THE TWO WITNESSES

“Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff;…”

(cf. Rev. 11:1-19)

Notice that John has become involved in these prophecies, and not just watching angels do things. The rod is like a measuring reed. We learn from history that these stiff river reeds were actually marsh reeds, and they could be from 8 feet to 20 feet long. In the book of Ezekiel chapter 40, which i think much of the allusion is drawn from, here about the new temple, it’s about 9 feet long that was given to Ezekiel. “…and someone said, “Get up and measure the temple of – God…” – i think this allusion goes back to Ezekiel 40:5-20, where he describes this new temple; an eschatological temple. This would seem problematic because the end of the book of Revelation says there is no temple in heaven. I think it’s the allusion of the book of Hebrews 9:23ff about a heavenly tabernacle, and what John is doing, is using Old Testament truths connected with the temple to describe New Testament truths about the covenant in Jesus Christ. There has been much discussion about what does the temple stand for? It you take it as something literal, the temple of Jerusalem is most probable. If you see this temple other way, John could likely be referring to the church, elsewhere called God’s sanctuary (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21). Others see it as the idea of the temple in the Millenium. There are varied opinions in this area, and we just can’t be certain. “…and the altar, and (count) those who worship in it” – means those who are in the temple area worshiping. “…Leave out the court which is outside the temple…” – what does that mean? Well, if you look at Herod’s temple, it’s the court of the Gentiles. That place is used by Jesus in Luke 21:24 to describe a period where Jerusalem is going to be trampled down by the Gentiles, and it is my opinion that this is an allusion that’s used in several different ways. I think it is used for Titus in AD 70, destroying the temple. I think it’s going to be used for other events that happen through the years, but is going to be culminated in the period of the anti-Christ like in Daniel 7. Historically, it already happened when Antiochus Epiphanes tyrannized Jerusalem for 3 and a half years (cf. Daniel 7:25), but a time which came to an end.

Notice as it says, “…and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.” – look down on verse 3, “…for 1260 days…” – if you’ll notice where this is used; i think it’s going back to the book of Daniel where a time, and times, and a half time is used a couple of times in Daniel 7:25; 12:7. It seems to be the idea of a time equals a year, then it comes out twelve hundred and seventy days – 30 days being to a lunar month. In Daniel 8:14 it was a little different number of days; likewise in Daniel 12:11, a different number of days; and then in verse 12, a little different number of days. In Revelation chapters 12 & 13 it seems to me that as the outer court of the Gentiles was used, it was how the foreign powers are going to dominate the people of God through history. This ’42 months’ is another very fluid symbol about the times of persecution that affect the people of God. I think we find exactly a three and a half period, or is it 1250, or 1290, or 1270, or whatever, we really get balled up. I think it’s one of those fluid metaphors for a time of persecution being exactly half the number seven.

Now, what does it say? “And I will appoint my two witnesses,…” – now who are these? Well, they are going to be described down a little bit later in verse 6, for i believe the 2 olive trees (cf. Zech. 4:2-3; 11-14) and the 2 lampstands (cf. Rev. 1:20) stand for the churches, maybe because in Zechariah 4, there is only one lampstand but several bowls. There are 2 olive trees but only one lampstand. So i think again, John is taking and mixing these Old Testament metaphors. Some say, “why two? What’s so special about 2?” I think the idea is about the need of 2 witnesses to confirm a matter, going back to the Old Testament particularly in Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Numbers 35:30, maybe an allusion here. Some say it goes back, that Jesus set out the people two by two in Luke 10:1. We can’t be real sure why there’s two, but i think it’s to confirm the message, and to tell you the truth. Notice back in verse 3, they were dressed in sack cloth, now sack cloth seems to be allusion to mourning, but it’s also used quite often as the dress of the prophets (cf. Gen. 37:34; 2 Sam. 3:31). The Zechariah 4:6 passage that says, “…Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” – is the idea here that the beast is not going to be able to overcome the church. I think that’s the allusion that says, “And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth…” – is the power of their message as the two-edged sword that comes out of Christ’s mouth; a symbol of the Word of God. So these prophets’ message is the power that will slay anyone who stands before them, and if anyone tries to harm them, there’s going to be a protection on them until their task is complete. But once their task is complete, then they’re going to die. Many through history said these 2 witnesses sound like Elijah and Moses. I think that’s probably true they were at the Mount of Transfiguration representing the Law and the Prophets. The fact that they stopped heavens (cf. 1 Kings 17) and turned the Nile River to blood (cf. Exo. 7:14-25), sounds like the activities of Moses and Elijah. Others go back to History and thought the allusion was to 1 Enoch 90:31, where Elijah and Enoch were the only 2 Old Testament people that didn’t die but were translated to heaven. Others see it as the church, and I think really the allusion is to the church using these 2 Old Testament prophetic types. And it’s to the whole church, not to just some, but primarily to the martyrs that are going to be killed by these forces of anti-God world system.

Now notice in verse 7, “When they have finished their testimony, the beast…” – that’s the first time we’ve mentioned him. We see him first as a little horn back in Daniel 7. I think that’s where the idea of the beast comes from. It’s an allusion from Daniel. He’s going to be picked up on in Revelation 13:1ff and 17:8ff. He is going to be the personification of evil at the end-time. He’s going to be the incarnation of satan. He is the one i think who’s called the ‘man of lawlessness’ in 2 Thessalonians 2. I think he is the one Jesus is discussing in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. I think there has been an incarnation of evil in every age, in the sense when someone ready to usurp God’s prerogatives. When God finally puts these last time events into play. And i think that will happen at the end-time; whether that’s real close and what racial group this person is from, i think is very fluid. Notice as it mentions, that this beast “…will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them” – Obviously the 2 witnesses are collective and not individual; a mighty host for the beast will not simply kill them, but will make war with them. So i think this is the church as a whole that’s being referred to here. Notice that this beast is coming out of the abyss, and remember Rev. 9:1, abyss is the place where the demons are held. The place where satan is held. The anti-Christ will come out of that in chapter 13. I think there are 2 kinds of tribulations: there’s a tribulation where unbelievers persecute the church, and there’s a tribulation where God persecutes the unbelievers, and both of those are happening in the book of Revelation. It’s sometimes hard to tell which is which. Here it’s obviously that the unbelievers are going to persecute the believers. Now, “…their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city…” – ‘bodies’ is actually singular which implies that they do everything together as one, one group. Their corpses remain in the street of that great city. Now if you tend to take this very Jewishly and literally, this has got to be the city of Jerusalem because it says, ‘the city where the Lord was crucified’. But is you see this more as the over-all struggle between the kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of our God, this ‘great city’ could stand for any great city, meaning ‘civilized man in an organized godless world system’.

And then it says down here, “Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead [g]bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb.”- there’s a whole bunch of people here from around the world (that doesn’t sound like Jerusalem, it sounds more like Rome) and it says the inhabitants of the earth will gloat over that. The ‘inhabitants of the earth’ is always used for unbelievers, and notice that the prophet’s message was not directed just to Jews, but to these people of every tribe. They’re the ones that are glad he’s dead. they rejoice for a period, and then God’s breath comes on the end (sounds like Ezekiel 37 to me). Tragedy is going to strike that city, and then it says the rest were stricken with awe. Were they truly repentant? I think not. I think it’s the idea like Nebuchadnezzar, they were struck with awe with what God is doing, and they give praise to Him verbally, but they don’t really convert to Him. And so i think it’s a false conversion here, but we really can’t be certain. Then the 7th trumpet blows, and from this point on, we’re coming back now to the idea of the end-times. Verses 15 to 19, i think introduce chapter 12.

Let me just state my observation, that the more you study Revelation, the more you see that your presuppositions determine what you do with the text. The text itself is so fluid, that in one figure you can make it mean Christ, or it can mean satan. It is obvious that we can’t be dogmatic about these metaphors and allusions. But it seems that there is a consistent pattern and a consistent usage. Although we’re drawing on from the Old Testament, it’s not meant to say this is the Old Testament people of God, Israel. For this reason, John is changing metaphors, he’s changing their meaning from their Old Testament context to his purposes which have to do with the people of God and the Gospel. He is bringing things that people who read the Old Testament recognize, but he’s really changing them to applying them to the tension that we see in Daniel, that the kingdoms of this world are becoming progressively anti-God. And there’s going to be an ultimate kingdom that is typified by Babylon, typified by Rome, or typified by any civilization that turns away from God in this end-time setting. There’s going to be a confrontation between this ultimate kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God in Christ. That’s what the beautiful passage of verse 15 is all about, ““The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” Amen and amen!

THE 7TH TRUMPET

Verses 15-19 is really the section that introduces chapter 12, and here we see the end of the world again. It’s that beautiful phrase, “the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ. It describes that we’ve come to the brink of the end again. Notice, ‘kingdom’ is singular because all through out the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation, there has been an anti-God world system rebelling against the Creator, and that’s symbolized in this singular kingdom which takes up many different governments in many different ages. The kingdom (aorist tense) has become or at least the final, is fallen and has become the possession of our Lord and of His Christ. This reminds me a lot of 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, for when all things are put under Jesus’ feet, He will give it back to the Father, and here we have the ultimacy of the Father’s reign, although Messiah is linked with Him on the throne. Now it says, “…and He will reign forever and ever.” – this does not seem to be about the Millenial reign that we will find in chapter 20, but the emphasis on the eternal kingdom. There are several places in the Old Testament that emphasize the eternal kingdom, for example Daniel 7:14, Isaiah 9:6-7; in the New Testament, Luke 1:33; 2 Peter 1:11 is where the eternal kingdom is mentioned. This is no temporary affair. God will reign forever and ever.

Now in verse 16, we have another hymn of these elders; they fall down and begin to praise God again. “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty…” – this goes back to Revelation 1:8, ‘Almighty’ being the patriarchal name of God. This whole thing seems to be at the Messianic kingdom mentioned in Daniel 2:31-45, that has come, and the kings of this world have been destroyed by the ‘stone’ not made with hands, and the Kingdom of God has come, and time is no more. Hallelujah! “… because You have taken (perfect tense) Your great power and have begun to reign (aorist tense).” – God is in control! The prayer that Jesus prayed in Matthew 6:10, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” has finally come. Now, “And the nations (heathen) were enraged,…” – this seems to remind me of Psalms 2, for i think it really affected John in his writing. “…and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints…” – this very same phrase is mentioned in chapter 10:7; as a matter of fact, prophets are mentioned quite often in the Book of Revelation (John considers himself one cf. Rev. 10:7; 11:10 & 18; 16:6; 18:20 & 24; 22:6 & 9). Prophet almost takes the place of apostle in other New Testament books and in this last book. Now, “…the small and the great…” – this same division is made in Rev. 19:5, and it seems to include all the people of God. “… and to destroy those who destroy the earth.” – what a shocking way of talking about unbelievers, and God’s going to deal with them. Now, the doors of God’s temple in heaven were thrown open. Remember, the prophecy began with the door opened in heaven, but here it’s almost like God wants to show the innermost part of the spiritual heavenly temple. We learn particularly from the book of Hebrews chapters 8 and 9, particularly 9:23ff about this heavenly tabernacle where Christ offered Himself. This is that same kind of metaphor. Quite often, heaven is seen as throne room and that’s very confusing to us because in the very end , it will say there is no temple in heaven, but remember this is apocalyptic language, and we can’t be dogmatic. It’s too fluid. “…and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple,…” – this is the idea of God’s covenant promises. The ark of the covenant was in the holy of holies and only the high priest could see it once a year, but now all of God’s people can come. I think it describes the intimacy of the people of God to approach God. It’s much like later on, the seal will be removed, which is a symbol of separation. Here, we’re coming into the very presence of God, because the Eternal Kingdom is now set up. Notice where it mentions, “…there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.” – in other parts of the Book of Revelation, this has been judgment, but here it can’t be judgment. It’s just the phenomena that surrounds the opening of the inner shrine in heaven, and so we need to be careful that these symbols are not always used the very same way.