[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]
11 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
In the sequence of future events (seals, trumpets, and bowls), John is stepping back into the seals from the sixth trumpet. This is done to show that the unbelievers are deserving of God’s wrath, for murdering His children. The worshipers, that John is told to measure, are the symbolic 144,000 which will be sealed for protection from the wrath of God, before the 7 trumpets. (See also- Zechariah 2:1-13)
The holy city is Jerusalem (Daniel 9:2, 24), which will become the headquarters of the Antichrist. These 42 months are the time the Antichrist is given power (Rev. 13:5). The Bible also counts this time as 1,260 days (Rev. 12:6); half a week (Dan. 9:27; Rev. 11:9); and a time, times, and half a time (Rev. 12:14; Dan. 7:25 & 12:7). This is basically the second half of Daniel’s seventieth week. (See also- Luke 21:24)
We should take note that Daniel 12:11 says that from the abomination of desolation, there will be 1,290 days. We can’t be sure if the extra 30 days comes before or after the 1,260 days, as Daniel does not state what actually happens at the end of the 1,290 days.
3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
They are clothed in sackcloth, which is a symbol of mourning, and shows this to be during Daniel’s seventieth week. While Christians are presently rejoicing over the good news of the gospel, we will be in mourning during much of that seven year period. The beast-kingdom will oppress God’s people during the first half, and the Antichrist will have authority to kill them in the second half. Verse 7 shows this 1,260 days of prophesying to be during the first half, while the Antichrist has power during the second half (Daniel 12:5-7; Revelation 11:2; 13:5). They won’t prophecy salvation, they will prophesy judgment (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15).
There is much debate on the identity of the two witnesses. Some say it is Moses and Elijah, because they represent the law and the prophets, or that it’s Moses and John the baptist, because they represent the old and new testaments. None of these are accurate, however, because the Bible says that a person can only die once (Hebrews 9:27). Perhaps it is Enoch and Elijah because they are the only two people, in the Bible, who didn’t die. Some say Malachi 4:5 “proves” that one of the two witnesses is Elijah, because God promises to send him before the day of wrath. This view, however, completely takes Malachi 4 out of context, and totally ignores the fact that Jesus said Elijah had already come (Matthew 17:12).
Actually, there is no need to wonder the identity of the two witnesses, as the next verse clearly identifies them.
4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
Now, all we have to do is read the Bible and see who it was that God ever called an olive tree or candlestick. The only time, in the Bible, that God calls anyone a candlestick is in His message to the seven churches (Rev. 1:20). The seven churches represent all Christians, throughout time, so that doesn’t appear to help much. There are, however, over a dozen times, in the Bible, that God calls someone an olive tree. In every single instance, God is referring to Israel and/or the church. The two witnesses are, according to the Bible, Judaism and Christianity. (See also- Zechariah 4)
5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
“If any man will hurt them” points to the fact that not everyone on earth will persecute God’s people. In fact, there will be many unbelievers who will be allowed to enter into the millennial kingdom because they showed kindness to God’s people. Matthew 25:31-46 describes the earthly judgment of the unbelievers when Jesus sets up his earthly kingdom, at the beginning of His 1,000 year reign. Many people wrongly believe those verses speak of judgment day, and the separating of believers from non-believers. If that were so, however, anyone could work their way into heaven by giving a cup of water to a Christian (Galatians 2:16). No, it is clearly speaking of judging non-believers, still living, to determine which ones will be allowed to enter into the millennial kingdom. No matter how good a person is, if they refuse to help God’s people, they express their defiance of God, and will be denied entrance.
Although not everyone will persecute Christians and Jews, it will be most common. Jesus said, in Mark 13:12, “Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.”
Those who hold the view that the two witnesses are literally two people sent back to earth, point to the act, by Elijah, of calling down fire (lightning) from heaven (1 Kings 18:36-38). Elijah, however, never spit fire out of his mouth. Also, Jeremiah 5:14 & 23:29 likens the word of God to fire. Therefore, it is my understanding that the fire proceeding from the mouths of the two witnesses (Judaism and Christianity) will be the pronouncement, during the tribulation, of God’s coming judgment on unbelievers.
6 These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
Although they have the power to do these miracles (literally or symbolically), the Bible does not mention to what extent they exercise this authority. Also, notice that they only have this power during the 1.260 “days of their prophecy”, which will be immediately before the Great Tribulation.
7 And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
The fact that the witnesses can be killed proves that they are not previously dead men, as a person cannot physically die twice. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Also, they cannot be angels, which are supernatural beings and cannot die. Christians and Jews, however can die. We can see proof of that daily.
The beast, spoken of here, is the Antichrist which will rule the beast-kingdom (Revelation 13;7; Daniel 7:19-25; 8:23-24; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9).
8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
The great city is clearly identified as Jerusalem, by the phrase “where also our Lord was crucified.” The term “great city” is used ten times in Revelation, and each time it refers to Jerusalem. It will, however, be intensely spiritually immoral at this time, as it was given unto the unbelievers to trample underfoot (Rev. 11:2), and will likely be the headquarters of the Antichrist. It is likened to Sodom and Egypt which are symbolic for immorality and materialism (Isaiah 3:8-9; Jeremiah 23:14; Jude 1:7). The great city is also called Babylon (Revelation 18:10), and its judgment will be covered in much detail in chapters 17 and 18.
9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
As the two witnesses are Christians and Jews, the dead bodies refers to those killed in the Great Tribulation. The 3 ½ days refers to the 3 ½ year tribulation period. Because Jerusalem will be the headquarters of the Antichrist, Judaism and Christianity will symbolically lie dead in her streets. The refusal of burial shows the contempt by unbelievers towards God’s servants, but may also be a literal reference to the inhumane disposal of their bodies.
10 And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
The wicked will do three things: they will look upon the dead bodies of the two witnesses with pleasure, show contempt for them, and rejoice in celebration over their deaths. The gift-giving shows the level of joy experienced by the wicked. The extreme torment they received from the two witnesses appears to be the proclamation of the truth of God.
11 And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
After three and a half days (3 1/2 years) would be after the end of the tribulation period. This is the first resurrection spoken of in Revelation 20:5. (See also- 1 Corinthians 15:52; Matthew 24:30-31; Luke 21:34-36; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Romans 8:11).
13 And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
The resurrection of the two witnesses ends the waiting period of the fifth-seal martyrs (Rev. 6:9-11), and brings us back to our present point in the chronology of the seals, trumpets, and bowls. The term “the same hour” shows, unquestionably, that the rising from the dead, and rapture of the two witnesses (whoever you want them to be) occurs at this point, between the sixth and seventh trumpets.
The fact that the unbelievers gave glory to God, does not mean they became Christians. It simply means they acknowledged the truth and sovereignty of God. James 2:19 says “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Chapter 14 will return to this chronological point, and show an angel commanding unbelievers to “Fear God and give Him glory” (Revelation 14:7).
During the Great Tribulation, the Antichrist will be exalted (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Daniel 11:36; Revelation 13:3-6), but this will end at the second coming of Jesus (2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 13:11-20; Daniel 7:8-11). At the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the seven bowls of wrath will be poured out, and only God will be exalted (Isaiah 2:11-17).
14 The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.
15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
The seventh trumpet contains the seven bowls of God’s wrath. Therefore, it also announces the arrival of Jesus. Though He will not immediately destroy the wicked, He will begin to reign immediately. The coming of Jesus will be covered in Revelation 14:1-5 & 19:11-21.
The phrase “he shall reign for ever and ever” refers to God the Father. The phrase “our Lord, and his Christ” refers to the fact that Jesus, strictly speaking, will rule over the millennial kingdom in the stead of the Father. (See also- Daniel 7:7-14; Revelation 10:5-7; Zechariah 14:1-9; Micah 4:1-7)
There is much debate as to whether the seventh, and last, trumpet is the “last trump” spoken of, by Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52. Though the timing is the same, I believe Paul was symbolically referring to the seven trumpets of the Feast of Trumpets. We should remember that the Great Tribulation ended during the events of the sixth seal, and the remaining Christians were sealed for protection from the events of the seven trumpets (Revelation 7).
16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
17 Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
Some view this verse to be looking into the future to the final judgment (see Revelation 20:12). Others, however, see it as only referring to judging and rewarding of the righteous dead, and to the pouring out of God’s wrath on the wicked (Revelation 22:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). (See also- Revelation 6:10-15)
Those who “destroy the earth” does not mean physically, but morally (Revelation 11:2).
19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
The ark is a symbol of the presence of God. (See also- Isaiah 30:27-30)