42 Months. 1,260 Days.

Revelation 11

Saturday, November 26, 2022

In Revelation 11 John is told to measure God’s Temple and the altar, and the people worshipping there – except the outer court. We never learn that John reported or used these measurements, perhaps it is all a complex object lesson. (Later an angel also measures the New Jerusalem, see 21:15.) Still, the fact of doing this made John walk over every part of the Temple, and it took time. Ezekiel 40‑42 seems to list what he needed to measure – with the addition of the worshippers, and I don’t know how he did that. The whole scene also creates another lengthy pause for John in the vision, which is hard to visualize when reading.

John then learns about the Two Witnesses, who sound like a combination of Elijah with Moses and Aaron. The ability to breathe fire, while new for prophets, fits well if these verses are taken as part of the second woe. Reading about their authority it could seem odd that the nations will walk over Jerusalem and the Temple’s outer court in that time, rather than being driven away. But the witnesses will be in sackcloth for mourning. It will not be their role to drive out all the wicked, but to speak truth. The choice of what happened to the city belonged to its population. Their miracles will strike against those who seek to kill them, and back up their statements, but their basic ministry will be in their words.

And “when they have finished their testimony” the witnesses will be killed in Jerusalem. It is quite the image to think of wicked people celebrating ‘Happy Two Witnesses Day’ and exchanging gifts, perhaps commemorative shirts or mugs. But the wicked will have rejoiced in error. In the immediate aftermath thousands in Jerusalem will die, but the rest “gave glory to God.” Maybe those giving glory will be the first fruit of the witnesses’ ministries at that time. If so, I think they will be welcomed to the truth with joy, and the witnesses will count their own deaths as worthwhile. But I believe that the testimony of what these two will faithfully do has already brought great good, before they have even begun to prophesy – that is one of the strange potentials with prophecy about prophets.

The blowing of the Seventh Trumpet is answered with voices from heaven. The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ! God, the Almighty, has begun to reign! But it seems like God will be reigning over a world that is still populated by many of the wicked. If the seventh trumpet launches the third woe there is a lot of damage to come, although nothing more is said about that here. John has been told he needs to “prophesy again,” and perhaps it will be necessary to go backward to gain traction to go forward. The three-and-a-half year period which is discussed early in chapter 11 will come up again in chapters 12 and 13. While many people see the seven trumpets as leading into the woeful seven bowls of the wrath of God that is not for several more chapters.

Chapter 11 closes with another reference to the Temple in heaven, as it opens to reveal the ark of the covenant. I think that for the equivalent of the Holy of Holies in the heavenly tabernacle to open says the separation between God and mankind is being reduced or eliminated. This may not be a safe thing for the general population. Rather than a promise of blessings about to pour onto the world, it may mean that holiness will be called for.

Lord, I see in John and the unnamed witnesses people who understood servanthood, who accepted the risks in following Jesus and were completely committed. Allow me to be as humble and as brave as one of your prophets. I don’t need to tell the future. Please let me grow into that passion to do what you desire of me, guided by your Spirit, living in your love, serving in faith, working toward hope. May your will be done. Amen.

-Daniel Smead

Reflection Questions

  1. What good can come from the prophecy of the coming of the Two Witnesses before they have even come? What do you personally gain from looking into the book of Revelation? Who do you know who could potentially benefit from knowing what is in this revelation? Pray for them, and for your faithfulness as a servant of God.
  2. What are your thoughts and feelings about the separation between God and mankind being reduced or eliminated? Why?

The Witnesses

Revelation 11

Revelation 11 3 NIV

Following our strange detail about John eating the Scroll that God gave to him, we are finally going to learn about what the Scroll says through what John tells us! Unfortunately, it is very detailed, also strange in some ways, and has been the cause of many interpretations over the past 2,000 years. However, we are going to do our best to humbly try and understand what John says in this passage, while focusing on his main point. I don’t assume that my interpretation is 100% correct, so I invite all of you to critique it by looking at the text itself and speaking with other Christian teachers that you trust.

 

We are introduced to two Witnesses, or two Martyrs, who are proclaiming to people “their testimony”. Now, throughout Revelation, we see that John testified to “the testimony of Jesus Christ” (1:2, 9) and that the Christian martyrs from chapter six also had a “testimony” that they proclaimed (6:9). We will learn later that Christians are able to overcome Satan using “their testimony” as well (12:11). Narratively speaking, it is likely that these two Witnesses have the same testimony as John and the Christians. That testimony is the gospel message about Jesus’ death, resurrection and eventual return to establish God’s kingdom, as can be seen throughout the whole letter. In other words, the two Witnesses are two individuals that are faithfully preaching the gospel to those around them.

 

There has been speculation as to whether these are literally two individual people that are to come in the future, or whether they represent what the churches are supposed to be doing, since they are described as lampstands like the churches (compare 1:20 and 11:4). I assume that these are representatives for what the churches, and us, are supposed to be doing, but also don’t believe that John’s main point is in their identity; John’s main point to this vision is what is produced by their faithful preaching of the gospel.

 

After the two Witnesses are killed, resurrected, and exalted to God’s space, the people actually repent of their evils! In 11:13, it states that people “gave glory to the God of heaven”, which is repentance language. As we saw in the previous seven seals and seven trumpets, and will see in the later seven bowls, God’s judgment actions are not enough to bring about repentance; but the faithful preaching of the gospel message is enough, even if Christians die for it!

 

My encouragement to you today is to behave like these two Witnesses; faithfully preach the gospel, even at the expense of your own life. Whatever the cost may be for you, the reward is going to be more than you ever imagined! And just like the story of Revelation states, that reward is coming soon, after the Church does her job of faithfully preaching to the nations. Are you ready for that day to come?

 

Talon Paul

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