Week - 18 "Two Who Rocked Their World" Revelation 11:1-14
Updated: Dec 15, 2021
Authored by Jerry Marshall Introduction:
Without question, the Bible indicates that our God values communicating with those whom He has created. Our Lord has gone out of His way to reveal to us what we would not otherwise know. He has disclosed to us what we need to know about His character, His will and His plans for this present world and the world to come. He has revealed to us His formula for salvation and the forgiveness of our sins. He has disclosed to us who know Him, what He desires of us as we follow Him in this fallen place. And all of this is revealed to us in His holy Word.
The writer of Hebrews put it this way,
1” In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe”
What we will learn today is that in the very last days of the last days, God will send into this world, two very powerful prophets. These servants of God are so powerful, they will rock their world. They will not only proclaim the glorious Gospel of God’s grace, thus fulfilling the words of Christ recorded in Matthew 24:14, but they will also proclaim that the horrific disasters experienced by those who inhabit the earth during the time of the Tribulation, are indeed expressions of the final judgment of God.
Their ministry will begin at the start of the last three-and one-half years leading up to the battle of Armageddon, and ultimately, the second coming of Christ. This period of time is called the “Great Tribulation.” This second vision of John that is a part of an interlude between the sounding of the sixth and seventh trumpet, unfolds for us in three important scenes. The first sets the stage for the arrival of these two prophets of God.
I. The Measuring of the Temple (Revelation 11:1-2)
A. The Means (a measuring Rod 11:1a)
Occasionally, the Apostle John serves as a primary player in the unfolding of the drama of his visions. For example, in the tenth chapter, he was commanded to take the little scroll from the mighty angel’s hand which he did, and the mighty angel told John to eat the scroll, which symbolically conveyed the idea of consuming God’s Word, for the purpose of proclaiming it. John followed that mandate as well.
Now, in this vision, John once again serves as a primary player. A rod (or a reed) was given unto him in order to serve as a means or instrument measurement. The context seems to suggest that the mighty angel, the same one who gave him the little scroll to eat, gave him this measuring reed.
This rod, or perhaps your translation has “reed,” is taken from a reed-like plant that can grow from fifteen to twenty feet in length. It had a hollow center. It was lightweight and straight, so it was a great tool for measuring things; kind of like an ancient tape measure used for building (note the description below).
The rod or reed is 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. Ezekiel 40:3, 5).
B. The Mandate (11:1b-2)
(John) was told, 1b “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar and count the worshipers there. 2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for forty-two
The context of this mandate clearly indicates that this is not the heavenly Temple, because no one could trample any portion of the heavenly Temple, let alone trampling it for forty-two months (1,260 days, or three and half years).
When John penned these words, the earthly Temple in the city of Jerusalem was in ruins. It was destroyed a quarter of a century earlier by the Romans who suppressed the Jewish revolt of A.D. 66-70. They slaughtered over one million Jews, devastated the city of Jerusalem, and burned the Temple down. Just as Jesus prophetically stated would happen
So, the Temple that John is mandated to measure by the Lord is one in the future; one that will be constructed and exists during the time of the Great Tribulation.
This will be the fifth Temple built. The first was built by Solomon and has always been thought to be the most magnificent of them all. It was destroyed during the Babylonian captivity (1 Kings 8:1-66; Jeremiah 32:28-44).
The second was built under the supervision of Zerubbabel soon after the return of the Jews from captivity (Ezra 3:1-8; 4:1-14; 6:1-22). Antiochus Epiphanes later destroyed this temple. Herod rebuilt or remolded the third temple (Mark 13:1-2). This is the one that I mentioned earlier as being destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 66-70. Jesus taught in this temple. It took 46 years to build (John 2:20).
There is a present Temple of God which is the indwelling of all true believers with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:16-18).
This future Temple that John is mandated to measure represents the fulfillment of the dreams of many orthodox Jews of our day. Perhaps the rebuilding of this future Temple will be
1MacArthur, John Jr: The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville : Word Pub., 1997, c1997, S. Re 11:1 a part of the covenant that the Antichrist will make with God’s people at the very beginning of the seven years of tribulation (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4). At this moment, the Arabs would not stand for a rebuilding of the Temple. Such an undertaking today would result in war in the Middle East.
The Temple of the Tribulation period will be a pivotal place from which the Great Tribulation will ignite (cf. Daniel 9:27; 12:11; Matthew 24:15-21).
It should be mentioned that the prophet Ezekiel spoke of yet another Temple that will be in existence during the time of the Millennium (Ezekiel 40:3-42:20). The final Temple mentioned in the Scriptures is not of a building, but of the eternal presence of the Lord (Revelation 21:22).
What then is the significance of John measuring this future Temple? Frequently in the Bible, such measurements were made to signify marking something out for destruction, or marking something out for protection, or marking something out to signify ownership. This measurement of the Temple proper, which is the holy of holies and the holy place, excludes the outer court of the Temple. This measurement of the temple proper seems to signify symbolically, that this area is set apart unto God and those who are His.
It signifies that this special area belongs to Him. It appears to be done as an evaluation of His property. Both the Temple proper and those who are counted as the worshippers in the Temple belong to God. The Temple, and those who worship in it, are about to be spared from the judgment that is about to fall upon the city of Jerusalem.
In God’s sovereign design of things, He has given the outer court to the Gentiles. They will trample the Holy City (Jerusalem) for three- and one-half years, which is the length of time of the Great Tribulation. During this same time, the Jews will be sheltered by God in the wilderness (12:6, 14).
II. The Ministry of the Two Witnesses
A. Their Mission (11:3)
As much discussion that there has been about the previous portion of this chapter regarding the measuring of the Temple, there is twice as much discussion about the identity and the mission of these two witnesses.
The word, witnesses is a translation of the Greek word martus from which we get our English word, martyr. This word describes one who chooses to suffer death, rather than to renounce their religious principles; and can also refer to one who makes great sacrifices and endures great suffering in order to further a creed, cause or principle.
Our present understanding of a martus has evolved out of the reality that early believers in Jesus Christ who would follow their master’s command to go with the Gospel to the entire world, would frequently suffer and die as the price they were willing to pay for their testimony. Since martus is consistently used in the New Testament to speak of individuals, its best to see them as two actual individuals and not a movement, nor the church as a whole.
Two witnesses are the Biblical standard used to validate the truthfulness of a testimony. One thing that is clear about these two witnesses is their mission. They will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth” (three and a half years).
The word “prophesy” is not to be thought of as exclusively foretelling the future. In the New Testament, the word simply means to declare forth, to proclaim divine revelation received and to preach what has been divinely disclosed.
No doubt that the content of what these two witnesses will proclaim has to do with letting the world know that the disasters they are experiencing is the judgment of God upon these inhabitants of the earth. And, if they continue with their hardhearted rebellion, there will be hell to pay, literally.
They will no doubt also proclaim the Gospel of grace. Exhorting all that will listen, to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by repenting of their sins and placing their trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation.
These two witnesses wore sackcloth, which is the garment worn by Jews to symbolize mourning, suffering, grief and humility.
A commentator said of these garments....
“The two witnesses will put on sackcloth as an object lesson to express their great sorrow for the wretched and unbelieving world, racked by God’s judgments, overrun by demon hordes, and populated by wicked sinful people who refuse to repent. They will also mourn because of the desecration of the temple, the oppression of Jerusalem, and the ascendance of the Antichrist.” John MacArthur
B. Their Identity (11:4)
This description of the two witnesses is drawn from Zechariah 4:1-14. The reference to the "two olive trees and the two lamp stands" is an allusion to Joshua and Zerubbabel in Zechariah's vision, who were also said "to serve the Lord of all the earth" (Zech 4:1-6a, 10b-14). The whole import of Zechariah's vision was to strengthen the two leaders by reminding them of God's resources and to vindicate them in the eyes of the community as they pursued their God-given tasks. Thus, John's message would be, that the witnesses to Christ who cause the church to fulfill her mission to burn as bright lights to the world, will not be quenched (cf. Rev 1:20; 2:5).
These prophets are called two witnesses. (3) Two olive trees and two lamp stands (4) and two prophets (10). One thing that I know for sure about their identity, is that they were intimately involved in the proclamation of divine truth, which is implied by at least three of these titles; two witnesses, two lamp stands (light bearing, see Revelation 2-3) two prophets.
Two “olive trees” is much more difficult to understand. Olive trees produced the olive oil that was used as fuel for the wicks of the lamp stands. Olive trees and the connection with the lamp stands may signify divine provision or power behind the message proclaimed by these two prophets. Olive oil is sometimes found in Scripture as a sign of revival.
Some have identified these two witnesses, prophets, olive trees and Lamp stands as Moses and Elijah, because of the nature of the miracles that accompany their proclamation, as well as the power they exercise over the natural forces of this earth.
C. Their Power (11:5-6)
Why would somebody want to harm these servants of the Lord? Well, because of the nature of the message they will proclaim. They will fearlessly speak of God’s judgment, the wrath of God and the need for the inhabitants of the earth to repent of their evil practices and behavior and to turn to the Lord in faith for their salvation.
Since it has been decreed by the Lord that they will carry on their ministry for the duration of the Great Tribulation (three and a half years), anyone who tries to harm them will be terminated by fire coming out of their mouths.
There is another reason why these servants of God would be hated so much. As a result of the third trumpet judgment of the Lord, one-third of the world’s fresh water supply had been destroyed. These two prophets can and do add to the misery of the inhabitants of the earth by exercising the divine power given unto them, which enables them to shut up the sky, stopping it from raining during the time of their prophetic ministry. And like Moses, they have the ability to turn the fresh water supplies into blood and the strike the earth with every kind of plague.
The inhabitants of the earth will no doubt search for ways to kill these tormentors but to no avail. They will be unstoppable throughout the duration of their divinely assigned time of ministry.
The miracles recorded in the Bible and the “heaven sent disasters,” when accompanied by the prophetic declaration of God’s Word, were not simply used to impress, scare or amaze people. Their purpose was to affirm that those who are prophesying are indeed from God, proclaiming the very words of God. Therefore, they must be heeded.
D. Their Death (11:7-10)
Having completed the designated time period for their ministry on earth, (1,260 days, three- and one-half years), with the second coming of Christ just around the corner, these two prophets who rocked their world will be terminated by the Beast.
I am sure that efforts were made before hand to kill these two prophets of God only to end with the attempted assassins literally going up in smoke. Finally, from the perspective of this fallen world, the torment of these two men will come to an end at the hands of the Beast.
This is the first of thirty-six references in Revelation to the Beast who is the coming one world leader known as the antichrist. Much more is revealed about him in Revelation chapters thirteen and seventeen. The Beast is not Satan although he is empowered by Satan. The Devil is referred to as the Dragon and the serpent of old (Revelation 12:9).
The place of origin of the Beast is clearly stated in this passage; “The Beast that comes up out of the Abyss.” We have learned in our previous studies of this book that the Abyss is the subterranean place of incarceration for fallen angels. In Revelation chapter nine, as a part of the fifth trumpet judgment, the shaft of the abyss was opened and out of it came locust like scorpion stinging demonic beings that tortured the inhabitants of the world for five months. Knowing the origin of the beast has led me to conclude that he is a high ranking demonic being, who takes the appearance of a man, and is given Satan’s power and authority to rule the earth during the time of the Great Tribulation.
One important fact has led me to this conclusion, and that is that no human being is ever recorded as coming up from out of the Abyss. Further discussion of this idea will happen when we study the thirteenth chapter of Revelation. But now, according to the allowable will of God, the beast is given the ability to overpower and to kill these two prophets. And as an act of dishonor, derision, contempt and desecration, their bodies are left to rot in the street; more specifically, the street in the city of Jerusalem.
The city that once was known as the city of God, will at this time be like the evil city of Sodom, and like the evil nation of Egypt, who persecuted the people of God and made them slaves. The fact that this is the city where the Lord was crucified make its identity unmistakable. And the entire world will break out into a Christmas like celebration over the death of these messengers of God.
9 “For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.” (NIV)
Ironically, this is the only time in the book of Revelation where celebration on earth occurs. The inhabitants of the earth (those lost sinners whose hearts belong to the antichrist), will be happy because they have silenced these two servants of God who proclaimed God’s Word, exposed their sinfulness, warned them of impending judgment, performed miracles, demonstrating power and exhorted them to repent of their sins and to turn to the living God. The tormenting of their souls will finally cease, and a time of wild celebration will begin.
E. Their Resurrection (11:11)
As one commentator put it, “The partying and gift giving of ‘Dead Witnesses Day’ will be suddenly and dramatically halted by a most shocking event.”
Wild exuberance and celebration suddenly gave way to terror and shock. If this is recorded on television, you can be sure that it would be played over and over again. What they thought was a major victory turns out to be a major defeat.
F. Their Ascension (11:12)
Talk about an “in your face victory!” While their enemies stood there in shock and terror, totally helpless to reverse what they were about to witness, the two prophets, in response to the command of the Lord, ascend into heaven in a cloud. The ministry had been successfully completed. It was time to go home.
III. The Impact on the City (Revelation 11:13-14)
A. The Catastrophe (11:13a)
As a punctuation of the resurrection and ascension of the two witnesses, a severe earthquake occurs collapsing a tenth of the city of Jerusalem.
B. The Casualties (11:13b)
“Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake,” (NIV)
C. The Confession (11:13c)
“And the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (NIV)
The “God of heaven” is a familiar designation of God as the only true God as compared with the many pagans God’s of this world.
I don’t believe that this confession however is an indication of conversion. It is simply the acknowledgement of the obvious in light of the events just witnessed by the inhabitants of the world. In other words, no longer could someone be an atheist, agnostic or a polytheist. These events prove without a shadow of doubt that the God of heaven is indeed the only true God. This attempt at worship is not born out of love, or a relationship with the living Lord. It is borne out of fear and terror. It is not genuine worship, but a grudging admission of God’s power exercised in Judgment.
1. In the final expression of God’s judgment upon this world, He graciously sends His prophets to proclaim the way of escape. Those that are fallen, and the enemies of God who are hostile to His messengers and His message, and those who ignore the truth of the coming Judgment of the Lord, do so at their own peril.
2. Satan and his servants have momentary victories, but the ultimate victory always belongs to the Lord. We saw this same sort of perceived victory of Satan turned into defeat when Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected unto life.
3. There is never enough evidence necessary to cause the committed unbeliever to turn to God humbly and to repent of their sins.