The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Revelation 11

Rev 11:1

See Psa 79 allusions: ref to the nation of Israel in the Land.

Allusions to Elijah and Moses (2 witnesses): (a) Fire out of their mouths: cp Elijah bringing fire from heaven; (2Ki 1:10,12); (b) power to shut heaven that it rain not; cp the three and a half years' drought according to the word of Elijah (1Ki 17:1; James 5:17); (c) power to turn waters into blood, the first of the plagues in Egypt; (d) and to smite the earth with all plagues -- the rest of the plagues in Egypt. These references to Moses and Elijah are doubtless intended to recall the Law and the Prophets, the custody of which forms Israel's supreme witness to the God of Heaven.

Comparison of witnesses with Christ: (1) despised and rejected; (2) no visible effect upon hearers; (3) slain... 3 days; (4) raised, with an earthquake; (5) ascend to heaven in a cloud; and (6) enemies stricken with fear.

A REED: Measurement (Ezek 40:31; Rev 21:15-16).

A MEASURING ROD: Correction (1Co 4:21). Thus a measured period of chastisement (Lam 2:8).

TEMPLE: This "temple" is a spiritual one, consisting of people (Joh 4:24; Heb 3:6; 1Pe 2:4-10).

Rev 11:2

Cp Luk 24:21. "From Spring of 67 to August of 70, the time of formal imperial engagement against Jerusalem is a period of 42 months." John "measures" the inner temple, altar and worshippers -- for protection (Eze 22:26; Zec 2:1-5). Thus, in AD 70, the external temple [and the nation of Israel] perishes but the spiritual reality -- the true worshippers, the new Israel -- is preserved.

42 MONTHS: See Lesson, 360-day year.

(CH) " 'Court of the Gentiles' implies a religious order, claiming association with the Temple, but in fact separate from it. It points to Roman Catholicism, which was given power by decree of Phocas 606-610. Accepting there is a commencement date, the period reaches to 1866-1870 when events occurred which brought the Temporal power of the Papacy to an end.

"In between those terminal periods, the Papacy exercised its persecuting policy against the true Ecclesia (cp Dan 7:24-25)" (ApEp).

Rev 11:3

1,260 DAYS: See Lesson, 360-day year.

SACKCLOTH: Tribulation, sorrow (Amo 8:10; Isa 37:1,2; 50:3; Rev 6:12).

CH: "The warfare suggested in this prophecy commenced on the establishment of the State Church in the year 312. It was the period of the Great Division, when the Donatists refused to bow to decrees that issued forth from the State Church, even though they were backed by force.

"It commenced a religious controversy which continued for 1,260 years to 1572, and the Massacre of St Bartholomew. In that year, Rome made determined efforts to still the voice of religious opposition. This succeeded in France at least, where a terrible massacre of those opposed to Rome broke out.

"It brought to an end the effective testimony of the witnesses which was then 'finished' (v 7), and they were given over to political death. The 'coup de grace' came in 1685, when, after over a century of terrible persecution, The Edict of Nantes was revoked, and the witnessing ceased for a time" (ApEp).

Rev 11:7

CH: "The two witnesses are known in history by many names: Donatists, Waldenses, Novatians, Huguenots, etc. All in their turn continued to witness against the Roman autocratic Ecclesiastical power, maintaining an unbroken record of opposition until politically put to death in Europe. The opposition of the two witnesses by voice and by sword, gave protection to the Ecclesia in its faithful presentation of the Truth to the world. There was always some party prepared to stand for its defence if need be, and gain for it a certain immunity from trouble. But as the 1260 year period neared its end in 1572, the hitherto forthright witnessing of the saints became lax; the rigidity and separateness of the Truth was not maintained.

"In consequence, the Divine protection was withdrawn, and the Papacy was permitted to gain the ascendancy. This was signalised by a terrible period of persecution that culminated in the Massacre of St Bartholomew, 24th August 1572, when a concerted effort was made by Papal interests to crush all political and religious opposition to its power.

"This was a declaration of political and religious war to the death. It was continued with varying fortunes until 1685 when the Edict of Nantes which had earlier granted many privileges and much relief to Protestants, was finally revoked.

"The war-cry then became: 'Die or be Catholics.' Persecution, torture and death now became the weapons by which Rome sought to force its will on the Protestants of Europe. Amid a thousand hideous lamentations and horrid blasphemies, men and women were subjected to unspeakable indignities to make them sign that they were Catholics.

"The Inquisition did its work with frightful efficiency, and the Dark Ages, a period of ignorance, spiritual darkness, and blind superstition unilluminated by the light of Truth in Europe was ushered in" (ApEp).

Rev 11:8

SODOM: Jerusalem as Sodom: Isa 1:10; 3:1,9; Jer 23:14; Lam 4:6; Eze 16:45-58; Deu 32:32.

EGYPT: Jerusalem as Egypt: Eze 23:3-19; 1Ki 3:1; 2Ch 36:4; Jer 42:14. Israel's judgments in Rev 8 are based on the plagues that came upon Egypt.

WHERE ALSO THEIR LORD WAS CRUCIFIED: This strongly confirms the identification of Jerusalem with Sodom and Egypt.

(CH) "By decree of Caracalla, Rome was made co-extensive with its dominions. Christ was crucified by the edict of Rome" (ApEp).

Rev 11:9

THREE AND A HALF DAYS: "The period of three and a half days probably stands for three and a half years. This suggestion is made, not on the basis of 'a year for each day,' but simply from the appropriateness of the imagery employed. To have said, 'they shall see their dead bodies three years and a half' would have been to import into the prophecy too big an element of unreality. What dead bodies would lie exposed anywhere for three and a half years?" (WRev). Cp Lesson, 3 1/2 years, etc.

AND REFUSE THEM BURIAL: "This seems to imply the overthrow of the state of Israel, but not the utter genocide of its inhabitants. The words suggest pressure brought to bear (by the Western powers?) to save them from utter destruction though not from savage maltreatment. Perhaps there is implication of an attempt at re-settlement elsewhere. Other prophecies (Zec 14:2; Isa 19:18-20; Joel 3:1-8,19) paint a similar picture... In the symbolism, to disallow the entombment of a dead body is the height of indignity and insult. Thus there is suggested the contumely and wretchedness, which is to come upon Israel in what, more than at any period in their history, will be 'the time of Jacob's trouble.' Further, there will be great rejoicing among their enemies who are twice described as 'them that dwell on the earth', ie 'in the Land.' Who are these but the surrounding Arab nations? Ishmael was ever a mocker of Isaac, especially in times of misfortune. It was so in the days of Gideon, and of Hezekiah, and of Zedekiah, and in AD 70, and so it assuredly will be again (Jdg 6:1-3; Psa 83:3,4; Oba 1:12; Jer 48:42; Ezek 35:10; 36:2). How appropriate too, are the words: 'These two prophets tormented them that dwell in the Land.' The very presence of Jews in Palestine and, even more, of an Israeli state, has been smoke in the nose and a thorn in the side of all Arabs everywhere" (WRev).

CH: "A period of 105 years elapsed between the political death of the witnesses in 1685, and their political resurrection in the French Revolution of 1790, but in accordance with the aptness of the symbol this is reduced back to 3 1/2 days.

"It would not be appropriate for a dead body to lie in an open street for longer than that because of decomposition that would take place. JT suggests therefore that 3 1/2 lunar days are referred to. A lunar day (the phases of the moon) is equal to 30 normal days, so that the period of time thus indicated is exactly what is required: 105 days. During this period of time the tragedy was kept alive before the world" (ApEp).

Rev 11:10

ON THE EARTH: Or, "in the Land" -- the Arab nations: cp Jdg 6:1-3; Psa 83:3,4; Oba 1:12; Jer 48:42; Eze 35:10; 36:2.

Rev 11:12

UP TO HEAVEN IN A CLOUD: "This is not a literal ascension to heaven like that of Jesus, because: (a) in Rev heaven signifies the state of fellowship with God and of access to His throne (eg Rev 15:1; 19:1); and (b) 'their enemies beheld them' implies a change of status and forbids the idea of literal ascension.

"Hence this detail should be interpreted of the repentance of Israel (though not necessarily of the entire nation), which will probably immediately precede the coming of Christ. There can be little doubt that this ascension of the witnesses is the symbolic 'receiving again' of those who for long years have been 'cast off.' The following passages bear on this interesting question: Isa 40:3; Mal 4:6; Zep 2:3; Zec 12:10; Isa 59:20; Amos 5:15; Mat 23:39; 24:32; Rom 11:15; Ezek 36:25; 37:23; Acts 3:19 (RV); Isa 17:7, 8; Psa 81:13,14; Deu 30:1-3; 1Ki 8:47; Lev 26:40-42; Jer 4:12" (WRev).

Rev 11:13

SEVEN THOUSAND: 7,000 = 1/10 of 70,000 (70 sym Gentile nations: Deu 32:8/Gen 10; 46; Exo 15:27; 24:4,9 with Luk 9:1; 10:1; cp 70 yrs captivity and 70 "wks" prophecy).

Rev 11:14

This indicates that the "2nd woe" (vv 1-13) has to do with the LD. This vision extends into Rev 12; 13. (Cp "woe": 12:12; "3rd part": Rev 12:4, a characteristic of trumpets.)

Rev 11:15

Vv 15-19: "These vv provide an admirable summary of the main action in the rest of the book: (a) Voices in heaven, saying... (Rev 19:6); (b) The kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ (Rev 19:6); (c) 24 elders worshipped God (Rev 19:4,6); (d) Lord God Almighty, which art and which wast (Rev 16:5, RV); (e) The nations were angry (Rev 12:7); (f) Thy wrath is come (Rev 16); (g) The time of the dead (Rev 20:12; 14:3); (h) Thy servants the prophets and thy saints (Rev 16:6; 18:24); (i) to destroy them which destroy the earth (Rev 14:18-20; 19:15-21); (j) The temple of God opened in heaven... the ark of his covenant (Rev 15:5); and (k) Lightnings, voices, etc (Rev 16:18).

"All this is called the Seventh Trumpet. There must be some connection between this and Paul's remarkable words, '... we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of a eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible' (1Co 15:52)... 'the time of the dead that they should be judged' " (WRev).

The walls of Jericho fell after the city had been compassed on each of six days and then seven times on the seventh day, to the accompaniment of priestly trumpet blasts. It is easy to see the resemblance to the Seven Seals, the last of which introduced the Seven Trumpets, leading up to the downfall of the kingdom of man. Without the Ark of the Covenant in the lead, Jericho was impregnable. Hence in this antitype "there was seen the ark of his covenant" (v 19). Furthermore, the walls of Jericho only fell when "the people shouted with a great shout" (Josh 6:20). Accordingly Rev reads in this place: "And there were great voices in heaven, saying... "

AND HE WILL REIGN FOR EVER AND EVER: The words are a quotation either of Psa 10:16 or of Psa 146:10. The first of these celebrates how God will "break the arm of the wicked... the nations are perished out of his land." The second makes contrast between the futility of human power and the wondrous ways of God. The psa continues: "The Lord looseth the prisoners (out of the tomb; Zec 9:11,12). The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind; the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down; the Lord loveth the righteous... but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down."

Rev 11:17

THE ONE WHO IS AND WHO WAS: "Is to come" is no longer appropriate (Rev 1:8). He has come! Cp Rev 16:5.

Rev 11:18

Cp Psa 79:6: "Pour out thy wrath on the heathen... "

Rev 11:19

... WAS SEEN THE ARK OF HIS COVENANT: This is very similar to the prelude to the Seven Vials (Rev 15: 5,8), and suggests that these two heptads are intended to have similar reference. Certainly several of the main characters re-appear in Rev 16; 17.

The Ark of the Covenant being seen implies the imminent forgiveness of sins for the people of God (Lev 16:14,30) and the bestowal of an imperishable life symbolized by the incorruptible manna (Exo 16:32,33; Rev 2:17) treasured inside the ark. But it also means judgement for the enemies of the Lord who assume a right of access to the holy things of God (1Sa 6:19, LXX).

AN EARTHQUAKE: Earthquakes accompany awesome manifestations of God: Exo 19:18; Jdg 5:4; Psa 77:18; 114:4; Isa 2:10-22; Jer 4:24; Eze 38:20; Joe 3:16; Amo 9:1,5; Zec 14:4; Rev 6:12; 11:19; 16:18.

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