“Get up,” said a voice, “and measure God’s Temple…” I will give my two witnesses the task of prophesying…The seventh angel blew his trumpet… ~REVELATION 11:1,4,15
The first 13 verses of chapter 11 continue the interlude between trumpets 6 and 7. The big topics covered are measuring God’s Temple, the two witnesses, and the seventh trumpet.
Measuring God’s Temple
A measuring rod is given to John and he is told to measure God’s Temple, the altar, and those worshipping in it. “Temple” in Revelation is an image of the Christian community. Calling the worshipping community a temple was common among early Christians. “Measuring” has OT precedence meaning protection, judgment, or possibly restoration. Here it most likely refers to protection. So John is to mark out where true worship is taking place and show that it is protected.
But in verse 2 he is told to “leave out the outer court of the temple. Don’t measure it.” The outer court represents the vulnerable aspect of the church which will be trampled by the nations for 42 months. The 42 months comes from the book of Daniel and shows yet again that God is ultimately in control, keeping the trampling to a limited time.
This simultaneous “protected” and “unprotected” aspect shows that the church during this time is both threatened and preserved. The people of God suffer, yet keep worshipping in Spirit and in Truth, giving testimony to the reign of God among them. It seems the message here is that the followers of the Lamb are spiritually protected–no one can pluck them out of the Father’s hand, yet physically vulnerable to suffering at the hands of the world. This is an encouragement to stay faithful. But this verse could also mean that there is a group of believers who are spared from the physical savageries, while others must go through and experience the great suffering.
The Two Witnesses
I had always heard that these two witnesses are Moses and Elijah, or some sort of reincarnation of them. But in my study of this chapter, most all the commentaries I have, and the two podcasts I listened to, are in agreement that these witnesses are not to be understood as merely two individuals, but as representative of the whole church. These two witnesses describe for the reader a mosaic of Israel’s historical figures who embody what authentic faithful witness looks like. They are the two olive trees like Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the priest from Zechariah 3 and 4. They stop rain from falling as Elijah did. Like Moses, they turn water into blood. The fire from their mouths recalls the preaching of Jeremiah (Jer.5:14). Their death, resurrection, and ascension even reflect the very story of Jesus.
But if they represent the whole church, why say specifically two witnesses? Commentator G.K. Beale answers this way:
The OT required two witnesses to establish an offense against the law. Jesus also used the same principle [when he sent] groups of two witnesses. So did Paul. God sent two angels to testify to the truth of the resurrection and to the fact that Jesus would return. Above all, only two of the seven churches in chs. 2-3 escaped Christ’s accusations of unfaithfulness (Smyrna and Philadelphia). That these two churches as representative of the faithful church are in mind is apparent from the identification of the “prophetic witnesses” here as “lampstands.” Thus there is pictured here the faithful remnant church who witnesses.
You might recall from the Revelation 1 vision the lampstands which represented the churches John was writing to. We have allusion here to Zechariah 4 which calls Israel a “lampstand”. The lamps on the lampstand represent God’s presence or Spirit which was to empower Israel. From Beale again: “Just as lampstands were a part of Solomon’s temple, so the church is part of God’s new temple. Accordingly, new Israel, the church, as a “lampstand”, is part of God’s spiritual temple on earth, and is to draw its power from the Spirit, the divine presence, before God’s throne in its drive to stand against the resistance of the world.”
A lampstand without a lamp is not effective or very useful for getting around in dark places. A church, the people of God, not empowered or led by the Holy Spirit, is just stumbling around in this dark world like anybody else. But! to operate in the Holy Spirit’s power, we are able to see in the dark with the Light of the world, and to withstand the oppression of antichrist forces.
A little sidenote: one of my favorite OT verses is from Zechariah 4. Verse 6 says, Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
So at this halfway point of Revelation, it might be good to take a few steps back and get a 30,000 foot view of the overall message so far.
You may have noticed that the word “witness” keeps coming up. Here is my big picture takeaway at this point of my intense study of this book, and it is applicable to all of us who are believers:
It is the call to bear witness with our life and speech to the truth–to the Lordship of Jesus Christ–in our own personal context, even if that environment is hostile to that witness.
It is my hope that you keep this message in mind as we go thru Revelation here, as you read it on your own, or whenever you hear it brought up in a sermon or social media. I pray you can keep this word before you as the charge of Revelation even in the midst of the most ridiculous speculations, predictions, and twistings you may encounter along the way of our journey toward New Jerusalem.
The Seventh Trumpet
The seventh trumpet is called “the third woe” (the first woe being the 5th trumpet, and the second woe being the 6th). And yet the seventh trumpet is the glorious ringing in of the Kingdom of God to fruition, the Reign of our Lord fully realized, the kingdom of our world becoming the Kingdom of our Lord and Christ. Why on earth would this be a “woe”? Well, I guess if you’ve lived according to the satanic principle of self-worship, and therefore personal gain thru whatever means necessary, including abuse and oppression of people and nature, then yeah, the seventh trumpet is gonna suck for you. The reign of Christ messes up the lives of those living for what is not Christ.
But if you are God-centered, and feel that Godliness is the greatest gain (1 Tim 6:6), then the coming of God’s Kingdom is not only welcomed, but pretty freaking awesome.