God’s Plan For The Ages – 18 – The Two Witnesses – Revelation 11:1-14

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Revelation Chapter 11:1-14

The video of this post discusses the two witnesses of God who are discussed in the scriptures and narrative below.

Chapter 11:1-14 Textual Study

We will study Chapter 11 in the New King James Version, with comments coming from the MacArthur Study Bible notes, as shown in BibleGateway.org.

Introduction

Here are the events of this area of Revelation: (1) Gentile nations have control of Jerusalem for forty-two months, which are the last three and a half years of the tribulation, which is also known as “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). (2) Two witnesses of God appear in Jerusalem, and have super spiritual powers. (3) The witnesses are murdered by the forces of the Anti Christ, with great “fan-fare,” and remain in their deceased locations in Jerusalem for three and a half days. (3) After three and a half days the witnesses come back to life, and are raised up to heaven in the presence of their enemies. (4) A great earthquake quickly occurs after the resurrection of the two witnesses, and kills many people.

Scripture Text

Revelation 11 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Two Witnesses

1 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. 2 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. 3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”
4 These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands standing before the God of the earth.5 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. 6 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.

The Witnesses Killed

7 When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. 10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

The Witnesses Resurrected

11 Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. 13 In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.

14 The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.

Comments

11:1 a reed. A hollow, bamboo-like cane plant that grew in the Jordan Valley. Because of its light weight and rigidity, it was commonly used as a measuring rod (cf. Ezek. 40:3, 5). Measuring the temple signified God’s ownership of it (cf. 21:15;Zech. 2:1–5). the temple of God. Refers to the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place, not the entire temple complex (cf. v. 2). A rebuilt temple will exist during the time of the Tribulation (Dan. 9:27; 12:11; Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:4). altar. The reference to worshipers suggests this is the bronze altar in the courtyard, not the incense altar in the Holy Place, since only the priests were permitted inside the Holy Place (cf. Luke 1:8–10).

11:2 court which is outside. The court of the Gentiles, separated from the inner court in the Herodian temple by a low wall. Gentiles were forbidden to enter the inner court on penalty of death. That John is instructed not to measure the outer court symbolizes God’s rejection of the unbelieving Gentiles who have oppressed His covenant people. tread the holy city underfoot.Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome all oppressed Jerusalem in ancient times (cf. 2 Kin. 25:8–10; Ps. 79:1; Is. 63:18; Lam. 1:10). This verse refers to the future devastating destruction and oppression of Jerusalem by the forces of the Antichrist. forty-two months. This 3½ year period covers the second half of the Tribulation and coincides with the visibly evil career of the Antichrist (v. 3; 12:6; 13:5). During this same time, the Jews will be sheltered by God in the wilderness (12:6, 14).

11:3 two witnesses. Individuals granted special power and authority by God to preach a message of judgment and salvation during the second half of the Tribulation. The OT required two or more witnesses to confirm testimony (cf. Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Matt. 18:16; John 8:17; Heb. 10:28), and these two prophets will be the culmination of God’s testimony to Israel: a message of judgment from God and of His gracious offer of the gospel to all who will repent and believe. one thousand two hundred and sixty days. Forty-two months or 3½ years (cf. 12:6; 13:5; see note on v. 2). sackcloth. Coarse, rough cloth made from goat or camel hair. Wearing garments made from it expressed penitence, humility, and mourning (cf. Gen. 37:34; 2 Sam. 3:31; 2 Kin. 6:30;19:1; Esth. 4:1; Is. 22:12; Jer. 6:26; Matt. 11:21). The witnesses are mourning because of the wretched wickedness of the world, God’s judgment on it, and the desecration of the temple and the holy city by the Antichrist.

11:4 This imagery is drawn from Zech. 3, 4 (see notes there). Zechariah’s vision had both a near fulfillment (the rebuilding of the temple by Joshua and Zerubbabel) and a far future fulfillment (the two witnesses, whose ministry points toward Israel’s final restoration in the Millennium). two olive trees and the two lampstands. Olive oil was commonly used in lamps; together the olive trees and lampstands symbolize the light of spiritual revival. The two witnesses’ preaching will spark a revival, just as Joshua’s and Zerubbabel’s did in Israel after the Babylonian captivity.

11:5, 6 While it is impossible to be dogmatic about the identity of these two witnesses, several observations suggest they might be Moses and Elijah: 1) like Moses, they strike the earth with plagues, and like Elijah, they have the power to keep it from raining; 2) Jewish tradition expected both Moses (cf. Deut. 18:15–18) and Elijah (cf. Mal. 4:5, 6) to return in the future (cf.John 1:21); 3) both Moses and Elijah were present at the Transfiguration, the preview of Christ’s second coming; 4) both Moses and Elijah used supernatural means to provoke repentance; 5) Elijah was taken up alive into heaven, and God buried Moses’ body where it would never be found; and 6) the length of the drought the two witnesses bring (3½ years; cf. v. 3) is the same as that brought by Elijah (James 5:17).

11:5 fire proceeds…and devours. Probably this refers to literal fire. These two will be invincible during their ministry, protected by supernatural power. The false prophet will counterfeit this sign (13:3).

11:6 power to shut heaven. Miracles have often authenticated God’s messengers. Here, bringing a 3½ year drought (as did Elijah before them) will add immeasurable torment to those experiencing the worldwide disasters of the Tribulation—and exacerbate their hatred of the two witnesses. waters to turn them to blood. The earth’s water, already devastated by the effects of the second and third trumpets, will become undrinkable, adding immensely to the suffering caused by the drought.

11:7 the beast. The first of 36 references to this person in Revelation, who is none other than the Antichrist (see chap. 13). That he will ascend out of the bottomless pit indicates that his power is satanic. kill them. Their ministry completed, God will withdraw the two witnesses’ supernatural protection. The beast will then be able to accomplish what many had died trying to do.

11:8 bodies will lie in the street. Refusing to bury one’s enemies was a way to dishonor and show contempt for them (cf.Acts 14:19). The OT expressly forbids this practice (Deut. 21:22,23). the great city. Identifying Jerusalem as a city like Sodom and Egypt stresses the city’s wickedness. Its Jewish population will apparently be the focus of the witnesses’ ministry, leading to the conversions of v. 13.

11:9 three-and-a-half days. The entire world will watch (undoubtedly on the latest form of visual media) and glorify the Antichrist as the bodies of the dead prophets who have been killed begin to decay.

11:10 rejoice…make merry…send gifts. Wild with joy over the death of their tormentors, those who dwell on the earth (a phrase used 11 times in Revelation to speak of unbelievers) will celebrate the two witnesses’ deaths as a holiday.

11:11 breath of life from God entered them. The festivities, however, are short-lived as God vindicates His faithful witnesses by resurrecting them.

11:12 ascended to heaven in a cloud. Some may wonder why God will not allow them to preach, assuming their message would have more force following their resurrection. But that ignores Christ’s clear statement to the contrary (Luke 16:31). enemies saw them. Those who hated and dishonored the two witnesses will watch their vindication.

11:13 earthquake. God punctuates the ascension of His prophets with a shattering earthquake. The destruction and loss of life may be primarily among the leaders of the Antichrist’s forces. the rest. This refers to the Jews still living, who will not yet have come to faith in Christ. gave glory to the God of heaven. A genuine experience of the salvation of Jews (cf. Luke 17:18, 19), in contrast to those who blaspheme and refuse to glorify God (16:9). This makes a key fulfilment of Zechariah’s prophecy (12:10; 13:1) and Paul’s (Rom. 11:25–27).

11:14 second woe. The sixth trumpet (see note on 9:12). The interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets ends (see note on 10:1). Israel’s repentance will shortly usher in the millennial kingdom (Acts 3:19–21; Rom. 11:25, 26). But first will come the final, climactic judgments.

Summary. Second woe. Comment from Dr. John F. Walvoord.

With this event, the second woe is brought to its completion and is evidently regarded as the final phase of the sixth trumpet. The third woe contained in the seventh trumpet is announced as coming quickly. The end of the age is rapidly approaching.

The three woes. (MacArthur Study Bible notes)

Revelation 8:13 New King James Version (NKJV)

13 And I looked, and I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”

8:13 Woe, woe, woe. One for each remaining trumpet blast. Although the first 4 trumpets are unimaginable, they will be nothing like the 3 to come (9:1–21; 11:15ff.).

Revelation 9:12 New King James Version (NKJV)

12 One woe is past. Behold, still two more woes are coming after these things.

9:12 One woe. The first of the final 3 trumpets (see note on 8:13).

Revelation 11:14 New King James Version (NKJV)

14 The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.

11:14 second woe. The sixth trumpet (see note on 9:12). The interlude between the sixth and seventh trumpets ends (see note on 10:1). Israel’s repentance will shortly usher in the millennial kingdom (Acts 3:19–21; Rom. 11:25, 26). But first will come the final, climactic judgments.

Associated terms. Fullness of the Gentiles. Times of the Gentiles. Jacob’s trouble.

Romans 11:25 New King James Version (NKJV) (Fullness of the Gentiles)

25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

11:25 mystery. This word is used to refer to NT truth previously not revealed (see notes on 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:2–6). This mystery has two components: 1) Israel has experienced a partial spiritual hardening, and 2) that hardening will last only for a divinely specified period of time. See note on 16:25. wise in your own opinion. Another warning to the Gentiles against spiritual pride and arrogance (see notes on vv. 17–24). blindness in part. The nation’s blindness does not extend to every individual Jew. Through all of history God has always preserved a believing remnant (see notes on vv. 5, 17). until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. “Until” refers to a specific point in time; “fullness” refers to completion; “has come in” translates a Gr. verb often used to speak of coming to salvation (cf. Matt. 5:20;Mark 9:43, 45, 47; John 3:5; Acts 14:22). Israel’s spiritual hardening (which began with rejecting Jesus as Messiah) will last until the complete number of elect Gentiles has come to salvation.

Luke 21:24 New King James Version (NKJV) (Times of the Gentiles)

24 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.

21:24 the times of the Gentiles. This expression is unique to Luke. It identifies the era from Israel’s captivity (ca. 586 B.C. to Babylon; cf. 2 Kin. 25) to her restoration in the kingdom (Rev. 20:1–6). It has been a time during which, in accord with God’s purpose, Gentiles have dominated or threatened Jerusalem. The era has also been marked by vast spiritual privileges for the Gentile nations (cf. Is. 66:12; Mal. 1:11; Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10).

Jeremiah 30:7 New King James Version (NKJV) (Jacob’s trouble, aka Jacob’s distress)

Alas! For that day is great, So that none is like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it.

30:7 time of Jacob’s trouble. This period of unprecedented difficulty for Israel, as the verse defines, is set in a context of Israel’s final restoration. It is best equated with the time of tribulation (cf. vv. 8, 9) just before Christ’s Second Advent, mentioned elsewhere (Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21, 22) and described in detail by Rev. 6–19.

The Beast – Three Designations

The beast rising out of the pit (Satan) Revelation 11:7

7 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 beast rising out of the sea (Anti-Christ/World Dictator) Revelation 13:1

1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.

The beast rising out of the earth (False Prophet/Religious Leader) Revelation 13:11

11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.

Important Notice

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