Chapter 11 mirrors chapter 7 in that it serves as an interlude between scenes within the book and they both seek to reassure the reader of God’s protection.
11 Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there,
- Many of dispensational thought see chapter 11 as a literal measuring of a rebuilt temple, as well as the two witness referring to two literal individuals.
- In their view, Jewish worship will be reinstated during this time and during the midpoint of the tribulation, the Antichrist will take over temple worship, declaring himself to be God (2 Thess. 2.4).
- Others see the references here in these verses as symbolic for believers.
- “measuring rod” – this measuring shows ownership and protection. When compared to verses like 1 Cor. 3.16-17, the measuring suggests more of a symbolic approach to these verses.
- “Some interpreters understand this to be literal Jerusalem as it will exist before Christ’s return. The temple, then, would be a literal reconstructed structure at which Jewish people will offer sacrifices (cf. Ezek. 40–48). This position is not without merit. However, it mixes the actions of a historical person (John) with happenings in a future literal place (temple). This is not normal in prophetic writing and suggests an understanding of the city and temple in a figurative manner.” – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 188.
- “John, in this understanding, is presenting another great symbol. His meaning becomes apparent by skipping ahead to the end of the book. In Revelation 21:9–10 John will identify the holy city. It is “the bride, the wife of the lamb” and “the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” In other words the holy city in chapter 21, is the people of God fully glorified and perfected. With this in mind, the holy city of chapter 11, must be the people God not yet fully glorified—the church during its earthly pilgrimage.” – Kendell H. Easley, Revelation, vol. 12, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 188.
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 the holy city for forty-two months.
- Just as with the temple, dispensationalists see the “holy city” here as a reference to Jerusalem. Others understand the reference to refer to the church.
- Others see the command not to measure the court outside the temple as a reference to believers who may be martyred during this time of persecution.
- “42 months” – either way, the period of suffering does not endure for an indefinite period of time. Even the suffering of God’s people does not escape his sovereignty.
3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
- 3 possibilities:
- 1. literal witnesses, perhaps Moses and Elijah themselves, maybe Peter and Paul, or two unknown witnesses who will appear at a future date.
- 2. The two witnesses refer to Law and Gospel; Old and New Testament
- 3. All are part of the church as it carries out its prophetic role.
- So why are they referred to in this manner? In scripture, two witnesses were required to verify the truth, thus it couldn’t be ignored or dismissed.
- During the end times, the church will proclaim the truth of the gospel in a world that wars against it.
- “clothed in sackcloth” – suggests that these witnesses work in humility, and in sorrow for the sinful world in which they live.
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.
- Perhaps a reference to Zech. 4.11-ff. See also, 1.20.
- Thus the Holy Spirit is the olive trees that provide fuel for the lampstands to shine in the midst of darkness.
5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed.
- “fire pours from their mouth” – These witnesses, wether viewed as liter or symbolic are able to pronounce the judgment of God on their listeners reminiscent of the OT prophets (see below).
- “doomed to be killed” – The rejection of the message of God always results in death.
6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.
- references to the prophetic abilities of Elijah and Moses. Some hold that these two witnesses are, in fact, Moses and Elijah. At the least we should understand them to be Moses-like and Elijah-like.
7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them,
- “kill them” – even though God knows and protects his people, he does not keep them from death. It is through death that we, as believers, are released from the corrupt sinful nature in which we were born.
8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.
- “the great city” – Jerusalem. But more symbolic of those who refuse and war against the gospel, represented by the incorrigible acts in Sodom, the bondage to sin represented by Egypt, and in the rejection of the gospel represented in the crucifixion of Jesus. (Compare “holy city” to “great city”.)
- “their dead bodies will lie in the street” – refusing to bury someone was an intense act of contempt in the ancient world.
9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb,
10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.
- Those who oppose God will celebrate, but it will be short lived.
11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them.
- If literal people or symbolic of the church, the resurrection of these witnesses teaches us that God has ultimate victory over those who oppose His kingdom.
12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them.
- Rescue for the people of God
- This may refer to a pre-resurrection of sorts, to those martyred for their faith, especially towards the end of time, or this may be a reference to the resurrection of all God’s people.
13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
- Judgment upon God’s enemies
- “terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” – not in a salvific way, but in a recognition of their foolishness.
14 The second woe has passed; behold, the third woe is soon to come.
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 shall reign forever and ever.”
- Most all futurist (i.e. dispensationalists) see the seventh trumpet as the return of Jesus.
16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying,
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and begun to reign.
18 The nations raged,
but your wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints,
and those who fear your name,
both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
19 Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail.
- a physical reminder of God’s faithfulness to His covenant as displayed in 16-18.