The Book of REVELATION
James J. Barker
THE TWO WITNESSES
- 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.
- 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
THE MEASURING ROD AND THE TEMPLE
introducing the two witnesses in verse 3, John is told to measure the temple of
God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
- 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
- John is told to
measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship
- 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
- The temple of
God refers to the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, not the outer court of the
- 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).
- 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).
- 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
- 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.
- Still another instance is Revelation 21, where the new
Jerusalem is measured with "a golden reed" (21:15-17).
- 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
- 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)."
- It is interesting that John is instructed to measure not
only the temple and the altar, but also "them that worship therein" (11:1).
- This indicates that "God is the judge of man’s worship
and man’s character and that all must give an account to Him"
- 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.
- 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).
- The Gentiles will have control of the outer court and
the city of Jerusalem during the final forty-two months of the tribulation
- 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
- However, Daniel 8:25 says "by peace" the antichrist "shall destroy many."
- 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.
- Since the Gentiles are said to tread the holy city
underfoot for forty-two months, this would describe the latter half of Daniel's
- 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
- 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).
- 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.
THE PROPHESYING OF THE TWO WITNESSES
- In verse 3, the
two witnesses are introduced, and we are told they shall prophesy 1,260 days
(about three and a half years).
- 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.
- The punishments
and judgments the two witnesses inflict on the world seem to describe the
terrors of the latter half of the tribulation period.
- There has been
much debate on the identity of these two witnesses.
- 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
- 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).
- Malachi 4:5
says, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of
the great and dreadful day of the LORD."
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).
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).
- Elijah never died, being caught up by a whirlwind into
heaven in a chariot of fire (II Kings
- 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.
- Because Enoch never died, some have speculated that he
will be one of the two witnesses, along with Elijah.
- 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
- 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).
- 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).
- 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
- 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).
- 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.
- The two witnesses in Zechariah's day were Joshua the
high priest and Zerubbabel.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- Again, this is reminiscent of the prophet Elijah, who on
two occasions called fire from heaven upon the company of fifty soldiers sent to
- The third company was delivered from this judgment only
because their captain fell on his knees before Elijah and besought him (II Kings
- In a similar way, the enemies of Moses were destroyed in
- 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.
- 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).
- 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"
- 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.
THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF THE TWO WITNESSES
- As in the case
of many other great prophets of God, when their ministry is finished, God will
permit their enemies to overcome them.
- 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.
- 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
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- "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
- 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.
- 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;
- 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
- 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
- Revelation 11:10 says the two witnesses "tormented them
that dwelt on the earth."
- 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
- 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).
- 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
- 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).
- 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).
- 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
- Sadly, most will not repent of their sin, but some will
THE THIRD WOE COMETH QUICKLY (11:13,
- 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.
- 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).
- 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
- Here the
significance is that they recognize the true God in contrast to their worship of
the devil and the antichrist (cf. 13:4).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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