The Two Witnesses
John now sees himself taking an active part in his own vision, for he is at this time an exile on the Island of Patmos. The Mighty Angel, whom he sees in the vision, gives him a rod saying, “Rise and measure the Temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.” Now, the Temple was not on the Island of Patmos where John was seeing this vision. The Temple was at Jerusalem about six-hundred miles to the southeast of Patmos. Also, this measuring was to take place after that Mighty Angel cried, “There shall be no more delay” just before the “last trump” sounds, which will wake the dead, and translate God’s saints (I Corinthians 15:52). That event has not taken place even though nearly nineteen hundred years have passed since John wrote the Revelation.
What does it mean to “measure the Temple of God?” As a matter of fact, the Temple was not in existence at Jerusalem at this time. What is really meant is the instruction to measure and mark off the ground in preparation for the erection of the Temple and to measure and mark the spot for the altar. In the “little book” given to John by the Angel, he has perhaps a plan of the Temple and its area. John is told to prepare for a Temple according to those plans. It is always the custom, of course, to do such measuring in preparation for the erection of a building.
We must not forget, however, these instructions relate not to something already done but something prophesied in the visions John saw, which has not yet taken place, even in our time. Let us try to imagine what will happen when this vision comes to pass.
Some day, which may be very soon now, we may pick up the morning newspaper in England or America or elsewhere and read of a riot in Jerusalem. The paper will declare that “two fanatics” have appeared on the streets of old Jerusalem and are telling people they must move out of the city or else away to the northern section because the Temple must be rebuilt on a very grand scale.
The people, however, are not willing to believe the Witnesses or to give up their property. Then, it is said, “the fanatics” threaten them even with death if they do not obey. Some are so frightened they give over their property. Later, newspaper reports perhaps say the people have been aroused against the “imposters” and threaten to mob them. The very next edition of the papers may say officers were sent to arrest them and were killed by fire like Elijah of old called down fire upon officers who were sent to arrest him. Then, following will be an account of fearful drought and famine which we will be told that the “fanatics” declare they have procured, as Elijah of old did, as a judgment on the people. More sensational reports may follow telling how man after man has been slain in the attempt to arrest the “fanatics.” We shall not know whether to believe the stories told or not.
Perhaps, we shall read at last that the “fanatics” have complete control of the city, and its inhabitants are fleeing in terror of their lives. However, we shall not try to conjecture any more, for no one knows precisely how it will be except God. It may be that at the time the Two Witnesses come to earth, such wide-spread disorder and demoralization is occurring because of the tremendous world war that destroys 66,000,000 souls and is so near that part of the world that no one can learn anything about Jerusalem except those in the immediate neighborhood.
By this time, a large number of Jews will be living in Jerusalem, a “great city” (11:8). Both Jew and Gentile, nearby Bible students on the spot will listen to the preaching of the Two Witnesses and will know the prophecies of the coming of the Two. Also, they will study the evidences and will believe and prepare at once for Christ’s coming to the earth. Others will scoff at so “wild” a notion. However, the prophecies of both the Old and New Testaments are very plain on this point. Both Jews and Gentiles know that “Elijah verily cometh first and restoreth all things,” before Christ comes just as Elijah came in John the Baptist as his representative the first time Christ came.
John says the “two witnesses” do their work of getting the space measured off for the Temple and their witness-bearing, which they perform in the midst of fearful judgments visited upon those who oppose them. (1)
these judgments seem rather dreadful, remember all that has preceded about how God’s judgments had already won to repentance all who would yield. Also, we must remember what a fearful state of hardness of heart prevails after the terrible war described in Chapter IX.
The wicked rulers of the land try again and again to arrest and restrain the two witnesses and to punish them for the deaths they have caused through God’s co-operation with them in judgments. Each time they try, though, we are told, “If any man will (tries to) hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies; and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner
be killed.” Certainly no human being has this power of sending forth fire out of his mouth to kill others. However, God in these men could certainly allow such a fire to spew forth.
As soon as their work is accomplished, then God protects them no longer from their enemies. They become like ordinary mortals, John tells us. Then, a particularly bad ruler, described as “the (wild) beast that cometh up out of the abyss” (R.V.), overpowers and kills them. Who is this “wild beast?” Revelation 9:11 tells us his name is Abaddon in Hebrew and Apollyon in Greek. Both of these words mean “Destruction.” He is a great destroyer, probably some great murderous, military man, like Napoleon. Likely, his feat in destroying the “two witnesses” will bring him his greatest glory. Men will not know that he was able to destroy these two witnesses merely because God ceased to defend their lives when their work was done, and it was in God’s plan for them to be killed.
God’s own people have believed the Two Witnesses were from Him. Then, imagine their thoughts, seeing the Two slain before their eyes at Jerusalem along with the wicked people rejoicing and “making merry” over their dead bodies. Their bodies lie in the street for three-and-a-half days, giving certain proof they are really dead. Some of God’s people will be utterly dismayed, believing He has forsaken them. Others will understand the Scriptures better and will only be astonished to see such a wonderful fulfillment of the prophecy here in the Revelation when that time comes.
In vision, John sees the Two Witnesses suddenly come to life again. Then, the wicked are filled with horror and dismay when they see the Two ascending in a cloud that has come down to take them out of their sight. Before they can think further, a terrific earthquake rocks the earth and a large share of the city (“one-tenth part”) is destroyed, killing seven thousand inhabitants. Filled with horror, they now exclaim these men were true prophets, and they should have heeded their preaching. Also, they acknowledge God has given them well-deserved punishment for slaying them.
“THE SEVENTH ANGEL SOUNDED” (11:15). This sound is the “last trump,” as Paul calls it upon which such tremendous events transpire. Let us turn to his words in I Thessolonians 4:16-18, “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout.” What is that shout? Why, I think it is those words, “Come up hither” (Revelation 11:12). “With the voice of the Archangel.” Have we been told of an Archangel? Yes, in Revelation 10:3, “He cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when He cried, seven thunders uttered their voices.” And with the trump of God (this seventh trumpet): and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we, which are alive and remain (on the earth), shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
How do we know that the “trump of God,” which summons the dead to life and translates God’s living people, is this particular seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15? The reason is the apostle Paul says so: “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep (in death) but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (I Corinthians 15:51, 52).
Revelation 10:7 tells us the mystery of God is finished just when the seventh trumpet is about to blow. That trumpet will have been blowing for “days.” During that time, Paul tells us the dead rise, living Christians are “changed,” and all are caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. When the Two Witnesses are raised from the dead by the voice that says, “Come up hither,” the resurrection John speaks of in Revelation 7:9-17 takes place. Also, at the same moment, the sealed 144,000 Israelites are probably translated. In fact, before the prolonged sounding of the seventh trumpet ceases, all God’s people, who are ready at the coming of Jesus Christ, dead or alive, will be taken out of the world.
Before we consider this thinking any further, let us turn back to events at Jerusalem. When the Lord comes to set up His rule on earth, His central government must have a far grander place than earth has ever had before. First of all, He ruled His people Israel from the Tabernacle–a tent only about forty-five by fifteen feet in size with a court around it, which was one hundred and fifty feet long by seventy-five feet wide. This Tabernacle was as much as the Israelites could carry about in their wilderness wandering. Then, Solomon built a Temple, exactly double the size of the Tabernacle with a court around it about six hundred feet square. Also, Herod’s Temple, the one Christ and His disciples visited often, was about one hundred and fifty by ninety feet in size with porches around it enclosed in an area six hundred feet square, including its outer court. Exclusive of this court, it will be a thousand feet square. John is expressly told not to include its outer court, “for it is given over to the Gentiles (nations): and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.” (Appendix B.)
As we study the vision more carefully, we see even more. Since God was going to send an earthquake to clear the ground and make it ready for His Temple, the Witnesses were doing a merciful work in warning the people to escape for their lives from that particular region. People perished for their disobedience.
1. See Appendix A for a summary of reasons for our believing the apostle John is one of these witnesses.