The Book of  REVELATION
James J. Barker


Lesson 19
THE TWO WITNESSES

Text: REVELATION 11:1-14


INTRODUCTION


  1. I mentioned last week that chapter 10 (a break between the sixth and seventh trumpet) was parenthetical. Chapter 11 of the book of Revelation continues the parenthetical section which began back in chapter 10.
  2. With the exception of Revelation 11:15-19, which introduces the seventh trumpet, the narrative does not advance in these chapters and various new topics are presented, such as the two witnesses which we will look at tonight (11:3).

 

I. THE MEASURING ROD AND THE TEMPLE (11:1-2)

  1. Before introducing the two witnesses in verse 3, John is told to measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
  2. He refers in verse 1 to a "reed like unto a rod." This reed is commonly grown in the Jordan Valley, and because of its light weight it makes for a good measuring rod.
  3. John is told to measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
  4. Up until this prophecy in Revelation 11, John has been an observer, but with this command to measure the temple, John is seen as an actor and not merely as an observer.
  5. The temple of God refers to the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, not the outer court of the temple.
  6. Although John is commanded to measure the temple and the altar and them that worship therein, he is instructed not to measure the outer court (11:2).
  7. The explanation given is that this is given unto the Gentiles, and that the outer court as well as the holy city (Jerusalem) will be under Gentile dominion for forty-two months (i.e., the second half of the seven-year tribulation period).
  8. This act of measuring "seems to signify that the area belongs to God in some special way. It is an evaluation of His property" (John Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  9. In Zechariah 2, a man is seen measuring Jerusalem. And in Ezekiel 40, the temple for the future millennial kingdom is measured with a measuring reed.
  10. Still another instance is Revelation 21, where the new Jerusalem is measured with "a golden reed" (21:15-17).
  11. The temple here in Revelation 11 apparently refers to a future temple, which will be in existence during the coming tribulation.   There is some speculation as to when the construction work for this new temple will begin, but according to the Bible it will definitely be in operation during the tribulation period.
  12. John Walvoord said, "Originally constructed for the worship of the Jews and the renewal of their ancient sacrifices, during the great tribulation it is desecrated and becomes the home of an idol of the world ruler (cf. II Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:14-15; Dan. 9:27; 12:11)."
  13. It is interesting that John is instructed to measure not only the temple and the altar, but also "them that worship therein" (11:1).
  14. This indicates that "God is the judge of man’s worship and man’s character and that all must give an account to Him" (Walvoord).
  15. It also implies, inasmuch as the reed is ten feet long, that man comes far short of the divine standard. Even a very tall person would fall short of the ten-foot measuring rod.
  16. So the measuring here in Revelation 11 is very important. "God is therefore not only claiming ownership by this measurement of the temple and the altar but demonstrating the shortcomings of the worshipers who do not measure up to His standard" (Walvoord).
  17. The Gentiles will have control of the outer court and the city of Jerusalem during the final forty-two months of the tribulation (11:2).
  18. Daniel 9:27 refers to a "covenant" between the antichrist and the people of Israel, and we can assume that during the early part of the tribulation period the Jews will be given considerable freedom of worship.
  19. However, Daniel 8:25 says "by peace" the antichrist "shall destroy many."
  20. Daniel 9:27 says that in the midst of the week (week of years) the antichrist shall cause the temple sacrifices to cease, and will break his covenant with Israel.
  21. Since the Gentiles are said to tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months, this would describe the latter half of Daniel's seventieth week.
  22. The statement that the holy city is under Gentile control reminds us of our Lord's words in Luke 21:24 where He predicted of the people of Israel, “They shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
  23. The times of the Gentiles will end at the second coming of Christ when Gentile dominion will be destroyed, and the Lord Jesus Christ will establish His kingdom (cf. Rev. 11:15).
  24. The first two verses of Revelation 11 signify that while God is permitting Gentile dominion and persecution of Israel, God Himself will be the judge of her persecutors.

 

II. THE PROPHESYING OF THE TWO WITNESSES (11:3-6)

  1. In verse 3, the two witnesses are introduced, and we are told they shall prophesy 1,260 days (about three and a half years).
  2. This is exactly forty-two months of thirty days each, and is undoubtedly related to the latter three and a half years of the tribulation period.
  3. The punishments and judgments the two witnesses inflict on the world seem to describe the terrors of the latter half of the tribulation period.
  4. There has been much debate on the identity of these two witnesses.
  5. It seems likely they will be Moses and Elijah, who represent the law and the prophets.    The age of grace will soon be over, and God is going to pour out His hot wrath on this world for its wickedness.
  6. Another strong argument for Moses and Elijah is the similarity of judgment inflicted to those pronounced by Elijah and Moses, namely fire from heaven, the power to shut heaven that it rain not in the days of their prophecy, turning water into blood, and smiting the earth with plagues (cf. Rev. 11:5, 6).
  7. Malachi 4:5 says, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD."
  8. Malachi's prophecy seems to have been partially fulfilled by the coming of John the Baptist according to what our Lord said to His disciples (Matt. 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13; cf. Luke 1:17).
  9. Further evidence for both Moses and Elijah is found in the fact that they were with our Lord on the mount of transfiguration (Matt. 17:3).
  10. Elijah never died, being caught up by a whirlwind into heaven in a chariot of fire (II Kings 2:11).
  11. However, Moses did die and God Himself buried him in a valley in the land of Moab (Deut. 34:6).   For this reason, some think Moses will not be one of the two witnesses.
  12. Because Enoch never died, some have speculated that he will be one of the two witnesses, along with Elijah.
  13. This is all speculation, and no one can say for sure who the two witnesses will be. John Walvoord says, "It seems far preferable to regard these two witnesses as two prophets who will be raised up from among those who turn to Christ in the time following the rapture."
  14. These two witnesses will be endued with such supernatural power that they will be able to witness for 1,260 days in spite of the fierce antagonism of the world, particularly the "beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit" (11:7-10).
  15. The two witnesses will be "clothed in sackcloth" (11:3), indicating their prophetic ministry of judgment and doom.  Daniel the prophet said, "And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes" (Dan. 9:3).
  16. The two witnesses are described as "two olive trees" and "two candlesticks” (11:4) who stand before the God of the earth. This seems to be a reference to Zechariah 4, where a lampstand and two olive trees are mentioned.
  17. In answer to the question in the Zechariah incident, “What are these?” the answer is given to Zerubbabel: “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6).
  18. It is evident that a similar meaning is intended in the book of Revelation. The olive oil from the olive trees in Zechariah’s image provided fuel for the two lampstands.
  19. The two witnesses in Zechariah's day were Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel.
  20. Just as they were raised up to be lampstands or witnesses for God and were empowered by olive oil representing the power of the Holy Spirit, so the two witnesses of Revelation 11 will likewise execute their prophetic office. The emphasis is they get their power to minister  from God.  "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6).
  21. Verses 5 and 6 record the miraculous powers given to the two witnesses. Anyone who attempts to hurt them will be destroyed by fire proceeding out of their mouths.
  22. On the one hand, this is the judgment of God upon their enemies (11:5).  Furthermore, it is a means of protection of the two witnesses, so that no one can hurt them (11:5).
  23. Again, this is reminiscent of the prophet Elijah, who on two occasions called fire from heaven upon the company of fifty soldiers sent to arrest him.
  24. The third company was delivered from this judgment only because their captain fell on his knees before Elijah and besought him (II Kings 1).
  25. In a similar way, the enemies of Moses were destroyed in Numbers 16:35.
  26. Like the Prophet Elijah, the two witnesses also have power to shut up the heavens that it cannot rain (11:6). This is reminiscent of the judgment of God imposed on Israel when in answer to Elijah’s prayer it did not rain for three and a half years, which interestingly will be the same length of time as the ministry of these two witnesses in Revelation 11.
  27. Like Moses, they have power to turn water into blood and to bring plagues upon the earth as often as they will (cf. Exodus 7:17-19).
  28. There never were prophets like these two witnesses. "It is evident that these two witnesses have a combination of the greatest powers ever given prophets on earth, and this accounts for their ability to withstand their enemies for the entire period of 1,260 days" (Walvoord).
  29. It is only at the end of the great tribulation when they have fulfilled their ministry, that the beast will be able to overcome them, and this is only because it will be allowed by the sovereign appointment of God.

 

III. THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF THE TWO WITNESSES (11:7-12)

  1. As in the case of many other great prophets of God, when their ministry is finished, God will permit their enemies to overcome them.
  2. According to verse 7, the beast from the bottomless pit, which is probably the antichrist (though some think it will be Satan himself) will make war against them and overcome them and then kill them.
  3. This is the first of thirty-six references in the book of Revelation to "the beast" (not counting the "four beasts" or "living creatures" referred to throughout the book of Revelation, particularly in chapters 4, 5, 6, and 7).
  4. The beast out of the pit is probably the antichrist, the same "beast" that rises up out of the sea in chapter 13 (cf. 17:8; 13:1).
  5. The beast coming up out of the earth in chapter 13 is the false prophet, the great religious leader of the coming tribulation (13:11).
  6. It appears that the antichrist will make a spectacle of their deaths. So great will be his victory over the two witnesses that he will display their dead bodies for three and a half days.
  7. Their dead bodies will lie in the street of the city described as “the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (11:8), i.e. Jerusalem.
  8. "In the effort to capitalize as much as possible on their death, their bodies are exhibited in the streets for three and one-half days contrary to all reasonable laws of humanity" (Walvoord).
  9. According to verse 10, their death is the occasion for great rejoicing. The expression “they that dwell upon the earth” is found often in the book of Revelation, and twice here in verse 10.
  10. It has reference to godless sinners who live only for the sins and pleasures of this world (cf. 3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 12:12; etc.).
  11. Apparently the celebration will be worldwide. By means of television, and satellite transmission, and the Internet, etc. the whole world will see the dead bodies of the two witnesses lying in the street and will celebrate.
  12. It will be a symbolic victory for the beast and those who oppose God. They will have merry feasts and send gifts one to another, confident that their fear of God’s wrath and power is no longer justified.
  13. Revelation 11:10 says the two witnesses "tormented them that dwelt on the earth."
  14. Walvoord says, "A righteous prophet is always a torment to a wicked generation. The two witnesses are an obstacle to wickedness, unbelief, and satanic power prevalent in that time. If their ministry is in the time of great tribulation, it is all the more a thorn in the side of the world rulers of that day; and their death symbolizes the silencing of the prophets who announce the doom of those who will not believe in God. The Word of God makes it clear that it is often possible to silence a witness to the truth by death, but such action does not destroy the truth that has been announced. The power of God will be ultimately revealed. If this is at the end of the great tribulation, only a few days remain before Christ comes back in power and great glory."
  15. The merrymaking of those who will rejoice in the death of the two witnesses will be cut short after three and a half days by the witnesses’ restoration to life (11:11).
  16. As they stand on their feet before the startled gaze of those who watch, it is recorded that great fear will fall upon those who see them.
  17. Their amazement increases as they hear a voice from heaven saying to the witnesses, “Come up hither.” As they watch, the two witnesses ascend up into heaven (11:12).
  18. Their ascension into heaven will be similar to the ascension of Christ on the Mount of Olives, when the disciples saw Him ascend into heaven in a cloud (Acts 1:9).
  19. This miracle will be designed as a final warning of the supreme power of God over man whether in life or in death. God will continue to warn sinners.
  20. Sadly, most will not repent of their sin, but some will (11:13).

 

IV. THE THIRD WOE COMETH QUICKLY (11:13, 14)

  1. As an aftermath to the resurrection of the two witnesses, the Scriptures record that a great earthquake occurs in which a tenth part of the city of Jerusalem falls and seven thousand men are killed.
  2. These dramatic events bring great fear to those who remain, and it is recorded that they “gave glory to the God of heaven.” The reference to “the God of heaven” is one of two in the New Testament (cf. Rev. 16:11).
  3. Though found only twice in the New Testament, it is a familiar phrase in the Old Testament where it is used to distinguish the true God from pagan deities.
  4. Here the significance is that they recognize the true God in contrast to their worship of the devil and the antichrist (cf. 13:4).
  5. With this event, the second woe is brought to its completion. The third woe contained in the seventh trumpet is announced as coming quickly (11:14). The end of the age is rapidly approaching.

 

CONCLUSION:

  1. According to Revelation 11:1 and 2, and Daniel 9:27, and Matthew 24:15, and Mark 13:14, and II Thessalonians 2:4 a new temple will be built by the Jews and it will be in operation during the coming tribulation.
  2. However, there is a Muslim temple ("the Dome of the Rock" or sometimes called "The Mosque of Omar") sitting on the Temple Mount (Mount Moriah, where Abraham brought Isaac for sacrifice; and later the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite) where the old temple used to sit.  The old temple ("Herod's Temple") was destroyed by the Roman army in 70 AD.
  3. Since 1967, when the Jews recaptured the old city of Jerusalem, the Muslims have been allowed complete control of the worship on the Temple Mount.
  4. Neither Jews nor Christians are permitted to worship there now, only Muslims. The Muslims regard it as the third most sacred site of their religion.
  5. Thus it has been a real obstacle to any effort to construct a temple again on that site. Many Jews think it will be necessary to somehow destroy the Dome of the Rock in order to rebuild the Jewish temple on that site.
  6. However, a Jewish engineer named Asher Kauffman has done exhaustive work in locating exactly where the ancient temple was built. He has discovered and proved to the satisfaction of a great many people that the temple was not built on the spot where the Dome of the Rock stands, but it actually was built just north of the Dome, in what is still an open, uncovered area, occupied only by a small shrine called the "Dome of the Spirits." (See The Last Warning by Ray C. Stedman).
  7. If Mr. Kauffman is right, and there is a great deal of evidence that confirms that he is, it means that it would be possible for the Jewish temple to be rebuilt on Mount Moriah without destroying the Dome of the Rock.
  8. This is relevant to Bible prophecy, and Revelation 11 in particular because if the temple is built north of the Muslim mosque, the outer court of it would include the Dome of the Rock (cf. 11:2).
  9. There are thousands of articles on the Internet dealing with this subject. Obviously we do not have time tonight to study this in depth. I only mention it to emphasize that we are getting very close to the second coming of Christ.


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