Revelation 11:1-18

Revelation 11:1‑18  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 7
The angel proceeds to say, “Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given to the Gentiles.” Jerusalem appears in the foreground. This is the center now, though the beast may ravage there. “And I will give to My two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.” Their task is for a time comparatively short—for three years and a half. “These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the Lord of the earth.” The witnesses are two, not because in point of fact they are historically to be limited to only two individuals, but as meaning the least adequate testimony according to the law. To make it two literally seems to me a mistaken way of interpreting prophecy, and the Apocalypse in particular, as being eminently symbolical, which Daniel also is in measure. To forget this practically is to involve oneself in clouds of error and inconsistency.
Thus, for instance, one hears occasionally, for the purpose of illustrating the Revelation, a reference to Isaiah, Jeremiah, or the like; but we must remember that these prophecies are not in their structure symbolical, and therefore the reasoning that is founded on the books and style of Jeremiah or Isaiah (Ezekiel being partly symbolical, partly figurative) cannot decide for Daniel or the Apocalypse. Here then are symbols which have a language of their own. Thus the regular meaning of “two,” symbolically, is competent testimony—enough and not more than enough. “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” According to Jewish law a case could not be decided by one witness; there must be at least two for valid proof and judgment.
The Lord shows us that He will raise up an adequate testimony in these days. Of how many the testimony will consist is another matter, on which I have little or nothing to say. One can no more reason on this than on the twenty-four glorified elders. Who would thence infer that there will be only so many glorified ones? and why should one think that there will be only two to testify? However this may be, those who are raised to witness are to prophesy for a limited time. “And if any man desire to hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man desire to hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.”
Is this then, I ask, the testimony of the gospel? Is it thus the Lord protects those that are the preachers of the gospel of His own grace? Did fire ever proceed out of the mouths of evangelists? Did a teacher ever devour his enemies? Was it on this principle Ananias and Sapphira fell dead? Are these the ways of the gospel? It is evident then that we are here in a new atmosphere—that an altogether different state of things is before us from that which reigned during the church condition, though even then sin might be unto death in peculiar cases. I refer to no more proofs now, thinking that enough has been given. “These have authority to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy.” That is, they are something like Elijah; and they have “authority over the waters to turn them to blood.” In this respect they resemble Moses also. This does not mean that they are Moses and Elias personally; but that the character of their testimony is similar, and the sanctions of it are such as God gave in the days of those two honored servants of old. “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.” They are preserved in spite of the beast, until their work is done; but directly their testimony is concluded, the beast is allowed to overcome them. It is just as it was with the Lord. The utmost pressure was brought against Him in His service. So their hour, we may say, has not yet come, just as He said of Himself before them. There was all possible willingness to destroy them long before, but somehow it could not be done; for the Lord protected them until they had done their mission. We see this in the character of grace which filled the Lord Jesus—which essentially belonged to Him. Here we meet with the earthly retributive dealing of the Old Testament. The Spirit will form them thus; and no wonder, because in fact God is recurring to that which He promised then, but has never yet performed. He is going to perform it now. He does not merely purpose to gather people for heavenly glory; He will govern on earth the Jews and the Gentiles in their several places—Israel nearest to Himself. He must have an earthly people as well as a family on high. When the heavenly saints are changed, then He begins with the earthly. He will never mix them all up together. This would make nothing but the greatest confusion.
“And their corpse shall lie on the broadway of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.” It was Jerusalem, but spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, because of the wickedness of the people and their prince. It had no less abominations than Sodom; it had all the darkness and the moral bondage of Egypt, but it was really the place where their Lord had been crucified, that is, Jerusalem. So the witnesses fell, and men in various measures showed their satisfaction. “And [some] from among the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations see their corpse three days and a half, and do not suffer their corpses to be put into a tomb. And they that dwell on the earth rejoice over them, or make merry, and shall send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those that dwell on the earth.” But after the three days and a half God’s power raises up these slain witnesses, and they ascend to heaven in the cloud, and their enemies behold them. “And in that hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain seven thousand names of men: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven. The second woe is past; behold, the third woe cometh quickly.”
Lastly we have the seventh trumpet. This is important for understanding the structure of the book. The seventh trumpet brings us down to the close in a general way. This is quite plain, though often overlooked. “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdom of the world of our Lord and of His Christ is come.” You must translate it a little more exactly, and with a better text too. The true meaning is this: “The kingdom of the world” (or “the world-kingdom,” if our tongue would admit of such a phrase) “of our Lord and of His Christ is come.” It is not merely power in general conferred in heaven, but “the world-kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ is come, and he shall reign forever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, that sit before God on their thrones, fell on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God the Almighty, that art, and that wast; because thou hast taken thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come.”
Here, it will be observed, the end of the age is supposed to be now arrived. It is not merely frightened kings and peoples who say so, but now it is the voice of those who know in heaven. Further, it is “the time of the dead that they should be judged.” It is not a question here of the saints caught up to heaven, but a later hour, “that thou shouldest give reward to thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to those that fear thy name.” Not a word is said here about taking them to heaven, but of recompensing them. There will be no such thing as the conferring of reward until the public manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ. The taking of those changed out of the scene is another association of truth. The reward will fail to none that fear the Lord’s name, small and great. He will also “destroy those that destroy the earth.”
This is the true conclusion of Revelation 11. The next verse (19), beyond a question to my mind, though arranged in our Bibles as the end of this chapter, is properly the beginning of a new series. I shall therefore not treat of it tonight.