By reason of such sound principle, it is essential to understand the chain of prophesies leading up to the two witnesses. Therefore, I do not recommend this article until first having examined The Seven Seals, then The Seven Trumpets, which will then bring us to The Two Witnesses.
This vital chronology brings us to the most significant segment of prophesy which pertains to the remnant of true saints enduring the perils of the persecuting power of the formidable Roman Church. This period of prophetic history is an extension of the sixth trumpet, revealed in the little book (Rev 10), and makes up about half the content of the future prophesy of St John’s Revelation covered in chapters 11-19. The two witnesses is the first of three different representations of the little book, which illustrates the plight of the remnant church in the midst of the revived Roman Kingdom, which was and still is using the Christian religion & secular powers to accomplish world domination.
After the Apostle John had eaten the little book, or in other words, fully digested and contemplated the content of this episode of prophesy; he was then commissioned to prophesy further, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.” (Rev 10:11). Accordingly, St John begins his further prophesy of the little book with the two witnesses in Rev 11:
“Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar – those who worship. But leave out the court, which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.” ~ Rev 11:1-2
Previously, the series of prior prophesy had led us to examine the meaning of symbols and figurative illustrations of prophesy language, which certainly continue with this further prophesy of St John. Now we will give further examination to these key words introduced here, such as measure – the temple – the altar – the outer court – forty-two months. Keeping in mind the figurative & symbolic way in which prophesy language illustrates the meaning of such visions, we are not to look for a literal application with these key words.
First key word: measure – the basic idea of the word signifies the objective standard of God’s measuring rod of truth and justice. The measurement of weight has been one way to illustrate God’s justice by balance scales, “You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting” said the prophet Daniel to King Belshazzar (Dan 5:26). Though, within the context of this prophesy here, the word measure renders a validating verdict to confirm the true form of the temple, which leads us to examine what is meant by the temple.
Second key word: temple – refers to the New Testament Church, the Body of Christ, which are the true saints of God, who are measured & sealed by His Spirit.
“Do you not know that you yourselves are God’s temple, and the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
“For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.” 2 Corinthians 6:16
And besides other similar passages like Ephesians 2:19-21 or Revelation 3:12, Christ Himself alludes to His own body being the ultimate fulfillment of the Temple when He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:19
And if Christ’s body is indeed the New Testament Temple, then what does that make His people, who are called the body of Christ? “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” 1st Corinthians 12:27
The New Testament abounds with such an illustration as just quoted above – God’s people being the body of Christ – Christ’s body being the Temple, thus God’s people, the Church, being the ultimate fulfillment of that material Temple of the prior dispensation, which was just a shadow and type of what was to manifest in the New Testament.
Third key word: altar – representing the interceding atonement made by the high priest (Num 16:44-48), and ultimately fulfilled by Jesus Christ (Heb 4:14-16). Within the context of this prophesy, as John is to measure the temple of God, or in other words, seal the true saints of God – we can reasonably conclude this reference of the altar to mean the altar of the cross of Christ, by which the saints derive their redemptive strength, who are measured, or sealed – by the fulfillment of His true & perfect standard.
Besides these figurative expressions, there is also a plain representation of the same meaning, which is customary within prophesy language and Hebrew language in general – to reinforce the meaning with both a figurative and plain rendering. Thus, this passage plainly says, “…those who worship…” – so to reinforce the same meaning figuratively expressed as the temple and the altar.
Most translations erroneously render it, “and those who worship there“, which gives the wrong sense that it’s something else, and that those who worship are doing so in the material temple building. However, the word ‘and’ as well as the word ‘there’ are not in the original; It is simply rendered “…measure the temple of God, the altar – those who worship.”, which naturally defines the temple and the alter as those who worship (see lexicon). In other words – the true saints of Christ represent the New Testament Temple, which is the mystical body of Christ, from Who’s altar we stand. The Hebrew language style so often uses this kind of literary device which streamlines different words & concepts with the same meaning for emphasis & clarity. This is vital for understanding many passages as we will observe more of this coming up in this same chapter.
Fourth key word: outer court – originally refers to the outer sector of the temple complex known as the outer court. There was an outer court for gentiles, and there was also an outer court for the general populace of Israel to congregate, who were not from the tribe of Levi, nor from the priestly line of Aaron. They were considered outsiders from the standpoint of the Temple, who were not permitted to come near the holy place of God (Num 1:51, 18:22). Only the Levites were permitted to serve with the temple duties, and only the Levites of the line of Aaron were permitted to perform priestly duties of the temple, and only the high priest was permitted to enter the most holy place, where the ark of the covenant was perched, and only once a year on the Day of Atonement.
Now, in the current dispensation of the New Testament, all those of genuine faith, who truly abide in Christ, are made priests and kings (Rev 1:6, 5:10, 20:6), who are permitted to enter the sanctuary of God, even the most holy place, to come before the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).
Outsiders would be considered those who are outwardly Christian, who attend the church assembly, and may identify with the Christian faith, but are not tried & true, or are not measured – who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
That is why the angel said to St John,“leave out the court, which is outside the temple, do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.“
These outsiders are those who claim the name of Christ, yet believe in vain, those who take the name of the Lord with empty faith, who live more like the worldly populace, or Gentiles. Even those outsiders who presumed to represent Christ and assume His authority as bishops of the church of God, yet moved with worldly ambitions, who would effectively tread the holy city underfoot, that is to say, trample the faithful people/body of Christ and mar His good name.
Consider how the outer court, which contains corrupt elements, is still considered part of the temple complex (Christianity in general), yet here, is distinguished from the inner court (true Christianity). Thus, we may refer to so much of the corrupt representations of Christianity as the outer court, as authentic Christianity may be referred to as the inner court.
Fifth key word-phrase: forty-two months – the time duration for this period of prophesy which pertains to the remnant Church during the days of the prevailing worldly Church of Rome. Forty-two months is one of the several ways this time frame is rendered, otherwise expressed as 1260 days, or 3 ½ years, or time, times, and half a time. All are different ways of rendering the same amount of prophetic days, which are not to be understood as literal days, but years.
Now remember this is prophesy language, so we must take our cues from such as Ezekiel 4:6 & Numbers 14:34, which render a day for a year. Also, we consider the 70 weeks of Daniel 9:24, which totals 490 prophetic days, yet are understood to be 490 literal years. Furthermore, the scope of this prophetic episode is too extensive to fit into 3 ½ literal years, but those many days as years fit perfectly into the chronology & historical context from the sixth trumpet unto the seventh trumpet. Therefore, considering prophesy language, the day for a year model, the scope of this prophesy, and the overall sequence of prophetic history, it is most reasonable to interpret 1260 prophetic days as 1260 literal years. For more on this see Time, Times and Half a Time.
The next verse then uses another way to signify the true saints of God, expressed as two witnesses, and also confirms the identity of this angel who had a little book open (ch. 10), who instructed John to further prophesy from the little book, who gave further instructions to measure the temple, then says, “And I will give power to my two witnesses”. This statement comes from one who is the source of power (I will give power), and from whom belongs ownership (my two witnesses), who can be none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
In order to properly interpret the meaning of the two witnesses, we must again consider the language of prophesy, the prophetic time frame of 1260 years, the placement of this time frame within the prophetic sequence, and the historical context of this chronology:
The first part of the sixth trumpet left off with the second wave of Arab invaders who were providentially cut off by Charles Martel in the year 732. During those days, also, was the controversy over idols between Byzantine Emperor Leo III and Pope Gregory II, which continued with the obstinate spirit of the popes who insisted on the worship of angels, images, and patron saints.
Then the second part of the sixth trumpet, referenced as the little book, brings us to the time (750-800) when the popes of Rome rose to attain Papal temporal power of not only the mainstream Catholic Church, but Roman society in general. Certain key events, such as the Donation of Pepin and the Patrimony of Saint Peter, empowered the papacy with lands, territories, property and legal power over the Roman world backed by the power of the state. The popes reinforced such dominion by contriving numerous papal creeds & canons, and false documents and forgeries, such as the Donation of Constantine; all serving to endow the Bishop of Rome with the same supremacy as the Ceasars of Rome.
Such developments during the eighth century culminated with the revival of the western Roman Empire – with the crowning of Charlemagne – by his papal counterpart, Pope Leo III, in 800 A.D. The ambition of the popes to reign supreme subsequently caused intense power struggles with the imperial dynasty, as intrigues and civil wars persisted for a few hundred years. The papacy eventually prevailed to become supreme ruler of the “Holy Roman Empire“. Subsequently, the papal persecutions ramped up its course with a more systematic onslaught upon the true saints of God – through crusades, massacres, inquisitions, tortures & executions of the most cruel nature.
Such significant historical events of Papal Power thoroughly correspond with the prophesies of the Antichrist Power, which is why there had been such general consensus on this point for centuries among the many learned theologians guided by prophetic patterns. These are the circumstances which characterize the 1260 year time frame which the remnant church endures through. To date, this period of time has not yet completed its duration, though we are now in the latter part of this episode, and likely in the final stretch.
Now that we have so considered the progression of prophetic history, we can observe more clearly what is meant by the two witnesses – being a figurative expression of the remnant church, that is the true saints of God, who are just few in number. Two is a significant number which is foreshadowed by duo’s like Moses & Aaron; Elijah & Elisha; Zerabbabal & Joshua, the Apostles sent in teams of two, and the minimum number of witnesses required to testify against crime in the court of law (Duet 17:6, 19:15); all of which are alluded to in this prophesy, which symbolize a minority group of people, yet enough to give sufficient testimony.
That testimony would principally be the Gospel of Jesus Christ – for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy (Rev 19:10), and those testifying of the gospel are often called witnesses. In fact, to witness and testify both come from the same Greek word martus, and the word as a noun is martureó, which is where the term martyr comes from, meaning killed witness.
“…They are now His witnesses to our people.” – Acts 13:31. And Acts 5:32 – “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” – also John 15:27, Luke 24:48, Acts 1:8, 2:22, 3:15, 4:33, 10:39-41, , 13:31, 23:11.
This duty would also include testifying against violations to the gospel, such as idolatry, murders, sorceries, sexual immorality, thefts. And to testify against such a formidable power as the Roman Church would require extraordinary power. Thus, The Angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ, says in verse 3, “And I will give power to my two witnesses”.
The first item listed of this divine power is prophesy – and they will prophesy – The everlasting gospel is the basis of New Testament prophesy, empowered by the Holy Spirit – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses…” (Luke 24:48); and in Act 4:33 – “With great power, the apostles continued to give their testimony about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”
It should be noted that such witnesses sealed their testimony of truth with their own blood – in concert with their Savior, Who himself is called the “true and faithful witness” (Rev 3:14). Thus, early ecclesiastical phraseology employed the term ‘perfect witness’ to those witnesses made perfect by their death, as the same phrase translates from the word martyr. It is clear in the abundant writings on the martyrs – that God had indeed empowered such perfect witnesses to prophesy in the face of torturous death with the greatest fortitude.
Though this power to prophesy had been given at Pentecost from the beginning of the New Testament age, this distinguishing attribute of God’s witnesses is the same characteristic of His remnant Church during this most significant prophetic time frame. The duration of this period rendered as one thousand two hundred and sixty days – that is 1260 years; And they are further described as prophesying clothed in sackcloth – in an afflicted state.
The time frame for the prophesying of the two witnesses is rendered as 1260 days, while the same amount of prophetic days is rendered as 42 months for the corrupt worldly church. Perhaps the reason the false believers are always ascribed to months is because months signify the moon of darkness as the true believers are ascribed in days to insinuate the light of righteousness: “For you are all sons of the light and sons of the day; we do not belong to night or to darkness” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:5
The next verses describe the two witnesses with strong allusion to the divinely empowered duo’s of the past: These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.
Now the two olive trees and two lampstands of Zechariah 4 represent the two key figures of the post exile time when rebuilding the 2nd Temple was the task at hand; Zerabbabal, the governor overseeing the rebuilding of the Temple, and Joshua, the high priest. Such a high degree of opposition to this mission required extraordinary power granted by the Spirit of the LORD. The two lampstands of gold oil indicate they both had guidance from the light of God (lamp), and the power of His Spirit (oil). Thus, by ascribing the two witnesses with the same illustration, it paints a picture of God’s remnant church, fueled by the Spirit of the Lord, as a lamp shining amidst a dark age, continually burning from the olive tree infusing its oil.
Jesus expressly referred to his faithful, “You are the light of the world…” (Mat 5:14), and the Apostle Paul says to the Church, “ that you would be blameless and innocent, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in world…” (Phil 2:15).
There is still another olive tree passage to consider in Romans 11, where the Apostle Paul describes the Church as two different olive trees grafted together. The first olive tree represents God’s first chosen people Israel, and the second olive tree represents the Gentiles as a wild olive grafted into the cultivated olive. From the cultivated olive, branches were broken off (unbelieving Jews) to make way for the wild olive branches (believing Gentiles) to be grafted in. Thus, Gods church is made of two olive trees, Jews & Gentiles, grafted together to make one body (Gal 3:26-28) – the Body of Christ, that is the New Testament Temple – rendered in this prophesy as the temple of God and the two witnesses, and further illustrated as the two lampstands and two olive trees.
Before continuing to the next verse, we will consider a few more points to further substantiate who the two witnesses truly represent. Since there has been so much diversity of opinions, it is especially important to follow the guidelines established in the scriptures:
Sacred scripture presents the concept of a small portion of those who remain loyal to God, even when corruption & idolatry abound among the many who bear the name of the LORD; Distinct from the broad masses who take His name in vain, the select few who are truly faithful to God, have often been referred to as the remnant. This concept carries through both old and new testaments, which is more often expressed in the New Testament as God’s elect.
The Apostle Paul addresses this concept when saying, “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel” (Romans 9:6). In the same discourse he quotes from Isaiah 10:22-23, saying, “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved.” ~ Rom 9:27
The Apostle then applies this doctrine to the Gentiles of the New Testament era, saying in 11:5 , “…at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” Then using the analogy of the olive tree in Romans 11:13-36, he warns the Gentile Church of the peril of falling away, “For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.”
Thus, those converts, who are not tried & true by enduring in genuine faith in God, are not considered the remnant of God’s elect. “For many are called, but few are chosen“ ~ Matthew 22:12. They are those who presume to come near, but are actually outsiders (the outer court). Yet those chosen few (the inner court) are those true children of promise who endure with the same faith as Father Abraham (Galatians 3).
That is why Jesus told us to enter by the narrow gate; for broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. ~ Matthew 7:13-14.
Building on this instruction of the narrow gate and the few who find it, Jesus then warns of false men of God, and how we can know them by their fruit; And many who say, “Lord, Lord”, who prophesy, perform miracles and cast out demons in Jesus name, whom Jesus will yet say to them, “I never knew you; Depart from Me, you who practice evil!“ ~ Mat 7:15-23
Therefore, having considered the meaning of these key words & phrases: remnant – God’s elect – chosen few – along with the others we already considered: two witnesses – two olive trees – two lampstands – temple – we can be certain all these different illustrations streamlined together here in Revelation 11 mean the same: two witnesses, along with the others, are fit illustrations representing those few-but-true saints of God (also plainly expressed as ‘those who worship’); who endure through a time when corrupt powers had seized control of the Christian institution, in the most abominable way, to then persecute the remnant of true Christians.
Even still today, as other forms of Christianity abound with worldly paradigms, the New Testament model is so scarcely practiced that the true order ordained by God has been blown away by other winds of doctrine. Thus, the prophetic phraseology – two witnesses – appropriately sums up this era in which there is such scarcity of truly faithful people of God.
I will only add this final point, which coordinates with all the other reference points: Two may also signify a minority 2% ratio of God’s elect among the general population.
Now, continuing with the next description of the two witnesses in verse 5, “And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouths and devours their enemies; and if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner”. The repetition of this verse makes a strong emphasis, so now lets consider the symbolic meaning of fire likened to God’s word in Jeremiah 5:14:
“Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.”
Also consider another symbolic rendering of the word of God in Hebrews 4:12-13:
“For the word of God is sharper than any doubled-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from his sight, but all things are naked, and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
Now if the Two Witnesses, or the remnant church of true believers are empowered to prophesy, or in other words, utter forth the word of God, which is like a consuming fire, or like the sharpest sword which discerns with extraordinary precision, exposing all things, and shining a spot light on the inner recesses of the souls of men; Then this would first of all have a hostile effect towards those who set themselves against God and His people, who would be struck with the dreadful prospect of God’s wrath, as implicated in the second coming of Messiah upon the sounding of the seventh trumpet; and even the ultimate Judgement Day when they shall surely be killed by the second death.
The allusion to divinely empowered duo’s of the past continues in verse 6: These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophesy (like Elijah & Elisha); and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues as often as they desire (like Moses & Aaron). Such spectacular references of the past were rudimentary lessons which foreshadowed the divinely empowered New Testament Church with the judgments of God.
What is interesting about this design, is how such ordinary people were empowered to do extraordinary things. The very first Apostles of Christ were simple folk from the backwoods, uneducated and untrained men who boldly testified against the formidable powers of their time: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.” (Acts 4:13-14).
Likewise, during this later era of the remnant church, groups like the Waldensians and Albigenses, being simple folk, uneducated and untrained men, who were yet empowered to such a degree of mastering the scriptures that even the most illustrious priests of the Roman Church were silenced by their skill in welding the sword of the spirit against those corrupt imposters of the Christian faith.
Quoting from Henry Fliedner on the Waldensians, “To all the pointed questions which were put to them, they knew what to say, and replied so well to their adversaries, by quoting passages of the scriptures, that their principle opponent, a monk named Gautier Mapes, was reduced to silence. His inability to refute them made him extremely angry. He was obliged to acknowledge their apostolic methods, and to pay them a tribute of admiration, saying ‘They have no settled home, but travel two and two, barefooted and clothed in woolen garments; they possess nothing, but have everything in common like the Apostles; deprived of everything, they follow Christ, who gave up all.’”
Another notable example was the Colloquy of Montreal, in 1207, when Albigensian elder, Benoît de Termes, engaged a public debate with Catholic priest, Dominic de Guzmán, which ended with Guzmán’s humiliating defeat. Many others with the same skill as Benoît de Termes had no formal training or education, yet divinely empowered to become virtuosos of God’s word in both precept & practice.
The masterful skill of Benoît de Termes had overcome the council of Dominic de Guzmán, but the Roman Church would return to launch a crusade against the so-called heretics, backed with the power of one of the most ambitious popes in history, Pope Innocent III, who instituted the first crusade against these saints, with the same weight of armies & war waged against the Arab Muslims.
In conjunction with the crusades and massacres, was the Inquisition, which systematically sifted out those who survived the general attacks. For centuries the Albigenses and Waldensians endured these Papal persecutions; they fought well, but eventually the Waldensians were broken, while the Albigenses were brought to extinction.
Not only did Papal Rome exterminate a people, but obliterated their literature and rewrote their history. Rome had framed the Albigenses as neo-gnostic heretics called Cathars and nicknamed them after the ancient Manichean heretics. It was certainly easy to confuse them with such elements since the Albigenses were often forced to take refuge among communities of outcasts and fugitives, many of which were genuine heretics like Cathars. Yet the Albigenses had been validated as genuine saints with sound doctrine by eminent historians such as Louis Ellies Du Pin, Jacques Basnage, Jean De Serres, Francios Eudes de Mezeray, and even certain honest Catholic historians like Guillaume de Puy Laurens.
Such significant historical events were illuminating the fulfillment of prophesy relating to the antichrist power. As the popes were claiming titles like “God on Earth”, the remnant Church was recognizing ‘the man of sin’ – ‘the son of destruction’ – revealed – who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God and all that is worshiped, so that he sits in the temple of God showing himself that he is God” (2nd Thes 2).
They recognized the rise of Papal Power conforming perfectly with the rise of the ‘Little Horn’ of Daniel’s vision, which revealed this power would succeed the throne of Caesar to continue the Roman Kingdom, and how ‘the same horn was making war against the saints and prevailing against them until the Ancient of Days came.’ Daniel 7:21.
So clear it was becoming that the idolatrous Roman Church, which styled herself as the “Mother Church”, was indeed MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT – THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS – AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. ~ Rev 17:5
In Matthew 24, Jesus warned of the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet – standing in the holy place… That holy place being the temple of God – the Church – but also the holy place where only Christ may stand as the intermediary between man and God, Who alone forgives sins, Who is the only Chief Shepherd and Bishop of bishops; Yet the bishop of Rome has assumed such a position far beyond a shepherd, or representative, or ambassador of Christ, but has seized the very position of Christ – as mediator between man and God, presuming to absolve sins, pretending to preeminence with such titles as “King of King’s & Lord of Lord’s”, assuming unlimited authority and prerogatives which belong solely to the true God, Lord and Savior.
The English term antichrist transliterates from the Greek antichristos, which means more than just an enemy of Christ, but one who usurps the position of Christ; one who pretends to the throne of Christ with subversion. Vicarious Christi, being the Latin equivalent of antichrist, which transliterates into ‘Vicar of Christ’ – the title claimed by all popes, who to this day presume to be standing in the holy place.
In the context of this persecuting power, we need to further consider the divine retribution for such – “And if anyone wants to harm them…” Besides the few examples of divinely empowered saints of God we just observed, there is still greater divine power which strikes those who set themselves against God’s witnesses. Fire – so often used as a symbol of God’s wrath is the first element of divine judgment associated with the two witnesses – fire proceeds from their mouths and devours their enemies; and if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner”. Next is the element of drought, which alludes to the power of Elijah & Elisha: These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophesy; And blood & plagues, which remind us of those divine judgments which struck Egypt through Moses & Aaron: and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues as often as they desire.
Revealed in the upcoming segment of prophesy of The Seven Vials, divine retribution is directed against the kingdom of the beast, that is the persecuting power of Papal Rome. This section of prophesy illustrates the series of judgments during this same time frame in which the two witnesses endure, which climax with the second coming of Christ upon the sounding of the seventh trumpet. The Seven Vials portrays the wrath of God avenging His witnesses with a series of severe judgments, which precisely corresponds with the judgments of the two witnesses symbolized as fire, drought, blood, and plagues.
Continuing with verse 7 – “When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, and overcome them, and kill them.”
This part of the prophesy has various interpretations, and I believe that is because it has various applications. Some interpreters have tried to narrow this down to a certain group of saints, or to a certain time, but this is most likely a generalization of the martyrdom of the saints throughout this 1260 year time frame. This particular detail coincides with Daniel’s vision of the beast during the same time frame – ‘the same horn was making war against the saints and prevailing against them until the Ancient of Days came.’ ~ Daniel 7:21. And Revelation 13:7 – It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them.
Besides the general circumstances of martyrdom of the saints, Daniel 12:7 seems to indicate there will be a final blow which signals the completion of this period – when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, these things shall be finished.
All of these considered, it seems the martyrdom of the two witnesses is mainly a generalization of this period, but may also refer to the final blow. The generalization would include many different groups at different times within this overall time frame of 1260 years, each group fulfilling their mission to testify the truth of God’s word – When they finish their testimony – then God will allow them to be physically overcome; hence – the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, and overcome them, and kill them.
The final blow, cited in Daniel 12:7, indicates more than martyrdom, but says, “…when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered…” Remember the first attribute mentioned of the remnant church is power – “And I will give power to my two witnesses”. Yet Daniels vision indicates that power will be completely shattered at the final phase, then these things shall be finished.
At this present time, the name of Jesus Christ is peddled everywhere, as mega-church’s abound throughout the world (outer court); Yet the full truth of the gospel has been convoluted and supplanted with counterfeits so only traces of authentic Christianity remain (inner court), leaving so few genuine Christians that the world is becoming a lonely place for the few true saints of God.
Continuing with verse 8 – And their dead bodies (will lie) in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where our Lord was crucified.
The great city, identified in Revelation 18, as Babylon, whereby an angel from heaven identifies the great harlot, called Mystery Babylon, also referred to as that great city, with such distinguishing features that could only be attributed to Papal Rome, as the Roman Church has been magnified as “The City of God”.
“which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt…” In the prior dispensation, the Spirit prophesied through Isaiah against His people Israel, calling them rulers of Sodom and people of Gomorrah (Is. 1:10), since they perpetuated the same pagan legacy as those wicked people before them. Likewise, the Roman Church Empire became the vessel of the Babylonian Legacy, as it continued under the guise of Christianity, yet being the same mystery religion of ancient Sodom and Egypt. For evidence on this, see Mystery Babylon – The Luciferian Legacy
…where our Lord was crucified. Ancient Rome was the power that sanctioned the death of Christ – Rome being that forth world empire, or forth beast of Daniel 7, which reveals the continuation of the Roman Kingdom, via the little horn, with such distinguishing detail so fitting to the Papal Caesar, which revived and continued the Roman Kingdom to crucify Christ anew by striking His body of saints. See The Little Horn of Daniel
Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. This verse 9 speaks of the general contempt held by the opponents of the saints, who had no regard for a decent burial or memorial for those many martyrs who were so cruelly killed. We will get to the three-and-a-half days when it repeats in verse 11.
Verse 10 – “And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.”
The phrase – those who dwell on the earth – is a generalization of all who do not belong to God, but to the world, even the worldly church. Though the overall context of this time frame particularly indicts the kingdom of Papal Rome, we will observe in later sections how the Roman Catholic Church has propagated other forms of corrupt Christianity; and as the remnant church has witnessed against such corruption, these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth, dropping truth-bombs upon their false realities, which generally deepened the hatred towards those few witnesses; so those who dwell on the earth were happy to have them erased.
Verses 11-13 – Now after three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.
This tends to be the most difficult part of the prophesy, so there are many different interpretations to the specific details. Even so, I think it’s not so difficult to attain a moderate understanding of its core sense.
The basic sense of this passage is – various groups, such as the Waldensians and Albigenses, who fulfilled their mission to give their testimony, were eventually overcome, either broken or annihilated; but after a short time, other groups just like them would emerge elsewhere. This phenomenon of the remnant church being crushed, then sprouting anew in various places at various times, renders a form of resurrection to what was deemed dead. Thus, it has been well said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” E.H. Broadbent documents this spiritual phenomenon quite well in “The Pilgrim Church“.
This sense of resurrection is styled, after three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. The three-and-a-half days as prophetic days may certainly mean the same amount of years; either way it seems to signify a short time in which the witnesses of God would rise up again.
Those who testified of the true and everlasting gospel were eventually cut off, yet others just like them would emerge somewhere else. The Popes of Rome were noted as complaining how Martin Luther and the other Reformers propagated the same doctrines as the Waldensians and Albigenses. Sometimes even a certain group were destroyed and yet the remaining few of those same people resurfaced to become a community anew. Such was the case with the Waldensians when they were so demolished in 1655; The survived refugees, who were dispersed abroad, came together and boldly returned to their homeland three-and-a-half years later.
And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.
This description is similar to the rapture of God’s elect upon the return of Christ as spoken by Christ in Mathew 24:30-31, but, as indicated in that passage as well as Rev 11:15, it cannot be the same event because this is still within the sixth trumpet/second woe, and Christ will not return until the sounding of the seventh trumpet/third woe.
Certainly, the martyrs of Christ would rise up to heaven in spirit, but that aspect of heavenly glorification would not be visible for their enemies to see them. Instead, they ascended to heaven in a cloud, most likely means they ascended to a position of greatness upon the earth with the monumental event of the Protestant Reformation . This was certainly a high-time for God’s Church to testify of the Gospel on a scale like never before, opening a flood gate of learning with great advancements in not only theology, but science, medicine, language, literature, arts & architecture, etc; so that general society was effectively delivered from the dark ages. Surely it would be no exaggeration to describe the Reformation as an earth-shaking event.
“In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.”
In the same hour – meaning at the same time when God’s witnesses were elevated indicates this prophesy is no longer generalizing, but referring to a certain event. Typical of revolution type events like the Reformation, chaos and bloodshed follow. Here described as a great earthquake – the same earthquake expression was used to describe the sixth seal, to illustrate the overthrow of Pagan Rome. Although the western idea of earthquake is typically understood merely as geological ruptures, the eastern idea includes societal ruptures; that is, events which have major impact upon the world populace. The word in the original, seismos, means commotions, or shakings. The eastern sense of this illustration is captured quite well in Haggai 2:21:
“I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another.”
Notice the shakings prophesied through Haggai, how God is turning the tables in favor of His people. Such a figurative expression of great shaking is certainly a fit way to illustrate the overthrow of Pagan Rome, as well as the earth-shaking event of the Protestant Reformation. Even when Jesus prophesied of earthquakes in various places (Mat 24:7), He’s referring to the providential commotions of war & upheaval against the persecuting powers.
Though post-modern-western thinking, when reading prophesy, tends to interpret earthquake as a literal geological rupture, even so, today’s western language still may describe a revolutionary type occurrence as an earth-shaking event, and sometimes describe a major occurrence as something which sends shock-waves throughout society.
and a tenth of the city fell. That is that great city – Babylon – the kingdom of Papal Rome – which took a huge hit by the Reformation. Though the Roman Church would not just watch itself diminish without striking back with the Counter-Reformation, which multiplied the shakings & commotions with wars, mayhem, massacres, executions, tortures, intrigues, and counter-revolutions.
In the earthquake (or commotions) seven thousand people were killed – Seven thousand, in prophesy style, signifies a great multitude; Just in the Thirty Years’ War alone were great multitudes killed in the millions – and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven. Many witnessed the awesome power of God on so many levels with this great event known as the Protestant Reformation, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
Before concluding this exposition on the prophesy of the two witnesses, it’s important to consider other people who represented the few witnesses of God. Besides people like the Albigenses and Waldenses, who were severed from the Catholic Church, there were yet those few who were still among the mainstream church who bore testimony of the true gospel.
Such were certain individuals from the Eastern Orthodox Church who boldly witnessed for God in opposition to the Western Roman Church. We already observed the stand taken against idolatry by Emperor Leo III, as his son Constantine Copronymus followed the same. Although there were yet strong elements of corruption within the eastern church, such as the Second Council of Nicaea, which restored the worship of images and invocation of deceased saints, other emperors such as Nicephorus, Leo Armenius, Michael Balbus, and Theophilus, did much to guide the Eastern Orthodox Church, in general, away from these corruptions.
And let us not overlook even those many witnesses, though few in proportion to the mainstream, who were among the Roman Church; Western emperors like Charles the Great (Charlemagne) and Lewis the Pious initiated Church reforms which affirmed the canon of scripture as the sole rule of faith while demoting traditions of man & apocryphal writings, reaffirmed the basic gospel truth that there is no mediator between God and man besides Jesus Christ, opposed the Second Council of Nicaea and forbid superstitious practices like pilgrimages, private masses and relic worship.
Besides a few emperors of Rome, there were many of the clergy such as Rabanus Maurus, who strongly opposed the notion prescribed to the Eucharist, which pretended to materialize the literal body of Christ in the mass (transubstantiation), and presumed to sacrifice Christs’ body each and every mass – as a perpetual sacrifice; Such opposition to such superstition was echoed by Ratramnus and Johannes Scotus Erigena, who clarified a more biblical meaning of the sacrament as a memorial of that once and for all sacrifice of Christ, which was so sufficient that no other such sacrifice was necessary.
Claudius of Turin, was quite a pillar of truth among the corrupt Roman Church, who preached and wrote with all his power to assert correct New Testament models such as: sufficiency of the scriptures, the equality of all bishops, and the only head of the Church was Christ Jesus; Using the very teachings of Christ & the Apostles, he overthrew notions of merit & works-based justification; veneration of saints, images & relics; transubstantiation & perpetual sacrifice of the mass; pilgrimages, penances and other pagan traditions.
Gerbert of Aurillac, asserted the papacy was antichrist – sitting in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. Ironically, he later became Pope Sylvester II. Yet others of the Catholic clergy recognized the same, such as Fluentius of Florence, who taught that Antichrist was born, and come into the world manifested through the Papacy; and others like Joachim of Fiore, who wrote & taught great audiences The Revelation, including the papal fulfillment of antichrist. By this time, during the twelfth century, the idea of the papal antichrist was spreading among the members of the Roman Church.
And yet many others, less eminent & more obscure, who faithfully witnessed to the true and everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ, who promoted that truth with councils & creeds such as the Council of Foro-Julio, which recognized no other creed but that of the Apostles, and the Council of Rheims, which opposed the supremacy of the pope.
All such witnesses who were distinct from one another, yet so much the same in their apostolic views, and even so many more who testified of the gospel truth throughout the centuries, even those few today, have collectively composed such a great cloud of witnesses for God, though minorities among the masses, risked all they had to bear witness to the truth. Many more who I will not list, but a more comprehensive and well sourced account is laid out in Thomas Newton’s “Dissertations on the Prophecies – Volume 3” – pages 135-183.
Besides the light of the gospel, could it be that the the prior divine judgments may have done much to awaken some who were amidst a corrupt & idolatrous church?… If so, then such strong judgments were more than just punitive & condemning – but saving & sanctifying.
Verse 14 – The second woe is past. Behold the third woe is coming quickly. This completes the second woe assigned to the sixth trumpet as the third woe marks the coming seventh trumpet.
Seventh Trumpet: The Return of Christ
“Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” ~ Rev 11:15
The second coming of Christ is the great anticipation of the saints, when He will completely destroy the kingdoms of this world to establish His kingdom to reign on earth as it is in heaven. Currently, the 1260 year time frame of the second part of the sixth trumpet, revealed in the little book, is not yet complete; But our sure and high hope is our Lord’s return as celebrated in the next verses:
“And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying,
“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
the One who is and who was and is to come,
because You have taken Your great power and reigned!
The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
and the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
and that You should reward Your servants
the prophets and the saints,
and those who fear Your name, small and great,
and should destroy those who destroy the earth!”
~ Rev 11:16-18
As appalling and terrible the wrath of God may be, it is not unreasonably vindictive for the inhabitants of heaven to celebrate the vengeance of God upon His cruel enemies, who have so ruthlessly & relentlessly persecuted the saints. How terrible it will be for those who have set themselves against God, but how wonderful for His saints to be vindicated at last. Here is the consummation of God’s kingdom upon the coming of Christ.
Concluding with verse 19: Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.
At this point of completion, all things will be revealed as the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. No longer will the inner sanctum of God’s most holy place be hidden behind a veil, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, the mystery of God will be finished (Rev 10:7); and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all tribes will mourn because of Him (Rev 1:7).
“they who pierced Him” constitutes all those who pierced the saints throughout the New Testament era, as the saints are the body of Christ. And against such, there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail – that is, God’s wrath rendered in prophesy language. This is only a summary account of the great event of Christs’ return, but will be expanded with more detail in upcoming scenes.
The next scene, in chapter 12, is another representation of this same 1260 year time frame from the little book. It gives another depiction of the plight of the saints under the persecution of Satan’s earthly kingdom, represented as The Woman Flying into the Wilderness, where we will continue this discourse.
– Word & Spirit of God, Who Was and Is and Is to come
– Moses Lowman – “Paraphrases and Notes on the Revelation of St. John“
– John Clark Ridpath – ‘Ridpath’s Universal History’
– Charles Daubuz – “A Perpetual Commentary on the Revelation of St. John“
– E H Broadbent – “The Pilgrim Church”
– John Gill – “Gill’s Exposition of the Bible“
– Thomas Newton – “Dissertations of the Prophesies” – Volumes 1-3
– Henry Fliedner – ‘The Martyrdom of a People’ or ‘The Vaudois of Piedmont and Their History‘
– Albert Barnes – “Barnes’ Notes on the Entire Bible
– Theodor Griesinger – ‘The Jesuits: Their Complete History’
– Peter DeRosa – ‘Vicars of Christ: ‘The Dark Side of The Papacy’
– Avro Manhattan – ‘The Vatican Holocaust‘
– Charles Spurgeon – Spurgeon Archive
– Adam Clark – “Clark’s Commentary on the Bible“
– E. Boyd Barrett – ‘The Jesuit Enigma’
– John Cornwall – ‘Hitler’s Pope’
– Ian Paisley – ‘The Pope is the Antichrist‘
– Augustus Toplady – ‘The Road To Rome’
– John Foxe – ‘Foxes Book of Martyrs’
– Joseph Benson – “Benson’s Commentary on Revelation”
– Kenneth Scott Latourette – ‘A History of Christianity’