Revelation 11 - Outline of Revelation (Book Notes menu page)
11:1 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod:
and the angel stood, saying,
{or, 'and One said'}
(In v.3, the speaker is identified as Christ, by the pronouns '')
Rise, and measure the temple of God,
and the altar,
and them that worship therein.
11:2 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.
measure- In scripture, things measured belong to the Lord.
That is, they are certain despite intervening defilement & desolation.
  • After its fall (in 586 BC), the measuring of Jerusalem declared that its prophetic future remains secure. Zech 2:1-2,10-12
  • After Solomon's temple was destroyed, Ezekiel saw, in a vision, an angel measuring the Millennial Temple and its courts, in great detail. Eze 40-42
  • After the destruction of Jerusalem and the 2nd temple (in 70 AD), John, foresaw the certainty of the future New Jerusalem, as depicted in its measuring (Rev 21:14-17).
  • Here, in Rev. 11, John also saw, in a vision, the measuring of the 3rd temple, which will exist during the Tribulation period. The prophetic measuring indicates that the existence of the Tribulation temple is certain. It is required by prophecy. cp. Dan 9:27; 12:11; Mat 24:15; 2Thes 2:1-4
temple {GK= naos, sanctuary} - ie., the Holy & Most Holy places, excluding the courts of the temple.
(Another word {GK= hieron, sacred area} refers to the temple complex, including the courts, Mat 24:1-2.) The "naos" was entered only by priests (eg. Zacharias, Luk 1:9,10).
Much of Jesus' ministry occurred in the "hieron." (Mat 21:12,14,23)
altar - Since the brazen altar of sacrifice is in the court (which is excluded from measurement),
the altar in view here (v.1) is the golden altar of prayer within the Holy Place. (Although this word for altar {GK=thusiasterion} is usually used of the altar of sacrifice, it is applied to the golden altar of incense in Luk 1:11, and in all other occurrences in Revelation.) This may imply that the sacrifices on the brazen altar are not acceptable for salvation (because they have been superseded by Christ's one sacrifice for sins forever. Heb 10:12).
them that worship therein-
Because these worshippers are within the 'naos,' it appears that they are priests. Because they are 'measured,' it may be that they have turned to the Lord through the ministry of the 144,000 or the two witnesses (v.3-f). Even in times of apostasy, the Lord knows the remnant who believe and wait on His Word (eg., Luk 2:22,25,36-38).
the court... without the temple {GK= naos}- "without" is translated from two GK words together:
     'exothen esothen', lit., outside of that which is within.
This description encompasses both the inner & outer courts, which would include:
  • the court of Israel,
  • the court of women,
  • the court of gentiles.
leave out- GK= ekballo, lit., throw out, cast out, reject.
measure not- The courts of the Tribulation temple are defiled by the "nations" (gentiles).
The times of the Gentiles (Luk 21:24) are not yet past, there remain yet "forty-two months"- also referred to as: A time, times, and a half (ie., 3.5 years, Dan 12:7), and 1260 days (Rev 11:3). This places this vision at the mid-point of the seven year tribulation period.
the holy city- ie., Jerusalem: This place is forever "called by My Name" and set apart for God's purposes,
despite Israel's blatant sin and the Gentiles' utter disregard and disrespect.
cp. Deu 12:1-6; 1Kin 8:10-19,44-50; 9:3; Jer 7:10,11,14,30
The Temples of the Lord at Jerusalem:
1. Built by Solomon (approx. 1000 BC).
At its dedication, it was filled with God's Glory. 1Kin 8:10,11
But because of the sin of the people-
  • The Glory of the Lord departed (reluctantly, via Mt. of Olives, c. 594 BC). Eze 9:3,4; 11:22,23
  • The Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians (586 BC).
2. Built by Zerubbabel, at the return of the captives with Ezra (c. 516 BC). Ezr 3:8,12; Hag 2:3-9
It was desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes (a "type" of Antichrist, c. 168-165 BC)
Haggai's prophecy, of future glory, was partially fulfilled by-
  • Renovation and expansion by Herod the Great, which began in 19 BC, continued beyond his death in 4 BC and during Jesus' earthly ministry (Joh 2:20), and reached completion in 63 AD (just 7 years before its destruction).
  • Visitation by "the desire of all nations" (ie., the Lord Jesus Christ).
But because of the sin of the people-
3. The Tribulation temple: to be built under a covenant involving Israel and the Antichrist,
who will break his covenant and seat himself as god in the temple (Dan 9:27; 11:36-37; 2Thes 2:3,4). When the Antichrist becomes 'the abomination of desolation' within the 'naos,' true worshippers (including believing priests) will be purged for their opposition to his blasphemy (Mat 24:15-21).
It is to this temple that the Lord will suddenly come in judgment. Mal 3:1,2
(See below for possible locations of this temple.)
4. The Millennial Temple:
  • By Ezekiel's dimensions, the Temple area will be a mile square! (500 reeds of 6 cubits in each direction, Eze 42:15-20).
  • The Glory of the Lord will return, and dwell among His people. Eze 43:1-7
5. The New Jerusalem:
  • is radiant in God's Glory, and
  • has no need of a temple building. Rev 21:22,23
Theories on location of the Tribulation temple:
  1. The current Islamic Dome of the Rock occupies the temple site. It must be removed prior to temple construction. (This is the view held by most Orthodox rabbis.)
         Islam reveres the rock beneath the Dome as the point of Mohammed's ascension into heaven on a white stallion. How might they receive the rider on the white horse (the Antichrist, 6:2) when he comes?
  2. The site of the Most Holy place is more likely occupied by a small gazebo called the Dome of the Spirits, or the Dome of the Tablets. This site fits some historic descriptions which place the Mt. of Olives, the Eastern Gate, and the Temple in a direct line with each other. The temple could be built on this site without impinging upon the Dome of the Rock. However, this would not provide room for full enclosure of the court area. This and concessions to other parties in the covenant, may explain why the court is open to the nations.
    (This location was suggested by research of jewish archaelogist Asher Kaufman, see "Biblical Archaeology Review", March/April 1983, pages 40-59.)
Note: The Temple site was chosen by God. 2Sam 24:10-18; 2Chr 3:1 (also, see refs. re: "the Holy city" above).
11:3 And I will give [power] unto my two witnesses,
"I... my..." - It is the voice from heaven (ie., Christ), who is speaking (10:8; also 11:12).
"power" - This word is not in the original.
The meaning is "I will commission my two servants to prophesy..."
Christ will delegate authority to them.
and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred [and] threescore days,
clothed in sackcloth.
sackcloth- denotes intense grief for sin and apostasy. 2Kin 19:1-3; Dan 9:3-6
These two witnesses will confront Israel's ritualistic religion and the Antichrist's blasphemy, by proclaiming the Person and Work of the true Christ (cp. Isa 66:1-9,15-16).
Who are these witnesses?
Non-futurist interpreters arbitrarily suggest the names of various popes, reformers, religious movements, or even the OT & NT.
Futurists are in three camps, suggesting:
  1. Elijah & Enoch -Both men were translated into heaven without tasting death. Their deaths (in v.7) would satisfy that which is "appointed unto men" (Heb 9:27). However, others note that church age saints, who are taken in the rapture, will not see death (1Cor 15:51,52; 1The 4:16,17). Therefore, death may not be required for Elijah & Enoch, either.
  2. Elijah & Moses -Both were present at Christ's Transfiguration.
    • Scripture says Elijah's coming is to precede the Day of the Lord.
    • One such passage also mentions Moses. Mal 4:4,5; Mat 17:2,3,11
    • The plagues executed by these witnesses are reminiscent of the prior ministries of Elijah and Moses (see note at v.5,6, below).
  3. New prophets with an unprecedented ministry.
Note that the 2 witnesses:
  • Are not identified. Therefore, we don't need to know, or the Lord would have told us.
  • Are not seen by John. The voice tells John about them and their ministry.
While we cannot positively identify these two witnesses, the language demands that they are individual human beings. (They wear clothes, prophesy, are killed, ascend...)
Why two witnesses? lit., "the two witnesses of mine."
-- To establish God's Word. Deut 17:6; Mat 18:16
1260 days - ie., half of the 7 yr Tribulation period.
Does this refer to the first or last half?
Although it is not clearly stated, the ministry of these two witnesses is mentioned in close association with the Temple during the final 3.5 years (v.2).
     Also note that all other passages, which refer to a similar period, refer to the last half [as 1260 days, 42 months, or 3.5 times (years)]. See 12:6,14; 13:5; Dan 9:27; 12:7,11-13
11:4 These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks {ie., lampstands}
standing before the God of the earth. {cp. Zech 4:2-6,14}
The picture is from Zechariah ch. 3 - 4, where
the context deals with the re-building of the second Temple under the leadership of two men.
The two lampstands - are the two witnesses (who show the light of God's Word to the world).
In the Zechariah passage, there is just one lampstand, "all of gold," with seven lamps representing "the eyes of the Lord." This lampstand speaks of Christ, who is truly God, whose glory rightfully shines in His Temple, and whose purposes cannot be thwarted. cp. Rev 5:6
- In Zechariah's time, Joshua and Zerubbabel were representatives of the True and Living God,
who bore witness to His glory, and to the certainty of His purposes, at a time when the rebuilding of the Temple was being hindered by satanic opposition.
- In Zechariah's time, Joshua (the high priest) and Zerubbabel (the governor, of David's lineage, Mat 1:12,13)
together foreshadowed (as types) the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • As Priest, He is the Branch of the Lord who will remove iniquity from Israel. Zech 3:8,9
  • As King, He is the Headstone before whom every mountain will be made low. Zech 4:6,7
In all ages, witness to Christ's coming has been maintained by God -
  • by Israel, especially in God's written Word through Jewish prophets.
  • by the Church, during the Church Age.
  • by the 144,000, wherever Jews are found, following the Rapture of the church.
  • by these 2 witnesses, in Jerusalem, during the latter half of the Tribulation.
The two olive trees - depict the supply of oil to the lamps (as a picture of the Holy Spirit). Zech 4:6,12
These two witnesses have no power in themselves. It is the Holy Spirit who speaks through them to illuminate the true Light of the world, who shines in His perfection, and who will fulfill His purposes in the earth. (Zech 3:9; 4:2,10-14)
standing before the God of the earth {GK=ge, land}-
cp. Zech 3:1; 4:14 (where 'earth' is HB='erets, land).
     These are representatives of the true and living God, the Creator of heaven and earth (cp. Rev 10:2,6, where the same word for earth is used).
     Elsewhere, Satan is called "the god of this world {GK= aion, age}" (2Cor 4:4), and "the prince of this world {GK= kosmos, system, arrangement, order}" (Joh 14:30; 16:11; Eph 6:12; in Eph 2:2 he is 'the ruler of the course {aion} of this world {kosmos}'). But Satan has no valid claim to the earth (which God created) or to the Land (of God's promises).
standing before... - implies -- readiness for service, and also
     -- inferiority & submission to the One before whom they stand.
Therefore, these 2 witnesses are not Christ & the Holy Spirit.
Rather, they are representatives of Christ bearing witness to the One who set His Name in this place, standing in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit, and in opposition to the false christ who has usurped the place of God. cp. Zech 3:1,2
11:5 And if any man will {ie., desires to} hurt them,
fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies:
and if any man will
{ie., desires to} hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
Contrast Jesus' ministry & rebuke of disciples who would have called down fire.
In the NT age of grace, believers were to be wise but harmless. Luk 9:54-56; Mat 10:16
These witnesses are under the OT "eye for eye... tooth for tooth..." economy.
cp. the enemies of Moses & Elijah: Num 16:35; 2Kin 1:10-12
11:6 These have power {ie., authority} to shut heaven,
that it rain not in the days of their prophecy:
and have power
{ie., authority} over waters to turn them to blood,
and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
They are entrusted by God with authority to bring plagues at their discretion.
cp. Elijah: fire, no rain (1Kin 17:1; 18:24,36-45; Jam 5:17,18)
cp. Moses: water to blood (Ex 7:20), various plagues (Exodus ch. 8-12)
Note that Trumpet judgments #1-4 and the Bowl (Vial) Judgments #1-6 involve these sorts of plagues, the latter in far greater intensity.
11:7 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.
When is their testimony finished? (also see note at v.3 re: 1260 days)
  • Not until their work is completed. God preserves them until then.
  • Some say: At the mid-point of the Tribulation, because:
    1. The beast will break his covenant with Israel, interrupt Temple worship, and make war against the saints at that time. Dan 9:27; Rev 13:4-7
    2. If the 1260 days of their witness begins at the mid-point, the Tribulation will end before the additional 3.5 days required until their resurrection. (v.9-11)
  • More probably: At the end of the Tribulation, because:
    1. Although the beast makes war with the saints beginning at mid-Tribulation, the length of time until he prevails is not clear. It could be that the 2 witnesses continue to the end.
    2. The 1260 days of their testimony may include the 3.5 days that their corpses are viewed by the godless world. Their resurrection will be a very effective witness (v. 11).
    3. Although the duration of their testimony coincides with the beast's reign of 1260 days, the collapse of the world system will not be complete until 1290 days have elapsed. (see Dan 12:11).
the beast- GK= therion, wild beast.
Refers to the Antichrist who is introduced in Rev 13:1 as "a beast" rising out of the sea (ie., the sea of humanity). The mention of "the beast," here, suggests that 11:7 follows 13:1 chronologically. (This tends to support view 'C.' above.)
the beast... out of the bottomless pit - is the same man (Antichrist).
Although human, he is indwelt and empowered by Satan. cp. 9:1; 13:2
11:8 And their dead bodies {lit., carcases} [shall lie]
in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt,
where also our
{lit., their} Lord was crucified.
carcases- The word chosen indicates the disdain of the world toward them.
the great city - is Jerusalem (where Jesus was crucified).
The 'great city' is brought low: Jer 22:8; Lam 1:1
The "Holy City" has taken on the spiritual characteristics of:
  • Sodom- A center of perversion worthy of destruction.
    The name is also used in reference to Jerusalem in Isa 1:9-10,21.
  • Egypt- A center of idolatry & false religion.
    In scripture, Egypt depicts sin's dominion and bondage, out of which the Lord delivers His own.
How could these invincible witnesses be killed?
  • By the supernatural power of the beast (13:4),
  • because their work was finished (v.7), and
  • because God allowed it (13:7).
11:9 And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations
ie., all of humanity- Throughout Revelation, the length and order of similar lists vary, suggesting man's confusion.
shall see their dead bodies three days and an half,
and shall not suffer
{ie., allow} their dead bodies to be put in graves.
not buried- Perhaps this is an indication of the hatred toward these witnesses. Or...
Perhaps the two witnesses will predict their own resurrection (which, after all, is according to the written Word, v.11). Rather than risking reports of another empty tomb (Mat 28:12,13), and to satisfy curiousity, the TV networks may keep their cameras on them around the clock. [McGee]
11:10 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.
Earth dwellers are those -- who mind earthly things,
-- who refuse to repent in spite of the plagues, and
-- who are in agreement with the persecution of the saints.
rejoice...send gifts- This is "anti-christmas."
The hearts of men are revealed in what makes them laugh with glee.
11:11 And after three days and an half the Spirit {or, breath} of life from God
entered into them, and they stood upon their feet;
and great fear
{GK= mega phobos} fell upon them which saw them.
after three days and a half...- The beast's victory over these two witnesses
will be little more enduring than Satan's victory over the Lamb whom they serve (cp. Luk 24:6,7; Hos 6:2).
saw {GK= theoros, observed with keen interest (to gain understanding)}
In v.9 the word for 'see' {GK= blepo} connotes physical sight without thoughtful perception. Unbelievers were happy to see the dead bodies of their antagonists.
But the resurrection of the two despised witnesses is a terrifying sight, for it demonstrates the truth of their message. The party is over.
11:12 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.
beheld- GK= theoros, viewed with keen interest. (This word is trans. 'saw' in v.11.)
This event should not be confused with the Rapture of the Church, which occurs "in the twinkling of an eye" (ie., in an instant, too quick for observation, 1Cor 15:52). Here, the enemies of the two witnesses watch as they ascend.
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 mega-city, where a mega-voice called away His witnesses,
is struck by mega-fear which is intensified by a mega-earthquake.
One tenth of the city's structures fall.
7000 'men' {GK= onomata anthropon, lit., 'men of name'} are killed.
In the beast's kingdom, men of name must receive their honor through allegiance to him. In contrast, consider the 7000 whom the Lord reserved unto Himself, in Elijah's day (1Kin 19:18; Rom 11:2-5).
The remnant {ie., the remainder, those not slain} are filled with fear & give glory to God.
This may be mere "fox hole religion." But some may come to salvation.
Rev 14:6,7; 16:9; Isa 26:5-9
Coming at the end of the ministry of the two witnesses, this earthquake precedes the final fall of the world system by a matter of days. (See note 'C.' at v.7)
11:14 The second woe is past; [and], behold, the third woe cometh quickly.
The 2nd woe (the sixth Trumpet)- foretold destruction & death at the hands of
the great army approaching from the east for the final battle (9:13-21).
     The parenthetic episode between Trumpets #6 and #7 has concluded with a foreview of a great earthquake near the end of the beast's reign. The progression of the Trumpet judgments now resumes, at a point in time just prior to the appearance of the beast.
the 3rd woe comes 'quickly' - ie., speedily, without delay
11:15 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
{lit., unto the ages of ages}.
The seventh Trumpet will bring the mystery of God to conclusion (cp. 10:7).
The rejoicing in heaven (v.15-17) looks forward to 21:6, "It is done!"
great voices- Probably the multitude of the redeemed (cp. 19:1,2).
cf. 8:1 where there was silence in heaven after the 7th Seal was opened.
Here there is rejoicing because the end of the reign of evil is imminent.
the kingdom(s) of this world- are all under Satan's sway. cp. Mat 4:8,9
the kingdom of our Lord- will destroy and displace the worldly and satanic kingdoms.
Dan 2:35,44; 7:14; Isa 9:6,7; Psa 2:2-9
11:16 And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats {thrones},
fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
11:17 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.
This praise (in anticipation of the events noted in v.18) is forward looking to the end of the beast's 42 month reign.
The praise is for answered prayer: Mat 6:10
11:18 And the nations were angry,
Psa 2:1-3; Rev 19:19; Rom 8:7
and thy wrath is come,
Psa 2:4; Rev 19:15
and the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
Rev 20:12
and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants {ie., the saints of all ages...}
the prophets, {representative of OT believers}
and to the saints, {ie., the NT Church}
and them that fear thy name, small and great; {ie., Tribulation saints}
and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
{Satan & his followers:
cp. Rev 19:1,2; 1Pet 5:8-11}
11:19 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 storm of judgment continues. (cp. 4:5; 8:5)
Ch. 11 opens with the measuring of the temple in Jerusalem,
and closes with the open Temple in heaven.
Since the Church has no temple (but Christ), we see that God is dealing with the Jews (ch. 12 will further demonstrate this).
The ark of the covenant is 'seen' {GK=optanomai, beheld with the eyes} in the true, heavenly Temple...
  • The Ark containing the Covenant is secure.
    God has kept His covenant with Israel, though on earth it was broken by Jews, trampled by gentiles, and defiled by the beast.
  • This Ark is Christ.
    The Ark of the Covenant, in the earthly Tabernacle, was a chest of wood overlayed with gold. Under the lid of the chest, a copy of the Law was securely stored within. Upon the top of the lid (referred to as the Mercy Seat), the blood of the sin offering was sprinkled, by the High Priest, on the Day of Atonement.
         The Gold-wood chest symbolically depicted the God-man (Jesus Christ). In Him, the Law was kept perfectly, for God's Law was within His heart and God's Will was His delight (Psa 40:8). By the shedding of His own blood, He completely satisfied, in Himself, the claims of the Law against the sinner. Therefore, He Himself has become the Mercy Seat, where God and man may meet.
         [For more on the significance of the Ark of the Covenant, see lessons 15 & 16, in the study on "Christ in the Tabernacle" (also accessible on the Resource Menu).]
  • This Ark represents the new and better covenant in Christ's blood.
    cp. Heb 9:1-12; 8:6-13; Jer 31:31-34
  • This Ark 'seen' indicates Israel's recognition of their Redeemer.
    Zech 12:10; 13:1
    From the context of these verses (in Zechariah), we understand that this recognition will occur late in the Tribulation, when Jerusalem is on the verge of complete destruction by the assembled armies of the world. This picture will be traced prophetically, in further detail, as Revelation continues.

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