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The Book of Revelation
“God’s Two Great Witnesses”
Last week we looked at the great angel and the re-commissioning of the Apostle John in chapter ten. Today we’re going to be in chapter eleven and look at the two witnesses.
The next several chapters of Revelation are some of the most difficult in the whole Apocalypse scenario, given the wide range of their various interpretations. For our study, however, I’ve chosen to remain as true to the literal interpretation as possible, so let’s get right into our study.
Read Revelation 11:1-2
I stopped here because in these two verses we see prophecy fulfilled, that is, the Temple of God being rebuilt.
The Scriptures, however, speak of a third temple.
The prophet Ezekiel after his vision of God’s restoration of the Jewish people in the valley of dry bones, chapter 37, and God’s victory over the armies of Gog and Magog, chapters 38-39, sees not only the city of Jerusalem rebuilt, but a whole new temple as well, dimensions and all, chapters 40-43).
The prophet Amos talking about the end of times speaks of repairing the temple and rebuilding it as in the days of old, Amos 9:11.
And according to the prophet Daniel, this temple needs to be in place during the time of the Tribulation.
“Then he (the Antichrist) shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.” (Daniel 9:27a NKJV)
For the sacrifice to end means it had to have been started, which means the Temple of God needs to be rebuilt. Daniel’s prophecy is actually a duel fulfillment.
During the times of the Maccabees, around 168 BC, Antiochus Epiphanies, ruler of Syria, was turned back from his campaign against Egypt by the Roman army. On his way back to Syria he vented his wrath against the Jewish people, and in the process defiled the temple by sacrificing a pig upon the altar, forbidding the daily sacrifices, and erecting an idol of Zeus in the Holy Place where the Ark of the Covenant was.
This was foretold by Daniel in his 11th chapter, yet, at the end of this prophecy Daniel foretells of a future abomination with the same consequences, which will occur exactly 3 ½ years prior to the end of the Tribulation, or as Daniel refers to it as “The Time of Trouble.”
Jesus also speaks of this as He foretells this time of the end. He said,
“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place.” (Matthew 24:15 NKJV)
The Apostle Paul explains exactly what this abomination is that happens midway through the Tribulation period
“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 NKJV)
So what we see in these two passages is the fulfillment of these prophecies in the rebuilding the Temple of God and the re-institution of the sacrifices during the time of Tribulation.
What’s really exciting is to see what’s going on in Israel. There are several groups working towards this very end.
A divided temple mount makes sense, and what I see happening in how the Antichrist is going to bring peace to the Middle East, but even more, it fits into God’s design as outlined in Ezekiel.
Several scholars have made extensive studies and along with archaeologists have determined that Solomon’s temple actually stood north of the present day Dome of the Rock, which when built in accordance to the dimensions outlined by Ezekiel would place the Dome of the Rock into the court of the Gentiles, the place God told John not to measure, and which Ezekiel saw measured with a wall separating the holy areas from the profane.
So the Holy Temple could actually be built today leaving intact the Muslim’s Dome of the Rock, because it would be in the court of the Gentiles and would not defile the Temple.
So, as things continue to develop, the rebuilding of the Temple is becoming more plausible.
Before we move on from this passage, there’s one more thing that needs to be explained, and that is the time frame of 42 months. Daniel records it as being “time, times, and half a time.” (Daniel 7:25; 12:7) The Book of Revelations uses either 1260 days, Revelation 12:6, or 42 months, Revelation 11:2; 13:5-6. All these time frames add up to 3 ½ years, which divides the Tribulation into two halves.
Going back to Daniel’s prophecy, the Antichrist, which he calls the prince to come, will make a covenant for 7 years, but midway through this time he will sit in the Holy of Holies making himself as God.
Jesus said that when this happens the Jews are to flee to safety, for then there will be “great” tribulation, and unless these days were shortened, no flesh would be saved, but for the elect’s sake, that is, those who still believe and who haven’t been martyred or died from the judgments, God will shorten these days, Matthew 24:16-22.
What this says is that God will judge sin and unbelief, but there’s a limit to the judgment that will follow, because these days of great tribulation are numbered and predetermined by God, because of His mercy.
Maybe you feel like you’re under the hand of God’s judgment, that is, you’re paying the consequences for your actions and sins. What you need to know is that there’s a predetermined timetable on this and God has already numbered the days of your judgment based upon His mercy, not upon our worthiness.
It’s what the prophet Habakkuk brings out.
“O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2 NKJV)
Read Revelation 11:3-14
The first question most ask is just who are these two witnesses. The speculations are mainly that they are either prophets from the Old Testament, or just two witnesses that come in the spirit and power of these prophets.
The two prophets mostly mentioned are Elijah and Moses. One of the main reasons is the plagues these two witnesses call down from heaven, because they are similar to what both Elijah and Moses performed. Also, Elijah never tasted death and both an angel and Satan contended for Moses body, and the angel won. Also, Moses and Elijah were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Also it is prophesied that Elijah would return before the great and terrible day of the Lord, Malachi 4:5, and people expected Moses to likewise return, which is seen when the people thought that Jesus was “that prophet.”
Enoch also figures into the mix because he likewise never tasted death, which is the same for Elijah, and those who take this view quote the Bible saying that it’s been given unto man to die once and then the judgment.
The problem with this thinking is that it flies in the face of the Rapture, because millions will be translated in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye and never taste death. So neither Elijah nor Enoch have to come back.
The other possibility, which I tend to adhere, is that these are simply two witnesses who only resemble Elijah and Moses in their ministry. The traits of their ministry are basically the same, and since no names are given, this may mean that the same kind of spirit exists in these two witnesses as were in Elijah and Moses.
John the Baptist wasn’t Elijah. Instead Jesus said that John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:17. Therefore, the same may be said of these two witnesses.
Now their mission is to prophesy, and while it doesn’t say what they prophesied, prophets of the Old Testament always spoke against sin and wickedness. Therefore, it would seem that these two witnesses did the same, which really ticks off the Antichrist.
And not only will they warn humanity of the upcoming judgment against sin, they will actually be the messengers that brings down such judgments upon an unrepentant world. And so the hatred towards them will be great. In other words, people aren’t going to go up to them and say, “Nice sermon preacher.”
Further, their message will be of repentance, and it’s a message that neither the Antichrist, nor the one who rules him, Satan, likes.
Once their testimony is finished, Satan will overpower and kill them. Up to this point they couldn’t be touched, but now they’ll be killed and their bodies left on the streets of Jerusalem for 3 ½ days.
The description of Jerusalem being Sodom reveals that Jerusalem will no longer be holy unto the Lord, but rather given over to worldliness, immorality, and all sorts of sin, just as Sodom was. And just as Sodom didn’t receive God’s heavenly messengers, Jerusalem will not accept these two witnesses.
And calling Jerusalem Egypt points to how Egypt had enslaved and killed God’s people, and how this fits Jerusalem under the control of the Antichrist. And the plagues God brought upon Egypt these two witnesses bring upon Jerusalem.
Now the whole world will see their dead bodies lying in the street for these 3 ½ days. Up to this past generation this would’ve been impossible, but with satellite news and cell phone cameras, people around the world will see these events live as they are happening.
This event, including the celebration of their death, speaks to the moral and spiritual condition of those still alive. It’s their equivalent of Christmas as they are exchanging gifts.
But as the world is celebrating, God breathed life back into their bodies and they rose from the dead right in front of the entire world, and the world heard a voice say, “Come on up.”
Imagine the scene. You’re watching your favorite TV show and it’s interrupted.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” they say, “We interrupt your regularly scheduled program for this special news bulletin.” And then you see this reporter looking as white as a ghost trying to explain what’s going on, and behind him the two witnesses are alive, and then a loud voice says, “Come on up,” and you see them ascend into the sky.
I wonder what sort of spin the Antichrist is going to give this one.
Then a great earthquake strikes and the program goes off the air. When it comes back on one tenth of the city has been destroyed, 7,000 people killed, with thousands more injured.
Now something interesting happens, everyone starts giving glory to God. Now whether or not it brought them to faith is unknown, because first it doesn’t say they repented of their sins, only that they gave glory to God.
Nebuchadnezzar, after God drove him out into the wilderness, mad as a hatter, and eating grass like a wild animal, when his sanity was restored it says he gave glory to God, but he was no nearer being a child of God. If you look back over his life he said the same thing when he saw Jesus walking in the midst of the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.
So this may not be a true conversion, as many believe, but simply an acknowledgement of God, which is only natural when the two guys you thought were dead come back to life and physically rise up into heaven, and then the whole earth shakes underneath you.
One last thing before we move on. These two witnesses time upon the earth was 3 ½ year, which places them in the first half of the Tribulation. This would mean it was after their death and resurrection that the Antichrist goes into the Temple and defiles it by proclaiming himself to be God.
Read Revelation 11:15-19
As the seventh trumpet sounds, John hears this statement, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15 NKJV)
What this indicates is that earthly rule will now pass into the hands of God. But how seeing that the seven bowl judgments have yet to be poured out and Jesus has not yet returned? The answer may very well lay in that the destruction of the ruler of this world is under way, and there’s nothing neither he nor anyone can do about it.
Further these words proclaim that Christ’s reign is forever. In other words, never again will the earth be under the control and lordship of either Satan or man, and even when they try to mount a rebellion, first in what is known as Armageddon, and then later at the end of the millennium, both are unsuccessful and everything evil is tossed into the Lake of Fire.
What I also found interesting in this passage of Scripture is the play on words. They said, “The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come.” The anger of men can do nothing against the wrath of God. They’re angry, so what, God isn’t controlled by our feelings; rather He acts according to His righteousness.
And so, when the seventh trumpet sounds, the temple of God is opened, and we see into the Holy of Holies, the ark, the throne of God, and from God’s throne comes thunder, lightning, and a great earthquakes and hail hits the earth as God is about to pour out His final judgment, the seven bowls of His wrath.
But before this happens God sort of puts it on hold and a sort of prelude takes place as the Lord reveals to the Apostle John the past and present, and the unholy trinity, which is what we’ll be looking at in the next several chapters and in our time together.
Before we end though, there’s something I’d like to touch upon, and that’s a truth that hopefully will help every one of us.
Where God guides, God provides
This comes from the two witnesses themselves. It was only until after their witness was over that God brought them back home. But up to that time God provided and empowered them to do His calling.
In like manner God will empower us and give us His divine protection until we’ve accomplished that which we’ve been put upon this earth to accomplish. I truly believe that every man, woman, and child has a specific purpose and that God will give us every opportunity we need to find and fulfill it. This is seen in verse four
“These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.” (Revelation 11:4 NKJV)
This is actually a direct reference to the vision God gave to the prophet Zechariah of the two witnesses during his day, Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel, the prophet. They were likewise called lampstands and they were given an unending supply of the Holy Spirit. And then the Lord proclaimed
“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit.” (Zechariah 4:6 NKJV)
And so the Lord will empower these two witnesses in the same way, but not only them, but you and I as well.
The Lord sends us forth with gifts and talents to be witnesses of His kingdom to this lost and dying world. But we don’t proceed in our own power or understanding, but we proceed in the power of the Holy Spirit, who not only gives to us the power, but the understanding as well, as He leads and guides us into all truth.
And He’ll likewise provide that protection for us until His purpose is completed, and then, like these two witnesses, He’ll take us home to heaven.
A young boy asked his grandfather to explain the wind. Being an old fisherman the grandfather replied, “I can’t explain the wind, but I can teach you how to raise your sail.”
While we can’t fully understand the workings of the Holy Spirit, what we need to do is to raise the sail of our souls and spirits to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit. And the reason is simple, because we need the Holy Spirit’s power to enable us to be those witnesses for Jesus Christ in a world that is against everything He stands for.
How can you raise the sail of your soul and spirit to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit? By asking the Holy Spirit to fill and to baptize you with His Holy power.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study