their streams, over their rivers, over their ponds, and over all their pools of water, that they may become blood. And there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in buckets of wood and pitchers of stone."'
"...to strike the earth with all plagues..."
* Again Moses, ten plagues that eventually caused Pharaoh to let God's people go. The last was the "passover" of the "death angel," the picture of Christ's blood shielding us from eternal death caused by our sin.
Need more clues???
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
"The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear....I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him."
(Deut. 18:15, 18 - Jewish Understanding)
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day.
Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil when he disputed about the body of Moses...
And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!" So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces.
(2 Kgs. 2:12)
When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them.
The "two witnesses" are impervious to all the attacks made against them. And there will be many, the darkness hates the Light, and they are Light bearers.
But once their God given "testimony" is finished, God allows "the beast" to "make war against them, overcome them, and kill them."
Again, not until they're finished.
Take heart Christian, you have been commanded:
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall BE WITNESSES to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Witnessing is not what you do, it's who you are to be!
So, until you're finished, remember:
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
The children of God, engaged in the work of God, by the will of God, are immortal, until God is finished with us!
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