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"The Two Witnesses" - Rev 11:1-13

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Introduction: God is Never Without a Witness!

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
These words, written by Charles Dickens, in his Tale of Two Cities, describing the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789 could also be used to describe the days before the Coming of the Lord!
In the long parenthesis which began in (10:1) our passage this morning allows us to see the bright side of a very dark picture of the trumpet judgments (which will resume in ()!
John was told that “…the mystery of God will be accomplished” (10:7), and that he “…must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings” (10:11)!
Chapter 11, though it involves John personally (in the measuring of the Temple), is a Word from the Lord that He is NEVER without His Messengers—God is never without a witness!
The more degenerate the times, the more definite the testimony!
In the days before the Flood, God raised up Enoch & Noah!
In the days of Israel’s darkest apostasy, He raised up Elijah & Elisha!
To announce the salvation of mankind, He sent John the Baptist & Jesus!
Many scholars suggest the introduction of the Two Witnesses of brings one of the greatest challenges to Biblical interpretation:
The New American Commentary: Revelation (6) Two Amazing Witnesses (11:1–14)

Many commentators have believed that making sense of the verses of chap. 11 may be the most difficult assignment for the expositor of the Apocalypse

Alford notes,
The New American Commentary: Revelation (6) Two Amazing Witnesses (11:1–14)

“This passage may well be called, even more than that previous one, ch. 10:1 ff., the crux interpretum; as it is undoubtedly one of the most difficult in the whole Apocalypse.”

The DIFFICULTY is twofold: First, which Temple is John measuring? Is this Herod’s Temple, destroyed by Titus in AD 70, or is this a future Temple (perhaps Ezekiel’s described in (), or is this the Temple of God that is opened in ()? Still others suggest this is a picture of the Church as the Temple of God, as taught in ()!
The answers to that question are not as obvious, or as easy as some would have you believe (there are problems with each of the views—including the one I hold).
Added to that, there is Biblical support and Biblical challenges for each of the views, so it is not so simple as one group not reading, or believing their Bibles.
And for the sake of clarify, I have a strong belief, or opinion, depending on what you believe. But good, godly, born again believers, who are all going to heaven, disagree on the answer!
The second difficulty is in the identity of the two witnesses, though the primary issue is the Temple (and your answer to the first question determines your answer to the second).
Your answer to these questions determines if you are a historicist, symbolic/idealist, or futurist/literalist in your approach to the whole Book of Revelation!
Your answer to these questions determines if you are a historicist, symbolic/idealist, or futurist/literalist in your approach to the whole Book of Revelation!
Let’s begin out study with PRAYER...

I. The Measuring of the Temple - (11:1-2)

Two major questions face us as we begin our study of Chapter 11: (1) Will a Temple be rebuilt in Jerusalem during the tribulation? and (2) Why were the temple, its alter, and the worshippers measured?
The Greek word for “temple” used here does not refer to the entire temple complex (hieron), but only the Holy Place (naos) where only the priests could go.
The “alter” could refer to the brazen alter, which stands outside the holy place, or the alter of incense, which was inside the holy place.

1. Does the Bible teach that a temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem during the Tribulation period?

The current situation in Jerusalem as it relates to the prophecy of this passage suggests it will...
There are rumors and reports constantly from both Jewish and Christian circles about efforts to restore the Temple.
There are also great debates concerning the exact location of the Holy of Holies, into which only the High Priest could go once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
Jews have a holy and awesome fear of accidentally stepping on such sacred ground!
An additional problem is that the Muslim Dome of the Rock sits on the temple mount. Though perhaps not the exact ancient site, it is obviously quite near it, and any efforts to build a Jewish Temple close to it would be met with great resistance by the surrounding nations.
Daniel 9:27 NIV84
He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”
Daniel 12:11 NIV84
“From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.
It seems clear that the only way the Antichrist can “…put an end to sacrifice and offering” is if there is a Temple!
Matthew 24:15–16 NIV84
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
2 thess
2 Thessalonians 2:4 NIV84
He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.
This world ruler, who will initially appear to be on Israel’s side, will set himself up as one worthy of worship! Again, it seems clear from Scripture that there will be a Temple in Jerusalem during this time.

2. Why Measure the Temple?

Commentators agree that the measuring has nothing to do with the “size,” but rather indicates that God will protect His people during the Gentile takeover - (v.2)
David Hocking, “The act of measuring the temple circumscribes an area that uniquely belongs to God. As Israel was uniquely separated from the Egyptians’ suffering under the plagues in Moses’ day, so the godly Jews of the tribulation period will be set apart by God and divinely protected.”

3. The Gentile Takeover - (v.2)

Luke 21:24 NIV84
They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
The “42 months” refers to the last half of the tribulation period, a time described by ancient Hebrew prophets as a time of trouble and distress for the people of Israel.

II. The Ministry of the Two Witnesses - (11:3-13)

1. A Ministry of Prophesying - (v.3)

When you examine the powerful preaching of these two witnesses during the first half of the tribulation, we must conclude that it is unlike anything we have seen!
They were able to do things we cannot do, and the whole world becomes aware of their abilities and seriousness of their message.
Revelation 11:3 NIV84
And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
For 3 1/2 years, they will preach in “sackcloth,” the traditional sign of mourning in the ancient Near East. Sackcloth also indicates their message is one of REPENTANCE!
At least SOME will listen! 144,000 Jews will put their faith in the Messiah and be protected by God during the days of the Tribulation ()!
There message will also reach Gentiles:
Revelation 7:9 NIV84
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
rev 7
Revelation 7:9–14 NIV84
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Revelation 7:14 NIV84
I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

2. The Purpose and Identity of the Two Witnesses - (v.4)

Verse 4 is a reference to , which may be the clue to the purpose of the two witnesses.
The prophet Zechariah preached a message of repentance to the people of Israel during the days of the Babylonian captivity. His inspired proclamations and visions encouraged the people to return to the land and to rebuild the temple destroyed by Babylon in 586 BC.
In his vision in , he saw a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it. There were seven lamps with seven pipes connected to the bowl of oil. On either side of the lampstand were two olive trees from which two gold pipes carried oil to the bowl on top of the lampstand.
(v.4) is an allusion to Joshua & Zerubbabel in Zechariah’s vision!
Joshua and Zerubbabel were the leaders (one civic and one religious) who would take the people back to Israel and inspire them to rebuild the fallen ruins of the temple. Zerubbabel would lay the foundation of the temple and also finish it!
Zechariah 4:9 NIV84
“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.
This historical incident points to future day when the temple would be rebuilt!
In the same way Zerubbabel & Joshua were used by the Lord to challenge the people to return and build, it is possible the two witnesses of will have the same impact on the Jewish people of the tribulation period—through their preaching, the people would be inspired to rebuild the Temple!
Who are these two witnesses?
Attempts to identify these two fellows have led to a variety of interpretations, including a symbolic approach that sees them as Israel & the Church, or Israel & the Word of God, or the Law & the Prophets, or the Old & New Testaments.
Others connect them with leaders from Israel’s past: Zerubbabel & Joshua, Enoch & Elijah (neither of whom experienced death), or Moses & Elijah (the strongest similarities from Scripture would favor these two men).
At a Jewish Passover celebration today, a young child is sent to the door to see if Elijah has come yet!
Personally, I lean towards these being two unique individuals who have never before existed.

3. The Protection of the Two Witnesses - (v.5)

Anyone listening to these fellows preach better mind their P’s and Q’s (mind your manners)!

4. The Power of the Two Witness - (v.6)

If these fellows are NOT Elijah and Moses, their abilities mirror them!
james 5
James 5:17–18 NIV84
Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
Exodus 7:20 NIV84
Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood.

5. The Killing of the Two Witnesses - (vv.7-10)

Nothing happens before God’s plan allows it. They are protected till they, “…finished their testimony.”
The PERSON who kills them - (v.7)
This is the first of thirty-six references in Revelation to “the beast
Revelation 17:8 NIV84
The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.
The PLACE their bodies are displayed - (v.8)
That this is in Jerusalem is clear from the reference to Christ’s crucifixion.
Figuratively, Sodom represents wickedness and immorality, and Egypt represents oppression and slavery!
The PUBLICITY the two witnesses receive - (vv.9-10)
Before satellite and the internet, this prediction seemed impossible, but now it is certainly possible!
The reason for their celebration is simply stated: (v.10)

6. The Resurrection of the Two Witnesses - (vv.11-13)

Can you imagine the whole world watching these two rising up to heaven? The shock and fear! And then to feel the earth begin to quake (at least in Jerusalem), while the rest of the world watches as 1/10th of the city collapses!
Q: Does the phrase, “…were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven” indicate salvation, or merely human fright?
Revelation 14:7 NIV84
He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
I like to think that it means they finally got it! Only time will tell…UNTIL THEN:
2 Corinthians 5:11 NIV84
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.
2 Corinthians 5:20–21 NIV84
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
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