Chapter 11

Introduction

The “trumpet interlude”, which began with chapter 10, now continues into chapter 11. This trumpet interlude complements the the seven trumpet events by viewing the trumpet time period from a broad perspective, describing things associated with the entire period. The trumpet period corresponds to the time, times, and half a time period foretold by the prophet Daniel (Dan 7:25, Dan 12:7), and it encompasses the great tribulation, which lasts for 42 months (or 1260 days). That explains why we see those specific durations mentioned within the text of this interlude.

The trumpet interlude extends through verse 13, and then it is followed by the description of the seventh and final trumpet event, which starts in verse 14.

Commentary

The Trumpet Interlude Continues

1Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, “Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. 2“Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.

v1 Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, “Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it – At the end of chapter 10, John had the “scroll eating” experience which paralleled the similar experience by the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel (Ezek 3:1-3). Now, this parallelism with Ezekiel continues with this account of measuring the temple. This parallelism indicates a similarity of purpose between Ezekiel and John.

Ezekiel’s “temple measuring” experience begins in Ezekiel chapter 40, and it came to him after the first temple was destroyed (Ezek 40:1). Ezekiel was given a vision of a new temple, and he was told to measure it. Although it was a bleak time for Israel, Ezekiel’s vision of a new temple gave hope that God would ultimately restore Israel to their land and that He would again dwell with them.

Similarly, John’s “temple measuring” experience in verses 1-2 offers hope to Israel despite the bleakness of their end times experience. In fact, it’s best to see that John’s experience and Ezekiel’s experience are ultimately referring to the same restoration of Israel, as explained below.

v2 Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months – The forty-two months is a reference to the great tribulation, which begins with the abomination of desolation (Dan 12:11, Rev 13:5). This will be a time of trouble for Israel, as symbolized by the temple courtyard being lost to “the nations” during this trumpet period.

The mention of the holy city being trampled under foot by Gentiles during the great tribulation corresponds to what Jesus said in the Olivet discourse:

Luke 21:20-27: 20“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. 21“Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; 22because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled. 23“Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; 24and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. 25“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory.

In some respects, this passage in Luke 21 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD by Rome. And yet, that event in 70 AD was itself emblematic of a greater attack on Jerusalem that will occur during the great tribulation. The great tribulation is actually the primary meaning in view, as evidenced by: (1) the mention of the desolation in verse 20, which is Antichrist’s abomination of desolation at the midpoint, and (2) that this time of the Gentiles will be immediate followed by the return of Christ described in verses 25-27.

The Meaning of the Measured Temple

It’s best to understand this temple of Revelation 11 as symbolic, rather than as an actual rebuilt temple in Jerusalem (even though it’s possible that a new temple will exist at that time). One reason for this is that it doesn’t make much sense that hostile Gentile forces will be able to occupy the outer courtyard of the literal temple, and yet be unable to enter its inner courtyard. Also, we should remember that the temple in John’s vision corresponds to the temple in Ezekiel’s vision, and Ezekiel’s temple is clearly symbolic (as discussed below).

What does this temple symbolize? This temple symbolizes Jerusalem in the end times. The actual measurements of the temple are not stated in Revelation, but since this temple measuring clearly parallels the temple measured in Ezekiel, we can assume the measurements are the same as those given by Ezekiel. Interestingly, the measurements in Ezekiel describe a temple that is the same size as Jerusalem itself (Ezek 40:2, 42:16-19). This understanding is confirmed by noticing that verse 2 associates the loss of the temple court (being given to the nations) with the invasion of Jerusalem (the holy city trampled).

The Unmeasured and Measured Parts

The outer courtyard of the temple (which is called the “Court of the Gentiles”) being trampled for 42 months represents the assault that will come against Jerusalem at the midpoint of the end times. This will be the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:7) and many Jews will be killed or captured in this attack. John is told not to measure that outer court because it is given over to the nations who have come against Israel. From this we may conclude that the hostile armies will occupy and control Jerusalem.

The hopeful aspect of this passage, from Israel’s perspective, is that John does measure the inner part, “the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it”. This symbolizes a place that is not given over to the nations for the sake of faithful Jews. This must refer to God’s protection of those Jews who, by faith, “fled to the mountains” — that is, the Mount of Olives which is just east of the temple site in Jerusalem (Zech 14:5, Rev 12:6). As discussed in chapter 12, the Jews who flee there will receive divine protection against Antichrist and his armies for the 3 1/2 years of the great tribulation.

This passage is saying that those Jews who run to God (symbolically into the temple of God as worshipers, and in actuality to the mount of Olives in faithful obedience) shall witness God’s mighty hand of protection, just as He miraculously protected them against the armies of Egypt in Exodus 14.

The Two Witnesses in Jerusalem

3“And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.

v3 I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth – The trumpet interlude now informs us about two special people — the two witnesses — who will prophesy for 1,260 days (which again, is the great tribulation that takes place during the trumpet period). They will be located in Jerusalem (as indicated by verse 8).

That these two are wearing sackcloth shows that Israel is in a time of distress and mourning. This is likely due to Antichrist’s attack which doubtless killed many. The prophet Jeremiah called this the “time of Jacob’s trouble” in Jer 30:7, Alas! for that day is great, There is none like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s distress, But he will be saved from it.

While this shall be a terrible time for Israel, it will also be their most glorious time. It comes with a promise that Israel “will be saved from it“, which agrees with what we see here.

The sackcloth may also represent mourning because they are becoming aware that the Jesus who they had long rejected was indeed their Messiah (Zech 12:10-11, Rev 1:7). However, between these two witnesses, the 144,000 Jewish servants, and those being protected at the Mount of Olives, the little faithful surviving remnant of Israel shall be a powerful testimony to God in the end times, and they shall all be saved (Rom 11:26).

v4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth – Yet again, Revelation draws a parallel with something from the Old Testament. This time the parallel imagery is found in Zechariah chapters 3 and 4.

Zechariah was a prophet among the Jews who returned to Israel after their captivity in Babylon. With great sorrow, these Jews saw their devastated land, they saw Jerusalem in ruins, and they saw the destroyed temple. Their land was now under foreign (Persian) control. The priesthood had crumbled and the their kingdom had been taken away. However, the captivity had completed its work of purifying the Jews of their idolatry, and now God gave Zechariah a great message of encouragement and restoration — and this message involved two individuals, who were symbolically represented by two olive trees. Zechariah provides understanding about what this means:

Joshua of Priestly line – In Zech 3:3-8, the prophet saw a vision of Joshua the high priest who would restore the priesthood and even be a sign of the coming of the Christ (the Branch in verse 8):  3Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. 4He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” 5Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the LORD was standing by. 6And the angel of the LORD admonished Joshua, saying, 7“Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘If you will walk in My ways and if you will perform My service, then you will also govern My house and also have charge of My courts, and I will grant you free access among these who are standing here. 8‘Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you—indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch.

Zerubabbel of Royal Line – In Zech 4:6-10, the prophet relayed a message to Zerubbabel, the rightful heir to the throne of David, who would (despite the loss of the kingdom) be granted by God the authority to rebuild of the temple:  6Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts. 7‘What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’” 8Also the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 9“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. 10“For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel—these are the eyes of the LORD which range to and fro throughout the earth.”

Lampstand and Two Olive Trees – Finally, in Zech 4:11-14, the prophet receives an explanation for the lampstand and two olive trees (which the prophet had seen): 11Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right of the lampstand and on its left?” 12And I answered the second time and said to him, “What are the two olive branches which are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden oil from themselves?” 13So he answered me, saying, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.” 14Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth.”

Zechariah’s “two olive trees” represented Joshua and Zerubbabel, the two anointed ones who stood for God and gave strength (represented by oil) to a restored Israel (represented by the lampstand, i.e. menorah).

In Revelation 11, the reference to two olive trees tells us that a parallel thing will happen in the end times. That is, these two witnesses of chapter 11 shall also be two “anointed ones”, and they will likewise be Jewish leaders who stand for God and give new strength to the final restored and protected remnant of Israel. Of course, the final restoration of Israel is a major Biblical theme.

Note that Zechariah’s prophecy mentioned one lampstand, but Revelation mentions two lampstands. In the end times, there are two lampstands because one represents God’s people Israel, and the other represents God’s people the church (Rev 1:20). The two lampstands being together represents the long-awaited unity of Israel with the church when Israel recognizes Christ (Zech 12:10) and God saves their remnant (Rom 11:26-27). These two witnesses shall be Jews, and they shall be Christians.

The Two Witnesses Display God’s Power

5And if anyone wants to harm them, fire flows out of their mouth and devours their enemies; so if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way. 6These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.

v5 if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this way – We know that during the great tribulation, a faithful remnant of Israel shall receive divine protection for 3 1/2 years at some “safe place”, apparently in valley created in the Mount of Olives (Zech 14:4,5). However, rather than being in that safe place, these two witnesses shall be out among hostile forces in Jerusalem, exposed to their attacks. Even so, they too are divinely protected such that everyone who attacks them must die.

v6 These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire – In addition to being invincible, these two witnesses have the power to stop rain (similar to Elijah in 1 Kings 17:1) and turn water to blood and strike the earth with plagues during (similar to Moses in the ten plagues of Egypt).

The Two Witnesses Killed

7When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. 8And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. 10And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

v7 the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them – The beast is Antichrist (the first beast in Revelation 13). Throughout the great tribulation, Antichrist shall be seeking to destroy the Jews, but without complete success. But he will finally succeed in killing these two prominent Jewish leaders who had been invincible for 3 1/2 years.

v8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city – The bodies of the two witness are left in the open, doubtlessly objects of contempt and mocking.

v8 which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified – The phrase where their Lord was crucified positively identifies this city as Jerusalem. However, this city was mystically (or symbolically) called by two other names, which describe the character of the city rather than its actual name:

  1. The name Sodom refers to a place where people love their sin (Gen 18:20).
  2. Next, the name Egypt refers to a place of idolatry and oppression of God’s people (Exodus chapters 1-15).

These descriptions are apt for Jerusalem at this time when the ungodly foreign invaders rejoice over the two bodies lying dead in the street. The reference to Sodom may be pointed reminder of Israel’s sin, for which Israel is now repenting (indicated by the sackcloth worn by the two witnesses). Note that the prophet Isaiah himself addressed Israel as Sodom (Isa 1:10).

v9 Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb – This is time of willful disrespect by the foreign forces that occupy Jerusalem. The bodies will be on display throughout the earth (now possible with television and Internet media). This will last three and a half days (which is best understood as literal days).

v10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth – From the perspective of those who follow Antichrist, the death of these two witnesses is a deliriously joyous occasion, which they celebrate with rejoicing and gift-giving.

The Two Witnesses and the Trumpet Events

Question: Why will the unbelieving world want so badly to kill these two witnesses, and why will they react with such joy when Antichrist succeeds in killing them?

One would think that if they were just “witnesses” going around Jerusalem speaking boldly for God, they could simply be ridiculed or ignored. However, we see that these two witnesses did far more than just speak. There are a some interesting observations to make here:

  • The two witnesses will have the power to turn water to blood (verse 6), and one of the trumpet events (the 2nd) involved turning water to blood.
  • It is said that they could strike the earth with every plague (verse 6), and the trumpet events are themselves described as plagues (Rev 9:20).
  • The people celebrated the death of the two witnesses because those two had been tormenting those who dwell on the earth (verse 10).

These observations suggest the possibility that some of the first six trumpet events were actually among the plagues pronounced beforehand by these two witnesses. If so, it would explain some otherwise difficult issues:

  • It would explain why the unbelieving world wanted so badly to kill the two witnesses. Since they are the ones pronouncing these trumpet plagues, they would be perceived as the ones causing them. They will be seen as destroyers of the life-sustaining environment on earth! As a matter of survival, the unbelieving world would be compelled to kill the two witnesses before it was too late. And yet, for 1,256 1/2 days (1260 days less the 3 1/2 days that they lay dead), killing them will not only be impossible, it will be deadly for anyone who tries.
  • This would also explain the worldwide jubilation when Antichrist finally does succeed in killing them. Antichrist would be seen as the savior of the world. After such a long time of despair and panic, the death of the two witnesses would give the unbelieving world reason for hope. Also, if Antichrist figured out how to destroy those two witnesses who had seemed invincible, they had reason to hope that he would also finally succeed in destroying the rest of the Jews who up until now had also been protected. After all, the two witnesses were the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem representing the Jews who were being protected by God.

These three and a half days shall be the pinnacle of Antichrist’s career. He shall be the ultimate object of worship for all those who refuse to worship God. Just as Christians today give gifts to celebrate the birth of the true savior, the unbelieving world will give gifts to celebrate their counterfeit savior. One might call this time “Anti-christmas”.

But the world will be in for a terrifying surprise.

The Two Witnesses Resurrected

11But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them. 12And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.

v11 But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them – The celebrations will end abruptly when those dreaded two witnesses return to life. The horror of the unbelieving world would be unimaginable, and rightly so.

v12 they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them – Symbolically making it clear that these two witnesses were the true representatives of God.

Side note: As explained in The Rapture, there may be reason to  believe that this resurrection event is connected to other passages that describe the general resurrection of saints who had died, as well as the rapture event itself.

The death and resurrection of the two witnesses happens shortly before the seventh trumpet begins. As discussed below (and in Revelation Overview), the seventh trumpet encompasses the bowl judgments and the return of Christ. Therefore, it figures that the resurrection of these two witnesses immediately precedes the bowl events.

v13 And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven – An earthquake will destroy a tenth of Jerusalem and kill seven thousand people. Perhaps these are among the invading force in Jerusalem that killed the two witnesses.

Interestingly, it concludes by saying that the terrified people will give glory to the God of heaven. This seems to run contrary to what was said in Rev 9:20: The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.

However, one should not assume that “gave glory to the God of heaven” necessarily means that they repented and worshiped God. God will be glorified regardless of what people do. Preferably, he will be glorified by true worshippers who joyously give thanks for His grace and mercy. But if not, he will be glorified by rendering righteous judgments against the wicked. It’s possible that those in Jerusalem who witnessed all of this (and survived) shall glorify God simply because they will now fear God. Of course, it is also possible that many people, upon witnessing the resurrection of the two witnesses, will truly acknowledge God and repent.

Trumpet #7 – A Summary of the Bowls

14 The second woe is past; behold, the third woe is coming quickly.

15Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” 16And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. 18“And the nations were enraged, 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 and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth.”

19And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.

v14 The second woe is past; behold, the third woe is coming quickly – A transition whereby the trumpet interlude ends, and we return to the narration of the trumpet events. Recall that the final three trumpets are called the “three woes” (Rev 8:13). Of those, all that remains is the final (seventh) trumpet, which is the third woe.

We can see that the seventh trumpet must encompass the bowl events based on its content (see below). We see it also by the fact that Rev 10:7 stated that at the sounding of the final trumpet, the mystery of God that was revealed to the prophets will be finished. This “finishing” of all prophecy must include the bowl events, which were certainly foretold by the prophets, particularly those that mention the Day of the Lord.

v15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” – This is an announcement that Great Promise of the kingdom of God coming to earth is being fulfilled. This is the final step in the process that began in chapter 5, when Christ took the seven-sealed scroll that represented the coming of His kingdom to earth.

v17 because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign – At first glance, it may be a surprising idea that God will begin to reign at this future event. Doesn’t God already reign? Yes, but the context qualifies the meaning, specifically that he is beginning to reign on earth. Some may still be surprised by the idea that God doesn’t already reign on earth, although scripture shows that Christ has been purposefully withholding his full reign (as explained in Why Two Comings of Christ and The Great Promise).

v18 And the nations were enraged – Referring to the unbelieving world which has been enraged by the first six trumpet plagues, and even more so by the resurrection of the two Jewish witnesses who were pronouncing those plagues. We know that their rage will ultimately compel them to make war against God’s people Israel (Rev 16:14,16, Rev 17:14, Rev 19:19).

v18 and Your wrath came – The beginning of the seventh trumpet marks the beginning God’s wrath, which means that it corresponds to the beginning of the bowl judgments (Rev 16:1). With this understanding, we see that this seventh trumpet woe is indeed the most severe of the three woes.

The bowl judgments constitute the beginning of Christ’s eternal reign on earth, and the destruction of Satan’s temporary reign. We will see (in chapter 19) that the bowls conclude when the enraged nations make war against Christ, only to be destroyed by His wrath. With Satan’s kingdom destroyed, Christ alone shall reign on the earth. This is described by the Old Testament prophecy, Zech 14:9: And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.

v18 and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth – The time of wrath is followed by a time of judging the dead, both the righteous and unrighteous. Notice how well this agrees with the account the bowls, where God’s wrath (concluding in chapter 19) is followed by an account of judging the dead, both the righteous and unrighteous (in chapter 20).

The phrase “those who destroy the earth” is most likely a reference to Antichrist and his minions. As mentioned in Demonic Activity of the End Times, I believe that the demon introduced as “destroyer” in Rev 9:11 is the same demon who rules and destroys the earth through Antichrist.

19 And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple – The ark represents God’s covenant relationship with Israel, and this is what is being emphasized by this verse. When Christ returns in wrath, he is coming as the king of Israel, and he will do battle with all the nations that have assembled against Israel. This ark scene is discussed in The Heavenly Temple, and Christ’s battle against the nations is discussed in The Battle of Armageddon.

v19 there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm – Similar to the emanations from the throne seen earlier in 4:5 and 8:5. This time, however, hail is added. This refers to the same great hailstorm described in the seventh bowl judgment of Rev 16:21. This is possible because the seventh trumpet encompasses the bowls, and therefore the events seen at the end of the seventh trumpet are the same events seen at the end of the bowls.

Share Button