13 And the same hour there was a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the rest were frightened, and gave glory to the God of heaven.

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

 

PART 6

 

*** A Great Earthquake ***: In Revelation 11:13, we see an earthquake capable of destroying the tenth part of the city and killing 7,000 men. There are two other earthquakes mentioned in the book of Revelation that seem to relate to the one in Revelation 11:13: one during the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12) and one in Revelation 16:18. Based on the language of the text, the earthquake mentioned in Revelation 6:12 seems to refer to an actual earthquake (see study #43 for the in-depth explanation). The earthquake mentioned in Revelation 16:18 is unlike any other earthquake ever seen before. People’s reaction described in Revelation 11:13 (giving glory to God) is the exact opposite of what we see in Revelation 6:15-16 and Revelation16:21, where they hide themselves and blaspheme God.

 

Revelation 11:13 Revelation 6:12-17 Revelation 16:18-21
A great earthquake A great earthquake A great earthquake
The tenth part of the city fell Every mountain and island were moved out of their places The great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell
7000 men were slain who shall be able to stand on the day of His wrath? Great hail out of heaven fell upon men
The rest were frightened, and gave glory to the God of heaven Men hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains, wishing to hide from the face of the One who sits on the throne. Men blasphemed God 

 

Unlike Revelation 6:12-17, the description of the earthquake in Revelation 11:13 was not written as a comparison between the real and the symbol. In Revelation 11:13, John is making a statement about the earthquake affecting the great city without using comparative words such as ‘like’ or ‘as'. This direct form of writing leads us to believe that the focus of the message here is spiritual rather than literal. The great earthquake here could be the spiritual representation of the real earth quake mentioned in Revelation 6:12-17. The spiritual shaking would be so severe that it would actually have extreme destructive powers.

*** Tenth part of the city destroyed ***: In the old Testament, God used the strength of earthquakes as a symbol of His presence among the people and how it could affect them (Ezekiel 38:19-20; Joel 2:10-11; Amos 8:8; Haggai 2:4-7). Revelation 11:13 tells us that the earthquake destroyed the tenth part of the city. The first question that comes to mind is: which great city? The answer is found in the middle of the study about the two witnesses, just a few verses earlier. The Bible tells us that the great city is a reference to the city “which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Revelation 11:8). We saw in study #74 that Sodom and Egypt are symbols of the wickedness of the people. Spiritual immorality and self-importance prevented them from accepting their need of a savior. Spiritual immorality (Sodom) refers to people’s unfaithfulness when they replace God and His Truth with other forms of worship not specified by God. Self-importance (Egypt) refers to the elevation of Self above God when people abandon a God-centered life for one where Self is at the core. The great city is later mentioned in Revelation as Babylon, a symbol of a wicked worldwide power that deceived the nations (Revelation 14:8; Revelation 16:19; Revelation 17:5; Revelation 18:2,4,10,21).

We read in Revelation 11:13 that the earthquake caused a partial destruction of the great city. Only one tenth of it was destroyed. The earthquake in Revelation 16:18-19 split the great city into three parts, causing the cities of the nations to collapse. The earthquake in Revelation 6:12-17 caused the islands and the mountains to be moved from their places. God’s presence always leaves a mark and things are not the same as they were before. The destruction of the tenth part of the city implies that the other ninety percent of the wicked city was not affected. This tells us that this is not yet God’s final destruction of those who rejected Christ. Even though only part of the city was destroyed, the effects of the earthquake had an important spiritual impact, as we will see later. This is another reason to understand this particular earthquake as a spiritual event.

*** Seven thousand men were slain ***: The number seven is important throughout the entire Bible. We see it from Genesis, with the story of creation, through Revelation. In Revelation, we see seven lamp stands, seven stars, seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven thunders, seven angels, seven bowls, and seven last plagues. As we saw in study #11, the number 7 is a number that has to do with completeness, full restoration, full cleansing, victory, and things that are blessed and made holy by God. It is a symbol of God's perfection. The earthquake had a great impact on the inhabitants of the great city. Seven thousand died. If we are looking from a spiritual perspective, we can understand that they died spiritually. In other words, they made up their minds permanently against God’s Truth. The number seven thousand was a perfect, complete and full representation of the people who forever rejected God. This number represents the reverse of the 7000 faithful mentioned in the story of Elijah (1 Kings 19:18). In the story of Elijah, those 7000 represented the totality of those who had remained on God’s side.

*** What happened to the rest? ***: More than seven thousand people were living in the great city. The earthquake had a significant impact on the lives of those who did not die spiritually. The ones who survived the shaking had a completely different experience. They recognized God’s supremacy instead of rejecting Him. They feared His presence, in a sense that they respected God's authority. So much so that they gave Him glory (Revelation 11:313). This reaction reminds us of the experience described in Daniel 4:28-37 when king Nebuchadnezzar went through 7 years living like an animal. At the end of his tribulation, he was able to recognize God’s sovereignty, and he said: “I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored him that lives forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation”. (Daniel 4:34).

*** End of the second woe ***: The passage in Revelation 11:13 announces the presence of God through the preaching of His message. It is interesting to note that God’s presence was felt on Earth even though this happened before the Second Coming. As we see in Revelation 11:14, the earthquake mentioned in Revelation 11:13 happens before the sounding of the seventh trumpet. The first and second woes refer to the sounding of the fifth and sixth trumpets. This means that the events of the second woe end with the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the Earth. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” As we saw in study #65, the sounding of the seventh trumpet (third woe) brings us to the Second Coming of Jesus.

*** Overview ***: Following the order of events leading to the end of the world history, as described by Jesus in Matthew 24:14, the first item on the list is the preaching of the Gospel to all nations. This order is also seen in the message of the three angels, described in Revelation 14:6-13. The angel has the Gospel in his hand, to preach to the unbelievers. The call the angel makes to the nations parallels the reaction of those who survived the earthquake of Revelation 11:13: "And I saw another angel fly in midheaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment has come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” (Revelation 14:6-7). There is no time to waste. The fate of those who reject this call is spiritual death and consequently eternal death. Now is the time to repent, fear God and give Him glory.

11  And after three days and a half the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them who saw them.

12  And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up here. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.

 

PART 5

 

*** After three and a half days the Spirit of God entered into the witnesses ***: We saw in study #75 that the witnesses remained dead for three and a half prophetic days. Human reason had been elevated above God. Christianity seemed to have died. Something unexpected happened and left everyone mesmerized. The “Spirit of life from God entered into [the two witnesses]” (Revelation 11:11). The word “Spirit” is translated from the Greek word pneuma, which means “wind, breath, spirit”. Today, we have words such as pneumology, pneumonia, and pneumothorax. All these words relate to the lungs and the condition of breathing. The relationship between the Father and the Holy Spirit is so close, the Spirit is referred to as God’s breath. Revelation 11:11 says that God’s Spirit entered the two witnesses, in a similar way to the passage describing how God gave life to Adam in Genesis 2:7: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” The condition of living soul only happened once God breathed the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils. Before God’s breath was in Adam, he was nothing but dust shaped like a man, lying on the ground. The two witnesses in Revelation were also lying lifeless on the ground (Revelation 11:8) until God Himself breathed life back into them. The restoration and resurrection of the two witnesses had nothing to do with human effort. It happened by a miracle of God.

There is another Bible passage that helps us understand even more the significance of the witnesses’ resurrection. Ezekiel 37:1-14 talks about the vision of the dry bones. Ezekiel was called to prophesy to the dry bones, so they would come together once again and even grow flesh and skin. The bones only became alive when God sent His breath into them. They stood up on their feet and became a great army. The text is clear about who the dry bones represent: they are the whole house of Israel (Ezekiel 37:11). The restoration of God’s people did not happen by chance or by the people’s hard work. It happened because God did it: “And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall you know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, says the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:13-14). The people needed to Know that God is the Lord.

*** Great fear fell upon the people of the Earth ***: The people of the Earth had been staring at the two witnesses lying dead on the ground for three and a half days and did nothing to restore their dignity (Revelation 11:9). They actually thought that the death of God’s message was a good reason to celebrate (Revelation 11:10). To their surprise and fear, the two witnesses stood up after God brought them back to life. As we saw before in previous studies, the people of the Earth are those who do not fear God or keep His commands. They were not only surprised by this unexpected turn of events, but they were also afraid. The world thought the two witnesses had been silenced forever but after just a few days, God’s witnesses were standing up strong on their feet.

*** A great voice from Heaven called the witnesses up to Heaven ***: Once God breathed life back into His witnesses, He called them up to Him, "and they ascend to heaven in a cloud” (Revelation 11:12). This sequence of events reminds us of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. On the third day after His death, Jesus resurrected. His ascension in a cloud happened sometime later, after spending several days with the disciples (Acts 1:3,9). The time between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension was spent teaching His followers everything the scriptures had to say about Him. (Lucas 24:44-45). The verse in Revelation does not say how much time passed between the resurrection of the witnesses and their ascension. It doesn’t say it happened immediately or if they spent some time on Earth continuing their witnessing. The similarities with Christ’s death and resurrection makes us think that they were not taken to Heaven immediately.

Let’s keep in mind that this entire vision about the witnesses is symbolic. The witnesses are not a specific group or people. As we’ve seen before in study #72, the two witnesses represent the Bible and the Church. When we have these two elements together, we have the active carrying of the Gospel to the World. The focus of the vision with the two witnesses is in the preaching of the Gospel to the nations.

*** Overview ***: The world thought they had done away with the Word of God and His people. They even celebrated the demise of God’s two witnesses. Human works, however, will never prevail against God’s Truth. Throughout History, unbelievers have tried to destroy the Bible and God’s true followers. Even when the situation seemed hopeless, God was able to display His power and raise His Truth from the dead, making Himself known once again. Just as Elijah and Moses were taken up to Heaven at the end of their prophetic careers, and as Jesus ascended to Heaven once His work on Earth was completed, God’s two witnesses will also be rewarded at the end, once the mission is finished. God will continue to give people a chance while there are still those who will turn back to Him. We will find out in our next study if the display of God’s power in the life of the two witnesses served as another opportunity to call unbelievers to repentance.

9  And they of the people and tribes and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not allow their dead bodies to be put in graves.

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.

 

PART 4

 

*** The people and tribes and tongues and nations ***: Once again we see the distinction between the people who belong to God and the people who have not come to God. Both verses (Revelation 11:9 and 10) start out by mentioning the people who oppose God's two witnesses. The expression "people and tribes and tongues and nations" was used earlier in the book. In Revelation 10:11, the voice from Heaven called John to "prophesy again about many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings." In the previous verses, the text focused on God's witnesses, who they were and what they did. We see a shift in verses 9 and 10. The witnesses are dead in the middle of the street, and the reader can now learn what the rest of people were doing in the "great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt" (Revelation 11:8). In Revelation 14:6-7, we see that the message being sent out to the nations is a message pointing to God's Truth, calling them to repentance: "And I saw another angel fly in midheaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment has come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." The angel had the "everlasting Gospel", and made an invitation to those who "dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and tribe, and tongue, and people" to fear God and give Him glory. Those who dwell on the earth, and every nation, tribe, tongue, and people represent those people who have not yet accepted the Gospel and do not worship God.

*** Dead bodies on the street for three and a half days ***: Now that we know that the "people who dwell upon Earth" do not recognize God's supremacy, we can understand their reaction to the death of His witnesses. The Earth-dwellers just stared at the witnesses, dead, lying down in the middle of the street (Revelation 11:8,9) and did nothing for three and a half days. They didn't bury the witnesses and they didn't move them out of the way. This reminds us of the language used in Revelation 11:2, where we read about how the gentiles would tread the Holy City under foot for forty-two months. Forty-two months is the same amount of prophetic time the two witnesses had to preach God's message, 1260 days. Forty-two months and 1260 days equal 3.5 years. As we said many times before in our studies, in prophecy, 1 day = 1 prophetic year (see studies #16, #20, #68, #71 and #72 for a more in-depth explanation). Revelation 11:9 tells us that the witnesses were left dead on the streets for 3.5 days, which prophetically equals 3.5 years. Compared to 1260 years of preaching, 3.5 years of being left dead on the street is not a very long time. It is evident that the verse is comparing the period the witnesses stayed dead to the time they were alive prophesying: 1 prophetic day of being dead to each prophetic year they preached in sackcloth.

As we saw in study #74, the period of 1260 years happened during the Middle Ages, culminating with the French Revolution. During the French Revolution, the government established a new atheistic religion, the Cult of Reason, which was intended to substitute Christianity (November 10, 1793). We can certainly search for events related to Christianity and the Bible that happened 3.5 years after Reason was elevated to the status of religion but we would be missing the main point if that is all we do. Revelation 11:8-9 contain important clues as to the main objective of the symbolism used in the Biblical text:

- The people and tribes and tongues and nations: The reaction to the death of the two witnesses goes beyond the people of France. It includes the whole planet. While not every country was happy with what the French leaders were doing at the time, the ideals behind the new religion stood strong. The Age of Enlightenment or Age Reason, as it was called, dominated the whole world during the 18th century. Although it was initiated by France, the movement was not limited to that country only.

- The great city was spiritually called Sodom and Egypt: The key word in this sentence is 'spiritually'. The attitude they had towards God is what characterizes the spiritual aspect of the problem at hand. France had their agenda and they were fighting their political battles. Not all of the battles had a religious motive. In the grand scheme of things, their battles are irrelevant. Their rejection of God is what is being emphasized in the Biblical texts, not their petty wars.

- The city where also our Lord was crucified: It was with that mindset of rejection to God's teaching that the Jewish nation rejected Jesus and sent Him to the Cross. Just like the two witnesses, Jesus' time prophesying was 3.5 years. In His case, those were 3.5 literal years. At the end of that time, He died.

*** The people of the Earth celebrated ***: Now we can begin to see what these verses are trying to tell us. They are comparing the path of the two witnesses to Christ's. The difference comes when the witnesses remained without burial, while Jesus was placed in a tomb. The witnesses suffer a terrible humiliation based on the standards of the time. That did not seem to bother the nations of the Earth. On the contrary. They were celebrating the death of God's messengers. The Bible talks about the behaviors commonly displayed by those who rejected God's message. The first example is about the people in Noah's time: "But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark" (Matthew 24:37-38). We read about another example in Daniel 5, when the over-confident king Belshazzar was throwing a feast using the utensils which belonged to God's tabernacle. While he was celebrating, unknowingly to him, his kingdom was being taken over by his enemy. The pattern here is that those who reject God's message seem to just go about their day, celebrating, trampling over the Truth, as if nothing else mattered. Despite the warnings sent by God, they seem unaware of what is coming their way - destruction by flood or enemy attack, as we saw in our two examples.

*** The two witnesses tormented the people of the Earth ***: We can ask ourselves, why exactly were they celebrating the death of the two witnesses? Revelation 11:10 seems to answer that question: it's because the two witnesses tormented the people of the Earth. The verse refers to the two witnesses as the "two prophets". Throughout the Bible, we see the work of prophets, calling the people and leaders to repentance. One example of this "torment" is seen when God sent Elijah to call king Ahab to repentance and sent 3.5 years of drought over the land because of their idolatry (1 Kings 16:29-33 to 1 Kings 17:1; Luke 4:25; James 5:17). When Ahab met with Elijah after 3.5 years, Ahab called the prophet the one "that troubles Israel": "And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Are you he that troubles Israel?" (1 Kings 18:17). This is exactly what those who reject think about God's messengers. What they preach touches them in a vulnerable place, and that makes them uncomfortable. They see God's people as trouble makers, threatening their false sense of security. Elijah's answer to Ahab clarifies the scenario and identifies what the problem actually is: "And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but you, and your father's house, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and you have followed Baalim." (1 Kings 18:18).

*** Overview ***: When the new religion that substituted God's Truth for human reasoning began, God's two witnesses perished. They were shut down and remained dead on the streets of the world. The nations of the Earth watched them for 3.5 years and did nothing to restore their dignity. On the contrary, they celebrated the apparent end of those who were constantly reminding them to repent and come to God. Even though God had warned them about their dangerous atheistic choices and inevitable consequences, they still preferred to reject the Gospel and pursue a life centered in human logic and temporary pleasures. The philosophies initiated with the Age of Enlightenment are still alive today. Their arguments can still deceive those who are not connected to God. The world will see Christians as a threat to their order. Christians will be labeled as troublemakers. As Jesus said, "And you shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." (Mark 13:13). Let's not lose focus of the prize awaiting those who remain faithful to the end: eternal life with God.

7  And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

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.

 

PART 3

 

*** When they shall have finished their testimony ***: Revelation 11:7 starts out by giving us a time frame of when the next event will take place. The time is when the two witnesses finish their testimony. To find out when that is, we need to go back to Revelation 11:3, where we learned the two witnesses would prophesy in sackcloth for 1260 days. The events described in verse 7 and 8 will not take place until that time was over. As we've seen in study #71, the period of 1260 prophetic days (or prophetic 42 months/3.5 years) equals a literal time of 1260 years during the Dark Ages (see also studies #16, #20 and #68 for a detailed explanation). We know this because the book of Daniel also mentions this same period of time, which happened during the Roman Empire (Daniel 7:25).

*** The beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit ***: At the end of that period of 1260 years, the beast that comes out of the bottomless pit would come out and make war against the two witnesses (Revelation 11:7). This same beast is also referred as the beast coming out of the sea (Revelation 13:1-10). The expression translated as the abyss, or the bottomless pit is the Greek word abussos, which means "the abyss, unfathomable depth", and also the abode of evil spirits. It is from the bottomless pit that the enemy forces come out symbolized by the army of locusts (Revelation 9:1-2, Revelation 13:7; Daniel 7:21; see also study #57). Based on all these passages, we can understand that the war being waged against God's people and their message happened after the period of testifying in sackcloth. The attack is led by satanic powers, since the beast attacking the two witnesses comes out of the bottomless pit. But who or what is this beast? It is most definitely not an actual grotesque animal coming to attack the church. The attack is real, but we must understand the symbol in order to understand who is the attacker.

The element 'beast' was also used in the book of Daniel as a symbol for a politico and religious power that would overcome God's people for a certain period of time (Daniel 7:17, 21). This beast is not Satan, because Revelation refers to Satan as the dragon (Revelation 12:9). The beast that comes out of the sea receives power directly from the dragon (Revelation 13:2). The focus of the verse in not necessarily on the precise identification of the beast. Basically, the information given in the texts informs the reader that this beast is a demonic agent responsible for the death of the two witnesses. We will study the identity of the beast in later chapters of Revelation.

*** Dead body on the street ***: The beast coming out of the abyss ends up killing the two witnesses. We would expect that the two witnesses would each have their own body lying down where they had been killed. This is not what we read in Revelation 11:8. As Stefanovic mentions in his book*, the expression in Greek is written in the collective singular "to ptōma autōn", which means "the dead body of them". In the Greek version, Revelation 11:9 also includes this reference in the singular, and only then the text switches back to the plural form 'bodies' (ptōmata). We saw this unity of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:5, where we read the expression stated in the singular form: "the mouth of them" (tou stomatos autōn). The two witnesses are a unit. The messenger and the message, working as one to spread God's truth to the world - the faithful Church and Scripture, working together. As they lived in one accord, witnessing, they also died as one, at the hand of this political power represented by the beast that comes from the abyss. The "body of them" was lying down on the street in disgrace. In ancient times, depriving people from burial was great tragedy and a form of humiliation (1 Kings: 13:22-31; Psalm 79:3; Jeremiah 8:1-2;Jeremiah 14:16). Leaving the witnesses without a proper burial was like taking away their dignity.

*** The great city where Christ was crucified ***: According to Revelation 11:8, the two witnesses died in the same great city as Christ. The text, however, is symbolic, and it mentions two great cities, and none of them is directly stated as Jerusalem. In contrast to the two witnesses that have one body, here we have one city that has two names. As the text says, the reference is spiritual. The two cities mentioned, Sodom and Egypt, are to be understood in a spiritual context: "the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt" (Revelation 11:8). Just like Jesus, the two witnesses were rejected, and persecuted before dying.

- Sodom: this great city is known for the wickedness and immoral behaviors of its citizens (Genesis 18:20,21; Genesis 19:4-11).

- Egypt: this great city, in relation to God's people, is known for their arrogance towards acknowledging God's sovereignty, in the words of pharaoh "Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go" (Exodus 5:2).

In a way, both cities were oppressing God's people living there. And God had to intervene in both occasions. The great city where the two witnesses died had immoral and self-sufficient arrogance, where God centered values were not upheld. Spiritual immorality refers to the engaging in false teachings that lead to the complete denial of the deity of God. That is exactly what happened in Jerusalem, when the Jewish leaders ignored all the prophecies that pointed to Jesus. They actively refused to support Jesus' message, which led them to deny the divinity of Christ. They completely rejected His sacrifice.

*** Prophetic application ***: The big clue pointing to the actual time in History when the death of the two witnesses happened is found in the prophetic period provided in the texts of Revelation 11:3,4,7 and Daniel 7:25. The witnesses would be allowed to preach for 1260 years, and then they would be killed. That period, as we mentioned previously, corresponds to the time of the Dark Ages. Based on those verses, an event would happened, where there would be a public denial of God, in an act of spiritual immorality. This means that atheistic beliefs would be widely promoted. Often in the Bible, God refers to His relationship with His people as that of a bride and a groom. It should be a relationship as solid and faithful as that of a husband and a wife. When the Israelites involved themselves with pagan rituals and broke their covenant, God compared that to adultery or harlotry (Ezekiel 16:15-59; Hosea 1:2). It is in this sense that spiritual immorality, symbolized by the city of Sodom, combined with atheistic and arrogant views, symbolized by Egypt, need to be understood. After the Dark Ages, there was a period in history where the world saw a movement with these exact characteristics during the French Revolution. Reason was being valued above all else, and the Bible and Christianity were being openly rejected and despised. The scene of the two witnesses dead on the streets of the rejection of Christ certainly apply to what happened during the French revolution. That is not where it stops, the interpretation goes beyond that. This scenario is one that will be present in different degrees until the Second Coming. This situation may become more and more intense as we approach the finals events of this world.

*** Overview ***: After the time allowed for their preaching, the two witnesses, they were persecuted and killed. God's message was despised rejected. The cult of reason took its place. It is important to understand the attack on the two witnesses not as an attack on a particular denomination at the time of the French Revolution. It was an attack on God's truth, represented by His true followers and the Bible. The emphasis on "the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt" (Revelation 11:8) tells us that we must focus on the spiritual aspect of any historical event which prophecy is pointing to. The rise of reason as a substitute for God reached a status of spiritual immorality. It was promoted in the name of peace and human enlightenment. God and His message were being rejected, just as Jesus was rejected before the cross.

 

 

* Stefanovic's Bible commentary: Revelation of Jesus Christ.

5 And if any man will hurt them, fire proceeds out of their mouth, and devours their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.

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.

 

PART 2

 

*** Who would want to hurt the two witnesses ***: Revelation 11:1-2 talked about the restoration of the communication between God and His people. God was assuring His children that those who choose to connect to Him will have a direct line of communication, and will be protected inside His presence. Revelation 11:3-4 talked more specifically about who will be doing God's work, and spreading His message on Earth: His two witnesses. They have the same purpose and will present the character of God to the world. This message is carried out by the power of God Himself, through the Bible and His Church. Revelation 11:5-6 presents yet another characteristic of the two witnesses: they have special powers. In their mission to spread the Truth, they will face opposition, as Jesus stated: "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33). The very target of their witnessing is what could hurt them: the world. The expression "the world" is a reference to the group in the outer court, the ones who are not to be measured (Revelation 11:2). "The world" is the equivalent to "those who dwell on the earth". (See study #42 and #56).

*** Power 1: a fire that comes out of their mouth ***: Power number one is "fire proceeds out of their mouth", which has the ability to "devour their enemies" (Revelation 11:5). In study #72, we learned that the two witnesses are the Bible and the Church. Such a strong power coming out of the witnesses' mouth reminds us of the two edge sword coming out of Jesus' mouth (Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:12,16). Hebrews 4:12 says: "For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." God's Words are the defense of His followers. There is power in the Word of God because He is the source of the message. God's followers defend themselves by continuing to speak the Truth. The Truth is what protects the citizens of Heaven, and is what devours the dwellers of the Earth. By rejecting the Gospel, the enemies of God will be choosing their own destruction.

The symbolism seen in this verse, of a consuming fire coming down to the aide of the servants of God, also reminds us of the story of Elijah and the soldiers sent by king Ahaziah. The king was sick and ordered a messenger to "inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron whether [he would] recover of this disease." (2 Kings 1:2). God sent Elijah to intercept this messenger and send back a message from God to king Ahaziah. God disapproved of the pagan behaviors the king of Israel was displaying. For three times, the king sent soldiers to arrest Elijah. The first two times, fire came down from heaven and consumed the soldiers when they arrived at Elijah's place. God was clearly protecting the life of His prophet.

We see in the Bible the power that the Word of God has. In the book of Jeremiah, we have the description of how strong and how serious God is about what He says. Because of the people's disobedience, God told Jeremiah He would turn the message in the prophet's mouth into fire, and He would turn the people into wood, so they would be consumed by the Word of God (Jeremiah 5:14). Israel was going down a very dangerous path. Jeremiah said: "They have lied about the LORD, and said, It is not he; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine" (Jeremiah 5:12). They were saying things which were opposite to what God had previously said. They were denying the Word of God. That same Word is what would consume the disobedient people.

Note that both in Jeremiah and in John's texts, the fire comes from God. The power is really coming from the Lord, not the prophet himself. God is the One who is in charge of the defense of His people and His message. Those living inside the Truth find liberty and safety, while the ones standing outside of it are destroyed. Destruction doesn't come without warning. From the beginning, God told Adam and Eve that if they decided to choose sin, they would certainly die (Genesis 2:17). When God turns on His light of perfection and full glory, darkness ceases to exist. That is why He insists with His people to come back to Him, to choose Him again, so they won't be destroyed. Those who choose to oppose His Truth will have to face serious consequences. God respects people's freedom of choice to such an extent that He will allow them to choose whichever side they prefer: life or death.

*** Power 2: to control the rain ***: The second power listed for the two witnesses is the power "to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy". This is another reference to Elijah. King Ahab had driven the Israelites into deep pagan worship. Because of this terrible apostasy, God sent Elijah to warn the king. If they didn't repent, God would send a drought that would last 3.5 years (which equals to 42 months or 1260 days - Luke 4:25; James 5:17). During that time, many prophets of God were being persecuted, and in hiding (1 Kings 18:4). The leader of the nation of Israel was the most wicked of all (1 Kings 16:30) and did not wish to change his ways. The 42-month period is significant in the story of Elijah and parallels the period the two witnesses would be prophesying in sackcloth (Revelation 11:3). For Elijah and the remaining prophets, this was a difficult time but even then, they were never without the protection and care of the Lord. They went through a period of spiritual and physical famine because of the poor choices the ones rejecting God's message were making.

*** Power 3: turn water into blood ***: The third power reminds us of another person in the Bible: Moses. God gave Moses the words to speak to Pharaoh: "Thus says the LORD, In this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, I will strike with the rod that is in my hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood." (Exodus 7:17). This was the first plague falling on Egypt. God mentioned the goal of the plague: "In this you shall know that I am the LORD". The Egyptians worshiped many idols, including the Nile river. With this plague, God was showing them that He was more powerful than the river. Once again, God's truth was shattering enemy lies.

*** Power 4: smite the Earth with plagues ***: The fourth power is also a reference to the rest of the Egyptian plagues (Exodus 7-11). Revelation 11:6 even mentions an additional clause to it: the two witnesses can smite the earth with those plagues as often as they want. At first, this seems strange, because the natural human tendencies would be that of revenge and deliberate abuse of power. The difference here is that this power is only available to the true followers, the true witnesses. They are in the service of the Creator. As we saw in Revelation 11:1-4, they cannot have access to such power unless they are connected to God and in the business of spreading the Truth. Just like the fire that came from heaven, the plagues are also sent by God. The witnesses are the vessel by which God sends His message to the Earth. Since they are always willing to follow God's instructions, they have the power to deliver His message quite often, just like His servant Moses. And the purpose of the message never changes: to bring people to God, so they have the choice to recognize that God is the Lord and Savior.

*** Overview ***: In study #72 we learned that the two witnesses come serving the role of king and priest. They have a prophetic and a heavenly royal mission. Based on the description of the two witnesses we read in Revelation 11:5-6, we see yet another aspect of their prophetic role. They come displaying a similar power to that of Elijah and Moses. They are filled with the Holy Spirit. They dive in profound work, spreading the Gospel, not because of how strong they are, but because of how strong the One they serve is. As agents of the Word of God, the two witnesses are able to show others who God is "Not by might, nor by power, but by [God's] spirit" (Zachariah 4:6). At the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah came to talk to Jesus about the final moments of Jesus' life on Earth (Luke 9:31). This was a glimpse of what the Second Coming will be: Moses representing those who died in the Lord, and Elijah representing those who will be alive at the second coming (see 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17). In Malachi 4:5-6 we read a prophecy regarding the coming of Elijah before the coming of the Day of the Lord. This doesn't mean that Elijah himself will come to our planet and resume his ministry here. We can understand that God's people living during the last days will be powerful witnesses for God, just like His prophets were in the past.

3  And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and three score days, clothed in sackcloth.

4  These are the two olive trees, and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.

 

PART 1

 

*** Two witnesses clothed in sackcloth ***: The same voice from Heaven kept talking to John in the vision (see studies #70 and #71). The voice had the power to command John to measure the temple, the altar, and the worshipers, and not to measure the outer court (Revelation 11:1-2). It also had the power to authorize two witnesses to prophesy for a very long time (Revelation 11:3). John continued to hear a message directly from God. But who are these two witnesses?

- What do they do?: The two witnesses do not seem to have power on their own to carry out God's mission. They are able to move on with the task because that is God's plan. The two witnesses were commissioned to prophesy, just like John had been earlier in the vision (Revelation 10:11). As we saw in study #69, the word prophesy means to "'speak forth' in divinely-empowered forth telling or foretelling". Ths is the first clue we have to help us identify the two witnesses: they preach God's message, through divine inspiration.

- What do they wear?: According to Revelation 11:3, the two witnesses are clothed in sackcloth. The word 'sackcloth' was used previously in Revelation 6:12 to describe the darkening of the sun. In that comparison, we can see that sackcloth was a dark fabric made of human and animal hair. Not surprisingly, sackcloth or hairy clothing was the typical outfit of prophets in the Bible (Isaiah 20:2; Zechariah 13:4; 2 Kings 1:8; Matthew 3:4). It was also used as a symbol of repentance, bitterness, and humbleness before God (1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 19:1; Isaiah 37;1-2; Daniel 9:3; Joel 1:8; Jonah 3:5-8). The outfit of the two witnesses suggests they have a prophetic role. They carry a message from God. And as the prophets in the Bible, they suffer greatly in their mission. They are often persecuted, rejected, and killed.

- Duration of their witnessing while wearing sackcloth: Once again, we see this prophetic period of 1260 days. This is the same period we saw in Revelation 11:2, when the people of God would suffer oppression in the hand of those who do not follow God's Truth (see studies #16, #20, #68 and #71 for a more in-depth explanation). This period corresponds to the Dark Ages, a time when the faithful people of God suffered terribly.

*** The two witnesses are the two olive trees and two lampstands ***: Revelation 11:4 gives us another aspect of the two witnesses, to help us identify them more clearly. This text is a reference to the vision described in Zachariah 4. In Zachariah's vision, he saw one lampstand and two olive trees. The olive trees were the "two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." (Zachariah 4:14). The two anointed ones were Joshua the high priest (Zachariah 3:1), and Zerubbabel, the governor of Judea (Zachariah 4:6). These two men were involved in the restoration of the temple in Israel (Ezra 5:2; Zachariah 4:9; Haggai 2:2; Zachariah 4:9-10). The seven lamps in Zachariah's vision were the "the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth" (Zachariah 4:10). The Word of God to Zerubbabel was this: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit" (Zachariah 4:6). In Zachariah's vision, we see that the restoration of the temple will need to be done through the collaboration of two human leaders: the high priest and the governor. One represents the spiritual leadership, and the other represents the king. These two are not set to satisfy their own selfish desires. They are following God's instructions. In the vision, they are a symbol of what God expects of His people: that they become kings and priests in the service of the Lord. Now that we understand the reference to Zacharia 4, we can see that Revelation 11:4 describes another aspect of the two witnesses: their role as king and priest (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10), in the business of restoring God's Truth as they testify by preaching the Gospel to the world.

*** Why two witnesses? ***: The Jewish custom required that at least two to three witnesses confirm a story so the testimony could be deemed true (Deuteronomy 19:15; Deuteronomy 17:6; Numbers 35:30; Matthew 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28). That is why Jesus sent the disciples to preach the Gospel in groups of two (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1). And this practice continued through the early church as well (Acts 13:2; Acts 15:39-41).

*** Who does the Bible say are the witnesses? ***: There are several views on this subject. It is important to remember that only the views which are according to the Bible should be taken as true. Let's see what the Bible has to say about who is considered to be God's witnesses:

- 1 John 5:7-12 - The Trinity, and those who believe that Life is in Jesus: "For there are three that bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he has testified of his Son. He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself: he that believes not God has made him a liar; because he believes not the witness that God gave of his Son. And this is the witness, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life."

- Revelation 1:5 - Jesus Christ: "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loves us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood"

- John 5:39 - The Scriptures: "Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."

- Luke 24:27, 44 - Moses and the prophets, and Psalms: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me."

- Revelation 1:2, 9 - The book of Revelation carrying the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus: "Who bore witness of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw." "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ."

- John 15:27 - The disciples: "And you also shall bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning."

- Luke 24:46-48 - The disciples: "And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it was fit for Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things."

- Acts 2:32; Acts 3:15 - Those who witnessed the death and resurrection of Christ: "This Jesus has God raised up, of which we all are witnesses." "And killed the Prince of life, whom God has raised from the dead; of which we are witnesses."

- Acts 1:8; Acts 5:32 - The church: "But you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." "And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to them that obey him."

*** Overview ***: The two witnesses bring a message that is confirmed to be true. They come in a humble manner with a bold message, much like the prophets in the Bible did. The preach a message which has the goal to bring people back to God. They do so in their capacity of priest and king in the service of the Lord Himself. The Bible tells us that God has had His witnesses from the beginning of the Ages. The first two witnesses are part of the Trinity. They testify of each other (John 3:16; John 15:8; John 16:7-8; Matthew 17:5; John 5:36-37; 1 Corinthians 2:12; John 15:26; 1 John 4:2; 1 John 2:23; Romans 8:14-15). The next Biblical reference as God's witness is the Bible itself, through the books of the law, the books of the Prophets, and Psalms. These made up what the Bible in Ancient times. There was no New Testament yet from Johns perspective. It is important to understand that for our modern times, we can clearly include the New Testament teachings as being a witness, as it is the actual account of the Messiah's ministry on Earth. The Church is the next witness, mentioned in the Bible, represented by the disciples, John, and those who witnessed Jesus' death and resurrection. In summary, we have here three witnesses: the Godhead, the Bible, and the Church. Revelation 1:3 starts by saying that God "will give power unto [His] two witnesses". And this is the big clue we needed to see who are the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11: The Bible and the Church. Without God's power, the Church would be unable to carry out the message contained in the Bible. Without God's power, there can't be any understanding of the message contained in His Word. The message would be just ink on the pages of a book. The two witnesses must go hand in hand, as one unit, taking God's Word "unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). They have a purpose: to restore God's Truth.

   
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